October 2008

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2008.

Voices and dreams

Say Hear is page that patches together voice messages from people who want to say why they’ve voting for whom. Interesting to click around.

I just wrote in my vote for Obama. Somewhere back early this year I explained why I favored Obama. I liked what I said then, but can’t find it now.

What Colin Powell said about Obama being a “transformative figure” comes close.

What Martin Luther King said in his I Have a Dream speech comes closer, and perhaps says all that needs to be said. This is the line:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

If Obama wins on Tuesday, that dream will have come true.

Tags: , , ,

Rich Sands posts Cluetrain Derailed? I respond here.

Tags: , ,

Several days ago I posted RIP, Sidekick, which lamented the passing of our favorite section of the Boston Globe. As part of the Globe’s redesign, it got rid of Sidekick and added a new section — a tabloid insert like Sidekick had been — called “G”.

As I had recalled, Sidekick was localized. After reading Ron Newman’s comment to that post, which asked gently “Are you sure…?” I have to say that I’m not. I just checked with my wife, who said that the things she liked best about the Sidekick were its features and format; and that it was not localized, but addressed all of Boston.

Yet I still recall some localization. But again, I don’t know.

A search of Globe archives for “Sidekick” yields results that suggest it was. The first result is titled “News in brief: Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville news in brief“. Most of the stuff that follows, however, is Boston regional, rather than addressed to those of us north of the Charles. Several of the pieces are by Meredith Goldstein, who is still writing for the paper.

So I’m sending her an email to ask the same question I’ll put to the rest of ya’ll who live around Boston and pay attention to these things: What went away with Sidekick? Or did nothing go away, and can the pieces still be found in G or elsewhere in the paper? Also, What has the Globe done to increase or decrease local coverage? By local I mean regions within the paper’s coverage area. As Ron points out, there is still a “Northwest” section that runs twice per week. I don’t believe that’s changed, but I also don’t know.

And, as I re-discover (while wiping egg off my face), knowing beats believing: Journalism 101.

Tags: , , , ,

FORWARD WITH FIBER: An Infrastructure Investment Plan for the New Administration is my second essay at the Publius Project. The first was FRAMING THE NET.

This one is a bold proposal: putting $300 billion into bringing fiber to every possible premise in America. Unlike other proposals of this sort, this one goes out of its way to embrace rather than to exclude the phone and cable companies. It challenges them to look past “triple play”, toward supporting an infinitude of businesses and opportunities that will open up when we all break free of telecom’s regulatory boat-anchors and conceptual blinders, and start thinking about wide open connectivity and capacity as a new frontier: the 21st Century equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase. And about as cheap.

Against all the ways it might not work — expectations of government incompetence and industry provincialism correctly run high — the idea is easy to dismiss as naive. But I still think it’s worth considering.

The problem isn’t what’s wrong with the current system. It’s what’s not right with it yet. That’s where we need to start looking for solutions. And that’s the direction I’m pointing here.

Interesting to read the “18 conservatives, libertarians, and independent thinkers” gathered bu The American Conservative. The current cover, The Right Choice, begins,

This election offers particularly dismal prospects for conservatives: the Senate’s most liberal member versus a Republican who combines the worst policies of George W. Bush with an erratic temper and a thinly veiled contempt for the Right. No third-party candidate has been able to break past the margins to mount an insurgent campaign.
Given these impoverished alternatives, no easy consensus emerges…

Then, the roster, how they will vote, and some excerpts –

Peter Brimelow, Nobody:
I would write in Baldwin, except that most states make that almost as difficult as getting on the ballot and don’t always count write-in votes anyway.
Oh, and Obama and Whatshisname? I’m indifferent. I don’t think President Obama will dare push an amnesty through because the Republicans would oppose it, whereas enough stupid Republicans will fall in line behind a McCain amnesty to give the Democrats bipartisan cover. But at least a McCain presidency would make it clear even to Republican loyalists what Pat Buchanan concluded in 2000: there is no solution for America but a new party.
Reid Buckley, McCain:
Loyalty, I suppose…
I am plenty mad at the Republican Party and would enjoy watching the entire double-talking leadership and its unctuous apparatus throughout the states fried in oil. I still disagree with maverick McCain plenty on the issues, and every time he says “my friends,” I wince almost as wretchedly as when George W. Bush ends his sentences with that awful moue of his upper lip, producing a smirk which in turn suggests a revolting fullness of self-satisfaction…
Barack Obama, on the other hand, for all his muddy shifting with the political winds, has made his vision clear, and it is doctrinaire Democratic left-wing socialism and therefore too depressing for words. I hew to the belief that he is also a decent man and probably politically more savvy than John McCain. He may learn. He may be knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus. But I can’t vote for the prospect of Obama’s education. So I vote McCain. Unlike the Beltway snobs (an insular pathology that now defines the East Coast from Bangor, Maine to Key West), I place my trust in Sarah Palin. Dadgummit, by golly, she speaks the American language of the plains and the frontier. I trust it, and her.
John Patrick Diggins, Obama:
Republicans have no trouble losing a war and calling it a victory, and some of them are voting for McCain for that reason. Obama, in contrast, is stuck with a war he opposed, and politics may force him to stay the course. Still, I prefer the professor to the warrior. McCain claims he is thinking only about the good of the country, then chooses as his running mate a gun-happy huntress who supported the Alaskan independence movement, which advocates secession from the United States. No wonder she is idolized by those who disdain the very federal government that built the Alaskan Highway. As Orwell observed, those receiving benefits always hate the benefactor.
Rod Dreher, Nobody:
As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.
Francis Fukayama, Obama:
I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.
Kara Hopkins, McCain:
When John McCain appears on screen, all vacant grin and Eeyore cadence, I reach for the mute button. I hate his wars. I don’t trust his maverick pose. When he says “my friends,” he doesn’t mean me. But I am voting for him.
Call it damage control.
Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, Obama:
Without doubt, my decision to vote for Barack Obama for president began when I watched his televised speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004. Today on the cold page of the computer printout, it loses something. Outside of the electrifying moment of his delivery, the speech contains less than I remembered. But what is there explains the reverberations in so many parts of my inherited mental and moral universe.
Leonard Liggio, Barr:
In the presidential contest, the Libertarian Party is the clear choice for opponents of the Paulson plan and the government policies that precipitated the crash.
Daniel McCarthy, Paul:
I’m writing in Ron Paul for president and Barry Goldwater Jr. for vice president. Why agonize over whether Barr or Baldwin is the better constitutionalist, when you can cast your ballot for the very best? A vote for Paul is an endorsement of all he has accomplished (and might yet achieve) and a rejection of the often honorable but never effective course of the third parties.
Scott McConnell, Obama:
I’m voting for Obama. While he doesn’t inspire me, he does impress. His two-year campaign has been disciplined and intelligent. He has surrounded himself with the mainstream liberal types who staffed the Clinton administration. Like countless social democratic leaders before him, he probably was more left-wing when he was younger. Circumstance and ambition have pushed him to the center. If elected, he will inherit an office burdened with massive financial and foreign-policy problems. Unlike John McCain, he won’t try to bomb his way out of the mess.
Declan McCullagh, Nobody:
I am not voting for president in 2008.
This was not an easy decision, but all the candidates are flawed, at least if you believe in limited government, civil liberties, free markets, and a foreign policy far less bellicose than what we have today.
Robert A. Pape, Obama:
I strongly support Barack Obama for president. In the past, I have supported both Republicans and Democrats, choosing the candidate with the leadership qualities and foreign-policy principles most likely to advance the national security of the United States. Of course, we have no crystal balls, but leaders with sound judgment on core policies and courage to look beyond political winds of the moment greatly improve the odds of long-term success. Obama scores uncommonly high on the “judgment-courage” index, qualities that will be needed as our next president seeks to repair the damage from the triple train wreck of our overstretched military, underperforming economy, and floundering international reputation that is now undermining our national security.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., Nobody:
Nonparticipation sends a message that we no longer believe in the racket they have cooked up for us, and we want no part of it.
You might say that this is ineffective. But what effect does voting have? It gives them what they need most: a mandate. Nonparticipation helps deny that to them. It makes them, just on the margin, a bit more fearful that they are ruling us without our consent. This is all to the good. The government should fear the people. Not voting is a good beginning toward instilling that fear.
This year especially there is no lesser of two evils. There is socialism or fascism. The true American spirit should guide every voter to have no part of either.
Gerald J. Russello, Nobody:
In this election, we face choosing between a “maverick” with a penchant for militarism who has been part of the Washington power structure for over two decades, and an inexperienced figure who wants to save us from ourselves, or, as my friend Gene Healy puts it, “the Messiah vs. the prophet of doom.” The only thing they agree on is that Washington is where the power is. Add to that a supine Congress busy giving away its war-making power to the executive, what’s left of the economy to the Treasury secretary, and the decision over any controversial issue to the courts. It is hard to see why voting for one rather than the other would make any discernible difference.
Steve Sailer, Connerly:
Thus, I intend to do in 2008 what I did during the Bush-Kerry whoop-tee-doo: write in the name of a public figure who is actually trying to solve a major, long-term problem, my friend Ward Connerly. Just as Social Security can’t afford too many retirees per worker, America won’t be able to afford its affirmative-action system when the racial ratio of minority beneficiaries per white benefactor reaches excessive levels. As America becomes majority minority (by 2042, by latest Census projection), the cost of affirmative action will become crippling. By helping get government racial preferences banned by voter initiative in California, Washington, and Michigan, Ward has made the future a little less grim.

Total: Obama, 5; Nobody, 4; McCain, 2; Barr, 1; Paul, 1; Baldwin,1; Connerly, 1.

Bonus quote, from Andrew Sullivan: “If the GOP decides that Palin is the future of their party, the GOP won’t have a future.”

Our favorite section of the Boston Globe is no more. It was called “Sidekick”, and it featured local news and events in our corner of the metro: the one called “Northwest”.* It had local restaurant reviews, club, theater, school and museum notices, plus other graces that made the paper especially relevant to our family.

Well, now the paper has “improved” itself cosmetically while diminishing itself substantially. Sidekick is gone. In its place is “G”, a new “magazine style section” that covers the whole metro and includes a bunch of other stuff, such as TV listings and funnies in color, neither of which interest us. The Globe explains,

Our new magazine-style section will be called “g” — for Globe — and it reflects what you, our readers, have been telling us about how you prefer to receive your reviews, previews, profiles and arts, culture and features coverage.

You want to find stories of interest quickly and easily. You want it in a format that can be carried easily as you move about town — while on the train or on a lunch break.

Every day, “g” will highlight things to do around town.

Problem is, “town” is Boston. While we love Boston, and go there more than a lot of folks who live north of the Charles, we don’t live there. Did readers really tell the Globe to cut out the local stuff? I kinda doubt it.*

Last weekend we were in Baltimore visiting relatives. I was surprised that they didn’t get the Baltimore Sun, which I recall used to be a good newspaper. So, while we were out at a local Starbucks I bought a Sunday Sun $1.88 ($2 with tax). While we waited for our drinks to be made, I field-stripped out the advertising inserts, and read pretty much everything that interested me. There just wasn’t much there. Very disappointing. Back at the ranch my son-in-law told me that the Sun had laid off over half their editorial staff, and made up the difference with bigger pictures. That’s the main reason they don’t subscribe.

I don’t know if the Globe is going through the same thing, but I suspect it is. The shame for them is that the Sidekick was our main reason for keeping the paper, our morning connection to the neighborhood, and what made the Globe most relevant to us. Now it’s gone.

“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill famously said. Same goes for newspapers. Alas, the Globe seems to have forgotten that.

* Ron Newman, in a comment below, asks if I’m sure about this. I was, but now I’m not. As I say in the follow-up comment, I made some assumptions in this post that may not be true. So I’m following up with a new post that will ask for facts and make no assumptions. Meanwhile, my apologies.

Tags: , , ,

Somewhere between Barry Goldwater and Sarah Palin, conservatism changed from a philosophical anchor — what Goldwater called a “conscience” — into a pure partisanship, defined at least as much by what and who it’s against (Liberals, Democrats, Hillary, Obama) as by what it’s for. The latter now includes a list of causes (opposition to abortion and gay marriage, religiously-defined “family values”) that bear no resemblance to Goldwater’s essentially Libertarian philosophy.

I was raised by Republicans who voted enthusiastically for Goldwater (who lost resoundingly to Lyndon Johnson) in 1964. I read The Conscience of a Conservative (which was published in 1960) as a teenager and felt its influence even as I became an active opponent of the Vietnam War in college (I was in the Class of ’69) and became a hard-core Democrat through my 20s and 30s.

In the first chapter, of Conscience, Goldwater writes, “for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day’s overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom. As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?

Is that what conservatism is about today? Hard to tell. It’s certainly not from what I hear and see from Rush, Fox News, Dobson, Hewitt and most of Republican broadcasting’s amen corner.

For those who care to separate the partisan wheat from the philosophical chaff, David Frum’s latest is required reading. In it he points to this Stanley Greenberg poll, which shows how isolated Republican partisanship has become, and how far it has drifted from the mainstream of the American electorate’s sensibilities — the same electorate that gave us Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton (who offended the Right’s moral sensibilities even while he governed as a centrist making plenty of rightward decisions — especially in respect to social welfare and the economy).

Right after the 1994 “Republican Revolution”, I found myself at a party in San Diego, talking to Milton Friedman. This wasn’t the famous economist, but rather a former speechwriter for Gerald Ford and other notables. He told me that this revolution was doomed to fail in the long run, because it brought together two value systems — one economic and the other religious — that were in conflict.

What held them together so long was pure partisanship.

That’s coming to an end. The split has opened. Rush, Hannity and Dobson are proving to be a branch, not a trunk. The roots in Goldwater and William F. Buckley still hold, and the branch is breaking away. For more about that, read Christopher Buckley’s How Limbaugh tried (and failed) to replace my dad. Pretty much nails it.

I have no idea if I’ll ever vote for a Republican again. Haven’t for a long time. Haven’t voted for all that many Democrats, either. Many of my votes have been for None of the Above, which has often been the Libertarian. (For what it’s worth, I voted for Gore and Kerry, because I thought we needed not to elect George W. Bush. I don’t believe I voted for Clinton either time, but I don’t remember. And I’ll vote for Obama this time, not just for the candidate but to oppose McCain, and especially .) But I’ll be watching to see if the Grand Old Party rediscovers its roots — in personal freedom, minimal government, responsible economic policies and other solid sensibilities.

Hope it does. After Obama gets elected, we’ll need those people to hold him in check. Not the nyah-sayers on Fox News and AM radio.

Last may I wrote Reunion.com spam alert, which ended this way:

  I am among the least litigious people on Earth. But I can’t help but wonder … Could I (or we) sue these bastards for false representation? Invasion of privacy?

I’m still getting comments there, I guess because (I just discovered), my post is the lucky top result in searches for reunion.com spam. The total number of results is 374,000.

It’s obvious from recent comments that Reunion.com is still behaving badly. At this point, however, I have no interest in suing or otherwise going after the company.

For those interested, I suggest reading the Wikipedia article on Reunion.com, especially the sections Privacy, E-mail Spoofing and Better Business Bureau. The Los Angeles branch of the latter gives Reunion.com a “D.” I’d vote for an “F,” but any bad grade is better than none.

Earth to Obama…

[Note... Not sure what's wrong here, but the last few sentences of this post aren't appearing, and somehow the next post is screwed up too. No time to fix right now. Sorry about that. Suffice to say that the problem here is MoveOn and not the Obama campaign. Still, it's Obama's problem. - DS]

So I just got an email that goes like this:

Dear Doc,

Your friend _______ sent you the following video from CNNBC: “Obama’s Loss Traced To Doc Searls”

Watch it here.

The first time I saw one of these was when a likely Obama voter pointed it out to me. They were royally pissed, confused and offended.

I’m technically savvy enough to know that this is a fill-in-the-blank video, generated by a robotic process. But less technical voters might not know that. This same person told me it looked like somebody had invaded their personal records somehow. It felt like an invasion of privacy, even though the source of the video was actually a friend — as it was for me. Worse for Obama, it made this person want to vote for McCain.

After showing the video, “CNNBC” says,

Doc, It’s Your Turn To Customize This Video For Your Friends

Don’t let any of your friends be that one missing vote on Election Day. Enter their names and email addresses below to send them each a personalized version of this video with their name in it.

And don’t worry—after your friends watch their videos, we won’t email them again. And we’ll never sell or distribute your email address or your friends’ email addresses.

I’m not worried about that. I’m worried it’ll backfire on the Obama campaign.

I don’t know what the connection is between “cnnbc” and the Obama campaign, if any. (Somebody at one campaign office just told me there is none.) But it’s in the interest of the campaign to discourage it.

Update: I just ran whois on http://www.cnnbcvideo.com, and got this:

Registrant: MoveOn.org
Political Action
PO Box 9218
Berkeley, California 94709
United States

Small print at the bottom of the page to which that URL redirects (the one where you put the names off all your friends in boxes) says this:

Paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action, http://pol.moveon.org/. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Co-sponsored by TrueMajority PAC.

 Tags: ,


Interesting NY Times piece on the emergence of the blog-based op-ed business, courtesy of Ariana Huffington and Tina Brown.

Paper margins

You’d think, from the looks of the endorsement picture, that Barack Obama is gonna sell a lot more newspapers over the next four years. Whether or not, the picture’s not pretty for John McCain, who has clearly lost his “base”:

Be sure to scroll down. Lots of wonky grist for obsessive mills in there.

Hat tip to Andrew Leyden.

After reading this comment by Jonathan MacDonald, I followed the linktrail from here to here, where dwells one of the most remarkable testimonials I’ve ever seen. One short clip:

Competitors had absolutely no idea what the secret sauce was because they were not able to see the hundreds of thousands of micro-interactions and conversations happening between staff, customers and suppliers.

Other retailers wrote vitriolic letters to the trade magazines claiming that the ‘internet’ was ‘the enemy’ and hundreds of them got into debate about ‘how to stop this online threat’.

I was centrally placed as one of these ‘new media rebels’ and even fuelled the fire by extolling the virtues of online in all trade publications whenever possible. Right in their faces.


We were able to be completely disruptive and for a while we pretty much had the online market to ourselves.

After I had won the ‘Best UK Salesperson’ award in 2002 I was voted to be the Chairman of the entire UK Retail Industry Committee.

I wrote a short book called ‘Survival Guide for the 21st Century Retailer’.

And this:

By applying the principles found within the copy of the Cluetrain, especially the 95 theses (quoted from time to time in this volume), I was able to establish an almost un-beatable business. It was a business of the people. They guided the progress and determined the way they wanted it to be.

To compete, one had to not just take on our brilliant team of paid experts but the 100k+ customers who were constantly advocating our services. To hundreds and thousands of others.

We were on a path toward some form of Communication Ideal that allowed business to self-perpetuate by itself.

Our ‘marketing’ was the environment customers co-created and our ‘advertising’ was conversation.

Other retailers took out full-page adverts. We fired up a coffee machine, created forum boards and sparked up discussion.

Other retailers invested heavily to fight the trend of computers. We let customers create their own websites on our servers.

Purchases happened when purchasers wanted them to. We didn’t ask for it – people didn’t ask for it – we mutually agreed to transactions.

Clue 57 from Cluetrain states: “Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner”.

From the way people walked through the shop (on or offline) to the way they wanted to order goods – we were not solely in control. We shared control with the customers and the customers allowed us to share control with them.

And that was just in the first chapter. The story goes on, with downs (following the above) and ups.

Hope Jonathan can make it to the VRM Hub event on 3 November in London. I’ll be there, along with many others still riding the Cluetrain.

Bonus link. Another. Another.


Quote du jour

“…the Because Effect feeds on openness. And it’s more than an API.” — Dave Wallace

I think Michael Specht may have come up with the best way to pound through all 95 of Cluetrain‘s theses.

Tags: , , ,

OPEC Orders Cut in Oil Production.

ISPs are pressed to become child porn cops is a new MSNBC piece by Bill Dedman and Bob Sullivan. It begins,

New technologies and changes in U.S. law are adding to pressures to turn Internet service providers into cops examining all Internet traffic for child pornography.

One new tool, being marketed in the U.S. by an Australian company, offers to check every file passing through an Internet provider’s network — every image, every movie, every document attached to an e-mail or found in a Web search — to see if it matches a list of illegal images.

The company caught the attention of New York’s attorney general*, who has been pressing Internet companies to block child porn. He forwarded the proposal to one of those companies, AOL, for discussion by an industry task force that is looking for ways to fight child porn. A copy of the company’s proposal was also obtained by msnbc.com

But such monitoring just became easier with a law approved unanimously by the Congress and signed on Monday by President Bush. A section of that law written by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain gives Internet service providers access to lists of child porn files, which previously had been closely held by law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Although the law says it doesn’t require any monitoring, it doesn’t forbid it either. And the law ratchets up the pressure, making it a felony for ISPs to fail to report any “actual knowledge” of child pornography.

*That would be Andrew Cuomo.

(An appeal to journalists everywhere: When you refer to a piece legislation, whether proposed or passed, please link to the @#$% thing.)

So I looked around, and believe that the legislation in question is S.1738, described by Thomas as A bill to require the Department of Justice to develop and implement a National Strategy Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs, and to make other improvements to increase the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute child predators.

It was sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden and co-sponsored by 60 others, not including John McCain. But Thomas says S.519, A bill to modernize and expand the reporting requirements relating to child pornography, to expand cooperation in combating child pornography, and for other purposes, is a related bill (there are two others), and was sponsored by McCain. About that bill it says, Latest Major Action: 2/7/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Note: For further action, see S.1738, which became Public Law 110-401 on 10/13/2008.

So I’ve read the text, and I see two things there. One is this Task Force business (which to me says “gather the wrong people for a noble purpose, and task them with creating a technical mandate that may not get funded, and if it does will be a huge kluge that does far less than it’s supposed to do while complicating everything it touches”). The other is a wiretapping bill for the Internet. I get that from Section 103, which says one Task Force purpose is “increasing the investigative capabilities of state and local law enforcement officers in the detection and investigation of child exploitation crimes facilitated by the Internet and the apprehension of offenders”. Hence the move by Andrew Cuomo in New York.

This is one more slippery slope at the bottom of which the Internet is just another breed of telecom service, subject to ever-expanding telecom regulation, all for Good Cause.

And we’ll see more of this, as long as we continue framing the Net as just another breed of telecom.

The Net is too new, too protean, too essential and too economically vital for it to be lashed — even by legislation that attempts to protect its virtues — to telecom law that was born in 1934 and comprises a conceptual box from which there is no escape.

Hat tips to Alex Goldman and Karl Bode.

Bonus wisdom from Richard Bennett: “The Internet is indeed the most light-regulated network going, and it’s the only one in a constant state of improvement. Inappropriate regulation – treating the Internet like a telecom network – is the only way to put an end to that cycle.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

New(s) business models

Jeff JarvisNew Business Models for News Summit is going on now, live. Wish I were there.

Samir Arora is on now. I haven’t seen Samir in years. Still, I’ve followed him, and he’s always smart and provocative and has a great nose for business opportunities. For the last few he’s been CEO of Glam.com. At the moment he’s giving proper criticism to the “distribution model,” but also talking about a buncha stuff that’s related to advertising. That’s still supply-side stuff, so I tend to tune out. I’m about the demand side these days.

Now Tom Evslin is up. Another friend, biz veteran and smart guy. Listen in.

While you do, read Dave, who has some great ideas about how to embrace and enable amateurs as essential contributors.

Also check out , where we’ve had a community that’s been (mostly quietly) working on new models for the last two years, and are making headway. More here.

The satellite will be launched into orbit tomorrow, October 24, at 19:28:21, or 21 seconds after 7:28pm, Pacific time, from Vandenberg AFB in California. Says here that the rocket will be a Delta II, which puts on a great show. While the launch will be spectacular from nearby viewing locations, it will be visible all over the southwest U.S. and northwest Mexico. More from that last link:

COSMO-SkyMed, one of the most innovative Earth Observation programmes, is financed by the Ministry for Education, Universities and Scientific Research, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Ministry of Defence.
The programme involves the launch of a constellation of four satellites, equipped with radar sensors that can operate under any weather conditions and with very short revisiting times.
COSMO-SkyMed was conceived as a dual use programme intended to meet both civil and defence objectives. The application services that can be derived from COSMO-SkyMed will contribute significantly to the defence of the territory in areas such as fire, landslides, droughts, floods, pollution, earthquakes and subsidence, management of natural resources in agriculture and forestry, as well as monitoring of urban sprawl.

Guess this is the third in the series.

In any case, I assume that this one has a polar orbit, which is the only kind of orbit that allows scanning of the whole earth over the course of time. That means it will be launching toward the south. This is good. Even if it’s in that direction, it will still be impressive.

Here’s a photoset of two launches from Vandenberg AFB, and two launches there, both shot from Santa Barbara. And here’s a video of one of those.

One cool thing: As the rocket enters space, exhaust is no longer contained by atmosphere, and it expands into something shaped like an elongated light bulb. Then the exhaust drifts in strange and wandering ways, determined by edge-of-space movements in atmosphere, altered by the directions of rocket exhaust, and then space itself, where the exhaust moves win all the directions the rockets shoot (which in most cases is in four directions at once). It’s fun and strange to watch.

I’m in Boston now, so we’ll miss it here; but if you’re anywhere southwest of Utah, enjoy.

Hat tip to the SBAU for the heads-up.

Tags: ,

Identity Workout

IIW, November 11-12, 2008, Mountain View, CASo we’re coming up on our Nth IIW, which happens on November 10-11. I’ve lost track of how many we’ve had so far, which I think is a good sign. Every IIW has been new and different, and unusually productive.

The idea behind IIW is getting work done. Moving not only converations forward, but work as well.

The focus has been on what we call “user-centric” identity, but I prefer the term user-driven, especially as it relates to VRM. So much has come out of IIWs over the years, or has been improved by conversation and codework there. Cardspace, Higgins, Oauth, OpenID…

And the IIWs have been great environments for working on VRM as well. (Though I need to point out that VRM is not a breed of idenity. They overlap, and I’ve played a leading role in both movements, but the differences are essential as well.)

As usual this IIW is happening at the in Mountain View, which is an outstanding location. There is a huge floor filled with round tables for hosting conversations, and rooms on either side for meetings, all organized on the Open Space model.

Anyway, it’s a terrific event, highly recommended. Look forward to seeing many of you there.


David Sedaris on undecided voters:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

Hat tip to Rob Paterson.

In this election “cycle” (as the professionals call it… used to be a “season”), the only times I’ve found the cable news networks watchable were during and after the debates. CNN was generally good at that, even though the post-debate punditry got tiresome and I turned it off. But otherwise I haven’t been able to contain the sense that the need to talk, and the need to advocate for a candidate, has made hypocrites of the blathering heads the networks feel obligated to feature.

It doesn’t even matter if they get caught. They just go on and on and on, and none of the interviewers say, “Didn’t you say the opposite thing a few weeks back?”

Ah, but for that we have Jon Stewart. Bless the man, his writers, and his clip collectors. Here’s an old Daily Show (from early September). You’d think it might be stale, but it ain’t. The dude nails it.

Tags: ,

I call Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004 a crock.

Paul Boutin wrote it. He’s an old friend, and I hate to crap on anybody’s work. But he’s wrong about this one. A sample from my reply:

As personal journals on the Web go, blogs have no substitute. Twitter is fine for 140-character micro-postings, and for the ecosystem surrounding it. But micro-posts are not journals. Flickr is great for posting, tagging, organizing and annotating photographs, and for allied services such as creating groups and the rest of it, but it ain’t blogging. Facebook has some blogging features, but at the cost of forcing the blogger to operate in a vast hive of non-journalistic activity — and flat-out noise.

Bonus link.

It isn’t adveristing itself. It’s the way it’s too often done.

I almost never click on an ad, for three reasons. First is that I almost never find what I’m looking for. Second is that I don’t want to waste the advertiser’s money on a bad click-through. Third is that I’m tired of looking at so much waste of pixels, rods, cones, cycles and patience.

So, about two minutes ago I wanted to find what the sales tax is for Cambrige, MA. So I looked up sales tax cambridge, ma. At the top of the results was this sponsored link:

  Massachusetts sales tax
SalesTax.com Get Current Sales Tax Rules & Rates for Specific Addresses & Zip Codes!

The first few search results didn’t look promising, so I decided to take my chances on the ad.

Wasted my time. Salestax.com redirects to a tax.cchgroup.com page that’s headed by “CorpSystem® Sales Tax Solutions, Compliance without a burden”, plus piles of sales info about CCH group products and soluitons, but nothing obvious about what I’m interested in: the advertised “Rates for specific addresses & zip codes”.

I’m not going to waste more time digging into this, or looking for other examples of the same. My point is that this is baiting and switching, and it’s not a unusual example. It’s also one more reason why I believe the advertising bubble is due to burst. There’s a limit to how much abuse, misleading and general wrong-ness we’ll put up with. This has been tested for the duration, but at some point the failures become intolerable.

And those failures are not just of performance on the sell side.

What we need is for demand to find supply, not just for supply to “drive” demand. We’re not cattle, and we don’t like being herded, even if it’s by friendly chutes like Google’s. This was true before online advertising went nuts, and it will be true after the chutes get trampled.

Two stories.

From 17 May 1999, The CRTC will not regulate the Internet.

From four days ago, CRTC to review new media broadcasting in February, and CRTC to examine broadcasting in the new media environment. (Both the same story.)

David Warren responds with Time to Say Goodbye. Sez he,

The CRTC already has powers of regulation over broadcasting content that are offensive to a free people; powers that go far beyond the simple and once-necessary task of apportioning finite broadcasting bandwidth.

Advances in technology have made it less and less necessary to impose rationing on the airwaves. We have got beyond the “rabbit ears” age. Digital technology for cable and satellite have moved far beyond this, and the Internet itself becomes capable of delivering a range of material unimagined only a generation ago. Nor is telephony what it was in past generations. The CRTC is a fossil relic from an antediluvian era.

By all means keep its archives in a museum, so that our children’s children may some day see how charmingly primitive our technology once was — in the “CReTaCeous” period of our national life, when such big blundering bureaucratic behemoths as this superannuated regulator roamed the electronic plains. But it is time now for the CRTC to become extinct.

We must demand this media censor be closed — not downsized, but permanently erased from our public life. If any remaining bandwidth tasks can be identified, they should be transferred to the secretarial pool in some corner of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The problem for the CRTC is that it does seem to frame the Net in terms of broadcast. The FCC here in the U.S. does something similar, only by framing the Net in terms of telecom. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s of the “if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” variety. Both frame the Net in terms of what they know best.

The problem is that the Net is not well defined. Go to Google and look up “The Internet is”. It’s all over the place. In Framing the Net I visited some of the reasons. But we need to go deeper and wider than the FCC or any ideological (or even rhetorical) corner can alone provide.

It’s so early. We’re so far from what the Net will be.

I was thinking this morning that it’s a shame that the term “cyberspace” has become passé. John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace said that we were creating a whole new world with the Net. This seemed true. In any case the essay changed my life. It was one of the documents that convinced me that the Net isn’t just a game-changer for everything it touches, but a subject of transcendent importance, so unique, so unlike anything that preceded it, that it wasn’t like anything. All metaphors are wrong, of course. That’s what makes them metaphors. They’re meaningful, but not accurate. Unlike simile, metaphor doesn’t say this is like that. It says this is that. Time is money. Life is travel. The Net is place. Or space. Or pipes. Or a service. I liked cyberspace because denoted a new kind of space, one with its own nature, its own new rules.

Could it be we’re all both right and wrong about it? If so, wouldn’t it be better not to regulate it as a breed of broadcast, or telecom, or whatever?

Anyway, I’m out of time here. Just wanted to dump this out of my brain while it was rattling around in there.

Steve Lewis writes, Obama’s “Homeostasis”: It must be the Roedjak! — a deep and wonderful detour from the usual punditry about a candidate’s temperament, informed by Steve’s years working in Indonesia, as well as his exposure to many countries and cultures unfamiliar to most Americans. I hope Steve doesn’t mind my lifting most of his post to repeat here. Dig:

So far, Obama’s seeming detachment has been exploited by his opponents as proof that “we don’t know who he his” or as a sign of his supposed smugness and intellectual superiority.  And, for, quite a number of Democrats Obama’s politeness and fixed smile are an unsettling suggestion of a lack of the politically requisite instinct to go for the jugular.  I would suggest something quite different and far more positive … namely, that Obama knows how to eat Roedjak.

Roedjak is an Indonesian fruit salad, slices of not yet fully ripened tropical fruits served with a sauce of sweet thick soy ketjap, tamarind paste, crushed chili papers, and a dash of dried dessicated shrimp.  Roedjak’s harmonic fusion of superficially contradictory tastes is more than culinary.  Roedjak restores equilibrium even while exciting the senses.  Preparing and eating Roedjak is a tonic during moments of personal emotional turmoil; domestic disagreements and work conflicts are calmed by sharing Roedjak when tensions to escalate. On the symbolic level, Roedjak embodies all that is positive of the values and social mores of southeast Asia.

Political commentators — other than those Republican cranks who have accused Obama of having attended fundementalist Muslim Koranic schools — have overlooked the “Indonesian” facet of the Democratic presidential candidate, his formative years on the island of Java, and his being a member of a family with Indonesian connections as well as Kansan and Kenyan ones.

In Java, outward emotional evenness and display of respect are inherent to the workings of families and of villages.  Frontal confrontations are avoided and adversaries are given room to retreat.  Such stances are central to the the stylized conventions of Java’s traditional complexly hierarchical society and to the realities of domestic, social, and political life on an overpopulated agrarian island and in crowded mega-cities such as Jakarta.

On the surface, Java is devoutly Muslim but Javanese Islam rests on older strata of Hindu and Buddhist culture.  The characters of the Buddha and of the heroes of the Bhagavad Gita still resonate as strongly as those of the Prophet Mohammed and Ali.  In Java, one learns that displays of restraint are incumbent on leaders and are signs of strength in people at all levels of society.

And so, for the sake of the US and the world, I’d rather see the American presidency in the hands of a Roedjak eater than a heart-beat away from the rule of an eater of mooseburgers.  Join me for a mango, anyone?

I dunno if Roedjak explains Obama, but I do like getting an interesting new angle on an exceptional man.

Tags: , , ,

Political roundup

Rush: “Would somebody explain to me how it is that you make poor people rich by making rich people poor?”

Colin Powell endorses Obama.

Roger L. Simon isn’t impressed, and adds,

  Meanwhile, Obama’s real, quite verifiable and public religious background (and mentor) was not even mentioned by the Secretary of State – namely, the execrable Reverend Wright. That is far more disconcerting than some vague Muslim association (whether by birth or otherwise) and indicates a lack of judgment on Obama’s part that any person of gravitas (like a Colin Powell) should find difficult, almost impossible, to defend. Yet the racist Wright, we all know, was Obama’s chosen minister for twenty years, married him, baptized his children, gave him spiritual guidance and provided the inspiration for his memoirs – even the title of the second one. It’s hard to imagine a closer relationship with a pastor, except perhaps a spousal one.

Obama polls seem to be post-peaking, even though he has raised more than $.6 billion. David Bernstein says the Democrats should be cautious about declaring an early victory.

Josh Marshall agrees. “Stripped down to its components McCain’s message to voters is this: ‘Don’t forget. He’s definitely black. And he may be a terrorist.’ That’s the message.” With pals like Michael Savage, pointing to jive like this, kinda seems that way.

Here’s a transcript of one (the only? dunno) McCain robo-call:

  Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500.

Garrison Keillor on Sarah Palin:

  It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about. The American people have an ear for B.S. They can tell when someone’s mouth is moving and the clutch is not engaged.

Virginia Postrel on portraiture and partisanship:

  Partisans demand that magazine portraits glamorize their heroes for the same reason my friend hired a professional photographer. Humans seem hard-wired to assume that good-looking means good and, conversely, to equate physical flaws with character flaws. We may preach that beauty is skin deep, but we’re equally certain that portraits “reveal character.” In a media culture, we not only judge strangers by how they look but by the images of how they look. So we want attractive pictures of our heroes and repulsive images of our enemies.

Rock onward

Thanks to Richard Sambrook for turning me on to The Story of the Guitar, from the . You might get some of it on BBC One and Four, which are carrying the series on the air and the BBC iPlayer. The easier sampler is a set of videos, all Good Stuff.

New Hampshire has a Brookline, too. It’s just north of the Massachusetts border, and it’s this pretty little New England town, complete with a covered bridge and a lighthouse.

The former was born in 2001 and carries foot and bike traffic, and the latter has less modern provenance, judging from its look. And it is obviously ornamental, sitting at the corner Potanipo Pond, at what I gather is the source of the Nissitissit River.

Interesting to compare two photo sets, taken one day away from exactly one year apart. Here’s my series of the site from 2007, and here’s the one from 2008. Except for the footbridge the subjects were a bit different, but one thing stands out: the colors were better this year.

Gain of face

Just checked in with Facebook…

That’s 465 items, not including the couple dozen friend requests I accepted yesterday, after checking for the first time in a month or two. It’s sort of metasticized from the last time I expressed my annoyance with Facebook, almost a year ago.

Maybe in another month I’ll check back again.


The Oral Office

Palin as President is like some kind of weird interactive oval office advent calendar from a parallel polyverse. Click on anything and get surprised by some palinism, in Sarahs voice, explaining. Sort of. Have fun.

Tags: , , , , ,


This is fun.

More here

Andrew Baron’s open letter to James C. Mullen of Biogen begins,

Mr. Mullen, my name is Andrew Baron and my father Frederick (61 yrs. old), has final stage multiple myeloma has been recommended the drug Tysabri as a last chance effort for life.
Please read this carefully.
Last Thursday, his doctors at the Mayo Clinic determined that he may only have about 24-48 hours to live.
In what can only be defined as a miracle in timing, a few days ago, one of his doctors who has been studying his tumor cells in the lab for years found an antibody with an exact match: Tysabri which is manufactured by your company, Biogen Idec. In the test tube, it attached to the antigens on the surface of the tumor 100%.
Though the drug has never been used before in this way, and because time is running out, the head of the FDA, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach has granted special approval for use of the drug for this purpose but you have personally decided “no”.
Lance Armstrong, who you spoke with on Friday, has also pleaded with you to say “yes” to my father, but you personally said “no”.
President Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator John Harkin, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and others who you spoke with on Friday and again yesterday on Monday have all pleaded with you to say yes”, assuring you that there would be no legal risk and no negative consequences to your company if something went wrong, but you continue to say “no”.

Andrew’s dad and I are exactly the same age. He’s also a great guy:

My father is a saint who has given his life and his resources to better humanity. He has spent his entire life seeking to protect the rights of others from harmful death and has spent an enormous amount of money and time in helping to shape our government to protect the rights of people everywhere. He is a philanthropist at heart.
1. Call Mr. Mullen or anyone at Biogen and ask them to please say yes (or provide a justification for whynot). Speak with anyone in the company in any department that you can find: http://www.biogenidec.com/site/contact.html

Here’s more on Mr. Mullen, from FastCompany.


Blogging the debate

Came in after it started. Picking it up with the question about negative campaigning. McCain nailed Obama to the wall on that one, and Obama is changing the subject. McCain is also coming across much more knowledgeable and direct. And experienced. McCain is also speaking in final draft, while Obama stumbles. Obama is a great public speaker, but a poor extemporizer.

McCain stepped in it with Ayers and Acorn. Obama gave his best response yet. Ayers and Acorn are red herrings, and they won’t wash.

Good question: about running mates. Obama gives the first response. All about Biden. It’s a good-enough answer. But not great. He said nothing about Palin. Smooth move. McCain’s response about Palin is better than Obama’s on Biden. Fact is there’s no comparison, but I’m giving this one to McCain, so far. Obama’s follow up is weak. He needs to say what’s wrong with Palin, I think now. He didn’t. Changed the subject to the costs of funding on special needs. Bad move. Now McCain is point by point doing to Joe Biden what Obama should have done to Sarah Palin.

Question on oil and energy. McCain’s response is strong.

Just noticed: they’re both left-handed.

Time for Obama to respond on the energy question. For the first time I see Obama looking into the camera. Taking money from China and giving it to Saudi Arabia again. Too simplistic. But Obama is being emphatic and clear. “We can’t drill our way out of the problem.” He still stumbles over his brain cramps when he’s uttering long sentences. Needs to fix that, if he can.

Obama: “I believe in free trade.” Really? The rest of his answer says no. But he made a good point about lack of automobile trade reciprocity with Korea.

Now McCain is nailing Obama on facts, or what sound like facts. The Columbia free trade agreeement, for example. McCain is acting smug and self-satisfied in pointing out that Obama has never traveled “south of the border”. Not sure it works. Obama’s defense against the hits are subject changes. Addressing energy consumption is good by Obama, but sounds blah.

McCain is now saying that Obama wants “to restrict trade and to raise taxes”. Obama just smiles. A hit with no counterpunch. And a credible one, given Obama’s other responses.

McCain: Real, but angry. Obama: Cool, but flat.

Health care is up. Obama talks to the camera. The usual halting pauses. The “Uncommitted Ohio Voters” are giving Obama high marks though, if the green and red lines at the bottom of the CNN screen are to be trusted.

McCain is giving a fairly strong response. Scoring with men (green line) and tanking with women (red line). Interesting, in a hypnotic way.

Obama is stronger on the health care question. Detailed, direct. Informative. Slipping when he goes into the McCain plan. “For the first time in history you’ll be taxing people’s health care benefits.” Ouch. But Obama still has those halting pauses, like somebody who has incompletely overcome stuttering. “His clutch is slipping,” my friend Joe (sitting next to me here) just said.

Andrew Sullivan: “I feel as tired of this as John McCain and Barack Obama look.”

Roe v. Wade is the current question. McCain is saying he doesn’t have a “litmus test.” Points out that Obama voted against appointing Breyer and Roberts for “ideological” reasons. McCain is sputtering on the abortion question. He has too much history on both sides of this one.

Obama won’t apply a litmus test, but says he believes Roe v. Wade was “rightly decided.” Obama is much stronger on this question. Obama: “The court needs to stand up when nobody else will.”

McCain: “We need to change the culture of America.” Going after Obama’s voting in Illinois. Once again McCain is scoring big with undecided Ohio men and the opposite with women. Obama’s defense is detailed and convincing. He opposes late term abortions except where the mother’s life is threatened.

Question on education, the last one.

Obama’s right thumb bends in, while his left thumb bends out. Basketball injury? (I ask because I have one of those. With a thumb.) His answer is blah. Good points about students taking on debt. The $4000 credit for tuition in exchange for community service is almost interesting. His point about parental responsibilty is a sop to the Right.

McCain: “Choice and competition among schools…” Charter schools… Give parents a choice… “Reward these good teachers.” Something about the military. “We need to have…” a roster of blah points.

Obama: “We agree on charter schools.” zzzzzz.

It’s weird that CNN has red on the left and blue on the right, even though Obama is positioned on the left side of the screen and McCain on the right.

McCain: “It’s a system that cries out for accountability.” A subject close to home for me. If it were up to “accountability,” I would have been washed out of high school in the 9th grade, because my grades and scores on standardized tests were bottom-tier. Anyway, whatever.

McCain’s closing remarks: “America needs a new direction. I have a record of reform…” He looks more tired now. He’s got a few hickups. “I’d be honored and humbled.”

Obama’s. “Same failed policies and same failed politics.” Yawn. “Our brighter days are still ahead… a new energy policies… It’s not gonna be easy, not gonna be quick… renew a spirit of sacrifice and responsibility… I will work every single day tirelessly… I would ask…” would? Feh. Weak ending by both men.

Okay. Bottom line: much more even than the earlier ones. I call it a toss-up, with maybe a slight edge to McCain.

Will it make much difference? I doubt it.

[Later...] Drezner: “The big winner was Joe the Plumber — the rest of us are screwed.”

Jay Rosen: “After Gore and Kerry, it became an accepted maxim in politics that you must hit back hard or lose. But this maxim has itself lost.” True. Obama payed rope-a-crank with McCain.

Mudflats has 805 comments so far.

Roger L. Simon: “The Obama-McCain debates will not be remembered like Lincoln-Douglas. In fact, I doubt they will be remembered at all.”

David Bernstein in Volokh: “Obama plays an excellent defense.”

The Onion: Bush Calls for Panic.

Okay, off to bed.

Rex is right

Older guys are smarter. More.

The best state-by-state, poll-by-poll rundown

Electoral College Predictions Tool. Dig.

Sailing the Charles

The moon rose while the sun set yesterday evening as we were treated to steady 12-knot winds, tacking back and forth in an MIT sailboat on the Charles. Cambridge to the north, Boston to the south. Skylines all around. Perfect.

Creamed wheat

A few days ago, in Wheat vs. Chaff, I excerpted Christopher Buckley‘s Sorry, Dad, I’m voting for Obama, and added this:

What’s happening now is a wheat/chaff divide on the Right. We see the wheat with Chrisopher Buckley, David Brooks, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Andrew Sullivan and other thoughtful conservatives who stand on the rock of principle and refuse to follow errant leaders over a cliff. We see the chaff with Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and other partisans-at-all-cost.

Now Buckley reports that, as a result of his Obama endorsement, he was in effect fired by the , the magazine founded by his famous dad. Rich Lowry, the magazine’s editor, says otherwise. Whatever, Christopher’s sharpest points are not about what happened to him, but what’s happened to his party:

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.
So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

Maybe, after the electorate creams McCain and what’s left of his party, they can strike the yurt and start building something a bit more spacious again.

Tweeting the vote

TwitterVoteReport provides a way to live microblog what’s going on in your polling places. The details:

  So, go to twitter and use the hashtag #votereport and tell us:

  1. The time of day (9:20 am, 1:12 pm)
  2. The zip code you just voted in (e.g. 10591, 10012)
  3. The issue: Wait (e.g. a waiting time of over [omega] hour) Reg. (e.g. a problem with your registration) Machine (e.g. voting machines are broken or jamming)

That’s it. In my case it’ll be reporting the putting of an absentee ballot in the mail, but still.

Following the #marekfire

Just found out about the Marek Wildfire from Sky News on Twitter. Tag: . Hashtag: #marekfire.

Got the image above from MODIS. It shows hot spots found by satellite. As we see, the hot spots (all orange dots) are up the Little Tujunga Canyon in the mountains next to Sunland and San Fernando, just above the Foothill Freeway.

So far the only blog report I see by that tag is Mary Lu’s. (Why does Google Blogsearch still not search for tags?) Others reporting: Firefighter Blog, W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking Site, Wildfire Today and LAist.

I learned from the CA Santa Ana/Fire thread on a weather forum that it’s also called the “Little T Fire”, I’m sure because it’s in Little Tujunga Canyon.

Whoa: Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, is also on fire. Here’s a webcam aiming, sort of, at it. Here’s KCBS’s report.

GEOmac doesn’t seem to have anything about either fire yet. Nor MODIS’ big map. Too small, I guess. But you can download the .kml file that displays the satellite-detected hot spots plotted in Google Earth. (You can do .wms from that same page too, but I’m new to that one.)

Fall in New England is a visual cliché of the first order, and exactly as advertised. Only better this weekend, because it’s been unseasonably warm, as well as clear and perfectly gorgeous, complete with full moons each night.

We’ve been out at a church retreat at Otter Lake, New Hampshire. And it’s been a healthy break for me, coming as I am off one of the worst colds in a long time. The fever broke yesterday morning, and the cough ended last night. It was the first night in a week when I actually slept the whole night and it was blissful.

Meanwhile, I’ve loved walking along the lake and in the woods. The loud colors at a distance usually turn out to be comprised of leaves with blisters, chewed-out edges and other signs of wear & tear. What I love about the forest here is that it’s mostly evergreen with deciduous trim. You can see one felicitous effect of that in the shot above, where pine needles hang like ornaments from the stems of maple leaves.

I’m pretty sure the shot above is of a sugar maple, though it might be a Norway. Maybe one of ya’ll can help here.

Anyway, we’re home again tomorrow and back to work.

Oh, by the way, all the shots in this series were taken with a little pocket camera rather than my big (and somewhat broken) SLR. Still, does the job.

Required re-reading

In Defense of Piracy is ‘s latest, in . Some bottom lines:

  …our attention is not focused on these creators. It is focused instead upon “the pirates.” We wage war against these “pirates”; we deploy extraordinary social and legal resources in the absolutely failed effort to get them to stop “sharing.”

  This war must end. It is time we recognize that we can’t kill this creativity. We can only criminalize it. We can’t stop our kids from using these tools to create, or make them passive. We can only drive it underground, or make them “pirates.” And the question we as a society must focus on is whether this is any good. Our kids live in an age of prohibition, where more and more of what seems to them to be ordinary behavior is against the law. They recognize it as against the law. They see themselves as “criminals.” They begin to get used to the idea.

  That recognition is corrosive. It is corrupting of the very idea of the rule of law. And when we reckon the cost of this corruption, any losses of the content industry pale in comparison.

  Copyright law must be changed. Here are just five changes that would make a world of difference…

Specifically, deregulate amateur remix, deregulate “the copy“, simplify, restore efficiency, and decriminalize Gen-X. Under “simplify”, he says, “Tax-code complexity regulating income is bad enough; tax-code complexity regulating speech is a First Amendment nightmare.”

All helpful reform fodder for the new Congress and Administration.

Christopher Buckley in Sorry, Dad, I’m voting for Obama:

…I have known John McCain personally since 1982. I wrote a well-received speech for him. Earlier this year, I wrote in The New York Times—I’m beginning to sound like Paul Krugman, who cannot begin a column without saying, “As I warned the world in my last column…”—a highly favorable Op-Ed about McCain, taking Rush Limbaugh and the others in the Right Wing Sanhedrin to task for going after McCain for being insufficiently conservative. I don’t—still—doubt that McCain’s instincts remain fundamentally conservative. But the problem is otherwise.

McCain rose to power on his personality and biography. He was authentic. He spoke truth to power. He told the media they were “jerks” (a sure sign of authenticity, to say nothing of good taste; we are jerks). He was real. He was unconventional. He embraced former anti-war leaders. He brought resolution to the awful missing-POW business. He brought about normalization with Vietnam—his former torturers! Yes, he erred in accepting plane rides and vacations from Charles Keating, but then, having been cleared on technicalities, groveled in apology before the nation. He told me across a lunch table, “The Keating business was much worse than my five and a half years in Hanoi, because I at least walked away from that with my honor.” Your heart went out to the guy. I thought at the time, God, this guy should be president someday.

A year ago, when everyone, including the man I’m about to endorse, was caterwauling to get out of Iraq on the next available flight, John McCain, practically alone, said no, no—bad move. Surge. It seemed a suicidal position to take, an act of political bravery of the kind you don’t see a whole lot of anymore.

But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?

All this is genuinely saddening, and for the country is perhaps even tragic, for America ought, really, to be governed by men like John McCain—who have spent their entire lives in its service, even willing to give the last full measure of their devotion to it. If he goes out losing ugly, it will be beyond tragic, graffiti on a marble bust.

This is why I thought, early on, that McCain would win, regardless of how well Obama ran his campaign. Christopher continues,

I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian. I believe with my sage and epigrammatic friend P.J. O’Rourke that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.

Well, I’ve tried to read Obama’s books, and “first rate” is not what I’d call them. “Tiresome and quoteproof” is more like it. But still, he’s the best we’ve got running right now, especially since McCain has turned into a cranky bastard.

There were so many ways that McCain could have whupped Obama’s ass, but they were all on the high road: McCain’s own. For whatever reasons, McCain has done what he said he wouldn’t do, which is go low. The result is a candidate defined not by his own virtues, but by the alleged faults of his opponent. And he’s done a lousy job of it, made worse by Sarah Palin’s plays to the right wing’s scary fringe.

What’s happening now is a wheat/chaff divide on the Right. We see the wheat with Chrisopher Buckley, David Brooks, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Andrew Sullivan and other thoughtful conservatives who stand on the rock of principle and refuse to follow errant leaders over a cliff. We see the chaff with Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and other partisans-at-all-cost.

In a speech at UCSB a couple years ago, Christopher Buckley winced when asked about what had happened to his dad‘s party at the hands of George W. Bush and friends. “I think we need some corner time,” Christopher said.

That time was put off for the next Presidential election. Now that the McCain campaign has turned into a self-defeating tar-fest, that time is finally approaching.

Grand Icing

From the air there’s a strange kind of vast sameness to the Grand Canyon. It’s a carved up layercake of variously colored rock that’s less dramatic viewed from above than from its edges or its insides. There’s one anomaly, however, that stands out for me every time I see it: the Uinkaret Volcanic Field, which flows over the edge of the canyon and cascades down to the Colorado, looking like tar poured over a birthday cake. The most dramatic corner of the field is called Lava Falls, atop which sits Vulcan’s Throne. That’s what we have in the shot above.

It was taken on September 18, on my way from Boston to Las Vegas by way of Los Angeles. I’ve shot the scene before. The whole collection is here. The larger Grand Canyon set from this trip is here. It’s pretty freaking dramatic too, actually. Someday when I have time I’ll identify some of the features there. Meanwhile if any of the rest of ya’ll feel like doing the same, please do.

By the way, one of my earlier shots is featured in Wikipedia’s Uinkaret Volcanic Field article.

That’s where this vector points.

Unless we Do Something, of course.

Meanwhile, there’s this source of inspiration:

Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know enough about prediction markets, but here’s what one of them says about the likely outcome of the election:

The tide is running. It’s Obama’s to lose at this point, and he’s too smart and well organized for that.

Hat tip to .


Slept between the last post and this. Just took a shower and sat down at the computer. Here’s my brain dump before I move on to projects where I can make more of a difference.

1) Both these guys are dull. The McCain of the Straight Talk Express and Dunkin’ Donuts with press buddies is gone, replaced by a cranky old bastard. Obama is Kerry with better speechwriters. The difference is in vector. Obama is young and can learn on the job. He also has a managerial hauteur, substantiated by a campaign that is amazingly well-organized and effective at every level. I don’t doubt that he’ll manage the country well. Not so sure about leading the country, though. He’s no Reagan, but he’s a bit of a Clinton, in the sense that he’s smart, articulate and at least kinda warm up close. To me the most important fact about the debate was that Barack and Michelle stayed and worked the crowd. John and Cindy split. It’s not smart for Elvis to leave the building while the Beatles are still on stage. Not when the audience is voting on both.
2) Clinton excepted, Republicans since Nixon have been better at connecting with ordinary folks. Nixon’s “moral majority” resonated with the voting majority, and helped create the red state base that still stands. McCain should have been connecting last night, but didn’t do very well at it. Not as well as he should have, anyway. Obama, dry as he is, does come across as empathetic. And he talks empathy better than anybody since Lyndon Johnson.
3) McCain’s “that one” line was peevish and nasty, and will become a grass roots slogan for Obama. Forgotten will be the point that McCain made, about how the two voted on something. (What was it? I don’t remember, and on that rest my case.)
4) I cringed every time I heard McCain say “my friends”. It should create warmth, but sounds insincere.
5) Obama needs to work on his brain cramps. It seemed like there was a moment in every one of his answers when his mind siezed and he lost his flow. I suspect he’s been working on not saying “um” all the time, and not saying “and” when he means “um.” Whatever it is, he needs to get past it. I’m guessing Obama’s younger than Jimmy Carter was when Carter took lessons to overcome a lifelong mumbling problem.
6) The pandering was predictable, but the gratuitous and misleading simplifications got to me. When Obama talked about “borrowing money from China and giving it to Saudi Arabia,” I wanted to throw something at him. Likewise when McCain talked about “victory” in Iraq when misapplication of that very concept is one reason we got into the mess in the first place. And Obama’s stuff about going after Bin Laden is wacky. Listen to this edition of Fresh Air. It’s an interview with Robert Baer, author of The Devil We Know. In it Baer lays out a calm, rational and constructive approach to Iran and Middle East powers and politics. The reason I bring it up is that it makes sense — yet it fits into neither candidate’s narratives (although it’s in better alignment with Obama’s willingness to “negotiate with enemies”). Also because Baer, a CIA operative for two decades, says Bin Ladin is dead. If tha’s true, it inconveniences both candidates’ narratives.
7) The best question from Brokaw was about health care: Is it a right, a privilege or a responsibility? McCain said it was a responsibility (of individuals, not government), and talked up free market economics. Obama said it was a right, and talked essentially (seemed to me) about socializing the system. Neither made me feel better, but both revealed extreme differences in where the two come from.

Obama won, but not by a huge margin. The difference is between future and past. McCain looks like Bush, cont’d. I don’t think he will be, unless he vacates the office and Palin takes over, which is a frightening prospect. Still, that’s what he represents. Obama does represent Change, and something more: purge — the need to flush out the last administration and bring in a new one. I think more people want that than don’t.

If Obama wins, the best thing he can do is bring in Bill & Hillary as transition team advisors. They learned a lot of stuff the hard way, and Obama’s gonna need all the help he can get.

Tags: , , , ,

Watching the “debate” between McCain and Obama. Hard not to. After eight years of a truly bad presidency, it matters more than usual who our next prez will be. But these guys aren’t saying much.

Worse, I don’t believe either of them are going to do what they say they’re going to do.

Anyway, I’m shunt-blogging the debate mostly on Twitter.

Bonus link.

A daft French regulation

Banning Copyright Infringers from the Internet : a View from Europe is the subject of a luncheon talk at the Berkman Center, going on right now. (Webcast live.) At issue is a new French regulation that would block copyright infringers from using the Net (as if this were enforceable). It’s an EU hot potato right now. Of course the proposal is completely wacky, as Professor Jacques de Werra is busy making clear, though very fairly and thoroughly.

Here’s Cory on the matter.

I’m tellin’ ya, when all you’ve got is a slammer, everyone looks like a prisoner.


Who else reads your e-mail? is an op-ed by my colleague Harry Lewis, in the Christain Science Monitor. At its core is a loophole that’s sort of a peephole:

  The Fourth Amendment states:

  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, ….”

  You might think that means the government can’t clandestinely search your e-mail, but it doesn’t.

  Suppose you use Gmail or Yahoo! mail. If the government wants to see your e-mail, it can have the warrant served on that company. Of course, the service provider has to respond to the warrant, just as you would if the feds came to your house. The difference is that the company decides whether to resist the court order, not you.

By coincidence today is also the release date for Blown to Bits, Harry’s new book, co-authored with Hal Abelson and Ken Ledeen.

Bonus tune.

An asteroid is about to burn up over Africa.

If just some of this is true, it’s bad news for McCain.


Guest-hosting Saturday Night Live.

Might make up for her running mate’s chickening out on David Letterman.

It’s hard to feel shitty when the Steve Miller Band is playing Jet Airliner in the middle of your head. Or smart, either — at least in my case.

Jeebus, all these decades I’ve been thinking the chorus was

  Big old jet had a light on
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh oh oh big old jet had a light on
‘Cuz it’s here that I’ve got to stay.

Turns out “had a light on” is “airliner”. Well, duh. Of course. That’s the freaking title. But phonetically, Steve is singing “biggo jed adda line oh”. I say this with confidence because I just replayed it about ten times to make sure. That’s the audible, as they say in football.

Who knows what the hell Steve’s saying, anyway? Well, some of us do, and to explain, we have the Internet. For example, The Joker begins,

  Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

Or is that pomitus? Hell, The Pompatus of Love is a whole movie devoted to the question. The Straight Dope sez that “pompatus” (that’s how it sounds) actually goes way back:

  Speculation about “pompatus” was a recurring motif in the script for The Pompatus of Love. While the movie was in postproduction Cryer heard about “The Letter.” During a TV interview he said that the song had been written and sung by a member of the Medallions named Vernon Green. Green, still very much alive, was dozing in front of the tube when the mention of his name caught his attention. He immediately contacted Cryer.

  Green had never heard “The Joker.” Cryer says that when he played it for Green “he laughed his ass off.” Green’s story:

  “You have to remember, I was a very lonely guy at the time. I was only 14 years old, I had just run away from home, and I walked with crutches,” Green told Cryer. He scraped by singing songs on the streets of Watts.

  One song was “The Letter,” Green’s attempt to conjure up his dream woman. The mystery words, J.K. ascertained after talking with Green, were “puppetutes” and “pizmotality.” (Green wasn’t much for writing things down, so the spellings are approximate.)

  “Pizmotality described words of such secrecy that they could only be spoken to the one you loved,” Green told Cryer. And puppetutes? “A term I coined to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure [thus puppet], who would be my everything and bear my children.” Not real PC, but look, it was 1954.

Anyway, I’ve had a bad cold the last few days, and right now I’m sitting on the couch with a fever, trying to think and write while a vacuum cleaner roars in the next room. But now I’ve also got these Etymotic ER6i earphones jacked deep into my head, muting the noise and substituting ol’ Steve, singing about getting on “that 707″ — a plane nobody outside of Iran still flies. And it’s getting me high, just from the driving energy of the song.

Beats thinking about death, which comes easy when you’re 61 with a fever, a gut, and a history of exercise that consists mostly of getting dressed. But music helps. Music is the best evidence of immortality that we have.

Music is life. And vice versa. Listening to three-decade old Steve Miller on good earphones is life transfusion.

So is listening to an even older song: The Doors’ When the Music’s Over, from Strange Days, a brilliant, beautiful piece of work. To me Strange Days ranks among a handful of perfect albums, first song to last.

Which is When the Music’s Over, of course.

  When the music is your special friend,
dance on fire as it intends.
Music is your only friend,
until the end.

Strange Days came out in late ’67. I bought it in the summer of ’68 after Ken Rathyen, a guy on my ice cream route (he was a lifeguard at PV Beach in Pompton Plains, NJ) told me to get it. “Every song is a gem,” he said. He was right. (Kenny, if you’re out there, Yo!)

That fall I shared an apartment in an old house on Spring Garden Street in Greensboro, near Tate Street. Next door was a big Victorian, already boarded up. On Halloween night, a bunch of turned off all the lights and listened to Strange Days. After When the Music’s Over was over, we were deep in a creepy Halloween mood, and decided it would be fun to break into the “haunted house” next door. So we got a flashlight out, sneaked over, and found a way in.

There was no furniture, just empty rooms, with a coating of dust on everything… except for the footprints on the stairs. They were barefoot and small for an adult. We followed them up to the second floor, where they stopped. No other footprints went down.

Feeling creeped out, we pressed on, exploring this big old house. Still, other than the footprints, there was nothing.

Then we found the door to the attic. It was narrow, and opened to a narrow staircase. At the top was a camped room where there were a few items of furniture and some boxes. In one box was a diary by a girl who had lived there. She reported daily on what she saw out the window at the front of the attic, looking down on Spring Garden Street. She also gave weekly summaries of her favorite TV show, Whirlybirds, which last ran in 1960.

One name that appeared often in the diary was Jan Speas, who lived next door. I wondered if this was the same Jan Speas who taught creative writing at Guilford College, where I was a Senior at the time. (Jan, whose maiden name was Jan Cox and wrote as Jan Cox Speas, was best known as a writer of historical romances. More here.)

So we took the diary with us, and I brought it to Jan. Yes, Jan said, she remembered the girl well. They were good friends, and the diary was touching because the girl had later died.

Three years later Jan died too, of an unexpected heart attack. She was 46.

In August, 2004, ‘s Piedmont Bloggers Conference was held in the same exact spot as the condemned houses: the one I lived in, the haunted Victorian next door, and Jan Speas’ house on the other side of that one. I wrote about it here, and told the same creepy story here (but it doesn’t come up now, which is why I’m repeating myself).

But I’m still here. Dancing on fire. And getting back to real work, now that the vacuum cleaner is off.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Is there anything more phallic than a skyskraper? Other than, like, the Real Thing?

Anyway, Sky News reports plans in Dubai to build a skyscraper more than 1km in height. A kilometer is 3281 feet or so. That’s a lot taller than the .818 km (2,684 ft) Burj Dubai, currently around 707m high, and the record-holder.

The builder is Nakheel, he same outfit that makes palm-shaped islands and such. The site at that link has annoying music and nothing about The Plan, but I’m sure it’ll show up.

They say it’ll take ten years to build. Those of us who watched the World Trade Center go up (from ’65-74) recall a similar time frame.

You don’t have to wonder what The Point is. That’s what they’re building.

It’s been suggested that Sarah Palin hasn’t had much media training. On the contrary, she had plenty enough as a sports reporter. Check this out:

In that video, from her days reporting for an Anchorage TV station, she’s clearly not Major Market. But you can see how her persona today is a combination of aw-shucks-doggone-it hockey mom, smart political operator and TV personality. And the latter cannot be discounted.

Tags: , , ,

Here’s a Web Pro News interview of yours truly by Abby Johnson at Blogworld in Las Vegas a couple weeks back. I think I said “um” about a hundred times. Gotta work on that.

In September I took two flights across the country that featured lots of clear views of the sights below. I think I took 700+ pictures on each of them.

I’ve been posting them to Flickr in slow motion, trying to minimize the labors involved in tagging and captioning them. It helps that many of these sights I’ve seen before, so I could just copy and paste from one shot to another.

This set is of Comb Ridge, in southeastern Utah. Other sets I put together, all in Utah and Arizona, are of Goosenecks, Lake Powell and Navajo Mountain.

Funny thing, when I went to look up Navajo Mountain on Wikipedia, I saw that one of the pictures there bore a strong resemblance to one of my own because that’s exactly what it is.

Peggy on Palin

Peggy Noonan in the WSJ:

  She killed. She had him at “Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?” She was the star. He was the second male lead, the good-natured best friend of the leading man. She was not petrified but peppy.

  The whole debate was about Sarah Palin. She is not a person of thought but of action. Interviews are about thinking, about reflecting, marshaling data and integrating it into an answer. Debates are more active, more propelled–they are thrust and parry. They are for campaigners. She is a campaigner. Her syntax did not hold, but her magnetism did. At one point she literally winked at the nation.

  As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic “talk over the heads of the media straight to the people,” and it is a long time since I’ve seen it done so well, though so transparently. There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial.

Remember that Noonan wrote speeches for Reagan and Bush the Elder.


  Sarah Palin saved John McCain again Thursday night. She is the political equivalent of cardiac paddles: Clear! Zap! We’ve got a beat! She will re-electrify the base. More than that, an hour and a half of talking to America will take her to a new level of stardom. Watch her crowds this weekend. She’s about to get jumpers, the old political name for people who are so excited to see you they start to jump.

  Her triumph comes at an interesting time. The failure of the first bailout bill was an epic repudiation of the Washington leadership class by the American people. Two weeks ago the president of the United States, the speaker of the House, the secretary of the Treasury and the leadership of both parties in Congress came forward and announced that the economy was in crisis and a federal bill to solve it urgently needed. The powers were in agreement, the stars aligned, it was going to happen.

  And then the phones began to ring, from one end of Capitol Hill to the other. And the message in those calls was, essentially: We don’t trust you to fix the problem, we suspect you may have caused it. Go away.

  It was an epic snub, aimed at both parties. And the bill tanked.

  We have simply, as a nation, never had a moment like this, in which the American people voted such a stunning no-confidence in America’s leaders in a time of real and present danger. The fate of the second bill is unclear as I write, but the fact that it has morphed from three pages to roughly 450, and is festooned with favors, will do nothing to allay public suspicions about the trustworthiness of Congress. This, as a background, could not have helped Mr. Biden.

I think she gives Palin too much credit, and that Palin will be further exposed to discredit over the next month. Still, an interesting read.

So we just passed a bail-out package that’s marginally better than the one voted down on Monday. But it’s still a bail-out package.

When McCain “suspended” his campaign last week and said he was “going back to Washington” to straighten out this thing, I thought, Uh oh. If he goes back there and truly kicks ass, and sells what Bush can’t, it’ll show he’s a real leader and blow Obama out of the water.

I thought, What McCain should do is something like Colonel Travis did at the Alamo (or at least in the movies about it). He should have drawn a line in the sand, and challenged his party to do what Bush couldn’t make them do. He should have stood on the steps of the Capitol, in front of the TV cameras and the eyes of an expectant nation, and said “Now is the time to put country first. This is how it is done. Our president and his top advisors, and the leaders of both parties, say this bill needs to be signed. It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s the best we can do got to save our financial system in a brief window of opportunity. I want everybody’s who’s with me to line up behind me, so we can tell the country with one voice that we’re ready to do the right thing.”

But instead he did approximately nothing.

Was there a better time to show leadership than with a real crisis and a lame duck president and his own election on the line? And when, as some Republicans claim, Pelosi was trying to sandbag the bill? Can’t think of one.

Disclaimer: These are a few thoughts of one blogger with a low-grade fever. Redraw your own conclusions.

I’ve been reading John McPhee’s Giving Good Weight, the title essay of his book by the same name. That last link (to McPhee’s own site) calls it “a story of farmers selling their produce in the Greenmarkets of New York City as told by a journalist who went to work for an upstate farmer, and — in Harlem, in Brooklyn — turned into a salesman of peppers. greenmarketplace in New York.” It was written in the mid-seventies, now more than thirty years ago, but half a dozen years after I worked for a fresh and frozen produce wholesaler at Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, and more still since I drove an ice cream truck in the summers out to the anomalous and amazing Pine Island, out beyond the New York exurbs. Two generations later, McPhee’s prose is still so strong I can smell the setting as if I were there this afternoon:

West of the suburbs, thirty and more miles from Manhattan, the New Jersey-New York border terrain is precipitous and glaciated and — across a considerable area — innocent of high-speed roads. Minor roads run north and south, flanking the walls of hogback ridges — Pochuck Mountain, Bearfort Mountain, Wawahanda Mountain — but the only route that travels westward with any suggestion of efficiency is the Appalachian Trail. The landscape is remarkably similar to Vermont’s: small clearings, striated outcropings, bouldery fields; rail fences under hard maples; angular roads, not well marked, with wooden signs; wild junipers signaling, as they do, penurious soil; unfenced cemeteries on treeless hillsides; conflagrationary colors in the autumn woods. Moving along such scenes, climbing, descending, losing the way and turning back — remarking how similar to rural New England all this is — one sooner or later tops a rise where the comparison in an instant blinks out. Some distance below, and reaching as far as the eye can conveniently see, is a surface perfectly flat, and not merely flat but also level, and not only level but black as carbon. There are half a dozen such phenomena in this region, each as startling to come upon as the last. Across their smooth expanses, distant hills look like shorelines, the edges of obsidian lakes. The black surfaces were, indeed, once fluid and blue –lakes that stood for many centuries where north-flowing streams were blocked by this or that digital terminus of the retreating Laurentide glacier. Streamborne silt and black organic muck gradually replaced the water… The surface of the mucklands (as they are called) is not altogether firm. It will support a five-inch globe onion. For that matter, it will support a tractor — but it is not nearly dense enough to hold up a house. There are only a few sheds on the wide flats. People live on “islands,” once and present islands, knobs that break through the black surface just as they did when it was blue. Pine island, New York, is a town in a black-dirt sea — the largest and most productive muckland of them all. Maple Island, Merritts Island, Big Island, Black Walnut Island are spaced across it as well, and their clustered houses resemble small European farming communities. The fields surrounding them seem European too, for the acreages of black dirt are ruled off in small, familial segments, like vineyards in Valencia or the Cote d’Or. NO fences, no hedgerows interrupt the vista or separate one farmer form another. Plots abut. The vegetables that come out of this rich organic soil are in their way as special as wines: tall celeries, moist beets, iceberg lettuce as crip as new money, soft Boston salad lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots — and, above all, onions. What the beluga is to caviar the muckland is to onions.”

Such sweet insult to both my own style — all short paragraphs, like advertising copy — and worthies such as Kurt Vonegut, whose central piece of writing advice was to avoid semicolons.

Anyway, I got to McPhee after reading Transportation, SUV’s, Jingoism … and Chickens, Stephen Lewis‘ latest. Steve, a native of the Lower East Side and more recently of the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, is my New Yawk docent, both on site and on blog.

So, sez Steve, “I came across this article which links the rise and fall of America’s petrol-guzzling, pollution-spewing “Sport Utility Vehicles” not to fluctuations in the prices of motor fuel but to Detroit auto makers’ decades-long successful but ultimately backfiring exploitation of a US backlash against European tariffs on … American chickens!”

Sez the article,

It started in 1961 with chicken. Trying to stop a surge of chicken imports into Germany, the European Common Market bowed to the European poultry lobby and almost tripled the tariff on frozen chicken from the United States. Washington, of course, struck back. In 1963, it raised tariffs on a range of European products: brandy to hit the French; dextrine, a food and glue component, to hit the Dutch.
To target Germany, the Johnson administration imposed a 25 percent tariff on light-truck imports, a barrier that fell on Volkswagen, which exported vans to the United States. “Why should we be the scapegoats in the chicken war?” lamented Heinz Nordoff, Volkswagen’s chief executive at the time.
The chicken war ended, but the tariff survived. It explains a lot about why Detroit chose to stake its future on S.U.V.’s...
Years of cheap gas (unleaded didn’t breach $2 a gallon until 2004) helped a lot — as did government tax breaks and looser rules on fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions. Perhaps most important, Washington used the chicken tariff to wall off the light-truck market, giving American automakers a protected and profitable niche to exploit...
The downside of this is evident today. Light trucks account for 57 percent of sales at General Motors; 62 percent of Ford’s; 72 percent of Chrysler’s. It’s not a good place to be with gas at $3.50 a gallon.

Reminds me of the textile industry a couple decades ago, when import quotas were imposed on other countries to protect businesses at home that were long gone. The other countries’ governments then sold those quotas to highest bidders, with these artificial costs passed on by foreign manufactuers to American intermediaries and customers. Maybe that’s still going on. Probably is. Dunno.

Maybe one or more of the rest of ya’ll can tell me.

Of course we’ll see more unintended consequences of forgotten policies in the next administration as well. Stay tuned for those.

Tags: ,

Joe Biden might not have been lying when he said global warming was “caused by man”, but he was at best only partially right.

The globe has been warming for the last 20000 years or so: ever since the last ice sheet began to retreat, leaving Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod, the Great Lakes and most of Canada behind — a process that’s still going on:

While there is plenty of evidence to support the belief that humans have contributed to global warming over the past couple hundred years, we’re talking about a phenomenon with a lot more geologic scope than that.

By the way, we’ve had seven ice ages in the last 650,000 years, and we’re probably in for another one after the current interglacial period passes. And by “we” I mean life forms. There’s no guarantee that humans will last that long.

Caffeine Nation

I was just standing on line at a Starbucks where the entire conversation, involving everybody in the line, was about their iPhones. Two topics: operations and applications. Operations was about managing battery life and connectivity by manipulating settings. Applications was about everything: Who has what and recommends what.

The lesson: this is a data device: a hand-held apps-runner. The apps can be anything. What matters most is what gets used most. Maps and navigation appeared to be a big one. We are now blue dots on the surface of Google’s World.

For now. Perspective: The iPhone is a window into The Future, even if (as am I ) you are creeped out by one company controlling everything. The iPhone is a prototype.

I really want to see what can be done with an Android.

Bonus fun.

Watching the vice presidential debate. Biden is talking policy and numbers, while Palin is talking people and stories. Most of the time I don’t know what Biden’s talking about, other than more or less standard liberal Democratic policies: fairness, tax the rich, windfall profits. I do know what Palin’s talking about, which is getting government out of people’s lives and other tunes from the Reagan song book. Both stumble now and then, but she has the stronger personality and is much more human and plainly spoken. He seems like a Washingtontonian policy wonk. Very blah. She seems like a governor who’s been working hard for her state. Bottom line: so far, she’s kicking his ass.

Unless she blows up, which now seems unlikely, this will go down as a Palin win, and may turn things around for McCain.

More notes…

Both have had their teeth whitened. Biden also appears to have had a facelift and hair plugs. Nothing wrong with that, but hey, we’re watching a hi-def TV screen here.

Biden is finishing much stronger, and Palin’s folksy stuff is getting annoying. Still, I think, on an emotional level she’s delivering. She knows a tiny fraction of what Biden knows, but she has spunk to spare, and that counts for a lot.

And her voice gets old.

Andrew Sullivan: “I think he has now won the debate.”

I’m not so sure.

And Gwen Ifill, the moderator, didn’t hold their feet to a fire.

[Next day...] FactCheck.org says they both lied, repeatedly.

A diet of raw pork

Mike Taht is actually reading the entire 451 page (yes, as in Fahrenheit) bailout bill (amended and revised), which he calls porkolicious. I read the first few dozen pages, and what sticks out for me is that it gives the Treasury Secretary a whole buncha power, further advancing the concentration of power in the executive branch of the government.

But, we need it, right?

And we get a new government, one way or another, in February.

Traditional journalism is static. Its basic units are the article, the story, the piece. The new journalism is live. It doesn’t have a basic unit any more than a river or a storm have a basic unit. It’s process, not product. Even these things we call posts, texts, tweets and wikis are less unitary than contributory. They add to a flow, which in turn adds to what we know.

In 1959 Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” and compared managing in business (a subject about which he remains the canonical authority) to leading a jazz band. You surround yourself with skilled folks who only get better at what they do. Drucker lived a long time, but it’s too bad he’s not around to see what the Live Web is doing both for knowledge and the work that increases it constantly.

To bring this into focus, dig Jeff Jarvis’ Replacing the Article. Specifically, Jeff is looking for a new “unit of coverage” that includes at least three subunitary components: 1) “Curated aggreagtion”, 2) “A blog that treats the story as a process, not a product”, and 3) “A wiki that give us a snapshot of current knowledge”. He’s looking for discussion as well (as he must, else all he’s got is another article, no?). “Where do you think the best – most intelligent and illuminating – discussion is going on?” he asks.

Problem is, the Live Web is getting more and more flowy and decentralized. The unit Jeff wants may be all of the above and a lot more that isn’t here yet. Somebodies have to go invent them. And they will. When they do, it’ll be in the river, not alongside it.

I found my way to Jeff’s piece through my FriendFeed, which I visited after scanning Twitter Search; and from Jeff’s post I pivoted off to MoneyMeltDown, Calculated Risk, Monitor Credit Crisis Blog and Inman blog, all off Jeff’s links. None, he says, do the job he wants. “Can anyone point me to a reporter or expert who is using a blog to both report and discover?” he asks?

Well, there’s Scoble and his FriendFeed top 165 list, about which Paul Boutin says,

If you follow Robert Scoble at all — and you sort of have to unless your DSL is dead — you know he can’t help overproliferating everything he does. While the entire staff of Vanity Fair takes months to assemble its 100 most powerful list, Fast Company’s token webhead spews 165 names in one pass for his “hand-picked list of the people who provide the most interesting tech blogging/tweeting/FriendFeeding.” Robert, let me put on my old Condé Nast editor’s hat and redline this back to you: GREAT START, BUT PLS TELL US WHO THE FK THS PPL ARE

Jeff’s point exactly. (Aside: I once had lunch with Jeff at a cafeteria in the Condé Nast building, where Jeff worked at the time and that our kid called “The Candy Ass building”.)

Here’s what’s even more new: Scoble isn’t managing the people who inform him. It’s the other way around. He’s being managed by the jazz in his band. Scobleization is more like what happens in Being John Malkovitch, where all these people take trips down a portal into Malkovitch’s head. Those of us being FriendFed are all being Scobleized, but (as Dame Edna says) in a nice way. That is, we’re being fed knowledge even as we flow with the river as well. Process, not product.

Yet we aren’t subordinating ourselves to the process, unless all we want to do is SEO and AdSense fishing. We’re increasing the worth of ourselves as the sovereign and independent units we call human beings.

To be Scobleized is to be human, and to grow. Because that’s what we do at our best.

The other day I was hanging with Scoble when he said “Isn’t this a great world?” Louis Armstrong, the great jazz player, couldn’t have sung it better.

Just a pause in the midst to express appreciation for ‘s storm-tracking services, and handy pile of Good Stuff, such as the WunderMap. Their site is far less crapped up with junk than Weather.com.

Right now we’re getting a late summerlike storm, complete with thunder. Thanks to the map’s animation and storm tracking features, I can see exactly what’s happening, and educate my judgements about whether to walk to the bus or the train — and when.

Anyway, dig it.

Quote du jour

Jeff Jarvis:

  We knew the White House was a vacuum. Congress is a vacuum. Wall Street is lie. Detroit and the era it represents is dust. Journalism is sinking like a wet witch.

  Who’s in charge? It’s falling to us, the people. We’re in charge. Problem is, we’re not ready. We’ve used the internet so far to organize some knowledge and yell at each other. We are just beginning to create the tools to organize ourselves. If only the meltdown of every authority structure could have waited a few years. Then again, necessity is the mother of organization. New structures don’t replace old structures while they’re still in place. New structures fill voids. And, boy, do we have some voids to fill.

Room for the new world we need to terraform.