Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Straight Talk from the RNC

I'm sure Democratic Senator Russ Feingold knew just what was coming down the tracks following his March 13th introduction on the senate floor of a resolution to censure George Bush for his illegal domestic spying program. Now I don't know what the senator's motivation was for this move, whether it's purely political, idealistic, practical, or some combination of those. But I'll take him at his word that he is doing the citizens' work; he seems to be a good guy. On the surface it seems like a sane though largely symbolic attempt at accountability.

And yes, the backlash was predictable: Frist feigning monstrous shock & surprise, (as though Feingold had suggested a firing squad), angry talking heads like the O'Reillys of the world painting the good senator as a gay/lesbian terrorist communist alien. Then the Prince of Darkness, Dick, mumbling something about al Qaeda being the enemy, not W.

The most amusing, however, is a radio ad released yesterday to stations in the senator's state of Wisconsin by the RNC. One thing this crowd does consistently: just when you think they can't demonstrate greater chutzpah and hauteur, they prove you wrong. The ad frames Senator Feingold as wanting to "publicly reprimand President Bush for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda". The new euphemism for illegal wiretaps is the "Terrorist Surveillance Program". And it lists a hopelessly unverifiable number of thwarted terrorist plots as a result of Mr. Bush's programs. Of course, there's also no way to measure whether or not we could been just as effective without these programs. It admonishes the good senator for being "more interested in censuring the president than protecting our freedoms" (protecting real freedoms is exactly what he's trying to do!!!). One thought concludes "Is this how Democrats plan to win the War on Terror?". Well, no, they probably think getting bogged down in a country for 3+ years with no end in sight is the most effective way to go.

Its no wonder some Americans don't consider the real facts and reach reasonable conclusions prior to entering the ballot box with this misleading tripe suffocating them every day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who Cares?

It would be amusing if it were not so sad. I'm talking of course not about the ongoing Iraqi occupation, or the illegal domestic spying, or even Dick Cheney shooting friends in the face. I'm talking about the use of banned steroids in sports; not the seeming increase in their use (or their reporting), but rather the fact that we seem to care. We have serious talking head analysis about it, testimony under oath in congress, and serious water cooler banter about whether or not so and so deserves his record or to be inducted into this or that hall of fame.

I could not care less.

If they want to do the drugs, let them. Let them take as much as they want! These are games they are playing folks, games! They are not issues that seriously impact everyday people's lives (unless they're losing wagers on certain games!). How about congress and the talking heads focusing on things that can improve the lives of struggling workers, like maybe fixing health care? Let the games crowd worry about themselves.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Serious Brass

I swore I was going to leave the guy alone for awhile, what with his low poll numbers and having to take a few on the chin for the team in an election year and all (though I pessimistically suspect that if there was a presidential election today the same group of wackos and lemmings would sweep him back into the Oval Office). But W (or "Commander Cuckoo Bananas" as Homer Simpson referred to him) rose to yet another new height of chutzpah and hypocrisy today in a speech to the National Newspaper Association in DC. With a perfectly straight faced he expressed a profound concern about the message sent to the Arab Middle East by broad US opposition to the Dubai ports deal. This, from the guy more disliked globally than any president of the last 100 years. This, from the guy who presided over:
  • The unprovoked invasion and occupation of a sovereign Arab nation, causing the deaths of over 100,000 innocent civilians
  • The imprisonment of over 1,000 Arabs (and others) without due process, representation, or any glimmer of hope of justice (until the Supreme Court shot him down in 2004, at least for Gitmo)
  • The systematic abuse and torture of hundreds of Arab prisoners, including sexual and religious humiliation and insults
  • The rendition of at least dozens of Arabs to repressive regimes for "questioning"
Yeah, this guy's a freakin' hero in that part of the world, and the pile-on over the ports deal is going to jeopardize all his good work. Wonder how he'd feel about visiting Iraq protected by a security force owned and operated by the Dubai government.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pro Choice, Male Edition

OK, controversy time. Before I post a blog on this issue, please share comments (click on "comments" at end of post below) on how you feel about this story (please read it completely first). I'll give a few days lead. What's your opinion, and what is the real issue here? Male and female comments are equally welcome.

Oh. And please don't sugar coat it, tell me how you really feel......

End of the Internet (as we know it)

Sporting its newly acquired AT&T brand (AT&T as we knew it after the 1984 divestiture no longer exists), SBC on Monday announced its $67 billion takeover of BellSouth, uniting for the first time in 22 years four of the original seven "Baby Bells". The usual bravado hit the headlines, "317,000 employees", "71 million local landline customers", "54 million cell customers", "largest merger in telecom history" and so on. Then the familiar drivel about benefits to customers, efficiencies, synergies, more and better services, discounts for bundled services, etc. (Forgive my cynicism but I've lived it from the inside). Finally the outcry from consumers' groups about the lack of competition, higher prices and so forth.

Everyone missed the real story, at least everyone until the New York Times caught it today in an editorial. The biggest impact this merger is likely to have is to bring about is their ability to use a quasi-monopoly position to change internet usage as we know it.

The internet has evolved into a service that we use much as we use local phone service: unlimited use. This plus the proliferation of broadband connections has spawned an explosion of ways we use the service, from shopping, to music and video downloading, to podcasting, to blogging, to VOIP (internet phone service). There is no usage barrier as with long distance telephone or cell minutes, so we surf at will with no self-imposed usage restraints. Because of this eCompanies have thrived and spawned new industries and commerce, such as, Vonage, eBay, and iTunes. And companies have the ability to compete with each other for our business on a level playing field.

But if a single telecom concern could control a significant part of the infrastructure (not the end user ISP part, but the highway "pipes" that are the backbone of the internet) they could dictate what businesses get the express lanes to their sites, and what ones get the stop and go lanes, depending on how well the business pays for the access, called "tiered" access. Plus, ISPs could be forced to regulate volume even within a controlled bandwidth, forcing users to regulate their "online" time (as many sites "refresh" on a regular basis, causing a potential usage meter to advance, both business and consumer broadband customers would log off between needed sessions). This would be like charging shoppers for every minute they spent in a shopping mall, regardless of purchase. Get 'em addicted to the free drug, then start charging.

This isn't necessarily an evil thing, but could dramatically alter the future of the internet, and its long term success.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pure Inspiration

The cynic in me wants to caveat this piece with a reminder that not all in the news, especially from Hollywood, is as real as it seems. But out of immense respect I will take that chance, that leap of faith. I choose to believe in this woman who has recently left us.

Like many in the world I have felt a great deal of respect, sympathy and empathy for Christopher Reeve since his resulting paralysis from a horseback riding incident in 1995 through his death in 2004, with all the courage, effort, painful struggles and inspiring, tireless work in between.

But my heart and mind were also greatly moved by the remarkable example set by his wife of only 3 years at the time of the accident, the former Dana Morosini, now Dana Reeve. Here was a beautiful, intelligent, talented and successful actress of 34 who chose love, compassion but also the realities of life (and had the wisdom at that tender age to recognize it) over the tempting lure of an easier and more convenient, understandable lifestyle. She did this surrounded by a culture which not only would have forgiven her for her choice, but which would have encouraged her to do so. One has to wonder how this Sturm und Drang may have hastened her untimely succumbing to disease at the tender age of 44.

She may have learned the peace few of us ever may, and most of us may never. I shall mourn and respect her passing. She undoubtedly made the final 9 years of Christopher's life a little easier to bear, perhaps to the detriment of her own. And I sincerely hope I can someday find what Christopher and Dana managed to.

Magical Design

A fascinating story about possible devolution.

The photo has the BBC copyright, so I trust its authenticity.