Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ho-ly crap

Pelosi really railed on Bush today. Ha. She's the first Democrat I've seen in a while with real balls.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Agitations over Internet Ownership

There's been a lot of discussion recently about allowing major Internet backbone providers charge ISPs for the content transferred over their networks, and otherwise take more control of how their backbones are used. They're like the ISPs of ISPs, and they want the right to control your use of their bandwidth in addition to charging you for it. This isn't entirely new, as many ISPs have had certain policies dictating acceptable use; however most local ISPs don't offer services that compete directly with other uses of their bandwidth.

I'm doubting Verizon would be too thrilled to continue allowing VoIP through their networks if they could force users to pay for Verizon wireless instead. And Time Warner would prefer you pay for their movies-on-demand instead of using a third-party internet streaming service for the same purpose. More paranoia can be found here: Save The Internet. And while it seems that this administration is favorable to large corporations, and is not likely too concerned about monopolistic practices, that's not my biggest concern.

My concern is that organizations like AT&T will continue underhanded tactics to curry favor with the government at the expense of their customers' privacy. In my opinion this is the real reason the government is so keen on consolidating access and desensitizing the public to having freedoms retracted. And to my libertarian friends: please tell me how "letting the free market decide" will have any positive effect on our civil liberties?

Windfall profits tax on oil?

I've seen some discussions on a windfall profits tax for energy companies that make obscene profits from supply and demand. I've not made up my mind by any means on this, and I'd love some feedback. I certainly can't blame the energy companies for making money so easily off the insatiable demand of Americans for gas, since we have done so little individually to wean ourselves. However I'm concerned that the supply/demand effect has disproportionately affected the lower class and those whose livelihood depends on gas.

One blog I read called the Global Economy has a very fiscally conservative stance, with many positions I disagree with. But this analysis is interesting nonetheless.

Here was my reply (not yet posted on his site):

I'm open to debate on this topic, but I was under the impression that the energy industry has does very little to reinvest their windfall profits these last few years. Places where money should most visibly be spent in my opinion are:
  • local exploration, to reduce dependence on foreign oil
  • improving extraction of oil from difficult local sites, including those that appear "exhausted" or others that were abandoned before the technology improves. This means more focus on recent advancements like the improvement of extraction from shale and other porous mediums.
  • improving biodiesel refining process, and discovering similar alternative ways to create distillates used in plastics and other petroleum products
  • improving local refining capacity
  • distributing local refining capacity so we aren't so vulnerable to future hurricanes
Which of these are they investing in, and in what proportion to their profits?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

An explanation for Engrish!

I've worked on software localization in the past, and I always wondered why native Japanese speakers would use 'r' and 'l' interchangeably, but it never occurred to me that they are processed as identical sounds by the Japanese brain. I can definitely relate from having studied Arabic, which frustrated me to no end in trying to distinguish the subtle differences between certain consonants. This article from my Alma Mater actually starts by discussing 'pin' and 'pen' pronunciations in various American dialects. Very interesting!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tiresome one-liners from Kinky "the Cigar" Friedman

My respect for Kinky dwindles every day. Please post something good about him if you know of an interesting position he has, because I've heard very few.

Before I go on, I'd like to say that if Kinky didn't want his quotes taken out of context, he would have stopped using one-liners in his interviews and public statements. In fact, there's almost no context in which to place a Kinky quote. Here's a selection of choice quotes (commentary is mine):

  • I'm not pro-life, and I'm not pro-choice. I'm pro-football!
  • The Ten Commandments being taken out of the public schools. I want them back.... I want them back, they belong there.
  • I'll tell you right now. I'm for prayer in school.
  • It's not right for one atheist to throw prayer out. (obsessed a little, no?)
  • Throw 'em in prison and throw away the key, and make 'em listen to a Negro talking to himself. (in response to his preference for handling of criminals)
  • I was for Bush in 2004 ... he's a good man.
Most quotes came from the "Stop Kinky" blog which I read occasionally, but I've heard these quotes in several other discussions. One analysis of theirs that I'd like to point out is that Kinky is dishonest when he claims not to be a politician. To wit:
  • First, he has previously run for office as a Republican.
  • He voted for Bush in '04 (see above).
  • He is going the independent route as a political calculation. He's at the bottom of the pack in recent polls, and would not have made it past the GOP primaries. His only hope at this point seems to be name recognition, since there's no discernible platform as far as I can tell.
  • Running as independent despite any real ideological independence from Republicans is a political calculation from someone claiming to be an outsider to politics. Interestingly, from the Fox 7 News analysis I posted earlier it appears that Kinky's outlandish behavior and disregard for political correctness (which can at times be amusing and refreshing) may siphon more Democrats than Republicans from the two party lines, at best counterbalancing the vote-splitting that Carole "Foghorn" Strayhorn is doing to the GOP. Since he announced his candidacy before Strayhorn it's not likely that this aspect was planned, but regardless it seems to me that his candidacy weakens the Democratic party more than the GOP. Perhaps that's all he really wants?
Thoughts? I still have a lot of research to do before I decide which candidate I'll support, and I'm certainly open to the possibility that all that I've read so far has been nothing more than partisan mudslinging. Any perspective from the other side?

Chris Bell stands a chance?

Chris Bell, the Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, has posted a link to an analysis by local news channel Fox 7 which is favorable to him. Of course he'd not have posted otherwise, but the analysis itself is interesting, even if just to note what kind of exposure this is getting in local news. Perhaps the cynical stay-at-home Democrats in this formerly blue state will allow themselves to hope once again?

I'm increasingly inclined to vote for him as a means of enacting some change in Texas. The position of Texas Governor is largely symbolic, with relatively little power in that seat. But as a symbolic demonstration of Democratic unity, I'm all for it. Breaking down cynicism and apathy may be the only way we can start winning the local elections that matter more. Perhaps all politics is not local?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Alluring Scam (or at least a time-waster)

I received a letter from a company called "Western Express", for which I could find no definitive information online. The letter claimed I was a prize recipient, and that I should call them to discuss how to claim my prize, but nowhere did they explain with whom they are affiliated, nor did the give a hint at what the catch was. Out of curiosity I called and asked (since I'm trying to beef up my bullshit detector, having been a somewhat naive person my whole life). They explained that I would have to take a tour of their properties in an area outside of New Braunfels, which I'm sure is quite lovely. However I have no intention of buying, and the $500 minimum prize was too large for me to think they were serious when they claimed it was essentially payment for good word-of-mouth advertising.

I spoke with Nasium about this since he is wise beyond my years, and he gave the impression that this scheme is not unlike rebates or other awards: the confusing fine print and extra effort required will disqualify most participants. I spoke to my Dad afterwards and fed the story to him piecemeal to see how quickly his bullshit detector went off. Right into it he knew what this was all about, but maintained that it's definitely still possible to get the prize. It just requires guarded participation, a jaundiced eye on the fine print, and a willingness to walk away empty handed if they ask too much of you (e.g. SS#, CC#). The latter is why I chose not to participate.