The Watering Hole, Monday, March 2, 2015: How The Right Gets Net Neutrality Wrong

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This past Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to change the way the nation’s internet service providers are regulated. After their proposed regulation, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, is published on the federal register in a few weeks, it will take effect sixty days later. This has some prominent right wing luminaries upset, even though it’s apparent they have absolutely no understanding of what net neutrality is. All it means is that all internet content must be treated equally by the internet service providers (ISPs). Comcast can’t slow down your Netflix streaming video just because they would prefer you use their subsidiary company’s product, Hulu. The ISPs aren’t happy, but you should be overjoyed. Don’t listen to these people.

People like Pat Robertson. Like many Conservatives, Robertson calls the new FCC regulations a “takeover” of the internet, and he adds that this is all part of a socialist agenda to take control of everything. As with most things Pat Robertson says, nothing could be further from the truth. The government is not taking over the internet which it created (and which Al Gore helped bring into the civilian world.) The government is simply making sure no private corporation can take over the internet and deprive you of content that might come from a competitor, or charge you extra to get higher speed internet for some content, and slower speeds for content like the blog you’re reading right now.

Robertson says the government wants to regulate the internet using a law written in 1934. That is false. They are using a law written in 1996 which updated the law written in 1934. He’s also wrong about the PP/ACA being a takeover of the healthcare industry. Conservatives frequently mischaracterize things in order to scare you into thinking something is happening which isn’t. And the goal of the fear mongering is the fear itself. People who are afraid often make bad decisions, and one of those bad decisions is voting for Conservatives.

Don’t listen to people like Rush Limbaugh, either. Limbaugh also thinks the government is trying to take over the internet it once created, but for a completely different reason. He thinks the government wants to ban bullets. I know it just flows so logically. You see, Rush is afraid of ISIS, and he’s afraid because they’re recruiting from all over the United States and Rush says “the government must have control of the Internet if we are to be safe.” (Projection.) Rush thinks the government is going to resort to extraordinary measures to fight ISIS, and that will include the banning of bullets. Except the government is not trying to ban bullets, they are trying to regulate armor-piercing bullets. And they won’t ban the ones that are “primarily” used for sporting purposes, so if a bunch of sovereign citizens decide today is the day the government is coming for their guns, they’ll still be able to shoot them with armor-piercing bullets.

And don’t listen to people like Ted Cruz, either. (It could result in brain damage. For you, not Ted. He’s already gone.) Somehow, Ted has it in his tiny little mind that regulating the internet will deprive you of your freedom.

“We do that fundamentally by standing with the people and not with Washington.”

For all their talk about Freedom, Conservatives still do not understand the concept that our federal government IS “We the People.” Then again, they never liked that from the beginning. It was Conservatives, those heavy on the “States’ Rights” idea (even though the Articles of Confederation proved the concept unworkable), who objected to the first three words of the Constitution. They felt it should have read “We the States.” And they haven’t given up that fight since.

“Washington wants Obamacare. The people want liberty.”

Here, and in the subsequent sentences, Cruz is using the term “The people” to refer only to Conservative Americans, and “Washington” to refer to everyone else. Conservatives do not view non-Conservatives as being “true Americans.” In fact, they see us as the Enemy, much as they did in 1776 when Liberals decided they wanted to explore the freedom of not being British citizens. Conservatives wrongly believe the individual mandate is both unprecedented and unconstitutional. (This despite the fact that President John Adams wrote a law requiring all mariners to buy health insurance, and despite the fact that SCOTUS ruled the law constitutional.) They don’t like it precisely because it does bring us incrementally closer to having Single Payer which, in their minds, equates to a total loss of freedom for everyone. Completely untrue, of course. It would only deny corporations the right to cheat you out of your life savings. But since corporations are not really poeple, that shouldn’t matter.

“Washington wants amnesty. The people want rule of law.”

This is a reference to the president’s immigration policy, announced in the wake of House Republicans refusing to do anything (like pass the bill the Senate did.) It’s not an amnesty program, like the one announced under President Reagan, no matter how many times they say it is. And even if it was, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional because the president has the constitutional authority to grant amnesty. And it’s not illegal, which they’ll learn when the SCOTUS upholds it. They just hate seeing anyone get help from the government. They don’t believe government exists to serve the people of which it’s comprised.

“Washington wants power over the internet. The people want freedom online.”

Conservatives have a hard time believing that anyone in government would want to do something that protects people from unscrupulous corporations. That’s because they believe the purpose of government is to protect unscrupulous corporations from the people. They want ISPs to be able to set up a multi-tier system of various speed options. They want it to be possible for ISPs to block content that competes with their own. The only possible way one could interpret net neutrality as taking away your freedoms is if you think corporations are people with the same rights as people. But to believe that, you would have to believe that corporations should have the right to terminate the existence of a subsidiary corporation still in the process of being created without government interference. IOW, to have an abortion.

This our daily open thread. Thanks to Obama’s FCC, you’ll still have access to this blog at the same speed as the big name corporations get. Use it wisely, and talk about anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 28th, 2015: Geek Grins & Groaners

A friend ‘from at work’, as we say in our families, provided the topic for today’s thread – which was particularly nice and thoughtful of her, as she was home recovering from surgery. As she put it, “Thought you might find these entertaining. Or I just found them funnier then normal because they gave me the good drugs!”

So today we present: GEEK JOKES, or, more properly titled, “26 Jokes That Only Intellectuals Will Get.” Here’s a couple of my favorites:

HOW MANY SURREALISTS DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHT BULB?   A FISH.

and,

SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, SODIUM, BATMAN!

or how about,

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU PUT ROOT BEER IN A SQUARE GLASS?   BEER.

Okay, so they’re mostly groaners, but I found them amusing. Enjoy!

This is our daily Open Thread. Go ahead and grin, groan, grimace, gripe, or, sadly, grieve.

Rest In Peace, Leonard Nimoy. Now that your soul has “slipped the surly bonds of Earth”, may it travel among the stars and galaxies unencumbered, your immortality ensured.

The Frozen Hole, Saturday, February 21st, 2015: M-m-m-more S-s-s-snow?!

It seems like more than half the country is getting hit by more snow, ice, and other nasty cold stuff through this weekend.

We humans are just not designed for this. So, everyone stay warm inside and have a look at lots of animals who were much better designed for snow than we are. As usual, thanks to The Weather Channel for gathering the pics in this slideshow. While they do include some of my favorite ‘snow’ animals, such as the snow leopard:
snow-leopard-normalI think they were a bit remiss in not including others of my favorite snow-loving animals, like the Arctic Fox:
Arctic-fox-Wallpaper-arctic-fox-muzzle-eyes-snowAnd not a single one of Arctic Hares, either:

Arctic Hares High-Fiving

Arctic Hares High-Fiving

But I have to say that my favorite ‘wildlife-in-snow’ themed photo that ISN’T in the slideshow is this one:

"Hey, maybe one of you two cubs is small enough to reach in there..."

“Hey, maybe one of you two cubs is small enough to reach in there…”

This is our daily Open Thread – if you’re reading this from somewhere with no snow, please think warm thoughts towards the rest of us!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 14th, 2015: Intelligence

happy_valentines_day_by_plusonedead cupid

And with that tribute to Saint Valentine out of the way, let’s move on…

Last night on Bill Maher, David Duchovny was the second interview guest, promoting his new novel, “Holy Cow!” The book, according to USA Today, is “…about a talking cow, pig and turkey that go on the lam when they discover they’re destined for the dinner table.” During the interview, Duchovny discussed (in part) animal rights, and briefly mentioned that cases were being brought to court regarding captive chimpanzees.

His mention of the chimpanzee cases coincided with an article from BuzzFeed that I was in the middle of reading just before Real Time started. The article, “People Are Animals, Too” by Peter Aldhous, opens with a couple of paragraphs about the Nonhuman Rights Project’s Steven Wise, who is arguing for “personhood” under New York State law for a chimpanzee called ‘Tommy.’ Here’s an excerpt:

“Central to Wise’s arguments in Tommy’s case, and to similar suits his organization has filed on behalf of other captive chimpanzees, is the assertion that apes are highly intelligent and self-aware beings with complex emotional lives. “The uncontroverted facts demonstrate that chimpanzees possess the autonomy and self-determination that are supreme common law values,” Wise told the five judges hearing the case.”

The article discusses aspects of various studies on animal intelligence, touching on crows, scrub jays, wolves, even octopi and cuttlefish. And, of course, no article on animal intelligence would be complete without a mention, however brief, of my co-worker’s friends’ son, Josh Plotnik, whose college studies and subsequent career I have been made aware of, and have been jealous of because he gets to study elephants. From the article:

“Some researchers working on vertebrate cognition, meanwhile, are starting to reject the field’s anthropocentric biases. In Thailand’s Golden Triangle, Josh Plotnik of the University of Cambridge works at a luxury resort that is home to a group of elephants, which, when not giving rides to tourists, take part in his research. Plotnik started with the usual roster of experiments tried on young children and chimps, including the mirror test. But he now realizes that he needs to better understand the elephants’ sensory world — dominated by odors and low-frequency sounds — before he can work out how to explore the full scope of their cognitive abilities.

“It would be very unethical of me to take all of the chimp experiments and just run them on the elephants,” Plotnik says. “I’d be publishing all these negative results, saying: ‘Elephants can’t do this. Elephants can’t do that.’ When in fact, they probably could, if we asked the questions the right way.”

Speaking of elephants, it was on a Valentine’s Day, maybe 35 years ago, when an Indian elephant wrapped its trunk around my arm to pull me closer, and a tiger thoroughly washed my hand – certainly the most unusual Valentine’s Day I’ve ever experienced. So I guess this turned out to be a sort of Valentine’s Day thread after all. Oh, well!
Happy Valentines Day Wallpaper

This is our daily Open Thread, so, open up!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 7th, 2015: Infrastructure!

Tappan Zee Bridge (photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Tappan Zee Bridge (photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

The Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects southern New York’s Westchester County on the east bank of the Hudson River with Rockland County on the west bank, was ceremoniously opened to traffic on December 15th, 1955, the day before I was born.

NY "Daily News" special Tappan Zee Bridge Edition, Wednesday, December 14, 1955

NY “Daily News” special Tappan Zee Bridge Edition, Wednesday, December 14, 1955

Like millions of others, I’ve crossed that bridge many, many times, and each time I’ve marveled at how the western end of the bridge seems to dip down so close to the river. In photos from the eastern side, more than three miles away, it almost looks like it’s descending into a tunnel. At its highest point, if one has a chance to look up and down this section of the river, one can – even with today’s manmade clutter – understand why the awesome Hudson River inspired its own art genre.

While not a widely renowned bridge – after all, New York has the infinitely more famous and familiar George Washington Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge – a lot more Americans are likely to become aware of its existence in the near future. And I have a feeling that a lot of Republicans will soon loathe the sight of it, simply because President Obama has put an image of the bridge on the front cover of his proposed 2016 budget.

President Obama's 2016 budget proposal cover

President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal cover (photo courtesy of the White House)

The Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement is one of the infrastructure projects now under construction thanks to President Obama’s Stimulus Plan. According to the Tarrytown, NY, online Patch newspaper, in a statement issued by the White House, the reason why an image of the Tappan Zee Bridge made the 2016 Budget cover is actually pretty obvious:

“If a budget is a reflection of our priorities as a nation, why shouldn’t the cover be the same? One of the President’s key priorities in his 2016 budget is to modernize our public infrastructure — something our roads, bridges, and ports desperately need. So instead of the plain blue budget cover that administrations typically affix to the budget, this year’s cover features the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York — one of the bridges that has benefited from the President’s previous investments in infrastructure upgrades.”

As a New Yorker and a Liberal, it pleases me no end that, when Boehner and other prominent stimulus-deniers do their usual routines of waving a copy of the President’s proposed budget while decrying the contents, they’ll be displaying not only one of the President’s successful stimulus projects, but one of the Empire State’s iconic bridges. So this is, to me, a great big New York “Fuck you, Pal!” to conservatives – sweeeeeeet!

This is our daily Open Thread. Feel free to talk about infrastructure, budgets, or whatever else you wish.

The Watering Hole; Friday February 6 2015; Seventy Years and Counting

I ran across some links the other day that I found to be curiously defining of this day’s American dilemma. First there’s this, a detailed list of everything today’s far right GOP Fascist party HATES and is dead set against, mainly because each and all are designed to serve the common man, the middle class, the poor, those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” rather than the already rich and powerful, the huge multi-national corporations, and/or the giant banks and financial institutions. So here they are: the (probably familiar) major points of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposed ‘Second Bill of Rights':

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

As is plainly obvious to even the casual reader, everything on that list is absolute and total anathema to every last one of America’s Wingnuts, both elected and otherwise. To them, there’s nothing anywhere that’s more valuable than the profits attainable via unfettered (and unregulated) Capitalism. Capitalism: the be-all and end-all of everything that has usefulness — except, of course, for the low-paid people who make it work, many of whom are of the wrong race or ethnicity and are therefore definably lazy and expendable.

Next came this, the voice of an American “revolutionary” some fifty-plus years ago, one who not only understood the Capitalist mentality but predicted its inevitable demise:

“It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody’s blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, then capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.”

“Sometimes, I have dared to dream … that one day, history may even say that my voice—which disturbed [their] smugness, . . . arrogance, and . . . complacency—that my voice helped to save America from a grave, possibly even fatal catastrophe.”

“We’re anti-evil, anti-oppression, anti-lynching. You can’t be anti- those things unless you’re also anti- the oppressor and the lyncher. You can’t be anti-slavery and pro-slavemaster; you can’t be anti-crime and pro-criminal. In fact, Mr. Muhammad teaches that if the present generation of whites would study their own race in the light of true history, they would be anti-white themselves.”

And finally there’s this, a brief synopsis of Obama’s most recently submitted budget, the budget that the Republican Congressional majority is guaranteed to mock and then completely dismiss:

. . . Obama, unleashed from elections, entering the final two years of his presidency and wrestling with a legacy that includes a struggling middle class, is using his proposed budget for 2016 as a political manifesto. It’s one he hopes will turn the country’s course back toward the embrace of government that ruled from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s through Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s.

The budget [Obama] proposed . . . suggests a crusade for a strong central government as a provider for the disadvantaged and bulwark against corporate excess, financed by new taxes on the wealthy.

Forget any big emphasis on debt reduction or fresh thoughts on finding common ground with the new Republican-led Congress.

The tax code should be more progressive. Government regulations must protect ordinary people against corporate excesses. Health care is a right, not a privilege. Educational opportunities are crucial.

“What I offer in this budget is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” the president said . . . 

Those three excerpted ‘voices’ were each heard within the course of exactly seventy years. The first was the major premise expressed in FDR’s 1945 inaugural address; the second included comments by Malcolm X from the early 1960’s (he was assassinated fifty years ago in February 1965), quoted in a recent article by Chris Hedges in which Hedges notes that Malcolm X . . .

“. . . understood the inner workings of empire. He had no hope that those who managed empire would ever get in touch with their better selves to build a country free of exploitation and injustice. He argued that from the arrival of the first slave ship to the appearance of our vast archipelago of prisons and our squalid, urban internal colonies where the poor are trapped and abused, the American empire was unrelentingly hostile to those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” This, Malcolm knew, would not change until the empire was destroyed.”

The third segment — Obama’s 2016 budget proposal — is not yet a month old.

So. FDR’s Second Bill of Rights has not yet come to pass. In its place there is evermore of the “oppression” and of Capitalism’s improved methodology in sucking “the blood of the helpless,” along with political disdain for everything other than further enrichment of the already rich and further empowerment of the already powerful. Makes one wonder: more than fifty years ago, did Malcolm X genuinely predict Capitalism’s ultimate decline and fall when he noted that “It’s only a matter of time . . . before it will collapse completely”??

Enter Barack Obama and his proposed program and budget for the 2016 fiscal year. It’s almost Rooseveltian in nature in that it proposes “a strong central government as a provider for the disadvantaged” along with “a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity . . .” Sadly, each and every proviso designated therein to help those who need help and to pay for it all by taxing those of great wealth who do NOT need help is virtually guaranteed to be mocked and dismissed by the Republican majority in Congress, the majority which much prefers to “suck the blood of the helpless.”

Here’s the thing: I was three months past my second birthday in January 1945 when President Franklin Roosevelt proposed his “Second Bill of Rights.” And I was three months past my seventy-second birthday when President Barack Obama proposed a budget that would at last — FINALLY — implement at least a reasonable portion of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. And in all likelihood I’ll not yet be seventy-three by the time the current GOP (aka the AFP — the American Fascist Party) completely dismisses each and all of President Barack Obama’s proposals (along with all surviving remnants of FDR’s New Deal accomplishments).

All of which makes me wonder: how old will I be when, as Malcolm X suggested,  “a grave, possibly even fatal catastrophe” comes to define the final fate of the country in which we currently reside, aka America? Such things are near impossible to accurately predict, but I have to think that If the electorate happens to choose, in 2016, any one of the current AFP potential candidates to be the next POTUS, the time preceding American capitalism’s self-induced “fatal catastrophe”  will be substantially reduced.

Well, we shall see, but near as I can determine, Malcolm X was very likely spot-on with his thesis that America “would not change until the empire was destroyed,” a prospect which, this day, appears more imminent with each passing hour.

As always, time will tell.

OPEN THREAD

 

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 31st, 2015: Dogs and Cats

First, the dogs: From rantpets.com, “25 Uncommon Dog Breeds You Didn’t Know About” (I did know about some of them, as I’m sure many of you do.)

I love some of the (often minimal) breed descriptions:

Number 23, the Berger Picard: “French Shepherds, which date back to 800 AD, are a very rare breed.” [But their bloodline is continued into the 25th century, minus most of the hair, of course.]

Number 11, the Jade Terrier: “The Jade Terrier appeared between the two world wars.” [What, did it come through the Wardrobe from Narnia?]

Number 8, the Mudi: “About 100 years ago in Hungary, a spontaneous breed surfaced called the Mudi dog.” [A “spontaneous” breed? Another Narnian?]

Number 2, the Finnish Spitz: “This adorable breed was originally bred to hunt game like bears and squirrels.” [BEARS and squirrels? BEARS?!]

Number 1, the Otterhound: “These dogs are said to be [the] most intelligent carnivorous mammals in all of Europe.” [I’d have to agree that otterhounds are probably smarter than most human “carnivorous mammals.”]

Otterhounds (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Otterhounds (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Now, the cats: With tomorrow’s Super Bowl in mind, here’s “20 Things Your Cat is Thinking While You’re Watching the Super Bowl”, also from rantpets.com. Not as funny as I had hoped, but some cute cat photos make it worthwhile. And for those who won’t watch football, there’s always Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl for tomorrow’s entertainment.

This is our daily Open Thread, brought to you from the frozen tundra of New York. Brrrr!