October 2004

The video archive of yesterday’s Induce Act debate at the Cato Institute is now online here:


It was a great debate.

“The Commission is not simply considering minor adjustments to specific regulations–the Commission is considering the future of electronic and optic communications for many years to come” – FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Does this statement scare anyone?

Powell said this at the Fall Voice on the Net Conference 2004 in Boston yesterday. He said it in the context of streamlining regulations from the quilt of 51 different state regulatory bodies. One unified regulatory body for VoIP is good, right? (here’s an article on the speech)

Powell’s “patchwork” argument has benefits, but is also an excuse for FCC “oversight” and “involvement.” Shouldn’t this be handled by Congress, where there could be simple legislation banning states from interfering with VoIP. Whoops, there is – and it got hugely bloated.

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Our long national nightmare is over. Under intense pressure from many politicians and other groups, Sinclair Broadcasting has caved in to demands that they not air a documentary critical of presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam War record.

Wheh! Thank God for that. I mean, can you imagine how awful it would have been if this film would have ever seen the light of day. We might have been forced to debate the merits of the film. We might have been forced to exchange passionate views about the issues raised in the film. We might have been forced to.. to… to think!

Thank God our benevolent censors in Congress have our best interests in mind and are protecting us from the airing of such controversial viewpoints. I hope they take steps to make sure that Michael Moore documentaries never get aired before the election either. Perhaps we can put a stop to further distribution of “Fahrenheit 9/11” before anymore people see it and are forced to think about it’s message.

OK, now that this national catastrophe has been averted, I can go back to my easy chair and watch some legitimate, politician-approved programming that is certain to tell me everything I need to know about the candidates and the issues before election day. You know, like those remarkably informative campaign commercials. I saw one the other day in which Mr. Kerry said he believed in our future and wanted to make a better America for our children. That’s nice. Funny thing is, Mr. Bush appears to be airing the exact same ads right now too. They both REALLY love our children. And the future. Good things to love, I guess.

OK, perhaps I should instead go back and watch those exciting debates one more time. I’m sure there’s some really informative stuff in there right after both candidates get past the first 20 minutes of personally thanking every single member of the audience for coming and telling the moderator how much they love him. Boy, these candidates REALLY love people. That’s good, I guess.

Hey, I’m just looking for someone to tell me what to think here. I just want to be part of the “informed electorate.” But please don’t let me see any reports or documentaries critical of these two guys. That might lead me to think that there are alternative viewpoints out there. Or, worse yet, it might lead me and others to think that not everyone loves these guys as much as they supposedly love us. And from what they tell us or allow us to hear, we just know that can’t be true. Right?

The fights over media this year just get more and more bizarre. I got an e-mail the other day from The Nation magazine that began:

“Among media watchdog groups, it’s an article of faith that concentration of power in the hands of massive media conglomerates is dangerous for the public interest. The fear is that these corporate giants could use that power to manipulate the nation’s political process. Sinclair Broadcasting Group is proving these fears well-founded.”

Huh? I repeat: huh? Only hours later, Sinclair bowed to public pressure and cancelled its plans to air an anti-Kerry documentary on its stations. But never mind that. Even if Sinclair had not reversed course, does anyone really that Sinclair or anyone else has undue power over what Americans hear and think? For gosh sakes, most people didn’t even know Sinclair had a news division until a few weeks ago.

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Andrew Grossman, Heritage’s senior web editor, sent over the following on the just-released Google Desktop, and the looming battle between Google and MS. (To see more from Grossman, check out the Heritage policy weblog):

“Last week, Google, a company renowned for its search service, released the Google Desktop, a piece of software that lets users search through the materials stored on their own computers, from e-mail to Word files to Web pages that they have recently browsed. The Desktop is Google’s first major foray onto the desktop, and its release may mark the beginning of the end of Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop software market. Someone should tell the trustbusters in Washington and Brussels that their services are no longer needed, if they ever were.”

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The New Millennium Research Council is hosting an event next Wedneday (Oct 27) in Washington on “The End of Regulation? Reforming Telecom Policy and REgulator’s Roles to Meet New Market Realities.” Speakers at the half-day conference–including TLFer’s Braden Cox and Adam Thierer–will discuss the future of regulation and of regulators in the coming IP world. I will be moderating the shebang, but it promises to be an interesting day anyway. If you’re in the Washington area, it’s worth dropping by to see.

And taxpayers foot the bill.

John Borland over at CNET laments the fact that telecommunications providers and “golf-themed” community developers in the suburban Houston area are tapping into $2.2 billion in federal giveaways designed to fund rural broadband deployment. The Houston developments receiving the sweet, sweet subsidies also happen to be in Tom DeLay’s district.

The article also bemoans the fact that very few rural communities are ponying up to the Bush broadband trough to fund broadband investment in rural and “underserved” areas. One telling sentence near the end frets: “This is money that could literally save rural towns from extinction.”

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It is becoming increasingly clear that the Markle Foundation, a New York based non-profit, is evil. It assembled a group of people to think very carefully about anti-terrorism. The work of this group has quickly metastisized into federal Big Brother legislation.

Exhibit A: A National Surveillance Network

The Markle Foundation’s Report entitled “Building a Trusted Network for Homeland Security” advocates a program that could be called “Total Information Awareness Lite”. It got into the Senate bill to reform the intelligence system (section 207 of the Public Print). I have commented on it in an Op-Ed, and debated it vigorously in posts to Declan McCullagh’s Politech list. Here are postings number one and number two. Number three is not yet archived on the site, so it is reprinted in the extended entry below.

Exhibit Two: A National ID Card

The same intelligence reform legislation has proposals to create a national ID card system by standardizing state IDs. The source of this idea is the 9/11 Commission report (page 390), but the 9/11 Commission cites – you guessed it – the Markle Surveillance Project. In particular, it cites an Appendix written by a rump group (and I use the word advisedly).

The chief author was Amitai Etzioni, Director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University. He organized a panel discussion on national IDs that I appeared on back in April. After the actual panelists spoke, he invited from the audience a representative of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to give an infomercial for national IDs. (It was broadcast on C-SPAN.)

It was all quite bizarre, but revealing: AAMVA, Markle, and many others working behind the scenes are part of the surveillance-industrial complex, working to grow the state and erode our liberties.

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When Ignorant Parents Attack

by on October 15, 2004

Here’s a news story about parents discovering pornographic links on the ‘blog of their girls’ volleyball coach.

But this cub reporter’s investigation reveals that the links are all just ‘blog spam. That is, postings to the comments section that are done by a script. Typical material for these postings includes Viagra, online casinos, and good ol’ porn.

Don’t know how long this link will last, but check it out for yourself.

The fact that the coach has quit creates the impression of some guilt. And someone using the coach’s name has said at least one potentially naughty thing about Jennifer Aniston. So maybe there’s more here, but it isn’t apparent yet.

It’s hard to hold a blogger blameworthy for automated comments that exploit the openness and uniformity of ‘comment’ features in ‘blog software.

The lesson?: Never ever coach girls volleyball.

Goodbye Gigahertz

by on October 15, 2004

The GHz race officially came to an end this week. No, really. Intel, who has held the speed crown for more than 5 years, has thrown in the towel, announcing that they would break the 4 GHz barrier… well, never.

This is a development that analysts have been predicting for years. Since the late ’90s, CPUs have been much faster than the memory and buses that feed the CPU with data. That means that more processor speed is mostly useless for the vast majority of data-intensive tasks. Worse, Intel cheated in designing the Pentium 4, ramping up the speed mostly by reducing how much the chip did on each cycle. The result was a chip that had a higher clock rate, but didn’t actually perform any better than slower-clocked chips that did more with each cycle.

The design of the Pentium 4 was driven by marketing, not engineering, considerations: GHz was an easily understood metric for judging processor speed, and so having the fastest chip was an effective selling point. But the reality has become so obvious that even marketing people can’t ignore it. If they had continued on their current path, they would have needed ever-more-elaborate cooling technologies to keep the chip from melting.

From now on, expect chipmakers to focus on greater parallelism– putting more than one processor on a chip, executing multiple instructions per cycle– and on non-performance features like reducing power consumption. Both IBM’s G5 (which is in Apple’s new Power Macs) and AMD’s x86-64 architecture do a better job of getting more performance out of fewer clock cycles. The shift to non-performance-related features is already apparent with Intel’s Centrino line, which is targeted at mobile devices and boasts lower power consumption and wireless features.