Monday, November 29, 2004


Anywhere USA goes down

This appeared here courtesy of "a young reader named Robert" and blog owner Jim Kunstler, perhaps the best living scenarist of post-Hubbert's Peak life, wrote:
These places, and their furnishings, represent the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Their salient characteristic was their futurelessness, and that future is now here . . . Robert, your generation will see all this stuff lose even its provisional usefulness and all of its supposed investment value. You will have to find a different way to arrange your lives in the decades to come. You'll have to return to traditional human habitats of town and farm as the role of the car diminishes down to nothing, and as the US economy comes to center on food production. Corridors like the highway strip above will be your future salvage yards. A hundred years from now, little will be left of them but the tilt-up concrete walls and the paved parking lagoons sprouting weeds. Meanwhile, your cow barns and hog pens will be roofed with Auto Zone signs. Perhaps it will seem quaint, but most of you who survive will be too busy to cultivate an air of irony about it.
Let me echo, "most of you who survive . . . "


All connectivity is local

According to this:
Springwater Commons, a new town-house development for the poor in Southeast Portland, has energy-efficient windows, a children's playground -- and wiring for high-speed Internet service. . . . Oregon now requires builders of affordable housing to install DSL, cable broadband or wireless access if they get federal dollars administered by the state. Last week, developers of 18 affordable-housing projects were awarded federal grants and will install high-speed Internet connections in more than 450 apartments.
We'd better put a stop to this quick, before it gets out of hand!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Quote of Note: U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)

"A concerted and forceful program of election-day fraud and abuse was enacted with either the leadership or cooperation of governmental authorities."

Senator Lugar, calling the Ukraine election kettle black. Source: NY Times, here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Macroeconomics 101: The 3 Elephants in the Room

This Kuro5hin essay lays it out very clearly and simply. There are three elephants in the room we call the U.S. Economy that U.S. politicians of all stripes are not talking about, Debt, the Dollar and the Rise of India & China. Then there's the possibility that the elephants might get up and dance with each other:
Increasing strength in the Chinese and Indian economies, providing goods and services to consumption-oriented Americans willing to go into personal debt to maintain their standard of living, could easily lead to a widening of the US current account deficit. If the current account deficit grows too large it could easily trigger significant depreciation of the US Dollar. Should the US Dollar start too look too volatile, or become a significant financial risk to hold (due to depreciation), global markets could easily start to embrace the far more stable Euro, potentially sending the US Dollar into free fall. During a period of such extreme uncertainty in the US Dollar, foreign investors may well seek to diversify their investments away from the US towards rapidly growing countries such as India or China. That is to say, any one of these issues could trigger the others, to a devastating end.
Lots of good comments, too.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Dial 911 -- How effective is it?

According to this
. . . about 200 millions call are made to 911 annually, and about one-third of those are from wireless phones. In many communities, emergency calls from cell phones comprise one-half or more of the total 911 calls. NENA officials estimate that 12 million to 15 million households will be using voice over IP service as either a primary or secondary line by the end of 2008.
But how many of these are duplicates?
How many are about, "A dog in the trash," or some other non-emergency?
How many calls don't get through or hit a "busy" signal?
How many are subject to operator error?
Of the ones that are real emergencies, how much do they help? How many seconds faster is the response? How many lives are saved?

What kinds of situations is 911 good for? And where does it break down entirely?

Has anybody tried to answer questions like these? My preliminary looking says, "no." Of course, in some cases these statistics are not knowable, but perhaps we could make meaningful estimates. And others are eminently answerable, but there's no evidence that **I** have been able to find that attempts have been made to answer them.The article says
[On November 17] National Emergency Number Association (NENA) officials kicked off their Next Generation E911 program today to address the technical, operational and policy issues associated with modernizing the E911 system and integrating new technologies, such as voice over IP, instant messaging, short message service messaging, Wi-Fi, geographic information systems and video.
But shouldn't we know where we've been before we know where to go next?

To me, an outsider, it looks like the 911 system, while it is based on a reasonable idea, has the wrong architecture, the wrong assumptions, and a set of entrenched users and interests that might ignore alternative ways to solve the emergency services problem better.


"Steal this Election" in the Ukraine

This sounds familiar:
KIEV, Ukraine -- With nearly all the ballots [for Ukraine Prime Minister] counted by Monday evening, the election commission said Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had a slim lead over challenger Viktor Yushchenko . . . [but] An exit poll, conducted under a Western-funded program, gave Yushchenko 54 percent of the vote to Yanukovych's 43 percent. Another poll put Yushchenko ahead by 49.4 to 45.9 percent . . .
But this doesn't:
Opposition supporters camped out on the streets of Kiev . . . Yushchenko, addressing a crowd of about 10,000 supporters in Kiev's main Independence Square, urged them to set up tent camps in the capital. "We will not leave this place until we win," Yushchenko said. "The people's will cannot be broken. People's votes cannot be broken.


Ethernet wins!

At Vortex2000 a skeptical Bob Metcalfe commented on my talk, "At least you said Ethernet a lot." Now the major carriers are getting the message. Scott Clavenna, writing in Light Reading, summarizes recent RFPs by BT, AT&T, SBC, and BellSouth and announced plans by FT, Verizon and Global Crossing, saying
Regardless of the size or ambition of these moves, they all have one thing in common: Ethernet is a crucial part of every plan. Whether it’s broadband access, new WAN infrastructure, VOIP, or wireless, Ethernet has emerged as the de facto data link layer for future services . . . The goal is one of migration: Get customers off Frame Relay and private lines as painlessly (and profitably) as possible while adding new customers attracted to the economics of Ethernet.
Now let's see how long it takes for MPLS to drop out of Clavenna's thinking, that is, for the pure end-to-end network to arrive.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


Even more J.O.B.S. in Lafayette, Louisiana

In Lafayette, Louisiana, municipal utility company Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) is planning to install fiber to the city's 55,000 homes -- and do it at prices so reasonable that even the town's poor can afford it.

The [Baton Rouge, Louisiana] Advocate reports:
"A lower-income family that has phone and cable service today, could start receiving high-speed Internet at no net increase in monthly cost," [LUS Director Terry] Huval said.
Ed Gubbins at Telephony Online reports:
BellSouth and Cox Communications [are] contentiously lobbying residents that municipal FTTP is too risky and unproven. (LUS supporters say those companies even used “push polls” to scare taxpayers away from supporting the project. Cox and BellSouth declined to comment for this story.)
Cox scrambled to draw up a telephony over cable plan, and BellSouth said, "Wait, wait!" and prepared a plan for fiber to the curb plus DSL. But FTTH Council President Michael DiMauro commented on the plan, "Fiber to the curb is not fiber to the home."

Advocates of the LUS plan argued that when BellSouth and Cox targeted 30% penetration, that this was an indication that they would cherry-pick the most profitable neighborhoods and curtail its investment in the rest of the town. LUS is planning on signing up at least 50% of the homes and businesses in town.

The Lafayette City Council last Tuesday it voted 8-1 to go ahead with the LUS plan. One City Council member said:
"This is about controlling our own destiny. This is not being at the mercy of anybody else."
Here's the link to the LUS Fiber Project website.


Connectivity spells J.O.B.S., the sequel

Esme Vos, writing to the Dewayne-Net Technology List, dewayne-net at warpspeed dot com, points to the story of Scottsburg, Indiana.

The city asked Verizon for broadband. Answer: No, not profitable enough.

Vos writes:
Chrysler told [the local Chrysler repair shop] that if they do not get fast, reliable Internet access, they would have to close the shop (losing 60 jobs). Homeworkers who do medical transcription work also told the mayor that they would have to move elsewhere if the town did not get high-speed Internet service.

Scottsburg was able to deploy a wireless broadband network within three months. It cost $385,000 and they have 100 customers in the first year of operation. They use Alvarion gear (which the Owensboro utility also uses for their wireless network). They charge $35 per month for 512 Kbps up/down and $200 per month for a T1 line. Mayor Graham estimates that the school system saves $6000 per month in telecommunications costs (an amount that could pay for another teacher).
Vos pleads
This is why it is so important to give municipalities the option of providing telecommunications services. The passage of House Bill 30 in Pennsylvania takes away that option.
Esme Vos' keeps the "well worth reading" MuniWireless site.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Connectivity spells J.O.B.S.

Auburn, Indiana: Cooper-Standard Automotive was going to move 75 high tech jobs out of town when the Mayor of Auburn stepped up and said, Hey, let's grab a fiber from the trans-continental Sprint cable and provide "industrial strength Internet." The jobs are staying, the Internet service will go live in 90-120 days.

The city did it because no private company would.



Hong Kong: 100 Megabit service for US $35/mo

It is just a few short years from 2000, when I explained to a rapt Hong Kong audience how HK would be the perfect environment for the roll out of metro Ethernet. Merrill Lynch had me back to Hong Kong just a few weeks later to regale its clients further.

Last Tuesday's press release shows that I was not too far off base. Despite the burst bubble, and the collapse of once-mighty PCCW, Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited is rolling out 100 megabit per second symmetrical service for as little as US$35 a month.

The entry level service promises 100 megabits only within Hong Kong; international service is available at a rate characterized as 20 megabits per second. Full-speed international access will be much higher -- US$254 a month.

Symmetrical gigabit service will arrive in mid-2005. The gating factor is arrival of GigE-over-copper technology.

Monday, November 15, 2004


$1.2 Million FCC "indecency" fine based on 3 letters of complaint

Jeff Jarvis writes
With not much original reporting, I discovered that the latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network -- a record $1.2 million against Fox for its "sexually suggestive" Married by America -- was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 12 asking to see all of the 159 complaints the FCC cited in its complaint against Fox.

I just received the FCC's reply with a copy of all the complaints -- and a letter explaining that, well, there weren't 159 after all. William H. Davenport, chief of the FCC's Investigations and Hearings Divison, admits in his letter that because the complaints were sent to multiple individuals at the FCC, it turns out there actually were only 90 complaints. It gets better: The FCC confesses that they come from only 23 individuals.

It is shocking enough that what tens of millions of us are permitted to see by our government can be determined by 159 ... or 90 ... or 23.

But it gets even better: I examined the complaints and found that all but two of them were virtually identical. . . . So in the end, that means that a grand total of three citizens bothered to take the time to sit down and actually write a letter of complaint to the FCC. Millions of people watched the show. Three wrote letters of complaint.

And on the basis of that, the FCC decided to bring down the heavy hammer of government censorship and fine Fox an incredible $1.2 million . . .
Who's zoomin' who?

Jarvis concludes with a handy guide for citizens and citizen-journalists who wish to file FCC Freedom of Information requests. Great work, Jeff. Way ahead of the Times and the Post.

"Constitutionally abhorrent . . . The FCC should be ashamed of itself," Jarvis writes. He understates the case.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


FCC seeks legitimization of HUGELY expanded charter

Susan Crawford reads the FCC brief in the Broadcast Flag case as a "breathtaking" expansion of its charter that could firmly establish FCC control over every device and communications medium that is capable of handling digital TV content -- and what device these days isn't? -- no matter how abundant the medium or how narrowcast and private the message. She writes:
The broadcast flag rule, distilled to its essence, is a mandate that all consumer electronics manufacturers and information technology companies ensure that any device that touches digital television content encrypt that content and protect it against unauthorized onward distribution.

In order to make this happen, the FCC has established a new and extraordinarily broadregulatory regime that mandates the use of "authorized" content protection technologies by virtually every consumer electronics product and computer product -- including digital television sets, digital cable set-top boxes, direct broadcast satellite receivers, personal video recorders (PVRs), DVD recorders, D-VHS recorders, and computers with tuner cards.

In the context of both the flag rule and the IP-enabled services proceeding that was the subject of Bellhead/Nethead earlier this fall, the FCC has said that it has "ancillary" jurisdiction to act. Translation: "Congress hasn't said that we DON'T have the power to do this, so we're going to go ahead on the assumption that we do."

The FCC's brief, filed in response to PK's challenge to FCC's jurisdiction in the flag matter, is breathtaking. FCC's position is that its Act gives it regulatory power over all instrumentalities, facilities, and apparatus "associated with the overall circuit of messages sent and received" via all interstate radio and wire communication. That's quite a claim.
Want the FCC regulating your Internet feed? Telling you whether you can say F**k or not? Pay attention to this one!

UPDATE: Cory and David W. are also concerned about this one.
UPDATE 2: John Lebkowsky blogged it at Smart Mobs.
UPDATE 3: Dan Gillmor weighs in.


More on "Verizon's FTTH technology already out of date"

Jeff Hoel writes to point out that Banerjee and Sirbu's excellent paper, Towards Technologically and Competitively Neutral
Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Infrastructure
puts substance behind the idea that PON is the architecture of centralized control. The paper says
PON supports 'open access' based competition in higher layer services like voice, data and switched digital video, [but] it does not facilitate competition in data-link layer services or in the provision of analog broadcast video services. In complete contrast, the Home Run architecture has the highest initial (fiber related) capital cost, but permits unbundling of both the physical plant and at the logical layer. The Home Run architecture therefore supports a per subscriber choice of data-link layer services (via UNE based competition) as well as competition in higher layer voice, video and data services (via open access).

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Verizon's FTTH technology already out of date

If architecture is politics, as Professor Lessig and others point out, then PON is the politics of centralized control because it puts control of the network back in the central office, stamps out individual choice and requires centralized planning. (The intelligence-at-the-edge alternative is home run architecture, where every customer can run his or her own connection at the speed he or she needs . . . but you won't see the telcos doing that.)

The good news is that Verizon seems to be installing its PON-flavored FTTH with reasonable speed. One correspondent wrote to me yesterday to say that Verizon was pulling fiber in his back yard right now, and that his service would be 60 megabits per second. A Verizon lineman working in my neighborhood last week told me that my neighborhood is scheduled for fiber next year.

But is Verizon in a box of its own making? And is it there deliberately or not? Ed Gubbins, in this article in Telephony Online, writes,
While Verizon is deploying the passive optical networking (PON) equipment it chose last year, many of the smaller telcos that are deploying FTTP this year are leapfrogging Verizon with Gigabit PON (GPON), which offers twice the bandwidth. The increasing maturity of GPON and big-bandwidth Ethernet access systems further calls into question the righteousness of Verizon's PON architecture.
Upgrading PON requires that all customers upgrade simultaneously when the central office upgrades. Will 2G-PON be available next year? In ten years it is entirely likely that Verizon's FTTH PON customers be stuck with service that seems retarded and obsolete.

Maybe this is Verizon's way out of the Paradox of the Best Network -- in a mere few years scarcity will reign again.


Word of the day: Eleemosynary

eleemosynary \el-uh-MOS-uh-ner-ee\, adjective:
1. Of or for charity; charitable; as, "an eleemosynary institution."
2. Given in charity; having the nature of alms; as, "eleemosynary assistance."
3. Supported by or dependent on charity; as, "the eleemosynary poor."

from, where eleemosynary was word of the day on 5/14/03.

thanks David Reed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


A Wireless ISP's story

Matt Larsen, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, writes to report:
Great joy today, as I was able to say my favorite four words to the local phone company and the cable company: "Please cancel my service."
Matt recounts a five+ years journey from DSL on dry copper loops (and working for somebody else) to WISPy success, including a 100 mile radio link to stay out of the telco's clutches here. Now he's confident enough in his own offering to cut the cord. Congratulations, Matt!

UPDATE: Matt writes
The name of my wisp is Skybeam ( and we currently cover areas in Northern Colorado, Eastern Wyoming and Western Nebraska.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Peer-to-peer alerting systems -- the antidote to "dial 911"

Bruce Schnier points to this BBC article, which says
The AlertBox transmits warning messages to other users within 150 metres at the touch of a button. The digital box can also be used to transmit requests for help in fires or medical emergencies. Neighbourhood Watch, crime prevention groups and the police are giving trials to the device in Devon and north London, as well as in south Wales. When a message is sent from one AlertBox all others on the network bleep instantly and bring up the sender's name, address and phone number. The box's manufacturers claim it is the only panic button device which can simultaneously alert several people with a single press of a button.
It's all about group forming.

Monday, November 08, 2004


How Mexico ensures honest elections

It was not too long ago that "Mexican election" was almost an oxymoron. Now, Jorge Ortiz, author of the Digital Evolution blog, writes, reforms have been put in place . . .
In my country (Mexico) which had a long history of election fraud. Fraud is now much more difficult thanks to an independent Comision Federal Electoral, as well as state Comisiones Estatales Electorales, and a very strict and well designed law that defines (and promotes) the voter registration process, and a very detailed system of checks to make sure that fraud is very difficult to makea nd easy to expose if attempted.

Compared to the mexican process, the U.S. system is in the stone age from the point of view of checks and balances. The worst part is the votes are counted by machines, and not by humans who can testify to it´s accuracy. Also, the election is run and audited by goverment employees, not by indepent citizens.

In Mexico voter ID cards (with photo ID) are issued, and every time you vote your finger is marked with a mild acid that will not erase from your fingers for a few days. Votes are sent in exact number to match the registered voters at each polling station, the votes have unique serial numbers to ensure that votes are delivered to the right polling station.

Citizens (randomly chosen from the registration base) act as electoral officials at each polling station. At each polling station, parties appoint observers, who testify to the vote count and sign an act at the end of the day with details on the votes received, votes cancelled, and the vote count for each party. Each party representative gets a sigend copy of the poll count act. The votes (used and unused) and the original act are sealed in a box that is signed by those present to guarantee taht it is not violated, and deleivered to the Electoral Comission. A second copy of the box goes on an outside envolope, and that copy is used for the count, while the original remains inside for auditing if needed.

As poll counts are received, by the Electoral Comisision, the results are captured and published in real time to the internet for public record, and to ensure that other parties can verify the totals against copies in their posession.

In general the system is built assuming fraud will be tried, and the system is built to prevent and expose fraud. That is the only way you can provide credibility to an election process, by a transparent process run by citizens, and audited at every step by citizens and parties.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


E-voting: Diebold's GEMS system counted these ballots

I blogged on September 1, 2004, that Diebold's GEMS system was Diebold's smoking gun. Now this:
The State of Florida, for example, publishes a county-by-county record of votes cast and people registered to vote by party affiliation. Net denizen Kathy Dopp compiled the official state information into a table, available at, and noticed something startling.

While the heavily scrutinized touch-screen voting machines seemed to produce results in which the registered Democrat/Republican ratios largely matched the Kerry/Bush vote, in Florida's counties using results from optically scanned paper ballots - fed into a central tabulator PC and thus vulnerable to hacking – the results seem to contain substantial anomalies.

In Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3% of them Democrats and 24.3% of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush, the opposite of what is seen everywhere else in the country where registered Democrats largely voted for Kerry.

In Dixie County, with 4,988 registered voters, 77.5% of them Democrats and a mere 15% registered as Republicans, only 1,959 people voted for Kerry, but 4,433 voted for Bush.

The pattern repeats over and over again - but only in the counties where optical scanners were used. Franklin County, 77.3% registered Democrats, went 58.5% for Bush. Holmes County, 72.7% registered Democrats, went 77.25% for Bush.

Yet in the touch-screen counties, where investigators may have been more vigorously looking for such anomalies, high percentages of registered Democrats generally equaled high percentages of votes for Kerry. (I had earlier reported that county size was a variable – this turns out not to be the case. Just the use of touch-screens versus optical scanners.)

More visual analysis of the results can be seen at us, and Note the trend line – the only variable that determines a swing toward Bush was the use of optical scan machines.


Exit polls are almost never wrong -- Dick Morris

UPDATE -- Michael Keefer writes:
The National Election Pool’s own data . . . suggest very strongly that the results of the exit polls were themselves fiddled late on November 2. . . how do we know the fix was in? Because the exit poll data also included the total number of respondents. At 9:00 p.m. EST, this number was well over 13,000; by 1:36 a.m. EST on November 3 it had risen by less than 3 percent, to a final total of 13, 531 respondents—but with a corresponding swing of 5 percent from Kerry to Bush in voters’ reports of their choices. Given the increase in respondents, a swing of this size is a mathematical impossibility.

Fox news commentator Dick Morris writes:
Exit polls are almost never wrong. They eliminate the two major potential fallacies in survey research by correctly separating actual voters from those who pretend they will cast ballots but never do and by substituting actual observation for guesswork in judging the relative turnout of different parts of the state.

So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries. When I worked on Vicente Fox’s campaign in Mexico, for example, I was so fearful that the governing PRI would steal the election that I had the campaign commission two U.S. firms to conduct exit polls to be released immediately after the polls closed to foreclose the possibility of finagling with the returns. When the polls announced a seven-point Fox victory, mobs thronged the streets in a joyous celebration within minutes that made fraud in the actual counting impossible.

But this Tuesday, the networks did get the exit polls wrong. Not just some of them. They got all of the Bush states wrong. So, according to ABC-TV’s exit polls, for example, Kerry was slated to carry Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa, all of which Bush carried. The only swing state the network had going to Bush was West Virginia, which the president won by 10 points.

To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six of them is incredible. It boggles the imagination how pollsters could be that incompetent and invites speculation that more than honest error was at play here.


E-voting Machines: the work begins

Avi Rubin writes:
Even if . . . this election appears to have been a success, there will be no way of knowing for sure whether the will of the people was accomplished.

And Bruce Schneier writes:
Any voting-machine company that claims its code must remain secret for security reasons is lying. Security in computer systems comes from transparency -- open systems that pass public scrutiny -- and not secrecy.
Let's get -- and stay -- busy.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Nolle on Smart Networks: "Screw the customer."

I held down one end of the annual Great Debate at NGN (Next Generation Networks) last Wednesday. The topic was "Are Smart Networks a Stupid Idea?" Opposing me was the estimable Tom Nolle, who has been saying that the Internet needs a haircut, a shower and a job if it to be an economic success for the last five years or so.

Eric Krapf picks up the story (in NGN Daily Report, Nov 3, 2004):
Industry debates are fun when they get down and dirty, and consultants David Isenberg and Tom Nolle didn't disappoint when they squared off in the NGN 2004 Great Debate, which posed the question, "Are Smart Networks A Dumb Idea?" Both men deployed their utmost rhetorical tones and stagy gestures as they argued their cases.

Isenberg, of course, coined the term "Stupid Network." He and Nolle stood at separate podiums on either side of the same stage, but they addressed each other from different planets. This was best demonstrated when Isenberg asked audience members for a show of hands: How many are employed at large companies? When about a third of the audience raised 'em high, Isenberg asked them to keep their hands up if they felt that, in these large companies, they were "working up to their creative potential." His point being that the Internet's "stupid" core is what allows for innovation and creativity at the edges, which Isenberg suggested is the domain of the small, entrepreneurial technologist--while the big carriers, with their stifling legacy of top-down-ordered "smart networks," allow people to stagnate.

Nolle's response: Raise your hands again if you work for a large organization. Now keep your hands up if you value the ability to "pay your bills and feed your families."

That was the heart of Nolle's argument: "Economics really do matter," he said. "We thought that technology triumphed over dollars. And it doesn't."

Nolle echoed the argument that venture capitalist Rod Randall made yesterday: Stupid networks don't make money and thus can't be sustained. Nolle clearly doesn't believe, as Dave Passmore suggested yesterday, that the incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are in danger of entering a "death spiral" as they face declining revenues in their traditional lines of business. Instead, Nolle sees the ILECs as the only carriers with a hope of survival, as their scale, assets and incumbency give them better margins, even with declining revenues, than any competitor could dream of.

From my vantage point, Isenberg scored his most effective points when he focused on the original "Stupid Network" arguments that time has borne out, namely that applications we now take for granted, like email, likely would never have emerged from a telco "smart network," because of the painfully large amounts of time and money that those organizations typically spent before introducing any new application. I have a tough time imagining AT&T or the RBOCs fostering the Internet, left to their own devices (which tended to have 20-year amortization periods).

On the other hand, Nolle is right when he points out the lack of a real business case for a lot of these innovations. Isenberg had tried to make the argument that customers demand the new applications that the Internet is enabling; Nolle's response was to stride over to moderator Dave Passmore and offer him $20 for his car. His point: Just because you want something and you want to pay a certain price for it, doesn't mean you can or should get it at that price. Or, as Nolle more bluntly put it: "Screw what the customer wants, unless you can have a meeting of the minds with the guy who has to produce it."

Isenberg's retort: "When you say, Screw the customer, I think that pretty much sums up the Smart Networks point of view."

Sorry, I didn't mean to wimp out with an "On the one hand...On the other hand…" writeup of this debate. But I also don't think it's my job to decide who was right and who was wrong.

You're smart; you'll figure it out.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004



Riverbend writes:
“How is the situation in Falloojeh?” My father asked. We all knew the answer. It was terrible in Falloojeh and getting worse by day. They were constantly being bombarded with missiles and bombs. The city was in ruins. Families were gathering what they could and leaving. Houses were being demolished by tanks and planes. But the question had to be asked.

Umm Ahmed swallowed nervously and her frown deepened. “It’s quite bad. We left two days ago. The Americans are surrounding the city and they wouldn’t let us out using the main road. We had to be smuggled out through another way…” The baby began to whine softly and she tried to rock it to sleep. “We had to leave…” she said apologetically, “I couldn’t stay there with the children.”
“Well, at least everyone is safe… you were very wise to come here.” My mother offered. “Your children are fine- and that’s what’s important.”

This phrase didn’t have quite the effect we expected. Umm Ahmed’s eyes suddenly flowed over and in a moment, she was crying freely. Sama frowned and gently took the baby from her mother’s arms, rising to walk him around in the hallway. My aunt quickly poured a glass of water out for Umm Ahmed and handed it to her, explaining to us, “Ahmed, her fourteen-year-old son, is with his father, still in Falloojeh.”

“I didn’t want to leave him…” The glass of water shook in her hands. “But he refused to leave without his father and we got separated last minute as the cars were leaving the city…” My aunt rushed to pat her back and hand her some tissues.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


If 100,000 Iraqi civilians die, and nobody counts them . . .

Cartoon reporduced by permission of Stephanie Minimum Security McMillen herself.

Monday, November 01, 2004


UPDATE: Bin Laden Tape, a tale of two translations

There's a comparison of two translations -- CNN's and Al Jazeera's -- of the recent Bin Laden tape here.

Two highlights:

1) Where the CNN transcript says that Bush, the father, found it good to install his children as governors and leaders, the Al Jazeera version says
In addition, Bush sanctioned the installing of sons as state governors and did not forget to import expertise in election fraud from the regions presidents to Florida to be made use of in moments of difficulty.

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.
Was this reference to "election fraud" in the original Arabic or not?

2) At the very end of the translated segment, the CNN version has an entire phrase missing from the Al Jazeera version, namely
Your security is not in the hands of [Democratic presidential nominee John] Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.
The CNN addition somehow seems out of character -- why would a religious authoritarian say that the future is in our hands and not Allah's hands?


Scientific study: 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq

We've seen press claims of 13,000 or 14,000 civilian deaths in Iraq. There's many reasons why these deaths might be undercounted, and now we have an epidemiological study using before-and-after cluster sampling indicating that the true death rate might be around ten times higher. The Lancet published this (registration required), which says:
Background In March, 2003, military forces, mainly from the USA and the UK, invaded Iraq. We did a survey to compare mortality during the period of 14·6 months before the invasion with the 17·8 months after it.

Methods A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004. 33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002. In those households reporting deaths, the date, cause, and circumstances of violent deaths were recorded. We assessed the relative risk of death associated with the 2003 invasion and occupation by comparing mortality in the 17·8 months after the invasion with the 14·6-month period preceding it.

Findings The risk of death was estimated to be 2·5-fold (95% CI 1·6-4·2) higher after the invasion when compared with the preinvasion period. Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja. If we exclude the Falluja data, the risk of death is 1·5-fold (1·1-2·3) higher after the invasion. We estimate that 98000 more deaths than expected (8000-194000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included. The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1-419) than in the period before the war.

Interpretation Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.
Reuters inteviewed Les Roberts, of The Johns Hopkins University, one of the study's authors, who said, "The use of air power in areas with lots of civilians appears to be killing a lot of women and children." The Washington Post quotes Roberts saying, "We are quite confident that there's been somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 deaths, but it could be much higher,"

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, in the The Guardian today, says,
US and British military officials like to brag about the accuracy of the "precision" munitions used in these strikes, claiming this makes the kind of modern warfare practised by the coalition in Iraq the most humanitarian in history.

But there is nothing humanitarian about explosives o­nce they detonate near civilians, or about a bomb guided to the wrong target. Dozens of civilians were killed during the vain effort to eliminate Saddam Hussein with "pinpoint" air strikes, and hundreds have perished in the campaign to eliminate alleged terrorist targets in Falluja. A "smart bomb" is o­nly as good as the data used to direct it. And the abysmal quality of the intelligence used has made the smartest of bombs just as dumb and indiscriminate as those, for example, dropped during the second world war.


The Register on "the dumb pipe business"

Andrew Orlowski, in an article on the recent CTIA meeting, writes:
A representative of one North American carrier, who must remain nameless, was berating Orange for allowing PC owners to transfer MP3 files to their phones. "Carriers who do that will just become a dumb pipe." Not a day too soon, you might think. Being a dumb pipe in a business where its best days are ahead of it compares very favorably to being, say, a sheet metal plant in Philadelphia. You'd think they'd wake up every day and count their blessings.

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