Author Archive

Loathing Fear

by on Oct.28, 2015, under Uncategorized

Like most posts on this blog, this came out of trying to talk about the world with relatives of mine. There is a hateful email here, and some responses.

As someone pointed out – people are still doing email forwards?

Want to skip it? Read this:

Terrible Email Forward

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Someone I Don’t Know

Date: Sun, Oct 25, 2015 at 6:57 PM

Subject: Immigrant situation in Europe (Germany) now

To: Some people I don’t know, plus a relative.

Below is a personal account of some effects on Germany of the current “migrations” from Africa and the Middle East.  It has been passed to me by a Canadian friend.  It makes instructive reading.

Many thanks, <Person>.


Subject: Immigrant situation in Europe (Germany) now

E-mail forwarded by an American friend:

I have friends in Europe and one of them directed me to the following today. This is an eyewitness story from a doctor working in Germany at a Munich hospital, a retired physician from the Czech Republic who went to work there because they needed additional help. This is part of her email from Germany:


Yesterday, at the hospital we had a meeting about how the situation here and at the other Munich hospitals is unsustainable. Clinics cannot handle emergencies, so they are starting to send everything to the hospitals.

Many Muslims are refusing treatment by female staff and, we women are refusing to go among those animals, especially from Africa. Relations between the staff and migrants are going from bad to worse. Since last weekend, migrants going to the hospitals must be accompanied by police with K-9 units.

Many migrants have AIDS, syphilis, open TB and many exotic diseases. If they receive a prescription in the pharmacy, they learn they have to pay cash. This leads to unbelievable outbursts, especially when it is about drugs for the children. They abandon their children with pharmacy staff with the words: “So, cure them here yourselves!” So the police are not just guarding the clinics and hospitals, but also large pharmacies. 

Where are all those who had welcomed in front of TV cameras, with signs at train stations? Yes, for now, the border has been closed, but a million of them are already here and we will definitely not be able to get rid of them.

Until now, the number of unemployed in Germany was 2.2 million. Now it will be at least 3.5 million. Most of these people are completely unemployable. A bare minimum of them have any education. What is more, their women usually do not work at all. I estimate that one in ten is pregnant. They have brought along infants and little kids under six, many emaciated and neglected. If this continues and German re-opens its borders, I’m going home to the Czech Republic. Nobody can keep me here in this situation, not even at double the salary that I make at home. I went to Germany, not to Africa or the Middle East.

Even the professor who heads our department told us how sad it makes him to see the cleaning woman, who for 800 Euros cleans every day for years, and then meet young men in the hallways who just wait with their hand outstretched, want everything for free, and when they don’t get it they throw a fit.

I really don’t need this! But I’m afraid that if I return, that at some point it will be the same in the Czech Republic. If the Germans, with their nature cannot handle this, there in the Czech Republic it would be total chaos. Nobody who has not come in contact with them has any idea what kind of animals they are, especially the ones from Africa, and how Muslims act superior to our staff, regarding their religious accommodation.

For now, the local hospital staff has not come down with the diseases they brought here, but, with so many hundreds of patients every day – this is just a question of time.

In a hospital near the Rhine, migrants attacked the staff with knives after they had handed over an 8-month-old on the brink of death, which they had dragged across half of Europe for three months. The child died in two days, despite having received top care at one of the best pediatric clinics in Germany. The physician had to undergo surgery and two nurses are laid up in the ICU. Nobody has been punished.

 The local press is forbidden to write about it. What would have happened to a German if he had stabbed a doctor and nurses with a knife? Or if he had flung his own syphilis-infected urine into a nurse’s face and so threatened her with infection? At a minimum he’d go straight to jail and later to court. With these people – so far, nothing has happened.

And so I ask, where are all those greeters and receivers from the train stations? Sitting pretty at home, enjoying their non-profits and looking forward to more trains. If it were up to me I would round up all these greeters and bring them here first to our hospital’s emergency ward, as attendants. Then, into one building with the migrants so they can look after them there themselves, without armed police, without police dogs who today are in every hospital here in Bavaria.


Comment by American source: 

Obama and Kerry want to bring 200,000 or more of these people to the United States.

Our own Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have indicated that they cannot vet these people. Our own intelligence agencies have indicated that something over 5% are probably going to be ISIS infiltrators. All of the issues described above notwithstanding, in addition (and more importantly) do we really want over 10,000 committed terrorists spread across the country in addition to these other problems as described above?

Please pass this on so people can see some of the reality of this situation in Europe.

—– End forwarded message —–

Response 1

On Oct 27, 2015 11:02 AM, I wrote:

Sigh. Are you trolling me, or do you really believe this trash?

we women are refusing to go among those animals, especially from Africa.

Really? You think that’s OK? You don’t see the naked racism here? Did they have to say “the black ones” for you to get it?

do we really want over 10,000 committed terrorists spread across the country

Right. Refugees are committed terrorists. Because after scaring you with skin color, religion is the next reason to deny their humanity. 

Also, it’s bullshit.

 the cleaning woman, who for 800 Euros cleans every day for years

Besides all the other debunking – minimum wage in Germany is almost 1500 Euro/month. 

This is clearly propaganda, designed to push every button a conservative has to fire them up. You should feel ashamed for believing this hateful garbage, but worse for passing it on. 

You have an obligation as a person with a brain – especially as one who’s brain works better than most – to critically evaluate claims. Particularly when it’s barely concealed hate speech. 

Once you realize it’s made up, then you should ask who this was made up for, and why you’re susceptible. Why deliberately get people frightened and mad? Because then they don’t think. 

Do better. Be better. 

Reply from CC’d Relative

On Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 12:26 PM, another relative wrote:

What evidence do you have that this is propaganda? Do you have facts to back it up? Don’t discount it just because it doesn’t fit your agenda.

Response 2

That’s not how this works. The burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim or claims. We can use reason to evaluate a claim, and that is what I am doing here. This isn’t agenda, this is thinking and reasoning.

Say that someone tells you the sky turned purple for five minutes yesterday afternoon. Sounds pretty weird. Maybe a purple sky is what someone saw for five minutes. Maybe they had a stroke. Maybe something weird happened. Maybe they were looking out of a tinted window. Who knows. But if they go on to claim they saw Superman punch out Iron Man, then we should be more skeptical. 

Can you evaluate the truth in that without having observed the sky from every place all day? If something is bullshit, it doesn’t deserve to be treated as fact, and doesn’t need to be refuted by the fact that the sky is typically blue or gray in the afternoon. You evaluate what is claimed – you don’t have to re-prove what reality is.

What if they can’t tell you when or where they saw this? What if they just say “someone told me about it?” Would you believe them then? There are no facts. But you are essentially saying I need facts to prove it didn’t happen?

Consider that in that email forward – a notorious source of bullshit, by the way – claims where made, supposedly by a doctor working in Germany. But these things are all present that make the claims unsupportable: 

– There are no dates. So nothing can actually be fact checked against police records, newspaper accounts, etc.

– Everything is anecdotal. Which hospital? Where?

– There is a claim of a media blackout to try to explain why there are no credible records of anything that is described here. So it acknowledges that nothing can be proven or supported by independent fact.

We should be able to stop right here. This is the point where it is already clear that this is bullshit. There were all kinds of news reports on the refugees arriving in Germany. 

There is literally no factual support. But you challenge me to produce facts? Um – when people get stabbed in hospitals, it makes the news? If police were guarding hospitals and pharmacies, that would be widely known? Because everyone has a camera and access to the Internet these days? What facts would  

Let’s go with reasoning:

1. “Many migrants have AIDS, syphilis, open TB and many exotic diseases that we, in Europe, do not know how to treat them.” 

Um, this is basic medical school stuff. A doctor doesn’t know how to treat these fairly common diseases? Really?

2. “Since last weekend, migrants going to the hospitals must be accompanied by police with K-9 units.”

LOL. Seriously? You took that at face value? Dogs in a hospital? How many K-9 units are there? Does the hospital make people who need health care wait on the sidewalk until a dog is free? Really?

Note also that you are completely sidestepping the inflammatory rhetoric about race and religion (“those animals, especially from Africa”). Throughout this whole screed, there are numerous characterizations like this that are barely-veiled otherism. 

Speaking of agenda – the point of the whole message is clearly to generate fear of immigrants and Muslims. Like everyone else, there are bad apples in a group, but it is a reasoning error to assume everyone in a group is the same, and it is morally wrong. 

My agenda: using my brain to detect bullshit. *BREEP BREEP BREEP BREEP* – this email forward is not so hard to smell. Who is being blinded by agenda again?

Try this – google search the terms from this email and find ANY credible source that reports any of these claims as facts. While you are failing at that, note which websites are “reporting” (the wrong word, because reporting involves facts) the bullshit in this email? Do they seem like mainstream sites to you? Do they have audiences outside of the right wing?

I did those searches. I did this thinking. I’m inviting you to do so, too. If you want to make some sort of credible argument, you need to do better than to treat an email forward as reality and demand someone specifically refute vague bullshit. 

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Ferguson’s Prosecutor Problems

by on Nov.26, 2014, under politics, society

I was asked what I think should have been different about the grand jury in Ferguson. You know, where a cop fired a gun at least 10 times and killed someone, witnesses disagree on what happened, and then the prosecutor who presented before the grand jury used the opportunity of announcing the verdict to whine about the media for 20 minutes.

The grand jury process might have worked with a different/independent prosecutor. Charging a police officer is already a problematic thing given how closely prosecutors work with police on a daily basis. Some data points on this specific situation:

– Robert McCulloch is already known to be an unenthusiastic presenter to a Grand Jury when police officers are involved:

– Immediately after the shooting, there were people demanding an independent prosecutor:

– McCulloch is also President of a charity that supports Police Officers and Firefighters’ families. That’s not a bad thing, but it is another clear indicator that he might not be objective:

– Right after the killing, a video of Michael Brown stealing a pack of cigars was leaked to the media from the prosecutor’s office. Because shoplifting $3 worth of merchandise justifies getting gunned down in the street – and because they were interested in helping the police.

– Read the Grand Jury testimony. Wilson is walked directly to why he felt his life was in danger. He isn’t interrogated – he essentially appeared in front of the Grand Jury with the prosecutor interested in establishing that he was in grave danger, and that his actions were justified. He is allowed to go on and on about how intimidated he was by someone the same height as him, and dismiss any other options before he drew his gun, but not asked about emptying his clip to gun down a fleeing suspect:

– Here’s one analysis of testimony:

– Here’s some other analysis of the grand jury testimony:

– The context of all of this is very racially divided city with a bad history. The rejection of any call for independent oversight happened in a town already convinced the local justice system was out to get them – and they weren’t wrong:

– This is not a new problem. I think that the protestors have hope that this is the time people will pay attention. It’s not hard to find examples of police violence. The statistics I could find reported some number between 400 and 1100 police killings a year. I have no doubt that most of them are justified by circumstance – but even if 3 out of 4 are justified, that’s almost a person a day wrongfully killed by police. Do you believe that the justice system that they work with every day takes a hard, uncompromised look at the circumstances?

When the people in charge are so arrogant that they don’t even attempt to avoid conflicts of interest and abuses of power, they are very difficult to trust. If you still did for some reason, anyways.

My friend Curtis also had some thoughts:

“It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.”
– Justice Antonin Scalia – 1992 – US vs Williams

“And you must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not act in lawful self-defense and you must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not use lawful force in making an arrest. If you find those things, which is kind of like finding a negative, you cannot return an indictment on anything or true bill unless you find both of those things. Because both are complete defenses to any offense and they both have been raised in his, in the evidence.”
– Prosecution instructions to jury members in the Daren Wilson Grand Jury Session

There is no “presumption of innocence” in a Grand Jury. There is no probable cause determination in a Grand Jury. The prosecution from their opening remarks to their summary statements were actively trying to block this indictment. I’m pretty sure the trial (if it had happened) would have just been more of the same.

All the white people lecturing about the proper way to protest might want to consider that when you are repeatedly ignored, you are likely to raise your voice.

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Mom’s Echoing Again

by on Nov.11, 2014, under politics, society, Uncategorized

So my mother posts some fairly right-wing essays, and then asks for respectful debate on them. I’ll give it a try, but if something is simply dishonest or wrong, it’s not an issue of politeness for me to point it out.

Seriously, read the essay first. You can tell by the author credits in his bio where this is headed, but still give it a try.

For starters, anyone who ignores simple inflation when throwing spending numbers around is intellectually dishonest at the jump. This error is compounded by ignoring that the country has grown over the period he’s talking about, so of course all figures are going to grow. Medicaid and Medicare costs are subject to the unsustainable increases in the cost of medical care, so they are also artificial accelerators in the fake numbers.

Finally, lumping Social Security in with all entitlement spending ignores the demographic spike of baby boomers hitting retirement age over the last few years. If you wanted to reason about the issue of entitlements, you’d separate Social Security, or at least acknowledge the issues in including it. If you need scary numbers, you count Social Security the same as food stamps or unemployment to make your point.

Real subtle to slip in this, too: “…minimum wages, maximum hours, and mandatory benefits for employees, or rent control for tenants. ” – which is simple regulation of commerce, not the creeping tendrils of the welfare state. No one who talks this way is attempting to make a reasoned case for anything. They are only trying to rile up people that are already receptive to the message, and further insulate them from reality with shoddy reasoning designed to convince them that the other side are all idiots who don’t see “obvious” things, instead of people who don’t accept the same framing.

For example, the framing of approaching the entire set of issues of common social welfare as one single issue, and then only with dollars and cents. That’s no way to consider or conduct complex policy that affects the health and well-being of people. I’m not saying to ignore money, because of course we want to get value for what we spend. I’m saying that money is not the start and end of the conversation.

And that’s the most obvious bullshit in the whole thing. Poverty *is* diminished by welfare spending. It’s preferable to be poor in America in 2014 instead of 1964, or 1914. Social programs are only successful if we achieve zero poverty? Is it really so hard to imagine that despite some waste and fraud, real people benefit from what we spend on social programs? Millions of children, elderly, and disabled people get housed and fed this way. Despite this fact, social programs are often characterized as setting money on fire.

The structural problems in our economy are growing poverty pretty fast, too – real wages are flat over the last 40 years despite a six-fold increase in worker productivity and greatly reduced job security and retirement benefits, while housing and health care continue to climb as a percentage of income, pushing people closer to the edge. The fact that we subsidize too-low wages with social programs, instead of the wages being high enough to not need them is also part of the issue.

I can’t blame people who can’t reason more effectively, but I can blame people who won’t. This guy knows – or should know – his version of “facts” as presented have obvious errors of reasoning in them. This does not qualify as debate.

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Quick Thoughts on ISIS

by on Sep.21, 2014, under politics

My dad asked me what I thought about ISIS. Here’s the 20 minute version…

– We made the same mistake in Iraq in 2004 that England made in India in 1947. We should have let the country naturally fall into three pieces, which would give Sunnis less to be aggrieved by, and an outlet for Sunni nationalism.
– ISIS is not a team of super-villains, they are just another violent group that uses sectarian division as a rallying cry and a source for funding.
– They essentially have the same goals as Osama Bin Laden, who also talked about establishing a caliphate, thought his included Saudi Arabia and other countries. The fake political entity is not legitimate or credible; they’ve only proven how weak the Iraqi government is.
– Once again, we supported and built up a group to serve as a proxy that has turned around and bit us. They were further strengthened by the external undermining of Syria’s government.
– At this point, we’ve given them too much clout and status. I wonder when the people that drove us into the unnecessary and expensive invasion of Iraq that precipitated all this lose their credibility. I don’t think anyone who advocated the 2003 invasion should feel entitled to an opinion about the current situation.
– We’ve now been “fighting terrorism” for a generation, and wars on nouns are stupid and unwinnable. We can’t defeat a tactic. We have spent trillions (yes, with a T) on wars, and are still regularly bombing/droning in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, in addition to striking Somalia and Libya recently. Israel has bombed Gaza, Lebanon, and the Sudan this year. In exchange for 3,000 deaths in the World Trade Center, we’ve been responsible for tens (some say hundreds) of thousands of civilian deaths, plus we get “credit” for backing Israel and all that entails. For what? What have we accomplished? Not only is not better – it’s worse. Bombing terrorists has essentially caused them to be created faster than we kill them.
So what do we do? I often advocate for the “sunk cost” approach of acknowledging your mistakes and stopping making them, but I don’t know if we can walk away from this particular fight, especially after the public statements made by politicians in response to this overblown non-event. I’d rather we had someone else pull the trigger, or at least pick the targets, but it’s a burden no one wants.
It might be a better opportunity to figure out how to reengage with the region. If we backed off, Russia and China would fill the power vacuum. It would have to help to stop spiting ourselves by refusing to engage with Iran and other Shia powers, and to be more direct about what we think of the behavior of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt – and Israel. If there were easy and coherent answers, someone would have them, right?
I think we have to prop up the Iraqi government as much as we can, and support the Syrian rebel factions that oppose ISIS, trying to get some of them to strike a deal with Assad for political power in order to join against ISIS. I would try to make sure Saudi/Jordan/UAE do some of the high-profile bombing. Finally, I’d try to work through intelligence agencies in the Middle East to figure out how to get the organization to infight and collapse.
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An interest with no lobbying group: Welfare Recipients

by on Feb.10, 2013, under politics, society

Since I became aware of politics, I’ve seen resentment whipped up towards people collecting welfare, characterizations of them as lazy, and word of mouth anecdotes to “support” the idea that welfare is a need created by laziness. Whether these anecdotes are any more real than Lemonjello and Orangejello is beside the point, or at least my point. Also besides the point are the hundred reasons why this program exists.

I want to talk about something specific: the scapegoating of welfare and the people who receive it. The reality is that people in this position are desperate, struggling to survive, and humiliated by the situation. I think the people resenting them are not only demonstrating a lack of empathy – they are showing a lack of understanding.

Here are some facts about TANF, the cash benefit program that most people are thinking of when they say “welfare”:

– Less than 5 million people (under 2% of the country) receive a cash benefit
– More than three out of four of these recipients are children.  (
– For a family of three, the maximum benefit in Ohio is $434/month. This is generous, compared to say, Arizona, which pays $278/month.
– None of these are ever inflation adjusted. Tennessee has been paying the same $185/month to a family of three since 1996.
– The cost of TANF had declined significantly since 1996. (

Total cost of TANF in 2011: 33.6 billion, which a little less than half (about 16) coming from the Federal government.

Some things that cost lots more:

– $673 billion this year on defense
– $405 billion/year to subsidize home ownership (
– $150 billion in subsidies to finance, utilities, telecom, and oil/gas (
– Separately, each of these tax breaks: Forgiveness of capital gains tax at death, deducting local and state taxes, ( …and…deducting our charitable contributions – or using the the tax law to subsidize our charitable giving.

So, is it a good investment to use .05% of the federal budget on this? Worth discussing, but everything’s worth discussing.  What is more likely, that one dollar in 20 of defense spending is wasted, or that we are too generous with our poorest?

Yes, the budget deficit and the debt are a problem. The barriers to solving them are the refusal to discuss revenue, social security, and defense. Poor kids are not the issue.

Is there any better reason for this scapegoating besides lack of a lobby and crypto-racism?

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Measuring Software Development and Testing

by on Sep.08, 2009, under society, tech

I posted this to the context-driven software testing list I’m on. If you want a quick primer on where the people I am talking with are coming from, go here. I’ll comment anything interesting that comes back from it. This was going to be a response to (a) request for industry standard metrics, but then a distillation of what I think about discussing software development and testing with managers fell out.

It’s very easy and true to say that the application of universal/typical/broadly applicable measurements for software quality is a bad and dangerous idea. Manufacturing measurements of quality don’t work, every “quantitative” measurement is based on qualitative data points and collection, etc.

The management theory we are engaging with believes that all business activities can and should be measured, that there is always a way to measure success, progress towards goals, and see the impacts of changes to process. Whether it is volume/cost/productivity/calls per unit/worker/mile/day, baseball statistics, etc, management of virtually every industry and occupation is believed to have been improved by this type of analysis.

It’s easy enough to see how someone approaching software development from this context grasps at bug counts, reporting dates, lines of code, or anything that smells like something that can be used to get a handle on what is happening and what to expect. Learning a business and developing a good enough “feel” (or bundle of heuristics, if you like) is hard and time-consuming anyways; for those without the background, even if they do have the intellectual horsepower, they are not going to learn fast enough from the insular, insecure, and often brilliant people they find in our field.

In the Power-Point(y-Headed boss) world most of us work in, managers want easy and universally applicable ways to get their bearings. These people need some idea whether they need to start shaking things up or stay the course, they need to be able to demonstrate their own positive impact, and so forth. How do we help these people feel warm and fuzzy about progress towards goals, measuring quality, success, etc? What can they do to help, and how will they know?

We need to not only be able to say what It Depends on, but to educate them about how to think about software quality and productivity in testing. How can we positively reframe the context? I’ve thought about what other contexts we might substitute to replace the manufacturing quality approach. Here’s three I’ve tried so far.

Since writing software is really more of a creative exercise, I have had some limited success asking people to think of it like other writing; focus on the verb and reflect on what it means. I’ve seen many writers say that they never finished a article/story/novel/etc, they simply ran out of time or patience (usually someone else’s) to keep improving it. This gets some nods sometimes, but doesn’t end any “But how do we measure it?” conversations.

Another approach I’ve tried is to say that writing software is like building a house while having to fabricate all the materials. Maybe you have a really skilled 2×6 developer and a really crappy electrical box developer, or he’s the same guy. This seems even farther away though, and lends itself too easily to people trying to participate in the metaphor incorrectly and missing the message that the process is not as simple as proper component assembly.

The other context I could compare it to is managing a research lab. How do you measure breakthroughs? How do you compare the impact of one breakthrough to another? How to you measure the impact of a breakthrough coming one month, week, or day earlier than it otherwise would have? This may be satisfying when you consider that managing a research lab consists of creating a quiet environment with sufficient resources and reliable experiment facilities for best thinking results, but still doesn’t address the issue of measurement and management. Also, this usually translates as “just stay out of the way”, which no one really wants to hear.

None of these frame the problem of the testing context. Testing metrics would be a measurement of how good we are at finding a percentage of a variable quantity dependent on multiple factors. I can probably list a lot of factors to talk about what “It Depends” on here, but still not something anywhere near enough to coherent for 8th grade reading levels and three sentence attention spans.

I’m thinking we may need to solve the software development context problem before we get to the testing one. That requires explaining and selling qualitative methodologies as intellectually rigorous and somewhat reproducible. Measurement? Er…

What do you think? Can you help me reframe the problem statement?

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Net Neutrality Is In The Air

by on Aug.25, 2009, under politics, society, tech

It might seem that we are winning, or at least not losing the net neutrality war right now. Or are we?

By we, I mean everyone that is not in the telecommunications business, and by winning, I mean that we are not dealing with our network providers deciding whose content and programs we can or can not run across the “last mile” of our internet connections. Web pages, cable tv, voice…it’s all bits. VOIP, streaming media, the democratization of media, the connection of the free world and even the explosion of what we used to call e-commerce back in the Nineteen Hundred and Nineties all happened because the network providers were not allowed/didn’t think of/were too incompetent to restrict access to the Internet.

Since many of our network providers (Time Warner, etc) are also content providers, they must be watched carefully so they do not abuse their position to advantage their other businesses. This is hugely important for fostering innovation. The last 15 years changed how we live, and simply couldn’t have happened if new ideas needed sponsorship and funding in order for an audience to see them.

If you are opposed to Network Neutrality, please issue yourself a generous dividend from the telecommunications provider you must have an ownership stake in and start considering your exit strategy. If you do not have any such financial position and still think that cable and telcos have your interests in mind, please shoot yourself.

I believe that our present and future is best served when we operate in the kind of market where new ideas can thrive, and the open Internet has shown itself to be an incredible laboratory for this. Net Neutrality was the plank in Obama’s platform that let me know that we were moving past “A Series of Tubes” in Washington, and that the good guys might even win this one. So far, so good, and it is a victory for all of us and our future that so far, anyone can set up a website and/or web service that anyone can get to.

However, another front in this fight has been ignored…up until now. Here is fresh evidence that some people in Washington are paying attention.

Previously, mobile providers have locked down on what we can do and how we can do it, and we’ve let them. The multiple handset makers and carriers provided at least the appearance of competition. Then, the breakthrough: Apple’s App Store. In less than a year and a half: 65,00 applications, 1.5 billion downloads, and from what I can tell, a lead as a mobile platform that is going to be really hard for anyone to catch up to.

A typical life cycle for a technology is for it to appear as innovation, to go through a generation or two of refinement, and then to become commoditized. Everyone enjoys the benefit of competition to provide the commodity, whether it is cars, groceries, or anything else where we have choice and open competition. Apple’s dark genius is that they only appear to have provided a platform where mobile apps can be commoditized and innovated on…as long as you support their hardware on their exclusive carrier.

In reality, they control the hardware, the operating system, and even the developer kit. This is similar to their personal computing model, except adding the idea that they get to evaluate and decide which applications can be run. Everyone craps on Microsoft about their competitive practices, with plenty of justification. Developers can still write whatever software they want for Windows, and don’t need to get Microsoft’s approval to release it to consumers. Microsoft doesn’t control the hardware AND pick your ISP, either.

There is a great deal of change and innovation to come over the next couple decades until we get to ubiquitous portable computing. Maybe application virtualization could make our mobile devices simple interfaces, provided wireless platforms and carriers don’t prevent it.

If we could go back to 1990, would we have let Windows become the standard for at least the next two decades? What will we think about the App Store in 2029?

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