Collected rants about a certain Mr. Jeffrey Gettleman

Over the last few months, I have had quite a bit to say to
Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times. But like Don Quichotte at the windmills I waive and waive my sword, and he refuses to fight back! What a coward. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all started out nicely about 4 months ago... with a front page article about Ethiopia on the NY Times. Here's what I had to say on 21 Jun 2007:

The journalist was clearly sympathetic to the ONLF .. but still I was glad that article appeared on the cover of the Times. Somalia was a big mistake by Meles. A Times article wont make things worse... Instead of worrying about the Times, the outside force they should be concerned about is the mullahs in the madrassas preaching about christian Ethiopians raping and killing muslims on behalf of Bush.

At least this article will make things better because the sooner they feel pressure from outside and the stronger it is, the better chance there is that ET can get the out of Somalia, bring in the AU and de-escalate the situation in Ogaden.

On a month later, our destinies crossed paths again when he wrote a more aggressive piece about the Ogaden region. Here's what I wrote in response on July 24, 2007:

True the fact is that ONLF is resurgent, there's a huge crisis in
Ogaden and that is a big story that deserves to be on the cover.

But this guy is either biased or irresponsible. He repeats the
allegation that three guys who spoke up at a meeting were tortured and killed
by the govt. He simply echoes Ogaden Online, adding that they have "a
network of reporters and contributors, some equipped with satellite
phones." Isn't that a pathetic way to validate their legitimacy? For all we
know it could be the ONLF office in Toronto that runs that website.

Moreover, he knows who the alleged victims are (the guys spoke on a NY
Times video!!!). And he can't verify it? He can't even get an official
response or statement from the govt about this? He has quotes from the
govt spokesman for other things but not this. WTF?! He didn"t have
time to call back before the deadline? The dog ate the response? We're
talking about 3 specifc guys who were tortured and killed allegedly
because of the Times material. It's a disgraceful level of investigation.

Hopefully we'll soon know whether the truth is that it's ONLF
propaganda or a government atrocity but it won't be thanks to Jeffrey Gettleman
-- the new Judith Miller... Pffff! Shame on the Times. Plus they just
raised the daily price to $1.25! I swear I'm this close to dumping the
old grey lady

Finally, the epic showdown on Oct 2, 2007. As you can see the temperature rose

Check this out: "A calm voice from embattled Eritrea" http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/02/world/africa/02eritrea.html
by.... you guessed it! Our hero Jeffrey Gettleman, aka Judith Miller the Second. Yes the same Jeffrey "excuse me while I regurgitate ONLF press releases" Gettleman who we last saw a couple of months ago in the thread below.

This time Isaias is the subject of Gettleman's fantasy. Acoording to the article, Isaias is simply a righteous guy, leader of a mighty little country in a fight against superpowers, who don't like it simply because it's "one small voice"! Besides the noble and righteous struggle against superpowers, Eritrea has a few mundane little economic challenges. But the only thing holding back the flourishing of democracy and growth of the economy is... you guessed it, the evil big neighbor to the south. To cap it off, Gellman says "... Mr. Isaias’s mustached face, which has been likened to an African version of Tom Selleck." Seriously. They actually printed that. I swear I expected the article to continue: "After the blowjob, Isu asked me if it was as good for me as it was for him". Seriously.
In fact if you read it carefully, there are no meaningful facts at all, no sign that any pointed questions were asked, nothing but a glowing portrait of Issayas, exactly as he would want himself portrayed, a calm nice guy, with hobbies, no pretensions, but idealist, fighting for justice.

Last time I was angry at the Times, now shock, disbelief.... What comes next again? Weyne weyne... New York Times... Anyway forget them, others are doing quality reporting and analysis, I just came across the example pasted below.

From http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/05/ethiop16594.htm


"Ethiopia has often justified military action in Somalia on grounds of cooperation between what it calls "terrorist" groups in Somalia and the rebellion in Ogaden. The ONLF certainly has strong ethnic and political links to Somali insurgents now fighting against the Ethiopian military presence in Somalia. It may have decided to escalate its rebellion in Ogaden in response to Ethiopia's full-scale military intervention in Somalia in December last year.

Now there are reliable reports that, as a result of Ethiopian military pressure inside Somalia, Somali insurgents including members the militant Islamist al-Shabaab have sought refuge in Ogaden where they could be regrouping. Thus instead of containing and calming the situation in Somalia, the actions of Ethiopia's forces there may well be exacerbating the conflict and regionalising it.

The emerging crisis in the Ogaden is indicative of an increasingly volatile political and military situation in the Horn of Africa. Predictably civilians are bearing the brunt of the crisis both in the Ogaden and in Somalia where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by fighting since the Ethiopian intervention. Predictably human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war are being perpetrated by all sides. It could all get a lot worse, especially if it leads to a resumption of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

So why isn't the international community doing more to address this crisis. Hasn't the UN being saying for years that crisis prevention is better than cure?

The EU and the United States have significant leverage over Ethiopia in the form of foreign aid and political influence. They should use it instead of turning a blind eye to abuses carried out by the Ethiopian security forces in the name of counter terrorism.

Western support for Ethiopia's counter insurgency efforts in the Horn of Africa is not only morally wrong and riddled with double standards, it is also ineffective and counterproductive. It will lead to the escalation and regionalisation of the conflicts of the region and may well help to radicalise its large and young Muslim population. "


Killer app? Spam and HIV epidemics

Talk about tackling evil: Using Spam Blockers To Target HIV...

A Microsoft researcher and his team make a surprising new assault on the AIDS epidemic ...



udc/ice http://udcnigeria.com/blog1/about-udc-ice/



You said it's the age of skypeout
Well you know
It's more like the out-age of skype

OK I won't talk about Chairman Mao, anyhow...
Don't you know it's gonna be

By now about the mega skypeout-age is old news. What's interesting is the explanations... Here's an explanation filtered by a sceptic:

"Has Skype gotten so big that when part of its circulatory system comes under stress its entire body starts shutting down? Did Skype have a stroke?"
Some guy with an opinion, I'm too lazy to revisit the link and get his name

He's not totally convincing but I see his point... A congestion collapse could happen in theory if the p2p clients don't back off but instead try to reconnect more aggressively to other peers when they get a "busy" from some peers. But I think a simple recent bug that went undetected is as likely an explanation.

Oh yeah and it is pretty lame to blame Microsoft. What next? Are they going to blame their bugs on Sept 11th? Please don't use real tragic disasters to excuse your own recent failings!



Geni.com is a genealogy social-network... Brilliant! My tree is already at 67 people less than 24 hours after being created!


Lifeboat planning

"Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks" -- Warren Buffet.


Etymology of Nemo

Another trip down ego lane.. A long time I ago, I threw up a page called the Etymology of Nemo... I am glad to report the first update since October 29, 1998, thanks to a very erudite Mr. Arthur Klein, who contacted me by email:

If I remember correctly, the Greek word used by Homer was 'medeis' where the first e is an eta and the word is pronounced may-dace. It is declined like the famous heis, mia, hen, meaning one (masculine), one (feminine), one (neuter). But it has been fifty years since I studied Greek and tried to read Homer. But you should be able to find it in a decent classical Greek dictionary under: mu, eta, delta, epsilon, iota, sigma. My little modern Greek traveler's dictionary has only 'meden' - mu, eta, delta, epsilon, nu - meaning nothing.

Arthur (Exalted one in Celtic)
Klein (Little in German)
How about that for an oxymoronic name.

While we're on the topic, I should also note my Chinese name
(self-selected with a little help from the web)


Pronounced ne-mo. It has a meaning I like a lot, but which shall be left as an exercise for the reader (and I've already done it -- haha).


Hanson & Drexler

I'd like to make a note on Robin Hanson who is really great. So is K. Eric Drexler. Or at least they have some really interesting ideas and ways of thinking.. I should look into what they've been up to since I last read their stuff way back in 90s.


As of May 7, 2007,

for the record, I am no longer writing about certain topics and a certain company in particular. Regular readers (hey me) have noted it already!



Podzinger is a text-search engine for audio content. Pretty cool. Another one of those things that took ten years longer than the hype...

Search for bandwidth


Google, Youtube, Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban makes a great point: that "Gootube" (as he calls Youtube now that it is owned by Google) is forced to be a free bandwidth video hosting/delivery service, rather than a media company, because due to DMCA they can't monetize the content by putting ads around it. How come nobody else is talking about that fact? That's much more fundamental than whatever content deals or lawsuits they are involved in this week.

Still, I think Cuban is too pessimistic about Gootube. It's not like there's no hope for them, quite the contrary. Consider this: instead of monetizing the content, they can enable the monetization, with two features for the content uploader

1) pay-per-view powered by Google Checkout payment services,

2) ads powered by Google Adsense or whatever video ad solution they have, and again the content owner gets the revenue directly

In both cases, the content owner gets the revenue directly and Gootube makes money on fees, like Ebay. These fees can be just as high as the profits from licensing content and monetizing it themselves like a media company (higher if you believe the "long tail" content has more value than big media properties).

Plus they can truly claim to be just the service provider and therefore not liable for copyright violations.

Now throw in a third feature

3) "Gootube Pro" service with no 10-minute limit, where they charge the content owner for bandwidth, a for-pay mass market video content hosting/delivery service, and they can have all the "big" content too.

Why would they try to beat the media companies at their own game when they they have the infrastructure and technology to play a unique and extremely lucrative role as an enabling platform for mass Internet video, for both user-generated content and mainstream media properties?

When everyone thought search technology was just a commodity piece of a portal, Google succeeded by technological strengths in search. Now with everyone thinking about social media and big media monetization of content, maybe they will go with their strengths as a distributed platform for hosting and delivery of content, payment and advertising services.


Blackberry modem!

Sometimes you just have to say: cool! This is one of those times. I am posting this from my laptop using my blackberry as the modem... Yup, it just works, as described here. In fact, mine a 8700 with T-Mobile is not even listed among the ones that work but it still does! Currently, I'm getting 49.9Kbps. How come they don't advertise this?


Cogentco ergo sum

A few years ago, I wrote paper entitled Cogent: Disruptive pricing or disruptive marketing? which showed that Cogent Communication's claim of revolutionizing the economics of Internet bandwidth was a clever marketing ploy, not a revolution in terms of "real" prices, costs or technology. It was just a lower quality network, and their prices were cheaper than the others, but not anywhere near as cheap Cogent made it sound. Nothing wrong with that... unless you don't like the "tragedy of the commons" effect.

Indeed, since then, instead of attracting their ideal customers (following what I called in the paper the "focus on retail" strategy -- get customers that pay $1000 for a 100Mbps and only use 1-2% of it), Cogent got much much more of the opposite -- "wholesale" customers that can really fill up the pipe, while still paying a flat $3,000 for a 100Mbps or $10,000 for 1Gbps pipe. And of course it's a self re-enforcing cycle, because the more that happens, the less attractive it becomes to any other kind of traffic. Now recall that 2-d table showing their profit margin as a function of utilization of the pipes, and transit/peer ratio of the traffic... Thus, basically from 2001 onward, they were going toward the bottom of that table (higher utilization), where it's mostly red. Which can't possibly go on forever right?

In principle it can't, unless they last long enough to move to the left of the table as well, i.e. reducing their transit/peering ratio. In other words, the other solution mentioned in the paper, the "buy their way into Tier-1 status" approach. Well they tried. Naturally the incumbent Tier-1s had no desire to admit them into the club, anymore than Rome would've opened the gates for barbarians. But would it be possible for Cogent to force it's way in? The only way is if you have a large enough customer base that you can go to Level 3, AT&T, Sprint & co and argue: "Hey you need to get to my customers as much as I need to get to yours, so let's be peers." Once you've done that with each one of them, then you are a Tier 1. In recent years only ATDN, the transit backbone of AOL has succesfully completed that series of moves.

Unfortunately for Cogent's hopes of muscling into the Tier-1 club, most of their customers were wholesale buyers that were multi-homed, i.e. had at least one other transit provider. Which is just common sense from the buyer's point of view, you want to shovel as much traffic as possible into the cheap Cogent pipe that has a flat rate, but for sensitive or "premium" customer traffic, you want the option to route through another better quality transit provider where you pay by usage. Given that situation, theoretically if Big Transit Provider X decides to "dis-peer" its network from Cogent's, the main thing that will happen is that Cogent customers will be pissed at Cogent for making them use their expensive other transit to get to those destinations (and to Cogent customers it appears like X is still "up" but Cogent is not giving them full Internet transit).

So guess what ATDN did when they were safely in the Tier-1 club? In Dec 2002, they dis-peered Cogent! (Its one of those clubs where you have to close the door behind you). Meanwhile those red numbers were piling up for our protagonist. By 2003 it was on the verge of going bankrupt and eventually it essentially did go bankrupt (I'm no accountant but I think what happened was they couldn't pay for their vendor-financed routers from Cisco so they gave Cisco a whole bunch of equity instead -- if you have any friends who owned pre-2003 Cogent equity, ask them... Then again, maybe you shouldn't remind them). But even as the company ha done foot in the grave, they kept selling those GigE pipes at $10,000/month, and it was still the cheapest bandwidth around, so their traffic volume continued to grow by leaps and bounds, making them one of the largest backbones in terms of traffic carried. By 2005, Cogent had grown up and was really pushing to the left, on that table. But Level 3 was threatening to de-peer (as was revealed later, negotiations had started in July) and they were big enough that that would push Cogent far over to the right. In an attempt to get more leverage against Level 3, in August 2005, Cogent reps started contacting Level 3 customers and offering them insanely low prices, even lower than their traditional "disruptive pricing", but only for Level 3 customers. Finally, in October, Level 3 called their bluff and before you knew it, Cogent was down, and there was no doubt as to who was Tier-1 and who wasn't. For more on the tactical details of this particular incident here's my opinion on the Level 3/Cogent peering disput of 2005.

So what now? Cogent is still losing money. But, there's one important variable working in their favor. Bandwidth prices have been declining more or less steadily at 30% decline per year for the last 3 decades. So now, typical transit prices went from $150-$200/Mbps/month in 2001 are now in the $15-30 range. So the good news for Cogent is that they may finally start making a profit on bandwidth! But the bad news is the marketing advantage of their "disruptive pricing" has shrunk dramatically. Today Cogent is just another transit provider, a bit cheaper and with a lingering reputation for lower quality among large backbones..

All the money they lost in the past by being cheaper does not seem buy them any competitive advantage today. It simply was a giant exercise in transforming the savings of little old ladies (the shareholders) into sports cars for porn webmasters (the heavy users who managed to get wholesale bandwidth below the true cost for a few years). Oh and Cisco ended up owning one of the major competitors of all their other main customers... Oops!

I think the moral of the story is that IP transit is a commodity, you can compete based on price and quality (or you can bundle it with other services and make it a non-wholesale product, like a CDN, hosting, managed services etc. but that's a whole other story). But there's no point in trying to build market share by selling below market (unlike the case with say software). When it's a commodity, sophisticated buyers (multi-homed, with their own ASN and IP address allocation, and connecting in carrier neutral facilities) will just arbitrage -- enjoy your early losses and leave you if you ever try reap the higher profits.


Nemo propheta in patria sua?

The bible says: No one is a prophet in his homeland (Luke 4:24 , John 4:44). This is one of my favorite proverbs. I first heard it in the Bob Marley song Survival, towards the end he says: A good man is never honored in his own country. In the Latin version (the title of this entry), it says literally: Nemo is a prophet in his own country, hehe... but I digress.

Today that proverb is about to be tested -- for a good man is now seeking honor (in the form of elective office) from the people of his own country. In Bangladesh Muhammad Yunus has entered politics. If I had to draw up a list of people on earth who should be in politics for the benefit of mankind, then this guy would definitely be near the top. Good luck sir!



Super STAR

Once again, the mainstream media have miserably failed the world. We've patiently waited, but more than 4 months after September 19, 2006, acres of newsprint and billions of bytes have been devoted to Bush's speech at the UN, to the coup in Thailand, even to "the hearty souls around the globe who joined in the fun on Talk Like A Pirate Day 2006" for God's sake... but there has been almost no mention of perhaps the most significant event of that fateful day of September 19, 2006: the awarding of United States patent 7110977.

One exception should be noted, the mighty NYSTAR News. Defying the editorial decisions of such giants as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, who during that autumn went with the aforementioned stories and more meaningless verbiage about the upcoming 2006 US federal elections, the fearless newsletter of the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, uncovered the historic gem of a story: "Nemo Semret and Aurel Lazar were awarded a patent for systems and methods for allocating resources using spot market and derivative market techniques. The patent was assigned to The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York", wrote that paragon of prescient journalism. Three cheers for the NYSTAR News: hip hip... hooray! Etc.


1 billion, 100, infinity

Save 1 billion lives, live to be 100 years old, and then die... what a life! Henry Beachell