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September 20, 2005

Who Will Audit the Red Cross?Email This EntryPrint This Article

redcrosslogo.jpgEveryone is on the Red Cross bandwagon these days.

But that was not the case before Katrina. The Red Cross was fiercely criticized for its reaction to 9-11. The criticism was bipartisan.

All was forgotten once Katrina hit. The only alternatives offered for giving wre overtly-religious organizations, ranging from the Salvation Army to Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing (number two on the Administration's hit parade).

Besides, you've got to figure, this was really more up the Red Cross' alley than 9-11, which in the end only took out the center of a well-insured central city, and completely displaced only a few tens of thousands. This was different, not just New Orleans but the parishes around it, and Mississippi all the way up to Jackson.

So how are they doing?

Continue reading "Who Will Audit the Red Cross?"

September 19, 2005

Gittin' While the Gittin's GoodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

joebarton.jpgThe winds of change are blowing hurricane-force in Washington. Every politician in town knows it. So the natural inclination is to push the envelope as far as possible, knowing that it will be pulled back fairly quickly.

This is as true regarding the Internet as anywhere else. The Bell-cable duopoly hangs by a thread. Wireless ISPs have Moore's Law on their side. The incumbents need something very strong to counter.

This is precisely what they're going for with a bill in the House that would raise entry barriers to the sky and prevent independent ISPs from ever gaining a market toehold. (That's the chairman of the committee proposing the legislation, Joe Barton, up above.)

Naturally they call it "pro-competitive," but in the Orwellian Washington of today those with a Clue should never listen to what they say but look at what they do.

The bill is also filled with goodies for broadcasters and TV networks, such as:

Continue reading "Gittin' While the Gittin's Good"

September 16, 2005

They Don't Need Your IdentityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Here is a surprising story.

Three times more money is lost to identity theft where the thieves just make up an identity than when they use someone else's.

Gartner Group figures $50 billion is lost from such "victimless fraud" every year, against $15 billion from identity theft.

The problem is U.S. banks don't check identities closely. Crooks can get a pay-as-you-go mobile phone with no credit check, open up a bank account in the name of that "person," pay bills on that account for a while, then use the account to get credit cards.

Banks in Europe share identity information and aren't subject to the same fraud to the same degree. Gartner said.

Continue reading "They Don't Need Your Identity"

This Week's Clue: The Mugabe PrecedentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This week's issue of my free weekly newsletter, A-Clue.Com, offered some real political red meat. (Subscribe here.)

Some like that. Some hate it. So most of it is after the flip. Enjoy.


How is a democracy lost?

It isn't. Just as freedom can't be given, only taken, democracy can't really be lost, only stolen.

There are dozens of examples over the centuries, of honest systems turned to dictatorships. And what they all have in common is ruthlessness, not just of the dictator, but of those around him.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: The Mugabe Precedent"

September 14, 2005

Where to Find the Times' ColumnistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

newyorktimes-logo small.jpgAmidst all the wailing over the Times' experiment in forcing people to pay subscriptions for Internet newspaper content, an important fact is being lost.

The International Herald Tribune.

I have seen no announcement that the IHT is changing its policies, or changing what content it offers. (The Tribune is owned by the Times Co., which bought out The Washington Post Co.'s interest a few years ago.) Here's today's opinion front page.

Continue reading "Where to Find the Times' Columnists"

September 06, 2005

BolshevismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Lenin.gifA dedicated minority can overwhelm a disinterested majority.

To do so takes discipline, and a mindset that will brook neither criticism nor interference, that is totally obedient to the will of the leader.

What drives this mindset is fear. The leadership drives fear into people, and the mindset is gradually acquired. There are many examples of this. South Africa's Nationalists. Mussolini's Fascists. It was a hallmark of Peronism in Argentina. It's not a left-right thing, since it's most closely associated with Lenin's Russia, but it's more common than most in the democratic world believe or accept.

Note that in all these examples there's one ingredient which, many will say, does not exist in today's Republicans -- ruthlessness. That is, the willingness to do anything in the name of the cause, whether that's stuffing ballot boxes, taking control of the news media, or just shooting to kill. In the wake of New Orleans I'd question whether that ruthlessness is lacking. When you hear someone try to defend what has happened, it's hard to argue it's lacking.

Political movements can easily morph into Bolshevism, even in democracies. It's the main Achilles Heel of the whole system. I think it's what Washington most feared when he talked of "factions."

Over the last two centuries many political movements in this country have been accused of a Bolshevistic mind set, even before such a thing existed, starting (long before there was such a thing) with Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans. Jackson's Democrats had some of it, and it morphed into the Slave Power, which had it in spades. Did the Big City Machines have it? How about the New Deal -- they were certainly accused of it.

See how common this is?

What's most infuriating about our time is how many white, male Americans (some females, some blacks, but overwhelmingly it's white males) have internalized this mindset. It's why I find it increasingly difficult to communicate with these bozos -- all avenues of communication are blocked-off.

Want to see the dance?

Continue reading "Bolshevism"

September 05, 2005

The Spoils SystemEmail This EntryPrint This Article

garfield assassination.gifGeorge W. Bush's Bridge to the 19th Century has deposited us in 1881, in the era of the Spoils System.

The spoils system was instituted by Democratic President Andrew Jackson. "To the victor goes the spoils" meant that every government job belonged to the party in power. Postmasters, and port managers (big jobs in those days) were all political hacks.

The movement against the spoils system was led by a Republican named James A. Garfield. He was elected President in 1880 alongside a representative of that system, Chester Alan Arthur, former port commissioner for New York. He wasn't a perfect vessel for reform, but he moved in that direction.

The picture illustrates what happened next. Garfield was shot, killed, by Charles J. Guiteau, a "frustrated office seeker," in other words, a party hack who was upset that Garfield wanted to bring competence to government. (Guiteau, in fact had visions of becoming Ambassador to France.)

Continue reading "The Spoils System"

September 01, 2005

The Dry Drunk MemeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bush finger.jpgThere is a long-running charge, or meme, on the left that President George W. Bush is a "dry drunk," an alcoholic who hasn't dealt with the roots of his alcoholism, and thus exhibits alcoholic behavior even when sober.

Dr. Justin Frank explored this in a book called Bush on the Couch. Katherine Van Wormer made the charge in 2002 and Malachy McCourt has gone further, writing in his short 2004 book, Bush Lies in State that he’s still an alcoholic.

How common is this meme? Example one. Example two. Example three. Example four.

So here is my point. Given his falling popularity and recent bizarre behaviors (running away from Cindy Sheehan, comparing Iraq to World War II while New Orleans died) I'm wondering if this meme isn't about to move.

Continue reading "The Dry Drunk Meme"

August 30, 2005

The Big OneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: I have been, and will be, criticized for "politicizing" the naton's worst-ever natural disaster. But knowing how something happened, what made it worse, how it can be made better and how it might be prevented is the only way I know to make sense of things which are otherwise beyond comprehension. My prayers to all.
wtc009.jpgEveryone knows 9/11 was a turning point. (Picture from Tales from the Teapot.)

It changed attitudes irrevocably, in ways we're still trying to deal with four years on.

Hurricane Katrina is another turning point, a different turning point, and a much, much bigger event.

The terrorists destroyed two buildings, and the center of a city. Katrina destroyed multiple cities -- Slidell, Gulfport, Biloxi, New Orleans.

We knew after 9/11 it could happen again. Know this after Katrina. It WILL happen again, and again, and again.

The civilizing process of the 20th century, with its oil-driven economy, is now driving the global environment off a cliff. Most of the world knew this before Katrina. Now even Mississippi knows this.

And this will change us.

  • We can no longer pretend to independence. We are interdependent.
  • We can no longer pretend that the environmental damage of the oil economy can be borne. It cannot.
  • We can no longer remain dependent on the oil economy. It is failing, and will fail.

One of the most maddening aspects of the Katrina coverage, for me, has been MSNBC's continued emphasis on the Casinos as the engines of the Gulf Coast economy. We drive through that area every vacation, and I have taken to calling Mississippi "Pottersville," the town Bedford Falls became in the nighbmare sequence of "It's a Wonderful Life." And Louisiana has made itself into West Pottersville.

I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about depending on something that's artificial, fake, phony, as the basis of an economy. Pretending that you'll get rich off others' sin, that the residue won't touch you, and you can then say "screw you" to the needs of the poor, to education, to your fellow man, to the real world, that always fails in time.

It is time for an attitude adjustment.


Continue reading "The Big One"

August 27, 2005

Save the Internet!Email This EntryPrint This Article

HoS-XXX-5_Front.jpgMilton Mueller and the Internet Governance Project, whom we interviewed in June, has entered the political arena with a petition against U.S. interference in ICANN. (The illustration chosen has little to do with the subject, it's the cover of an Hour of Slack CD called XXX, from Subgenius.com.)

Mueller and the IGP were moved to act by the government's unilateral decision to shut-down .XXX after it was approved by ICANN. In his note to Dave Farber's list Mueller writes, "IGP urges everyone not to let the
advocates of content regulation be the only voices
heard by the Commerce Department."

Read it carefully.

Continue reading "Save the Internet!"

August 26, 2005

A Modest ProposalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

burqa.jpgHere's something I haven't seen proposed anywhere. But since I'm "just a blogger" and I can't get the thought of my head, why not?

Read on. If you dare.

Many in the U.S., on both the left and right, say our enemy is Islamic Fundamentalism. One of the hallmarks of that movement (besides violent anti-Israel rhetoric) is the systematic subjugation of women.

Wherever Sha'ria (Islamic Law) is imposed, women lose their humanity. They are killed if they're raped, killed if they so much as meet with a man unchaparoned. They are ritually abused in a horror called "female circumcision" which removes their clitoris, often without anethesia.

Under Sha'ria women are treated worse than dogs. A dog who licks a stranger's hand may get a treat. An Arab woman who even looks the wrong way at a stranger will be killed by her family. (Any devout Muslim woman who wants to argue with me that slavery is freedom, please don't waste your time.)

When the Bush Administration wanted to find support for its Iraq adventure early this year the President claimed this was a war for womens' rights. He even used an Iraqi woman as a prop at his State of the Union address. (She now wants out.)

Well, it seems to me we have the wrong Muslim refugees in the West. So here's my modest proposal:

Continue reading "A Modest Proposal"

August 25, 2005

Corruption of the ListsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

boortz book.jpgThere's a chain of bookstores in South Georgia that hold a secret.

I discovered it on the way back from a convention in Orlando one day, desperate for some present to give my book-loving wife.

Stacked floor-to-ceiling in these stores are "best-sellers," nearly every "big" title from a right-wing hack delivered over the last decade or more. There's Laura Bush's autobiography, alongside the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry and titles from the whole Fox News pantheon. There are right-wing preachers, firebreathers, and a ton of get-rich-quick books by folks who, if they really knew that much, would have gotten rich some other way.

I think about those stores whenever I see "books" like Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures or Neal Boortz' Fair Tax Book topping things like The New York Times best-seller list, week-after-week.

Do you know anyone reading this dreck? You might not.

Continue reading "Corruption of the Lists"

August 22, 2005

Artificial ScarcityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bob frankston.gifDavid Berlind, one of my bosses over at ZDNet, came up with an incredible statistic recently that deserves a lot more play than it got.

His source on this is Bob Frankston, co-founder of Visicalc and one of those great online friends I've never met personally. (As you can see by this picture, he's also well on his way to being a Truly Handsome Man (that is to say bald)).

Here's the key bit, as Berlind saw it:

By Frankston's calculations, for example, Verizon is reserving 99 percent of its government-ordained right of way (in the form of bandwidth that should be available to us as well as its competitors) for itself so that it may compete in the IPTV market.

Frankston's got the whole story, in hiw own words, here.

More on the flip.

Continue reading "Artificial Scarcity"

August 19, 2005

This Week's Clue: Beyond The Culture WarsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This week's issue of my free weekly newsletter, A-Clue.Com, dealt with politics. (Subscribe here.) That's why the jump is so high up. Those who don't like politics, or who don't like me blogging about it, should be forced to see as little of it as possible.

But there are things I have to get off my chest.


Political generations end when a crisis emerges that they can't answer for. Then new values emerge, new myths are told, and a new generation takes power. Gradually the new formulation replaces the old until its alliances become second nature.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Beyond The Culture Wars"

August 16, 2005

The Emperor is Naked! The Empire is a Lie!Email This EntryPrint This Article

casey_sheehan_714.jpg Cindy Sheehan has been able to demonstrate just how naked the Emperor is, and thus demonstrate the lie of Empire.

No one else could, because everyone else was afraid. Howard Dean said "we broke it, we own it." John Kerry supported it and couldn't back away from it.

This is how Democrats felt forced to respond, because they'd been stuck into a political wilderness for a generation by Vietnam. They were afraid to equate Iraq with Vietnam, fearing that political wilderness, and its chains, which bound liberalism and the cause of human rights for a generation.

Well, Cindy Sheehan broke through that fear. She lost her son. It transformed her. (It didn't transform her husband , but everyone's journey is different.)

By putting that transformation in our face, and in the face of George W. Bush, Cindy Sheehan is also making a change in us. Damn the past, damn the present, our kids are dying. Scales fall from the eyes.

There is no way at this point for the Emperor to appear clothed again, and his supporters know it.

That's why they're acting as they are toward Sheehan. It's like the crowd in the story, at first. Of course the Emperor's New Clothes are beautiful. You're just a stupid little boy. You just can't see the big picture.

Stupid. Little. Boy.

Stupid Little Boy, says Cindy Sheehan? Look at him, look at the Little Boy. Look at Casey. You call him Stupid, you call me Stupid?

Maybe we were. We were stupid because we believed in you. And look at what it's gotten us. My son is dead! And this is no fairy tale.

Continue reading "The Emperor is Naked! The Empire is a Lie!"

Bush Cuts Off DNS IntelligenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

signposts5.gif
The Computer Science and Telecommunication Board has released a fairly Clueful report on the Domain Name System that manages the Internet.

Unfortunately the Bush Administration has, on the very day the report came out, moved to undercut its key recommendation.

Here's the key bit:

Before completing the transfer of its stewardship to ICANN (or any other organization), the Department of Commerce should seek ways to protect that organization from undue commercial or governmental pressures and to provide some form of oversight of performance.

The report, in other words, supports ICANN under the U.S. government because it sees this as keeping ICANN independent of government or commercial interests. Moving toward ICANN's independence is desireable, the report says, in order to minimize the perception that the U.S. government is controlling the Internet.

So far, so good.

Continue reading "Bush Cuts Off DNS Intelligence"

Refusing to LearnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

washington canard.jpgPeople often ask me what's wrong with journalism.

The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.

Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)

It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.

Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."

After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.

Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.

Continue reading "Refusing to Learn"

August 12, 2005

A Great Woman Lies DyingEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Mo Mowlam is dying.

Americans who have never heard of her should remember her name. Hers is one of the great peace-making stories of our time.

By the late 1990s, Northern Ireland had been at war with itself for nearly 30 years. As Northern Ireland secretary, in 1998, she saw that the peace process could never get off the ground without the support of radicals, then held at Maze Prison.

She went to Maze Prison.

Mo Mowlam spent an hour in that prison, talking to prisoners face-to-face, eventually persuading them that the para-militaries should send representatives to peace talks.

The result was the Good Friday Agreement.

It wasn't perfect then. It's still not perfect. But it is holding. The killing has stopped. The IRA has stood down. A cycle of life is replacing the cycle of death.

Continue reading "A Great Woman Lies Dying"

August 08, 2005

Intel Fights the PowerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Intel_Logo.gifIntel holds the telecommunications balance of power in its hand.

Here's how The Register puts it, with its usual hyperbole:

Intel is throwing its financial, technical and lobbying weight behind the rising tide of municipally run broadband wireless networks, seeing these as a way to stimulate uptake of Wi-Fi and WiMAX and so sell more of its chips and increase its influence over the communications world.

And Intel is not going to back down. As ZDNet notes today, there's money to be made.

Continue reading "Intel Fights the Power"

August 07, 2005

The WiMax ImperativeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

kevin martin.jpgCoke and Pepsi do not represent competition. It's a shared monopoly, the Drinks Trust.

The same is true for Wal-Mart and Target, Home Depot and Lowe's, and, to cut to the chase, your phone and cable companies.

By endorsing duopoly calling "competition" what is in fact a Trust, new FCC chair Kevin Martin has shown us clearly where the Bushies stand. Those who believe in competitive markets that can compete in the world need to digest this.

china.map.gifAnd Martin's model for the Internet policy? China.

So, do you want to be an ISP?

There is only one way to do it now. You have to be a WISP. You have to connect WiFi to WiMax, and reach competitive fiber.

Otherwise you're officially dead.

The FCC ruled, over Friday and Saturday, that Bell companies no longer have to wholesale their lines to competitive ISPs. They don't even have to charge competitive prices for backhaul to the Internet. They essentially repealed the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Those phonr lines that were built with government-controlled monopoly powers over decades? They're now the sole property of four corporate entities. And they can do with this monopoly power whatever they want.

Continue reading "The WiMax Imperative"

August 02, 2005

The Moore's Law DialecticEmail This EntryPrint This Article

gordon moore.jpgToday's politics is cultural.

Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.

I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.

On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.

It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.

  • On the right you see many people who work in open source, or who worry about their privacy, asking hard questions of security buffs and corporate insiders.
  • On the left you see many people who consider themselves cyber-libertarians facing off against Hollywood types and those who create proprietary software.

This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.

Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.

But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.

Continue reading "The Moore's Law Dialectic"

August 01, 2005

What's a Brother Gotta Do (to get fired around here?)Email This EntryPrint This Article

armstrong-williams.jpgNews that Armstrong Williams is making a comeback, that he is back on the air (that he hardly ever left), leaves a nagging question in my mind.

What do you got to do to get fired around here?

The question is serious. Unless we have a way of getting rid of those who violate some ethical standard, why should anyone believe any of us? Why have any standards if we can't get rid of violators?

For those who don't know, Williams got caught in January taking bribes from the Bush Administration for touting its education policies. Yet the next month, WWRL in New York put him back on the air, in afternoon drive. Now he's got a book coming out, one which calls liberals like myself racists.

If being a racist means hating crooks who happen to be black, I'm a racist. (It doesn't mean that, so Armstrong, take your black skin outta my face.) Armstrong Williams is a crook, corrupt. He should be on an unemployment line alongside Jayson Blair and hundreds of others -- of every color -- who can't be trusted. Yet he's heard loud and clear while honest men (and women) aren't. Including honest black, male conservatives, many with great speaking voices and stories to tell. Just look around the blogosphere for five minutes if you don't believe me.

Williams tells The Hill that he's "changed," that he doesn't harrangue Democrats anymore.

But that wasn't the point of the scandal. It's like a bank robber telling me he doesn't beat his wife anymore. It's irrelevant.

Armstrong Williams put himself out as a journalist, as an independent voice, when in fact he was in the pay of the government. That was the scandal. That remains a scandal.

But there is no way to fire people who violate even such basic ethical precepts anymore. If nothing else, he could go out and blog -- make big bucks like Andrew Sullivan. Who'd know? Who'd care?

Continue reading "What's a Brother Gotta Do (to get fired around here?)"

July 29, 2005

The Tech-Politics ContradictionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cisco_logo.jpgThe big trend of this decade, in technology, is a move toward openness.

It started with open frequencies like 802.11. It then moved into software, with open source operating systems and applications. Now we have open source business models. The ball keeps rolling along.

Open source has proven superior in all these areas due to simple math. The more people working a problem, the better. No single organization can out-do the multitudes.

But this simple, and rather elegant, fact, is at odds with all political trends.

Continue reading "The Tech-Politics Contradiction"

July 28, 2005

Magic WordEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When someone gets really frustrated with me, and tries to dismiss me, there's a Magic Word that sums up their feelings, isolates me, and identifies me to the like-minded.

Works like a charm.

It's the "C-bomb."

Continue reading "Magic Word"

July 27, 2005

Cheap Shot in a Good CauseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

rebecca mckimmon.jpgRebecca McKimmon (left, from her blog) took a shot at Cisco's China policy recently, confirming through a spokesman that the company does indeed cooperate with the government.

This is not news. So does nearly every other U.S. tech company.

The U.S. policy is, and has been, full engagement with China. This has already hurt Cisco. Back in the 1990s one of the prices for getting into the market was to share technology. Cisco did so, and a few years later Huawei, a Chinese company, had routers and bridges very similar to Cisco's old stuff, along with most of the Asian market (thanks to lower prices).

McKimmon's point now is that China Cisco is cooperating with the worst excesses of the China government, which is seeking to have both the world's best Internet technology and full control over what people do with it.

That is a good point, but I don't think you don't go after Cisco to make it.

Continue reading "Cheap Shot in a Good Cause"

July 23, 2005

The Coming Crash?Email This EntryPrint This Article

john rutledge.gifI should not be a fan of Dr. John Rutledge (left).

His economic prescriptions are unrelentingly right-wing. He's a social Darwinist, a raging bull.

But he's not an idiot. He understands money. He knows trouble when he sees it. And, on his blog this week, he sees it.

As I've written in my novel, the name of this big trouble is little China.

The process of China's inevitable Yuan revaluation has begun.

In a series of blog entries Rutledge ticks off what's happening.

Continue reading "The Coming Crash?"

Qwest Seeks Yet More SubsidiesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Let's review.

The Bells promised to serve us broadband if we let them run over Wireless ISPs. Done. No broadband.

So they promised us broadband if we would give them absolute control over their lines, ending any requirement for wholesaling. Done. No broadband.

Then they promised us broadband if we'd stop cities from buildig out wireless networks that might compete with them. Nearly done. Still no broadband.

Now, Qwest is pushing a plan in Congress to tax your broadband access and hand it the money, promising broadband in rural areas.

It's amazing anyone would believe such hollow promises, given the history. Color Democrat Byron Dorgan and Republican Gordon Smith (both represent areas covered by Qwest) as believers. The National Journal reports the two Senators are working together on just a Qwest-subsidy bill.

Here's a quote from the National Journal article:

Aides to Smith said the bill would make money in the Universal Service Fund available so telecommunications providers could build out broadband facilities. "It would be built into the same structure, and might end up as a stand-alone fund, within the current system next to the high-cost fund," an aide said.

Here's why this is not only theft, but stupid.

Continue reading "Qwest Seeks Yet More Subsidies"

July 21, 2005

Seattle Weekly Discovers VRWCEmail This EntryPrint This Article

free republic.jpgVRWC is shorthand for "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."

It's something conservatives laugh at. But it's real.

UPDATE: Various people, some affiliated with this site, have been issuing comments here over the last few days. Most have been taken down. I stand by this story, the opinions expressed in it, and my opinion concerning sympathizers with these bozos.

It's the lynch mob mentality fostered by preachers, by politicians, by demagogues, a mentality used to attack Miami vote-counters, Vince Foster, Joe Wilson -- the list goes on and on.

It was also used to attack Andy Stephenson.

Stephenson was a blogger. He worked with sites like Democratic Underground and BlackBox Voting. He died this week of pancreatic cancer.

But not before teaching us all just what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Continue reading "Seattle Weekly Discovers VRWC"

July 19, 2005

Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)Email This EntryPrint This Article

gumby.jpgMonty Python used to have a running gag called the Gumbys. They would put on moustaches, shorts, place diapers on their heads, and talk sheer lunacy for effect. CORRECTION: There's an update to this piece below the fold which could make this reference even-more apt.

Former FCC commissioner Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth, now a fellow of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute , is a Gumby.

This guy is so Clueless that, in an age when any wingnut can practically become a millionaire by snapping his fingers, he can apparently get his stuff published only in the New York Sun, a right-wing daily with few readers, no business model, and a crappy Web site that won't let you inside its home page without giving them tons of personal information. So no link.

Instead, you'll have to read the whole thing:

Continue reading "Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)"

July 16, 2005

America's Shame: Spam War Heats Up AgainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

us flag.gifThat's the title of the most "popular" spam in my inbox right now, and maybe in your inbox as well.

It represents a new form of brazenness by U.S. spammers against the Net, because when you input the phone number in the message into Google you find the same message, as comment spam, attached to a host of different topics.

When you publicize a phone number like that, and get away with it, it's pretty obvious that the authorities are simply not interested in pursuing you. The CAN-SPAM act has gone from sick joke to tissue paper, a dead letter, and the entire Internet is now under attack from American spammers.

So am I.

Continue reading "America's Shame: Spam War Heats Up Again"

July 15, 2005

This Week's Clue: The Good GermanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If I had my druthers, every issue of A-Clue.Com would be chock-full of stories concerning e-commerce, Moore's Law, and mobile technology.

But as a human being, I sometimes feel compelled to state what I feel, and whatever happens as a result, happens.


For the first time in my career I've been afraid this week, afraid to write what I feel.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: The Good German"

July 14, 2005

The Finnish ExampleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

finland.gifThere's a long, admiring story in today's Washington Post extolling Finland as a possible model for European development.

Finland has invested heavily in scientific research, especially since it backed a big winner during the early 1990s in Nokia. Nokia stock held by the government is one source of funds, but overall the country puts a whopping 3.6% of its income into research, well ahead of the U.S., and nearly twice as much as the European average.

The result is that, while Finland does have substantial unemployment, and the problems of an aging population threatening its ample social safety net, the 5.5 million people there are nearly as happy as those in the Monty Python song. (All together, Finnophiles!)

One respondent at the Dave Farber list expressed the view that the U.S. actually does better than the figures indicate, and that government is mostly out of the picture.

He's half-right.

Continue reading "The Finnish Example"

July 13, 2005

Fast Work on London BlastsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When four bombs went off in London during the G-8 summit my first thought (like yours) was Al Qaeda.

I didn't blog it. I'm glad of that now.

It turns out, according to British police, that the four suicidie bombers here were British citizens, natives. Three from Leeds, one from Luton. True, their parents were Pakistani immigrants, but the people who carried this out were local. The British police, who have done wonderful work on the case so far, are now trying to find out who put them up to this.

Again, let's not pre-judge. This might be an Al Qaeda "sleeper cell." But they could have been working under a British-based Islamic radical. Their targets may not have been Englishmen, but Muslims, since all four bombs went off in areas where many Muslims live.

I don't know. Neither do you. Let the system work.

But the face of this attack is looking less like Osama Bin Laden....

Continue reading "Fast Work on London Blasts"

July 12, 2005

Fight for One InternetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

joi ito.jpgJoi Ito took up a challenge I laid down recently, in my piece on the possibility of Internet War.

Joi's point is that the Internet split has already begun, and it is based on language. Chinese and Japanese people don't care for English. People want URLs in their own language. And these URLs are unreachable by those whose keyboards only write what the Japanese call "Romaji," Roman letters.

"Why should these people be forced to learn some sort of roman transliteration in order to access the company page where they know the official Chinese characters for the names" he writes. (This is a very short excerpt. I urge you to read the whole post -- it is very wise.)

The peculiarities of language provide an excellent source of control for tyranny. Most Chinese don't leave the Chinese Internet, leaving them at the mercy of the authorities. Many Japanese choose not to leave their own language, leaving them ignorant of how others feel.

Language can also provide cover for terrorists. We can't translate all the Arabic-language e-mail or Web sites out there. We can't even find the URLs, unless we know how to look for them. So many of our problems in the War on Terror are exacerbated by a shortage of translators, or mis-translations. This problem continues to get worse.

There's more, of course.

Continue reading "Fight for One Internet"

July 01, 2005

Has The Internet War Been Declared?Email This EntryPrint This Article

richard forno.jpgThe U.S. government has announced it will continue to control the DNS root structure, indefinitely.

Is this how the Internet War starts?

Until today the U.S. position was that it wanted to transition control of the root over to ICANN, a private entity, and several extensions were given.

Earlier this year, ICANN hesitated in extending Verisign's control of the .Net registry, following the SiteFinder scandal, where Verisign redirected "page not found" errors to a site it controlled (and sold ads against). Control was finally given, through 2011, but Verisign's ethical attitudes have not changed. As we noted earlier this week, it is Verisign that is behind the Crazy Frog Scandal.

Some felt that ICANN caved under U.S. government pressure. What you have here is assurance that such pressure will continue to be effective, and on behalf of a very corrupt company. If that is not seen as a provocation by the ITU I will be very surprised.

So how can that result in Internet War?

The problem, as former ICANN board member Karl Auerbach noted to Dave Farber's list today, "the only reason that the NTIA root zone is 'authoritative' is because a lot of people adhere to it voluntarily." Security expert Richard Forno (top) noted, to the same list, that "the timing is weird, coming as it does only a short time before the forthcoming meeting of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)."

I would assert that the timing is not weird at all. The U.S. government has told the U.N. that it can shove any thoughts of international control over the DNS where the sun don't shine. It has, in effect, thrown down a gauntlet and dared the international community to challenge it.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Has The Internet War Been Declared?"

June 30, 2005

Pressure on the Good GuysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

feingold.jpgPolitically I think Senator Russ Feingold is one of the Good Guys. So, to be perfectly bipartisan about it, is Senator John McCain. (You know what McCain looks like, so here's Feingold.)

This is especally true regarding campaign finance. Proponents of reform have been pushing uphill with scant success ever since the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Vallejo, which basically said money is speech, and those with more money can out-shout the rest of us.

McCain and Feingold tried to fit that decision inside their eponymous campaign finance act, and while on most counts the Supreme Court ruled they did, that act also covered the Internet, and both men have insisted to this day that's true.

Now that the blogosphere has pushed-back on this, pushed back hard, from both sides of the aisle, the good guys have not been heard from.

Continue reading "Pressure on the Good Guys"

June 27, 2005

A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?Email This EntryPrint This Article

DavidSouter.jpg

It's unanimous.

By a 9-0 count the Supreme Court has held that Grokster (and its ilk) can be sued.

The decision was written by David Souter (right, in an old picture from Wikipedia), a conservative-turned-liberal appointed by the first President Bush.

Here's the key bit:

"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

I've highlighted the most relevant portion. To me it looks like they wouldn't hold against BitTorrent, but that Grokster's business model, which did sell the service as a way to infringe, crossed a legal line.

As written I find it hard to argue against the language, but I guarantee I'll disagree with the interpretation, especially the spin being placed on this by the copyright industries.

As I see it the decision puts a limit on the "non-infringing uses" language of the Betamax decision, but does not overturn it. Grokster falls because its business model is based on infringement. BitTorrent has no business model, and thus may be exempt.

Trouble is that is an assertion that will be tested in courts that will twist this result just as the DMCA was twisted to reach this decision. Congress was told by the Copyright industries in 1998 that the DMCA would not overturn Betamax, that it would protect fair use, that it would not be extended in that direction and should not be interpreted as going there.

With this decision -- a unanimous decision as opposed to the 6-3 Betamax ruling -- I guarantee you the industry's lawyers will try and turn this into open season on the Internet.

But can they?

Continue reading "A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?"

June 20, 2005

House of CardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

orson card.jpgThanks to his political involvement many liberals are treating Orson Scott Card as a pariah.

I’m certain he doesn’t care. Many great writers have been men and women of uncertain, even unwelcome politics. Like all people they’re products of their environment.

This is especially true in science fiction, a subset of literature devoted to worlds far removed from our own time and space. I didn’t like Robert Heinlein’s politics, and I don’t discuss politics with Jerry Pournelle, either. But I enjoy both, immensely.

I also enjoy Card's work. I'm a fan, with eyes wide open to his faults and limits, but a fan nonetheless.

Continue reading "House of Card"

June 15, 2005

The Journalism CrisisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mencken387x250.gifIt should surprise no one that "professional" journalists hate Wikis and blogs.

A little history lesson shows you why. Only this one's fun. As part of your summer reading get yourself a copy of H.L. Mencken's Newspaper Days. (That's Mencken to the left.) It's his memoir of Baltimore's newspaper business around the turn of the last century.

Newspapermen at that time were lower class, hard drinking, smoking, swearing, worthless ne'er do wells. You wouldn't bring one home to mother. They hid in saloons, spun lies, spied on people, made less than the corner grocer, and were generally shiftless, lazy bums. Despite this, they considered themselves a class apart.

This last is still the case. But today's newspaper writers are either middle-class bores or upper-class twits. Those who report on Washington, write columns or work on editorials are among the most twittish. Many make more than the people they cover, especially if their faces are on television.

Blogs, wikis and the whole Internet Business Model Crisis threaten these happy homes. (Although I've got news for them -- stock analysts treat newspaper stocks like tobacco stocks and their ranks are being thinned like turkey herds in September. They'd be a dieing breed even without the Net.)

What's most galling to "professional" journalists is not the loss of jobs, or money, but their continuing loss of prestige. On the upper rungs of the ladder they're being replaced by "players" -- sports stars, lawyers, politicians, former entertainers. On the lower rungs they're being driven into poverty -- we've talked before of the corrupted tech press. And in the middle rungs you've got these blogs, wikis and the continuing problems of being treated like a mushroom. (You're in the dark and they're throwing manure on you.)

Our times are, in many ways, a mirror image of the 1890s.

Continue reading "The Journalism Crisis"

June 10, 2005

A Note to PewEmail This EntryPrint This Article

carol darr.jpgThis is a note to the nice people at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Some of your money has gone astray. Specifically, it has gone to George Washington University for something called the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, formerly the Democracy Online Project.

GWU put a woman named Carol Darr (right, from the Center for National Policy) in charge of this group, and she has proven to be, well, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot. Clueless, in the parlance of this blog. To be blunt about it, she is using money given for promoting democracy on the Internet in order to destroy it.

Continue reading "A Note to Pew"

This Week's Clue: Destroying the VillageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vietnam war.jpgI guess I felt a little down this week -- about the direction of technology, about the economy, about a lot of things.

So the readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)


There are times when history, like television, goes into re-runs.

We have literally turned Iraq into another Vietnam. But we've seen this movie before, so when Rumsfeld does his McNamara imitations, or Bush plays like LBJ's dumber brother, we change the channel.

Yet the fact is that when history repeats (unlike television) it does so in spades, in triplicate.

World War I was horrible. World War II was worse.

Iraq is not the only Vietnam repeat out there. We're doing the same thing with the Internet.

We're ignoring history. We know what would work to secure our computers, and the networks they run on. But we don't act. So we get this incremental escalation, this drip-drip-drip that leaves us, in the end, worse off than we would be had we taken decisive action at the start.

There are laws on the books that should deal with spam, with spyware, and with the problems of identity theft. They can be found under headings like fraud, theft, and fiduciary responsibility. Nothing is being done today that wasn't done before - only the means have changed.

Instead of moving against these problems together, as was attempted in the 1990s, we're leaving everyone on their own, and sometimes the cure winds up being worse than the disease.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Destroying the Village"

June 06, 2005

Anakin Scott CardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

orson card.jpgAs a young writer the force was strong in Orson Scott Card.

His Secular Humanist Revival Meeting was a model of the form. He came on in the guise of a Baptist preacher to speak against creation science, and for a secular society in the humanist tradition.

The strongest statement he made in that talk was to note that any religion which gained the power of the state could lose its holiness because its first task once in power would be to oppress other religions. “This was even true for my own religion, in the Rocky Mountains,” he said.

His reference was to the Mormon Church, of which he is a lifelong member. To escape its secular hold he made his home in North Carolina. Still does.

Continue reading "Anakin Scott Card"

June 02, 2005

Short Term ValuesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Transfer-Values.jpgWe do have a values problem in this country. (The illustration is from a Mormon-oriented marketing outfit.)

Too many of us have short-term values.

I could go off on our leaders over this, but leaders need followers, so I'm going after you instead.

  • Why can't businesses see past the current quarter?
  • Why is the environment so easily dismissed?
  • Why does the news care more about the idiot on the Buckhead crane than what is happening in Iraq?
  • Why are religious leaders so anxious to take the state's money?

We see this on the Internet all the time. I think this new XXX TLD is a perfect example. It doesn't answer the question -- what's sexual and what should we do about it? Just build a ghetto and toss Jenna Jameson in there -- oh and Planned Parenthood too. Then what, Adolf?

Americans won't move toward IPv6 because we got a ton of addresses back in the day. Besides, NATs work fine, right?

It is so easy to outsource our software production, to let Taiwan and China make our chips, to do everything we can to discourage kids from getting into tech. Our kids want to win American Idol. India, meanwhile, has a reality show called "the search for India's smartest kid."

Which country do you think is going to win the future, hmmm?

Continue reading "Short Term Values"

May 28, 2005

One for the Web?Email This EntryPrint This Article

eiffel tower.jpgThe European Constitution's impending failure in France is being credited to the Web. (Picture from Wikitravel.)

As the BBC reports:

This is the first major campaign in France in which the internet has become a key weapon, with bloggers and internet-users becoming the "No" campaign's front-line troops - not just in terms of influencing public opinion but also in rallying the French public to attend its campaign events.

If it happens, and the Web is credited after-the-fact, it would be a first, and it would be important.

As for Europe? I have a cunning plan...

Continue reading "One for the Web?"

May 26, 2005

Always On Political RoadblockEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Domecam.jpgWhy hasn't the World of Always On arrived?

The ingredients are all here, and they're cheap-as-chips: (An example is this nifty little camera, from yoursecurity.us.)


  • Wireless networks. You can buy an 802.11 wireless gateway for $65.
  • PCs to run the applications are down well below $250.
  • RFID kits? Cameras? Sensors? All available.
  • Long battery life? Thanks to Zigbee, that's a big check mark, too.

I'm convinced the hurdles facing Always On applications aren't technical, and aren't artifacts of the market.

They're political.

Let's run them down, shall we?

Continue reading "Always On Political Roadblock"

The Way of Hollywood is MadnessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When will we get effective political pushback against Hollywood's absolutism on copyright?

I once thought it would happen when people were jailed for linking.

I was wrong.

The filing of criminal charges against the people who ran Elite Torrents, a BitTorrent "tracking site," and the complete take-down of the site, has caused few ripples. Washington remains as absolutist as ever.

Instead, it's technology that retains our confidence. BitTorrent is now becoming trackerless. No trackers, no tracking sites to take down, no track linkers to toss in jail.

But that's not good enough for me. This is like depending on super weapons to defend us in an atomic age. Without peace, soon, between copyright owners and copyright users, the Internet will be effectively destroyed.

It doesn't take much imagination to see Al Qaeda propaganda, or even terrorist plans, being distributed via a Torrent. Especially a trackerless torrent.

From there it is a very quick move to seeing politicians equate file sharing with terrorism, Torrent users with Al Qaeda, and demands for a complete shut-down on any technology that can benefit the enemy.

Continue reading "The Way of Hollywood is Madness"

May 25, 2005

ScrewedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

screwed.gifJuan Cole today headlines a think piece on Iraq, "Sometimes You are Just Screwed."

I don't disagree. The insurgency has become a meat grinder, but bugging out would mean total defeat. The Army lacks volunteers, and there's no appetite for a draft. It is (as I feared it would be years ago) a Tar Baby, and it's destroying our economy as well as our military.

If that were all that was going wrong it would be bad enough. Vietnam cost 58,000 American lives and Iraq has already wounded one-third that number -- over 12,000 troops, over 6,000 contractors.

Getting into a second Vietnam is bad enough. But that's just one of three terrible fates facing the U.S. today.

Continue reading "Screwed"

May 24, 2005

The Frist RuleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

frist.jpgThe filibuster, as we knew it, is dead.

Who should we thank for this? Why, Dr. Bill Frist, M.D. (right, from eparent.)

Until U.S. Senate Majority Leader Frist acted it took 60 Senators to assure passage of anything. That was the number needed to invoke cloture, a motion to limit debate in the self-styled "world's greatest deliberative body." Any group of 41 Senators could hold questions open through this filibuster-lite tactic.

Now the number needed for passage is less than 60. Depending on the unity of the proponents of a person or position, it could be as many as 59 or as little as 50.

So a Democratic Administration with a thin Democratic Senate majority could, if its Senate members were unified, pass strong environmental laws with 50 votes (and the Vice President), voting to ignore the chamber's rules and go ahead. It could pass national health care legislation, or a gay marriage bill, on a wafer-thin majority. It could make Hillary Clinton the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (Heck, it could make Monica Lewinsky Chief Justice. Get thee to law school, girl!)

This became the de-facto rule as soon as Frist moved toward what its advocates called (at the time) the Nuclear Option (probably because it's so gosh-darned funny when the President tries to say the word "nuclear").

Yesterday's historic agreement was in fact a fig leaf over this accomplished fact.

Continue reading "The Frist Rule"

May 21, 2005

This Week's Clue: Jerimoth HillEmail This EntryPrint This Article

belmont statue01.jpegIn last week's issue of my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com, I took a look at business models , following a weekend at beautiful Belmont University in Nashville (left).

This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.

Enjoy.


There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.

Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.

I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.

So it went.

I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Jerimoth Hill"

May 18, 2005

Newsweek and 2+2Email This EntryPrint This Article

newsweek_logo_180x180.gifI didn't want to blog this. But when a good friend repeats a lie as truth and gets upset over it, truth just has to get its shoes on. So here goes.

Newsweek didn't kill anyone. Anyone who claims different is selling something.

Newsweek reported old news. The reporter, Michael Isikoff, had good sources in the Administration. He did all the right things. He had what he considered to be a reliable source. It was even buried deep in the back of the magazine.

The fact that people rioted, and people died, after the story came out is not the fault of Newsweek. It's the fault of whoever stuffed a Quran down the toilet. It's the fault of those who committed torture in our name, those who turned a blind eye to it, and ultimately those at the top. In the end I'm guessing that for every potential life saved by anything given under torture, at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, wherever, we created 100 terrorists, maybe more.

So let's get the story straight.

Continue reading "Newsweek and 2+2"

Rushdie WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

rushdie_salman.jpgAs the U.S. Senate prepares to take up the nuclear option, as the U.S. steps gingerly toward a trade confrontation with China, as pensions and real estate hang as if on a precipice, I'm not worried.

My saintly wife will tell you how I do sometimes rant-and-rail, about this-or-that, how I promise to pull up stakes and move to, say, South Africa. But I never do. Because at the end of the day, I believe, we'll muddle through. Americans have seen worse and gotten by, I tell myself. The system is resilient. This too shall pass.

Not necessarily. I have spent the last few weeks reading Salman Rushdie's most recent masterwork, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The Earth is constantly shaking, people are always dying, nothing is permanent in this book. Everything and everyone around the narrator is subject to sudden disaster and destruction. The survivor's job is to witness, then tell the tale.

In many ways 9-11 was a visit from Rushdie World. Rushdie himself had moved to New York by then, trading in his beloved Tottenham Hotspur for a New York Yankee cap. And the tragedy is a sub-text to the book. It can happen here. It does. It will. Think of it as evolution in action. Too many people are just no darned good. Their greed, their causes, their passions make them all like nitroglycerin. And the Earth itself is no better.

Yet Rushdie is still here. And I'm still here. And you're still here. For how long we can't know. And we all seem fairly prosperous. Those with talent, and those who are willing to change themselves, may witness more, may survive longer, and may (like Rushdie) leave a mark.

Continue reading "Rushdie World"

May 17, 2005

Patently Obvious Patent and Copyright ReformEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now that high-tech corporations are being held up (by smaller companies) there's a move afoot to reform the patent system.

Here is a simpler proposal, one in keeping with the intent of the Founders.

Continue reading "Patently Obvious Patent and Copyright Reform"

May 16, 2005

Oy, CanadaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

canada_flag.gifYou probably don't know this but Canada is in a world of hurt right now. And it's about to get worse.

The hurt is of self-inflicted. The governing Liberal Party is caught up in scandal , and the opposition is very regional - a Bush-like party based in the middle provinces, seperatists in Quebec and socialists in British Columbia.

But the big problem isn't political. It's regulatory.

Continue reading "Oy, Canada"

May 11, 2005

CNN Surrenders to BlogosphereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

CNN-logo.jpgWith CNN's decision, now reflected on its air, to become a national version of local TV news, with "it bleeds, it leads" sensibilities and a complete emphasis on simple stories told in front of courthouses rather than anything researched, the word needs to go out.

They have surrendered to the blogosphere.

With local TV news no longer covering politics or policy, and with cable news now virtually ignoring it, what other conclusion can be drawn?

It's not as if politics has no audience. Political blogs have the highest audiences, and highest degree of audience participation, in the blogosphere. Many are profitable, some wildly so. Many also break real news stories, either through the efforts of the people running them or just from common posters who do their own investigations and report the results.

In the history of journalism this is big news.

But it's not being reported as such.

Continue reading "CNN Surrenders to Blogosphere"

May 09, 2005

Dirty Little Secret: Glenn Reynolds Is OKEmail This EntryPrint This Article

GlennReynolds.jpgThe dirty little secret I uncovered at Blognashville is that Glenn Reynolds is actually a very nice guy. Smart, too. (Not truly handsome like I am but OK for a hair-head.)

Reynolds, who teaches law at UT Knoxville and apparently enjoys it, also plays a right-wing crank on his Instapundit site. He does this part-time and, in part thanks to first-mover advantage, he dominates the right half of the political blogosphere, with over 15,000 incomng links at last count. (This blog, by contrast, has 262.)

Reading Reynolds, and those who admire him, one gets a completely false impression of the man.

In Nashville I found an erudite, intelligent, and amused gentleman of the old school, always in a suit and tie, never seeming to sweat, with a genuine smile that looked nothing like the MegaChurch preacher readers might expect. The haircut looks like something out of a 1968 Young Republican Club, and the blog reads like that as well, but the mind and the man behind them are quite different.

There was some real wisdom in the man as well. Don't believe me? Following are some quotes lifted directly from my notebook during the event:

Continue reading "Dirty Little Secret: Glenn Reynolds Is OK"

Manchurian FantasyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

James Gregory.jpgThere are days when I dream of a White House presser where a reporter snaps a Queen of Hearts at the President, just to see if they can trigger something.

If this guy were created by our enemies to destroy us he couldn't be doing a better job.

Continue reading "Manchurian Fantasy"

May 05, 2005

New LeftEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ann.bmpAfter 1964, history shows, American liberalism went off the rails.

It started slowly, but it eventually accelerated until liberalism, as an ideal, became anathema to the majority of a generation.

While most 1960s liberals remained wedded to the principles of the New Deal, and the system it created, other voices demanded more radical change. A continuing land war in Asia drained the moderates' legitimacy, inflation rose, and in frustration many leftists dropped out, demanding a revolution against legal authority.

In 2005 a lot of liberals are scared of right-wing extremism, the way their parents were scared of long hair back in the day. There are loonies trying to re-condition gays into playing straight. In Kansas the state government is trying to toss science in favor of miracles. In Washington there's a court-packing scheme reminescent of Roosevelt's own in 1937 (which is just as popular).

And, of course, there's Ann Coulter (above). I think of her as Grace Slick for the neo-Nazi crowd. Since she's anti-drug (and apparently anti-food) she has to talk mighty big trash to get her little followers hot-and-bothered. Why get mad? Why not just laugh?

Unfortunately most liberals are responding to this by wailing almost as loudly as Goldwater conservatives (like my dad) did in the mid-1960s. Liberals seem both apoplectic and incompetent in the face of opponents run riot.

Personally, I think liberals ought to keep their cool, preach values to Wall Street, and simply look sober.

Continue reading "New Left"

May 04, 2005

East of the Blog, West of the MediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

blog-mad.jpgI will be in Nashville this weekend, attending the meeting of the Media Bloggers Association. (The image is from a cool Brazilian blog I found, apparently written by a 16-year old.)

Before I could pack, leader Robert Cox sent me a list of new applicants for membership. Given the fact I felt my own journalistic credentials were under a microscope for months, waiting for his yea-or-nay (turned out I was lost in the shuffle) and given my own recent mistakes here, I was loathe to pass on the qualifications of others.

Generally, my opinion in the past was that the market decided who should be a journalist, and who was "just" a blogger. But that may not be right. After all, bloggers can go on-and-on until they exhaust themselves, and much journalism is subsidized by politicians, so that the requirement to lie becomes a lifestyle, and the liars become institutions whose credentials no one can question. Robert Novak is a journalist only because he's paid to play one on TV.

But then came news from Reporters Without Borders that 53 journalists died last year trying to report the news. That's paid journalists, real journalists, reporters, editors and publishers.

Continue reading "East of the Blog, West of the Media"

May 02, 2005

The Myth of ScarcityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The bidding war between Verizon and Qwest for MCI is based on a myth of scarcity. That is, both think they can make the deal pay by squeezing customers for the scarce resources represented by the MCI network.

Moores Law of Fiber rendered that inoperative many years ago. There is no shortage of fiber backbone capacity. And there are ample replacements for Plain Old Telephone Service -- not just cable but wireless.

The myth on which this deal is based is, simply, untrue.

Yet the myth persists, and not just in the telecommunications business.

Continue reading "The Myth of Scarcity"

April 29, 2005

The Seventh CrisisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

AntiJeffersonCartoon.image.jpgLast week I took a dispassionate look at economic cycles. This week let's take an equally dispassionate look at political cycles.

Political cycles are generational in nature. (The cartoon is from 1800 and AmericanPresident.Org. ) They're set in a time of great crisis. They're re-set when a new crisis occurs that the old assumptions can't deal with.

But they also wear out. Ideologies are like roads. You set off in a direction but, at some point, go beyond your destination. Yet the road keeps leading you on. And the kids finally say, let's go a new way.

Continue reading "The Seventh Crisis"

April 25, 2005

Tear Down The Great Wall of SilenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mao zedong.jpg On the surface, the current upset between China and Japan seems ridiculous. (Illustration from Paulnoll.com. Mr. Noll was a corporal during the Korean conflict.)

That the heirs of Mao , that the Butchers of Beijing should lecture anyone about human rights seems absurd.

China puts more people to death each year than any country in the world. (Yes, even more than Texas.) China is a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people as no other country, the most Totalitarian regime on Earth. My mentioning this may get Corante blocked to all of China, by the state's firewall system, the most extensive Internet censorship regime on the planet.

By contrast, Emperor Hirohito and the brutal system he led are dead. Japan acknowledged its sins in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and has since been a functioning democracy where politicians must accomodate the views of voters. Japan's Constitution forbids it to make war on its neighbors. Japan contributes more to good causes than any other national governnment.

This is power politics. China is pushing Japan out of the world power picture, letting Taiwan know that resistance is futile, and successfully challenging America's status as a Great Power. Just 12 years ago we were The Hyperpower. Now we're becoming second rate, losing our status to tyrants.

The reaction in the U.S. to all this has been silence. Deafening silence.

Few U.S. outlets have covered the story. The right-wing Cybercast "News" Service actually offered a balanced perspective. The New York Times offers only a fearful editorial on possible Chinese revaluation of the Yuan -- at another time this would be called appeasement.

The reason for this silence is not subject to dispute.

Continue reading "Tear Down The Great Wall of Silence"

The Open Source Political ChallengeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

lobbyist.jpgIn politics a committed minority usually wins. (The lobbyist image originally appeared in New York's Gotham Gazzette, but I found it at Italy's e-laser.)

That's because, on most issues, there is no majority view. Most people don't care.

Learning an issue, and becoming committed to it, teaches you the source code of politics.

If your organization is tightly-knit, if your issues are driven by corporate interests, then your politics is closed source. On issues that mainly interest businesses this is determinative. Lobbyists and financial contributions fight and often come to settlements that aren't half bad. Traditionally most issues before regulators, from the EPA and FTC to the FDA and FCC, have been closed-source arguments.

If your organization is loosely knit, and if your issues are driven by personal feeling, then your politics is open source. Open source politics defines social issues, and the numbers involved in turn drive American politics as a whole. Politicians can win with only committed minorities on their side, if those minorities stand united.

What happens when closed source and open source politics collide? It depends on how much real interest those on the open source end can manage.

This collision is now apparent in telecommunications.

Continue reading "The Open Source Political Challenge"

April 19, 2005

Old Girl NetworkEmail This EntryPrint This Article


I declined to get involved in the Larry Summers sexism affair. (That's Larry at left, along with other future cast members of Saturday Night Live.)

But an opportunity has come to make a relevant comment, and brag on the old alma mater at the same time.

One big difference between Harvard, where Summers is President, and Rice, where I went to school, is that Harvard has an extensive Old Boy Network and Rice does not.

As an alumnus it pains me to admit this. Rice offers a high-quality education, better than Harvard in many ways, but once you're out you're on your own. There's no big power network in New York and Washington waiting to give you a leg-up.

But we're now seeing the flip side of this. Rice is a pure meritocracy. If you've got the goods, the Owl will shine his light on you. Harvard openings often go to those in the know, or those who know those in the know.

This may be why Larry Summers has trouble finding high-quality female scientists. Rice has had no trouble at all in that regard. In fact, the new Rice engineering Dean is Dr. Sallie Keller McNulty. The science dean is Kathleen Matthews, who chaired the search committee.

That is not all. Far from it. Dr. Rebekah Drezek and Dr. Jennifer West of the biochemistry department have recently found that silica-gold "nanoshells," another form of the Buckyball first found at Rice 20 years ago, can help cure cancer through imaging. They were following up on pioneering work on nanoshells by Dr. Naomi Halas, an electrical engineer. Dr. Halas, in turn, is currently being featured on PBS' Nova.

Continue reading "Old Girl Network"

Open Source TransparencyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The key benefit of open source is transparency. (That's a transparent Mozambique garnet, from CLDJewelry in Tucson, Arizona. Transparency doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.)

The key benefit is not that the software is free. It's not that you can edit it. It has nothing to do with the obligations of the General Public License. It's inherent in every open source license out there.

The key advantage of open source is you can see the code. You can see how it works. You can take it apart. You can fix it. You can improve it. Most people do none of these things, but all benefit from this transparency.

The benefit became clear when I got responses to a ZDNet post called Is Linux Becoming Windows? The news hook was a Peter Galli story about how some folks were getting upset over the feature bloat now taking place in the Linux 2.6 kernel.

Those who responded said simply that the complainents, and I, had lost our minds. Kernel features aren't mandatory. Just because something is supported doesn't mean you have to do it. You can pick and choose among features, because you can see the whole code base -- it's transparent. You can look at the various builds out there and, if there's something you don't like, something you can do better, you can fork it, and maintain your own enhanced code base.

When Microsoft changes its software it makes things incompatible. When Linux software changes this doesn't happen, because the change is transparent. New builds are transparent, and if you come to a fork in your operating system road you can take it.

Transparency is the key term. And it doesn't just apply to software:

Continue reading "Open Source Transparency"

April 18, 2005

Blogger of the YearEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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Having done this work for a few years now, I do sometimes ask myself what the best bloggers have that I might lack.

The answer comes down to one thing. The best stay on one thing. They know their beats, know their limits, they do the research, and they don't flit around outside those subjects (the way I often do).

The most important blogger of our time is probably Pamela Jones of Groklaw. Groklaw is more a community than a blog (but so is DailyKos). Despite the extensive help her audience gives her, Jones still gives her beat rigid attention, tons of supporting materials, and she gives her enemies plenty of rope for hanging themselves so that, when she does speak her mind, she has both authority and supporters.

Continue reading "Blogger of the Year"

April 13, 2005

WiFi Movement in DisarrayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Lenin named his small movement the Bolsheviks, a word meaning majority. He called his majority opponents Mensheviks, a word meaning minority.

The point is that if one side is large and undisciplined while the other side is smaller but tightly disciplined, the smaller group can win a political struggle.

That seems to be the case with municipal wifi. It's an undeniable good everyone wants. It's relatively cheap to install and maintain. It should be a no-brainer.

But it's losing to telephone monopolies because of lax discipline.

I've gotten a taste of that this week in criticisms of my recent pieces on Philly's WiFi plan.

Continue reading "WiFi Movement in Disarray"

April 12, 2005

The Right Way to CityWide WiFiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Glenn Fleischman and I disagree so seldom, we both get confused when it happens.

It happened this week when I wrote predicting the failure of Philly's WiFi plan. Glenn says the taxpayers are protected and it all looks good to him. I, on the other hand, have seen Eagles fans.

Long story short I thought it would help if I described what might be a better plan for citywide WiFi. Apologies to those of you who have read this before.

The short answer is WiMax. The long version follows the break.

Continue reading "The Right Way to CityWide WiFi"

April 11, 2005

Today's Big Lie: Spam Is OKEmail This EntryPrint This Article

spam.gif Today's big lie is a misinterpretation of the latest Pew Internet Survey. We think spam is no big deal.

(The great-tasting pork-shoulder-and-ham concoction from Hormel pictured to the left is still a very big deal in Alaska and Hawaii. They love the stuff.)

"Email users are starting to get comfy with the spamvertisers" claims Silicon.com. Internet Users Unruffled by Spam, says TopTechNews. Internet users more accepting of spam, says Forbes.

Well, nonsense. (I would use stronger language, but I want everyone to get the point.)

Here are some facts from the same study. Barely half of us now trust e-mail, down 11% from a year ago. Over one-fifth of us have cut down our e-mail use because of spam, just in the last year.

As for the rest...users have learned to deal. We have spam filters. I use Mailwasher. We don't get as much as before because more of it is being stopped at the server level.

That doesn't mean we like it. And it's deliberately misleading to say it is. It's like the battered wife syndrome. Why doesn't she leave the jerk? Why don't you just go offline?

It's the same question with the same answer. You find ways.

But if someone would finally arrest the batterer and throw his butt in the slammer for a good long time she'd learn to be grateful.

Which reminds me...

Continue reading "Today's Big Lie: Spam Is OK"

April 04, 2005

Who Sets The Agenda?Email This EntryPrint This Article

thomas friedman.gifThe great struggle of our time, between "major media journalism" and "blogging" involves who sets the agenda.

Exhibit A. I've been writing about the economic threat of India and China for years now. I've called the War on Terror a mere distraction from the real game. I know other bloggers have done the same.

But suddenly, wonder of wonders, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times goes to Bangalore, discovers we're right and now it's on everyone's radar.

I've written before here of the methods by which the major media is trying to co-opt the blogosphere and eliminate the threat. They're taking on some people, attacking others, and in this case, just taking others' ideas and claiming them for their own.


Continue reading "Who Sets The Agenda?"

April 01, 2005

The Issue of Our TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The following appeared today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, now into its 9th year of publication.

You can get it free any time.


Science is the political issue of our time.

It will surprise many to hear it's controversial. But to those with an historical perspective it's no surprise at all.

Continue reading "The Issue of Our Time"

We Love Vint CerfEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vint cerf.jpg Over the years I've been critical of Vint Cerf, one of the original gearheads credited with TCP/IP.

(One look at the hairline, of course, and one must admit he's a Truly Handsome Man. The picture is from Computerhistory.org, a page describing his early work.)

When Cert looks into the future today, he gets it. He understands where we should be going, and perhaps more importantly where we should not be going, in regards to the Internet.

He shared some of that wisdom Wednesday at a dinner called Freedom to Connect.

Following are some of the high points:

Continue reading "We Love Vint Cerf"

March 31, 2005

The Right Telecomm PolicyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

simplicity.jpg

Now that you’ve read my latest dismissive screed against the government, the question may have occurred to you.

What might a proper telecommunications policy consist of? (Very pretty flower, I know. Here's where I got it. The picture is called Simplicity.)

It’s really quite simple.

Click below and I'll tell you.

Continue reading "The Right Telecomm Policy"

Qwest Persists For Big Government's SakeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

qwest.jpgQwest is playing the game Wall Street wants it to play.

That game is predicated on the assumption that there can only be a few big "winners" and everyone else is a loser.

Wall Street also believes that tleecommunications is fearfully expensive to provide, that it is a "capital-intensive" business.

In this analysis, Moore's Law is ignored. Forget how fiber becomes more efficient with each passing year. Forget how we use bandwidth more efficiently, or how the cost of processing goes down.

To Wall Street, telecommunications is capital intensive and there can only be a few winners. Period. The end.

Continue reading "Qwest Persists For Big Government's Sake"

March 29, 2005

Google vs. News Inc.Email This EntryPrint This Article

hg otis.jpg
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.

It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)

The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.

Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.

And they don't like it one bit.

The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.

In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).

Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.

On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.

At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.

The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.

In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.

But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.

Continue reading "Google vs. News Inc."

March 28, 2005

The Schiavo SpammerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

tacm.jpgHere is the problem I have with special pleading. Anyone can do it.

But once we let one do it, all do it.

And so I call upon whoever hosts the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to pull the plug on its ISP account.

And I call on all other ISPs to refuse the pastor's money.

I do this because his site just spammed me from the e-mail address tlthe5th@myway.com.

Continue reading "The Schiavo Spammer"

The Demonization of Google Has BegunEmail This EntryPrint This Article

google_fark.jpgThe demonization of Google has begun. (Image from InternetWeekly.org.)

It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.

I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.

With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasn’t doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, “While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human.” And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.

But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News won’t even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders “hate sites.”

And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.

Continue reading "The Demonization of Google Has Begun"

Editorial LicensingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Photo-los-angeles-times-building-post-bombing.jpg

At the heart of the First Amendment is the idea that you don't need a license to do journalism. (Take a close look at the Wikipedia picture -- there will be a test later.)

Now, in the name of fighting competition from a new technology, some journalists are calling for just such a license.

The bleating is seen best in today's column by David Shaw of the LA Times. Shaw feels that privileges his industry worked hard to create will be threatened if bloggers can avail themselves of the same protections.

I hope I'm getting the best of his argument in the following quote:

Continue reading "Editorial Licensing"

March 25, 2005

Content's Forgotten Middle ClassEmail This EntryPrint This Article

discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.jpgIn all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.

The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.

Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.

At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.

Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.

Continue reading "Content's Forgotten Middle Class"

March 23, 2005

Bill Nye for PresidentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bill nye.jpg Few people understand this yet, but there is a thread tieing together most public issues in our time.

That thread is science, the issue represented best by comedian Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Thus the headline.

This Administration, and its acolytes, oppose science. But science is our only hope for solving real problems. As a result America's competitiveness is disappearing.


  • In the Schiavo case, Bush is ignoring the science showing the death of the brain is the real death, not the beating of a heart.
  • In the case of Alaskan Oil, Bush is ignoring both the sciences of global warming and of hydrogen replacement.
  • This Administration favors the ignorance of "intelligent design" over the science of evolution.
  • The isolation of scientists from political decision-making guarantees ignorant decisions.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for this Administration's supporters to point to an issue, or a decision, or a controversy, where their side supports real science. Instead, science itself is increasingly politicized.

The idea that science is under direct attack remains inchoate in the American electorate. Despite repeated political calls by real scientists for more science education, and a greater use of science in decision-making, those involved in technology remain reluctant to brand George W. Bush their enemy.

Continue reading "Bill Nye for President"

March 21, 2005

Terrorism or Freedom FighterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

kofi annan 2.jpgI am a supporter of the U.N. I want it to have real power and influence.

This makes me a minority among my countrymen. So be it.

But I found myself troubled in reading this definition of terrorism today from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

"any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act".

In effect this prohibits any violent action against any tyrannical government, and puts the U.N. on record supporting that tyranny.

Continue reading "Terrorism or Freedom Fighter"

March 18, 2005

The Oil CurseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Spindletop.gifNote: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, now in its 9th year. Join us -- always free.


The great financial Curse is to have money coming out of the ground.

I didn't believe this when I started in journalism. I started in Houston, whose economy was based entirely on the concept of money coming out of the ground - Black Gold, Texas Tea.

For most of history, money has mainly come out of the ground. Assets were what you could drill for, what you could mine, or what you could grow. The exceptions to this rule were those of trade. If you sat astride a trade route, if you had a deep water port, if the railroads decided that your location would work for a station, then your land had value.

Moore's Law has changed all that. The Internet has changed that for all time.

Continue reading "The Oil Curse"

The New ILECsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Steve largent.jpgCellular companies used to be the small, scrappy, second-tier telecomm carriers.

They're now morphing into ILECs, like the Bells. The two largest cellcos -- Cingular and Verizon Wireless -- are in fact owned by Bells. The other big guys -- T-Mobile, Sprint -- also have local coverage areas. (T-Mobile's is in Germany.)

But I'm talking about more than a superficial resemblance. At CTIA, CEO (and former Congressman) Steve Largent (right) announced MyWireless, the beginnings of an effort to use all forms of manipulation -- including Astroturf , to protect the industry's position and stall change through the courts and legislatures.

This is not how Largent (who was also a record-setting wide receiver for Seattle in a past life) put it.

Continue reading "The New ILECs"

So Now You Notice...Why?Email This EntryPrint This Article

jeff jarvis.jpg
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?

To some extent, you are.

When I write about things that are really important, about space or futurism or how our lives are changing with cellular, few notice. This is normal service.

When I step on the tail of Tina Brown, suddenly the blogosphere pays attention.

Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.

Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.

Continue reading "So Now You Notice...Why?"

March 17, 2005

Bloggers are the new Stasi?Email This EntryPrint This Article

google stpatricks_05.gif
Dem's fighting words, ma'am.

The words are from Tina Brown (right, from the syndicator of her column), at the Washington Post, and they are among the greatest pieces of chutzpah I have ever seen. (Although, personally, I'd love a syndicator. And I could do a job for one, too.)

Careful about clicking below, because I'm about to get mad and my language is about to get very blue indeed.

Continue reading "Bloggers are the new Stasi?"

March 15, 2005

IBM Suit Demonstrates Hollowing of MilitaryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Folks who should know better, like Steve Gilliard, are gleefully piling on a story from New York about an IBM executive who was fired because his Reserve commitment rendered him worthless to the company after September 11.

The story, by columnis Denis Hamill (left) is a righteous bust. IBM is going to lose the suit. IBM deserves to lose the suit. And the only reason I get to write about this at all is because IBM is a tech company.

But the issue goes deeper than any one employer.

Continue reading "IBM Suit Demonstrates Hollowing of Military"

March 14, 2005

Spectrum Law Is Not Property LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When John W. Berresford speaks, the Bush Administration listens.

Berresford is the FCC's senior antitrust lawyer and a professor at the right's favorite school, George Mason. He has power and the connections to turn his statements into policy.

So when he came out with a paper today about spectrum policy, it was bound to be read avidly.

In his paper Berresford favorably compares the law of land property to that of spectrum. He notes how property rights and spectrum rights are limited under the law, often in the same ways, and states that "efficiency" should be the watchword in spectrum policy.

We should know what we're in for when, in his first paragraph, he mischaracterizes the debate:

Debate rages about whether the allocation and management of the radio frequency spectrum should be mostly a political process, treating it as “The People’s Airwaves,” or mostly market-driven, treating it as private property.

That's not the debate. The debate boils down to science and markets. What treatment of spectrum best serves the market, that of a government-owned monopoly or a carefully-managed resource?

We haven't just "discovered" how to use vast new areas of spectrum in the last 20 years. We've learned a lot about how such spectrum can be re-used, again-and-again.

Thus the argument of property vs. commons isn't a left-right argument (as Berresford supposes in his introduction). It's an argument over science and efficiency.

And the plain fact is that the spectrum which is most efficiently used in this country, which makes the most money per hertz, by far, is the unlicensed spectrum.

Berresford ignores both the science and market forces behind this fact.

Continue reading "Spectrum Law Is Not Property Law"

March 11, 2005

Dean Kamen Gets ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What should a rational U.S. technology policy include? Very simple:

  • Honor education.
  • Pay educators.
  • Invest in Big Science, big dreams.
  • Turn scientists and engineers (even young ones) into stars.

Fortunately, someone gets it.

Dean Kamen (right) gets it.

Yeah, the Segway guy. Here's how he puts it on the home page of the educational organization he founded, US First:

"Create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes..."

I can't say it any better.

Best of all, his words are backed by action. What follows is my personal testimony to this:

Continue reading "Dean Kamen Gets It"

Doerr Doesn't Get ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A delegation from the TechNet lobby, including John Doerr (Rice '73) and Cisco chief John Chambers, were on Capitol Hill today warning legislators that the U.S. is in danger of losing its technology lead.

By some measures, it has already happened.

TechNet wants more spending on math and science education, especially in middle schools, and more tech-oriented retraining for displaced workers.

Amen to that. Both my kids felt math was fun in 4th grade, but neither is pursuing it anymore. My son's school refused to challenge him in 7th grade, resorting to a curriculum he'd already learned, and he lost interest. My daughter was bedeviled by reading difficulties and her strength in math was ignored.

Then Doerr went off and spoiled it all by saying something stupid.

Continue reading "Doerr Doesn't Get It"

March 10, 2005

Mutterings on Corporate PersonhoodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The folks at ZDNet (of all places) are starting to hear mutterings against the concept of corporate personhood.

Companies are individuals under U.S. law. But they can't be killed or jailed as real people can. Their interests are immortal. (The illustration is from a group trying to change this.)

Corporations were made persons by the footnotes to an obscure 19th century Supreme Court decision involving the Southern Pacific Railroad. All those involved are long since dead but the railroal company's interests survive as part of the Union Pacific Corp.

Continue reading "Mutterings on Corporate Personhood"

March 09, 2005

BBC Gets It Wrong On ChinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC has a feature today claiming China's censorship of the Internet is highly effective.

In some ways China has been effective. All ISPs and access points are licensed and monitored. The Great Firewall of China rejects controversial queries. A blogger who criticized the authorities using their own name would be quickly arrested.

But there's a lot more to the story than that:

Continue reading "BBC Gets It Wrong On China"

March 04, 2005

Fall of the American EmpireEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Note: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, which celebrates its 8th birthday today. Join us -- always free.


In his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (no relation to the record company whose logo is to the right) Edward Gibbon notes that the causes of Rome's problems were not debated at the time.

Continue reading "Fall of the American Empire"

March 03, 2005

Barrett for PresidentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I used to like Intel chairman Craig Barrett.

Now, as he prepares for his May exit from the job he's had for seven years, I love Craig Barrett. (Image from ComputerWorld's Heroes page.)

Steve Stroh thanked VNU for the news tip, and I hereby thank Steve. But in his final address to the Intel Developer Forum, Barrett basically went off on the FCC.

I wish I had been able to say this:

"I believe in the Hippocratic Oath for government: first do no harm. That means sorting out spectrum allocation, fostering R&D and creating an environment to let business function," he said.

"[WiMax] is the solution to the 'last mile' broadband issue. It will get us out of the half-assed broadband situation we're in today. 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps is not broadband; 50 Mbps is."

Tell it, brother Barrett. Amen. More on what this means after the jump.


Continue reading "Barrett for President"

February 28, 2005

Gates Gets A ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I was at the YMCA yesterday, pushing the old bones through another workout, and a crowd gathered around a TV where Bill Gates was giving a speech.

He was reading the speech the way he does, one shoulder slumped down like a hipster from the 50s. The expensively-crafted words did his work for him. He didn't need to work to sing. It's good to be king.

And his message was simple. High schools suck. The words were repeated gleefully as far away as Beijing. "When I compare our high school with what I see abroad I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow."

Both my kids are in high school, Bill, and I'm terrified too. But platitudes won't get it done. Neither will all your money.

Continue reading "Gates Gets A Clue"

February 26, 2005

Media TimidityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Good journalism stories have clear leads, a point of view, and publishers have the courage to defend the results.

There is very little good journalism going on today, which may be why the profession's reputation is shot. In today's class we have two examples of this to show you.

Exhibit A is Spectrum Wars, a long National Journal feature proudly sent to the Interesting People by its author, Drew Clark of their Technology Daily.

It's a solid, workmanlike overview of efforts to free-up spectrum going back over a decade. But it fails to put across any point of view, other than repeating that broadcasters want to keep their frequencies, including those given for HDTV.

It refuses to answer key questions:


  1. Should frequencies be sold or made part of the commons?
  2. Should we be broadcasting or data-casting?

In fact, it doesn't even effectively ask them.

Continue reading "Media Timidity"

February 25, 2005

The Climax StateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Note: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, which celebrates its 8th birthday next week. Join us -- always free.


Karl Marx was one of the great moral philosophers of the 19th century. But his vision was perverted, in the 20th century, and made the center of a system that imprisoned billions of people, one that required decades of war to eradicate.

Ayn Rand, who was born 100 years ago, was one of the great moral philosophers of the 20th century. Her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged , have become as important as Marx' Das Kapital was to Communists, in defining the ideology of modern Conservativism.

It's just as imprisoning.

Continue reading "The Climax State"

February 24, 2005

Academic FreedomEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Academic freedom is the great issue of our time, because it's not a one-way street.

Just as the GPL carries with it, as one of its "freedoms," the obligation to give back your finished tools under the GPL, so academic freedom also carries an obligation.

That obligation is to the scientific method. (The illustration is from a great discussion of bad science from Frankfurt, Germany. Use the link and then tell me who's pictured in the comments.)

The scientific method does not deal in truth, but in theories. All theories are constantly tested and adjusted by new observations or experiment. They are measured by whether they work, in engineering or in creating new lines of inquiry.

Academic review works similarly. Anyone who has done a dissertation knows the drill. You have to defend your work before people who understand it, and only after you withstand the scrutiny do you get the robe.

Politics exists in both science and academia, but politics doesn't control the whole process. The check on campus politics is the presence of other campuses, and the wider world of the discipline.

This is precisely what is under threat in our time.

Continue reading "Academic Freedom"

February 23, 2005

Rock or Hard Place?Email This EntryPrint This Article

As of now, all class action lawsuits must go through the federal courts.

The Bushies may be sorry they made this change, because a very big class action is likely to head their way very soon.

The action will be against ChoicePoint, which managed to sell 145,000 credit dossiers to criminal gangs.

That's a big class. Every single victim may have had their identity stolen, either now or sometime later. At minimum, each victim faces a daunting task to re-establish their identity, and the impact of this theft is likely to follow them for years.

That's what lawyers call an actionable tort.

So far only one lawsuit has been filed, an individual suit in California. Expect many more.

The press coverage of this scandal has, so far, been horrendous. Most stories, like CNN's, act like the victims here somehow did something wrong.

They didn't. This was a deliberate act by a company too greedy to take proper care. They deserve whatever the legal system can dish out -- which right now is a lot less than it was a few weeks ago.

And that's the problem.

Continue reading "Rock or Hard Place?"

February 21, 2005

Moohr's LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As mentioned in the previous item, I was honored last weekend to speak at the Virginia Journal on Law and Technology (VJOLT) Symposium, "Real Law and Online Rights."

I'd expected an argument. The vast majority of copyright lawyers today are employed by copyright holders. Instead, I was given the lead-off slot, the small congregation nodded in time to my music, and the speakers all advocated a balanced view of copyright and patent law.

One of the best (in my opinion), was Geraldine Moohr, who teaches at the University of Houston Law School, a short bike ride from my old stomping grounds at Rice. She based her talk on a paper she wrote last year on copyright criminal law.

The short version. It doesn't work. "There is a lack of a social norm that would condemn personal use infringement," she said. "Civil penalties may be good enough. They have a a punitive quality to them."

Continue reading "Moohr's Law"

Would Franklin Blog, Would Jefferson FileshareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

While Susan Crawford was asking whether Ben Franklin would blog, (and Donna Wentworth was pointing the world to her piece) I was being asked a similar question "would Jefferson file share" at a VJOLT conference in Charlottesville.

The answer, in both cases, would depend on which Franklin or Jefferson you were talking about.

Franklin was desperate to publish as a young man, and the 1721 Franklin would doubtless have blogged. As a printer, Franklin routinely used copyrighted material without payment, and as a raconteur/diplomat he was far more often on the receiving end, so if he had blogged then he would have done it very carefully, judiciously, with an eye toward public opinion.

Jefferson was the first consumer, and doubtless would have used Grokster in his dorm at William & Mary. But later, as he became a public figure, he would have been far more conscious of the need for anonymity. As a politician, he would have no more admitted to copyright violation than George W. Bush would admit to smoking pot.

Both men, however, learned to live as though their private lives were public. Franklin used his fame to win an alliance with France, even letting himself be pictured in a beaver hat. Jefferson dealt with the Sally Hemings affair throughout the 1800 campaign, not to mention his lifelong reputation as a spendthrift, a wastral and, in the end, a bankrupt.

A better question might be this. Could you, or I, have done as well, then or now?

I doubt it. But we all should try.

February 18, 2005

The Chinese Century Begins (Really)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Unlike my novel, The Chinese Century, the following is true.

China now outconsumes America on most goods (gasoline being an exception).

This fact carries with it some important economic implications. Let's discuss them:

  1. The U.S. is going to have to learn conservation. Being outside the Kyoto accord doesn't matter. If we are to waste what we use, we will be unable to buy more.
  2. In most U.S. recessions prices go down. Next time they won't. There are other big markets for the world's goods. We're not essential any more.
  3. China's economy continues to grow at nearly 10% per year. The gap between their market and ours is widening.
  4. China is becoming less dependent on exports to the U.S. in order to clear its production shelves. When our economy tanks their prices will go down, and their consumers will benefit.
  5. China is not Japan. Japanese consumers remained reluctant to consume throughout their boom. China has proven it will consume.

Continue reading "The Chinese Century Begins (Really)"

February 16, 2005

Cato The CluelessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Cato Institute claims to be an advocate of free enterprise, by which we are meant to think free and open competition. (That's the logo from one of their standard online products.)

Nope.

They are, in fact, huge supporters of untrammeled business power, of oligopoly. Hey, where do you think their funding comes from, rabbits?

Here's a great example. It's a blog they call Tech Liberation. It takes a few clicks to learn this is a Cato shop, but they're not really hiding it.

The piece is by Adam Thierer (left), who works full-time at Cato as "director of telecommunication studies.". Its theme is the latest round of telecom mergers. Its message is don't worry, be happy.

"We can safely conclude that the communications / broadband networking business can be very competitive with 2 or 3 or even 4 major backbone providers in each region providing some mix of voice, video and data services."

Evidence for this? A Wall Street Journal piece noting that SBC wants to get into cable television. Other than that, a lot of chirping crickets. And some very nasty lies.

Want a taste?

Continue reading "Cato The Clueless"

February 14, 2005

(Trying To Be) Too Big To FailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What's the Clue from SBC's purchase of AT&T and Verizon's coming purchase of MCI? (That's a 1949 Southern Bell logo, from the Knox County, Tennessee historical collection. Beautiful, isn't it?)

The Bells know they are irrelevant to the future. They hope to become too big to fail.

Regulators in most of the world understand that phone monopolies need to be broken up, not just for the sake of competition but for the sake of technology. The EU is spurring the development of VOIP and regularly slapping the hands of "incumbent carriers." The developing world, meanwhile, is able to create multiple wireless competitors, by fiat, and watch competition drive innovation to a degree we can only dream of.

Why are the U.S. Bells the only phone companies in the world that could truly become "too big to fail?"

Continue reading "(Trying To Be) Too Big To Fail"

Is Science Politics? Gilder Thinks SoEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One way I can tell that America's conservatives have become ideologues, akin to Communists, Fascists, and other idiots, is how they have turned everything into politics.

Even science.

I'm not talking about the ongoing debate over teaching science or religion on the schools. It's easy to see how so-called "intelligent design" is religion because you can't do anything with the insight "God did it" -- it leads to no experiment, and ends questioning. Evolution, on the other hand, constantly brings new questions with it. Theories are used to stimulate questions, not end them.

I'm talking instead about how, when you get some of these advocates in a corner, they will flat-out admit that the whole thing is politics, just another way to fight the liberal impulse on behalf of their ideology.

The canary in this coal mine is named George Gilder, (above, from Forbes), and in Wired this month he sings this tune like Sinatra.

Watch him build (then knock down) his evolution straw man:

Continue reading "Is Science Politics? Gilder Thinks So"

February 10, 2005

Open Source PoliticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article


NOTE: Howard Dean will become chairman of the Democratic Party this weekend. Consider this an open letter to the new boss, from the bottom of the grassroots.



I was wrong about something important last year.

The year 2004 did not represent a “generational election” because people live longer than they used to. Thus, the Nixon Coalition was able to get the knees to jerk by turning 2004 into 1968. Democrats went along by nominating a man of the 60s.

Had this been a true generational election Vietnam would have been irrelevant, just as the New Deal was irrelevant to those marching in 1968, and the Spanish-American War was history to the hungry of 1932.

Will 2008 be the generational election? Maybe, but maybe not. In that year a person born in 1955, at the height of the “baby boom,” will be only 53. That’s still old enough to matter.

But a new generation is coming along, and that’s where Democrats should concentrate their attention.

The last generation had a name, Baby Boom. The new generation has a name, too.

The new generation is the Internet Generation.

Continue reading "Open Source Politics"

February 05, 2005

MCI Fingered for Spam FloodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

MCI grossed an estimated $5 million/year violating the law in its home state of Virginia, by knowingly hosting sales of a Russian virus used to turn PCs into spam zombies.

The full story, by Spamhaus' Steve Linford (below) was distributed online today. It charges that MCI knowingly hosts Send-Safe.Com, which sells a spam virus that takes over innocent computers and turns them into spam-sending proxies. Linford tracked Send-Safe to a Russian, Ruslan Ibragimov. Linford estimates MCI earns $5 million/year from its work supporting spammers.

The theft of broadband-connected PCs by viruses, mainly Send Safe and another Russian-made program, Alexey Panov's Direct Mail Sender ("DMS"), is responsible for 90% of the spam coming into AOL and other major ISPs, Linford charged.

Here's the nut graph:


MCI Worldcom not only knows very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year.

Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.

Continue reading "MCI Fingered for Spam Flood"

February 03, 2005

The Legal Threat To GrowthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I agree with President Bush on something.

Lawyers represent a major threat to our economy.

But I'm not worried about defense lawyers, or plaintiff's lawyers. I'm worried about the newer scourge of so-called "intellectual property" lawyers.

You won't find the phrase "intellectual property" in the Constitution. (It's often credited mainly to James Madison, left.) There, patents and copyrights are covered by a subsection of Article I, Section 8, whcih gives to the Congress power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

For limited times. To promote progress.

Because economic power has shifted, in our time, from our hands to our heads, and because technology is now able to move the product of our minds around the world at the speed of thought, American lawyers have done just what their British counterparts did two centuries ago. They've tried to make our economic leadership permanent through the language of law.

Continue reading "The Legal Threat To Growth"

February 01, 2005

The Closeted GenerationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is much wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on concerning a poll showing U.S. high school students are indifferent to freedom. (The image, by the way, is from The Minhdonian National Gallery.)

There should be no surprise. This may be the most closeted generation of young people ever. How in the world do you expect them to value something none of them have ever been given?

Today's high schoolers have been told "no" in the loudest possible terms since they were babies. Say no to drugs. Say no to sex. Get your rock from the Disney Channel. Get your rebellion from Nickelodeon.

If they have newspapers in high school these are routinely censored. Even college papers are censored, and closed if they trouble authorities in any way. Kids are even punished for publishing diaries on the Web, even anonymously.

Kids live in a world of V-Chips and drug tests, of mass media with Cyber-Nanny software. It's a comfortable world, for most of them. They're driven from school to ball-field, from day care to proms, but constantly warned that one step over the line will kill them, literally kill them.

No wonder they don't care about freedom.

And I'm not saying this from a sense of moral superiority. I've got two teenagers of my own. They're as closeted as their peers. Although I love them dearly.

Continue reading "The Closeted Generation"

January 28, 2005

Lessons From SBC-AT&TEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Assuming SBC does swallow AT&T (no doubt for less than BellSouth was offering earlier) would provide important lessons. (The image is from FreeBSD developer Greg Lehey, and was originally produced in 2002.)

First and foremost, it would be the murder of a great company by the government. It was government that broke up AT&T in the 1980s, and it was government that made AT&T non-competitive in our time.

Second, of course, it means that business tributes to the U.S. government are even more important than previously imagined. If the government can murder the nation's largest company (albeit over time and in chunks) it means no company is safe from a rapacious government, regardless of party. (Is is coincidence that AT&T was forced to divest during the Reagan Administration, and killed under Bush II? Check the campaign contribution files for the answer to that one.)

But wait, there are more lessons.

Continue reading "Lessons From SBC-AT&T"

January 27, 2005

Another Greater Fool StudyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Elliott Wave people ask, "Is the Greater Fool Era Ending?"

Answer: No.

Here is proof. Strategy Analytics has recently published another of those truly loony market studies, this one claiming that mobile phone operators will lose $12 billion from broadband wireless over the next several years.

It's nonsense because its premise is false, namely that those profits are out there to lose.

Yes, it's possible that if WiFi and WiMax didn't exist that all broadband revenues would go to cellular. It's also true that if freeways didn't exist all inter-city traffic would be by railroad. But that does not mean I impute a loss of billions to the railroads.

Continue reading "Another Greater Fool Study"

January 26, 2005

Open Source CampaignsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

gdtop3.jpg
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.



The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.

The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasn’t his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasn’t the scream. It was his software’s failure to “scale the intimacy,” to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.

Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.

Continue reading "Open Source Campaigns"

January 25, 2005

Bush's Great FavorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Administration has begun its campaign against Iran through infiltration (which it denies) and by trying to cut Iran's arguments off the Internet. (Picture from CNN.)

This is an immense favor, both to Iran and to the neighboring Arab world. It forces Iran to seek alternate Internet server access for its arguments, and it will. Maybe these will be in Bahrain or Dubai (I'm guessing the former). Maybe they will be in the Ukraine. Or Russia. Or China.

Continue reading "Bush's Great Favor"

January 19, 2005

Moore's Inverse Law of LaborEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.

But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)

That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.

Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.

This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.

Let's think about some of them:

Continue reading "Moore's Inverse Law of Labor"

January 16, 2005

Who's A Journalist, and the Tragedy of the Dean CampaignEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Some journalists are bloggers, but not all bloggers are journalists.

A blogger is a journalist if they act like a journalist. When anyone researches a story and broadcasts the results on a blog they are a journalist.

When a blogger doesn't identify their role, you should treat them as a journalist until they indicate otherwise. Don't tell them something you don't expect to see published. Give them all the information you would any other journalist.

Journalism, in other words, is a process. It's not defined by a paycheck. It's defined by what you do. UPDATE: A new Gallup poll shows that only 5% rate journalists "very high" in honesty. Would bloggers do worse?

All this is prelude to reporting a contretemps Slate reported about The Wall Street Journal. Apparently when Dean campaign chairman Joe Trippi and aide Zephyr Teachout first approached bloggers MyDD and DailyKos in 2003 it "was explicitly to buy their airtime" in the words of Ms. Teachout (right and above, the one without the hat).

The bloggers weren't told this. Markos Moulitas (Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (MyDD) thought they were being treated as consultants, and consulted. Neither wrote anything on their blogs to disqualify the work as journalism.

Click below to see the rest of the story.

Continue reading "Who's A Journalist, and the Tragedy of the Dean Campaign"

January 14, 2005

Seuss and BrinEmail This EntryPrint This Article


The Bee Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee Watcher.
He didn’t watch well. So another Hawtch-Hawtcher
had to come in as a Watch-Watcher-Watcher!
And today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
Watch-Watching the Watcher who’s watching that bee.
You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher. You’re lucky, you see!!!

Dr. Seuss's "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" is as subversive now as it ever was, and always finds a new context.

Today the context lies in the proliferation of cameras, which seem to be watching us, all the time, and whether our "privacy" means we should turn them off.

With every Hawtch-Hawtcher out watching each other, does privacy really exist?

The answer may surprise you.

Continue reading "Seuss and Brin"

January 11, 2005

The Broadband AnswerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There's a good discussion going on at Dave Farber's list today, following a Declan McCullagh article that claims the U.S. is doing fine in broadband. (Image from Mystro Satellite of Canada.)

Declan's point is that it's available. Critics point out that it's slow, expensive, and more people have it in other countries than here.

The question they're all asking is, how can the situation be improved.

The correct answer is one word.

Continue reading "The Broadband Answer"

January 10, 2005

The Great RaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: The following was published in this week's edition of my free e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com. You can get on the list here.



The Great Race has always been between tyranny and freedom, with order as tyranny's worthy handmaiden, and crime as freedom's ugly stepsister.

The triumph of liberty in the 20th century was basically a technological triumph. It was Moore's Law that did it. Moore's Law, and all its antecedents, changed the rules of the economic game, of the power game, and the balance between rulers and the ruled.

Moore's Law, the idea that things get better-and-better faster-and-faster, means that trained minds are the key to economic growth. Willing hands, the key to economic growth in the industrial age, matter far less than they did. Chains may keep trained hands working. They don't do so well with trained minds.

In America the result, as Dr. Richard Florida (left) wrote, was the rise of a new "Creative Class" that could dominate societies and drive economic growth. These were people, accused of wealth and guilty of education, whose values were intellectual and meritocratic, and (perhaps most important) were capable of economic satiation. Creative people have, on the whole, risen through Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," and are in search of self-actualization, not food or even luxury.

Continue reading "The Great Race"

January 04, 2005

Dissing Open SpectrumEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Chris Davies offers a fine dissent on open source spectrum today.
If you look at his example it even looks compelling.

There are problems with power management, with computing requirements, and with wave attenuation in the open spectrum idea. But the problem isn't inherent in the spectrum proposal of Kevin Werbach (left), and the solution isn't to sell spectrum to the highest bidder. That doesn't really deal with the problem.

The problem is two words: real estate.

Continue reading "Dissing Open Spectrum"

December 15, 2004

Regulation GoodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Charles Leadbetter, a freelance analyst who works with Demos of the UK and others (sort of like me but with better management), offered some great insights into the need for regulation recently that have been making the rounds of the blogosphere. (That's one of his books over there.)

How to Profit from Ignorance posits that regulation is needed to regulate ignorance. As life gets more complicated, we become more dependent on experts. Regulation becomes the experts' stamp of approval.

But there's another way of putting the same point -- transparency.

Continue reading "Regulation Good"

December 06, 2004

Microsoft's Chinese ExperimentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft has launched an experiment in tightly-controlled liberty called MSN Spaces whose attitude is very oriental, nearly Chinese.

Spaces is a blogging tool (Microsoft loves to own the language, thus blogs become spaces as bookmarks became favorites) with a difference, namely central control and censorship.

However it's defended, and whatever it's called, control is the essence of the Microsoft experience. You will only use Microsoft tools, and Microsoft formats, under Microsoft rules, and write what Microsoft allows.

What could be more Chinese? (The link preceding is to the location of the art at the right.)

Continue reading "Microsoft's Chinese Experiment"

December 01, 2004

Read The Fine Print: Pennsylvania's ShameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Philadelphians are celebrating an agreement with Verizon which, they say, allows them to offer a citywide Wi-Fi network despite a law, signed (shamefully) by Governor Ed Rendell yesterday, aimed at stopping the municipal WiFi movement.

But they need to read the fine print.

Wetmachine has the story:


HB 30 prohibits the state or any municipality (or any municipally owned or operated entity) from providing any sort of telecom or broadband service for any kind of remuneration. The bill grandfathers any existing systems, tho, so no one will get cut off.

Sound good? Read on:

Continue reading "Read The Fine Print: Pennsylvania's Shame"

November 22, 2004

Success In A Failed StateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC has a wonderful series of articles on its Web site about the failed state of Somalia. (The picture, of downtown Mogadishu, is from the BBC Online series.)

Since American troops abandoned the country to its warlords a decade ago the place has been a study of anarchy and Hobbesian choices. There is no government to educate the people, or to protect them. Private checkpoints that extort money from everyone and line the pockets of those manning the checkpoints are everywhere.

Many people live in makeshift structures "made from branches, orange plastic sheets and old pieces of metal" on what were the lawns of schools and hospitals. Even aid agencies have left, citing the danger.

Yet there is a success story to be told here, mobile technology.

Continue reading "Success In A Failed State"

November 02, 2004

What Are You Doing Here?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Isn't there a voting line you should be standing on?

And this just in. My favorite writer of all time, Jimmy Breslin, (right) is ending his column.

Jimmy was one of the first writers to inspire me, back when I first learned to type. IMHO he was the greatest columnist ever. The first book to make me cry was his World Without End, Amen, about the "troubles" in Northern Ireland.

A new era has truly begun.

November 01, 2004

One More Political RantEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Last one. And it really relates to what I wrote earlier on OJ-ization:

Continue reading "One More Political Rant"

October 28, 2004

The Unlikely VoterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I spent 90 minutes at the local courthouse the other day, waiting on line to vote. For me the election is over.

So I hope you don't mind if I spend a few moments this morning theorizing about what happened, and why.

Continue reading "The Unlikely Voter"

October 26, 2004

Trump CityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

An election with an incumbent is easier on voters. And hopefully this will encourage some of you to show up.

Because next Tuesday you all get to play Donald Trump.

Continue reading "Trump City"

October 22, 2004

Original SinEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As a German-American I often ask myself, “How did Hitler happen?”

Continue reading "Original Sin"

October 17, 2004

Non-Political Political EntryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As we enter the home stretch (yay!) some more points about how technology is changing politics. (Images from the Presidential Market.)



  • You can do a lot more TV ads with today's technology than ever before. You can do them every day.
  • You don't have to buy TV time for such an ad to be effective. Just post it on the Web.

  • While the candidates may be turning this into a dozen-or-so "swing state" races, the Web is transforming things the other way, making this all one race.
  • You can be as active, as knowledgable, and as engaged about the candidates' strategies in a red or blue state as in a purple one.
  • When the votes come in expect surprises. Most politicians haven't accounted for the Web yet, except as a form of TV that collects money.

October 14, 2004

Political CevicheEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I deeply resent instant analysis of Presidential debates.

It's not a boxing match. No one has been, or ever will be, knocked out.

It's more like dueling experiences, that you need time to measure in your mind, as you would two CDs. It needs time to marinate, like ceviche or kimchee or sauerbraten. Your patience will be rewarded.

But if you want my own opinion...

Continue reading "Political Ceviche"

October 06, 2004

Megatrends on SteroidsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Remember Megatrends?

John Naisbitt and a herd of library assistants basically looked at news stories from all over the world in order to divine underlying trends -- they extrapolated the recent past to describe the future.

He made a bundle.

Now a man named Charles McLean, working at an outfit called the Denver Research Group, has updated the concept using RSS feeds. David Ignatius (pictured, in his official portrait) has the story.

The title of the piece is "Google With Judgement," a title suggested by McLean. What he does is monitor 7,000 political sources (probably everything with an RSS feed) in an attempt to catch trends before they start.

McLean is cagey on his specific methodology. He's trying to sell the process for big bucks to corporations that need to know what the market's thinking quickly enough to act on it. But it sounds like he's databased a bunch of feeds and learned to distill their meaning pretty accurately.

Continue reading "Megatrends on Steroids"

The Good News About AmericaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is a political post that is non-political.

It's apparent that this Presidential race is close, and the result is riding on the debates.

This means all the money spent until now has not been decisive. It means people will listen to two men discuss the issues, and make a decision based on what they hear.

That's what democracy is about. So long as we get an open process, an honest debate, and a clear victory for one side or the other, I'm pretty happy. And I think you should be, too.

September 29, 2004

Don't Believe Any SurveyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

donkey_rising.gif

Don't believe surveys. Any surveys.

I'm talking about more than the Presidential Polls. I'm talking about any survey, public or private, no matter the subject, that claims statistical validity based on calling people on the telephone.

The technique is broken. Cellular killed the polling star.

Continue reading "Don't Believe Any Survey"

September 27, 2004

Ireland's Second Cyber-WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

That's right, kiddies. Ireland has gotten into its second major cyber-scrape, one big enough to use the word "war" in describing. (You will also notice that the ancestral home of my mom's people, the O'Donnells, is not shown on this Irish map from the Goingonvacation site.)

Ireland's first cyber-war came in the late 1990s, when an Irish entrepreneur, Connect-Ireland, won the contract to manage East Timor's registration service. East Timor at that time was trying to break away from Indonesia. So Indonesian hackers engaged in a cyber-war to try and take the Irish site down.

Its latest effort is more offensive-minded.

Continue reading "Ireland's Second Cyber-War"

September 17, 2004

The Issue Is Not The FrameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We interrupt this tech blog for another political polemic. You tech fans just go on about your business.

Or, better yet...we'll have Saturday cat blogging. Pet the cat. (Her name is Indy.)
Indy (close-up).jpg

Continue reading "The Issue Is Not The Frame"

September 13, 2004

Spoiler AlertEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If you don't want to know how the U.S. election turns out, just don't click through.

Continue reading "Spoiler Alert"

September 08, 2004

Who's Howard Dean?Email This EntryPrint This Article

I still think Howard Dean is the best President we never had.

But maybe that's just me.

Continue reading "Who's Howard Dean?"

August 28, 2004

The Present DangerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This piece by Juan Cole is being ignored by all the political blogs, so I offer it here.

Cole, who works at the University of Michigan and has become a "go to guy" for Iraq war criticism, charges that Israel has taken over U.S. foreign policy and the current hoop-de-doo over an analyst's passing of documents to a pro-Israel lobby is just the tip of the iceberg.

Pro-Likud intellectuals established networks linking Defense and the national security advisers of Vice President Dick Cheney, gaining enormous influence over policy by cherry-picking and distorting intelligence so as to make a case for war on Saddam Hussein. And their ulterior motive was to remove the most powerful Arab military from the scene, not because it was an active threat to Israel (it wasn't) but because it was a possible deterrent to Likud plans for aggressive expansion (at the least, they want half of the West Bank, permanently).

But wait, there's more.

Continue reading "The Present Danger"

August 26, 2004

Health Care Technology Standards Needed StatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written several times about how antiquated computing is in the area of health care.

Politicians are starting to take notice of the same thing. (Registration Required)

Fortunately this is a bipartisan recognition. The Post comment above is written by the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (right, from CNN), and a leader of the minority Democrats, Hillary Clinton.

But what are they really proposing?

Continue reading "Health Care Technology Standards Needed Stat"

August 25, 2004

Shorter AgreEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Philip Agre of UCLA has put out a provocative essay attacking conservatism at its core and proposing what should be done.

It’s long. It’s pedantic. It’s the kind of thing an information studies professor at UCLA would write. (Well, he is an information studies professor at UCLA.) But it won’t get you on The Daily Show or even Meet The Press

For that we need a shorter Agre. Here goes:

Continue reading "Shorter Agre"

August 23, 2004

PrePaid GovernmentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

By announcing she was under consideration as the next Chair of the FCC, the Bush Administration has drawn a ton of telecommunications industry money into the uphill race of Becky Armendariz Klein, running in a heavily Democratic district against a five-term incumbent.

Some questions:


  • If Bush wins and she's not appointed, do the lobbyists get their money back?
  • If Bush loses, will there be heavy pressure to give her one of the required Republican seats on the FCC?
  • Is anyone going to follow what value these lenders get for their money?
  • Would Democrats have the nerve to pull this kind of scam on an industry?
  • Have they?
  • Why doesn't Klein's Web site say anything about telecommunications issues?

Just asking.

August 21, 2004

Two KerrysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I supported Howard Dean, and opposed John Kerry, because there is one Dean and two Kerrys.

Howard Dean opposed the War in Iraq before it began. One John Kerry supported that war, while a second now calls it poorly executed and offers no realistic plan to do better.

Continue reading "Two Kerrys"

August 19, 2004

A Political StruggleEmail This EntryPrint This Article


These ladies aren't discussing the battle between Real Networks and Apple. But there's an important Clue to be derived here nonetheless.

The dispute between Real Networks and Apple Computer over getting Real songs onto the iPod is a business dispute, even a legal dispute. It's not supposed to be about politics or religion. (The illustration, from the Portland Tribune, is from a political rally.)

Customer loyalty, usually a wonderful thing, can be turned into passion that looks very political indeed. And when Real tried to make this political, through a petition, the backlash began.

Continue reading "A Political Struggle"

August 16, 2004

Plenty of Good Names Still AvailableEmail This EntryPrint This Article

You can still buy a .com name, at the regular price, that gets your point across, that's memorable, and that gives you a platform for what you want to do.

OK, the name may be a bit long....

August 13, 2004

Cringely's MasterpieceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have been rather unkind to Robert Cringely over the years. It was nothing personal. I just had some disagreements.

But the dude can write. He has sources. And today he has come up with a masterpiece. (Picture from the Bitwaste blog.)

The story is on the U.S. sentencing guidelines, and a study showing they wouldn't work which was performed, then buried in 1982. Had the results of this scientific study been accepted, rather than rejected for political reasons, he writes, hundreds of thousands of people might be out of prison, contributing to society, and crime might indeed be lower.

But read the piece yourself and make your own decision. As writing, I want to point to this snap ending:

Continue reading "Cringely's Masterpiece"

August 07, 2004

I, Robot (I, Subversive)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The most politically subversive movie of the year is not Fahrenheit 911*.

It's I, Robot. (Image of the poster from AMEInfo in the UAE.)

My 13-year old son dragged me to see this Will Smith vehicle today. It tells the story of an evil, soulless corporation (check) whose creatures seek to destroy freedom in the name of security (double check).

But wait, it gets better. (Of course, if you click you'll learn the whole plot, so consider this your spoiler alert.)

Continue reading "I, Robot (I, Subversive)"

August 05, 2004

Secrets of Blog SuccessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The secret to turning a blog into a financial success lies in the word community.

Community is what lets a blog scale from one person spouting off into a true online service, with enough traffic to pay the bills with advertising.

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (left, from his site) revealed this today on his site, Daily Kos, but I am NOT making a political point here. The most successful conservative sites, from FreeRepublic to Lucianne.Com to Andrew Sullivan, all do the exact same things.

What do they do?

Continue reading "Secrets of Blog Success"

August 03, 2004

Population Bomb Defused?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Remember The Population Bomb? This was Paul Ehrlich's Mathusian nightmare scenario from 1968, the idea being that population was growing so fast the Earth would be unable to sustain it.

Well, a funny thing has happened on the way to Armageddon. While the world now has nearly twice the population it did when Ehrlich wrote his book, the rate of growth worldwide is slowing. Some places are even de-populating.

That's the conclusion of Nicholas Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute (from which the picture was taken). And it's not just happening in Japan and Europe, either.

Continue reading "Population Bomb Defused?"

Spectrum: The New FrontierEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A very important political story snuck by us last week. I blame John Kerry for it.

The story is the new push by Intel for 802.16 WiMax spectrum.

While there are lots of high frequency bands in which WiMax could live, the inescapable fact is that the lower your frequency the farther your waves can travel. That's why AM stations can be heard across the country (when conditions are right) while FM stations have trouble being heard across town.

Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney (above, from the Intel site) is lobbying China, the UK and the U.S. to open up space in the 700 MHz band, frequencies UHF TV stations will be abandoning as they move to digital broadcasting, for unlicensed use as WiMax transmission bands.

Continue reading "Spectrum: The New Frontier"

August 02, 2004

John Perry Barlow's Cunning PlanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is great angst, trepidation, even an anticipation of tsuris (not to mention a lot of Vertruckete), surrounding the Republican National Convention in New York later this month.

The GOP fears terrorism. Mayor Bloomberg fears demonstrations. Democrats fear that something will get out of hand and give their opponents a big boost. (Think Chicago in 1968.)

Well, former Grateful Dead lyricist (and, he adds, former Republican) John Perry Barlow has what the British might call "a cunning plan."

Dance.

Continue reading "John Perry Barlow's Cunning Plan"

Blogging In PerspectiveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For all the hoo-ha over blogging it's important to put the "industry" into its proper perspective.

A recent item at Daily Kos, one of the more popular political Web sites, did this very neatly.

The purpose of the chart was to show Kos edging past a rival site, Instapundit. But for our purposes it's more illustrative to look at the left side of the scale, unique visitors per month.

Continue reading "Blogging In Perspective"

July 21, 2004

Oram's RazorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Andy Oram has a long story at O'Reilly today detailing the problems with universal service and public policy.

It's a great historical overview.

But it's missing one key ingredient. And it's a surprising ingredient for Andy to miss.

That ingredient is Moore's Law.

Continue reading "Oram's Razor"

July 20, 2004

The Bush-Gore PrecedentEmail This EntryPrint This Article


I am amazed there hasn't been more comment on this, so I'll make one.

Peter Shane, a law professor at Ohio State, has taken the time to actually read the Supreme Court's Bush vs. Gore decision of 2000, under which the incumbent President was selected. The reasoning used to support Gov. Bush's drive to end recounts could, he says, strike a stake through the heart of America's democracy.

But let him explain it.

Continue reading "The Bush-Gore Precedent"

July 19, 2004

The PackageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Note: The following was published this week in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, a-clue.com.

I headed out last week to see Dr. King, but I was feeling so frisky when I approached that his ghost motioned me northward instead, toward the steep, short hills around Peachtree Center.

Exhausted, I pulled in to a sidewalk, and entered a brick garden lined with benches. I sat heavily onto one, and as my breath returned looked to see a backpack, or perhaps a bedroll, on the bench opposite me. Quite suddenly I started, and recognized where I sat. Here was where the bomb went off during the 1996 Olympics. It sat there, maybe on that bench, in a pack much like the one I was facing.

Continue reading "The Package"

July 12, 2004

Con GameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Polemic Alert If you don't like my political polemics, skip this piece of self-indulgence. I wrote it on my recent cruise and poured it into the screen as soon as I got home.

Continue reading "Con Game"

July 09, 2004

Exley's Ad PlayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

John Kerry's fund-raising success in the last few months must be attributed, in part, to a strategy I think was put in place by Zack Exley, an online operative formerly with Moveon.org. (That's him, from a 2001 Yale conference.)

Why you're reading about it here first I will never know, but here it is, exclusive.

Continue reading "Exley's Ad Play"

July 07, 2004

The Councilman DecisionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I deliberately waited before writing about the atrocious, god-awful "Councilman" decision, in which a U.S. Appeals Court panel ruled, 2-1, that your e-mail isn't private when it's in transit, on someone else's server.

To arrive at this decision, executive director Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote, the court basically had to twist the 1986 Wiretap Act into a pretzel. It's one more example of how important judges are in the American judicial system. (That's Rotenberg, left, as he appeared on the PBS NewsHour in 2000.)

Continue reading "The Councilman Decision"

June 24, 2004

High NoonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

High Noon may be the most misunderstood classic in the history of American film.

It's been seized-on by both conservative and liberal politicians over the years. The latter claim is the historically correct one. It was written by Carl Foreman and is an eloquent statement against the neo-fascism of the McCarthy blacklist. (Foreman wound up on the blacklist himself.)

Lead actor Gary Cooper's character, Will Kane (pictured, from the collector's edition on Amazon.Com), is no hero. He's scared. He is going to his death and there is nothing he can do about it. Everyone else rationalizes their refusal to stand beside him, even though they know that he's right, and that their cowardice is wrong.

It's when everyone is against you, when you're at war with yourself, that real courage is measured. You don't become a hero marching in a parade, or under compulsion. The choice must be real, the odds long, and the rejection of others certain before you can really measure yourself.

The short form. Toby Keith is not heroic. The Dixie Chicks were (a little). And courage isn't a political choice in any case. It's personal.

Continue reading "High Noon"

June 21, 2004

Corrupting ReligionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The most dangerous Bush policy, for science and the future, may be its corruption of honest religious faith. (The statue, titled Church and State, is the work of Richard Beau Lieu. Neat, huh?)

This has been done by giving religious groups the power of the state (tax dollars) through "faith-based initiatives," and the return of that favor through pro-Bush agitation by churches that got the money.

The corruption may be at its worst in Bush's home state of Texas, where the Southern Baptist Convention is seeking to become akin to the Saudi Wahhabi.

The result is Luddism.

Continue reading "Corrupting Religion"

June 12, 2004

Why Are Programmers So Down?Email This EntryPrint This Article

I've been looking at this story for days, wondering what to make of it. (That's a Techtoon from a happier time.)

First, it's true. My dear wife is a programmer and morale is down at her place. There's real fear out there. There's fear of India, but more than that, fear of being replaced by someone younger and cheaper.

"Do you know they don't even call themselves programmres?" she asked me one night. "Now they're developers."

Continue reading "Why Are Programmers So Down?"

June 04, 2004

The Third Civil War?Email This EntryPrint This Article

I'm an old history major, and what I learned from American history is we have had a half-dozen crises and two Civil Wars.

The first lasted from 1861-1865. Northerners call it the Civil War, Southerners still refer to it as the War Between the States (or the War of Northern Aggression). As a New Yorker now living in Atlanta I prefer to call it the Recent Unpleasantness. (The picture is of a violent protest against that war by my Irish ancestors, the 1863 New York Draft Riot, and is taken from the African-American Registry.)

The second civil war lasted from roughly 1966-1974, and is called Vietnam.

Vietnam was just as much a civil war as the earlier struggle. It too pitted brother-against-brother, often son-against-father. It split America. (Some, like Sen. John Kerry, fought on both sides.) And on the battlefield we all lost. South Vietnam, in the end, was destroyed.

This makes Vietnam an even greater stain than that first war. At least, when Union veterans "waved the bloody shirt" in the politics following that conflict, they were waving it as winners. When politicians do that today, they're doing it in the name of a defeat. In terms of Vietnam, we're all the Confederacy.

Continue reading "The Third Civil War?"

War Is All HellEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Conservatives have been hammering me lately for statements, here and elsewhere, to the effect that our soldiers do evil.

Where did I get that? It's simple truth. Look no further than the great cause of America's Civil War, and its greatest general, William Tecumseh Sherman. Here's what he said when the "Grand Army of the Republic" held its 1880 meeting.

"There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror."

Whether war is just is for our leaders -- and in a democracy that means for us -- to decide.

War can be just, if fought in the name of destroying a greater evil. But unjust wars must be confronted. In a democracy, speaking out against an unjust war is the truest patriotism, because in a democracy the buck does not stop at the leader's desk, it stops in our hearts.

If you click below I will share with you one piece of hate mail that just arrived here. Judge it for yourself. Decide whom you agree with.

Continue reading "War Is All Hell"

June 01, 2004

The Root Of All EvilEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Rationalization.

We're seeing a lot of that these days. Here is some. Here is some more.

We all have "evil inclinations," but we seldom act upon them without first rationalizing them. We count, they don't. They're "evildoers," we're the "good guys."

Rationalization.

Continue reading "The Root Of All Evil"

Political Principles for TechnologyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm for growth and change. It's the only way to stay ahead of population and pollution without engaging the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse full-time.


The success of the 1990s, and the technology industry failures of our own time, have brought me to some political principles that need to be embraced by everyone -- and which are opposed by politicians of every type -- in order to bring back growth.


  • Competition
  • Privacy
  • Transparency
  • Liberty

All these were seen as important in the 1990s. All have been discarded in our time. And we have paid the price for that.

Continue reading "Political Principles for Technology"

May 27, 2004

The Myth of Once And For AllEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've learned from cartoons of two big lies we tell our children. (That's Yugioh, a Japanese cartoon character my kids like, from RedJupiter.com.)

We tell them that evil people know they're evil, that they stand for evil, and that they have evil intent. We give them lines like "Bwa-ha-ha-ha!"

Second, we tell them that the battle of good and evil can be solved, that the story can be ended, that we can be happy ever after. We're going to end this, the hero will say, "once and for all."

Continue reading "The Myth of Once And For All"

May 20, 2004

Sonia GandhiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now I'm going to write about something I know nothing about, Indian politics.

I have written twice here about India's election. The result was an upset, and personally I give former prime minister Vajpayee all the praise in the world for running a fair election and accepting the results. (Kudos also go to former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar in this regard, and to any other leader who allows the verdict of the people to be heard, and to stand.)

But back to Mrs. Gandhi.

Continue reading "Sonia Gandhi"

May 18, 2004

Don't Beg. Build.Email This EntryPrint This Article

Way back in high school, nearly 35 years ago now, I lost my first newspaper job. (The illustration is from a Buddhist temple. Cute, huh? Keep reading for enlightenment.)

Well it wasn't a job, actually. I was canned from the school newspaper, along with the rest of the staff, after some editorials appeared against the Vietnam War.

Most of the "old" staff did what you expect. They went to their parents and got the money to distribute their own paper, one that was just as slick as the regular paper.

I took a different route. I went to the market. I sold ads. I kept my costs down and generally broke even. Kept it up for nearly three years.

The lesson stuck with me. Begging isn't a business model.

I associate this lesson with conservatism, but in our time it's often ignored. Young conservatives have an easy time getting money -- from parents, from foundations, and from publishers more interested in propaganda than truth.

Anyone else is left to beg.

Here's a note to the beggars. Get off your knees.

Continue reading "Don't Beg. Build."

May 17, 2004

PropagandizationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The court jester may be the most misunderestimated figure in the medieval pantheon. (You can look like this for just $225 from Fashionsintime.)

It’s said his role was to sit at the King’s shoulder and remind him of his mortality. The role is played today entirely for laughs. But the jester was also the first free press. For his japes to hit home they had to bite. They had to tell the truth, and skirt that dangerous line between truth-telling and sedition. Laughter got the medicine down.

The role was vital, because Kings who didn’t hear the other side, or who refused to listen, could become deluded. They would over-reach and fall, hard, losing not just their own lives but those of their families and all their worldly goods. “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” Without a conscience, a King was just a tyrant and had no legitimacy.

Continue reading "Propagandization"

May 13, 2004

New Lessons From IndiaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't claim to be a seer. But sometimes, thanks to my history degree, I guess right.

That appears to be the case in India, where the Congress Party appears to have won elections most tipped it to lose.

My own view remains what it was on Monday. Computers are having the same effect machines had a century ago. They save on labor costs, raising productivity. But that means there are fewer jobs. And a demand comes from all workers, especially those left out of the prosperity, for equity.

In many countries this gave rise to socialism, even communism. In our country it gave rise to the Progressives, the Populists, and (after a complete systemic collapse) the New Deal.

There are great lessons in this result for America.

Continue reading "New Lessons From India"

May 11, 2004

The Last StrawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't like John F. Kerry. But I will vote for him.

I feel, now, that I must. To do otherwise is to endorse the horrors of Abu Ghraib. (The picture is from a site whose opinion here differs from mine, called Enter Stage Right. Consider it a form of equal time.)

I'm hearing a lot of rationalizations for those horrors, and the rationalizations, if anything, disgust me more than the horrors. The conduct was by "only a few." (No, it was systemic.) Our troops have performed heroically and selflessly. (Accepted, but this makes those sacrifices worthless.) The Geneva Convention doesn't apply to "terrorists." (The victims here were not proven terrorists.) What about Fallujah? (It happened many months later.) What about 9/11? (Iraq had nothing to do with it.)

You can't just fight fire with fire. You need water.

Continue reading "The Last Straw"

May 07, 2004

IdiotsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The idiots who interrupted Donald Rumsfeld's opening statement before the Senate today did incalculable damage to their own cause.

In one minute they changed the nature of the debate, from one between brutality and rationality to one between anarchy and order.

Millions of Americans, seeing and hearing these idiots, began rationalizing everything that happened at Abu Ghraib, in the same way that the Chicago Sun-Times cartoonist Jack Higgins rationalized it. They stopped listening to the evidence, hearing only anger, hatred, and their own fear.

For many, many Americans, the 9/11 attacks had the effect that the 1933 Reichstag fire had on Germans a few generations ago. They made any evil rational, as self-defense.

Evil never has evil intent. Evil is only done in the name of what the evil-doer considers a higher good. Thus it has always been, thus it is.

The fools who interrupted the Rumsfeld hearing did evil, great evil, in the same way as those they sought to interrupt.

April 30, 2004

Sinclair (and the forbidden word)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Sinclair Broadcasting has made a decision not to carry an ABC “Nightline” program tonight that will consist of announcer Ted Koppel reading the names, and displaying the faces, of Americans killed in Iraq. (The graphic, by the way, is linked from Famousfoto.com, and has nothing to do with Sinclair Broadcasting. I just thought it was fun.)

An official statement from the group reads in part, “Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.” Sinclair owns 8 ABC affiliates.

But this is not the whole story. Not in my opinion. What follows is my opinion.

Continue reading "Sinclair (and the forbidden word)"

April 29, 2004

The Old SwitcherooEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've looked over coverage of President Bush's broadband plans, and they're "the old switcheroo." (Image from TechCentralStation.)

That is, they sound good on a superficial level, but a look at the fine print shows a different picture.

The headlines are grabbers. There's the goal of universal access, and a call against taxes. Both sound great.

The problem is how we get there. The Bush plan is simply not market-oriented.

Continue reading "The Old Switcheroo"

April 25, 2004

Is Iraq The Net's Fault?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Here we have another one of those overwrought attacks on the Net.

This time the Online Journalism Review blames our polarization on the Internet, claiming an "echo chamber" effect.

People like Matt Glaser, who wrote this story, should be forced to endure Journalism History 101. And if he's out there, I'll teach it to him. (Our illustration comes from this wonderful Montauk history page.)

If there is an "echo chamber" it is created, not by the narrowcasting of Web sites, but by the mass media. While it would be controversial for me to point out the present War in Iraq in this regard, let's go back to 1898, and the Spanish-American war.

Continue reading "Is Iraq The Net's Fault?"

April 11, 2004

What's Going On?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Easter Sunday. Time for a hymm. (Image of our singer available after service from Commander Cody (alias George Frayne) at Commandercody.com.)

Mother’ mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother’ brother’ brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today ’ yeah

Father’ father
We don’t need to escalate
You see’ war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Many people are having trouble learning what's going on in Iraq. I know I am. The embedded reporters have gone home. The rest are holed up with Baghdad Dan. The only folks on the ground seem to be from Al-Jazeera.

Here's how I'm making do.

Continue reading "What's Going On?"

April 08, 2004

Real CourageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Americans like to pretend they have courage. But, unless we're on the firing line we seldom get to display it. For most of us, most of the time, courage consists of ordinary things, like running against a powerful opponent.

Elsewhere, the courage it takes to post this blog item can get you killed. So let's raise another glass to Salam Pax, the "Baghdad Blogger." You may remember him from the war, when we wondered if he might be Iraq's Anne Frank, reporting from the mouth of the volcano and being consumed by it. (You can re-read his war diary, to the right, in book form.)

He still might be consumed. Here is what he had to say Tuesday, referring to Moqtaba Al Sadr, the Shi'ite mullah and militia leader whose resistance to arrest for murder triggered much of this week's violence:

Continue reading "Real Courage"

April 07, 2004

FeudalismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What do you call a political system where all money and power is inherited, and where taxes lie exclusively on wages and the other earnings of the lower classes?

In my political science education it was called feudalism. Feudalism was the way society organized itself throughout the Middle Ages. Most of the struggles of the Renaissance and Reformation were aimed at ending feudal privileges.

Feudalism, like Communism, finally collapsed of its own internal contradictions. (A good fictional account of these contradictions is given in the 1632 series, by Eric Flint. (There's a large fan site devoted to the concept.)

Continue reading "Feudalism"

March 30, 2004

The Age of NixonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One of the advantages of having multiple movie channels (as on my cable box) is that you might be forced to watch something you resisted for years.

So it was with me and Oliver Stone's Nixon.

For me the most powerful moments came at the end, in Bob Dole's eulogy, spoken at Nixon's actual funeral. "The last half of the 20th century will be known as the Age of Nixon," he said. And I think we're still in it.

Continue reading "The Age of Nixon"

March 23, 2004

The Fifth Stage of DeanEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Stage One. Who's Howard Dean?

Stage Two. Get Me Howard Dean!

Stage Three. Get Me Someone Like Howard Dean! (Enter John Kerry.)

Stage Four. Get Me A Young Howard Dean! (Enter John Edwards.)

Stage Five. Who's Howard Dean?

Now, Howard Dean, if you dare, and if you want another taste of the apple called money, fame and power, follow this thread to learn how to get another ride on the Merry Go Round.

Continue reading "The Fifth Stage of Dean"

March 18, 2004

The Iraq WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We interrupt this tech blog for an important announcement. (Picture is from CNN.)

That the War on Iraq, which began a year ago, is part of the War on Terrorism is an assertion. It is not, repeat not, a fact.

An assertion may be true, but it may also be false.

Continue reading "The Iraq War"

March 13, 2004

Test With Evidence, And Test The EvidenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Among many publishers the fear of the Net remains palpable. Sometimes I wish it could be overcome.

If it could be, you might now share "The Measure of America," an article in last week's New Yorker by Claudia Roth Pierpont.

The article -- one of the longest I've seen since the days of William Shawn (at whose knee I'll admit I once perched while a Northwestern journalism student) is centered on a biography of the anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942). (The picture of Boas above is from a biography of one of his students, Margaret Mead, on the Library of Congress site.)

Boas, a German immigrant, may properly termed the "Father of Modern Anthropology." He took it from its racist origins, applied rigorous scientific observation to it, and gave scientific credence to the Declaration that "all men are created equal."

But, in her meticulous description of Boas' life and times, Pierpont does something truly extraordinary, something as extraordinary as anything Boas himself ever attempted.

Continue reading "Test With Evidence, And Test The Evidence"

Dean WithdrawalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I am suffering from a worse-than-expected case of "Dean Withdrawal."

I'm not talking here about the candidate. I'm talking about myself. Unlike most Democrats (apparently) I am singularly unimpressed by the choice facing voters.

It seems like the same kind of fight (by proxy) we've faced for generations, Kerry for the Kennedys against the Bush Dynasty. It's a very conventional left-right fight, a battle between elites, with a third elite, the paid press, keeping score on behalf of their masters.

Dean, I still believe, offered something different, and better. He was to the right of Kerry (and even Bush) on many issues dear to Republican hearts -- the deficit, health care, the environment. He sought compromise on the hardest social questions -- civil unions, guns, crime.

Perhaps more important, I seem to be taking Dean's rejection personally, not as an attack on him, but as an attack on me, and in the involvement of ordinary, non-elitist voters in the very process of politics.

Dean himself is not a very angry man. He knew when he was giving the crowd "red meat." He had fun with it. "We're going to have some fun at the President's expense," is the way he would open his stump talks.

Continue reading "Dean Withdrawal"

March 08, 2004

Credibility LaunderingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Matthew Yglesias has an interesting blog item up on the subject of "credibility laundering." (The picture is from his blog.) His complaint is on universities giving their names to wealthy patrons' dubious projects. This lets political partisans pretend that their nonsense has some sort of academic credibility, which it often does not.

Of course, credibility is sold and traded all the time. Michael Jordan earned credibility as a basketball player and sold it through a long list of commercials. Jerry Seinfeld earned credibility as a comedian and sold it through American Express.

We expect this, and accept it. The ability to be a seller in the credibility market is one of the perks of fame. It's how notoreity turns into money. (This cartoon of former Viagra spokesman Bob Dole is courtesy Brian K. White of Glossy News.)

But there's a limit. If you saw Antonin Scalia or Alan Greenspan hawking cheeseburgers or soda pop, you would be appalled. They should at least wait, as Bob Dole did, until they're out of office.

Yet increasingly, they do not.

Continue reading "Credibility Laundering"

February 25, 2004

Carrying Bells' WaterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In Congress, the best way to get something unpopular through is to put it in the hands of someone with no election worries.

In the House, this means a Congresscritter in a "safe" seat, someone who wins with 80% of the vote. In the Senate, it's usually someone newly-elected, trying to rise quickly to the leadership, who gets its dirty work. By the time they meet the voters, it's assumed, they will have forgotten.

Thus, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee wants to tax VOIP. Actually, he wants to let states and localities tax it.

Continue reading "Carrying Bells' Water"

February 24, 2004

Bush Looks Good From BangaloreEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla has returned to Bangalore as a partner in Kleiner Perkins, an Indian tech godfather. From where he sits George W. Bush looks very, very good. (The picture on the right is taken from an Indian Car Rental site, specifically a page that offers driving tours.)

Why shouldn’t he? No President has ever done more for India. Bush has reversed the nation’s brain drain and transferred millions of high-paying (by local standards) jobs to the subcontinent. Now Khosla wants India to defend its rights to outsourcing before the WTO, and to take the next step into building giant enterprises of its own.

Continue reading "Bush Looks Good From Bangalore"

February 23, 2004

Echo ChamberEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Internet is a great validation device.

My daughter, for instance, loves the Harry Potter characters. She wants to read about them all the time. On fanfiction.net she can, in stories written by people her own age, with her sensibility. She doesn't have to wait for Book 6 to come out. And her feelings are validated, because the authors of those stories feel the same way she does.

Grown-ups have the same kind of experience.

Continue reading "Echo Chamber"

February 19, 2004

Will Iran Be Free (And How)?Email This EntryPrint This Article

The question of Iranian liberty may be the most important debate of 2004.

The Iraqi invasion was predicated, at least in part, as a transforming event that would spread democracy outward. Iran has been nominally a democracy for some years, but, especially since the invasion, the accent there has been on the word nominal.

This tech blog is tackling the question because a crisis has been reached and (surprise) blogging is in the center of it.

Continue reading "Will Iran Be Free (And How)?"

February 18, 2004

End of DeansEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Those who know me also know that I have spent time these last months on the Howard Dean campaign. Those who want to hear my thoughts on his demise may click below.

For the rest of you, there’s plenty more bloggy goodness on this here tech page.

Continue reading "End of Deans"

Making MartyrsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Martyrdom is a powerful force.

Once unleashed it can't be put down, because there's no longer anyone to negotiate with. (The picture at right is from a BBC story on Du Daobin, who has been formally charged with subversion for writing online articles no more compelling than this one.)

The only way for an oppressor to beat martyrdom is to keep making martyrs until the passion to create new ones runs out. This is the sum of China's policy on dissent.

When a martyr can use the media, especially this medium, or when the martyr comes from the Internet, however, the oppressor's task becomes impossible. (This is the secret of Amnesty International, although they don't just use the Internet but all media to spread the word of oppression and martydom.)

For a martyr being martyred, however, this is small consolation. The path of Nathan Hale is not recommended, except as an example for others, or in time of war.

Continue reading "Making Martyrs"

February 11, 2004

A Policy DinnerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I found myself having dinner last night with a politician. Strange days indeed. (The picture is from the film "My Dinner with Andre," and retrieved from Fusionananomoly.net.)

We talked about tech policy. The politician seemed Clued-in, but wanted my thoughts.

I talked about my key word in all this, competition. Tech policy should focus on artificial barriers to entry and, if it can't keep them from existing, at least fight to keep them as low as possible.

This helps even those companies that might consider themselves "victims" of such policies. It keeps their internal bureaucracies from overwhelming values of efficiency and customer service. It keeps them lean, which keeps profits up, and stock values up.

Of course, I said, the companies involved will never believe that, just as a couch potato won't buy-in to the fact that exercise and a healthier diet will make him or her feel better, although we know they will.

The politician had an idea. When writing policies governing technology, set standards, minimum requirements companies can meet on their own. This is not the way things normally work, he explained. Usually governments try to mandate a specific solution, a box or process they either create or buy. But change is constant, it's constantly accelerating, and such solutions become obsolete even before they're implemented.

You're too smart to be in politics, I told him. Well, he said, he had made his money and considered this work public service, a more absorbing form of retirement than golf. Anyone who puts himself in the line of fire like that and thinks it fun is to be commended, I replied. Any politician is a volunteer, and those who aren't taking with both hands are heroes in my book, regardless of party.

There are many gatekeepers today in the technology world, I continued, monopolies and trusts held together mainly by government regulation designed before Moore's Law, around the assumption that monopolies are an efficient use of capital. This is how cable arose, through local licenses. This is where the Bell System came from. Moore's Law of Radios is making such monopolies technically obsolete, but they will fight for the death to maintain their stranglehold. Why they can't see themselves as wholesalers, as well as retailers, is beyond me, I said.

But such fights are a natural consequence of big companies becoming huge and, thus, bureaucratic. Nothing wrong with bureaucracy, per se -- America has some of the best, most efficient bureaucracies in the world. But bureaucracy on a corporation is like fat on your figure. A little may be necessary, especially as you age, but it's very easy to overdo it, and that's our inclination.

It's these bureaucracies that try to raise-up artificial barriers to entry, and there are many of them. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents can all become barriers to entry, if their terms are too long, or they are too easily obtained. Tariffs and subsidies are also barriers to entry. Big, competition-free contracts can be barriers. These are not absolutes -- we need patents, and copyrights, we need tariffs, subsidies, and big contracts. The trick is to seek a balance between our needs and the desires of incumbents to want it all. (The picture of Shawn, above, is from his work in "The Princess Bride," and was found at the University of Sydney's ROCSOC Forum, in Australia.)

There is no perfect balance, either in law or regulation, I said. It's always shifting.

But generally, the only way through to American competitiveness is for Americans to embrace change. This is the secret to our success. The right to succeed also brings with it the responsibility to fail, which is something the Horatio Alger myth probably forgot to mention. (This is why I prefer Buddenbrooks.) How we deal with failure is a choice we make, but if the penalty is death and true poverty, undeserving successes will fight to the death to maintain their artificial advantages, so maybe a social safety net isn't just good for your soul, but good for the economy at large.

So passed a very pleasant evening. I splurged on key lime pie. The politician paid the check. This, I decided, was a unique occasion, perhaps never to be repeated.

Like My Dinner With Andre.

Dana Blankenhorn

Michael Powell's Credibility GapEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Michael Powell is one of the best speechmakers in my memory of the FCC.

He was at it again yesterday. His speech to an industry conference in Colorado had nice phrases like "power to the people," and he came out against contractual arrangements cable operators are already trying to impose on customers, limiting what they can do with their bandwidth.

The problem is Powell may be one of the worst politicians the agency has yet seen. He was outvoted on competition rules. And when he sees himself is weak his instinct is to suckle next to the American Ayatollahs and favor outright censorship.

As a result he has developed a credibility gap, much like his father's on Iraq. Words mean little if your actions contradict them.

If Powell is for personal liberty and consumer choice, he should act on that belief. Otherwise he should, in Bill O'Reilly's words, shut up.

Dana Blankenhorn