Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are you out there?

How do you express yourself?

Decorate your front door. Write a real estate newsletter. Knit wool slippers. Wear a mini-skirt, reading glasses and thick tights. Run for school board. Paint a portrait. Give a speech. Photograph a stranger. Play a banjo. Harass your elected official. Be a blogger.

Expression sets us apart and keeps us alive.

Does it matter who sees the door, wears the slippers, hears the banjo or reads the blog?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eye is for Internet: the wonders of DPI

The debate over net neutrality is about more than just potential discrimination on the Internet and the wisdom of legislating a government mandate that all data traffic be treated the same.

Net neutrality is more than weighing the pros of regulation to insure access to content, applications and services of our choice, with the cons of potentially stifling needed investment in infrastructure because turning a profit under such a regulatory regime might be threatened.

It turns out net neutrality is also about deep packet inspection.

You haven't heard of DPI? It's sort of like cloning. A fine example of amazing science and technology, with a hint of Frankenstein.

DPI simplistically stated is a bunch of tools that network operators can install to collect data about traffic on their pipes. Not just run-of-the-mill data, but really deep and highly personal data. For you techies, OSI Level 7 deep. The digital equivalent of those X-ray glasses sold in the back of comic books that see through peoples' clothes.

Benevolent uses of DPI include identifying viruses, collecting data for business purposes and assisting law enforcement track down criminals.

Malevolent uses include spying on users like you.

Yup, network operators who spend millions for DPI can, in addition to managing traffic for business reasons, peek in to your email, chart your video habits and keep records of the various applications you use.

As the FCC refines and vets ideas in the current rulemaking process, the question of whether consumers have a right to be free from Internet Provider eavesdropping under the net neutrality rubric is an interesting one.

Senator Snowe is Net Neutral and Free

The Federal Communications Commission under the leadership of Chairman Genachowski, an Obama appointee, voted unanimously last Thursday to codify net neutrality rules over the coming months. This makes many Democrats happy and is supported enthusiastically by Google and Facebook, big users of networks that stand to lose a lot if telecoms start directing traffic on the Internet to give fast lanes to special applications and push competitors or bandwidth pigs to the slow lane.

On the same day Republican Senator John McCain introduced legislation titled the "Internet Freedom Act" to block the FCC's proposed net neutrality rules, calling such legislation a "government takeover" of the Internet.

So where does our good Republican Senator Snowe come down?

She believes net neutrality rules are necessary "as these fundamental protections are critical to ensuring Internet freedom and openness." Snowe herself introduced net neutrality legislation in the last Congress.

Freedom's just another word for...??

Friday, October 23, 2009

Community Connections

You walk in to a coffee shop warm full of people as bells ring on the door and espresso machines hiss and plates and cups sing and people on lap-tops in green glasses shaped liked parallelograms read the New York Times, legs crossed, and you feel flirty and alive.

And you log on to Facebook in sweat pants in your office in the morning with a cup of coffee as your dog gently snores to scroll through status posts, add Friends, carefully study photographs of artichokes and faces of cousins and children while you yearn for parents and grandparents as you write and rewrite a comment.

And you pull out your one pair of seersucker pants and white shirt with the American flag on front to march in the 10 minute Memorial Day parade behind the Veterans alongside the school board in front of the middle school band with your daughter throwing candy to bystanders clapping as you pass the town hall gussied up in bunting heading to the monument to hear In Flanders Fields and the Gettysburg Address.

And you Google hotels in Paris and click L’Hotel Vignon that brings you to a page with beautiful piano music and intriguing photos and you remember the cafĂ© filled with French words and Salade Nicoise and cigarette smoke.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pingree and Michaud Differ On Net Neutrality

Maine’s two members of the U.S. House appear to be on different teams in the net neutrality game in advance of the FCC announcing its much anticipated draft regulations tomorrow.

Congresswoman Pingree continues to favor regulation that will “assure baseline rules that allow consumers to access the lawful internet content of their choice, run applications and services of their choice, connect to their choice of legal devices, and ensure competition among network providers and content/service/application providers.”

Congressman Michaud on the other hand wants the FCC to continue to rely on the “exercise of regulatory restraint.” He along with 71 other members have a strong belief that “continued progress in expanding the reach and capabilities of broadband networks will require the Commission to reiterate, and not repudiate, its historic commitment to competition, private investment and a restrained regulatory approach.”

Net neutrality generally refers to Internet providers treating all data over the Internet the same, and prohibiting discrimination against content or applications. With net neutrality Internet providers can't restrict or delay access to any sites.

For the most part we all enjoy net neutrality now. It enables us to connect to the Internet with the device of our choice and have unfettered access to any application available, whether its Skype that might use a bunch of bandwidth or email that uses very little.

Proponents of net neutrality believe that incumbent telecom companies will use their market share to effectively block out competition and thwart innovative start-ups. The “little guy” will take a back seat and get slower connections and be blocked from accessing applications that might compete with a product associated with the network owner. Regulation is necessary, some say, to insure Internet neutrality remains to be the case, and can be enforced by the FCC.

The fear of some opposed to Internet regulation is that as technology evolves and more people and products enter the market, companies that invest in telecommunications infrastructure may legitimately want to manage their network traffic to offer different products to different consumers. Some use the example of Fed Ex. You can pay a premium to get a package delivered overnight to Machias on Saturday, or you can send it via the U.S. Mail and have it delivered next month.

In the Internet world, users of video applications have different bandwidth needs than consumers who only access the net to do email. A company that wants to offer premium packages to video consumers selling speed of connection at a price, and a different package to consumers of just email capability, would be prohibited from doing so under strict net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality was for a while a partisan battle. Democrats including President Obama made it a rallying cry. As the battle heats up differences of opinion within the caucus are emerging. It should be yet another interesting fight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

You Lie!

All hope for Shepard Fairey is gone.

Revelations that Fairey lied about stealing an AP photo to make his famous Obama poster are disturbing, especially since he sued the Associated Press seeking a declaratory judgment that he was entitled to use the image under the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law.

It is not fair.

This poster was symbolic of a monumental struggle for many Americans, including myself. I remember the summer evening we were having dinner and interrupted by a knock at the door. A man bearing the poster as a gift was outside. He had driven past our house where various campaign signs were hung before the Beach to Beacon road race in August of 2008 when 5000 people were expected to run by.  This man offered the poster as a gift to us to be hung in solidarity.

I was a Hillary Clinton delegate from Maine at the time getting ready for the Denver convention, where Barack Obama was expected to win the nomination. My town had overwhelmingly supported Obama. My kids were on the fence, so to speak. They knew how passionate I was about Hillary but were excited by Obama.

I thanked the man. My husband put the poster in a frame and hung it on our fence. It was a transformational moment for me. I felt part of the movement.

The poster remained prominently displayed in our kitchen for the remainder of the election season. I went off to Denver and returned wearing an Obama t-shirt and handing out the Shepard Fairey posters. My family cheered and cried when Barack Obama was elected and the poster now hangs on my 14 year-old son's wall.

Shepard Fairey created an icon and generously gave it to the world to use without restriction. For that we can be grateful.

The good Shepard went bad when he lied, transforming hope in to another golden calf. For that we are very sad.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Glenn Beck's Company Town

Glenn Beck is stinking rich and hates unions. He makes millions while his fans work for him for free. Meanwhile his good buddy Rush has been shut out by the NFL players' union and is indignantly playing his rejection up to hysterical proportions in order to squeeze out every penny from the story.

Oh, to be a right-wing fat cat! Forget about making billions at Goldman Sachs. A union-hating radio uber-man is the job to love.

Beck already has a couple notches in his belt for taking down Van Jones and ACORN, and now he's got SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, is his scope ready to pull the trigger as soon as he gets his ducks in a row.

It shouldn't be long.

He has called forth his minions on the air and commanded them to Google their hearts out and unearth unsavory information about SEIU's 2.1 million members. It's likely a handful of scandals will emerge about rogue janitors, greedy doctors or underperforming teachers. Moreover, certainly somebody in SEIU has been in attendance at a meeting with President Obama, so the link will be made.

Once the dots are connected on Beck's blackboard say sayonara to SEIU.

These poor suckers, I mean listeners, are going to spend hours doing mindless searches on their computers for absolutely nothing except the thrill of having Beck and his producers use the information in their quest to take down SEIU like a buffalo. Maybe they will get a virtual hug or a postcard from their charismatic leader. Beck will then reveal the stories with embellishment and fanfare on his show, shed a few big tears, and talk about his love of country and painful search for the truth.

Tears of joy! More money for Machiavellian Man.

Glenn Beck asks volunteers to do his smut-gathering, shapes the information with his fat little hands to fit his conspiracy theory, and rakes in the mulah. Melodramatic radio and television shows "connecting the dots" between President Obama and every bad person alive is a lucrative business.

Of course Beck hates unions! If his underlings were organized, Beck would have to pay them for their time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Liz Cheney - Sowing the Seeds of Fear

Did you know that for just $99 you can get a pail of seeds to plant a one-acre "survival garden?"

"Without the ability to grow your own food next year, your family may be in danger," says the commercial for Survival Seed Vault, a regularly featured ad currently starring on conservative talk radio. The picture on the company web site features an elderly woman pushing an empty shopping cart down a deserted grocery aisle along with the question: "What will your family eat when the grocery shelves are empty?"

Gosh. Like we don't have enough to worry about. Anyone who read the Sunday Times magazine a few weeks ago about anxiety is wondering if they or their children have a thick cortex. Most of us worry about our dwindling savings accounts, aging parents and declining memories. Close to 10% of Americans are without a job.

But growing our own food? Next year? Please.

Heirloom Organics, the company pushing the Survival Seed Vault is either really, really paranoid or just capitalizing on the fear-mongering movement made popular these days by right-wing hawks. Politicians and pundits alike rattle the sabers and spin stories in to a tornado of uncertainty and angst to exert power and create zombie-like followers.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was, and perhaps still is, the Master of Fear.  Liz Cheney, his 44 year-old daughter, is the Heir Apparent.

A former State Department official, lawyer, and mother of five children, Liz is one rising star in the Republican Party. She is Sarah Palin with credentials and GOP family pedigree. Like her father, Cheney espouses foreign policy that is short on diplomacy and long on scare tactics. When it comes to national security she is an aggressive interventionalist, not afraid to call out President Obama as a sissy, and was quoted saying he is "an American president who seems to be afraid to defend America."

Barack Obama? Afraid? It sounds scary, and Americans afraid play right in to the hands of the Neocons and Cheney, who likes to invoke the notion of our fragile "security" under the Obama administration when she makes the rounds and gives her stump speech. Like her father, she is a know-it-all. She alone knew, for instance, that "W" stood for women in the 2004 election. She knows better than George Mitchell what peace in the Middle East requires, and she certainly knows better than the 5 elected members of the Norwegian Parliament who awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1895 when Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel died, his will divided his estate and left "one part to the person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for holding and promotion of peace congresses."

An interesting legacy for the guy who invented dynamite.

The legacy of the Dick Cheney is also interesting. From the loins of the guy who sent us to war in Iraq based on make-believe WMD's, we have General Liz marching towards the 2012 election armed with rhetoric, chutzpah, and a soon-to-be aired web site

Don't worry America, Liz has got your back.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The People v. Worldwide Pants

Sexual harassment is not funny. If any of the women David Letterman had sex with at work have been harassed, discriminated against, or otherwise damaged by their relationship with him, they deserve to be fairly compensated and he should be held accountable. I would even consider taking the case.

A guy named Joe threatening a company called Worldwide Pants with a screenplay is kind of funny.

Not all relationships that transpire at work between employees are bad; in fact some lead to 19 year marriages.

No real cases about the exploitation of women are properly the subject of sarcastic editorial.

There is something humorous, though, about the producer of "48 Hours Mystery" lurking outside David Letterman's house in the early morning hours with a mysterious package. Not a pipe bomb or anthrax (because that would not be funny) but... a play! 

The evidence will show that Joe said "your world is about to collapse," and then handed a shaking Letterman the package. Letterman was really, really scared so he wrote a check for $2,000,000. That's what New Yorkers do, I guess, when they are scared. Joe deposited that check along with his paycheck for $214,000 and then got arrested and sent to jail.

The final scene might be Joe's ex-wife, who he tried to screw in a bitter divorce, laughing wickedly and stirring a big saketini. Or maybe Stephanie Birkett, his ex-girlfriend, appearing on Jay Leno announcing the publication of her new book "Not Trying to Go Public: A New Yorker's Life."

The moral to this story? Greed is not good unless it makes people laugh.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grayson's Gauntlet

Last night Congressman Alan Grayson gave the GOP the old one-two.

Grayson's bio quotes from the book of Deuteronomy. Justice, justice, ye shall seek. He has five kids who are named Skye, Star, Sage, Storm and Stone. The man has got a flair for the dramatic.

This Democrat is from Florida's 8th District, but he grew up in a tenement in the Bronx and it shows.

Grayson first gave an effective and powerful speech aimed at Republicans for their inhumane healthcare policy, which he says is "don't get sick." Excellent point. Does any Republican besides Olympia Snowe in the United States Congress have a good idea about how to solve our healthcare crisis? The time for keeping your cards close to the chest is over.

During his speech Congressman Grayson was a bit theatrical. He had props and used sarcasm. He employed clever rhetorical devices. There was irony and metaphor and he used the word holocaust.

Some indignant GOP members insisted on an apology. After all, Congressman Wilson was asked to apologize. Why shouldn't Grayson apologize since Wilson had to? It's only fair.

The Congressman was happy to oblige. He knows how to get to Carnegie Hall.

His apology was to the 44,789 people who die every year in the United States because they do not have health insurance. It was a second blow to the right. It was political theatre at its best. The new director of Tosca at the Met could learn something.

To judge passion as insincerity or disrespect, however, is a mistake. Grayson was very sick as a child and went to the hospital four times a week with his mother. He believes but for the grace of God and his health insurance he would be dead and his passion for life shows. Grayson put himself through Harvard University where he has earned numerous degrees. He has worked as a prominent lawyer, started a technology business that became hugely successful, founded an agency to help elders and has earned national recognition as the man responsible for routing out contractor fraud in Iraq.

Bravo.  Bravo.