Saturday, October 19, 2002

Genetic Destinies

Researchers at DECODE, the Icelandic genetics company, have come to believe that even stroke and anxiety may be genetically determined. There's a good article about this up on Yahoo!, which you can read by clicking here.

Pennant Fever Grips Hub

First, they fail miserably in pursuit of a playoff spot (a playoff spot, mind you, not a divisional title). Then they raise ticket prices. We're no good! Pay more to see us stink up the joint! What is it about Boston?

Friday, October 18, 2002

More On Netflix

My most recent column for Fast Company revisits Netflix, two years after I first wrote about the company for Inside Magazine. Netflix is a great company and has emerged from the collapse better and smarter and faster.

One thing I left out was an email exchange I had with Reed Hastings, Netflix's CEO. In the company's darkest hour, after the money had been all but spent and the company's demise seemed imminent, Hastings looked around the Board of Directors meeting and thought to himself, "we're cooked." A short while later, the venture guy on the Board said: "What if we double down? Can you really do what you say you can do?" And that was the match that lit the fuse.

A New Magazine Called Fix

My friend and business partner Anne Kreamer is the subject (or one of the subjects) of a story in The Wall Street Journal today about people starting new magazines in the toughest advertising environment imaginable. The name of the magazine she has created is called Fix and it's about getting better; quitting smoking and staying sober and helping your kids understand the new drug environment and dealing with anxiety in what is now truly The Age of Anxiety.

But what about me?

I'm glad you asked. Along with a great design firm called Number 17, Ann and I are now "meeting" Fix with various publishing concerns. If anyone out there has an interest in making Fix a reality, please contact me. My email address is

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Department of The Totally Obvious

You'll not be surprised to learn that North Korea has now admitted that it is developing nuclear weaponry. Nevertheless, an important story in the ongoing saga of the Axis of Evil.

PostScript: Andrew Sullivan went back and culled what various scoundrels (The New York Times Editorial Page, Bill Clinton, certain Clinton functionaries) had to say about the 1994 North Korea "no nukes" compact. It's well worth reading, which you can do by clicking here. (To my Walker cousin: you point your mouse on the underlined, colored word "here" and click. This will take you to the link, in this case:

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Must Read

Demon in the Freezer, by Richard Preston, offers a terrifying look into the world of biological terrorism. You can buy it by clicking here. The book draws on Preston's earlier work, so some of it seems vaguely repetitive. But if you're looking for a primer on the subject of what the scientists call BW (biological warfare), this is the book.

GSAC Conference

Two weeks ago, at the Genomic Sequencing and Analysis Conference (GSAC) in Boston, there was a debate over the cost of sequencing an individual human being's genome and burning it onto a CD. One group argued that it could be done in three years at a cost of $1000. The other group argued that it would take five years before such a CD could be stamped at that price point.

Think about that.

If you combine the cost of the Human Genome Project with the operating and research costs of the Celera Corporation, you come to something like $5 billion to sequence the first human genome (Dr. Craig Venter's genome). Now they're talking about doing it for $1,000 when a baby is born and handing over the child's genome disk to the mother when she leaves the hospital.

The speed at which genomic science is moving is literally breath-taking.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Mid-Term GOP Blues

The New York Times reports this morning that perhaps 15% of the votes cast in this year's mid-term elections will be cast before Election Day. The percentage of votes cast before Election Day will be highest in the western states, where it is easiest to do so, but "absentee" votes will also be higher than normal in a number of mid-western and southern states. And this will make it much more difficult for the Decision Desks of the various networks to accurately project winners quickly on Election Night. Because of the size of the absentee vote in states across the country, there's an outside chance that we won't know on Election Night who will control the US Senate, the US House and/or key gubernatorial seats. We may just have to wait until all the "absentee" votes are counted.

That said, I'm inclined to agree with House Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) that the Republicans will likely gain a seat or two in the House this year. DeLay is an unusually astute vote-counter whose record of predictions in past election cycles has been uncannily accurate. I'm inclined to disagree with his assessment that the GOP will get the better of the Senate races, although (to be fair) he hasn't yet made a firm prediction (that I've heard). With Liddy Dole back in play, with Forrestor flailing, with Coleman trailing and with Sununu not getting it done (yet), the likeliest outcome appears to be a net Democratic gain of one seat. And that's before the Lincoln Chaffee (R-Jeffords) issue is resolved.

But the big story is the governors. Unlike Senators (with the possible exception of John McCain) and House members, governors can actually help a presidential candidate win an election. The late Lee Atwater used to say that a governor was worth at least a point in any state, which is why he designed then-Vice President Bush's 1986 political strategy around helping GOP gubernatorial candidates win their elections. Then-Majority Leader Robert Dole devoted his 1986 mid-term election efforts toward helping the GOP retain Senate control, which they did not do and which did him no good when he ran against Bush Senior in the 1988 presidential primaries.

In this year's mid-term gubernatorial elections, GOP prospects waver between blah and bleak (Click on Multimedia Graphic inside this link for a complete assessment of this year's races). Blah would be the loss of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Although George W. Bush lost all of these four states in 2000, he didn't lose them (with the exception of Illinois) by much and he obviously hopes to win at least two of them in 2004.

Bleak would be the loss of Florida and perhaps even Texas. In both states, the numbers are already too close for comfort. While President Bush is certain to win Texas in 2004, he must also win Florida to win re-election. And in order to win Florida, he probably needs his brother there to deliver unto him Atwater's one percent.

On election night, most of the commentators will blather on about control of the Senate and the House. But in real political terms, the races that matter most are the gubernatorial contests. And right now, Democrats have the gubernatorial upper hand.

Peters vs. Krugman
Ralph Peters argues that the Bali bombing is a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness. Paul Krugman argues that the Bali Bombing shows that Al Qaeda is winning. Read both and see which column makes your head nod in agreement.

Monday, October 14, 2002

The Case for War

Appears to be strengthened by the terrorist strike in Bali. Amity Shlaes makes that case in tomorrow's Financial Times.