For the Week of June 16, 2003
You can spin all you want, even put spin into statistics but the hard truth is business sucks.
It sucks across the board. The housing bubble has burst. A home on my street that had a "for sale" sign on it for months (the owner has gotten a job up north) now has a "for rent" sign on it, too. It joins two other rentals, renovated, which speculators expected to sell, but couldn't.
On sober reflection Supercomm was a bust. There was only one decent party , as the long distance market finally succumbed to the flat monthly rates of Internet telephony . There was a lot of foot traffic, but there were few buyers. Mostly Koreans sold to Africans or Latins, while the Americans threw rubber globe balls at each other.
Retailing is crawling and the sports business is imploding. Unemployment is rising and it's wildly under-reported. (Do I count? I should.) No matter what you put out, nothing comes back in, and the bills pile up. The 2001 Tax Cut produced less-than-nothing, and here comes more of the same.
We have gone through our Clinton Trust Funds and now we're hosing the dollar - Euros cost $1.18 at last report and were still rising. Everything that is being done is short-term stuff, smoke-and-mirrors. Martha Stewart is indicted, but Ken Lay and the rest are still at large. You really want to trust Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch? Their stocks are among the few that are rising.
Sometimes I think our nation's enemies gave us this Administration. I really do. Are they stupid, or just so incredibly greedy they don't know no rich man is safe when the middle class is being buggered and the poor are hungry.
Yet, if you're reading this in America, all this may be news, even sour grapes. That is what is most frightening. Want to see a media monopoly, go look at Blogstreet's "Most Important" list - it's dominated by the Blog-stapo (formerly known as the Warbloggers). Brown-shirt bullying is what passes for commentary these days, and if you're not in on it you're on the street.
This is how empires fall. They rot from within. And this one is rotting in Internet time. Look at China, look at India, now even Ghana is eating our cheese . How much more do you have to take before you wake up and smell the fascism?
This letter started talking about Internet Commerce. It's real, it's efficient, and I found a great site just last week . I have written extensively about the Copyright Wars, and a long, long boycott by music buyers still hasn't forced the record companies to yield an inch (it seems). (Putting your market in jail won't make me buy.) I have written a lot about Moore's Law, but while Moore is an American progress can go merrily on without us - Koreans have better broadband than we do.
What keeps the future at bay is both the government and our distrust of it. If we can collect more information about our own lives, we can process it, make use of it, and make our lives easy in a World of Always-On Broadband. But if the cops aren't controlled, or we fear "Big Brother" abusing that data, we won't opt-in.
Real progress demands real opt-in. We're pretending to believe in this government, but we don't really trust it (nor should we). Without real opt-in, opt-in that we control, all the benefits of Internet Commerce, of Moore's Law, and of Always-On will elude us, because there will be no data to process.
Without real technology progress, economic progress is a zero-sum game. If our economy were growing rapidly Bush and his buddies could grab with both hands, and there would frankly be no complaint. But they have made it a zero-sum game, and thus their policy of Class Warfare is an explosion waiting to happen.
The Capra movie "Meet John Doe" speaks loudly to our time. As Filmsite's review notes, "The dangers of a complacent nation (with hunger amidst a land of plenty) being manipulated and taken over by Fascist forces...are countered in the film by the actions of the ordinary 'little man.'" Audiences rejected an ending in which Gary Cooper (John Doe) actually did commit suicide, in favor of one where James Gleason (the cynical editor) sticks his thumb out at Edward Arnold (the Fascist press baron) and barks, "The people. Try and beat that."
America has always corrected its excesses. America's genius is it has always thrown-over those who seized power the people had not willingly given. America has always surprised the powerful, balancing capitalism with democracy, an inherent inequality of result with a myth of opportunity for all. That balance is threatened today, Michael Kinsley writes, as never before.
It's a pity Kinsley knows so little history. Because this was just how the 19th century ended, how the 20th Century dawned. McKinley and the Trusts who backed him were re-elected, Bryan left in their dust, and the one Republican who might have challenged their order was safely shut-off in a safe location, the Vice Presidency. Then came Leo Czolgosz
I predict nothing. But something will happen to change the present trends. Americans will not forever watch their futures stolen by Indians, Chinese, and Ghanaians who have the hunger, the brains, and the freedom to compete they lack. The current "War on Terror" is like a series of Spanish-American conflicts. The dynamic will change.
But your help is needed. Every generation is called to great work, to hard work, to protect democracy, to fight for their children's liberty, and to redress the political balance. You are being called, right now. You can stand with those whom Mencken dubbed "Americanists" or you can stand up to the bullies and take your country back. The 2004 election cycle is hotter than any cycle has been before, more than 16 months from the balloting. This is true for good reason.
The choice is yours, and history is in the balance.
SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)
We have a winner. "The Blankenhorn Effect" has won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards.
"Dana, it is GOOD," raves Pete duPont, lawyer, futurist and once a candidate for President. "This is some really powerful 'stuff.' I think you've got a winner," says Drew Kaplan of DAK Catalog fame. One result is I have begun working on a follow-up book, describing the future direction of technology, to be called "The World Of Always On." Buy "The Blankenhorn Effect" at Amazon.Com , or at least say nice things. You can use the ASIN number, 1553953673, and recommend it to readers of other, similar books. You can also save on shipping when you buy the book at Amazon, over the cost of buying it elsewhere.
If you can convince some more published reviewers to read "The Blankenhorn Effect" and recommend it to their readers, please send me a name and address. In exchange, you'll get the PDF version of my second book, The Blankenhorn Effect: Boom, Bust & Beyond. This is a collection of columns from a-clue.com, organized chronologically and by subject, with additional commentary from yours truly.
I have written recently for BtoB Boardroom and Mobile Radio Technology . You can follow the continuing story of "The Blankenhorn Effect" on my "Moore's Lore" blog . (Get my old ClickZ columns here
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Takes on the News
If you are over 30 your memory banks dimly remember the movie "Tron." The "plot" involved a "Master Control Program" that ruled cyberspace in the name of one executive, and a junior programmer's attempt (ultimately successful) to take control back on behalf of "the users."
There is no single MCP, but on-demand computing will create mini-MCPs that will take control of hunks of power for narrowly defined jobs. C|Net gives it a 6 on the "hype meter," with IBM , H-P and Sun all pushing the concept. HP's solution originally included Microsoft software elements, but more recent pages push this as Unix.
Ultimately this is an attempt by mainframe and Unix vendors to "get on top" of the top end of computing, and keep Microsoft below them on the computing food chain. Ever since massive parallelism and distributed computing systems like SET@Home proved that faster computing doesn't depend entirely on Moore's Law and faster chips, big business has been looking for a way to harness this power. (So, for that matter, have various start-ups )
What is missing? Successful implementations, white papers and case studies describing how Company X solved Problem Y with System Z. I have yet to see any. And this may be telling. IBM's solution for the U.S. Weather Service "hurricane hunting" system - a perfect on-demand application - is a $200 million piece of hardware.
Big Difference Between Public, Private Sectors
The new National Cyber Security Alliance, one of these "public-private partnerships" dedicated to "solving big problems," has a big alert out saying most broadband users (like me) don't adequately protect their systems.
This is true, but this is not a problem. This is, in fact, a huge market opportunity. We have written about it before. Protection must be built-in, it must be automatic, it must be the default. And the way you get it is by combining the functions of a router, DSL (or cable) modem, a firewall, in one Linux-based box. (It's based on Linux because Linux is multi-user and free.)
This box (whatever in, 802.11 out) is sold to identified home networking prospects. It's expandable, and enables the whole World of Always On. It should be easy to update, automatically, as part of your network connection charge.
One man's problem is another man's opportunity. When the first man works for the government it is easy to be misled.
Trying Not To Pay The Blackmailer
Caldera was a failed Linux distributor that came up with a "cunning plan."
The plan, as we all know now, was to claim control of all Unix technology, based on the purchase of Novell's old UnixWare business, then sue the hell out of Linux until IBM bought them out.
IBM is trying very hard not to pay the blackmailer because it sees this tactic as what it is, blackmail. Even if IBM bought SCO (as it's now called), dropped the lawsuit, and discredited the case, everyone in the Unix business would get the Clue that riches are there if you can find a line of Linux that came from somewhere in the "licensed software" business.
Cut through the crap and what you find is the continuation of a Cold War between IBM and Microsoft, in which smaller companies (Novell, SCO) are used as pawns in the larger game. IBM's refusal to pay the blackmailer could turn this into its Vietnam. What it needs to do instead is create Microsoft's Afghanistan.
Clued-in is the way Apple is selling independent labels on its iTunes service . Anyone can be a label, just as anyone can be a publisher.
Clueless is Sony's self-deception , confusing a demand for flat screens with a capitulation by consumers in the copyright wars.
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