Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who Invented the Internet?

I know that I can't respond to every piece of right-wing bs that finds its way onto the Internet, but sometimes you have to draw a line. Case in point, this from the Wall Street Journal, where someone named Gordon Crovitz tries to claim that the government didn't have anything to do with the creation of the Internet, and that it was created by Xerox instead.

This piece is such an blatant example of corporatist flummery that it boggles the mind, but I see the point of it from a corporatist perspective: if you are always going to argue for a reduction of democracy in order to expand the powers of the corporations, then it would be convenient if no good things arose from the activities of democracy and all good things arose from the actions of corporations. Take the Internet for example; it would really help the corporatist cause if the Internet had been created by private corporations rather than by the government. And because there are wingnuts and hacks like Gordon Crovitz and the Wall Street Journal around, you can actually find someone to claim that private corporations created the Internet, rather than the US government.

I am sorely tempted to go into a point-by-point rebuttal of Mr. Crovitz's hackery, because internal inconsistencies alone are enough to put his thesis in grave doubt. But life is short, so let me just suggest that you read an actual, serious, history of the Internet. Which one, you ask? Any of them. Any of them at all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Verizon Might Be On To Something

So Verizon is accusing the FCC of "confiscation without compensation" for trying to impose net neutrality? The easy solution to that problem is to just go ahead and nationalize the Internet ISP networks. Confiscate them, but with compensation. Then we could manage the Internet like we manage the roads, offering access to everyone. Unlike the roads, we should probably charge everyone the average cost of provision, but we'd still come out much better than we are now.

I realize that nationalization has a zero political chance of happening any time soon but, seriously, this is how you settle the whole net neutrality problem. Stop agonizing and squabbling over how to regulate these jerks and just run the Internet as government owned infrastructure. That's the answer, and no matter how unlikely it is that we'll get to the best solution, all of our discussions about net neutrality ought to start with acknowledging what the best solution is.

Inside Verizon’s attack on network neutrality — Tech News and Analysis

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Demogaphics of California's Budget Crisis

This post from Mathew Yglesias is very interesting. I've never seen a take on California's budget problems that focused on population before, but this makes sense. California couldn't keep growing at the rate it grew during the Fifties and Sixties. If it had, then much of what we love about California would have gone away. If California's approach to government services was based on the budgetary advantages of a rapidly growing population, then that level of government services may not be sustainable if we now assume that California is built-out.

The Decline of California

Monday, January 23, 2012

Buying Out Slavery

Here's an interesting, and serious, response to yet another one of Ron Paul's wacky beliefs, the idea that the Civil War could have been avoided if only the United States government had agreed to compensate the Southern slaveowners for their "property." It's the kind of idea that appeals to libertarians: a simple, prima facie solution that completely ignores the human realities of a problem and immediately falls apart if you start to really think about it. In this case, Paul's idea is predicated on the idea that the only thing that the planters cared about was money. As Coates points out, the whole fabric of Southern life and identity was built around the institution of slavery. Worse, emancipation would have left the white population of several Southern states as minorities surrounded by a sea of newly freed blacks.

Now we know that Southern whites can, in fact, survive surrounded by a sea of free blacks. We know that because we have it now. But there is no way that you could have persuaded the white Southerners of 1860 that they would be alright. You would have had to fight a war with them in order to get them to accept the slave buyout. And there you go.

Crowd-Sourcing American History - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Human-Powered Light Show

I've always been a sucker for muscle-generated electricity, ever since I read Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad as a teenager. A British artist, Bruce Munro, now gives us a clever use of electro-pedaling in a new participant-powered mobile.

I've often wondered what would be involved for a gym to use its various machines for generating some of the power to run the gym. To rework the old joke, how many people on treadmills does it take to run a light bulb?

Via Treehugger: Museum's Geodesic Dome Houses Human-Powered Light Show (Video) : TreeHugger

Friday, January 13, 2012

PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses

Would it be okay now to talk about having the State of California just take over PG&E. Can we start talking about this in public?

PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses

(Story courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Economics of SOPA and PIPA

Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's take on the economics of SOPA and PIPA. I don't see anything to disagree with.