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30 May 2006

Save the Internet

You may or may not know about the push by telecommunications companies to require payment for better service (faster transmission and such) on the Web. To put it simply, AT&T and its ilk want more money for “more” service. “More” means that they’ll give preferential treatment to those who give them more money, while those who don’t pay up will be demoted.

Here’s some of what’s at stake:

That open architecture is what has allowed for the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce and communication. Pierre Omidyar, a small-time programmer working out of his home office, was able to set up an online auction site that anyone in the world could reach — which became eBay. The blogging phenomenon is possible because individuals can create Web sites with the World Wide Web prefix, www, that can be seen by anyone with Internet access.

Last year, the chief executive of what is now AT&T sent shock waves through cyberspace when he asked why Web sites should be able to “use my pipes free.” Internet service providers would like to be able to charge Web sites for access to their customers. Web sites that could not pay the new fees would be accessible at a slower speed, or perhaps not be accessible at all.

A tiered Internet poses a threat at many levels. Service providers could, for example, shut out Web sites whose politics they dislike. Even if they did not discriminate on the basis of content, access fees would automatically marginalize smaller, poorer Web sites.

Cruise on over to Save the Internet, to sign the petition and send an e-mail to your representatives. Here’s mine:

As a researcher and political scientist,I rely upon the resources of the Internet and the World Wide Web to complete my work on the international politics of HIV. Should the Internet become less democratic, reliant upon payment for preferential information provision, my work and that of every researcher dedicated to improving the public good will be severely impacted. The Web works like science does–all information is assessed only on the basis of its quality and reliability, not on its ability to pay.

Along with Google, Microsoft, the Christian Coalition, and, I urge you to vote for the Sensenbrenner-Conyers internet neutrality bill.

The bill, BTW, is HR 5417.

Posted in Politicks on 30 May 2006 at 9:27 am by Nate

I don’t enjoy being right sometimes

As I noted, in our society, some of us are more equal than others of us.

Today’s news:

In advance of his speech and a wreath-laying at America’s most hallowed burial ground for military heroes, Bush signed the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act.” This was largely in response to the activities of a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country, claiming the deaths symbolized God’s anger at U.S. tolerance of homosexuals.

The new law bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before until an hour after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Now, let’s leave aside the obvious abridgment of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. (Loathsome and hateful as I find Fred Phelps and his group, I can’t quite be convinced to limit their right of “expression.” Once Fred can’t speak against us fags, we won’t be allowed to speak up for ourselves when the time comes.) This administration has proven all too willing to leave the Constitution aside when it suits the admin’s needs.

But where was your outrage and need to involve the state when it was just us fags getting slammed? Or when it was religious conventions getting tarred with “Fag priests” and “dyke nuns”? But now that it is our fallen heroes getting tarred, we act.

Forget that this is unfair, unjust, and passively hateful. Question why it occurred when the Phelps controversy touched our military people. We’re obsessed with keeping our military “fag-free.” We discharge vital personnel (such as Arabic translators) in the war on terror because of whom they love. (We have spent more than $364 million dollars getting rid of just under 10,000 military personnel in the last ten years. That’s the cost of more 11 F-16 fighters.) And the thought that Americans might claim that military servicemembers died because America is a “fag nation” proves just too much. Somehow, it is so much that we must repress the hatemongers.

In essence, this latest action says that the military is too afraid of sex and too weak to protect itself and its people from extremist fringe groups. At the very least, the action says that the military is weaker than a bunch of sissy gays and religious people, who could apparently protect themselves.

I’m sorry to see that nothing is off-limits in our political atmosphere.

Posted in Politicks on 30 May 2006 at 9:24 am by Nate
26 May 2006

Let’s dissuade divorcees

Harry over at Crooked Timber outlines his thinking on divorce and gay marriage. Not original, but certainly worth revisiting.

The dominant public reason is that gay marriage will harm the institution of marriage. Suppose this is your reason for opposing gay marriage. You could still avoid the charge of hypocrisy by believing that divorce does not harm the institution of marriage, and hence that one’s own divorce has not harmed the institution one is defending. And, indeed, despite very high divorce rates, people continue to get married, so this isn’t a crazy view. But it does seem a strange view for conservatives, who are the main opponents of gay marriage, to hold. I presume that a conservative about marriage holds an ideal that marriage should be for the lifetime of the shorter-lived spouse, and that practices and behaviors that undermine that ideal damage the institution. Surely divorce does that; and, in particular, surely one’s own divorce does that.

Posted in Politicks on 26 May 2006 at 10:58 am by Nate
22 May 2006

And now…

We have become the proud owners of Russell the dachshund, who will arrive on 3 June.

russell1 russell2

Any particularly profound advice to offer?

Posted in Day2Day on 22 May 2006 at 5:14 pm by Nate

And now…

We have become the proud owners of Russell the dachshund, who will arrive on 3 June.

Russell1 Russell2

Any particularly profound advice to offer?

Posted in Day2Day on 22 May 2006 at 5:08 pm by Nate
20 May 2006

The link between a virus and a hate group

You may have seen the news about the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.

A federal advisory panel Thursday unanimously recommended that the Food and Drug Administration approve a vaccine that has been shown to prevent cervical cancer, the second most prevalent cancer among women worldwide.

The FDA almost always follows the recommendations of its advisory panels and is expected to do so in this case, probably by June 8.

(I will only slightly refrain from noting that the FDA only doesn’t follow that advice when it comes to anything even thought to do with abortion.) I might note that HPV is also a significant cause of cancer among gay men. That, however, is not mentioned. In fact,

HPV is considered the most common STD in the U.S. among both men and women. One study estimated that approximately 95 percent of HIV-positive gay men have been infected with HPV. That same study estimated that 65 percent of HIV-negative gay men have been infected with HPV.

Simiilarly, there has been outrage and response when Fred Phelps expanded his hate-fueled “protests” to include funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq.

As of April 19, 2006, at least seventeen states are either considering bans on protests near funeral sites immediately before and after the ceremonies, or have already banned them. These states are: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa [88], Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana [89], Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, which passed the law, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas. Wisconsin has instituted such a ban. These bans are in response to the God Hates Fags rallies of Phelps near the places where funerals of US soldiers killed in Iraq are taking place. These bans seem almost certain to pass, and although their constitutional validity has been questioned, their validity has not yet been tested in the courts.

We didn’t see outraged legislative response when Phelps spent years protesting funerals of gay men like Matthew Shepard or church conventions struggling with issues around women and LGBT people. People considered him outside respectable discourse, yes, but no one moved to throw the power of the state into countering him.

LGBT people are still not full people in this society. Our health, our dignity, our lives are still functionally not worth as much as those of “women” or “soldiers.” This betrays the two creeds so vital to many Americans–their patriotism and their (Christian) religion. All men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female. But there’s always queer, and that’s different.

This isn’t a pathology of the right exclusively. There are plenty of well-meaning progressives who neglect to use their own power of persuasion to expand the frontier of discourse.

But although perhaps less diabolical in intent than the discrimination of suppression, the discrimination of unintentional omission obtains similar results. Some of us become better or more important than others of us, and we betray our sacred principles in so many ways.

Posted in Politicks on 20 May 2006 at 10:11 am by Nate
17 May 2006

And I’ll still probably go see it….

I succumbed over the weekend and read the book that opens as a movie on Friday, after three years of resistance.

I love this line from a review of TdVC:

Sir Ian, in the best tradition of British actors slumming and hamming through American movies, gives a performance in which high conviction is indistinguishable from high camp. A little more of this — a more acute sense of its own ridiculousness — would have given “The Da Vinci Code” some of the lightness of an old-fashioned, jet-setting Euro-thriller.

But of course, movies of that ilk rarely deal with issues like the divinity of Christ or the search for the Holy Grail. In the cinema, such matters are best left to Monty Python.

“Always look on the bright side of life!”

Posted in OnTheWeb on 17 May 2006 at 6:02 pm by Nate
15 May 2006

Cool word


Incorrect or clumsy use of language: “The President was noted for his acyrology.”

Posted in Ev'rything But the Sink on 15 May 2006 at 3:48 pm by Nate
12 May 2006

Thank you Steven Colbert

I haven’t weighed in on the whole Steven Colbert controversey (whether he was unspeakably rude at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner–decide for yourself). Mostly because I think Colbert was bitingly funny. The emperor had no clothes, but no one in the room wanted to point that out.

Anyway, the New Republic sent me this in my inbox this morning:

Obviously enough, this is designed not to amuse, but to wound, to goad, to irritate. It is not comedy; the discourse has moved location, from the funhouse to the church, and it has become preachy and a little earnest. We are in the realm of the blogosphere. Again and again, Colbert chides the MSM in much the way that the alternative press does: “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.” Actually, this last jibe is pretty funny, and it neatly pops both John McCain’s ballooning self-regard and the tedious reverence of the establishment media….

So we have a heaven-made circularity: Colbert, abjuring comedy for bitter irony, attacks the MSM like the bloggers do; the MSM decide not to mention Colbert, or decide that he wasn’t funny, or was rude; and the bloggers get to cry foul, charging that this shows, at best, exactly what is wrong with the cloth-eared MSM–or, at worst, that a conspiracy to silence Colbert has begun. At which point the MSM, in their stolid, evenhanded way, write up the “controversy.” Who can blame the bloggers? They are right that Colbert was often not trying to be funny, but to be insulting–and there is something breathtakingly, sublimely insulting about the way Colbert, in the midst of his rudeness, continues to use the words “sir” and “Mr. President” not ten feet from the man he is dressing down. And, if they are not right about a conspiracy of silence, they are right about the press’s reflexive respect for authority, for only this can explain the chummy way in which, say, The New York Times first reported the event, with its relaxed and relaxing account of the comic genius of Steve Bridges (he was prepped in the White House!).

(Sidenote: I can tell that I don’t spend time in certain parts of the blogosphere, because when I first saw “MSM” I didn’t think of the MainStream Media but of Men who have Sex with Men.)

Posted in Politicks on 12 May 2006 at 10:37 am by Nate
10 May 2006

Useful to academics

An old post from Crooked Timber on successfully gaining a spot on panels at academic conferences. Possibly useful as we begin to head into proposal season again.

Posted in IvoryTower on 10 May 2006 at 6:37 pm by Nate