by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume V, No. XLIII
For the Week of October 29, 2001

This Week's Clue: Blood and Iron

This Week's Clue: Blood and Iron

SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)

SP (Shameless Promotion)

Battleground of Failure

Grand Unified Device Theory

The Wonder of Anti-Trust Law 

Clued-in, Clueless

In every American war rights have been sacrificed for the duration. 

Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War . German-Americans were harassed in World War I, Japanese-Americans were interred in World War II. 

The Cold War saw McCarthyism, Hoover's FBI, Watergate, and Iran-Contra. Republicans cried "national security," Democrats cried "civil liberty." In the end both won.

One reason Americans are so willing to sacrifice their rights (even their rights to information ) in the new war is the assumption that the enemy is alien. But the men who are seizing these rights are not seizing them "for the duration." They are not seizing them only so they can go after aliens. And they are making permanent changes in basic assumptions underlying freedom.

This permanent war has now come to the Internet, along with war time restrictions. The National Journal reports that the FBI will soon start forcing ISPs to save all their e-mail traffic so it can be examined without a warrant. The police powers bill to be passed this week will, like similar bills coming from Canada and the UK , allow extensive monitoring of Internet traffic without a court order. 

James Gilmore, whose fidgety EcommerceCommission  gave us the non-decision that will now let states play haves with Internet Commerce , wants to go further. His new commission would, with the blessing of Congress, create a "Star Chamber" proceeding, a special "cyber court" that could secretly approve seizures and surveillance of all hackers' messaging traffic and possessions. 

Gilmore's followers also want all "hackers" treated as terrorists. Those who break encryption algorithms and e-mail them widely so your kids can download the next Brittany Spears release free would be treated just like Osama Bin Laden. Under Gilmore's Law, Phil Zimmermann could be executed. 

These are the slippery slopes and the mission creeps I've been warning about for weeks. It's not that the Bush Administration is unaware of the dangers. They just demand absolute security, even at the price of all liberty. That's the controversial stand being taken in a paper by doctoral candidate Heidi Brush , and it's hard to argue with.

When all insults to order are treated as breaches of the national security, when absolute control is demanded over an anarchic medium, what you have is tyranny. America has stood for liberty since 1789, and this Administration is turning its back on that heritage.

In his latest book "Blood and Iron" Harry Turtledove's alternate universe (the South won the Civil War, won again 20 years later, but was finally defeated in World War I) has a phalanx of men in identical shirts and pants marching down streets yelling "Freedom" in unison. But we're shown that these are really America's version of Nazis. Their idea of "Freedom" means a blitzkrieg against the United States and a holocaust for America's blacks. 

Freedom isn't just a word. It's an assumption that most people are honest and thus all must have their rights respected. Tyranny is based on an opposite assumption, and a tyranny based on freedom is (except when war has been declared) an oxymoron, an abomination. 

That seems to be what this Administration is giving us. Yet I'm somehow confident that it, like Bin Laden, will be beaten.

The reason is the Internet itself. It's just too big, too diverse, and too busy to be effectively monitored. It can be policed (to a degree), but no more than American society can be policed. In other words, it can only be policed imperfectly. Terrorists and drug runners and pornographers and gamblers and hackers will use encryption and steganography to conceal themselves. It will take all our will and power to handle these threats to world order.

When everything is seen as a threat, and everyone is seen as a suspect, even the job of a secret police becomes impossible. China is learning this. The Bush people will learn this. The Internet, born of America, and of American freedom, will in time defeat every attempt to destroy what it has given us. It will even defeat America's efforts in that direction. 

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

I accepted an assignment to create a white paper for a vendor recently and found, to my shock and surprise, that I actually enjoyed the work. I believe even white papers need a story, and that story must be told well. My weakness is on technical accuracy, but it you want your materials to be worth reading let me give you a hand.

You can join the A-Clue.Com discussion at I-Strategy , our shared e-mail digest produced with Adventive.Com. You can also read me at ClickZ , B2B, and Boardwatch. "Living on the Internet: How to Make Money, Live Right, and Fight For the 21st Century" is now in the hands of the folks at eBookAgent, which is arranging for electronic distribution. Remember that it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...

Shameless Promotion

You have a little list, but how do you make the most of it? You turn it into a database, you query the database, you audit the results and you deliver market research to yourself and to others.

Permission is just the first step. An audit is the second step. Building interactive relationships with every name in your database is the greatest business asset you can have.

You can take the first step toward making your little list truly valuable with help from my friends at Whitehat Interactive - click here to begin that journey.

Takes on the News

Battleground of Failure

It's interesting that Phil Kaplan outlasted The Compost. When you dig beneath the surface it's obvious.

The owners of The Compost weren't really "into" their subject. They were what they dumped on. This made them easy pickings for someone whose cynicism was real.

But Kaplan isn't the big winner. That honor goes to Bill Lessard and Steve Baldwin of NetSlaves. Their site pre-dated the bust, giving it credibility. But more important, their site makes its community its primary content provider. (Kaplan must still goose his discussions with constant reporting.) This makes it more of a "Slashdot" to the post-boom era, not just a chronicler.

This also gives NetSlaves a life after the bust is over (and busts do end). Because it has kept costs low and doesn't believe its own hype, NetSlaves will be around to chronicle the next rise in the market. It will then return to its roots as the worker's voice in the Net wilderness, not just a critic cheering the Net's doom.

There's a Clue here. Have a business plan, and model, that's independent of current business conditions. It's the only way to survive those conditions, whatever they are.

Grand Unified Device Theory

Shares in Handspring and Palm had a brief resurgence following the announcement of the Handspring Treo , an entrant in what could be called the "grand unified mobile device" market.

The Treo, unfortunately, isn't the answer. Yes, it combines the functions of a PDA, a phone and wireless modem in a single package. But it's designed around cellular networks (specifically Europe's GSM networks) and the modem runs at just 9.6 Kbps. Even its planned software-upgrade to the GPRS standard would mean throughput of just 28.8 Kbps.

The Treo points out the real problem in this market. It's not just a question of fitting disparate devices into one package. It's also a question of dealing with a number of wireless services at different frequencies.

The Treo solves the problem with an internal phone-modem running at one set of frequencies, but that doesn't help someone whose paging service is on one frequency, whose phone service is, say, on a PCS frequency, and who wants to walk past an 802.11 network to get wireless broadband. These problems can only be handled with a swappable device connector, and in that case you need a place to keep the modules you're not using.

Still, this is a good attempt at creating a GUD (Grand Unified Device) thing, and there will be more. It's proof that people are still thinking, still working, and still moving toward the future. Which, at a time when America is freaking out over a bug that can be killed with penicillin, is very good news indeed.

The Wonder of Anti-Trust Law

Despite the claimed conservatism of the current Administration, anti-trust law is moving, like the Starship Enterprise, boldly where no one has gone before.

The recent judicial assault on the recording industry, which we reported on last week, is heavily based on anti-trust law . U.S. anti-trust law is based on two statutes from the turn of the last century act, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Clayton Act .

Now the credit card industry is facing pressure from those same laws. First, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Visa and MasterCard must let banks offer other types of plastic (like Discover cards or American Express cards), on anti-trust grounds . Then an appeals court panel ruled that the bank card associations can't force merchants which take credit cards to also take debit cards with onorous charges set by the banks. (This is a version of the Microsoft case - a monopoly on credit is extended into a monopoly on debit, at prices controlled by the monopolist.)

The Judiciary is the most infuriating branch of government to those who would seize power the people haven't given, or who would turn the temporary choice of the people into permanent advantage. It's the most undemocratic branch of government, yet sometimes it comes up with the most democratic decisions, protecting power balances that seem about the crumble.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in (even if it doesn't work) is MSNBC's attempt to have its news coverage understood in the Arab world through GN4 . It's the first US group to join the BBC in translations of its site into Arabic. Such sites don't reach the Arab masses, just the Arab classes, but those classes are the first key to progress in the propaganda war.

Clueless are the PR people at MSN , who manipulate numbers annually in order to tell lies to the press. They're not fooling anyone.

A-Clue.Com is a free email publication, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as number TXu 888-819. We're on the Web at http://www.a-clue.com.