In the spirit of Harper's Index:
I meant to write yesterday about the Illinois Democratic Meetup I attended Tuesday evening.
American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois Communications Director Ed Yohnka spoke, as did a staffer from the Rod Blagojevich re-election campaign and a spokesperson for one of the city's aldermanic campaigns.
A group of Chicago democrats meets every Wednesday for Drinking Liberally. Beer plus politics? I am so there.
Yesterday I sent Illinois Senator Dick Durbin an email asking him to support S.2917, the "net neutrality" act currently working its way through the Senate. His office responded quickly, but I have no idea from reading it what his position is. Can anyone help?
Thank you for contacting me about network neutrality. I appreciate having your thoughts on this issue.
Net neutrality is a principle holding that Internet access providers should not be permitted to engage in favoritism when configuring their networks and delivering Internet content. Such favoritism could occur if a provider transmitted its own offerings at faster speeds than those of its competitors or if a provider charged digital content and application companies a fee for equally fast delivery.
This issue has gained attention recently as several telecommunications company executives have made statements raising concerns that delivery may be impaired for content providers unwilling to pay additional fees for fast transmission. Many of these executives later clarified that they have no intention of degrading or blocking other traffic, particularly if it might prompt customers to switch to other providers, but merely wish to offer video delivery to their own customer base at a premium service level unavailable to non-paying competitors. Some in the industry have favorably compared additional network performance tiers to airlines selling coach and business class tickets or package delivery companies offering ground and air service. Other observers have expressed concern about the impact of such steps on consumers.
Legislation on network neutrality has been offered, building on an earlier, non-binding set of network neutrality principles adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in late 2005. Most prominent among these bills is the Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2005, S. 2360, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. This bill would prohibit network operators from generally impairing, or discriminating between, any network traffic, in terms of bandwidth allocation, accessibility, or pricing. It also would require access providers to permit consumers to connect devices to the provider's network, as long as such actions do not harm the provider's network, while still permitting providers to take defensive measures against network threats. Consumers would be able to bring complaints to the FCC for action and request that a federal court review FCC decisions.
Opponents of network neutrality argue that a regime prohibiting "bit discrimination" would deny network operators the opportunity to differentiate their services from other providers, thereby stifling the incentive to create innovative content for their customers. They also argue that network operators may face greater difficulties in raising the funding necessary for planned infrastructure upgrades if the improved network speeds would benefit their competitors as much as themselves.
Proponents of network neutrality -- including major Internet content providers, hardware and software companies, and consumer groups -- point to the money that operators already receive from end user and content provider access fees, the technological innovation that network neutrality may encourage, and the lack of high-speed Internet access marketplace competition that leaves much of the country with little opportunity to switch providers if their current provider were to engage in bit discrimination against the services or applications preferred by consumers.
S. 2360 has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. I will keep your thoughts in mind in case this legislation reaches the Senate floor.
Thank you again for your message. Please keep in touch.
Richard J. Durbin
I think he may be for it...I certainly hope so. Note that our junior senator, Barack Obama, is a co-sponsor of the bill, and he and Durbin are in the same party.
Why is Durbin being so cagey?
Today's Chicago Tribune story on sodium in our diets begins with just about the stupidest lede I have read in a long time:
Sodium, one of the planet's oldest substances, may be the American diet's newest enemy.
I imagined it continuing:
Only sodium, of all 90 naturally-occuring chemical elements, has expressed any hostility toward the American diet. In separate news conferences, spokespeople for hydrogen and helium, the planet's two oldest substances, stressed that they are essentially inert and take no position on the American diet, while statements put out by oxygen, carbon, and iron reaffirmed those substances' long friendships with the American diet. Arsenic and mercury declined to comment.
As most of the Periodic Table rushed to distance themselves from sodium's manifesto, two—argon and sulfur—voiced objections to sodium's seniority claim, suggesting that sodium arrived on the planet through the post-solidification accretion of solar material and was therefore not part of the original complement of substances that first formed Earth.
At press time, sodium had neither responded to these criticisms nor retracted its declaration of war.
The American diet could not be reached for comment.
But, alas, the article merely went on to remind readers that sodium in large quantities is bad for us, and that sodium is the principal ingredient by mass in table salt.
From the "Jeez, People, They're Not People!" category in yesterday's L.A. Times (by way of the Chicago Tribune (reg.req.):
By P.J. Huffstutter
L.A. Times Staff Writer
Published June 12, 2006
CHICAGO—Chef Didier Durand has spent months testing his restaurant's new menu on his most finicky customer: Princess, his 2-year-old French poodle.
The ostrich country pate? To drool for. The bone marrow gateau? Delightfully crunchy. The grilled steak hache? Gone in a gulp.
Durand and other chefs across the city are preparing to serve a canine clientele as the Chicago City Council considers an ordinance this month that would let dogs eat next to people in outdoor cafes.
Forgetting the story's content for a moment, does it seem odd to anyone else that the Chicago Tribune is running a story originally run in the Los Angeles Times about a Chicago ordinance? No?
Talking Points Memo has a list of the Senators supporting, opposed to, and dithering over S.2917, the "Net Neutrality" legislation currently winding its way through the Senate.
Illinois Senator Obama is a co-sponsor; I've just sent our Senator Durbin an email asking him to do the same.
The City of Chicago has floated a plan to designate more than 800 km (500 mi) of bike lanes and paths by 2015 (reg.req.):
[W]ith a strong track record of delivering for cyclists, the city is thinking big: a bike route within a half-mile of every resident; a 50-mile circuit of bike trails, with some off-road paths to be announced later this year; 185 miles of new bikeways altogether.
By 2015, planners hope, 5 percent of all trips shorter than 5 miles long will be made by bike.
Now, if only Mayor Daley hated small airplanes less than he likes bicycles...
I read every word in her column today, and I still have no idea what Maureen Dowd thinks of bloggers (sub.req.):
If I had to be relegated to the Dustbin of History, I'm glad it was in Vegas.
I, Old Media, came here to attend a New Media convention of progressive political bloggers aiming for a technological revolution that would dispatch mainstream media to the tumbrels. It was the journalistic equivalent of mingling with your own pod replicant in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Bemused, perhaps? I truy can't tell.
Over at Talking Points Memo Cafe, Gene Sperling lays out the problems with the proposals to repeal the estate tax:
The nation is at war and troops have been having trouble getting the safest equipment. Child poverty has been on the rise for four straight years. Deficits are projected to total $4 trillion in the next ten years, our entitlement challenge is unresolved, working wages have been stagnating or declining, and fixing the estate tax for the top 3 of every 1000 estates in 2011 is what we should rush to the floor of the Senate in the summer of 2006?
The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson wonders why the President (959 days, 2 hours) thinks anyone really believes gay marriage is the most important issue right now:
Let's check in on what's happening in the real world:
Iraq has become a charnel house for the victims of escalating sectarian slaughter. On Saturday, a car bomb killed 28 people in Shiite-dominated Basra, and hours later gunmen killed nine Sunni worshipers in a mosque. On Sunday, on a road near Baghdad, assassins pulled travelers out of their minivans, sorted them by faith, killed nearly two dozen Shiites and let the Sunnis go. Yesterday, men wearing police uniforms grabbed at least 56 people from bus stations and travel agencies in Baghdad and took them away—no one knows why, no one knows where.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government remains toothless and ineffectual, despite his pledge to end the sectarian violence. On Sunday, he failed yet again to reach agreement on who will run the only two ministries that matter—the ones in charge of the army and the police. The butcher Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most prominent figure in the armed Sunni insurgency and the most hunted man in Iraq, remains at large and periodically manages to issue messages inspiring his followers to continue their jihad. (Just like his hero, Osama bin Laden.) Yet the president spent his weekend radio address pushing "a constitutional amendment that defines marriage in the United States as the union of a man and woman."
In other news, California is having a primary election today that will determine which Democrat will lose to sitting quasi-Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in November. Turnout is expected to be so low that the San Francisco Chronicle's story about the election is third down, under the top story that people really like Trader Joe's. (I have to say, Anne and I care more about TJ's than about the California Primary, so maybe the Chronicle's Web site is just playing to a more national audience.)