Category Archives: Politics

Imagine a world where you had a remedy for bad cell and cable speeds

Anyone with cell phone or cable service knows that the transfer rates they advertise to get you to sign up (up to 100 Mbps download!) almost never match what you get in the real world. That is why they use those magic words “up to” since it allows them to say to you that they never promised you would get those actual speeds, even if they charge you extra for them.

As this article I ran across today notes, the UK is taking steps to give its citizens some recourse if the speeds they advertised to sign you up for that contract fail to materialize:

Internet users are to be granted more rights on connection speeds as [the UK] imposes tougher rules on how ISPs advertise broadband services.

The proposals give consumers the right to exit contracts penalty-free if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum.

[British government regulator] Ofcom says there is a mismatch between what is advertised, and the speeds customers receive.

But experts say speeds are affected by different factors, and are not strictly a measure of connection to a device.

A public consultation is currently being conducted until 10 November.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of [the consumer advocacy group] Citizens Advice, said: “Many people seek our help each year because their slow and intermittent broadband service falls short of what their contract promised.

“For most people, a reliable broadband connection is a necessity, so when they don’t get what they’ve paid for they should always have a quick and easy way out of their contract.”

She said: “These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service.” Ofcom’s existing broadband code of practice requires ISPs to provide consumers with an estimate of the internet speed they can expect from their service.

If the proposed rules pass consultation, broadband providers will need to be much more specific about the speeds customers will receive and will have to set a guaranteed minimum speed for each package.

This could mean current estimates of “up to 17Mbps” become “a minimum of 10Mbps”.

If the speed falls below the guaranteed minimum, under the new rules, the ISP will have one month to fix the problem, and if it cannot be fixed, the customer can terminate the contract without penalty.

With that simple change — changing the words “up to” to “a minimum of” the ISPs would be forced to account for the actual speeds you get on your service.

So what are the chances of these types of rules being forced on similar companies in America?

Don’t hold your breath. As you can see from the screen cap graphics from OpenSecrets.org accompanying this article, the telecom industry gave just under $26 million in political contributions to candidates for federal office in 2016 alone, almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

In Washington money talks, and the telecoms are in the drivers’ seats on Capitol Hill until we consumers get our act together and decide to hold both parties accountable for the ways they allow cable and cellular companies in this country to saddle Americans with some of the most expensive service in the world for the least amount of reliable bandwidth. 

Making it seem as if anyone said anything you want

I was having a conversation recently with some acquaintances, one of whom is a doctrinaire Tea Party type — let’s call him TP — and the subject of the Civil War came up.

“The Civil War was not fought over slavery,” TP said.

“If the president who was shot in the back of the head in a theater could speak, he might differ with you,” I said. 

“No, it’s true,” TP said. “Lincoln said it in a letter to some newspaper editor.”

What TP was referring to was the Aug. 22, 1862, letter from President Lincoln to the the famed newspaper editor Horace Greeley, in which Lincoln stated: 

“If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

The letter, when read verbatim, out of context, to someone not familiar with all that was going at that time could then be used as it is being used now by Tea Partiers looking to defend Confederate monuments and the honor of the Confederate cause.

Of course, Lincoln was readying to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation in just just four months on New Year’s Day 1863, an action which should have forever put to rest any notion of whether the war eventually ended up being about slavery in Lincoln’s mind. 

His letter to Horace Greeley is widely seen by historians as Lincoln playing politics, trying to convince everyone that, no matter how much of a tyrant the Confederacy tried to say he was, he really just had the best interests of the Union in mind. (Some also believe that words such as these by Lincoln were anticipatory in trying to lessen the blow of the Emancipation Proclamation.)

Yet he we are 154 years later and the forces who would defend the Confederacy for whatever reasons are using Lincoln’s words (all just in text form, mind you) to convince entire swaths of the population that he really didn’t care about freeing the slaves.

It really is so easy to do in an age where people on both sides of the political divide increasingly get their news only from sources which match their political sensibilities, left or right.

As I listened to this acquaintance continue to try to convince me that I was wrong about the Civil War, I was taken back to an episode of the Radiolab podcast I heard this summer, and meant to mention in this space then, but never got around to it.  (You can just hit the play button below to listen to it yourself.)

The hosts of Radiolab said of making this episode that the more they got into the subject matter, the more if sent chills down their spines. I thought that might be hyperbole when I first read the words.

Not so after I listened to the podcast, titled “Breaking News.” I thought it was worth sharing with you if you did not get a chance to hear it a couple months ago.

Imagine if it were this easy to get anyone you want to say anything you want by using just an audio recording of their voice.

If you the think the news is broken now and people believe strange things they read, just wait until everything you say in audio recordings can be changed as easily as moving around some text in a transcript.

The New Yorker looks at “large adult sons”

This article in The New Yorker looking at the internet meme of “large adult sons” is both well-written and engaging. But it also left me questioning: what’s the point?

Two excerpts from magazine contributor Jia Tolentino‘s article: 

One of history’s most disastrous adult sons, King Ferdinand I of Austria is said to be best remembered for his command to his cook: when told he could not have apricot dumplings because apricots were out of season, he said “I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings!”

This seems to be roughly when the large-son meme went more or less mainstream. It had been germinating in arcane corners of the Internet for a couple of years by then. In 2012, the Twitter user @MuscularSon, who eventually deleted his account, started tweeting in character as a beleaguered father of several mythically rowdy boys. “i cant control my enormous nerd sons. they force me to cosplay as a police box from Dr Who and take turns paintballing my enormous nude torso,” he wrote. And later, “my two awful big sons got into the 20 quarts of hummus i have and now their heading toward The City.” In November, 2013, @dril, the ur-account for this genre of absurdist online humor, tweeted, “i have trained my two fat identical sons to sit outside of my office and protect my brain from mindfreaks by meditating intensely.” In 2014, he tweeted, “please pray for my sons Thursten and Gorse, who have just glued themselves to a curtain.” By then, the image—a tornado of havoc around a couple of big, rambunctious sons—had somehow solidified as a comic trope.

And: 

The large-adult-son meme takes wing from the idea that men overcompensate when they are humiliated, and that a primary source of this humiliation is interdependence—sons act out when they are defined by their fathers, and fathers are disgraced by the oafish flailing of their sons. But it’s memes all the way down with this Administration: Trump, the father of the large adult son of the summer, is himself, clearly, a large adult son. He is the loudmouthed, mischievous, and disorderly child of a presiding father. He loves to get behind the wheel of a truck and pose for the cameras like an important birthday boy. The Web site Gossip Cop recently ran an earnest post headlined “Donald Trump Does not Wear ‘Adult Diapers,’ Despite Speculation.” These are strange times we live in. The seas are warming, the summer is ending; each day lasts a century, and we are everywhere ruled by large adult sons.

It’s all well done and readable, and sometimes the art of journalism (and opposed to the craft practiced by hard news reporters) is simply to chronicle something in a truthful and informative way.

Yet after reading this I was wishing  Tolentino had acknowledged that  what is different is that now these sorts of self-centered, self-serving and puerile behaviors are becoming so commonplace. And that is where their biggest danger lies: they are beginning to normalize behavior that was once thought uncommon and boorish.

I hesitate to use the alarmist “what abou the children?” line because it has been used so often to excuse bigotry. But I think it is useful now.

What about the children who could once look up to the office of the presidency? What are we telling them when an office that was once, sometimes grudgingly, seen as the Leader Of The Free World, is forevermore seen as up for grabs by people whose only interest seems to be their self-interests?

And what are we telling them when the leaders of our country — and say what you will about Johnson, Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes, but at least they knew when to act presidential in public– no longer even care to act as if they presidency should be above certain levels of untruth and pettiness?

Those are the important questions about this internet meme unaddressed by the article.

When incompetent cartoon characters match real life

It’s striking how often The Simpsons and Family Guy inadvertently anticipated today’s Republican Party.

Not something you see on on a pickup every day

What it lacks in oratorical elegance it makes up for in its bold use of imagery.

Grassley sends mixed signals on ACA

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley at a Town Hall meeting in Iowa Feb. 21.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley R-Iowa) at a Town Hall meeting in his home state Feb. 21.

Give Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa some credit. While many of his Republican colleagues have been ducking the angry crowds in their home districts, Grassley has been facing them head-on, according to this article from the Washington Post:

In the politest possible way, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked his constituents to keep their voices down.

“I learned a long time ago that if I keep shut, I learn more,” Grassley said on Tuesday afternoon, to the crowd spilling out the doors of a community center meeting room. “If people just kind of respect other people speaking, it’ll help everybody to hear.”

It was Grassley’s second town hall of the day, the umpteenth of a political career that began with a 1958 race for state legislature. He wrote down each question as it was spoken to him — about the confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, about whether Congress would probe Russia’s election meddling, and whether he’d favor the impeachment of President Trump.

And he faced round after round of questions on the Affordable Care Act, from people who sometimes choked up as they described their specific, positive interactions with the law. After one woman emotionally described how her family would have been “destroyed” had the ACA’s subsidies not defrayed the cost of her husband’s illness, Grassley assured her that the law would not simply be repealed.

“There isn’t one piece of legislation put together yet,” he said. “If there is, it would be along the lines of giving the states some options of either staying under Obamacare or having some flexibility to do Medicaid.”

Continue reading Grassley sends mixed signals on ACA

GOP getting hammered at home

http://jefepp.tumblr.com/post/157593713410/recess-ruckus-republicans-met-with-jeers-at-town

Pensive Otto

He listened to them discussing Trump and 25th Amendment on MSNBC. Has been deep in thought about the issue ever since.

Cue Nat King Cole

“Unforgettable…that’s what you are….”

Hey, I totally don’t blame any of them. I’d be like a schoolgirl in his presence, too.

Ivanka and Kellyanne in the same boat

Jeez, Kellyanne.

When Mika and the gang think you’re not credible enough for their “Morning Joe” shitshow, you’ve fallen fast and hard.