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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 18 October 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Whig Flipping: Tuesday Rumors
- Will the head of the WHIG conspiracy, Vice President Cheney, resign this week?
- Will Condoleezza Rice be named Vice President?

The Patrick Fitzgerald investigation of the CIA leak thing - who in the White House shopped around the fact the Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was CIA agent and ruined her career and undercover network to get a back at her husband for saying the whole idea Saddam Hussein had folks trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger was bogus, because the CIA sent him there to check and there wasn't any way it could be true - is winding down. The grand jury created to look into this must be adjourned by the end of the month - its term expires - and there may be indictments soon, this week or next - or a report from Fitzgerald that no one broke any laws and the whole thing is really just a big "never mind" - or a new grand jury could called to continue on for another two years. No one knows.

When no one knows there are rumors. Tuesday, October 18, the Washington Post runs a story that Vice President Cheney may be a target in the whole business of getting the word out there that you cannot trust Joe Wilson because his wife works for the CIA - that chickenshit outfit that always wants better proof of threats when everyone knows we're all going to die unless we do something - and she set up her husband's trip to Africa just to make Bush and Cheney and the whole war thing look bad. Short version? These two wanted to undermine our case for war because they're evil and hate America, as everyone who knows things knew we had to have this war. And, by the way, Wilson is a pussy-whipped wimp whose wife had to find things for him to do. That seemed to be the idea.

Well, Cheney had his own little war going with the CIA - they didn't tell him what he wanted to hear, or knew to be true, about the actual threat posed by the former Iraq. In his eyes they were out of control, or at least, not with the program.

There are hundreds of references to that, and it became even more clear this week after Judith Miller of the New York Times testified - see Miller Story Shows White House-CIA Tension (Peter Yost, Associated Press). Her conversations with Cheney chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, give sense of that.
"I recall that Mr. Libby was displeased with what he described as 'selective leaking' by the CIA," Miller wrote. "He told me that the agency was engaged in a 'hedging strategy' to protect itself in case no weapons were found in Iraq."

Amid the ultimately futile hunt for the banned weapons, Libby told Miller that the CIA's strategy was, "If we find it, fine, if not, we hedged," the reporter recounted.

Libby's "frustration and anger" spilled over into their conversations, Miller wrote, with the Cheney aide describing leaking by the CIA as part of a "perverted war" over the war in Iraq.
So Cheney's office was ticked at the CIA for being so damned cautious. It was disloyalty. And it made the administration look bad. And this was months before Wilson published his New York Times piece saying he'd gone there (Niger), and there was nothing there. Well, Niger was there, but no one was selling anything radioactive to anyone from Iraq.

So the whole administration is selling one story and the CIA is "hedging" - and then Wilson goes public. You can see the frustration. Bush, Rice and Cheney are everywhere in the media talking about not wanting "the proof to be in the form of a mushroom cloud" - what we know is good enough. And the CIA and this married couple are messing up the whole thing. They had Judy Miller at the Times behind them - she fed the Times a ton of "insider" stories about the nasty aluminum tubes for the centrifuges, and about the exiled scientist who had actually worked on the nuclear bombs Iraq was building, and everything Ahmed Chalabi said, and so on. Her fellow reporters complained she was "an advocate" and had crossed the line, but the Times was on board. (They later apologized and pulled her off Iraq reporting.) But the Wilson piece was a public escalation of their war with the CIA, in Judy's paper!

This was a problem in controlling the press. Their enemy sneaked a bomb in their newspaper, the most influential in the nation, one that they had neatly co-opted. Drat!

But did Vice President Cheney himself do something about this? The Post quotes someone - "a former Cheney aide" - saying "it is 'implausible' that Cheney himself was involved in the leaking of Plame's name because he rarely, if ever, involved himself in press strategy."

But maybe he was involved, in a sort of 1170 way - Henry II didn't really do anything to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, but he did say, "What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

It was just a question. Did Libby do the deed?

But then, as Bloomberg News reports, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald "is focusing on whether Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in leaking a covert CIA agent's name." Well, "playing a role" in a crime makes you a criminal, if someone proves it. Can sitting vice president be indicted on criminal charges? Yep, according to this, from UCLA Law professor Stephen Bainbridge. Robert Bork says so too. Only the president is immune to criminal indictments.

And someone may have been flipped - someone on Cheney's staff may have ratted him out. See this:
A senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney is cooperating with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, sources close to the investigation say.

Individuals familiar with Fitzgerald's case tell RAW STORY that John Hannah, a senior national security aide on loan to Vice President Dick Cheney from the offices of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton, was named as a target of Fitzgerald's probe. They say he was told in recent weeks that he could face imminent indictment for his role in leaking Plame-Wilson's name to reporters unless he cooperated with the investigation.

Others close to the probe say that if Hannah is cooperating with the special prosecutor then he was likely going to be charged as a co-conspirator and may have cut a deal.
Cool. The plot thickens.

And last December in Newsweek this same fellow got mention with this item. John Hannah all along had been feeding Cheney's office intelligence reports about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism from the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi's exile group in America, bypassing the CIA entirely. And the fellow was on loan from John Bolton, now our UN Ambassador, who back then was all over the United Nations IAEA as they were undercutting the administration's claims about all this stuff.

If he's been flipped? This is odd. And Tuesday there's also this from MSNBC -
NBC News confirmed the special prosecutor has already questioned two people on or formerly on the vice president's staff about his possible involvement in the leak, Cheney's adviser, Catherine Martin, and his former spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise.

... MSNBC-TV's Keith Olbermann spoke to Newsweek magazine's chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman, about the newest player added to the CIA leak investigation lineup.

KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST: First, Mr. Fitzgerald asked Judith Miller about the vice president. We know about that from what she wrote. And she said he didn't know much about any of what she supposedly discussed with Mr. Libby. But then Mr. Fitzgerald also asked this staffer and the former staffer of the vice president about the vice president. Is he indeed being scrutinized here about a possible role in the leak? And if so, do we have any idea what role?

HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE: Well, my understanding is, they're at least nibbling around the edges here, because it's quite possible that the special prosecutor's theory of this case is that there was a conspiracy. It may be a pretty big one, because we're talking about the vice president of the United States' chief of staff, Scooter Libby. We're talking about Karl Rove, we're talking about seven or eight people who are part of something called a White House Iraq Group.

Their job, in the months leading up to the Iraq war, and in the months after it, was to sell the justification for the war, specifically the presence weapons of mass destruction, and then, frankly, to try to steamroller anybody who got in their way and opposed their arguments after the invasion and the occupation of Iraq began.

I think it's that group of people that the special prosecutor's looking at. Several of those people were very, very close, I mean, very, very close to the vice president. The question then becomes the classic one from a generation ago, what did he know, and when did he know it? And we're talking about the vice president.

... And in an odd way, I think we're going to reargue the run-up to the war in Iraq, and the aftermath of it, all the justifications that were made by Colin Powell and the United Nations that had to do with weapons of mass destruction, because I think the special prosecutor, Fitzgerald, is looking for motivation here. He's looking for why the people he's been investigating might have wanted to leak Valerie Plame's name, why they wanted to intimidate, perhaps, Joe Wilson and his wife.

... from the prosecutor's point of view, he's got the chief of staff of the vice president's office in his sights, clearly. And, you know, the betting around here is, it's quite likely that that's the number one target is Scooter Libby. Scooter Libby is very close, has a very close working relationship with the vice president. The vice president has a small office with a small group of people who work very closely together. He's got to look at that. He interviewed the vice president once, not under oath. If he does it again, obviously know that we know there's a bigger story on our hands than we imagined.
Yes, it's the WHIG conspiracy, as in White House Iraq Group. Is that what will be the real target of this all - the group formed "to sell the justification for the war, specifically the presence weapons of mass destruction," and then out to "steamroller" anybody who got in their way?

Could be. But no one knows.

But Tuesday, October 18, US News and World Report gives us this:
Sparked by today's Washington Post story that suggests Vice President Cheney's office is involved in the Plame-CIA spy link investigation, government officials and advisers passed around rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

... The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn't get the job or run for president in 2008.

"Isn't she pro-choice?" asked a key Senate Republican aide.
Yeah, and she's black, and plays piano, and has a fancy PhD. And she's said many times she does not ever want to run for president. But why should she? This is easier.

And as Digby over at Hullabaloo points out -
If Condi becomes the Veep, how many hours/weeks/months/hours will it take for Bush to resign, Condi to become president, and all the Democratic hopes for a weak opponent in 2008 to be dashed?
It's a plan, and the president can't be having much fun at this. One can see a national address where he says he's looked at the poll numbers and how everything is going, and tell us all he was always in way over his head, and he just was never up to the job, so Condi will be just fine and bye now - sorry for the war and all.

Of course nothing may come of this all. Patrick Fitzgerald could report he uncovered no crime, so everyone should move on.

Bur Joe and Valerie won't -
Wilson said that once the criminal questions are settled, he and his wife may file a civil lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and others seeking damages for the alleged harm done to Plame's career.

If they do so, the current state of the law makes it likely that the suit will be allowed to proceed - and Bush and Cheney will face questioning under oath - while they are in office. The reason for that is a unanimous 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against then- President Clinton could go forward immediately, a decision that was hailed by conservatives at the time.
Oops. And if you're not up on that see this - the ruling. And they were so happy to stick it to Bill Clinton.

Well, late reports are the grand jury will be working through the 24th at least, so no indictments soon, if ever. And everything above represents a mix of some very worried people and others with far too much time on their hands.

But it is fun.

Posted by Alan at 19:20 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005 17:23 PDT home

Monday, 17 October 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

Tech Notes: Being Disconnected

It never rains in Southern California? Well, it did Monday - thunderstorms all day over a Hollywood. And in rained until sunset, when it finally cleared and the full moon rose above the odd racks of clouds. Another twenty-four hours of storms lined up, coming up from Baja? Three inches or more of rain two days, for this town, is considerable.

Around one in the afternoon Monday there was trouble for some of the news junkies and policy wonks - those of us who like to follow what's happening in the world - at least for those of us connected to the world through landlines. Around one in the afternoon a big storm lashed Hollywood - lots of lightening, thunder, and then hail. And the cable service went out. No internet. No television. No way to keep up on the news. Couldn?t check BBC or Le Monde or any of the sites reporting and commenting on the events of the day.

This was odd. There's a lot going on in the world, changing quickly. Suddenly it was gone. All there was, politically, was the mindless rants on talk radio.

But the hail was cool. And it seems some folks spotted funnel clouds. We don't get tornados out here very often, if at all.

But being out of touch feels bad. Cable service for most of Los Angeles is handled by Comcast, and from just after noon until six in the evening all cable television service and high-speed cable internet service for Los Angeles, or for Hollywood at least, was out. So - switched to very slow dial-up to trade emails with friends, and told them it might be time here to order a satellite dish for television, radio and high-speed internet, as cable goes out too often.

From my friend who teaches marketing at a prestigious business school in New York -
In the late seventies when I was busy being a consultant to technology and entertainment companies, I came to the conclusion that the then emerging cable television industry - and the laying of hard wire assets all across America - was at some future point in jeopardy of simply being "turned off" by consumers who might easily switch to direct satellite. (Why bother with the wires after all, and that now reads also "mobile technology" - a possibility that wasn't even a glimmer back then.)

So politics and embedded legacy industry interests create a lot of friction in the system - but still here we are - able to change channels, so to speak.
Well , the service came up again after five hours - but who knows if it'll go out again?

What to do? One can look at this historically.

The situation. Los Angeles - the second largest metro area on the continent - granted monopoly status to Comcast cable for about ninety percent of the area, the rest going to Adelphia. No one else can legally lay cable or offer services, and the two must not tread on each other's areas. Like anywhere else, no? The alternative on internet is DSL, multiplexing over existing telephone lines, but if you are more than one thousand meters from the nearest switching station, you cannot hook up. Can't be done at greater than that that distance. And it's a bit slower. Here in this complex just above Sunset there are fifty-two units, and over the last two years about half of them have gone to the third alternative, direct satellite - the roof looks like a mushroom patch.

So yes, hard-wiring America may have been a good idea at the time, but the folks I worked for at Hughes Space and Communications developed the way to bypass the wires. GM-Hughes spun off the Hughes Space and Communications division's hardware and launch operations - I worked for them for ten years - to Boeing. That was in 1999 and I was in Canada at the time on another GM account. Anyway, Boeing now builds the satellites and payloads and gets them up there. Hughes kept the satellite "operations" and renamed the division DirecTV. Since these satellites were transmitting almost all cable worldwide to the cable operators' downlink dishes, to be sent, then, over the coaxial lines on the ground, it was a no-brainer to develop a little dish, cheap and small, so everyone could have their own individual home satellite receiver and forget the wires. So in the mid-nineties they did - the engineers in building S-41 did that. A nice little unit now licensed everywhere. The rest is history.

Funny - in the early nineties in the next building in El Segundo, surrounded by a massive satellite farm, next to Mattel headquarters oddly enough, was the Hughes satellite operations center. Back then everything on cable television anywhere in the world was live on one of the hundreds of monitors in that center - a sort of quality control operation monitoring all the satellite signals before they hit the wires. Letting folks buy direct feeds from all that stuff was an obvious money-maker, once the little dish was ready.

The guys at Hughes knew that's where the money was. And Boeing is now losing its shirt trying to get good hardware into geosynchronous orbit.

And Rupert Murdoch bought DirecTV from GM-Hughes last year for a few billion he had lying around that he wasn't using for anything else. The Hughes folks just smiled.

So I'm stuck at the moment with the old technology - real fast, but dependent on miles of coax cable and switches and all the rest, and prone to being blown out at some point on the grid by a lightening strike. (A few loud cracks today had Harriet-the-Cat hiding under the bed.)

Why is the old technology still here?

Note this:

Free American broadband!
In France, you can get super-fast DSL, unlimited phone service and 100 TV channels for a mere $38 a month. Why does the same thing cost so much more in the U.S.?
S. Derek Turner - SALON.COM - October 18, 2005

The gist?
Across the globe, it's the same story. In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month. In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here. In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita. While other countries are taking advantage of the technological, business and education opportunities of the broadband era, America remains lost in transition.

How did this happen? Why has the U.S. fallen so far behind the rest of its economic peers? The answer is simple. These nations all have something the U.S. lacks: a national broadband policy, one that actively encourages competition among providers, leading to lower consumer prices and better service.

Instead, the U.S. has a handful of unelected and unaccountable corporate giants that control our vital telecommunications infrastructure. This has led not only to a digital divide between the U.S. and the rest of the advanced world but to one inside the U.S. itself. Currently, broadband services in America remain unavailable for many living in rural and poorer urban areas, and remain slow and expensive for those who do have access.
The rest explains the cable and telecom companies have great lobbying arms that contribute tons of money to politicians, the Republicans at the moment, so the FCC doesn't get all out of hand and allow "hot spots" and alternatives to land lines. The dinosaurs have money.

And this - if you like conspiracy theory - keeping folks away from fast communication is a way to keep them from becoming liberals -

Blue, Red State Broadband Penetration Mirrors Election Results
TechWeb News - August 17, 2005 (11:20 AM EDT)
U.S. households continue to install broadband at a furious rate, according to a report released Wednesday. Curiously, the penetration of cable modem and DSL has been tracking state-by-state splits in the 2004 presidential election.

In its latest broadband report of what it calls "one of the fastest adopted services in U.S. history," the Leichtman Research Group noted that eight "Blue" states with broadband penetration over 35 percent had all voted for John Kerry while eleven "Red" states with broadband penetration at or below 20 percent all voted for George Bush in 2004.

"While these disparities are largely related to variations in household income across the states, these differences are strikingly similar to the state-by-state splits in the 2004 presidential election," said Bruce Leichtman, the market research firm's president and principal analyst, in a statement.
Now THAT is curious.

But I don't think the storms that disconnected me for half a day from the scandals and the war news and all the rest were caused by the right-wing folks trying to keep us all in the dark. They have other ways to do that.

And a late comment from our friend in upstate New York -
Hughes HAS been smart in its timing - not often guilty of firing too far ahead of or behind the duck - a good trick in this day and age.

Hughes was smiling when DirecTV brought a windfall price. But I grimace at Murdoch owning hard infrastructure servicing, on top of his renowned editorial qualities for content management.

Evolution of technology in "moderated markets" - where policy helps manage the public interest - is VERY interesting given the American mythology of 'free markets' - free to influence!

As a market analyst, I'd have to question the blue-red penetration conclusion you cite and ask - is DSL versus political leaning a cause or effect? I would argue the latter - those in red states (especially as defined by the neoCon movement) are less inclined to buy into technology or advancement - advancement of ideas or the culture in general. DSL doesn't create liberals. Liberals tend to embrace options - and they're probably more inclined to pay inflated prices to get them!
Agreed. And "conservative" means looking to the past and using it - new stuff is suspicious, of course.

And of this new stuff, and who uses it and why, below is a dialog and technology and marketing, from Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, one of those who got CNN going when it started up, and our friend who teaches marketing at that upstate New York business school, with some observations on the telecom situation in Paris, from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis.

First, Atlanta:
More techie observations, these from the guy who founded the first TV "satellite news desk" in this country, for anybody who is interested -

Why is the old technology still with us? I can tell you one reason, at least from my experience in broadcasting - no satellite delay.

Ever watch a live interview between a news anchor in New York and a reporter in Asia, and wonder why it takes so long for the reporter to respond to the question? This is (mostly) the result of the anchor's question going up to a geosynchronous satellite 22,300 miles in space, then coming down again to the reporter's ear, the round-trip taking roughly (if I remember correctly) two thirds of a second each way - then the reporter responds, with the same thing happening in reverse. In fact, there sometimes may be as many as two or three such satellites involved ("double hop" or "triple hop") - since the same satellite that can be accessed by New York cannot be seen by one that hovers over, say, Tokyo, since the planet Earth gets in the way.

And have you ever seen a reporter begin to answer a question then rip his earphone out of his ear and lay it on his shoulder as he continues talking? When you see that happen, you know the reporter's "IFB" isn't working. ("IFB" stands for "interrupted feedback" - sometimes known as "mix minus," which means the control room sound guy takes all the audio, but mixes out the reporter's own voice, then sends that back to him.)

What this malfunction means is that his earphone, which is supposed to feed into his ear ONLY what the anchors and other guests are saying, and NOT his own voice, is not doing what it's supposed to be doing, so he is hearing his own voice, at anywhere from twp-thirds of a second to maybe two seconds or so after he says it - depending on whether it's a single, double, or even triple hop involved. Try listening to what you said two seconds ago while trying to think of what you're trying to say right now, and you'll understand the problem! (I've never actually tried it, but I have sometimes suffered the wrath of those who have.)

The reason I mention this? None of this happens with terrestrial landlines, only with satellites. Landline audio is relatively instantaneous, and therefore doesn't usually need IFB. Shortly after I left CNN, fiber optic lines began to be strung all over the country, which was much better than satellites, at least for live TV purposes.

Satellite delay is okay for most (although not all) internet and computer communications, where it isn't really noticed, but if you ever talk on the phone with someone and find yourself talking over each other, it's probably via satellite.

But yes, satellite phones definitely come in handy now and then - for example, in hurricane disaster zones when all the cell towers have either been knocked out, shorted out by water, or maybe overloaded by relatives calling from New Jersey to make sure everyone is alright - but also in Pakistan after an earthquake, especially back in the mountains where cell systems didn't exist in the first place. In that case, a little delayed signal is better than no signal at all.

(And in Hollywood, if you ever find yourself in that situation again, but with your phone line knocked out as well - meaning you can't even get dial-up internet - do what I do: Go online through the cell phone! Just another port in a storm, which has come in handy now and then.)

And a little more regarding direct satellite TV:

Although CNN's founders in 1980, among other cable network programmers, were prepared from the beginning to abandon cable for direct satellite if it ever became as popular as it was predicted to become, there was a time when it looked like satellites were not going to make it, since nobody wanted to gamble on recouping the big bucks needed to replace the cheap little birds that were up there - some used transmitters that had as much wattage as your average Christmas tree bulb - with the huge, expensive satellites powerful enough to feed to the tiny little dish you could install on your window sill, partly - as was once explained to me by Ted Turner's right-hand man, Terry McGuirk - because less than half of the apartment dwellers in large cities, where the big money was, had windows that faced the southern horizon, where all the satellites were parked over the equator.

But that, of course, was then, and this, of course, is now.
From upstate New York -
You've certainly been a few places over the years - nice to know you lived to tell about it!

I guess the question is NOW - since that was then - do today's satellite feeds for home "programming" purposes (with power now in orbit) provide equal or superior service reliability and potential hi-definition capability, given the hard-wire issues of the "last mile." (Glass fiber may span the country, but every house is still copper wire from pole to television.) Anybody out there up on the technical issues which may make one system more likely than the other?

(I pose the question KNOWING full well that technically superior Beta videotape, and Mac computers DIDN'T win their respective market battles for de facto dominance! Or that compromised NTSC TV broadcast technology HAS been our system of choice here in the US for just about my entire lifetime! Technological superiority hardly guarantees market adoption. I guess that must serve as some consolation for all those marketing folks who pop up in Dilbert!)

So I repeat my question - anybody keeping up on the futuring game? Able to frame underlying issues with greater clarity? Or willing to venture a forecast?

Rick - there ARE a few of us interested -
Atlanta -
Good questions.

Last question first - No, I'm not a futurist anymore. I used to be, but found myself getting too far out in front, thinking that would help my career, but discovering later that merely knowing something was coming up was not the same as being able to cash in on it.

(One example: While working at AP Photos in the early 1970s, I told the department head that news photos in the near future would all be digitally recorded and manipulated on what look like TV screens, then stored in computers that clients could access instantaneously by phone. He laughed at me. Years after I had resigned, they went ahead and did it without me. There have been other examples since, but maybe I'll bore you with those some other time.)

I've also not kept up much with how satellites work since I left CNN in 1985, so keep that in mind when you read this.

Remember that the problems with those live two-way satellite feeds between the anchor here in the states and the reporter overseas I described really only show up "in-house" at the network, which are way "upstream" of your home receiver. Although we will see on our television sets the product of the mess that sometimes occurs, we don't usually notice any satellite delay on the whole program as it comes to us. (Want to see that delay in action? The next time the president addresses the nation switch around between the three networks, and CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. The audio will usually not be in synch because some nets or stations usually throw in an extra satellite that others don't.)

Because of the prohibitive cost of running landline, even fiber-optic ones, I'm sure cable companies still get their programming via satellites. I'm not sure about whether network TV affiliates these days still get theirs via their old-fashioned landlines or new-fangled fiber or via satellite, but my guess is that it's a mix, with most of it coming from space. Probably the better quality would be fiber, but the cost would make it not worth it. With all their faults, satellites are definitely cheaper to use.

I'm sure the satellites that cable and television companies use today have benefited from the advancements pushed by the home satellite business. (Do today's birds, like those of yore, still get overwhelmed twice a year by "sun outages" that occur when the satellites wander between the dish and the sun? In the old days, the video noise brought to mind trying to empty out a playground sandbox with a vacuum cleaner.) But yes, however those folks receive their signals, the ultimate quality of what they send to you is determined by "the last mile" - "cable," in the case of cable, and "air," in the case of you local TV station.

And you say there ARE a few of you interested?

Well, sure, but you're in marketing! You marketing guys are interested in everything - especially anything you might be able to sell!
From upstate New York -
For a retired futurist you still do pretty well with informed speculation!

With my students I try to continually remind them that shooting ahead of the duck is as harmful to a career as late to market! My classes are filled with too many intelligent people that need reminding they're not average, they're not their own best customers (re: extending their own executive intuition to the consumer choice game), and they need to find the practical application for their future market insight (humans demand continuity in their existing behaviors/comfort zones - disruptive behavior requirements result in failed technologies in the marketplace. I like to point to ATM touchpads as extensions of telephone touchpads as one key element for ATM usage adoption - the phone designs having taken some 20 yrs to fully penetrate over rotary dial 'behavior').

Except for keeping up with classroom-level futuring, I too have retired from that element of corporate maneuvering, at least in terms of expecting remuneration (that brings its own liability!).

You say - "Well, sure, but you're in marketing! You marketing guys are interested in everything - especially anything you might be able to sell!"

I'm only "interested in everything" as an intellectual hangover of my earlier days of attempting renaissance thinking in an age of exponential info explosion (actually all of history has probably suffered from exponential info explosion - from any given base context starting point - it's probably ALWAYS been overwhelming to those living it - just another example of relativity! - it all depends!)

And to tell the truth - I've never (?) (admitted to) selling anything I didn't first believe in - so in reality I guess I don't even qualify as a marketing guy.

As to the hard issue of cable vs. wi-fi vs. satellite feed - Bill Gates launched X-Box gaming systems with the idea that kids could help him put smart boxes atop every TV, which eventually could usurp the current cable descrambler, and be the smarts behind the monitor WHICHEVER delivery system won out... so even he isn't showing his cards yet. (I LOVE recent speculation that Goggle is creating its OWN glass fiber global web network, by which if could offer FREE wi-fi access to the world (in exchange for targeted advertising to any given "receiver.")

The futuring torture never stops!
From Atlanta -
You say: "I try to continually remind them that shooting ahead of the duck is as harmful to a career as late to market! ... they need to find the practical application for their future market insight."

My main problem was I would find myself pioneering on ground that would necessarily have no room for me.

In the late seventies, I was trying to lease time on a Manhattan Cable channel to run old black-and-white classic movies, selling my own commercial slots. I gave up when I couldn't interest advertisers in cable TV, but more importantly, couldn't get any movie studio to clear any movies for me to run; they were biding their time until they could figure out how much to charge. Shortly after I gave in, Charles Dolan of Cablevision on Long Island started up his AMC, and with great success.

As I was mentioning to our Wall Street attorney friend, in the early eighties, I wrote and demonstrated a web-browser program on my Apple II+ (before there were Windows and even Macs), knowing that some day computers would be doing this sort of thing. But what, I asked, did this have to do with me? My program was in Basic, and I wasn't going to be a computer programmer, nor would I be starting a business to do this.

In the early 1990s, I tried to start a wireless information and email network, mostly using HP 95 palmtops and the Casio Zoomer, a precursor of the Palm Pilot. In fact, in 1992, I got permission from CNN to sit in their newsroom on election night, broadcasting election results wirelessly via Motorola's Embarc service (with whom I had signed a working agreement) to selected handhelds around the country. One big reason my company failed is that Motorola withdrew its wireless text service from the market. But I also realized that just because I was among the first to be offering to broadcast wireless text, there was nothing to stop any big latecomer to the biz from walking all over me - for example, by offering on cell phones something they already produced for another media. Indeed, CNN itself eventually began doing this.

Another way of putting it: I think my main problem is that I don't want to be in big business, and yet everything I've tried to do requires that I form a company large enough to compete.
And finally, from Paris, where all this talk of satellite and cable seems silly, as over there the copper telephone lines work just fine. From Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, a response to the Turner article above - "In France, you can get super-fast DSL, unlimited phone service and 100 TV channels for a mere $38 a month. Why does the same thing cost so much more in the U.S.?" -
19.10 - Wired In France?

Something is up. When I lived in the suburbs and they came along to lay the cable in the ground, they put in copper wires. It was a hell of a job - digging trenches everywhere and putting this new cable in them - and copper was 'good enough.' This was done by Lyonnaise des Eaux for France Telecom, and then I guess, leased to a cable operator, a subsidiary of FT.

When it was finished FT came along and put a little badge outside each apartment door. 'This place is cabled.' There's one of these outside my apartment door here in the 14th too.

Then my dial-up operator quit on me. It was slow and costing a lot on account of France Telecom charging by the minute. So I signed up for Noos cable. The guy comes and looks and says there are two problems. No key to access the cable in the locked garbage room right next to my door, and no Ethernet port on my Mac.

So I got a newer used Mac with an Ethernet port, but I couldn't locate the garbage room key. Time was running out so I went to France Telecom and paid extra for an Ethernet modem (instead of a free USB modem), and they turned on the DSL within hours. This gave me 'Net access for a flat rate and cut my telephone bill to a monthly minimum. A savings of about 50%, with a full-time 'Net connection, plus faster.

The cable, Noos, is plagued in this area by 'too many folks in the business' of shoving big files around. They offer the service and then whine if people use it. Result- Noos is notoriously erratic.
In contrast, FT's Wanadoo DSL is very reliable month in and month out. Imagine if you will, my building, built in 1931, with its original wires, is handling this DSL - not FT's TV cable.

They started me out at 512 Ko and they hustled me into 1024 Ko and phoned up a week ago to ask if I wanted to keep their 'Maxi+' - which is one or two mega. Actually they phoned to try and get me to pay a sub for a 'Box' of theirs - I think for their telephone/internet/TV offer - but I refused it. I'm trying to save money and I have no time to watch 80 'free' TV channels. Actually I haven't noticed any speed increases moving from 512 to 1024 Ko - I'm just happy it's reliable.

(Also France Television started broadcasting 'digital' TV six months ago. With a decoder - about 100 euros - you can have the regular channels in digital, plus 3 or 4 more new France Television channels. This is broadcast through the air. My reception over the apartment's antenna isn't wonderful because the Montparnasse Tower is between me and the broadcast tower, the Tour Eiffel. So I'm not sure the 'free' digital would work here.)

Metropole's hosting company is out in the sticks, not served by DSL or cable. In distance not far from the big technopole at Saint-Quentin or the atomic research center at Orsay, but might as well be in the south Pacific. Some years ago they moved the server out of there, to a proper server park. They used to say France Telecom had one wire and it always broke late on Sundays. For TV they have satellite but whenever I was out there I couldn't see it. Have to be a geek to figure out the telecommand's buttons. In any case, the satellite not reliable (or too expensive) to run a web server over.

In sum, the techno folks are squeezing a lot out of old copper wires. In Europe, especially in cities, most wires are underground and are relatively immune to most normal hazards. FT's Wanadoo for example, is offering TV over its telephone wires, plus telephone, plus DSL Internet. Over one wire this is.

And now, in this time frame, they are rolling out the promo bandwagon for video reception over portable phones. They sold SMS, they sold photos, and now comes video - the phone companies are headed towards the big jackpot right here on earth. At the rate things are going, before this decade is over we will all either be working for the phone company, or be in debt up to our eyeballs to it.

However my personal view of all this, the telephone, is dubious.

Fine is the technical advance of the telephone as an essential tool for communication; not so fine is its conversion to gadget, game machine, Dick Tracey wristwatch video player. The financial and human investment in the non-essential aspects of the phone is insanely pharonic, hardly any step forward for mankind. The money is being sucked out of the world's economy... in return for? No Panama Canal is being built here.

What is being built?

Photographic record - tiny satellite dishes on the roof here in Hollywood -

Big satellite dishes down in Culver City, snagging entertainment out of the sky for redistribution over landlines -


Rain in Los Angeles - a photo from Bon Patterson -

Posted by Alan at 17:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005 16:33 PDT home

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Topic: Announcements

A Day Off

No posting today. Out of town. For your current events "giggle of the day" try this.

For readers not in California, a palm tree -

Posted by Alan at 08:08 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 15 October 2005

Topic: Announcements

Redirection: The Mother Ship Has Landed

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this daily web log, has just gone on line. This is Volume 3, Number 42 - for the week of Sunday, October 16, 2005 - and contains a wealth of new material in magazine format. It's up a bit early, as other matters have come up which will mean light posting here for a day or two.

This week there's as much photography as prose. The four current events items, expanded from what first appeared here, offer in-depth discussions of the major issues of the last week - the disintegration of the administration on so many fronts and how much it feels like 1973 again, the issues raised as we once again face the tangle of religion and government and the law, the situation in Iraq as the new constitution comes to a vote, and a major shift in the national narrative - there's a new meme. Of course the quotes this week just had to be on chaos and madness.

From our international columnists, Mike McCahill in London offers what is seen from over there as quite good about America, to balance all the denigration going around offshore these days, Ric Erickson in Paris strolls the Champs Elysées the day of the big parade of all the wonderful cars, and Sylvain Ubersfeld explains Modern Hebrew, and for those of us with an interest in language and how it shapes thought, this is an eye-opener.

Special feature - Joy Childs attends the 2005 Black Movie Awards and reports what happened, so you'll know the winner before the telecast at the end of the coming week. Well, this is Hollywood, after all.

Bob Patterson is back, and in the guise of the World's Laziest Journalist explores the topic of madness, or demonstrates it. You decide. As the Book Wrangler we meet another local author, and then find out what books to buy to become a wildly successful and fabulously wealthy screenwriter. Yes, this is Hollywood.

"Our Eye on Paris," Don Smith, gives us two pages of stunning photographic detail of just what was in that parade last Sunday in Paris. The Citroën DS turned fifty and those amazing automobiles still look just right. So does Paris.

There are three pages of North America from other guest photographers. The wilds of Canada in high-resolution on a hunt for moose, and down here, from Atlantic to Pacific, dramatic shots from the edges, Manhattan to LA - and in the middle, the eerie desert of Monument Valley.

The local photography takes you to the heart of pop Hollywood, Guitar Row on Sunset Boulevard, the center of Rock 'n' Roll - and everything that followed it - in America. More than the best guitars and amps sold in America - a whole world in one long block. The real Hollywood.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ____________________

Zeitgeist Fatigue: The Thrill of the Chase Fades as it’s not 1973
Secular Government: Who Believes, and Why?
Gnawing Old Bones: Iraq War Notes (True Believers)
Meme Watch: Wrong Man, and No One Told Us

The International Desk ____________________

Our Man in London: In the Air Tonight
Our Man in Paris: Goddesses on Display (with photos)
Our Man in Tel-Aviv: Do You Speak Ivrit?

Features ____________________

It is I, Joy: The 2005 Black Movie Awards (BMAs) - A Celebration of Black Cinema: Past, Present and Future
Quotes for the week of October 16, 2005 - Chaos and Madness
Links and Recommendations: New Photo Album for Rock Fans

Bob Patterson ____________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - " …or run naked through the streets, screaming all the way…"
Book Wrangler: "Ready anytime you are, CB!"

Guest Photography - Europe ____________________

Our Eye on Paris (1): The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Citroën DS
Our Eye on Paris (2): The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Citroën DS (continued)

Guest Photography - North America ____________________

Canada: Hunting for Moose
Coast-to-Coast: Manhattan to Los Angeles
The Middle: Monument Valley, Utah

Local Photography ____________________

Guitar Row on Sunset Boulevard

Below - Sunset Boulevard oddity -

Posted by Alan at 20:51 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 15 October 2005 20:54 PDT home

Friday, 14 October 2005

Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

Meme Watch: Wrong Man, and No One Told Us

The whole purpose of political analysis is to look at the policies and actions of those in power, and at the scattered news events that flow from those, and the explanations of those events - the spin to defend or attack what was done - and try to sense some sort of pattern to it all. What is the current way most people are thinking of things now - the meme, or pervasive narrative? This is what in these pages has been called chasing the zeitgeist.

A friend in New York, in Albany actually, pointed out an item from Howard Fineman, from October 12, that catches a new stream of political narrative, a new meme, that has become part of the "national narrative" about how we got into the fix we're in. Fineman's item is The Conservative Crack Up, and carries the subhead, "The neocons develop an exit strategy - a political one."

The notion is this: President Bush may have no military exit strategy for Iraq, but the "neocons" who convinced him to go to war there have developed one of their own - a political one: Blame the Administration.

What they're saying?
Their neo-Wilsonian theory is correct, they insist, but the execution was botched by a Bush team that has turned out to be incompetent, crony-filled, corrupt, unimaginative and weak over a wide range of issues.

The flight of the neocons - just read a recent Weekly Standard to see what I am talking about - is one of only many indications that the long-predicted "conservative crackup" is at hand.
Is this wishful thinking fro a moderate liberal? Maybe.

Fineman discusses the history of the "neoconservative movement" from the founding of William F. Buckley's National Review fifty years ago, to its "coming of age" in the Reagan administration, to its zenith with Bush the Younger becoming president five years ago. We finally had a leadership in place that would have nothing to do with traditional diplomacy, would use our newly unchallengeable military to change governments around the world, and bring the American way of doing everything to the whole globe. We'd spread democracy, and unregulated free-market capitalism, and transform the planet. It seems Woodrow Wilson at the time didn't have a world where the was no power on earth that could challenge the United States - but with the fall of the Soviet Union who was left to get in out way?

This is a curious form of hyper-idealism, of course, but Fineman argues these imperial idealists - not his term but perhaps as good as any description - had to make a pact with the devil to get things done. He also does not us the phrase "pact with the devil," but he does give us this:
In 1973, Karl Rove met George W. Bush, and became the R2D2 and Luke Skywalker of Republican politics. At first, neither was plugged into "The Force" - the conservative movement. But over the years they learned how to use its power.

By the time Bush was in his second term as governor, laying the groundwork for his presidential run, he and Rove had gathered all of the often competing and sometimes contradictory strains of conservatism into one light beam. You could tell by the people they brought to Austin.

To tie down the religious conservatives, they nudged John Ashcroft out of the race and conducted a literal laying on of hands at the governor's mansion with leaders such as James Dobson.

For the libertarian anti-tax crowd, they brought in certified supply-sider Larry Lindsey as the top economic advisor.

For the traditional war hawks they brought in Paul Wolfowitz, among others, to get Bush up to speed on the world.

For the traditional corporate types - well, Bush had that taken care of on his own.
The problem is obvious. How do you hold these groups together in a tight alliance?

Well, you have to be very careful. And that is what is going sour now.

Take the religious conservatives:
The Harriet Miers nomination was the final insult. Religious conservatives have an inferiority complex in the Republican Party. In an interesting way, it's the same attitude that many African-Americans have had toward the Democratic Party over the years. They think that the Big Boys want their votes but not their presence or their full participation.

And what really frosts the religious types is that Bush evidently feels that he can only satisfy them by stealth - by nominating someone with absolutely no paper trail. It's an affront. And even though Dr. Dobson is on board - having been cajoled aboard by Rove - I don't sense that there is much enthusiasm for the enterprise out in Colorado Springs.

I expect that any GOP 2008 hopeful who wants evangelical support - people like Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum - and maybe even George Allen - will vote against Miers' confirmation in the Senate.
Well, yes, they are unhappy.

Can the administration turn to the CEO crowd, big business, and the corporations, to take up the slack and stand behind the president? Fineman says probably not, not after those hurricanes:
For them, Bush's handling of Katrina was, and remains, a mortal embarrassment to their class, which Bush is supposed to have represented - at least to some extent.

These are people who believe in the Faith of Management - in anticipating problems and moving mass organizations. They also like to think of themselves as having a social conscience. And even if they don't, they are sensitive to world opinion.

The vivid images from the Superdome were just too much for these folks. Recently, a prominent Republican businessman, whom I saw in a typical CEO haunt, astonished me with the severity of his attacks on Bush's competence. And Bush had appointed this guy to a major position! Amazing.
Okay then, what about all those traditional conservatives, those who believe in the smallest possible effective government, no deficits and no pork? Will they take up the slack and support the president?

The answer here is obvious. Fineman doesn't mention the exact figures, but this has been going around, the increases in discretionary spending over five successive budgets, for each two-term president increased spending going back forty years, adjusted for inflation -
LBJ: 25.2%
Nixon: -16.5%
Reagan: 11.9%
Clinton: -8.2%
Bush: 35.2%
Some people notice such things.

And as for the isolationists - Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobson and that crowd - they are most unhappy with an administration that won't police the borders and then called armed white citizens out hunting down wetbacks, these Minutemen, vigilantes. They feel betrayed too.

And of course the core neoconservatives ? Kristol and the University of Chicago gang at the Project for the New American Century (Chairman William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and founding members in 1997 - Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Richard Perle, Richard Armitage, Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, William J. Bennett, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Ellen Bork, the wife of Robert Bork) are wondering who this guys is that they shoehorned into the presidency. The wanted the Middle East remade, and thus this country made safe, by forcing our flavor of democracy in Iraq, than that whole region, and then beyond. Their man is not doing the job, and Kristol often takes him to task for hinting at withdrawal in a few years. They are really unhappy.

Fineman says the only folks happy right now are the "supply-siders" - all those tax cuts for the rich and subsidies of major corporations are, to them, just fine. But that's small base, isn't it?

Look for this book next April: Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. The natives are restless.

Over at the New York Times Paul Krugman has a different spin on this. It wasn't just the conservatives who were fooled. We were all fooled. We didn't see what was right in front of our faces. (One is tempted to mutter, "Speak for yourself, White Man.") Here's the idea:
Right now, with the Bush administration in meltdown on multiple issues, we're hearing a lot about President Bush's personal failings. But what happened to the commanding figure of yore, the heroic leader in the war on terror? The answer, of course, is that the commanding figure never existed: Mr. Bush is the same man he always was. All the character flaws that are now fodder for late-night humor were fully visible, for those willing to see them, during the 2000 campaign.

And President Bush the great leader is far from the only fictional character, bearing no resemblance to the real man, created by media images.

Read the speeches Howard Dean gave before the Iraq war, and compare them with Colin Powell's pro-war presentation to the U.N. Knowing what we know now, it's clear that one man was judicious and realistic, while the other was spinning crazy conspiracy theories. But somehow their labels got switched in the way they were presented to the public by the news media.
Howard Dean was judicious and realistic? The world turned upside down, but that's how things worked out.

What about that "scream" that ended Dean's run for the presidency? That got all-to-wall coverage for a week or more. He was a madman. Bush was the calm and forceful leader at the eye of the storm, the man who would keep us safe.

That was the meme. And it changed.

But most people assumed that was the true picture then. That was the national narrative, "the real story." We were offered a snapshot of how things were. It was easy to understand. You didn't have to listen to what was actually being said and think about the issues. The "shorthand" worked better.

Krugman blames the press for the mistake, himself included -
Why does this happen? A large part of the answer is that the news business places great weight on "up close and personal" interviews with important people, largely because they're hard to get but also because they play well with the public. But such interviews are rarely revealing. The fact is that most people - myself included - are pretty bad at using personal impressions to judge character. Psychologists find, for example, that most people do little better than chance in distinguishing liars from truth-tellers.

More broadly, the big problem with political reporting based on character portraits is that there are no rules, no way for a reporter to be proved wrong. If a reporter tells you about the steely resolve of a politician who turns out to be ineffectual and unwilling to make hard choices, you've been misled, but not in a way that requires a formal correction.

And that makes it all too easy for coverage to be shaped by what reporters feel they can safely say, rather than what they actually think or know. Now that Mr. Bush's approval ratings are in the 30's, we're hearing about his coldness and bad temper, about how aides are afraid to tell him bad news. Does anyone think that journalists have only just discovered these personal characteristics?

Let's be frank: the Bush administration has made brilliant use of journalistic careerism. Those who wrote puff pieces about Mr. Bush and those around him have been rewarded with career-boosting access. Those who raised questions about his character found themselves under personal attack from the administration's proxies.
That about wraps it up. The journalism stank, with reporters playing it safe to get better access later. Krugman flat out says they all knew the guy was doofus, but they wouldn't report what they knew, or what they thought. Too scary. Not prudent. Bad for the career, and the Bush administration played them like a fiddle.

So NOW they tell us what they know? It's a little late.

But we have a new meme going forward.

Posted by Alan at 14:53 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005 14:56 PDT home

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