Quick Roundup 506

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Headline Says It All, ...

... especially when you remember that, in 2001, "Loaded, Hijacked Passenger Jets Hit Targets, Intentionally Killing 3,000 Innocent Civilians:" "NATO rockets miss target, kill 12 Afghan civilians."

The same, non-American parties are responsible for all these deaths.

Genie Out, Apple Trying to Cork Bottle

Regarding the recently released Apple iPad which seems to this author to have gone down in flames*, I recall two essays by venture capitalist/software coder Paul Graham. Together, they explain why a company would even consider releasing a device lacking such things as USB ports and the ability to play YouTube videos.

First, in "Apple's Mistake," an essay about the iPhone App Store software approval process, he writes:

They treat iPhone apps the way they treat the music they sell through iTunes. Apple is the channel; they own the user; if you want to reach users, you do it on their terms.
Second, in "Why TV Lost," about how television networks misjudged the opportunities presented by the emergence of the Internet, he elaborates on what is wrong with the "broadcast" business model:
One predictable cause of victory [of four --ed] is that the Internet is an open platform. Anyone can build whatever they want on it, and the market picks the winners. So innovation happens at hacker speeds instead of big company speeds.
And later,
After decades of running an IV drip right into their audience, people in the entertainment business had understandably come to think of them as rather passive.
Has all the adulation Apple usually gets from its customers similarly caused it to regard them as ready for anything it puts out? Perhaps this is why, in this day and age, Apple is apparently trying to graft the television broadcast business model onto the new media.

A self-described "working mom" describes her reaction to this particular misreading of the consumer electronics market:
... I am not buying any device that is intended to become my primary media consumption tool when it won't display most video that exists online, or that someone might want or need to show me. That would be nuts. I get that Apple wants to force everyone to begin offering an Apple video alternative online, along with or instead of Flash-based video, but I am not going to spend $600 or more to be their consumer battering ram on this issue. If I spend that much money on a piece of technology which is primarily designed as a way for me to look at things online, I darn well better be able to see ALL the video that's out there, and see it easily and without hassle.
So far, the answer to my earlier question about the iPad would appear to be "nowhere fast."

* Update: Commenter Adam points out that my use of the past tense is a little bit premature: "I agree with your thoughts on the iPad, but it hasn't been released yet, so I don't think it's fair to say it has gone down in flames."

That said, if Apple has any sense, it will make a few changes before release.

This Might Get Interesting

Last Friday, neurobiologist Amy Bishop gunned down several colleagues, three fatally, after a faculty meeting. News reports made it sound like she had just been denied tenure, but that was actually old news. She was denied tenure in April and was completing her terminal year at University of Alabama, Huntsville.

What I found disturbing, on top of her previous record, was the fact that she seemed successful in her research, and yet apparently she still may have had enough personality problems to be denied tenure anyway. (That would be saying something for a scientist.)
... Dr. Bishop was a respected scientist who nevertheless had trouble getting along with colleagues. As members of the biotechnology program, students have to pass core classes in biology, chemistry and chemical engineering. But Dr. Bishop became convinced, he said, that the chemical engineering professors were trying to keep biology students from succeeding by making the classes too difficult.

"It was one of those things that ultimately became irrational with her, in my opinion," Dr. [Krishnan] Chittur said.

Some students also had problems with Dr. Bishop's teaching style, saying she simply read from the book in class but then tested them on material that she had not covered.


She was "very socially awkward with students" and never made eye contact during personal conversations...

... She was involved in an effort to censure the university president, David B. Williams, over that and other policies, according to Richard Lieu, a Distinguished Professor of Astrophysics at the university who sits on the Faculty Senate.
On the one hand, many scientists are socially awkward, and this could just be the New York Times looking for whatever red flags it could find that should have tipped people off earlier to the fact that Bishop was mentally unstable, but on the other hand, she could just as easily have been someone UAH would have liked to get rid of long before last April.

If the latter turns out to be the case, one fertile question may be this: Why wasn't she shown the door long ago? Another fertile question, on why she was not even charged for fatally shooting her brother in 1987, is already being asked.

Neither Jacksonian Democrat Nor Conservative

While Democrats try to tell themselves that Barack Obama's recent electoral disasters simply reflect the disaffections of "Jacksonian" Democrats, and Republicans seem to think they can absorb the movement into the GOP, this movement is looking like trouble for the incumbent Republican governor of Texas.
Could the Republican primary for Governor in Texas end up in a runoff between Rick Perry...and Debra Medina? Medina is coming on strong and polls now at 24%, just four points behind Kay Bailey Hutchison's 28%. Perry continues to hold a double digit advantage at 39%.
Further success on Medina's part could lead to a runoff with Rick Perry, despite his earlier populist noise about secession.

Worth noting is the fact that Perry's secessionist babbling came right around the time the Tea Party Movement was being felt in Texas, and that the tea partiers apparently haven't just snapped up the bone that Perry was obviously tossing their way. I guess that for whatever they lack in explicit understanding of the philosophical basis for limited government, they at least partially make up for it in not being so easily fooled..

Update: Dismuke comments on Medina:
Actually, your news article on Medina was written just before she had a DISASTROUS interview with Glenn Beck in which she hesitated and refused to answer when asked if she thought the 911 truther movement (which holds that the World Trade Center collapse was a US government plot) had credibility.
Here's a link. Medina sinking in the next poll would lend support to my point.

Update 2: A look at the Medina website -- linked in comments -- indicates that she is a social conservative candidate with a poor understanding of the nature of property rights.

-- CAV


: (1) Corrected section on Apple iPad. (2) Added update to article on Texas Republican gubernatorial primaries.
2-16-10: Added additional note on Debra Medina.


Bill Brown said...

Regarding the iPad, here's the two best takes I've read that aren't my own:

Future Shock

Old vs. New World Computing

It's not for everyone, to be sure. But neither was the iPhone or the Mac. Linux still exists, as does Android.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks, and there was another, similar take that I thought about linking, but could not (and can not) recall, that made the case that this represents Apple's vision of where computing could go.

This is all fine and good, but Apple's tendency to see vendor lock-in on steroids as its business model is not helping it.

I, for one, will not buy or lend support to a product that hopes to make proprietary computing the order of the day, especially to the degree that the iPad does.

It was my inability to easily do even the simplest tasks with the crippleware that came with a Windows machine that drove me to Linux in the first place, and I'll be damned if I'm going to help a different company trap me the same way by deliberately not supporting things I can now do on any competitor's platform.


Adam said...

I agree with your thoughts on the iPad, but it *hasn't* been released yet, so I don't think it's fair to say it has gone down in flames.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the correction!

(I'm too busy laughing about my mistake to blush.)

Dismuke said...

Actually, your news article on Medina was written just before she had a DISASTROUS interview with Glenn Beck in which she hesitated and refused to answer when asked if she thought the 911 truther movement (which holds that the World Trade Center collapse was a US government plot)had credibility



As the article points out, Medina has since tried to backtrack. Not sure what the latest polls indicate since that disaster.

That certainly makes me VERY skeptical about Medina. And I do not like Kay Bailey Hutchison. While I do like the fact that she is a "moderate" on abortion, she is also a big spending, bring home the pork Washington insider type.

The Texas governor, by the way, is a rather weak position in terms of its constitutional authority. Not sure why anyone would want to give up a Senate seat to be governor in Texas.

But Medina's rise before her interview is certainly noteworthy and was not expected. What was even more surprising is that her poll gains seemed to come mostly at the expense of Hutchison, the most liberal of the candidates than from Perry.

Gus Van Horn said...


This has turned out to be a good day to be home.

That said, I had no opinion one way or the other about Medina, of whom I had never heard before.

Thanks for the comment.

Tom said...

I fully disagree on Medina. She's a great candidate if you listen to any of her debate answers or her videos on youtube. The whole "truther" thing was blown out of proportion by Beck.

Also, Mac OSX is basically just a really cool linux build, but I doubt the iPad will have the same flexibility.

I do think it is incorrect to say the iPad can't play youtube videos though. I know the iPhone can, so it would only make sense that the iPad could too.

Tom said...

Try this link (including the original interview, as well as press conference after the interview):

This is a hit job plain and simple. Glenn Beck was aggressive with her from the start of the interview and obviously was trying to impose the label "truther" on her. I'll never support Glenn Beck after listening to that.

The ironic thing is, Perry's campaign immediately started robocalling people about that interview calling Medina a truther and it has completely backfired on him.

Gus Van Horn said...

I find it stunning that anyone could have a hard time answering the question of whether the government took part in the destruction of the WTC.

Also, take her position on abortion:

"Life begins at conception and concludes at natural death.

Every human is created in the image of God. God, not man, is the measure of all things. Every human life is precious and I will work to protect innocent human life.

Not the position of what this pro-choice atheist would call a "great" candidate.

Tom said...

Oh come on Gus, you know the governor of Texas doensn't have a damn thing to do with abortion. On a list of importance to what the governor can actually do, that's about 324th.

The lady is talking about restoring property rights for f**k's sake, come on!

Gus Van Horn said...

Posted the second link anyway, but given her theocratic bent, I'm not wasting any more time wondering whether she's worth defending.

Oh, and she's out to lunch on illegal immigration, too.

Gus Van Horn said...

Get a clue about proper etiquette -- and the importance of principles -- or don't bother posting here any more.

I don't see Debra Medina as any better than Perry or Hutchinson, and she's worse if, as the only one talking about property rights, she's basing them on the Bible.

Oddly, she does not see property rights as warranting mention on her web site -- although bad positions on abortion, immigration, and education do.

Tom said...

Gus, it's the top issue on her issues page.

If you want to hold out for John Galt himself to run for office, good luck. Don't hold your breath.

Gus Van Horn said...

So she wants to replace the property tax with the sales tax. Merely swapping taxes does not impress me, even with today's bleak slates of candidates.

There is sometimes a merit to kicking out a bad politician to replace him with an imperfect one, but at some point -- like when the candidate in question claims to defend property rights, but doesn't do so substantively -- the line is crossed and whatever statement you hoped to send with your vote is lost.

Dismuke said...

"If you want to hold out for John Galt himself to run for office, good luck. Don't hold your breath."

Well, then, if that's the case, what's so all fired awful about Rick Perry or even Kay Bailey Hutcheson, for that matter?

If I am going to support someone who claims to be be running as the "candidate of principle" - well, I want to be DARNED sure that their principles are ones that I can support.

I am much more tolerant of the flaws in a candidate such as Perry or Hutchison than I am of the exact same flaws in an upstart allegedly "principled" candidate such as Medina.

Furthermore, let's just say, for a moment, that Medina is correct when she says that she has no sympathy whatsoever for the 911 truthers and what happened was just an unfortunate unscripted moment. That should STILL give one pause. For goodness sakes, if she cannot handle an interview with Glenn Beck of all people - well, what on earth is going to happen if she somehow does get the nomination and finds herself being interviewed by hard core hostile Leftists in the Walter Duranty media? If she can't handle Beck - well, they will probably eat her alive. And, if so, then that could very well result in a Democrat in the governor's office.

It has certainly happened before: think Clayton Williams. Williams was the 1990 Republican candidate going up against Democrat Ann Richards and blew a 20 point lead by comparing bad weather to rape saying if you can't do anything about it you might as well relax and enjoy it. He also made rather crude and uncalled for references to Richard's previous battles with alcoholism which, to her credit, she overcame.

We actually still pay the price for that. Four years later, Richards, despite being a popular governor, inexplicably ran a dirty and nasty campaign against her Republican challenger which backfired in a big way and elected George W. Bush as the governor of Texas. Had the Texas GOP nominated a better Republican candidate in 1990, he probably would have won and GWB would probably not have run and become governor in 1994 or president in 2000. And, who knows, if we had someone better as president in 2000 who knew how to stand up to the Left on both foreign and domestic issues - well, we probably wouldn't have Obama.

Bottom line - if nothing else, that interview is evidence that Medina is not ready for prime time. Last thing Republicans in this state need is another Clayton Williams.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hear, hear!

Mike said...

Touching back upon your iPad link... I totally agree with the writer. If it doesn't play the media I want to feed it, it ain't good enough.

A perfect example. For those who want to watch HD movies on the go (think vacation or long plane flights, moreso than a daily commute) or out of a file server, the optimal format for ripping one's blu-ray discs to a portable file is Matroska video (*.mkv). With the proper codecs, your laptop can play this video, though older or slower laptops won't be able to keep up. However, to play on most portables, including iPods, PSP, and presumably the iPad, a lossy transcode is necessary, and it's quite the pain in the arse to do.

Even the home devices haven't caught up to this yet, though that's less of an issue because you can usually just throw in the blu-ray itself if it comes to that. The PS3 and Xbox 360 media players don't support Matroska. My Samsung LED TV *does* support Matroska through the media player and its USB ports, but will only play files ripped to AAC audio, not DTS surround. This is good enough for now, though. This lets me stow my (uncannily expensive) blu-ray originals in the closet, while letting my daughter's sticky hands use the remote to call up a file from a USB flash drive or hard drive -- a file that can be replaced if she somehow deletes it or screws it up. Better that than having her drop or scratch or step on her "Up" blu-ray and having to pay "up" to $40 for a replacement.

Fortunately, the optimal format for regular DVD rips is still H264 MPEG-4 with AAC audio, which most devices play natively. And a fair amount of the time, that'll get the job done. But it's clear from the direction that the industry is going that it's often too slow to really deliver in software on the promises of the hardware they're selling us, and the iPad is ground zero for this particular issue. The day of optical media is at something like 11:48 p.m., and the era of proprietary media files is well into the late afternoon. I would LOVE for both to finally end.

Steve D said...

Hmm. For some reason my comment yesterday did not post. Here it is again.


I wouldn't reject her just for her stance on abortion. I think it is possible to be pro-life simply because one makes a mistake. If you conclude (mistakenly) that human life begins at conception, then banning abortion follows logically. I have some sympathy for this position while I disagree with it. However, given the fact that her pro-life stance seems to come from a theocratic bent and her positions on other issues seem consistent with the theocratic/conservative attitude, I have to agree that she is not worth defending.

(her website seems to indicate what she really thinks is important)


I realize we are unlikely to get John Galt. We don't need perfection, a reasonably good adherence to some good principles would work. I would be happy with John Adams (or reasonable facsimile at this point.

I do tend to agree with you about Glenn Beck. However, there are times when he comes tantalizingly close to something I could support.

I will add that the real battle is much larger than a single political office which will make little difference in the long run.

As I have said, previously the real battle is for the culture. Until the culture has been changed to some significant degree the politics will continue to deteriorate but if the cultural battle is won (or even moved substantially in that direction) the politics will almost take care of itself.

Gus Van Horn said...


I agree. I think it is ridiculous for a computing platform to be designed to make it hard to play a common format.

That said, the best argument I can think of FOR proprietary media is copyright protection, although AFAIK, you have the right to make copies for yourself once you've bought a copy.

The question that has to be answered is this: How CAN we best protect the rights of authors and artists?


Thanks for re-posting. I always value your comments, and that one didn't even show up in my queue.

Your comments on Medina are spot on. I would not necessarily NOT vote for a pro-life candidate, but, as you say, the pro-life stance seems central to her. (And her idea of fighting for what she calls property rights leaves me cold, as I've already noted.


Tom said...

Steve, you're right.

Gus, I know that no tax is a moral tax, but the fact of the matter is that we have to have a go-between to get to the land of no tax. Property tax is more amoral than a consumption tax because property tax is basically extortion. If you don't pay, they take your property.

At least with the sales tax you have some choice and you aren't penalized for investing. If you make money, it's yours. If you save money, it's yours. If you invest money, it's yours. If you spend money, you pay a transaction fee.

Yes, I know, it's not perfect, but it is better.

Gus Van Horn said...


Yes, we may well need a go-between, but if we do that, it has to be clear that that's all it is. With Medina, that is not the case.

To use another example that I used to support: School vouchers could conceivably be a way to move from public education to private, and that's what lots of people took them for when they were first proposed back in the late '80's or early '90's. But many proponents of school vouchers didn't see them this way at all, but rather as a way to siphon public money into religious education.

So how far have we progressed towards fully private education since then?


Tom said...

That's a good point. I would argue that school vouchers haven't really had a chance to shine, and most people don't even know about them. Every place I know of that has tried school vouchers has faced huge activist opposition campaigns and very few have survived the first election cycle. Obama in fact just shut down one of the voucher programs that was very successful, in DC, because it wasn't "fair".

So, we could speculate that had vouchers been more widespread and thus the results more easily apparent to the masses, the principle of free education would progress. But that's just speculation, because the truth of the matter is they were never given a chance in the realm of "public opinion."

I guess the good news is that we have the same fate as the USSR in our future so we'll hopefully just peacefully split up into 50 nations and then hopefully one of the nations will support true liberty and limited government.

Gus Van Horn said...


By that argument, America should have transformed into Galt's Gulch a half a century ago. After all, the closest thing ever tried to laissez-faire was tried by then.

Similarly, Moslems migrate to the West by the droves and see the benefits of reason all over the place, and they don't change, either.

Ideas, not percepts, drive history.


Tom said...

Totally disagree. It's ridiculous to call any economy "laissez faire" (or anything close to it) that is built on top of the house of cards known as fractional reserve banking, especially when backed by fiat currency.

You're right, it's the ideas in the driver seat, but percepts are on the gas pedal. Just look at the Ominous Parallels - the ideas of Kant and his 'descendants' determined the direction of that society, but Hitler put his foot on the gas.

Gus Van Horn said...


The economy was far freer than it is now or than it would be with school vouchers tacked on.

I doubt they would have made any difference, unless more consistently advocated as a PART OF a broader movement to privatize education.