06 May

Senate passes Internet sales tax in final vote, 69-27

The US Senate passed an online sales tax in a vote this afternoon after a heated final round of debate. A small group of anti-tax Republicans, as well as Democratic Senators from states without sales tax like Montana and Oregon, argued vociferously against the bill—but to no avail.

The final vote was 69-27, not much different than the 74-20 procedural vote that took place two weeks ago. The proposal has hardly changed at all in two weeks. The Marketplace Fairness Act, S.743, would allow states and localities to make Internet retailers collect sales tax from their customers if they do more than $1 million per year in out-of-state online sales.

The bill would allow states to write laws that would force e-commerce businesses to collect sales taxes. Right now consumers are supposed to keep track of any online sales and then report them to their state government and pay sales tax on the purchase. It still has to go through the House where passage is a little more rough but don’t be too shocked if in a few months you have to start investigating adding sales tax to any e-commerce software.

19 Jan

TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea)

What does a bill like PIPA/SOPA mean to our shareable world? At the TED offices, Clay Shirky delivers a proper manifesto — a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume.

via TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea). Clay Shirky delivers a clear and cogent history and explanation of PIPA/SOPA, walking through both the intent and what the ramifications of the bill and how it changes the entire legal system under which websites operate. Shirky also makes the very real point that even if PIPA and SOPA are killed (as appears increasingly likely) a bill similar to them will be back.

14 Apr

Groklaw – The Google Microsoft Fight About FISMA Certification

If you were as puzzled as I was by the blog fight, as Geekwire calls it, between Google and Microsoft over whether or not Google was FISMA certified, then you will be glad to know I gathered up some of the documents from the case, Google et al v. USA, and they cause the mists to clear. I’ll show you what I found, but here’s the funny part — it turns out it’s Microsoft whose cloud services for government aren’t FISMA certified. And yet, the Department of the Interior chose Microsoft for its email and messaging cloud solution, instead of Google’s offering even though Google today explains that in actually its offering actually is. It calls Microsoft’s FUD "irresponsible".

The case is being heard in the United States Court of Federal Claims. Google filed what is called a bid protest. The context is that the Department of the Interior wished to procure a cloud solution to unify and streamline its email and other messaging systems "while simultaneously reducing its risk of data security breaches".

That’s the amazing part. If it wanted to reduce the risk of data security breaches, why would it choose Microsoft?

Google has accused Microsoft and the Department of the Interior of colluding to give Microsoft the contract, even though Google was walked through the paces of applying and strung along to believe it actually was being considered. The accusation is that it was all a pretense, that the decision to go with Microsoft was made long before anyone else made a bid and that the Department of the Interior folks carefully crafted its list of requirements so that no one but Microsoft *could* qualify.

What does that have to do with FISMA certification? Because, since it turns out Microsoft’s offering was not FISMA certified when it was chosen, and still isn’t, and Google says its competing email solution was, it’s claiming the choice violates procurement policies. I’ll show you the document where I found that detail that explains it all. I don’t know who is right, by the way, for sure in this dispute, although I think you’ll be able to discern which direction the truth-o-meter seems to be pointing to, so at this point I’m just explaining what I found, so you can at least know what it’s all been about.

via Groklaw – The Google Microsoft Fight About FISMA Certification. This is a fun story.

10 Sep

Rebekah Monson – Twentysomething: How my generation works

You must understand that we are not starting out with a positive attitude. In our short careers, we already have been laid off or at least afraid that we would be laid off. We have seen our parents downsized and left high and dry by companies that they helped to build. We have been unable to get work after doing “the right things” that we were told would make us successful — school, internships, volunteer work, mentorship, etc. We have gone into high-demand fields like IT only to see those jobs outsourced overseas for pennies on the dollar. We have joined the military, served our country, come home broken and with no opportunity for honest work in the private sector.

via Rebekah Monson – Twentysomething: How my generation works. I found myself nodding along during the whole post.

01 Aug

The New Yorker – Filibusters and arcane obstructions in the Senate

The weakened institution could no longer withstand pressures from outside its walls; as money and cameras rushed in, independent minds fell more and more in line with the partisans. Rough parity between the two parties meant that every election had the potential to make or break a majority, crushing the incentive to coöperate across the aisle. The Senate, no longer a fount of ideas, became a backwater of the U.S. government. During the Clinton years, the main action was between the White House and the Gingrich House of Representatives; during the Bush years, the Republican Senate majority abdicated the oversight role that could have placed a vital check on executive power.

via The New Yorker – Filibusters and arcane obstructions in the Senate. Lot of interesting analysis behind why the Senate out of all the bits and pieces of government is weirder and more prone to hindering government rather than actually governing.

07 Apr

Going, Going, Gone – SeedMagazine.com

Beyond such mundane geopolitical rivalries, the US has a more profound reason to conserve its helium: Every balloon inevitably deflates. Optimistically assuming that demand for the substance continues to grow only a few percent each year, and that the entirety of the globe’s remaining natural gas reserves will be processed for their helium, the NRC report estimates there will only be enough to last another 40 years. It stands to reason that as supplies diminish, helium will be used more efficiently and investments in recycling technologies will grow. But the fact that the Earth’s four-billion year bounty has been so reduced in scarcely a century suggests that helium is sadly not long for this world.

via Going, Going, Gone § SeedMagazine.com. Scary idea, and makes conservatism as an economic and governmental policy even more important.

04 Jan

Crossing the Line – Reason Magazine

At a hearing last September, the local blog NMissCommentor.com reported, Biggers questioned the zeal with which federal agents tried to induce Weiner to commit a federal crime, saying, “You’ve come a long way from the purpose of this statute.”

Reason Magazine reporting in Crossing the Line about the antics the FBI went through to arrest a single person.

11 Mar

My response to Glen Beck’s silly “We surround them”

Glen Beck not too long ago did a silly little thing in which he posted a list of 9 statements and said that if you believe in them to send in a picture for him to do display them or something.

This is my response to the list.

  1. America is good. Right a country is now a person and is good. And that person has never overthrown multiple governments that torture/murder/enslave/eliminate due process all so that they support us and not Russia? And what the heck does good even mean?
  2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life. – Please, I don’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny but I believe in a man 2,000 yrs ago that someone how died and rose again. And just happens that half of the belief structure of my faith has been written in the past 500 yrs. Or the now 15% who are atheists.
  3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. Well at least more honest than the last time I cheated on my taxes or the last time I work on personal stuff while on company time.
  4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government. Right, I get to beat my kids, my husband gets to rape me and my daughter, control what my kids think, because I know better than thousands of other people that really having a house that is about to fall apart is good survival instict, oh and teaching my kids that the earth is the center of the universe is what I want to do. We wouldn’t want the government trying to provide for a more just and educated society, much more fun teaching kids to hate and not understand or listen to logic and reason.
  5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it. Except for the president, you know because he is allowed to break the law at will and not be held accountable for it. Oh and the people who help him break the law they get medals. Or if you are rich enough and have a really good reason for doing what you did, then it’s all cool.
  6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results. Except if you are gay, female, black, trans-gender, bisexual, or really just think or act different, then you have no equal freedoms and thus defiantly no equal results. Oh and just because you were raised in a poor school district and thus received a poor education means you should some how magically overcome a limited education expect there are no libraries for you to educate yourself at because:
  7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable. Yes they can it’s called taxes, and next time you feel reluctant to pay taxes because you want to hold onto what’s yours we’ll go back to pre-government days and let you fight to hold onto it and see how that works out. I really only want my friends to get the benefits of what I make and I really don’t want to try and help society advance by providing education, or help for people who are less well off than I am, unless they go to one of my pre-approved charities will they will be told they have to believe in God to get a warm bed and meal.
  8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion. – Unless you disagree with me, or with what America does or what the President (unless he’s a Democrat), or you can make stupid jokes about it and call the person fat, ugly, stupid, claim they should fail, etc.
  9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me. Unless they lie their way into a war, torture innocent people, tap my phone and record what I do online and where I travel overseas.
25 Jun

A Time To Pray

I never quite understood the point of there being offered a time for students to pray during school hours. For one, teachers and administrators always seem to be all about pushing as much into the kids as is possible, so to waste anywhere from 5 – 10 minutes every days just seems like a lot of time to waste in a 90 minute classroom setting, much less in a 50 minute classroom setting.

Or the thing that I really could never wrap my head around was that administration feels that they have to offer students a time to pray or to do whatever. It just seems ridiculous, if a student wishes to pray, I would hope they are able to start the process on their own and not need prompting from a loudspeaker that now would be a great time to pray if they so wanted to. Really gee thanks Mr. Loudspeaker, thanks for putting me in the mood to pray. Without you reminding me to pray, I never would have done so.

The main reason this is on my mind is a recent article in the NYT regarding the Naval Academy, which has a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of 9 students who wish for the daily prayer at lunchtime to be abolished. You can take a pretty good guess based on my introduction, that I am for a daily prayer being removed from the official schedule.

There are several reasons that I am against religion even being sideways endorsed by government and governmental organization.

First the government isn’t going to make someone believe in a particular religion, no matter how much they might stress it or include the opportunity to buy license plates with religious symbols. The second important reason is that when religion is emphasized by the government, it may say it allows for all, but really only allows first the mainstream religions and then only the ones that are followed by the majority of the public. Could you imagine what would happen in some high schools or even at the Naval Academy if during their time for prayer, someone decided to pray to Mother Nature or pulled out a prayer rug and prayed towards Mecca? Actually now that I think about it I wish I had done that sometime during high school, I wonder what would happen. I have suspicions that the school would have wound up stopping offering up the opportunity to pray if students started praying in the manner of some of the lesser followed religions.

The next big concern is that the percentage of people idetifitying themselves as having no religoin is growing in the United States, currently at 15% and going up as the percentage for younger people in the US is even higher.

Being neutral on religion is a difficult task and hard for anyone of deep and strongly held religious beliefs to accept, but is necessary here in the United States.

28 Feb

TED Is Far From Useless

Short intro: It’s good to be back and blogging, sorry about the delay, but hey it took a long time to get stuff working again. So no more excuses onto the business of the day.

Umair Haque, today wrote a blog post about TED. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) for those of you who haven’t heard of it is a conference organized around the idea of bringing together some of the world’s smartest people to solve generally global issues and problems. The conference is organized around a series of lectures in which people are invited to speak upon their idea that more often than not seeks to change the world. So the conference is pretty ambitious in both scope and goal.

Umair argues in his piece that TED is intellectually bankrupt. His main argument is that the conference is simply that a bunch of talk with no real action occurring.

The problem is simple. The underlying assumption is that we can help solve the world’s big problems by putting a bunch of interesting people in a room and talking about stuff. … In fact, exactly the opposite is true. The way we can solve the world’s problems by involving the people who are suffering as an essential part of a living, evolving solution.

Personally this argument does make a lot of sense and on the one hand I do find myself being swayed by what Umair is saying, that number one no action is occurring and that the conference is simply an intellectual exercise.

Unfortunately I don’t think Umair is viewing the conference in it’s full light. While it is certainly true that no direct actions may occur because of TED. TED is a springboard for a lot of intelligent and good ideas to solve a host of difficult problems. The conference provides a platform for these people to present their ideas to a wide range of people who may never hear them otherwise. This includes a great many people who do have the influence to create actions based on these ideas. Action needs ideas, undirected, unthinking action doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Also, I would argue while you do have to involve those people who will be effected by any changes at the same time it can be diffcult for people who are directly involved in whatever the problem is to be able to first create a plan to solve the problem and to see which plan is the most logical to solve the problem

TED also isn’t just pie in the sky ideas, it includes a realm of talks that discuss breakthroughs occuring in research labs around the world that will change the world and results from the real world that have changed some aspect of the world.

P.S. TED 2008 is currently going on, and I highly recommend everyone go and watch some of the videos on their site and realize just how smart some of these people are.