Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net Neutrality: A Win for the Good Guys

Well put, Senator.

It was just announced that the FCC has voted to use its Title II powers to classify Internet service providers as "common carriers." This allows the commission to regulate the Internet much like a telephone company. The upshot is that powerful content providers can't cut deals to get a "fast lane" for their data if they pony up the big bucks. Now Google, Facebook, Netflix, and start-ups stay on a level playing field. If I decided to build a website and sell goldfish delivered by drones, I'd get the same speed as any Internet user. My website will sink or swim depending on the marketability of what I offer, not the speed for which I "qualify."

Naturally, conservatives and ersatz libertarians are decrying the decision, claiming it means the opposite of what it actually represents. The FCC means things stay the same, for now. Conservatives claim that the FCC is imposing new regulations that the Internet didn't have heretofore. Baloney. The FCC is using the correct statutory powers to keep the Internet the way it's been since the beginning, fending off ways money can corrupt a vital democratic communications platform.

Although the Internet is pretty fancy these days, basically it's still just a way to communicate and trade documents, images, and services. Going to your online bank is basically just the same as walking in to a branch and saying "Hey, do this for me." Clicks are the same as "Do this please" or "Yeah, take me there" or "Show me that document."

Not rocket science, unless you're a backwater congressman trying to sound all freedom-lovin' while giving away the store to the rich folks downtown.

Anyway, the good guys won today. And don't let Fox News tell you different.

Here's a good opinion/news piece on it in the New Yorker.

Oh, and the piece makes a good point that it's another solid achievement of President Barack Obama. Quiet, please, legacy burnishing taking place.

Sorry, GOPers, our man wins again.

Clown Car Rundown, Person the Second, Reprise: Chris Christie Declared Dead Again

Bloviate this, big boy...

Okay, just because a NY Times columnist say yer done doesn't mean yer done. But reading Gail Collins' treatment of Christie's sitcheation doesn't bode well for a guy that is apparently hanging on to the clown car's door handle and stumbling along, huffing "Let me in!" Maybe not, jerkface.

I call him jerkface in order to help describe his dilemma: Live by the bloviation, die by the bloviation.
Chris Christie is political toast.
Cause of his charred presidential prospects: an unreformed state pension system. I know that’s disappointing. Not nearly as exciting as the political near-death experiences that went before. We were hoping the next disaster would be something like Governor Yells at Elmo. Or a reprise of the day he chased a guy down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone, this time maybe featuring Tom Hanks or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Fixing New Jersey’s pension system was supposed to be Christie’s signature achievement. He explained it in his keynote speech at the Republican convention in 2012, right after he told us about his mom, his dad, his wife, his children and his love of Bruce Springsteen. “They said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics,” he bragged.
Trouble is Christie didn't touch the third rail. He punted, and now a judge has told him to meet his obligations under the law he signed and catch up paying into the pension system -- a system he and former NJ GOP governor Christy Todd Whitman systematically looted. Wow, those New Jersey Christies love their pension looting.

So why is he toast, 2016 nominee-wise? It's because he's what, famous for yelling at people? Famous for his malicious mischief with bridges? His withholding money and facetime from people who don't swing his way? Famous for not doing what he said, especially when it was his signature accomplishment? Yeah, maybe all of the above.

If you're going to swagger around, have something to show for it. No? Okay, you couldn't win a primary in New Jersey, fer chrissake. Yeah, you're toast.

Of course, you're talking about the GOP field...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is Evolution the New Litmus Test?

When Scott Walker "punted" on the question of whether he believes in evolution or not when he was on a visit to the UK "polishing his foreign-policy credentials," is it possible that A) he couldn't admit that he didn't believe in evolution, or B) his people had focus-group tested the question and discovered that Walker was in dangerous waters?

We may never know now that Walker has shown that his go-to answer to difficult questions is "I don't know if..." But thanks to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, we've discovered that 49 percent of Republicans don't believe in evolution. Add in the 13 percent that "don't know," and that's 62 percent of GOPers that don't believe in evolution or don't know.

I suspect that belief in evolution won't be a deal-breaker for the eventual Republican nominee in 2016, but if this is a new litmus test, the occupants of the 2016 clown car are going to be a very funny lot indeed. Will evolution be a required question in the coming debates? If so, holy shit.

On a serious note, with a political party that can make trouble for the nation going forward on issues like climate change or the environment in general, the U.S. is going to face a giant struggle building a responsible consensus for saving the planet.

How many Republicans are more focused on the End of Days than on saving the planet? How many take the presidency of Barack Obama as a sign that the Four Horsemen are upon us? What if those questions are not just spurious attempts to belittle the party that currently controls both the Congress and the Supreme Court but rather statements of likely facts that determine where our country is headed?

Since the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party -- read "the hardcore base" of the party -- came to the forefront of American politics in 2010, anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and anti-critical-thinking have reshaped much of our political culture.

Wow. Have we got work to do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CIA-Style Black Sites Come to America, but As Long As We're Safe!

The logical conclusion to Dick Cheney's one-percent doctrine. So fucked up.

Will Fox News defend this? Will the mainsteam media cover it? Who knows?

This report of a CIA-style black site in the Guardian is truly chilling, but so inevitable in our post-constitutional, post-democratic, post 9/11 world.

“It’s not really a secret location, but it’s kind of a cloistered location,” said Richard Brzeczek, a former Chicago police superintendent.
Police on site, at the intersection of West Fillmore Street and South Homan Avenue, refused the Guardian access to Homan Square on a frigid recent morning. Nor did police respond to a list of questions its public-affairs office asked the Guardian to email.
Lawyers who seek access to Homan Square are typically turned away. But interviews with ex-cops, the few attorneys granted a measure of access, and one person who was detained inside for nearly an entire day describe an unusual, secretive police compound, complete with armored vehicles, surveillance gear and places to hold people for interrogation.
I'm not even being paranoid when I say we're fucked. It's going to be interesting to watch how this plays out. Remember, we thought Sandy Hook would be a turning point. Gun laws have, if anything, gotten looser since.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Obama's Rhetoric about Islam Is Wise If Not Satisfying

Obama's speech at the White House Summit on violent extremism, as well as his
prayer breakfast talk, wasn't an anti-Islam war whoop. And that's a good thing.

We, of course, should have seen this coming. The president could have called out Islam as the cause of all of America's ills and called for unlimited war forever, and Lindsey Graham and the rest of the chicken hawks would have found fault with him. They would speak of the weakness of his core values or say it's all just too little, too late.

Just as an aside, when you take a good look at all the talk that criticizes Obama for his "feckless" foreign policy, you rarely actually hear any specifics Graham or others would have put into action. The rhetoric generally comes with a "there's only so much we can do at this time because of a host of logistical and diplomatic obstacles, I don't know what we should do, but that doesn't mean Obama is or isn't doing it or can't do it or should do it, but why isn't he doing or not doing what I'm not saying he should do, but he's weak!!" Or something to that effect. A proper label for that kind of talk is war-mongering word salad. Throw in the buzz words for those Americans that want to kill all the Muslims now, now, now, and that's what they'll take from the talk, not the part where none of the war-mongers actually have a plan for moving forward.

However, Barack Obama is president, and he has to bring a number of Muslim countries into a broad coalition that will be needed -- not just for the ISIS threat, which may be history in a couple of years, for all we know -- but also for the longer task of eliminating terrorism over a period of decades. Alienating moderate Muslim countries will hardly help us restore peace in the hornet's nest that Barack Obama wasn't, if your memories work at all, primarily responsible for. That was George W. Bush's handiwork, not to mention the damage done in decades of neo-colonial meddling going back to the First World War.

Josh Marshall did a fine job over at Talking Points Memo of sifting through the brighter minds on both sides of this overheated discussion and comes to a conclusion that fair-minded Americans should have no trouble signing on to. Read all the links that he offers on the subject.

I'll highlight one of them and another that I found along the way. Fareed Zakaria at WaPo clarifies the reasons why Obama is and should be proceeding the way he has been. Zakaria comes off as an apolitical voice of reason once again, as does moderate conservative Michael Gerson, also at WaPo, with his very sensible column in support of Obama's rhetorical choices, albeit with the off-point condemnation of the president's prayer-breakfast remarks. Oh, well, I'll take his grasp of the Realpolitik involved where it's offered. Read those and the ones Josh shares.

Obama is following the right course here. I've always felt the trick is to, over time, turn the war-making in the Middle East over to so-called moderate countries -- obstensibly allies -- like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, even Egypt. It's their fight, as much as we're responsible for messing things up. If they take up the fight and we recede, so will the ill-will we've earned over the years.

It's time we withdrew from this mess. We aren't helping.

Does Bibi even want peace? Did the thousands killed in Gaza in the most recent
attacks prove that Judaism is a religion of peace? Regrettably, quite the opposite.

An added thought. It's important that we remember that all this is taking place in an atmosphere, in Washington at least, of over-heated negative rhetoric, mostly by the GOP, that continues unabated. It began shortly after Obama won his first term. It isn't helpful, and it's based on hatred rather than anything resembling sincerity. That's why Josh Marshall's reasoned discussion is so valuable. Turn off the noise machine and get on with governance. Please. I'm talking to you, GOPers. Fat chance.

Does the GOP -- or Anyone -- Want to Live in Giuliani's World?

Rudy Giuliani was embraced, briefly, as the GOP's Great White Hope. Remember?

Really. Imagine: You live in Giuliani's world where, when you look at Barack Obama, you see a man who was warped by communism at an early age. Here's TMP reporting:
"From the time he was 9 years old, he was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, who was a communist," Giuliani said, adding that Obama's grandfather introduced him to Davis' works.
"He doesn’t talk about America the way John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan did, about America’s greatness and exceptionalism," the ex-mayor added.
He goes on to drag the Rev. Jeremiah Wright into the mix:
Obama was also negatively influence by Chicago Rev. Jeremiah Wright, according to Giuliani.
"He spent 17 years in the church of Jeremiah Wright, and this is the guy who said ‘God damn America, not God bless America,'" he told the Post. "Obama never left that church."
That was Oprah Winfrey's church, too, by the way, that's how "radical" the Rev. Wright is. And Barack Obama did leave that church. He left to become president of the United States.

I don't want to live in the crazytown where the new Rudy Giuliani is apparently running for mayor.

Just found the inevitable walk-back article from CNN. Typically, Giuliani actually fakes the walk-back:
The former New York City mayor took to The Wall Street Journal opinion pages Sunday night seeking to move beyond the firestorm over his comments, saying his problem is really with Obama's policies.
"My blunt language suggesting that the President doesn't love America notwithstanding, I didn't intend to question President Obama's motives or the content of his heart," Giuliani wrote. "My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance."

He went on to critique Obama's language, saying the President should tout the exceptionalism of America more and make the country's differences with nations that have fostered terrorism more clear. He said Obama should criticize the United States' history less often.
But Giuliani emphasized that he "cannot read President Obama's mind or heart."
Not much of a walk-back. He manages to add into the mix that Obama's failure is how he represents U.S. history. He should criticize it less often. He says this while saying he "cannot read President Obama's mind or heart."

What the GOP's rabid base hears when Giuliani says this is:
America is awesome! Obama doesn't believe this! He should look at U.S. history and admit that America is awesome! Obama's mind or heart? He must hate us, he's wrecking our morale!
A realistic look at U.S. history is to be avoided in Giuliani's world because it hurts our feelings. Why does Obama look at history the way he does? Because he was warped at an early age by communists.

Thanks for explaining reality to us, Rudy. And thanks to all the media outlets for letting the mayor of crazytown keep our morale up. Repeatedly. Weird, but that's the way we roll in awesome America these days.

Thanks, CNN. Now, find some real news in the real world for us, okay?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Read This First Draft First, Then Stop. Read Now.

First Draft is a blog. A good one. Read it now.

Shit is fucked up. Like Bonfire of the Vanities fucked up.