31 July 2006

We're at one of those turning points where the future's looking so ugly nobody wants to face it

This excellent in-depth Chicago Tribune series on America's oil addiction is a must-read. Definitely, a piece of journalism work not in the spirit of sound bite journalism. You might need to knock off from work to complete reading it…

Here's a snippet from Part 1:

By now, most Americans realize that something is profoundly awry in the global oil patch.

For the majority of motorists, like the "swipe and go" customers at the South Elgin Marathon, the evidence is painfully obvious: record-high fuel costs that have surpassed last year's infamous price spikes following Hurricane Katrina.

Yet to truly grasp the scope of the crisis looming before them, Americans must retrace their seemingly ordinary tankful of gasoline back to its shadowy sources. This is, in effect, a journey into the heart of America's vast and troubled oil dependency. And what it exposes is a globe-spanning energy network that today is so fragile, so beholden to hostile powers and so clearly unsustainable, that our car-centered lifestyle seems more at risk than ever.

Some other factoids in the article series:

  • In 1940, the United States was the Saudi Arabia of the world. It produced 63 percent of the planet's oil. Today, after years of frenzied pumping, it generates 8 percent.

  • The United States gulps a quarter of the crude pumped on the planet, industry critics point out, yet it sits atop just 3 percent of the globe's reserves. No amount of new drilling will change this. The awesome and costly platforms that stride ever-deeper into gulf waters are symbols of a junkie's desperation, they say, not hope.

  • In its 2005 annual report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that 58 percent of all the petroleum burned in the United States now comes from abroad. That stark dependency on outsiders, analysts say, will grow even if the last pockets of oil in America are drilled.

  • By 2015, oil experts say, African states will supply a quarter of all U.S. imports, up from 15 percent today.

  • According to the World Bank, 80 percent of Nigeria's staggering $340 billion in oil revenue has been pocketed by 1 percent of the population--a cast of thugs who include the world's most venal politicians and generals.

  • The actual cost of gasoline refined from imported oil — eight dollars a gallon, isolated to the hidden costs of Middle Eastern crude in particular, the price jumps to $11. Consumers don't dodge the bill for all these masked expenditures. Instead, they pay for them indirectly, through higher taxes, or by saddling their children and grandchildren with a ballooning national debt--one that's increasingly financed by foreigners.

  • Iraqi output still sags far below prewar levels despite a recent allocation of $1.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to patch up Iraq's decrepit oil fields. The interfactional fighting over oil is getting worse, not better.

  • Roughly half of Venezeula's government budget is funded by sales to the U.S.

Meanwhile, oil companies are enjoying record profits.

Remember, our way of life unravels when trucks don't move and computers cannot function.

30 July 2006

The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world

According to Hollywood superstar actor/director/producer Mel Gibson, who reportedly uttered those words to the arresting officer, when stopped for suspicion of drunk driving.

Coverup?. Maybe not, but there is no doubt that this is another case where the privileged are treated differently — the fact that Los Angeles County Sheriff's department refused to release photos and reports whereas if it was just a typical schmuck, their mugshot would already be pasted on a web site.

26 July 2006

Blackwater: Inside America's Private Army

An in-depth series on private military companies.
The trend toward privatizing military tasks has extended to the guys with the weapons. It's estimated that 180 security companies now operate in Iraq alone, with nearly 50,000 workers toting guns, according to government counts.

A host of factors set this stage: a shrinking military, a lingering cold sweat from 9/11, a growing distaste for the bloody sacrifice of America's sons and daughters in uniform. click here

But privatization has created a new set of unnerving realities: massive firepower falling outside the military chain of command. Companies making huge profits from war. Billions of taxpayer dollars fueling those profits.

Since 2000, Blackwater alone has claimed more than half a billion dollars in federal contracts - most of it no-bid. And that's just what shows up in public records. The nature of the industry ensures considerable privacy. Contracts are often classified, clients confidential, compounds off-limits.

In addition to the obvious issues with reliance upon mercenary forces, there are many other concerns:

  • "Blue on white violence". — U.S. troops firing on contractors, contractors firing on U.S. troops. Contractors operate independently of the military chain of command.

  • "Rules-free zone" for contractors. — No requirements that contractors obey human rights laws and operate in a culture of impunity, according to Amnesty International. Some of the interrogators accused of Abu Ghraib abuses were private contractors, none of which were punished.

  • Government ill-equipped to guard against fraud, waste and abuse. Oversight capability lacking or non-existent.

  • PMC snipers on domestic soil, shooting at Americans, shielded from murder charges. — In the Katrina aftermath, for example, PMC forces were brought in, and given authority to use lethal force.

24 July 2006

Scientists agree: The Earth is warming, and human activities are the principal cause

Wall Street Journal cites a study to refute global warming, but the author of that study rebukes the Wall Street Journal assessment in a public statement.
An Op-Ed article in the Wall Street Journal a month ago claimed that a published study affirming the existence of a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming had been refuted. This charge was repeated again last week, in a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the journal Science, and I'm here to tell you that the consensus stands. The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal — the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street Journal didn't even get my name right!)

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

23 July 2006

With an astonishing number of measures on the ballot this election, going to the polls is going to be almost like being a legislator

Blog For Arizona has assembled a Arizona Ballot Measure Guide 2006 for All Propositions

There's a ton of propositions on the ballot this year, from raising the minimum wage to providing a lottery for voters, which has drawn some national and worldwide attention.

I plan on putting together a scorecard here in the same vein, but for now, just few words on Mark Osterloh's Arizona Voter Reward Act. At first, just like most of the disdain that's been heaped on this idea, I shared. If I had my druthers, I'd rather see other means of improving turnout — a national holiday for voters and quicker voter turnaround. And cessation of mail-in balloting, except for extreme exceptional circumstances. On further thought however, what's wrong with a reward for doing a civic duty? As Mike points out in his post, it is true that many voters are already "blissful with ignorance". Maybe it would encourage folks to research the candidates and vote for who they feel is the better qualified candidate, which is what democracy is all about.

20 July 2006

Anthem is the biggest mistake ever perpetrated on the American cityscape

The Angry Geographer tackles Anthem, Arizona in a series on "Band-Aid Urbanism"
Anthem is far away from just about everything. The community's entrance is almost 35 miles from downtown Phoenix, and even farther away from the metropolitan area's main employment and entertainment centers of Scottsdale, Tempe, and Chandler. The nearest public bus stop is ten miles south. Light rail? Ha. Anthem may, in fact, be the least accessible suburban community in the entire United States. There is only one way out of the community: I-17. I'm not kidding. Anthem was designed without a single connection to the Phoenix grid system, or to any surface street whatsoever. Want to see a Diamondbacks game? I-17. Eat at a restaurant not owned by the Del Webb Corporation? I-17. Beat the inbound traffic on I-17? I-17. Del Webb's marketing literature for Anthem seems to stress some nebulous notion of "community," calling it "the grandest opportunity of all." What they don't tell you is that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAVE.

Actually, Anthem isn't that awful a place. For one thing, it has a fabulous park that in additon to featuring typical park fare of softball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, and acres of grassland, also includes a full size inline hockey rink, a groovy skateboard mini-park and a train that circuits around the park. But it is true that its development has coincided with the excessive clogging of the main artery that separates northern Arizona from the Phoenix metropolitan area. Bumper to bumper traffic on an interstate highway, and now it's not just confined to Fridays and Sundays, as is per usual in the summertime.

And Anthem isn't too far from Arcosanti, an experimental town demonstrating ways to improve urban conditions and lessen our destructive impact on the earth…

USA Steps Closer to China, North Korea, Iran

U.S. cracking down on offshore betting industry
When the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill cracking down on Internet gambling last week, David Carruthers, CEO of online gaming company Bet On Sports, was one of the most outspoken critics of the proposed law. The 49-year-old British executive has more immediate problems to worry about. Federal agents arrested Carruthers on Sunday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as he made his way from the company's offices in London to Costa Rica.

As part of a wide-ranging probe of what the American Gaming Association says is a $12 billion online gambling industry, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway unsealed a 22-count indictment charging racketeering, conspiracy and fraud against Carruthers, 10 others and four companies Monday. A warrant was sworn out for the arrest of 47-year-old company founder Gary Kaplan. U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry also approved the government's request to bar Bet On Sports from accepting bets from this country and forcing it to refund money to U.S. account holders. The FBI has ordered four phone companies to shut off service to the company.

The arrest of Carruthers, a longtime British racing industry executive who joined Bet On Sports in 2000, is setting off alarm bells in Europe and the Caribbean, where the offshore casino industry is based. Bet On Sports asked for its stock to be suspended on the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Shares of British gaming stocks, such as industry leader Party Gaming, fell Tuesday in heavy trading, wiping out more than $1 billion in value.

Basically, the U.S. government has arrested an executve of an offshore gambling company despite it being totally legal in the country where the company is based.

This, in the wake of the House action last week, in passing the bill entitled "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006".

But the legislation is very selective in its targets — lotteries, horse racing and other state sanctioned gambling are given exemptions. Tragically, the bettor is channeled into wagering types that offer much more of a percentage take for the operator. Lotteries and horse racing scoop up much more in "vigorish" than sports betting, poker or blackjack. Another flagrant illustration of rampant hypocrisy exercised by our political leaders, something we've come to expect, particulary from the party in power right now. If you're an Arizona voter keeping a legislative scorecard, Republicans Renzi, Flake, Shadegg and Hayworth all voted for this bill. Democrats Pastor and Grijvala, along with dissenting Republicans Flake and Kolbe chose not to advance the Republican "Nanny State".

More troublesome is that there are draconian provisions that threaten freedom of speech in this bill — stipulating that internet service providers regulate and censor content.

19 July 2006

It's morally wrong to destroy tissue for the purpose of science, but it's apparently not morally wrong to discard it

Congress is unable to override first ever veto by President Bush. Hence, James Garfield's record remains intact.
The House on Wednesday failed to muster enough votes to override President Bush's veto of a bill to expand federally funded embryonic stem cell research.

There is outrage over this veto, but keep in mind it's not a ban, just a block on federal funding of research. Still, the act is puzzling, considering that the vast majority of these embryos are going to be tossed into the trash, when instead they could be used to help develop life saving cures.

And the chutzpah badge for the day goes to this quote by a Focus on the Family tool:

Focus on the Family Action's senior analyst for bioethics, Carrie Gordon Earll, also registered strong disapproval, observing that "some members of Senate who should know better voted to destroy human lives -- and that goes beyond cowardice."

First, terming it "human life" is problematic here, considering that embryos don't have brains, brain tissue, neurons or any ability to think. And again, these are embryonic stem cells from surplus IVF embroys that are destined for destruction. According to recent public opinion polls, 70% of US citizens support embryonic stem cell research.

We could be soon presented with the sound of science departing these shores for more enlightened locales.

In the Arizona block of Congress critters, only Democrat House members Grijalva and Pastor, along with lone Republican Kolbe voted to override the presidential veto. Renzi, Franks, Hayworth, Shadegg and Flake declined to override President Bush. On the Arizona senatorial side, McCain voted for federal funding of stem cell research while Kyl voted nay. Something to keep in mind for the upcoming election in November.

Truly astonishing, President Bush acts to preserve the "preborn", yet puts a stamp of approval on unleashing destruction and devastation upon innocent civilians in an effort to root out "terrorism".

There is no end to the hypocrisy that just continues to gush…

18 July 2006

May your life be a message of love, joy and peace

An incredible commencement speech by high school math teacher Rob Cornell that implores graduating students to open their minds to questions about what defines a "good America".
Consider if you will the following points: Would a good America have a policy of pre-emptive war? War is a brutal and barbaric way to solve a problem. Unprovoked, we attacked a sovereign country with the headline "shock and awe." That headline should have read "death and destruction."

One of the latest justifications of the war is "We are fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here." That means we Americans are using Iraqis as human shields. Conservative estimates put the Iraqi civilian death toll at about 40,000 for our war.

Would a good America have policies that ignore longstanding international laws such as the Geneva Conventions - policies that condone torture and extraordinary rendition and allow lengthy imprisonment without rights? Would a good America, the land of freedom and equality, deny that freedom based on race, gender or sexual preference? Would a good America allow wealth to accumulate in the hands of a few while many go hungry - and then pass tax cuts and laws that strengthen this disturbing trend?

Controversial, yes. But Cornell, who was selected by a majority of students to give the speech, challenges his students to go beyond the talking points.

Many agencies, created to protect public interests, are now headed by former industry lobbyists. Has America ceased to be great? It's a question worth asking and a discussion that needs to take place. Alexis de Tocqueville also observed that it is easier for people to accept a simple lie than a complex truth. In this day of the 30-second sound bite, you are fed many simple statements. You must decide their degrees of truth.

Quite often, these statements take the form of "talking points" repeated over and over and over and over — most minds like these short, often repeated phrases. They require little effort and often reinforce our belief that America is good.

What are the complex truths? I am not telling.

Finding them is your last homework assignment, and it is not an easy one.

The media, by all accounts, is controlled by four or five major corporations. The next battle - one that is currently being fought - is over the freedom and flow of information on the Internet. I hope you will seek an in-depth source of news that pursues truth and presents all sides of any issue. Only then can you decide for yourself - and this will take much longer than 30 seconds - what parts of America are good and what parts need to be fixed.

I've always told my students that the most important thing they can take from my class is confidence in their ability to solve problems. The solution to any problem, regardless of how insurmountable it may seem, begins with the smallest step, the smallest of beginnings. Take that step and see where it leads.

I have painted for you a world in crisis, but it is not a world without hope. Crisis is opportunity. Even the smallest moment of your lives is an opportunity for you to shape the world around you. In the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The way in which you live your lives impacts the world every day. You must make conscious, informed and healthy choices with an awareness of how those choices affect the people and environment that surrounds you. Be an educated consumer.

Cornell's speech incited a flurry of reaction, but I believe it to be a great one, stressing the importance of an "open mind".

17 July 2006

An average CEO earns more before lunchtime on the very first day of work in the year than a minimum-wage worker earns all year

An average CEO makes 821 times as much as minimum wage worker, who earns a mere $5.15 per hour in America 2006. The time is long overdue for a hike in the minimum wage — it has not been increased in nearly 10 years and it's at its lowest level, measured in real dollars, in 50 years.

Of course, some will argue that a minimum wage law is unnecessary and bad economic policy. Using the same arguments deployed to defend slavery, they justify paying less than poverty wages as if the affected workers were animals or animatronic creations to be treated in inhumane fashion. Them that argue this maintain a rigidity oblivious to the fact that what exists in today's world of economics is a complex framework, where corporate entities are provided a plethora of socialized risk (i.e., the public, er taxpayers, finance loan subsidies, loan guarantees, etc.…) along with an abundance of financial handout goodies. So why shouldn't workers on the lowest rung be tossed a little coin to ensure that anybody putting forth an honest days work can beat poverty?

But workers toiling at the present minimum wage are not the only benefactors of a rise — there would be a ripple effect for workers earning "just above" the line too.

If you work, you shouldn't be poor.

11 July 2006

Fear and Anger over Iraq

A brilliant speech by Ron Paul titled "Why Are Americans So Angry?"
Though the American people are fed up for a lot of legitimate reasons, almost all polls show the mess in Iraq leads the list of why the anger is so intense.

Short wars, with well-defined victories, are tolerated by the American people even when they are misled as to the reasons for the war. Wars entered into without a proper declaration tend to be politically motivated and not for national security reasons. These wars, by their very nature, are prolonged, costly, and usually require a new administration to finally end them. This certainly was true with the Korean and Vietnam wars. The lack of a quick military success, the loss of life and limb, and the huge economic costs of lengthy wars precipitate anger. This is overwhelmingly true when the war propaganda that stirred up illegitimate fears is exposed as a fraud. Most soon come to realize the promise of guns and butter is an illusion. They come to understand that inflation, a weak economy, and a prolonged war without real success are the reality.

The anger over the Iraq war is multifaceted. Some are angry believing they were lied to in order to gain their support at the beginning. Others are angry that the forty billion dollars we spend every year on intelligence gathering failed to provide good information. Proponents of the war too often are unable to admit the truth. They become frustrated with the progress of the war and then turn on those wanting to change course, angrily denouncing them as unpatriotic and un-American.

Those accused are quick to respond to the insulting charges made by those who want to fight on forever without regard to casualties. Proponents of the war do not hesitate to challenge the manhood of war critics, accusing them of wanting to cut and run. Some war supporters ducked military service themselves while others fought and died, only adding to the anger of those who have seen battle up close and now question our campaign in Iraq.

The bickering and anger will not subside soon, since victory in Iraq is not on the horizon and a change in policy is not likely either.

Further, on the matter of the mammoth myopia of Iraq war supporters:

Due to the psychological need to persist with the failed policy, the war proponents must remain in denial of many facts staring them in the face.

They refuse to accept that the real reason for our invasion and occupation of Iraq was not related to terrorism. They deny that our military is weaker as a consequence of this war.

They won’t admit that our invasion has served the interests of Osama Bin Laden. They continue to blame our image problems around the world on a few bad apples.

They won’t admit that our invasion has served the interests of Iran’s radical regime.

The cost in lives lost and dollars spent is glossed over, and the deficit spirals up without concern.

They ridicule those who point out that our relationships with our allies have been significantly damaged.

Radicalizing the Middle East will in the long term jeopardize Israel’s security, and increase the odds of this war spreading.

War supporters cannot see that for every Iraqi killed, another family turns on us-- regardless of who did the killing. We are and will continue to be blamed for every wrong done in Iraq: all deaths, illness, water problems, food shortages, and electricity outages.

And near the end of the speech, some lucid words on The Just War Theory.

My beliefs aside, Christian teaching of nearly a thousand years reinforces the concept of “The Just War Theory.” This Christian theory emphasizes six criteria needed to justify Christian participation in war. Briefly the six points are as follows:
  1. War should be fought only in self defense;
  2. War should be undertaken only as a last resort;
  3. A decision to enter war should be made only by a legitimate authority;
  4. All military responses must be proportional to the threat;
  5. There must be a reasonable chance of success; and
  6. A public declaration notifying all parties concerned is required.

The war in Iraq fails to meet almost all of these requirements. This discrepancy has generated anger and division within the Christian community.

Wow, what an incredible statement by a principled legislator, one that stands in stark constrast to his spineless colleagues who continue to support an illegal, immoral invasion of a country that posed no threat to the United States.

Obesity in America

Animated map of obesity levels in America.

6 July 2006

Laura and I value our friendship with you.

Stated in a warm letter with birthday wishes to Ken Lay from George W. Bush. But that was when Ken Lay turned 55, back in 1997. In 2006, at a press briefing, when Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked about the President's reaction to Mr. Lay's tragic and untimely death, the reaction poses a stark contrast:
Q: What has been the President’s reaction to the death of Ken Lay?

SNOW: I really have not talked to him about it. I will give you my own personal reaction, which is that when somebody dies, you leave behind those that grieve, and I think that they deserve our compassion. But — I don’t know, what do you think would be the appropriate thing to say?

Q: I do not know. I don’t know him. The President was his friend, not me.

SNOW: No, the President has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance, and many of the President’s acquaintances have passed on during his time in office. Again, I think that it is sort of an interesting question but not answerable by me.

Reason #1310 George W. Bush is an unauthentic, fraudulent individual, proclaiming dearest friendship when Enron money was pouring into his election campaign coffers, but then discarding the fallen executive in the pure interest of political expedience. Until 2004, Ken Lay and Enron were number one on the George W. Bush career donor roll.

Indeed, a Republican culture of corruption.

5 July 2006

Proof of the collapse of American morals and the fallen character of the American people

That the American public and its elected representatives in Congress refuse to rein in the Bush regime and to hold it responsible for its monstrous crimes.

Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration, Paul Craig Roberts, with another dead on column on how the Iraq war is destroying the Army and America.

Americans who get their propaganda from Fox "News" or are told what to think by right-wing talk radio hosts are outraged at news reports that US troops planned and carried out the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman.

They are not outraged that the troops committed the deed; they are outraged that the media reported it. These "conservatives," who proudly wear their patriotism on their sleeves, dismiss the reports of the incident as a Big Lie floated by "the anti-American liberal media" in order to demoralize Americans and reduce public support for the war.

Many Bush supporters believe that truth is not on our side and must be suppressed. Yet, they support a war that is too shameful to report.

It was not the "liberal media" but the investigating US military officials who told the Associated Press that the rape and murder of the young woman and her family appeared "totally premeditated," that the soldiers noticed the woman on their patrols and studied her and her family for a week before separating the woman from her family and raping her. After having their way with her, the soldiers murdered her and tried to burn her body with a flammable liquid in order to cover up their foul deed. The soldiers' coverup attempt also involved the murder of other members of the murdered rape victim's family, including a child.

The criminals were turned in by other US soldiers who knew of the monstrous crime. According to the Associated Press (GIs eyed in alleged rape, murders in Iraq, USA Today, June 30, 2006), one of the soldiers has admitted his role in the rape and murder.

Bin-Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection

CIA: Osama Helped Bush in 04
On Oct. 29, 2004, just four days before the U.S. presidential election, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden released a videotape denouncing George W. Bush. Some Bush supporters quickly spun the diatribe as "Osama's endorsement of John Kerry." But behind the walls of the CIA, analysts had concluded the opposite: that bin-Laden was trying to help Bush gain a second term.

4 July 2006

Independence Day contemplations:
No longer the Founders' America

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across Jim Babka's thought-provoking July 4 piece "Somber Celebration":
Today is Independence Day. It's a special day, a day to remember our liberty. For those of us who are precise thinkers — committed to the Founders' principles — this day is filled with mixed emotion.

For us, it is not merely a day to shoot off fireworks, fire up the grill, or go on vacation (all of which are acceptable ways to celebrate). Sure, we appreciate those good things. But we also recognize what's been lost, for our Founding Fathers left us a tremendous legacy.

We had a federalist system of republican government, with peace and tranquility because we had a government limited to enumerated powers that maximized citizen representation and honored individual liberty. ...

... Those who are responsible for the destruction of [these] American values — [these] constitutional principles that made this nation a thing of beauty — may piously place their hands on their heart or give stirring speeches on patriotism, but they do not love America.

They don't even miss her.

But today, on her birthday, I will remember.

Today, I will think fondly of America's possibilities. I will hope that America reclaims its heritage. And I will pray that we stop "exporting democracy," but instead return to being that nation that serves as "a shining city on a hill" — that "lifts its lamp beside the golden door."

And I hope you will join me in my thoughts, my hopes, and my prayers.
I love fireworks, but I hate the tendency since Gulf War I of Fourth of July fireworks shows to blindly genuflect to whatever military adventurism we're pursuing at the time — especially today, to radio simulcasts of Toby Keith crowing (to no camel-jockey in particular) "We'll put a boot up your ass, it's the American way." Quoth Babka:
Today, the celebration will be about our war. Many will honor our troops and pray for their safety, content with the false notion that those brave men and women (and they are brave) are fighting for our freedom, when they are doing nothing of the sort.
In the piece cited above, Babka refers to an excellent Joseph Sobran article from October 2001 — immediately following 9/11 — called "Patriotism or Nationalism?" And a companion to that is Sobran's May 2003 "Patriotism, Mom, and the Bums" — the "Bums" being the former Brooklyn Dodgers, whose fans continued to love them "through the long years when the Yankees were always winning the World Series and the Dodgers were taunted for losing." I hope you'll read these important, eye-opening pieces — even read them aloud to your family and pass them along to friends and relatives. And I hope that God will use them to stir up a longing in Americans' hearts for a return to a godly national humility.

3 July 2006

It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes.

Senator Ted Stevens with a jaw dropping speech on how the internet works, in defense of his vote against net neutrality.

Arthur Clarke once said: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and indeed, our senators conceive of the internet as a mysterious metaphysical entity. Normally, I would just discard the ramblings of an uninformed U.S. senator on the topic, but that senator happens to be the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Yes, it's a gross misunderstanding of what the internet is. Again, this is serious business, as the founder of the web, Tim Berners-Lee has detailed.

Net Neutrality is NOT asking for the internet for free.

Net Neutrality is NOT saying that one shouldn't pay more money for high quality of service. We always have, and we always will.

There have been suggestions that we don't need legislation because we haven't had it. These are nonsense, because in fact we have had net neutrality in the past -- it is only recently that real explicit threats have occurred.

Control of information is hugely powerful. In the US, the threat is that companies control what I can access for commercial reasons. (In China, control is by the government for political reasons.) There is a very strong short-term incentive for a company to grab control of TV distribution over the Internet even though it is against the long-term interests of the industry.

Yes, regulation to keep the Internet open is regulation. And mostly, the Internet thrives on lack of regulation. But some basic values have to be preserved. For example, the market system depends on the rule that you can't photocopy money. Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.

Join the fight for internet freedom.

When we talk about globalization, it's not only globalization of goods and services; it's people and their history, including incubating diseases

Another dark side fo globalization, an "externality" incurred by Americans both in terms of physical health and taxpayer cost.
The virus landed in Boston on April 26, a Wednesday. It was brewing inside a young computer programmer who had flown in from India, brought over for his expertise by a financial services company headquartered in the city's tallest skyscraper.

He went to work on the 18th floor of the John Hancock Tower, and on May 5 the hallmark symptoms of measles began to appear: fever, cough, rash. Then, like a stone tossed into a lake, the disease rippled outward, with measles striking a half-dozen other workers at Investors Bank & Trust, five on the same floor.

By last week, four additional cases of the potentially lethal illness had been confirmed. Their link to the programmer is more tenuous, but city health authorities say they believe that all 11 cases in the state's first measles outbreak since 1999 can be traced to that single visitor.

The result: The state has distributed or ordered 23,000 doses of measles vaccine, at a cost of nearly $400,000. Hundreds of people at three workplaces have been ordered to stay home until they can prove they aren't susceptible or until they have passed the incubation period for the disease. And disease detectives have scoured medical records, examined office air-flow patterns, and conducted dozens of interviews in their quest to understand and stop the outbreak.

While I don't subscribe to the all-out hysteria ventured by some on this matter, it is an aspect of immigration and globalization that is hardly acknowledged, but a truth that places a cost on natives in more than one manner.