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Hurricane Sandy: High Wind Warning

Google helpfully tells me to get out of the way

Google- it’s not just for searches anymore. Now, it issues public service announcements to the people who can’t get out of the way of Frankenstorm.  Like, you don’t already know the storm of the millenium is bearing down on you and gaining strength, now you have your search engine saying, “sucks to be you”. This is actually a first for me. I don’t remember seeing a PSA like this when I googled Irene in 2011. Alas, I am in the affected region and should expect damage to my property from sustained winds of over 40 mph.  The National Hurricane Center says I have a 30-40% probability of winds at 50 knots, which in non-sailory units is 57.5 mph. Did I mention the gigantic tree that is perilously close to my house?  No?  I’m sure I mentioned it to the townhouse association- three times.  Maybe a notification relayed through my lawyer would get its attention, though probably not before the wind begins to pick up.  The good thing is that the tree is most likely to topple into the street or take out my neighbors’ units if it does fall.  I have mixed feelings about such a possibility…

I would have to hop in my car and drive to Indiana to avoid what’s coming.  Governor Christie issued a state of emergency yesterday.  I was picking the kid up from a movie and stopped at an intersection when a convoy of cherry pickers rolled by headed south on Route 206 towards Princeton.  Not sure what that’s all about but they weren’t the utility company’s trucks.  I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more Hurricane Sandy related activities.

Outside, the weather is overcast for the 4th day in a row, temperature a mild 57°F.  The leaves on the trees outside are barely stirring.  It is the calm before the storm.  The latest projected landfall map is even more disturbing than yesterday.  It looks like Frankenstorm is rolling into Central New Jersey as a true hurricane and not just a tropical storm like it was yesterday.  Lovely.  And it’s hard to not take it personally when the storm seems to be perfectly curved to hit you dead on.

Will someone please tell Susie Madrak to save her 5 gallon container for drinking water? To flush your toilets, make sure to fill your bathtub with water before the storm strikes.  Then use a large pot with handle to ladle it out of the tub into your toilet.  It’s a handy tip I got from some Floridians when I rode out Hurricane Charlie in 2004.  Also, get one of these if you can.  It’s a crankable, solar flashlight radio so it never needs batteries.  It’s invaluable during storms.  Also highly recommended is a headlamp.

**************************************************

Annnnd my basement is still threatened.  For those of you who are just catching up with the Saga of RDs basement, it has only flooded once since I moved here 12 years ago.  That was last year during Hurricane Irene when the power went out.  I didn’t think it would happen again so soon so I didn’t buy a backup battery powered sump pump or a generator.  And now, there’s not a backup battery sump pump or generator to be found in the entire state of NJ…or PA….or NY.  I scoured my local Home Depot, Lowes, etc, two days ago and they were already sold out.  But there is a plumbing supplier in Princeton that is making a trip to another state tomorrow to pick up some generators and I was lucky enough to reserve one.  Unfortunately, I am not lucky enough to have a full time job anymore so this investment (it’s $840.00 plus 7% sales tax) is exceedingly painful. I hate to ask for contributions but if you’ve “enjoyed” my blogging for the past several years, you can help me defray the expense of the generator with a donation.  The recommended donation amount is $10.30 for the date of Sandy’s landfall.  Here is the paypal donation button for my “Save the Basement” fund:

Thank you for helping me weather Sandy!

Inflection points

Black in West Virginia

You’ve probably already seen this article about race and the 2008 campaign.  Supposedly, if people in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and NY hadn’t been such ignorant bigots, Obama would have won by bigger margins.  That’s assuming that there was nothing more important on the electorate’s mind.

It’s an interesting study but I can’t imagine why this would be of any particular interest to anyone.  Obama won.  That means enough people were either able to overcome the conditioning of their culture or they were scared shitless about the market collapse.  What it *doesn’t* mean is that the people who were googling racist jokes would have voted for Obama if they had been more enlightened people.  For those of us who realize that race is a social construct and not a biological one, Obama’s skin color did not factor into our decision.  If you’re really post-racial, you evaluate the candidate by criteria that is important for successful presidents.  A candidate who weaponizes racism, whether real or merely convenient, against hard working people who are concerned for their own livelihoods, is not that much different than the guy who is googling the N word.  If anyone is being prejudiced here, it might be the Obama campaign who assumes that everyone in Appalachia is hiding an ignorant redneck heart.

There are some questions I’d like the answers to about this study, which I have only glanced at briefly.  For example, what about the people in these states that don’t have computers and have never used google.  I have relatives who fall into this category.  They’re more likely to google a recipe for halushka, if they had a computer or any interest in using one.  They were not fans of Obama but hardly racists, considering the diversity in their own families.  The study makes me think of Gallup polls that report on people the surveyers contacted by phone.  Presumably, that means landline.  But what if you don’t have a landline?  How would Gallup contact you to know what you think? A phone survey might oversample older people who may not believe in evolution while showing a drop off of people who do because younger people don’t need landlines.  Or, the study could be finding that race was part of the general atmosphere of 2008 and people were following up on stories they had heard. It might be a voyeur effect.  And how do you account for NJ turning up ranked #17 on the list?  I’ve never met any racists here in NJ and I’ve lived here for 2 decades.

Then there are the unanswered questions about whether Obama’s ill-timed remarks about bitter, gun-totin’, church goers before the Pennsylvania primary might have had any effect on the primaries in that state or the subsequent one in West Virginia. Obama seemed to go out of his way to insult everyone in Appalachia long before a single vote was cast for him there.  Why aren’t we questioning his stereotypes and prejudices towards the voters in these states? If you listened to the Obama campaign, you’d think that Appalachia consisted of nothing but toothless, moonshine smuggling rednecks.  I don’t doubt that there are some places in central PA where those people exist but I never spoke to one when I was phone banking or canvassing there.  Did the study author bother to explore the effect of Obama’s snubs on these primary outcomes?  Another question that I’m dying to have the answer to is how many searches of the form “hillary, bitch” came out of lower Manhattan or “redneck” from Chicago, Illinois?   Why don’t we find out whether making the men of this country less sexist would have lead to the first female presidency?

Or would we hear howls of protest?  Hillary must be judged by a completely different set of criteria.  She and her husband were centrists, they’ll say.

Ok, I’ll bite.  Would a guy who wanted to appoint the first female attorney general, who raised taxes on the wealthy, appointed two of the most liberal judges on the supreme court we have today, put health care reform at the front of his agenda, got the Family Leave Act passed, protected children’s health care with SCHIP, stared down Republicans when they shut down government and was in favor of having gays serve openly in the military years before Obama kinda sorta got around to reversing DADT, would that guy be considered centrist today?

I have a lot of differences with my own party even though I consider myself solidly liberal.  But one of the most striking differences has to be how history is remembered.  It is illogical to judge the Clintons as more “centrist” than Obama.  In fact, the only way that the word centrist becomes negative against the Clintons is when it is taken out of context and when the comparison to Obama is not made.  Instead, centrism is mapped to the Americans Elect, Thom Friedmanesque monstrosity, that thing without a soul.  It ignores the fact that centrism in 1993 was a primarily a description of where the Clintons were on the left.  On a scale of 1=>10, leftiest Democrat to rightiest Republican, the Clintons were about a 3.8.  Now that the scale goes to 15, it is Obama who is centrist at about an 8 and the Clintons look solidly liberal when the issues and voting records are compared.

Lefties seem disgusted by DADT and DOMA that were implemented in Clinton’s terms but forget (or were too young to pay attention) that it was during the Clinton administration when the topics first landed on the national scene and in the case of gays in the military, it was Clinton who brought it up in the first place and wanted to allow gays to serve.  I’m betting that many young Democrats don’t know that and their lefty elders aren’t setting the record straight.

What I think bothers lefties the most about Clinton was not his “centrism”, although he probably referred to himself as a centrist back then.  It was that he was not dogmatic in his lefty beliefs.  Dogmatism plagues both ends of the political spectrum. When people complain about partisanship, they’re really complaining about dogmatism, that persistence in believing in theories in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  Dogma has relatively little to do with politics and has almost everything to do with identity.  It also has little to do with rationality and a lot to do with emotion.

I was more than a little disappointed to see Charles Pierce jump on lefty revisionism in one of his latest Netroots Nation posts.  One of the reasons I stopped going to these events was because I wasn’t willing to empty my brain so that it could fully absorb the dogma saturated atmosphere.  Plus, I find crunchy granola, anti-vaccine, anti-nuclear energy, anti-genetically modified everything really irritating, not to mention that people who can’t differentiate between corporate shareholders and stakeholders have no idea what they’re talking about when they wail against all “corporatism”. Netroots Nation is not much different than a CPAC convention.  Both entities have solid beliefs that they base their solutions on but they have little to do with observation, data collection, careful analysis, construction of a model, proposing policies and evaluating the effect of those policies on the model.  Dogmatists don’t usually like to have their beliefs evaluated.

If there is a recent surge in interest in the Clintons, it’s probably because voters realize that one is still available.  And it’s not voters, specifically the working class and women, who are looking forward to Hillary in 2016.  No, voters would prefer to have her now.  It is the party leadership who wants to create the expectation of a Hillary 2016 run.  They’re hoping that delayed gratification will help focus voter attention on the here and now where they have presented Obama as the only choice.  But I don’t think that’s going to work this year.  And it’s great that Obama is finally getting feisty but I don’t think he’s trustworthy.  It’s not just his actions that make him suspect.  It’s primarily his contempt for voters in general.

Maybe quality doesn’t always triumph over mediocrity.  But I think that when people have had experience of both, without a dogmatic filter, their brains are able to synthesize an evaluation based on information they have gathered, whether consciously or not.  I made this point in 2008 about presentation and how a speaker who does his or her homework will shine over someone who has baffled the audience with bullshit.   The political consultant class who thinks that voters don’t know the difference may be indulging in wishful thinking.  Sure, there are the Fox News viewers who are suffering from acquired stupidity syndrome but what about the other half of the population?  They now have the kind of information about Obama that wasn’t available to them in 2008.

It’s not the dogmatists at Netroots Nation that will decide the election this year.  It’s going to be the base that the Democrats blew off in 2008.  I’m sure the Democrats aren’t happy about that but calling them racists is probably not going to work this time.  They gave Obama a chance and he has come up severely wanting.  This upcoming performance evaluation is based on actual performance.  And if the working people are chattering about Clinton, it’s not because Mark Penn has anything to do with it.

What we might really be seeing is frustration on the part of the party loyalists, Obama fan base and self-described intellectuals towards the electorate that refuses to eat its poison mushrooms.  Those working class idiots don’t know what’s good for them, they want a “centrist”, they’re racists, they’re stupid.  But mostly, those working people and women and independents have way too many votes.  There’s a lot of howling going on right now from the lefty dogmatists who simply want to believe what they want to believe, damn the facts and life and imminent poverty staring people in the face everyday. But might I suggest that calling people racists and politically naive is not the best way to win friends and influence people.  Since the great unwashed masses are the ones who are going to determine this election in the fall, whether the lefties like it or not, a much better idea would be to give them what they want before they go to the polls.

#opBlackout January 23, 2012

Most of you have probably seen this by now.  Internet giants Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, PayPal and others are contemplating an internet blackout of their services for January 23 to protest proposed SOPA legislation to be voted on January 24.

Companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Yahoo! and Wikipedia are said to be discussing a coordinated blackout of services to demonstrate the potential effect SOPA would have on the Internet, something already being called a “nuclear option” of protesting. The rumors surrounding the potential blackout were only strengthened by Markham Erickson, executive director of trade association NetCoalition, who told FoxNews that “a number of companies have had discussions about [blacking out services]” last week.

According to Erickson, the companies are well aware of how serious an act such a blackout would be:

“This type of thing doesn’t happen because companies typically don’t want to put their users in that position. The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet.”

The idea of an Internet blackout should seem familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention to the debate so far. In addition to a blackout already carried out by Mozilla, hacking group Anonymous proposed the same thing a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that sites replace their front pages with a statement protesting SOPA. That suggestion itself came a week after Jimmy Wales had asked Wikipedia users about the possibility of blacking out that site in protest of the bill.

I think they’re serious.  Holy hemiola, we’d have to look stuff up and talk on the phone.  I know it sounds trivial but I think about how I use each one of these services each day and how without them, I would feel disabled.  We would have to relearn how to do things all over again.

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google said:

The bills “give the U.S. government and copyright holders extraordinary powers including the ability to hijack DNS (the Internet’s naming system) and censor search results (and this is even without so much as a proper court trial),” Brin wrote last month on his Google+ page as Congress was considering the measures. “While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement (which I don’t believe these acts would accomplish), I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.”

That CNN article also writes that:

When contacted by CNN, none of those companies would confirm that such a drastic move had ever been considered. By Friday, the advocate whose comments had fueled the speculation appeared to back away from claims that a Web blackout was still likely to occur.

“Internet and technology companies will continue to educate policymakers and other stakeholders on the problems with the (legislation),” Markham Erickson, director of Web trade associationNetCoalition, said in a statement. “An ‘Internet blackout’ would obviously be both drastic and unprecedented.”

Or maybe they’re just not going to tell us what day or hour.  Sort of like Armageddon.

Al Gore appears to oppose SOPA as well.  In a recent speech, “the ex-veep warned that proposals to levy an Internet death penalty against allegedly piratical Web sites “would very probably have the effect of really shutting down the vibrancy of the Internet.”” and  “anything that would serve to threaten the vibrancy and freedom of the Internet in the future, I’m against.”  There was a youtube video of Gore’s remarks on the subject but somewhat ironically, it was deleted from the internet.

I hope they go through with it.  Enough with the copyright smokescreen.  This is a great way for media giants to shut down, well, whatever they want to shut down.  It’s not in their best interests to have people making snide and unpleasant remarks about them.  They’ll be like the whiny billionaires and make our stuff disappear. Oh, they won’t mean to delete your occupy videos and tweets because of alleged copyright violations.  But if you can’t use the internet to file a complaint, you’re kinda stuck, right?

So, black them out for a day and plunge us back to 1992 when no one had ever heard of a browser and we were all just thrilled to death that we could ftp the soda machine in the Computer Science building at CMU to see if the cokes were cold yet.  I hope WordPress, Typepad and other hosting sites follow suit.  But google is going to be a real problem because it affects so many businesses and industries.  I use google to find free scientific software, look up papers and unknown terms, as well as for mail, addresses and phone numbers.  I don’t even know where my phone books are.

This should be good.

And here’s a video from Anonymous on #opBlackout.  It’s pretty heavy on the ominous.

*********************************

In other news: Ron Paul gave a speech in NH.  His buzzword appears to be “liberty”.  Has anyone ever sat down with Paul and asked him to explain just what liberty means to him and whether it applies to all American Citizens equally or just 49% of them?  You can hear a lot of cheering in the background.  It sounds like a bunch of guys.  It has to be guys.  I’d just like to point out that, once again, the so-called liberals are willing to sell out their sisters just so they can say they stopped a war.  And let me add the disclaimer that I opposed these stupid wars from the very beginning when many on the left were supporting them.  I have a brother over there, a brother who was stupid enough to be all enthusiastic about us kicking ass in Iraq 8 years ago and over which we had the kind of argument over dinner that leads to siblings referring to their relationsip as “estranged”.  (Betcha he wishes he’d listented to me now) I want the wars to stop sucking blood and money from us as much as Noam Chomsky.  But getting us out of a mess that Bush deliberately chained us to is not going to be easy and I don’t want to get saddled with Ron Paul for four years.  I want an FDR style Democrat in the White House who will not sacrifice women to score political points with the religious and who has enough foreign policy experience to not trigger Pakistan to go off on a hissy fit.  Enough of the female sacrifices and the economic inertia.  Get Obama out of the White House and replace him with someone who will act like they give a f^*&.  And if you can’t think through this problem long enough to abandon Paul and his Dickensian worldview, you’re no progressive.

BTW, I’d just like to note that if this is some kind of reverse psychology strategy to get us to vote for Obama as the lesser evil, it won’t work for me.  I will never vote for Obama because 1.) he’s been a lousy president and responsible for the livelihoods ruined and families made homeless by his finance industry backed policies, 2.) if he did a lousy job for the first four years, he sure as hell won’t stand up to congressional Republicans in the second four and 3.) our right to vote is our one sacrament and he and the DNC violated that right for 18,000,000 of us in 2008.  That is unforgivable for a politician.  So, if you’re a progressive male, and they’re almost always men, and you are playing some political game of chicken with us, be careful because you might just get stuck with a hardass Republican.  This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

Anyway, here’s the speech.  You be the judge.

Net neutrality, Google, and Verizon

You’ve all heard by now that Google and Verizon will take care of it. They will come to an agreement between them that will ensure the best use of bandwidth for everyone.

And what we’re arguing about is whether their agreement preserves enough net neutrality.

Green horrified face. By Jeremy Brooks.

Net neutrality is a question of rights. Who determines the content of the public airwaves? Who determines the extent of your right to see or hear what you choose? Who determines what you can choose to see and hear?

Since when do businesses decide questions of rights? That is a function of government.

Does the government fit into such a tiny tub by now that we no longer have any idea what it’s for?

(Crossposted at Acid Test.)

This just in: Google decides to do evil

From the NYTimes, Google and Verizon Near Deal on Pay Tiers for Web:

WASHINGTON — Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

Such an agreement could overthrow a once-sacred tenet of Internet policy known as net neutrality, in which no form of content is favored over another. In its place, consumers could soon see a new, tiered system, which, like cable television, imposes higher costs for premium levels of service.

Any agreement between Verizon and Google could also upend the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service, which was severely restricted by a federal appeals court decision in April.

Ahhh, yes, let’s not make the ISPs upgrade their infrastructure, which we pay additional fees and taxes for them to do anyway.  No, let’s fork even MORE of our money over to them so we can read our favorite blogs and news.

But here’s the really evil part of the arrangement. The parties involved say they are only referring to cell phone transmission, not regular ethernet.
Except that the future is in iPad type devices, which are just big cell phones. Oh, sure, you can still use wifi with them but their big draw is that you can take them anywhere.
THAT’S where this deal is going to bite us in the ass. I already spend far too much on cell service between my iPad and iPhone. Now, not only will android phones have to pay more, their content will stream differently. This is not a slippery slope we want to go down.

Net neutrality has been stabbed in the back over a cell phone war.

Podcast alert: Defending the Internet

Fire up your iPod!

As you may know, I am a podcast junky.

(“I can stop any time I want to.”

Then Stop

“I don’t want to.”)

For the past several months, the monkeys on my back have been This Week in Tech (TWIT) and This Week in Google (TWIG).  The latest episode of TWIG focuses on the battle between the free internet peoples, er, that would be *us*, and the forces of corporatism (neo-feudalism) that are threatening our freedom of speech around the world.  Jeff Jarvis reports on his latest trip to Germany, where privacy laws are strict in the extreme, but is probably an understandable psychological response to the history of fascism during WWII, followed by Soviet repression and the Stasi in East Germany.  From there, the panel discusses the opposite extreme in China where no internet company operating there is allowed privacy outside of the dictates of the Communist government.  Jarvis makes a persuasive case that Google, by pulling out of China in order to protect the anonymity of its users, is standing alone in the world right now and making a political statement similar to the ones we used to make over Apartheid in South Africa.

Whatever your opinion of Google or whether you agree with Jeff Jarvis’ assessment, this is a situation that should be getting a lot more attention than it has recently.  Recall that not too long ago, Hillary Clinton (Oh, no, not HER again), made a strong defense of freedom of speech, freedom of Internet speech in particular.  TWIG host Leo Laporte suggests that we should be discussing the issue with more urgency.  I agree with him.  Without sufficient attention, Google stands alone against a country that as Jarvis points out, has more internet users than we have people in the United States.  It’s a huge and lucrative market that Google is pulling out of and they aren’t getting enough coverage for taking such a bold and courageous move.   There’s a principle involved here and we at The Confluence like bold, principled moves.

But there’s more.  Britain is about to ram a bill through Parliament that will allow copyright holders to disconnect violators from the internet.  Yep, violate a copyright, lose your right to surf.  Quick and painless, for them.  For you?  Ehhh, not so much.  The bill is poorly written and not getting the thorough overview it needs.  It sounds like a shortcut to booting people you don’t like off of their ISP.  Sort of a shoot-now-ask-questions-later thing. It’s being rushed through the legislative process without enough overview, just before an election cycle when people are distracted.  Jeez, that sounds so familiar…  So to kick off the conversation on Internet Freedom here, I am linking to TWIG’s latest podcast on the subject: Self-aggrandizing Jerks.

One other note:  I love Gina Trapani.  Her commentary and tips are really excellent.  But she has been working with the Obama Administration on a White House Twitter project to collect user feedback and opinions on different issues.  Gina, I wouldn’t trust Obama’s White House with a 10 foot poll.  For all I know, they will use the information to shape their next round of propaganda.  She is way too optimistic about this White House.  Maybe it’s because she’s young but she just doesn’t seem to have developed the right level of wariness.  Or I’m reading too much into this project or something.  I dunno.  Proceed with caution with the White House talk thingie.

How Much are We Paying Larry Summers for Insights Like This?

Larry Summers dozes off at White House meeting

Larry Summers dozes off at White House meeting

From Politico:

Of all the statistics pouring into the White House every day, top economic adviser Larry Summers highlighted one Friday to make his case that the economic free-fall has ended.

The number of people searching for the term “economic depression” on Google is down to normal levels, Summers said.

Searches for the term were up four-fold when the recession deepened in the earlier part of the year, and the recent shift goes to show consumer confidence is higher, Summers told the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Gee thanks, Larry. Now I feel so much better about the surging unemployment figures, the skyrocketing rates of home foreclosures, and the increasing numbers of homeless families with children. If a Google search is Summers’ idea of a leading economic indicator, I want to know why my tax money is going to pay his salary.

Summers claims that the economy is “back from the abyss”

A somewhat more important indicator–the unemployment rate–isn’t as upbeat, though and has become a thorn in the administration’s side. (See: “The Job Market’s Grim Picture.”) It hit 9.5% in June, embarrassing the administration’s predictions that if their $787 billion stimulus were passed, the rate would peak a bit above 8%. Economists predict it will soon top 10%, erasing all the jobs created in the U.S. since the beginning of the decade.

“This is obviously a major area of concern,” says Summers, “But contrary to a significant amount of commentary, this does not provide a basis for concluding that the Recovery Act is falling short of its goals.” Summers points to the administration’s own forecast that only 10% of the job impact of the stimulus would take place in 2009.

Really? I guess if one of the administration’s goals was to create more profits for Goldman-Sachs, they are on track. What were the administration’s goals for the stimulus plan anyway? It doesn’t sound like creating jobs was in the top ten.

This is an open thread.

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