October 26, 2005

How’s This for a “Milestone”? Sunni Parties Buy Into Democracy; Al-Reuters Can’t Handle It

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 11:06 pm

Since I have to read their business missives for both work and blog reasons, the fairness and accuracy of Reuters’ reportage is important to me. Because of their horrid international hard-news coverage, I have learned to be highly skeptical of anything they produce.

After all, there’s a reason critics call it Al-Reuters (HT Dean’s World; obvious untruths after title are in bold, my responses are in italicized parens):

Sunnis form alliance as US deaths mount

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Sunni Arab leaders formed an alliance on Wednesday to run in Iraq’s next election, as the U.S. death toll passed 2,000 and intensified pressure on Washington.

(Where is the “pressure”? Even Hillary Clinton won’t directly criticize the progress being made.)

Three Sunni parties joined a coalition to contest the December 15 parliamentary poll, after fierce Sunni opposition narrowly failed to veto a new, U.S.-backed constitution in a referendum.

(The constitution passed comfortably with 78% of the vote, and only two of the three Sunni provinces that could under the rules have negated it were able to vote it down [all three had to vote it down for failure to occur]. It was only “US-backed” in the sense that the US backs any country that attempts to run its society based on the rule of law, and served as mediator in disputed areas of the document. You would have preferred food fights?)

“We call upon all Iraqis to participate actively in the elections and not listen to calls for boycotts because they are harmful,” the new Iraqi Accord Front said in a statement.

The alliance of the Iraqi People’s Gathering, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue was the clearest sign yet that some Sunnis are turning to the ballot box after boycotting Iraq’s last parliamentary vote in January.

(The parties mentioned represent a large plurality, and perhaps a majority, of Sunnis; the characterization as “some” is an attempt to minimize the significance of their interest in participating in the democratic process.)

U.S. and Iraqi officials are likely to welcome the move, but it is not clear if the group has much sway over hard-line Sunni insurgents fighting the Shi’ite and Kurdish-led government and the U.S. occupying force protecting it.

(This is a deliberate mischaracterization of the government; only Al-Reuters and the international press are so obsessed with ethnicity; the Iraqis want a country.)

Nor did it appear to have the backing of all mainstream Sunni politicians.

(This is raising the bar impossibly high–If you don’t have the backing of every last Sunni politician, it doesn’t count. Where in the world does any constitutional issue have the backing of “all mainstream politicians”?).

The U.S. military, which on Tuesday marked its 2,000th death since the 2003 invasion, on Wednesday announced another soldier had died, in a vehicle accident in southern Iraq.

(The US military did nothing to “mark” the death, except to respond to war opponents who insisted on describing it as a “grim milestone.” Nothing has been written about the 50,000 Iraqis who likely would have been murdered had Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror continued for past 2-1/2 years; Saddam’s pace averaged much higher than 400 per week when he was in power.)

The rise of the U.S. death toll has piled pressure on President George W. Bush to show progress in Iraq, with growing numbers of U.S. voters skeptical about the direction of the war.

(There may be polls showing discontent, but, again, where’s the “pressure”?)

The U.S. military also said that two al Qaeda members, one a cell leader accused of taking part in at least three videotaped beheadings, have been killed in Iraq.

The suspected cell leader was killed during a raid on a house in Mosul on Saturday, while the second al Qaeda member, identified as Abu Du’a, was believed to have died in an air strike near Qaim in western Iraq on Wednesday.

(So nice of you to bury this HUGE news so deep in the story.)

Sunnis turned out in large numbers to vote against the constitution this month, but failed to muster the two-thirds majority “No” in at least three provinces necessary to veto the measure. Two provinces reached the mark; a third fell short.

Some Sunni leaders said their failure to block the constitution, which many fear hands permanent control of much of Iraq to the Shi’ite majority and its Kurdish allies, would spur a new political campaign to force Washington to withdraw.

(Totally, in, your, dreams–by whom?)

The mainstream reporting from Iraq is distorted beyond recognition. Michael Yon and the Milblogs are where to go for the real story (see the third section of the blogroll; additional suggestions are welcome).

And you can see why Reuters’ business news has to be taken with a mountain of salt.

Quote of the Day: John Stossel

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:30 pm

On the failed attempt to reduce pork-barrel spending (HT Instapundit):

You heard what the Senate did to Tom Coburn’s attempt to impose some sanity on spending.

How do they live with themselves?

Years ago, interviewing economist Walter Williams for a show ABC News called “Greed,” I was perplexed when Williams said, “a thief is more moral than a congressman; when a thief steals your money, he doesn’t demand you thank him.”

That was silly hyperbole, I thought, but watching Congress spend, I see that I was naive and Williams was right.

Microsoft Losing Its Way Update

Filed under: Biz Weak,Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 3:47 pm

A few weeks ago in “This Weekend’s Unanswered Questions: Special ‘What’s Up with Microsoft?‘ Edition,” I explored some of the more obvious problems at “Mister Softee,” as Jim Cramer likes to call it. I cited four items indicating lack of direction: an idea to imitate Apple by opening retail stores, Steve Ballmer’s violent tirade against an employee leaving for a competitor, the technologically unsatisfying and three-years-late-already Vista operating system release (when it comes), and its longstanding poor response to security issues that continues to this day.

Two weeks later (first item at post), I was unimpressed with Microsoft’s highly-publicized reorganization: “It reminds me of General Motors’ endless attempts to reorganize itself through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and what there has been of the 2000s, as its market share and, more importantly, its engineering edge slowly but surely eroded. I hope I’m wrong.”

It turns out that I’m not the only one seeing the signs of big trouble.

A week or so later, Biz Weak did a piece about the company (free for now) in late September that generated a lot of impressive responses in its Oct. 17 Letters to the Editor (free for the time being):

  • Comparing Microsoft to Digital Equipment Corp., a computing giant that totally missed the PC revolution in the 1980s: ” Both companies viewed their stock as undervalued and spent billions buying back shares. Both companies had many reorganizations. I hope the parallels end here — Digital no longer exists.
  • “If 15% of Microsoft’s employees are dissatisfied with the way things are run, chances are that a large number of those are among the top new talent of the company. When (not if) they walk, the downward spiral will be impossible to stop. Let Steve Ballmer stop worrying about the short-term “needs” of his shareholders and concentrate on the long-term survival of the company they entrusted to him.”
  • “Reading this was like reading about IBM (IBM ) 20 years ago.”
  • “Steve Ballmer is not creative or sensitive enough to nurture a culture of America’s best and brightest techies. Your account of Ballmer’s vicious tirade against an employee who had jumped to a competitor was truly frightening to read. It should have been reason enough for Bill Gates and Microsoft’s board to fire him.”
  • “Steve Ballmer’s failure to answer Kathy Rebello and Jay Greene’s questions with any honest and straightforward response is the sign of someone either completely clueless, in total denial, or both.”

The company’s subsequent public spat over DVD formats and its short-lived attempt to control the distribution of audio devices are not encouraging signs.

As I’ve said before, the US economy, and really the world economy, are very dependent on Windows/Vista computers for future productivity increases. It is thus more than a little important that Microsoft have its act together, at least in the short run, until, as appears inevitable, Net-centered applications begin to dominate the landscape. I hope they have it in them. Everyone should.

Who Needs Tracking Implants? Wireless Phone Services Can Do That Now

Filed under: Business Moves,Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:47 pm

I would expect adoption of this technology to take longer in the US, but it’s coming (link is free for the time being):

“Working Late” Won’t Work Anymore
New services can track you-or your loved ones-by cell phone

It sounded too Orwellian ever to succeed. In 2000, Korean cellular carrier SK Telecom introduced a service called “find friends” that lets others follow your every move, using a signal beamed from your handset. At the time, many wondered whether anyone would consent to such tracking.

But five years — and countless terrorist attacks, earthquakes, and other calamities — later, the service is taking off. “I used to be worried when my boyfriend didn’t answer my calls,” says Shim You Sun, a 25-year-old accountant who pays 11 cents each time she checks up on him. “Now I can rest assured that he is at work or busy attending a seminar.”

She’s one of more than 4 million Koreans who have signed up for various services using technology that can determine a cellular subscriber’s location. One, costing $3 per month, will send a message with your coordinates to friends and family periodically while you’re traveling. Another will automatically dispatch a text message to friends who get within a block or so of each other as they move around town. Yet another, costing 29 cents a day, will send a message if a person isn’t at a specified place at a certain time and then allows the tracker to see the person’s movements over the previous five hours. And 20,000 parents pay $10 per month for alerts if their children stray from the route between school and home. The Korea Association of Information & Telecommunication reckons such services are growing by 74% annually, with revenues expected to triple in 2007, to $1.54 billion, from $500 million last year.

In Korea, the future may have arrived early. Elsewhere it might take a while before consumers warm up to the idea of cellphone tracking. In the U.S., a company called Teen Arrive Alive offers parents a $20-a-month tracking service for their teens. But to date the company has sold the service to only one cell-phone carrier, Nextel.

Others are having a tough time, too. Cingular phased out a tracking service offered by AT&T Wireless when the two carriers merged last year. Small wonder: Less than 20% of Americans are willing to pay for such info, says market watcher Jupiter Research.

In other countries, consumers are proving more open to cellular tracking. In Britain, The Carphone Warehouse offers mapAmobile, a $52-a-year service that lets parents track their cell-toting kids. And in Japan, subscribers can sign up for text messages advertising bargains at department stores as they pass by.

Of course, technology like this can have useful business applications:

Korea, though, is clearly at the forefront — and not just for consumers. Hwang Yoon, who runs a call center for 1,500 taxi drivers, uses a service that broadcasts text messages to cabdrivers within a one-, two-, or three-kilometer radius of a fare’s location. The first driver who responds — by pushing a button on the phone — gets the job. “This technology is an excellent and cheap fit for us,” says Hwang. Sales of business-related tracking services in Korea are expected to jump more than fivefold this year, to $248 million, from $43 million last year.

I find most of the personal applications of this technology very creepy, but I suspect that safety concerns will eventually outweigh privacy worries for many, if not most, people.

I’m also concerned that this technology can be turned on or off without users’ knowledge or consent, and at the extreme make “1984″ look like a relative freedom-loving picnic. The Chinese government, to name one example, would be in police-state heaven if they could impose this technology on their citizen-subjects.

So If There’s a Recession, Maybe We Should Pin the Blame on Instapundit….

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 9:04 am

…. and Daily Kos, and Michelle, and Atrios, and Hugh, and Wizbang, and Ace, and …….

From AdAge.com (requires registration):

In 2005, Employees Will Waste 551,000 Years Reading Them

October 24, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) — Blog this: U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs. Currently, the time employees spend reading non-work blogs is the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs.

About 35 million workers — one in four people in the labor force — visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them, according to Advertising Age’s analysis. Time spent in the office on non-work blogs this year will take up the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs. Forget lunch breaks — blog readers essentially take a daily 40-minute blog break.

Bogged down in blogs

While blogs are becoming an accepted part of the media sphere, and are increasingly being harnessed by marketers — American Express last week paid a handful of bloggers to discuss small business, following other marketers like General Motors Corp. and Microsoft Corp. into the blogosphere — they are proving to be competition for traditional media messages and are sapping employees’ time.

Case in point: Gawker Media, blog home of Gawker (media), Wonkette (politics) and Fleshbot (porn). Said Sales Director Christopher Batty: “The Gawker audience is very at-work; it’s an at-work, leisure audience — a.k.a., people screwing off on the job. “

Bosses accept some screwing off as a cost of doing business; it keeps employees happy and promotes camaraderie. Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, said blogs have become the favored diversion for “office goof-off time,” though he notes it’s hard to segregate blog time since blogs often bounce readers to professional media sites.

But at the end of the day, more blogging means less working. Jonathan Gibs, senior research manager at Nielsen/NetRatings, said at-work blog time probably comes in addition to regular surfing — meaning more time on the Web but less time on the job.

Expansion of online behavior

“Since for the most part blog readers tend to be the most engaged readers of online content,” he said, “they do not appear, at least for now, to be sacrificing time from their favorite news sites. Instead, it looks like blog usage is in addition to existing online behavior.”

Some blogs do relate to work, but deciding just how relevant they are to the employer is open to debate. For this analysis, Ad Age chose a simple score: Count all business blog traffic, half of tech and media blogs and one-fourth of political/news blogs as directly related to work.

Based on ComScore’s tally of blog categories, this suggests just 25% of blog visits directly connect to the job. Employees this year will spend 4.8 billion work hours absorbing wisdom from other blogs that may enlighten visitors but not amuse the boss.

Wasted time

Hard and detailed data on blogging time is limited, so Ad Age’s analysis is a best-guess extrapolation done by reviewing blog-related surveys and data. By Ad Age estimates:
* Work time spent reading and posting to blogs this year will consume 2.2% of U.S. labor force hours.
* Work time spent at blogs unrelated to work will eat up 1.65% of labor force hours.
* U.S. workers this year will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years (based on a 24-hour day) or 2.3 million work years (based on a typical nearly 40-hour work week) reading blogs unrelated to the job.

There is strong evidence of workday blogging. Server traffic for Blogads, a network of sites that take ads, spikes during business hours, reflecting page views on about 900 blogs. FeedBurner, a blog technology company, also sees a jump in work-time hits.

Though I don’t think I posted on it, I was very skeptical earlier this year of surveys about “wasted time” at work (the claim was 2 hours a day), for this reason: If you’re on a straight salary, are at work for 10 hours, and “waste” 2 hours, that’s what I call “even.”

And hey, is it our fault that people are reading the blogs, or is it their fault that their work isn’t interesting enough? (just kidding, all you bosses out there–HEY, are reading this on company time?)

Oct. 30 Update: Powerline notices the story.

Positivity: Russell Clark, 104

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:07 am

At 102, he was named the oldest worker in the US in 2003. He was still with us late last year. He’s enough to make you wonder how you can feel tired during the day: