Monday June 30
Ranting for W.
Say it ain't so, Dennis. Miller Emerges as New Voice for Bush Re-Election.
Dennis Miller -- who made the rant an institution on HBO -- doing personal stand-up routines at fundraisers for President Bush? Jean-Paul Sartre once quipped that we all get more conservative as we get older, but this is way over the top. Reuters reports that Miller is "gaining a reputation as a conservative comic by attacking Democrats with biting humor." I loved Miller for his hawkish views on terrorism and the Iraq War, which mirror my own, but the depth of this guy's compassion is measured in millimeters. It's hardly a badge of honor to be an emerging hero to the conservative movement, extolled by the National Review. Of course, that's just his opinion, and he could be wrong!!!
Business Methods Run Wild
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office recently granted a patent to NetFlix for their online DVD ordering system. [NYTimes.com]. Now, I am a long-time NetFlix customer, but this indicates there's a real problem in our patent system with the increasing issuance of so-called "business method patents." Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry write in Real Time for the Wall Street Journal that
Hear, hear!! It was bad enough with Amazon's "one-click" patent, but now we've got insurance patents, order-processing patents and other patents for what are not inventions, but just ideas. Of course ideas are creative and deserve protection, but they should not be patentable. The difference is that copyright and trademark permit others to use creative ideas -- within limits -- to make better works, but patents are exclusive. It's a difference of kind, and a crucial distinction between things that people actually build and things that they just dream of. Dreams are wonderful fantasies, as are business methods patents.
Friday June 27
Ich bin ein Berliner
"All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner."
Yesterday marked 40 years since Pres. John F. Kennedy's famous speech at the Rudolph Wilde Platz in West Berlin, in which he declared before 500,00 people that "all free men" are Berliners. Kennedy's speech was an emotional high point of U.S. support during the Cold War with its ringing defense of freedom after communist East Germany built the Berlin Wall less than two years earlier. Jubilant crowds lined the streets and people tore up telephone books to shower him with confetti during a 33-mile tour through the city in an open convertible. Political times have changed since then, but the boldness, vision and humanity of that legendary old Cold Warrior can still stir one's heart.
At the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, the most famous excerpt of Kennedy's speech is displayed on a television monitor, and there is a copy of the piece of paper JFK held in his hand when delivering his speech, complete with the lines "Ich bin ein Berliner" and "Let them come to Berlin" scrawled in his own hand-writing. Herman Schafer, a custodian at the museum, says the document still elicits a deep response today. Sadly, 40 years after Kennedy made his famous declaration of solidarity with West Berliners on June 26, nobody expects U.S. President George W. Bush to ride through the German capital in an open-topped limousine cheered on by flower-throwing crowds. Yes, the times certainly have changed.
Thursday June 26
Who You Gonna Sue?
Wired News: Are You in RIAA's Cross Hairs? That's the question of the day, as the recording industry says it will start investigating individual Internet users who offer "substantial" amounts of music online over peer-to-peer networks then file "hundreds" of copyright infringement lawsuits beginning in August. Scare tactics, for sure. But they just may work. More than 70% of P2P users are "free riders" who share no files, and the system would break down if everyone just downloaded and blocked uploads. That's the RIAA game plan.
Open Letter to Ted Leonsis
I ranted in April about the stupidity of the Washington Capitals' consideration of trading superstar Jaromir Jagr. I ended then by saying "Ted Leonsis, listen up! You want fans to pack MCI Center, get a good team, a consistently winning team. Don't send players away and go with two-bit has beens and unproven rookies." What follows is a verbatim e-mail exchange between myself and Caps majority owner Ted Leonsis from yesterday -- following news reports that the Caps are trying to trade Jagr to the New York Rangers -- in which he offers a rather opaque, and completely unenlightening, response.
Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2003 3:07 PM
To: Ted Leonsis (email@example.com)
Cc: Lourdes S. Manishin
Subject: Are You Nuts? (Jagr Talks Continue With the Rangers (washingtonpost.com))
I've been a season ticket holder for several years (Section 111/Row G). Honestly, however, you've got to be a fool even to consider trading Jaromir Jagr. He's the only thing fun to watch on this team, the only player with any real talent and, as far as I am concerned, the only reason to come see the Caps.
I know it's only $9 grand or so, but you will lose my business if you trade Jags.
P.S. This blog's for you. http://www.manishin.com/blog/archives/000043.html
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2003 9:08 AM
To: Glenn Manishin
Subject: Re: Are You Nuts? (Jagr Talks Continue With the Rangers (washingtonpost.com))
Ok. Understood. Ted
Ted, the press has glorified you as the most responsive owner in the NHL, crafting personal responses to fans' e-mails. That's all you have to say on the most significant issue facing your franchise? Very dissapointing.
Wednesday June 25
Pope Moves Against Hackers [abcNews.com]. Pope John Paul II's Web site is attacked by some 10,000 viruses a month and at least 30, mainly American (and teenage), hackers every day. Now the Vatican has hired a team of cybersecurity experts to defend against network intrusions. Seems than omniscience and divine perfection are not enough when it comes to cybersecurity today.
Tuesday June 24
Most of us, myself included, dread commuting in today's traffic environment, especially in regions like my own Washington, DC, which has the third-worst highway congestion in the nation. Buddha on the Road [washingtonpost.com] Perhaps we can all learn to chill out. We've done it in our lives in general, so maybe de-stressing drive time is a good idea.
Well, I don't know if I would go that far!!
Monday June 23
A Defiant Sharon
Israeli PM Ariel Sharon reversed his pledge and is now exhorting Israellis to build new settlements in the occupied territories. I asked just one month ago whether Sharon's acceptance of the US "Roadmap" and denouncement of Israeli "occupation"of the West Bank signaled a new perspective on peace in the Middle East. It took just the blink of an eye -- and a dozen more Palestinian suicide bombers -- for an answer to arrive.
Saturday June 21
The Sound of Stolen Thunder
Real CEO Rob Glaser says that the company's Rhapsody streaming music service -- which it acquired with its purchase of Listen.com -- competes with Apple's iTune because "anyone can burn any song to a CD for 49 cents." But that's like saying that you can listen so long as you stay wedded to your CD player, when the whole point of digital music is bringing it with you on your digital device. Sorry, Rob, you just don't get it. Rhapsody is still advertised as "The Internet's Best Radio" because that's all streaming music really amounts to. Until you let people buy music and treat it like what it is, namely something they own, you aren't going anywhere.
Friday June 20
Can Spam Act
The Senate Commerce Committee has passed a "tough" anti-spam bill, reports MSNBC. But this Cox-Wyden-Burns measure would only require accurate headers and opt-in -- nearly all spam messages already say you "asked" to be on their list -- but would also preempt all state remedies against spammers. Meaning there's no way to go after these folks. It's a little bit of nothing on spam and a lot of political spin. But that's Washington.
Thursday June 19
Tilting At P2P Windmills
Having won its case forcing Verizon to reveal the names of ISP customers, the RIAA has now sent "cease and desist" letters to five people it says are unlawfully offering copyrighted music via peer-to-peer Internet technologies. [MTV.com]
Hey, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Even MPAA, the movie industry association, has never sued individuals for taping broadcast television or DVDs. There's millions of P2P users on the Internet, and RIAA can't sue them all. What a wild goose chase they've embarked upon.
Update: Just a week after this post, RIIA announced it will starting bringing lawsuits against individuals for file sharing.
Al Gore is apparently mad at conservative talk show hosts and wants to start his own liberal television network. Gore, Enter Stage Left? This quip by Fox is a particularly good rejoinder:
Hey, bad enough that he's on Apple's Board of Directors. Now we're going to be bombarded with "Gore TV"? Not on my screen, Mister!
Wednesday June 18
The Moose Is Loose
Moose Resigns as Montgomery Police Chief [washingtonpost.com] During the Washington sniper crisis of October 2002, Charles Moose, Mongomery County police chief, became a media star with his daily press briefings, especially his coded communications to the snipers. Then the County ethics board nixed his contract to write a book, saying it is unethical for a public employee to "profit" individually from his official duties.
What a bunch of crap. These sorts of things have been going on for decades, from Vincent Bugliosi and the Tate-Labianca (Charles Manson) murders to Marcia Clark and the O.J. Simpson trial. It's a little different from "Son of Sam" laws, that confiscate royalties earned by convicted murders on books about their crimes. And the consequence here is that the public has lost a valued career officer. Bad result.
Tuesday June 17
Linus Back With Linux
When he left Scandavia to join Transmeta and its "Crusoe" moibile processor, lots of folks thought Linus Torvalds had lost the open source commitment and sold out to fortune, like Marc Andreesen of Mosaic/Netscape fame. But today Linus is back with Linux, joining the Open Source Development Lab in order to jump-start release of the next kernel of the Linux OS. [CNET News.com] (There's also a good profile of Liunus in this month's Wired.) Good to know that some of us retain our principles in this day of corporate mercenaries.
Monday June 16
A Whole Other World
Tiger's Aura Rapidly Fading. Tiger Woods finished the U.S. Open somewhere well back in the field, out of contention in 20th place or so. For the first time since Tiger won the PGA at Medinah in 1999, he is not entitled, not defending, not repeating. “When you’re playing great it’s a great game,” Woods said. “When you’re playing bad, it’s a whole other world out there.”
You can’t ignore the contrasts. During his run of four consecutive majors in 2000-01, Woods played the championships in a combined 65-under par. He has played his past two majors in 5-over. It's a whole new world out there!!
24 Hours of French
This weekend in France, Bentley won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in 73 years. Although only a few Americans watched television coverage of the race on Speed Channel, nearly half of the cars entered were from the United States. Coupled with renewed interest in the Tour de France after Lance Armstrong's record-setting performances of recent years, does this mean that Americans like to play with the French, but not watch them? Maybe it's just continued resentment from France's opposition to the War in Iraq, but you've got to wonder wether the drop in Parisian tourism is related to the abysmal TV ratings for these French sporting events -- where American athletes and teams shine.
Sunday June 15
Safire's A Closet Liberal
William Safire, New York Times op-ed columnist and erstwhile Nixon speechwriter, has weighed in against the recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to lift caps on media concentration in America. Regulate the FCC [NYTimes.com]. I don't think this really makes him a liberal -- more likely a libertarian -- but it once again illustrates the old maxim that politics makes strange bedfellows. Another example is the current alliance between New York Sen. Charles Schumer and the Christian Coalition on an anti-spam bill. A tangled Web indeed.
Friday June 13
Gagging the Bloggers
BBC News headlines its article "gagging the bloggers." One might think the story would center on the pedantic drivel of pre-teen bloggers and the cultural consequences of online therapy diaries. But the article is really about how blogging is the technology-empowered eiptome of personal expression, which has serious political and civil liberties consequences in many nations.
Power to the people. That is really what the Internet is all about.
Thursday June 12
With Peace Like This, Who Needs "War"
In just a week, a surge of bloodletting has plunged United States-led peacemaking efforts in the Middle East into turmoil. Meanwhile, post-war Iraq is proving to be every bit as violence-ridden as the war itself, with today's attack on a US Apache helicopter as a prime illustration. So if this is peace, what 's war?
Spreading Bernie's Slime
Several long-time exeuctives of MCI and WorldCom resigned yesterday after being singled out by Richard Thornburgh, appointed to investigate WorldCom's mega-collapse, for not ensuring directors paid closer attention when signing off on acquisitions and approving multi-millon dollar loans to former Chief Executive Bernard Ebbers. WorldCom Says General Counsel, Criticized in Report, Resigns [Bloomberg.com].
The funny thing is that the GC, Mike Salsbury, is someone I worked for long ago (15+ years). I won't comment on his reputation, but resigning in disgrace under the cloud of investigation in the world's largest corporate scandal is certainly not the way anyone wants to go. (Sure beats "the perp walk" though!!) Bernie lost his ranch and now faces possible indictment. How far will his slime spread? The only way to answer that question is to see how far the culuture he brought to WorldCom infected other high-ranking executives.
Straight Talk Express
During his presidential campaign in 2000, Sen. John McCain called his bus the "Straight Talk Express," so dubbed as an honorific to his reputation for political candor. Well, he's done it again in the Middle East, where Pres. Bush refuses to stop America's long-time practice of pressuring Israel to show "restraint" in the face of terrorist attacks.
As usual, McCain is a breath of fresh air in Washington, and now internationally.
Tuesday June 10
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Two notable deaths today. Spectacular Bid, the race horse whose drive to win the Triple Crown in 1979 was derailed by a safety pin on the day of the Belmont Stakes, and Donald Regan, Pres. Reagan's chief-of-staff, whose drive to help the "Contras" led to America's diverting funds generated from the illegal sale of weapons to Iran to support -- despite a congressional ban -- counter-revolutionaries in Nicaragua. One of them should have been shot. And it's not the one who got whipped when he won.
Monday June 9
The Cup Is In the House
Few (except me) gave the Anaheim Mighty Ducks a chance to win the NHL's Stanley Cup championship this season. But they can tonight in Game 7, and the finals have been a truly dramatic series.
Surprisingly, NHL Finals Near Dramatic End [NYTimes.com]. Not only is it one game take all, but there's some real emotion in this series after the thunderous (some say dirty) open-ice hit by New Jersey Devils' Scott Stevens on Anaheim star Paul Kariya in Saturday's game. As Devils' coach Pat Burns said, "Hate builds up" in these long series. Gotta love the hate!
iTunes Sharing Back?
iTunes Music Swap Just Won't Die [Wired News]. Apple disabled Internet sharing in iTunes 4.0.1. It only took a week for the hacks to appear, but they're out there already. The lesson is: never bet against technology! Meanwhile, the current rumor is that Apple will make a bid for Napster -- now owned by Roxio -- and its PressPlay affiliate. So will Apple continue to stick to the record labels' line on sharing or are they indicating a desire to set their own course?
Friday June 6
Wireless Number Portability is Coming After All
More than seven years after Congress passed the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, the federal courts have finally rebuffed efforts by the wireless industry to avoid implementing "local number portability." In layman's terrms, this means that consumers can now -- or will soon be able to -- switch wireless carriers and keep their telephone numbers. The basic argument by CTIA, the cellular industry trade association, was that the industry is too capital-constrained to implement LNP. According to Verizon Wireless, for instance
As far as I see it, though, it's the industry's own fault, since the price wars on airtime rates and continued subsidies on handsets have led to a cash flow problem of their own creation. More importantly, wireless is increasingly becoming a substitute for wireline POTS (plain old telephone service). So since wireline carriers have been required to provide LNP for years, there is no policy justification for exempting wireless carriers, especially since they want to compete for that same business. That's what the FCC ruled, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed. Common sense prevails. An unusual, but highly satisfying, legal outcome.
Thursday June 5
35 Years Since RFK
Today marks the 35-year anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. It is hard for me to believe that so much time has passed, as our country and its political landscape are quite dramatically different now than they were then. But the shock and horror of that night are still with me and the loss remains palpable. Politics in America has simply never been the same since RFK died.
Diving Miss Monica
Seems that in Iraq these days, the most popular vehicle is a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV, which the locals have nicknamed "Monicas," after Monica Lewinsky. [In Iraq, Its Moniker is Monica].
It is indeed tempting to say that this shows the reach of global mass culture. But where many Americans thought the Lewinsky affair was sleazy, Iraquis (or at least the men) see it differently. "We think Clinton was a very lucky man," said Hamid Mustafa, 55, a car trader in Irbil. Mustafa said he was baffled by the political crisis triggered by Bill Clinton's affair with the young intern.
Where Are the WMDs? (Reprise)
Newsweek's lead political story asks, finally, "Where are Iraq's WMDs?" Nowhere is the answer, so far. Bush says the weapons of mass destruction have been found, but all he's got is a few mobile labs without even residue in them. The intelligence community complains it was pressured, but the political bigwigs reply they just wanted "analysis" of the intelligence data. Probably a contradiction in terms. So the Pentagon's top policy adviser held a rare press briefing Wednesday to try to rebut accusations that senior civilian policy makers had politicized intelligence to fit their hawkish views on Iraq and to justify war on Saddam Hussein. Somebody's lying here.
Tuesday June 3
Apple Reverses Course on Internet Sharing
I have written before about how Apple's downloadable music service -- the "iTunes Music Store" -- is revolutionizing the lawful distribution of digital music. Part of the original iTunes service, just 30 days old, was the ability of the end user (the music "licensee") to share iTunes files over the Internet with other authorized computers. Now, in an almost hidden part of an update, Apple has discontinued the Internet sharing feature, igniting a storm of controversy. Apple iTunes Update Irritates Fans [BBCNews.com].
Personally, I don't think this is such a big deal, since the number of times I would want to share my music with another computer of mine -- say a laptop while traveling -- are almost non-existent. I can just bring along my iPod, which has all the same digital songs, anyway. But the criticisms and debate are raging on Apple's support Web site, and they're fun to watch.
In any event, chalk up another win for the RIAA and its record label members. The only reason for Apple to discontinue Internet sharing was pressure from RIAA. Yet since this form of "sharing" does NOT involve file transfers, but only listening to the music, it's hard to find a legitimate basis to oppose. Of course, that has never stopped Hillary in the past!!