02 July 2011


GOOGLE+. There's a new social network in town, one that would like to supplant Facebook in popularity. It is called Google+, and is still in its exploratory (or beta) phase of development. So far there are several claims of potential superiority over Facebook. One, of course, comes from Google+ itself ~ here is a demo from the website, which has accepted an initial number of members, and expects to expand exponentially soon. Another endorsement comes from PCWorld, which published 9 Reasons to Switch from Facebook to Google+. Among the reasons are integration with Google services (like their mammoth search engine), better 'friend' management, better mobile application, greater ease finding things to share (another integrated search engine plus), better control over personal data, strong chat group features, and safer content sharing. The link includes a point-by-point comparison between Facebook and Google+, a bold move.

I am not among the preliminary membership, so cannot offer my own take on the two services. I do know folks who intend to maintain a presence at both websites, and initially I shall too. Of course, there are those who can't resist poking a little fun at social networks in principle, like this cartoon from xkcd. It's cool. I appreciate the positive aspects of Facebook (and soon Google+), and also recognize the drawbacks. As I learn more about the new kid on the block, I'll post an update.

Speaking of Google, antitrust attorney David Balto weighs in on the FTC's contention that the online giant has engaged in activities bordering on monopolistic -- a contention which Balto points out is seriously flawed. Comparing Google's online presence with that of Microsoft in the early 1990s (which truly did seek to secure a monopoly on operating systems and other software, Balto notes that Google's products and services (including search engine, email, two-dimensional and three-dimensional mapping, and now social networking) are absolutely free. Further, consumers do have a real choice in the search engines they use, the email they select, and choices competing with any other of Google's services. There is no credible evidence of Google's hampering the competition, nor seeking proprietary or monopolistic control over users, as Microsoft demonstrably did. Here is Balto's succinct comparison as it appeared in the Huffington Post.

THE PARTY OF LINCOLN. I've long known this to be true ~ that grandiose Republican claims to being "the party of Lincoln" are wishful thinking at best, and specious and manipulative to boot. In the mid-1800s, the Republican party emerged from the former Whig party, and was socially progressive in its opposition to slavery and its insistence on social justice for all. In short, back then Republicans were the liberal party, and Democrats were more conservative. During the intervening years, the two parties underwent a gradual reversal in their philosophies and political stances, accelerating and escalating the trend in the 1950s and 60s. During my lifetime, it is Democrats who have been identified as liberal, promoting civil rights and human services -- while Republicans are now the party of the wealthy, controlled by the interests of corporations, with little or no concern for individual and minority rights.

Tim Valentine in The Party of Lincoln No More documents these historical shifts, and draws the conclusion that unless Republicans broaden their exclusionary rhetoric and seek more diversity in the party base, they will ultimately become an irrelevant, shrinking group of power brokers who risk losing all for the sake of an ideology which is anachronistic and self-destructive. The article is well-researched and should be required reading for those conservatives who have swallowed (or live in fear of) Tea Party rhetoric, hook, line and sinker.

Care for incontrovertible proof? Take a close look at this chart comparing Corporate Taxes: 1955 vs. 2010. Corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenue have fallen from 27.3 percent to 8.9 percent, while individual income and payroll taxes as a percentage of federal revenue have risen from 58 percent to 81.5 percent. Is it any wonder that the richest 5 percent of the population now controls 95 percent of the nation's wealth? Corporations in the U.S. pay a fraction of what they are required to pay in comparably developed countries (also demonstrated in the chart, shown below ~ click to enlarge). Why? Because corporations and their Republican servants would have it so. What is sad, pathetic, and infuriating is that so many millions of middle- and lower-class Republicans get suckered into the public posturing which uses emotion-laden terms like "patriotism", "capitalism", "free enterprise", without really peeling back the surface and looking at the reality beneath. Those same non-wealthy Republicans are being suckered by their own party, and are too intellectually lazy or too emotionally apathetic to question their assumptions. And the rest of us suffer.

One last note ~ consider the current debate over raising the national debt ceiling, in which Republicans sanctimoniously insist that we must cut spending (for social services, not for corporations), and simultaneously freeze or cut taxes (for corporations, not for individuals). As President Obama stated a few days ago, both parties are going to have to give in to reach a workable compromise, but Republicans are refusing to do that. All of which is monumentally ironic, since during the George W. Bush presidency, Current GOP Leaders Voted 19 Times to Increase the Debt Limit by $4 Trillion. Republicans are attempting to hold the government and the American people hostage, risking pushing the nation into default for the sake of selfishly, arrogantly, and hypocritically forcing their agenda down our throats.

Where are the outraged voters? Where are the demonstrations in the streets, and on the steps of Congress? Where are the lawsuits? And where are the Democrats and Independents with sufficient backbone and principle to stand up to these Tea Party-driven thugs? Abraham Lincoln must be rolling over in his grave.

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