Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Latest 5 Minutes: The Newspaper's Lame Blame Game

I propose the radical notion that not only is changing the copyright law to preserve existing newspapers a bad idea, it doesn’t address the problem and won’t work. The New York Times needs to get with the times and get over themselves.

Of note, Tribune, the bankrupt newspaper/TV chain, continues to have a profit margin of 8%. That’s right, they are making money. Just a heck of a lot less than they used to and not nearly enough to service their debt.



And, for amusing contrast, Jason Jones’ report on the NYT. Comedy Central has better production values.

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

NOW they get it. NOW they don't.

I find two of Microsoft’s current ad campaigns interesting. One asserts that computer technology is all about connecting people, particularly synchronously (as opposed to asynchronous stuff like email, file sharing, and wikis). If you replaced the Microsoft logo at the end with Qwaq’s, I think it would fit my company perfectly. They get it.

But now they’re running another series of adds that dismisses search engines in favor of what they call a decision engine. I don’t want Microsoft to make decisions for me, but I sure do want information much closer to real time. On Friday we saw first one green Chinook helicopter go by our office windows, and then another, and then I think a Huey. What’s going on, I asked of the office in general, as they shouldn’t be training on such a windy day over a populated area. So Keith searched. He figured Google was too old-news, so he immediately went to Twitter. Someone had posted that there were helicopters going past their office windows to the nearby San Carlos field for tomorrow’s helicopter air show. This week a fellow on Colbert interviewed the editor of the New York Times. “Here’s today’s paper,” he said to the editor. “Show me one thing that happened today.”

I figure Wide-Area-Networked computer systems have only been around for a little more than ten years. Most of the realtime applications have been dedicated, structured, proprietary systems. But for people to truly connect, to truly work together, they need to be able to pull arbitrary things together in real time — things that the designer of the system did not specifically envision and provide for. Real time arbitrary search(*) is one example, but the general theme is realtime, unstructured, multi-person, multi-media, multi-application collaboration. It’s going to be huge.


(*) When Web search started, realtime search referred to getting answers to a query in realtime. It wasn’t about the age of the underlying information. Now realtime results are the expected norm, and we can safely use the phrase “realtime search” to mean that the information is live.

I don’t know what to call this general application collaboration: multidimensional, multi-facetted, unlimited, live, organic, unconstrained, …

Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Wealth Transfer

According to this article in the New York Times, the baillout money that was ostensibly given to the banks to jumpstart the economy or forestall a collapse, etc, by opening up the credit spigots is not in fact, being used for that purpose.

It’s being transferred directly to the bankers.

I am, shocked, shocked!

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Wah! Why Can't *I* be Michael Pollan??

The other day I was listening to Terri Gross on Freh-share, and her guest was Michael Pollan of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” (and Martha’s Vineyard hippie) fame. They were talking about his recent article in the New York Times Magazine, which was essentially about marrying agricultural policy to national health and community-wellbeing policy.

Below the fold: Ag Ec Rock Star!

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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | Also tagged | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

I Debate The Would-Be Vulcans

So Marvin and I had our debate with Ken Ferree and Lawrence Spiwak. On the whole, I thought we mixed it up pretty thoroughly and civilly — although you can all judge for yourselves by watching the archive here (free registration required).

The issues won’t surprise anyone, but I want to address one meta-issue on framing. Perhaps not surprisingly, the anti-NN folks repeatedly seek to claim the mantle of reason, relegating us pro-NN types with our emotional commitment to romantic ideas like democracy and free speech to the status of irrational and unreasonable fanatics.

Ah, de ja vu all over again. I can remember when I heard similar sentiments from Ken Ferree and his former boss Michael Powell during the fights over media ownership reform in 2002-04. Of course, these were the same “logical,” “rational,” purportedly proof driven folks who developed the “diversity index” which weighted the Dutches County Community Television station as having the same media power as the New York Times, and inspired the Third Circuit to observe that believing this “scientific” approach reflected reality “would require us to take leave of our senses.” But, undeterred by the fact that the Third Circuit considered his previous efforts at “scientific reality building” to be either a bad joke or an excellent parody, Ken is quite prepared to rely exclusively on the view from “Ferree Land” and denigrate the rest of as emotional hysterics who listen to voices from the past.

My beef with Lawrence Spiwak is rather different. Unlike Ferree, Spiwak is actually living in the real world. My complaint is not that he lives in fantasy land or ignores evidence. My complaint is that he wishes to define the terms of the debate in a rather narrow way — i.e., only economic analysis and only University of Chicago-type analysis at that. All else is mere “rhetoric” and “emotion,” and only a proper grounding in rational analysis (aka economic analysis by economists of the Chicago School) can properly frame things. (I should point out the Spiwak’s colleague from Phoenix Center, George Ford, took a similar line at the Federal Trade Commission broadband competition hearing last year, chastising Tim Wu and myself for meddling in economic matters in which we were not competent to express an opinion.)

As one might expect, I find the attempts of the would-be Vulcans to define the terms of the debate unpersuasive. To see me do unto them as Kirk did unto the M5, Landru, and the other would be uber-rational computers, see below . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

John McCain & Vicki Iseman: So FCC policy *is* sexy? Who knew!

Thanks to an innuendo-laden story by the New York Times last Thursday, everybody who follows USian politics at all knows that Vicki Iseman is a quasi-hot telecom/media lobbyist who for a while eight years ago had a pretty close friendship with Senator John McCain, and that he threw some of his political weight around on behalf of some of her clients. (I tried to find a flattering photo of Ms. Iseman to grace this here blog entry, but all I could find were an elongated pic of her in an evening gown, too big for my purposes, and a horribly unflattering portrait from her company’s website. Oh well, by now you’ve either seen those photos or this story likely ain’t for you anyway.)

What few suspect, however, that this whole story was a cleverly planted plot designed to boost the google rank of Wetmachine into the stratosphere!

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Posted in infotainment, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Libby trial reflection: “My pencil is dull and my handwriting stinks”

Isadore Barmash, who passed away last November at the age of 84, was a longtime reporter for the New York Times. Political junkies may be forgiven for not being familiar with his extensive body of work, for Barmash’s beat was retail business, not politics. He had a particular interest in the apparel industry (he had worked at Women’s Wear Daily before joining the Times). His articles were found most often not in the front section of the paper, but deep in the business pages. I myself don’t care about fashion, and when I read a newspaper I usually skip the business stories. So I’m not the kind of guy who would be expected to notice Barmash’s byline. But I used to follow Barmash’s work because for a period in from the late 60’s through 1975, when I was in high school and college, he had series of front-page-of-the-New-York-Times articles that I found absolutely compelling.

His subject was my father.

I thought of Barmash a few weeks ago when Tim Russert’s testimony at the Lewis Libby trial was reported. Under oath, Russert said that when he talked to senior government officials, everything was “off the record” unless the official explicitly agreed to go “on the record.” People who value the role of journalism in a democracy were appalled by Russert’s admission, but attentive students of contemporary American “journalism” were not surprised. Dan Froomkin rightly said, “That’s not reporting, that’s enabling.” Russert’s sworn testimony made patently clear that what he does for a living is not journalism properly understood, but rather a form of court stenography served up in a a faux-journalism format.

Below the fold, what Barmash, a real journalist, told my father about “on the record” and “off the record.”

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

How The Conservative/Big Business Alliance Bankrupted Air America

Few things raised joyfull cackles among Republicans in the waning days of 2006. Many, however regarded the bankruptcy of Air America as a bright spot in an otherwise dismal fall. Talk radio, it appeared, remained part of the conservative “heartland” where such liberal voices as Al Franken meet a resounding silence.

However, as reported by the New York Times, the story may have a lot more to it then a tale of silly liberals who can’t run a business and have nothing interesting to say. It appears that 90 major national advertisers engaged in a boycott of Air America programming, to the extent that they wanted their advertising stripped out of syndicated material from other sources (here, ABC Radio Network). The interesting question, of course, is why would supposedly dissinterested companies with no motivation to interefere with domestic politics want to drive Air America out of business?

Hahahahaha…..I love it when I ask silly rhetorical questions like that. For a further specualtion on what apparently went on and why I think the new, Democratic Congress might want to do a little investigatin’ into the Case of Secret Boycott, see below….

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Posted in Censorship Public and Private, How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Media Ownership, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Wetware and Hard Science

Creating reality

I’ve always been interested in the “fake it to make it” credo, which is pretending that you are something until you become that thing.

Fiction writers contiually create realities that exist on paper until someone later makes it real (like Heinlein’s waldos). When governments create realities, then what? Cyberpunk author William Gibson has begun to blog again. In a post Sun, Oct. 17, he quotes an article from the New York Times Magazine by Ron Suskind.

In the quoted section, Suskind recounts a conversation with an unnamed senior advisor to Bush.

‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.’

That level of arrogance, of certainty, scares the heck out of me.

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Posted in I Fear These Things, Wetware and Hard Science | Also tagged | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Yet More On Fileswapping

Fileswapping is in the New York Times today. The RIAA gears up for more lawsuits while some bands try to actually serve their fans and make a buck. Wow!

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Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)
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