aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, April 22, 2005
Senator Santorum and the Weather Bug
I’m an IT Professional and I have the WeatherBug on my machine. This, my colleagues cannot abide. They say the weatherbug is odious spyware. They want me to remove it and use something like Forecast Fox or a Windows weather monitor instead.
Today I learned that Rick Santorum wants to keep the world safe for the WeatherBug:
The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.
He’s not really doing it to protect The Weather Bug (though it would). No, he’s doing it to protect AccuWeather and claiming he wants to modernize the weather service. The Weather Bug is headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD. AccuWeather is in Senator Santorum’s home state of PA.
Santorum says the NWS has no right to provide ordinary weather reports because the Service’s mission is only to monitor extreme or dangerous weather. Actually, the official mission of the NWS is “the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.” Obviously, farmers, fishermen, pilots, and others depend on accurate weather bulletins for their safety and prosperity all year round, not just during hurricane season.
The outrageous thing about Santorum’s bill is that it’s a gag order on data NWS has to collect anyway. The Service can’t even forecast extreme weather without continuously monitoring weather patterns across the country.
Currently the NWS makes this information available to citizens, other government agencies, and the private sector (including AccuWeather!). Santorum’s proposal would forbid NWS to offer this information for free on its website. Presumably the NWS would still have to give the data to AccuWeather and other firms to sell back to the public.
I’ll delete that damned bug on Monday. My colleagues will be pleased.
In response to Microsoft’s withdrawal of support for legislation that would have outlawed discrimination against gay and lesbian people in Washington, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, which presented Microsoft with its Corporate Vision Award in 2001, is asking the company to return the award.
Credit card debt is going down
This was surprising news to me:
It turns out many customers are having entirely rational reactions to rising interest rates (and perhaps the new bankruptcy law). They’re taking the sometimes painful steps necessary to reduce credit card debt before it gets too onerous.
Guest post by Jen.
”Against Depression,” by the author of ”Listening to Prozac” (and, as of last week, host of NPR’s The Infinite Mind!), debuts next month. Sunday’s New York Time Magazine article by Peter Kramer gave us a sneak peak of the book, which seems to reiterate his recurring theme:
Depression is not a perspective. It is a disease.
Blogs not dedicated to psychology/psychiatry seem curiously quiet about depression. Does the exhaustion of depression discourage blogging? Are bloggers (more male than female) less depressed than the general public? or just more reticent about it?
Microsoft bails on gays
The Microsoft Corporation, at the forefront of corporate gay rights for decades, is coming under fire from gay rights groups, politicians and its own employees for withdrawing its support for a state bill that would have barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Many of the critics accused the company of bowing to pressure from a prominent evangelical church in Redmond, Wash., located a few blocks from Microsoft’s sprawling headquarters.
The bill, or similar versions of it, has been introduced repeatedly over three decades; it failed by one vote Thursday in the State Senate. Gay rights advocates denounced Microsoft, which had supported the bill for the last two years, for abandoning their cause. Blogs and online chat rooms were buzzing on Thursday with accusations that the company, which has offered benefits to same-sex partners for years, had given in to the Christian right...Microsoft officials denied any connection between their decision not to endorse the bill and the church’s opposition, although they acknowledged meeting twice with the church minister, Ken Hutcherson.
I believe they did bow to the Religious Right. But I don’t believe that the American public is turning against gays, nor do I wonder as John does is it safe to be gay in America. All of us, straight and gay, are allowing a fanatical minority to push us around. It’s a serious threat, not just to lesbian and gay people, but to all of us. We will fight back. I don’t believe it will last.
In the meantime, buy a Mac.
Update, more from Salon:
As The Stranger had it, Microsoft supported the anti-discrimination legislation for more than a year but switched its position to “neutral” after an NFL-linebacker-turned-minister named Ken Hutcherson met with company officials and told them that he’d launch a boycott of Microsoft products if the company continued to support the bill. In an interview with the New York Times, Hutcherson backed up that part of the story: He said that Microsoft “backed off” from supporting the bill after he told company officials he was “going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about.” Washington Rep. Edward Murray also backed up The Stranger’s version of the story, telling the Times that, when a Microsoft senior vice president told him that the company would no longer be supporting the bill, he cited pressure from Hutcherson and concerns raised by Microsoft employees who were “connected” to him.
But Microsoft tells the Times that it’s all a big misunderstanding. Although the company admitted to the Times that it met twice with Hutcherson, it says its decision to withdraw its support for the bill had absolutely nothing to do with him. “Our government affairs team made a decision before this legislative session that we would focus our energy on a limited number of issues that are directly related to our business,” a Microsoft spokesman told the Times. “That decision was not influenced by external factors. It was driven by our desire to focus on a smaller number of issues in this short legislative session.”
Murray, who sponsored the legislation, called Microsoft’s characterization “an absolute lie.” We’ll ask about that when we get a chance to talk with Microsoft; We tried to contact the company early yesterday, but we didn’t get a phone message back until the evening, and now the game of phone tag has begun. We’ll also ask about something else: If Microsoft was so worried about “focusing its energies” on a limited number of issues this year, how is it that it found time to meet with Hutcherson twice, brief Murray and, presumably, other lawmakers about its change in position, and meet with gay and lesbian employees to fill them in on both its political switch and Hutcherson’s threats? Wouldn’t it have taken less time—wouldn’t it have been less of a distraction from those issues “directly related to our business”—just to leave its previous position as it was?
Conservative pressure at PBS
Liberal commentator Bill Moyers is out on PBS stations. Buster the animated rabbit is under a cloud of suspicion. And right-wing yakkers from the Wall Street Journal editorial page have been handed their own public-television chat show.
Some observers, including people inside the Public Broadcasting Service, see these recent developments as troubling. PBS, they say, is being forced to toe a more conservative line in its programming by the Republican-dominated agency that provides about $30 million in federal funds to the Alexandria-based service.
Recent changes at CPB are unprecedented:
Typically one of the quietest bureaucracies in Washington, the quasi-governmental CPB has been unusually active in recent weeks. CPB this month appointed a pair of veteran journalists to review public TV and radio programming for evidence of bias, the first time in CPB’s 38-year history that it has established such positions. PBS officials were unaware that the corporation intended to review its news and public affairs programs, such as “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” and “Frontline,” until the appointments were publicly announced.
In negotiations with PBS earlier this year, the corporation also insisted, for the first time, on tying new funding to an agreement that would commit the network to strict “objectivity and balance” in each of its programs—an idea that PBS’s general counsel described in an internal memo as amounting to “government encroachment on and supervision of program content, potentially in violation of the First Amendment.”
There’s that (code)word “balance” again. And again:
A senior FCC official, who would not speak for attribution because he must rule on issues affecting public broadcasting, went further, saying CPB “is engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS. It’s almost like a right-wing coup. It appears to be orchestrated.”
In an interview yesterday, CPB board chairman Ken Tomlinson called such comments “paranoia,” and said critics of CPB’s initiatives should “grow up.”
“We’re only seeking balance,” said Tomlinson. “I am concerned about perceptions that not all parts of the political spectrum are reflected on public broadcasting. [But] there are no hidden agendas.”
Roger Ailes must be proud.