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Hi-Speed Doublespeak

More than 20 states have telecom-sponsored laws on the books that prohibit local communities from building their own municipal high-speed internet networks. This despite the fact that these networks are wildly popular in communities that have them. In addition, communities that have installed their own high-speed internet networks have seen better than average population growth and a marked increase in the number of businesses relocating to and forming in their city.

Take the example of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which built their own gigabit internet service last year (and had 100 Mb/s service before that). Of course this service is popular — it provides internet more than 300 times faster, and cheaper, than AT&T’s antiquated DSL service, which is the only option for the areas surrounding Chattanooga. Well actually, most of the areas around Chattanooga don’t have any high-speed internet service at all, because AT&T (and Comcast, Verizon, Time-Warner, and other providers) aren’t interested. In fact, hundreds of cities in the US are already wired with high-speed fiber, but lobbying and non-compete agreements from telecom companies keeps it unused.

Chattanooga wants to provide high-speed internet to these surrounding areas, but state law prohibits them from doing that. A state law that was pushed through by the same telecoms who aren’t interested in providing service out there. Ironically, Chattanooga already provides phone service to those areas, but they are prohibited from providing internet service to the same areas.

Way back when, before our politicians were completely owned by huge monopolistic industries, we figured out that everyone deserved at least the right to buy phone service (and at reasonable prices no less!). But we haven’t yet figured out the same thing about internet service.

This is a huge problem. As Chattanooga’s internet provider puts it:

We believe that Internet access is the critical infrastructure for the 21st century. True broadband infrastructure provides access to information, jobs, and education and gives citizens and businesses the opportunity to fully participate in – and to lead – our emerging knowledge economy. Communities should have the right, at the local level, to determine their broadband futures.

Indeed, recognizing the importance of broadband Internet to the future of our country, Congress has specifically required the FCC to identify and remove barriers to the expansion of access to broadband Internet. And they are doing just that.

Or they were, until the GOP stepped in. Last week, House Republicans passed an amendment to a key appropriations bill that prohibits the FCC from helping communities establish their own municipal internet systems. Republicans claim they don’t want government (even local government) competing against industry, but most of these municipal networks are being built in areas where there is no high-speed internet access at all (and the rest of them in areas where the service is slow, unreliable, and expensive).

Is it any coincidence that the bill was introduced by Marsha Blackburn, a Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee? Blackburn opposes net neutrality, which she calls “socialistic”, is a strong critic of the FCC, and whose top campaign donors include telecoms that provide internet services.

So I guess in the world of Republican doublespeak, when they say they are in favor of “competition”, what they are really saying is that they are in favor of monopolies that give them campaign contributions.

Oh, and meanwhile telecoms like Verizon are deliberately clogging their broadband networks, slowing down content to their customers, so that they can charge more money. And then lying about it. Netflix even offered to pay the cost of new routers for Verizon (which would fix the problem) but Verizon refused. There is a word for that, and that word is “extortion”.


Rewriting History

I guess no lie is too big if it compares Saint Ronnie Reagan favorably to Obama.

And once again Jon Stewart proves that he is a better source of news than the worthless majority of our news media.


Late Night Political Humor

“To avoid being spied on by the NSA, Germany is considering using typewriters now to communicate so we can’t spy on them. Germany says they may even go further back and start using AOL accounts.” – Conan O’Brien

“Congratulations to Germany! They have now won four World Cup soccer championships. But – they are still O for 2 in world wars.” – David Letterman

“So the old Pope from Germany and the present Pope from Argentina got together at the Vatican and watched the World Cup together. We even have the footage – they’re praying over a pizza.” – David Letterman

“Pope Francis is considering repealing celibacy for priests. Priests will no longer have to take a vow of celibacy. See what you can accomplish when you don’t have Congress standing in your way?” – David Letterman

“The border crisis continues. And a new poll shows the majority of Americans disapprove of how President Obama is dealing with immigration. Of course, those numbers could change if he lets more people into America.” – Seth Meyers

“They want to make it so the president can instantly interrupt TV broadcasts whenever there’s breaking news. Then Obama said, ‘And I mean REAL breaking news, not that CNN stuff.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“This crazy weather we’ve been having all over the country — it’s because the polar vortex is back. The polar vortex is causing the Midwest to experience fall-like temperatures. I can’t tell if climate change is still a problem or if God just put the Earth on ‘Shuffle’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“And maybe that’s why the FCC just announced that it wants to overhaul the Emergency Alert System so President Obama would be able to interrupt any TV broadcast and address the country instantly. Which of course raises the question: He can’t do that ALREADY?” – Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new study, one in four Americans admits to not exercising at all. As a result, one in four Americans is actually TWO in four Americans.” – Seth Meyers


Gimme that New Time Religion!

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

You have to have faith in the holy trinity of CEO, board of directors, and shareholders.

Our CEO who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy customers come,
thy will be done,
in the sales room,
as it is in the board room.
Give us this day our daily tax break,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive those who buy on credit,
and lead us not into regulation,
but deliver us from government.
For thine is the corporation,
and the power, and the money,
for ever and ever.


Legalize Vice!

Once upon a time we tried to make drinking alcohol illegal. We all know how that turned out. And finally (after WAY too long) states are starting to make recreational use of marijuana legal, with promising results.

Likewise, we finally eliminated laws against gay sex, and the world didn’t end. In fact, we took the next step and started giving civil rights to gays, including the right to get married.

It seems like attempts to legislate morality, in particular by creating “victimless crimes” is not only doomed to failure, it is pretty stupid. This is one area where I completely agree with libertarians.

And now, there is a stunning new study out from Baylor University about an accidental experiment in legalizing prostitution.

In 1980, Rhode Island updated their state law for prostitution. They didn’t realize it at the time, but they accidentally made prostitution legal by deleting a paragraph of the law by mistake. However, things like pimping and streetwalking were still illegal, so nobody noticed the change until the Internet gave prostitutes a new way to find customers without standing on street corners.

In 2003, police closed down two spas for prostitution, but when the case went to trial the judge ruled that they couldn’t convict the prostitutes of streetwalking because they were staying off the street. Prostitution remained legal in Rhode Island until 2009, when legislators finally revised the law to make it illegal again.

Which gave researchers an opportunity to study the effects of prostitution becoming legal in their state. What they found was extremely interesting: the statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women in the state (not just prostitutes) went down by 39%. Even more fascinating, the number of rapes reported to the police declined by 31%. That’s a very significant decline in a violent crime.

The decline in the number of rapes was so large that Cunningham and Shah felt obliged to examine their data with three separate statistical methods, but the effect persisted. The authors were eventually persuaded that their result was not a fluke, and that imposing criminal sanctions on prostitutes and their clients might cause violence against women. “The human costs are so big, if this is in fact a very real causal effect,” Cunningham said. “I think we have convinced ourselves that we have done everything we can do rule out alternative explanations.”

This is just one study, so sweeping generalizations are premature, but further research is definitely warranted.

The Puritans who helped found this country were against dancing, but we soon got over that. With these new changes, maybe “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” should become our new political slogan. In fact, there was even a study done about that!


Late Night Political Humor

“Yesterday was the big World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. And if you caught only the last couple of minutes of the game, don’t worry – you saw the whole thing.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Well, it was an amazing weekend in sports. LeBron went back to being a Cavalier, Carmelo went back to being a Knicks, and soccer went back to being a thing you drive your kids to.” – Seth Meyers

“The World Cup is finally over. In other words, bars are about to start showing sports that make sense again.” – Jimmy Fallon

“During yesterday’s World Cup final, a guy ran onto the field with the phrase ‘natural born prankster’ written on his chest — because nothing says good clean fun like spending the night in a Brazilian prison.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Congratulations, my German friends. They are World Cup champions. People in Germany were going nuts, firing guns into the air, marching up and down the streets. Then they heard about the World Cup win.” – Craig Ferguson

“Germans haven’t been this excited since the release of the last David Hasselhoff album. They haven’t been this excited since Oktoberfest included an all-you-can-eat wiener buffet.” – Craig Ferguson

“Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 to win the World Cup. German fans went absolutely crazy from 9:00 until 9:15.” – Seth Meyers

“People in Germany went bonkers. Rumor has it that up to half a dozen Germans actually cracked a smile.” – Craig Ferguson

“Germany is your World Cup champions, ladies and gentlemen. The winning German soccer team received a congratulatory phone call from Angela Merkel. Of course we know this because we’re still bugging her phone.” – David Letterman

“Germany won the World Cup, but they’re still mad at us for spying on them. So they’re considering going back to using typewriters to avoid being spied on. It’s never good news when Germany says they’re going to go back to their old ways.” – Conan O’Brien

“Brazil’s coach resigned following the country’s historic 7-1 loss in the World Cup last week. He says he wants to spend more time focusing on not being murdered.” – Seth Meyers

“While he was in Cuba this weekend, Vladimir Putin met with Fidel Castro and promised to revive Cuba’s oil industry. Not to be confused with the other thing Cuba’s always having to revive: Fidel Castro.” – Jimmy Fallon


Fracking and Earthquakes

States that are using the recently popular technique of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) are seeing a dramatic increase in earthquake activity.

How dramatic?

From 1978 to 2008, Oklahoma was struck with an average of two quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater.
In the time period, June 2009 to June 19, 2014, there were 207 such quakes recorded in the state, the USGS said.

The increase began five years ago when 20 quakes of 3.0 magnitude or higher occurred, followed by 43 the next year and increasing every year except for 2012.

This corresponds with the beginning of fracking in the state.

Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than California.

Talk about a smoking gun…


Late Night Political Humor

“Yesterday Rick Perry told President Obama to go to the US-Mexico border and see the immigration crisis firsthand because Americans expect to see their president when there is a disaster. Which is why today Obama showed up in Miami.” – Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new study, the largest producer of oil is now the United States. So you know what that means – any day now we’ll be invading ourselves.” – David Letterman

“Argentina beat Holland in the World Cup semifinals yesterday and now Argentina will face Germany in the World Cup Finals. Argentina versus Germany. And if you don’t know who to root for, imagine how elderly Nazis feel.” – Seth Meyers

“Two teams are left in the World Cup. Yesterday Argentina beat the Netherlands on penalty kicks after both teams went scoreless. That’s right, the game was decided by penalty kicks. People hadn’t seen that many kicks since Beyoncé’s sister got into an elevator with Jay-Z.” – Jimmy Fallon

“North Korea is negotiating to broadcast the Teletubbies. They have to make changes for North Korean TV. For starters, every episode will end with one of the Teletubbies being executed.” – Craig Ferguson

“And, of course, every Teletubby will have Kim Jong Un’s haircut.” – Craig Ferguson

“The Republican National Convention is going to be held in 2016 in Cleveland. They outbid New York City. Cleveland beat New York City. And I’m thinking to myself: Wait a minute, this is not right. Hookers and bribes don’t work anymore? What is the problem?” – David Letterman

“Today, our show got nominated for six Emmy Awards! And if we win for best show, I promised to give the Emmy to my parents. And if we win for best writing, I promised to give the Emmy to Rob Ford. He wrote half our monologues.” – Jimmy Fallon

“On this date in 1804, Aaron Burr had a duel with Vice President Alexander Hamilton. Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton and got off scot-free. Later he was convicted for stealing sports memorabilia.” – David Letterman


Huddled Masses … of Children?

An amazing hypocritical display of stupid, from our (dare I say “racist”?) politicians. And Jon Stewart doesn’t even go after the easy targets, like Michele Bachmann (who compared immigrant children to rapists), or these protestors who want land mine fields at the borders.

I love it when they try to blame it on Obama, when in fact a major cause of this problem is a law signed by none other than Dubya.


John Oliver Explains the Wealth Gap

The defining challenge of our time and fundamental threat to our way of life, or class warfare?

In particular, I’m always amazed when people complain about inheritance taxes, when in fact they have already been all but abolished. Heck, I believe inheritance taxes should be increased dramatically. If ten million dollars tax free isn’t enough for your children, then there is something dramatically wrong with your parenting skills.

Indeed, research has shown that high income inequality causes problems for the rich too, lowering their health, life expectancy, and happiness. Despite what we seem to believe, money is not a zero-sum game. Once upon a time we had a prosperous middle class and everyone did better — demonstrating that while trickle-down economics failed miserably, trickle-up economics works great.

I’m not talking about wealth redistribution or rampant welfare, I’m talking about leveling the playing field so that the American dream – that if you work hard you have a fair chance to succeed – is actually true (rather than a hollow sham).


Late Night Political Humor

“Welcome to the Tonight Show. I’m Jimmy Fallon – and in the time it took me to say that, Germany scored five more goals against Brazil.” – Jimmy Fallon

“At the World Cup, Germany defeated Brazil 7-1. Germany really mauled Brazil. In fact, Angela Merkel scored two goals.” – David Letterman

“There was a huge blowout at the World Cup yesterday when Germany beat Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals. It got so bad that the refs told Brazil, ‘You know what? Go ahead and use your hands.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday, Brazil lost to Germany in the World Cup semifinals by a score of 7 to 1. People in Brazil were so upset that they partied only until 3 in the morning.” – Seth Meyers

“Germany was really excited about the World Cup win. When asked what they’re going to do next, Germany said, ‘We’re going to invade Disney World!’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Germany took care of Brazil. Now it’s on to Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.” – David Letterman

“According to a new report from BP, the earth will run out of oil in 53 years. Luckily, thanks to BP, the ocean will still have plenty.” – Seth Meyers


More Honest Political Ads

These are brilliant:

You can contribute here. And speaking of honesty, be sure to read about the benefits you get for your contribution.

And these aren’t the only guys out there fighting political corruption. Be sure to check out the Mayday Super PAC, whose goal is eliminate Super PACS (including their own). Irony!


Just the Place to Go!

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

I love Tom Tomorrow’s ability to point out the ridiculous nature of our situation. Just why is it that corporation that (may or may not) employ us are responsible for our health? And how do these corporations hold religious beliefs? And how the Supreme Court can use legal phrases like “sincerely held religious beliefs” with a straight face? Aren’t we supposed to be guaranteed the separation of church and state?


Visualizing Net Neutrality

Econonomixcomix has an excellent explanation of Net Neutrality in comic book form. Go read it!


An Honest Politician

At last, a completely honest politician. But you might be surprised by what he is saying:

And he’s being funded by an IndieGoGo campaign.