10 Apr

Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again

The U.S. House of Representatives resumed its flight from reality earlier today (April 8th) when it voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to mandate an open and non-discriminatory Internet.

What was remarkable about the vote was how the Republicans pushing the legislation managed to at once speak in favor of the legislation as helping small business and innovation, while ignoring the testimony and other advocacy from those very businesses that opposed it.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), for example, cited the success of companies from Apple to Zipcar because of the absence of government regulation. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) questioned the future of startups in an environment without government regulation.

It appears that Upton, Scalise and their colleagues missed the article published earlier in the week by Robin Chase, who founded Zipcar. She wrote a well-received article for Politico on how that company wouldn’t exist without an open Internet. None of it mattered to those on an ideological mission to protect the large Internet providers. Other companies have said much the same thing. They similarly ignored the experience of their colleague, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who made his fortune as an Internet entrepreneur, and who earlier in the week opposed the GOP bill during debate on a procedural motion.

And when Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said that the FCC had taken control over business plans of big Internet Service Providers, he was partially right. If the business plan’s goal was to drive competitors out of business, he was right. Terry, ironically, said it was the open Internet that allowed Netflix to develop.

His statement was ironic because Netflix sent one of the strongest letters ever seen from the corporate sector to the Congress opposing what Terry wanted to do. As senior Commerce Committee Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, a cable or telephone company could stop Netflix simply for competitive reasons without it being an antitrust violation. Without Net Neutrality, there would be no stopping phone companies from controlling Netflix’s access to its customers.

Through it all, the Republicans argued that the FCC wanted to take control of the Internet, much as totalitarian governments wanted to do. That argument is so tiresome. The purpose of Net Neutrality is to make sure no one can take control of what’s online — not the government, not the big businesses that control Internet traffic on a day-to-day basis and have the incentive and opportunity to harm competition.

via Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again. If it wasn’t so frustrating you have to almost admire Republicans ability to ignore their own experts or examples when legislating.

07 Apr

NYTimes.com – Ludicrous and Cruel

In short, this plan isn’t remotely serious; on the contrary, it’s ludicrous.

And it’s also cruel.

In the past, Mr. Ryan has talked a good game about taking care of those in need. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, of the $4 trillion in spending cuts he proposes over the next decade, two-thirds involve cutting programs that mainly serve low-income Americans. And by repealing last year’s health reform, without any replacement, the plan would also deprive an estimated 34 million nonelderly Americans of health insurance.

So the pundits who praised this proposal when it was released were punked. The G.O.P. budget plan isn’t a good-faith effort to put America’s fiscal house in order; it’s voodoo economics, with an extra dose of fantasy, and a large helping of mean-spiritedness.

via NYTimes.com – Ludicrous and Cruel. I love that term voodoo economics, but in this case it seems to fit so well when you try to understand some of the ridiculous assumptions made.

02 Apr

Sunlight Foundation – House Violates 72 Hour Pledge Again

Two weeks ago the House of Representatives violated a pledge made by Speaker John Boehner to provide a 72 hour window for all legislation to be viewed by the public before it is brought to the floor for debate by voting on a bill to defund National Public Radio. Today, the House majority is again violating that pledge by voting on the Government Shutdown Prevention Act.

The Government Shutdown Prevention Act, a bill that deems the budget cutting bill passed by the House earlier this year to have passed Congress without the Senate’s assent, was introduced on March 30 at 1:13 pm. At the present moment, this bill has not been available for even 48 hours.

The House majority sent the bill to be approved for floor debate by the House Rules Committee under emergency rules. The NPR defunding bill was also considered by the House Rules Committee in an emergency session.

It’s worrying that the majority would repeatedly evade a pledge that they made to the American people to make the House a more transparent body. It is especially worrying that the majority would do this on two votes that are clearly not emergencies.

How was the defunding of National Public Radio an emergency requiring the circumvention of normal Rules Committee procedures and the 72 hour pledge? The current Continuing Resolution to fund the government expires on April 8. Why can’t the majority wait until Monday to vote on this bill?

The 72 hour rule is needed to give the public not only a chance to read the bills, but a chance to voice their opinion. This is especially important when bills are crafted and pushed forwards for political purposes. The public needs to be involved, but the majority is blocking that involvement for nothing other than the pursuit of quick political wins and message control. This is very disturbing.

via Sunlight Foundation – House Violates 72 Hour Pledge Again. De-funding a valuable public resource and usurping democracy, all emergencies and all in a days work for Republicans. Side note: totally in favor of the 72 hour pledge, it’s a great rule for transparency within the government.

24 Mar

Bad Astronomy – Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity

Today, House Republicans made it clear just how antiscience they are (as if we didn’t know already): they voted down a simple amendment declaring the reality of climate change. Not that it was human-caused, or dangerous, just that it existed. Which it does.

Y’know, whenever I use the term denier (as in "global warming denier") I get lots of comments accusing me of using a loaded word. But it’s not: it’s precise, and given what we’re seeing in Congress, it’s the exact word to use.

via Bad Astronomy – Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity. I’ve been trying thing of something to put here but can’t.

24 Mar

NYTimes.com – The Austerity Delusion

What do these events have in common? They’re all evidence that slashing spending in the face of high unemployment is a mistake. Austerity advocates predicted that spending cuts would bring quick dividends in the form of rising confidence, and that there would be few, if any, adverse effects on growth and jobs; but they were wrong.

It’s too bad, then, that these days you’re not considered serious in Washington unless you profess allegiance to the same doctrine that’s failing so dismally in Europe.

via NYTimes.com – The Austerity Delusion. We have to avoid being like Europe so we’ll do what Europe did but it’ll turn out differently for us.

28 Feb

NYTimes.com – Majority in Poll Back Employees In Public Unions

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

via NYTimes.com – Majority in Poll Back Employees In Public Unions. Looks like the Governors are overly extending themselves politically.

27 Feb

NYTimes.com – Texas, Budget Cuts and Children

The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

Anyway, the next time some self-proclaimed deficit hawk tells you how much he worries about the debt we’re leaving our children, remember what’s happening in Texas, a state whose slogan right now might as well be “Lose the future.”

via NYTimes.com – Texas, Budget Cuts and Children. Who cares about ensuring the health and education of children, not Texas.

16 Feb

Public Policy Polling – Romney and the Birthers

Birthers make a majority among those voters who say they’re likely to participate in a Republican primary next year. 51% say they don’t think Barack Obama was born in the United States to just 28% who firmly believe that he was and 21% who are unsure. The GOP birther majority is a new development. The last time PPP tested this question nationally, in August of 2009, only 44% of Republicans said they thought Obama was born outside the country while 36% said that he definitely was born in the United States. If anything birtherism is on the rise.

via Public Policy Polling – Romney and the Birthers. I’m not even sure what to say on this. Though I should add two points, first PPP is non-partisan but tends to be heavily hired by Democrats, and this is primary voters who on the whole are more ideological/partisan than most Republican leaning voters.

10 Jan

NYTimes.com – Climate of Hate

I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

via NYTimes.com – Climate of Hate. This is perhaps the larger point, there is a problem when violent rhetoric is used as a substitute for reasoned and rational debate.