February 28th, 2008
For reasons relating to my voting research, I generally don’t make political blog posts. I don’t see wanting secure and usable voting machines as a partisan issue, but I know that some people do, so I try to stay away from politics in my blog.
Here I’m going to make an exception. Again, I don’t see this as a partisan issue, and while I’m sure that many do, I really hope policy-makers can rise above the partisan fray here.
I just cannot see the logic behind ending net neutrality. I guess the leading argument has something to do with “free markets.” And while there are often occasions, where that’s a good argument, this is not one of them. The telecom market is not a free marketplace! First, all the basic R&D and infrastructure supporting the relevant market was paid for with public money. Yes, the telcos have put their own money into it since then, but the fact remains that without the public money at the beginning, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.
Second, the telcos are effectively regulated monopolies and these markets aren’t really “free” at all. The barrier to entry in these markets is enormous. At my home, I have the “choice” of a whole whopping two broadband providers; DSL through SB, err, AT&T, and cable modem via Comcast. Except that I cannot bundle this with my phone service, because Comcast doesn’t do VOIP to me (I don’t know why). So, really, I have one choice. How is that a competitive marketplace?
What’s interesting about this is that European markets—you know, Europe, that den of free-market everything, like medicine—is they’re actually much more competitive in telco services. I was just in London and I regularly saw ads for probably five different broadband providers, and if you live in the U.S., you would not believe the prices and the service levels offered. 20 megabit fiber for less than I pay for 3 megabit DSL. (This is particularly amazing since everything else in London was much more expensive than here at home, and this would be true even if the dollar weren’t in the toilet.)
Mobile phone service was like this as well. In most of the U.S., there are four choices: Verizon, SprintNextel, T-Mobile, and AT&T. There are easily twice that many across the pond, and the service plans are much cheaper. (I think I saw an ad for 1000 peak minutes/month with unlimited SMS for £15/month, which is about $30). Pre-paid is much more popular there, too, and you couldn’t walk two blocks in London without finding a place where you could buy more minutes for your service. So maybe there is something to that competition thing—I wish we had it here.
So, maybe repealing net neutrality could work in Europe where there is a much freer market. Except that I think the Europeans wouldn’t stand for giving providers the authority to block or slow down traffic they didn’t like.
And, frankly, neither should we. Save the Internet, support Net Neutrality. I’ve written my representative, have you?
November 7th, 2006
Everybody remember to go out and vote. And, just to be a downer:
This is not advice, this is a reminder why it’s important to ask for accountability in government. For example, here’s something you don’t see with paper ballots:
I’m sure reports of failed electronic machines will be widespread, but that overall most government officials will claim that everything went swimmingly well. Should be interesting.
October 2nd, 2006
Courtesy of fark:
Parent criticizes book ‘Fahrenheit 451′
Mind-bending irony. No, it’s not an Onion piece. Really.
September 13th, 2006
Just watch the video:
Do you vote on a Diebold machine?
August 31st, 2005
Sampling finds federal data mining fails to assure privacy protections
Not exactly a shocker, but disturbing nonetheless. Think there’s any chance that anyone at any of these agencies will actually be held accountable? Strikes me as unlikely.
April 15th, 2005
(originally sent as an email to ESPN on 2003.10.01)
Normally I’m a big fan of ESPN. But the entire Rush Limbaugh thing shows that some people at my favorite network are not very clever and some are spineless (and some probably both).
Under “not very clever,” how can this come as any kind of surprise to anyone there at ESPN? All the anchors and commentators bringing up this incident act all outraged. It’s not like Limbaugh has never said anything like this before; he’s always been a right-wing demagogue and has made numerous racially insensitive remarks in the past. They should have been outraged when Limbaugh was hired to to a FOOTBALL show, someething for which he had zero qualifications and was totally inappropriate. Where was the outrage then? It’s not like Limbaugh being a racist is news–but it was OK before he said it live on ESPN? Not clever.
Second, if the appropriate people at ESPN had any spine, not only would Limbaugh be gone, but the producer or whoever who green-lighted his hiring should very publicly be given the axe–because if he or she didn’t see this coming, then that person really shouldn’t be given so much responsibility.
And if Bodenheimer had any spine, he’d have said something more like “we’re outraged by Limbaugh’s comments, we apologize to McNabb, and we’re idiots for having hired Limbaugh in the first place.” His lukewarm statement doesn’t even bother to disagree with Limbaugh. Why not? Is Bodenheimer just as much of a racist as Limbaugh? Then have the balls to ask Limbaugh to stay. If not, then have the balls to take issue with what Limbaugh said. The watered-down statement that was issued is completely gutless.
I guess the good news overall is that now I can go back to watching Countdown, which I stopped watching because of Limbaugh–except, of course, that’s if I can stand Irvin. At least Irvin has a football background, but he’s an inarticulate train wreck who has no business being on TV. Less time to guys like him and more for Jaws and the amazing “<insert sponsor here> NFL Matchup”!
April 15th, 2005
Another gun control rant. OK, here’s the thing a lot of people on both sides of the argument seem to get: there are both sufficient and necessary conditions to enable gun violence, and ya gotta deal with all of them. What the NRA-types correctly point out is that the mere presence of firearms is not a suffient condition–and they’re right. Lots of other factors come into play, and addressing the gun issue does not address the whole problem. And shame on certain members of the gun control lobby for missing this point.
What the NRA-types miss, however, is that guns are, in fact, a necessary condition for most of the mass violence we’ve seen of late. Even with all the other problems, the first-grade kid in Michigan is still alive if the other first-grade kid doesn’t have a handgun. Yes, the shooter still has lots of other problems, but those problems don’t result in the deaths of other children without access to guns. Shame on the NRA-types for missing this point.
On the whole, with limited resources, I’d go after the neccessary conditions first.
(original date: 2000.05.10)
April 15th, 2005
I came home from playing cards on a Tuesday night, having missed the news, to discover that there had been another shooting in a school. Lots of people are dead, maybe as many as 25. Wow.
And somewhere out there, thousands, perhaps millions, of folks, including lawmakers, think that more restrictive gun control is bad. For all you folks, go ask some of the parents of the innocent children who got mowed down for no apparent reason what they think. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, not exactly a mouthpiece for the left, a gun in the home for protection is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an assailant. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the study is way off. Not 20% off, not even a more outrageous 35% off, but a radical 50% off. Gee, then a gun is only twenty times more likely to kill a family member. Lovely. Accoriding to a recent piece in Time magazine, the number of youths murdered by firearms went up 153% from 1985 to 1995.
Even given the legality of guns, fully automatic machine guns and anti-tank rockets aren’t legal for ordinary citizens. Even the NRA doesn’t push this stuff (at least, I don’t think so), so there’s some evidence that this is a reasonable policy. Presumably, because these things are really dangerous–so they should be banned. Of course, a typical deer rifle is also pretty dangerous. So where to draw the line? So here’s a radical suggestion: If an object has no purpose other than simply killing people, it should be banned. The deer rifle should be legal, and so should duck hunting shotguns, because they have more or less legitimate sporting uses beyond killing people (I won’t get started on the whole hunting thing). However, handguns are out. People don’t hunt deer with handguns. The only thing a handgun is useful for is killing another person. Handguns are small machines designed to end people’s lives–killing machines. (Sure, target pistols can be excepted.) If the sole use for an object is killing people, it shouldn’t be allowed. Period.
OK, maybe that’s simplistic. How about this: For every firearm sold to the public, a ballistics workup (e.g. firing pin signature) is done and stored in a nationwide database. When the firearm is sold, the buyer and the ballistics workup are linked. Then, if the gun is fired in the commission of a crime, then ballistics can trace the person responsible for the firearm. That person should be charged with that crime, even if they didn’t commit it–because they were a part of the crime by enabling the bearer of the firearm. For instance, in these school shootings, whoever’s guns those actually were should be charged, along with the kids, for the murders. After all, the murders wouldn’t have happened if the kids didn’t have access to the guns, now would they? This is vaguely like a CAP law, but much higher octane.
Why wouldn’t this be reasonable? This should never come into play for law-abiding gun owners, which is who the NRA claims they’re trying to protect. (Why these law-abiding citizens have needed things like teflon-coated stainless steel bullets, which can pierce Kevlar, is still a mystery.) Of course, the NRA would probably argue that innocent gun owners would be penalized if their guns were stolen. Wrong–this is overly simplistic. They would be charged. The gun owners would have the rights to a trial just like any other suspected criminal. If they can prove in a court of law that they took every reasonable measure to ensure that the gun was not used in commission of a crime (leaving a loaded gun in an unlocked drawer, for instance, wouldn’t cut it), then they’d be innocent. If you really feel the need to own a deadly weapon, you’d have to take responsibility for it. Conservatives are always going on about personal responsibility, so why shouldn’t people be personally responsible for what happens as a result of their need to own killing machines?
On a related ironic note, the Colorado legislature just passed a bill attempting to head off lawsuits against gun manufacturers by cities (according to the NRA’s website, dated April 16, 1999). Perhaps the governor, in light of current events, can see his way through not signing this into law.
(original date: 1999.04.21)
April 15th, 2005
A rant I’ve had brewing for many years: television and morality. Why is it that in the U.S., it’s OK for people to be dismembered on prime-time television, but it’s completely taboo to show a <gasp> bare breast? In Europe, it’s quite the other way around: minor nudity is no big deal, but violence is hard to find on television (other than football–err, soccer–spectators). Is it any wonder the U.S. is so far ahead in violent crime and so Medieval about the human body, when this is what we’re fed over the tube? I think the Europeans have this one way ahead of us here in the States.
(original date: 1997.05.07)