Congress fails to recognize Internet as part of national infrastructure

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that the net neutrality bill was dead.  Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Barton (R-Tex) was the final nail in the coffin.  Net neutrality has stirred much debate recently with one side concerned about excessive government regulations hampering the communications companies from managing their business, while the other side is worried about preserving unfettered access to all Internet content by anyone, regardless of what service they use to connect.

Critics have tried to position net neutrality regulations as an attempt by the government to censor the Internet.  In reality, it is exactly the opposite of that.  Net neutrality regulations mean that your ISP cannot favor any one sort of traffic on the network over another.  That means an Internet provider can’t purposely slow down streaming video from Hulu unless the consumer also subscribe to their premium cable TV package.  It means the ISP can’t sign a deal with Google to reroute search traffic from Bing to their site.  It means, all Internet content is treated equally.  That providers must provide content agnostic access and not play favorites based on the type of content or the source of it.

The critical failure here is one of not embracing the Internet as a fundamental part of the national infrastructure.  In our world, it is every bit as vital as telephone service, water, and electric.  It’s worth noting that telephone service already has regulations similar to net neutrality on its networks.  Back in the early days of telephony, some telephone companies refused to allow calls to be made to certain areas or numbers because it wasn’t profitable enough for them to do so. The government stepped in and said enough of that. If you are a telephone company then you will allow your customers to call anywhere and everyone.

Allowing ISPs to control content access is not necessary to support the ISP business model. It is not good for American business or innovation. It is not good for consumers. It is certainly not consistent with free markets and freedom from tyranny. It is only good for lining the pockets of the big ISPs.

It’s high time America owned up to the Internet being a public utility and started treating it like one.

Are you smarter than an atheist?

A survey of Americans shows that atheists know more about major religions than any other group.  In fact, Jews, agnostics, and Mormons even out performed Protestants and Catholics.  The survey asked 32 questions covering basics of many religions including Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

Smarter Than...It’s tempting to blame the poor performance of Christians on the bubble effect.  Most people in this country get very little exposure to other religions.  It’s not a topic emphasized at school, and it’s not a popular self-study topic either.  Although the fact that 45% of Catholics didn’t know that the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Christ indicates there’s more sleeping going on during mass than most priests might have imagined.

It’s also not surprising that atheists did well on this survey.  Most atheists are not such out of ignorance.  Rather, it is the spot arrived at after a journey through many schools of religious thought.  Ironically perhaps, the more you know about all religions, the harder it is to believe in any one of them.

Evolution, elections, and the limits of faith

Photo by latvian on Flickr

It probably doesn’t seem like whether or not a candidate accepts evolution is very relevant to the job they’ll do in office. After all, the vast majority of politicians have no opportunity to directly impact or even influence the field of biology.  Although, in many cases, it is used as a litmus test of sorts by bible literalists to determine if a candidate is a true believer.

During the 2008 Republican debate at the Reagan Library, all 10 candidates were asked if they believed in evolution.  Three indicated they did not.  More recently, Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell was quoted as saying evolution was a myth.  And Sarah Palin states in “Going Rogue” that she doesn’t believe in evolution.  Clearly, some politicians see this position as playing to a certain group of voters.

However, there is a larger concern about someone with a staunch position against evolution.  That person is basically saying they are immune to data and reason.  Evolution has 200 years of scientific data and research behind it.  The politicians discounting it as fiction are not doing so because they’ve studied all the information and have come to the conclusion the theory doesn’t hold water.  Rather, they are faced with the situation that significant data are contrary to their ideology or worldview, and so they are dismissing the data.

This is not simply a matter of placing religion as paramount.  This is a matter of once this person has taken a position, there is no reasoning with them.  They will not be swayed.  Some may see this as a sign of strength, but after eight long years of George Bush’s damn the data, stay the course policies, we should all be very wary of anyone who remotely thinks they already have the answers, and who won’t be truly open to rational arguments from the other side.

Evolution is not a question of faith.  It’s a question of rationality… and we need more of that in politics.

Candidate’s religious values matter in elections

BibleChurches throughout the land are encouraging voters to get out to the polls and vote for people who share their biblical values.  The Assembly of God has a website devoted to this cause.  To avoid putting their tax-exempt status at risk, they are careful to avoid specific instructions to vote for a particular issue or candidate, but the message is still clear.  Vote for people who support bible-based policy.

The difficulty being that the bible doesn’t provide a great deal of guidance on economic policy, military strategy, infrastructure investment, or immigration.  This leaves people vulnerable to be swayed by a candidate’s stance on issues the bible (or at least the Evangelical community) is clearer about such as abortion, prayer in schools, and keeping Israel safe.

However, these and most other biblical issues are political non-starters.  Our foreign policy would never turn its back on Israel.  At best we’re quibbling about the fervor of our support.  The abortion question should ultimately be settled by a new law, not the courts.  But no Congress is going to tackle that issue in the foreseeable future.  Getting prayer into schools would require a fundamental re-interpretation of the Constitution, or an amendment to it.  Neither of which is remotely likely.  Yes, it is possible to vote for Presidents and Senators who will appoint and approve judges who will interpret the Constitution to your liking, but that is a very long term and indirect means to achieve an objective.

The result may be that voting for someone based on their bible values alone may well mean voting on issues outside the control of the offices to which you are electing them.  Meanwhile, there are emergent problems facing the country that elected officials can and should be acting on.  Where do your candidates stand on those issues?

Religious values matter in elections because too many people vote based on these politically impotent wedge issues without regard to the actual practicable agenda of those candidates.  Remember, it’s all too easy to stand firmly for things you’ll never be called to act on, to promise what you’ll never be asked to deliver.  Vote on the issues your candidates will actually face.

In Case of Emergency: Remove Bra

There are any number of reasons women are good to have around.  Here’s something to add to the list.  In the event of a disaster with lots of airborne particulates… say a volcano, a dirty bomb, a collapsing skyscraper, or even a fire… your honey’s undergarments may be the key to both of you surviving.  That is, assuming she’s wearing the Emergency Bra.

This bra not only lifts and separates (or whatever it is bras usually do), but its cups are haz-mat breathing filters.  It may be quickly disassembled into two functional and sexy masks.  The theory being that when the alternative is sucking in lungfuls of radioactive dust, most anyone’s willing to have a red laced boob cover on their face.

This puts women at a unique advantage in a disaster situation.  As the inventor of this multi-tasker explained:

Ladies and gentlemen, isn’t that wonderful that women have two breasts, not just one? We can save not only our own life, but also the life of a man of our choice next to us.

So be on your best behavior boys.  When the apocalypse comes, you don’t want to be in the dog house.  And hopefully, the emergency bra won’t be in the laundry basket.