|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Friday, October 22, 2004
Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide: "In the second half of March 2002, as the Bush administration mapped its next steps against al Qaeda, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin brought an unexpected message to the White House Situation Room. According to two people with firsthand knowledge, he told senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA was scaling back operations in Afghanistan.
That announcement marked a year-long drawdown of specialized military and intelligence resources from the geographic center of combat with Osama bin Laden. As jihadist enemies reorganized, slipping back and forth from Pakistan and Iran, the CIA closed forward bases in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. The agency put off an $80 million plan to train and equip a friendly intelligence service for the new U.S.-installed Afghan government. Replacements did not keep pace with departures as case officers finished six-week tours. And Task Force 5 -- a covert commando team that led the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants in the border region -- lost more than two-thirds of its fighting strength.
The commandos, their high-tech surveillance equipment and other assets would instead surge toward Iraq through 2002 and early 2003, as President Bush prepared for the March invasion that would extend the field of battle in the nation's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks .." The article also provides quotes from experts about the lack of non-military responses to terrorism. 4:05:37 PM
Cringely on polls and cell phones: "the FCC said two years ago that five percent of U.S. homes have only mobile phone service and that 15 percent of university students have only mobile phone service. And with 77 million U.S. mobile phones owned by people age 18-24, many of those supposedly counted are probably still associated with a parent's hard-wired telephone number but are really mobile. So the numbers of unpolled votes could be huge. ..
In the last presidential election, one might have expected the final tracking polls to pretty closely reflect the actual outcome of the election only a few hours later. But no. Gore was generally two to three points down in most tracking polls conducted on November 6, 2000, but won the popular vote on November 7 by about half a million voters, or half of one percent. True, this is within the statistical range of most polls, but if the deviation from the actual vote count was truly random noise, then half of the tracking polls would have counted high and half counted low. But that's not the way it happened, and the reason isn't noise, but a consistent sampling error.
More recently in the 2003, Philadelphia mayoral election the final tracking polls gave incumbent mayor John Street a slight statistical lead over challenger Sam Katz, yet the actual vote went 59 to 41 for Street. How could those Philadelphia tracking polls be so far off? They missed the extensive effort to register student voters in that city, with its several major universities.
Now how about Diddy and all the others urging young people to register and vote in the upcoming Presidential election? Their stated goal is 20 million new voters (out of a total of perhaps 110-120 million voters) and given the fervent message and extensive advertising on MTV, VH1 and elsewhere, that goal just might be reached, presumably with most of those kids voting for Kerry, the Democratic challenger. .." 10:49:30 AM
Cringely gets it about BPL: The recent Fcc approval of "broadband over power lines (BPL) is going to totally shake up the Internet industry. .. One thing to remember about electric utilities is that they are very slow and deliberate. They move like glaciers, so it will take awhile for these services to be available at your house. But like glaciers, they are also impossible to stop.
The appeal here to an electric company isn't that $20-30 per month they'll charge for becoming your ISP. What matters to them and what makes this whole thing so important is that it will lead to your electric meter being monitored 24/7. That means utilities can start to offer true dynamic pricing, with electric costs dropping in low demand time periods and dramatically rising with high demand. While that sounds bad, the end result is actually good, since for the most part, profits from electricity sales will be regulated. The real end result is that demand will be better controlled by dynamic pricing, and the utility may just be able to forego building that $2 billion power plant they've been planning and saving for over the past 20 years. Dropping $2 billion to the bottom line has to appeal to any board of directors and, in a tightly regulated environment, will probably lead to overall power rates going DOWN, not up.
So this BPL stuff is mainly about getting smart electric meters and only partly about offering Internet service. But having made the effort to build the network, offer it they will, generally through unregulated subsidiaries." This is particularly interesting for developing and newly industrializing countries that are still building their grids and can design BPL in at the start. 10:47:09 AM