|To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5113)||3/4/2007 4:48:36 PM|
|:•) I, Cringley . Just the Facts Ma'am: iReader finds meaning whether we want it to or not.|
March 1, 2007
Computing interfaces last a long time. Though a thousand readers will correct me with their superiorly nuanced views of the past, let's say we generally began with punched cards, went to command lines, then to text-based graphical interfaces, followed by a true graphical interface and for the last decade a lot of people have viewed that graphical interface a least in part through a browser. But what if you have a computer interface that doesn't follow these broad lines, what do you do? Syntactica's iReader may show us.
IReader (which was called Speed Reader until a moment ago) started life a year ago as a search product called ePrecis, an application that could look at an article, book, or a web site, and give you its meaning in a prioritized list of short sentences. If you allowed ePrecis to return enough sentences, it would eventually return the entire object being searched. But if you limited the number of sentences, it returned the best possible approximation of the TOTAL content that's possible within the space constraints.
I'd love to write here that ePrecis told me the meaning of Moby Dick was "sea mammal obsessions are bad," but it doesn't work exactly that way, or at least not with that much fun. It doesn't matter anyway because ePrecis lived precisely three days before being effectively shut down by Google. You see, to most effectively search the Internet, ePrecis took the shortcut of searching the best Internet proxy -- Google -- which was NOT a good idea.
While the product got some good press last year, it didn't last of course, and a lot of that good press came AFTER ePrecis was effectively dead.
But did it really have to die? I would have just switched the search target to the Internet Archive and expected the same or better results, but of course ePrecis, by scraping Google, was effectively riding on Google's PageRank algorithm, which gave greater relevance to the results. If I were Google I wouldn't like it, either.
So now a year has passed and the same folks are back with iReader, another approach based on the same underlying technology.
Instead of being a web search engine, spiders and all, iReader is a tool to create synopses of content based on browsing, not searching, and on mousing, not clicking. These distinctions are important, in large part for legal reasons intended to keep the Googlers at bay. Searching pretty much requires scraping the Internet for content that is then indexed, while iReader's new browsing metaphor doesn't kick into action until the user mouses over a URL (no clicking required, hence no stepping on the toes of Google or any Google competitors). Only then does a Syntactica server take a quick look at the URL, process it through the same linguistic engine used in ePrecis, then spit out a short synopsis of the content. The fact that this can take place in real time with a lot of people online at any one time is pretty darned impressive.
IReader, which functions as both a Word macro (great for compiling abstracts and indices, I suppose) and a plug-in for Firefox or Internet Explorer, is amazing and fascinating. It can also be annoying.
The underlying process is what I find fascinating, perhaps because of my personal involvement with one of the earliest search engines -- Architext, later called Excite -- that also took a statistical linguistics approach.
Most traditional search engines prior to Excite used Boolean keyword searches or Boolean search augmented with a thesaurus or so-called topic-tree searches. This is all old stuff. And so too was Excite's "vector-based searching," which was invented almost 40 years before, but never quite worked right. Vector-based searching uses no Boolean operators, thesauruses or topic trees. It doesn't even matter what the words mean. All that matters are the words themselves.
Vector-based searching begins with making an index of words in a document. Using this column as an example, the software would examine all the words I have written here, throw away words that carry no real information -- words like "the," "and" and most verbs -- then count the instances of each of the remaining words. Each word in the column becomes a vector in a multidimensional space. If I have used the word "Internet" 15 times in this column, then "internet" defines the direction of the vector and 15 is its length. Adding all the vectors in this column yields a single vector that represents the entire column in a multidimensional space defined by all the words in all the articles in the entire database.
Doing a search using this system is simply a matter of entering a natural-language query, which is parsed and indexed in exactly the same manner, yielding another vector. This search vector is plotted in the multidimensional space and the search results are those vectors (those articles) that are nearest in space to the query vector. The closer to the query vector an article vector lies, the more likely that article is to answer the question posed in the query.
EPrecis and now iReader use a similar approach, but where the actual words didn't matter to Excite, they matter a LOT to these new products. The magic here is a so-called "intelligent dictionary" or lexicon compiled over more than 20 years beginning at Control Data Corp., which was headquartered, like Syntactica, in Minneapolis.
The great problem with obtaining meaning from text is understanding the context in which that text appears, and this is where Syntactica's lexicon shines. This lexicon is a compilation of a meticulous word-by-word analysis of Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary, unabridged. This compilation considers the many different meanings and contexts of each individual word in the lexicon, and assigns a set of values to each word, which is a heck of a lot of work and explains why most competing products (there turn out to be a bunch) don't have it.
IReader turns out to be an adjunct to browsing. Run your mouse over any live URL and iReader pretty quickly returns three to four sentences describing the contents of that URL without your ever having to visit that web site. It's really useful. But as I wrote earlier it can be annoying, too, which is why I assigned a function key to turn the darned thing on and off, keeping it out of my face most of the time.
I wish the Syntactica people well (I do not own stock). They've done a good and difficult job, published parts of iReader as open source, created some useful APIs and built the whole darned thing as a web service that can be built into all sorts of gizmos. They also seem to think that iReader will become a popular alternative to browsing, especially since it comes minus the ads. I just don't see that.
My guess is iReader and Syntactica will be snapped up soon by a Google or Yahoo or one of the other usual suspects. And if not, then I predict the product will be used to create a whole new class of annoying web denizens -- web pages made up only of such abstracts as a kind of meta-search in the same way that so much of the web is now clogged with meta-ads meant to sucker us into clicking on them.
Personally, I prefer my web content -- like my women -- real, not inflated.
Just kidding, Mrs. Cringely.
LINKS FROM BOB
Due to the fluid nature of the web, we can't guarantee these links will work past the original posting date.
ePrecis External Link
ePrecis still exists, sort of.
Syntactica External Link
Syntactica, what ePrecis became.
Syntactica, iReader White Paper
A whitepaper on how Syntactica and iReader work
Scraping Google To See What Happens External Link
An interesting, if old, thread on the many implications of scraping Google.
Microsoft's Answer to PageRank? External Link
Microsoft's search for a path around PageRank.
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|To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5114)||3/9/2007 10:53:49 AM|
|:•) I, Cringley . The Great Apple Video Encoder Attack of 2007: Cupertino plans to add H.264 hardware support to its entire line. Also, Snapster lives!|
March 8, 2007
Maybe you have wondered, as I have, why it takes a pretty robust notebook computer to play DVD videos, while Wal-Mart will sell you a perfectly capable progressive-scan DVD player from Philips for $38? In general, the dedicated DVD player is not only a lot cheaper, it works better, too, and the simple reason is because it decodes the DVD's MPEG-2 video stream in hardware, rather than in software. They won't run a spreadsheet, true, but DVD players are brilliant at doing what they are designed to do over and over again. And if the expedient here is a $7 MPEG-2 decoder chip, it's a wonder why such chips didn't appear long ago in PCs.
Well they are about to, after a fashion.
I'm not sure of the real reason why we haven't seen widespread video-decoding hardware in personal computers, which have largely used decoding software, instead. Maybe the reason is economic (save the $7) or maybe it is political (Microsoft or maybe Apple are for some reason opposed to hardware decoding). But like a lot of real reasons, I think it probably comes down to hubris and the simple fact that by decoding video in software, road warriors have another incentive to buy a more expensive -- and more powerful -- computer.
Now comes the rumor I have heard, that I believe to be a fact, that has simply yet to be confirmed. I have heard that Apple plans to add hardware video decoding to ALL of its new computers beginning fairly soon, certainly this year.
Why Apple would do this is fairly clear to me, but first let's clarify what I mean by hardware video decoding, because it isn't implicitly the MPEG-2 format used in present-day DVDs. I'm not saying Apple's video-decoder chip won't also decode MPEG-2 (it may or may not -- I simply don't know), but the chip's primary codec is H.264, which is at the heart of both Apple's QuickTime software and its iTunes video downloading service.
WHY Apple would add H.264 video-decoding hardware to its entire line of PCs comes down to supporting iTunes and any similar video distribution efforts Apple may spring on us. By going with a chip, Apple ensures the same base performance level from every machine it sells, from the lowliest Mac Mini right up to the mightiest four-core Mac Pro. Up until now it took a multi-core machine with a lot of memory to support real 1080p (HDTV) decoding, but soon you'll be able to do that easily on a Mac Mini while leaving the main CPU to handle other chores like networking, running the graphical user interface, or perhaps integrating in real time a variety of video ad streams.
Apple's new policy, if true, will turn on its head the whole notion of forcing users upmarket if they want better video support. THE POLICY WILL COST APPLE MONEY, not just for the video chip, but also for the lost sales of higher performance machines.
So what's in it for Apple? Potentially a lot, because the chip Apple has chosen doesn't cost $7, it costs more like $50, and it doesn't just do hardware H.264 decoding, it does hardware H.264 ENCODING, too.
This will change everything. Soon even the lowliest Mac will be able to effortlessly record in background one or more video signals while the user runs TurboTax on the screen. Macs will become superb DVR machines with TiVo-like functionality yet smaller file sizes than any TiVo box could ever produce. In a YouTube world, the new Macs will be a boon to user-produced video, which will, in turn, promote the H.264 standard. By being able to encode in real time, the new Macs will have that American Idol clip up and running faster than could be done on almost any other machine. Add in Slingbox-like capability to throw your home cable signal around the world and it gets even better. Add faster video performance to the already best-of-league iChat audio/video chat client, and every new Mac becomes a webcam or a video phone.
It's an aggressive play that fits perfectly with Apple's traditional role as the hardware platform of choice for new media development. And I am sure the company will have at least one new service or application that will uniquely support this new chip upon which Apple is placing a $500+ million bet.
Remember, you read it here first.
Something else you read here first, well, years ago, appears to be finally coming to fruition. Maybe you remember Snapster, my harebrained scheme from back in 2003 to create a company to buy up one copy of every music CD (of course it would work for video DVDs, too) and share them using a group ownership model not unlike fractional ownership of business jets. The record companies would hate it, I predicted, since they might sell just one copy of any given CD, but it would be a great -- and nominally legal -- business, or so I thought at the time.
Snapster and the bug-fix version Snapster 2.0 got a huge reader response, and several people even vowed to build the darned thing, which I would never have done, coward that I am. Well four years later, something darned close to Snapster is finally entering beta testing and might just work, which is to say generate legal bills for its developer.
The new service is called NetTunes (it's in this week's links) and was built, according to lead developer Robert Stromberg, by combining my ideas with his. The major difference between NetTunes and Snapster is that while Snapster was based on joint ownership of the music, NetTunes is based on a music-lending model.
There is nothing in U.S. copyright law that says you can't lend your DVD or CD to a friend or neighbor to watch or listen to. They aren't supposed to copy it, of course, but the concept doesn't preclude multiple physical copies (backups are allowed, remember, as is redeployment on other media like tapes or iPods) so much as multiple simultaneous USES of the content. So if you lend your copy of Led Zeppelin IV to some buddy with a hot date, you'd better not play it that evening at your home, that is unless you bought a second physical copy of the record or CD.
NetTunes virtualizes the whole music-lending function. You join the service, then either upload your music just like to any other music locker service, or you just register the albums and songs you own and link to them through NetTunes in much the same way that you did in the pirate heyday of Napster, the original P2P music-sharing sensation.
If you've registered your copy of Led Zeppelin IV and some other member wants to play Side A (the money side, believe me), here's what happens, according to Stromberg:
"When a user wants to share a music file, the player application encrypts it on the user's computer and makes one more copy of it available for use by all of the users in the system. It can then only be played with the NetTunes player, until the user decides to un-share it. When a user wants to play a song, the player checks with the NetTunes service to see if any copies are available at that time. If one is, the "key" is checked out to that user for the duration of the song, and no other user can use that copy. Users can upload the shared songs to the NetTunes service, where they can be downloaded and played by other users."
It will be interesting to see how NetTunes fares. From a technical standpoint I see no huge problems with it, though, of course, the music labels will hate NetTunes, sending lawyers in suicide attacks whether they have a case or not. I hope it succeeds, frankly, because I think of NetTunes as my baby, even if I didn't have either the brains or the guts to make it happen, myself.
Links from Bob
Due to the fluid nature of the web, we can't guarantee these links will work past the original posting date.
H.264 Hardware vs. Software Decoding External Link
Hardware- vs. software-decoding performance for H.264 video.
Apple's H.264 FAQ External Link
Apple's current H.264 FAQ, which I think will have to be edited a bit in coming months.
I, CRINGELY: Son of Napster
My original Snapster column from 2003.
I, CRINGELY: Snapster 2.0
My follow-up Snapster column based on reader feedback.
NetTunes beta External Link
Almost four years later, something very much like Snapster is finally ready to go.
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|From: ms.smartest.person||3/11/2007 10:48:16 PM|
|Global GeoPolitical Realignment and the Decline of the USA as a Superpower|
Mar 10, 2007 - 02:09 AM
The United States has been defeated in Iraq. That doesn't mean that there'll be a troop withdrawal anytime soon, but it does mean that there's no chance of achieving the mission's political objectives. Iraq will not be a democracy, reconstruction will be minimal, and the security situation will continue to deteriorate into the foreseeable future.
The real goals of the invasion are equally unachievable. While the US has established a number of military bases at the heart of the world's energy-center; oil output has dwindled to 1.6 million barrels per day, nearly half of post-war production. More importantly, the administration has no clear strategy for protecting pipelines, oil tankers and major facilities. Oil production will be spotty for years to come even if security improves. This will have grave effects on oil futures; triggering erratic spikes in prices and roiling the world energy markets. If the contagion spreads to the other Gulf States, as many political analysts now expect, many of the world's oil-dependent countries will go through an agonizing cycle of recession/depression.
America's failure in Iraq is not merely a defeat for the Bush administration. It is also a defeat for the “unipolar-model” of world order. Iraq proves that that the superpower model cannot provide the stability, security or guarantee of human rights that are essential for garnering the support of the 6 billion people who now occupy the planet. The mushrooming of armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Somalia foreshadows a broader and more violent confrontation between the over-stretched American legions and their increasingly adaptable and lethal enemies. Resistance to the imperial order is on the rise everywhere.
The United States does not have the resources or the public support to prevail in such a conflict. Nor does it have the moral authority to persuade the world of the merit of its cause. The Bush administration's extra-legal actions have galvanized the majority of people against the United States. America has become a threat to the very human rights and civil liberties with which it used to be identified. There's little popular support for imprisoning enemies without charges, for torturing suspects with impunity, for kidnapping people off the streets of foreign capitals, or for invading unarmed sovereign nations without the approval of the United Nations. These are fundamental violations to international law as well as commonly held principles of human decency.
The Bush administration defends its illegal activities as an essential part of the new world order; a model of global governance which allows Washington to police the world according to its own discretion. The vast majority of people have rejected this model and polls clearly indicate declining support for US policies nearly everywhere. As former Jimmy Carter National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski noted:
“American power may be greater in 2006 than in 1991, (but) the country's capacity to mobilize, inspire, point in a shared direction and thus shape global realities has significantly declined. Fifteen years after its coronation as global leader, America is becoming a fearful and lonely democracy in a politically antagonistic world.”
The United States is a nation in a state of irreversible decline; its foundational principles have been abandoned and its center of political power is a moral swamp. The Bush presidency represents the ethical low point in American history.
The U.S. now faces a decades-long struggle which will engulf the Middle East and Central Asia leading to the steady and predictable erosion of America's military, political and economic power.
This is not the “new century” that Bush and his fellows envisioned.
There are still dead-enders within the Bush administration who believe that we are winning the war. Vice President Dick Cheney has celebrated the “enormous success” of the Iraqi occupation, but he finds himself increasingly isolated in his views. Reasonable people agree that the war has been a strategic and moral catastrophe. The US has paid a heavy price for its recklessness; losing over 3,000 servicemen while seriously undermining its standing in the world. A small cadre of Iraqi guerillas has demonstrated that it can frustrate the efforts of best-equipped, best-trained, high-tech military in the world. They have made Iraq an ungovernable quagmire which, by the standards of asymmetrical warfare, is the very definition of success.
But what if Bush's plans had succeeded? What if his dark vision of “victory” had been realized and the US was able to subjugate the Iraqi people, control their resources, and create an “Arab façade” through which the administration could carry out its policies?
Is there any doubt that Bush would quickly march on Tehran and Damascus? Is there any doubt that Guantanamo and other CIA “black sites” around the world would increase in number and size? Is there any doubt that global warming, peak oil, nuclear non proliferation, poverty, hunger and AIDS would continue to be brushed aside by Washington's corporatists and banking elites?
Is there any doubt that success in Iraq would further strengthen a tyrannical system that limits the decision-making on all the issues of global importance, even the very survival of the planet, to a small fraternity of well-heeled plutocrats and gangsters?
The “new world order” promises despotism not democracy.
Many people believe that America has undergone a silent coup and has been taken over by a cabal of political fantasists and war-mongers. But this is only partially true. The US has a long history of covert activity, black-ops, and other clear violations to international law. Perhaps, we are reluctant to accept the truth because it's easier to stick our heads in the sand and let the marauding continue.
The truth is there's a straight line from the founding of this country to the killing fields of Baghdad. That line may be interrupted by periods of enlightenment and peace, but it is still an unbroken stripe from the Continental Congress to Abu Ghraib, from Bunker Hill to Falluja, from Valley Forge to Guantanamo Bay. It all grows from the same root.
The United States now faces mounting resistance from all corners of the earth. Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries have joined together in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to fend off US-NATO influence in the region. And in Latin America, an alliance of leftist governments has formed (Mercosur) under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. Africa still remains politically fragmented and open to western exploitation, although ham-fisted interventions in Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan suggest that the empire will face escalating resistance there as well.
These new coalitions are an indication of the massive geopolitical changes that are already underway. The world is realigning in reaction to Washington's aggression. We can expect to see these groups continue to strengthen as the administration pursues its resource war through force of arms. That means that the “old order” — the United Nations, NATO and the transatlantic Alliance — will come under greater and greater strain until relations are eventually cut off.
The UN has already become irrelevant through its blind support of US policy in the Middle East. Its silence during Israel's destructive rampage through Lebanon, as well as its failure to acknowledge Iran's “inalienable rights” under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has exposed the UN as a “rubber stamp” for US-Israeli belligerence. An attack on Iran will be the end of the UN, an institution that held great promise for the world, but now merely provides cover for an elite-western agenda. On balance, the UN facilitates more wars than it stops. It won't be missed.
Afghanistan holds the key for understanding what's in store for the EU, NATO and the transatlantic Alliance. There is no possibility of success in Afghanistan. If the men who planned the invasion had a grasp of the country's history they would have known how the war would progress. They would have realized that Afghanis traditionally take their time to fight back; (Eric Margolis predicted that the real war would not take place until 4 to5 years after the initial invasion) measuring the strength of their enemy and garnering greater public support. Then they proceed with deliberate steps to rid their country of the invaders. These are fiercely nationalistic and independent people who have fought occupation before and know what it takes to win.
We are mistaken to think that the war in Afghanistan is merely a Taliban (or worse still) “terrorist” insurgency. The present conflict represents a general uprising of Pushtun nationals who seek to end foreign occupation. They know first-hand that US-NATO policy has strengthened the warlords, expanded the drug trade, reduced security, and increased terrorism. According to the Senlis Council Report, the occupation has triggered “a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty… US policies in Afghanistan have re-created a safe-haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy.”
The Afghan armed resistance is resourceful and intractable and has a growing number of recruits to swell its ranks. Eventually, they will prevail. It's their country and they'll be there long after we've gone.
An America defeat in Afghanistan could be the straw that breaks NATO's back. The administrations' global schema depends heavily on support from Europe; persuading the predominantly white, western nations to join the battle and secure pipeline corridors and landlocked energy supplies throughout Central Asia. Failure in Afghanistan would send tremors through Europe's political landscape and give rise to a generation of anti-American politicians who will seek to dissolve relations between the two traditional allies. But a breakup seems inevitable. After all, Europe has no imperial aspirations and its economies are thriving. They don't need to invade and occupy countries to get access to vital resources. They can simply buy them on the open market.
As Europeans begin to see that their national interests are better served through dialogue and friendship, (with suppliers of resources in Central Asia and Russia) then the ties that bind Europe to America will loosen and the continents will drift further apart.
The end of NATO is the end of America as a global power. The present adventurism is not sustainable “unilaterally” and without the fig-leaf of UN cover. America needs Europe, but the chasm between the two is progressively growing.
It is impossible to predict the future with any degree of certainty, but the appearance of these coalitions strongly suggests a new world order is emerging. It is not the one, however, that Bush and the neoconservatives anticipated. America's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to prevent it from addressing brush-fires in Latin America and Russia, further strengthening US rivals and precipitating macroeconomic changes that could crush the American middle class. The likelihood of a major economic retrenchment has never been greater as the administrations' reckless defense spending, lavish tax cuts, and trade deficit have set the stage for the US dollar to be dethroned as the world's “reserve currency”. The three pillars of American imperial power — political, economic and military — rest on the crumbling foundation of the US greenback. If the dollar falls, as many currency traders now expect, then foreign (baskets of) currencies will rise, and America will slip into a deep recession/depression.
America's military and economic unraveling is likely to take a decade or more depending on the situation in Iraq. If the Bush administration is able to exert control over Middle East oil, then the dollar will continue to be linked to vital resources and American supremacy will persist. If, however, conditions on the ground deteriorate, then Central Banks around the world will decrease their dollar holdings, Americans will face hyper-inflation at home, and the US will lose its grip on the global economic system. The Bush administration must, therefore, ensure that oil continues to be denominated in USDs and that the world economy remains in the hands of western elites, banking giants and corporatists.
The chances for success in Iraq are gradually diminishing. The US has shown that it is incapable of establishing security, providing basic social services, or keeping the peace. The guerilla war continues to intensify while the over-extended US military has been pushed to the breaking point. We expect the occupation of Iraq to be untenable within 5 years if present trends continue.
America's military and economic unraveling will undoubtedly be painful, but it may generate greater parity among the nations, which would be a positive development. The superpower model has been an abysmal failure. It has wreaked havoc on civil liberties at home and spread war and instability across the world. The present system needs a major shakeup so that power can be more evenly distributed according to traditional democratic standards. America's decline presents a unique opportunity to restore the Republic, restructure the existing global-paradigm, and begin to build consensus on the species-threatening challenges which face us all.
By Mike Whitney
Mike is a well respected freelance writer living in Washington state, interested in politics and economics from a libertarian perspective.
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|From: ms.smartest.person||4/22/2007 12:26:14 AM|
|Iacocca: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?|
American Empire | Books
Excerpt: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
By Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney
04/11/07 "ICH" -- -- -Had Enough? Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course." Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies.Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.
I've had enough. How about you? I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to, as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us. Who Are These Guys, Anyway? Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them, or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy. And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.
Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?
The Test of a Leader
I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points, not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.
A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.
If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.
A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush,"Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't. Leadership is all about managing change, whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.
A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.
A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths. For what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.
A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.
If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.
To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION, a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President, four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake. It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership.
A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.
A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.
You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know, Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush. Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world, and I like it here." I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.
The Biggest C is Crisis Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down. On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day, and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero. That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq, a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you,I don't know what will.
A Hell of a Mess.
So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.
But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.
Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened. Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.
Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it? <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry. <!--[endif]-->
I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change? Had Enough? Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough
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|From: ms.smartest.person||6/16/2007 10:40:03 AM|
|Conservative bloggers in full revolt over immigration |
POSTED: 7:22 p.m. EDT, June 15, 2007
By Peter Hamby
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Different conservative blogs have different pet issues -- government transparency, federal judges, Fred Thompson, to name a few.
But no issue in recent memory has united conservative bloggers like the debate over immigration. Their frustration has culminated in a full-scale revolt against the Bush administration and a Senate bill that activists say does little to solve the country's border security problems.
President Bush's pledge to support $4.4 billion in additional border security funds has breathed new life into the bill, but the drumbeat against the legislation shows no signs of quieting. (Watch how senators revived the immigration bill Video)
It's increasingly clear from Web postings and interviews with top conservative bloggers that the immigration bill has done serious damage to the president's credibility among the conservative netroots, the grassroots bloggers on the Web.
Erick Erickson, managing editor of the popular conservative blog RedState.comexternal link, says he receives between 800 and 900 e-mails a day from readers, most of whom are "enraged" by the White House's immigration efforts.
"Of all the issues the president has picked to make his hill to die on, he has picked the one that has divided his base," said Erickson, who lives in Macon, Georgia. "I am shocked by the anger and outrage out there ... You've got war against the president within the Republican party."
When details of an immigration compromise were announced this spring, conservative bloggers were immediately incensed. Michelle Malkinexternal link labeled it "a White House betrayal."
Another popular blogger, Hugh Hewittexternal link, called the bill a "fiasco" and wrote: "this push for this bill is a disaster, Mr. President."
Bloggers: Secure the border first
Conservative bloggers make various arguments against the bill. Some say the bill grants amnesty to illegal immigrants who have already broken the law. Others say normalizing millions of new workers would depress wages and harm American workers.
Most conservative bloggers see border enforcement as the priority, an issue they say the president can enforce on his own without having to push a bill through Congress.
According to several top conservative bloggers, Bush simply has a credibility problem when it comes to border security.
"The administration has not done anything to fix the border or the visa program," said Ed Morrissey, the Minnesota-based founder of the blog Captain's Quartersexternal link. "It's a huge gap in national security. It's been six years past 9/11 and the administration has done nothing to fix either one."
Many bloggers said they are disappointed the president has pushed so hard for the immigration bill while letting the war and other issues conservatives care about fall by the wayside.
"The White House will go out and zealously promote Harriet Miers [the former White House counsel who Bush unsuccessfully nominated for the Supreme Court], defend [Attorney General] Alberto Gonzales, promote this bill, but will not take a firm stand on the war," said Erickson. "I know people who are boiling with rage that the president has been beating up his own side over this bill but won't take the bully pulpit to beat up Democrats over the war."
Bush did little to help his relationship with bloggers on May 29, when he told a crowd in Glynco, Georgia, that critics of the immigration bill "don't want to do what's right for America."
Kathryn Jean Lopez at the National Review asked, "Is the White House just not paying attention?"
The blog Ace of Spades HQexternal link called Bush "incompetent" and "embarrassingly dimwitted" and urged him to retire.
Blogs and anti-immigration organizations used the Web to tap into the growing discontent over the immigration bill, using the Internet to organize phone and fax campaigns to urge senators to vote against the bill. It was a plugged-in show of force that would have been beyond comprehension a decade ago.
"The support for this issue has always been there, but the Internet is the platform the issue has needed to become a force in American politics," said David All, a Republican online strategist based in Washington.
Blogosphere ready for round two
When the bill was stymied by a procedural vote on June 7, the blogs claimed victory. A straw poll of conservative bloggers conducted by the Web site Right Wing News showed that 96 percent of bloggers surveyed were "pleased that the Senate immigration bill did not pass."
Now that the bill is back for a second round in the Senate, Bush could have a difficult time making new friends online beyond a relative handful of the bill's supporters.
"It will be very difficult for him to recover with conservative bloggers," said Robert Bluey, director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation. "When Bush is on to his next issue, I'm not sure if bloggers are going to be there to back him up."
Which begs the question -- is Bush a lame duck among bloggers?
Said Morrissey: "I think that they are going to continue to support him on the war on terror. As for the rest of it, they are looking for ways to reshape the party agenda going into the next election. That's a nice way of saying they are going to consider him irrelevant."
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|To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5121)||6/16/2007 3:21:06 PM|
|I have heard that he wants the hispanic vote and so he is pandering to the immigrants.. |
However, on the flip side of the coin. I see Hispanics
all over in work. Today they were picking up the dishes and
washing the tables in a big restaurant here while the white
help waited on the tables.
I have a Minendez power treating and staining my decks and
all his help, I realized when I tried to show them something
do not speak English.
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