:::renaissance chambara:::

Posts on quality, life, culture, the media, news & tech with a twist & a slice of Limey. I moved my blog to http://renaissancehambara.jp in December 2006, go there for the latest content.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 
Reagonomic time bomb

According to a number of reports the clock is ticking on the US economy and the dollar before it goes into meltdown.

The key factors for consideration according to the Asian Times article 'Crisis towers over the dollar':
  • The total US public national debt now exceeds 7 trillion USD
  • When Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military and government pensions are added in, the total national debt exceeds 51 trillion USD, according to Fortune magazine - that's nearly five times the gross domestic product (GDP)
  • The current year's deficit alone approaches 1 trillion USD when you add the off-budget items
  • Derivatives (highly leveraged and enormously risky instruments such as interest-rate futures, options and swaps) now total 180 trillion USD, 17 times the GDP. Even government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp) use derivatives heavily
  • The total US consumer debt is more than 8 trillion USD
  • The US government funding gap is some 54 trillion USD

A leading proponent of this bearish assessment is Morgan Stanley's principle economist Stephen Roach. Roach is said by the Boston Herald of having given the US economy no more than a one in ten chance of avoiding a meltdown. You can read the article here.

In Morgan Stanley's own Global Economic Forum digests, the thinking of their global team of economists is distilled for fund managers. The digest of November 26, 2004 highlights Fed chairman Alan Greenspan's belief that the world is not likely to continue to fund US debt.

In a recent webcast Roach warned of a possible 'disorderly' correction to the imbalances in the dollar and a possible trade war with China.




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Monday, November 29, 2004

 

Hack with sense of humour
IT company SCO is currently involved in a legal argument over allegedly copied software ending up in Linux. Kudos to The Inq for flagging up this subversive website hack. Makes a pleasant difference from the usual scrawlings on site defacements. At the time of writing this was still up on the SCO site, though this will change when the SCO webmaster gets into work. Posted by Hello

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Booze Cruze
My colleague Jonathan has some inside skinny on cheap alcohol this Christmas. According to his contacts Unwins the off licence chain is allegedly being bought out by Oddbins and so clearing its inventory by providing good prices on champagne. So if the white van man doesn't do deliveries in your area Unwins may be worth a visit. To find your nearest branch start here.
About Unwins
As Britain`s largest family owned independent wine merchant, founded in 1843; with over 400 shops in the South of England, they pride themselves as one of the few remaining truly specialist wine merchants.

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Back to the future

A while ago I did a back to basics entry on how I had moved from a perfectly good Nokia 6600 to a older, more elegant and better looking 8850. According to Josh Rubin's Coolhunting blog I am not alone, in fact there is a website called Retrofone to cater for people like me.

Why? Because I believe that there is a sweet spot when technology has a certain level of sophistication and performance when it is at its most usable. As things become more complex and sophisticated they become less user friendly, go wrong more often and no longer provides an elegant solution to customer needs. It starts to lack quality. Don't believe me? Think about this :
  • I can write a letter as fast on my old 12 year old Mac desktop running Word 5.1 as I can using Office X on a much more powerful iBook
  • I can only email as fast as I did when I used Netscape Communicator on the Mac back in '98, yet my computer is at least eight times more powerful
  • I am still only as organised using my Palm Tungsten 3 as I was when I had a Palm Vx, but the Vx really did fit in my pocket and caused me half as much grief
Now my broadband connection is up, I only use my phone for SMS text messages and to make calls, so I wanted to move back to a smaller phone with a big battery life

The iPod is currently in the sweet spot with the iTunes Music Store, Google is there with their search engine and Amazon with their e-commerce site.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

 
Marketing and Media News

Haaretz the liberal Israeli national newspaper has started publishing a weekly international edition online as a PDF. It can be found at Haaretz dotcom. The editors are Karen Kaufman and Robert Rosenberg.

Caitlin Moran the television critic wrote this opinion piece in The Times about sex no longer working as an advertising tool, making our visual bombardment of sexual imagery adverts such as Wonderbra's landmark 1994 'Hello Boys' campaign impotent. She sees it as a sign that Britain is growing up, I'm not so sure.

Mobile, the UK newspaper for the mobile phone sales channel has interesting article called 'Coming soon to a billboard near you' in this weeks issue about how mobile operators are making the most of shrinking marketing budgets and the 3G rollout by looking to inventive regional campaigns led by hot shop advertising thinking including experiential marketing stunts and interactive bus stop adverts, supported by conventional consumer PR tactics of competitions and giveaways.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

 
Site Recommendation

Jonathan who works with me obviously has too little to do because he came up with this interactive gem courtesy of online lads fanzine beer dotcom. (Tip: ask her to kiss her friend) That's enough of that young man.



Friday, November 26, 2004

 

Street Named After 80's TV Series

Spotted 0n the way to a client pitch, the picture just had to be taken. If you want to find it yourself try this link for a map. Ideal if you want to spend a day out going to see the Tate Modern on the South Bank. Posted by Hello

 
Religous group provides the kids with list of violent and debauched must-play games

Anybody young enough to remember what is was like being a child or has had children of their own knows that banning items or trying to disuade children from looking at materials is just going to pique their curiosity (think pornography, smoking in the school yard, experimentation wth drink and drugs). With this in mind the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility came up with some suggestions of games that kids will want to play this Christmas:
  1. Doom 3
  2. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  3. Gunslinger Girls
  4. Halflife 2
  5. Halo 2
  6. Hitman: blood money
  7. Manhunt
  8. Mortal Combat Deception
  9. Postal 2
  10. Shadow Heart

Special mention was given to America's Army; a freely downloadable game from the US Army - children of all ages with access to the 'net can download it with no restrictions. The couldn't have done any better if Rockstar Games, Bungie and Eidos had done this as a joint spoof viral marketing campaign for the holiday season to promote their respective titles. Their press release can be found here and a streaming video of 'objectionable' violent clips here.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

 
News Update: NYPD Star Busted
Out-Law.com carried news about the 309,000 GBP fine handed down to Carmine Caridi for leaking academy award 'screener' copies of Oscar nominated films to a friend who then uploaded them on to the internet. This is a high profile victory for the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) against online downloaders.

 
World AIDS Day
One of my ex-colleagues Jacqui forwarded to me links to work they had been doing online for World AIDS Day. AIDS as an issue has decreased in importance from the mid to late 1980s when hysteria gripped the western world and ad agencies got fat off contracts for public information films. Hard as it is to believe now, the red top media in the UK openly discussed concentration camps for the infected; don't you miss Thatcher's Britain? The Cubans facing an AIDS epidemic with hundreds of infected returning servicemen from the Angolan war actually went ahead with it.
AIDS deaths have declined in the UK due to treatment and the increase in medical knowledge but the number of instances of infection have increased. It is estimated that 50,000 people are infected in the UK.
Worldwide there about 38 million people infected. Anyway, Jacqui wants as many people to see her work as possible and is looking to have people put a button on their emails or websites to encourage visitors (I also expect that it will help crank up the Google page rank, but then I'm cynical).

 
Thanksgiving: party on and Have an most excellent time

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readership


What the hell is Thanksgiving anyway?


Thanksgiving is an extended weekend festival that was originally celebrated by the white puritans who first colonised America. It is now celebrated on the third Thursday of November. It is a family orientated festival that has its own food including turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for dessert. It is a family orientated holiday so people often travel huge distances to be with their family. Thanksgiving Thursday is followed by Black Friday: the second biggest day for US retail sales in the year, heralding the start of the Christmas shopping season. A number of major Ameican football games are played over the weekend taking centre stage in the TV schedule.
The festival is celebrated in major cities with a parade. More information on Wikipedia


The renaissance chambara guide to dealing with Americans during Thanksgiving


Generally business runs out of steam from lunch time on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Thursday. The Thursday and Friday are public holidays. It often takes until the following Tuesday for them to start getting back into the swing of things. Assume that they are unavailable and plan accordingly. Under no circumstances call them at home, your call will be about as welcome as a surprise tax audit by the IRS.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and iPod Bubbles
Digital natives is a generational term rather like generation x which is starting to hit the mainstream. A digital native is someone who has growth up in close contact with computers Mark Prensky hypothesised and found some proof to indicate that these people absorb and process information in a different manner to those of us old enough to remember the analogue world. The term digital native comes from Prensky's view that these people are native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. This has implications for teaching, advertising and the media.
Just because someone has grown up with computer technology does not mean that they particularly want and like immersive experiences like video games. I am sure that there will be personality and learning types within the digital natives group as there are within the immigrants: some are better at learning by rote, others by doing.
Those of us that have adapted to this world are considered to be digital immigrants. Prensky then goes on to forecast the demise of printed materials amongst other items, but if thats the case why is Amazon so successful? Why are young people buying increasing amounts of vinyl?
To find out how good a digital immigrant you really are, try this quiz courtesy of AlwaysOn.
Wired has an article yet again on the death of print media because of technologically savvy young people based on the findings of these surveys here and here. News print has declined for years before the rise of the public internet and web browsers.
Finally Piper Jaffray have been hyping up the Apple share price with a target to hit 100 USD from 61 and change. This based on the results of a survey that they think indicates that the iPod will turn a significant number of iPod owning PC users into Mac users. Hmmm.

 
Thanksgiving: Turkey Feast, Vinyl Famine

With the US holiday on us at the end of the week, the vinyl releases have declined. Just three recommendations this week:

  • Herbie Hancock - Stars in their eyes (CBS) - classic soul funk record rereleased, this record is a favourite with trendy bar DJ's and the nu-jazz kiddies
  • Francois K - Enlightenment (Wave) - generally I not a great fan of Francois K's material but this rocks the spot as a deep house cut
  • DJ Sneak - Funky Rhythm (Robsoul) - does what it says on the tin


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 
Creative Business and Fly Posting
Today's FT Creative Business has a good article on pitches here called The Art of Persuasion.
Top tips include:
  • Seating - try and control it. Where a table is straight try not to sit directly opposite
  • Listening well - Keep control with eye contact, use of the person’s name and jargon-free speech.
  • Attention breakdowns - repeat important points and USPs to your audience
  • Personality types - identify them as best you can and adapt and mirror
  • Body language gestures - don’t ignore resistance - take action. For instance, if an arm-fold looks negative then perhaps pass the person something to read, and then try to ascertain the cause

Seen on telephone junction box

I noticed an fly poster on a telephone junction box near Mile End tube station for a recruitment firm looking for secretarial staff that works in the media sector. The headline of the copy was "Tell them where they can stick their advertising"


 
Technology bust indigestion continues
After the jailing Frank Quattrone, the public reaming of numerous equity analysts (Jack Grubman and Henry Blodget to name but two), the merchant banks and the collapses of numerous dotbombs, the San Jose Mercury reports that former leading technology orientated investment fund Firsthand is being investigated by the Stock Exchange Commission following allegations of misrepresentation of how funds were managed. The fund crashed from a high of eight billion to about 900 million USD. More details here.
Note: CBS Marketwatch reported late yesterday that Quattrone has been banned from banking for life by the national adjudicatory council of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). You can read the official press release here.


Monday, November 22, 2004

 
The Praying Mantis of Handhelds
Just a few years after PalmOne, the handheld maker absorbed its 'prodigal' child Handspring and its highly regarded Treo range of PDA phones, Treos now account for half the company's revenue. In a warning of things to come PalmOne, its new retail store in silicon valley focuses purely on the Treo range and associated accessories. The parent has literally been eaten by its young.
For more information all things Treo try here.

 
Things that make you go hmm, hmm, hmm
Earlier on in the year we highlighted the arrival of online DVD rental pioneer Netflix in the UK market with the appointment of the three strong inhouse PR / mar.coms team, PR Week ran a news in brief story saying that office has been shutdown without a shot being fired in the UK marketplace.
Question: Which PR agency is alleged to have tried to run adverts in publications the gist of which was that companies don't need to advertise if they do PR instead? Further it is alleged that the advertising sales teams at least one of the publications involved turned down the business after having reviewed the copy.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

 
Wasabi, Luxury and Acid
The Wagamama restaurant chain is better known for its ramen noodle soups than desserts, but their chocolate fudge cake with a hint of wasabi goes down a treat despite sounding as mad as a bag of cats.
Deutsche Welle has an interesting article about how Lufthansa has decided to deal with competition by going upmarket and positioning itself as a premium service, rather than getting down and dirty with budget airlines such as Ryanair. In the past when I have flown Lufthansa, I have always been very impressed by the service. My one concern would be, how can Lufthansa maintain this stance and do code sharing through the Star Alliance if it is relying on other airlines to maintain its even higher standards? Its is an interesting contrary move as many of Lufthansa's peers are in the process of dropping standards further, for instance British Airways has dropped first class on six routes, Swiss only has a first class facility on intercontinental flights and Spanish flag carrier Iberia is consolidating business and first class into one.
Finally, humble HMV the music retailer has been retailing some high-quality but very naughty bootleg records. Of particular interest are the DJ's Friend series of bootlegs. Volume three has a rare vocal mix of Fast Eddie's classic early house track 'Acid Thunder' from 87. Volume four has 'U Girls' by Nush: a handbag tune that used to get half the north of England up on the dancefloor with major chord piano stabs and the 'you girls are soo sexy, I want you up here with me' hook line that got drilled into your memory like a Courts furniture store commercial.

Friday, November 19, 2004

 
Know your customer
For the second month in a row I am going to get paid by cheque rather than a direct bank transfer. The sinner is the Bank of Scotland:
"I write with reference to the recent application for Internet and Telephone Banking facility for the above . Regrettably before I am able to progress with this request I require your assistance to address two issues.
The first of these relates to the 'Know Your Customer' guidelines imposed upon the Bank by the Financial Services Authority. These guidelines oblige the Bank to identify the principles to the accounts we hold, such as Directors, Shareholders and in this case Nominated Users. Although this a process we usually undertake 'electronically', unfortunately we are unable to do so for , as she is a foreign national. As such I must trouble for certified copies of 'paper identification' and have attached details of our requirements."
Our accountant is an Australian national who holds a Bank of Scotland current account and mortgage. A classic case of NOT knowing your customer. However it gets better, listed in the appropriate forms of identification includes a "current firearms licence". So its easier to get access to a gun legally than use a bank account, work that one out. Hasn't it occurred to them that if she was packing heat she could make 'unauthorised withdrawals' anyway?
Other proof that would be accepted were an Inland Revenue tax notification, easily done with a scanner and with basic Photoshop skills, a current tenancy agreement which you can get here from Lawrights both of which need to be rubber stamped by a bank, solicitor, or GP: nothing a John Bull printing set from Langley Toys couldn't solve.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

 
Incomplete but great
In the world of product design, the design consultancies get an undue amount of space on page. A Japanese website seeks to rectify this by highlighting the designs done by anonymous inhouse engineers who also looked after the product design durning the golden age of Japanese consumer goods from the 1960s through to the mid 1990s. Japanese engineers churned out innovative designs so a full collection would be nigh impossible to get, but this website is a great effort.
Three big gaps that I thought of include:

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 
A couple of articles in the FT

Marketing in crisis: Creative Business has a great leading article based on research conducted by The Marketing Society by McKinsey.

Key highlights include:
  • Marketers are seen as creative but undsciplined
  • In marketing led businesses such as FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), marketing is too important to be left to the marketers
  • Marketing attracts the wrong kind of people
  • Marketers are undisciplined
  • Marketers are not interested in the P&L
So that explains many of the client horror stories that I hear from agency veterans in PR, advertising, design and branding.

The Buy Buy Generation

Young Japanese women are consumers with a high disposable income, publishers target them with 'product porn' style magazines focusing on luxury handbags, shoes and clothing. UK publishers are now looking to copy this format. What surprised me about this article is that it did not draw comparisions with the product porn gadget magazines targeted at young men in the UK like Stuff and T3.
Anybody walking the streets of London will have realised young Japanese are the most stylish people on the planet and avid collectors of the latest thing. On a related note Japanese boutique Oki Ni have teamed up with the Adidas vintage connection to do two cool exclusive versions of Adidas' 'Torsion Special lo' trainers here and here. These were the ultimate ravers trainer when they originally came out in the early 1990's, they fit like a glove, are light, good cushioning, came in a multitude of colours (my originals were predominantly purple) and have a sole that will grip to any warehouse floor.






Monday, November 15, 2004

 
On Heavy Rotation

The Chez Carroll sound system won't be reassembled until the new year, but that doesn't mean that there aren't good records coming out at the moment . Some of my favourites include:
  • Retro Funk Elements - Retro Elements (Rhythmic Deep Records promo). Strong Chicago deep house circa 1987 style production makes this a classy joint.
  • Cajmere feat. Dajae - I need U (Cajual Records). Whilst not up their with Cajmere's Brighter Day track of ten years ago, this rocks the spot and comes in Green Velvet and instrumental flavours
  • Vince Watson - Innersense (F Communications). Quality house rather than techno on the F...U sub label of F Comm.
  • Blacque Houze Sampler (Next Moov Records). Features a greatdeep house production by Renaissance Chambara producer of the moment JoVonn. You can check out a mix by JoVonn here
  • Kelley Polar Quartet - Rococo EP (Environ). Polar opposites is the right phrase to describe this track, a string quartet featuring violin, viola and cello accompanied by a classy electronic deep house percussion make this a must play record
  • Wahoo - Take over me (Sonar Kollectiv). Buy for the b-side track 'Make'em shake it', a Basement Jaxx style house number, but really well produced by Sonar Kollectiv's George Levin and Dixon
  • Dubs & Re-edits volumes one and two (white label). I have no idea who is producing these but they are good solid deep house tunes, well worthwhile getting your hands on them.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 
Debt is Good
Andy Kessler, ex-Bell Labs boffin, equity analyst, venture capitalist, fund manager and author whose book Running Money we reviewed recently is back with some missing chapters to counter some of the points that Renaissance Chambara and others had made regarding his 'national debt is good' creed.
The first missing chapter 'Gold Bites Part 1' can be read here.

Monday, November 08, 2004

 
Movin'

Back in the day when I started to play out as a DJ many records relied on the brass stab intro to Brass Construction's Movin' and it became as sampled as James Brown or George Clinton.

On Friday I did a different kind of move: moving house. The process has been a trial (and if anybody knows where I can get cheap Dexion(TM) racking in the UK email me: renaissancechambara at macdotcom.

A couple of tips:

  • Big Yellow Storage sell box packages that are ideal. Invest in a proper packaging tape gun, I got mine from Rymans
  • Plot your route with The AA Route Planner and do a dry run in a car before the move, I still can't believe this service is free
  • Rent a large Luton Box van or equivalent, I found Thrifty van hire really good, however their coverage in the UK is not universal

Carroll's Laws of Moving

  • There is no such thing as too many boxes
  • If at half way through packing you think you will have plenty of space in the van, in reality you will just scrape by
  • Make sure that you bring more cleaning stuffs than you could possibly use, because you will still use them
  • As above for bin bags

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 
Upsides and Downsides of the election of George W Bush for a second term

First the upsides. I think that the election of George Bush will be very beneficial for Europe and Asia. It will allow European and Asian companies to build a lead in internet, technology , personal information security, biotechnology, stem cell research, aeronautics, alternative fuels and environmental protection. They will benefit from a reverse of the brain drain as more creative and liberal minded Americans decide to try life elsewhere. The change in the quality of life will mean that Europe's brightest will be less likely to emigrate to the U.S.

In fact, the US electorate crippling its own country in international trade is such a good deal I would like to nominate a Rowe-Rice ticket for 2008 for them to carry on the great work of the Bush administration. The weakness of the US economy will allow the Euro to gain increased stature and the European Union to arise as an economic powerhouse. The Bush administration is the best thing to happen to America since Senator McCarthy and his witch trials.

The downside I will leave to an essay by Professor Jonathan Ezor of the BizLawTech Blog.

MORNING IN AMERICA; MOURNING FOR AMERICA

Professor Jonathan I. Ezor
Touro Law Center
jezor at tourolaw dotedu

The day after Election Day 2004, the weather is sunny outside my window, but the outlook is bleak for the United States. For a Democrat like me, the results from yesterday's election are both depressing and sobering, putting the lie to the word "United" in our nation's name. Even if Senator John Kerry had been able to successfully challenge enough Bush votes to obtain the 270 necessary Electoral College votes (not out of the question, considering the many stories of lost absentee ballots, voter suppression efforts and even the August 2003 statement by voting machine Diebold's head Walden O'Dell that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year"), we would at best have ended up with yet another President who lost the popular vote but won the electoral.

Now that President Bush has been declared the victor, we are faced with at least another two years of a one-party federal government, including a Supreme Court with an expected two or even three new justices appointed by President Bush. This was not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they set up our system of "checks and balances." Instead, we will continue
on the path of "checks and cash," unfettered spending and fiscal irresponsibility which has driven our national deficit to record levels. What is even more troubling, and what should be bothering the American people, is that there will continue to be little or no accountability for
actions by federal officials, up to and including the President.

Consider the past four years as an example. We've seen a CIA operative's identity leaked to the press (Valerie Plame, wife of Bush Administration critic Ambassador Joseph Wilson), jeopardizing both her life and those of her operatives, with the subsequent investigation focused on harassing and threatening New York Times reporters who had nothing to do with the actual leak. We have a serious charge in Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack" that the Bush Administration improperly redirected $700 million appropriated by Congress for Afghanistan to the buildup before the Iraq war, again with little or no response by Congress or the Justice Department. The torture scandal involving prisoner abuse in Abu Graeb prison in Iraq has led to convictions of enlisted personnel and noncoms, while the senior officers and Administration members who may have ordered the abuses escape unpunished (and the White House lawyer who wrote the memo endorsing the use of torture, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, has been rewarded with a federal judgeship). Even 9/11 hasn't resulted in any discipline of aviation officials or intelligence or military personnel who were negligent in preventing or responding to the tragedy. Nor has the President exercised his Constitutional oversight of Congress-in his almost 4 years in office, he has not vetoed a single bill placed on his desk, a tribute to the lockstep in which Congress and the President walk. Even the few times that the Supreme Court has put limits on the Administration are likely to be the last for a long time, given the expected appointments that will put a clear majority of pro-Bush justices on the Court.

In short, no one in this administration has taken any responsibility or suffered any consequences for any mistakes other than people who disagree with the administration's policies, like General Eric Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff who correctly stated in 2003 that 200,000 troops would be needed to keep the peace in Iraq rather than the smaller number sent by the President and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and who was retired soon
thereafter. Another potential casualty of the truth was chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster, who was threatened with firing by then-Medicare Chief Thomas Scully if Foster disclosed that the true cost of the Bush Administration's Medicare overhaul would be $100 billion more than reported to Congress. Scully, by the way, was condemned for this threat by the Congressional Budget Office, which called for him to repay part of his annual salary to the government; the Bush Administration declined to have Scully do so. The Bush Administration seems quite happy to threaten or penalize junior officials and soldiers, leaving the senior decision makers
untouched and unblamed.

Iraq stands apart from the other actions of the Bush Administration because it is both so egregious and so misunderstood by the President's supporters. The President justified the war in Iraq by massaging intelligence about potential weapons, encouraging Americans to believe there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq (when his administration knew there wasn't), and using a plan to invade Iraq that apparently predated 9/11 or even the President's being elected. In sharp contrast to the evil picture painted by President Bush in the run-up to this war, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was the least extremist of the Islamic states, had a defanged military under constant surveillance, and was once more permitting U.N. weapons inspectors to investigate potential sites. Iraq had also provided a 12,000 page report as required by the U.N. detailing the destruction of its former weapons stockpiles, but this was not enough for President Bush-he didn't even wait enough time for the report to be fully analyzed. Moreover, President Bush got a resolution of support from the U.S. Congress that specifically required him to continue consulting with the U.N., then unilaterally chose to avoid doing so. Instead, he continued on his course to an unjustified war, resulting in the deaths of more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 1,000 American soldiers, and creating a country-wide breeding ground
and armory for terrorists. Iraq wasn't a friendly place for Al Qaeda before we attacked, but it is now. And neither that, nor any of many other problems caused by this Administration, were enough to keep Bush from reelection.

More troubling to me than the election results themselves is the stark realization that the America of President Bush and the majority of the voters who reelected him is not my America. This country's actions do not reflect what I believe to be the ideals it should stand for: equal rights for all, the power of the rule of law over brute force, the example set for
other nations of fairness and democracy. I have never felt less represented by my "representative government," and at times it's as if I were a foreigner rather than the proud citizen I have always been.

I literally cannot understand how anyone, let alone a majority of American voters, could give George Bush another term after what he has done with his first. The best answer I can come up breaks down into one of two possibilities. The first possibility is that the majority of voters
selected President Bush based on his expressed policies, while complete ignoring the fact that his actions were the exact opposite of his words. The President preached fiscal conservatism, but expanded federal spending and borrowing to record levels. He ran on his national security stance, but his invasion of Iraq and failure to secure either borders or shipping containers in any meaningful way have further compromised our security. He claimed to support the environment, yet rejected existing global treaties on greenhouse gases and allowed oil and timber companies to literally write the Federal regulations covering their exploitation of natural resources. He decried "flipflopping," yet his first term showed numerous changes from his expressed positions in his 2000 campaign or even during the term. He spoke of "personal responsibility," yet could not name a single mistake he or his administration made in office. He said he "supported the troops," yet chose to put them at risk by the thousands in an unnecessary and poorly planned war in Iraq, not even attending a single of the thousand funerals for men and women killed in action. He claimed to be fighting a "war on terror," yet took troops out of Afghanistan rather than fully destroying the actual terrorist network and leadership that attacked the U.S.S. Cole and committed the mass murder of 9/11. Putting the best face on the election results, those that trusted Bush's words rather than looking at his deeds were seriously misled.

The second possibility, though, fills me with greater dread: the majority knew what Bush did and agreed with it. That so many of my fellow Americans could look on the Administration's secrecy, dishonesty, poor judgments and major miscalculations with approval is at once a terrifying and depressing thought. I have never thought of myself as a radical, taking centrist positions on economic issues among others, but if the mainstream of America supports what the President has done, then I find myself (as Mr. Bush himself accused Senator Kerry) on the "far left bank" of that stream. It's not entirely a lonely location, given that I share the bank with 55 million other voters, but it's not particularly comfortable either. Meanwhile, my country and its President are taking actions I deplore, and I can do nothing to stop it.

Perhaps out of self-preservation, I choose to believe that this election was driven by misinformation rather than conviction, and that Americans as a whole still strive for the ideals of freedom and integrity that are our birthright. With luck and a lot of hard work, we may be able to stem the tide in two or four more years and return to our place of pride in the world. In the meantime, I look out at four more years of President Bush's leading the United States, and mourn for the America we don't have, but should.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 
By the numbers

If you have been following the three-ring circus that has been the US presidential election you may find this link with graphics and updated results from the New York Times Online useful. During the few days I spent back in Liverpool the subject of the election came up with my old school friend Joe, he predicted that Bush would win and based this on the fact that he was the bookmakers favourite. This simple deduction reminded me of the work that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) were commissioning on the FutureMAP project (Future Markets Applied to Prediction) (you can also find out here) to predict future happening such as the risk of a terrorist attack or a regime change. Next stop, get down to your local Ladbrokes shop to play your part in the war on terror.

FutureMAP Program Objectives,

Strategic decisions depend upon the accurate assessment of the likelihood of future events. This analysis often requires independent contributions by experts in a wide variety of fields, with the resulting difficulty of combining the various opinions into one assessment.

The FutureMAP program at DARPA is investigating the use of markets and market-like mechanisms in aggregating information from diverse multiple sources. Specifically this will involve

(a) defining and running demonstration markets for proof-of-concept,

(b) conducting analytical studies to develop new market structures and features of interest to the DoD,

(c) designing and running a laboratory testbed to evaluate and validate market structures, and

(d) conducting red team exercises to ensure robustness. Additionally, FutureMAP will investigate ancillary topics such as incentives for participation, the use of information markets in conjunction with natural markets, and regulatory and logistical issues.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

 
Hallowe'en Transcript

Hallowe'en festivities passed off with a special appearance by OBL (Osama Bin Laden). Many of the news programmes featured snippets of the video but did not record what he said. A copy of the translation appears below courtesy of Aljazeera via CNN. I have not commented on the apparent similarities between OBL and the literary characters Emmanuel Goldstein and Snowball the pig in George Orwell's novel 1984 and Animal Farm respectively because that merits another blog entry all of its own. You can read it at CNN here and a more accurate and lengthly translation courtesy of the English service of Aljazeera here.

You, the American people, I talk to you today about the best way to avoid another catastrophe and about war, its reasons and its consequences.

And in that regard, I say to you that security is an important pillar of human life, and that free people do not compromise their security.

Contrary to what [President George W.] Bush says and claims -- that we hate freedom --let him tell us then, "Why did we not attack Sweden?" It is known that those who hate freedom don't have souls with integrity, like the souls of those 19. May the mercy of God be upon them.

We fought with you because we are free, and we don't put up with transgressions. We want to reclaim our nation. As you spoil our security, we will do so to you.

I wonder about you. Although we are ushering the fourth year after 9/11, Bush is still exercising confusion and misleading you and not telling you the true reason. Therefore, the motivations are still there for what happened to be repeated.

And I will talk to you about the reason for those events, and I will be honest with you about the moments the decision was made so that you can ponder. And I tell you, God only knows, that we never had the intentions to destroy the towers.

But after the injustice was so much and we saw transgressions and the coalition between Americans and the Israelis against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it occurred to my mind that we deal with the towers. And these special events that directly and personally affected me go back to 1982 and what happened when America gave permission for Israel to invade Lebanon. And assistance was given by the American sixth fleet.

During those crucial moments, my mind was thinking about many things that are hard to describe. But they produced a feeling to refuse and reject injustice, and I had determination to punish the transgressors.

And as I was looking at those towers that were destroyed in Lebanon, it occurred to me that we have to punish the transgressor with the same -- and that we had to destroy the towers in America so that they taste what we tasted, and they stop killing our women and children.

We found no difficulties in dealing with the Bush administration, because of the similarities of that administration and the regimes in our countries, half of which are run by the military and half of which are run by monarchs. And our experience is vast with them.

And those two kinds are full of arrogance and taking money illegally.

The resemblance started when [former President George H.W.] Bush, the father, visited the area, when some of our own were impressed by America and were hoping that the visits would affect and influence our countries.

Then, what happened was that he was impressed by the monarchies and the military regimes, and he was jealous of them staying in power for tens of years, embezzling the public money without any accountability. And he moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act, under the disguise of fighting terrorism. And Bush, the father, found it good to install his children as governors and leaders.

We agreed with the leader of the group, Mohammed Atta, to perform all attacks within 20 minutes before [President George W.] Bush and his administration were aware of what was going on. And we never knew that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his people in the two towers to face those events by themselves when they were in the most urgent need of their leader.

He was more interested in listening to the child's story about the goat rather than worry about what was happening to the towers. So, we had three times the time necessary to accomplish the events.

Your security is not in the hands of [Democratic presidential nominee John] Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 
Blogging for wholesome enterprise goodness

From Tony Perkins, founder of the AlwaysOn Network and Scott McNeally of Sun Microsystems; why blogging is going to be more important for business. It is interesting the way Scott tries to put distance between Sun and internet hype (what happened to 'we put the dot in dot.com' strapline?). Humour aside, the interview recognises the role of the blog as a massive intermediation process. More here.

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