Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Up-sell on your cell phone

"Would you like fries with that?" "Can I interest you in the extended service plan?" How about $5/month more for text messaging, or $15/month for internet access on your spiffy new cell phone? Don't like that? How about 15¢ per text message and 3¢ per kilobyte for data transfer - which means it costs about $1 to get a frigging picture off my camera phone? That's the price of FILM! Oh, right the plan only covers the minutes I use for talking. Does it also cover the button-presses for dialing the numbers? Does it cover the time I listen, too, or is that 50¢/min? John C. Dvorak rants about the phones themselves - gadgetry, fashion, and rudeness in one bundle. Remember the olden days when you had to lease a phone from AT&T? How cool was that? It took a court case to allow someone to make an answering machine. Then the FCC ruled that as long as you don't harm the network, you can plug in anything you want. Thus the inventions of all sorts of cool telephonic devices including modems that first brought the internet into homes. Now Skype, purveyor of internet calls, has petitioned the FCC (docket# RM-11361) to apply that previous ruling to the cellular networks. You can e-mail your own comment in support of the petition. (Any volunteers to set up a web form for comment submission?) Consumers' Union has a web form for comments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Save the planet: fuel economy gauge

Here's an idea: mandate a fuel economy gauge next to the speedometer for all cars. The display on a gasoline car would show mpg, while the display on an electric car would show mi/kJ or some such. With fuel efficiency staring people in the face while they drive, they might be more keen to shut off an idling car and drive less aggressively! [DIY]

From Environmental Defense:

Check out our list of facts on cars and global warming.
Then, take action in support of national global warming action!

232 million - Number of registered vehicles in the U.S. That's almost one per person!

600 gallons - Average amount of gasoline consumed by one U.S. car each year.

12,000 pounds - Amount of carbon dioxide emitted from one U.S. car each year.

240 - Number of trees needed to absorb the 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted from one U.S. car each year.

2.7 trillion - Number of miles U.S. cars and light trucks traveled in 2004. That's the equivalent of taking 10 million trips to the moon.

5 - Percent U.S. population is of the world population.

30 - Percent of world's automobiles in the United States.

45 - Percent that the United States contributes to the world's automotive carbon dioxide emissions.

4 - Number of car companies that support a national cap on global warming emissions. They are Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota.

0 - Number of bills passed by Congress to cut global warming pollution.

Tell Congress to do something about fuel economy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


The White House will allow key presidential aide Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers to be interviewed by committees probing the firings of U.S. attorneys, but they will not testify under oath, Rep. Chris Cannon says. -- CNN Breaking News
So they say, "Trust me?" And we fall for it this time? Right.

Abusing our soldiers

Some thoughts for starters:
  • The President is abusing our great military by sending them on a fool's errand for cronies.
  • The abuse of our military must stop.
  • A noble force requires a noble mission.
What nemesis, what evil force would compel a government to war? Genocide against other races and an effort to take over all of Europe was not enough to engage this country in World War 2. It took a direct attack on American soil to engage our forces. Now, we see this country engaged in a battle over an imagined threat in which victory has proven elusive - the mission far from accomplished.

In his farewell address, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us of the dangers of allowing these forces of evil to persuade us that war is a Good Thing:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. [1]

For the military-industrial complex war is a business frenzy. It is government consumerism run amok. We buy, they grow, and their stockholders are happy. People die. Life in Baghdad sucks. Life in Walter Reed Army Hospital sucks. We could spend more money to improve those things, but we're already strapped for cash paying it to those cronies.

The cronies benefiting in this ignoble mission in which our President has most successfully thrust our country are contractors: Blackwater, Haliburton, and the likes. [2] They, and the gun and plane makers, are to blame for this conflict and for the lives lost because of its undertaking.

Go capitalism! Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

World War 3?

Dems abandon war authority provision, says the AP headline. When Bush ordered the attack on Iraq, I said he might have just started World War 3. I hoped, and still hope, that I was wrong, but so far, all my worst predictions for this administration have come true. Attack Iran, destabilize the region further, and then what? Exactly what is the plan here? Enrich U.S. contractors (Haliburton) for the short term while ratcheting the global threat up to heretofore unknown levels?

Another of my predictions: after the 2004 election, I predicted that Roe v. Wade would be reversed in 6 years.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's All Too Much

Stop the Insanity!* What's with the consumerism? Buy, buy, buy. It will make you happy. More is better. Buy one, get one free! Right. John Dvorak describes his woes with the computer industry's continually churning out new gadgets that make the ones from last month obsolete. Peter Walsh does the same for the run-of-the-mill pack rat in his book It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Mr. Walsh came to my attention by way of the Feb. 7, 2007 Oprah program, "Conquering Clutter." Other professional organizers were watching, too, and Carolyn offers her feedback.

In my life, there's more to clutter than the physical objects that get in the way. Sure, there are plenty of physical objects, and I found Mr. Walsh's assessment of materialism inspirational in my efforts to de-clutter, but my clutter is also temporal - I have too many things to do. So I made a list. I put it in a Google spreadsheet to share online with my wife, prioritized the items and sorted them according to priority and ballpark guess of how long they'd take. Then I added another sheet to record what we plan to do for each week in the forseeable future among several categories of activity. It gives us a process for handling the things we must do, the things we'd like to do, and the things that would be nice to do if time permits. Now we see how it works!

* My apology to Susan Powter for co-opting her dieting catch-phrase here... but the situation is no less nutty!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Terror alert! FBI on spying rampage!

Those of us who dare to question authority thought it was quite fishy that the FBI would be given powers to demand information without a warrant and to suppress discussion of the inquiry - it made the headlines relating to library records more than once. Quite a few libraries posted signs saying something like, "The FBI has not been here to search through our records," so that when the FBI did come, they could take down the sign as an indication that the FBI had come and thereby skirt the law forbidding their telling that they had been asked for information. [1] Much hoopla has come from the provisions. [2][3]

Now, shocker of shockers, the FBI has been found to have improperly used the Patriot Act in a number of cases, but the report suggests agent error and shoddy documentation rather than criminal intent. Yes, but if we're not allowed to keep tabs on the Bureau, then who will?