Where is America Headed?

Religious fundamentalists would have us believe that America is suffering for its sins, and that our policies of inclusion, secularism and pluralism offend their god and their religious sensibilities. This is a distraction. They are distracting us from noticing the real threats to our future — threats that are much more mundane but threats that make it harder to predict a positive outcome.

  • We’ve taken thousands of young people out of our society at a time of their lives when they are still impressionable and not yet fully mature, trained them to be hunters and killers and transported them to a foreign country unlike ours in so many ways. We’ve kept them there for much of their formative years. Eventually they’ll come home. Is America prepared to deal with thousands of 20 and 30 year old people who essentially grew up as warriors in a foreign land? Do the means exist to help them adjust, to reintegrate into our society? How will we put their skills to use?
  • America has more people in prisons per capita than any other country on Earth. In 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end — 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults. (Source) Far too many of these people were imprisoned for violations of moral law, drugs, gambling and prostitution, and will eventually be released back into society. While in prison many of these “criminals” associated with and learned from more hardened criminals. Having been branded as criminals, many will employ these new skills when they find themselves unemployable and rejected by their society. By enforcing our useless moral laws we have created a entire criminal class that will affect all the rest of our society. Our federal and state budgets cannot even provide services for the law-abiding among us. How will we provide the funds to rehabilitate this class of criminals? How will we be able to afford to monitor them in case they backslide? What will happen to our culture when a million adult former prisoners re-enter our neighborhoods?
  • Our dependence on oil and other non-renewable resources has not waned, even in the face of the worst environmentally catastrophic oil spill in U.S. history. Electric vehicles and those running on alternative fuels continue to sell poorly. Manufacturers do not see a compelling reason to produce more environmentally friendly vehicles when people aren’t buying them. We don’t even appear to be willing to make small sacrifices that might reduce the amount of oil we need, like reducing freeway speeds. Not only are we a wasteful nation but one unwilling to sacrifice for the common good. Will that attitude change in the future? Will our children be more willing to make the sacrifices we aren’t willing to make? Will we ever acknowledge our addiction to non-renewable resources and do whatever it takes to kick it?
  • Over time we have come to inseparably associate democracy with capitalism. We have enshrined both as the epitome of human society. Anyone who suggests that democracy may not be scalable and workable in the 21st century or that capitalism may not be the best way for people to engage in the exchange of goods is castigated from all sides. We cannot accept the idea that our system may be breaking down and not have much of a future. We are faced with abuses of Wall Street and corrupt government officials and persist in considering them anomalies, not indicators of a weak system. Will we ever be able to consider alternatives to our present systems? Will we be able to listen to and consider alternative theories without demonizing those who suggest them? Can we admit that perhaps, just perhaps, our current models aren’t destined to last forever?
  • Will technology be our savior or present us with a host of new and frightening possibilities we haven’t envisioned or provided for? What will we do with all the workers displaced by the inevitable increase in robotic manufacturing? Will we be able to provide for citizens without jobs? Can we make leisure profitable? Will we have to return to a barter system when money becomes worthless? If a future court makes abortion illegal, how will we cope with an increasing population born to unemployed and unemployable couples? Are increased taxes the answer, smaller government? Will neighborhoods have to take over the maintenance of their infrastructure from the federal government?
  • Our economy is in a shambles and we may not have seen the worst of it yet. Greed has displaced reasonable commerce at many levels. Millions of people around the globe suffer inhumane conditions every day because a humane response wouldn’t be profitable for those who could alleviate their suffering. Where once merchants were satisfied with making a realistic profit by selling their goods at a price consumers found attractive, now the attitude is to make as much profit in as short a time possible and the consumer be damned. Websites are worth more money than many businesses, solely because of their potential as marketing venues. Searching for information on the internet has been commercialized. Our economy is essentially out of control and our current models provide no relief. Indeed, the teabaggers would have us believe that less government control is beneficial at the same time we can trace the present financial catastrophe directly back to the government’s deregulation of the banking industry. We have no concrete plan to get us out of this mess beyond platitudes. Does anyone have a realistic solution? Can we even get our heads far enough above water to try and look for land? Are we doomed to become a nation ruled by the rich solely because they are rich?
  • Our Southern coast and perhaps eventually our Eastern coast is being threatened by an oil leak of disastrous proportions. Too many of us would rather argue about global climate change than do anything, even make the most minor effort, to do anything about it. We have become a nation of ostriches with our heads buried in the sands of denial. Some claim against all reason that millions of humans introduced into a stable biosphere couldn’t possibly have any negative impact. The planet hasn’t had a very long time to try and deal with all the added waste humans have forced into our environment in our short time here. We have no good solution to store nuclear waste at the same time some are encouraging us to reconsider nuclear power as a solution to our oil addiction. Solar and wind power? Oh, those are too expensive they say. It would be more accurate to say there’s not enough profit in those technologies to satisfy the greed of the providers. Is the future of our country to be decided strictly on the basis of greed and profit? Does any sane person really believe the environment is invulnerable to our impositions on it or that humans are no more a problem for the Earth to deal with than flies or deer? Do we really think we can keep on living the way we have with no impact on the ecosystem, the only ecosystem that we know of that can sustain us? Instead of reducing our impact on the Earth should we all be prostrating ourselves in prayer?

We can’t afford to let the fundamentalists distract us from attempting to find real solutions to our very real problems. It is not beneficial to the future of our country or of humanity to simply blame all our problems on our lack of bigotry and insufficient xenophobia. Do we sit around and hope that some abstract philosophical concept will save us from ourselves or do we get off our collective behinds and start trying to find a way out of the mess we’ve made of our present and the potential horror we can expect in the future?

California: stoners, good; gays, evil

It appears California voters will get a chance to decide if marijuana gets legalized in the state on the November ballot, just two short years after this supposedly liberal state chose to deny gays the right to marry. From what I’m hearing on the street, legalization of marijuana stands a decent chance of passing.

Logically California should have been stripped of its liberal status in December of 2008. Nothing illustrated the true conservative nature of the majority of Californians better than the passage of Prop. 8. California produced both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. California’s major export is produce, and farmers are hardly a liberal force in politics.

Yet it seems that there’s enough interest in the possibility of legalizing marijuana to get the initiative on the ballot. Perhaps the farmers see an opportunity to grow a crop that promises far better profits than lettuce and avocados. Maybe conservatives are hoping that all those noisy gays will get stoned and be too cheerful and relaxed to fight for their right to marry in the future. And maybe it’s an indication that Californians are just as inconsistent and confused as the majority of Americans when it comes to allowing other Americans the freedom to act as they wish when their actions don’t harm anyone and affect no one else’s rights and happiness.

Personally I’m in favor of allowing gays to marry and pot smokers to enjoy their herb of choice. I also support the right of gays to smoke pot and straight people to get married. Obviously I’m out of step with the majority of my fellow Californians on at least one of these topics.

New Year’s Predictions

Welcome to 2010 CE. If you’ve managed to make it this far with your dreams, hopes, aspirations and 401K intact, thank your lucky stars. You’re one of the few.

I want to make a couple of tech predictions for the coming year. If any movie studio or television network steals these ideas and puts them into practice before 2011, they owe me a ton of money.

1. A TV news or entertainment program will incorporate Twitter as a nearly-live audience feedback device.

In 2009 Twitter became the most famous unprofitable service on the internet. Tech gurus constantly wonder how Jack, Evan and Biz plan to monitize this monster. I can easily envision a network like CNN, which already features Twitters on several of its news reports, adding a sidebar to the screen running near-live (you know there would have to be at least a 3 second delay) Twitter commentary on the news. During a crises they could feature hashtagged Twitters. This would add a layer of audience interactivity that beats the pants off Letters to the Editor. Dramas could find their own way to allow viewers to interact with the characters or suggest plot developments (alternate endings, anyone?). Game shows could use Twitter as the ultimate lifeline.

2. A movie studio will release first run movies to Netflix (Hulu, etc.) as pay-per-view.

Studios act like they owe theaters something. They don’t. Did Henry Ford owe anything to the blacksmiths his invention displaced? Theaters pay a fee for the right to screen a movie. The studios also collect a percentage of revenues from ticket sales. I don’t have a per-person breakdown of what the studios earn on a feature film like Avatar, but I question whether or not it would be substantially more than they would earn leasing the right to screen a first run movie to an on-line streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, charge a smaller fee to the service and demand a higher percentage of the pay-per-view revenues. If you could watch a newly released movie in the comfort of your own home on your own audio-video setup, wouldn’t you be willing to fork over the same $20-30 dollars you’d have to spend to drive to the theater, buy outrageously priced food and drink and tolerate the sociopaths you usually end up seated next to?

As much as some pundits decry the invasion of technology into our daily lives, I think it has only just begun. On-line and off-line are going to become more blurred. The internet will be a constant companion, in ways we can’t even imagine. Our shopping lists will reside in the cloud, easily accessible to us at the store. Cars will host on-board GPS navigation. Our clothes will contain our personal information readable by any phone with VR capabilities.

And when some 13 year old hacker in Russia manages to crash the entire infrastructure you’ll be welcome to join me in my cave and help crack walnuts with a rock.

America – Land of Lost Dreams

In 1963 Martin Luther King made his famous “I have a dream” speech. Two years later many of those who shared his dream rioted for six days in Watts. What happened, what changed?

Nothing. And that was the problem.

Those who heard King’s speech and wanted to share his dream were hoping that the ideal he expressed would one day soon become a reality. The nation’s founding fathers expressed many of the same ideals. Living only 300 years after the arrival of the pilgrims, they were aware of what we seem to have forgotten these days, that the pilgrims didn’t come here to establish a democratic society which would guarantee freedom and equality to all Americans. They were escaping religious intolerance, seeking a land free of other Europeans where they could set up their own religious society and practice their own intolerance toward anyone not of their faith. As we’ve witnessed so many times throughout human history, an oppressed minority wanted to be the oppressive majority. The pilgrims didn’t want freedom for everyone, just for themselves and those like them. Three hundred years failed to produce much of a change in attitude. Sure, Thomas Jefferson wrote “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” in the Declaration of Independence, but it’s clear he equated “all men” with the rich, White male class to which he and all the members of the Constitutional Congress belonged.

Another nearly 300 years has passed since that time, and again very little has changed. We like to think that we live in a classless society, that everyone has the opportunity to succeed and obtain wealth and influence. We talk about our democracy, ignoring the fact that a representative republic is not necessarily a democracy. We live in a dream, a fantasy world perpetrated by the rich, White males in power to keep us from seeing reality.

The sad reality is that in the 21st century America, not all people are created equal, that we are not all endowed with certain unalienable rights. Not all Americans are free to pursue life, liberty or happiness. America has classes, and while a few fortunate souls may be able to break free of their “place in society” and improve their lot, far too many others are locked into an endless struggle to live from paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford an education that might allow them to better their circumstances. Too many Americans born into poverty live their entire lives in poverty, and usually condemn another generation to the same fate by not being able to provide for their children a life any better than they endure.

And who are the rich, White males who still hold power in the U.S.? The majority of them are men who haven’t earned their wealth themselves and therefore have no empathy for those unlike themselves. They are born into wealth and privilege, and no matter how badly they screw up or embarrass themselves they are seldom demoted from their class. Members of the upper class enjoy privileges denied the rest of us. Their children are welcomed at the best universities and they, of course, can afford to send them. Our children are fortunate if they can afford junior college. Their children go to West Point, ours to Ft. Hood. They enjoy the perks of wealth and power the rest of us can only dream about.

Many people on both the left and right of the political spectrum are lamenting the collapse of the American dream. Well folks, that’s because that’s all it’s ever been, a dream. We have failed to establish “freedom and liberty for all” as a concrete fact in this country. We have allowed rich, White males to retain their positions of power and influence because we were grateful for the scraps of opportunity we were thrown. We accepted our lot because we were told that to rock the boat would mean the end of our country. We were warned that malcontents and radicals threatened our way of life. And who told us these lies? The rich, White men in power who knew that equality for all would mean less privilege for them. So they made sure to tax themselves less, govern themselves less and ensure that we never read the rest of the Declaration. For instance, the following complaint against King George could be applied to many politicians today: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.” Those in power also fear our taking seriously these words from the Declaration, written immediately after “…all men are created equal…”:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I was 15 years old in 1969. In my teens I was a radical anti-government liberal. I had watched Kennedy be assassinated, listened to King’s speeches, watched the Watts riots on TV and Nixon be elected president. I saw the war in Vietnam as a death pool for the children of average citizens. The kids of the rich, White males stayed at home and went to university. The rich, White males chanted, “America, love it or leave it”. I wanted to change it because I loved it. Like a father watching his son sink into addiction and making every effort to turn them around, I wanted to aid in the “intervention” of America, to help it become the country we all dreamed it could be. The ’60s radicalized me, made me determined to try and make the dream a reality. I failed, my generation failed, and succeeding generations have failed.

We are leaving our children a country mired in class, privilege and inequality. We have failed to establish a direction for our country while allowing it to become a debtor nation. We have failed to uphold the ideals of our founders and have even failed to keep the dream alive. Now we face the ugly results of our failure.

If, perhaps when, our country falls into anarchy and chaos, it won’t be because we allowed gays to marry or gave women the vote. It will be a direct result of our failure to heed the admonition of the Declaration of Independence to remove an oppressive and non-representative form of government and install one that gives the power, privileges and opportunities to all citizens regardless of status, sex or color. We have accepted what is instead of fighting for what could be. We have adopted a new dream, more like a nightmare, in which we count ourselves fortunate to be able to scrape by every day while the upper class enjoys the fruit of our labor. We have become a nation of slaves. Slaves with no dream of freedom.

Do modern GUIs make for clueless users?

Users of electronics relate to their devices through a graphic user interface, or GUI. The iPhone and iPod Touch have received a lot of accolades for their revolutionary user interface. Some users buy their phones based largely on the user interface. Whether your computer runs Windows, Linux or Macintosh, most of your interaction with your computer is through the graphic user interface (desktop).

When an operating system is upgraded, the most noticed features involve the GUI. Apple is famous for their GUI. Microsoft has for years been playing catch-up with Apple over the user interface. Linux users are flocking to Ubuntu, primarily due to its friendly and functional user interface. We have recently seen new releases of Mac’s OS X, Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10, all of which focused on a better experience for the user by improvements to the GUI.

At the same time many of us “geeks” continue to complain about the number of “clueless users”, computer owners who don’t understand much about their computer beyond the user interface. It’s a situation akin to the car owner who knows how to drive the car but has no idea what goes on under the hood, no clue as to how to add oil or change the filters. People who mistake the desktop for their computer or AOL for the internet are the stock of many in-jokes in the IT world. Many of us who have worked help desks shake our heads at the stories we’ve heard. We think it’s a shame that more people aren’t interested in the inner workings of their computers or that more don’t take an interest in the amazing things a user can accomplish from the command line.

I suspect that in the interest of making computers “user friendly” we’ve created a situation in which people don’t have to learn much about their own computers. GUIs are so easy to navigate there’s hardly a need to delve further into commands, scripts and other advanced functions.

Even when the effort is made to get users to think more about their computer’s functioning it’s often unappreciated. With Windows Vista Microsoft introduced the User Account Control (UAC), an effort to alert users when a program or website attempted to make changes to their system. The unintended result was that either users disabled UAC altogether or became jaded and clicked “approve” without reading the content of the warning. This attempt to create more aware users failed, so much so that in Windows 7 Microsoft grants us the ability to restrict the UAC notices that pop up.

Many computer users want to be just that, users. They have no interest in knowing why things happen on their computers, they just want them to work the way they need them to work. The inability of legacy apps to run on newer systems, their inability to make their 1999 printer work with their 2009 operating system simply frustrates them as there’s no “fix this problem” icon on the desktop. It’s doubly frustrating to those of us who try to help them by explaining why the system is failing them. They don’t want to know, they just want it to work.

Maybe if GUIs were a bit less intuitive, maybe if computer interfaces required their user to understand a bit more about why problems occur and what can be done to remedy them we’d have fewer “clueless users”.

Of course there would also be less need for us geeks.

Proof: Cats are Alien Beings

I’ve been saying this for years; in fact, since I “owned” my first cat. Cats are aliens – from what planet, I don’t know. Most of them are observing humans and by some means, likely telepathic, reporting their findings back to their home planet.

Casper
Casper

Casper, which is 12 years old, boards the No. 3 service at 10.55am from outside his home in Plymouth, Devon, and travels the entire 11-mile route before returning home about an hour later.

He has been making the journey for so long that all First Bus drivers have now been told to look out for him to ensure he gets off at the right stop.

Susan Finden (Corr), 65, a care worker who is Casper’s owner, said: “Casper has always disappeared for hours at a time but I never understood where he was going.

“Casper is quite quick for his age so he just hops on to the bus before the doors close. He catches the 10.55am service and likes to sit on the back seat.”

Rob Stonehouse (corr), one of the drivers on the route, said: “He usually just curls up at the back of the bus. Sometimes he nips between people’s legs but he never causes any trouble.”

Casper has travelled an estimated 20,000 miles but Mrs Finden says because he is getting old the drivers often have to shuffle him off at the right stop.

A spokeswoman for First Bus said the firm has put a notice up in the office asking them to look after the non-paying passenger. (Source-The Telegraph)

I was going to offer more evidence of felines’ alien behaviors, but both Mouse and Sara are looking at me strangely, as if they know what I’m posting.

I’d better go.

The Death of a God

The last time I posted here the country was already crowning Obama as the reincarnation of Kennedy, or is it FDR? He was being proclaimed as the savior of America. Even moderate Republicans were beginning to wax hopeful.

Since then we’ve been jolted back to reality. Obama isn’t a god, he’s not even a Kennedy Democrat.

Recently he’s reaffirmed, strengthened really, the concept that the people don’t necessarily need to know what the government’s up to. His interpretation of “transparency in government” is rather opaque. The Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement is terrible legislation, Obama’s sided with the recording industry in the matter of fines and he dismissed out-of-hand the idea that the country would reconsider the legalization, taxation and control of marijuana. Any fear that he was going to be too liberal have been lain to rest. It appears he isn’t really liberal much at all.

So to all of those of you who worshiped Obama without critical thought last year, what are your thoughts now? Has your god died? Or are we beginning to get a view of the wizard behind the curtain?

Welcome to Amerika

Is this the image of America we want to represent our country? Does this conjure up ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Is this the legacy we want to leave our children?

RNC policeThis is so reminiscent of the Democratic Convention in the 60s.

In the last 40 years we’ve witnessed a government that has no idea how to deal with protest and disagreement. It’s almost as if the politicians have forgotten what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independance:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

(Photo courtesy of http://drunkatdnc.blogspot.com/. All rights reserved)

Carlin on Carlin

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/T-SuH7z9hAw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

U.S. settles with anthrax mailings subject for $5.82 million

L.A. Times article:

The former Army scientist who was the prime suspect in the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings agreed Friday to take $5.82 million from the government to settle his claim that the Justice Department and the FBI invaded his privacy and ruined his career.

Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, 54, who was called a “person of interest” in the case by then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft in 2002, said that label and repeated leaks of investigative details to the media damaged his reputation.

For months in the anxious atmosphere after Sept. 11, Hatfill was subjected to 24-hour surveillance and was widely identified as the leading suspect in the nation’s first bioterrorism attack. However, he was never arrested or charged and a federal judge presiding over his lawsuit said recently that there “is not a scintilla of evidence” linking him to the mailings.

Former federal prosecutors knowledgeable about the investigation said the government payout to Hatfill signified that, in all likelihood, he would never be charged.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said the anthrax case “remains among the department’s highest law enforcement priorities.” Brian Roehrkasse also said in a statement that by agreeing to settle the lawsuit, the government “does not admit to any violation of the Privacy Act and continues to deny all liability in connection with Dr. Hatfill’s claims.”

The settlement calls for an immediate $2.82-million payment to Hatfill. Beginning in 2009, the government will pay Hatfill an annuity of $150,000 a year for 20 years, according to court papers.

Another lawyer for Hatfill, Mark A. Grannis, said Friday: “If anybody in the country really knew what it was like to be Steven Hatfill for the past six years, nobody would trade places with him.” Grannis faulted “a handful of credulous reporters,” who he said published or broadcast government leaks of “gossip, speculation and misinformation.”

The lawsuit was filed in August 2003, but U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton delayed permitting Hatfill’s lawyers to question FBI and Justice officials or news reporters for two more years. The government contended that the depositions of agents and FBI leaders could interfere with the investigation.

At that hearing, Walton ordered attorneys for the government and for Hatfill to try to settle the case. On Feb. 19, he signaled that he saw the government’s pursuit of Hatfill as questionable. The judge had reviewed four still-secret FBI memos about the status of the anthrax investigation.

“There is not a scintilla of evidence that would indicate that Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with this,” Walton said.

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), whose district includes Princeton, where anthrax spores were recovered from a mailbox, said the government’s payout to Hatfill confirmed that the investigation “was botched from the very beginning.”

“The FBI did a poor job of collecting evidence, and then inappropriately focused on one individual as a suspect for too long, developing an erroneous ‘theory of the case’ that has led to this very expensive dead end,” Holt said in a statement.

We just don’t seem to be doing very well in our expensive and protracted “War on Terrorism”. Saddam was captured through the efforts on troops on the ground, not as the result of all our intelligence and hardware. Osama is still at large. The government is being forced by the courts to deal with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay when it seems they’d rather just leave them there and forget about them.

On every front in this “war” the government appears to be inept and unable to properly prosecute those it holds responsible, in the few cases where they even have suspects. They’ve made no inroads in their stated goal to make the world a safer place. If there really is a War on Terror, we’re losing it.

GoDaddy saga, a follow-up

Now that I’ve dumped all over GoDaddy, let me add that I will give them a thumbs-up in one regard.  Only once before have I received a personal phone call from the president of a company to follow up on a complaint.  He was gracious, didn’t attempt to excuse GoDaddy’s actions and promised to look into the matter further.

This tells me that while the management of GoDaddy may have good intentions and want their company to perform as advertised, they haven’t realized that at the customer experience level.

I’ve worked in the customer service field in one way or another for over 21 years, most of that time in management.  It’s great to have noble plans and ambitions, but if they aren’t implemented in the real world, down at the customer experience level, they’re worthless.  I also understand the concept of sell-up.  I should have been encouraged to renew my domain even if it weren’t in need of renewing yet.  The whole point of sales is to sell as much as possible.  Every time a sales rep calls a customer to sell or renew a previous sale, they need to offer every reasonable item they can.

GoDaddy may have the right idea at the top, now it needs to filter that philosophy and best practices down to the sales teams.

GoDaddy, an incompetent Web host

At first I wasn’t sure if GoDaddy was incompetent or purposely negligent. I’m still not sure. I am sure of one thing, though; a domain I’ve owned since 2005 has been sold out from under me.

I was contacted by GoDaddy sales a couple of months ago to renew my hosting plan. My hosting plan included one domain. I agreed to a one year renewal for $107, received no conformation but found the receipt in my control panel.

What the sales rep never mentioned was that the renewal did not include domain reregistration, nor was I reminded by phone or email to renew my domain. I thought the whole package had been renewed. Not so. My hosting plan was renewed while my domain was quickly sold to another person. Why he’d want a domain with marginal traffic and an obscure Swedish word as the URL I can’t imagine. No matter, I was now in possession of a $107 hosting plan that hosted no domain.

Was I pissed off? You bet. Am I justified in my disappointment with GoDaddy sales for not also encouraging me to renew my domain at the same time I renewed the hosting plan. I think so. What good is a hosting plan without a domain? Would any reasonable sales rep think I wanted to host nothing for a hundred bucks? Are they that stupid? It seems so. I can only surmise their greed, getting me to renew the more expensive package while not caring about the less profitable domain renewal, overrode their common sense.

At least they are refunding the hosting payment. And to give him his due, the rep I spoke with on the phone couldn’t have been nicer or more efficient. His customer service skills are being wasted there.

As a final insult, they sent me a survey after I canceled the hosting plan. I answered honestly. Was I pleased with their service? Not at all. Would I consider using GoDaddy to host my sites in the future? No. Would I recommend GoDaddy to my friends and associates? Never.

I do however recommend 1and1.com. I’ve never had an issue with them in the 3 years they’ve hosted my other domains. As for that other company, I think I may start referring to them as Go(tohell)Daddy. That seems to be their attitude toward their customers.

A cup of unkindness

Are you traveling this holiday season? Staying in a hotel? Here’s some food drink for thought.[kml_flashembed movie="http://services.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1138309739" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashVars="videoId=1329232712&playerId=1138309739&viewerSecureGatewayURL=https://services.brightcove.com/services/amfgateway&servicesURL=http://services.brightcove.com/services&cdnURL=http://admin.brightcove.com&domain=embed&autoStart=false&" base="http://admin.brightcove.com" name="flashObj" width="486" height="412" seamlesstabbing="false" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" swLiveConnect="true" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash"" width="486" height="412" wmode="transparent" /]

December movies

We’ve got two controversial movies hitting the theaters this month, The Golden Compass and Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.

The Golden Compass is being called a subversive attempt to spread atheism among children. Many churches are urging their members to abstain from viewing it.

Based on the first book of a trilogy called His Dark Materials by acclaimed English author and self-professed atheist Philip Pullman, the movie stars Nicole Kidman and features a little girl’s quest to kill God.
According to Fox News, the novelist has said his books are in response to C.S. Lewis’ series The Chronicles of Narnia, which he has called “one of the most ugly and poisonous things” he’s ever read. “I hate [the ‘Narnia’ books] with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away,” said Pullman.
“They’re intentionally watering down the most offensive element,” said Bill Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League. “It’s a deceitful stealth campaign.”
The fear is that unsuspecting parents will view the movie and find it intriguing and innocent enough to purchase the books for their children. (The books are at the top of best-seller lists in the U.K and other countries but are not as popular in the U.S.)
In recent weeks, e-mails have been circulating within religious circles calling on people of faith to boycott the movie. Much like efforts before the release of the “Da Vinci Code” movie, which turned out to be a huge worldwide box-office hit, the protests against this film have been loud and aggressive. The controversy is undoubtedly drumming up free publicity for Pullman’s works. (In fact, the rumpus drove me to purchase the books so I could make my own assessment.)
Without actually seeing the movie, it is impossible to draw a fair conclusion. Parents should be aware that religious and atheist groups alike seem to agree that the film is far less provocative than the books.  (Source)

Meanwhile, Ben Stein wants to become the new poster-boy for the ID movement. In Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed Stein claims that “big science” has suppressed the teaching of Intelligent Design in the science classroom.

 In the movie, Stein, who is also a lawyer, economist, former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator, is stunned by what he discovers – an elitist scientific establishment that has traded in its skepticism for dogma. Even worse, say publicists for the feature film, “along the way, Stein uncovers a long line of biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their reputations destroyed and their careers ruined by a scientific establishment that allows absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin’s theory of random mutation and natural selection.”
“Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way,” says Stein. “Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it’s anti-science. It’s anti-the whole concept of learning.”
“Expelled” documents how teachers and scientists alike are being ridiculed daily, denied tenure and even fired believing there is evidence of “design” in nature and challenging the current orthodoxy that life is entirely a result of random chance.

For example, Stein meets Richard Sternberg, a double Ph.D. biologist who allowed a peer-reviewed research paper describing the evidence for intelligence in the universe to be published in the scientific journal Proceedings. Shortly after publication, officials from the National Center for Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution, where Sternberg was a research fellow, began a coordinated smear-and-intimidation campaign to get the promising young scientist fired. The attack on scientific freedom was so egregious that it prompted a congressional investigation.

In the film, Stein meets other scientists like astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez, who was denied tenure at Iowa State University in spite of an extraordinary record of achievement. Gonzalez made the mistake of documenting the design he has observed in the universe. And there are others, like Caroline Crocker, a brilliant biology teacher at George Mason University who was forced out of the university for briefly discussing problems with Darwinian theory and for telling the students that some scientists believe there is evidence of design in the universe.  (Source)

No more “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Charlie Brown Christmas”. It appears this year we’re to spend our holiday movie viewing time questioning our fundamental beliefs. I’m almost surprised Mel Gibson didn’t release a movie questioning the right to abortion centered around the birth of Christ.

So, who’s going, which one will you watch, why (or why not)? Or are you going to pass on the whole thing and just watch “Miracle on 34th Street” for the umpteenth time?

Curious conservatives

From Conservapedia Statistics:

There are 45,142 total pages in the database. This includes “talk” pages, pages about Conservapedia, minimal “stub” pages, redirects, and others that probably don’t qualify as content pages. Excluding those, there are 19,616 pages that are probably legitimate content pages.

5,920 files have been uploaded.

There have been a total of 37,901,420 page views, and 335,690 page edits since the wiki was setup. That comes to 7.44 average edits per page, and 112.91 views per edit.

Most viewed pages

1. Main Page‎ [1,938,029]
2. Homosexuality‎ [1,626,018]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [518,209]
4. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [434,607]
5. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [422,301]
6. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [402,645]
7. Homosexual Couples‎ [374,208]
8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [332,153]
9. Homosexuality and Anal Cancer‎ [294,560]
10. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [293,872]

Too bad there wasn’t a category for tunes to tap your toes to while in the men’s room.