10 November 2006

Wow, what a surprise. Google helps doctors identify the correct diagnosis in difficult cases. That's about as unexpected as saying a good medical library helps doctors with difficult cases. The thing is, most general practitioners and even many hospitals don't have access to the equivalent of the Harvard Medical School library.

And that's the truly world-changing thing about internet search engines. Not that they access much of the world's information. Good libraries with proprietary search tools have been doing that for decades. But search engines make that information available to everyone with an internet connection, instantly.

We don't know yet what the implications of the internet revolution are. I'm not sure comparisons to the printing press are all that far off, though. All the printing press did was drive the Protestant Reformation and reshape society...

Posted 09:55 PM

Today in the Middle East, a poker lesson: a bluff won't work if everyone at the table knows you are bluffing. When it won the Palestinian elections earlier this year, Hamas insisted it would never give in to the evil occupier (known in the West as Israel). The group apparently assumed that either (a) Western and Israeli aid money would keep flowing anyway, or (b) Arab countries would be willing to take up the slack.

Well, (a) hasn't happened. Israel doesn't have any interest in funding a government with whom it is effectively at war, and US funding for such a government isn't going to happen in an election year either. And (b) hasn't happened, which also isn't a surprise since Arab governments seem perfectly happy to exploit the Palestinian conflict for their own purposes, but won't offer any tangible assistance that might threaten the free flow of oil money through the Western banking system.

As a result, the Hamas government is broke. Thousands of Palestinian Authority employees haven't been paid, and the organization is learning that governing effectively means confronting reality, no matter how unpleasant it might be.

Posted 02:45 PM

08 November 2006

People who pay attention to capital spending in the semiconductor industry will want to read this. It's a comparision of the SEMI and SEAJ (Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan) book-to-bill reports, which track sales by, respectively, North American and Japanese equipment companies. Readers may also want to bookmark this site's reference section, which has historical graphs for both reports.

Posted 04:03 PM

Americans are historically wary of government. Much of American legal and political history can be read as a struggle between concentration and dilution of power. The US Constitution is best understood as a structure of checks and balances among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Americans are also rabid republicans in the original sense: we believe that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, and that elected officials who ignore their constituents deserve to be tossed out of office.

Both of those characteristics were on display in yesterday's election. The Northeast in particular reminded Congress that oversight of the executive branch is a serious responsibility, chastising many moderate Republicans for their failure to question the President or reign in the excesses of their own party. Pennsylvania reminded Rick Santorum that it is a moderate state, and suggested he take his hard right social views elsewhere.

This wasn't a victory for the so-called "liberal agenda." Many of the newly elected Democrats ran on socially and fiscally moderate platforms. Rather, it was a victory for restraint, humility, and accountability. Here's hoping the new Congress delivers all three.

Posted 11:29 AM


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