Nice move (as defined by Qwest CEO)

Qwest CEO Dick Notebaert on net neutrality:

Competition is good, makes us better and makes us more creative. That's why when they talk about net neutrality, bad idea. Really silly. What we're talking about has no basis in anything. It's a nice move to make the consumer pay for everything.

Actually, Dick, "what we're talking about" has a firm basis in one very large thing: the free rider problem, and whether or not the internet is a public good (most non-CEO's believe that it is). This old Clinton-era Krugman essay features the most relevant quote:

The democratic process, the only decent way we know for deciding how that coercive power should be used, is itself subject to extremely severe free-rider problems. Rat-choice theorist Samuel Popkin writes (in his 1991 book, The Reasoning Voter): "Everybody's business is nobody's business. If everyone spends an additional hour evaluating the candidates, we all benefit from a better-informed electorate. If everyone but me spends the hour evaluating the candidates and I spend it choosing where to invest my savings, I will get a better return on my investments as well as a better government." As a result, the public at large is, entirely rationally, remarkably ill-informed about politics and policy. And that leaves the field open for special interests--which means people with a large stake in small issues--to buy policies that suit them.

For example, when the House Republicans get bought, then reject a net neutrality amendment.


Harris separates self from any chance of serving state

The ever headache inducing Kathllen Harris at her anti-historical best:

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws." The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage.

Or my favorite: Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers.

God, voters and people who aren't afraid to abuse the privilege of their elected offices.


How do you cope with a pay cut?

Northwest Airlines says: Try dumpster-diving! My favorite quote from their Preparing for a Financial Setback pamphlet (since removed from the layoff packet, after worker complaints) is this:

Start thinking about generating money by selling an asset. This can include everything from having a garage sale to selling stock (just beware of capital gains taxes for next year).

Right, just the thing a dumpster-diving airline worker fears most: capital gains taxes.


Same-sex couples gain pension protections

The Human Rights Campaign is celebrating two provisions of the new Federal Pension Protection Act, which President Bush signed into law last week. The two provisions will extend pension protections for same-sex couples (and other non-married beneficiaries) that were previously reserved for married couples only.

The first provision allows a surviving same-sex partner to transfer the deceased's retirement benefits into an IRA. Previously, non-legally married beneficiaries had to immediately withdraw all benefits in a lump sum payment and incur huge tax penalties.

The second provision allows same-sex couples to dip into retirement funds for qualifying medical or financial emergencies; previously, these funds could only be drawn down by spouses or employees' dependents.

It all sounded great until I read the White House's press release regarding the new law, after which I did grow a little squeamish. No mention of expanded protections for non-married beneficiaries and plenty about building a society of ownership and financial independence. Also, the new law will affect only those same-sex couples lucky enough to have access to retirement funds.

Still, as long as we're going to have pensions and IRAs and 401(k)s, this law is a great step towards bringing pension laws into the realm of fairness and equality. What's as important as the gains for GLBT Americans, though, is that the new law also applies to non-romantically linked beneficiaries -- which I see as part of a long, crucial struggle to divorce financial relationships from any form of sanctioned romantic ones.

Blair finally realizes nobody's home...

London's Daily Mail reports that Blair has had it with Bush:

"We all feel badly let down by Bush. We thought we had persuaded him to take the Israel-Palestine situation seriously, but we were wrong. How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?"

Good question, Tony. A little late, but still, good question.


Mark Kennedy 's CPA hole

Las Christmas Mark Kennedy was forced by the Minnesota Board of Accountancy to stop referring to himself as a CPA, because he his accreditation has expired. And there he goes again...gettin all truthy. Take a look at the close up of his affadavit.

Hat tip to Inside Minnesota Politcs for the skinny.


Judge to Bush: No kings in America

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor called a halt to the NSA's domestic spying program today. The decision is here.

It will be interesting to watch how steadfastly the President and Gonzalez and the various minions of authority completely ignore the constitution in their response to this. I expect a carefully orchestrated concert of euphimisms on the Sunday talkies. I expect that the concepts of "Doing what it takes to keep you safe," and "Terrorist Surveillance" will play heavily. I expect that some on the right will continue to call for the death of "liberals" with loose lips and have "fun" with the reporters that broke the story by calling them murderers. So let me get this straight, you guys want to keep me safe and kill me?

Don't think for a minute that this is about security. It isn't. It's about power. The administration could keep us just as safe by agressively working through FISA, or working to change the law to adapt to current events. But the authoritarian mindset resists transparency . Thankfully, as the good judge points out:

We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no power not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent power" must derive from that Constitution."

Our security depends most heavily on our understanding of the civil liberties granted us in our constitution. King George cannot keep us safe. President Bush might be able to.

Will it work again?

In the same vein as Mark's post below, take a look at Bill Clinton's blunt warning to Bush not to play politics with terror. This as Cheney is circulating the country shamelessly conflating Democrats (and democracy) with Al Qaeda. It is sickening to hear a sitting Vice President call the clear majority of Americans who disagree with the administration's approach to Iraq, essentially, terrorists. In one stroke, Cheney brought together the Lamont victory in Connecticut with Al Qaeda with the GOP's need to keep the population terrified in order to maintain power. Clinton rightly calls him to task for his libelous slurs.

Mark Kennedy is also engaged in this sleazy exercise. He has so blatantly repackaged himself as a moderate one has to wonder if he knows what the word "liar" means [Note: if you read John Dean's excellent new book, Conservatives Without Conscience you will discover that he probably doesn't]. Kennedy won't cross party lines with an actual bipartisan vote, but he'll do it to give his backhanded support to Cheney's Democrats-are-terrorists strategy by endorsing Lieberman.

In another masterpiece of doubleplusgood newspeak, the president denies playing politics with the London thing even as he relentlessly frames Democrats as decent people who want to cut and run. Which is another lie so obvious it would warrant a two-year old a lengthy time out. Dick Cheney and George Bush - go to your room this instant. Not anothe peep until you can tell the truth.

I hold out distant hope that the BushRoveCheney six-year hayride through a wonderland of dementia will be checked by a resounding rejection of their ends and their means come November. But they have played this same card before with great success. They have fooled us once. They are in the process of attempting to fool us twice. We will see after the election to whom the shame belongs.


Terrorism vs. Risk Analysis

Imagine Mr. Spock as both dance historian and political scientist, and you get John Mueller, whose essay A False Sense of Security? is one of the most sensible reactions to terrorism I've read in months (sponsored by the Cato Institute, no less!). It should be read by all who scratch their heads as airport queues grow, mouthwash samples get tossed into bins, and moms taste baby formula for TSA goons. Mueller's premise is as follows:

  • Assessed in broad but reasonable context, terrorism generally does not do much damage.
  • The costs of terrorism very often are the result of hasty, ill-considered, and overwrought reactions.

    He goes on with a rational analysis that follows the old flying-is-safer-than-driving argument: stats show that terrorism kills few, but spooks many. The conclusion is sensible: "Terrorists can be defeated simply by not being terrified -- that is, anything that enhances fear simply gives in to them." I would add that anything that enhances fear feeds the leathery Republican parasites, whose overreaching power has pissed off even the Cato Institute.

    In November, you should cast your vote with all of this in mind.

  • How Evolution Designs Intelligence

    Scientists find brain evolution gene

    Scientists believe they have found a key gene that helped the human brain evolve from our chimp-like ancestors. In just a few million years, one area of the human genome seems to have evolved about 70 times faster than the rest of our genetic code. It appears to have a role in a rapid tripling of the size of the brain's crucial cerebral cortex, according to an article published Thursday in the journal Nature.


    Iranian president has a blog

    Welcome to bizarro land...

    Mahmood Ahmadinejad has a blog. It's a pretty interesting, if tedious, read.

    Gates vs. Abstinence

    Bill and Melinda Gates keynoted the AIDS conference in Toronto. His speech is excerpted at the Guardian. I appreciate the way he framed Absitenence Education as a primary means of combating AIDS. That is, it is effective to a point, but falls woefully short of achieving medical and ethical objectives of saving lives:

    We need to put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women. This is true whether the woman is a faithful married mother of small children or a sex worker trying to scrape out a living in a slum. No matter where she lives or what she does, a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life


    No Endorsement for AG

    The DFL State Central Committee meets Saturday to endorse -- or not endorse -- a new candidate for Attorney General.

    I hope the SCC will vote for no endorsement. All the candidates will be on the ballot no matter what, and that only one candidate is actively seeking the endorsement.

    The DFL delegates already picked a candidate for AG at the State Convention. He turned out to be not such a good choice after all, but I don't think it's right for the SCC to make the choice in the name of all the delegates who will not get to decide the second time around.

    I don't have a preference in this race yet, but I think all the candidates are fine Democrats and would make a good AG.

    Finally, I think a contested primary is good for the candidates and good for the party. Just look at what's happening in the 5th District. Keith Ellison is running into some major kinks. If he gets them worked out, he'll deserve a seat in Congress. Let the best campaigner win.

    Oh -- and if you do endorse, do some background checks, for the Party's sake!

    (I have been taking a little break from political blogging. And now, I return to that break...


    Not that Ned Lamont can be compared with Cassius Clay, but...

    If Joe fought Ali. (via Triptych Cryptic)


    Have you had enough?

    A mighty fine song. Ricky Lee Jones sings it.


    Ho Hum, disagree with a war hero? Just say his medals are bogus. It's called Swiftboating.

    Jack Murtha came out against the stupidity that led us into war, the stupidity that keeps us in it and the obvious fact that the current leadership is incompetent.

    On July 10, the Patriot Project ran a nice piece on how the Republican Party and its talking media shills are Swiftboating Mr. Murtha. They have actually called his service record into question.

    Today they updated the story with the truly remarkable story that the Swiftboaters themselves have called a rally to oppose Murtha. Once again, they will gather together fabricate lies and twist the truth about another veteran.

    Nobody should be under any illusions about these people. I don't think most people are. They are there to take down Murtha in any way possible. But never fear. Eventually, the GOP's paid liars and venal tools will hollow out the heart of the party and leave it a worthless, paper tiger. It is impossible to win moral and intellectual fights by attacking people for reasons unrelated to the argument. It takes time for the authoritarian rush to wear off the conservative soul. When the Republican political officer's propophrases don't fix the order-junkies in the party anymore, when they continue to ask questions about a reality that only exists in the neocon dreamscape, when they finally take down black sheeting from the windows of the party, the GOP will be left with the same question that signaled the public devastation of Joe Mcarthy in his day: Have you no shame, sir?


    Sea-change for evangelical conservatives

    The pastor of a St. Paul mega church is featured in the New York Times today for breaking the evangelical teachings of Christ with conservative American politics.

    Rev. Boyd's message is encouraging. The fact that he lost a fifth of his congregation, and the backbone of the Sunday school for "...not supporting the Republican Way" is not.