The under-serving of America

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Columnists – Jurek Martin: Cronies, phonies and lightweights:

Wherever you look in the Bush administration, from the external and internal departments through a host of regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Parks Service, men and women with ideological agendas have replaced those who tried to make the trains run on time, and sometimes did.

I will concede that there is a real debate in this country over whether government can do anything right – and maybe Wal-Mart could have run relief efforts better than Fema. At the ideological level, it pits people like me who actually believe in government, warts and all, given proper scrutiny, against those who think it should mostly be privatised or neutered.It is the ultimate irony that the Bush administration, which definitely falls in the second camp, has presided over the largest expansion of government since the 1930s, and not merely in the areas of defence and homeland security. But that is another saga.

It now looks like an illusion, too, that the mission of some government agencies was ever non-political. The National Parks Service, guardian and curator of so many magnificent facilities, is being politicised and commercialised to the nth degree. Rangers are up in arms, even as the off-road vehicle lobby celebrates.I am not saying that Republican use of appointments (including cronyism, a bipartisan practice) is any different in kind from Democrats when they held power. But, under Dick Cheney’s guidance, they have gone about it for ideological ends more methodically and ruthlessly than ever did Democrats, who tend just to like government for government’s sake.

Those are some of the choice bits of an FT column by Jurek Martin that echo some of my recent concerns about the cronyism in the Bush Administration. That the neoconservatives, so-called enemies of arbitrary government power who want to drown the federal bureaucracy are the ones conducting this systematic abuse of the public trust isn’t just ironic, it’s deeply infuriating.

Really dumb advertising, instance #1,000,000,996

Latest News and Financial Information | Reuters.com:

Boeing Co. apologized on Friday for a mistakenly published advertisement for its V-22 Osprey aircraft showing troops dropping onto the roof of a mosque in what appears to be a simulated battle scene.

The company apologized quickly, though the PR damage to the U.S. cause was probably done. (Disclosure: I own Boeing stock and won’t sell it because of this, because the company apologized.) Just plain stupid and insulting.

Back on WebTalk…

►►Podcast – Internet Talk Radio – WebTalkGuys World Radio Show – Web Talk Radio – Formerly on CNET Radio:

Guest host: Mitch Ratcliffe, RatcliffeBlog.com- Google TV & Yahoo TV what does it all mean- Time to think MSN for more then just content- Webby Awards Adds Podcast Categories- Broadband Adoption is Slowing Dramatically

I’m back on WebTalk Radio with Rob and Dana Greenlee, again. Check it out in MP3, Windows Media and Real formats.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Socialtext scores, again

SAP Invests in Socialtext; Investment Comes at Time of Significant Growth for Enterprise Wiki Market:

Socialtext, the first wiki company and market leader in enterprise wiki solutions, today announced that it has closed B-round funding with an investment of $850K from SAP Ventures. SAP Ventures — the venture-funding arm of SAP, the world’s largest enterprise software company — joins Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the Omidyar Network, and the University Venture Fund to cap the round at $4 million.

Congratulations to Ross and the gang at Socialtext (disclosure: I’m on their advisory board)

Technorati Tags:

Does anyone else think it’s strange that Google’s campus is a gated community?

MercuryNews.com | 09/29/2005 | Assessor will try to make Google pay property taxes:

As part of the deal, Google plans to build hundreds of new homes and carve out roads on a stretch of the 213-acre research campus. In 2002, Mountain View cleared the research park’s bid for 4.2 million square feet of new construction, including up to 2,000 homes for any new tenant.

“Obviously if they are building enough housing for workers, that’s wonderful,” said Mountain View City Councilman Greg Perry. But Perry was wistful that the company decided to duck inside the federal borders and deny the city property tax revenue. By building on federal land, Google would avoid potentially millions of dollars in annual property taxes.

The prescience of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, who imagined worlds where corporations were like countries, self-contained private work/residence facilities insulated from geographic responsibilities, so that the non-corporate world turned into a giant slum, is coming to pass. If you’ll recall, these companies weren’t a Good Thing.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Vote yes, please

Bird flu funding in the Senate:

A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday sought to add nearly $4 billion to the U.S. fight against the deadly avian flu, with most of the money to be used to stock up on an anti-viral drug.

But a Senate vote on the measure might be delayed until next week and an influential Republican, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, said he would try to kill the effort.


Ted Stevens is acting foolishly. We need to be preparing for this pandemic. With the record of Katrina and last year’s shortages of flu vaccine, I can’t see how in good conscious a Senator could vote against preparing for the H5N1 virus.

Technorati Tags: ,

Let their be no delay: Send Tom DeLay packing

WSJ.com – Texas Grand Jury Indicts House Majority Leader DeLay:

A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, and Mr. DeLay said he will step down temporarily as House majority leader.

Republicans should begin to hold their own to the same standards they assert over the country. Tom DeLay is just one of many Republicans who have cashed in on power rather than served the public. After all the rhetoric about a return to honor, the Rs should be stepping up to the accountability bar energetically.

Technorati Tags: ,

Mind-Computer Interface

news @ nature.com – Computer users move themselves with the mind – Electrode cap allows users to think themselves along a virtual street.:

Computer scientists have created a hat that can read your thoughts. It allows you to stroll down a virtual street. All you have to do is think about walking.

Called a brain-computer interface, the device detects activity in certain brain areas linked to movement, and uses the signals to mimic that movement in a virtual world. The technology could one day help paralysed patients to move robotic arms, or help sufferers of motor neuron disease to type out words on a virtual keyboard.

Very slick, heralding the return of the bowler hat, too. Trust me on this: Bowler hats are the next hot investment.

Technorati Tags: ,

After Katrina, is the $200 billion going to the right things?

History is the source code of the future:

Facing more than $200 billion in charges for hurricane recovery along the Gulf Coast, the most natural comparison has been to the Marshall Plan, the U.S. project to reconstruct Europe after World War II. The scope of destruction in southern Mississippi and Louisiana, along with the northern Gulf Coast of Texas is certainly comparable to that wreaked by war, but is destruction the only thing to which we need to be responding?

I’m having some fun with history over at History is the Source Code of the Future. If you’d like to contribute, please let me know.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Make my news China-safe!

Macworld: News: China issues new regulations for Internet news:

The Chinese government announced on Sunday a new set of regulations intended to tighten control over news reported on the Internet, but it was not immediately clear what, if any, effect the new regulations will have.

Immediate implications: Negotiations will begin between U.S. search companies and the Chinese government, seeking an “acceptable content” agreement, which misses the ultimate point of information access—finding information is secondary to having the truth available for citizens who need full access to information in order to make informed decisions as citizens. When search is unequivocally on the user’s side and not simply pursuing the corporation’s interests, it will be “media” in the full sense of an irreplaceable social institution.