House Republicans hold Big Brother Festival – call it a hearing

Michelle Bachmann is Big Brother in drag

The name of Tuesday’s hearing of the House Select Committee on Intelligence sounded more like the subtitle to a Stanley Kubrick film: “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries.”

Chairman Mike Rogers’ (R-MI) clear goal was to give the members of the intelligence committee a chance to trumpet the value of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program and chastise Edward Snowden, the former defense contractor who fled to Hong Kong with the intent of leaking secret documents.

“In recent years, these programs…have protected the U.S and our allies from terrorist threats…blah, blah, blah

Snowden has asserted that as a low-level analyst he had unfettered access to Americans’ private communication through connections with top technology companies established by the so-called PRISM program.

“If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it,” Snowden wrote. “All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.”

He’s referring to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which according to the government “targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight.” Snowden argues that where such actual oversight exists, it can be easily gamed.

Alexander flatly denied that such access exists…

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) took on Snowden directly, echoing Dick Cheney by calling him a “traitor…”

Chairman Rogers echoed Bachmann. “It is at times like these where our enemies within become almost as damaging as our enemies on the outside,” he said.

The only thing they left out – today – was the Red Menace from China. And homosexuals. Don’t forget homosexuals.

Rightwing politicians in America aren’t especially inventive or up-to-date. Their fears, the things that go boomp in the night and scare the Bejeebus out of them haven’t changed in centuries. So, just as Joe McCarthy attacked everyone from the State Department to President Eisenhower as either agents or dupes of a foreign power, the fallback position has always been that the homosexuals in positions of power are complicit with defiling the purity of our bodily fluids – and on and on.

Ted Cruz and the rest of the proto-fascist crowd, the Bachmans, the renamed phony Christian Coalition, have already started down that alley. Expect to hear it from the rest of the Republican Party as we approach the 2014 elections.

Loony of the week!

A Seattle woman is to abandon her controversial attempt to live on light on Wednesday after 47 days of surviving on water and tea.

Naveena Shine, 65, had been attempting to go without food for 100 days. She said the “overt” reason for ending what she described as an “experiment” was financial – she claimed she will lose the trailer she has been staying in on Wednesday – but said she believed her monetary woes were “a simple a message from the universe that it is time to stop”.

“After 47 days…I still feel really good, weight loss is slowing and all seems well. However, I still have no evidence that I am actually living on light and it could well be slow starvation,” Shine wrote on her Facebook page…

A touch of sanity, after all.

“Plants have what are called choroplasts that contain chlorophyll and they have the ability to capture energy from sunlight,” said Dr Ronald Hoffman medical director of the Hoffman Center and host of a weekly health podcast.

Humans don’t have cholorphyll or chloroplasts. No humans do. It is impossible for a human to have that…

But Shine appeared to acknowledge the risk to her health, at one point saying “I have no idea if I could” complete the 100 days…”Personally, do I think it’s possible? For me it’s still a question. I see much more evidence to show that yes it’s possible, but I also see that it has to come out from the inside. I’m not willing to risk either my life or other people’s lives,” Shine said.

Challenging the facts of material reality are neurotic at best, possibly delusional. Knowing little more than the specific gravity of a human being I see no need to try to walk on water or attempt to fly after jumping off a skyscraper.

One of the delights of being a species with intellect, enabling, recording ongoing experimentation, is that we invent stuff over time. So, we have boats and airplanes. Leave the walking on water and ascension into heaven to the True Believers.

And, please, stop electing them to government.

Why the US needs Huawei more than Huawei needs the US

Runaway, runaway!

There are only so many companies left that can build a decent mobile network. Banning Huawei from the U.S. seriously skews the competitive balance in an already off-kilter industry.

Huawei has taken quite a political beating lately. Not only are U.S. lawmakers calling for sanctions against the Asian infrastructure maker due to its ties to the Chinese government, but Sprint and Softbank just brokered a deal with the federal government that could ban Huawei’s gear from their current and future U.S. networks.

Recently a frustrated Huawei EVP and co-CEO Eric Xu took a rather flip position on the matter, saying his company was no longer interested in the U.S. market and had essentially stopped paying attention to the controversy surrounding it here. Xu was obviously posturing. No global equipment maker would just simply ignore the world’s largest telecommunications market.

But there is a bit of truth to his words. Huawei has done quite well for itself without landing a single major U.S. infrastructure deal. Domestic operators may have resisted Huawei’s allure, but carriers in Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa certainly haven’t. By some measurements, Huawei has already surpassed Ericsson as the largest telecom vendor in the world.

…If Huawei gets banned, then one of the key industry forces keeping equipment prices low suddenly disappears. That’s not a situation U.S. mobile industry wants to see.

There has been a lot of consolidation in the telecom equipment market in the last several years. In many ways, Huawei was directly responsible for that consolidation, driving smaller players out of the market or into mergers through its aggressive pricing. A decade ago there were about a dozen companies that could sell you a cellular base station. Today there are really only three or four dominant mobile players, and Huawei is one of them.

The dwindling competitive landscape is particularly evident in the U.S. where historical reliance on CDMA technologies has led two companies to dominate: Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. No U.S. operator relies solely on a single network maker, so AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint all use both vendors as primary suppliers.

But Alcatel-Lucent is suffering, and it might not be long before Alcatel-Lucent finds itself broken up and sold for parts. If that happens, there will be a big vacuum, and there aren’t that many companies capable of filling it. There’s Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei, and that’s pretty much it. Smaller network players like Samsung have been asserting themselves of late, but they’re still small fish in an ever-shrinking pond…

All of the major U.S. operators have already named their LTE suppliers, so there won’t be much opportunity to disrupt the market for years to come. And when that time does come it will take a lot to pry those carriers away from their current suppliers. But the presence of Huawei would at least gives those operators leverage.

Look at this way: AT&T loves Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. It probably will never leave them. But if I’m AT&T, I want Huawei around to keep those two vendors honest. And if Alcatel-Lucent suddenly goes belly up, I’d rather have more than one choice to replace them than NSN.

From the coverage I’ve seen on biz TV shows, from what I’ve read here from Fritchard and Kevin Tofel, all I see is the same corrupt congressional politicians who babble about competitiveness in American capitalism – then turn their back on that standard to protect the corporate thugs who pick up the tab for their political careers.

Contemptible hypocrites.

World’s wind turbines will pass the 300 gigawatt mark this year

The world will have enough wind turbines to generate more than 300 gigawatts of power – the equivalent of 114 nuclear power plants – by the end of the year, industry figures show.

As Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa add turbines, the figure represents modest growth compared with a year ago, when the overall total capacity was just over 280 gigawatts…

Europe, which has led the world on wind, still represents around a third of all capacity, with more than 100 gigawatts, but its growth has been stalled by uncertainty as financial crisis has meant abrupt changes to subsidy regimes…

The most heated debate has been in Germany, ahead of elections in September, where the cost of energy and progress of implementing the nation’s Energiewende – or transition to green energy and away from nuclear fuel – are election issues.

Heavy industry has attacked renewable subsidies, arguing they add to costs and damage competitiveness, especially when the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.

Representatives of the renewable industry say they are working to produce energy that can compete economically with traditional sources, which would lower political risk.

They say they have made progress on onshore wind and solar, but for the huge scale of offshore wind, a technology still in its infancy, subsidies are essential, probably for the rest of the decade…

Wind energy executives note conventional fuel sources have long benefited from support in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas and government help in disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

State and federal subsidies have been part of construction costs for every kind of power station built in the last century. Not that the fact isn’t brought up as a special case by know-nothings who oppose reductions in the consumption of fossil fuel and the inevitable effects that has on environmental quality. Sometimes, subsidies are also added in to defray fuel costs, as well. Something never going to be needed by renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro.

How college students subsidize useless sports

As parents and students struggle to keep up with rising college tuition and take on greater burdens of debt, universities are being challenged to justify the ballooning athletic fees they tack on to the bill.

In the 2010-11 academic year, the 227 public institutions in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association collected more than $2 billion in athletic fees from their students — or an average of more than $500 per enrollee — according to research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate.

These fees, which can exceed $1,000 a year, are often itemized as a “student activity” or “general” expense. That may explain why separate research, by David Ridpath of Ohio University, found that students were only dimly aware of the extent of the fees, and weren’t pleased once they found out how much they were paying.

Worse yet, institutions with high proportions of poorer students carrying substantial education debt appeared to be charging the highest fees. While all students must pay the costs of maintaining athletic programs, few actually benefit from the services they subsidize. In this sense, the fees are comparable to a regressive tax — and one that is more onerous for lower-income students than for the more affluent, who are able to attend schools where athletic fees are lower…

Moreover, the schools in low-athletic-fee conferences typically had better academic reputations, mostly in the top one-third in Forbes magazine’s ranking of 650 colleges and universities; the high-fee conferences schools were typically below average in those rankings…None of this would matter as much if students were affluent, enthusiastic about collegiate athletics and willing to pay for high-quality sporting entertainment…

For starters, about 41 percent of respondents either didn’t know, or were highly uncertain about, whether they paid the fees. The students said they might be willing to pay more for services such as student centers and health care, though, on average, they favored sharp reductions in the cost of intercollegiate athletics. The vast majority of students, 72 percent, said athletics had an “extremely unimportant” or “unimportant” part in their school choice or as a priority for their student fees; less than 10 percent ranked the athletic programs as “important” or “extremely important…”

University trustees, who are often alumni themselves, seem to view intercollegiate athletics as a way to generate school pride. Funding these programs with fees may please influential sports fans, but it often ignores the wishes of the students themselves. And more spending on sports doesn’t necessarily confer greater prestige. The University of Chicago, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emory University and Washington University in St. Louis are doing just fine.

One of my all time pet peeves. While I think there should be PT departments involving students in lifetime sports – the kind of thing that will keep them healthy the rest of their lives – typical athletic departments in an American University are money pits. Often, creative bookkeeping is used to hide the real costs of the “amateur” sports participation, e.g., the cost of electricity for stadiums is billed directly to the cost of physical plant, stunts like that are common.

Spending the same money on quality education just might be meaningful to individuals seeking beneficial skills for the rest of their lives.