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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicken or the Egg?

Chicken or the Egg?

Since Darwin is all the news with the 140th anniversary of the book that drives creationsits bonkers, I simply had to post this:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is the egg. By evolution's mechanisms, whatever laid the first chicken egg had to be not-quite-chicken itself. Thus, the first chicken egg laid represented an evolution.

Ergo, the egg came first.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bonny Bonnaroo!

Bonny Bonnaroo!

Wow! The lineup looks amazing this year! I went in '07, but skipped last year; the excitement just wasn't there. But this year is looking fantastic!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blackwater = Pinkertons = Strike Breakers?

Blackwater = Pinkertons = Strike Breakers?

Yeah, okay, it's been over a week now since Congress held hearings on the role of Blackwater in security operations in Iraq; what can I say...I'm a slackard. But I've finally gotten around to diarying it, because some of the questioning definitely deserves a much wider audience. If you missed the testimony, I must say it was damn fascinating. I transcribed my favorite exchanges from the hearing and present them here to you.

There were quite a few highlights, e.g., "I'm not a lawyer" is the new "I can't recall." But it wasn't all fun and snark. Let's jump straight to the testimony that gave me this diary's title. Representative Jim Cooper (D - TN) brought up some very compelling points about just what Blackwater might and might not do within their business model.

Rep. Jim Rep. Jim Cooper: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Prince: in the charter, or by-laws, of your corporation, either the holding company or Blackwater, does it say explicitly that it will only work for the United States of America or its entities?

Prince: No; it doesn't. If I could clarify: anything we do for any foreign government - any training of anything, from law-enforcement training to any kind of aviation training, tactical flying, any of that stuff, all of that is licensed back through the State Department, another part of the State Department.

Rep. Jim Cooper: But you're the owner of the company, the CEO. If limitations like this are not in the charter and by-laws, isn't there a risk, should something happen to you, that different management, in order to maximize profits, might seek contracts from any number of other foreign countries? Like if Vladimir Putin offered a lot of money, why would you want to turn that down as a business entity?

Prince: Because you'd be violating federal law and the whole place could be shut down very very quickly.

Rep. Jim Cooper: But you're assuming a state department license would apply.

Prince: It does

Rep. Jim Cooper: But you're a regular, private company; you can...

Prince: No; no, Sir. I'm sorry; we have to have a license to train...

Rep. Jim Cooper: I'm not talking about training other people's private police. Say you took some of your former, people who are former navy seals, special forces, whatever, and they're working for hire; what prevents you in your current company charter or by-laws prevent hiring out those people to foreign governments?

Prince: U.S. Federal law does.

Rep. Jim Cooper: Which law?

Prince: Defense Trade Controls Act. Any training, any security services, any export of any weapons, any equipment you'd use to do that kind of job, requires a license. On top of that, this idea that we have this private army in the wings is just not accurate. The people we employ are former U.S. military and law enforcement people. People that have sworn the oath to support and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic; they bleed red, white and blue. So the idea that they're going to suddenly switch, after having served, honorably for the U.S. military and go play for the other team? Not likely.

Rep. Jim Cooper: But these independent contractors are employees; they're supposed to do what they're told and is your omission of this key bit of information from the charter and by-laws only due to the fact that it would be redundant? If it's assumed, why don't you go ahead and put it in the charter and by-laws that these people, this company, will only work for the United States of America and its entities? Why wouldn't that be a nice addition to the charter and by laws?

Prince: That wouldn't make any sense, because we have NATO allies helping in Afghanistan, helping the United States' mission there, and there might be opportunities for us to support, provide them with training, or aviation support, or logistics or construction or a lot of other things that allies need. Especially as the U.S. is trying to build capacity around the world, there's a lot of countries that need help building up their police departments, giving them more counter-terrorism capability...

Rep. Jim Cooper: There are 26 NATO allies, so you could work for any of them?

Prince: 26 NATO allies, but more and more the U.S. Government is doing "FID" missions; Foreign Internal Defense. We’ve done a number of successful programs for them, working for the U.S. Government, where they hire us, we go in and we build that capacity. We train them and provide the equipment. All of which is licensed by the State Department. When we apply for that license, it goes to the State Department and they farm it out to the relevant part of the DoD to control and authorize that licensing. What's the curriculum going to be, what tactics, even down to which individual in which country is going to be trained so they can do a check on them. So that is all controlled by the U.S. Government already, Sir.

Rep. Jim Cooper: On your website, it says you were contracted to enhance the Azerbaijan naval sea commando's maritime interdiction capability. Is Azerbaijan a member of NATO?

Prince: No; but that was paid for by the U.S. Government.

Rep. Jim Cooper: Let me ask another question.

Prince: It's part of their regional engagement policy; I don't make that policy, Sir.

Rep. Jim Cooper: Wouldn't it be nice to put in your charter and by-laws that you only work for U.S., or U.S.-approved entities? Why would that be harmful to your company?

Prince: We would be happy to do that, but it's absolutely redundant because we can't work for someone that's not U.S.-approved.

Rep. Jim Cooper: Redundancy is a small objection to making sure that you're a loyal U.S. company. Let me ask another question: what if a large company inside the United States of America wanted to hire your company for services, say to break a strike or other purposes like that. Is that allowed in your charter and by-laws?

Prince: That's not something we've even explored.

Rep. Jim Cooper: But it would be permissible under your current company charter? It's a new line of business, possibly, that might be very profitable.

Prince: That's not something we're looking at, not part of our strategic plan at all, Sir.

Rep. Jim Cooper: I know, but you're a mortal human being. Your company would allow it according to its current charter and by-laws?

Prince: Well, I have five boys that I'm raising; so one of them perhaps will take over some day.

Rep. Jim Cooper: Why not put it in the charter and by-laws? Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I see that my time has expired.

Kinda breathtaking when you stop to think about it. I don't know if Prince was being obtuse or what. But he was awfully reluctant to come right out and say he would rule out the possibility of Blackwater being hired out as local goons. To be used against American citizens on American soil. He wouldn't rule it out; instead we got flippant comments about how one of his sons might eventually take over. Reassuring...NOT!

Equally damning was this exchange with Rep. Bruce Braley, highlighting the very loosely defined accountability structure in which Blackwater operates:

Rep. Bruce Braley: I want to start by asking you about a statement you made on page three of your written statement you shared with the committee where you wrote the company and its personnel are already accountable under, and subject to, numerous statutes, treaties and regulations of the United States. And then you went on and attached to your statement a list of existing laws, regulations and treaties that apply to contractors and their personnel. Is that the document that I'm holding up in my hands?

Prince: Yes, Sir.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Is it your testimony, today, under oath, that all Blackwater employees working in Iraq and Afghanistan are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the War Crimes Act?

Prince: It is my understanding that is the case; yes, Sir.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Let's look at this document. I want to ask you: this document, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, applies in the time of declared war. You would agree that there has been no declared war on Iraq or Afghanistan?

Prince: No; but I believe it's been amended to include contingency operations.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Is it your understanding that a "contingency operation" would apply to what's going on Iraq and Afghanistan?

Prince: I'm not a lawyer, but my layman's understanding is yes.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Alright. And then it says "to persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field." Do you see that?

Prince: Well, I don't have that in front of me, but if you're reading from it...

Rep. Bruce Braley: I'm just reading from the document you provided to us. If that's what the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides, you would agree, based upon your own description of the activities of your company, there are times when your employees are not serving with or accompanying armed forces in the field?

Prince: There are times when U.S. Military units are actually embedded in our motorcades.

Rep. Bruce Braley: But to answer my question, there are times when your employees are not serving with or accompanying armed forces in the field, isn't that correct?

Prince: Sir; I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not going to give you that level of detail. If you want a clear written statement as to the company opinion. I'm sure the State Department can answer what their opinion is on that. But we've looked at it and we feel comfortable that our guys could be brought under investigation with those ruling legal authorities over their heads.

Rep. Bruce Braley: And then let's look at the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, Section 3261 - criminal offenses committed by certain members of the armed forces and by persons employed by, or accompanied by, the armed forces outside the United States. You would agree that there are circumstances where your employees would not meet that definition based upon their service in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Prince: I believe that was changed, yet again, to include any U.S.-funded contract.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Well, that's the definition that applies to U.S.-funded contracts from the statue.

Prince: Again, I'm not a lawyer, Sir. I'm sorry.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Then let's look at the War Crimes Act of 1996, which applies if the perpetrator is a U.S. national or a member of U.S. Armed forces. You would agree, based upon your testimony today, that there would be circumstances when some of your employees would not meet the definition of "perpetrator" to be covered by the War Crimes Act?

Prince: Again, I'm not sure, Sir.

Rep. Bruce Braley: Well, you testified that you hire some third-country nationals. They would not be U.S. nationals, would they?

Prince: Yes; correct.

Rep. Bruce Braley: And they would not be members of the U.S. armed forces.

Prince: But they are serving in a U.S. DoD contingency operation.

Earlier in the testimony, someone had asked about these third-party nationals and Prince replied that they only did guardwork and never left those stationary posts. Guard work, huh? Like guarding prisoners, the Oil Ministry, what? Do people on guard detail not occasionally misfire and maybe kill civilians? Of course they do.

The overarching point of the hearings, imho, was the question of accountability and whether or not Blackwater's obvious lack of it is helping or hurting our cause in Iraq. The obvious answer, of course, is "hurting it" which, thankfully, then begs the question of why our soldiers, who have been pulling guard and security details since time immemorial and are unquestionably accountable for their behavior, aren't doing these jobs we're hiring Blackwater to do. This is when I fell in love with Representative Diane Watson of California:

Rep. Diane Watson: Let me say this: I am really concerned when it comes to privatizing the various struggles that we are having in a war zone.

And I'm looking at a book here that says, "Blackwater: The rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." That is really disturbing to me, because I feel that every young man and woman...every man and woman in the military ought to be paid for their service. And I think you're making a good argument for the amount of money that you have been paid, your organization. And I think...my question is: do you feel that we ought to continue on with privatizing the kinds of duties that our military should be trained to execute?

Prince: Ma'am, the United States Military is the finest, most powerful military in the world.

Rep. Diane Watson: Absolutely.

Prince: Bar none.

Rep. Diane Watson: And they should be paid accordingly.

Prince: It's designed for large-scale conventional operations, what they did to Saddam in '91, and then again in 2002.

Rep. Diane Watson: Well, then there's something wrong with the design and that's my point. I think you responded and I hear you clearly. You are providing a service and I commend you; let me just continue on. You are providing a service and those little voids, Mr. Chairman and committee members, ought to be filled by the young... the people who volunteer.

We have no draft; these are volunteers. And why should they put their lives on the line for this country and not be compensated so their families back at home don't have to go on welfare and are living in housing that is substandard? And I am just infuriated, not with you, but with the fact that our State Department and our Department of Defense cannot see their way...and they talk about "we don't have the money, saving money." This war is costing us a trillion dollars. You have been paid over a billion dollars and will continue to be paid so that you can buy the helicopters that are shot down.

And so my question to you: are we going to have to continue to privatize because we are not training to do what you do and would it not be better to hire you to train our military to do the kind of guarding of VIP personnel; whenever there's a coterie, you have to guard them. When people from the State Department come, you have to guard them because we say that our military is not prepared and not trained to do that.

Prince: Well, Ma'am. I'm happy to say that we do a significant amount of training for the U.S. military every day at our couple of facilities that we have around the country.

Rep. Diane Watson: But you're saying that you fill in a specialty area.

Prince: It's a specialty gap, a high-end [indiscernible] security

Rep. Diane Watson: And my question that I throw out to all of us is why can't we train these people who are willing, who have courage to go into the military, but then we have to bring on a private firm to do the job they should be trained to do and pay them 3 or 4 times more than we pay those who choose to serve their country by fighting in-theater?

Prince: The military could do that, but the U.S. military can't be all things to all people all the time.

Rep. Diane Watson: Why not?

Prince: The tyranny of shortage of time and distance. You can't have an anti-air missile guy also be doing PSD missions and knowing how to be an aviation mechanic; it’s too broad of a base of skill requirement.

Rep. Diane Watson: So, they need more people?

When she piped up with "Why not?" I was done for. And I just loved the exceptionally subtle way she established that our "all-volunteer" army needs more people; why would we need Blackwater otherwise?

Believe it or not, there was even cause for a celebration on the R side of the aisle. No; Issa was the same, bloviating asshat he's always been and always will be. And McHenry is the same old laughingstock. Nor did Westmoreland say anything with more intellectual gravitas than your average 2nd grader's essay. But Rep. John Duncan (R -TN) may have just proven himself the last proper conservative in Congress:

Rep. John Duncan: Our committee memorandum says using Blackwater instead of U.S. troops to protect embassy officials is expensive. That's putting it lightly; Blackwater charges the government $1,222 per day for the services of a private military contractor. This is equivalent to $445,000 per year - over 6 times more than the cost of an equivalent U.S. soldier.

This war has produced some of the most lavish, most fiscally excessive, most exorbitantly profitable contracts in the history of the world. And it seems to me that fiscal conservatives should be under no, feel no obligation to defend this type of contract. In fact, it seems to me that fiscal conservatives should be the ones most horrified by this. And I notice in the table that Blackwater's contracting has gone from 25 million in 2003 to 48 million 2004, to 593 million in 2006. If we are going to be there another 10 years, as some have said, I surely hope that we're not going to continue to see these types of ridiculously excessive increases in the contracts that are being handed out.

I also notice that Blackwater is a subsidiary of the Prince Group, of Prince Group Holdings, and that another one of the holdings of that firm is Presidential Airways, an aviation company that has held a contract with the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command. Mr. Prince, can you tell me what percentage of Prince Group Holdings comes from federal contracts of all or any types?

Prince asks him to repeat the question.

Rep. John Duncan: Can you tell me...I don't know what all companies are in...I don't know all the companies that are in your Prince Group Holdings. Apparently, there is a Presidential Airways. I don't know how many other companies there are. What I'm wondering about is how much of Prince Group Holdings comes from federal contracts of any and all types.

Prince: Most of Prince Group Holdings come from federal contracts. blather blather blather

Rep. John Duncan: When you said most; does that mean 100%? Rough guess: what percentage?

Prince: Rough guess? 90%

Rep. John Duncan: Do you still have a contract with Presidential Airways with Air Force Mobility Command?

Prince: Yes, Sir.

Rep. John Duncan: And rough guess: how much is that contract each year?

Prince: I don't know what the exact number is, Sir. It's for 8 aircraft right now; I don't know what they price out at.

Rep. John Duncan: What other companies are in Prince Group Holdings?

Prince: There's a long list; I've got a manufacturing business that has nothing to do with federal stuff. Appliances, parts, etc.

Prince was, naturally, very defensive of Blackwater's work, citing umpteen cost matrices that'd been worked out to justify their "competitively bid" prices. But the question remained: why can't we just pay our military to do these things? Dare we hope that rummy's Faerieland Strike Force army has finally been declared a disastrous experiment?

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006



Backwash is...that last sip of psuedo-beer at the bottom of the bottle. Backwash is...what's left when the glass is 2/3rds empty. Backwash is...the 23%who will never abandon Herr Chimperor. Ladies and gentlemen, Backwash:

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rollins' Love Letter to Coulter Transcript

Rollins' Love Letter to Coulter Transcript

I love, love, love this video. It is a smackdown of Annie that only Rollins could ever deliver. Since videos tend to be somewhat ephemeral on the internets, I thought it a good thing to transcribe the text:

Dear Ann:

You used to be fun; at least funny. At least gently and amusingly insane, but girlfriend, you’ve changed! The thousand-yard stare you’ve acquired in the last couple of years says lonely nights, too much wine and insecurity about the future of your career. Where to now, my sweet fascist? Another one of your silly books? More hilarious appearances on Hannity & Colmes? Bill Maher has to be tired of you by now.

You’re anything but stupid and by now , you must see the writing on the wall. You’ll never have a real place with the Beltway in crowd, as they see you as a northeastern, hickoid, pro wrestler, Nascar type with a degree from Cornell. I mean, really, Ann; where can it go from here? Ann, I think I have the answer, in fact, I know I do.

I want to hire you, Ann. I want you to come and work for me. I want you to be my “Ann Friday,” my housekeeper, beekeeper, floor, chimney and minesweeper, my window-washing, grocery-buying, dinner-cooking, obsequious, submissive concubine-domestic.

You will laugh at my jokes, celebrate my victories and lament my failures. You will praise my friends and vow great harm upon all who oppose me. You will treat me like a god, a guru, a mentor – and the best night in the sack you’ve ever had. You will carry my bags, wash my cars, walk my dogs and turn your savings over to me. You will massage Susan Sarandon’s aching shoulders, whip up vegan delights for Hanoi Jane Fonda, and loofah Barbra Streisand’s stretch marks.

But most of all, Ann, you will just shut the fuck up.

I can offer you a life of obedient servitude on my compound; in your time with me, you will learn much. You will learn that America is made up of people from all races, walks of life and sexual orientation and that it’s all OK. You will learn to be patient and kind. You will learn the meaning of the word “respect” and memorize every line of Caddyshack. You will listen to The Ramones, Black Sabbath and the Brides of Funkenstein. You’re a figure of fun and I plan on having fun with that figure. You will learn who your daddy is, that’s for sure.

But mostly, Ann, you will just the fuck up.

Come on, Anne, ya fuckin’ psycho; let’s do this!


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Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Annotated Colbert

The Annotated Colbert

No; this story will not die. So There. And why should it? Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner is still just as ballsalicious and snarktastic as ever. Besides; the more we blather on about it, the more people come to realize the preznit got owned.

To that end, I've been sharing it with lots of people and found myself having to explain some of the references. I've run into a similar situation regarding Pink's "Dear Mr. President;" not everyone is familiar with the "hard work" reference. So I thought it'd be fun to have an annotated Colbert for those who don't live, eat and breathe political news. Naturally, I can't claim to speak for him; any editorializing or snark is a product of my warped mind. But I have tried to identify the inspiration for said snark accurately. Without further ado, Mr. Colbert:

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin, I've been asked to make an announcement. Whoever parked 14 black bulletproof S.U.V.'s out front, could you please move them? They are blocking in 14 other black bulletproof S.U.V.'s and they need to get out.

Wow. Wow, what an honor. The White House correspondents' dinner. To actually sit here, at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what? I'm a pretty sound sleeper -- that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face. Is he really not here tonight? Dammit. The one guy who could have helped.

By the way, before I get started, if anybody needs anything else at their tables, just speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers. Somebody from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail. Mark Smith, ladies and gentlemen of the press corps, Madame First Lady, Mr. President, my name is Stephen Colbert and tonight it's my privilege to celebrate this president. We're not so different, he and I. We get it. We're not brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We're not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say "I did look it up, and that's not true." That's 'cause you looked it up in a book.

Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works. Every night on my show, the Colbert Report, I speak straight from the gut, OK? I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the "No Fact Zone." Fox News, I hold a copyright on that term.

I'm a simple man with a simple mind. I hold a simple set of beliefs that I live by. Number one, I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there. I feel that it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I strongly believe it has 50 states. And I cannot wait to see how the Washington Post spins that one tomorrow. I believe in democracy. I believe democracy is our greatest export. At least until China figures out a way to stamp it out of plastic for three cents a unit.

In fact, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, welcome. Your great country makes our Happy Meals possible. I said it's a celebration. I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.

I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible -- I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical. And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's yogurt. But I refuse to believe it's not butter. Most of all, I believe in this president.

Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

So, Mr. President, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Okay, look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback.

I mean, it's like the movie "Rocky." All right. The president in this case is Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed is -- everything else in the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied. His corner man, Mick, who in this case I guess would be the vice president, he's yelling, "Cut me, Dick, cut me!," and every time he falls everyone says, "Stay down! Stay down!" Does he stay down? No. Like Rocky, he gets back up, and in the end he -- actually, he loses in the first movie.

OK. Doesn't matter. The point is it is the heart-warming story of a man who was repeatedly punched in the face. So don't pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's not doing? Think about it. I haven't.

I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.

Now, there may be an energy crisis. This president has a very forward-thinking energy policy. Why do you think he's down on the ranch cutting that brush all the time? He's trying to create an alternative energy source. By 2008 we will have a mesquite-powered car!

And I just like the guy. He's a good joe. Obviously loves his wife, calls her his better half. And polls show America agrees. She's a true lady and a wonderful woman. But I just have one beef, ma'am.

I'm sorry, but this reading initiative. I'm sorry, I've never been a fan of books. I don't trust them. They're all fact, no heart. I mean, they're elitist, telling us what is or isn't true, or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say it was built in 1941, that's my right as an American! I'm with the president, let history decide what did or did not happen.

The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will. As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!

Because really, what incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, "Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!

Now, it's not all bad guys out there. Some are heroes: Christopher Buckley, Jeff Sacks, Ken Burns, Bob Schieffer. They've all been on my show. By the way, Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to be on my show. I was just as shocked as everyone here is, I promise you. How's Tuesday for you? I've got Frank Rich, but we can bump him. And I mean bump him. I know a guy. Say the word.

See who we've got here tonight. General Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff. General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They still support Rumsfeld. Right, you guys aren't retired yet, right? Right, they still support Rumsfeld.

Look, by the way, I've got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble: don't let them retire! Come on, we've got a stop-loss program; let's use it on these guys. I've seen Zinni and that crowd on Wolf Blitzer. If you're strong enough to go on one of those pundit shows, you can stand on a bank of computers and order men into battle. Come on.

Jesse Jackson is here, the Reverend. Haven't heard from the Reverend in a little while. I had him on the show. Very interesting and challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants, at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.

Justice Scalia is here. Welcome, sir. May I be the first to say, you look fantastic. How are you? [After each sentence, Colbert makes a hand gesture...Scalia is seen laughing hysterically.] Just talking some Sicilian with my paisan.

John McCain is here. John McCain, John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you it wasn't a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There's no predicting him. By the way, Senator McCain, it's so wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. I have a summer house in South Carolina; look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University. So glad you've seen the light, sir.

Mayor Nagin! Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the chocolate city! Yeah, give it up. Mayor Nagin, I'd like to welcome you to Washington, D.C., the chocolate city with a marshmallow center. And a graham cracker crust of corruption. It's a Mallomar, I guess is what I'm describing, a seasonal cookie.

Joe Wilson is here, Joe Wilson right down here in front, the most famous husband since Desi Arnaz. And of course he brought along his lovely wife Valerie Plame. Oh, my god. [looks horrified] Oh, what have I said? I am sorry, Mr. President, I meant to say he brought along his lovely wife Joe Wilson's wife. Patrick Fitzgerald is not here tonight? OK. Dodged a bullet.

And, of course, we can't forget the man of the hour, new press secretary, Tony Snow. Secret Service name, "Snow Job." Toughest job. What a hero. Took the second toughest job in government, next to, of course, the ambassador to Iraq.

Got some big shoes to fill, Tony. Big shoes to fill. Scott McClellan could say nothing like nobody else. McClellan, of course, eager to retire. Really felt like he needed to spend more time with Andrew Card's children. Mr. President, I wish you hadn't made the decision so quickly, sir.

I was vying for the job myself. I think I would have made a fabulous press secretary. I have nothing but contempt for these people. I know how to handle these clowns.

In fact, sir, I brought along an audition tape and with your indulgence, I'd like to at least give it a shot. So, ladies and gentlemen, my press conference.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Net Neutrality Vote Thursday

Net Neutrality Vote Thursday

Okay, people. We need to heed Christy's words and light 'em up. It looks like the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006 (COPE Act) is due for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday. Christy has all the Senators' contact info, as well as the great coverage of Misener and McCurry. And while you're calling, also encourage them to sponsor the Dorgan-Snowe Net Neutrality.

We all know what's at stake here; I won't bore you with any details. Suffice it to say if you want to continue enjoying the wild and wacky internets, you need to call. And get everybody else to call. If you need that extra incentive, Ted Stevens sits on this committee. UPDATE: More details at this comment - the committee's schedule and more information on the bill itself. Apparently, it isn't just that Ted "Tantrum" Stevens is on the committee; this is his bill altogether.

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What you may not realize (I didn't) is that America has been here before; this fight is nothing new.

Once again, history repeats.

Beginning in the Progressive Era, there was extensive criticism of the reactionary political trajectory of the commercialized and concentrated newspaper industry, but there was little sense that any change was possible (5).

Such was not the case with radio broadcasting which emerged in dramatic fashion between 1920 and 1922. If only due to the physical scarcity in the number of channels available, it was recognized by all comers that the federal government would have to determine who, among the plethora of contenders, would be permitted to broadcast and, conversely, who would not.

...This opposition, which I term the “broadcast reform movement,” existed for less than a decade but played a central role in the debates over how best to structure U.S. broadcasting in the early 1930s. Although crushed unmercifully by commercial broadcasters, these reformers generated an impressive critique of the limitations of an oligopolized, capitalistic media industry for the communication requirements of a democratic society, a critique which has aged very well.

Aged very well, if at all - if specific dates and "radio" weren't in there, McChesney could just as well be writing about net neutrality today. There's a lot to be gleaned following the fight over allocation of radio airwaves.

The networks were the big winners. Thirty-seven of the forty clear channel stations went to network-affiliated stations. By the early 1930s, NBC and CBS affiliated stations accounted for seventy percent of U.S. broadcasting when hours broadcast and power levels are factored in (13). Advertising went from non-existence on a national basis in 1927 to the point where the networks accrued $72 million by 1934 (14). The other side of the coin was reflected in the equally dramatic decline of the non-profit broadcasting sector, from well over one hundred stations in 1927 to less than one-third that total by the early 1930s. Moreover, almost all of these stations operated with low power on shared frequencies. By 1934 non-profit broadcasting accounted for only two percent of U.S. broadcast time (15). For most Americans it effectively did not exist. *The FRC defended its practice of showing preference in granting licenses to commercial broadcasters* unequivocally in its Third Annual Report (16).

In 1930, a coalition of national education organizations organized as the National Committee on Education by Radio to keep the airwaves accessible to public broadcasting. The group's leader, Joy Elmer Morgan, had this to say:

Private monopoly in industry is bad enough; monopoly in the agencies which control the distribution of ideas is infinitely worse. It strikes at the very roots of free democratic government.

That is no understatement - and given the broader scope and power of the internets, the stakes are that much higher. Please, call the Senate Commerce Committee. If they give you guff about not being a constituent, just remind them that you don't get to choose your Senator's committee assignments and can't help the fact that you are not directly represented on this committee. But as the Senate Commerce Committee's ruling do not only affect the sitting Senators' respective states, you are making your opinions known. It is YOUR Senate Commerce Committee, no matter what they might say.

If you haven't checked it out already, Save the Internet has lots of info for sharing, as well as graphics for your webpage to spread the word. And now, for something completely different, John Perry Barlow channels a bit of Mr. Joy Elmer Morgan, God rest his soul:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996