Technagora

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A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Taking an extended vacation

“Vacation’s when you go somewhere… and you never come back.”

Technagora is being put on an indefinite hiatus. Technagora is being discontinued. Please point your feed readers to my other blog, Ice Cream Headache – http://icecreamheadache.wordpress.com.

It’s been fun writing about libertarian and tech issues for the past year and a half, but I’ve decided that I don’t have the energy or time to devote towards becoming an independent full-time tech/tech policy blogger. There are a lot of bloggers out there, both professional and up-and-comers, who have a great deal more insight into and passion for these issues than I do (see: Techdirt, TLF, Surprisingly Free, et al.) I’d rather free up my time to pursue other opportunities. I’m still on the interwebz at the blog listed above, as well as on twitter, linked in, and youtube (a work in progress).

And just in case I change my mind sometime down the road, I’m leaving the archives up, so browse to your heart’s content.

Seacrest out,

-L

Filed under: Uncategorized

Talentless Hack Fired from Humdrum Radio Station Does Not Violate 1st Amendment

Mankato-area radio DJ Jeremy “Fat Kid” Powell was evidently given the axe this week by his employers at 95.7 “The Blaze.” Fat Kid’s facebook page is awash with comments from fans who vow to boycott the station until he is reinstated. Or at least until they remember that the Blaze is the only broadcaster within listening range that plays their brand of crappy, testosterone-fueled Shock Rock.™

For those of you who don’t hail from southern Minny, Fat Kid is an “edgy,” cookie-cutter radio DJ, another voice in the slew of Howard Stern-wannabes that station execs hired en masse in the mid-90s to capitalize on the angsty, anti-commercial rock music that was, well, commercial at the time. Most of these guys bring nothing original to their profession, and most of them fail to be shocking – afterall, only the richest stations can afford to pay FCC indecency fines – and instead settle somewhere between “annoying” and “grating.”

Anyway, back to the story. Mr. Kid’s side is that he was fired for saying something inappropriate over the waves (he supplied the facebook comment “don’t call cheerleaders fat on air.”). His account of what happened has prompted his crowd of facebook supporters to rage back against the machine. From panicky boys who don’t know whut im gonna listen to now that FAT KID IS GONE!!! THIS SUCKS!, to witch-y little half-wit girls who believe being labeled fat by a radio DJ provides adequate motivation for those other ugly fat girls to lose weight, the kids are pissed. Many have cited the constitution, specifically the 1st Amendment, and the value of Freedom of Speech in America, Or Whatever. And therein lies the problem, boys and girls.

The first amendment protects citizens from government censorship, not from employer censorship. It’s very important for the managers at Wal-Mart to have the freedom to fire the idiot kid who curses at and insults his customers. It’s also very important that the managers can’t call the police and have the same idiot kid hauled away and thrown in jail. People don’t like being insulted, and businesses generally try not to piss off their customers. Contrast this with a society without a first amendment. In such a society, Fat Kid could be imprisoned with no legal recourse, a prospect which I’m sure we’ll all agree is much more horrifying than merely being unemployed. Fat is free to go find employment elsewhere, switch to a more lucrative vocation. I’m sure he’d make a great Tucker Max rip-off.

Bottom line: Fat Kid sucks, the Blaze was never a great radio station, and the first amendment applies only to the government and can’t be wielded against private citizens or companies. So please, go ahead and boycott The Blaze. Not because of Fat Kid, but because there’s better ways to discover and listen to music. www.pandora.com

Filed under: Entertainment, , ,

How to be Anti-Net Neutrality Without Being a Reactionary Conservative or a Corporate Shill

1. Techno-literacy: Know how the internet and various other “technical things” work.

2. Cultural Relevance: Stay up-to-date with the trends shaping the ‘net, current internet memes, video games, tech news, and other tech-geek stuff. If you’re a digital artist, IT professional, or software engineer, even better.

3. Be One of the Common People: Don’t make too much money. If you aren’t a lawyer and you aren’t on the bankroll of a corporation with a vested interest, this is easy.

4. Credibility: Don’t be one of those self-appointed, overpaid “social media gurus.” Digital marketing is a legit business, but it’s difficult to know whether you’re getting the real deal or one of these tech-hipsters who doesn’t know the difference between “trendy” and “useful.” Many of them hop onto the neutrality wagon because it signals that they are cool, tech-savvy, and perhaps even “leet.”

4. Be Forward-Thinking: Recognize how fast and dynamic inter-connected masses of people are; market conditions can change rapidly, but internet market conditions can change overnight.

5. Liberalism*: Be an avid supporter of free-speech. Not in a reluctant, holding-your-nose way, either. Optimally, support other progressive-liberal civil issues like gay marriage and separation of church and state. Bash conservative politicians whenever it is convenient to do so.

6. Skepticism: Be wary of the government, politicians, and politically-appointed regulators in pretty much any situation. In fact, be skeptical of the entire political process. Recall that “Deception is an inherent, inseparable part of politics. Politics itself is a big lie.

7. Face the Reality: Recognize that corporate interests pay legions of lawyers hundreds of millions of dollars to shape policy in their favor. Thus, policies and regulations originally intended to benefit the many in practice will generally benefit the few and well-represented.

8. Rhetoric: Articulate your disdain for net neutrality well, explaining how government regulation of one internet layer will lead to regulation of all layers, and how government regulation of the medium is anathema to free speech. Be artful, logical, savvy, reasonable, and compelling. You’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you.

Are there any other rules I should add to the list?

*Liberalism in the old-world definition: i.e. advocacy of the individual’s rights and limited government intervention.

Filed under: Internet, Politics,

Awesome New Twitter Tool

First, let me preface this post by saying that Twitter is still over-hyped and full of worthless information.

Now, for those of you (like myself) who’ve fallen prey to its evil, self-aggrandizing appeal – or if you just like sharing links and stuff – there’s an awesome new tweet-management tool that I’ve been using. Hoot Suite has some great features, including:

  • The ability to schedule your tweets ahead of time (so that you can space out your tweets throughout the day, rather than clog up your friends’ feeds with several consecutive posts)
  • Multi-platform support: update your twitter, facebook, and Linkedin accounts (for those of you who bother signing into Linkedin more than once a month).
  • A built-in link shortener that also tracks clicks – see how many people click on your tweeted links.

Thanks to Cord (and Michelle) for bringing this awesome tool to my attention.

Filed under: Information Tech, Tech Biz,

Spotify vs. Pandora, and the Indecisive Listener

Tech geeks across the web have been wetting their collective pants in anticipation over the American release of Spotify. This up-and-coming free music-streaming service that blends the best of iTunes, iMeem, Grooveshark, Last.fm, Pandora, and all the other popular music services. I however, remain unconvinced.

I’m stuck on Pandora because I dislike having to mess around with playlists. I like typing in a name and just letting the machine do its thing. Granted, sometimes Pandora gives me very odd choices (like Hanson on a station seeded with the Rolling Stones and STP, what??), but usually I just enjoy the passive listening experience. If I don’t like a song, I hit “next,” and let the algorithm decide for me.

I guess my inclination towards Pandora says more about me than it does about music streaming apps. It’s just that…  playlists require a level of decisiveness that I just don’t have when it comes to the little things in life. I use the “shuffle” and “random” settings on every music player I’ve ever had. I’m a go-where-life-takes-you kind of person, I suppose.

Filed under: Computers and Software, Uncategorized, , , ,

30 Jobs “Created or Saved” in Phantom Congressional Districts

ABC News broke the story this week of an executive administration that, ambitious to appear in control of the economy during this steep recession, reported patently false stimulus-related employment information. The Recovery Board, a task force created to track the $787 billion in federal stimulus spending, published on its website data for jobs “created or saved” in congressional districts that don’t even exist!

In one example, the stimulus tracking website reported that 30 jobs have been “created or saved” in Arizona’s 15th congressional district. Arizona only has eight congressional districts.

Late Monday, officials with the Recovery Board created to track the stimulus spending, said the mistakes in crediting nonexistent congressional districts were caused by human error. “We report what the recipients submit to us,” said Ed Pound, Communications Director for the Board. Pound told ABC News the board receives declarations from the recipients – state governments, federal agencies and universities – of stimulus money about what program is being funded.

Has the government ever heard of research assistants? Fresh college grads willing to do menial tasks (like research and fact-checking) for a small pittance are in no short supply in Washington DC. Hiring a small staff of people to double-check the validity of reported numbers would be a minor cost for the Recovery Board, but it would save them the embarrassment of looking either shady and deceptive or downright incompetent.

X-posted at OpenMarket.org.

CEI’s Hans Bader has more on the story.

Filed under: Economics, Politics,

Trade-offs

I’m at work reading through the grant requests for stimulus money for the federal broadband internet plan, and it’s driving me insane. Companies and state telcos are asking for millions and millions to roll out fiber and gigabit services to places like rural Iowa and Mississippi.

Listen, there are trade-offs that come with living in Nowheresville, Midwest. Iowa =/= San Francisco. In exchange for less congestion, fresh air, sprawling backyards, less crime, good midwestern sensibilities, etc., you don’t get state-of-the-art broadband. There just aren’t enough people (“demand”) to support it. In fact, there’s a whole host of things you don’t get in rural America: Whole Foods and other upscale grocers, good ethnic dining, gay culture, couture fashion, iPhones, high costs-of-living, the crazier kinds of democrats, the list goes on and on.

I mean, the very fact that there are still people living in Mason City, Iowa means that there are people who are happy to watch their television programs over their cable connections, rather than via internet streaming. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people in rural areas who just aren’t that worked up over their internet speeds. Policy-oriented technophiles ought to stop trying to turn the country’s boondocks into Tokyo.

If WiMax or Vios is so freakin’ important to consumers – and I mean consumers, not the network companies that stand to profit by using tax dollars to roll out heavily-subsidized networks that wouldn’t otherwise be supported in these locations – then move to an urban center already.

Filed under: Economics, Tech Biz,

Glenn Beck Update

Has Glenn Beck denied raping and murdering a young girl in 1990?

 

Filed under: Humor

Teens Sue School for Punishing Them over Lewd Photos

Two teenage girls, along with the ACLU, have filed a lawsuit against their school district after the school punished them for publishing racy photos on their myspace pages. Let’s get ready to rage.

The background: a group of girlfriends had a sleepover earlier this summer that involved phallic lollipops and a digital camera. “Suggestive” photos of two of the girls eating the candy found their way to myspace (surprise), though the girls set their privacy controls so that only “friends” could see them.  A few months later, some jackass kid (probably an ex-boyfriend or a vindictive drama queen) printed the pictures out and brought them to school, where they were shown to school officials. School officials then suspended the girls from their fall semester extracurricular activities, made them apologize to an all-male coaches’ panel, and made them seek counseling.

There’s so much wrong with this situation that I don’t even know where to begin. First, you’ve got school administrators disciplining kids for activities that didn’t take place on school grounds, during the school year, and had nothing to do with school, period. When kids bring phallic-shaped candy to school, confiscate it. When they violate dress code, send them home. When they misbehave, discipline them. But when they exercise their free speech rights as private citizens (and at fifteen, who among us wasn’t experimenting with the power of sex appeal?), the school has no business acting as a censor.

Second, it seems to me like the wrong people were punished. What about the kid(s) who printed the pictures out and brought them to school? Aren’t they the real evildoers here? They took what was intended to be private knowledge and publicized it. While that may not be illegal, there’s definitely a lesson here that these creeps aren’t learning. You don’t tell other people’s secrets, and you never spread unflattering or character-destroying photographs of anybody around school or the web. Those are two things that civilized, decent people just don’t do. Isn’t that a more important life lesson for becoming a decent person than the glib message “don’t take pictures of yourself licking a dick-shaped lollipop?”

Third, the punishment here does not even come close to fitting the “crime.” 1) The crime here is young ladies acting lewdly. Not minors engaging in sex acts. Not peddling child pornography. They were acting un-ladylike. If school admins looked around their lunchroom any day of the week, they’d see the same thing happening among giggling groups of girlfriends. It’s called “adolescence,” and while teens might be annoying to everyone else, they’re not doing anything out of the ordinary (I recall an old video of a friend of mine performing two seconds of over-exaggerated fake fellatio on a banana back in the 8th grade – good thing myspace wasn’t around then). 2) The punishment resulted in the situation going from merely embarrassing to downright humiliating. Someone tell me WHY these girls had to seek counseling. Even more important, tell me WHY they had to issue apologies to an all-male panel of coaches. Shaming someone over his or her sexual expression is a sure-fire way to really screw with their head and unleash their insecurities; the effect is worse if done publicly. Why on earth is the school getting away with publicly shaming two teens?

Fourth, the sanctimony displayed on the part of the school’s administrators is out-fucking-rageous. High school teachers: as much as you’d like to think otherwise, you are not charged with the sacred task of instilling a moral compass into other people’s children. You are civil servants – basically government employees. Your job is to educate, supervise, and when necessary protect these teens from external danger or from other students. Your job does not include the right to impose disciplinary sanctions on the basis of your subjective ideas about drugs, sex, rock and roll, politics, etc. That’s a job for parents. If anybody had any responsibility whatsoever, it would have been for a concerned teacher to quietly notify the girls’ parents of the photos, and let them deal with it. Instead, they made the whole incident into a much bigger deal than it needed to be.

The girls in question here have every right to be upset. School officials overreacted and overstepped their bounds. At the same time, these girls learned an unfortunate but important lesson about posting unsavory photos on the web. As I’ve said before, kids are stupid, and when you post pictures of yourself acting uncharacteristically lewd on the ‘net, you’d better be ready to be judged. But being teased by peers is punishment enough; being shamed and humiliated by school authorities is totally uncalled for.

Filed under: Internet, Off-Topic, , , ,

Yep, Econ Students are Still Awesome

It’s nice to know that the economics department at Minnesota State University is still producing opinionated and informed students. My friend Mark Leirmo wrote this letter for the MSU Reporter, carrying on a tradition of econ students pointing out the administration’s wasteful spending and half-baked policies. An excerpt:

Who you love or what you worship doesn’t affect me, so I have no problem with it. What does affect me is when the university finds it necessary to spend money that I intended to use to better myself through what I wanted to study on trying to make me more “culturally enriched.” People who want to celebrate who they are should be more than free to. But I feel if people want to do this they should start a club on campus and manage their own funds, rather than the university funneling scarce resources from our paper printing budget into them.

 

Filed under: Uncategorized

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