Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No Call Left Behind: My Thomas Friedman Voice

Mad Minerva notes a blogger begging for people to watch his six on mocking a particular Thomas Friedman column.

Well. If you insist.

How can I refuse a poor, frustrated blogger's cry for help who has been recommended by another blogger with huge ... tracts of land?

I've long been impressed with the inanity of Friedman's writing. As I like to say, I won't say you can't drown in a pool of Tom Friedman's wisdom, but you would have to be drunk and face down to do so.

There is a lot to work with in Friedman's column, which starts out:

I had to catch a train in Washington last week. The paved street in the traffic circle around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City. When I got back to Union Station, the escalator in the parking garage was broken. Maybe you’ve gotten used to all this and have stopped noticing. I haven’t. Our country needs a renewal.

And that is why I still hope Michael Bloomberg will reconsider running for president as an independent candidate, if only to participate in the presidential debates and give our two-party system the shock it needs.

Pejman Yousefzadeh has rules for his bleg. Before I start, let me just say that this is the most transparent attempt to split the anti-Obama vote as I've seen so far. If only to participate in the debate, indeed.

Second, Friedman needs to get a room. His sucking up to the president in even a call for someone to run against him--well, long enough to split the anti-Obama vote into frustrated passivity--is just embarrassing.

And third, the number of people clamoring for Bloomberg to run has got to number something upwards of Friedman, the members of Bloomberg's immediate family, and half of his household staff and retainers. So call it 200 tops. As a movement, it ranks right up there with your average Democratic astro-turf organization trying to simulate a mass movement.

But on to the mission.

I feel Tom Friedman's pain. He notices things. Things that go wrong. Things that go wrong and affect him.

Like the phone dropping thing. I mean, really, we can used to be able to put a man on the moon in orbit, and yet we can't make sure that very important pundits making very important calls while traveling not quickly enough on trains with a very important role in making us Green between very important cities to meet with other very important people (who he knows personally and has their phone numbers)?

This shall not stand! It must not! Are we incapable of doing great things these days? I say that President Obama must include in his next State of the Union address a call to arms to make sure that--by the end of this decade--no pundit will face the humiliation of a dropped call in the middle of schooling some foreign visitor to our shores on the nuance of our governing class. Will our president not take up this dropped clarion call to battle?

I can hear it now:

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between the Lexus and the olive tree, the dramatic achievements in cell phone 4G coverage which occurred in recent years should have made clear to us all, as did the Sprint coverage surge, the impact of this infrastructure on the minds of pundits everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which 2-year plan they should sign up for. Since early in my term, our efforts in cell phone reliability have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who knows a big effing deal when he sees one, we have examined where the signal is strong and where it is not, where we may get four bars and where we may drop coverage. Now it is time to take longer calls--time for a great new American enterprise--time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in 4G cell phone coverage, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Chinese with their large cell towers, which gives them many years of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day have four bars continuously from New York to Washington, D.C., we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us drop calls right in the middle of some extremely relevant anecdote.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for cell phone infrastructure, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of sending a man to Washington, D.C. on Acela and returning him to New York City with no cell phone coverage interruption. No single infrastructure investment in this period will be more impressive to media pundits, or more important for the long-range exploration of our hot, flat, and crowded world; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate cell phone towers. We propose to develop alternate train-mounted data transmitters and receivers, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other smart phone developments and for longer-life batteries--batteries which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who makes this daring Acela trip every once in a while. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to New York--if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there without losing his cell phone signal.

Secondly, an additional 23 trillion dollars, together with 7 trillion dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover cell tower. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious smart phone Internet usage, perhaps beyond New York, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself, somewhere in flyover country.

Third, an additional 50 trillion dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide-web communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 trillion dollars--of which 53 trillion dollars is for the Coverage Bureau--will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide cell phone coverage observation.

Let it be clear--and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make--let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 trillion dollars in fiscal '13--an estimated seven to nine trillion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our acceptable bars in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.

It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of cell phones and adventures in cyber-space like Facebook and Angry Birds, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of cell phone coverage on the Acela New York-to-Washington run.

I believe we should go to Washington without dropping signal. But I think every pundit of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in continuous 4G coverage on the East Coast, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel--like me, of course.

New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further--unless every scientist, every engineer, every salesman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of 4G, in the exciting adventure of reliable cell phone voice and data coverage.

Let's raise the bars to success, America! All the way to 5 of them! Hell, make it 11! That's six better! All the time! No matter where you are on the Acela! If our president won't solve our train-based dropped call problem by 2019, who will? Do we want to live in a country that will not focus our energies on such a problem?

But hey, Friedman has at least made some progress in his column. He didn't call for emulating dictatorial China as the secret to repairing all the things that go wrong in America that affect him.