Friday, July 27, 2007

Ex-Qwest CEO fined, sentenced to prison, retribution?

Ex-Qwest CEO fined, sentenced to prison:

"A federal judge on Friday ordered former Qwest Communications chief executive officer Joe Nacchio to pay $70 million and serve six years in prison as part of his punishment for insider trading in the spring of 2001.

Nacchio was convicted in April of improperly selling $52 million in Qwest stock in 2001 while he failed to tell investors of the financial risks facing the company. The court on Friday ordered Nacchio to surrender that $52 million and fined him an additional $19 million."

This is the same man who refused to participate in the administrations secret wiretapping of American citizens.

Were any of the other Bells CEOs transactions investigated so thoroughly? Was this retribution?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The French Connections - New York Times

The French Connections - New York Times: (TimeSelect Subscription Required)

"The numbers are startling. As recently as 2001, the percentage of the population with high-speed access in Japan and Germany was only half that in the United States. In France it was less than a quarter. By the end of 2006, however, all three countries had more broadband subscribers per 100 people than we did.

Even more striking is the fact that our “high speed” connections are painfully slow by other countries’ standards. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, French broadband connections are, on average, more than three times as fast as ours. Japanese connections are a dozen times faster. Oh, and access is much cheaper in both countries than it is here.

As a result, we’re lagging in new applications of the Internet that depend on high speed. France leads the world in the number of subscribers to Internet TV; the United States isn’t even in the top 10.

What happened to America’s Internet lead? Bad policy. Specifically, the United States made the same mistake in Internet policy that California made in energy policy: it forgot — or was persuaded by special interests to ignore — the reality that sometimes you can’t have effective market competition without effective regulation.

You see, the world may look flat once you’re in cyberspace — but to get there you need to go through a narrow passageway, down your phone line or down your TV cable. And if the companies controlling these passageways can behave like the robber barons of yore, levying whatever tolls they like on those who pass by, commerce suffers.

America’s Internet flourished in the dial-up era because federal regulators didn’t let that happen — they forced local phone companies to act as common carriers, allowing competing service providers to use their lines. Clinton administration officials, including Al Gore and Reed Hundt, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, tried to ensure that this open competition would continue — but the telecommunications giants sabotaged their efforts, while The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page ridiculed them as people with the minds of French bureaucrats.

And when the Bush administration put Michael Powell in charge of the F.C.C., the digital robber barons were basically set free to do whatever they liked. As a result, there’s little competition in U.S. broadband — if you’re lucky, you have a choice between the services offered by the local cable monopoly and the local phone monopoly. The price is high and the service is poor, but there’s nowhere else to go."

(Time Select Subscription Required)

The Foetus of Monarchy is Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War - New York Times:

The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

"Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.

The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.”

As opinion turns more decisively against the war, the administration is becoming ever more dismissive of Congress’s role. Last week, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman brusquely turned away Senator Hillary Clinton’s questions about how the Pentagon intended to plan for withdrawal from Iraq. "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq,” he wrote. Mr. Edelman’s response showed contempt not merely for Congress, but for the system of government the founders carefully created."

Since no center was built, nor plans made to hold, things have fallen apart. The gyre isn't widening, but converging into a death spiral. The dying, unfortunately, have no say. In any case, the executive, believing itself to be the state, isn't listening.

The foetus of monarchy is nearing term. It's the result of a raped constitution. The founders gave us tools to abort this monstrosity. It's time to use them

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reuters: Attacks in Iraq Have Surged During 'Surge'

Reuters: Attacks in Iraq Have Surged During 'Surge'

Reuters reports today that attacks in Iraq last month "reached their highest daily average since May 2003, showing a surge in violence as President George W. Bush completed a buildup of U.S. troops, Pentagon statistics show."

The data, obtained by Reuters from the Defense Department, showed an upward trend in daily attacks over the past four months. Pentagon officials were not immediately available to comment on the statistics.

The June numbers showed 5,335 attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces, civilians and infrastructure. "The Pentagon statistics, which come as pressure mounts in the U.S. Congress for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, depicted the most intensive month for daily attacks since Bush declared major combat operations at an end in May 2003," Reuters relates.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Black Holes of Tech

“We've all experienced technical conundrums—bizarre behavior exhibited by our computers, or MP3 players, our phones, or some other piece of electronic wizardry. By all rights, technical stuff is rooted in logic, so strange things shouldn't happen, but they do. We're not talking about stuff that happens to everyone; a bad device driver, for instance, can ruin life for every user who owns the affected part. We mean stuff that only happens to the few, the ones who call tech support and baffle everyone to whom they speak from the lowly key puncher to the senior geek in charge.

We're here to tell you that you're not alone. We've been baffled, too. Read on, to delve into times when the armies of ExtremeTech and Ziff-Davis itself—known the world over for technical proficiency—thought they woke up in the Bermuda Triangle.”


con·cept: July 2007