David Kirkpatrick

September 2, 2010

William Gibson on Google

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:24 am

William Gibson is one of my favorite authors — reading Neuromancer when it came out was a life-changer for me in terms of literature, science fiction and general outlook — and he has an interesting op-ed at the New York Times on the global reach of Google. He describes the relationship between the behemoth tech company and its users this way, “We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state.” And adds, “We’re citizens, but without rights.”

From the third link:

We have yet to take Google’s measure. We’ve seen nothing like it before, and we already perceive much of our world through it. We would all very much like to be sagely and reliably advised by our own private genie; we would like the genie to make the world more transparent, more easily navigable. Google does that for us: it makes everything in the world accessible to everyone, and everyone accessible to the world. But we see everyone looking in, and blame Google.

Google is not ours. Which feels confusing, because we are its unpaid content-providers, in one way or another. We generate product for Google, our every search a minuscule contribution. Google is made of us, a sort of coral reef of human minds and their products. And still we balk at Mr. Schmidt’s claim that we want Google to tell us what to do next. Is he saying that when we search for dinner recommendations, Google might recommend a movie instead? If our genie recommended the movie, I imagine we’d go, intrigued. If Google did that, I imagine, we’d bridle, then begin our next search.

October 17, 2009

The credit card industry got greedy

No surprise there. Credit is certainly a privilege and not a right, but the industry players have proven to be bad actors when operating without significant oversight. With the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act scheduled to go into full effect over the next year — different provisions begin at different times — the industry took the grace period as an opportunity to gouge customers in the midst of this economic climate.

Needless to say Congress isn’t looking too kindly on Main Street being put under that much more economic pressure. The credit industry might want to start making major concessions and end predatory practices lest Congress decides the new act doesn’t go far enough.Now that the recovery is looking quite jobless and by appearance, if nothing else, mostly benefits Wall Street and the topmost tier of “haves,” a Democrat-controlled government may want a few pounds of flesh for the “have-nots” in this scenario.

From today’s NYT op-ed:

Some of the worst (and most common) abuses are now scheduled to be outlawed in February. These include the practice of arbitrarily raising interest rates, penalizing customers when they are late paying a bill unrelated to the credit card — so-called universal default — and charging customers interest on debt that they paid off a month or more earlier.

The banks claimed that they needed the long lead time to rework their computer processing system. Consumer advocates warned that this would invite banks and credit card companies to wring as much as possible out of consumers before the law finally took effect.

They were right.

A forthcoming study from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Safe Credit Cards Project shows that credit card interests rates — already too high — rose by 20 percent in the first two quarters of this year, even though the cost of lending went down as a result of low federal interest rates. In testimony before Congress earlier this month, one consumer advocate cited case after case of struggling consumers who had seen their credit card rates more than double for no apparent reason, even when they had faithfully paid on time.

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July 25, 2009

Don’t let the door hitchya

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:28 pm

A former Alaskan senator provides a Palin pre-mortem.

From the link:

The Inuit have a word, “qivit,” that you do not want to have applied to you. It means to quit or give up when the going gets rough. In traditional times, and that was very recent, if you gave up as a leader you were jeopardizing yourself and everyone around you. It takes a lot of effort to maintain life in the bitter cold of the Arctic.


In short, Alaska had a governor who had the stature within the state, nationally and internationally, to deal with our problems. She could have used her position to find solutions to the high costs and financial insecurities of our far-northern state. Instead, she abandoned her role as the state’s leader in midstream, making her the only governor in our state’s history to “qivit” in the true sense of the word, at a time when we need strong leadership. Good luck, Governor Parnell — may the great Arctic spirits be with you.

And some amonst the GOP faithful still want her as the standard bearer.

April 28, 2009

Douthat’s debut

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:39 am

Ross Douthat’s first New York Times column is up. He was formerly blogging at the Atlantic from the right and replaced Bill Kristol as the NYT’s conservative voice.

His first gambit is a little bold in that he’ll likely draw some scorn from the far right looking for any excuse to brand him as a squishy shill imported by the liberal NYT for watered-down right wing views.

Like most of his previous work, I agreed in part and disagreed in part, but overall enjoyed the op-ed. Of course the premise of the column is ridiculous for a  number of reasons. Hit the link for the whole thing. It’s only an op-ed, so it’s short.

From the link:

As a candidate, Cheney would have doubtless been as disciplined and ideologically consistent as McCain was feckless. In debates with Barack Obama, he would have been as cuttingly effective as he was in his encounters with Joe Lieberman and John Edwards in 2000 and 2004 respectively. And when he went down to a landslide loss, the conservative movement might – might! – have been jolted into the kind of rethinking that’s necessary if it hopes to regain power.

April 17, 2009

I now understand …

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:58 am

… why Hunter Thompson offed himself. Well I’m not going that far, and certainly not into Hunter’s psyche, but his last work for ESPN was far, far beyond subpar. I read that sporadic Page 2 column as it came out and was just saddened. Hunter had lost it. He lobotomized himself, but he’d lost it, whatever that “it” is.

George Will has hit that same wall. Will’s fall from written word grace has come from age against Thompson’s well-documented heavy drug (both licit and illicit) use, but it has come.

The evidence? This is the literary equivalent of, “GET OFF MY LAWN SONNY!.”

From this link:

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically — running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans. If mother is there, she, too, is draped in denim.

Writer Daniel Akst has noticed and has had a constructive conniption. He should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has earned it by identifying an obnoxious misuse of freedom. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

It is, he says, a manifestation of “the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby.” Denim reflects “our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings — the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure.” Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not — authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil. Denim on the bourgeoisie is, Akst says, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a Hummer to a Whole Foods store — discordant.

January 6, 2009

Nate Silver fisks the WSJ editorial board

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:54 am

And does an epic takedown.

FiveThirtyEight is becoming a post-election must read for political junkies. It absolutely was during the election for the incredibly prescient projections on the elections this year.

Now that the election is done they’re cleaning up the loose ends — such as the Coleman/Franken recount in Minnesota, and as it happens the subject of the fisked op-ed –and branching out into politics beyond polling, statistics and elections.

Naturally, this sort of analysis betrays the pretty strong lean to the left, but whatever your personal leanings, not reading this for ideological reasons is silly. These guys are just doing great work right now.

From the first link:

Mr. Franken started the recount 215 votes behind Senator Coleman, but he now claims a 225-vote lead and suddenly the man who was insisting on “counting every vote” wants to shut the process down. He’s getting help from Mr. Ritchie and his four fellow Canvassing Board members, who have delivered inconsistent rulings and are ignoring glaring problems with the tallies.

Actually, Coleman is having far more trouble with the Minnesota Supreme Court, which generally has a conservative reputation, than he is with the Canvassing Board. They’re the ones who rejected his petition on duplicate ballots, and they’re the ones who rejected his notion of wanting to tack on additional ballots to the absentee ballot counting.

Under Minnesota law, election officials are required to make a duplicate ballot if the original is damaged during Election Night counting. Officials are supposed to mark these as “duplicate” and segregate the original ballots. But it appears some officials may have failed to mark ballots as duplicates, which are now being counted in addition to the originals. This helps explain why more than 25 precincts now have more ballots than voters who signed in to vote. By some estimates this double counting has yielded Mr. Franken an additional 80 to 100 votes.

There are 25 precincts with more ballots than voters? I’m not sure this is actually true. There were certain precincts with more votes counted during the recount than there were on Election Night — which is not surprising, considering that the whole purpose of a hand recount is to find votes that the machine scanners missed the first time around. I have not seen any evidence, on the other hand, that there are precincts with more votes than voters as recorded on sign-in sheets. And the Coleman campaign evidently hasn’t either, or it presumably would have presented it to the Court, which rejected its petition for lack of evidence.

Also, note the weasel-wordy phrase “by some estimates”, which translates as “by the Coleman campaign’s estimate”. There is no intrinsic reason why Franken ballots are more likely to be duplicated than Coleman ballots, especially when one significant source of duplicate ballots is military absentees, a group that presumably favors the Republicans. Coleman, indeed, only became interested in the issue of duplicates once he fell behind in the recount and needed some way to extend his clock. Before then, his lead attorney had sent an e-mail to Franken which said that challenges on the issue of duplicate ballots were “groundless and frivolous”.