30 September 2011

Another Fine MessNBC Has Gotten Into

Last fall, MSNBC set a $2 million Lean Forward ad campaign that sought to cast MSNBC as  the place for politics.  Well, a year later and the ratings book is out. MSNBC scores quite low.  Perhaps a TV test pattern or a Yuletide  log would garner higher ratings.

Then in November, MSNBC forced Keith Olbermann out of his anchor chair for violating NBC corporate policy by donating to political campaigns.  Yet in 2006, Joe Scarborough not only gave to a campaign while working for NBC but he also featured an interview with the candidate a week later.  Perhaps this harsh treatment of the volatile but popular (in liberal niches) Olbermann so as to ensure the merger with Comcast.  But this legerdemain did not go over well with the pretentious pundit.

In another less than sharp ratings decision, MSNBC eased out Cenk Uygur from the six o’clock news  to be replaced by liberal street activist Al Sharpton.  While this strategerie (sic) aligns with the MSNBC meta-message of "Lean Forward", it would help if Sharpton could read a teleprompter.

 Granted, Sharpton does have several years experience on the radio but live television is a whole different picture. 

Cynics speculate that Sharpton hiring might have some connection with the Reverend throwing his support behind the Comcast/NBC merger before the FCC.  To Xfinity (sic) and beyond! If NBC is worried about mixing partisanship with journalism, perhaps they should monitor Sharpie sharp’s “Jobs for Justice” rally on the National Mall on October 15th.  One could try to draw a parallel with Glenn Beck’s Rally for Honor in August, 2010, but the latter was not about politics and certainly it only received cursory coverage from Beck’s then broadcaster Fox News Channel.

Being a  believer in the free marketplace, it is not troubling to have a news channel that comes from a certain point of view.  Over the last 15 years, Fox News has excelled in the ratings as being a place that gives conservatism a friendly ear while being "Fair and Balanced".  Granted, since I am not one of of MSNBC half dozen viewers, I can not think of a conservative voice affiliated with the network.  The Morning Joe was once a GOP congressman from FL-1 but between his linguine spine and Mika musing, it does not dig its way out of the liberal cocoon.  This would be fine if it won eyeballs, but that is not the case.  

Considering its abysmal Arbitron numbers, inquiring minds want to know why Comcast wants to "Lean Forward" on the ratings road to no-where.  But this presupposes ratings are the only factor.  In years past, when G.E. owned NBC, the network that was proud of its peacock flacked for green concerns.  This environmental interest ingratiated itself among liberal circles as well as being good for G.E.’s other business interests.   But Comcast is a media business so consistently low ratings should be an anathema. 

To echo the antics of Laurel and Hardy, “That’s another fine Mess(NBC ) you’ve gotten  into”.  Lucky for Rev. Sharpton, he may be able to pick up a used teleprompter from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for practice in about sixteen months. 

Lost In Translation with the Roman Missal?

September 30 is the Feast of St. Jerome ( Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius), the patron saint of translators.  In the late 4th Century A.D., St. Jerome translated the New Testament into Latin.  Eleven centuries later, the Council of Trent recognized St. Jerome’s “Vulgate” opus as the official translation of the Bible.

The virtues which St. Jerome displayed during his life was humility with  scrupulousness.  St. Jerome had opined:

I am not so stupid as to think that any of the Lord’s words either need correcting or are not divinely inspired, but the Latin manuscripts of the Scriptures are proved faulty by the variations which are found in all of them.

Since St. Jerome freely admitted ignorance and even embarrassment over mistakes, he was willing to revisit some of his translations to make corrections and additions when warranted. But St. Jerome knew that a translation’s accuracy depended upon the source material.  Sometimes copyist would inadvertently introduce errors.

We should keep these lessons in mind as  Liturgicam Authenticam comes to fulfillment on the first Sunday of Advent throughout the English speaking world with the implementation of the third translation of the Roman Missal. Some may be tempted to blame "the German Shepherd" Pope Benedict XVI for instituting this change back to the future.  But in all actuality it was Pope Blessed John Paul II who issued this encyclical which required that the liturgy must faithfully render the translation into the vernacular to closely reflect the original Latin texts.  There is an anecdote of JP II celebrating a mass and he realized that the meaning of the prayer had been lost in translation from his morning reflections using the Latin text.  Being trained as a linguist, the Pope compared the relevant passages in English, French and Polish and found many of the modern translations lost essential meaning.

Hence Liturgicam Authenticam demands static translation to retain authenticity, rather than the dynamic translation methodology that were rushed into implementation in the wake of Vatican II. To give an example of the difference in translation methodology, take the familiar greeting “The Lord be with you”.  English speaking worshipers for nearly 40 years have responded “And also with you”, which sounds smooth and colloquial.  But the Latin response (also used in many Romance languages) is “Et cum spiritu tuo” or “And with your spirit”.  The English response misses the nuance of spirituality in its dynamic translation to sound relevant.  Some celebrants treat the older response as a mere greeting and rejoin with “Thank you” instead of recognizing that the congregation is calling for the power of the Holy Spirit to help lift us from our human limitations to do something divine such as worship the Divine Liturgy.

There are going to be many changes of wording, mostly on the part of the celebrant priest, but Church officials insist that it is not a new Mass but a deeper experience that nurtures the faithful to celebrate.  That is a positive perspective, but it is making the best of a situation since there will be no leeway from using this new and improved translation.  As Crosby Stills and Nash put it: “Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on.”.

The English translation of the Roman Missal is key.  When following the precepts of Vatican II in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Catholic conferences in Africa and Asia relied upon the English translation of the Roman Missal to further translate into their regional vernacular.  The dynamic translation methodology which was used in the 1973 edition is thought to have lost something in translation and that had a cascade effect on the faithful in countries where Catholicism is a minority faith.

As a conscientious Catholic, I have been faithfully following the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal. But I have been quite disappointed that the lack of catechesis coming from parishes and the pulpit.  These are going to be major changes to the way most Catholics worship, but I have not seen concerted education efforts from the different parishes that I have recently visited. All of the sung music during the liturgy (e.g. the gloria, the sanctus, the fraction rite) will have to change since there are too many notes for the current scoring.  The Creed will use unfamiliar words which may have more meaning but do not roll off the faithfuls’ tongues.  Some priests have privately admitted that they are slow to bring up these changes because they anticipate that their parishioners will bristle at the change but that they will just have to live with it because that is what the Vatican acting through the USCCB demands.

Having studied the rubric, I know that some of the static translation sounds clunky to my ears.  For instance, during the First Eucharistic Prayer (which already sounded old fashioned) beacons the Holy Spirit to come down like dew drops to sanctify the offering. Granted, this poetic prayer does not seem like commonplace conversational English.  But that may be the point, that our Sunday obligation is ultimately an opportunity to participate in divinization.  But transcending the ordinary into the extraordinary, we can gain a fuller appreciation of the sacred and translate that into living our daily lives. That’s the theory but it may be easier said than done in adjusting to the revised rubric.

As a Vatican II Catholic, I value the participatory nature of liturgy in which the people of God are an essential part of the liturgy rather than spectators to what is up on the altar.  Being a cunning linguist who loves etymology, I will relish the deeper meaning of the new language.  But some of the flowery, repetitive and run on phrases in the new translation do not fall well on my ears.  So I appreciate the perspectives of Anthony Esolen, a Professor of Literature at Providence College in Rhode Island.  Esolan opines that the poetic and literary structure of the original Latin text may require complex sentences to fully convey the deeper theological meaning.  For instance, one of the prayers during the Feast of the Holy Family builds upon the image of home.

We consider first the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and we pray that we will imitate them in our own homes — in “domesticis virtutibus,” which the translators happily render as “the virtues of family life... — so that we may enjoy the glories of the house of God. To translate that three-part prayer, which is one tightly constructed sentence, into a three-part prayer in one tight English sentence, is not to “string phrases together,” but to reflect artistic unity by artistic unity.

That makes sense. Breaking up the long sentence in the original text into three bullet points minimizes the essential relation between the words and the scriptural allusion.  It make take some time to get used to but with proper catechesis, it draws me into a deeper understanding.  Critics of the 1973 translation will deride some of the English collects as “the Lame Duck” version vis-a-vis the Latin original.  I believe that observant Catholics could learn a lot from learning and appreciating the new translation of the Roman Missal, even with the initially awkward phraseology, if we get enough instruction which educates (brings forth) instead of inculcation (pounding in) by ostrich like ordained.

Michelangelo Moses /source AFP
But even faithful translators can get it wrong.  St. Jerome translated Exodus 34 and understood the ray of light emanating from Moses’ head after leaving Mount Sinai as being horns (which it could also mean in Hebrew).  When Michelangelo carved his statue of Moses in 1515, he relied on St. Jerome’s Vulgate verse as the inspiration.  Thus the sculpture of the divine law "courier" at San Pietro in Rome (Vincoli) has two horns.

As English speaking Catholics implement the new Roman Missal, may the higher concepts and ubiquitous participation in the Divine Liturgy not be lost in translation.

h/t  Fr. Z’s What Does the Prayer Really Say blog
h/t   Anthony Esolen
h/t   Translator Interpreter Hall of Fame

29 September 2011

The Penumbra of the Kindle Fire

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos certainly created a buzz with his Kindle announcements yesterday.  Word of the new Kindle Fire tablet  and the significant price cuts on the e-readers spread like wildfire, even to friends and loved ones who would sneer at wearing a pocket protector. Even though Amazon’s tablet will not hit the market until November 15th,  the penumbras from the Kindle Fire may have blazed new paths in the technology industry.

RIM, the maker of the Blackberry Playbook, dropped the price on their 7" color touchscreen Android tablet by $200.  The new price of $299 probably leaves a very thin profit margin if not a loss per unit.  But the Kindle Fire is strikingly similar to the Playbook, but does not have any cameras, has a different O/S and still costs $100 less than RIM’s tablet.  With the declining popularity of the Blackberry as a smartphone, the stiff competition from Amazon’s tablet might spell R.I.P for RIM

The Amazon Fire O/S is a forked version of an old version of Android.  Essentially, the Amazon Fire is an Android tablet without the Android Marketplace or Google branding, yet Google apps will be available for Amazon’s tablet.  This could threaten Google’s position as pretender to the tablet throne behind Apple’s I-Pad.  If Google anticipated using Motorola Mobility as a means to build their own Android tablets, a successful Amazon Fire may make that $12.6 Billion purchase as an expensive trinket.

Other businesses are poised to profit from the advent of the Kindle Fire.  Periodicals did not sell particularly well on the E-Ink Kindles since readers like glossy color pictures.  So the earlier Kindles ceded the cyber magazine market to the I-Pad.  But now the Kindle Fire has a bright 7" color screen.  Hours after the Kindle Fire kickoff, Amazon announced that it had inked a deal to Hearst and Conde Nast publishing groups.

Publishers found it easier to come to terms with Amazon than with Apple as Amazon was willing to share customer data with the publishers.  Dead Tree publications have been suffering a slow death due to the internet.  Condé Nast is striving to buck the diminishing profits due to the internet by charging more for their digital magazines on the Amazon Fire than they do for print editions. After last year’s fracas with publishers about book prices, Amazon demurs to publishers to set their own prices, as long as Amazon gets its 30% cut.

Recently, the Philadelphia Media Group (owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com) offered a $99 tablet as an enticement to subscribing to their publications. Consumers would need to also agree to  a two-year digital subscription to The Inquirer and Daily News for $9.99 a month, or they can get the tablet for $129 with a one-year subscription at $12.99 a month.  That makes for a pretty hefty subscription but at least it could be read on an Archos Android tablet.  Now that the Kindle Fire is captivating the attention of consumers, it won’t be long before there may be other cross promotions.  But with the very affordable $199 price from Amazon, it is dubious how many customers would agree to pay up to $250 more to support a Dead Tree publisher just  to initially save $100 on a new tablet.

By using a forked version of Android, the Kindle Fire creates a walled garden environment.  Some technorati may bristle at the confinement as they like to tweak and tinker with any operating system.  But most users want gadgets that just work.  Apple products prove the point as people will pay a premium for an electronic device that is sexy and easy to use, even if does limit choices to avoid technical conflicts.

Clearly, the idiosyncratic flavor of Android ensures that Kindle Fire’s owners will be tied into the Amazon Apps marketplace which may cover the loss leading Tablet.  But Amazon’s arrangement with publishers to share marketing data also points to ancillary ways to make money.  Amazon may recoop every dollar lost from the hardware sales by the data gained from the Silk browser speeding up internet access by cloud computing.  Amazon could retain and even market that information.

Civil libertarians might be up in arms about all of the data that is available to businesses, but every move on the internet can be tracked by advertising cookies.  Many consumers willingly give their buying patterns to merchandisers for insider prices. Amazon’s aggressively low pricing for the Kindle Fire should entice many consumers to not worry about the marketing data which Amazon is tracking and sharing with partners.

Not everything is shining for Amazon with the Kindle Fire.  Lawyers at Microsoft presume that they can successfully sue any Android device maker.  Even though Amazon entered into a cross-licensing deal that included the Kindle, that was for a Linux based e-book reading platform, not for Android. Cynical speculators can see Microsoft using lawfare as a means to soften up Amazon, which sells goods with a thin margin and is thought to sell the Kindle Fire at a significant loss.  Microsoft might also have in mind keeping their Windows 7 mobile tablets as a prominent player in the mobile marketplace.  Considering how Amazon made nice with publishers by sharing marketing data, some accommodation with Microsoft could be made, possibly by making Bing the default search engine for the Kindle Fire along with lower financial remuneration for potential patent infringement.

In only one day after its announcement, the Kindle Fire has sparked so much business intrigue.  It will be curious to see what moves Apple makes if Amazon’s tablet burns its way to challenging the I-Pad for mobile market dominance.

28 September 2011

Amazon Announces Kindle Fire Tablet

The technorati had been twittering for weeks about today’s Amazon announcement in anticipation of an Amazon Tablet.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did meet those expectations by introducing a 7" one touch color touchscreen Amazon Kindle Fire tablet with a dual core processor and WiFi internet connectivity.

Engadget’s side-by-side photo comparison shows that the new Amazon Fire looks strikingly similar to the BlackBerry Playbook   However, the Kindle Fire is not a carbon copy of the Blackberry Playbook.  The Fire strips the front and back facing cameras from its version of an Android based tablet, presumably to save manufacturing costs The Playbook boasts of 16 GB of memory whereas the Amazon Fire only has 6 GB of storage.  So what is the appeal of what could be seen as a stripped down tablet.

The Kindle Fire can afford to have minimal hands-on storage by integrating Cloud computing for tablet consumers.  Amazon established its cloud storage in March, which allows for 20 GB of storage to anyone purchasing one album a year from the on-line retailer.  Now Amazon promises to store all the content you purchase from Amazon on your data cloud for retrieval on an Amazon tablet.

The Playbook uses parent company RIM’s Blackberry OS.  This was popular last decade when Crackberry addition afflicted the technorati. But with the advent of the I-Pad, Google’s open source Android, Windows 7 for phones and the possible contiuance of Palm/HP’s WebOS, the Blackberry OS is suffering the same fate as the Sony Beta-Max standard in VCRs. Amazon is using an Android based backbone.  But instead of being Froyo (2.3) Gingerbread (2.3)  or the newer Honeycomb (3.1) version of Android which is optomized for tablets, speculation is that the Amazon Fire is powered on Eclair (2.1).

Why is Amazon using a forked version of Android? Officially, there is no answer but it is reasonable to presume that it ensures that Amazon Fire owners will buy their tablet apps from Amazon’s App Market rather than the Android App Marketplace or other third party suppliers.  Amazon’s ambition is to create products that seamlessly tie into Amazon’s web site.  There is strong rationale to do this.  The Kindle Reader on the I-Pad was stealing too many sales from customers who bought books from Amazon rather than through Apple.  So Apple forced app makers to fork over 30% of the sales in the Apple App Store to the Cuppertino based company.  That represented practically all of Amazon’s profits.  As a work around, Amazon reworked its I-Pad Reader to circumvent this Catch-22.

Amazon is also proud of its improved internet connectivity via its new web browser. Silk is a split architecture browser which offloads much of the heavy lifting of webpage requests to Amazon’s cloud computing clusters, which is believed to offer superior browsing performance.  This technological advance should be a great cause of concern to Barnes and Noble.  Some savvy Nook Color owners discovered that they can rig their e-book readers into being a dual booting Android tablet via the mini-SD card.  Having seen such a configuration in action, a jerry rigged Nook Color has slightly more zip on the internet than the Amazon Kindle’s clunky “experimental” web browers, albeit in color.  Sure it works, but it is not seamless and it is not particularly speedy. The Kindle Fire is a true tablet.  Bezo’s promotes his new units: “these are premium products at non-premium prices.”

Amazon is aware about finding the sweet spot with prices.  When Amazon concentrated on mass marketing the Kindle, the price dropped from $399 for the crude Kindle Klassic eventually to $189 for a full featured Kindle 3 3G/WiFi.  On the media side, Amazon fought hard to keep selling copies of best selling books at $9.99 until the majority of the six major publishers insisted on charging more for their new releases.

In August, the fire sale of the HP Touchpad showed the hunger amongst consumers on choosing tablets  for a less expensive device.  The HP Touchpad sold for $500, which is the same price point that RIM set for the Playbook and was the lower end cost for an I-Pad.  In HP’s case, their anemic sales convinced management to exit the tablet manufacturing business and prompted a fire sale in which the HP tablet sold 200,000 units in a weekend at $99 and $149.  Bezos learned from the mistakes of other alleged I-Pad “killers”.

Price is what ensures that the Amazon Kindle Fire will be an electronics blockbuster when it becomes available on November 15th.  Those in the Kindlesphere generally expected Amazon to market a “K-Tab” at $249, which is estimated to be a loss of $50 a unit from its manufacturing costs.  As the internet’s largest retailer, Amazon has the deep pockets to sell a loss-leader, expecting that they will recoop their costs within six months and they project to make $180 over the life of a unit by media sales from Amazon.   Pre-announcement, Kindle aficionados thought that Amazon would throw in an extended subscription to Amazon Prime, which would include complimentary access to Amazon Videos.

The Amazon Kindle Fire was offered for the amazing low price of $199, with a month’s subscription to the $79 per year Amazon Prime feature.   It costs half of the lowest priced I-Pad and undercuts the Nook by 20% while giving more value for money with true tablet capabilities. That is very aggressive pricing which may prompt three million sold by the end of 2011.

The big Amazon announcement was not just to tout the tablet.  Bezos introduced a line of Kindles with new lower prices.  Amazon was smart not to name the Amazon Fire as a Kindle since the latter is an e-ink reading device whereas the tablet is a color media consumption unit.  The 6" Kindle 3G/WiFi price drops to $149 (from $189) and boasts of worldwide 3G coverage (which was not guaranteed previously).  The new 6" Kindle Touch is a new WiFi only device which drops the keyboard but has some buttons and will sell for $99.  The 6" Kindle WiFi that retains a keyboard now sells for only $79.

While it is exciting to see the Amazon Fire as an inexpensive tablet, it is a relief that Amazon is not abandoning its Kindle line.  Many early adaptors to the Kindle were not technologically inclined but were avid readers who loved to have their entire library at their fingertips.  Moreover, the Kindle’s e-ink display is very easy on the eyes for prolonged reading and had a hearty battery.  The Amazon Kindle Fire uses an LCD display that should not have more than ten hours to a charge which the back lighting would be hard on the eyes for session reading. Amazon called all of their new products "Kindle" which led enthusiasts to nickname various units. It would be wise for Amazon to play up the Amazon Fire rather than confuse consumers with a color Kindle Fire when the rest of the supported product line is greyscale e-ink

As for the merits of the Amazon Fire, it sounds enticing but it is not the right tablet for me.  Based on viewing media on a 7" Nook Color, it is adequate for watching video but does not compare to a 9.7" screen, which is 50% larger.  The Amazon Fire’s $199 price is cheap, but I was able to pick up a HP Touchpad at a post firesale online sale for the same cost.  The Amazon Fire will be a great technology for surfing the web on the go and watching some videos, but it is a supplemental electronic device not geared for business.  While it might be turning into a torpedo, I believe that the clearanced HP Touchpad has more potential for business and entertainment purposes and its WebOS will survive.  Maybe there will be some more Touchpads left after today’s HP employees sale.

From a value for money perspective, had the Amazon Fire included a prolonged subscription to Amazon Prime, I would have immediately snapped one up just for the Amazon Video privilege.  Still, with Amazon’s inexpensive pricing, their impressive and varied media consumption devices and their awesome customer service, expect a mass of consumers to join Amazon’s Ring of Fire rather than a fire sale.

h/t: Engadget
     Len Edgerly of thekindlechronicles covering for kindlenationdaily

Primary Chaos

In elections past, the Iowa were held in late January or early February. Reporters gave considerable attention to Iowa, which boasts of prickly votes who want to be courted on an individual basis.  The Hawkeye Cauci were a test of a candidates organizational strength in motivating supporters to turn up and argue with their neighbors on a cold winters night.

But other states were jealous of the undue influence of that Midwestern four-letter state in winnowing the presidential field. So states like Florida and Michigan moved up their primary process into January.   During the last Presidential cycle, both Democrats and Republicans suffered from an accelerated primary schedule which challenged the primacy of the traditional Iowa Caucus lead off followed by the New Hampshire Primary.  So in 2008, when both major parties had wide open contests for the nomination, Iowa moved its Caucus to January 3rd.  The parties wanted to protect the primacy of Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Democrats threatened not to seat delegates from states violating this pecking order, making Florida’s and Michigan’s contests into beauty shows, which not all candidates actively campaigned.  In the end, Democrats relented and seated these delegates at their convention and counted their votes to some degree.

Republican political insiders regretted the accelerated 2008 GOP Primary process which allowed a maverick candidate who peaked in late January and early February to ride the wave to the nomination but who proved to produce weak support from the conservative base.  So Republicans altered their 2012 primary delegate counting system switching from the traditional winner-take-all system to proportional allocation for primaries before April.  This was intended to alleviate the race of states to leapfrog the early states.

Alas, as Robbie Burns mused: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley (often go awry)".  Florida is poised to move its Presidential primary to late January, which will motivate Iowa to move its Caucus from February 3rd 2012 to early January, either January 2nd or January 9th.  By law, New Hampshire’s primary must be held 7 days after the Iowa Caucus, so it would also shift to mid-January.  This primary chaos will likely cause Nevada and South Carolina to move up the calendar for their contests.

This primary acceleration is unfortunate since the GOP presidential field still does not seem settled.  There is continued pressure from well connected Republicans from the eastern seaboard for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) to throw his hat into the ring, despite Christie’s firm rejections last night at the Reagan Library. Some conservatives who have not been satisfied with the current field still yearn for former Gov. Sarah Palin  (R-AK) to announce her candidacy.  The early primary schedule makes it nearly impossible for last minute candidates to join the field in a traditional campaign.

Another danger of the early picking process is a repeat of 2008.  Senator John McCain (R-AZ) won the first primary in New Hampshire with 37%.  Even though former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) won Michigan, it received little attention since it did not count.  Romney won heavily in the Nevada caucus but did not run in South Carolina, where McCain barely beat former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR).  What really decided the race was the Sunshine State primary. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani unwisely staked his entire campaign on doing well in Florida.  But at the last minute, then Republican Governor Charlie Crist (R-I-D?) unexpectedly threw his support behind Sen. Mc.Cain leading him to victory.  The Maverick Arizona Senator rode “Big Mo” to victory on Super (Tsunami) Tuesday on February 5th and the primary race was effectively over.

McCain winning the nomination had several flaws.  While McCain’s come from behind candidacy was remarkable, his perceived centrism and striving to work with Democrats did not set well with the broken glass conservatives necessary to organize victory in November.  In addition, primary voters in large and important states, like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin effectively had their wills minimized.  There is also something to be said for an extended and intense primary process.  Voters learn about their candidates as to how they overcome adversity, how they present when they are exhausted and overextended.  Moreover, challenging a candidates issues causes them to sharpen their policies as well as to incorporate good ideas from vanquished opponents.

Aside from the risk of choosing an under vetted nominee or a candidate who does not connect with the base, an accelerated GOP primary process might open the door for untraditional or third party campaigns in the general.  The Tea Party will be uncomfortable if their key issues are undermined by a flawed primary process.  Former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT) seems well positioned for a self funded third party centrist campaign if he does not win the GOP mantle.   Gov. Palin has shown herself as being enamored to non-traditional ways of influencing the electorate (e.g. Facebook).  It is not out of the question that Palin could capitalize on an accelerated primary chaos which is no the Tea Party’s cup of tea.

While news junkies and politicos may enjoy playing primary chaos as a parlor game, we know who would win in the end and that is not a pretty result. We don't need to play that game again.

25 September 2011

On Raising Cain

In the wake of Herman Cain’s decisive victory of the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida, some Sunshine State conservatives have enthused “Cain/Romney ‘12".  Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard dismissed “the Hermanator’s” victory at 37% support as actually a vote for None-of-the-Above.

Straw polls are both entertaining and interesting but not necessary indicative of the eventual nominee.  After all, Rep. Ron Paul  won the CPAC straw poll this February in Washington for the second consecutive year and the PAUListinians pushed their Libertarian leader to a strong second place finish in the Ames Iowa straw poll in August.  But pigs will fly before the 76 year old elder Dr. Paul will be the G.O.P. nominee in 2012.

Straw polls are intended for party enthusiasts rather than the general electorate.  Some straw polls shows a candidate’s organizational ability and willingness to “buy” a victory.  Ames attracts large crowds which a candidate can bolster by bussing in partisans, as Ron Paul has done the last two election cycles.  Another technique is to sponsor a savory “come on”, like tasty barbeque or ice cream on a hot day, to attract people to your tent.  The Florida straw poll differed from this model as participants needed to pay $175 to cast a ballot.  That is a little too rich for most campaign war chests, which lends credence that Cain’s 37% victory shows enthusiasm to Cain’s message.

Another factor which astute political observers ought to consider is how hard a candidate husks for votes in a straw poll.  Despite generally being considered a top tier candidate, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) did not fight very hard for votes in the Florida straw poll.  Romney participated in the Fox News/Google debate in Orlando and did give a speech before CPAC-Florida but did not work the room on Saturday for support.  Still, the centrist Romney garnered 14% for a third place finish, which is not bad showing among conservative activists.

On the other hand, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) worked very hard for support from conservatives. Yet Perry only scored a second place with a distant 15% support.  What happened? Well, words matter.  During the Google debate, Perry ardently defended his support of a Texas law that gives the children of illegal aliens in-state tuition rates. Perry claimed “I don’t think you have a heart” to critics of this Texas tuition policy.  Perry underlined his political soft spot on illegal immigration, which is contrary to conservatives and Tea Party sensibilities.  But Perry’s sharp riposte alienates those who hold a different primary view.  Moreover, it adds to the meme that Perry’s party switch in 1989 was a matter of convenience.

Gov. Perry has been a successful governor of America’s second most populous state for over ten years. While Perry’s actions on HPV forced vaccinations and in-state tuition for the children of illegal aliens may be troublesome topics on his resume, Perry is a solid conservative.  What the GOP electorate needs to determine in the primary process is to whether Perry is the right candidate to unseat President Obama.   Part of Perry’s appeal has been the late riding to the rescue nature of his candidacy.  Perry entered the race in mid-August on the same day of the Ames straw poll and he vaulted past Romney in national surveys.  But Perry’s poor performance in three debates over the last five weeks seems to have slowed the bandwagon support tactic.  Perry must win the support of the Tea Party and conservatives and do well in the Iowa Caucus to be in it to win it.

The big surprise from the Presidency 5 straw poll was the anemic showing of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6th). Granted, Bachmann participated in the debate and spoke before CPAC-FL but did not fight hard for votes. While Bachmann won the Ames straw poll with 28% support, she only won 1% of the Florida straw poll.  Part of Bachmann’s appeal in the Hawkeye state may have been a “Favorite Son” phenomenon amongst conservative activists. Yet since Bachmann’s  Ames victory, she has been the center of unflattering coverage from the Lamestream Media.   More importantly, her attempts to score points against Gov. Perry in the last two debates on HPV may have been one too many kicks at the cat.  Bachmann questioned Perry’s Executive Order forcing 12 year old girls to be vaccinated against HPV.  This issue scored points on traditional family values and improper constitutional governance.  As an afterthought, Bachmann noted that Perry’s Guardasil connections stunk of crony capitalism.

Had well enough be left alone, Bachmann would have raised her profile in the media horse race and softened Perry’s support amongst conservatives and Tea Party types.  Unfortunately, Bachmann raised the stakes the day after the Tampa Tea Party debate and charged that the HPV vaccination could cause mental retardation.  Bachmann ham handedly claimed during the Orlando Google debate that she was just quoting a supporter when she parroted a supporter.  The Presidency 5 straw poll results is that Bachmann may no longer be the darling of the Tea Party for the GOP nomination.

Herman Cain made quite a splash in the first debate of the 2012 GOP Primary cycle in South Carolina as the non-politican businessman turned candidate.  Unfortunately Cain seemed to have been pushed towards the back of the bus in coverage by the Lamestream Media which is anxious for a two horse race between a conservative and a centrist.  Cain’s stand out answer during the Orlando Google debate on how Obamacare would have killed him as a stage four cancer patient was personal and poignant.  Cain received a well deserved ovation from the audience as a personal tribute as well as putting a face on the cruelty and inefficiency of government run health care.

Cain had worked CPAC in Washington and put considerable efforts on the Florida straw poll.  But Cain did not just score an “A” for effort.  Cain has based his Presidential run on his “9-9-9" plan and the Chilean model.  Political junkies like those conservatives voting in the Florida straw poll, understand Cain as giving substance to throwing out the current byzantine tax system for a simplified process with a 9% business tax, a 9% income tax and a 9 cent sales tax.  Chile is shorthand for real Social Security reform by following the Chilean paradigm of privatization.

Tax reform and social security reform are big ideas for big problems which America must confront. The electorate needs to be educated as well as convinced on the merits of these plans and then motivated to elect legislators who are committed to enacting the change.  As refreshing as it is to hear a plain talking non-politican candidate offer these ideas, messaging is key.  Cain’s convincing victory in Florida should start the dialogue, but whether Cain’s communication team can change and sustain the serious conversation is questionable.

Unlike Cocktail Party Republicans, I do not dismiss Cain’s victory as actually meaning “None of the Above”.  To me, it means that conservatives are hungry for specifics and real change, not just optics or internecine campaigning. In early September, Romney offered a 59 point plan for reviving the economy, which consists mainly of standard conservative fare, but it has not caught fire in the base.  Alas, during debates, frontrunner perries seemed to be more of a game of gotcha between Perry’s book Fed Up! and Romney’s book No Apology: Believe in America.

In order to beat a well funded incumbent who has a weak economy but a large campaign war chest, Republicans must unite and have a few succinct, discrete messages to overcome the onslaught of negative messages and ad hominem attacks emanating from the Oval Office, the liberal stenographers in the Lamestream Media and Obama 2012's Chicago headquarters.

Now is the time for vetting GOP nominees. The conservative base has rejected a premature two-candidate horse race and seems to yearn concise, forward looking campaign issues.  There may still be openings for more candidates, but that window will soon be closing.  North Eastern Country Club conservatives keep touting Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as a presidential candidate. And the prospect of former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) jumping into the race is a lightning rod for the right and the left.  Filing deadlines are soon approaching so even an unconventional candidacy will have to announce soon.

With his landslide victory in the Florida straw poll, Herman Cain laid waste to Morgan Freeman's assertion that the Tea Party are a bunch of racists.  Moreover, Cain’s raised Presidential profile may merit him more than a one dimensional punch line about “Herman Cain delivers” on the opening skit of the 37th season of Saturday Night Live.

While Herman Cain himself may not be the ultimate messenger nor are the specifics of the message written in stone but by raising Cain,  Republicans find their way to victory in November 2012

23 September 2011

The Prospects for Soap Streams

Today, ABC closes the book on the soap opera “All My Children” after 41 years on the air. Will this final broadcast be the end of stories stemming from Pine Valley, PA?  Much like the last episode, this question ends with a cliffhanger.

Soap operas became a staple of daytime television in the 1950s. These televised melodramas were meant to appeal to housewives who yearned for glamorous, romantic stories which contrasted with their ordinary quotidian duties managing their households.  Soaps got their nickname from sponsorship by household product companies, such as Proctor & Gamble, which bought many ads during these daytime serials.

Soap operas engendered devoted audiences, not just from captive audience housewives.  Soap devotees have been known to schedule the days of their lives (sic) or even their college class schedule around their favorite serials.  In the 1980s, people actually learned to program their VCRs to get their daily fix of soaps.  In 2000, ABC/Disney launched SOAPnet, so that soap devotees could time shift their soap viewing without a VCR. 

As the world turns (sic), viewing tastes shifted.  This summer, Disney announced that SOAPnet would evolve into Disney Jr. Channel in January, but this closure has been temporarily postponed.  In April, ABC announced the end of two thirds of its daytime soap schedule, cancelling “All My Children” in September in favor of   “The Chew” (a show celebrating life through food) and axing “One Life to Live” for “The Revolution” (a daily show about health and lifestyle transformations) in January 2012. 

As the long suffering spouse of a soap addict, the daytime denouement is less interesting than the prospective future business model.  ABC licensed the online distribution rights of “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” to Prospect Park Productions.  Starting in January 2012, these soaps are expected to be produced and delivered to consumers online and also through emerging formats, such as internet connected televisions or smart phones. 

By ending the broadcast of most soaps, ABC will save by programming inexpensive to produce talk shows.  By licensing soaps to Prospect Park, ABC allows Agnes Nixon’s long running romantic serials more than one life to live (sic) and potentially profit from the loyalty of longtime soap devotees without shouldering the production costs.  Prospect Park follows the guiding light (sic) of a built in audience of loyal viewers to cash in on new revenue models.

Details are sketchy about Prospect Parks plans.  It is unclear as to whether a subscription will be necessary or if there will be commercial sponsorships during the streaming.  The one thing for certain is that Prospect Park will not throw around as much money to the talent.  Young and restless (sic) actors now need  to calculate whether a slashed paycheck is better than no paycheck at all from the soaps or if they can find roles elsewhere.

Recently, Glenn Beck jumped to the internet from his comfortable 5 PM slot on Fox News Channel. Beck wanted to own his own production and distribution channel so that he could say what he wanted and encourage his viewers into action.  GBTV is more than an internet organ grinder, as Beck plans to offer many programs aside from his eponymous show.  Moreover, GBTV uses MLB technology which gives a HD picture and streams the shows on Roku as well as computer viewing.   Beck premiered his show on GBTV on September 12th using a subscription model. It is too soon to tell if Beck was a media visionary or a digital idiot, but some estimate that GBTV could earn $137 million a year.

It will be curious to see if the Prospect Park versions of “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” will mainstream internet stream niche-casting or if these shows will be short run shadows of their former selves.  It has been reported that Susan Lucci has turned down continuing her role as Erica Kane when “All My Children” begins its internet run.  Well, at least she won an Emmy after 21 tries in 1999.

It is dubious that older viewers will be comfortable in jumping through the digital hoops to continue their entertainment viewing.  Loyal younger viewers may bristle at the prospect of having to pay for something that had been free.  And cheapened production values might look horrible on high definition internet streaming. 

The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong,
In Sickness and in Health, 
In Joy and Sorrow,
In Tragedy and in Triumph,

To be continued...?

Hands On Review: H.P. Touchpad--Turning Into the Torpedo

Mobile computing is a desirable area for tech types who want to always have the internet at their fingertips.  Smartphones are useful to this end.  But there is a tension between having a screen large enough for satisfying media consumption and having something that easily fit in one's pocket.

Tablets computers are a suitable alternative for smartphones to meet this hunger for mobile internet access.  Apple's I-Pad  has sold 15 million in just over 18 months, but the lack of multi-tasking, not being a Flash friendly computing environment and the clunkiness of the e-mail functions has made it less appealing for business use over multi-media consumption.

Hewlett Packard tried to answer the I-Pad with the H.P. Touchpad, a 9.7" capacitive touch LCD screen tablet that uses (formerly Palm's) WebOS.  WebOS excels at multi-tasking and uses a different conceit than Android or Apple O/S by employing a card system for opened applications which a user can scroll to switch or flick to close.

H.P. tried to match Apple's I-Pad price point. But when H.P. found itself going no-where fast, H.P.'s management decided get out of the tablet manufacturing market. So H.P. dropped the price to $99 for the 16 GB unit or $149 for the 32 GB unit to clearance the units. The price drop caused the HP Touchstone to sell like hotcakes.

Some technorati will claim that bargain hunters bought a brick, since H.P. is leaving the tablet market along with the fact that the WebOS App Marketplace is limited vis-a-vis the Apple App Store.  But WebOS may not disappear, as the HP division is being shopped to various corporate buyers.  And number of web apps do not indicate quality--how many flatulent apps or cylon detectors does a serious tablet user need?

I liken purchasing an H.P. Touchpad to a savvy submarine captain who turns into a torpedo, a tactic which seems like it is flirting with disaster but in the end is winning.   A tablet that multi-tasks, has Flash and allows for productivity as well as entertainment may be the right choice for me, even if the hardware is not the popular choice and the tablet itself is the end of the line.

The best way to test the turning into the torpedo tactic is to have hands on experience and see how the rest of the battlefield develops.  While I was unable to take advantage of the H.P. firesale from August, the Touchpad was at the magic price that was 40% of  the lowest priced Apple I-Pad.

When the long awaited H.P. Touchpad got into my anxious hands, it was surprising how heavy it felt.  The Touchpad weighs 26.01 oz, which compares to 21.199 oz  of an I-Pad 3.  But my primary basis of comparison was a Kindle 2 which is a lithe 9.6 oz.  So the Touchpad is not going to be a device for prolonged cradling in your hands, but the 9.7 inch high resolution color LCD adds to the girth.

People may wonder why one would want a tablet instead of a laptop or netbook.  But the quick instant on feature answers that.  The H.P. Touchpad boots within 10 seconds and is ready for web access.  It is easy to pair the Touchpad with available WiFi.  Touchpads have a feature called Just Type which allows a user to not even have to launch applications to start programs or access websites.

What differentiates the Touchpad from the I-Pad or Android based competitors is the WebOS.  WebOS is a n innovated operating system which H.P. inherited from its purchase of Palm in 2010 for $1.2 billion. WebOS uses a conceit of cards for running programs which users can scroll to multi-task or flick away.  My experience is comfortably being able to operate seven active cards at the same time.  There is an application called Glimpse which will combine several apps via widgets on one screen truly taking advantage of Touchpad multi-tasking capabilities.

Like most other tablets, a Touchpad is a Personal Information Manager (PIM) on steroids.  The H.P. Touchpad facilitates the unifying of different contact lists and photo albums with the Synergy feature, which combines the information without repetition.  The Touchpad is adept at monitoring messages from a variety of e-mail and social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and unobtrusively displays them on the top of the screen which a user can choose to answer, ignore or eliminate with the flick of a finger.

The Touchpad is great for mobile Web browsing.  The Touchpad boots quickly and can easily show full web pages, not just mobi displays.  I did experience some difficulty getting compact hyperlinks to respond, but mostly the web experience was quite pleasurable.  The larger virtual keyboard is very desirable compared to trying to type on a smartphone, albeit with a larger screen such as the HTC Evo.  The display is wonderful for watching videos, either from YouTube or movies that are downloaded or streamed.  Currently,there are not functioning apps for Netflix  or Hulu  but with some investigation geeks can find some work arounds.   Admittedly, the Touchpad does not have HDMI porting capabilities, but it is less likely that users will keep their movie libraries on units which only have 16 GB or 32 GB of internal memory.

The H.P. Touchpad boasts about its Beats Audio sound system which was designed by Dr. Dre.  The Touchpad has two side speakers which produce a nice clear sound which is quite sufficient.  Aside from marketing purposes, the Beat Audio system may make the difference when a Touchpad user wears headphones.  The Touchpad has 3.5 mm standard headphone jacks but it does not have any metal which could create audio interference.

H.P. has been cagey about the expected battery life, which has been estimated to be 8 hours of web browsing.  Hands on experience indicates that the Touchpad can be reliably used all day for surfing the internet and watching YouTube videos without risk of totally depleting. This is much better battery life than web surfing on a smartphone, but  admittedly the  3G/4G signal can really exhaust a battery.

The modest 16 GB or 32 GB internal memory of the Touchpad necessitates cloud storage for data files.  Touchpad users qualify for 50GB of complimentary cloud storage from Box.com. The cloud storage is a nice feature as otherwise it could cost $20 a month.  It will be interesting if Touchpad users will also eventually be able to use Amazon's cloud storage for MP3s.

Accessories will augment the Touchpad experience.  Palm developed an innovative Touchstone which wirelessly charges a Touchpad on a slate which can exhibit pictures like a digital pictureframe.  The Bluetooth keyboard can enhance typing on a real QWERTY keyboard.  While I regret that H.P. was clearancing the accessories since HP announced that it was getting out of the tablet hardware business, I benefit from the firesale prices.

It's too bad that some of the innovations from Palm/H.P. that inevitably will be stillborn.  The ability to
Touch to Share a web page or a call between a cell phone and a tablet is moot as H.P. will no longer manufacture tablets or cell phones.  The Touchpad is supposed to synch with any web enabled H.P. printers, but I did not have access to any to test this feature.  The Touchstone, a wonderful legacy accessory product from Palm which allows for wireless charging while still using a tablet has an uncertain future.  But as I observed "On Choosing Tablets", the best technologies do not always win in the marketplace.

So how did the H.P. Touchpad survive the Torpedo of Truth test?  Better than Charlie Sheen handles his meglomaniacal  tendencies, but the jury is still out.   The hands on experience of using the H.P. Touchpad out of the box is quite promising.  The Touchpad can not replace a laptop but is a great alternative when doing casual web surfing around the house.  The Touchpad may prove to be an excellent mobile web based tool, but the WiFi only internet connection could prove tricky in public without having one's own hotspot. Fortunately, it can be used in connection with smartphone hotspots. But I have been spoiled with the baked in 3G coverage in most Amazon Kindles.

Now that the H.P. Board of  Directors ousted ex-CEO Leo Apotheker in favor of Meg Whitman, there is a faint hope that Hewlett Packard may change its path and continue in the tablet manufacturing market, but industry experts warn Touchpad enthusiasts to hold their breath.  While the future of the H.P. Touchpad per se may be a Tombstone,  the underlying WebOS may survive,  albeit with yet a different parent and continued in various hardware.  A best case scenario might be akin to the Guinness paradigm.  British Breweries has a vertical monopoly, where their product was controlled from brewing to distribution at a tied pub. Company run pubs offered a range of their own products but were allowed to carry one guest tap.  Since Guinness is good yet did not own any UK pubs, everyone could carry it.  Perhaps WebOS can emulate such ubiquitousness by being an overlay on Android.

Perhaps a  Corporate White Knight will rescue  WebOS as it is based on a highly customizable Linux kernal, rather than an I-Tunes backbone like the I-Pad. There were rumors that Samsung might snap up WebOS but that trial balloon was shot down.  It would make sense for HTC to save WebOS as Google has bought Motorola and is poised the corner the Android market by having vertical integration for the Droid in cell phones and tablets.   There has also been some speculation that Facebook might pick up WebOS, either to augment Facebook's movement towards media and communications or as an OS vehicle for Facebook hardware. Considering all of the changes that Facebook has implemented in the last week, a WebOS engine would not be out of the question.

Aside from corporate wheeling and dealing for WebOS, there should be more options for the Touchpad hardware itself.   Benign hackers are striving to allow the affordably priced Touchpads to dual boot into Android, which allows access to a larger Apps marketplace and is a good back up if WebOS becomes effectively defunct.

Even though I appreciate the option to port Android on the Touchpad, personally I do not find this necessary.  The Touchpad may have a smaller apps market but it is quite sufficient for business and entertainment purposes.  While I hope that there is more WebOS software produced, I am pleased with their apps catalog and the fact that savvy Touchpad owners can install “homebrew” apps without voiding their warranties or risk bricking their tablets.  While acquiring the Touchpad may have been turning into the torpedo, I will thrive in the end.  So damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

15 September 2011

On Choosing Tablets

About 2,500 years ago, the Greek Philosopher Heracletus observed that the only thing constant is change.  This is especially true in the world of mobile technology, where it can seem like a lifetime of change in just one lap around the sun.

For about the last 18 months, techno-lust of many of the technorati around the world has centered on Apple’s I-Pad.  The I-Pad is a sexy 9.7" high resolution capacitive touch tablet which in its various iterations has sold over 28 million units. What else could you ask for?  Well, the ability to easily watch Flash Video when surfing the Web. Since Apple wants to promote its own standards and ensure that “buggy” external applets do not interfere with the seamless user experience, so it does not include Flash Video as part of the O/S.

Even though Apple charges a premium for the I-Pad, many willing adherents of the Apple cult are willing to pay the upwards of $500 for its lowest costing tablets and many also opt to pay for monthly 3G data charges. But the boys from Cupertino understand that there are many ways to monetize.  Apple exerts iron fisted control over their App Store, not only to insure quality but to make sure that Apple gets a big slice of the profits.  Apple demands 30% from all sales in their app store.  Based on Amazon’s negotiations with most large publishers, that takes away all of Amazon’s profit.  To address this issue, Amazon embodied the joke “There’s an app for that” and created circumventing software.

When the I-Pad came out, there were concerns that it would be a Kindle killer.  That was mistaken as Amazon’s classic e-book reader uses e-ink technology which displays well in sunlight, is easy on the eyes, uses minimal power and is well suited to reading. While one can read books on a I-Pad, the touch screen is a magnet for fingerprints and needs to be regularly cleaned. The seductive I-Pad screen is well suited for media consumption, such as surfing the web in color, doing light computing  or watching videos.

Not being an Apple Fan Boy, the I-Pad had no appeal.  The premium which people pay for a “walled garden” shiny toy is what I call “the convenience tax” (sometimes more derisively known as “the stupid tax”).  I-Pads currently represent about 70% of the tablet market.  But it should be a big market where there are more choices.  After a year of having the I-Pad being the top of the tablets, several major manufacturers have entered the market. Most of the new entranced emulated the I-Pad’s price point and physical dimensions albeit employing Android O/S.  Comparatively speaking, Motorola’s Xoom sales are idling in comparison to Apple.  The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is an Android tablet which has an optional detachable physical keyboard.  Having a real QWERTY keyboard price point that is 1/3 lower than a baseline I-Pad is appealing to some consumers but it has not ended the Cupertino king’s tablet reign.

One I-Pad rival succeeded in its failure.  The H.P. Touchpad is a slick 9.7" capacitive touch screen WiFi only tablet  that used an innovated WebOS, the software that H.P. paid $1.2 Billion to buy Palm seemingly just for the software.  HP initially positioned its tablet at the upper range of the I-Pad price point and had slim sales for the first six weeks on the market.  Then H.P. decided to abandon the tablet manufacturing market and cut its losses by closing out the Touchpad.  In one weekend, H.P. sold out of 350,000 units and temporarily became the number two tablet manufacturer, albeit selling its tablet at a significant loss.  H.P.’s strategerie (sic) was probably to clear out its stock while creating a buzz for the WebOS which could be used in other tablets.  As for that business models success, Tomorrow Never Knows.  But the Blaze of Glory that greeted the H.P. Touchpad fire sale demonstrated that there is a pent up consumer demand for tablets that have a lower price point.

Some smart budget consumers have figured out ways to hack Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color ($250) into making it into a dual boot full Android tablet.  This can work but the conversion process may be limited to geeks. The 7" capacitive touch LCD screen is very visually appealing, but it is 50% smaller than the I-Pad’s 9.7" screen and does not have the battery endurance of e-ink readers (the Nook Classic or the current Kindles).  The Nook Color is WiFi only and has no buttons so page turning requires touching the screen which makes a cleaning cloth essential for a screen saver when reading.   That being said, the Nook Color has temporarily toppled the Kindle from the top spot of e-book readers (but that might be based on particular model sales).

For the last few months, Amazon has been cagey about its long rumored color tablet.  Details are still sketchy, but Amazon will probably have a 7" capacitive touch tablet with WiFi that will be priced at $249.  Superficially, that seems like it is copying the Nook Color.  But it seems that Amazon will be forking an older version of Android.  Even though Amazon is rumored to sell the hardware at a $50 loss, it estimates that it will recoop its money through purchases of books, video and sales from its Amazon Apps market. What may make the inchoate Amazon offering attractive is the prospect of including a complimentary subscription to Amazon Prime.  This means quick standard shipping on all purchases and gratis downloading from Amazon videos. Industry experts opine that Amazon could sell three million of these units by the end of the year. The Amazon Tablet would be well poised to capture e-book readers who want color and multi-media offerings as well as being a tablet computer which makes buying from America’s largest e-retailer easy.

Personally, as a consumer I prefer an e-book reader which is easy on the eyes, can be read outdoors, has a long battery life and has built in 3G connection. Hence I would have today’s Kindle.  Tablets are tantalizing but I perceive it as a primarily a media device not an e-reader.  If there is a long term enrollment of Amazon Prime baked into the rumored Kindle Tablet and the price point holds, that will be very tempting.  But for me, I would want build in complimentary 3G and a 10" screen for a tablet.

So I took the leap of getting a HP Touchpad.  I am impressed with WebOS, it does have quality apps and a decent but not huge selection of workable Pre-ware, and hackers have made great progress into making it into a dual boot Android tablet. Although H.P. promised to sell 100,000 more units by late October, I suspect those will be gone in a flash. So I paid a bit of a premium but within the popular price point.

When choosing a tablet, consumers should spend a bit of time BEFORE buying to anticipate how they will actually use their shiny new toy.  One size does not fit all. Those who want a seamless experience might pay a premium, others who want to do techno-tinkering might save some coin. Sometimes the best technology does not survive.  Remember the Edsel? Or the Sony Beta-Max?  How about the neXT computer?

I don’t need to induce Apple envy amongst acquaintances or worry about resale value.  I want something that works for me.  Thus I’m for choice, not a one-sized-fit-all solution.  Kind of what American should be doing for health care instead of acquiescing to a behemoth single payer health care system.

14 September 2011

Special Election Turns NY9 into GOP District

Bob Turner, a New York businessman who became a novice Republican candidate, defeated longtime Democrat state legislator David Welprin in the race to replace disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th Congressional District. This also happened to be Senator Chuck Schumer’s district when he was in the House.  Turner had won a court injunction to impound absentee ballots because of gross incompetence of election officials who repeatedly sent unrequested absentee ballots to dead people.  But the post election lawfare was unnecessary as Turner won by about 8%,  which is beyond the margin of fraud.

The spin responding to this loss is laughable.  DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 20th) dismisses the loss as this was a difficult district for Democrats to win, since it got the 2nd lowest Democrat votes in New York City.   OK, the district was a D +5 district which Barack Obama carried by 15% in 2008.  Moreover, Democrats had held the NY9 seat since 1923.  Oops! It makes one wonder if Sgt. Schultz is one of the DNC Chair's  political braintrust.

Left side spinners may minimize Rep.-elect Bob Turner’s (R-NY 9th) victory as being short lived since New York legislators were set to eliminate NY9 as part of redistricting.  That might explain why the Democrats put up a party hack who did not even live within the Congressional District to stand for the post.  Democrats threw $600,000 in independent expenditures to try to hold NY9 because a Democrat insider confided: “This isn’t about one seat. It’s about two or three. The party’s $500,000 investment is insurance for the delegation, not for Weprin.”  But Congressmen-elect Turner’s victory may throw a monkey wrench into the redistricting plans to eliminate NY-9. Now New York legislators may eliminate another downstate seat and pack more Republicans into NY-13 in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The results in this Special Election in New York are a marked contract to the routes in traditional Republican strongholds in NY-26 near Buffalo this spring and the Dee Dee Scozzafava fiasco in NY-23 in 2009.  One difference is who chose the candidates.  Republican Party insiders were the decision makers for Scozzafava (who eventually endorsed the Democrat in the race) as well as Jane Corwin in NY-26.  Turner was a television executive who did not have local GOP insider connections.  For the NY-9 race, Queen’s Democrat Party Chair Joe Crowley selected the underwhelming Welprin, who carried baggage of supporting the 9/11 mosque in a heavily Orthodox Jewish district.  The internal numbers show that Democrats lost by a 67%-33% margin in Brooklyn, where many Orthodox reside.

The lack of support in the Jewish community shown in the NY-9 results should be quite worrisome to Democrats and Obama 2012 campaigns.   Welprin’s 45% showing is in stark contrast to the 55% that Barack Obama won the district in 2008.  The internal election results show that Democrats lost by a 67%-33% margin in Brooklyn, where many Orthodox reside.  This does not bode well for Democrats, as the Jewish vote has always been reliable at the ballot box and they have been key fundraisers.

To echo how these special elections were a referendum on the Obama Administration, consider the results from Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District to replace Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).  This is a reliably Republican district ( R +5) , so the win was no surprise.  What was eye opening was the margin of victory.  In 2008, by virtue of the top of the ticket, Sen. John McCain barely won the district, but in the Special Election, Congressman-elect Mark Amodei (R-NV 2nd) won by 21%. Be it red state or blue state, the electorate is unhappy with the leadership in the Oval Office.

13 September 2011

We Don't Have a Weiner in NY-9

In a special election, some voters in New York City are going to the polls to replace disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9th).  There is a good chance that Republican Bob Turner may be able to score an upset in a marginally Democrat (+5 D) part of Queens.  Two polls late in the campaign show that Democrat candidate David Welprin is vulnerable to losing.

PPP Polling (a Democrat oriented firm) shows that Turner has net positive impression amongst NY-9 voters while President Obama’s approval rating in the district is 31%, down from the 55% in 2008.  PPP pollster Tom Jensen speculates that if Obama’s favorables were 50%, the Democrats would retain the seat.

Residue from Weiner’s social media sex scandal may dampen Democrats enthusiasm for the special election. But Obama’s doldrums in the favorability polling may emulate the dispirited state of Democrats.  Moreover, NY-9th has the highest concentration of Orthodox Jews in the nation.  While Welprin is Orthodox, former Mayor Ed Koch (D-NYC) has endorsed Republican Turner.  The Turner campaign has aired cable ads which lumps Welprin and Obama together for their stated support of the Park 51 9/11 mosque project and urges voters to send a message.

Of late, national Democrats have been pouring in $500,000 support to try to hold the seat. On the eve of the special election, President Bill Clinton made robo-calls to NY-9 voters urging them to support Welprin. National Republicans have added $100,000 to Turner’s warchest.

Even if Turner is triumphant, the victory will not be long held.  Due to redistricting, New York will lose two Congressional districts. The politicians in Albany agreed to nix one CD upstate and one in the NYC metroplex.  This will probably result in the abolishment of a typically GOP seat (likely NY-26) and a typically Democrat seat (most likely NY-9).  So the incumbent may only hold office for a year.

While this may be a short term election result, it does show vulnerabilities that Democrats have even in the dark blue Empire State and soft support that Obama has with the serious Jewry on supporting Israel and accommodating ardent Islamists in America.

GBTV Signs On

On September 12, 2011, Glenn Beck’s webcast network GBTV had its official debut.  Beck broke from his popular 5 PM show on Fox News Channel in June and put everything on the line to establish a subscription based web streaming network in less than six months.

Critics claim that Beck was fired from FoxNews for being too controversial and losing key sponsors at that time slot.  Well, if that were the case, Roger Ailes would have acted immediately rather than allowing Beck to allude to his future project for a couple of months.  Moreover, if Beck was such an out of control anchor, why was he able to do his final show entirely live?  It is more plausible that Beck felt constrained, even as an opinion maker, being on a news network. By the same token, FNC might not have minded taking more heat for Beck’s controversial views and wanting to win back big advertisers who refrained from playing on Beck’s timeslot.

Beck’s weltanschuung is that political correctness, big government, straying from capitalism and not reacting prudently to instances of Islamofascism will result in coming difficult times for American and the world.  Beck believed that thru his FoxNews show, he had done what he could do to inform Americas about the impending dangers.  Beck wants to use GBTV along with his other ventures (Beck’s 1791 Clothing line giving seed money to his Mercury One charity efforts) to prepare dedicated viewers to prepare their own lifeboats and be ready to assist their neighbors.

Beck notes that unlike National Public Radio, GBTV does not defend on viewers like you but on you.  GBTV is using a subscription model for the streaming network, which starts at $4.99 a month for basic access to $9.99 a month for the equivalent of the “Insider Extreme” all access pass. In July, there were just 80,000 subscribers.  Just before the launch of GBTV, the subscriber base swelled to 230,000 but some of them may be promos. This compares with Oprah’s OWN channel on basic cable, which only manages to attract 183,000 viewers. It is estimated that GBTV is on track to gross more than $20 million in its first year of operation.

Currently, GBTV consists of broadcasting a televised version of Beck’s three hour radio show, the “4th Hour” featuring Beck’s sidekicks Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere as well as two full hours of Glenn Beck’s TV show.  Beck has referenced “The B.S.(Brian Sack) of America” and Liberty Treehouse, aimed at educating children about America’s founders.  Beck wants to establish a news comedy show as a conservative antidote to the Daily Show.   Beck is also trying to score rights for classic television series.  But for now the spotlight is mostly on Beck.

By being on his own GBTV network, it is like having Glenn Beck Unplugged and Glenn Beck Unleashed. But the blackboard is back and is new and improved. While the set looks good and is personalized by Beck himself with memorabilia, GBTV does not have the resources or broadcast experience of FoxNews, so some transitions were rough and the audio had slight echos when throwing to different segments.  GBTV is using streaming technology from Major League Baseball and the material posted before the first show looked spectacular on a big screen HDTV.  Alas, technical difficulties at my household with Roku wiring necessitated watching the GBTV premiere on a laptop.  Perhaps my laptop was strained for RAM, but there were a couple of streaming hiccups during the two hour show.  The show will also be available to subscribers on smartphones, but may also be prone to data delivery challenges. But shakedowns are to be expected for a new media venture.

The content of Beck’s GBTV debut showed why he wanted to get off cable television for his own network.  When opining about the economy, Beck bluntly said: “The President, he’s a Marxist”. Beck blazing appraisal epitomizes his mantra of “The Truth Lives Here” and to speak his mind freely. The first hour included a prolonged and personalized benediction.  These are things that would just not be a good fit on FNC.

Contrary to liberal preconceptions, the show was not railing about the Obama Administration or scaring people to buy gold.  A poignant moment was when Beck invited ten 9/11 First Responders (including the NYFD Captain photographed with President Bush on the Pile) into the studio to be honored.  Beck interacted with the studio audience and sought opposing opinions about a second amendment issue without berating those who opposed him.  Historians should love GBTV’s flagship, as the first show detailed the Black Tom explosion in New York City in 1916.  The explosion was the result of German sabotage which registered 5.6 on the Reicher scale.  But progressive President Woodrow Wilson (surprise) conveniently covered up the terrorist attack which damaged the Statue of Liberty so as not to rock his “Wilson Kept Us Out of War” platform.  Beck then connected how FDR cited the Black Tom incident as a rationale for rounding up the Nisi in World War II.  Beck likened the suppression of the Black Tom incident with the deliberate forgetting of salient details of 9/11.

GBTV’s flagship program also has news updates from The Blaze, Beck’s internet news blog, as delivered by former NPR and CNN analyst Amy Holmes.  Beck also introduced Raj Nair, a former ESPN reporter, who will eventually be the face of GBTV and will highlight Mercury One’s charity endeavors. Neither Holmes nor Nair are typical TeaParty types and that is not just based on their ethnicity but their world views.  Yet both are willing to risk their careers to go with GBTV because they believe in the overall cause.

During these bad economic times, GBTV’s subscribers will mostly be the same facetiously nicknamed “sick twisted freaks” and motivated tea party types who want to stop the progressive red tide which has been expanding big government.  But GBTV shows nascent signs of quality production, compelling in-depth programming and a conservative/libertarian point of view with a sense of humor.  GBTV may still be too early for the market, but with Roku boxes, Netflix streaming strategy and the prospect of an Amazon Tablet which relies on Amazon video, this may change how news junkies on the right side of the aisle get their information.