Monthly Archives: May, 2006

Bandwidth 4 Us, Not 4 You

Along with Handsofftheinternet.com, there is another astroturf front group for the large Telcos that has just started up: TV4US. According to Savetheinternet.com, this organization is doing a telemarketing campaign in which they are calling consumers and trying to convince us that companies like Google and Microsoft are using up all the bandwidth and driving up the costs of television and internet services.

Here is Savetheinternet’s take on this organization:

What’s really costing consumers isn’t Net Neutrality but the phone companies’ multi-million-dollar campaign to kill it. Companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have spent tens of millions of dollars on canned phone calls, advertisements, DC lobbyists and phony front groups to squash our genuine grassroots effort.

Where do you think they get that money? That’s right. A portion of your phone bill goes towards creating campaigns that are designed to deceive consumers into acting against their best interests.

They also cite a joint report from the the Consumers Union (nonprofit publishers of Consumer Reports), which present these 12 facts about how the internet works:

FACT 1: Network Neutrality protections have existed for the entire history of the Internet. Opponents of Internet freedom pretend that Network Neutrality protections would mean new, onerous government regulations. But advocates of Network Neutrality are not promoting new regulations. We are preserving tried and tested consumer protections and network operating principles that have made the Internet the greatest engine of economic growth and democratic communication in modern memory.

FACT 2: Network discrimination through a “tiered Internet� will severely curtail consumer choice. Network owners say discrimination will benefit consumers with higher-quality services. But winners and losers in the content marketplace should be chosen based on the merits of a Web site or service, not the whims of the network owners. Without Network Neutrality, telephone and cable companies will have a strong financial incentive to distort the free market in favor of their own content and services.

FACT 3: Network discrimination will undermine innovation, investment and competition. The genius of the Internet is that it always has allowed “innovation without permission.� It has been a free marketplace of ideas where innovators and entrepreneurs rise and fall on their own merits. But on a “tiered Internet� without Network Neutrality, the upstarts and little guys will be at the mercy of the network owners to decide who can succeed or fail.

FACT 4: Network discrimination will fundamentally alter the consumer’s online experience by creating fast and slow lanes for Internet content. Up to this point, the consumer has been the ultimate decision-maker online; the network owners simply transmitted data over the wires, regardless of its content. The network owners claim they won’t harm or degrade anybody else’s content in a world without Network Neutrality. But network prioritization is a zero-sum game. The fact is that every time one Web site is sped up, another must be slowed down.

FACT 5: No one gets a “free ride� on the Internet. The network operators allege that if Network Neutrality is preserved, they won’t be able to build new, high-speed networks. This is a myth. With Network Neutrality, they’ll continue to generate revenues in the billions from monthly subscription fees, access rates from content producers (who already pay a fortune to get onto the network), and by competing in the free market with their own content and applications. Getting rid of Network Neutrality is just an attempt to extract monopoly rents from a new revenue stream.

FACT 6: Telephone companies have received billion of dollars in public subsidies and private incentives to support network build-out. The phone companies say they should be able to do as they like with “their pipes.� But they ignore the billions of dollars in public subsidies and incentives they’ve received over the years that allow them to dig up public rights-of-way, build rural networks, and write off the depreciation of their wires. If they gave back even a fraction of the public money they’ve received, we could build fiber to every home in America.

FACT 7: There is little competition in the broadband market. Network owners argue that Network Neutrality is unnecessary because there is plenty of competition for broadband access to deter bad behavior. But cable and DSL now dominate 98 percent of the broadband market (and a significant portion of the country has only a single broadband provider or none at all). If both the cable and phone companies are using their networks to discriminate, the consumer is trapped. There is nowhere else to go.

FACT 8: Consumers will bear the costs for network infrastructure regardless of whether there is Network Neutrality. The network owners claim consumers will save money without Network Neutrality, because content providers will bear more of the delivery costs. But those costs will simply be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for consumer goods and Internet services. And with less competition on a “tiered Internet,� the network owners will be able to raise their own prices with impunity. Higher prices, fewer choices and less competition are bad for consumers.

FACT 9: Investing in increased bandwidth is the most efficient way to solve network congestion problems. There is more traffic flowing over the Internet every day. To avoid “traffic jams,� network operators have two choices. They can increase the bandwidth to accommodate all content providers on an equal basis; or they can maintain scarcity and charge providers for the privilege of getting through the bottlenecks. Without Network Neutrality, phone and cable companies have an economic incentive not to relieve the congestion.

FACT 10: Network owners have explicitly stated their intent to build business models based on discrimination. The Astroturf groups set up by the industry repeatedly claim that Network Neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. But consumer advocates aren’t imagining a doomsday scenario. In fact, the top executives of nearly every major telephone company have stated clearly in the pages of Business Week, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post that they intend to discriminate or degrade the content and services of their competitors who don’t pay for a spot in the fast lane.

FACT 11: The COPE Act will not deter discrimination but will tie the hands of the FCC from preventing it. The COPE Act’s Network Neutrality provisions are inadequate to safeguard the Internet; deliberately impede clear enforcement mechanisms; and leave the network operators free to discriminate against consumers and content producers on the Internet. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey in the House — and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Byron Dorgan in the Senate — offers clean and simple solutions to fix these problems.

FACT 12: Supporters of Network Neutrality represent a broad, nonpartisan coalition that joins right and left, commercial and noncommercial interests. The campaign to preserve Network Neutrality protections is perhaps the most diverse set of public and private interests backing any single issue in Washington today. Hundreds of groups and hundreds of thousands of individuals from across the political spectrum are joining together to save this cornerstone principle of consumer choice and Internet freedom.

The aggressive level with which AT&T and Verizon are trying to push their message on consumers is an indication of just how much they stand to gain, and how much consumers stand to lose, if their anti-net-neutrality legislation is passed in Congress.

I have asked our US Senate candidates in Rhode Island to provide their positions on net neutrality so that voters know where they stand and whether they will defend the internet for consumers. So far, I have heard only from Sheldon Whitehouse’s campaign, who has not yet provided a response, but at least acknowledged receiving my question. Hopefully with a little more prodding I can get answers for Rhode Islanders on this crucial question affecting our consumer choices and our ability to use the internet for free speech, community organizing, and civic participation.

America’s Growing Prison Addiction

Locked Up

When I first glimpsed the headline posted on the Common Dreams website, “1 in 136 U.S. Residents Behind Bars,� my heart soared at the hope that fewer Americans were falling prey to alcohol addiction. Much to my chagrin and surprise, the article—by AP writer, Elizabeth White—instead reported on America’s burgeoning prison population, i.e., our addiction to corrections. The basis for the article is a recently released report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which is an entity of the Justice Department that every so often likes to do a head count of the nation’s convicts. Here’s what the BJS found, as reported in their own press release:

During the year that ended last June 30, the nation’s prison and jail population grew 2.6 percent, reaching 2,186,230 inmates behind bars, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Two thirds were in state or federal prisons (1,438,701) and the other third (747,529) were in local jails. The 12-month increase of 56,428 prison and jail inmates was the equivalent of 1,085 new inmates every week, the BJS report said….Since 1995 the nation’s prison and jail population has risen by more than 600,000 inmates. At midyear 2005, one in every 136 U.S. residents were in prison or jail. [full text]

The number that really jumps out at me is 2,186,230. Amazingly, there are close to 2.2 million Americans behind bars. To offer some perspective, that number is more than twice the total population of Rhode Island. It exceeds the population of Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the United States. It is greater than the population of the Kingdom of Bhutan and 87 other countries. In short, that’s a lot of cons. Not surprisingly, “the United States is the unchallenged world leader in both raw numbers and imprisonment per capita. With a global prison population estimated at nine million, the U.S. accounts for about one-quarter of all prisoners on the planet.�

The explanation for this incarceration fascination can be partly accounted for by the overly punitive and inherently flawed manner in which this country addresses such social ills as substance abuse. Roughly a quarter of those in prison are there for drug offenses. Innumerable others in the penal system have significant histories of alcohol and/or drug abuse that has directly or indirectly contributed to their criminal behavior. Despite research showing that “alternative programs that divert felony drug offenders to substance abuse treatment programs rather than prison terms could save the U.S. criminal justice system millions of dollars and reduce recidivism,� the emphasis remains on incarceration instead of treatment. This nation’s war on drugs—which even Walter Cronkite has labeled a “failure� and “inhumane�—is, in truth, a war on drug users. And the casualties fill our teeming prisons, while the wardens of public policy tout their toughness and abandon their humanity.

Animals Rights in Disaster Evacuation Plans

Hey, it wouldn’t be a blog without at least one picture of a cute kitten. This is Cassie, the newest addition to our household. She comes to us from New Orleans. A colleague of my husband’s has been active in finding new homes for stray dogs and cats, travelling to New Orleans to rescue animals who need to be adopted.

It is estimated that 600,000 animals died or were left without shelter due to Hurricane Katrina and the lack of preparation for animal evacuation. For this reason, the House passed new legislation on Monday that would require disaster preparedness for pets.

Daily Kos and MyDD Blogging Stars in Town

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (Daily Kos, pictured above) and Jerome Armstrong (Mydd) will be at The Brown Bookstore today, promoting their book, Crashing the Gate. The book-signing is from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm and there is also a second event at The Trinity Brewhouse from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

I would like to attend, but I have to work. If anyone who reads this attends, I would love to hear about how it went.

A Picture (Or Cartoon) Is Worth A Thousand Words

Tom Toles Cartoon

Interview with Joy Canfield, Image Cascade Publishing

Raising two girls, one who is already into the phase where media influences her behavior, the issue of the modern pop novel for teen girls has re-entered my radar screen. As Naomi Wolf suggests in a recent New York Times Book Review article, there are some unsettling new trends in fiction for teen girls. Precociousness is taken to new extremes, featuring 12 and 13 year olds characters in books “saturated with sex.” The star girls in the books tend to have a kind of social-status-driven arrogance that makes the movie Heathers look tame. They are nasty cool girls, elevated as heroines primarily by virtue of their material wealth.

Flash back to the 1950′s via Lenora Mattingly Weber: girls are not sluts, but some are shunned for getting reputations as “cuddle-uppers” with the college boys. Girls exclaim, “Glory Be!” and Beany Malone, the heroine, is triumphant not because she is the richest or most popular girl, but because she is fiercely independent and relentlessly caring.

I was not a big reader as a teen, but when I had my first daughter, a friend gave me a copy of Beany Malone (pictured above), one of a series of books by Lenora Mattingly Weber, written in the 50′s and featuring Beany Malone as the central character. I found the book remarkably well-written and thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating enough and yet not overly stimulating or difficult for the sleep-deprived new mother I had become.

Recently, having renewed my vows to sleep-deprivation by producing a second child, I read a second Beany Malone book — Happy Birthday, Dear Beanie. In this novel, Beany is a bit older and wiser, already having cast off the troublesome Norbett Rhodes, the tempestuous boyfriend of a year earlier, already understanding that she is better off without him, or at least without him as a boyfriend. However, she faces other, larger issues in this novel — unexpectedly large, including grappling with the identity of her journalist father and how this affects her social status, bringing her access to higher social stratospheres as well as scorn and rebuke. This book contains a rather unsettling episode of what is now called “dating violence,” but which in the book is not recognized as such. Beany struggles with this, as any young woman would, but in the end she seems willing to forgive.

The friend who initially gave me the Beany book, Laura Cherry, recently conducted an interview with Joy Canfield, the publisher who returned the Beany Malone books to circulation, as well as other teen novels from the ’40′s and ’50′s, via her publishing company, Image Cascade Publishing.

Laura Cherry: Can you tell me about the history of Image Cascade and your involvement with it? How did the company come to republish books for young adults of an earlier era?

Joy Canfield: As my business partner and I are both in psychology, we began publishing academic books in about 1993, primarily psychological manuals and self-help literature. (Psychologists tend to have a book on the back burner, therefore, there’s always material available to publish!) In 1998, I began looking for favorite books from my youth, namely, the Beany Malone series. When we encountered the exorbitant prices attached to these books we realized that perhaps I wasn’t the only one craving them. Could it be that a few other people would like to see the books back in print? Would the author’s family be interested in republishing? The answer to both questions was a resounding “Yes!” It was through the magnificent assistance of the Lenora Mattingly Weber Internet Discussion Group and another book group, The Phantom Friends, that we located the Weber family. The “finding the author’s family” process is often quite lengthy — it has taken us as much as a year to locate heirs. However, Rosemary Parker led us to Mrs. Weber’s son within a couple of days! Another Weber group member, a gentleman by the name of Kevin Killian, pointed us into the direction of Janet Lambert’s daughter. Without question, bibliophiles are a strong and fervent group!

Laura Cherry: Is there a strong interest in the books you offer? Can you characterize your readers/customers in any way? For example, are they mostly women who originally read the books in their first incarnation?

Joy Canfield: Yes, we have had an overwhelming response from women who read the books in their original time or a few years after publication. Yet we are hearing from hundreds of parents of young readers who are seeking quality literature for their children. The emphasis of many parents’ comments is on the wholesome nature of the stories and characters. As well, parents report that their children are growing tired of “problem fiction” and are interested in reading material that is entertaining and uplifting. We are also hearing similar comments from schools, school libraries, and public libraries.

Laura Cherry: Have there been any surprises in the responses you’ve received from readers, or has the response been what you expected?

Joy Canfield: This was one endeavor in which our dreams were, indeed, realized. I recall a few colleagues raising eyebrows when I mentioned the prospect of republishing girls’ fiction from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. However, we knew that the material was good, timeless, and would speak for itself. The authors did our marketing long ago. Our only mission was to place the books into the hands of interested readers — the characters and storylines took over from there.

Laura Cherry: Why do you think these books are popular with your readers?

Joy Canfield: The characters are beautifully developed and are the heart and soul of the stories. The environments are filled with caring and warmth. You can practically smell the lovely cooking aromas as you read your way through the Malone kitchen. You can hear the pots and pans clanging and the phone ringing in the front hall. You become caught up in the day to day routine as though you were there. Most of us embrace these feelings of comfort, warmth, and security. And each time we read these books we feel those characters, their families, their friends, and their homes encircle us with welcoming arms.

Laura Cherry: Are there aspects of the characters, plots, settings that are more compelling than contemporary teen novels?

Joy Canfield: The stories have a wonderful emphasis on families pulling together through good and bad. The “good” is timeless fun and happiness, and the “bad” is not all so “bad” that it becomes problem fiction. However, the problems that the characters encounter are those that we have all experienced on some level regardless of the era in which we live. The characters are richly developed, their surroundings are beautifully imparted, and the tone is one of simplicity and solidarity that seems to appeal to the reader’s sense of rightness. All of these elements culminate into a reading experience that is difficult to find in contemporary teen novels.

Laura Cherry: Do you personally have favorite books or characters on your publication list?

Joy Canfield: Growing up with Beany, Mary Fred, and Johnny (of the Beany Malone series), I feel as though they are members of my family whom I have kept in my hip pocket for much of my life. But when I think about who my true favorite characters are, I find a pattern among them: Beany Malone, Tobey and Midge Heydon, Penny and Tippy Parrish…. each tends to wear her heart on her sleeve. Their emotions are on the surface. They tend to spew things that they later wish they would have censored, but their hearts and motives are genuine — not perfect, but most assuredly sincere and well meaning. The character who best exemplifies this warm and open heart simply has to be Beany Malone.

Laura Cherry: Any favorite quotes or moments from the books?

Joy Canfield: One of the most amazing aspects of these books is in the author’s ability to expose the reader to life lessons without “preaching.” As a young reader, I had no idea that I was developing a sense of values based on my readings, however, I can see now that many of my beliefs and values are grounded in the words of these authors. To this day as I view my own life or those I know and love, I think of the line from Happy Birthday, Dear Beany, “You turn into a different you as you go along.â€? And, of course, more concrete and fundamental lessons are addressed in the books such as Mary Fred’s telling Beany (regarding petty thievery), “I suppose it’s because Dad always dinged it into us so hard. Remember how he always said, ‘Swiping a spoon in a restaurant is just the same as taking money out of the cash register’?â€? Or lessons in understanding the big picture of life as when Elizabeth tells Beany, “Grownups have to be churned up inside. There’s so much churning up along with growing up. There’s a line I often think of—it didn’t make sense to me when I read it a long time ago—but now it does. ‘It is a terrible thing not to become a woman when one ceases to be a girl.’” Each of these strikes a chord, sometimes at the time of reading, sometimes much later.

And how often I think of Mary Fred’s morning routine when I’m so typically running late in the morning:

The Sunday morning routine went something like this:
Mary Fred, it’s ten minutes to nine.
Okay, I’ll be right up.
Mary Fred, it’s nine o’clock! Get up!
I’m practically up. Don’t yell. I’m wide awake.
Mary Fred, you’re not up yet! It’s ten minutes after nine!
Oh gee, is it? Open the front door. I’m already there.

And that was not too much of an exaggeration. No one could move as fast as Mary Fred, once her feet touched the floor. She had an amazingly swift, no-waste synchronism of shoving feet into socks and shoes, stepping into a skirt, and simultaneously pulling a sweater on over her head. She could dry her face with a towel in one hand while she ran a comb through her hair with the other. She could come tripping down the stairs, bright-eyed and happy, and say to those waiting, “Let’s go! What’s holding up the procession?â€?

Laura Cherry: Are there any interesting ups and downs, triumphs or lessons learned in the publishing world that you’d like to share?

Joy Canfield: The essence of our publishing experience has been that it has been an utter labor of love. There is a great deal of labor, a harrowing moment or two, a couple of tears, but most importantly there is great joy in getting to know the authors’ families, meeting the wonderful readers, and in having a small part in sharing these terrific works with new and veteran readers. I know well the feeling of finding old cherished books, and can fully relate to the tears of happiness when readers stumble upon ImageCascade.com. It’s a tribute to our authors every time a customer buys a book.

Humor Counts

While I do not typically forward jokes to friends, family members, and acquaintances via e-mail (in that I do not wish to add to the mounting electronic clutter), I am often on the receiving end of such. Perhaps a quarter of the time, I am treated to a good laugh. I received such a treat today, courtesy of my younger brother Roy, and thought that it was amusing enough to share here. Enjoy!

Donald Rumsfeld is reporting to the President and the Cabinet. He says: “Three Brazilian soldiers were killed today in Iraq.”

The President says, “Oh my God!” as he buries his head in his hands.

The entire Cabinet is stunned. Usually George Bush shows no reaction whatsoever to these reports.

Just then, Bush looks up and says, “How many is a brazillion?”

What’s A Republican To Do?

Think the Republicans in Congress are a tad farblondzhet or fardeiget? Oops, I’ve reverted to Yiddish. My humble apologies for diverting from our proposed “national language.� (I suspect my mother understood, though. She’s generally quite proud of her social worker son, however meshugeh she thinks I am.) What I meant to say was: think the Republicans in Congress are a tad confused or worried? Having hitched their wagons to a pony that has lost its footing and begun to tumble down the hill, they are frantic, unsure whether to whip the little stallion, bail out, or pray for guidance. What are they to do, given the following news (as reported in the Washington Post)?

Confidence In GOP Is At New Low In Poll

Public confidence in GOP governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying by wide margins that they now trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and other issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that underscores the GOP’s fragile grip on power six months before the midterm elections.

Dissatisfaction with the administration’s policies in Iraq has overwhelmed other issues as the source of problems for President Bush and the Republicans. The survey suggests that pessimism about the direction of the country — 69 percent said the nation is now off track — and disaffection with Republicans have dramatically improved Democrats’ chances to make gains in November. more…

So how will the grandmasters of the Grand Old Party right their careening wagons? How will they counter such disaffection? By proposing bold new initiatives? By reaching out to a broader spectrum of the American public? By demonstrating true, principled leadership? Nah. Why bother when it would be so much simpler to pander to xenophobes, homophobes, and prudes, i.e., them what brung you? Just in the last couple of days, the Republican-led Senate has…

• approved two amendments to a proposed immigration reform bill, one of which would “declare English as the national language of the United States,� the other which would “declare that English is the common and unifying language of the United States.�

• agreed to take up a proposal passed by the Judiciary Committee to add a “Marriage Protection Amendment� to the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.�

• passed the “Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005,� which would “increase the penalties for violations by television and radio broadcasters of the prohibitions against transmission of obscene, indecent, and profane language.�

Gee, do you think the members of the Grandstanding Old Party know that it’s an election year? If not, then they’re trying awfully hard to stay on the Reverend Pat Robertson’s good side, lest he badmouth them in his next tête-à-tête with the Lord and bring “vicious hurricanes� or the ever-popular plague of locusts down upon them. In any regard, if nothing else, the Republicans continue to demonstrate that their legislative agenda is hopelessly out of touch with the needs, concerns, and rights of the vast majority of Americans. Like their Chief Executive, they continue to “rearrange the deck chairs on the Hindenburg� and treat the flames and smoke as pomp and circumstance. In short, they’re a bunch of schmucks.

Ned Lamont Looking Strong in Connecticut

Joe Lieberman is going to face Ned Lamont in a primary, and it might be a chance for the Democrats to bring in a fresh face and someone who holds true to the values of the Democratic party. Lamont got more than twice the percentage of delegate votes needed to have a primary, so you get the impression that a good number of Connecticut Democrats have had enough of the Washington insider schmoozing of Senator Lieberman.

This video gives you a little taste of Ned Lamont. In particular, his ending comments about how Democrats like Senator Lieberman undermine the Democratic party, are quite salient.

The Future Of Civilization?

Vice President Dick Cheney rallies the troops

On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney was in Minnesota and spoke to members of the National Guard there “in an event that seemed like a pep rally.� Not surprisingly, much of his speech had to do with terrorism and the war in Iraq. In the course of such, the VP offered this modest appraisal: “The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It’s a battle worth fighting. And it’s a battle we are going to win.� Based on these assertions, which appear excessively grandiose and cocksure, it would seem that Mr. Cheney and, by association, Mr. Bush believe that the stakes can be no higher and the only option is unilateral triumph. Indeed, the VP went on to say the following:

“[T]he people of our country do not support a policy of passivity, resignation, or defeatism in the face of terror. The United States will never go back to the false comforts of the world before September 11th, 2001. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. And this nation made a decision: We will engage these enemies — facing them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities. There is still difficult work ahead, because the terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in the global war on terror. They are running a war against the civilized world. We’re dealing with enemies that recognize no rule of warfare and accept no standard of morality. They have declared their intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. Their prime target is the United States. So we have a responsibility to lead in that fight.â€? [full text of speech]

And, it would appear, that fight is not simply about Iraq. Nor is it even about the Middle East. It is about “the future of civilization.� As much as one might wish to dismiss the Vice President’s remarks as the usual hawkish bluster or mere off-the-cuff braggadocio, one truly cannot. In the past six months, on at least eight separate occasions, Mr. Cheney has nearly word for word publicly asserted that the U.S. is in “a battle for the future of civilization.� Mr. Bush has made similar comments in the past. On July 9, 2005, in a radio address to the nation, the President said, “The terrorists cannot shake our will. America and its allies will act decisively, because we know that the future of civilization is at stake in this struggle.� As a mental health clinician, I find it difficult not to view these broad assertions as either delusional or grandiose to the point of severe narcissistic personality disturbance. Regardless of the pathology which might underlie such beliefs, the potential ramifications—for our troops, our economy, the civilian population in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, etc.—are dire. While it might be impolitic to challenge the sanity of our leaders, I believe that it is paramount that we challenge their beliefs and decisions. The future of civilization may not be at stake, but the future health and well-being of a great many here and abroad certainly are.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 973 other followers