Cuban ruffles feathers

Mark Cuban is both entertaining and insightful, the latest example being his remarks on the dead and boring Internet:

A lot of people are all up and upset about my comments that the Internet is dead and boring. Well guess what, it is. Every new technological, mechanical or intellectual breakthrough has its day, days, months and years. But they don’t rule forever. That’s the reality.

Every generation has its defining breakthrough. Cars, TV, Radio, Planes,highways, the wheel, the printing press, the list goes on forever. I’m sure in each generation to whom the invention was a breakthrough it may have been heretical to consider those inventions “dead and boring”. The reality is that at some point they stop changing. They stop evolving. They become utilities or utilitarian and are taken for granted.

Some of you may not want to admit it, but that’s exactly what the net has become. A utility. It has stopped evolving. Your Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago.

Cuban is right, of course, and even Om Malik (broadband cheerleader extraordinaire) admits as much:

But the bigger question Cuban is asking is whether the Internet’s infrastructure is sufficient to keep the innovation cycle moving forward. And the answer is no.

And why? Om quotes Nortel’s CTO:

John Roese, chief technology officer of Nortel (NT), is of the same school of thought. “If you look at the progress made from 300-baud modems to 10-Gigabit Ethernet,” said Roese, “the cost per bit has declined by a factor of 22 million to one. But that isn’t reflected in the consumer Internet experience.”

The fault is in the asymmetric nature of the Internet. The downstream speeds are getting higher, but upstream speeds are still being controlled in a miserly fashion by ISPs, thus acting as a break for truly interactive applications.

An asymmetric Internet is good for disseminating information – after all pulling down information (or YouTube videos) moves packets in one direction. This is perhaps the point Cuban is trying to make when he says that the Internet is like a utility and therefore boring. Electricity, after-all, also works as a one-way service — it comes into our house and we use it for everything from stereos and air conditioners. Today’s Web and Internet applications are doing precisely the same on our desktops.

I don’t know that a symmetrical Internet is any less boring than the one we have, as it’s probably just harder to administer. Today we upload our videos to services like You Tube to asymmetrically distribute them, and I don’t see them getting more interesting if we distribute them directly from our homes and offices. Maybe somebody can explain that to me.

Speaking of Craig and sex scandals

Barney Frank puts the latest Republican gay sex scandal in perspective, urging the Larry Craig character not to resign:

“What he did, it’s hypocritical, but it’s not an abuse of his office in the sense that he was taking money for corrupt votes,” Frank told the Associated Press.

“I think people should resign when they have clearly done the job in a way that is dishonest.”

Frank went on to tell the AP: “It’s one thing to say that someone can’t be trusted to vote without being corrupt, it’s another to say that he can’t be trusted to go to the bathroom by himself.”

Pressure has been mounting, particularly within the GOP, for Craig to step down, after he admitted this week to pleading guilty earlier this month to a charge of disorderly conduct following his June 11 arrest in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.

I’m not even sure it’s hypocritical, as the Republican attitude toward sex seems to be “women for duty, boys for pleasure.” Craig opposes gay marriage, not gay sex, so where’s the hypocrisy?

I’d prefer he not cruise public washrooms, for the sake of the children, so somebody should teach him about Craig’s List. And Slate is to be congratulated for coining the term “Craig’s Lust,” it’s awfully cute.

Michael Vick is misunderstood

Everybody in the world is piling-on poor Michael Vick about his unique attitude toward his animal compansions, so this balanced news story deserves some play:

ATLANTA–Michael Vick’s attorney, Billy Martin, spoke today at length about the dog-killing allegations leveled against his client and insisted that Vick ate “every single dog” that was killed on his property, dispelling the notion the dogs were killed merely for sport.

“Michael would never just kill an animal for the sake of sport,” Martin told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “That’s wrong and it’s disgusting. The fact is, he ate all those dogs after he killed them. He cut them up and cooked them on his grill. They’re actually quite delectable if you apply the proper seasoning. So Michael’s really no different than your average hunter.”

Martin did admit that Vick’s methods of killing the animals were slightly different from those used by hunters, but contended that the methods were “merely a technicality.”

Indeed. Now read the whole thing or I’ll have Instapundit pay you a visit with his puppy-blender.

Win Ben Stein’s Integrity

Speaking of pimps, Ben Stein has a new docudrama coming out in February that seems calculated to pander to the persecution complex prevalent among religious fundamentalists. It’s called “Expelled” and it deals with Intelligent Design from the standpoint of the intolerance of the scientific establishment. You know, the unwillingness of scientists to accept “what if” arguments, rank speculation, and supernatural causes on the same level with hypothesis, evidence, and experiment (all the boring stuff that real science does.)

Interviews were obtained with top scientists through the duplicity of telling them the film was to be a balanced portrayal of the cultural conflict between science and literal-text religiosity, as you can see from this entry at The Panda’s Thumb.

Ben Stein is playing up the victimization angle on a blog post for the movie, and is soundly whacked by commentors for his dishonesty.

So once again we find religious fundamentalists playing fast and loose with the Ninth Commandment in order to advance their cause. Lucky for them, God isn’t watching because blasphemy is a victimless crime.

Has America’s Pimp Retired?

Craig’s List has drawn the attention of the Atlanta police as a hub for child prostitution, and amid the furor we learn that Craig has retired:

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin has called on a popular Web site to take responsibility for what she said is the company’s role in promoting child prostitution.

“Children are being marketed through craigslist,” Franklin said Tuesday during an update on the mayor’s “Dear John” campaign, a crackdown on the city’s child prostitution industry.

Craigslist, found on the Web at, may be best known as a bulletin board for people who want to sell a car, buy a home or meet people. But Atlanta vice officer Kelleita Thurman said Tuesday that craigslist and similar sites account for 85 percent of the sexual liaisons men arrange in Atlanta with boys and girls.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the company, Franklin said the site could do more to prevent itself from being used “as a means of promoting and enabling child prostitution.” She called on the site to revise its warning on pages for erotic services and personal ads and to remove postings that offer sexual services for sale, among other things.

Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best said in an e-mail that she and Chief Executive Officer Jim Buckmaster are in Europe and “neither of us are aware of such a letter so it would not be possible to comment about this.”

Company founder Craig Newmark, who also was mailed Franklin’s letter, no longer is involved in the company’s daily affairs and is traveling, Best said.

I assume Craig has resigned from the prostitution service in order to devote full time to promoting network neutrality, the second most dubious cause of 2006.

No free ride for reincarnators

China once again demonstrates vision that’s all too rare in the modern state by extending the reach of regulation into the supernatural:

China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

We’ll do better in the US, of course, by simply levying a huge tax on these irresponsible reincarnators. This must be the lobby that repealed the death tax.

Bad news for Behe

The unraveling of Mike Behe’s mutation math continues, with this common-sense finding:

Beneficial mutations in the bacterium Escherichia coli occur 1,000 times more frequently than previously predicted, according to research from a group in Portugal.

In a study of E. coli populations of various different sizes, Isabel Gordo and her collaborators at the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Oeiras, Portugal, found that thousands of mutations that could lead to modest increases in fitness were going unseen because good mutations were outperformed by better ones1. The authors say that the work could explain why bacteria are so quick to develop resistance to antibiotics.

“It’s changed the way I think about things,” says Frederick Cohan, a biology professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He adds that although the principles involved were understood, no one expected to find such a high rate of adaptive mutation.

Oops. Never fear, the dominionist spin machine is already in high dudgeon, cranking out deflections and distractions on secret blogs as we speak.

Poor Michael Behe

When Discovery Institute fellow Michael Behe decided to publish his book The Edge of Evolution he must have known that people who actually understand the mathematics of mutation would examine his arguments and find them wanting. Perhaps urged on by his masters to feed their demanding public a new pile of steaming squish, he did it anyway, and now the bill has come due. See Richard Dawkins’ review in the New York Times, it’s devastating:

But let’s follow Behe down his solitary garden path and see where his overrating of random mutation leads him. He thinks there are not enough mutations to allow the full range of evolution we observe. There is an “edge,” beyond which God must step in to help. Selection of random mutation may explain the malarial parasite’s resistance to chloroquine, but only because such micro-organisms have huge populations and short life cycles. A fortiori, for Behe, evolution of large, complex creatures with smaller populations and longer generations will fail, starved of mutational raw materials.

If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe’s theory, what would you do? You’d take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let’s call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you’d wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.

I picture Behe sitting in a corner somewhere wimpering, but his buddy Denyse O’Leary, the ID journalist from Canada, says he “outclasses” Dawkins and calls his dog meditation an “irrelevant riff.” Why would it be irrelevant in a discussion of the size and scope of genetic variation? O’Leary doesn’t say, but her reasoning would probably go something like this: “Behe doesn’t talk about dog breeding!” Indeed he doesn’t, and that’s a big part of his problem.

UPDATE: This post pinged “Uncommon Descent,” the ID blog where O’Leary offered her slapdash opinion of Dawkins’s critique. After reading this post, the admin of Uncommon Descent removed the trackback; I can see this from my referral log. Perhaps the only way IDers will ever win their argument with reality is to stop acknowledging reality. Not that they ever did, poor dears.