For the Week of July 10, 2006
The Internet is a worldwide network.
This has been one of the great blessings of my career. From the first year I began covering this medium, in 1985, I found friends far away. First they came from the old Electronic Networking Association. Later they came through Newsybtes, which grew to a 12-city worldwide reporting crew before I was kicked out in 1994.
Even in the 1990s, the number of overseas friends I had grew. Many of the initial subscribers to this letter were from outside the U.S. I had electronic relationships with folks from India, South Africa, Pakistan, Australia, Russia, the UK, Germany, and Japan, to name only a few. I treasured these relationships. I still do.
During this decade I have seen it all wither away. Some of this was inevitable. I'll make an analogy to my hometown of Atlanta. When I first came here I thought nothing of going across town to eat. Now the city is three times bigger, and I seldom go more than a few miles from home. What I needed elsewhere is now here - why bother?
As the Internet has developed in more-and-more local markets, more-and-more people have found they can get everything they need from it locally. Chinese users don't often travel by modem outside China, partly due to government restrictions, but also due to language differences and the fact they can get everything they need from the Chinese Internet. The same is true in other markets, certainly in all non-English speaking markets.
The folkways of those local markets differ greatly. In Korea it's all about bandwidth-hogging applications, made possible by its advanced infrastructure. In India it's all about mobile. Europeans fret about EU policy and seldom reach outside it. There's little I can say about any of these markets, because I don't experience those local conditions.
But I also think we're seeing the result of America's deliberate isolation from the world. Since 9-11, Americans have become increasingly insular. They have been encouraged in this by a xenophobic government. The falling dollar has helped as well. We're scared of the world, and frankly the world is scared of us.
My kids have been fortunate. They've gotten out a bit. Both have been to Costa Rica, my daughter has gone to England and Belize. Most recently my 15 year old son went to Morocco. He reports that Moroccans think of America, not as a free country, but as a "Christian" country. This is a massive sea change in what had been the friendliest place in the Muslim world to American interests, and I think this feeling is probably general.
America has become a Christian nation under George W. Bush. More Americans would elect a gay man President than an admitted atheist. We wear our own secular religiosity on our sleeves, and see the whole world through that prism.
America has also become a more nationalistic nation. We don't see Latin America, barely see Europe, we feel threatened by Asia so we stay at home and wave our little flags, drive our fat SUVs, and wonder how many bombs it will take to make it all go away. One idiot at my local newspaper actually suggested bombing Mexico City to stop immigration. It's like Randy Newman's old song Political Science. "Let's drop the big one and see what happens."
Thus U.S. media - even U.S. Internet media - find it easy to dehumanize foreigners, and people outside the U.S. find it easy to demonize (which is another form of dehumanization) Americans. All Americans. Even those Americans who (like me) don't like the present direction of the country any more than they do.
It will take a major crisis to end this isolation, one in which many Americans suffer in many ways. I am convinced that this is coming. Recent flooding in the Northeast, droughts and fires in the West, and early hurricane conditions in the Southeast are just a taste of what's to come.
But the "big one" is a slow wave that is just starting. The rate on 30-year mortgages has finally passed 6 3/4%. That's high enough to turn real estate prices in Florida decidedly south. Foreclosure rates are rising, too. This means the "inventory" of available housing is moving up. One developer in South Florida said just on CNBC recently "there's a 12 month supply" that has to be soaked up, and rising interest rates make that process longer.
He doesn't know the half of it. The mortgage cascade that has just begun is going to roll nationwide. It's going to hit the American economy like a ton of bricks, because it's the only thing holding us up.
As that wave hits, the value of our currency will decline further. We'll be unable to import as we have. This will hit China hard. Even if they can keep things together over there, the loss of export markets means a recession, and instability there.
Most of the horrors of the next few years will come over America, however. Europe may actually see energy price declines, much of Africa's debt will magically disappear with the falling dollar, and Latin America will have a huge opportunity to find its place in the Sun.
We wanted to make it all about us. Well, now it is. See how we like it.
And if you don't live in the U.S., I miss y'all. Write.
I have made a big decision. I have moved my main blog, formerly called Mooreslore, to danablankenhorn.com under the name Dana Blankenhorn. (Hey, that's MY name.) The blog is written in Typepad and is also available at 200billionscandal.typepad.com
I'm continuing to produce a special blog on Open Sourcefor ZDNet. I am pleased to say it has grown into a real money-maker. I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for Voic.Us, which aims to become a political "super-site" and offer mobile marketing services. Please visit that blog as well.
You are encouraged to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...
Best of the Week
It's so misunderstood that allies can't recognize one another.
Google is a good company but a very speculative stock. It may pay off, but there are real risks.
The point is that Cole is asking the right questions, as is Kos, and being vilified for even asking.
In the generational path of Thesis, Anti-Thesis, Excess and Crisis, the most tempting and dumbest thing a politician can do is try and address a new Crisis with the old Anti-Thesis.
By having the FCC expand the "Universal Service Fee" and impose it on Voice Over IP, the Bells gain new subsidies without any obligation to be fair to their competitors.
Most users spend most of their time looking at, reacting to, or creating work for or with other users. The Internet is a client-client network, without hierarchy.
Not only would it be the right thing to do, it would be great political jiu jitsu on the Bells, which have gamed the system during the Bush years to create the first subsidized, unregulated monopoly in the American economy in 100 years.
Probably Jim Webb.
Every generational change in American politics has come heralded by immense, frightening changes.
Near the end of every period of excess, in American political history, figures associated with the old regime flip. They turn on their old ideas and embrace new ones.
The two richest Americans joined forces to condemn the "me-first" trend of the Bush Era and to embrace the idea of working together on behalf of a common good.
Great change emerges from great crises. These crises scar generations, and inform politics through smaller crises. Finally problems emerge that the past generation has no answer for, and a new crisis emerges.
Refereeing a football match well is as hard as playing in one.
Current copyright law goes too far.
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in is Simon Phipps , who demonstrated to me this week just how the open source economic process works.
Clueless are Ted Stevens and Senate Republicans, who are treating the Internet as though it's 1908.
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.