Archive for January, 2006

The Rule Of Three

January 31, 2006

If this story pans out, it will be very, very good news for everybody who isn’t working for a cable or telco monopoly:

Seeking to keep pace with peers in the telecom and cable TV industries, DirecTV is building a network to offer its own wireless broadband services to consumers, according to two people familiar with the deal. These people say that DirecTV is working with EchoStar and seeking final bids from tower companies in a push to put the network together.

I’d love to see this happen. The more players in the broadband market, the better. Right now, most Americans are stuck with the no-choice of high-priced cable modem service from their local cable TV monopoly, or high-priced DSL service from one of the Bell monopolies. As a result, broadband pricing and service in the US has scarcely changed since it was first introduced in the late ’90’s; I’m paying the same monthly rate now that I paid in 1999, even as other telecommunications rates have plummeted. Two matched monopolies don’t have any incentive to cut prices, but add another independent player, and the rule of three kicks in.

Widely availabe high-speed wireless service would throw a monkey wrench into that comfortable (for the duopoly) setup, giving broadband from cable and the Bells the same deserved kick in the teeth that satellite television delivered to cable TV in the 1990’s.

I cut off BellSouth’s overpriced landline service over two years ago, which thanks to BS’s monopolist no-dry-line policy, means I’m stuck with cable modem “service” for broadband. Give me an excuse to cut that last cord, and I’ll be gone like a shot.

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The DNC’s Year Of The Long Knives?

January 31, 2006

Remember yesterday’s Drudge blurb about DNC fundraising?

Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are privately bristling over Howard Dean?s management of the Democratic National Committee and have made those sentiments clear after new fundraising numbers showed he has spent nearly all the committee?s cash and has little left to support their efforts to gain seats this cycle, ROLL CALL reports.

Congressional leaders were furious last week when they learned the DNC has just $5.5 million in the bank, compared to the Republican National Committee?s $34 million.

Senate and House Minority Leaders Harry Reid (Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), along with the Senate and House campaign committee chairmen Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), have made their concerns — directly or indirectly — known to Dean, claims the paper.

Emanuel was particularly upset last week upon seeing the latest DNC numbers.

Well, now. Like Paul Harvey says, wait ’til you hear the rest of the story. Check out this bit from “The Prowler” at the American Spectator’s site (second item):

According to knowledgeable DNC sources, Dean about ten days ago was shown opposition research documents generated by the Republican National Committee more than three years ago, which laid out facts regarding Reid and his family’s lobbying and ethical conflicts.

Dean, according to the sources, was fascinated by the details, and asked that his staff research and independently confirm everything on the documents. “Basically he oppo’d a member of his own party,” says a DNC source loyal to Dean.

“Basically, we were looking at three- or four-page documents that made Jack Abramoff’s lobbying work look like that of a rank amateur,” says the DNC source. “Between the minority leader’s past in Nevada and here in Washington, and the activities of his sons and son-in-law, there probably isn’t anyone in this town with more conflicts. The Reid family is the symbol of what’s wrong with Washington; it’s their behavior that enabled the culture that spawned people like Abramoff.”

Dean then went public over the weekend, saying that Democrats with an Abramoff problem would be in trouble, not only with voters, but with the Democrat Party. But why attack a senior member of his own party?

According to Democrat Party watchers and DNC staff, Dean has grown increasingly frustrated at how he is treated by the likes of Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who leads the House Democrat candidate recruitment effort. “They treat him like a lackey, not as an equal,” says another DNC employee. “Just last week, they were all badmouthing his fundraising activities, when clearly he’s done a good job. What this comes down to a fight for the soul of our party, and if the chairman has to draw a long knife on a few of his colleagues, he’s more than willing to do so.”

Ego, paranoia and power make an ugly combination. But it ought to be fun to watch…

From The “Don’t They Have Better Things To Do” File

January 29, 2006

I tend to take Wikipedia entries with at least a grain of salt, particularly those involving anything remotely controversial. Garbage in, garbage out is just as functional in the case of anonymous internet postings as in any other endeavor.

That said, this is just plain lame:

The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the “world’s largest encyclopedia,” The Sun has learned.

The Meehan alterations on Wikipedia.com represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.

Matt Vogel, Meehan’s chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker.

The change deleted a reference to Meehan’s campaign promise to surrender his seat after serving eight years, a pledge Meehan later eschewed. It also deleted a reference to the size of Meehan’s campaign account, the largest of any House member at $4.8 million, according to the latest data available from the Federal Election Commission.

With no pun intended, that’s pretty bush-league.

That’s Affirmative

January 26, 2006

For those who’ve asked, yes, the “Will” in Jim Geraghty’s column today is me. About halfway down.

So Much For “Don’t Be Evil”

January 24, 2006

A left-leaning friend of mine who didn’t exactly agree with this post just emailed me this story:

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country’s free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet’s fastest growing market.

To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country’s government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.

Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan’s independence and 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted “don’t be evil” as a motto. But management believes it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

They’re wrong. What they’re doing isn’t only evil in and of itself, it’s willingly acting in concert with the far greater evil of the Chi-Com dictatorship.

And my friend is quite right when he says, “This has got to be as bad as anything CNN’s ever done.”

Shame on Google. Shame on Microsoft. Shame on News Corp. Shame on anybody who even attempts to defend this in the name of making a buck.

Blood money isn’t worth it.

Cathy Seipp vs. The New York Times

January 24, 2006

Cathy Seipp is probably my favorite “pro” blogger (meaning somebody who writes for a living and also blogs) these days. Her site is a particularly delicious treat at the moment, thanks in no small part to an ongoing fracas between Seipp and a couple of New York Times reporters.

In brief, Seipp was contacted by one Times-type, Sharon Waxman, who was doing a piece on pay-for-punditry, and had heard that Seipp was once contacted with an offer of $1,000 to write an op-ed with a particular point of view. Seipp confirmed to Waxman that she had once received such an offer–and turned it down flat–but refused to reveal the name of the go-between who’d tendered it.

Then things got interesting. Seipp’s account of her brief interview with Waxman was published by NRO as the lede to this column on punditola. As it happened, Seipp’s column hit cyberspace before Waxman’s story was “ready” at the Times (as far as I can tell, it still hasn’t seen print, or I guess I should say, pixels).

The day after Seipp’s NRO column came out, she received an email from another Times reporter, one David Cay Johnston (no, I’ve never heard of him, either). I’ll let Seipp describe his tone:

Over the years, various journalists — such as Alex Beam of the Boston Globe and Nikki Finke of the L.A. Weekly — have sent me emails that basically say this:

“Hello. Although you have not asked for my opinion, I would like to tell you what I think of you. But I suspect, on some level, that this makes me sound like a pompous git. So you are hereby ordered to keep my insults to you secret. If you disobey, you have violated our non-agreement and are therefore unethical.”

Johnston proceeded to scold Seipp for scooping Waxman–on a story that was so old, even Business Week had already managed to weigh in. Apparently in Times-land, mere mortals are not permitted to report on what reporters annointed at the Old Gray Lady are reporting on, even if said reporter calls them first.

It’s a marvelous, ongoing story, recounted in Seipp’s priceless voice, and I heartily encourage everybody to read the whole thing. Don’t miss the comments, in which Cay weighs in with Seipp’s readers with a manner so fussy and pretentious, it made me wonder for a while if somebody wasn’t assuming his name as a put-on (as you may imagine, he was treated about as well as he deserved). Seipp’s also posted a follow-up that’s just as much fun as the original post.

The whole thing reminds me a little of a common observation about militant atheists: “I don’t dislike them because they’re atheists. I dislike them because they act like jerks.” Seipp’s experience echoes James Lileks’ encounter with the aforementioned Alex Beam and the Powerline guys’ fun with Nick Coleman, as well as the Vodkasphere’s run-ins with Steve Lovelady; it’s enough to make one think the real problem with the MSM isn’t exactly bias, it’s just plain old pompous arrogance.

Along those lines, I’ll leave off (for the moment) with my own comment at Seipp’s site–mostly because it’s the last one in a long thread. Be happy to hear all of your thoughts on the subject, as usual:

Um, what about the much-ballyhooed “public’s right to know?” Since when does a poo-bah of “journalism” have the right to demand that people they’ve contacted don’t report on them? Does collecting a paycheck from the New York Times Corporation magically endow one with the right to not have their own actions reported on?

How novel.

The Dictators’ Favorite Network

January 20, 2006

In the same vein as the Blogfaddah’s admonition today to keep an eye on CNN (following the network’s groveling before the Iranian thugocracy to regain media access), let’s recall this interview with our old pal Eason Jordan, regarding CNN’s relationship with fellow axis-of-evil butcher Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Fair warning, it’s nauseating, but you ought to read it anyway. It’ll remind you of just where CNN’s priorities really lie (pun certainly intended).

Stephen King Can Take His Spam And Shove It

January 20, 2006

Gizmodo ran a blurb yesterday about a promotion Stephen King’s publisher is running for his next book, titled “Cell” (as in phone).

Unfortunately for me, I already knew about the promotion. I learned about it at 1 AM Tuesday morning, when my phone woke us up with a cheery “you have a text message!” bleep. A couple of “hey, wake up, you have a text message!” bleeps later, I groggily opened the phone to find a spam “offer” to sign up for the King material.

This on a cell phone whose number has never been given out to any company–and I course, had to pay for receiving the text message. I called my provider the next day and had any future messages from “cellthebook.com” blocked. King’s publicists have slipped a gear on this one; cell-phone spam the receiver gets charged money for is much worse than email spam, and they ought to be raked over the coals for this one.

No thanks for the spam, Stevie. You’re on the boycott list now.

Hail Cthulhu!

January 10, 2006

Unabashed Plug time: Last night, I watched The Call of Cthulhu, a fan film based on H.P. Lovecraft’s famed short story.

And I loved it.

“Cthulhu” is probably the best fan-made movie ever filmed, and don’t be thrown off by that admittedly low standard. It’s a tremendous achievement, and one that indicates just how close we’re getting to an era when you don’t have to be associated with Big Entertainment to create great entertainment. What makes this movie all the more impressive (at least to me) isn’t just that it wasn’t made by an established movie studio, it’s that “Cthulhu” never would have been made by one.

Just imagine any studio–even one of the little ones–agreeing to these production terms: a black-and-white, 47-minute horror movie using film techniques from the early part of the last century: stop-motion animation, forced perspective, even models and canvas to simulate a ship at sea. No nudity, no gore, no cursing–heck, no dialogue. Oh, and did I mention it’s a silent movie, with a symphonic score and title cards, that’s been digitally enhanced to lower the quality of the image, simulating actual 1920’s film stock?

But it works. It’s marvelous. It’s easily the best film adaptation of Lovecraft, ever. If you’ve read and like the story, you will enjoy the hell out of this little movie; but even if you haven’t, go reward ingenuity and craft and love, and get yourself a copy.

Oh, and one other thing: I got to watch “Call of Cthulhu” purely because of file-sharing. I doubt I ever would have seen it otherwise; it’s only for sale from the creators’ website. But I scored a copy, and watched it, and loved it–and then bought the DVD for myself, this morning. Which is just another reason why the folks who made it are the future, and the Big Entertainment execs who never would have allowed it to be made are the past.

Hail Intel!

January 10, 2006

Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs announced the first Macs to use Intel processors today. Since a few folks appear to be interested, here’s what I think about them.

Nice computers. Not really what I myself would be looking for, but probably just fine for others. Personally, I’m not interested in the new iMac or other all-in-one desktop machines. Call it the Engineer’s Curse: I don’t want a “main” computer that I can’t rip the lid off of and tinker around with. For those who would just as soon leave the lid on, the new Intel-based iMacs look like very capable machines. Sharp display, good performance numbers, and the price ain’t bad, considering everything that’s included.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be interested (oddly enough) in an Intel-based Mac Mini somewhere down the line. [I thought you just said you didn’t want a computer you couldn’t tinker with. –ed] I’m not finished. Pay attention, and quit stealing Kaus’ schtick. [Sorry.] I said I don’t want a main computer I can’t tinker with. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested in a second computer that I could hook up to The Beast Downstairs. The iMac isn’t it; it has one monitor too many built-in. But one of these days Apple is going to release the home entertainment hub version that I keep predicting, and that one will be fit for The Beast.

As far as the new Powerbooks Macbooks go (I hate the name already), they look excessively cool, but again, not for me. In contrast to what I expect out of a desktop, my laptop needs are pretty simple, and definitely pretty cheap. A “pro” line that starts at $2,000 is way out of my laptop range (and besides which, I bought a new iBook about a month before Jobs announced the Intel switch–turtleneck-wearing bastard).

I very much like the looks of the new iWeb software. Looking forward to giving that one a test drive soon.

So, that’s what I think: Nice computers. Not for me, but still quite nice. I’m interested to see what Apple can do with the rest of the product line, which according to Jobs will all switch over to Intel chips this year.