Hard News by Russell Brown

Still on the wires

A little more comment on yesterday's broadband post: although I felt that the view advanced in Telecom's keynote presentation at the Tuanz conference - it's not the network, it's the content - ran way too close to saying "it's all your fault, you ninnies", I was at the same time impressed by what Telecom's rural sector people had to say, and by the farm applications they're promoting. The agriculture group paid a little visit to the cultural-sector group I was scribing for and it was a useful interlude.

Also, Otago University's Neil James got in touch in his capacity as Chair of NGI-NZ, the non-profit society promoting the next-generation Internet, and largely concurred with yesterday's post, but had a couple of observations. He noted that the "infamous" $250 million figure put on the project was speculative and would depend wholly on how far the network would extend, but of more note:

The "cobbling together" [of fibre networks] is not just or even primarily because of necessity - it is in part to ensure the advanced network is not captured by a single supplier. This is what is behind the open, neutral gigapop-based approach to the design.

You say that Telecom will not make dark fibre available and we will end up with managed services. I must say I am not so pessimistic. It is vital that a significant portion - as much as possible - of the network trunk is dark fibre or at the very least wavelength-based. Both Bill St Arnaud of Canarie and Kees Neggers of SurfNet have said to me that dark fibre is a "must have", and any influence I have will be used to get fibre access.

I wish him luck. Also, I now understand the hisser mentioned yesterday was not from a university but another organisation and is now fairly contrite about his unseemly behaviour.

And just so it's not all flowing one way, I understand there's been all manner of fun this week now that TelstraClear has begun to act on its stupid plan to cancel open peering at the Wellington and Auckland Internet exchanges. De-peering - in favour of making other providers pay to deliver traffic to TelstraClear customers - breaks the Internet and hurts TelstraClear customers. And I hear that each time a de-peering order has been sent down to account level to action, it is being sent back with a query as to its wisdom. Heh.

Staying with pointy-headedness for a bit, the sensible opinion on the claims of vote-stealing (electronic and otherwise) in the US elections seems to be going the way I thought it would: that many of the apparent anomalies have explanations, that there is presently no evidence of concerted fraud - but that the system nonetheless broke in ways that must be seriously investigated.

Farhad Manjoo has a useful roundup on Salon. Meanwhile, a new blog, Something's rotten in the state of Denmark, is taking a fairly level-headed approach to the issue, and is currently noting a report from four Berkley political science graduates on strange events in Florida's Broward County. Put is this way: my current view that there is no firm evidence of concerted fraud does not rest on a belief in the probity of Florida's state authorities.

Jolisa pointed me to what appears to be the definitive page of red-blue US voting maps, which is really interesting, and also to another survey, which shows that, while they may be getting more than their share of federal largesse, red-state voters easily trump the dirty Dems when it comes to giving to charity.

Last week I saw this state-by-state table - which appears to show a negative correlation between average IQ and voting for Bush - but didn't run it, because I wasn't sure that it was robust and not a hoax.

Good call as it turns out: this blog has done a truly excellent job of determining that the table is based on a longtime Internet hoax (one that even took in The Economist) and has lots of other information. Meanwhile, someone else has had a good-faith attempt at putting together a better table, based on the states' respective academic test scores. It still has blue states at the top and (mostly) red at the bottom, but offers a more nuanced picture.

As I was driving home from the airport on Friday I listened to an Australian ABC report in which American military analyst Dr Steven Metz breezily explained the rationale behind the present assault on Fallujah. Its aim, he said, was not strictly military - in that there was no serious expectation of capturing leaders of the Iraqi insurgency, or of killing or capturing a significant number of insurgents - but psychological. Bloodshed in Fallujah would, he said, deter "less committed part time insurgents."

Or maybe it won't. It seems to me a risky strategy to plan on gaining national assent by brutalising parts of the population. And, already, gunmen have abducted three members of Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s family. Other media have reported on children dying in front of their helpless parents in Fallujah. The BBC's compliant embedded reports from the assault have been supplement by something less uplifting from a local correspondent. One party has withdrawn from the Allawi government in protest and an influential group of Sunni clerics has called for a boycott of the planned January elections. Juan Cole rounds up the political fallout.

Raed Jarrar has many more Fallujah reports - including claims of the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorous munitions (which melt the skin of anyone in the way), street fighting elsewhere, and what appears to be a de facto news blackout. And Riverbend is even more pissed off.

I have a feeling that if the word "Fallujah" comes to be a byword for anything in history, it won't be prudent and effective military strategy …

Meanwhile, that great irony of the media landscape - NBR's Labour-friendly Philips Fox poll - is back for another round, which sees National slipping.

Also in NBR, a useful column by Jeff Gamlin posited that the major danger of a Bush second term is economic. Referring to the troubling US deficits:

President Bush's profligacy is made possible only by the willingness of various Asian countries to buy US bonds and to, in effect, fund the fiscal and trading deficits. Nations such as China take this action to stop the US dollar from sliding so their own exports remain competitive.

Without this support the US dollar would plunge to unheard of depths, with dire consequences for the US consumer and for trading nations such as New Zealand. One local commentator has predicted the value of the New Zealand dollar could climb to 90USc, which would make life intolerable for our exporters.

If there is an area where the re-election of Mr Bush represents a clear and present danger to the US and the world, it can be traced to the possible consequences of his economic policies.

Back home, Brian Fallow in the Herald says not so fast on the tax cut talk in a sober analysis that is really worth reading.

Also in the Herald, Brian Rudman looks at this week's goings-on at the Auckland City Council and seems to confirm my impression that Bruce Hucker needs to behave with a bit more measure if he doesn't want this to be a one-term centre-left council. The silly old voters are under the impression that they elected the other guy as mayor …

And, finally, if you haven't seen sorryeverybody.com, where have you been? I particularly liked the pandas. Feel free to waste your afternoon waiting for the galleries to load (these guys still need more server capacity) and tell me which ones you like best.

For now, I'm going to finish a bunch more work before we all head to the NetGuide Web Awards this evening, and then, perhaps, to the Scavengers …