Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: July 2005 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

An Energy Bill we can live with?

Lawmakers near agreement on broad energy bill

A compromise energy bill? With Republicans in charge of the White House, Senate, Congress, and soon to be Supreme Court?

House and Senate negotiators are awaiting completion of a $11.5 billion tax package before giving final approval to a sweeping compromise energy bill that Congress hopes to send to President Bush by week's end.

I envisioned an energy bill much worse than this.

Apparently the filibuster threat prompted lawmakers to craft legislation that would avoid this pesky obstacle to passing legislation.

Bush promised an energy policy early in his first term, only to find himself opposed from both parties because of his special interest obligations to insure protection for his energy cronies.

Now, five years later he still loses the initiatives that he sought for his buddies, and the Legislature seems intent on passing an energy bill without excessive controversy.

I'm all for that.

One of my biggest objections was against protection for Big Energy from MTBE claims. Their complicity in inducing chemicals into drinking water that will harm communities due to their processes should not shield them from complaints that they are responsible for diseases that result from those processes.

This energy bill will not do that.

I also oppose drilling for oil in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. Although proponents argued that development would be limited to isolated areas, I know that between production, distribution and processing product, massive areas would be poisoned by this process.

This energy bill will not do that.

All because the legislature wants to avoid a fillibuster.

It apears that the fillibuster, although depicted as a detriment to the democratic process, is helpful to the democratic process.

It allows us to see, in it's entirety, the effects that legislation has on our daily lives. Like the effect that drilling in the ANWR would have, even though we're in the lower 48. And the effect that culpability from MTBEs has on our population.

This bill will: :

  • Provide subsidies and tax breaks for wind, geothermal and solar industries.
  • Require new efficiency standards for commercial appliances from air conditioners to refrigerators.
  • Extend daylight saving time by a month to save energy.
  • Require utilities to meet federal reliability standards for the electric transmission grid, hoping to avoid future blackouts such as struck in the summer of 2003.
  • Eases the way for more imports of liquefied natural gas by giving federal regulators final say over import terminals.
  • Provides loan guarantees and other subsidies for clean energy technologies and new nuclear reactors. It would authorize a $1.8 billion program to promote clean coal technologies.

The biggest controversy is that we will give tax breaks to utility companies that invest in alternate forms of energy.

I say, let's go for it.

If they can provide us alternate forms of enegy, let's achieve that and legislate its regulation later.

In the meantime - let's get rid of coal-powered electricity, and go from there....

We Have Lift Off!

We got back in the space game today. The liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery at 9:39 this morning (CDT) marked our first return to space since the Columbia catastrophe in February of 2003. The launch was not without it's problems, though, as the fuel tank's nose cone hit a (very inattentive and unlucky) bird, and potential debris was recorded falling away from the spacecraft when the two solid boosters seperated from the shuttle.

As we all remember, panels seperated from Columbia during liftoff in 2003, striking the wing and ultimately dooming the spacecraft during re-entry, killing all aboard and scattering the remains across East Texas.
In this case, however, we have the wisdom hard-earned from the last disaster. Unlike the last Columbia mission, the Discovery crew has been notified of the possible problems, and this mission is equipped with repair tools and materials, including "goo" (high tech term), and myriad cameras and radar technologies that can help rectify deficiencies in the integrity of the spacecraft.

They are even equipped with sample faulty tiles to practice on - hopefully not the ones that broke away during the launch. In any event, they have the means to investigate what might have broken away, and evaluate whether it can be fixed or whether they need to stay parked at the International Space Station and wait for AAA to show up.

Seriously, though - is goo, putty knives and caulking guns the best we could come up with in the high tech world of space exploration? I mean, we're talkin' space travel here. Who's our consultant, Bob Vila? You'd think we'd at least come up with something that would fasten down our thermal panels better, like superglue or something.

But, as Harry Anderson would say, "this is a money trick". Space technology is a big budget item in the U.S government. States pay little for it's support, yet reap much in economic benefit for those regions where the dollars land. Mine is one of those states, although I'm several miles away and in a different congressional district. So I'm not benefiting personally from this windfall, and can freely express my opinion on this somewhat controversial subject.

I believe that the medical research conducted in space will help advance our knowledge to help fight disease in a way that research in gravity cannot. Since our administration seems dead set against stem cell research on earth, this is our best chance to help those suffering from life threatening illnesses without massive opposition from the religious right.

Unless, during our research, we come across evidence that there is other life in the universe - because then space exploration will come to a screeching halt. After all, when faced with proof that we are not the only advanced species and therefore God's chosen ones, denial will rule the day.

In the meantime, I support space exploration and research. I believe we should repair the Hubble telescope, and continue to explore the stars and the universe around us. We can learn a lot from studying the origins of the universe and the patterns in our galaxy. With advances in understanding in these areas, we may even be able to predict potential catastrophes that could eradicate mankind, and postulate ways to prevent them.

Which is one of the ultimate goals of science: to prevent catastrophe and and preserve mankind. Even though that may not be the way of nature, which is to eliminate that which poses a threat to it's survival.

But what can I say? I'm a human. I'm obligated to preserve the human race, rgardless of nature's plan for us.

Monday, July 25, 2005

It's all a game to them anyway

Local team at bat in White House Tee ball

Bush got another photo op yesterday by attending a Little League T-ball game on the White House lawn. The game was between two teams in Little League's Challenger division, formed to allow kids with physical and mental disabilities to participate in team sports. In and of itself, it's a worthy concept. But when the Bush league uses it for political gain, that cheapens it.

The Bush administration doesn't care about people with disabilities. If it did, stem cell research would be a priority. More effort would be made to make public facilities more accessible. Programs that educate and train Americans with disabilities would receive funding, and American Sign Language would be taught in public schools.

Instead, they oppose stem cell research, cut funding for programs, and side with big bidness that accessibility cuts into profits.

And hold a T-ball game at the White House to show support for disabled kids in order to get good press and a few photos to prove how caring they are.

And I'll bet none of the participants were wearing flip flops.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sunday Funnies

"Having Alzheimer's makes things simple at Easter.
You can hide your own eggs."

"If we don't protect the few people at the very top of society so that they can continue to rip off the common folk to make billions upon billions of dollars in profits, then by God, the terrorists have already won!"

"Have you read the Koran? Do you know what these poor dupes are being promised in the afterlife as a reward for flying jetliners into office buildings? Fresh fruit, chilled water, cushy lawn furniture and dark-eyed teenage girls. Would someone at the US Information Agency please inform these people that in America they can purchase all this stuff at Walmart any time they want?!"
---John Alejandro King a.k.a. The Covert Comic

"Only intelligent people experience depression, because who can really be happy fully comprehending the hate in the world?"

"Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?"

I'd like to take advantage of this early opportunity to wish all of you an enjoyable Christmas season and a happy New Year filled with good fortune. Of course I realize this can't happen for everyone. Some of you are going to die next year, and others will be crippled and maimed in accidents, perhaps even completely paralyzed. Still others will be stricken with diseases that can't be cured, or will be horribly scarred in fires. And lets not forget the robberies and rapes - there'll be lots of them. Therefore many of you will not be able to enjoy the happy and fortunate New Year I'm wishing for you. So just try and do the best you can.

--- George Carlin

"Join the Army! Travel to exotic, distant lands.
Meet exciting, unusual people, and kill them."

"Now, normally I don't mind vegetarians, but I really hate it when they get all superior and preachy about the evils of eating meat. Once I was on a date with this girl and she was a vegetarian, and she started on me about the steak I was eating. So I looked at her and said, "If you want to only eat vegetables, that's fine with me, but the way I see it, this cow used to be a vegetarian, and look how things turned out for him."

--- Harlan Williams

The greatest lies of all time:
I love you
This won't hurt a bit
The check's in the mail
I was just going to call you
I'm on your side, you can trust me
Of course I'll respect you in the morning
We have a really challenging assignment for you
I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you

Saturday, July 23, 2005

To our brothers in Egypt

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brethren in Egypt who lost loved ones in the horrific attacks on their homeland. Having lost beloved souls in the attacks on our own soil, we understand how painful it is when cowardly fanatics kill innocent people.

To our brothers in Egypt: Do not despair. We are with you in spirit, and with other support as well. Have faith that, even when times are darkest, there are many people who support you, and will do their best to insure that you receive the help you need, regardless of ideology.

We admire your national pride and resolve. Although our cultures may differ, our humanity is the same. You are our brothers on this earth, and we feel the pain that you are feeling now.

We both defer to a higher Power, and this humble public servant will petition that Power to bring you comfort, justice and peace.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I don't know about you, but I don't feel safer...

Although these bombings are happening half a world away, they're really aimed at us. They're designed to send a message.

You're not safe, no matter where you are.

After 9/11, we knew who our enemy was. It was Osama bin Laden, and he was hiding in the hills of Afghanistan. And so we went after him, bombing that which has already been bombed numerous times since the 70s when the Taliban was our friend.

Although we failed to eradicate our enemy (bin Laden has still not been caught), Bush chose to extend our War on Terror to Iraq, fabricating evidence to make it sound like they deserved it,
in order to justify invading and occupying that country.

All to make ourselves safer. Did it work?

Security systems are in place all over our country and all over the world. Yet still, suicide bombers are able to wreak their havoc on the public.

Most of these guys would have been productive members of society had the U.S. not just put paid to Al Qaida and moved on to the economic conquest of the rest of the world.

But no, we had to declare war on all of Islam, thus enabling the self-fulfilling prophesy of Islamic Jihad and the recriutment of myriad jihadists, with no futures beyond death and paradise among virgins (which, based on mathematical probabilies could never happen,
but that's beside the point.)

So do you feel more secure since we declared war on Iraq?

I don't.
Because now instead of just the Republican Guard we're dealing with radical suicidal idealists.
I don't feel safer. Do you?

A message of hope

Viral Marketing of Hope

Amidst the ranting and raving that's thundering through the ether these days, I came across a beacon of hope for a brighter future. Richard Blair, who in his alter ego is the primary brain of the All Spin Zone, is branching out from railing against the establishment to promoting change within the establishment. His goal appears to be to acknowledge the successes of alternate ideologies that can bring about positive change in our society.

...some day soon, people in America are going to wake up to the fact that the alleged bad guy in South America (Hugo Chavez) provides quality health care for an entire country, even while 45,000,000 people in the richest country on earth can't afford to get sick.

I realize that any talk about a different ideology than standard capitalism - that the demand for products and services will provide monetary incentive for the provision of these products and services - will be met with skepticism. After all, that's what America is about, and why it became the most powerful nation on earth. But it's also why America became the most hated nation on earth (I know - it hurts, but it's true), and why the richest nation on earth has so many of it's citizens living in poverty.

It's the openness to new ideas - whether you embrace them or not - that makes this country what it is (or should be). Current American business practices encourage it's leaders to "think outside the box". It's new ideas that move us forward, and innovation that keeps even the most stubborn business managers from falling into the abyss that sunk the Soviet Union.

So while I'm a capitalist myself (in a loose interpretation of the term), I can see where these guys are coming from. Money is the great equalizer in our society. Someone who has piles of money can influence many people, regardless of his or her ideology. And as long as they have the business acumen that keeps them wealthy, they can continue to influence people.

But this country was founded on the concept of " government of the people, by the people, and for the people". At present it's government of the money, by the money, for the money. We need to get it aimed back toward the people, not the money.

We're also a nation founded on action. It's time we took action in order to lift us from this quagmire of reticence. To return our country to greatness, and take our rightful place in the world - that of a leader.

It's our only hope for a brighter future.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Legislative special session number two:
the do-over session

Apparently, contrary to what I've been hearing in the mainstream media, there's a do-over clause in our Constitution. Issues I've been railing against in the Texas Legislature as having been decided are now back to the drawing board due to the indecision on the school finance issue.

Governor Perry appears to have been good to his word in that nothing gets voted on, even if it has passed both Houses, until our education issues are decided.

So that means it's not too late. You can still contact your legislators and let them know about how you feel about:

  • Southwestern Bell being able to pick and choose which homes they'll offer discount video services to, possibly leaving out yours, and forcing you to pay higher rates because the cable companies have to make services available to everyone (and incurring higher operating costs).
  • The judicial pay raise, which would also boost lawmakers pensions.
  • Protecting homeowner rights from eminent domain claims for economic development, although that would be a waste of time because the support is unanimous. After all, which elected official in his or her right mind would oppose this? Although the exceptions in the small print may not protect you.
  • Any other issue that lawmakers want to raise during this second special session, such as banning marijuana flavored lollipops because they can lead to more serious abuse of heroin, PCP or methamphetamine flavored lollipops.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Speaking of the Supreme Court...

I don't claim to understand what the Supreme Court was thinking when they validated ELO et al. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON et al., which basically said that municipalities had the right to condemn and seize properties that stood in the way of economic development, and paved the way for private companies to kick landowners out to make room for shopping centers, marinas and anything else that would raise the tax base for local government.

The concept is simple: a homeowner pays property tax. A business owner pays property tax and revenue tax. Which is higher? You do the math.

But the issue is whether the landowner - who owns the land and probably pays income tax elsewhere - retains his rights when the municipality wants his land for something lucrative.

This is America, and screw the greedy developer who wants to kick you off your land, right? Many an old western movie was based on this premise, and Gene Autry or John Wayne set things right, with 90 minutes of entertainment thrown in to boot.

Not so in the modern world. All of the John Waynes (or Ronald Reagans and Arnold Schwarzeneggers) are on the side of the developers, and even Judge Roy Bean (i.e. the Supreme Court) says "tough luck, sodbuster. You should'na been in the way of progress".

But was this just an attempt to throw legislators a bone because of the ruckus raised over the Shaivo case? When the courts, local and national, stuck with their principles and ruled that the gubmint didn't have the authority to interfere with the rights of family, legislators got all high and mighty and demanded that the judiciary be subject to their oversight.

Could this have been an attempt to dampen the legislators rightous indignation by allowing them to legislate counters to the decision? Because the Supreme Court made it clear: state and local legislators could pass legislation that would supercede this decision. And what legislator that wants to be re-elected wouldn't jump at the chance to appear to stand up for Joe Voter?

Which is exactly what the Texas Legislators did. Senate Bill 62, which passed unanimously, will supposedly protect property owners against claims of eminent domain for economic development reasons, giving members of both parties the appearance of positive votes for homeowners rights.

There are a few exceptions and restrictions, though. For example, the protection does not apply:

  • if the economic development is a secondary purpose resulting from municipal community development or municipal urban renewal
  • if to eliminate an existing affirmative harm on society from slum or blighted areas
  • to a sports and community venue project approved by voters at an election held on or before December 1, 2005
  • if the purpose is for a gas station, convenience store, or similar facility (related to toll road activity).
As you can see, there are several special interest provisions here, but it's unclear who insisted these special interest provisions be included. In any event, it's politics as usual, and a bi-partisan legislature passed this.

Just hope that a toll road doesn't pass your property, that some local municipality doesn't decide your grass is too long and you represent a "blight", that you aren't in an area in need of urban renewal, and that you aren't in the way of a planned sports facility.

Other than that, freedom wins, and our leaders have protected your rights.

Conditional love. It's the new American way.

dubya cream: no Joy in Mudville

So the rumors were wrong when they predicted that Edith "Joy" Clement would be Bush’s nomination to the Supreme Court yesterday. Sure, she was anti-choice, pro-death and anti-consumer, but not as much so as some of the other candidates like Michael Luttig or Janice Rogers Brown. But we should have known better, since the first GOP "experiment" in female Supreme Court Justices (Sandra Day O’Connor) turned out so disastrous for them.

In their mindset, sure, Edith is a conservative. But being a woman, she’s also more likely to be swayed by those bleeding-heart issues like human rights and personal freedom.

Instead we get - surprise, surprise – a White Christian Rich Male (WCRM). And not just any WCRM (pronounced "dubya cream"), but one with a track record on personal freedom (""We continue to believe that Roe (v. Wade) was wrongly decided and should be overruled."), the environment (sympathetic to arguments that wildlife regulations were unconstitutional as applied to a California construction project), religious freedom (supports school prayer), and the police state (vehicle searches and most recently using military tribunals to try terrorism suspects held at Gitmo).

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his most talked-about decision: the infamous french fry decision. To be fair, though, he didn’t arrest the 12 year old for eating in a Washington Metrorail station, he just ruled that police didn’t violate her rights by cuffing her and taking her downtown for it. After all, it’s the rules that were screwed up, and as we all know, Judges don’t make the rules, they interpret them. It also brought attention to the absurdity of zero-tolerance policy, although that message was lost in the media circus.

Back to the present, though. Common wisdom (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) had it that Bush would nominate someone relatively moderate in order to have a better chance of getting a real wing-dinger in when Renquist is carried out of office (we all know he’ll never leave voluntarily). But apparently dubya thinks he has the support (see "dubya cream", above) to get not just one, but two wing-dingers on the court, thus ensuring that history will be permanently altered by his administration. Two more hard-right Supreme Court Justices on the bench would tip the balance, as it did in the House and Senate, let the religious right wing have control of all three branches of government, and allow decisions that would adversely affect our level of freedom and fairness.

Issues that are expected to be addressed by the next term of the Supreme Court include:

•Abortion: The constitutionality of a New Hampshire parental notification law that lacks an emergency health exception for minors. Justices could use the case to make it harder for opponents to challenge abortion restrictions.

•Physician-assisted suicide: The Bush administration's challenge to Oregon's law allowing physician-assisted suicide.

•Death penalty: Four capital punishment cases, including one that will determine when prisoners can use DNA evidence to get a new trial.

•Don't-ask, don't-tell: A test of a law that requires colleges that get federal funding to allow military recruiters. Some law schools want to bar recruiters as a way of protesting the Pentagon's "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy excluding openly gay people from military service.

•Religious freedom: The Bush administration's appeal of a church's use of hallucinogenic tea in its religious services. The government contends the tea is illegal and potentially dangerous.

•Police searches: Whether police may search a home when one occupant consents but another does not, without violating the Fourth Amendment ban against unreasonable searches and seizures.

And that's not even counting the business-related cases the new term will review, which is where the big money is for the administration and it's cronies. They want you to think it's all about ideology, but many of the Supreme Court's rulings, although less noticed in the media, affect how much money Big Bidness can make and how shafted can the little guy get.

Some issues they will likely decide (or attempt to decide) include:

  • Asbestos liability
  • Toxic waste cleanup
  • Bankruptcy
  • Personal injury suits
  • Business tax credits

Again, Big Bidness will get the mine, the little guy will get the shaft.

So the decision now for lawmakers on both sides is: take a hard line, or wait for something better. Already, tens of millions of dollars have been committed by both parties to try to either vilify or sanctify the guy. We'll likely see a barrage of ads promoting both (although likely not as much here in the dark red states).

And don't count on any earth-shattering revelations about the candidate. He doesn't seem to have the imagination to have any skeletons in his closet.

From my cheap seat, I don't see anything much better coming along - not if he (or she) is going to be nominated by a wannabe cowboy who cowtows to the religious right.

But if we don't fight this blatant attempt to staff the Supreme Court with those whose ideology will undoubtedly interfere with their ability to objectively render judgements fairly, the Bush administration will feel free to nominate a replacement for Renquist with a candidate of even more questionable objectivity.

Then again, this nomination could just be an attempt to draw attention away from the Plame investigation and Karl Rove.

But that's okay, I can multi-task. Bring 'em both on!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

On the lighter side

A Side of Rice: Condoleeza Rice says she has no desire to be President. She is perfectly happy with screwing up relations with the nations of the world without voters’ permission.

Another Side of Rice: If she did consider running for the presidency, she can be comforted by the fact that faulty intelligence is no barrier to getting elected.

Supreme Hurry: Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor resigned, setting off a flood of sodomy, abortion and flag burning. Americans wants to exercise these rights while they still can.

One Giant Blast for Mankind: NASA engineers blew up a comet on the 4th of July. It's all part of the administration's plan to seek out intelligent life in outer space and blow it to smithereens.

Burning Down the House: The House approved a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban burning of the American flag. Meanwhile, there have been no bills on energy, social security or solving the mess in Iraq. The Senate is considering a bill to outlaw useless Congressional burning of time and money.

courtesy of Comedy Ointment

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The haze is beginning to disperse...

Apparently voters are slowly staggering out of the poppy field and are beginning to realize that the Great and Powerful Oz is merely a man behind the curtain attempting to fool the masses into believing that he's a benevolent ruler.

For the first time in his presidency, Bush was rated negatively by voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll on being "honest and straightforward".

Well, duh! Progressive bloggers have been trying to point this out for years, only to have the message fall on deaf ears connected to brains that have been programmed to accept anything put forward by their righteous "values" party, which has used this blind obedience to further their own causes and those of their campaign contributors.

But now Karl Rove, Bush's closest personal advisor and architect of most of his political victories, has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He exposed a covert CIA agent in an attempt to discredit her husband, who had the audacity to question the administration's judgement in fabricating evidence to support attacking Iraq back in 2003.

At the time, Bush said he'd fire whoever was involved in leaking the information. Now that it's turned out to be his buddy, his spokespeople refuse to comment because of the ongoing investigation, even though they had no qualms about commenting about it before Rove was named as the source.

Bush, however, has suprised his supporters by not publicly stating that he trusts Rove. His spin machine is in overdrive as it attempts to paint Rove as an innocent caught in the crossfire. The fine point between innocence and illegality balances on whether Rove knew she was undercover at the time. So now Karl Rove, who masterminded the theft of two presidential elections, is unaware of political realities, and accidently breached national security because he was focused on something else - namely discrediting the husband of the person he exposed, but knew nothing about. All to protect his boss's facade of a threat to America that didn't exist.

Oh sure, Saddam was a bad guy. But the real enemy at the time was Osama bin Laden (who still remains at large, by the way). And rather than commit our dedicated service members to finding and eliminating that threat, they chose to move the "war on terror" to a new front, with fabricated evidence that led the American public to believe that Iraq was somehow connected to 9/11, and that they were manufacturing weapons of mass destruction in massive quantities that threaten us on our home front. When in reality Iraq was way behind the curve, and could barely pose a threat to their nearest neighbors who already shared their beliefs and therefore were not likely to be attacked anyway.

But I digress. Although the GOP desperately wants Bush to say "Karl Rove is a patriot, and I will stand by him no matter the circumstances", Bush has attended three press briefings where he's had the opportunity to express this, but he goes off message.

"This is a serious investigation," the president told reporters after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, where Rove sat just behind him. "And it is very important for people not to prejudge the investigation based on media reports."

The spinmasters responded that Bush really supports his friend, but was not directly asked if he supports Rove, although that's never stopped him before from not answering a reporter's question and going off on a tangent of his own. This sent the spin machine into mega-RPMs, and has caused all of the big hitters in the GOP to say that Bush really does support his friend, but just forgot to say it.

So now we have both Bush and Rove playing stupid. I've long suspected that Bush just pretends to be an idiot, with all the "nucular" and good-old-boy stuff. But I've never believed that Rove, one of the best behind-the-scenes players in Washinton in decades, would be capable of an oversight as simple as not doing his homework before attempting to destroy the credibility of a critic.

Bottom line: Rove knew what he was doing, but never thought he'd be caught because of the political atmosphere at the time. But now, that atmosphere has changed, and people are beginning to notice the smell.

And it appears that Bush is showing his true colors and quietly cutting his ties to Rove. Just as Tom DeLay has distanced himself from Jack Abramoff when he became a liability.

One can only hope that this is a trend. Because is smacks of rats deserting a sinking ship, and if this ship sinks before it does permanent harm to America, it means there's hope for us yet.

Big Bidness wins again

And I thought this issue was dead until the next legislative session in Texas. But apparently, Governor Rick Perry added it to his special session that he promised would only be about school funding until it was resolved. Of course, school funding is still unresolved, but the lawmakers have managed to raise their own pensions (although the legislation is officially about judges salaries), and now have handed Southwestern Bell the cherry they were seeking in the last legislative session. And, as usual, whenever big bidness wins, the poor folks lose.

The legislation, which was deadlocked in the regular session but passed 25-3 in the special session (kinda light turnout, doncha think?), allows phone companies to obtain a state franchise, and offer video services only where they want. Cable companies currently have to obtain municipal franchises, and as part that franchise, have to insure that every home in the franchise area has access to it's services.

So while the cable company has to build it's network to provide everyone service, phone companies can choose to only provide service to the wealthier neighborhoods, typically where higher end services are the norm. They make more money per household, and therefore can be more competitive in their pricing. Meanwhile, the cable company has to spread their network thinner, with less average revenue per household, and therefore has to charge higher rates to support the infrastructure.

So who has to carry the heaviest load here? Not the rich folks, 'cause they can switch to the phone company, and be blindly happy they live in a country where competition keeps prices low. It's the people who live in the lower economic areas, who don't have the choice, that have to pay the cost. Sure, they can switch to satellite, but will have to sign a long term contract. And with the economy the way it is, who in that group can really be sure they'll have steady income for the next two years?

The legislation also allows the phone company to set it's own rates (with some restrictions), even though it's still getting subsidies from the state. But in this area, competition will help keep costs low (hopefully) because of all the other options out there. At least I hope that's the case, and I'm not being blissfully ignorant because I have other options at my house, which I'm exercising. The only mail I get from Southwestern Bell is offers to please, please come back, and they promise they'll be better.

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Parental Guidance Suggested

The latest stink from the "decency" folks is the discovery that, with a certain download from the internet, players can alter the characters in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to appear without clothes and in suggestive positions.

I have issues with this. First of all, this game is rated M (for Mature, 17+ years of age). Yet I know of several pre-teenagers (as young as ten) who received this game for Christmas from their parents (er, sorry, Santa Claus). This, and several other games like it, enable players to acheive their goals by graphically killing police officers and innnocent bystanders for points using everything from rocket launchers to baseball bats.

Anyone who buys this game for a child needs serious parental counseling. It spells out right on the case why it's rated M.

  • Blood and Gore
  • Intense Violence
  • Strong Language
  • Strong Sexual Content
  • Use of Drugs
So even if the parents don't mind that their children are actively engaging in acts of intense violence, and experiencing the blood and gore produced by it, what about the the strong sexual content already inherent in the game? In the game, as described to me by a 12-year-old, "if you pull up next to the girls in the tight dresses, one will get in your car with you, the car will rock back and forth, and you get extra points". So apparently, if they don't understand what they're doing, it's okay.

Sexual innuendo has been in "juvenile" media for a long time. Fritz the Cat in the Seventies, Heavy Metal in the Eighties, and Tank Girl in the Nineties are all prime examples. Even in today's video games it's rampant. Just check out any beach vollyball game from the video store and you'll see racier footage than any that was considered risque in the past. So why is animated characters "gettin' nekked" so taboo all of a sudden? Is it because of the "values" being spewed by our corrupt politicians these days?

The issue here appears to be that nudity and "compromising positions" are available in a video game when extra steps are taken to activate them. Given the nature of R-rated movies (also rated for 17+), this is much less irresponsible than allowing your child to see Club Dread (also rated R for blood, gore, nudity and sexual content).

I say, if you're so adamant about your children not getting exposed to these concepts, then apply more parental supervision to your children's activities. Approve what they can watch on TV. Monitor what they view and download on the internet. Watch them play their video games occasionally, and let them know when you dissaprove of their actions ("Why are you smashing those people in the head with that golf club?"). Don't buy them age-inappropriate media (there's a reason why there are ratings on DVDs, CDs and video games). And pay attention to who they're hanging out with and what their views on the world are.

They're talking to you all the time, even if you don't realize it. They need your guidance, and your approval. Give them guidance all the time, and your approval when it's deserved. And your disapproval when necessary.

If you shirk this basic parental responsibility, still allow your children to partake of any media that comes along, and then whine about it's affect on them, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Can you say "BetaMax"?

A DVD Standoff in Hollywood

There's a battle going on in Hollywood, and it's not between Brad and Jen, or Tom and Nicole.

It's between studios, over who will prevail in the struggle over the high definition format that will become the standard for DVDs in the future.

Not getting this from entertainment rags, are you? That's because it's a silent war. Similar to the war between VHS and BetaMax decades ago. And we all know who won that war.

Although BetaMax had a better quality product, VHS prevailed on sheer numbers alone.

A similar battle looms.

Warner Brothers, Universal Studios and Paramount, which represent 43 percent of the home video market, are supporting the HD-DVD format.

Sony and Disney, with 39 percent of the market, are backing Blu-ray technology.

Blu-ray, which, like Beta, boasts greater resolution for the bandwidth, has the better technology.

But HD-DVD is merely enhacing existing digital video and is therefore more economical to produce, and is being agressive in releasing 89 movies this year in their format, hoping the public will invest in their players, made by Toshiba and NEC.

Blu-ray players, made by Sony, Panasonic and Hewlett-Packard, are still in the "beta" test stage, and will likely miss out on the initial push to Hi-Def this Christmas season, although they will probably have a better product by next year's holiday buying spree.

So those of you who remember the quality advantage of BetaMax and Apple will see a familiar trend. The lower quality, but cheaper, format will hit the market heavier than the better quality, but more expensive format, and therefore will capture market share.

Myself, I usually wait until the dust settles before I invest in high-end electronics. But if, when the dust settles, we're left with a VHS-like quality, I'll be dissapointed. But why would I buy a Blu-ray player if there's no product to play on it?

How much of the quality of our lives are limited by what the market supports? It makes one wonder.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Rove spoke to Time about CIA agent, lawyer says
White House Won't Comment on Rove and Leak

Karl Rove, the Grima Wormtongue of the Bush administration, has been outed as one of the “senior administration officials” who helped unmask Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent back in July of 2003. Although, admittedly, he didn’t mention her by name to the press, he referred to her as Joseph Wilson’s wife, and it doesn’t take a lot of investigative journalism to figure out exactly to whom he was referring.

For two years, the Bush administration denied that it was Rove, and Bush said whoever it was will be fired. Were they both lies? Probably, because Rove wields tremendous power in Washington, and Bush owes both presidential victories to him.

We’ve always known that Karl Rove is a sleaze. Now, due to the nature of his crime, he can be tried for treason. But he’ll most likely weasel out of this predicament, as he’s helped his boss do numerous times in the past.

By unmasking an active CIA covert agent, Rove put national security at risk, and during wartime no less. That he did it to retaliate against Joseph Wilson, former diplomat, for editorializing about the lack of evidence that Iraq was attempting to buy weapons-grade nuclear materials is beyond reprehensible.

One of the platforms that Bush was elected on in 2000 was that he would put honor and trust back in the White House. Now, less than five years later, we’ve dealt with lies about WMDs, false ties between Iraq and 9/11, sending America’s sons and daughters to fight and die in an unnecessary war because Bush wants to be remembered as a wartime president, and risking the life of an active CIA agent to discredit the truth. These are all tactics that demonstrate the antithesis of honor. They demonstrate this administration’s mindset of ‘victory by any means necessary and at any cost’. And I don’t mean victory against an enemy. I’m talking about victory against you and I, the average American citizens without deep-pocket special interest campaign contributions.

It’s becoming apparent that the only way we’re going to get honor back in the White House is to replace this administration.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Alms for the poor? Well, kinda sort of...

The reason for the Live 8 concert was to bring attention to the struggle to alleviate poverty in Africa and other places around the world. It was at least partially successful, as it pressured G8 leaders to commit more to the issue than they may have otherwise. This issue has been on the G8 agenda for the last several sessions, and this session committed more funding than previously, and also addressed, but didn't solve, the debt relief and western subsidies issues.

Western leaders committed, in words at least, to address the issue of debt relief for third world countries. Only time will tell how that plays out - whether it will really happen, and what strings will be attached. And suprisingly, Bush stepped forward on ending export subsidies to American farmers in order to level the playing field for third world exports. But only if other G8 countries capitulated, so it's most likely a bluff, as it's unlikely all eight countries will commit. Particularly Germany and Japan, both of whose economies are hurting.

It remains to be seen whether the African and Middle East aid committment is smoke and mirrors. There was politicking right up to the last minute before the $50 million target was reached, albeit without much help from Bush. Although the U.S. contributes most of the aid, it only amounts to 0.16 % of our national income, less than one fourth of the target suggested by Blair of 0.7%. It's also the smallest percentage of all of the G8 countries.

Bush goes to great lengths to tell everyone how much of a religious man he is, and how he lives according to the Bible. But apparently not when it comes to tithing. He'll talk the talk, but when it comes to opening his wallet (metaphorically speaking, that is. It's really our wallet. He's just using it for us), he'd rather give what's inside to the wealthy in the form of tax breaks, than to use it to help the poor. What a hypocrite.

Think about it. 0.16%. That means that for every six dollars made in the United States, we use less than a penny to help stop world poverty, hunger and AIDS. A person making, say, $15,000 annually (poverty level, especially if she has kids), that puts two dollars every week into her church's offering plate is being six times more generous than the richest nation on earth. She does it because she knows that there are others worse off than herself. She does it out of selflessness, because she cares. Because she's a Christian in deeds as well as words.

But apparently that's too much to expect from our leaders.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

So this is what it boils down to. It's not a matter of "lets fix it now, so our children don't have to deal with it". It's what can we get away with now, so our economy isn't hurt, and we can still make it sound like we care about the future.

In the historic Group of Eight (G8) conference, gee-dubya agreed to allow the wording of a document to read that climate change is due "largely", rather than "partly" to human activity. Hallelujah! Millions of dollars for conference security and hundreds of thousands of people telling conference leaders that it's time to squat or get off the pot, and this is what we get.

In retrospect, at least we have a killer concert DVD to look forward to. Granted, it won't have the mojo - thinking this would change the thinking of world leaders - but it'll still be a killer concert.

If only the people that make the decisions were in touch with the people that are affected by them, then maybe we can make the world a better place. But I guess that's too much to hope for. We'll have to settle for beureaucrats that talk (and talk), but don't walk the walk.

Zero. That's what we got. Zero sum, because that's what we've achieved. And Ground Zero, because that's where we're at. A world where our future generations will suffer and die because our current leaders won't lead.

Anyone who thinks that global warming is good for the economy is mislead. When we've depleted our natural resources, polluted our air and caused a massive climate change, we will have outlived our usefuleness on this planet.

It's not the earth we're trying to save here, it's us. The earth will get along fine without us. In the words of George Carlin, "the earth will shake us off like a bad case of fleas"

So don't let the media have you believe we've made progress through the G8 summit. At the very least, it means Bush used his good-old-boy panache to appease those who really want to make a difference. But changing a word on a document doesn't alter paradigm, and won't change corporate policy.

Nothing's changed. It's still about the money. Keep fighting, y'all.

curses, foiled gain!

Sorry, for the silence, folks, but my PC seems to be mutinying on me. Apparently, my non-electronic fun has it jealous, so it's not letting me have any electronic fun. Be back as soon as it's resolved.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Grieving for our brethren across the pond

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in London who’ve lost loved ones in the horrific attacks on the transportation system this morning.

Anyone geographically close enough to donate blood is encouraged to do so.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, it’s been more than the couple of weeks expected, but I made it back to “civilization”. I’ll need time to regroup, see wassapnin’ in the world, and stoke my righteous indignation in order to put forth some worthy rants, but for now I’ll leave you with this:

The Group of Eight summit (G-8), a meeting of eight of the richest nations on earth, begins today in Scotland. There are protests, marches and campaigns aplenty designed to bring attention to the needs of the poorest nations, and today is the day to let our world leaders know that we really, really want to make a serious effort to alleviate poverty. Apparently I missed the best concert ever, but it accomplished it's intent – to bring attention to Africa’s plight. You can help by adding your voice. Just click on the banner below and help the other 26.4 million of us who have sent messages to Bush and others saying “it’s time to stop politicking and start helping ”. It won’t cost you a dime, and hopefully will do some good.

For an in-depth, on-site view of the happenings in Edinburgh, check out one blog.