Sunday, April 30, 2006

We wouldn't want to stifle innovation, would we?

Here's telco lobbyist Walter McCormick, Jr. -- head of the U.S. Telecom Association -- speaking to lawmakers recently on the topic of network neutrality :

Our industry has stated that it will not block, impair or degrade consumer access to the Internet, and the FCC has made it clear that it has the authority to enforce its broadband principles... Therefore, we believe that legislation in the area is premature. Any grants of new regulatory authority or statutory ambiguities could chill innovation and investment.

We wouldn't want to chill innovation and investment, would we? Unfortunately, McCormick's logic has all the intellectual rigor of an Art Schlicter ethics class.

Instead, there's pretty clear evidence emerging that the telcos' plans to eradicate neutrality are already stifling Internet innovation:

...Blair Levin, analyst with Stifel Nicolaus: "Right now, I would never invest in a business model that depended on protection from Net neutrality,"

The only innovation-destroying aspect to this whole debacle is the telcos' unwillingness to invest more in R&D than on lobbyists.

Let's remember Mr. McCormick's promises -- along with his sudden inability to articulate his bold statements as proposed law.

Hollywood Reporter: Walter McCormick's Promise

Book Review: Shadow Divers

Amateur wreck-divers risk it all to solve a WWII mystery

Shadow DiversHaving received a tip from some local fishermen, deep-wreck diving operator Bill Nagle leads a rag-tag, amateur crew to a location off the coast of New Jersey. They expect the typical salvage operation - perhaps a boat that went down a few hundred years ago carrying something of value: collectibles or, better yet, treasure.

Instead, this bunch of would-be explorers is utterly stunned when they discover what's located just beyond the limit of their diving ability: it's a Nazi U-Boat from World War II. Because all U-Boats were accounted for after the war, the nature of the sub is utterly mysterious. Which U-Boat was it? And what could have been its mission, operating this close to the US coast?

Amateur deep-sea divers John Chatterton and one-time rival Rich Kohler partner to solve a mystery of extraordinary proportions. Experts tell them the sub doesn't exist. And without any identifying material, no one will believe the discovery is legitimate. Because of the age of the wreck, virtually all identifying marks have been wiped clean. Complicating matters further is the sub's depth. At 230 feet, it is at the absolute limit of even the most experienced diver.

As Chatterton and Kohler pursue the true nature of the wreck, danger colors every aspect of their work. Multiple team members will die over the years they spend seeking the sub's origin. And only the most hair-raising operation imaginable will allow the key questions to be answered. Circumnavigating the globe to discover the truth, Chatterton and Kohler's quest resonates with deep respect for the wreck and the sailors who served on the sub.

Simply put, adventure stories don't get any better than this. Better yet, this tale is true... and breath-taking in its intensity.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Book Review: Devil in the White City

True story of matchless beauty and unspeakable evil

The World's Fair of 1893 was inarguably an inflection point in the United States' ascent from backwater territory to leader among nations. After all, the prior World's Fair, hosted by Paris in 1889, had unveiled France's gift to the world: the Eiffel Tower. Public sentiment widely anticipated that no country could match the smashing success of Paris. Public sentiment was wrong.

While many U.S. cities vied for the honor of the World's Fair, Chicago won out - beating New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Within months, Daniel Burnham and partner Charles Root, the leading Chicago architects of the day, transformed the lakeshore at Jackson Park into a spectacular and sparkling white city of the future. Clean water, electric lights, with a dedicated police-force and fire-squad. Rising from the lake were some of the largest and most ambitious buildings ever created, garnished with landscaping provided by the foremost designers of the day. And the park was capped by a singular, centerpiece attraction that would shock the world.

While Burnham was bringing his vision to life, another man -- Dr. H. H. Holmes -- was orchestrating a much darker plan. His large hotel, located near the fair, was a veritable house of horrors. Taking advantage of his prime location, Holmes advertised specifically to young, unescorted female visitors to the fair. After the event, hundreds of girls were reported missing. How many Holmes was responsible for is still unknown.

The fair attracted tens of millions of other visitors in its few short months of operation. Among them were Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, Houdini, Tesla, Clarence Darrow, Paderewski, Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Lillian Russell. Its inventions were numerous: the first-ever electric kitchen (including dishwasher), instant pancakes, Juicy Fruit gum, Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and the vertical filing system. And the fair also had longer-term ramifications: Elias Disney, Walt's father, helped build the "White City" and was a primary inspiration for DisneyWorld. Frank Baum's city of Oz was undoubtedly influenced by the Fair as well.

Weaving the twin storylines together, Larson has masterfully retold a story most Americans never learned: the transformation of the United States through a singular event, glimpsed through a prism tinted with both remarkable creativity and unspeakable destruction.

Friday, April 28, 2006

It's an election year... and the entire U.S. wants net neutrality*

BellWest Network Neutrality
Click the picture for a cool video explaining net neutrality

Hmmm... two thousand four... plus two... carry the one.... yes, by golly, it is an election year. Perhaps these GOP jackasses (c'mon, you know I love you) can get off the telcos' dole for a day and side with the rest of entire U.S. population:

With midterm elections looming, GOP leaders will come under increasing pressure to make a choice. Will they continue to back their few phone and cable industry supporters and keep the open Internet safeguards off the table? Or will they recognize that a genuine digital-age protest movement is emerging that could further harm their party's chances in November? The next few weeks will reveal whether the "smart mobs" can win over a tiny handful of communications monopolists.

Here's another great snippet. TechSearch asks the question, "Is AT&T $1 Million Contribution An Illegal Payoff?" I've heard of shady-sounding deals before, but this may be #2 after only Mollohan:

AT&T certainly knows how to spend its money wisely. It's donated $1 million to fund the pet project of a Congressman who has vowed to back a law letting AT&T and other telcos hijack the Internet. Is the contribution an illegal payoff?

The Chicago Sun Times reports that AT&T has donated $1 million to a community center founded by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). Rush is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is writing telecom law that would give AT&T everything telcos want, from killing net neutrality, to letting telcos establish municipal video franchises without government oversight.

Gosh, that smells funny.

Ever wonder why the telcos spend so much on lobbyists rather than, oh I don't know, value-creating new applications like Skype and Vonage? For the love of...

And don't think for a second that killing net neutrality isn't a huge issue. It has already happened in Canada and the results weren't pretty:

In July 2005, Canada’s second largest telephone company, Telus, blocked their customers from visiting a website sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union as management was in the midst of a contentious labor dispute.

Without network neutrality, the network owners like Verizon and Comcast will have a powerful incentive to manipulate the network to enhance their own search engines, video streaming archives, online shopping portals, blogging engines, and voice-over-Internet services. To get the same quality of service, a company like Google, Yahoo, Vonage or Amazon will be forced to pay a premimum. The barriers to entry for the next generation of Internet innovators will rise. Those who refuse or cannot afford to pay will be left in the slow lane.

So what we have here is the entire left and right sides of the blogosphere teaming up against one foe: telco management and their lobbyists.

Go to Save the Internet now. And get involved.

Or, you can ignore the situation, and leave the future of the Internet in the hands of the two remaining telephone companies, a couple of cable operators, and their lobbyists. And what could possibly go wrong with that?

* The entire U.S., except for the telcos' management and lobbyists

Finally - someone talks some sense about Oil

The crew at Powerline quotes Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX), the one sensible voice I've heard thus far:

There is a great hypocrisy in America's national energy policy. As long as politicians continue to demagogue energy companies and oppose legislation that addresses the long-term problem of rising energy costs, we will continue to fail the American people.

Yes, oil companies are making large sums of money in real dollars; however it is disingenuous to simply look at the raw dollar amounts without looking at these numbers in the proper economic context. We need to look at the percent of return these companies are making. In reality the oil and gas industry's earnings are easily comparable to other industries and in many cases lower.

According to Business Week and Oil Daily magazines, the oil and natural gas industry earned 5.7 cents for every dollar of sales compared to an average of 5.5 cents for all U.S. industry over the past five years. By contrast in the third quarter of 2005 the pharmaceuticals industry made a profit of 18.6% per dollar of sales versus 7.6% for the oil and gas industry. The average profit per dollar for all US industries is 7.9%. ***

It is time for Congress to look at the facts. It is the global market place and the law of supply and demand, not greedy oil companies that are responsible for higher prices. The price of a barrel of oil is set by the global market not by multinational energy companies... We must enact legislation that would open ANWR, expand refinery capacity, reduce costly fuel regulation and allow for deep sea exploration. These are long-term issues that could have made a difference today had we avoided political posturing and addressed them years ago. It isn't too late for us to do the right thing now and begin enacting common sense legislation like increasing supply and increasing research and development regarding alternative sources of energy.

We must stop allowing the issue of rising energy costs to be clouded with misinformation and politically motivated emotion.

Can I get an "indeed"?

Update: Make it two voices of reason. Krauthammer gets it right with, "Say it with me, 'Supply and Demand'".

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"The Tony Soprano Model of Networking"

In a vote of 34 to 22, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce rejected a network neutrality amendment to the Communication, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006. This despite the fact that a bi-partisan groundswell of support for net neutrality has erupted literally overnight.

The coalition includes: Gun Owners of America, MoveOn Civic Action, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Glenn Reynolds (aka ...Instapundit), Parents Television Council, United Church of Christ, the American Library Association, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Common Cause, Public Knowledge, and other major public interest groups. The coalition is spearheaded by Free Press, a national, nonpartisan group focused on media reform and Internet policy issues...

"The diversity of this coalition underscores the importance of this issue," said Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet and Google's Chief Internet Evangelist. "When the Internet started, you didn't have to get permission to start companies. You just got on the Net and started your idea."

"It's shocking that the House continues to deny the will of the people on an issue that affects everyone so directly - protecting the free and open Internet," said Eli Pariser, Executive Director of Civic Action. "Our bipartisan coalition will rally the online community like it's never been rallied before, and together the public will overturn today's enormous blow to the freedom principle that's made the Internet great."

We need your help - so keep reading. Columbia University Professor Tim Wu weighed in with some devastating quotes yesterday:

"...Ninety-four percent of Americans have either zero, one or two choices for broadband access..."

Given the concentration of market power between the telcos and the cable companies, Wu said it was clear AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other power players could make more money by distorting competition between Internet firms.

"It AT&T can, through implicit threats of degradation, extract a kind of protection money for those with the resources to pay up," Wu said. "It's basically the Tony Soprano model of networking, and while it makes sense for whoever is in a position to make threats, it isn't particularly good for the nation's economy, innovation or consumer welfare."

Wu also explained a little history -- why it's clear the carriers will, if permitted, distort, block and hamper any website that doesn't pay into their little protection racket:

The history... goes as far back as the 1860s, when Western Union, the telegraph monopolist, signed an exclusive deal with the Associated Press. Other wire services were priced-off the network - not blocked, but discriminated against. The result was to build Associated Press into a news monopoly that was not just dangerous for business, but dangerous for American democracy.

...“Western Union had exclusive contracts with the railroads; AP had exclusive contracts with Western Union; and individual newspapers had exclusive contracts with AP. These linkages made it difficult for rival news services to break in." The AP monopoly had an agenda: it didn’t just favor Google or Yahoo - it went as far as to chose politicians it liked and those it didn’t... AP used its Western Union-backed monopoly to influence politics in the late 19th century, even going so far as to exercise censorship on behalf of the State. The method was simple: when faced with messages from disfavored politicians, the wires simply didn’t carry them...

Think a world without network neutrality won't stifle Internet innovation? Think it doesn't endanger America's technology leadership position? It sounds like it's already starting to do so:

Pushing such regulation through will be difficult for the Internet companies, says Blair Levin, analyst with Stifel Nicolaus... "Right now, I would never invest in a business model that depended on protection from Net neutrality," says Levin.

Translation: I won't invest in an Internet startup. Only the big boys can afford the tarriffs.

The telcos don't want brilliant ideas like Skype, or Vonage, or Jajah to survive... they further endanger the telcos' dying, circa-1962 business models. That's why the carriers spend more on lobbyists than on innovative applications.

Go to Save the Internet now. Do your part to preserve Internet neutrality.

Schumer plans to learn Law of Supply and Demand... someday

Egg-cellent snippet from Hugh Hewitt regarding the attack on big oil by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Moonbatia). That's right, Chuck: ignore the incredible growth in oil demand exemplified by China and India. And ignore the fact that the Democrats' rhetoric has kept U.S. supplies tight by locking up ANWR for a generation (if all of Alaska were a football field, ANWR would be the size of a postage stamp). And let's also ignore the fact that oil prices get the jitter when, oh I don't know, Iran goes nuclear. Lastly, let's set aside the fact that multiple investigations have led to exactly zero assertions of collusion or price fixing. Supply. Demand. It's not real complicated. Unless you're named Chuck Schumer.

"I don't forecast prices of either gasoline or oil," Secretary of Energy Bodman told me at the start of today's show, but he did agree that events in Iran, Venezuala and Nigeria could send oil to prices which would result in $4 a gallon gas.

The key to our conversation was that pricing is out of the hands of the oil companies, and has been for some time. Senator Schumer's grandstanding is an extended display of either economics illiteracy or shameless opportunism, or both, but no matter the source of Schumer's absurd statements, they are another vivid example of the proposition that, no matter what the problem is, the answer can't be more Democrats.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why doesn't President Bush use Powerpoint?

We live in the era of iPod, Xbox, and Web 2.0. And yet, our leaders and politicians act as though they are little removed from the Lincoln-Douglass debates of 1858 in their use of technology. They wear make-up and gesture with rehearsed motions. They utter carefully couched sound-bites. And, in general, they seldom get their messages across.

Hey! This is the age of Powerpoint! Why couldn't they do presentations when they make their case? Here's an imagined speech regarding the need to invade Iraq... accompanied by a presentation:

Saddam Hussein

Many well-meaning -- but otherwise uninformed -- folks have questioned the need to take out Saddam Hussein. At left is Salman Pak in Baghdad. It's a terrorist training camp. On the left side is a Boeing 707, which was used exclusively to train hijackers. Yes, I said hijackers. We don't know how many thousands of terrorists trained here.

Saddam Hussein’s vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, is the man responsible for funneling money from Baghdad into the hands of the families of homicide bombers. The check at left was used to pay the family of Fuad Isma’il Ahmad al-Hurani... who blew himself up in a Jerusalem restaurant called the Moment Café. 11 people were killed in that bombing and 52 wounded.

Another Hussein-funded bomber blew up this bus. The little girl pictured at left was one of the victims -- Abigail Litle -- the American daughter of a Baptist Minister killed on March 5, 2003.

So once again... why doesn't President Bush use Powerpoint?

p.s., you can read more about Hussein and terrorism here.

Bi-partisan support for net neutrality

I may be just a simple caveman and your beltway madness confuses and frightens me. But last time I checked, most Instapundit readers and Second Amendment-backers were members of the GOP. It looks like net neutrality is what we might want to call a "bi-partisan-amalike issue":

Technology companies deem the Barton language inadequate, as do nonprofits organized as Save the Internet. The group, which will formally launch on Monday, is expected to include about 40 consumer groups, media reform organizations and authors of Web logs. The American Library Association, Glenn Reynolds of the Instapundit blog and Gun Owners of America will be at the launch...

..."If the telecoms believe they can frame opposition to their power grab as a liberal or anti-free-market attack, they are sadly mistaken," said Craig Fields, director of communications for the gun owners' group... Last week, the progressive political group sent out an "action alert" urging its members to tell Congress to include network neutrality in its telecom bill... Ben Scott of Free Press, which organized the Save the Internet group, said "the idea is that there is a strange-bedfellows coalition on net neutrality, with all kinds of people concerned about the future of the Internet, and wanting to make sure that everyone is treated equally."

Read "'Net Neutrality' Debate Heats Up As Lawmakers Return To D.C." and remember to visit Save the Internet!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cool pictures of Manhattan

Here's a link to a Flickr album with startlingly cool pics of Manhattan: Manhattan Album

House Judiciary Meeting on Net Neutrality Today

Heard enough about network neutrality to get you scared? Worried about the telcos and cable companies killing off neutrality and ending the era of Internet innovation (think Skype, Vonage, Jajah and other creative applications)? Now it's time for you to get involved.

What You Can Do Now: Contacting Key Members of Congress

Here's a message you can use:

Congressman (or Senator), as a GOP supporter and fundraiser, I want to express my extreme disappointment in your apparent willingness to side with the telcos in the matter of network neutrality.

At risk is America's leadership role in Internet innovation. Google, eBay, Amazon, Vonage and others create value, evident through their market capitalization values. Erecting tollbooths on the Internet does the opposite - it subtracts value. And the telcos -- through their spokespersons and the hardware they plan to purchase -- clearly intend to create artificial tollbooths on the Internet to maximize revenue and defeat innovative services that threaten their business models.

How would a startup compete with large companies who are able to pay prioritization tarriffs? What will prevent a telco from entering any market and blocking competitive traffic? The risks of ending network neutrality are simply too high.

The wording of prospective neutrality legislation can be clear and direct: blocking, monitoring, filtering, or impeding packets based upon type, source, or destination should be strictly forbidden.

America's national security and economic well-being hang in the balance. I -- and many other members of the GOP -- urge you to reconsider your position on network neutrality.

Call now. Operators are standing by.

TechWeb: Net Neutrality Debate Heats Up

Avoiding the commute

The folks over at OmniNerd (yes, Virginia, there is such a site and it does appear to be populated with nerds) have a fascinating statistical analysis of commuting. The best part: graphs that plot departure time (the X-axis) against commute time (the Y-axis). If you could assemble this data for your commute, you might find anomalies in the traffic patterns that would allow you to save a bunch o' minutes per day!

OmniNerd: Avoiding the commute

Monday, April 24, 2006

Net neutrality not an optional feature of the Internet

It's one of the finest opinion pieces on the importance of network neutrality that I've read. Daniel Berninger, writing in GigaOM, summarizes the critical importance of neutrality on continued innovation:

Beware of the monopolist that wants the “market” to decide. If there actually existed a healthy market for Internet access, users would certainly switch away from service providers tinkering with performance based on kickbacks from content companies. The toll collecting ambitions of the telco’s and cable co’s hinge on the absence of market forces. The fights against municipal wireless initiatives and lobbying budgets that exceed R&D budgets arise to defeat any leakage of market power. Network neutrality forces a virtuous cycle where winning requires making offers faster and cheaper. This dynamic accounts for growth in the info tech industry as platform improvements expand the range of possible applications.

Read it all. GigaOM: Net neutrality not an optional feature of the Internet

Related: Jeff Pulver is holding a Viral Marketing Contest to Save the Internet. If you have video or marketing skills, you'll want to check it out.

Great News

Here's a news site that's filling a niche: the Great News Network (GNN) publishes only uplifting, positive stories. Yes, it sounds maudlin and somewhat pathetic. It's not. One of the first stories I read was excellent: The Mercury-News'
Tiny reactor boosts biodiesel production

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How to grow $100K to $14M in five short years

The reprehensible Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) resigned from the top spot on the House Ethics Committee this week. Ostensibly in charge of policing ethics violation, this rocket scientist is now under much-needed scrutiny from federal prosecutors. They are reviewing Mollohan's finances after a complaint was filed by the National Legal and Policy Center in February. Why? A meteoric increase in Mollohan's personal net worth, which seems directly correlated to U.S. budget riders (earmarks) paid to non-profit groups. Uhm, oh yeah, those groups were reportedly fronts for Mollohan's friends and relatives.

Rich Galen explains this egregious behavior in all its gory detail:

I've just about had it with everyone. First of all we have these continuing stories of Members of Congress acting badly. Either they are guilty of outright bribery and corruption, or they are acting in a way that is so close to the edge that they make the Duke Lacrosse team look like a Brownie troop selling Thin Mints in the garden center parking lot.

This thug Mollohan from West Virginia is typical - remember he's the guy who, on an annual salary of about $160K managed to grow his net worth from about $100,000 to something on the order of $14 million in just five years - but he's certainly not alone.

And as much as the Democrats wish they could say it's all the Republicans; I wish I could say it's all the Democrats.

It's both. Not all, but both.

Meet Philip Winikoff

The old National Lampoon Magazine used to have advertisements for a flip-open wallet and official-looking badge that read, "Federal Breast Inspector." I always thought it was a joke. Until today.

Meet Philip Winikoff. The 76-year-old Florida man was arrested this morning and charged with sexual battery after he posed as a doctor and went door-to-door--black doctor's bag in hand -- offering women free breast exams...

Smoking Gun: Fake Breast Doc Busted

Senators face scrutiny for national security leaks

The era of intentional national security leaks -- the NSA's international wiretaps, CIA rendition programs, and so forth -- may be drawing to a close. The leaks all seemed designed for one purpose: to damage the Bush administration. Now credible sources report that "dozens of leak investigations are underway" at the Justice Department.

In the most startling development, MichNews notes that Senators Rockefeller (D-WV) and Durbin (D-IL) may be required to undergo polygraph examinations:

During the Bush Administration, a nexus of politicians, government workers and members of the news media have worked overtime in leaking classified information. From the secret terrorist prisons to the National Security Agency's super-secret surveillance program, intelligence officials and the Bush Administration have had to watch their counterterrorism efforts neutralized for political reasons...

...any senator or Congressional staffer that holds a security clearance can be asked at any time to take a polygraph. The individual can of course refuse to take the test, but failure to do so is reason to remove that person's security clearance. Babbin further said that Senators Rockefeller, Durbin, and Wyden, and some on their staffs will soon be requested to take polygraphs. senator has been disciplined for leaking since 1987, when Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was forced to give up his seat on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee. It was discovered he leaked classified information to reporters. Now he's on the Senate Judiciary Committee which is currently investigating top secret information regarding the NSA surveillance activities.

Flopping Aces gives us even more background information and analysis on the story. And Gateway Pundit has more. Lots more.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Battle over Web Server Market Share

The Internet-tracking organization Netcraft set off some alarm claxons over in Bruce Perens' neighborhood. Netcraft calculates, among many other stats, web server market share. Last month, Microsoft's IIS gained 5% of share (to 25% against Apache's 62%), but Perens fears it was through nefarious means.

Domain name registrar GoDaddy is used by many resellers. And it switched its domain parking systems from Apache to IIS, resulting in the market share changes. Speculation abounds that GoDaddy was "incented" by Microsoft to switch the domain-name parking lot to IIS.

Parked sites don't possess content or applications, so switching these domains is only a marketing tactic. It isn't as if these domains represent real market-share. Perens, though, has an open-source solution...


Amazon taking orders for the Skype WiFi Phone

Frequently in 802.11 wireless hot-spots? Tired of high cell-phone charges? An answer may be closer than you think with Netgear's new SPH101 Skype WiFi Phone. It's not shipping just yet, but Amazon is taking pre-orders at $250 a pop (that's marked down from $300). The SPH101 works wherever you can find a WiFi connection...

Zarqawi hates email

Yeah, I been gettin' all your email haterade. All y'all infidels be texting and emailing, and it's all like "yo Zarks where u at? Al Qaeda cut off your TypePad account? LOL!!!"

Hey cuz, act like you know. Like the Zarkman got time to be blogging... with the Q1 decapitation reports overdue, and Fatima all up in my grille wantin’ money for the kids' summer martyr camp, and Team Satan sendin’ another crew of laser-guided "downsizing consultants" every freaking day.

Fo real, you think Zarkman got time to play penpal with you chumps? Cracka, every damn morning I got an Outlook inbox full of fresh steaming dung to deal with. Meeting notices from Zawahiri. Overdue notices from the IED suppliers...

IowaHawk: Zarqawi hates email

"The mushroom cloud is on its way!"

The Counterterrorism Blog provides much-deserved coverage of a protest outside the Israeli Consulate:

The Queens-based Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS) held a rally yesterday outside of the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan. Members of the Islamic Thinkers Society are easily identified by their Khilafah flags and provocative signs as well as rhetoric against homosexuals, Jews, Christians, Danes and others, depending on the hot button issue at the moment. Yesterday's rally was held in response to Monday’s Tel Aviv bombing that killed 9 and injured scores. While carrying signs including “Islam will Dominate” with a picture of an Islamic flag over the White House, the small but loud group of men chanted threatening slogans...

...Zionists, Zionists You will pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
Israeli Zionists You shall pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
The mushroom cloud is on its way! The real Holocaust is on its way! ...

And the mainstream media. Couldn't. Care. Less.

"The mushroom cloud is on its way!"

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ahmadinejad's Demons

The history of Iran's mullahocracy is worth contemplating as it grasps its first nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad seeks the Apocalypse. How does one negotiate, then, with those who seek "the end of days"?

For an answer to that question, contemplate this anecdote from the proud military tradition exemplified by Iran's current leadership:

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.

At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. "In the past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on, "we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."

These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started in order to supplement his beleaguered army.The Basij Mostazafan--or "mobilization of the oppressed"--was essentially a volunteer militia, most of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the thousands, to their own destruction. "The young men cleared the mines with their own bodies," one veteran of the Iran-Iraq War recalled in 2002 to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. "It was sometimes like a race. Even without the commander's orders, everyone wanted to be first."

The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not of national shame, but of growing pride...

The New Republic: Ahmadinejad's Demons (registration required)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A new take on Internet Telephony

Internet telephony just got a little more interesting with the introduction of Jajah gives you a web form and asks you to enter two telephone numbers: yours and someone else's. Jajah's service initiates the connection by dialing both phones simultaneously. Pick up the phone, the remote party picks up their phone, and now you're connected via a pure IP service.

True, the pranking possibilities are limitless. Here's a helpful hint: don't connect your Mom's mobile phone with Weight Watchers or your buddy's phone with Alcoholics Anonymous.

You get five minutes to try the service for free. After that, it's a pure pay-as-you-go model, with costs that are spectacularly low. Calling a landline in Germany? Expect a tad less than 2 cents per minute. How about China? Just a fraction over 2 cents per minute.

Message for the telcos: this is precisely the kind of service I'm talking about in when I advocate adding value  at layers 4 through 7. How about investing in services like this, that could actually create value, rather than continue to erect useless tollbooths on the Internet? Oh, that's right, you folks think it's 1959 and you're still a full-fledged, government-sponsored monopoly. Forget it.

Give a try.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On the brink of war

An unremarkable declaration of warThe world watches and waits as the Middle East teeters ever-closer to full-fledged war, this time between nuclear powers.

After Hamas defended a deadly suicide bombing Monday, Israel's U.N. ambassador warned that recent statements by the Palestinian government, Iran and Syria "are clear declarations of war, and I urge each and every one of you to listen carefully and take them at face value."

It's a pity that the Maureen Dowd, Leonard Pitts, and Richard Cohen posse can't put down their Rummy-bats for even a second to consider the truly breathtaking events occurring in the Middle East. That would involve marshalling at least a dozen neurons apiece into a mesh devoted to intellectual honesty. And therefore it has as much chance of happening as Richard Burton returning from the dead to perform in MTV's "Yo Mamma".

In fact, this egregious crew will be among the first screaming bloody murder after the first atomic weapon detonates. And then their baying, blaming voices will be drowned in a crescendo of newly converted Republican defense-hawks.

Ambassador Dan Gillerman cautioned that a new "axis of terror" — Iran, Syria and the Hamas-run Palestinian government — was sowing the seeds of the first world war of the 21st century.

Yes, it's an all-star team of extremist, despotic nutcases devoted exclusively to mass murder. The latest Hamas terror bombing used rat-poison-coated shrapnel to ensure fatal infections. But, according to the Kos Kidz and the rest of the barking moonbats, the real enemy is the Bush administration. Would that they would expend one-tenth their energy and attention towards real -- not imagined -- enemies.

Somehow they ignore or gloss over the Iranian regime's incessant threats to utterly destroy all of "Anglo-Saxon civilization". Which would include nuking the U.S. and Britain. Oh, and I almost forgot, wiping Israel off the face of the earth. As a quick reminder, let's tune in to Iran's "President" Ahmadinejad: "Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? …you had best know that this… goal [is] attainable…"

But, no, the mediacrats can't bother with this story. It's not "big" enough for them while Rummy, W, and Cheney are on the loose, pounding them like bongo drums in election after election.

"A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria, and the newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority," he said.

And the mediacrats: Dowd, Pitts, Cohen, and company. Couldn't. Care. Less.

AP: Israel's Leaders Blame Hamas for Bombing

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bloody Week in Texas: 105 More Dead

It was another bloody week on Texas highways as 105 people, including a family of eight traveling in a recreational vehicle, were killed in a series of devastating accidents. The Kilkearney family of Lubbock, on an Easter holiday trip, were killed when their Winnebago RV crossed the center-line and was crushed by a tractor-trailer. The driver of that vehicle was not injured. Last year alone, more than 4,000 Texans died on the highways, an increase of 7% over the prior year.

What if domestic news outlets continually fed American readers headlines like: "Bloody Week on U.S. Highways: Some 700 Killed," or "More Than 900 Americans Die Weekly from Obesity-Related Diseases"? Both of these headlines might be true statistically, but do they really represent accurate pictures of the situations? What if you combined all of the negatives to be found in the state of Texas and used them as an indicator of the quality of life for all Texans? Imagine the headlines: "Anti-law Enforcement Elements Spread Robbery, Rape and Murder through Texas Cities." For all intents and purposes, this statement is true for any day of any year in any state. True -- yes, accurate -- yes, but in context with the greater good taking place -- no! After a year or two of headlines like these, more than a few folks back in Texas and the rest of the U.S. probably would be ready to jump off of a building and end it all. So, imagine being an American in Iraq right now...

Lt. Col. Tim Ryan (BlackFive): Aiding and Abetting

Monday, April 17, 2006

Iran Insanity Watch

The anti-military crew is out in full force this week, headlined by Maureen Dowd and Leonard Pitts. Both are using the Iraq example as proof the U.S. shouldn't meddle in Iran's affairs.

The tragic irony is that Dowd and Pitts are both contributors to the very instability in Iraq they decry. Lt. Col. Tim Ryan puts it more bluntly: the media, well-meaning or not, is "aiding and abetting the enemy."

U.S. war-bashers are given voice on Al Jazeera and then publicized far and wide in the insurgency as further evidence of a replay of the Clintonian "Mogadishu-Gambit" (also known as the "Turn-Tail-and-Run-Tactic"). That the U.S. has any credibility for staying power is due solely to President Bush. Dowd and Pitts would prefer a triangulating, poll-watching President; one who would have long ago abandoned any effort at a long-term economic renovation of the Middle East.

That is not to say that constructive criticism isn't warranted and needed. For starters, where is an alternative long-term solution to the virulent form of extremism spreading like H5N1 in the Middle East? After all, Wahhabism has been on the rise since 1924.

If Bush's plan -- economic gentrification channeled through Democracy-building -- isn't the answer... then what is? We've been waiting for years for just such instruction from Dowd, Pitts, and crew. Instead we hear crickets chirping and see an occasional thatch of tumbleweed roll by.

Put simply, Iran must be dealt with. Mutual Assured Destruction doesn't work when one side desires Apocalypse.

The most recent Ahmadinejad gem amply reinforces that fact. He stated, "Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation." By the way, he means the U.S. and the U.K., too.

Yes, he's really mellowed the rhetoric. He's ratcheted down a notch from his continual refrains of "Wipe Israel off the face of the Earth" and "Imagine a World Without the U.S.". So, I suppose he's now a moderate in the view of the Associated Press.

Hugh Hewitt rightly puts it best when he asks, "At what point will opponents of military action against Iran begin to deal with the regime's statements?"

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Target: Iran

Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror (Hardcover)Thomas McInerney, co-author of an excellent book on terrorism ("Endgame"), ruminates on a possible strike against Iran's despotic regime. Why would such a preemptive attack be necessary?

Iran's "President" Ahmadinejad has already promised to destroy the U.K., U.S., and Israel. Apparently, sanctions aren't sufficient for the Mullahs... he simply wants to wipe these countries off the face of the Earth.

Ahmadinejad is also a certifiable nutcase with messianic delusions. He frequently mentions the Twelfth Imam (Mahdi) in his speeches. That figure vanished in the year 941 and his return will herald "the end of days". Ahmadinejad even mentioned the Mahdi in his September speech at the UN. And he frequently discusses realignment of Iran's government to prepare for (yes, you guessed it) judgment day.

Amir Taheri, writing in the Telegraph, puts it this way:

Ahmadinejad ... boasts that the [Mahdi] gave him the presidency for a single task: provoking a "clash of civilisations" in which the Muslim world, led by Iran, takes on the "infidel" West, led by the United States, and defeats it in a slow but prolonged contest that, in military jargon, sounds like a low intensity, asymmetrical war.

...[he believes] President George W Bush is an aberration, an exception to a rule under which all American presidents since Truman, when faced with serious setbacks abroad, have "run away". Iran's current strategy, therefore, is to wait Bush out. And that, by "divine coincidence", corresponds to the time Iran needs to develop its nuclear arsenal, thus matching the only advantage that the infidel enjoys.

...The Iranian plan is simple: playing the diplomatic game for another two years until Bush becomes a "lame-duck", unable to take military action against the mullahs, while continuing to develop nuclear weapons.

Also writing in the Weekly Standard, Reuehl Marc Gerecht puts it even more bluntly:

Deterrence theory may well work against the clerical regime, but it ought to be admitted that we have never before confronted a regime where anti-Americanism, violence, terrorism, and God's writ have been so intermarried.

So let's do the arithmetic: take a fascist dictator with delusions of messianic grandeur, add in a burgeoning nuclear weapons capability, fling in plenty of apologists in the West, and then toss in a heaping dollop of hatred for all infidels (Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and Jews). The result? A recipe only Adolf Hitler could love.

So... what would an attack on Iran look like?

It would consist of a powerful air campaign led by 60 stealth aircraft (B-2s, F-117s, F-22s) and more than 400 nonstealth strike aircraft, including B-52s, B-1s, F-15s, F-16s, Tornados, and F-18s. Roughly 150 refueling tankers and other support aircraft would be deployed, along with 100 unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and 500 cruise missiles. In other words, overwhelming force would be used.

The objective would be, first and foremost, to destroy or severely damage Iran's nuclear development and production facilities and put them out of commission for at least five years. Another aim would be to destroy the Iranian air defense system, significantly damage its air force, naval forces, and Shahab-3 offensive missile forces. This would prevent Iran from projecting force outside the country and retaliating militarily. The air campaign would also wipe out or neutralize Iran's command and control capabilities...

Read the whole thing.

Weekly Standard: Target: Iran

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Google/Earthlink team up to fight the Carriers

BellWest Network Neutrality
Another spectacular offer from BellWest

For those who may have missed it, I spent quite a bit of time beating a dead horse discussing network neutrality. At the risk of further flogging the expired equine, I wanted to point out a fascinating development in the continuing war between the carriers and the content-providers.

A team consisting of Google and Earthlink was selected last week by the city of San Francisco to offer free- and paid-WiFi service to the municipality. Google possesses lots of fiber -- the backbone that carries traffic throughout the country -- while Earthlink has the infrastructure needed to deliver last-mile services to consumers and businesses.

What's noteworthy about this deal is that it breaks the monopoly on last-mile services (at least in SF) held by the telcos and cable companies. And it hamstrings the carriers' implied strategies to violate network neutrality, which could result in the kind of innovation-stifling network tollbooths illustrated by the hypothetical advertisement at right.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports that the Google/Earthlink pair are planning another joint bid for an additional American city. Additionally, the Journal notes that EarthLink has already won bids to build WiFi networks in Anaheim, CA and Philadelphia, PA. It is also a serious bidder on as many as two dozen other municipal networks.

Opening up last-mile services to real competition can't come quick enough. And it will put the telcos and the cable companies exactly where they need to be: in a position to add value by creating layers 4-7 services, not diminishing value by erecting useless Internet tollbooths courtesy of Cisco and friends.

Competition will make the carrers healthier. They may not like the attendant pain at first, but as the fitness trainers say, "no pain, no gain."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Operation Merlin

In the maelstrom of mainstream media attention given James Risen's book, scant attention was paid to a matter of far greater import than the NSA's international wiretaps. Namely, "Operation Merlin", a Bill Clinton-approved plan to give the Iranians blueprints of nuclear weapons.

Using a Russian scientist as a go-between, the operation reportedly gave the Iranians plans for nuclear devices. And the blueprints incorporated certain design flaws that would ostensibly render the devices useless. Risen reported:

But in what may turn out to be one of the greatest foreign policy blunders of all time, Operation Merlin backfired when the Russian scientist spotted the design flaws immediately - and even offered to help Iran fix the problems.

Risen said the Clinton-approved plan ended up handing Tehran "one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia from rogue countries such as Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short."

Let's just pause a moment. When you really stop and consider the Clinton legacy, you come up with some pretty frightening stuff.

 - Clearing the way for U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology to the Chinese, an initiative opposed by just about everyone in the defense community for reasons of national security.

 - A much-publicized dalliance with a White House intern (not to mention perjury), for which any normal human would have lost their security clearance.

 - Ignoring Bin Laden's declaration of war and other alarm claxons regarding the seriousness of the extremist threat and, instead, treating the series of eight related attacks as a law enforcement problem.

 - Getting duped by the North Koreans in a deal that gave another despot nuclear technology.

The very possibility of the Clinton team at the helm again makes my blood run cold.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The mainstream media's Weapons of Mass Deception

If you happen to read your daily paper this morning, odds are you'll stumble across this article:

WMD claim was known to be false

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile “biological laboratories.” He declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.”

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq – not made public until now – had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons...

Hmmm. That seems like a damaging story for the administration. Let's skip to paragraph twelve, however:

...the technical team was among several groups that analyzed the suspected mobile labs throughout the spring and summer of 2003. Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery concluded that the facilities were weapons labs, a finding that strongly influenced views of intelligence officials in Washington...

Thus, the real story -- the one left unreported in the lede -- is that the Pentagon dispatched three teams to evaluate the mobile labs. Two of the three teams concluded that the trailers were mobile bioweapons labs.

Isn't it amazing that fact isn't called out in the headline or the first eleven paragraphs?

Speaking of WMD, LGF records a fascinating snippet of a Melanie Phillips conversation with Georges Sada, formerly Air Vice Marshal for Saddam Hussein's Air Force:

In April 2004, a group of al Qaeda terrorists was caught in Jordan with 20 tons of Sarin gas. When Sada heard of this, he says, his blood ran cold. There was only one place which was capable of producing 20 tons of Sarin: Saddam’s Iraq. To his horror, he says, he realised at that moment that Saddam’s WMD had got into the hands of al Qaeda.

Earlier this year, Sada was interrogated about his claims by the American House Intelligence committee, to whom he gave the names of the Iraqi pilots. Subsequently, he says, the Committee went to Iraq and spoke to the pilots. The result, he says, is that a major American investigative and diplomatic effort is now under way to finally locate the missing WMD.

But in Britain, I say, people now firmly believe that there were no WMD and that we were taken to war on a lie. Sada looks utterly flabbergasted. ‘How can they possibly think that?’ he asks in bewilderment and anger, and puts his head in his hands.

It's quite amazing to me that the mainstream media has acted the as the literary equivalent of a contortionist to avoid the uncomfortable facts. Combine these various stories along with the HARMONY disclosures that Hussein was both (a) operating closely with Al Qaeda; and (b) hording WMD documentation and material, and we start to assemble the very valid rationale for taking out Hussein.

It's a pity the mainstream media can't take the time to focus on fact-based news. I guess that would detract from their efforts to unseat the GOP in the next sequence of elections.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Captain does the mainstream media's job

In just the latest disclosure from the HARMONY database, Captain’s Quarters offers a translation of an Iraqi Intelligence document showing that Saddam Hussein recruited suicide bombers to attack American interests.

In addition, Investor's Business Daily summarized other recent disclosures from the documents:

1995: "meeting between Saddam's spies and Osama bin Laden. During that meeting, bin Laden offered to conduct "joint operations" with Iraq. Saddam subsequently ordered his aides to "develop the relationship" with the al-Qaida leader."

1997 - "Saddam is heard on... tape predicting terrorism would soon be coming to the U.S., while his son-in-law - who was in charge of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction - gloats about lying to U.N. weapons inspectors to hide the extent of Iraq's WMD program."

1999: "...plans for a "Blessed July" operation. According to the English translation on the Foreign Military Studies Office's Joint Reserve Intelligence Center Web site, Saddam's older son Uday ordered 50 members of the fanatical "Fedayeen Saddam" group to stage bombings and assassinations in Iraq and Europe - including London, where 10 people were assigned."

2000: "Saddam...talks with Iraqi scientists about his plans to build a nuclear device. He discusses Iraq's plasma separation program - an advanced uranium-enrichment technique completely missed by U.N. inspectors."

2001: "Saddam's government provided financial aid to Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf is an al-Qaida offshoot co-founded by bin Laden's brother-in-law."

"Saddam Hussein's regime was planning suicide attacks on U.S. interests six months before 9-11."

The Captain's prediction, which I'll echo, is that this will have no effect on the "Bush lied, WMD, Halliburton, War-for-Oil, Cheney-neocon" crowd. In fact, it seems to me that even if a nuke were unearthed at one of Saddam's palaces, the anti-Bush "reality-based" community is so fevered they would find a way to ignore that news, too.

And can anyone in our class tell us why the mainstream media isn't covering this story? Ms. Dowd? Frank Rich? Richard Cohen? Bueller? Anyone?

***tumbleweed rolls by***

Snowstorm in Hell... WaPo backs Bush... pictures at 11

The Washington Post -- in a truly stunning development -- calls Joe Wilson a liar and backs President Bush's rationale for declassifying the NIE memos:

The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium...

...Mr. Libby’s motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife...

This is, in my estimation, the first time an MSM op-ed has called out Joe Wilson's litany of fabrications and validated the President's approach to releasing the facts.

History is being made here.

"Facing down Iran"

The unmatchable Mark Steyn describes what's in store for the West should the Iranian problem remain unresolved:

Iran with nukes will be a suicide bomber with a radioactive waist...

[In 1979] The signature act of the new regime was... the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by “students” acting with Khomeini’s blessing. Diplomatic missions are recognized as the sovereign territory of that state, and the violation thereof is an act of war...

Yet Iran seized protected persons on U.S. soil and held them prisoner for over a year—ostensibly because Washington was planning to restore the shah. But the shah died and the hostages remained. And, when the deal was eventually done and the hostages were released, the sovereign territory of the United States remained in the hands of the gangster regime...

Yet Iran paid no price. They got away with it. For the purposes of comparison, in 1980, when the U.S. hostages in Tehran were in their sixth month of captivity, Iranians opposed to the mullahs seized the Islamic Republic’s embassy in London. After six days of negotiation, Her Majesty’s Government sent SAS commandos into the building and restored it to the control of the regime. In refusing to do the same with the “students” occupying the U.S. embassy, the Islamic Republic was explicitly declaring that it was not as other states...

Jimmy Carter should have demanded the same service as Tehran got from the British—the swift resolution of the situation by the host government—and, if none was forthcoming, Washington should have reversed the affront to international order quickly, decisively, and in a sufficiently punitive manner. At hinge moments of history, there are never good and bad options, only bad and much much worse. Our options today are significantly worse because we didn’t take the bad one back then...

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Status Reports - sample output

The following depicts the output of my "status report" application. The web application takes project data as input (manually entered or collected from dotProject, Microsoft Project, etc.). I call the app "StatusReporter"... er... "StatusReporter Pro"... er... "StatusReporter EnterprisePro". Maybe I need a focus group.

Anyhow, the app produces a report that looks a little like this -- any formatting errors can be blamed on the combination of my inability to control Blogger... and Blogger itself:

Priority 1 Projects
Vindicator version 1.1Adding a new screen per work-order
Vindicator version 2Feasibility delayed due to 1.1 work
IntegratorBusiness case draft completed
Priority 2 Projects
OpenVPN OptionInstaller completed, project 2 weeks behind schedule
Tor OptionInstaller completed, project 3 weeks behind schedule
Priority 3 Projects
Wireless Broadband TestNo activity, awaiting quotes
BlackBerry TestNo activity, awaiting quotes
Recruiting - ManagerInterviewed four candidates for Director role
Recruiting - DeveloperAuthored req for Developer/Architect role (HR)
MentoringNo activity this week

Monday, April 10, 2006

Status Reports

The value of status reports have been debated since, oh, maybe the time of Napoleon. Over at DevelopingStorm, Pete has a quick take on how Kubi Software does its reports. It sounds like a concise and useful approach:

1. Last week, what did you say you were going to do this week?
2. What did you finish doing this week?
3. What do you plan to do next week?
4. Is anything blocking your progress?

The status reports I'm most familiar with are simply memos consisting of bullet points: noteworthy activities called out along with any highlighted problems.

The issue I have with both approaches is that it doesn't provide a "dashboard" view of progress in a particular area. A single week's snapshot won't depict status of a lengthy task that, for example, had no activity over the last week.

What we need is a new form of status report and, by golly, that's just what I intend to unveil over the next several blog posts.

The DR status report (for lack of better nomenclature) requires a new form of template: ideally one that is web-based or suitable for publication on the web. It describes projects/tasks that are grouped (by priority or other natural affinity). It also provides a handy dashboard view, both at the weekly and overall project level. Lastly, it also provides free-form text input.

I'll have some drafts available shortly. And, no, I'm not going to issue an RFC.

Interesting Software Stat o' the Day

In a typical software application company, about 50-70% of the cost is pre-sales related: Marketing and Sales Reps and Pre-Sales Engineers doing presentations and demos.

Think about that next time you do an analysis of a close-source versus an open-source solution.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Hell that is Gitmo

Fascinating description of Gitmo from former POWs who have since been cut loose (hat tip: LGF):

Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah’s. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family’s mud-fortress home.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. “Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don’t have anything against them,” he said. “If my father didn’t need me, I would want to live in America.”

Asadullah is even more sure of this. “Americans are great people, better than anyone else,” he said, when found at his elder brother’s tiny fruit and nut shop in a muddy backstreet of Kabul. “Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. They are not rude like Afghans. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer — or an American soldier.”

The Guardian (UK): Gitmo? It was great

Live Clipboard Progress

It's been about a month since Notes creator (and current MSFT CTO) Ray Ozzie introduced the concept of a "live clipboard". The gist of the idea is that users should be able to cut and paste information between web sites - basically, a clipboard for the web. Disparate sites and divergent browsers shouldn't matter... the value-add is that the clipboard interoperates seamlessly.

There's been some notable progress made since the introduction. There's an XML format, a demo page (that didn't seem to work for me in Firefox), an Atlas component, and a Technical Introduction in the form of a white paper.

It looks like a neat concept: one that might have some interesting use-cases for manually moving information across the web. The demos that I've seen all revolve around contact information -- not exactly the most complex format -- where personal data can be copied from a virtual business card (vCard) to another page with a couple o' clicks.

That said, I'm still not sure who the "crossing the chasm" user-community (or even the major use-cases) will be. I'm also having trouble envisioning how normal users (I'll refrain from using the term "clueless newbies") will bridge the conceptual gap - and grasp when, how, and why to use Live Clipboard. But maybe that's just me. Read on and judge for yourself...

Ray Ozzie: Live Clipboard Progress

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Why Ruby on Rails won't become mainstream

In Cedric's opinion, RoR is a great, near-mystical development tool. But its magic is precisely, in his opinion, why it can't achieve widespread adoption:

Ruby on Rails is just too advanced. I'm serious. It has an incredible amount of slick features involving a lot of magic (both Ruby-related and invented by David himself). For talented developers, these features are a dream come true... autowiring of the MVC, scaffolding, defaults over configuration, unit tests (even integration tests now, nice!), you name it. David hit every single pain point that Web developers (regular developers even) have been facing these past years. Ruby on Rails in itself is a great example of how to nicely package what we have learned about software development these past five years.

But it's still a very wide gap for corporate developers to cross. Sometimes, too much magic is too much magic, and it can definitely be the case that the flow of code is too direct or too clever to be understandable by regular developers.

Otaku, Cedric's Weblog: Why Ruby on Rails won't become mainstream

When is releasing a fact a "leak"?

In their continuing efforts to discredit the administration, the mediacrats are hounding the administration over the declassification of a prewar intelligence document in 2003. The DC branch of the Associated Press (or, as I like to call them, the Washington Bureau of Al Jazeera) asserts that the "White House Faces Barrage of Leak Queries."

   Question: when is releasing a declassified memo a "leak"?
   Answer: when it portrays the Bush administration in a negative light.

GayPatriot describes it perfectly: "the Orwellian worldview of Bush-haters where releasing facts means having something to hide."

Contrast this coverage with that of Sandy Berger's illegal destruction of real classified information. Berger admitted to confiscating and destroying Top Secret documents that related directly to Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts, Al Qaeda, and/or the Taliban.

Ah, Sandy Berger. May I be permitted to quote from the 9/11 Commission Report regarding the Clinton administration's bumbled handling of Bin Laden (p. 190 and 191)?

On the first flight, a Predator saw a security detail around a tall man in a white robe at Bin Ladin's Tarnak Farms compound outside Kandahar. After a second sighting of the "man in white" at the compound on September 28, intelligence community analysts determined that he was probably Bin Ladin... Berger worried that a Predator might be shot down, and warned Clarke that a shootdown would be a "bonanza" for Bin Ladin and the Taliban...

...Bin Ladin anticipated U.S. military retaliation (to the series of attacks culminating with the USS Cole). He ordered the evacuation of al Qaeda's Kandahar airport compound and fled -- first to the desert area near Kabul, then to Khowst and Jalalabad, and eventually back to Kandahar. In Kandahar, he rotated between five to six residences, spending one night at each residence. In addition, he sent his senior advisor, Mohammed Atef, to a different part of Kandahar and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, to Kabul so that all three could not be killed in one attack.

There was no American strike... a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to Bin Ladin) complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked. According to the source, Bin Ladin wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.

Now, that's an administration worth pillorying. Pity you won't see any of this "leak" kerfuffle depicted in the context of Clinton's disastrous approach to Bin Laden and Berger's subsequent destruction of related classified documents. That would require two things -- intellectual honesty and a historical perspective -- both of which are sorely lacking in today's mainstream media.

Whatever the national security question may be, the answer is never a Mediacrat.

Friday, April 07, 2006

And a big "Boo-Yah" to you, too

Every so often, I tune into stock pundit and radio host Jim Cramer. The founder of is, if nothing else, high energy. I admire his passion and willingness to share insights regarding how the markets operate.

I'm less fond of his approach to making money in the market. Cramer advocates a rapid-fire trading system based upon insights gleaned from a variety of sources. My major problems with this approach are:

1) Most investors have neither the time nor the discipline to track individual stocks on a daily basis
2) Frequent trading racks up needless commission expenses
3) Trading of individual stocks is -- by definition -- riskier than using mutual funds to invest in buckets of stocks or specific sectors

To Cramer's credit, he does advocate mutual funds for beginners (I believe his favorite is Fidelity Contra, an immense fund that has had remarkable results). But 99% of talk time is devoted to individual stocks.

USA Today's Matt Krantz took a look at Cramer's performance. What he found was fascinating:

Cramer's picks have gained 16.2%, on average, from the show's launch March 14, 2005, through March 27, 2006. That makes the Standard & Poor's 500 gain of 7.3% look pretty sad...

...The median market value of the 606 stocks in the Cramer list was $6.8 billion... so it doesn't really make sense to compare Cramer's performance to the S&P 500, which is heavily weighted toward large-cap stocks.

What if we compare Cramer's results to a midcap index fund such as the iShares S&P MidCap 400 index exchange-traded fund? Had you ignored Cramer and simply bought IJH on March 14, 2005 and held it until March 27, 2006, you would have been up 16.4%. That's dead even with Cramer's performance.

...But it's not quite fair to compare Cramer to the IJH either. His picks include large- cap stocks and some foreign plays. So I asked to calculate the return of the basket of index mutual funds it recommends for risk-tolerant, results hungry "mad money" type investors. The return of this portfolio, after fees, was 21.8%, trouncing Cramer's return.

...Don't forget the cost of the time it take to follow Cramer... [and] Fees. Had you followed Cramer's advice, you would have had to buy more than 606 stocks, according to the CNBC data. Even if you use an online broker that charges just $5 a trade, you would have spent $3,030 in commissions...

Lesson: invest in diversified mutual funds with strong track records and reasonable fees. It's hard to go wrong with that approach. And it's a lot less time-consuming.

Matt Krantz: And a big "Boo-Yah" to you, too

"...Our confusing war aims..."

Former co-worker Dave Delay weighs in with a subtle, elegant remonstration of the pro-despot crowd (Murtha, Reid, Dean, Sheehan, Pelosi, etc.). The retreat-and-defeat crowd wants an instant-oatmeal approach to a Middle East left festering for centuries.

Of course, the quality of our military leaders is only part of the problem. What really concerns most... is our confusing war aims. Two years ago, the President said...

Go forth and suckle at the teat of wisdom:

RunTimeLog: Three Years is Enough

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Network Neutrality: Condition Uh Oh

Last evening, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday defeated a proposal that would have regulated network neutrality. However, thanks to some pressure exerted on the GOP members of the subcommittee, new additions to the bill gives the FCC the power to vet complaints of network neutrality within 90 days. The FCC can levy fines of up to $500K per violation. That's a good start.

I'd like a bit more regulation. Put simply, the current state of network neutrality must be maintained - even if the regulation is as simple as stating that carriers, "...shall not filter, impede, block, delay, or otherwise interfere with packets based upon packet-type, -source or -destination..."

The Internet2 backbone proves that, with sufficient bandwidth, best-effort packet delivery is more than sufficient. And one of the inventors of TCP/IP, Bob Kahn, is on record as saying -- essentially -- that if you tier the Internet, well, you don't have the Internet. I think I'd go with Kahn -- rather than pointy-headed bosses at the telcos on this one.

Cisco's Service Exchange Framework (SEF) -- being pitched to the carriers -- is highly ominous in what it proposes.

Bottom line: Google, Skype, Vonage, Digg... all of these businesses (and many more) created value where none existed. They did so by building layers 4-7 applications.

Adding tollbooths and prioritization gates to the Internet subtracts value.

If the telcos can't make their business model work to compete with cable companies: tough s**t. Find a business model -- one that hopefully creates value -- that does work. And stop trying to call off VoIP, peer-to-peer, and other emerging technologies before they even get started. Because that's what this is all about - not "prioritization of video".

Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas, Contact) chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, while Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI, Contact) chairs the Internet Subcommittee. I urge you to call Rep. Barton (202-225-2002) and Rep. Upton (202-225-3761), as I did, and relay the following message:

As a GOP supporter, I want to express my extreme disappointment in your apparent willingness to side with the telcos in the matter of network neutrality. At risk is America's leadership role as the premier source of Internet innovation. Google, eBay, Amazon and others create value, evident through their market capitalization values. Erecting tollbooths on the Internet does the opposite - it subtracts value.

And the telcos -- through their spokespersons and the hardware they plan to purchase -- clearly intend to create artificial tollbooths that go well beyond "prioritizing video."

How would a startup (a Digg, Vonage, Skype) compete with large companies who are able to pay prioritization tarriffs? What will prevent a telco from entering any market and blocking competitive traffic? The risks of ending network neutrality are simply too high.

The wording of prospective neutrality legislation can be clear and direct: blocking, monitoring, filtering, or impeding packets based upon type, source, or destination should be strictly forbidden.

America's national security and economic well-being hang in the balance. I -- and many other members of the GOP -- urge you to strengthen the FCC's ability to enforce network neutrality.