by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume VIII, No. XLVIII

This Week's Clue: Getting Over It

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This Week's Clue: Getting Over It
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
The Carrier Is The Cellular Dog
The Carrier Is The Cellular Dog
Clued-in, Clueless

Dana Recommends The Blankenhorn Effect offers a powerful, positive message for our time. Once you understand how Moore's Law impacts every part of your life, how powerful it is, and how irresistible a force it truly is, you will have the power to predict the future and know how to change it. Buy it today, and make 2004 a better year for yourself, your business, and your family.


For the Week of November 29, 2004

Losing an election is like losing a loved one. It's like losing yourself, in a way, losing a possible future and seeing another, bleaker vista open before you.

Acceptance lies at the end of the road and, slowly, I'm coming to that. Not that I believe George W. Bush won re-election legitimately. The maze of local election laws, their easy manipulation, and (especially) the large number of electronic voting systems out there without paper audit trails means he can't really prove he won. Nor could anyone.

The American administration today is no more legitimate than that of, say, Kyrgyzstan. It is not up to opponents to prove cheating. It's up to those who claim a mandate to prove it exists. Under the present system, they can't.

It would have been simple for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, for instance, to manipulate totals around his state, starting in the early afternoon, to turn a loss to John Kerry into a win. It would have been easy for Republican election officials in red states the President had already won to similarly manipulate totals, creating a popular victory that shut up critics. Is it really possible that Bush won 67% of the vote in Georgia, a state where 32% of the voters were African-American? Really? And Bush can't prove he did - there's no audit trail.

But, as I said, enough. America must deal with the consequences, and liberals, secularists must deal with the consequences.

If we believe we were right, and we were, then America is in for a very rough four years. We're already seeing higher inflation, higher interest rates, and a dollar that buys less in foreign currency. Why hasn't that turned into a run? Only the kindness of strangers, fear of America's military, and a general leeriness of instability has done that. But bubbles, like balloons, don't have to pop - they can merely leak slowly. The result is the same, both empty.

What is there to hold up the dollar today? Higher interest rates mean lower housing values, more bankruptcies, a collapse of the houses called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Both have trillions of dollars in loans out, government-guaranteed, meaning that when those loans go bust, the difference between what they can get for a property and the loan value comes out of the government.

And we're already broke, with record annual deficits, and a deficit clock spinning like a top. A reserve currency can't act like that. Prudent investors will diversify - they're already doing that - and a slow leak can quickly become a rupture.

Here's another question. Which people are more essential to American prosperity, red staters or blue? It's a trick question, both are, but those with a blue state of mind (wherever they live) are more likely to be highly educated, more likely to have technical skills, and far more likely to create something new than those with less knowledge.

Markets stand at the apex of a fulcrum, balancing supply and demand. When one side rushes out of any market - an equity market, a real estate market, a currency market, a labor market - large price swings result. Already the foreign students our universities depend on for indentured servitude are abandoning America for more welcoming climates. As the value of the Euro and the Yen rise, our top people in every field become more affordable, and these are the people around whom great departments, and great discoveries, are built.

Sure, a cheap dollar means cheap labor, and cheap goods. But what goods does America really produce today? The chips are Chinese, the fabrics Malaysian, our steel comes from scrap and our oil is Arabian. What we have is cash, which can quickly become worthless in our hands, and intellectual capital, which can easily be drained away.

You can't keep the American dream going on housing and retail. Most of what we do here is pushing dollars we made long ago, robbing Peter to pay Paul. The trade figures don't lie, and when no one is willing to finance those figures the bill comes due.

With an arrogant Administration dedicated to bullying the world, the bills are coming due. With an arrogant majority dedicated to bullying intellectuals, the bills are coming due.

America's days as the great power are ending. America's next depression won't be shared by the world. Don't cry for me California.

See, I'm over it. Washington must now prove me wrong, if it can.

Meanwhile there is work to be done. There are local fights to fight, there are local battles to be joined. Not just defensive wars, but offensive wars, against polluters, against religions corrupted by government money, against censorship and bigotry.

People ask, why is America the most religious nation in the West, why do we believe the nonsense we believe? It's because of the First Amendment. It's because we haven't been forced to believe, through indoctrination in lies like "intelligent design," or "abstinence education." The social help we need to get by hasn't come with a religious test, until now. But when "faith-based" groups, when religions, use the taxpayer's money, they compel the poor to support their God or starve. And then they call this "religious liberty."

When a church gains the power of the state it loses all its holiness, all of it. Every church in the history of the world that has gained temporal power has set as the first item on its agenda the suppression of unbelief, or of different beliefs. That's why the Founding Fathers created the First Amendment, to protect against states like Connecticut, Maryland, or Virginia imposing their own religions on everyone else, whether Congregationalism, Catholicism or Anglicanism.

Break through that protection and every religious leader, large or small, who goes through that door is corrupted, and eventually destroyed. No one with intelligence believes what they're forced to believe.

There's a reason why Mexican priests can't wear their collars in public. It was the participation of the Catholic Church in the oppression of the people, over centuries, which wasn't broken until the 20th century, and then at great, great cost to the church.

Maybe, when again we gain power, we secularists will be forced to impose such a regime on our Ayatollahs. Until then, friends, we go to the barricades. There will be many casualties - rights lost, women abused, ideas suppressed - but each one will be a seed planted on fertile ground.

And when the American people wake up from this nightmare of religious bigotry, Argentine fascism and worldwide militarism, anyone who supported it, in any way, will be forever banished. For every action there is an equal and an opposite reaction. We tried being nice. It will go harder on you now.

Many blue staters can leave, other nations will want us to drive their economies forward. There will be a diaspora, and maybe for a time America, in the form of her ideas living in action, will live elsewhere. But America will come back, because it's the ideas that built America, not the resources, not the banks, not the leaders, no one man's God.

This is as certain as the rapid evolution of a flu virus, as the slower evolution of wolf into poodle, as certain as evolution itself.

I have no fear of being wrong. Others will have to fear the consequences of having won a pyrrhic victory, against the American revolution, and the enlightenment.

I have not yet begun to fight. Give me liberty or give me death.


Shameless Self-Promotion

In partnership with ZDNet, I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source . Watch for it.

I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout , a new kind of marketplace for cellular data services.

My last book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards . Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking." And on my Mooreslore blog I've begun a new novel, "The Chinese Century." Let me know what you think of it.

You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...


Takes on the News


Russell Beattie is one of the bright ones. But even he can lose the plot, as in a recent item on what he calls Communicontent.

The idea is that through blogging ordinary communication becomes content. I know this is true because this newsletter has been losing readers ever since I started blogging. It's not just that readers prefer getting my thoughts through the blog instead of e-mail (although, with all the spam filters you folks have, with silly names like "Friends" network, that's part of it). . It's that the one-week lag between my writing and your reading is eliminated by blogging. You're not just an audience on a blog, you're practically reading over my shoulder as I type.

But this is old news.

The true revolution happens when new types of data, and programs, become invisible to you. That's really what Always-On is all about.

Let's look at one example.

You buy a shirt that monitors your heart function, and its software tells your doctor, or an ambulance, when to be worried about it. Or the same shirt can tell your coach how you really did during today's workout, so your training regimen is modified and you're certain to run your best race at the Olympic trials. (And let's not forget to add sweat analysis to those shirts, not just to detect drugs but to tell your doctor that you're at your best.)

We've had software that analyzes cardio data for years. We've had sensors that picked up and analyzed salts. Wireless networking is no big deal. But until now this could only be dealt with by a specialist, by appointment -- it was called a "stress test." Now it can be a constant in your life, mountains of data constantly analyzed, the output being slight changes in lifestyle to gain peak performance or just keep the old jalopy running a little longer.

That's a medical application of Always-On. Let's look at a home automation application.

Sensors in the wall monitor, not just the temperature and humidity of ythe air in various rooms, but the level of contaminants. The results go into turning heaters, humidifiers, and filters on-and-off, to maximize air quality and minimize your fuel costs.

We've had thermostats a long, long time. Anyone whose kid has ever suffered through a bad cold has had a humidifier. (The simplest one is a pan of water on the heating grate.) Air filters are on every car.

But now, through data, we're making these things intelligent. More important, we're putting everything -- the intelligence, and the action taken as a result -- into the background.

You'll think no more about this application than you will about whether the yogurt in your refrigerator is cold. And that's another Always-On application -- tracking the fridge so you know what you have, and whether it's spoiled, before you try and cook with it. It's nice to have a picture of what's inside before you open the door (which some experimental models offer), but it's something else entirely to have a date-stamped inventory interfaced with your recipe file to spit out what you can make tonight. That's now possible.

What I mean when I talk about a wireless network as a platform is that you buy it for one type of application, and then you have everything you need on which to build another type of application, then another, then another.

But most of these applications have nothing to do with media, or content. They're all in the background. They're practically invisible.

The point is that, with a little bit of tweaking, simply by defining a new platform, they're all affordable.

So what do we call this? InvisibleContent?


The Carrier Is The Cellular Dog

The phones have always been the tail in the mobile phone game. The carriers are the dog.

If carriers don't let your phone on their network, you don't have a business. I had a tail-less dog as a kid so I know what I'm talking about concerning dogs and tails.

Already, in the U.S., I've heard reports of carriers demanding crippled features on phones -- cameras whose pictures can only be moved off the phone on the carrier's expensive network.

So it was inevitable that the carriers would take the last piece of the tail's independence away - the branding.

Vodafone has been the leader in this, demanding its own brand on phone, not manufacturers', as part of its Vodafone Live service. And you should also note here that Vodafone owns about 45% of Verizon Wireless in the U.S.

The Feature had a piece on this recently, focusing on issues of customization. And the Business Week story, linked to above, is all about how this new aggressiveness on the part of Vodafone has benefitted Asian suppliers, who were more willing to deal.

But there's something more to it than that. It's about control.

If a carrier determines what devices live in its network, and what can be done with data on its network, and even what data lives on its network, can it ever sell "Internet" service? Something tells me the Internet needs to protect its trademark before it's stolen by private networks.

One more point. If the carrier controls everything, and falls down on the job (such as customer service) customers have no recourse. And carriers have been falling down on training, on upgrades, on simple customer satisfaction. Why not let in third parties then?

Everyone Mesh Together

The physics folks at UT-Dallas have won nearly $1 million to study the idea of making every radio part of a giant "mesh network."

The idea is that mobile phones and laptops could act as relay points for other users' transmissions, creating what the physicists call "cooperative wireless networks" but which might best be termed a "giant mesh."

We've seen just the start of the mesh evolution. That's why Motorola has bought Mesh Networks , whose work until now has been restricted to "Homeland Security" applications. Antennas meant to allow 802.11 signals to bounce along from subscriber to central server have been around for several years now, although they have yet to gain market traction.

I personally think that a mesh network based on cognitive radios would be perfect for individual Always-On networks in the home, allowing the size and shape of the network to be tailored to fit the space. (A round peg can be made to fit a square hole.)

The ultimate result, of course, is to make all wired networks obsolete, except for major fiber backhauls.


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is British Home Secretary David Blunkitt , who cleverly changed the tone of privacy debate in England by comparing passports to supermarket loyalty cards.

Clueless would be SBC buying Yahoo, my speculation to the contrary notwithstanding.


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