Monday, 19 January 2009

A popular Democrat becomes President during one of the worst economic downturns


I’m reading The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. While parallels with pre-1950s America are always tenuious, here’s a synopsis

A popular Democrat becomes President during one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s history. He drives through some of the most dramatic legislation ever seen and creating departments compensating farmers to not bring food to market. US economy sputters throughout his term, waiting until the end of a yet to be fought war to recover.

Let’s hope tomorrows inauguration marks the beginning of America 3.0, not New Deal 2.0.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

In Bigger News: FCC Opens White Space & Frees iPhone

I was always baffled by Apple exclusively giving the iPhone to AT&T. It’s not in Apple’s DNA to tie the customer experience of their products to someone else. Exclusively or otherwise. Multi-year or otherwise. Apple’s built their reputation on owning and controlling the entire stack; OS, applications, hardware. Hell, Apple’s never been crazy about having a development community either.

With the FCC’s move to open up the unused television spectrum for unlicensed use (think WiFi on a nationwide scale), the Apple + AT&T partnership feels more like a hedge on Apple’s part. A way to get the product out ahead of the curve.

In a couple years, the technology to use this new spectrum will be on the market and stable.

By that time, Apple’s agreement with AT&T will be expiring. Think Apple will be selling the iPhone with any carrier when nationwide spectrum is available ‘for free’?


Think they’re be any difference between the iPhone and the iPod Touch at that point?

Again, no.

Also, I see this as another point confirming my prediction that the move to digital broadcast in Feb 09 will wipe out the broadcast television viewing audience.

This is as historic a moment for our country as electing the first African-American POTUS.

Not because of how it impacts something as luxurious as Apple products, but because it wipes out the need for telco carriers, opens up the municipal broadband market, and with a ‘flip of a switch’ internet-ifies rural America.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Decision 2008, and My Vote Goes to…

Attention, St. Anthony Villagers, your sample ballots are here (Hennepin | Ramsey)

My votes;

Presidential & Vice Presidential:
Barak Obama & Joe Biden

U.S. Senator:
Dean Barkley

U.S. Representative District 5:
Keith Ellison

U.S. State Representative District 54a:
Mindy Greiling

Constitutional Amendment: Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Area: Yes.

Overall, the decisions were easy. Either the incumbents are doing a great job, or their competitors irked and frustrated me multiple times.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

McCain & Obama Tax Plans: Small Change

Viveka Weiley redrew Washington Post’s chart of Obama’s and McCain’s respective tax plans.

First off, a caveat: Basing a vote on potential personal financial changes is as one-sided as basing a vote on gender, skin pigment, or hair color. It’s one factor and one that I hope to argue it is a wash to vast majority of Americans. For both plans call for significant cuts for the vast majority of Americans – households making less than $603k/yr (99% of Americans). For those remaining 1%, taxes will either go up or down. I’m part of the 99%, and I suspect you are as well1.

Income (% of Taxpayers) Plan Difference in $ Plan Difference
as % of Income
< $603k (10) 7,869 1.3 McCain
< $227k (10) 1,591 0.7 McCain
< $161k (10) 410 0.25 McCain
< $111k (10) 281 0.25 Obama
< $ 66k (20) 723 1.1 Obama
< $ 38k (20) 779 2.0 Obama
< $ 19k (20) 548 2.9 Obama

While much attention has been made to how different these plans are at the poles, it surprises me how close the two plans are for the middle 60% of tax payers (<2% delta).

I’m assuming both plans are drafts and would have to pass Congress to be enacted 2. If so, then I assume getting them passed through Congress would change the plans – perhaps even making them more similar.

Does this betray how similar their policies are/will be for the majority of Americans?

1. If you’re not, can I has monie? kthxbye.
2. Confirming we shouldn’t be investing too much in the candidates plans:

“The fact is that presidents have no power to raise or lower taxes. They can propose tax measures or veto them but Congress has the ultimate power to raise or lower taxes” – Walter E. Williams

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The State of Dense Comparisons

One of my biggest pet peeves is comparisons of the U.S to other countries – especially European countries – to show how the U.S. is “behind” in some nationwide attribute like healthcare, broadband speeds/adoption, public transit.

My first issue with these comparisons is one of scale. The United States is closer to the European Union in structure than any individual European country and multiple times larger in geographic area than either. We should be comparing individual states against individual states by GDP.

  • Minnesota ~= Norway
  • California ~= France
  • New York ~= Brazil
  • Illinois ~= Mexico

My second issue is one of population density. Lots of people in a small space increases the demand and makes it logistically easier to deliver public transit and high-speed internet access to more people faster. If nearest neighbors are 40 acres and a mule away, connecting them is far more expensive than if they live on top each other.

Ranking countries by their population density puts the US 180th (31 people/km2).


  • Netherlands: #25 – 395 people/km2
  • Belgium: #31 – 341 people/km2
  • Japan: #32 – 339 people/km2
  • United Kingdom: #51 – 246 people/km2
  • Germany: #53 – 232 people/km2
  • France: #95 – 110 people/km2

Imagine seeing 10x the number people around you everyday. Our towns, cities, and attitudes would have to dramatically change to support that. Just as they have to support their current densities (e.g. Minneapolis got a light rail train).

The US is closer by comparison to Madagascar (32 people/km2) and Estonia (29 people/km2).

I don’t remember the last time I’ve heard the US compared to those developing countries. Though from what I’ve heard about Estonia’s electronic government, there’s some interesting stuff going on there.

Again, individual state level comparisons are more appropriate here as well.

  • Minnesota ~= Somalia[1]
  • California ~= Greece
  • New York ~= Kuwait
  • Illinois ~= Spain

For the densities greater than 100 people / km2 we need to move to New England:

  • South Korea ~= New Jersey
  • Netherlands ~= Rhode Island
  • Belgium or Japan ~= Massachusetts
  • United Kingdom ~= Connecticut
  • Germany ~= Maryland
  • France ~= Ohio or Florida[2]

Looking at these numbers it’s clear why Thomas P. M. Barnett says the U.S. has more in common with emerging markets like Brazil and Russia than Western Europe and Japan.

We’re definitely behind Brazil in open source software adoption.

1. Interesting considering the recent influx of immigrants from that country into Minnesota
2. Yes, I know Ohio and Florida aren’t in New England. I found the comparison of France with Ohio & Florida entertaining so I wanted to keep it in.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Now That It’s Either Obama or McCain….

The 2 parties have a 6-month opportunity to show the American public how serious they are about solving this country’s problems.

“…Spend 1/4 of the money [raised by the campaign] telling everyone how you’re using 1/2 of the money to help people. This proves that your Presidency will be about solving problems, because you’re not waiting to get elected to solve problems.”- Dave Winer

I have a hard time imagining people are waffling between the Obama or McCain. I have an even harder time imagining anything either of these campaigns do will pull people from the other camp (negative advertising, etc). Hell, I doubt there’s anything the RNC or DNC could do that would cause Bob Barr supporters to defect.

If there was. Anything. That could cause someone to switch affiliations between now and Nov. It would be using campaign dollars to solve problems today. Instead of betting that they won’t actually need to.

Friday, 23 May 2008

America, Which is Your Lesser Insecurity?

Within 6 months, we will know which of the following three insecurities we, as a country, have less of; ageism, racism, sexism.

While it’ll be nice to know the answer, it’s unfortunate we have to ask.

Thanks to Mungowitz for the video.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Bringing Me-dia to Rural America

For a few weeks in the early 80’s the town 30 miles down the road had a broadcast TV station. The only TV broadcaster in the county.

In the 20 years that follow, it’s only been Eau Claire, LaCrosse, or Minneapolis TV. Communities at least another hour away (if not 2) with no incentive to regularly report on far more rural areas aside from the occasional tornado, hunting, or farm accident.

Nothing banal. Nothing important.

So, what happens to the analog TV spectrum when all over-the-air television goes digital in two years?

Microsoft, Google, HP, Intel, and Philips have plans to re-purpose it for delivering high-speed internet.

This means, if you’re out in rural American and can pick up a network affiliate, that’s now an internet connection.

While it does raise the question of how the broadcast towers would be supported with broadcast TV’s ad dollars, it sounds like a much needed Rural Internet-ification program.

The thought of rural America getting reliable high-speed internet excites me. The thought of kids living out on our dirt roads blogging, podcasting, and videoblogging, publishing brings me to tears.