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, Monday, February 16, 2015: It’s Not Really Presidents Day

If you’re celebrating a federal holiday today, Monday, February 16, 2015, then you are not celebrating Presidents Day. Nor is it President’s Day. It’s not even Presidents’ Day. Officially, according to the federal government, the national holiday we celebrate today is, and always has been, called “Washington’s Birthday.” And because the states do not have to observe the same holidays as the federal government (on account of States’ Rights!), through the years various states have called the holiday some version of President’s Day. But to the federal government it was never meant to honor anybody but our nation’s first president, Neil Patrick Harris, popularly known as “JFK.” And it wasn’t Nixon who changed it, either.

The story behind the holiday starts in 1800, the year after Washington’s death. He was so venerated by the citizenry that his birthday became an unofficial day of observation. Not many people know that Washington was actually born on February 11, 1732, which was his birthday under the Julian Calendar. When the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in 1752 (which changed the date to eleven days later, in order to properly match up with the motions of the Sun and planets), Washington’s date of birth was now February 22 under the new reckoning. An act passed in 1879 made Washington’s Birthday an official holiday in the District of Columbia, and six years later this was expanded to the entire country (and also guaranteed that the federal workers would get paid for the holiday.) At the time it was only the fifth federal holiday (along with New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day), and the only one to honor an individual person. Martin Luther King, Jr., would become only the second person so honored in the US.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved three federal holidays, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day, to fixed Mondays on the calendar. (After public outcry, Veterans Days was moved back to November 11.) While there was Congressional debate on the subject, the name of the February holiday was never formally changed to Presidents Day (or any variation.) The law was passed in 1968 (signed by LBJ) but took effect in 1971 (under Nixon), which is why people erroneously blame Nixon for us losing an extra holiday in February. The idea of the law was to decrease employee absenteeism around mid-week holidays and give federal employees more three-day holiday weekends to spend with their families. (Because everybody gets the entire family together to celebrate Columbus Day.) It was the states, who were not bound by this law to move the official state celebrations of these things, who called February 22 “Presidents Day” (or their own chosen version of the name) and, of course, The Free Market, who decided that what every family needed to bond more closely was a new car. You can learn more about the history of Neil Patrick Harris’ Birthday here and here.

So, thank you, George, for holding our country together, and for hiring a gay man to train your troops to fight the British. We wouldn’t be Americans today without the two of you.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Washington’s Birthday, Presidents Day, President’s Day, Presidents’ Day, or the Saturday Night Live Reunion Special that aired last night.

Sunday Roast: Happy Birthday, Pale Blue Dot!

I’m only a day late, but it’s been 25 years (yesterday) since the famous photo was taken by Voyager 1.

I don’t know about all y’all, but every time I hear Carl Sagan talking about “the only home we’ve ever known,” I weep like a baby.  It’s so hopeful, but, at the same time, it’s a severe reality check.

This is our daily open thread — Remember, we’re all in this together.

Sunday Roast: Ohhhhh, the poor poor widdle Christians

Seriously, how many ways is this just SO wrong?

These morons are giving “teh gay” so much power in their pitiful little lives, and it’s just pathetic.

OMG, allowing gay people the same human rights that the rest us so precariously enjoy will ruin EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!  If anyone voices an opinion or belief contrary to our own, we won’t be allowed to be “Christians” anymore!!!

drama-queen-i9063

Here’s your damn crown.  *eyes rolling*

This is our daily open thread –No I’m not dignifying the stupid film with commentary.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 2, 2015: Speaker Logan?

After the French Revolution, tensions had risen between the USA and France. Many French revolutionaries felt we had not aided them enough, and after we signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, France authorized the seizing of American ships and taking prisoners. In 1797 President Adams sent John Marshall, Charles C. Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry (who would later try to redraw political districts that reminded people of a salamander in order to give him an electoral advantage, thus giving birth to the term “Gerrymander”) to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Instead, the result was what would become known as the XYZ Affair and an unsuccessful trip. After their return, a Philadelphia Quaker named Dr. George Logan decided on his own to try to negotiate a peaceful settlement. He was successful and France agreed to stop seizing ships and to release their prisoners. This did not go over well with President John Adams and he recommended that Congress pass a law to stop the “temerity and impertinence of individuals affecting to interfere in public affairs between France and the United States.” The result was the Logan Act. As amended today, the act reads:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

The Act does grant an exception for private citizens who wish to sue a foreign government for injuries, but that’s it. And when you think about it, it makes sense. For example, would you want the Koch Brothers to be allowed to legally negotiate their own agreement with the government of Canada regarding the tar sands oil? Would you want them to then be allowed to go into court and demand that the Keystone XL Pipeline be built because they had a contract and that contract must be honored? Bad idea. Better to not let them have that negotiation in the first place, especially if our government is not in favor of the project. (The Republicans are, because they only care about businesses earning huge profits, even foreign ones. President Obama will veto it.)

In the 200+ year history of the Logan Act there has never been anyone prosecuted under it. There was a farmer who was indicted, but that was over something he had written regarding the land which eventually became the Louisiana Purchase. He was never prosecuted and the Purchase quelled the entire argument being made. (Plus, I’m not so sure he would have been prosecuted, since he only advocated in a letter to a newspaper for something. I don’t believe he actually negotiated with anyone in France.) There have been arguments made (not in court) that the Logan Act may be unconstitutional, but there have also been numerous references to it in other court decisions. And the basic idea that the President is the only one who can negotiate on behalf of the United States has been mentioned several times in court rulings. So while nobody has been prosecuted (including Rev Jesse Jackson and Jane Fonda), the law remains in effect. Which brings us to Speaker John Boehner.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said this about Iran:

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies — including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.

Iran has made it clear that they will stop enriching uranium and negotiate with other countries about its nuclear program provided the United States does not pass any sanctions bill before the talks are concluded. So what do Republicans want to so? They want to pass a sanctions bill anyway that would take effect if the talks break down. What they seem unable to grasp is that the very act of passing a sanctions bill (even if and when it does get vetoed by Obama) could be the trigger that ends the talks. It truly makes me wonder if Republicans want Peace or not. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views Iran as an existential threat, which is just another way of saying, “Even if they don’t try to harm us today, they probably might try to tomorrow, or they might decide to help someone else harm us, so let’s go to war with them before anyone attacks us.” This is not a workable foreign policy, this is paranoia. But since Republicans want to deny Obama any kind of victory at all, on any subject at all, they decided to try to thwart Obama’s foreign policy by inviting Netanyahu to address our Congress, specifically on why we shouldn’t enter into this agreement with Iran. It’s pretty clear that this invitation, arranged and negotiated without the knowledge of the White House (until a few hours before it was publicly announced), is a violation of the Logan Act. The purpose of both the invitation and of the address is to “defeat the measures of the United States,” and it clearly violates the Logan Act. The President has already said he would not meet with Netanyahu because they have an election coming up. And we know that Netanyahu thinks it’s wrong to do something like this because he said so himself, almost 20 years ago. When then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited the US in 1997, just before he faced an election, opposition leader Netanyahu said, “I can’t find an example of any previous Israeli government whose prime minister, on the eve of elections, made a cynical attempt to use relations between Israel and the United States as a party advertisement.” Being so hypocritical, it’s no wonder he enjoys such support from the Republican Party (a/k/a The American Likud Party.)

This is our daily open thread. Talk about anything you want, just don’t invite any foreign heads of state to address our Congress. That would be bad.

Sunday Roast: Just say NO to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

via Ring of Fire

The TPP is another HORRIBLE trade deal for the U.S., and I don’t understand why President Obama (and in the past, President Clinton) is pushing the damn thing — while simultaneously yammering on about how concerned he is about “jobs,” “hard-working Americans,” and the suffering of the “middle class.”  Having the Republicans eager to work with the President on TPP ought to be our first giant red flag, the second is all the secrecy surrounding the issue.

To me, Robert Reich is the best guy to give an understandable thumbnail sketch of things like this — with pictures!

This is our daily open thread — Say NO to fast track!!

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 26, 2015: We Can Thank Religion For These Horrible Ideas

It is an indisputable fact that there have been people throughout history who have been motivated by their personal religious beliefs, whatever they may be, to do good things for other people, even complete strangers. It would be nice if the majority of those acts were done out of pure altruism and selflessness, but that is sadly not the case. The religious motivation was often not in the form of a reward for doing good as it was a punishment for not doing good. (Modern studies confirm what astute observers of humanity saw long ago, that conservative people tend to be motivated more by punishment than by reward, and that stupid people tended to think conservatively. So if you want them to do what you say, you make them afraid to not do what you say.) And while you may say, “What difference does it make why they’re helping their fellow humans?”, it’s important to understand that the same source (Religion) that tells them to do good things for people (at least once in a while) also gives them some very, very bad ideas. Alternet’s Valerie Tarico outlines them in more detail, but in short the horrible concepts are: Chosen People, Heretics, Holy War, Blasphemy, Glorified Suffering, Genital Mutilation, Blood Sacrifice, Hell, Karma, Eternal Life, Male Ownership of Female Fertility, and Bibliolatry (Worship of Books.) Religion may even be responsible for the Rape Culture in which we live. I’ll let you read them for yourself, I just want to talk about why a few of these concepts are contrary to the American concept of Freedom.

I worry about self-described Christian Conservatives taking political power. I consider them as dangerous to our way of life as any fundamentalist practitioner of any religion because they are making up their religious beliefs. Jesus did not preach a conservative message, so you can’t call yourself a conservative and a follower of Jesus’ teachings. There are Conservatives who have actually said our nation’s laws should be based on The Bible (though they’re usually vague about which one.) In three of his first four terms in Congress, Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL 4) introduced three versions of a bill called The Ten Commandments Defense Act. (105th, 107th, 108th.) This bill declared that displaying the Ten Commandments on state (or some lower government) controlled property is a right reserved to the States under the Tenth Amendment. The problem here is pretty obvious when you think about it. He wants Congress to declare that States don’t have to obey the First Amendment when it comes to the Ten Commandments, even though the First Amendment states that Congress shall pass no law regarding establishment of religion. The very law he tried to have passed violated the First Amendment, because it was precisely the kind of law the authors of the First didn’t want Congress to pass. And even if you tried to say it was simply “enabling legislation,” it still amounted to establishment of religion. It has nothing to do with the alleged “Judeo-Christian” values upon which this nation was founded (because it wasn’t), it has to do with the fact that the Founders knew what happened to people who didn’t follow the official religion of a nation. They were forced to convert or face imprisonment or death. And there are nations in which that still happens today. The Founders thought that was wrong and that everyone should be free from government interference to practice their chosen religion, and that the worst way to let that happen would be to let the government declare a preference of one religion over another. And a federal law declaring States were free to do that to their citizens (who are also citizens of the United States, and under the Fourteenth Amendment afforded all their federal rights to their state citizenship) would be an Act of Congress that establishes a religion that supports the Ten Commandments. What bothers me more is that back then, his bill had 118 co-sponsors, some of whom have gone on to become US Senators. (And at least one who went to prison, but not for his involvement with this bill. Too bad.)

Another group of which you should be concerned are the Christian Reconstructionists. They have this screwed up view that God does not want governments to be involved in helping the poor. This is as good place as any to start describing why the Religious Right’s (or any other religious group’s) views on government should be null and void. This is the United States of America. Our government IS “We the People.” When we decide we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves, we institute government-run programs to do so. What makes government-run programs superior to private or religious charities is that the government is prohibited from discriminating against people! Private charities can find ways to make sure only the people they think deserve their help get it. If you truly believe people should be free from government interference to practice the religion of their choice, and if you believe people should be free to express any ideas they wish, then you can’t possibly also believe that the United States should be run according to any religious text. Any! The two principles are mutually exclusive. You can’t be free to practice your own religion when the government has decided that one religion is better than another. (I think all the monotheistic ones are bad, with the polytheistic ones not that far behind.) Because many monotheistic religions ban anyone from standing up and saying four simple words, “There is no God.” You would also not be allowed to say, “The entire concept of God is a flawed and silly one. Grow up and take responsibility for your lives here on Earth today.” They would put you to death. And it would be an Eternal Death because the idea of an Eternal Life gives people (especially conservative people, who are not inclined by their nature to want to help other people) an excuse to not live for today, to not live for making a difference to your planet’s fellow inhabitants today. It also lets the government (who is now running your life once they decided that a particular religious text trumps our secular Constitution) oppress you even more because, according to them, if you live a righteous life here on Earth today, no matter how much you or anyone else suffers, you will get your reward when you’re dead. And when they’re telling you that, take careful notice of how they’re getting their rewards today. Lastly, one of the absolute WORST idea Religion has given us is that women are property who must at all times be under some male’s control. This is the driving force behind all anti-abortion viewpoints. When they say it’s just a Biblical thing, they’re wrong. Life does not begin at conception (according to their own Bibles), it begins at the baby’s first breath. This not about “protecting the innocent unborn.” (Were people like Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer innocent when they were in the womb? I’m more interested in how the religious right views things.) If you believe that all people are equal under the law (which is what our Constitution guarantees), then you cannot also believe that men have any right to control women’s bodies. Hobby Lobby’s argument came down to that – Men have the right to control women’s bodies. It had nothing to do with Christian principles, because if it did, they wouldn’t have their products made in countries notorious for their human rights abuses.

Take away these horrible ideas Religion brought us, and maybe there’s a chance Humanity can live in Peace with one another. Nobody was chosen by an imaginary Being to be Its favorite (which several different religions claim.) People who think differently should not be killed for those beliefs (which won’t kill the ideas, anyway) but should be shown in an intellectual manner why their reasoning is flawed. As Tarico points out, if War can be holy, anything can be. Blasphemy is as American as it gets in this country. Glorified Suffering is just masochism made holy. Genital Mutilation is never necessary, nor is it ever justifiable. Blood Sacrifice is just an excuse to kill. Hell is as ridiculous a concept as heaven, when you think about it. (Please do that. Think about it.) Karma is a pretty cynical concept, and a good excuse to do nothing. But if you believe Karma will get back the guy who did something horrible to little children, then you have to believe the kids he brutalized did something to deserve their fate. Are you sick? Eternal Life because Why Live For Today? Male Ownership of Female Fertility because deep down inside them, conservative men are afraid of women because the women might not give them sex if they had to give consent first. And worshiping books leads to censorship of books that don’t support the ones worshiped. None of these concepts is good for Humanity, and all of them are the result of Religion. Please, don’t try to tell me Religion is nothing but good. It is filled with horrible ideas, and the sooner we stop treating them as good ones, the sooner we’ll all be free.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Religion, Politics, the separation of the two, or anything else you wish to discuss.