Monday, November 24, 2003


End-to-end is a BIG political statement

Martin Geddes' Telepocalypse blog points out that End-to-End is a political statement. He says that the original End-to-End paper,
effectively states that the users are in control . . . [but] the original paper fails to point out . . . [that] the user places value on certain features (reliable delivery of voicemail, secure file transfer). It is the economic desire that then drives the need to create an efficient architecture for their delivery.

There is a subtle difference between this and [the] pure technical efficiency argument [advanced in the Original Paper]. It says that the user should decide what the valued functionality of the system is, not the product development department of a telco or network vendor.
Martin is spot-on, but (abetted by Mitch Ratcliffe's comments), he gets too tangled up in subtleties and, like the Original Paper, misses the bigger point. The political statement of End-to-End is blatant (whether the O.P. said it directly or not), and powerfully more Telepocalyptic than Geddes paints.

In my long-held and oft-stated view, the End-to-end architecture supports:and End-to-End discourages:In other words, End-to-End puts the entire value proposition for every net transaction or interaction right in the lap of the end user. That's as political as it gets.

Friday, November 21, 2003


VoIP over Cable/DSL -- barriers fall away

Voice-over-IP-over-Cable/DSL services are popping up like fiddler crabs at low tide. The technology barriers have fallen. Voice quality, while not always "toll quality" on these services, is certainly good enough most of the time. And the features -- Ma Bell won't be getting $4.95 a month for Caller ID much longer. Get your newly portable number over there!

The newest blurb in my inbox is from It offers all-you-can-eat VoIP U.S. calling, with a rich package of CLASS bells and whistles (Voice Mail, Caller ID, Remote Access to Forwarding, *69, Call Block, Speed Calling, Three Way Calling, etc., etc.) for $40 a month.

It is comparable to Vonage, which at several months old, is the oldest puppy in this litter. Vonage has recently lowered its price to $35 a month for all-you-can-call service to the U.S. and Canada.

Voicepulse offers another comparably-priced service. It features two lines for the price, plus telemarketer block and distinctive rings you can assign to callers on your contact list.

Packet8 is the low price leader. Its unlimited U.S. plus Canada plan is only $19.95 a month. You can add unlimited Euro and Asia calling too for reasonable per-month prices too.

One of my favorites is Addaline, just because it is such a down-home mom-n-pop shop. Calling packages start at $0.00 -- but to call out to the regular old obsolete telephone network will cost you $12.95 and up.

Galaxy Internet Services does not describe its VoIP plan on its website yet, but a company spokesman says that GIS is gearing up to introduce VoIP services within a few weeks. GIS will flat-rate the entire U.S., Canada, and the UK too. Prices are still tbd, but the residential and SOHO plan will start around $20 (and up) a month for around 500 (and up) minutes.

Vox3, offers a U.S. number (an entire U.S. virtual presence, actually, including a Miami snail-mailbox) to companies with a Carribbean or Central- or South-American presence. Vox3 telephony features unlimited calling between the U.S. number and your company's offshore (western hemisphere) locations for as little as $29.95.

And there are others, e.g., IConnectHere. If you know of any that are especially innovative -- on features or price -- please let me know!


Destroy my Business Model -- What, me Worry?

The Wall Street Journal's front page story on VoIP last month quoted me saying that VoIP, "destroys the incumbent telephone-company business model."

Want to guess how many worried telco execs called to find out why I said that? Zero.

Maybe they're not calling because they already know and they're evolving as fast as they can.
Maybe they're not calling because I'm obviously wrong, or obviously uninsightful.

But instead, I think telco execs just don't talk about business models. It has something to do with corporate culture. I am not sure about the cultural mechanics, but I have two guesses:

Guess #1: Maybe telco execs don't talk about business models for the same reason that fish don't talk about water. They were handed an established business model at the beginning of their career. It was, literally, a given. Analyzing the business model is "not my job".

Guess #2: Maybe it is like talking about death -- just not a polite thing to do, not culturally acceptable, in certain circles. Or maybe 'talking about sex' is the better analogy, in that people talk about it in private, with anxiety-releasing humor and myth in lieu of fact.

Establishing a successful business is incredibly difficult even when the business model is proven. Evidence: 90% of restaurants fail in their first year.

But there's something more -- something deeply unsettling -- about discussing a business model that's about to fail. However, telco execs who can learn new job skills (Guess #1) or overcome cultural shibboleths (Guess #2) -- who can muster whatever it takes to examine their business model squarely -- are more likely to survive. Those who don't won't.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Bloggerheads protest CYA tactics

Here's the latest from Bush's visit to London:

Bare Your Bum at Bush!


Another reason to separate conduit from content

The incisively-named Telepocalypse blog, in an article incisively titled "Tits and Bits," says:
The dirty secret of the ISP industry is that the profit is all in illicit chat, dirty pictures and finding ways to get high or get laid (ideally both, simultaneously).

The irony is that the telcos with their closed-network closed-system mindset have fallen into a trap. A true end-to-end network operator doesn’t get their brand tarnished by the data that flows over their network. When compelling content equals sex, gambling, porn and general vice, you can’t have it both ways.
Now that's not the only reason to separate conduit from content. There's other kinds of "speech" that might make some users of a network uncomfortable -- but freedom of speech isn't for speech that makes everybody feel comfortable.

Then there's the minor matter of how asking permission kills innovation. A provider of a vertically integrated (content-plus-conduit) network is likely to say, "You want to do what with my network???"

I've been listening for FCC Chairman Mike Powell's understanding of this critical Internet property, but I'm still not sure he has a clear take on the value of separating content from conduit.


Powell's Non-Answer on Separation of Service and Transport

Transcribing FCC Chairman Powell's remarks at the FCC TAC Meeting on October 20, 2003, is helping me understand what Powell is thinking -- and what he's not thinking.

Below, Vint Cerf asserts that providing services under IP is a solved problem -- that the problem is transport -- and asks for Powell's reaction. Powell acknowledges that "everything is an application over IP", and dances around the edges of the transport problem. He briefly addresses anti-competitive tying of transport and service, but he fails to address the Paradox of the Best Network (or any of the really big problems with competing by offering pure commodity transport under IP), he doesn't touch the idea of "natural monopoly", and he doesn't mention the Common Carrier concept, pro or con. Towards the end of his answer, Powell gets positively tangled up in regulator-speak. In the video, he looks almost apologetic -- or maybe a bit bewildered -- by the end of his answer. Is this because Powell isn't saying what he's thinking, or because he doesn't have a good theory of how to address these issues?

Vint Cerf:
One of the discussion points that came up today talked about a different theory for looking at these kinds of services, separating service from infrastructure in the belief that if all the services were transported through IP, the real issue is is not the service anymore. It has been decoupled. The questions are: How is the transport accessible? How is it available? How is it used? How is it constrained if at all?
Absolutely. Those would be the next set of immediate questions. But you'd be surprised. It won't be as easy as it seems to this enlightened group to reach the first conclusion, that it's all an application over IP. Well the Minnesota Commission doesn't think so, the California Commission doesn't think so, and I think that's a potentially important war to win.

Secondly, with respect to the question of infrastructure and access, absolutely that's the next set of important questions. There's two sets of emerging views that could be pursued individually or in some combination, which are the telephone notion of infrastructure access, which is the physical access to pipes on behalf of competitors. This issue takes the form of open access (forced access if you're the cable company) and how does that work. How is it actually managed? What are the rules that get applied? It gets pretty complicated quickly.

[In contrast] there's Microsoft running around talking about net neutrality. The interesting thing when you're talking about IP Protocol based stuff is that in some wasy by its very nature pipes become less the means to routing, because routing is done by packetized architecture that is very different than we're accustomed to in the point to point telephone world and if any publisher or any service provider is guaranteed or some ways protected in its ability to reach any consumer, that's another way and perhaps one of the more fruitful ways to try to protect the end-to-end nature of reaching a consumer through products and services by guaranteeing that applications and services short of needing to protect some level of quality and security can go through whoever calls for it to be commanded. That's what makes this question so much more unique than in the telephone context, where the pipe was such a critical part of establishing the connection and the relationship. If you couldn't own the pipe, or actually plug into the pipe, you absolutely had no way of reaching the consumer.

But Yahoo has a way of reaching the consumer, [to] anybody who has broadband, as long as there's something that doesn't allow somebody to strip bits or alter bits in some way. So at least we have another set of tools or variables to deal with the anticompetitive concerns that are always raised that will make this harder but also in some ways easier because I think we have some tools to find the balance to making sure that there's a competitive service sector for consumers.

Monday, November 17, 2003


Transcript of Powell's Remarks on VoIP at TAC Meeting

If "the fix is in on VoIP" as Reed Hundt claims, and consistent with Tom Power's first hand observations, then maybe we can discern the nature of the fix from FCC Chairman Powell's remarks on VoIP to the FCC's Technology Advisory Council on October 20. This transcript is my own, and I've taken a few liberties. However, one, you can hear the original remarks here. Here's what I get from Powell's remarks:
(a) Powell believes that VoIP is very different from telephony-classic.
(b) Powell wants the FCC to frame the VoIP debate.
(c) Powell wants to regulate from a blank slate, not from the tangle of existing legacy regs.
(d) The exceptions to the above include law enforcement, antitrust, and Americans with disabilities (but -- tellingly? -- Powell does not mention schools, rural customers, or the interface between the telephone network and the Internet).
(e) Powell believes in minimal regulation of the Internet because of its pre-regulatory success and because it is still rapidly evolving.
There's not many clues here here about *where* Powell would draw the line between "telephony" and the Internet, between the old and the new, and the devil we don't know is in the details we don't know.

Communications policy is about to be, if it isn't already, at a crossroads.

[The FCC is facing a] very very important set of decisions to be made about how we embrace Internet-based communications, whether we will tailor a set of regulatory clothing uniquely for [the Internet] or whether we'll make [the Internet] wear Ma Bell's hand-me-downs. By the way, this is not an arguement for deregulation or regulation. I find that to be an extremely tired way to embrace these questions . . .

[The question is, are we] going to regulate uniquely and specifically for the nature of this medium and its unique characteristics and its unbelievable potential and its premium on innovation and lower barriers to entry and other kinds of exciting things that make it not a telephone? I think that winning a public debate about [Voice over IP] being not just a telephone, or an incremental change on the way we have looked at the telephone system for 100 years is a very, very important [property of these] crossroads.

The micro-judgements as to what regulatory policy then befall are easier once you create national consensus that this thing is different -- it is different from a historical perspective, it is different from a technological perspective, and it is deserving of a singularly unique policy examination. As opposed to the risk I see right now, which is regulating by accident. What's happening now is that [VOIP] is slowly being regulated by accident as we stumble through these innovations. Now the market is moving faster, innovations are moving faster, entrepreneurs are moving faster than any regulator is moving to keep up.

I know what regulators do. I am one of them. We are conservative. We will fall back to what we know when we fear being run by something we don't understand. So the first thing is to truly commit to understanding. To understand the technology, the market and the way in which it is unfolding, so we don't approach it with fear but with excitement and optimism that this is inherently a good thing for the world, a good thing for the country, a major breakthrough in telecommunications, and a great new opportunity and promise. We shoudn't be afraid of that. I personally believe we should be embracing it.
. . .

Some housekeeping matters: I've decided that the Commission is now going to start inserting itself in this area much more directly. That's not to say regulating it, only to put a marker down that it is time, time to start regulating these policy questions in forums that matter.

I don't want 51 states to trip into what Voice over IP is, I really don't.

If we don't move quickly to at least show that we're focused, if we don't have a state jurisdiction do it we'll have a court do it. I can honestly debate what the answers are, but I think there's a danger if you don't have the right institutional player in the right place. I don't think the ninth circuit has any idea what Internet is, I don't think it has any idea what broadband is, and I don't think it is the right place for that question to be decided no matter what the actual answer is. If you're not going to have an institution that is capable of dynamism and flexibility, as it goes through trying to learn this, we're going to have a problem.

The role of regulation depends. It depends on the time, the nature of the problems, and the nature of the consequences. And because it depends, the worst thing we could do is to regulate it like a telephone, to regulate it by accident for no other reason that that's what we know and that's what we understand. I think there are a lot of quarters in the federal government and in state governments that are poised to do just that.

[On the other hand, there's] the almost equally ideologically absurd libertarian, "Who cares?" We do care because we care about law enforcement capabilities, we care about the disabled, we care about anticompetitive behavior.

I think that the greatest error [being made today] is that if you believe that the internet being free, and minimally regulated or unregulated means that you don't care one whit about these other policy things. I think that's wrong.

All I care about is that I want to build from a blank slate up, as opposed to from the from the myriad of telecommunications regulations down. We might agree we want to be in the same place. But it is a nasty and tangled litigious exercise to start from the phone company world of regulation and work your way down than to try to say, "No, this is something new. Let's make each regulatory judgement as a consequence of forethought and judgement and understanding about this specific technology."

The statute makes that cumbersome . . . I would submit that 80% of the questions that face me today are gray. There is no clear answer in the statute. The statute is in its little buckets. The buckets don't make sense. Why is the FCC in the midst of controversy all the time? Because it is always forced to negotiate a course through an ambiguous statute premised on yesterday's technology and apply it to something that is emerging and changing the world.

We'll keep doing that. But that's going to crumble. The act is going to crumble under relevance, even under its own weight and under the pressures of technology. And one day, whether we like it or not, Congress is going to have to come back to this unless it sanctions a set of odd and absurd contradictions that start to unfold in the law.

So our goal (the TAC and the Commission) is to shape an intelligent debate, to make sure that long before Congress starts getting involved that we win in the public mind the understanding of what that issue is, and we make these things more thoughtful and minimal.

I belive in minimal regulation only because I believe that there's a futility principle. I think that our institution, and state regulatory institutions, are not built particularly well for fast-changing dynamic technology-driven innovations. We're really good with matured industries that have stabilized to [a few fixed] regulatory choke points. We're really on dangerous regulatory turf when we're regulating change. You don't get a rule making out of the FCC in less than a year or six months, and in Internet time that can be forever, so making sure we focus on those handful of core regulatory values, and having the courage to shed the rest, seems to be the billion dollar question. There will be core regulatory values to protect, but we will need to judge what those values are, commit to them, focus on them, and be confident and courageous enough to say it, and to hell with the rest of this stuff. And if time goes by and some of the rest of the stuff is needed, we'll bring it back. I'm amazed by the thought that there's one window for things and that you'll never be able to fix it again. I don't know what world that comes from. I've watched 100 years of telecom regulation constantly change, evolve, ebb and flow, back and forth, push and shove, as concerns [compete].

So what's the role of regulation? [For one thing] I think you should justify what it is beyond general anti-trust principles . . . but on this revolution, I think the burden's on the government. I think for this revolution, when the Internet has already prospered so nicely without a lot of government hand-holding, where IP protocol, and voice over IP and powerline infrastructure and other things that are interesting [have begun] to prosper without our help, we should own the burden of presumption about why we are needed here. And when we can satisfy that, we should act on that clearly and swiftly. But when we can't we should stay the daylights away from it lest we interfere with a healthy, robust innovative market.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


I hate blogging

Not true, I actually like blogging a lot.

But, in the instance of Reed Hundt, the FCC and VoIP regulations,
I wish that I had chewed before swallowing.


More on Hundt/FCC/VoIP story

Now I have three letters -- from Baratunde Thurston, Kevin Werbach and Tom Power -- all of which seek to educate me on FCC procedures and correct my misconceptions.

When I get letters that point out that I might be wrong, I'm quite capable of changing my mind, unlike the FCC in the matter of media ownership caps.

Given the FCC's media ownership caps snafu, my level of FCC distrust has risen from:


By the way, one quote from the Tom Power letter:
Of course, Reed may be right. Perhaps the fix IS in. But I can assure you that Reed Hundt never issued an NPRM without having first determined what the final rules should look like. It's the only way to be an effective FCC chairman. Eventually you may have to compromise a bit and make some tweaks based on the public comments, but the rule that applies to trial lawyers applies equally to FCC chairmen: don't ask questions that you don't know the answers to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Egg on my own face re: FCC procedures

Tom Powers, who used to be senior legal advisor to Bill Kennard when he was Chairman of the FCC, and Kevin Werbach, another former senior FCC staffer, have written in to say that there is no legal requirement for an NOI to precede an NPRM, or for there to be a 12 month wait between the NPRM and the final rule.

Of course, none of this says that the fix *isn't* in on VoIP.

I'm pretty busy for the next day or two -- I'll have a chance to write more about this, and digest more of the comments I've gotten, over the next few days.


Comment: Isenberg is wrong on FCC attempt to regulate VoIP

Baratunde Thurston writes:
I think the short answer to this blog entry's title (Has the FCC already decided how to regulate Internet Telephony?) is "No, it hasn't."

I just read through the blog entry and the referenced letters, and David Isenberg seems to have things a bit twisted. . . . The letter seems to directly contradict Isenberg's interpretation . . .
Thurston's complete letter (with email address removed by request) is here.

I have a lot of sympathy for what Thurston is saying. The first time I read the Powell-to-Wyden letter, I felt much as Thurston did. Thurston observes that in his reading of the Powell letter, the FCC is not speeding to a conclusion, the FCC is allowing for public comment, and the FCC does not want to impose new Internet taxes for VoIP telephony. In my first reading of the Powell letter, I thought so too. But yesterday Reed Hundt raised some serious questions, and I've seen up close how the FCC can work, e.g., in the matter of the Triennial Order and in the matter of media ownership caps.

Here's what I think I learned (subject to correction, of course, 'cause I'm no expert) from what Hundt said yesterday:

1. Legally, the FCC must have an NOI (Notice of Inquiry) process before it issues an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making). Apparently, there's an exception if the FCC holds an official public hearing with all Commissioners present, which is what the FCC is doing. Q: Why is the FCC making this exception in this case? A: We don't know and beyond Powell's statement that "Things have greatly accelerated," the FCC has not told us. We can only guess, and my guess is that the FCC wants to get out in front of the various state PUCs and issue its own set of regs. Fine, but what are these regs, who decided, and with what input? (Hint: Not mine.)

2. Legally, there must be 12 month waiting period between the NPRM and the actual rule making. Usually there's not much change between the NPRM and the final rule. The process for public comment, the Notice of Inquiry, is usually where the rule is formed, but this process is being circumvented.

3. The FCC, in its December 1 hearing, will hear comments from a very narrow sector of the public. The letter says that there will be, "a wide range of witnesses from industry and government," but apparently it will not hear from entrepreneurs, end users, et cetera, who have as big a stake in the future of the Internet as "industry and government", at this hearing.

Thurston closes his objections to my comments with this quote from the Powell letter:
- "There is universal agreement that these Internet services hold great promise for the American people. Imposing regulatory burdens on these new and emerging Internet services, before the FCC fully engages the public and develops a comprehensive record, may have the unintended consequence of stifling its growth and denying the public benefits of that growth."
Thurston observes, "unless you believe Powell means the opposite of what he says (who knows? Could be a fair assumption), Isenberg is just plain wrong."

I'd like to believe that I'm wrong. I'd like to give Powell the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that the FCC is acting in my interests, and in the interests of the future. I SINCERELY HOPE that I am wrong. But Hundt believes that the fix is in and offers strong evidence. What happens at the December 1 hearing and the NPRM that will follow shortly will tell.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


The Fix is in on VOIP Regulation -- Reed Hundt

Has the FCC already decided how to regulate Internet Telephony?

Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt reads a recent letter from FCC Chairman Michael Powell to Senator Ron Wyden to indicate that the FCC is speeding headlong towards an unknown set of VOIP regulations with as little public comment as possible. Hundt spoke today (November 11, 2003) at Jeff Pulver's Wireless Internet Summit in Santa Clara CA.

I've known for several weeks that the FCC will be holding a hearing on Voice Over Internet Protocol on December 1. I had thought it would be like the delightfully informative and informal Rural Wireless Internet Service Provider Workshop that the FCC held on November 4. But this is not to be.

Apparently the December 1 meeting is to be a formal FCC hearing designed to legally circumvent the more normal, deliberative Notice of Inquiry process, which is designed to solicit, collect and consider a wide range of public comments.

The FCC is in a hurry. "Things have greatly accelerated over the last year," writes Powell to Wyden, "and so have the FCC's actions."

The hearing will hear "a wide range of witnesses from industry and government," but not (apparently) from the entrepreneurial creators of the next communications industry, or from end users who stand to benefit from the demise of the old telephone "industry".

"Shortly after the forum," the letter continues, "The FCC will initiate a Notice of Public (sic) Rule Making on VoIP services." (Actually, it is a notice of *PROPOSED* rule making -- Hundt says that the "Freudian" slip is telling.) As if the FCC will not need much time to consider the "witnesses" in the forum, as if the FCC already knows what the rules will say, as if the fix is in.

Powell closes by saying, "As the Senate moves to debate the Internet Tax Moritorium in the coming days, I urge caution in addressing VoIP issues." One of the VoIP issues on the table is Universal Service, according to Powell. That's a tax. It's a tax to support service to the rural and the poor that is being explored by somebody who recently likened the Internet to a Mercedes Benz -- a luxury, not a necessity.

Now that the Internet promises to a large proportion of the U.S. $300 Billion annual telecom revenues back into the pockets of rate payers, will the FCC prop up the telephone industry at the expense of the U.S. public with a tax?

It is not likely that the FCC, which recently ignored enormous public feedback about relaxed ownership caps on media, will be responsive to pleas to protect Voice over the Internet. But maybe Congress will. And maybe Powell will anticipate this sooner, rather than later, because Powell is a smart guy. Powell gets it. And he doesn't need any more egg on his face. More soon.


Words to live by:

Always stay UPWIND, UPHILL and UPSTREAM !!!

From the Motto of the Pennsylvania Association of Hazardous Materials Technicians

Friday, November 07, 2003


Scatt Oddams Recommends . . .


pic wrth 1k wrds

thx D Spctr

oddams at


Prime cut, bone in

Dave Burstein at DSL-Prime, a sincere devotee of the communications revolution despite his advocacy of half-fast technologies like DSL, writes:
"I remain amazed that some carriers think it's smart to freeze and even degrade their customer offering, while limiting what people can do on the net. Moore's Law brings down the cost of your routers, modems, servers. Internet transit and other factors. The internet grows dramatically, constantly offering your customers new choices. Not riding that curve leaves you vulnerable, and only works if your competition is totally defanged . . . [H]ow the heck can it be right to use QOS to allow selected content through, while degrading other service? Why are some looking to block our killer app, peer to peer, instead of finding ways to accommodate? Hubris, poor competitive analysis, short term thinking, a breakdown in communication between the CEO's plans and his technical decision makers all seem to play a role."
I applaud Burstein's clear-eyed diagnosis and righteous anger, but his conclusion is wrong. Incumbent conservatism is not driven by, "Hubris, poor competitive analysis, short term thinking," et cetera. The incumbent understands "The Paradox of the Best Network" better than Burstein. I suspect that at some level the incumbent knows that the best network is perfectly capital repellant. I suspect that the incumbent knows it must cripple competition, cripple its own network -- or die.


Cable TV will not be revolutionized

Capital expenditure cuts -- not just for telcos anymore.

In-Stat outlines the build-out slow-down:
1999: $11.0
2000: $15.9
2001: $15.3
2002: $13.3
2003 (e): $10.2
2004 (e): $9.5

These numbers are US Cable TV Operator CAPEX ($ in billions).
Source: In-Stat/MDR Information Alert - Volume #34, November 6, 2003

Monday, November 03, 2003


The human side of Iraq and California

Halley is one of my favorite bloggers. She writes powerfully from Boston of the tragic side of the California fires:
"I don't think anyone can imagine what it's like to watch your house, all your clothes, all your books, all your papers, maybe all the photo albums you didn't snatch in time -- all of it go up in flames . . . As we see reports this morning -- this mourning -- out of California, our hearts go out to our friends, neighbors, sisters, brothers, cousins -- which is to say -- our hearts go out to perfect strangers, as they contemplate their total loss."
The U.S. media lets us see the human side of the California fires.

The U.S. media don't let us close to the no less profoundly human side of the Iraqi tragedy. Riverbend's powerful writing steps into this void; it helps me understand Iraq in ways that "the news" doesn't. For example, remember the incident a few weeks ago in which, “US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, [] uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.” Riverbend writes :
"Every bit of a palm is an investment. The fronds and leaves are dried and used to make beautiful, pale-yellow baskets, brooms, mats, bags, hats, wall hangings and even used for roofing. The fronds are often composed of thick, heavy wood at their ends and are used to make lovely, seemingly-delicate furniture- similar to the bamboo chairs and tables of the Far East. The low-quality dates and the date pits are used as animal feed for cows and sheep. Some of the date pits are the source of a sort of ‘date oil’ that can be used for cooking. The palm itself, should it be cut down, is used as firewood, or for building."
And then:
"The trees are bulldozed and trampled beneath heavy machinery. We see the residents and keepers of these orchards begging the troops to spare the trees, holding up crushed branches, leaves and fruit- not yet ripe- from the ground littered with a green massacre. The faces of the farmers are crushed and amazed at the atrocity. I remember one wrinkled face holding up 4 oranges from the ground, still green (our citrus fruit ripens in the winter) and screaming at the camera- 'Is this freedom? Is this democracy?!'”
These brief excerpts don't do justice to Riverbend's excellent blogging. She tells as powerful a story as the story of the California fires. But her story is told only in the blogosphere.

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