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February 26, 2010

We’re Digitally Distressed At How Much This Is Going To Cost Us

The Federal Communications Commission this week released the results of an extensive survey (pdf) that was designed to assess American’s attitudes towards broadband, uncovering the shocking truth that 35% of adults do not have broadband at home.

Think about that.  Millions of Americans still have to go to a newsstand to view pornography, never mind that watching videos of cats doing amusing things, girl fights, and pirated episodes of Lost is nothing more than a fleeting dream.

The biggest barrier:  Cost.

We don’t know about you, but we’re not sure we want to live in an America where people purchase only the things they can afford.

Fortunately, we probably won’t have to. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is set to submit a “National Broadband Plan” to Congress on March 17, which:

"Will be a strategy for US global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy."



(Unfortunately, while Chairman Genachowski can improve the vibrancy of our democracy and unleash new waves of innovation, he cannot apparently establish peace in the Middle East or bring an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. He’s only a man (or possibly semi-deity), after all.)

As part of the study, FCC researchers broke down broadband “non-adopters” into four categories:

  • Near Converts
  • Digital Hopefuls
  • Digitally Uncomfortable
  • Digitally Distant

If you are like most Americans, three questions probably pop into your mind:

1) Am I paying for this?
2) Seriously, am I paying for this?
3) Because if I’m paying for this, I’m going to be really ticked off.

Sure, you’re paying for it, but that’s not what’s important, what is important, is that the study went far beyond carefully identifying whether or not you are digitally uncomfortable or distant (perhaps the Internet didn’t take enough interest in you as a child) and made many other important discoveries including:

The people who don’t have broadband at home because they think it costs too much would be willing to get broadband at home if it cost less.  (We smell a Nobel Prize in there somewhere)

61% of broadband users know what “refresh” means, while only 16% know what a “widget” is. (We must address this refresh-widget divide before it… well, we don’t know what, we just know that they wouldn’t have surveyed it if it wasn’t important.)

While only 65% of Americans have broadband at home, 86% have a cell phone and a similar percentage have cable or satellite TV (strongly suggesting that 21% of Americans are choosing to spend their money in ways that Chairman Genachowski does not approve of and in so doing are imperiling his dream of improving the vibrancy of our democracy through their reckless exercise in free choice).

Rural non-adopters are twice as likely to cite the lack of access to broadband service as a reason for not having broadband at home.  (Rural non-adopters also have a lack of access to filthy air, transit strikes and gridlock compared to their urban counterparts.  Maybe we can do something about that too. Just to be fair, of course.)

According to John Horrigan, (pdf) Director of Consumer Research for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, “The gap in broadband adoption is a problem with many different dimensions that will require many different solutions,” including, “lowering costs of service or hardware.” 

Well, lowering them for some people. 

We have a feeling they’ll be going up for you.

J.

February 26, 2010 at 03:15 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 24, 2010

We Can Think Of A Way To Open Up At Least One New Employment Opportunity In Congress…

You know what would be a great way to reduce unemployment?

Encourage one million people to volunteer to become unemployed and go on the government dole.

Otherwise, we face the very real possibility that one million people could become unemployed and go on the government dole.

That, at least, is Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich’s proposal, which would allow people to retire at age 60 and start collecting Social Security early, the theory being that that would create one million job openings.

Two words come to mind: Problem. Solved.

The notion of solving a problem by transforming it into policy could have many other applications:

Problem: With new-home building at historic lows due to the lingering economic downturn, America could be facing a housing shortage as early as 2011, forcing many young people to live with their parents.
Solution: Start a government program in which young people are encouraged to move back in with their parents, thereby freeing up housing units for young people who are still living with their parents.

Problem: Iran is working on obtaining nuclear weapons.
Solution: In exchange for Iran agreeing to abandon its nuclear weapons program, the United States will supply Iran with nuclear weapons.

Problem: The federal deficit is out of control.  We have to pay it down before it’s too late.
Solution: We will pay down $1 trillion of debt.  Step one: borrow $1 trillion.

Problem: We need to stimulate the economy by getting people to spend more money.
Solution: Get people to spend hundreds of dollars on new appliances while at the same time getting them to spend hundreds of dollars less on electricity.

Wait, we’re already doing that last one.

Regardless, it is essential that we move forward with these kinds of innovative solutions.

Otherwise, we might have a problem.

J.

February 24, 2010 at 06:38 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2010

You’re Not The One They’re Trying To Protect

Last week, as part of a coordinated effort to build support for the Obama Administration’s stimulus spending, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passing of the Stimulus Bill by noting with great fanfare how “DHS has put the Recovery Act to work in communities across the country—making significant investments in aviation security, while boosting the American economy,” and meeting with “TSA employees at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., observing Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) and Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units at work,” where they are “bolstering American security.”

Except the Explosive Trace Detection and Advanced Imaging Technology Units she observed “at work” weren’t, technically speaking, purchased with stimulus funds. But that’s only because they were purchased in 2008 long before the Stimulus Bill was even passed.

Call it “preemptive stimulus.”

Where would Janet Napolitano have to go to see the actual units that were purchased with stimulus money “at work,” “boosting the American economy,” and “bolstering American security?” 

The warehouse where they’re being kept in storage.

As DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa pointed out, it “just simply takes time.” As opposed to, say, setting up a really good photo op.  Those they can bang out in a few days.

Well, at least it’s not like we’re in any immediate danger or anything.

Besides, while it may not be evident at first, having millions of dollars of stimulus funds tied up in sophisticated bomb scanning machines sitting in a storage facility actually provides the nation with many benefits:
  • They are helping to revitalize the self-storage warehouse industry, which has always been key to any economic recovery.
  • We know there’s one warehouse al-Qaeda won’t be sneaking any bombs into any time soon.
  • Leaving the units in storage as opposed to deploying them in airports helps to eliminate any privacy concerns travelers might have had about the machines.
  • It ensures our nation’s vital bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanut manufacturing capacity is not diminished by otherwise low demand during the economic downturn.
  • There is no better way to keep those TSA warehouse floors clean and dust-free than by protecting them with millions of dollars of unused equipment sitting in their original packing crates.  The savings in janitorial fees alone probably covers the cost.

So, the next time you’re travelling by air, you can take comfort in knowing that those charged with keeping you safe are hard at work staging fake media events to help further their personal political agendas.

It sounds better after you’ve had a couple of those $7 whiskey-and-sodas.

J.

February 23, 2010 at 01:25 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2010

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Some Reform?

After weeks of “private talks” which appear to have revolved largely around a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, White House officials have come up with a completely revamped communications strategy.  As a senior White House official put it to Politico:

“Reform is the new change.”

The White House believes that replacing “change” with “reform,” will better move forward its political agenda since, as we all know, the only reason people oppose health care reform is because President Obama did not explain it “more clearly to the American people."

Shady deals done in secret?

A budget buster?

Will just make things worse?

Sure, but those are all peripheral issues, the real problem has really always been word choice. 

Call it, governing by Boggle.

For the moment, “hope” seems to have survived the axe, although should “reform” not prove to be a winner, don’t be surprised to see some changes, er, reforms, coming to that as well.

 PRAY

J.

February 22, 2010 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2010

They Might Want To Try Cleaning The Snow Off The Streets First

See if you can tell the difference between the bag on the left and the bag on the right:

Bag Tax

Come on, this is pure common sense. 

Okay, okay, we didn’t realize we had to engage in remedial bag identification:

The bag on the right is obviously subject to the provisions under Sec. 2. Part (1) Subsection (A) Part (iv) of the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act of 2009" in that it contains “unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods” and as such is not subject to the District of Columbia’s new five-cent “bag tax.”

This tax-free bag goes inside the bag on the left, which, to the surprise of Mrs. Moron this week, is subject to the new tax.  That is due to the fact that it did not qualify under the exception for “reusable carryout bags” in part because it was not “made of cloth, fiber, other machine washable fabric, or durable plastic that is at least 2.25 millimeters thick.”

Damn, so close.

But not to worry, under Sec. 7. Part (2) Subsection (A), the District Department of the Environment is required to form “a public-private partnership to provide reusable carryout bags to District residents."

We are truly fortunate to have leaders with the vision necessary to recognize the need for a public-private partnership to ensure DC residents have full and equal access to cloth sacks.

There are some things the market just can’t do on its own.

The purpose of the tax, like all targeted taxes, is intended to sound noble and good: Clean up the Anacostia River.

Hey, who’s in favor of dirty rivers?

That is why you’ll never hear about a tax targeted to fund our community’s critical need for a motorcycle escort every time the mayor goes on a bike ride.

Naturally, some people are going out of their way to avoid paying the tax, according to the Washington Post, including doing their shopping outside of the District.

But then, as Charles Allen, chief of staff to Council member Tommy Wells, said, “We would love” if the fee from the bag tax fell to zero.

You know who might love it slightly less?  Grocery store owners.

Which is why some question whether the tax will ever raise the money intended and whether plastic bags are even the biggest trash problem facing the Anacostia.

So let’s review. The new bag tax:

  • Will inconvenience shoppers.
  • Will reduce shopping in the District.
  • Won’t raise the money expected.
  • Won’t help what’s it designed to help.

It’s not often that lawmakers are able to achieve the Platonic ideal of regulation.

One parting thought: Among the exceptions made to the bag tax are: “Bags provided to the consumer, as required by D.C. Official Code §25-113(b)(5)(C), for the purpose of transporting a partially consumed bottle of wine.”

Now that is one powerful wino lobby.

J.

February 19, 2010 at 05:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2010

And Here We Had No Idea He Hated Children

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell introduced a budget yesterday that is sending shockwaves throughout the commonwealth, with proposals to cut state education funding by approximately  $731 million, a reduction some said would be “catastrophic.”

How catastrophic?  To put it in perspective, the state’s public schools, colleges and universities would have to operate with levels of state support they haven’t had to struggle under since as far back as 2008.

Some of you may not be old enough to remember what things were like in 2008, but rest assured, they were dark, perilous times.  Often, there was barely enough money to fully fund “Character Education” which shortchanged not only “civic engagement technical assistance” and "positive modeling" programs, but equally essential efforts to make sure our children learn their “4th and 5th Rs:” Respect and Responsibility.

How are we supposed to compete in an increasingly global economy if we allow our students to lag behind China, India, and Japan in their proficiency in Respect, never mind their mastery of Responsibility.

As the Virginia Education Association pointed out, living under state funding levels of two years ago and the expected layoffs that will result, are sure to have a “devastating impact” on our schools.  Not to mention the Virginia Education Association’s dues.

Sadly, education is only one of the budget items to take a hit.  The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association noted that cuts in health care reimbursements will cost its members dearly, but more importantly, produced a study that showed that for every $1 the state cuts out of its Medicaid program, Virginia's economy loses $4.25, strongly suggesting that the easiest way to close our budget deficit is to give more money to members of The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Overall, the Governor seeks to slash the budget by $2.2 billion, forcing citizens to confront the very real possibility of reliving 2007 (pdf) all over again.

If you live in Virginia, we urge you to move out now before things get really ugly.  We were here in 2007, and we’d hoped to never have to live like that again.  But it’s too late for us.  We just renewed our parking stickers.  But it’s not too late for you.  Flee our dying commonwealth while you still can, before we are overrun by slightly fewer public services, modest reductions in state payments, and zombies.

There are always zombies.

J.

February 18, 2010 at 02:13 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2010

And Thanks To Our Hard Work Here At Planet Moron, The Country Did Not Experience An Outbreak Of Cholera

You know the best way to celebrate the anniversary of an unprecedentedly large economic stimulus bill in the face of continued high unemployment and economic malaise?

Highlight all the things that didn’t happen!

And so today, President Obama marks the anniversary of the Stimulus bill by noting that there was not, in fact, a “second Depression.”

This is a clever political move in that it makes clear the policy differences between the President, and those who support depressions. 

Vice President Joe Biden joined in on the fun as well pointing out that we did not go into “economic freefall.”

Sure, unemployment continues to flirt with double digits, but at least it’s not flirting with higher double digits.

Two words come to mind: Thank. You.

Some economists, such as Roger Aliaga-Diaz at Vanguard Group, question this approach, asking, “How do you count something that didn't occur?”

Making it up seems to work.

Still, the Administration isn’t taking any chances, and is sending out its cabinet members to swarm the nation this week so that they can point out all the jobs the Stimulus Bill has created.

Let's just hope no one accidentally ends up in a Congressional district that doesn’t actually exist. (Talk about your red faces.)

But what if you remain unemployed, despite clear evidence thatindependent, non-partisan economists across the spectrum," believe the Stimulus Bill has been a success.  You can still take comfort in knowing that Democrats all across the country are hard at work on your behalf, laboring away day and night researching the many ways that Republicans are hypocrites.

And they say government isn't responsive to the needs of the people anymore.

J.

February 17, 2010 at 06:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2010

Snowed In. Way In.

Northerners are free to scoff, as I have often done, having moved here from a latitude with a 4 in front of it, however it’s a matter of what you are prepared for. 

And so, like the heat wave that killed thousands in France due to an infrastructure better suited to dealing with cold European winters, or Barack Obama’s failure to charm foreign leaders due to an appeal better suited to impressing David Brooks, Washington was laid low under 30 inches of snow.

As were we.

Guess The Model

So please bear with us as we dig out our cars, buttress our gutters, clear lanes in the snow so the basement doesn’t flood with the coming melt, and then soothe our tired muscles with Advil and whiskey.

Hopefully we won’t run out of whiskey.

J.

February 11, 2010 at 10:10 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 08, 2010

CONSENSUS WATCH – 2/8/2010

An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed at all costs.

Because without Consensus, scientific conclusions could be challenged by people demanding hard data.

Wet Heavy Global Warming

While we continue to dig ourselves out from under two feet of wet, heavy, anthropogenic global warming here at Planet Moron headquarters, we take comfort in knowing that frequent record-breaking snowfalls do not in any way suggest that global warming is anything but real.

Which is not to say that mild winters don't prove it is real, of course.

This is important to remember, as it has been revealed lately that much of the science underpinning The Consensus didn’t come from “research” in the traditional sense of the word, but rather from more unorthodox sources, such as magazine articles, college student homework assignments, press releases, and idle conjecture.

Sure, that might sound bad taken out of context, but what skeptics fail to appreciate is that the whole purpose of establishing consensus in the first place is to take the science part out of the equation. That way we can move forward with what’s really important: Maintaining levels of hysteria necessary to spur legislative action.

Besides, according to Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the errors and fabrications are actually positive developments noting that such mistakes :

"…Could increase the credibility of the IPCC, not decrease it. Aren't mistakes human? Even the IPCC is a human institution."

(We don’t suggest you try that at work unless there is already a consensus with your bosses that you’re doing a good job.  Kind of like with Tim Geithner.)

Given the unconventional nature of global warming science, it is important that Consensus supporters be prepared for additional revelations including some of the following:

Claim: Sea levels will rise in the coming decades, swamping coastal cities.
Source:
Something James Hansen thought he saw while watching “The Day After Tomorrow” on his new Blu-ray player.

Claim: Polar Bears are resorting to cannibalism.
Source: Nostradamus.

Claim: Global warming could cause malaria as far north as Germany.
Source: A flyer Michael Mann saw in Berlin for the post-punk German band, “Malaria.”

Claim: We must reduce carbon emissions or we are all doomed.
Source: The image of Al Gore miraculously appearing one morning in a bowl of Rajendra Pachauri’s Wheatena.

Al Gore in Bowl of Wheatena

Claim: Tree ring data proves CO2 causes global warming.
Source: Hidden message found when you play the Beatles “Revolution 9” backwards.

Also, Paul is dead.

Claim: Hurricanes will increase in frequency and intensity unless we transition our power generation away from carbon sources and toward wind turbines.
Source: An advertisement from wind turbine manufacturer, Southwest Windpower.

Naturally, skeptics will continue to blow these discoveries all out of proportion claiming that they are some kind of indictment on The Consensus.  Unfortunately, these appeals to reason and common sense do occasionally gain traction with the lay public, unfamiliar as they are with the scientific process, so just in case, supporters of climate change legislation have a back up plan:

Make believe it’s a jobs bill.

Remember, Consensus means never having to say you’re sorry. Or wrong.

J.

CW Sweatshirt Global Are you digging yourself out of several feet of global warming too?  Don’t forget our “My parents fought Global Warming and all I got was this lousy sweatshirt!” along with all our Consensus Watch merchandise.  Remember, the earth is getting hotter, so be sure to bundle up!

February 8, 2010 at 11:50 AM in Current Affairs, Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 05, 2010

We Understand They Also Believe Strongly In Family Values

The Good News: Republicans are taking a principled stand demanding fiscal responsiblity.

The Bad News: No one told the Republicans.

Senator Richard Shelby has placed a hold on ALL of President Obama’s nominations in order to get $40 billion worth of Air Force refueling tankers built in his state.

This may not sound fiscally responsible at first, but you have to balance this out with the Senator’s long career and established record of saying that he supports fiscal responsibility:

“As a strong proponent of government fiscal responsibility, Senator Shelby has consistently opposed Congress’s efforts to bailout private corporations with taxpayer dollars.”

Instead, the Senator supports fiscally responsible spending of your taxpayer dollars such as $872,000 for the catfish genome project and $440,000 for the Tri-state joint peanut research program.

In fact, Richard Shelby comes in third in Congress for spending taxpayer dollars in a fiscally responsible manner so it’s clear the Senator knows what he’s talking about when he points out that:

“President Obama’s rhetoric on fiscal responsibility unfortunately lacks credibility.”

The kind of credibility you can only establish if, like Senator Shelby, you’ve managed to have a building named after you and your wife because you donated $40 million of other people’s money to help construct it.

While small-government fiscal conservative types might wonder why they should enthusiastically support establishment Republican candidates, the GOP has a new campaign slogan ready to go to ensure you are properly motivated:

Vote GOP

J.

February 5, 2010 at 08:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack