Every Internet user already pays a fair share to access the Web
Regarding the March 15 article, "Tolls may slow Web traffic": I think most media reports on the subject of AOL and other companies talking about pay-for-play service levels are completely missing the point. When an AT&T executive declares that Google and others have gotten a free ride and that the free ride is over, he is ignoring the fact that Google pays (I am sure a very substantial sum) for the very large pipes that connect its server farm to the Internet.
The owners of those pipes then pay their neighbors for the right to connect to more pipes, and so on until we get to the end users' households or businesses, where they have paid their carrier company and Internet service provider for their share of the pipe. Who exactly is getting a "free ride" in this scenario? I think nobody. Each participant pays a fair share.
Peter Doshi's March 21 Opinion piece, "Selling 'pandemic flu' through a language of fear," derides others for not showing both sides of the argument about bird flu. I have to agree with some of his points. There have been some overreactions to this story, but we've come to expect terrormongering. Nonetheless, to imply that avian flu may be a nonissue is a bad idea. Mr. Doshi is correct that the 1968 pandemic was no problem. He did not mention at all the 1918-19 flu pandemic that killed 40-50 million people worldwide.
The truth is we do not know if the avian flu will be like the 1968 pandemic or a 1918-style pandemic. In cases like this, it would seem logical to err on the side of caution. If Doshi had wanted to truly deride the "language of fear," he would have shown both these histories and pointed out that we do not know which will come to pass.
Borrowing from Social Security is unwise
The March 14 article, "Is rising US public debt sustainable?," is on the mark. There is one more point that needs to be made, though. To meet current obligations, the US government now routinely spends the surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund (about $170 billion in 2005). The deficit will really explode when this surplus vanishes under the weight of baby boomer retirees.
While I appreciate the potential future problem of having to borrow money to fund Social Security, the real crisis is all of the borrowing we are already doing to fund current spending, and the fact that we are hiding part of that borrowing by tapping the Social Security Trust Fund.
While I greatly appreciate the sympathetic presentation of Brian Barling's March 17 cartoon, showing the Arab world asking for trust and dignity in return for more help combating terrorism, I must also remark on the latent bias in it. Terrorism is neither the domain nor the monopoly of Muslims or Arabs. It has been practiced and promoted by almost every influential community in the world, including the ones supposedly acting to topple it in the cartoon.
It is sad that when terrorism is perpetrated by a nation such as Russia, Israel, the US, or any other "civilized" nation, we refer to it as defending democracy or maintaining security or fighting the "war on terror." It may be very useful to publish the commonly accepted international definition of "terrorism" once a month, just so we all understand how it is often misused by our leaders.
American Muslims of Puget Sound
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