Archive for February, 2014

Problems for Apple TV on the Verizon Horizon?

Problems for Apple TV on the Verizon Horizon?

Talking about another unsolved problem for Apple is very sad.  To many of the “Apple Faithful” the company’s demise continues apace.  Since Jobs passed, the iPhone 4s has been the only product worthy of the company he first built and then rebuilt after the “sugar water” salesman drove it to near bankruptcy.

The next big thing was to be Apple TV.  Jobs reportedly said jubilantly before he died:  “I cracked it”.  This gave hope to the masses that the cable companies could be bypassed and that a customized internet experience would be available for everyone interested.  Everyone who has cable, satellite or phone company TV gets a 1000 or  more channels and maybe they watch 5 regularly.

Currently Americans are becoming sadly and slowly aware that, like health care, their internet connections are the slowest and most costly in the developed world.  Our health care costs twice as much as French health care that is better and free to the patient.  French doctors go to your home at no cost.  It is the same with cell, internet and TV services.  Even South Korea has a far better internet experience than the United States.  You can download a two-hour movie with no problems.

Our cable and internet companies are all monopolies.  They have an incentive to keep the politicians out of their monopoly,  and provide the worst “acceptable” service so politicians don’t hear about it and they max-out their profit.

Netflix has been reporting for years that Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FIOS and Time Warner Cable have been slowing their download speeds.  Currently a stunning court victory by Verizon that many believe has opened the door to an end for “Net Neutrality” has let to scattered reports of internet download slowdowns throughout Verizon’s “territory”.  I have FIOS and use Apple TV.  Prior to the court decision Apple TV worked just fine.  Personally I find Apple’s decision to keep shows that I buy on their servers reprehensible.  When I want to watch I movie or TV show I own I have to again and again download it from Apple’s servers.  That is workable and worth paying for-as long as the downloads work.   Recently it has been just frustrating to use Apple TV.  One show downloads slowly but consistently.  The next takes 20 minutes to start and then the next pauses right in the middle for no reason other than FIOS is slowing the internet connection.

I thought I was imagining things when the internet connection suddenly slowed after the court decision, but reports about this “phenomenon” are coming from all over about FIOS.  Apparently Verizon is experimenting with slowing down connections to see the reaction from consumers.  If they get away with it they probably will first ask Apple and Netflix for money to speed up their downloads and then ask the consumer to pay for a higher download rate to receive the downloads.  They want to take a bite out of both ends.  It is never enough for a monopoly.  This strategy can easily be forced on the consumer by slowing download speeds and giving the alternative of downloading the same product at a much higher speed from Verizon or whichever provide controls the pipes.

As it stands now that has made my Apple TV all but unusable.  I certainly won’t buy anything else from Apple’s iTunes and wait 20 minutes for it to begin to download.  I can barely watch the shows I already own.

This is clearly a big problem for Apple that they need to address on a National level.  The US is not even in the top ten of global download speeds.  As of November 2013 it was ranked 31.  Now with the monopolies who provide internet service able to slow the internet at will it is likely to get much worse.

Apple has the money and the clout to influence National Policy.  It is about time they started looking out for their customers and their share holders.  The future of Apple TV is at risk.  The dream if the highly anticipated iTV may never become a reality.  Possible solutions are to be discussed in the next article.

If the internet monopolies are free to manipulate download speeds, they will become “partner” in any and every product sold on the internet.  Hollywood, Apple, Netflix and others ought to be on high alert.

Clearly this has already impacted iTunes.  Why buy video from Apple if it will take an unreasonable time to download?  People buy movies and TV shows to unwind.  If the experience is stressful they will be less inclined to buy.  I know I am buying nothing on iTunes until the download situation is resolved.

United States Post Office Reform: An Open Letter to the Honorable Senator Dianne Feinstein

The Honorable Senator Dianne Feinstein

United States Senate

331 Hart Building

Washington, D. C. 20510

RE:  USPS

Making the Post Office Work for the People

The constitution requires the US government to deliver mail.  Of course the existence of the United States Post Office is a source of never-ending torture for the extreme right-wing that is now controlling all the media and most of the government.  They hate the USPS for four reasons:  First, it shows that the government works better than the private system.  (Try sending a letter for 45 cents through Federal Express.)  Second, it is the largest unionized work force in the USA.  Third, it takes “business” away from Federal Express and United Parcel Service and thus donations away from the political parties.  Finally the egalitarian nature of work and pay shows that federal bureaucrats paid less that 1/100th of CEOs and their ilk in upper management of UPS and Federal Express can do the same job or even a better one for a fraction of the cost.

Nonetheless, despite their hatred, since the constitution requires the US government to deliver mail, it is doubtful they will be able to fully privatize (and thus destroy) the USPS.  However, they are trying and if the last 65 years have shown anything they never quit.  The greed that “motivates” Wall Street and the Oligarchy of the United States is a powerful force.  They have been undoing the New Deal piece by piece since that fateful day when Truman took office in the twilight of WWII.  If the insiders had not derailed Henry Wallace’s Vice-Presidency and replaced him with noted “anti-communist” Harry Truman we would be looking at a different, far better world.

Piece by piece, by creating and empowering the cold-war, passing the Taft-Harley act, creating the CIA, deep-sixing Truman’s tepid try for National Health Care and on and on, the hard-core right has succeeded in not just stopping the continued evolution but completely eviscerating the reforms that created a strong middle class and eventually replacing the New Deal with the Reagan’s Raw Deal and that has turned the United States into a 3rd world country.  The single and only goal of the Republicans is to establish a permanent Plutocracy in the USA.  All their “policies”, propaganda, “ideas”, economic “theories”, and wall to wall advertising disguised as news and entertainment with only one over reaching goal:  that is to eliminate the middle class FDR created and to return to a feudal state where the government coddles the rich and ignores the poor.

The Post Office should be not just a service for the people of the United States, but a source of income, pride and good government jobs.  The USPS should be a model for the use of clean energy, the redistribution of wealth, ecological responsibility, and government for the common good.

The Republicans are screaming that the Post Office does not make money and therefore should be eliminated, shut down, or at the minimum reduced in size.  Clearly they would love to sell its assets to UPS or Federal Express for a dime on the dollar.  Make to mistake about this that is their intention.  Since their overall goal is to transfer money and power from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, this is just one more area for them to attack to promote their agenda.  However, in the constitution the Post Office is mentioned under the provision which gives Congress the power to raise money, i.e. tax.  That means by a simple logical deduction the founders were not concerned that the USPS be a profit-making entity.  Their concern was that all citizens should be able to communicate with one another, free speech, on important issues easily and with little or no cost.  Newspapers and magazines (or pamphlets) were often the only way to engage in political discourse in that era.  Thus having access to mail was a way to provide opportunities for free speech.  It was their intent that these forms of communication be available to all, regardless of location, economic conditions, or wealth.  Further it was their intent that this means of communication should be private (in the sense of no one could read them except the person to whom the letters were addressed).  Government, foreign and corporate spies read your mail under penalty of law.

Because of the Republicans determination to turn the commons of the USA into tools for corporate entities both national and international who then would use them to make more and more money, the USPS inadvertently played a large role in the Second Republican Great Depression.  From 2001 until 2007 or 2008 virtually every time I checked my mail there was a letter from some criminal mortgage company offering me the deal of the century.  I looked at the postage stamped on the letters.  Usually it was for almost nothing.  One or two cents.  Three cents.  Stunned by the cheap mail for corporate entities that were basically advertising, I researched this and found that the advertising was subsidized at the bequest of the Right Wing Appointees at the USPS.  The head of the USPS arrogantly said that corporations who paid little to nothing for the mail were supporting the entire USPS because of their “volume”.  First this is nonsense.  Obviously one person mailing a few letters at full prices is paying the same amount as a corporation mailing dozens of crappy advertisements.  Clearly the work it takes to deliver 20 letters that are ads for mortgages is at least 20 times the amount required for delivering 1 first class letter.  But in the non-factual world Fox and the Republicans have created anything can be said and believed, if repeated enough.  That was just Supply Side NewSpeak to justify transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.

Citibank mails me my monthly statement and other mail for anywhere from a low of 13 cents to 25 or 30 cents.  They sometimes hide the amount of postage they pay.  It is not even printed on the envelope.  Why does Citibank get a discount?  Why can they hide the amount of postage paid behind some cryptic message?  Citibank can put a stamp on their letters just like I do.  If anything they should pay more that a person-or use Federal Express or the UPS.  The USPS mail is not for the benefit of multi-national corporations but for the benefit of the people.

So the USPS should immediately stop the discounts given to corporate entities.  That would raise a ton of money over night.

Also the USPS has parking lots, buildings and services all of which can be used to support the care of Mother Earth rather than to encourage her destruction.  Global warming is real, and despite Obama’s lip service to climate change, he per usual has done essentially nothing to promote a better life for all.

Every parking lot and building of the USPS can be used as a source for solar energy.  This energy would be sold to the local power company.  This would do two things, one lower the cost of operating expenses for the USPS and create an income stream for the people of the United States.  It would also lower the cost of energy for the people in any given area.

Parking lots covered with solar panels promote clean energy two ways.  First they produce it and second in the warm weather they keep cars cool so the AC which uses lots of energy will need to be used less and, to boot, the cars will be more comfortable.  Building solar panels on parking lots and buildings would create local jobs and help stimulate local economies.

Recycling of mailing materials is currently discouraged by the USPS.  The boxes they give away are difficult to recycle and of odd dimensions.  The paper bags or envelopes are designed to be used once.  Opening them destroys them.  Even if you try to recycle one of their “fixed price” boxes they refuse to send it unless you use the “right” postage.  You can’t send a CD by media mail in one of their small packages even if you cover it over with tape.  They don’t allow it.  This prevents rather than encourages recycling.  This odd rule and giving the packages away makes me wonder who benefits from the free piles of new white cardboard boxes that fill up most Post Offices?  Surprise, the Koch brothers own one of the largest paper producers in the USA and they make pearly white, clean, bleached cardboard just like the kind used in the boxes.

Clearly recycling the packages used to ship goods would benefit the USPS, the environment and citizens.  Simplifying the charges would also benefit both citizens and the workers at the USPS.

Recycling at the USPS should be this easy.  The boxes sold/supplied should be unbleached recycled cardboard.  The charge for shipping a USPS box should be the same nationwide so no wasting time calculating postage by distance.  Federal Express and UPS might charge by the distance but there is no reason why the USPS should.  The goal is to provide a simple service, not to make a profit.  The USPS should offer boxes that reflect the services needed.  There are lots of CDs shipped by mail.  Lots of software is shipped by mail.  A reusable box that fits 1, 2 or 3 CD’s shipped by Media Mail seems to be a needed item.  Such a box could have a plastic opening accessible from the inside where the shipper could place the address of the person who is getting the CD.  The same is true for books.

The address form that would slide into the plastic pouch would have the addresses of the sender and receiver, a code number for the order, a number for the box and the correct postage.

This would allow for unlimited recycling of that box.  The charge to ship CDs nation wide should be as simple as $1 for 1 CD, $2 for two or three and $3 for 3 or more, etc..

Other boxes could be done the same way.  There would be a window accessible only from the inside that contained the names and addresses, the postage, and a number for the transaction.  The paper invoice could be printed from the USPS web site or eBay, really any where.  As the box was scanned the USPS would know which box was used and where it was being shipped.  No stamping would be necessary.

The boxes themselves, instead of having to destroy them just to open them, could have the fold down corners that Apple or other companies use and be closed with one piece of tape.  This would enable a piece of tape to re-tape the box and allow for multiple uses.  It would be an easy matter to see how much each box is used and to experiment to keep the boxes circulating longer.  Good for the environment and good for the customers.  Below are a few pictures of boxes that could be used multiple times.

There is also no need for so many different levels of service.  The USPS is not trying to make a profit.  They/we are providing a service to ourselves.  The mail should be delivered expeditiously.  This would eliminate the currently needlessly confusing pages of different rates. If a hurry up service is found to be necessary than just identify the packages and letters by coloring them red.  Increase the postage appropriately and it is done.

This details are easy to work out so that there are very few choices.  Less choice makes things simpler for everyone.  There are only three rates needed.  One for media and another for everything else.  A  third-rate for those in a hurry might be needed.  The postage for letters should be charged by the size of envelope.  Very simple.

Corporations can pay the same rates as people plus 20 percent.  That will act as a value added tax and raise revenues.  Corporations don’t need to use the USPS and have no right to use it.  They are not people despite what the Romney’s and Scalia’s of the world say.  That is just nonsense and Obama should unilaterally end that ridiculous notion.

Finally, the most significant change in the history of the Post Office is the emergence of email.  Currently email is not private like mail.  Email is read by every government and corporation that is willing to pay for the information in it.  Mention Porsche in an email, and the next Google search you do will feature ad Porsche somewhere on the page.  Who needs this?  Who wants this?  It is fundamentally un-American.

The USPS needs to start offering an email service that is safe, clean and private.  The emails themselves can only be opened/read/scanned/accessed by the person they are sent to period.   Government prosecutors with a court Subpoena could then read the email just like it was mail.  This is what America needs from its government.  Corporations like Apple, Google, Visa, AT&T and Amazon have made a mockery of the bill of rights.  AT&T states that it owns the private conversations of its customers.  How ridiculous.  The government should make it clear that AT&T has no right to monitor conversations and harvest information from them.  Nor do they have the right to sell that information to anyone even the spy agencies of the government.  Because it is not their information to begin with, never will be and never should be.

To counter the horror of corporations endlessly collecting data on people the USA government needs to enforce privacy laws and to protect the bill of rights.  The USPS can provide email that is guaranteed to be clean, safe, and free.  In addition the USPS should establish its own internet highway.  This would prevent private companies from monitoring searches.

The government invented the internet, that is a fact.  Now corporations claim they own the internet and own anything that travels on “their” pipes.  This means they are claiming they “own” your emails, their content, your phone calls over the internet and their content.  Of course the corporate shill, Obama, is fostering this non-sense by paying via the National Security State corporations for “access” to emails and phone calls.  First, if the USA Justice Department has a reason to access phone calls or email, they need to get a subpoena.  After they get the subpoena they do not need to pay anyone to get the information.  Did J. Edgar Hoover ever pay AT&T to tap a phone?  Second paying corporations for this information does two things:  it transfers money from the poor to the rich (which is the goal of the Republican party, corporate America, and the Media-Military-Congressional Corporate complex) and it obscures the need for a subpoena to access private information which is protected by the constitution by creating the pretense that information actually is a material possession owned by an entity.  By paying corporations for the information the entire issue of right or wrong is pushed aside.  You are just buying something rather than conducting an investigation.  This is just one of many stains on the Obama justice department and his flawed presidency.

Text messages should also be handled by the USPS.  After all a text is just a short piece of mail.  There is no reason they should not be treated like mail, private, secure and the property of the receiver not some company.  If folks want their texts public they can Tweet them.

The constitution provides for mail to be sent the US government.  The people through the Post Office have the right to demand the government provide this service.  Those that hate the government can express their opinions. But opinions and facts are two different things.  We have a right to private mail, private conversations and private texts.  It is time to bring the USPS into the Aquarian age with a set of new directives that create a state of the art service.  A service that creates as much energy as it uses, pays a good wage and is safe and secure from all prying eyes.   Below are pictures of boxes that can be recycled multiple times.  By putting a plastic window in the middle for the addresses and postage, recycling would be made easy.

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Obama’s Advisors are Right about Clinton for the Wrong Reasons

Obama’s Minions Have It Wrong

The talking heads that have once again anointed Hillary Clinton the Democratic Primary victory once again are now being told by the Obamanites to cool it because they believe her false sense of inevitable victory, entitlement and superiority cost her the election against Obama.  Curiously they blame her rather than credit Obama for the debacle that was her campaign.

That it is an interesting perspective.  Certainly Obama’s fans are not going to say that he conned the Democratic electorate into thinking he was an antiwar progressive Democrat and stole the primary election under false pretenses.  That does not sound very flattering.  However, that is what happened.

As I pointed out before Hillary Clinton will in all likelihood be defeated once again by E. Warren or Bernie Sanders or both if they should run together.  Clinton appeals to the Wall Street types that are Democrats, (a smaller number every year), the Clintonistas, folks who celebrate celebrity for itself, and a set of women who want a women president and don’t care about the politics involved.  That set of people is not enough to win her any primary victories outside of New York and a few other states.

The voters in Democratic primaries care about the issues.  Not just about guns, gays, God, abortion and “a balanced budget”, issues that any right-winger can dredge up to win almost any election in the United Sates.  Obama stole the election with his slick, cool persona and ability to let people see what they wanted to see in him.  He appeared to be against the war to those against wars, in fact he has expanded the ridiculous “war on terror” to Yemen and Pakistan.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. No war crimes, no charges, no trials, nothing.  The average American is totally clueless to why we are fighting 4 wars in the Middle East.  “They hate our freedom”.  That was Bushes statement, no doubt tested by several think tanks and found to work with the Republican base, and the rest of the “low information” voters which includes about 80 percent of America now.  No one who has read anything about the Osama believes that.  But the line works.  However, the insiders on Wall Street and the War Machine itself were never fooled by Obama’s nod to the left.  They knew Obama was one of them.  That is why donations to his campaign flowed from Wall Street and the Captains of Industry who would never donate to a progressive candidate (unless they actually cared about the people).  There are always exceptions to the rule.

Donations from Goldman Sachs are to buy political influence and make money for the company and their top 1000 employees or so.  That is all.  To pretend they are donating because they want peace, and egalitarian society or a real progressive tax rate is just nonsense.  Romney would not release his tax returns.  The media did not care.  This was never done before.  Yet there were no reporters shouting at him:  show us the money, or what rate did you pay, etc.?  In fact McCain has his returns from when Romney was considered for VP.  An enterprising reporter with connections to the old McCain train could have gotten the returns if he or she wanted to.

While it is reasonable that the elephant like machine she built to win the election was not nimble enough to fend off a real challenge from a well-funded supporter (as the Obamanites claim), the real issue is why there are so many well-funded supporters who oppose her in the Democratic Party?

She is a woman.  So perforce she gets unearned support from the chance of her birth, she is the popular wife of a popular president, but still a large section of the Democratic electorate has no interest in seeing her run.  Why is that?  Isn’t that the real question rather than the process which in true Obama style is more interesting to his followers than reality?  Obama was far more interested in the election mechanics than he ever was in actual progressive reforms.

It is not complicated.  There are a majority, a strong majority, of Pete Seeger (in honor of) Democrats who don’t want war in the Middle East.  The wars are supported by two groups, Big Oil and the Neo-conservatives.  Neither have lots of Democrats as members.  Obama cleverly side-stepped every question about the Middle East and allowed the primary voters to think what they wanted to think.  And, by the way, he made a speech against the war before it started and was not in the Senate when the crucial votes were taken.  He made sure everyone knew that.  At least Edwards had the integrity to admit his vote was wrong.  Clinton did not.  As Edwards and Kucinich faded their voters who were strongly anti-war drifted to Obama as the lesser of two evils.  That is how Hillary Clinton lost the election last time and how and why she will again be on the wrong side of history.  Democrats don’t want a Neo-Conservative cold warrior who is pro-Israel to the extreme of undermining peace in the Middle East and a hypocrite who will not admit she was wrong on the Iraq war.  Republican primary voters love it when their candidates maintain they are right regardless of the facts due to the “authoritarian personality complex” they all seem to have.  But Democrats who thought they were getting a second FDR in Obama and found out they were getting the first Republican black president will be in no mood to elect another right-wing pro war Democrat.

Obama won the presidency but has lost the country for the democrats.  His silly refusal to offer Medicare for all and instead give away the store to the insurance industry, pharmaceutical industry and hospital industry caused the Democrats to be slaughtered like lambs in the 2010 elections.  Peace and prosperity would be closer if four more years of McCain had let to a true progressive being elected, a second FDR being elected. I doubt seriously if anyone besides Goldman Sachs CEOs and the rest of the 1 percent want another four years of Republican policies offered by a Democratic president.  That is what Hillary will offer.  Obama got away with it and he thinks she can to.  Hence, the advice to her campaign from his advisors.   But maybe in the back rooms they are telling her let them think you are a reformer who is against the wars.  That is what we did.  If so she may then win.