28 January 2012

Earth's Media Museum

The phrase:
Earth has a new profile photo 
makes sense only in the context of interactive social media like Google+ or Facebook.

Like museums, social media phenomena like Google+ allow for the observation of cultural artifacts and for contextual and conceptual art experiences.

Interactive social media might replace the need for museums in our lives. 

Unbeknownst to many of us, Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, Posterous, and the like, might soon be surrogates for museums; albeit museums without the solemn marble columns, the transient streams of school children linked as a human chain for security, and the intoxicating scent of cultural significance.

When we learn on Google+ that Earth has a new profile photo, we find that the photo is a close-up of an isolated ball. The ball mirrors the mottled head in our own profile photo. The ball reminds us that the isolation we feel is confoundingly reducible to the scale of the frame defining our reality.

Responding to Earth's new profile photo, a person with the fitting moniker of Cosmic Rob helpfully admonishes us
You only get Earth with the premium package.

25 January 2012

Romney Scrabble

US tax policy rewards Do-Nothing Income and penalizes Earned Income.

7,000 millionaires paid no income taxes in 2011.

Recently Republicans vetting would-be Presidential candidates had to reconcile a Do-Nothing Income candidate called Mitt, who made millions and paid a 13.9% tax rate on Do-Nothing investment income, and an Earned Income candidate called Newt, who made millions and paid a 31% tax rate on Earned Income.

Since most Republicans rely on Earned Income, the inequity of a significantly lower tax rate on Do-Nothing Income might have come as a shock. Particularly since Republicans historically support regressive tax policy that favors the super rich -- i.e., the fortunate layabouts who no longer have to work to earn an income.

Republicans consistently vote against their best interest as if it's a pesky flaw encoded in their DNA. By all accounts, the low Do-Nothing tax rate candidate should be the runaway 2012 Republican hero. After all, Republicans hate high taxes and the Do-Nothing candidate pays half the tax rate of most Republicans.

Perhaps it will dawn on the Republican faithful that the Earned Income candidate is ever-so-slightly more aligned with their reality - doing a job, getting paid for it, and paying taxes on earned income.

Few would begrudge a person who'd acquired enormous financial wealth to kick back on easy street, but what sense does it make for a billionaire to pay a lower tax rate his valet, his chauffeur, or his gardener?

Why not entertain the notion that a tax plan can be equitable across income levels (e.g., rules of thumb like The Buffet Rule)?

Thought Experiment - Romney Scrabble

Imagine you're approaching the end of a Scrabble game and by chance you find yourself with r-o-m-n-e-y on your tile rack.
Screw the r and place m-o-n-e-y on the board.  
Now take a moment to consider how US tax policy allows folks like Mitt Romney to make $21.7 million in investment income in a single year then pay a paltry 13.9% tax rate while ordinary Earned Income schlubs, like you and me, are on the hook for double that rate.

14 January 2012

PIPA is a Pip Mr. Franken

Dear Senator Franken,

As a supporter who has agreed with most of your progressive positions, the PROTECT IP Act (S 968), or PIPA, is ill-conceived.

Save The Internet
I was disappointed to learn that one of my US Senators had cosponsored this bill.

Many respected legal scholars agree that PIPA constitutes a prior restraint on speech with insufficient process. As such I am concerned that it poses potential damage to freedom of speech.

It concerns me that PIPA might stifle Internet entrepreneurship and perhaps damage Internet integrity (i.e., the stability and security of the Domain Name System) which many of us indirectly depend on for our livelihood.

The PIPA bill seems only to appease big media lobby groups, rather than to promote the common good.

PIPA would grant the US government the power to force Internet service providers and search engines to redirect users' attempts to reach certain websites arbitrarily deemed "dedicated to infringing activities."

Many organizations I respect have spoken out against this bill including the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is noteworthy that PIPA is opposed by Mozilla, Facebook, Yahoo!, eBay, and Google. PIPA is also opposed by Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch. Not surprisingly, various civil, human rights and consumer rights groups, as well as many educational and library institutions, oppose PIPA.

Is PIPA an appropriate solution? To quote Google's Eric Schmidt,
"...the measures called for in PIPA are overly simple solutions to a complex problem, and that the precedent set by pruning DNS entries is bad from the viewpoint of free speech and would be a step toward less permissive Internet environments, such as China's.”
I urge you to Stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation. Please reconsider your position and support of this bill.

Bob MacNeal