But first . . .


Yesterday‘s F.C.C. item and broadband test provoked this from James Musters:

‘The government test reports speeds in Kbps, which makes it look fast because the numbers are big. I get 3000 download and 300 upload. If it was reported in MBPS, the results would look paltry – 3 Mbps for download and 0.3 Mbps for upload. We are ‘thinking’ about moving our broadband connections to high speed Internet; meanwhile, South Korea has an average Internet connection speed of 100Mbps nationwide, a network that is currently being upgraded to 1Gbps by 2012. South Korea is implementing a system that is almost 300 times faster than what we get, ten times faster than what we plan to get.

‘Some say this blazing fast internet is only possible because they are a dense population and in America we are more spread out. But on the other side of the world, in the more rural Tasmania, the Australians are rolling out 100Mbps fiber connections to just about everyone, with the switching capacity to be opened up to 400 Mbps in the next couple of years. As NPR reported this morning, most of the modern world pays about one-fifth the price for Internet that we do, and it runs much faster. That is because we have a system where the phone and cable companies have a monopoly and no one else is allowed to sell high speed connections on their propriety networks. You get to pick the phone company or the cable company, and both, when delivering their top home internet package, are much slower than most of the rest of the modern internet nations. As NPR pointed out, we are even being outperformed by Eastern Slovakia.

‘Having not optimized the bandwidth they have now, either in terms of speed or cost, the current consolidated internet giants want the FCC to give them more radio spectrum so they can own all the possible ways of delivering Internet. (Resellers who buy blocks of time and resell at a discount rate are not really competing, they are just reselling in different packaging.) Listen to the NPR report. This ain’t news, we have been in the internet slow lane, paying far too much for service for years. Here is a random article I pulled up from 2007 from the Bush years that said the same thing.

‘Why are other nations leaping ahead by such huge strides in throughput? One answer is fiber-optics, we are still using copper connections. We are using horses and carts when they are using jet planes. How are other nations offering services at one-third to one-sixth the cost? Because they have a national fiber optic communication system on which they allow real competition by independent vendors, not just resellers who only repackage the monopoly services.

‘The FCC is owned by the big media boys, whose solution to their failings is to make a grab for more spectrum. Remember when the cell spectrum came up a few years ago and the computer makers wanted bandwidth but the phone companies got it? So now the wireless internet is not through wireless computers but through a cell sim card and you need a monthly phone company account to log on.

‘With computer companies, where there is real and diverse competition, we see prices driven down and performance up, which just does not seem to happen in the tel-com or cable business. In the US, a years worth of internet access costs more than the entire computer!’

And now . . .


Barb Duel: ‘I have sent the following message to the Governor of Virginia: ‘My partner and I had planned a trip to Virginia this spring. As a result of your recent executive decisions which are gay hostile, we will not be staying in or spending any money in Virginia. We will be advising all our family and friends to do the same.’


Joel Grow: Boycott Virginia? Where my wife – who works to promote tourism for our tiny rural county – canvassed door-to-door for Obama in tough, conservative areas where she was physically threatened? I know your call for boycott was mainly symbolic, but it would be better, I think, for you to call for money to be sent to Democratic candidates in Virginia than to try to damage the livelihood of many struggling, wonderful citizens in Virginia.

☞ Fair enough. And – thanks to many fine Virginians like Joel and his wife – the Governor has largely backed off, recognizing that the Constitution requires equal treatment under the law. Sure, he’s signaled his base that, if he had his druthers, gays and lesbians would be excluded from the state’s anti-discrimination protections. But this is progress, nonetheless.


Last week, I linked to a newly released description of what exactly it is we were doing. ‘You decide’ whether it’s torture, I suggested.

An Employee of the Church of Christ: ‘I look forward to your equally graphic description of how Al Qaeda treats their prisoners during interrogations.’

Craig D.: ‘That poor little terrorist Muslim with water up his nose who might have a one in a million chance of dying from some obscure condition, but might also say something that will save countless American lives, I can live with that. Since fanatical Muslims would kill you and me in a heartbeat and have cut off countless heads in the process I can live with them gagging on water.’

☞ Listen, I like ’24’ as much as the next guy, but a couple of points:

First, we all agree Al Qaeda is evil incarnate and does engage in horrific, barbaric inexcusable behavior. There is no controversy there.

The controversy is over whether waterboarding is torture – Cheney says not – and whether we should do it – Cheney says we should.

Neither correspondent having addressed the first question, I will take that as tacit agreement that what we were doing was torture.

On the second question, of whether if it’s torture we should do it, Craig, at least, says, ‘Hell, yes.’

But a lot of red-blooded patriots like John McCain have suggested that our taking the low road, whether with waterboarding or Abu Ghraib – apart from perhaps not being what Jesus would have done – is actually not in our own self-interest. It undercuts our moral authority; it helps Al Qaeda recruit new terrorists; it legitimizes torture by our enemies, should any of us or our allies fall into enemy hands; and, according to many, it is in the main less effective and reliable than lawful, professional interrogation.


‘Next Fall,’ which opened on Broadway last week, is, according to the New York Times, ‘the funniest heartbreaker in town.’ (Full disclosure: Charles and I got ‘free’ tickets for having invested in it.)


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