Saturday, October 20, 2007

Halloween 2007

For an oh-so-brief-time each year, I get the chance to present my Halloween mast for this old Cup of Joe.

A brand spankin' new Camera Obscura of movies and DVDs will be posted later today (sorry, make that on Sunday afternoon!!), so come back for that.

In the meantime, a Halloween-ish offering:

by Edgar Allan Poe

Lo! ’t is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
in veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly—
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Wo!

That motley drama—oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

Out—out are the lights—out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Register to Win Some Free CDs

There's still time to register to win one of several free CDs of Number One Rock hits - all the details on the CDs and how to register to win are here at this post.

Winners will be announced tomorrow before noon.

UPDATE: We have winners!

The 90s Rock CD goes to Ivy.
The Modern Rock CD goes to Alloyd4.
The Hard Rock CD goes to LeBlanc.

Thanks to all for playing!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Colbert - The Presidential Campaign

A blast of Truthiness hit the mostly lackluster 2008 presidential race last night - Stephen Colbert is running for president. As a Republican. And a Democrat. In South Carolina. His announcement was made last night during his report on the '08 race:

In today's Washington Post, candidate Colbert said:

It will be a success for me if at the Republican or Democratic convention, someone stands up and says, 'The great state of South Carolina, home of the finest peaches, home of the finest shrimp, casts one delegate for Stephen Colbert.' "

The Porn Star and The State Trooper, Part 2

Since May of this year, Googlers have landed on this page by the thousands to learn about East Tennessee porn actress Barbie Cummings and her encounter with THP Trooper Randy Moss. Yes the jokes pile up all on their own with such names and the infamy of that roadside encounter.

Yesterday, a grand jury indicted Moss on official misconduct charges, who left the THP shortly after the allegations of his sexual roadside attraction hit the internet and the media. (Videotaping their highway romance exists ... you can seek it if you wish.) In today's edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel, reporter Matt Lakin had some pun-filled moments in getting us all up to date on Barbie (real name is Justis Ellen) and Randy:

Cummings’s Web site drew more than 200,000 hits in the days afterward and recently won the title of East Tennessee’s best blog in an annual News Sentinel poll — even though the blog went down months ago.

Cummings started a new blog this month. She says she’s quit the porn industry, settled down with a boyfriend and has become pregnant.

She wrote that she’s studying nursing and looking forward to becoming a mother.

“I have come a long way,” she wrote. “I wouldn’t say I have ‘improved’ or changed for the ‘better’. I have no regrets in life, and if I could, I would do everything over again!”

Matt's full story is here.

If the porn (I mean former porn) star's blog ranked as the Best ET Blog, then I must ponder on just how much porn need be added to this blog to entice readers. Does just writing the word porn, porn, porn titillate Google's search engines enough to seize attention? Probably. And if net-surfers arrive here and find no hot pictures of Barbie Cummings, will they angrily leave, crying out "There's No Justis?"

Your jokes may vary.

UPDATE: My shameless wordplay is obvious.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vote For Limited Ban on Internet Tax Passes

This afternoon the House voted 405 - 2 to keep a ban on internet taxation, but only for 4 years, and the bill still has to go the the Senate for approval. TN Senator Lamar Alexander is pushing a bill that keeps the ban in place for 4 years, then allows for cities and states to start piling on taxes.

Michael Silence notes the news here.

Some states, like Texas, already have a tax on internet access, which the new legislation keeps intact. The cost for Texas residents? 25 dollars a month tacked on to the price to access the Web.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Secretary and the Secretary of Commerce say a permanent ban needs to be the priority:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez issued a statement today calling on Congress to make permanent the moratorium on Internet access taxes and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. ...

"Although we recognize that a temporary extension is better than letting the moratorium expire, we are extremely disappointed that the legislation does not extend permanently the moratorium on Internet access taxes and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. The Internet is an innovative force that opens up the vast potential economic and social benefits of electronic commerce.

"Preventing the taxation of Internet access and keeping the Internet free of multiple or discriminatory taxes will help sustain an environment for innovation, help ensure that consumers continue to have affordable access to the Internet, and strengthen the foundations of electronic commerce as a vital and growing part of our economy."

For more info, see yesterday's post.

UPDATE: I received the following press statement from Senator Alexander's office this afternoon:

U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued the following response to the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to approve a four-year extension of a moratorium on state and local taxes on Internet access. The first tax ban was passed in 1998 and the current moratorium is set to expire on Nov. 1. This extension exempts some states that approved taxes prior to the original enactment.

“By extending the Internet tax moratorium four years, the House of Representatives has protected internet users. The Senate should follow suit with a temporary extension of the moratorium before the current moratorium expires on November 1. We’ve said from the start that a permanent ban is not good public policy. Rather, Congress should periodically look at this law to make sure it keeps pace with new technologies. Since the moratorium was enacted in 1998, we’ve extended it twice while changing the law substantially to meet changing technology.”

Carper and Alexander are cosponsors of similar legislation in the U. S. Senate. The measure passed the House by a vote of 405-2."

Monday, October 15, 2007

More On Internet Taxation

Some in Congress, such as Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, are looking for ways to allow cities and counties and states to start charging you new taxes for accessing the internet. I mentioned this last week along with my objections and questions about such legislation.

There was a state legislative effort earlier this year (fortunately defeated) to allow telephone companies to bypass local franchise agreements for offering cable television and alter the law for a single state application for service, which I wrote about as well.

And given the push for internet taxation, it is worth recalling that if that telephone companies get their way when they push their legislation again, cities and counties will lose income. As I said before: "
If the state does approve the end of locally created franchise agreements, then cities and counties will be looking for new ways to replace that lost income - more taxation."

Also, I received some emails about whether or not Tennessee taxed internet access. So I point out this post from Les Jones on that topic from 2004, when the state eliminated internet access taxes.

So some suggestions for those favoring taxing internet access to create revenue for cities and counties - do not allow the franchise laws to be changed, and look instead to the potential income such already established agreements could bring. It makes no sense to me to always charge the end-user higher and higher fees. Consistent and open competition for service is the way to go. Seeking new ways to tax an ever-expanding technology will harm both expansion and competition.

Illegal Wiretaps Started Before 9-11?

Allegations are emerging now that the NSA, authorized by the White House, began using warrantless surveillance programs months and months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 2001. The program was widespread and threats were leveled at phone companies who did not comply. A report in the Washington Post says:

"[Former Qwest CEO Joseph]
Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.

The allegations could affect the debate on Capitol Hill over whether telecoms sued for disclosing customers' phone records and other data to the government after the Sept. 11 attacks should be given legal immunity, even if they did not have court authorization to do so.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department, the NSA, the White House and the director of national intelligence declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal case against Nacchio and the classified nature of the NSA's activities. Federal filings in the appeal have not yet been disclosed.

Wired Magazine has more,
noting others who have made the same claims about the date when these programs actually began. The information completely undercuts claims by the president that warrantless wiretaps are vital to a war on terrorism, since he began authorizing prior to the terrorist attacks.

Does this explain why the White House is pushing hard for full immunity for those telecoms who allowed for the illegal eavesdropping?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum writes:

Unlike, say, MoveOn ads or Rush Limbaugh shows, this really does seem like a worthy object of congressional investigation, doesn't it?"