Thursday, February 28

AT&T's aspiration is to become the robber-baron of the telecommunications industry

"AT&T and other big telecom carriers want to replace the portions of their networks that still use circuit-switching technology with equipment that uses Internet Protocol (IP) to route voice and data traffic. But because the FCC previously decided that it has no direct authority over communications networks that use IP, this otherwise routine technological upgrade could lead to a state of total deregulation. 
"We are already living with the consequences of the FCC IP decision: an uncompetitive broadband market. Our broadband providers enjoy the kinds of high profit margins that would make a 19th-century robber baron blush. And our ability to use these networks to communicate openly and freely is under constant assault. Meanwhile, consumers in other countries not only have better access, but they pay far less for far better services."
Here's How AT&T Is Planning to Rob Americans of an Open Public Telco Network (Wired)

Wednesday, February 27


An inquiry into 'that which is not designed'...recognizing that design can sometimes obstruct or detract from function and beauty...examining human constructions that have zero focus on aesthetics.

Tuesday, February 26

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom

I love this quote from Stephen Colbert:
"Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying 'yes' begins things. Saying 'yes' is how things grow. Saying 'yes' leads to knowledge. 'Yes' is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say 'yes'."

Monday, February 25

What type of activism actually works?

I found these comments from Reddit user 'Lighting' interesting:
"...some of the largest protests ever (the pre-Iraq war) protests were not successful, the WI protests did not stop the GOP from pushing through legislation, OWS has changed nothing, etc.  
"But what HAS been successful ... 
"First: Look at what MLK did. 
"King led protest marches that were intended to get people arrested SO THAT HE COULD CHALLENGE THE LAWS IN COURT. The protests were just a means to an end. The strength of what MLK did was in boycotts and legal challenges... not the demonstrations themselves. 
"Second Look at Gandhi: 
"Gandhi's protests were things like the 'salt march' which was a boycott. In the US schools teach kids that Gandhi just had people sit around with demonstrations and get beaten and it suddenly changed people's minds. NO. It was activities that were not physically violent but where economically violent that had HUGE economic and legal impacts. Under his direction British revenues were crippled. Dropped some 40%. The guys in charge looked at their pocketbooks and said 'we're losing money, we're out of there.' That is what got stuff done. 
"US kids have been taught that the demonstrations by themselves did something. They grew up and now think that's the way to get things done. They have been misled on PURPOSE to get those same caring people to waste energy on activities which do NOT stop things. In fact I can't think of ANY demonstration in recent times that changed ANYTHING. 
"It is activities which affect the pocketbook or legal challenges which are effective. Nothing else."
Link to original post

Friday, February 22

The value of boredom

"…being bored is a moment of time where your brain can reset itself and allow for new and innovative ideas to flow through, which can then be put into action… Boredom, it turns out, is an endlessly fascinating subject…and good for us."

Thursday, February 21

And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can,

but because they should.

The Internet shows us "what it thinks we want to see"

"...99 percent of us live on the wrong side of a one-way mirror, in which the other 1 percent manipulates our experiences. Some laud this trend as 'personalization'—which sounds innocuous and fun, evoking the notion that the ads we see might appear in our favorite color schemes. What we are talking about, however, is much deeper and significantly more consequential.
"For example, federal regulations make it illegal to discriminate in pricing access to credit based on certain personal attributes. But, as Natasha Singer recently reported in the New York Times, technical advances in mining online and offline data have made it possible to skirt the spirit of the law: companies can simply not make any offers to less credit-attractive populations. If you live on the wrong side of the digital tracks, you won't even see a credit offer from leading lending institutions, and you won't realize that loans are available to help you with your current personal or professional priorities." ...
"...the Internet shows us 'what it thinks we want to see' by serving up content that matches the hidden profiles created about us based on our daily online interactions. This behind-the-scenes curation reinforces our political points of view through online 'echo chambers' that affirm, instead of challenge, what we already believe to be true. As Harvard University scholar Cass Sunstein has written, liberals and conservatives who deliberate questions openly only with people of the same political stripe become more confident and extreme in their views."
From The Rich See a Different Internet Than the Poor in Scientific American

Wednesday, February 20

The collateral costs of high incarceration rates

One in every 28 children in America has a parent behind bars, up from 1 in 125 twenty-five years ago. The United States has the world's highest incarceration rate, and it's likely that many inmates are being held in prison much longer than they should. From a 2010 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts:
  • Before being incarcerated, two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children. 
  • After release, former male inmates work nine fewer weeks annually and take home 40 percent less in annual earnings, making $23,500 instead of $39,100. That amounts to an expected earnings loss of nearly $179,000 through age 48 for men who have been incarcerated.
  • Of former inmates who were in the bottom of the earnings distribution in 1986, two-thirds remained there in 2006, twice the number of non-incarcerated men.
No one is suggesting that leniency is necessary for all criminals of all types. But given the expense of incarceration, and the seemingly increasing rate of it, even for small crimes, it's apparent that something in the justice system is broken. 

Tuesday, February 19

An observation on the social media ecosystem

Physical reality: connection by proximity. Facebook: connection by propinquity. Twitter: connection by predilection and proclivity.

Thursday, February 14

Will we have the foresight to face the world's problems squarely, or instead retreat from them into superstition and ignorance?

Tim O'Reilly writes:
"...we may find technological solutions that propel us into a new golden age of robots, collective intelligence, and an economy built around "the creative class." But it's at least as probable that as we fail to find those solutions quickly enough, the world falls into apathy, disbelief in science and progress, and after a melancholy decline, a new dark age. 
"Civilizations do fail. We have never yet seen one that hasn't. The difference is that the torch of progress has in the past always passed to another region of the world. But we've now, for the first time, got a single global civilization. If it fails, we all fail together."
The Rise Of Anti-Intellectualism And The End Of Progress (

Wednesday, February 13

Climate change has entered the mainstream as a potential threat to U.S. national security

A recent Harvard report examines the implications of extreme weather and climate change:
"Increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, severe storms, and heat waves have focused the attention of climate scientists on the connections between greenhouse warming and extreme weather. ..."
"Changes in extremes include more record high temperatures; fewer but stronger tropical cyclones; wider areas of drought and increases in precipitation; increased climate variability; Arctic warming and attendant impacts; and continued sea level rise as greenhouse warming continues and even accelerates. These changes will affect water and food availability, energy decisions, the design of critical infrastructure, use of the global commons such as the oceans and the Arctic region, and critical ecosystem resources. They will affect both underdeveloped and industrialized countries with large costs in terms of economic and human security. ..." 
"'Our critical observational infrastructure is at risk from declining funding,' added co-lead author D. James Baker, Director of the Global Carbon Measurement Program at the William J. Clinton Foundation and former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 'Without that knowledge, the needs of civil society and national security for mitigation and adaptation will go unmet.'"

Tuesday, February 12

How to properly identify "Right-Wing Nutjobs"

Our special correspondent outlines tips on identifying right-wing nutjobs:

Key characteristics of a #RWNJ:
  • Value beliefs over evidence ("dogmatism")
  • Intolerant of ambiguity—always seeking "black & white" definitions.
  • Closed-mindedness
  • Very low tolerance for uncertainty
Remember kids, knowing is half the battle! 

Monday, February 11

Perverse thinking: Further impoverishing the poor to teach them self-reliance

State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) wants to reduce welfare benefits for families whose students perform poorly in school:
"...current Tennessee law already stipulates that parents whose children do not attend school can lose 20 percent of their benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Campfield’s bill 'raises the penalty to 30 percent of benefits' if a child isn’t making 'satisfactory' progress in school, he wrote."
I cannot think of a better way to respond to this than Twitter user @linewrench: Further impoverishing the poor to teach them self-reliance doesn't make sense to anyone except the GOP.

Tennessee lawmaker wants to cut welfare benefits for bad report cards (Washington Post)

Friday, February 8

Republicans have moved so far to the right, their former views are now considered "left"

It's hard to believe that this is from the Republican party platform of 1956:
On Labor and Wages: The platform boasted that “the Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen’s compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.” It called for changes to the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act to “more effectively protect the rights of labor unions” and to “assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex.” 
On Welfare and Health: The platform demanded “once again, despite the reluctance of the Democrat 84th Congress, Federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.” It emphasized the need to continue the “extension and perfection of a sound social security system,” and boasted of the party’s recent history of supporting “enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.” 
On Civil Rights, Gender Equality, and Immigration: The platform supported “ self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia.” With regards to ending discrimination against racial minorities, the party took pride that “more progress has been made in this field under the present Republican Administration than in any similar period in the last 80 years.” It also recommended to Congress “the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.” Its section on immigration actually recommended expanding immigration to America, supporting ”the extension of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in resolving this difficult refugee problem which resulted from world conflict.”

Thursday, February 7

Jesus illustrates the absurdity of supply-side ("trickle-down") economics

"Shouldn't you feed the lepers, Supply-Side Jesus?" -- "No, Thomas, that would just make them lazy." -- "Then shouldn't you at least heal them, Supply-Side Jesus?" -- "No, James, leprosy is a matter of personal responsibility. If people knew I was healing lepers, there would be no incentive to avoid leprosy." 

Al Franken's Supply Side Jesus - one of my favorite things on the Internet (YouTube)

Wednesday, February 6

Reason makes us human

"…it is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with his limbs, but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs."
From Aristotle's Rhetoric, Book I, Chapter 1

Tuesday, February 5

Bad Food & Bad PR Go Together: Applebee's Social Media Fail

In case you've been living in a cave for the past week, you've heard about the waitress who was fired from an Applebee's restaurant posting a "no-tip" receipt online. In short:
"A waitress at a St. Louis Applebee's lost her job for posting online the receipt upon which a pastor had declined to leave a tip, with a snarky note saying she gave God 10 percent. 
"After her dinner on Jan. 25, Pastor Alois Bell crossed out the automatic 18 percent tip charged for parties of more than eight. "I give God 10% why do you get 18," she wrote above her signature. 
"Employee Chelsea Welch — a colleague of the stiffed server — took a picture of the receipt and uploaded it to the online site Reddit. She subsequently lost her job, an Applebee's spokesman confirmed to, for violating a customer's privacy."
Web journalist R.L. Stollar has compiled an amazing, blow-by-blow account of what appears to be nothing less than Applebee's corporate PR department descending into madness:
"...the Internet is laughing. And Applebee’s is losing a lot of customers. After personally reading thousands and thousands of comments, I have seen businesses and non-profits and families and individuals all say they are boycotting or even canceling reservations or changing locations for regular business lunches and dinners. Surely there was a better way to handle this..."
The publicity blunder has been getting massive amounts of attention, and even the self-proclaimed Franchise King had a few things to say on the matter. The Internet usually has a very short memory. If Applebee's would just shut up, things might take care of themselves.

Monday, February 4

Scenes from the digital divide: Planning your day around free access to the internet

"Cheap smartphones and tablets have put Web-ready technology into more hands than ever. But the price of Internet connectivity hasn't come down nearly as quickly. And in many rural areas, high-speed Internet through traditional phone lines simply isn't available at any price. The result is a divide between families that have broadband constantly available on their home computers and phones, and those that have to plan their days around visits to free sources of Internet access."
The Web-Deprived Study at McDonald's (Wall Street Journal)

Friday, February 1