Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Game of Thrones last episode, “First of His Name”, not only reached record levels of cable subscriber viewers surpassing even The Sopranos but it is also setting records for illegal downloads [ht for both links to].  Well, I’m not crying any crocodile tears for cable providers because THIS  is how I feel about them:

I moved a couple of weeks ago. In my old house I had a bundled package through CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) for DSL internet (60Mbps download) and DirectTV for HBO (and a thousand other useless stations). We didn’t actually get 60, but we sure as hell paid for it. And their service dropped all the time. At the new house the max download speed that CenturyLink could offer was 5Mbps–this is in a newer neighborhood, built after fiber optic was being installed automatically. Forget about the kids using their Xbox while you watch a movie via Netflix…that ain’t gonna happen….hell I couldn’t work from home using that kind of download speed!

So we had to get rid of CenturyLink, which means we had to get rid of DirectTV–remember it’s a bundle–separate the things are impossibly expensive. Now DirectTv wants over $300 as a penalty for canceling with them which we wouldn’t have had to do if CenturyLink didn’t suck so much. DirectTV said ‘well you can keep us and use Cox for your Internet‘.    No, I can’t because it will cost me 3x’s as much per month if I go that route. I can’t afford over $300 a month–that truly is insane. To put it into perspective, that’s more than I pay for health insurance every month!!!

The ONLY other option for Internet connection at the new house (or anywhere else in central AZ for that matter) was Cox Communications–who has the absolute worst customer support I have ever had the misfortune to encounter in all my years of consumer spending (I used to have them when I lived in the Central Phoenix corridor). There was no other choice, so I signed up with Cox.

In order to get near the same speed I am now paying slightly more per month than before AND they forced us to get a phone line and sign a 2 year deal. I haven’t had a plug in phone in years and I still don’t. I refuse to put a phone in so telemarketers can bug me 24/7. Screw em. So now I’m paying for phone I don’t need AND a thousand channels I don’t watch so I can access the Internet and watch HBO.  In a year or so if I need to move again, what if the house to which I’m moving doesn’t have access to Cox Cable.  I was thinking about buying a house.  Do I have to restrict my house search to only ones that allow Cox Cable?  The whole thing is just absurd.

Why are these companies allowed to control every point of access we have to streaming content? They don’t allow monopolies in other industries but this one seems to be A-Okay with Congress. It boggles the mind.

I will be using “Quoderpitude” as a blog title to highlight any quotes made by public figures that reach a level of willful ignorance and/or stupidity that beggar belief.

A note on the origin of the title of this blogpost.  First, it reminds me of “Turpitude”, which means “depravity; wickedness” and implies a purposeful agenda of intentional malfeasance.

Second, the concept is stolen from Paul Krugman’s awesome use of the term “econoderpitude”. This term is from his NYT July 6, 2013 blogpost aptly titled “Regions of Derpistan”  (ht Tom Levenson) in which he destroyed cheerleaders of the Austerity Movement–you know that school of thought, represented by people such as Harvard Professor and Water Carrier for the 1% Niall Ferguson. Ferguson and his ilk are the gang of Derpers who persuaded Britain and other Eurozone nations to slash spending and destroy their middle classes which resulted in prolonging their Recession.  This is the same group that opposed President Obama’s re-election and the Stimulus, which, lo and behold, worked to bring the U.S. out of it’s Great Recession.  Funny how that turned out and funny how the Derpers refuse to admit the evidence right under their noses.  See in the minds of Ferguson’s Derpers taking granny’s savings is “necessary pain” but asking the wealthy to actually invest in their countries of origin is definitely NOT. Furthermore in their minds, one never, ever changes positions even if one happens to be repeatedly wrong.

We’ve seen A LOT of Derp over the last 5 to 10 years and it seems that Derpitude itself is spreading, like a contagious disease. Not being someone who can resist pointing and laughing at such, I will regale you with quotes of Derpitude in all aspects of modern life to include:

I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets. –Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)

  • Histoderpitude — Death panels and Nazis and now Slavery…the hysterical and inaccurate historical comparisons are legion

And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to federal… to slave states.  -Rep. Bill O’Brien (R-NH)

  • Medicoderpitude — Women’s wombs repel rape sperm….remember that gem?  If only they knew how the basics of reproduction….

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. -Sen. Todd Akin (R-MO)

  • Technoderpitude — Greenwald’s repeated misunderstanding and misreporting of NSA technological practices and capabilities

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.  — Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill [emphasis above is mine, explanation of why they got it wrong and why it matters is here]

The list seems endless.  Ultimately, the pointing and laughing at Derpers keeps me from ending up prostrate under a table in boozy despair. Maybe it will help you avoid such an end too. You’re welcome!

You may have heard that people are so distraught over the President winning re-election that they are circulating petitions in 20 different states to secede (now I’m seeing reports of 30 states).  Texas has actually approached a “threshold”, which means someone will have to officially respond.

Here’s what I would like to see happen:  let them go.  Seriously, let them go.  Here are some the benefits for the rest of the U.S. if they do leave the Union.

1.  No fighting, a lot less bloodshed

2.  We will no longer pay for those Red States that actually take in more money that they pay out.  That’s right, the majority of the states on the list are a HUGE financial burden to the rest of us.  South Carolina, for every dollar paid in taxes, actually gets $1.92 back.  What’s that, almost 100% profit?  Alabama gets $2.03 back.  Mississippi gets $2.47 and West Virginia gets $2.57–250% profit.

What we could do with millions of dollars wasted on these states!  They’ve got quite the racket going, don’t they?  If they don’t want it, the rest of us want it back.  Every state that leeches off loyal, tax paying Americans can go so long as their governor sits down, writes a check out for the millions, nay billions, they’ve taken from the rest of us AND once the check clears the bank.

2.  We no longer have to provide any armed forces for them….no weapons, equipment, food, etc for their National Guard units.  Indeed most of that doesn’t belong to the state but to the Federal Government.  How about you give all that stuff back, hmmmm?

3.  We gain a buffer zone.  If they are a border state, particularly with Mexico, we no longer have to worry about over the border incursions by drug cartels.  Take Texas for instance.  The thousands of border patrol agents, ATF agents, DEA agents that help to control what would be a complete free-for-all without them could drop back to north of Texas.  Of course, Texas would have to create their own border patrol with their flush state budget.  And if Texas didn’t provide that border security, it would be first and foremost a no-man’s land, that the remaining U.S. would use as a physical buffer zone.  I’m sure the citizens of TX want to live in a no-man’s land.  I mean, look at how great the Palestinians are doing!

4.  Less to worry about.  In addition to joint protection stuff we would get back, there’s a ton of other things we’d no longer have to provide that these states would have to pay for.  Again, lets use TX as an example.  In 2011 they had a shortfall (deficit) and they had to slash services drastically (plus leave some stuff off the books and finagle a little).  They increased taxes across the board and lo and behold they might end up with a nice surplus in 2012.  But just set that aside folks because you will need it to pay for your new national defense force, your border presence with Mexico (good luck with that, BTW).  You’ll need that surplus to build and care for all of your highways–the Federal Government used to do that.  Any national parks get taken back?  Yep, you’ll pay for that too.  Medicaid and Medicare?  No matching funds, so you’ll need to cover that 100% or a whole lot of old people and  the parent’s of sick children are going to go bezerk, quite literally.  Oh, don’t forget a diplomatic corps, a spy agency, and embassies around the world.  School lunches and all the free food that the states receive to feed America’s children when their parents can’t.  Also, a stock exchange system, regulations for such things, a currency system…I could go on all day long.  Do you think that surplus would cover all that?  Do you really?

5.  And end to the whining.  We wouldn’t have to listen to them bitch any more.  They didn’t like paying high taxes to the Federal Government and they were always whining about it.  Now they’ll have whine about TX to TX.   I’m wonder what makes them think they’ll enjoy paying high taxes to the new nation any more than the old one?  Maybe they  won’t.  Maybe the counties can secede from the state.  This new version of “trickle down” economics should work really fine for you.  Loyal Americans will watch your disintegration with mixture of pity and disgust (and fear for any relatives who are stuck within your borders).

6.  Increase in tax base for the loyal states.  Speaking of, millions of refugees, half of your population essentially, wanting to remain loyal to the U.S. will leave your state.  It would account for a good portion of the tax base that you would need so desperately to pay for all the stuff mentioned in above. You can’t force them to stay.  All you states claiming to love liberty so much, surely you wouldn’t force them to stay? Who would end up being the jackbooted thugs in this scenario, I wonder?

7.  Cement the power of the Democratic Party.  Of the 20 states (now I’m seeing it’s actually 30), 14 voted for R0mney and most of those traditionally vote Republican.  Their electoral votes sum 153.  Furthermore all the Liberals and Moderates that exodus en masse from these states will go to the remaining states, some of whom used to vote Republican but won’t in future because they’ll be absorbing the millions of refugees who are not likely to vote Republican.  Basically the loss of these states will ensure that a Democrat would be elected to the White House every four years for the foreseeable future.  It would also drastically affect the composition of Congress.  Then maybe, just maybe the Dems will pursue a truly liberal agenda, because I got news for you folks, President Obama is a centrist in many, many ways.  He is not even remotely “soshulist”.

All that above was snark, now here’s some serious thoughts.  

How many thinking secession is an option?  There are some Blue States on that list, about 6 of them (again the list is changing as I type this).  I suspect in those cases they wouldn’t really secede.  And in truth, I don’t think the other 14 will either.  Any yahoo can create a petition and 49% of the Country is seething mad that the “Empty Suit” or the Ni-Clang or the Muslim Manchurian candidate (pick your reason, it doesn’t really matter) won another election so they’re just venting.  But what really worries me is the actual number who are signing the petitions.  Between LA and TX they have over 50,000 signatures.   How many will sign those petitions?  A hundred thousand, two hundred thousand?  How many agree but are too afraid to sign a petition?

We need each other.  What about the response from those who that the proposal to secede is, in itself, a treasonous act?  Loyal Americans have posted petitions to have anyone who signed those petitions to be stripped of their citizenship and exiled.  Some liberals might even want their state to secede because they are so very tired of supporting everyone else and being told that they aren’t patriotic, that they are stupid, cool aid drinkers, that they don’t contribute anything, etc, basically getting shit by the other side when these labels are demonstrably untrue.  I.e., most of the 17 states that support the other 33 tend to vote Democratic. Take CA as an example.  It is a huge economy bigger than many small countries but takes a loss of $0.19 for every federal tax dollar they pay out….We need them, more than they need us.  Still want to call them lazy hippies?  We’d all better pray that CA doesn’t secede, seriously.

We like and feel obligated to being a part of the U.S.  See what these Secessionist don’t understand that the vast majority of Americans like us being the United States.  Many of them will have taken oaths to defend our country from all enemies foreign or domestic (did you notice the domestic part?) and they consider that oath binding unto death (I’ve sworn this oath at least twice in my life and I meant it).    These Secessionist are awakening a sleeping and irritable giant that is getting tired of the far right (which seems to have taken over the Republican party)  whining about how they’re going to take their ball and go home because they lost.  Most of the time, when a Republican wins, you don’t see Liberals trying to secede.  You see them get mobilized and try to elect someone else next time around.  But they’re waking up now in a very different way and they’re getting angry.

That’s the problem though isn’t?  It always starts like this and if fanned, creates an unbridgeable chasm that eventually tears a nation apart OR results in the suppression of one of the sides by the other.  If these conservatives truly want liberty, make the system we have better.  Get rid of Lobbyists and the influence of the banks and the large corporations, improve the efficacy of voting for every citizen (not just the ones that look like Beaver Cleaver), get rid of the Patriot Act, do some real campaign finance reform…so many things that would make our system more fair, more transparent, more balanced, more agile.  Then the issues will be what’s important not either side’s hurt feefees or racism (which like it or not, does play a role for many secessionists just as it did 152 years ago) or insults (like 47% of us being moochers) or any of the BS.  We need to be more grown up about this.  This is not a game and this secession symbolism, because that’s all it really is, does actually hurt us a nation.  It’s plants yet another seed of hate and misunderstanding that could grow into another deadly plant that kills over half a million of us.

Ari Shapiro’s segment on NPR this morning really made me think.  Is the concept of the “bully pulpit” a myth?  And if so, is the left’s criticism of President Obama’s failure to use it unfair and, dare I say, irrational?

First let’s look at what “bully pulpit” means.  The term was coined, I think, by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt back when the word “bully” was much more common. Bully used as an adjective means “superb” or “great”.  You may have heard it used in the phrase, “well bully for you” often meant with a sarcastic and bitter tone as in “that’s great for you but what about the rest of us?”  And a pulpit is the podium from which someone preaches.  Officially “bully pulpit” is defined as,

A public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue.

The implication being that if a politician uses his unique position to speak about an issue he or she will be able to then affect outcomes.  The Office of the President has certainly enjoyed a “unique” position that no other politician does.  If one were to look at the various stages of American History and the amount of exclusive coverage the President has received, you can see a pattern emerging.

From the founding of our nation up until the invention of the TV, the most important aspect of Presidential coverage (and indeed all news) was the speed by which the news made it from the actual speech to news outlets to American news consumers.  In early times, the speed was limited by word of mouth and the ability of a person and or printed material to travel by foot or horse.  Then it improved with the invention and widespread use of the telegraph, which combined with the technology of mass broadcasting through radio stations accelerated things considerably.  So things were pretty slow until the 1840’s essentially and even then the President’s message could only go out as fast as the fastest newspaper publishers could distribute it until the 1920’s.

Things remained pretty stable until the advent of the television in the U.S. in the 1950’s.  Television really revolutionized communication in a number of ways.  First, the President’s words were no longer the only thing being conveyed.  Now we could see what he was feeling, how he gestured, etc.  Non-verbal communication and the President’s ability to speak in public became so much more important (1, 2).  Second, there were very few channels at that time, most programs were live, and they did not have 24/7 programming like we do now.  Therefore when the President did speak, ALL of the stations covered it as it occurred without clipping,  editorializing during it, and without response from the opposing party.   As a result the President enjoyed, for a brief time, an exclusive access to and literal transmission through the most powerful communication device created to date.

Once live Television shows were replaced by pre-recorded shows, it was only a matter of time before the “literal” transmission of Presidential speeches became of a thing of the past.  Now they could clip speeches, take the time to respond to and comment on what the President said and even allow the opposition party to weigh in with their comments.  Although Presidential Speeches tend to remain live events, the break down and analysis that is done today is a far cry from the original broadcasts during the early decades of television.

Another factor in the ability to reach the masses was the free nature of Television.  Originally to view Television all one had to do was purchase the hardware–a television, turn it on and then position the antenna to pick up the “analog” broadcast signals either beamed from large station towers without cost(3).  This type of passive and free broadcasting continued until 2009 when the Federal Government required that TV stations stop using analog signals and limit themselves to digital signals(4).   Many stations, the main ones from the three big networks and public stations remain free even though their signals are bundled with many “for pay” channels.  Although cable TV (i.e., private, for profit television channels) was invented as early as 1948, it didn’t really become common in most American households until the 1980’s.

With the advent of cable television, our viewing options expanded from 3 or 4 basic channels who would ALWAYS cover a Presidential speech to hundreds if not thousands of channels of which only 6 to 8 channels MIGHT cover the Presidential speech live and complete.  Now add to the complexity of the situation the Internet and the variety of ways that the Presidential speech can be streamed live and one would think that the opportunity for reaching more people has expanded.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.

Let’s say hypothetically that the number of stations/sites (including television, radio, and Internet) that will broadcast a Presidential speech live is typically around 20.  That live speech must now compete for the attention of the average American with other live and pre-recorded events on literally millions of television, radio and the Internet stations/sites.  And that doesn’t include the written word on millions of Internet sites that serve to distract.  Furthermore, the average American doesn’t have to sit through the entire speech to figure out what the President is trying to say.  He/she can now wait until it is over and has been dissected to the nth degree and get it all filtered from a million different radio, TV and Internet sites/stations.

Ultimately technology has decreased the effectiveness of the Presidential speech and the potential effect of the “bully pulpit”.  On the whole, while the President can now potentially reach more people over a greater geographical area than ever before, it is only a potential since in reality viewers are distracted by and have so many other options.  Moreover, this is a review of the technologies’ affect on the effectiveness of transmission of the “bully pulpit”.  It doesn’t address the journalistic filter except in the earliest days of technology when the President’s speeches were sent in their entirety with little comment or interruption.

The truth is that journalists have always printed opinions anticipating before what might be said and what they think should be said, and then they added commentary after the fact on what was actually said.  Technology has only increased by several orders of magnitude their ability to do that and do so in a variety of mediums simultaneously.

Additionally, there remains the whole idea of media bias.   Conservatives have been saying for decades (since Saint Ronnie Raygun perhaps?) that the media has a liberal bias.  In truth, it appears to liberals that the media has become so paranoid of this “liberal stigma” and they desire to maintain access to popular political figures that they go far out of their way to avoid it, and in doing so end up entertaining the most bizarre and outlandish ideas in order to appear balanced.  As Ken Silverstein put it so brilliantly in 2008 (5),

…balanced coverage that plagues American journalism and which leads to utterly spineless reporting with no edge. The idea seems to be that journalists are allowed to go out to report, but when it comes time to write, we are expected to turn our brains off and repeat the spin from both sides. God forbid we should attempt fairly assess what we see with our own eyes.  “Balanced” is not fair, it’s just an easy way of avoiding real reporting…and shirking our responsibility to inform readers.

If reporters have to show balance and the President’s speech is about decreasing health care costs and the opposite argument is that everything is fine the way it is, then the reporters will cave to the desire to “balance” the conversation without ultimately informing or educating the viewer.  Here’s how they typically cave.  The journalist will invite someone to come on to say that “everything is fine” regardless of whether that pundit/person 1) has any real qualifications to speak on the matter (6), 2) can complete a coherent sentence intelligibly without flinging poo at the camera, and 3) does not look like a troglodyte, and 4) typically associates with the opposite party from the Presidents or typically presents views that are different from or in opposition to the President.  What does this do?  Well it gives equal footing to any talking head they can schedule to the President of the United States.  Can you imagine this happening back in the 1970’s or earlier? It would have been laughable, if not downright considered offensive to have some nobody counter the President’s speech.  While I wholeheartedly believe democratization is in general a good thing, I believe the “desire for balance”, “fear of the liberal stigma”, and the rise of punditry has hurt television journalism and the American polity in ways that we are just now beginning to understand.

One of those ways is the purpose of the “bully pulpit” to not only communicate but to also influence real outcomes by that communication is now impossible (and probably has been for several decades).

Unfortunately many liberals and progressives don’t understand this yet.  And if they do, they don’t care.  They’d rather just yell at the President for things that are so far outside of his control that is become ridiculous.

Clearly the “bully pulpit” if it ever really existed, no longer applies in the modern communications paradigm.  The only thing that can make reality better isn’t communication, it is the outcome of policy and actions taken by the President.  And if you look at actions the President has taken across the board(7) he’s not doing as bad a job as his critics, on both sides of the aisle, would have you think(8).


1.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at studies on the first televised Presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon.  Those who only listened on the radio and only had their words and cadence to go on thought Nixon won.  Those who watched it on TV thought Kennedy won.  Why?  Nixon was very uncomfortable on TV and he sweated.  Being able to see the speakers made all the difference in the world to the effectiveness of the message.

2.  Consider this….would someone like Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt have been successfully elected in modern America considering that he could not stand on his own without support?  Sadly, probably not.

3. Television stations broadcast from their own towers, beaming them as radio signals up into the atmosphere and bouncing them off the ionized atmospheric gases and refracting them back down to your homes.  Later the beams could be transmitted from satellites orbiting the earth.

4.  Digital signals are simply the transmission of data broken down into 0’s and 1’s.  Digital signals can be transmitted from stations to satellites and then back down to dishes that have cables to our TV sets or from stations to cables that run to our homes and our TV sets.  Although a lot of people complained about the switch, it was necessary because the radio/analog broadcast spectrum was getting too crowded.  The government wanted to open up this spectrum to a) for things that supported the public good such as police, fire, rescue, etc, b) to wireless technologies that have been booming, c) to increase the quality of broadcasts (which we can all appreciate), and d) it allows for data interaction–two way communication (that radio/analog transmission cannot).

5.  From Wikipedia site quote in article on Media Bias, taken from article by Silverstein, Ken called “Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship”, 2008–I couldn’t find the actual article online.  

6.  FYI, if you look at the qualifications of most pundits on TV now, you will find that their qualifications are that they’ve worked directly for a politician in the past or they have advocated for an issue in the past or they have run for or held political office in the past.  None of which would make a person an “expert” in any court within the U.S. or within academic circles anywhere in the entire World.  So you’ll have someone like Erick Erickson of, a conversative blog, commenting on issues ranging from the intricacies of raising children to complicated ways of reducing health care costs on CNN even though he has COMPLETELY unqualified to comment on any of it.  He is simply a semi-presentable and semi-articulate individual who is well-known in conservative circles.  He’s a face who can spout information without shitting on himself.  Seriously, what the fuck does he know?  Same goes on the liberal side by the way….Jane Hamsher?  Who the fuck is she to be on TV and present herself as an expert on the myriad of topics she speaks?!  Hamsher’s background is in film production and Internet blogging.  Same goes for Erick Erickson.  He has a degree from a third tier law school and if anything he should be commenting on the law or blogging (although I’d rather hear from someone educated at Harvard or any school that doesn’t have a religious affiliation because religion has no business in the teaching of the law as far as I’m concerned).  And before you start on about, “who the hell are you to have an opinion if these people can’t”, you’re not reading closely enough.  I’m not saying they can’t have an opinion.  They just shouldn’t be on an international news channel presenting themselves as experts on anything other than the topics for which they are trained, educated and experienced (in all three ways and to a level that is preferably peer reviewed and acknowledged within their own profession as being an expert in that topic).  That is what an expert is.  My spouting off on this blog about the media and politics doesn’t mean I am claiming to be an expert.  I am a concerned citizen.  That’s what I present myself as.  These people have delusions of grandeur that is enabled by the corporate media desire for punditry and the frenzy to produce a “balanced” view.  

7.  Don’t just focus on the economy, but look at everything from gay rights to killing Osama Bin Laden, he’s affected “reality” through policy in many, many good ways.  

8.  I don’t think that President Obama shits rainbow unicorns and $100 bills, but I do think that a realistic assessment is one that will stand the test of time.  I promise to reassess my views of him in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years time….let’s see how it stacks up then, shall we?  I’m betting that history will consider my assessment to be more accurate than the bullshit currently being spouted by those on the far left and anything from the right side of the political spectrum.