Daily Archive: 02/13/2013

Feb 13 2013

The High Cost For Bad Internet Connection In The US

Recently the Federal Communications Commission announced that it wanted to create a free super Wi-Fi network across the country, virtually eliminating a monthly internet bill.  Naturally, the telecommunication giants and the lawmakers in Congress who protect them are opposed.  In Europe, internet users enjoy inexpensive, high speed access to a broadband, phone, and cable TV package for as little as $40 a month.  The phone service has unlimited local calling and a lot of free international calls.

Bloomberg View contributor and  visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School, Susan Crawford notes that Americans pay a high price for slow and bad internet connections at a time when “the internet has taken the place of the telephone as the world’s basic, general-purpose, two-way communication medium“.  In the article, she describes how a city in Louisiana brought cheaper, high speed internet to its community despite opposition from the telephone and local cable companies:

Terry Huval is a large, friendly man with a lilting Southern accent who plays Cajun fiddle tunes in his spare time. He is also the director of utilities in Lafayette, Louisiana. “Our job is making sure we listen to our citizens,” he says.

In 2004, the Lafayette utilities system decided to provide a fiber-to-the-home service. The new network, called LUS Fiber, would give everyone in Lafayette a very fast Internet connection, enabling them to lower their electricity costs by monitoring and adjusting their usage.

Push-back from the local telephone company, BellSouth Corp., and the local cable company, Cox Communications Inc., was immediate. They tried to get laws passed to stop the network, sued the city, even forced the town to hold a referendum on the project — in which the people voted 62 percent in favor. Finally, in February 2007, after five civil lawsuits, the Louisiana Supreme Court voted, 7-0, to allow the network.

From 2007 to mid-2011, people living in Lafayette saved $5.7 million on telecommunications services.

Prof. Crawford joined Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company to discuss why U.S. internet access is slow, costly and unfair

Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation, and author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, joins Bill to discuss how our government has allowed a few powerful media conglomerates to put profit ahead of the public interest – rigging the rules, raising prices, and stifling competition. As a result, Crawford says, all of us are at the mercy of the biggest business monopoly since Standard Oil in the first Gilded Age a hundred years ago.

“The rich are getting gouged, the poor are very often left out, and this means that we’re creating, yet again, two Americas, and deepening inequality through this communications inequality,” Crawford tells Bill.

Feb 13 2013

The Real SOTU: The White House Subverting the Rule of Law

Subverting the rule of law? How dare I? Well the 4th amendment, due process, kill lists, and the NDAA also speak to my title. Yes, they speak to it despite those that decided politicians were more important than the principles they pretended to have in 2004 now outed as hypocrites mostly. However, that being said, I’m talking about subverting the rule of law in a different way but equally as damaging on the economic front.

After all, it was at the SOTU merely just a year ago that President Obama assured us that something was going to be done about the Wall St. perpetrators of our mortgage and foreclosure crisis. This was a crisis in which they defrauded consumers with sub-prime NINJA loans pumping up the housing bubble and then dumping the private debt overhang onto the economy destroying over 10 trillion in housing wealth. This left consumers with massive loads of private debt and everyone else jobless like this recovery.

This White House’s DOJ has made a complete mockery of the concept of Justice in and of itself. That illusion of Justice is perpetuated to this day and normal people are devastated because of it. Let President Obama know you are not amused. I have.

Feb 13 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Marcy Wheeler, aka emptywheel: Innocent Until Proven Guilty; Imminent Until Proven – Too Late!

Those defending the language on imminence in the white paper released last week are right on one count: it is not new language. Below the fold, I’ve excerpted the language on imminence from three different formulations on imminence – Brennan’s speech at Harvard, the white paper, and Holder’s Northwestern speech – to show the consistency (and also, with John Brennan’s September 16, 2011 speech, exactly two weeks to Anwar al-Awlaki notice that this was now US policy). [..]

It’s telling not because it introduces wholesale new ideas. But because it makes clear what is implicit – but unstated – in the three other formulations.

A person who poses an imminent threat does not have to have committed any crime in the past. Imminence is exclusively about the future possibility of violence, not necessarily past involvement in it.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Stop coddling the big banks

George Will and I don’t agree on much. We’ve shared many a spirited debate over the years on ABC’s “This Week.” But on one of the key issues of our time – how to save our economy and our democracy from the reign of the big banks – it’s time for the Obama administration to listen to George Will.

In his Sunday column, “A badly needed breakup,” Will makes the conservative case for a common-sense principle: financial institutions that are Too Big to Fail are also Too Big to Exist. Will’s full-throated call to arms is welcome, and his conclusion echoes that of countless occupiers, tea partiers, and Americans of all stripes. Here’s hoping, for the sake of the republic, that Will can bring more of his fellow conservatives along with him.

Ruth Coniff: Voting Rights Under Attack

In an incendiary new report, “Rig the Vote: How a National Effort to Attack Voting Rights Landed in Wisconsin“, the Center for Media and Democracy and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund show how Republicans and rightwing groups across the country are working to undermine elections and ensure a Republican lock on electoral college votes in states that have historically voted Democratic.

Among the nefarious vote-rigging efforts explored in the report: Republicans hope to take their gerrymandered redistricting plans nationwide–changing the rules so that electoral votes in swing states are awarded based on Congressional districts, not popular vote totals.

This could guarantee that Republican candidates like Mitt Romney, even as they lose the popular vote, get enough electoral votes to become President against the will of the majority of American voters.

Marion Brady: A Real Paradigm Shift in Education

I envy Thomas Paine’s way with language. I’ve been searching for years for words that would have the impact of those he penned in his 1776 pamphlet, “The Crisis.”

Admittedly, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and the words that followed, weren’t a howling success. Only about a third of the colonists agreed with Paine’s call for revolution. Another third wanted to stick with England. The remaining third were neutral or apathetic.

What Paine was able to do that I can’t do is sell an idea to at least enough people to make something happen. I need to convince not a third of readers but, say, a tenth, to call their legislators and tell them to dismantle the education “reform” machine assembled in Washington by business leaders and politicians.

Kimberly Halkett: US Food Industry Battles Against Regulation

Why are Americans getting fatter, and who’s to blame? It’s a question members of the US Congress need to be asking.

Like the war on tobacco decades ago, the US is now fighting a new battle on obesity. On one side are US public health officials advocating for their government to put in place better nutrition policies. But those efforts have met stiff resistance, in part because the $1 trillion US food and beverage industry is fighting regulation with a powerful weapon: its deep pockets.

It’s no secret the standard American diet is relatively inexpensive, convenient and satisfying. Whether it’s highly marketed fast food or highly processed, packaged foods in the supermarket, what Americans eat has changed dramatically over decades.

Donna Smith: Churning Isn’t Just for Butter Anymore

It isn’t often anymore that I learn a new word in the health care system discussion, but this week I did.  Churning.  I was at a meeting here in Colorado where I have taken on a new role in advocating and administering for a publicly financed, universal, single-payer system with Health Care for All Colorado.  And the definition of churning I learned is a sad commentary on a system that still allows access to care based on inequality of coverage that leaves so many people suffering and tens of thousands dying in America every year.

Churning is the policy wonk term for those who qualify and are covered by a public program like Medicaid and who then have access to a private insurance plan through a new job that offers it or through a family member’s coverage but who then lose that coverage and end up back on the public insurance for which they qualify.  They churn.  And they suffer.

Feb 13 2013

On This Day In History February 13

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 13 is the 44th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 321 days remaining until the end of the year (322 in leap years).

On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642.

Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642), commonly known as Galileo, was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of science”, and “the Father of Modern Science”. Stephen Hawking says, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.”

The motion of uniformly accelerated objects, taught in nearly all high school and introductory college physics courses, was studied by Galileo as the subject of kinematics. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour), and the observation and analysis of sunspots. Galileo also worked in applied science and technology, inventing an improved military compass and other instruments.

Galileo’s championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime, when a large majority of philosophers and astronomers still subscribed to the geocentric view that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. After 1610, when he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615. In February 1616, although he had been cleared of any offence, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture”, and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it-which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Feb 13 2013

SOTU: One Year Ago (Up Date)

Last night President Barack Obama gave the annual State of the Union address before the nation and a joint session of Congress. He made a lofty speech outlining his plan for the nation over the next year, most of which are highly unlikely to come to fruition due to the intransigence of the Republican held House. Will any of this be remembered in a month? Or, for that matter, next year? Does anyone remember the promises and goals from last year’s SOTU? I doubt anyone remembers this:

EXCLUSIVE: Obama To Announce Mortgage Crisis Unit Chaired By New York Attorney General Schneiderman

by Sam Stein, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — During his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama will announce the creation of a special unit to investigate misconduct and illegalities that contributed to both the financial collapse and the mortgage crisis.

The office, part of a new Unit on Mortgage Origination and Securitization Abuses, will be chaired by Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, according to a White House official.

Schneiderman is an increasingly beloved figure among progressives for his criticism of a proposed settlement between the 50 state attorneys general and the five largest banks. His presence atop this new special unit could give it immediate legitimacy among those who have criticized the president for being too hesitant in going after the banks and resolving the mortgage crisis. He will be in attendance at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

Ahh! Now, you remember that. Whatever happened to the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group? Apparently not much.

Obama’s Mortgage Crisis Working Group Falls Short Of Billing

by Sam stein and Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post

A year later, progressives said they consider the panel a disappointment and, possibly, a diversion to placate Schneiderman and homeowner advocates. The Justice Department said it doesn’t know what the fuss is about.

“You described it as a unit that was announced to great fanfare,” said Tony West, the number three man in the Justice Department, in an interview. “A lot of people have the misimpression that this is some type of prosecutorial department that was set up. What the working group is is exactly that. It is part of the financial fraud enforcement task force. It doesn’t stand alone.” [..]

Schneiderman’s working group, critics said, has not lived up to that billing. [..]

According to those involved in putting together cases, officials at the SEC were naturally disposed to striking quick settlements rather than carrying out long-term investigations. The Justice Department, meanwhile, was worried about shaking a recovering housing market and fragile banks.

(Mike) Lux, in particular, pointed an accusatory finger at working group co-chairman Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, who has said he will leave his post next month. [..]

Whether driven by Breuer’s presence or not, the working group suffered from what the high-level source called “leaked leverage.” With different actors wanting slightly different outcomes, it closed cases that may have potentially been made bigger. Among those cited include one last month, when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve reached a $8.5 settlement with 10 U.S. banks on charges of foreclosure abuses.

Stein and Grim state that ‘progressives interviewed for this story who know and like Schneiderman offered the same conclusion: He got played.” Former blogger for FDL, David Dayen disagrees:

I agree with David, Mr. Schneiderman’s settlement with banks here in New York have been disappointing, to say the least. He is not some naive neophyte. He knew precisely what he was signing up for when he was offered the position with this group.

Up Date: 18:12 EST 2.13.13: From David Dayen at Salon:

Wall Street wins again

The secret truth: There never was a “task force” dedicated to ferreting out mortgage fraud

This is the key point.  There are no offices, no phones and no staff dedicated to the non-task force.  Two of the five co-chairs have left government.  What “investigators” there are from the task force are nothing more than liaisons to the independent agencies doing their own independent investigations.  In the rare event that these agencies file an actual lawsuit or enforcement action, the un-task force merely puts out a statement taking credit for it.  Take a look at this in action at the website for the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, the federal umbrella group “investigating” financial fraud.  It’s little more than a press release factory, and no indictment, conviction or settlement is too small.  The site takes credit for cracking down on Ponzi schemes, insider trading, tax evasion, racketeering, violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (!) and a host of other crimes that have precisely nothing to do with the financial crisis.  To call this a publicity stunt is an insult to publicity stunts. [..]

Maybe these groups who claim to be interested in accountability should have recognized the value of what pressured the White House to set up the diversionary tactic of a task force in the first place: public shaming.  Last month’s Frontline documentary “The Untouchables” has had arguably more of an impact on reviving moribund financial fraud cases than anything else.  Within a couple of weeks of its premiere, the head of the criminal enforcement division, Lanny Breuer, announced he would step down.  Then, DoJ suddenly decided to sue credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s over its conflict of interest in rating clearly fraudulent securities as safe assets, a case it had been investigating for two years.  You can view this as an accident of timing; it seems more like a direct response.  Shaming has done far more than a pretend task force, though that’s admittedly a low bar.  You would think outside pressure groups would have recognized the virtue of outside pressure instead of trying to play an inside game.

h/t priceman

 

Feb 13 2013

NDAA: Killing the Democratic State

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Truthdig columnist, Chis Hedges, along with six other journalists and activists filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration  over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Last Wednesday they were back in Federal Court in Manhattan for a hearing before three judges:

Attorney Bruce Afran, addressing press and gathered activists in an icy downtown Manhattan plaza Wednesday, said the three-judge panel today challenged the government to prove that the NDAA provision is nothing more than an “affirmation” of the laws regarding indefinite detention already established by Authorization for Use of Military Force. According to the DoJ, the NDAA provision is nothing new, but simply a codification of AUMF. The plaintiffs and their supporters vehemently disagree, as did Judge Forrest last year. Afran stressed again Sunday that 1021(b)(2) “broadens the power of the military” when it comes to the capture and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens and as such “breaches the constitutional barrier between civilians and the military” and constitutes a significant extension of the military state beyond the powers given by AUMF.

Mr. Hedges explains the consequences for the nation and the democratic state should they lose this case:

If we lose in Hedges v. Obama – and it seems certain that no matter the outcome of the appeal this case will reach the Supreme Court – electoral politics and our rights as citizens will be as empty as those of Nero’s Rome. If we lose, the power of the military to detain citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military prisons will become a terrifying reality. Democrat or Republican. Occupy activist or libertarian. Socialist or tea party stalwart. It does not matter. This is not a partisan fight. Once the state seizes this unchecked power, it will inevitably create a secret, lawless world of indiscriminate violence, terror and gulags. I lived under several military dictatorships during the two decades I was a foreign correspondent. I know the beast. [..]

Five thousand years of human civilization has left behind innumerable ruins to remind us that the grand structures and complex societies we build, and foolishly venerate as immortal, crumble into dust. It is the descent that matters now. If the corporate state is handed the tools, as under Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, to use deadly force and military power to criminalize dissent, then our decline will be one of repression, blood and suffering. No one, not least our corporate overlords, believes that our material conditions will improve with the impending collapse of globalization, the steady deterioration of the global economy, the decline of natural resources and the looming catastrophes of climate change.

But the global corporatists-who have created a new species of totalitarianism-demand, during our decay, total power to extract the last vestiges of profit from a degraded ecosystem and disempowered citizenry. The looming dystopia is visible in the skies of blighted postindustrial cities such as Flint, Mich., where drones circle like mechanical vultures. And in an era where the executive branch can draw up secret kill lists that include U.S. citizens, it would be naive to believe these domestic drones will remain unarmed. [..]

After the hearing, Mr Hedges, along with three of his co-plaintiffs, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg; Revolution Truth Executive Director Tangerine Bolen; journalist and U.S Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien; and Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal, and their attorneys, Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran, sat down to discuss the state of the lawsuit. The discussion was moderated by Natasha Lennard of Salon and Matt Sledge of The Huffington Post.

In a second panel to “discuss the broader context of the case,” Mr. Hedges, Mr. Ellsberg and Ms. Bolen were joined by film maker and activist Michael Moore, NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, an attorney for CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou and a director of the Government Accountability Project.

Feb 13 2013

State of the Union Open Thread

To tell you the truth, I don’t know why anyone is watching the Washington (Hollywood for the Ugly) Oscars when there are cute doggies on display.

Maybe you just hate dogs.

In any event you will hope (foolishly and in vain) that they don’t say anything too destructive, evil, and stupid.

The space below is provided so you don’t have to kill any more Chinese Walmart slaves through damaging your TV during any of the more egregiously wrong-headed and mendacious moments by venting your frustration in soothing pixels of insight instead of poorly aimed remotes.

Or, you know, kicking your dog.

Feb 13 2013

Live Steam: 2013 State of the Union & Your Guide to Not Watching

Tonight President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress as prescribed by the Constitution. If you prefer not to watch, you can join is for the live blog of the 2013 Westminster American Kennel Club Dog Show that starts at the same time. For those who still want to know what the president says, here is a guide of this year’s SOTU provided by Slate‘s David Weigel so you don’t have to watch:

The State of the Union is the most predictable, rote, pointless exercise of pomp in American politics. That’s good news for you. The pre-speech period, roughly 24 to 48 hours of spin and leaks, spoils the policy details that’ll be remembered when the speech is complete. (I say “policy” because they obviously can’t predict which lawmakers’ eye-rolls will make the Top 10 .gif lists.)

Based on my own close reading of this stuff, here’s what will be happening in the House of Representatives tonight.

Obama blames Republicans for things Republicans actually did, which will be seen as unfair. [..]

Republicans ask why Obama’s still not endorsing their bills. [..]

An emotional appeal on gun rights grips America. [..]

Republicans accuse Obama of ignoring the debt, while basically agreeing with his approach to it. [..]

Obama tells a horrendous, sub-Tosh.0 quality joke.

Now for your entertainment, or not, the President of the United States.

ek hornbeck says:

To tell you the truth, I don’t know why anyone is watching the Washington (Hollywood for the Ugly) Oscars when there are cute doggies on display.

Maybe you just hate dogs.

In any event you will hope (foolishly and in vain) that they don’t say anything too destructive, evil, and stupid.

The space below is provided so you don’t have to kill any more Chinese Walmart slaves through damaging your TV during any of the more egregiously wrong-headed and mendacious moments by venting your frustration in soothing pixels of insight instead of poorly aimed remotes.

Or, you know, kicking your dog.

Feb 13 2013

The 137th Westminster Kennel Club Show: Day Two

Tonight’s event is the last of 2 days of judging and includes 3 Group Finals and Best in Show.

Last night’s results-

It is broadcast live on USA starting at 8 pm with a repeat at 8 am.

Some links-

One of two new breeds this year, the (Jack) Russell Terrier, makes it’s debut tonight in the Terrier Group.

The Group Finals tonight are-

Sporting
Brittany Setter (English) Spaniel (English Cocker)
Pointer Setter (Gordon) Spaniel (English Springer)
Pointer (German Shorthaired) Setter (Irish) Spaniel (Field)
Pointer (German Wirehaired) Setter (Irish Red and White) Spaniel (Irish Water)
Retriever (Chesapeake Bay) Spaniel (American Water) Spaniel (Sussex)
Retriever (Curly-Coated) Spaniel (Boykin) Spaniel (Welsh Springer)
Retriever (Flat-Coated) Spaniel (Clumber) Spinone Italiano
Retriever (Golden) Spaniel (Cocker) A.S.C.O.B. Vizsla
Retriever (Labrador) Spaniel (Cocker) Black Weimaraner
Retriever (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling) Spaniel (Cocker) Parti-Color Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Working
Akita German Pinscher Newfoundland
Alaskan Malamute Giant Schnauzer Portuguese Water Dog
Anatolian Shepherd Dog Great Dane Rottweiler
Bernese Mountain Dog Great Pyrenees Samoyed
Black Russian Terrier Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Siberian Husky
Boxer Komondor St Bernard
Bullmastiff Kuvasz Standard Schnauzer
Cane Corso Leonberger Tibetan Mastiff
Doberman Pinscher Mastiff
Dogue de Bordeaux Neapolitan Mastiff
Terrier
Airedale Terrier Fox Terrier (Smooth) Norwich Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier Fox Terrier (Wire) Parson Russell Terrier
Australian Terrier Glen of Imaal Terrier Russell Terrier
Bedlington Terrier Irish Terrier Scottish Terrier
Border Terrier Kerry Blue Terrier Sealyham Terrier
Bull Terrier (Colored) Lakeland Terrier Skye Terrier
Bull Terrier (White) Manchester Terrier (Standard) Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Cairn Terrier Miniature Bull Terrier Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Cesky Terrier (new for 2012) Miniature Schnauzer Welsh Terrier
Dandie Dinmont Terrier Norfolk Terrier West Highland White Terrier