Current Events

Articles about recent news and events.

My Letter to the Austin Affiliate of Komen

Below is the message I just sent to the local Komen chapter, at info [at] komenaustin [dot] org:

Dear Staff and Directors,

When I look at the range of organizations that the local Komen chapter has supported, it strikes me as a list of groups with blue chip pedigree, all doing great work in Central Texas.

Some local Komen chapters have expressed unease over the political realignment of Komen's grant process. I hope you do too.

The work you are doing is too important to get caught up in politics. I think that if the local chapter was to take a stand against politicizing health issues, and offer a promise to continue support to the good organizations that deliver services to those in need -- if you were to do that I think you would find Central Texans would stand with you.

The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that people are talking about important health issues. Please seize this opportunity and offer some leadership -- the kind of bold thinking and action that Central Texans pride themselves on.

With your bold action, I think you could help rally Central Texans in support of this important issue.


9:58PM update - Oh dear. Looks like the Austin chapter has weighed in and they are hewing the very political party line. See: Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Bracing for Komen Cuts

Austin's DTV Divide

We're counting down the final days to the June 12 transition to digital broadcast television. There has been added urgency to the effort because Nielsen reports that Austin is one of the worst prepared cities in the nation.

The May 24 DTV report reports that 4.81% of Austin-area households are unprepared, as compared to 2.66% nationwide. That means approximately 30,000 central Texas households could lose television reception when the transition occurs.

This isn't just about watching American Idol and Conan O'Brien. It's a serious public safety matter. Television remains the most widely used resource for important news and information, such as current weather conditions. In the event of emergency, necessary information may not reach households cut off in the transition.

Six months ago the media was full of stories about DTV. Now, not so much. I talked to a major media reporter yesterday, and he told me his readers are pretty sick of hearing about it.

The DTV Delay: It's Not About Slackers

You may have heard that the transition to digital television (DTV) is being postponed to June. A lot of people are upset about the delay, and attribute it to people failing to ignore the warnings and not getting their act together. That's wrong. The delay is needed not because people failed to act, but because they did exactly what they were told to do. The problem is that when they did the system broke.

The GAO reported way back in September that the coupon program was likely to break under stress. If, at that time, the Bush administration or Commerce Department had taken proper action, they could have corrected the problem. They did not, instead leaving the mess for the next administration to clean up.

Virginia Anti-Spam Law Struck Down

Today, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down its state anti-spam law as unconstitutional.

The Virginia anti-spam law had significant impact, so this decision significantly weakens the defenses against spam. The law was one of the strongest in the nation. (It actually provided criminal penalties for the worst abuses.) Also, many of the large network providers (think AOL and Verizon) have network hubs there, so a lot of email communications were subject to it.

The case in question was brought against Jeremy Jaynes for his massive spam attack on AOL users. The mail passed through AOL mail servers located in Virginia, thus making them subject to Virginia state law.

An AP news article says:

The court unanimously agreed with Jeremy Jaynes' argument that the law violates the free-speech protections of the First Amendment because it does not just restrict commercial e-mails. Most other states also have anti-spam laws, and there is a federal CAN-SPAM Act as well.

Sample Ballots for March 4 Primaries

I've several people asking on various mailing lists for sample ballots for the upcoming election. Here is the scoop for Travis County residents.

The web page for the Travis County Clerk, Elections Division is here:

The sample ballots for the March 4 primaries are here:

You'll want to have your voter registration card in hand, so you can lookup your districts and see which items apply to you. Or, you can lookup your registration info here:

Will Spam be the Booby Prize in the Debate Lottery?

The Texas Democractic Party took a pummeling when it announced the public would not be allowed to attend the presidential debate here in Austin. So, they carved out a small block of seats and setup a drawing to give them away.

The Statesman is reporting this morning that 20,000 people have signed up for the 100 seats.

I can calculate the odds of getting a seat and they aren't looking too good: currently 1 in 200 and dropping fast. So, a lot of people are going to be sad losers in this lottery. Even worse, I fear they may end up with a booby prize: a bunch of spam.

You (obviously) need to provide all your contact information to enter the drawing. The web page, however, doesn't specify what the group will do with the private information it collects. The Texas Democratic Party web site does have a privacy policy, but it doesn't shed any light on this situation.

Telco Immunity Passage a Presidential Litmus Test

Today, the US Senate passed a version of FISA that contains retroactive immunity for phone companies that performed illegal wiretapping. There was an amendment to strip the immunity clause from the bill, but it failed.

The three leading presidential candidates are all sitting Senators, so how they voted on this issue provides an important litmus test. The results are:

  • Sen. McCain - voted for retroactive immunity
  • Sen. Obama - voted against retroactive immunity
  • Sen. Clinton - didn't show up to vote

So there you have it. Three candidates, three different positions on the issue. Which position best aligns with yours?

Complete vote data on the retroactive immunity amendment here.


I'm getting weary of community sites like Digg and reddit. I wish the dark Illuminati forces that are suppressing Ron Paul from the mainstream media would only find their way onto the net. (Oh wait! They have.)

A recent post on the NY Times site had a quote from Slashdot founder Rob Malda that nailed it:

“A lot of these community news sites are all about Ron Paul,” he said. “Ron Paul may be a valid candidate. But what that is really demonstrating is that you are seeing 1 or 2 percent of a community shaping where the whole community is going. A small dedicated group of people can manipulate these sites very easily.”

A lot of the community content sites have categories: programming, politics, etc. You can view the posts in any single category.

Maybe what we need are anti-categories, so I can read a digg with all the presidential politics suppressed. That way I can get just what I want: significant current events, technology stories, and cute lolpuppy photos.

I Could Set the Building on Fire

The KOOP radio station fire was written up in Interweb A-list zine BoingBoing. See it here.

I thought the fourth comment from isadrone was particularly funny.

Excuse me, I believe you have my playlist... Can I have my playlist back? He took my playlist and he never brought it back.

It's not okay because if they take my playlist then I'll set the building on fire...

I could set the building on fire.

It's a movie joke. And, yes, it's in very bad taste.

Socialized Football

footballTime Warner Austin and The NFL Network are battling like two burly tackles over televised football. Time Warner has pulled the NFL Network from their cable lineup. The NFL and football fans are furious, and the Texas legislature has been dragged into the melee. The NFL wants back on the air, of course, but if they get their way it will be bad news for everybody—including football fans.

The American cable market is structured as a basic subscription service, and the subscriber adds the premium content they want with extra-cost packages. The NFL Network is premium content, but the NFL wants to push it into the basic service package. That way they can collect fees for every single cable subscriber in the system—not just those who want an extra football channel.

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