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Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


In-depth reporting

Late this morning, as I was eating my fried eggs and toast, I turned on CNN. The story being covered at the moment was General Ricardo Sanchez criticism yesterday of the Bush Administration's handling of the War on Iraq.

After reporting on what he said, a segment came titled "Who is Sanchez?"

"Ah, good," I thought, "it will be nice to get to know a little bit more about this guy."

This segment made three points. While Gen. Sanchez commanded forces in Iraq, from June 2004 to June 2004,

  1. Saddam Hussein was captured.
  2. Saddam Husseins sons were killed.
  3. The Abu Ghraib scandal unfolded.

Oh, great! I'm so glad I stay tuned. I now know so much more about General Sanchez.

Is this what in-depth reporting has come to?


Mexican restaurants

I'm a big fan of Mexican food. Unfortunately there aren't a wealth of Mexican restaurants around here. One I've been going to regularly for years is El Azteca, a very fine BYO place in Northeast Philadelphia. Another that's closer but a much smaller (and cheaper) operation is La Morena in nearby Hatboro, also BYO. I've also eaten at Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken and though the food is very good, it's a bit out of the way for me.

Recently Las Maracas opened up even nearer by in Southampton. Last night I ate there for the first time. The food was quite good (I ordered chicken enchiladas with a mole sauce). I was telling my waiter�who, it turned out, was the brother of the owner�about these other two good Mexican restaurants I knew about and learned that his sister the owner had sold La Morena in order to open up Las Maracas. I'll have to go back to La Morena and see if the quality remains good. When I spoke his sister later, she told me she hopes this is the beginning of a chain of Mexican restaurants.

BTW, they have a big banner across their window trumpeting "Complimentary Margaritas" and I was indeed offered one, but after leaving with a take-out version of the menu, noticed that it's a BYO kind of place too, so I'm not sure what kind of Margaritas those would be.

Michele Tafoya's secret assignment

In case you don't recognize the name, she is a sideline commentator for Monday Night Football. Did you know that before each game, she gets a challenge to include a specified word or phrase into her telecast? And if she succeeds, $100 goes to charity. So far in her career she's raised about $2,000 this way. Read all about it here. Pretty cool! Just don't let it get in the way of reporting on the game, Michele (actually, I understand she's determined to do just this, i.e. not let it get in the way). [I learned about this from a sidebar in a recent issue Sports Illustrated.]

Fact-free advertising

There are many examples of this kind of advertising around, but the ones that are currently bugging me are from Temple University. You can find several examples of what I'm talking about on the special website they set up for this marketing campaign. I'd like to quote the one I've been hearing on the Temple radio station, WRTI, but I can't find it, so instead I've transcribed one for radio that I found on the website:

There are certain people who don't believe in the easy way out. For them, that's a cop-out.

They don't believe in cutting corners; "turning" is what corners are for.

They know that what you drive isn't as important as where you're going.

They see the road less travelled as the road with less traffic.

They realize that the only time something will come to them is if they call for a pizza. That you can't appreciate sweet if you don't taste sour once in a while.

They simply can't use the word can't.

They don't just walk the walk, they run it.

They believe that inside of them they have the capacity to make anything happen. Because inspiration, ambition and determination fit them to a "T".

They come from many places, and also from one: Temple University.

What a bunch of malarkey! If any college or university had come anywhere close to figuring out how to ensure that any set of positive characteristics�let alone these particular ones�could be used to describe their graduates, we'd all know about. Not that we'd all want to attend that school. Thinking about it now in this way reminds me of Hitler Youth, a Communist Youth League, the People's Temple, or the Moonies, where indeed the effort is to convince everybody to believe in a common set of values. Is this what a university education is all about? Ironically, I believe that Temple does a very good job of not providing the kind of education that this marketing campaign claims they do.


The coming fate newly available broadcast spectrum

Much of the debate that goes on over what the FCC should or should not be doing leaves me confused and ambivalent. I hate not having an opinion, preferably a strong one, and especially on such an important set of topics. So when I read something on one of these debates that I makes a strong case, I'm happy.

I was very happy indeed to read Scott Bradner's article, FCC ignores the lesson of Wi-Fi's history, in the 13 Aug 2007 issue of Network World1. Mr Bradner is Harvard University's technology security officer. That's good too; I tend to trust academics. He writes about the FCC's proposed rules for splitting up of broadcast spectrum that will become available after end of analog television on 17 Feb 20092:

The FCC has decided on a public-private partnership to run the public safety part of the spectrum. The other option was a government-run, national public safety network. I'm not sure the path the FCC wants to take will change the overall result. Considering the unblemished history of such projects, I fully expect any useful network will be decades off�if it ever shows up�and will produce vast windfalls for a few selected vendors at the taxpayers expense.

The FCC's decision about the public safety network was quite predictable and, sadly, so were its decisions about the rest of the spectrum.

Anyone who has been paying attention at all knows that the most dynamic explosion in the uses of wireless has come in the unlicensed, small chunks of spectrum where such technologies as Wi-Fi prosper. It would seem obvious that if the FCC's goal in deciding what to do with the to-be-released spectrum was�as the FCC press release states�"serving the public interest and the American people," at least part of the spectrum would have been added to these unlicensed bands. Communications companies, however, do not spend billions of dollars (the FCC's minimum bid for a part of the spectrum is $4.6 billion) to open up spectrum for everyone to use, for free. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin noted in his statement accompanying the news release that the FCC had to produce "a fair return on this asset for the American people." In focusing on the auction return, the FCC ignores the proven value - far more than $4.6B - that more unlicensed spectrum would have returned to the U.S. economy.

Well I haven't paid a lot of attention, but I know that what he says about what's happened in unlicensed spectrum is true. And, wow! does his anti-government slant ever appeal to the libertarian in me! And boy! does the infinitesimal likelihood of anyone but the big spenders (i.e. communications companies) benefiting in any significant way ever appeal to the cynic and the pessimist in me!

Well, now I've got at least one strong opinion on this set of issues.

1Interestingly enough, you'll never learn who the author is by reading the article on Network World's web site.

2Oh yeah! Did you know your non-digital television will become obsolete in 16 months? This is the date when non-digital broadcasts will cease, by Act of Congress. I have a feeling a lot of people are in for a rude surprise. Even if, unlike me, you do have a digital set, you probably have at least one analog set you still use.

White hat phishing expeditions

Phishing for the Good Guys [found in the 13 Aug 2007 issue of Network World] is an interesting article about Markus Jakobsson, a cybersecurity researcher and professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, who

spends much of his time perpetrating online attacks on unsuspecting Web surfers�without actually harming them, of course�to see what types of ruses people will fall for and to predict potential new techniques phishers might pursue....

The typical procedure is to tell them about the research after they've unknowingly participated, which Jakobsson admits has led to some angry responses.

Among his conclusions are that many people:

  • seem to have have no qualms about accepting a self-signed certificate

  • who won't click on a link contained in an e-mail will willingly copy and paste that same link into their browers

  • will respond to fraudulent e-mails that correctly identify the first four digits of their social security numbers (which are not random, but identify the issuer of the number)

  • if they are male, are likely to click on a link sent by a female, more so than one sent by a male

  • who appear to be politically on the extreme left or extreme right are likely to click on links sent to them, more so than those who are more moderate politically

Like others mentioned in the story, I have my doubts about the ethics of going about this the way Jakobsson is. But I also would probably be happy to volunteer to be one of his guinea pigs. But that would spoil the results, wouldn't it?

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