Friday, April 27, 2012

Arizona and the Politics of Abortion

Article first published as Arizona and the Politics of Abortion on Technorati.

If you were born anytime during the last half of the 20th century it's probable that someone at some point ended a sentence with the phrase, "when you were just a twinkle in your mother's eye." 
With the stroke of a pen Governor Jan Brewer (Repbulican, AZ) has made that seemingly flippant statement legally binding...

Under Arizona's HB 2036 anti-abortion law, conception is now considered to take place the first day of its mother's last menstrual period.    The issue stems from language in the bill (similar to ambiguous language in the recent HB 2549 anti-bullying law)  that refers to a "gestational age" which is calculated from the previously mentioned timeframe extending to 20 weeks at which point any abortion would be outlawed except in cases of medical emergency.

Do the math and it appears an Arizona woman could be considered pregnant before even engaging in a sexual act.  Old wives' tales of pregnancy due to use of public restrooms come to mind.  Apparently the Arizona House puts merit in the possibility...

Section 5 of the bill outlines a litany of directives that must be satisfied for compliance with the law.  That includes a directive to the state department of Health Services to deploy an informational abortion  website.  The verbiage is very specific as to the content of this website.  From Section 5 Part C:

6. Information that is designed to inform the woman of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two‑week gestational increments from fertilization to full term, including pictures or drawings representing the development of unborn children at two‑week gestational increments and any relevant information on the possibility of the unborn child's survival. The pictures or drawings must contain the dimensions of the unborn child and must be realistic and appropriate for each stage of pregnancy. The information provided pursuant to this paragraph must be objective, nonjudgmental and designed to convey only accurate scientific information about the unborn child at the various gestational ages.

At this point the law is both ambiguous and graphic, not far removed from the depictions of aborted fetuses seen on the signs and banners of anti-abortion activists.  Therein lies a serious issue.  The state has effectively taken a side in the argument.  The use of the state's website to depict abortion at various stages of fetal development (at 2 week intervals) is perhaps the most unambiguous part of the bill.

Pulled from the context of the abortion debate such directives are no different than if the state were to require an agency's website to depict the grisly outcomes of capital crimes such as murder and rape in the name of the public good.   This too would be informational but lacking any political motive, unlikely to find support in the Arizona legislature. 

In related news, The Arizona state Senate passed a bill to ban public funding of Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions as well as providing family planning and preventative care services.  The move was said to ensure that no public funds are used for abortion services.  Planned parenthood says the funding ban would affect services for 19,000 Arizona women many of which have limited means.

Arizona currently has an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent and thousands of residents without health care due to changes in eligibility requirements for AHCCCS (Arizona's Medicaid program).  It's strange then, that so much legislative effort appears to be focused on purely political agendas instead of pressing economic and social concerns.  Ah, but this is Arizona we're talking about after all with plenty of precedent for such things...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More Windows, less confusion

Article first published as More Windows, less confusion... on Technorati.
 On Monday (April 16th) Microsoft announced the final Windows 8 lineup on the official Microsoft Blog. Unlike its Windows 7 predecessor with a dizzying array of variations Windows 8 has only 3. Windows 8 will offer 2 versions for the x86/64 platform (Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro) and one for the ARM platform (Windows RT.)

 Let's start with the cheap seats aka "Windows 8." Note the lack of adjectives in this version. It's designed to fill the role of Windows 7's Starter (whatever that is), Home Basic and Home Deluxe versions on both 32 and 64 bit PC hardware platforms. Now you can rest easy knowing that even the most basic version of Windows includes support for 64 Bit processors.

Next up is the version most likely to show up on your work PC in the next few years, "Windows 8 Pro." This one's pretty simple since it equates to Windows 7 Professional and the rarely seen Windows 7 Enterprise - N. If you've never seen Enterprise-N it's most likely because this version is only available via Microsoft's Volume licensing. it's basically Windows 7 Pro without any fun stuff like media player. The professional versions are meant for enterprise networks and the only versions of Windows 7 other than "Ultimate and Pro" that can join a Windows domain.

 Finally we get to the questionably acronymed WOA (Windows on ARM) version of Windows 8 called "Windows RT" This version of windows is meant for tablet devices and ARM PC's. Don't go looking to pick it up for your $99 closeout tablet though as its only available pre-installed on a new device. If you haven't guessed already, this version of Windows is aimed squarely at Apple's IOS and the IPAD. There really isn't any version of Windows 7 that equates with RT. Windows Phone 7 may be close but is more of an interface than an OS. Windows 8 tile interface is a direct descendant of Windows phone but that's where the similarity ends. A Specialized version of Microsoft Office optimized for touch will be included with this release.

Windows doesn't have a good track record with tablets. Most remember the troublesome Windows XP Tablet edition with pain and loathing. Windows Vista and 7 didn't exactly raise the bar either. So here comes Windows 8 with its Metro Tile interface. It's the first version of Windows designed from the outset for touch devices like tablets. Some would say largely to the exclusion of standard PC users.

Whatever version you choose it will likely depend on where you use it. On an ARM based tablet? It'll be Windows RT, On your Work PC it'll likely be Windows 8 Pro and If you're buying a home PC it'll likely have Windows 8 (no adjectives here) It seems that Windows 8 is meant to be all things to all platforms with only minor variations. What about virtualization? Well, only Windows 8 Pro will cater to your hyper-V cravings. Of course it's at the top of the food chain so it's going to be the most expensive option roughly equivalent to Windows 7 Ultimate.

So if you just need virtualization and Domain capability your only option is going to be the most expensive version of Windows 8. That means having to pay for extra bells and whistles you may not need if all you want to do is connect to a Windows Domain.

 The other big question is what happens with the Home theater focused Windows Media Center? The Consumer Preview and Beta Versions of Windows 8 currently include a version of Windows Media Center but it appears largely untouched since its humble Windows XP beginnings. Deprecating Media Center may signal that Microsoft sees mobile devices and HTML5 as the new content platform of choice leaving the HTPC market without a product targeted at multimedia PC's.

 On a personal note, I'm hopeful that we finally see the end of the default OS on business class hardware being a consumer version. It would go a long way toward minimizing the time wasted by IT departments saddled with having to deal with the consequences of the wrong preinstalled OS.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

TWIT Webcam fun

I'm a webcam noob so I find the oddities of video recording amusing.  An example..

Click Here for Huge SavingsThis was taken with my webcam at the base of my Plasma TV during the TWIT live podcast on Sunday April 8, 2012.  Guests were Patrick Norton, Rafe Needleman and IYAZ Akhtar with Leo Laporte the host.

All in good fun..


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Arizona, the Dry County of Free Speech

Article first published as Arizona, the Dry County of Free Speech on Technorati.

Arizona, Here we go again...      

With all the decorum of a bar fight, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was captured wagging a finger in the face of President Obama last January.  Less than 6 months later we now have the conservative state legislature presenting the Governor with a bill that has the potential to censor Internet speech
Proposed as an anti-bullying measure added to current stalking legislation, HB 2549 now on the Governor's desk states...

 Use of an electronic or digital device to terrify,  intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend;

Opponents of the bill cite a dangerous ambiguity concerning the terms "annoy or offend" which would empower the state to function as a de-facto censor for all forms of communication deemed offensive or annoying.  That includes the Internet with the penalty being a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

It should be noted that the original text of the bill cited "telephone call" as the protected medium but was struck and replaced simply with the terms "Communications" and "Electronic or Digital Device."  As with SOPA/PIPA this may be another example of government misunderstanding the effect of their legislation on the medium and the First Amendment in general.  If passed Arizona could become a virtual "dry county" for free speech.
The bill's relatively short length (1.5 pages) fails to define the scope or moderating agency responsible for enforcement which potentially leaves it's interpretation broad, ambiguous and subjective.  With such a measure signed into law, opposing political and social viewpoints could be curtailed by simply claiming they are offensive or annoying. 

Proponents cite the need for broadening the stalking provisions of the current statute to protect individuals online from bullying.

Perhaps the most amusing outcome should the Governor sign the bill into law is the ability to censor the speech of any individual or group deemed offensive or annoying.  That includes the Governor herself as her wagging finger could be deemed offensive.