Apple vs. Porn

Steve Jobs, the mind behind Apple computing, is making a stand against pornography, even though that happens to be one of the online world’s biggest business!  Comments from Pete at Grace-City:

Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.

When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.

Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.

The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:

“Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.”

The interlocuter replied:

“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn.’ Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”

In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:

“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”

Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.

The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra “The customer is always right.” Business wants the customers’ money.

But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved – and that trumps the dollar.

Google (with their motto “Don’t be evil”) rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorising and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.

Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells – indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it – but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs’ comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.

via Grace City: Apple & Porn.

Does PowerPoint make us stupid?

So claims some military experts:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.

Power Point of our Strategy in Afghanistan

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

via Enemy Lurks in Briefings on Afghan War – PowerPoint – NYTimes.com.

Drawing also on the PowerPoint vogue in business, education, and other fields, would you agree?

The government’s pens

I love pens.  Since pens are the primal tool of my vocation, I treasure a good pen, from a cheap-but-reliable Bic to the classical-and-hefty Cross.  So I appreciated this feature on those government-issue black pens, which are found in post offices, bureaucratic agencies, and the military. Would that the rest of the government were so inexpensive and worked so well!

Blind workers assemble the pens in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina under the brand name Skilcraft as part of a 72-year-old legislative mandate. The original 16-page specifications for the pen are still in force: It must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero.

It has been used in war zones and gas stations, and was designed to fit undetected into U.S. military uniforms. According to company lore, the pen can stand in for a two-inch fuse and comes in handy during emergency tracheotomies. . . .

The unassuming pen stamped with the words “SKILCRAFT U.S. GOVERNMENT” in white letters has endured despite quantum leaps in communications technology that have rendered lesser tools obsolete. Taking over from the fountain pen, it has withstood the advent of the rubberized “comfort grip” and the freely flowing gel ink, not to mention computers, instant messages and smartphones. The U.S. Postal Service alone orders 700,000 a year. . . .

The original design — brass ink tube, plastic barrel not shorter than 4 5/8 inches, ball of 94 percent tungsten carbide and 6 percent cobalt — has changed little over the decades. It costs less than 60 cents.

The pen’s roots date to the Depression. The 1938 Wagner-O’Day Act required the federal government to buy certain products made by the blind, thereby creating jobs for a then-marginalized population. First came mops and brooms, but the program eventually expanded to include a full line of cleaning and office supplies under the brand name Skilcraft. In fiscal 2009, the program, now known as AbilityOne, raked in a record $658.5 million in sales of products and services.

The pens account for about $5 million in sales each year. About 60 percent of business is from the military, but the Agriculture, Commerce and Justice departments are all reliable customers, according to NIB. The pens are primarily issued through government agencies, though civilians can buy them by request through some retail stores. . . .

Part of the pen’s cult appeal comes from its writing capabilities. Among other things, the original General Services Administration requirements for items FSC 7520 (the ballpoint pen) and FSC 7510 (the refill) dictated that:

— The ink cartridge shall be capable of producing under 125 grams of pressure a line not less than 5,000 feet long.

— Blobs shall not average more than 15 per 1,000 feet of writing, with a maximum of 25 for any 1,000-foot increment.

— Writing shall not be completely removed after two applications of chemical bleach.

The pens have also spawned their own folklore. The length of the pen is said to be equivalent to 150 nautical miles on Navy maps, helping pilots navigate in a pinch. The metal tip has reportedly been cited as the maximum length for a woman’s fingernails in the military.

Chuck Lange, chief executive of Industries for the Blind in Milwaukee, said that the pens can write upside down and that they have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

via Low-tech Skilcraft pens endure in a high-tech world.

What are some other good, basic, but high-quality products like this?

Court kills FCC plan to regulate internet providers

A court rules that the FCC may not regulate internet providers, so as to require “net neutrality.”

The Federal Communications Commission does not have the legal authority to slap Net neutrality regulations on Internet providers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

A three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. unanimously tossed out the FCC’s August 2008 cease and desist order against Comcast, which had taken measures to slow BitTorrent transfers before voluntarily ending them earlier that year.

Because the FCC “has failed to tie its assertion” of regulatory authority to an actual law enacted by Congress, the agency does not have the power to regulate an Internet provider’s network management practices, wrote Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Tuesday’s decision could doom one of the signature initiatives of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat. Last October, Genachowski announced plans to begin drafting a formal set of Net neutrality rules–even though Congress has not given the agency permission to do so. That push is opposed by Verizon and other broadband providers.

Comcast welcomed the ruling in a statement that said: “Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation.” The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the cable industry’s lobby group, elaborated by saying that Comcast and its other members will “continue to embrace a free and open Internet as the right policy.”

Supporters of Net neutrality claim that new Internet regulations or laws are necessary to prevent broadband providers from restricting content or prioritizing one type of traffic over another. Broadband providers and many conservative and free-market groups, on the other hand, say that some of the proposed regulations would choke off new innovations and could even require awarding e-mail spam and telemedicine the identical priorities.

Net neutrality proponents responded to Tuesday’s ruling by saying the FCC should slap landline-style regulations on Internet providers, which could involve price regulation, service quality controls, and technological mandates. The agency “should immediately start a proceeding bringing Internet access service back under some common carrier regulation,” Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn said. The Media Access Project said, without mentioning common carrier regulations directly, that the FCC must have the “ability to protect the rights of Internet users to access lawful content and services of their choice.”

via Court: FCC has no power to regulate Net neutrality | Politics and Law – CNET News.

Both sides wrap themselves in the mantle of freedom of the internet! Which has the better claim?

It seems to me that if users do not like their internet provider preventing them from going to a download site that will tax the system, they could get another internet provider.  This sounds like exactly what could be regulated by the free market.  It further seems that  government regulation like this is can only harm the internet and the economy.   Why should the government  force all providers to offer everything on the internet?  I would think there would be a market for an internet provider that, for example, agreed to block pornography.  That does not restrict freedom, since users would be free to go to another provider that gave them what they want.  And surely private businesses should have their own freedom to operate as they see fit.

Am I missing something?

3-D, or not 3-D

That is the question in today’s film industry. “Avatar” was a huge hit, with ground-breaking technological innovations that brought 3-D filmmaking back to life.  But now scores of movie makers are rushing to convert movies already in the can to 3-D.  That’s what happened with “Alice in Wonderland” and now with “Clash of the Titans.”   “Avatar”-director and innovator James Cameron, along with other purists, are scorning these 3-D effects on the cheap, claiming they are inferior.  But many movie goers can’t tell the difference.  “Prince Caspian” and the upcoming Harry Potter movies are all converting to the 3-D illusions.

Can you tell the difference?  Does it matter?  Are people just going to otherwise bad movies just to see the 3-D spectacle?  How long before that gets old?

See Conversion of Movies to 3-D Draws Mixed Reactions – NYTimes.com.

Global warming policies vs. Africa

The veteran civil rights activist Roy Innis is blasting the administration for the way its policies to combat the alleged global warming are devastating Africa:

The president signed an executive order requiring that the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) and other federal agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their projects by 30 percent over the next 10 years. The order undermines the ability of sub-Saharan African nations to achieve progress in energy and economic and human rights.

Ghana is trying to build a 130-megawatt, gas-fired power plant to bring electricity’s blessings to more of its people, schools, hospitals and businesses. Today, almost half of Ghanaians never have access to electricity, or they get it only a few hours a week, leaving their futures bleak.

Most people in Ghana are forced to cook and heat with wood, crop wastes or dung, says Franklin Cudjoe, director of the Imani (Hope) Center for Policy and Education, in Accra. The indoor air pollution from these fires causes blindness, asthma and severe lung infections that kill a million women and young children every year. Countless more Africans die from intestinal diseases caused by eating unrefrigerated, spoiled food.

But when Ghana turned to its U.S. “partner” and asked OPIC to support the $185 million project, OPIC refused to finance even part of it – thus adding as much as 20 percent to its financing cost. Repeated across Africa, these extra costs for meeting “climate change prevention” policies will threaten numerous projects and prolong poverty and disease for millions.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 800 million people, 80 percent of whom live on less than $2.50 per day. More than 700 million people – twice the population of the United States and Canada combined – rarely or never have access to the lifesaving, prosperity-creating benefits of electricity, Mr. Cudjoe notes.

Even in South Africa, the most advanced nation in the region, 25 percent of the populace still has no electricity. Pervasively insufficient electrical power has meant frequent brownouts that have hampered factory output and forced gold and diamond mines to shut down because of risks that miners would suffocate in darkness deep underground. The country also suffers from maternal mortality rates 36 times higher than in the United States and tuberculosis rates 237 times higher.

And yet Mr. Obama told his Ghanaian audience last July that Africa is gravely “threatened” by global warming, which he argues “will spread disease, shrink water resources and deplete crops,” leading to more famine and conflict. Africa, he says, can “increase access to power while skipping – leapfrogging – the dirtier phase of development,” by using its “bountiful” wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels energy.

via INNIS: Obama keeps Africa in the dark – Washington Times.

Mr. Innis and his co-author (I believe his son) go on to explain why that just doesn’t work. Africa just needs electricity, like the rest of us. Meanwhile, those of us who have electricity, along with virtually everything else we need, have the luxury of ideological purity applied to others, though not ourselves.


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