December 30, 2004

The Uh-Oh's 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:33 AM
John Perry Barlow renews his case for naming our nameless decades the "Uh-Oh's" in a post about a close call for his daughter. I hope she recovers alright; in the meantime, I second his motion:
At the dawn of this psychotic decade, I proposed, on instinct, that we should call it the Uh-Oh's. Decades need names. How else are we map their unique zeitgeists in our subsequent reflections on them? Imagine, for example, how awkward our historical recollections would become if we could not refer to "the 60's," a decade which needed no adjective, unlike, say, "the Roaring 20's?" The name is the frame, and the frame says it all.

But despite my efforts at that time, and occasional subsequent stabs, no one followed my suggestion. Furthermore, despite all the obvious historical hints, you have refused to see the appropriateness of my proposed name. Now, as we reach the mid-point of this critical passage, it remains nameless to everyone but me. You still have no verbal short-hand to refer to the decade that gave us 911, Bush the Younger, the Iraqi Tragedy, the comeuppance of the formerly Almighty Dollar, and now, one of the the most calamitous shit-kickings we've ever taken from Mutha Nature. (70,000 dead and barely counting anymore...) I cannot count the times over the last five years when when various tidings of the epoch made me mutter an involuntary "uh-oh" upon receiving them. And still, you resist my suggestion. What's it going to take, folks? Oh, never mind. You'll either see my point or you won't.

December 29, 2004

Report from Red America: The Tsunami 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:45 PM
Careful if you bandy about the phrase "act of God" in reference to recent events.

Happily, it's not taken long for humans to make sense of the horror of the Indian Ocean tsunami, and we have our friends in Red America to thank for this development. According to close sources, one actual theory of meaning emerging amongst our fellow Americans is, paraphrasing, "maybe this is God's way of dealing with what those people did on 9/11." Nevermind that the destruction visited upon the peoples of south and southeast Asia and western Africa was not limited to Muslims: this vast region is also populated by Buddhists, Hindus, even many Christians, in India, for example. Forget that the group that was the most displaced and felt the greatest brunt of the killing force of the waves was the very indigant poor, even though Osama bin Laden and his henchmen represent a well-financed extremism. Ignore the fact that the tsunami didn't even take place near where the terrorists of 9/11 came from or were safe-harbored. It just doesn't matter to Americans who are capable of this kind of sick, superstitious thinking. To them, brown people---all of them, apparently---are Muslims who want to kill us and have.

At first I wondered why the Bush Administration has been slow to react to the aid effort; after all, might not a Lakoffian analysis state that this is precisely the sort of situation where a conservative would endorse the action of his government to provide unconditional aid, a natural disaster where no "moral shortcoming" could be blamed for the lot of suffering? But now I wonder if they weren't simply being good representatives. You got to dance with them what brung you.

December 21, 2004

Preempt the preempters 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:47 AM
With a rewrite of the Illinois telecom act pending this year (the 2001 law expires in July), you'd better believe SBC is already maneuvering to extract maximum benefit from the public marrow. So far the news has been about local phone service regulation.

Something else to keep an eye out for: after Pennsylvania's shocking new law that gave Verizon the right-of-first-refusal over any effort made by any of that state's municipalities -- from townships all the way up to Pittsburgh -- to create their own broadband telecommunications infrastructure (save Philly, of course -- exempted from the bill because their proposed city-wide wireless data network was so heralded that Verizon had to threaten it, who then relented after Gov. Ed Rendell offered the sweeter fruit of the entire rest of the Commonwealth if they left poor Philly alone), and Ohio's recent introduction of similar legislation, look for fellow Baby Bell SBC to follow Verizon's lead and carve out their own preemption statute. They'll try to put the legislative kibosh on the growing community wireless networks (CWNs) movement (disclosure: that's the day job) that threatens their tired old battleship with cheaper, better services over vastly faster and higher capacity infrastructure that's community owned and operated, built on inexpensive and innovative technologies ("mesh" networking, and the 802.11 family of wireless standards: Wi-Fi if you're nasty) and access to our public airwaves (license-free use of the 2.4 GHz spectrum; thanks, FCC!).

Problem is, there's not much of a political constituency for CWNs, yet. Networks are just getting off the ground and municipalities are waking up to the notion of taking their broadband telecommunications future in their hands, at the same time as these preemption laws are popping up on state codes across the country. And of course, SBC has Springfield in a headlock. I'll have more on this over the next few months …

December 20, 2004

Paging Gary Bauer (or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bah Humbug) 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:26 AM
Our famously born-again Christian President just signed-off his end-of-the-year press conference with a cheerful "Happy Holidays!" Oh my god. The Commander-in-Chief must be the head of the covert and deceptive war being waged on Christmas! The conspiracy goes all the way to the top! Pffft!

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