Sunday, January 30, 2011

To fund or not to fund, Public Broadcasting

In principle, a government run broadcaster gives the government in power a mouthpiece to win votes and influence citizens. It has for sure given the liberal greenie leftie segment of the population a place to push liberal greenie leftie ideas. As a conservative this is slightly offensive to me. But, offensive or not, I listen to public broadcasting quite a bit. In fact a lot. The liberal greenie leftie slant is much less offensive than the non-stop barrage of ads on commercial broadcasting outlets.
Public Broadcasting's lineup of shows, Nova, Sesame St, The Newshour, Masterpiece Theater, All Things Considered, is strong enough to stand on their own two feet, to go out and get sponsors just like real TV shows do. On the other hand, having Big Bird brought to you by the number 9 is amusing. Having Big Bird brought to your kids by Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, PopTarts, and Ronald McDonald is distastful.
So, continue to fund PBS, to bring me and mine some decent programming. Keep the pressure up to make it non-partisan, but don't have a conniption when the liberal greenie leftie viewpoint comes thru.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

WashPo reviews the Chevy Volt

Click here to read all about it. The writer is one of those hopeless klutzes who has difficulty changing light bulbs. He knows squat about cars, and spends several paragraphs telling us so. Just what we all wanted to learn. For reading the entire article we learn zip about the Volt. We do learn quite a bit about this guy's feelings about the car (he likes it), the evils of electric power generation, and assorted fluff, but zilch about the car. He doesn't even tell us how many doors it has.

Egypt. Part 2

Some TV newsies have been calling for the US to support the Egyptian rebels. Others have been calling for support of Mubarak, likening Mubarak to the Shah of Iran. The shah was overthrown after Carter withdrew American support, and Iran was taken over by Islamic fundamentalists led by the Ayatollah Khomeni. Iran was converted from a US ally to a relentless adversary in a matter of days. They are still an adversary.
In actual fact, we cannot support the Egyptian rebels, yet. The world is full of shaky regimes, all of which fear an American attempt at regime change will be effective. The US cannot be perceived as a superpower willing to foment revolution in countries that displease it, not if we want to do any sort of business, diplomatic, commercial, cultural, or whatever. Which means we cannot jettison the Mubarak regime just yet.
Plus, we aren't sure we like the Egyptian opposition all that much. CIA has done its usual sloppy job, and we have no idea who, if anyone, is behind today's Egyptian uprising. We ought to fear that the real leaders might be the Muslim Brotherhood. They are an old and powerful Islamic movement that goes back to the 1920's. They got started as anti colonialists. Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak considered them dangerous radicals, outlawed the party, and slung every party member they could catch into jail. Despite this pressure, the Brotherhood was able to assassinate Anwar Sadat and give birth to Al Quada.
At this moment it looks like Mubarak might be able to survive, but he is in his eighties, in poor health, and he isn't going to last much longer. If a halfway decent Egyptian leader were to surface in today's confusion, we could do worse. Unfortunately, we have no good intelligence from Egypt and we cannot tell real leaders from useless windbags. So we have to wait upon events.

Friday, January 28, 2011


The TV newsies have been yakking all day about the uproar in Egypt. What none of them seem to understand is
1. We don't know who is going to come out on top. Might be Mubarak, might be someone else. We won't know until one side wins.
2. We want to be friends with the winners. Which means we don't want to piss the winners off by supporting the losers. And we don't know who is going to win.
3. Given 1 and 2, the correct action for the US is to stand on the side lines until we know who is running the place and then, only then, reassure the government of Egypt, be it new or old, of continued US support.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Whither TV?

TV is facing the Internet challenge. Ever since the switch to digital broadcast wiped out many folks TV reception, viewers have been turning to the Internet to watch programs. For instance at my place we used to get 8 over-the-air channels. After the switchover to digital broadcasting we only get one. Lotta people who don't have or cannot afford cable don't get to see much TV anymore. At my daughter's place in DC they don't have TV anymore. They have three reasonable modern but non functional TV sets piled up in the dining room to form a modern object d'art.
Enter the Internet. has been offering streaming TV right to your computer. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC, News Corp, and Disney and offers TV programs. Hulu is free (right now anyway) but the owners are conflicted over the Hulu business model. In plain English, they cannot figure out how to make money giving stuff away free. Competitor Netflix charges $8 a month for roughly the same thing.
One unsolved problem, at least in my house, is how to get the Internet TV signal onto the living room TV. The main (desktop) computer is some distance from the TV and running a video cable across two rooms under the rugs is un inviting. I could put a wireless card into backup (laptop) computer) and set the laptop down close to the TV. My newer TV accepts VGA (computer monitor) video. Many (but not all)laptops will output regular composite video (standard analog TV signal like a VCR outputs) if your TV is a little older.
Another unsolved problem is internet bandwidth. There isn't that much of it. If you think the Internet is slow now, wait til everyone is watching TV over the 'net. The "net neutrality" scuffle is an attempt by Hulu and Netflix to force the ISP's not to put their streaming TV on the back burner. The ISP's, given a choice between delaying a website from painting, a matter of a few dozen packets, and delaying some of the 4 million packets for a movie, are going to paint the web site first and do the movie later.
Internet TV may force the ISP's to change their billing practices. Right now broadband is billed at one flat monthly rate. The ISP's find that a small percentage of their customers are hogging most of the bandwidth. To make the bandwidth hogs pay their fair share, the ISP's may have to bill by the byte. The more you download the higher your bill. Hulu and Netflix are against that idea.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

HoHum State of the Union

Words roll off Obama's tongue so smoothly but they don't mean anything. With the US about to go as broke as Greece, Obama didn't talk about cutting spending on anything. He wanted more spending on high speed rail and education. Oh sorry, it's investment now, sounds so much better than spending.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How cold did you get?

Well, both Franconia and Littleton were 25 below zero yesterday morning about 8:30. Didn't warm up much all day.