Posted by Jerrod @ 11:13 pm on February 28th 2011

Continued Republican doublespeak on net neutrality

The net neutrality debate is pretty simple and straightforward and anyone who understands it immediately recognizes that net neutrality is an essential part of the world as we know it. Yet the Republicans have succeeded in convincing many of their constituents that net neutrality is somehow a bad thing. What most infuriates me is the constant repetition of key words and phrases like calling it a government takeover of the internet or positioning anti-net neutrality positions as on the side of freedom.

The net neutrality argument isn’t about the government trying to take over the internet, it’s about corporate takeovers of the internet. The internet is awesome because its open to everyone and everything and as soon as we lose that, we lose the internet as we know it.

I will concede that there is one constituency who’s innovation is stifled by net neutrality, namely those who stand to profit from controlling access to the internet, i.e. ISPs. For the price of denying that single form of business “innovation” to the gatekeepers of the internet, in return every single user of the internet has unlimited innovative potential. This is what has given us the obvious Youtube, Wikipedia, podcasts, (and yes, even chatroulette). Yes, its true that some business models are excluded from a neutral net, but in return you get just plain awesomesauce. The alternative, a net with high access costs, greater corporate control over content, and higher barriers to entry for new products (future youtubes, wikipedias, podcasts, and chatroulettes), isn’t anything worth considering.

The only reason that Republicans wrap up their argument in language that portrays their anti-net neutrality position as a defender of freedom and innovation and demonize net neutrality as a government takeover is because if they didn’t wrap it up in a flag, there’s no chance in hell that anyone would get behind it. The fact is that net neutrality legislation only ensures that the system that has worked so well for so long (actually a surprisingly short amount of time, thanks to how well it works) doesn’t get broken by private interests.

Posted by Brad @ 6:05 pm on February 28th 2011

Music Video of the Week

Pigmeat Markham – Here Comes the Judge

N.B. Not to be confused by the other funky judge songs released in 1968, including a version by Shorty Long, released by Motown as a novelty 45, the Funky Judge dance song by the Common Pleas, the version by The Ventures, or the “The Funky Judge”, by Bull & the Matadors which is, for my money, the least funky; most judgy.

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Posted by Brad @ 3:46 pm on February 28th 2011

I Feel It Should Not Pass Without Being Noted…

…that Randy Quaid was right, man.

The Hollywood Star Whackers are scrambling brains; coming for joo.

Posted by Brad @ 11:23 am on February 28th 2011

Gadaffi’s Mercenaries Immune From Prosecution? (Answer: No)

Did you know that there is a clause throw into the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions on Libya that specifically forbids international war crimes prosecutions against mercenaries from nations which are not signatories to the International Criminal Court (ICC), thereby shielding most of Gadaffi’s personal forces from prosecution?

Why would the U.N. insert such a clause?

The move was seen as an attempt to prevent a precedent that could see Americans prosecuted by the ICC for alleged crimes in other conflicts. While the US was once among the signatories to the court, George W. Bush withdrew from it in 2002 and declared that it did not have power over Washington. . . . It was inserted despite Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, saying that all those “who slaughter civilians” would “be held personally accountable”.

Speaking to reporters outside the council chamber, Gerard Araud, the French UN ambassador, described the paragraph as “a red line for the United States”, meaning American diplomats had been ordered by their bosses in Washington to secure it. “It was a deal-breaker, and that’s the reason we accepted this text to have the unanimity of the council,” said Mr Araud.

How nice.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

Update: Everything about this story is wrong. There is nothing to see here. Please step away from the vehicle.

Posted by Brad @ 11:13 am on February 28th 2011

Last American World War I Veteran Dies

Frank Buckles, RIP.

Posted by Brad @ 10:59 am on February 28th 2011

That Liberal/Tea Partier Gulf?

Nowhere was it better illustrated than in Rand Paul’s Letterman appearance.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:02 pm on February 26th 2011

Can the world afford Saudi democracy?

Jeremy Warner speculates that a Saudi revolution, and the accompanying oil shock, could kill the global recovery. Truth be told, I think I’d be up for it nonetheless. Prosperity should not be bought at the cost of others’ liberty.ikoni

Posted by Jack @ 7:37 pm on February 26th 2011

Wizard World Miami Comic Con. Yeah, I went there.

Met Rorschach
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Took my custom bound Green Arrow collection:
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Got them signed by Mike Grell, who was very nice and willing to talk at length about it:
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Also got another bound edition signed by Bill Sienkiewicz and Phil Jiminez, talked too half a dozen other writers and artist, briefly met Adam West and Burt Ward, and just enjoyed the serious wonderful silliness of the event and all the cosplayers.

So who’s jealous?

Posted by Rojas @ 4:05 pm on February 24th 2011

The post-union future?

Referencing Wisconsin, Penelope Trunk argues that workers need to prepare themselves for a marketplace to which unions are irrelevant. Her claim seems to be, more or less, that unions are a byproduct of an industrial economy and lack a role in the post-industrial model.

Her reasoned analysis then produces one of the all-time epic comments threads.

Posted by Brad @ 3:39 pm on February 24th 2011

Blogroll Addition

I’m throwing Juan Cole’s site back on. He was an instrumental blogger during the run-up and first years of the War in Iraq, and he’s been plugging away ever since. Now that world-changing developments are happening in the Middle East on a weekly basis, I wanted to get him back in the daily rotation. Because otherwise we’d have to, like, cover it here. Screw that.

Posted by Brad @ 11:22 am on February 24th 2011

Kochtamania Descends on Wisconsin

Rojas and I were talking about this the other day in comments to some other thread, so here’s a nice followup piece by Dave Weigel chronicling the strange obsessive fixation the left suddenly has with the Koch brothers.

Now, like the Soros fixation on some quarters of the right, part of this is, I think, simply a manifestation of the extremely partisan need to believe that the people with whom you arguing are not acting in good faith – that they are either stupid, evil, ore mere puppets on the fingers of shadowy backroom actors with nefarious secret agendas. It’s much easier than believing they’re people, just like you, with strong ideas about what’s best for the country, who happen to not agree with you.

But the more I think about it, the more the Koch thing specifically is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Why? Because there certainly ARE big money figures funding Republican activism, and there certainly ARE shadowy actors with nefarious agendas who are appreciably and significantly bending America to their will – see Roger Ailes. But none of these seemed to have spurred the same level, or rather the same type, of individual fixation. It’s also not that the Koch’s are the most flamboyant, outspoken, visible, or otherwise attention-drawing themselves – indeed, they’re barely around, and when they are, they certainly don’t seem like Michael Moore style blowhards, agitators, or rabble rousers.

The difference, near as I can figure, is their libertarian-ness. They are probably the most significant single source of funding for a boutique of libertarianish causes in America, most of which aren’t even Republican (Reason, CATO, ACLU). What’s strange, of course, is that they aren’t out to Christianize America. They aren’t out to create war for profit. They just want smaller government.

But that seems to be what’s tripping the trigger here, and in a way that resonates with at least a certain class of progressive far more than big money figures who are merely Republican. Something about the Koch’s specifically make them more frightening to progressive activists than similar figures who are even MORE opposed, theoretically, to progressivism along a wider array of axes.

I won’t provide a conclusion to this thought, but I did want to throw it out there.

Posted by Jerrod @ 10:16 pm on February 23rd 2011

House bill cuts diplomatic pay

Federal employees living in DC are awarded a 24% “locality pay” increase to offset the costs of living there. This is a pretty significant chunk of change that foreign service officers give up when the serve overseas. Even with the hardship bonuses associated with living in the developing world, diplomats overseas were still making less than their colleagues working in D.C., a huge disincentive for overseas work. The Obama administration implemented a plan to rectify this by way of “Overseas Comparability Pay”. In 2010, an 8% adjustment was introduced, followed by another 8% in 2011, with a third and final 8% set to be introduced in 2012, bring the total of the OCP to 24%, the same as it is when posted in D.C. This is not a salary increase or a pay raise, as the base salaries are not affected (in fact are currently frozen, just as everyone else’s). It offsets the pay cut that diplomats take when they move overseas.

Thomas Reed of New York introduced a bill that passed the House that will cut OCP and as a result, cut diplomatic salaries. This is portrayed as eliminating pay raises for the foreign service. If it passes the Senate, all Foreign Service officers will see an immediate 16% cut to their salaries, unless they get posted to DC where they will still receive the 24% locality pay increase. If this goes through, diplomats working in Libya, for example, are going to be making less than they would if they’d gotten posted in D.C.

This legislation is proposed to save $140,000,000.00 this year and $427,000,000.00 through 2013.

The cancellation of OCP was also proposed by the President’s debt reduction committee, so it isn’t as if this is some Republican agenda being unsheathed here. The Foreign Service is still highly competitive and the OCP increases aren’t seen to be necessary in order to help with recruitment. The problem is that OCP isn’t designed to help with recruitment, its designed to eliminate incentives to work in DC as much as possible. OCP and locality pay factor into pensions as well whereas hardship pay doesn’t, further exacerbating this incentive to serve stateside as much as possible.

I’m not bothered by the elimination of the OCP as much as I am by the rationale of it. Reed has characterized this as if State Department employees are getting raises while the rest of the country is getting pay cuts. All federal employees wages are frozen, include the Foreign Service. Foreign Service officers work either in DC or overseas, but if they work in DC they get a 24% locality pay “bonus”, just like every single other federal employee in DC. The Overseas Compatibility Pay scheme makes sense to me in that it equalizes the income of Foreign Service officers and removes incentives/disincentives regarding posting in this regard. Pretty reasonable to me.

If this was a straight up salary increase, I’d have no problems with its elimination. Foreign Service officers are unique in that they work both overseas and in DC at various points in the careers. OCP isn’t a pay raise for them but this legislation is a pay cut. Not sure it’s the best way to deal with the budget issues, especially considering the value the US diplomatic corp provides. As the changes in Africa, Europe, and Asia that we’ve seen over the last few weeks and months continue to reverberate, any reduction in our diplomatic capacity is a bad thing.

Posted by Cameron @ 3:02 pm on February 23rd 2011

Cee Lo Green, Esquire

I. Love. This. So. Much.

Posted by Brad @ 1:32 pm on February 23rd 2011

Did the Obama Administration Just Single-Handedly Overthrow DOMA?

Holy shit.

“After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

“The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional,” Holder said. “Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.”

DOMA, you’ll know, is currently being challenged in court, with the DOJ defending it. In fact, they have to file by March 11th, I believe, to keep up their defense of the law.

Obama, for the first time, indicated he might step off on his consistent support of DOMA only in December. I’ve long maintained that DOMA was the linchpin, and if the DOJ is going to essentially concede all DOMA challenges, it’s hard to see how gay marriage did not just get federally legalized.

Who knew? After spending two years looking for everything in the world like had no interest in making an actual change to how the nation treats homosexuality, in the span of only three months he might have just overturned Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, arguably the two most obnoxious and entrenched hot buttons for gay equality.

But the real impact will be the human one. If DOMA goes down, gay marriage, occurring in the states where it is legal, will actually mean something – you will be legally married according to everybody, no different from any other marriage in the eyes of the law, and no government agency or agent will be able to prevent you from enjoying every benefit accorded any other marriage. It is really impossible to overstate what a landmark freedom that will be.

Congress, I believe, can still step in and defend the law, and have fun with that guys. But having the United States federal government and Department of Justice come out and essentially agree that the law is unconstitutional is likely a near-dealbreaker on any potential win for those arguing on the law’s behalf.

Posted by Brad @ 1:05 pm on February 23rd 2011

The Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act

Internet freedom? Well I’m for that!

Posted by Brad @ 10:44 am on February 23rd 2011

Prostitution Still a Non-Issue in Nevada

Funny story from Politico, written in a way only they could get away with:

The most powerful man in the United States Senate, addressing the legislature of his home state at a time of fiscal chaos and potential government shutdown, had something he wanted to talk about Tuesday: hookers.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s impassioned lecture landed in Carson City with a thud.

“The time has come for us to outlaw prostitution,” Reid said in his biennial address to the Nevada legislature and an audience that included a legal brothel owner, legal prostitutes and the legal industry’s state lobbyist.

Reid paused at that point, one of the few times he did so in a half-hour speech he otherwise seemed to rush through. No one applauded.

The whorehouse owner in attendance, Dennis Hof of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, told reporters on the scene: “Harry Reid will have to pry the cathouse keys from my cold, dead hands.”

I’m increasingly coming to see bans on prostitution, drugs, and gays (sorry to lump you in there, gays), as holdovers of a bygone age. They just aren’t the electoral whipping boys they used to be, and increasingly large swaths of the voting public don’t really give a sh*t. Politicians will be precisely the last people to figure it out, but I am becoming more and more sure they will, in my lifetime.

Posted by Brad @ 4:59 pm on February 22nd 2011

Place Your Bets

Ezra Klein, on Wisconsin and the United States Congress showdowns.

Republicans and Democrats, it seems, govern rather differently. Republicans are proving themselves willing to do what liberals long wanted the Obama administration to do: Play hardball. Refuse compromise. Risk severe consequences that they’ll attempt to blame on their opponent. The Obama administration’s answer to this was always that it was important to be seen as the reasonable actor in the drama, to occupy some space known as the middle, and to avoid, so much as possible, the appearance of dramatic overreach. This is as close as we’re likely to come to a test of that theory. In two cases, Republicans have chosen a hardline and are refusing significant compromise, even at the risk of terrible consequences. Will the public turn on them for overreach? Applaud their strength and conviction? Or not really care one way or the other, at least by the time the next election rolls around?

Posted by Brad @ 3:59 pm on February 22nd 2011

Quote of the Day

“Qaddafi says he will die at the end of the struggle.

Does that mean the government and the protestors are moving toward a consensus on a path forward?”

Josh Marshall

Posted by Brad @ 2:09 pm on February 22nd 2011

2012 Dark Horse Watch

Officially strike John Thune from it.

Like Dave Weigel, the Thune boomlet never really made any sense to me, but among a certain class of mostly journalists, he has long been talked about as a potential contender.

Now, the field is back to just Herman Cain.

Posted by Brad @ 11:42 am on February 22nd 2011

Music Video of the Week

I haven’t been into radiohead in a long time – not quite sure why, the thrill just got gone – but I’m really digging their new album.

Radiohead – Lotus Flower

I also happen to quite like the video, actually. But epic bonus points for its perfect 10 parody-able score.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:03 am on February 22nd 2011

“Respect” for teachers

Over the last week, there has been a blizzard of posts in the social media talking about how wonderful teachers are–how we work hard for little pay, how we dedicate our lives to the precious children, and so forth. Indeed, the warm glow is so wonderful to bask in that it’s almost…ALMOST…enough to prevent one from wondering where all the love is suddenly coming from, and why now? (more…)

Posted by Brad @ 5:19 pm on February 21st 2011

Dave Duerson

I haven’t come across a story that left me more conflicted and unsettled than this one in a long time. I don’t even know what I can say to it.

Posted by Cameron @ 9:39 pm on February 20th 2011

Something tells me Brad will like this…

I certainly do. This is the one of the most awesome blend of musical genres I’ve ever heard:

Gangstagrass – Pistol Packing

Posted by Rojas @ 7:47 pm on February 19th 2011

Madison: the pleasures of factionalism

I keep trying and failing to get angry about events in Wisconsin.

Consider the chain of events. And as you do so, tell me towards whom I should direct my spite:

1. The Democratically elected state legislature and governor make a decision to institute medical savings accounts. I like MSAs, as most Libertarians will.

2. This decision, and the accompanying revenue decrease, breaks Wisconsin’s budget. The legislature and governor are unwilling to put up with this; nor should they be.

3. Said flock of Republicans decides to make up the difference by restricting to a substantial degree the collective bargaining power of the state’s public employee unions, which have crafted what are unmistakably sweet deals for their members given the existing economic climate. Effectively, the decision amounts to a value judgment by the powers that be that medical savings accounts for the population as a whole are of more value than full collective bargaining rights for the public employee unions in particular.

4. The unions object strenuously–as undoubtedly they would, given that this is the purpose for which they exist–and they rally their members and allies, who descend on the state capitol in droves.

5. The state’s Democractic Senators execute what amounts to a filibuster by fleeting the state, preventing a vote on the Republican collective bargaining restrictions. The Dems stage their own peaceful and enthusiastic Tea Party in Madison while the Republicans resolve to wait them out.

So, here in capsule form, we have: a democratically elected government making a tough budgetary decision along ideological lines, but while respecting the principle that democratic principles come first; a Democratic party minority employing legal safeguards to keep itself from being run over; a group of Americans mobilizing themselves to draw attention to their cause and to protect something important to them; and a mutual eagerness by everyone involved to hold their opponents electorally accountable, and a mutual unwillingness to employ any tactic outside of the democratic process.

I go looking for villains, and I find none. Maybe that will change in the weeks ahead. Probably it WILL change as this situation becomes The New Normal in cash-strapped statehouses nationwide. In the meantime, I don’t know why this unique episode in American democracy is less worthy of celebration than, say, Egypt’s revolution.

Posted by Brad @ 10:52 am on February 18th 2011

Jose Padilla’s Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld et al Dismissed

Get mad.

Yesterday, in South Carolina, an Obama-appointed federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Padilla against former Bush officials Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz and others. That suit alleges that those officials knowingly violated Padilla’s Constitutional rights by ordering his due-process-free detention and torture. In dismissing Padilla’s lawsuit, the court’s opinion relied on the same now-depressingly-familiar weapons routinely used by our political class to immunize itself from judicial scrutiny: national security would be undermined by allowing Padilla to sue; “government officials could be distracted from their vital duties to attend depositions or respond to other discovery requests”; “a trial on the merits would be an international spectacle with Padilla, a convicted terrorist, summoning America’s present and former leaders to a federal courthouse to answer his charges”; the litigation would risk disclosure of vital state secrets; and “discovery procedures could be used by our enemies to obtain valuable intelligence.”

In other words, our political officials are Too Important, and engaged in far Too Weighty Matters in Keeping Us Safe, to subject them to the annoyance of the rule of law.

That’s Greenwald, and please read the whole post. But for a pithier encapsulation, Padilla’s counsel precisely characterizes what it amounts to.

“That Donald Rumsfeld is above the law and Jose Padilla is beneath it.”

Posted by Brad @ 4:53 pm on February 17th 2011

CPAC 2012

The incoming chair of CPAC says that groups who are in favor of DADT repeal or gay marriage will be barred from participating in CPAC in the future.

Posted by Brad @ 11:32 am on February 17th 2011

High Speed Rail in FL: Or, an Illustration of the Chasm Between Democrats and Republicans

So Florida Governor Rick Scott has declined an offer of $2.4 billion dollars by the federal government to build a high speed rail system from Tampa to Orlando. Why would he turn down free money? Well, if the project costs more than 2.4 billion, Florida foots the bill (but who could ever imagine that the government estimate of cost might be an under-estimate?). All operating expenses if, somehow, the rail system does not achieve self-sufficiency, as no rail system of this sort ever has, would have to be subsidized, forevermore, by Florida (but who could imagine that government projections of ridership might be based on rose-tinted fantasy estimates?). And if, for some reason, the federal government changes its mind at any point in the process, Florida has to return to it 2.4 billion, no matter how much they might have already sunk into the project (but why would the government pull the plug on Obama’s pet project in the next few years; it’s not like there’s anything happening around, say, 2012, that might cause the government to change hands).

In any case, Governor Scott’s decision was simple. He can take the 2.4 billion dollars, and be on the hook for potentially (nay, likely) tens of billions more over the next decade. Or he can decide that those 84 miles are covered just fine by highway.

I submit to you, two competing takes. Here’s Reason. Here’s John Aravosis. Or, if you like, here is The Corner. Here is Dailykos.

What’s amazing to me here is the absolute unwillingness for Democrats to envision any other scenario besides the one where the investment works exactly as dreamed. There really is no critical evaluation whatsoever here. It’s money from the government. How could money from the government EVER be problematic or more trouble than it’s worth?

Posted by Brad @ 11:14 am on February 17th 2011

Great Moments in Local Governance, Part IV

Man, every time municipal authorities open something up to a public vote, the result goes from something a municipal bureaucrat would have thunk up, to something, instead, patently awesome.

This time, they were voting to name the new city-county building in Fort Wayne, Texas.

So, the people voted to name it after the city’s longest-serving mayor.

Harry Baals.

The top vote getter: the Harry Baals Government Center.

Posted by Cameron @ 8:46 am on February 17th 2011

Fuck Belgium!

There’s a heartbreaking story that needs major publicity over at Classically Liberal. To maintain the accuracy and strength of the message, I’ve quoted CLS’s whole post below. Time for our seven readers to get out of their chairs and make a difference.

Just a few hours ago I reported that a judge in Belgium ruled that Laurent Ghilain is legall the father of the child known as Samuel. The fact of this was never in question, but the Belgium goverment refused to recognize the paternity because the mother was a surrogate and thus refused to give little Samuel a passport. Since the surrogacy took place in Ukraine, without a passport allowing him to enter Belgium the child was sentenced to life in an orphanage. This, in spite of his father, and his father’s spouse, Peter, having a home waiting for their son. The monsters in the Belgium government said they had no “regulations” that covered the situation so they damned this little boy to a loveless existence due to their own shortcomings.

Well a judge yesterday recognize the “lineage” that Samuel is the son of Laurent and said the child could come home to his fathers. Laurent’s partern, Samuel’s other father, Peter Meurren emailed me about two hours ago: “We’re back to zero, the ministry doesn’t agree with the judge’s decision… :-(”

But the utter indency of bureaucracy had to once again show its inhumane and ugly face. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has appealed the case saying they do not wish to give the child a passport. For what reason! Is it still the pathetic excuse that they don’t have any guidelines to make such decisions because no asswad sat down and wrote rules that these brainless pieces of shit could understand? How can it be? The court issued a ruling which gave even the dumbest of these morons some guidelines. But they plow ahead with their determined effort to damn this baby to a life where no one loves him!

This is one of the most heartless, cruel sides of bureaucracy that I have ever seen. They are harming a baby. What sort of souless monsters run the Belgian government?

Please protest this measure. Write the Belgian authorities. For information on that go to an English Facebook page here. I am sorry to say the gay media has yet to catch on to this story. It needs to be publicized and people need to start working on taking the Belgian government before the European Court of Human Rights. Belgium needs to be shamed before the world.

Now maybe these assholes hate children, or maybe they hate gay people. But ever decent Belgian should be ashamed to be associated with what their government is doing.

And this is Samuel:

Again, this quote and photo are taken verbatim from the original post over at Classically Liberal. Link to them, not us to spread the story.

Posted by Brad @ 4:56 pm on February 16th 2011

Arizona: Ditat Deus (et Populus Abominor)

Arizona is quickly becoming the state most inclined to be a complete asshole. Two items:

1. If the Republican primary to replace John Kyl were held today, Joe Arpaio would be the overwhelming favorite.

2. The state legislature is likely to pass a bill that would require hospitals and emergency rooms to check a patient’s immigration status and, if undocumented, report that patient to the feds.

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