Thursday, 23 December 2010

9/11 Responder Health Bill

According to a story in yesterday’s The New York Times, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said after passage of the $4.3 billion bill, “Some have tried to portray this debate as a debate between those who support 9/11 workers and those who don’t. This is a gross distortion of the facts. There was never any doubt about supporting the first responders. It was about doing it right.” This is a crock. For the Republican leadership, the issue was about doing it cheap. Royalty is not always generous, but one hopes some semblance of style prevails. If I Were King, you can bet the needful costs would have been covered without giving weasels like McConnell any chance to do anything but marvel at our good judgment.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Net Neutrality in Stereo

According to today’s The New York Times, the FCC is set to issue regulations to ensure net neutrality for the wired web, while giving the wireless services a pass. The justification is that because wireless has less capacity and is a newer industry it is somehow qualitatively different. This is bovine excrement.

If a service provider enters the marketplace and offers to carry data using some set of resources, this has to be seen as a good thing. Not all providers will offer the same service. Wireless services will allow mobility, metro fiber carriers can allow staggering volume. No one should expect every technology or every provider to offer the same level of service. But what is absolutely essential is that each of them offer that service without regard to the actual content the end user chooses to send or request.

The concept of “reasonable network management”, which some vendors would like to think allows them to cut off any service they don’t like, is only reasonable if it means preventing some users from hogging so much bandwidth that other users suffer as a result. The concept of “paid prioritization” can never be considered reasonable.

I don’t use any mobile network access, but it’s obviously going to be important to millions of people in the years ahead. Far too important to be hamstrung by the very services that we expect to provide it. Far too important for the FCC to wash its hands of its responsibilities.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

End DADT Everywhere

In today’s The New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd asks if the country is ready for a gay commander in chief. Jimmy Carter says yes, but he’s never been known for being in synch with the zeitgeist. Barney Frank doubts it, and having been a gay congresscritter for nearly three decades he’s probably  closer to having a handle on the issue.

Bill Maher weighed in with what Ms Dowd and I both suspect is true: “Can you imagine how much a gay president would have to overcompensate to please the macho ninnies who control our national debate? Women like Hillary have to do it, Obama had to do it because he’s black and liberal, but a gay president? He’d have to nuke something the first week.”

So how about we try something a little less ambitious? How about we get the Republican National Committee to end their “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Even Think About It” system? After they dump their moronic loose cannon chair, perhaps there’s a chance we can reap one benefit from the Tea Party assault on that party: a shift away from the homophobic passion for control of the nations sex life.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Distractions

The stupidity known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally ended by a 65-31 Senate vote today, with the one-time maverick John McCain still in thrall to a simplistic vision of human sexuality that fits a high-school locker room but which the armed services can now get beyond, even if McCain’s own mental processes, once flexible and active, are now too canalized for actual use.

Today’s Seattle Times coverage of the vote also quotes Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, “I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” Wow! You’re lying in the dirt facing an enemy that wants to kill you. You’re only in this particular location because of intel provided by someone who could well work for the enemy. Your supply of rations and ammo, not to mention your path back to your base, is dependent on roads that could be mined with IEDs. Your wife back home is struggling to balance a job and caring for your two kids by herself. And this nitwit thinks that your awareness that the guy next to you might have a boyfriend will be a distraction?

I’m sure both McCain and Amos have made contributions to this country that they can be proud of. They have both, apparently, gotten to the stage in life where their reactions are no longer based on the high level of intelligence that got them to their current positions. If I Were King I would thank them both and send them home.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Saving the Tax Cuts

It appears nearly certain that the full Bush tax reductions will be preserved, and I think that President Obama was right to cut the deal with the Republicans. Like the president, I think it’s high time that the upper reaches of the economy contribute more to the operation of government. It would have been better to end the cuts at the top end, but today it’s far more important to extend unemployment for those that have fallen completely out of the economy.

Tax cuts for the lower and middle strata are a benefit to the economy. Those groups, who generally spend everything they earn, will put those dollars right back to work. The same isn’t likely to apply at the top, anyone who has a current-year taxable income of a million bucks has plenty of assets and isn’t going to change his grocery-buying habits because of a few percentage points difference in income tax.

I also can’t see the concern over inheritance taxes, or that there is any excuse to impose them. This is money that has been earned over a full life, and all taxes due on it has already been paid. The original idea was to prevent huge family fortunes over a span of generations, but the reality is that no family actually manages to continue accumulating assets. Anyone with the intelligence to accumulate billions of dollars has the intelligence to transfer it to the next generation before death. And then, if the second generation, raised in wealth, doesn’t squander it all, the third generation is almost certain to. To my knowledge, there are no significant family fortunes that are four generations old.

But back to the fray at Washington City: President Obama cut a deal with the Republicans, a deal that wasn’t perfect but which will work to the benefit of almost everybody. The result was his own party screaming that he had sold them out. I don’t know what Obama said to the House Democrats, but I know what he should have said: “Quit your bellyaching, vote for the deal I put together, and if you don’t like it, go out and get me a majority for the next Congress.”

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

ICE Strikes Secretly

In late November the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the Department of Homeland Security seized 82 domain names of retailers alleged to have sold counterfeit goods. As reported in yesterdays issue of The New York Times, one of the domains was OnSmash.com (click here to see the clever Federal replacement), a blog covering hip-hop music. (I think that’s the current term for rap, which I still don’t recognize as music, but I digress.)

Kevin Hofman, the owner of OnSmash.com, learned of this through an early-morning phone call from one of his technicians, on Thanksgiving Day no less. According to Hofman, the “pirated” music on his site was “leaked” to him. That is to say, he didn’t go out and grab it surreptitiously, or rip commercial CDs to post on the site, this was content that the promoters of various artists wanted to have out there where fans could hear it.

Hofman asserts that he’s in thick with the hip-hop artists, invited to far more parties and concerts than he has time to attend, talking to the performers regularly on the phone. That he’s part of the music infrastructure. I absolutely believe this, from my limited contacts with the industry I know it’s exactly how the game is played. Perhaps the same principal, although much more healthy, than the cash payola of the ’50s and ’60s.

So two questions and one answer: First, if Hofman is part of the marketing engine for this sector of the music business, why was he targeted? Easy, the RIAA targeted him because he isn’t playing by their rules. Nobody, artist or fan, should give a rat’s ass what the RIAA cares about, but they have high-paid lobbyists on call at Washington City. Yes, there’s still a role for money to influence the music business.

Second, why did Hofman find out his domain had been seized from a tech? Why wasn’t he served with papers? How did it happen that anyone other than a federal judge sitting in open court made this ruling?

If I Were King, there are people at ICE that would be wondering whatever happened to their paychecks and pensions today.