Cities joining to offer quality, affordable broadband — pissing off today’s FCC!

❝ This is a story that defies two strongly held beliefs. The first—embraced fervently by today’s FCC — is that the private marketplace is delivering world-class internet access infrastructure at low prices to all Americans, particularly in urban areas. The second is that cities are so busy competing that they are incapable of cooperating with one another, particularly when they have little in common save proximity.

❝ These two beliefs aren’t necessarily true. Right now, the 16 very different cities that make up the South Bay region of Southern California have gotten fed up with their internet access situation: They’re paying too much for too little. So they are working together to collectively lower the amounts they pay for city communications by at least a third. It’s the first step along a path that, ultimately, will bring far cheaper internet access services to the 1.1 million people who live in the region.

Maybe cities can cooperate and save money without compromising their local autonomy. At this same moment, though, the FCC is on a march to smother local authority by blocking states from regulating any aspect of broadband service, supporting states that have raised barriers to municipal networks, deregulating pricing for lines running between cities, and removing local control over rights-of-way that could be used to bring cheaper access into town…the FCC would like to bar other regions from acting in just this kind of sensible way.

The FCC has never been allowed much freedom to aid advocates of modern tech. Overlap of interests doesn’t signify choice. With a reactionary creep in the White House, options narrowed a lot more. Just another good reason to fight hard enough to elect alternatives that are competent technically, moderate or better, politically…and keep on trying for better.

The Fake President is starting to lie about the lies he lied about before

❝ President Trump is running out of things to lie about, so now he’s getting around to lying about the lies he lied about before.

This was the inevitable result of his ever-increasing rate of lying. When you have blanketed the earth with an unbroken surface of lies, covering every subject, you have no choice but to start a second layer contradicting the first. This, of course, makes the proof of lying rather simple. All you need to do is place two contradictory Trump statements side by side, and one of them has to be a lie. Alas, it does not make the job of fact-checking any easier, as the accumulating sticky goo of lies atop lies makes penetration with a shovel problematic at best.

This, of course, is the point of nonstop lying.

The Republican Party has surpassed any previous lead the Democrats had in opportunism. From gerrymandered electoral districts to bald-faced lies [from their own spokespeople] defending the White House flavor of lies, they are committed to the Fake President as their last best chance to maintain control of our government. Sharing their allegiance between corporate greed and the bigotry and racism of “the base”.

It’s Time to Audit the Pentagon – And Congress will let it slide, again


Pogo

❝ In 1994 Congress passed legislation requiring every federal agency to be auditable. Since then every agency has complied — except for the Department of Defense.

❝ “We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty,” Chairs John McCain and Mac Thornberry of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, respectively, said recently in a joint statement. “The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.”

Increasing Pentagon spending under these circumstances is the opposite of fiscal responsibility. In fact, giving the Pentagon $54 billion and finding out why later is bad budgeting.

Both the Republican and Democratic party platforms included the need to audit the Pentagon, and Congress should resist calls to give more money to an agency they know to be irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when sufficient members of Congress grow enough bony matter reinforcing their spineless lives – and challenge Pentagon incompetence, thievery and collusion in theft from American taxpayers.

The crooks who would cause the financial crisis again – for the sake of ideology


Phil Gramm, the ideological creep-in-chiefDouglas Graham/Roll Call

Many elected or appointed officials have a specific belief system that they act upon in the implementation of policies. When the policies that flow from those beliefs go terribly wrong, it is natural to want to learn why. As is so often the case, that underlying ideology is usually a good place to begin looking.

In the aftermath of the great credit crisis, we have seen all manner of contrition from responsible parties. Most notably, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted error, saying as much in Congressional testimony. Greenspan was unintentionally ironic when he answered a question about whether ideology led him down the wrong path when it came to preventing irresponsible lending practices in subprime mortgages: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.”

Other contributors to the crisis have been similarly humbled. In “Bailout Nation,” I held former President Bill Clinton, and his two Treasury secretaries, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, responsible for signing the ruinous Commodity Futures Modernization Act that exempted derivatives from regulation and oversight. The CFMA was passed as part of a larger bill by unanimous consent, and that Clinton signed on Dec. 21, 2000. Clinton joined Greenspan in admitting his contribution to the credit crisis, as well as saying the advice he received from his Treasury secretaries — Rubin and Summers — was wrong.

The CFMA removed the standard regulations that all other financial instruments follow: reserve requirements, counter-party disclosures and exchange listings…

The exception to any post-crisis self-reflection is former Senator Phil Gramm. Although he was one of the chief architects of the radical gutting of financial regulations and oversight rules during the two decades that preceded the financial crisis, the former senator remains a stubborn believer that banks and markets can regulate themselves.

Perhaps more than anyone else, Gramm drove the legislation that allowed banks to get much bigger and derivatives to run wild. His name is on the law — the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 — that overturned the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era law that forced commercial banks to get out of the risky investment-banking business…

He led the effort to block measures curtailing deceptive or predatory lending, which was just beginning to result in a jump in home foreclosures that would undermine the financial markets. He advanced legislation that fractured oversight of Wall Street while knocking down Depression-era barriers that restricted the rise and reach of financial conglomerates.

And he pushed through a provision that ensured virtually no regulation of the complex financial instruments known as derivatives, including credit swaps, contracts that would encourage risky investment practices at Wall Street’s most venerable institutions and spread the risks, like a virus, around the world.

…If you want to hold a single elected official responsible for the collapse of American International Group — if any one event could have taken down the entire financial system, that was it — it would have to be Gramm…

Other actors who have yet to come clean include Harvey Pitt, Hank Paulson and George W. Bush. Don’t hold your breath waiting for their mea culpas.

Bear with me if you’ve heard this story from me before; but, I recall sitting in the offices of a firm selling big, family-size mobile homes. Trailer park specials. A young couple legally here from Mexico – not yet citizens – told the sales manager their tale of being turned down by local banks, local branches of chain banks, for a mortgage.

The sales manager told them not to worry. He had a storefront loan company down in Albuquerque that would approve their loan – just put the right numbers on the application. They did it. He did it. They left getting ready to move into a home they couldn’t afford in good times. And this was before the crash of Bush’s Great Recession.

The sales manager told me after they left – he wasn’t worried. He would be able to sell that paper on within 48 hours to Countrywide – and forget about it. And that was a present from Phil Gramm and his bubbas in Congress.

Dismantling higher education in America

While researching a recent column for Al Jazeera America on the “killing of tenure” and what it means for the future of higher education, it became clear that the attempts by conservatives to dismantle the institution of tenure, highlighted by the Wisconsin legislature’s removal of previously statutory tenure protections, are only one component of a much wider array of threats to the profession of teaching and research.

For academics lucky enough to have tenure at an “R-1 research university” — one with “extensive” doctoral level graduate programs and support for faculty research as well as teaching — the erosion of traditional tenure protections is damaging because it threatens not only academic freedom but research and teaching that contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. GDP. The continued downtrend in funding for university research has paralleled and is tied to the erosion of tenure, academic freedom and shared governance more broadly. All these trends are tied to the corporatization of the university; that is, the increasingly privatized model of higher education which does away with shared governance and tenure in favor of centralized administration and contingent labor, puts profits and the bottom line ahead of the public good, and efficiency and “customer service” ahead of a well-rounded education that encourages critical inquiry and independent thought.

Today upwards of three-quarters of faculty members nationwide are working outside of the tenure system. This reorientation of the profession away from tenure, shared governance and academic freedom, which together formed the bedrock of the great American university system, has left contingent and tenure-line faculty alike to face an unprecedented array of obstacles to their economic, let alone professional, survival.

Indeed, upwards of a quarter of faculty with doctorates live below the poverty line — eight percentage points higher than the national average for all Americans. Think of this in the context of the American dream, where dedication and education are supposed to ensure a piece, however modest, of the American dream. If 10 years of intensive college and graduate study can’t even get a person a better salary than the average Walmart cashier, there is something profoundly wrong.

The average American voter still sits back, accepting every ideological lie from the political economy of wealth and power. The working people who built the wealth of the nation on their backs are relegated more often to leftover jobs, ignorant of the qualities needed nowadays for advancement. The best-educated segment of our populace is considered advanced meat robots by conservative politicians, nothing more than articulate proletarians – interesting, but, unproductive by the liberal side of American politics more concerned with the workings of Wall Street than the potential of academia.

The best-educated of our political elites sit back and prate about the young tigers of the whole world still coming to the United States for their education – even though that phenomenon, premised upon the worldwide myth of an educational system that began to crumble over a half-century ago, already shows the cracks of diminishing returns. Other nations now better educate their young. Other nations are well along at building networks of new and powerful research and thought.

Congress only debates who should rule: Caeser or Mammon?

Who will vote for the No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act?

Corporations that move their tax domiciles abroad would be denied federal contracts under legislation offered on Tuesday by Democrats in the U.S. Congress, targeting tax-driven deals known as inversions.

With November’s congressional elections approaching, Democrats are blasting away at inversions. Few U.S. companies have done such deals, but as they become more common, they are attracting more negative publicity…

“Those dodging their fair share of taxes should not be rewarded with taxpayer-funded government contracts,” said Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas in a statement on the bill made with three other senior Democrats…

An inversion is a deal in which a U.S. corporation buys or sets up a foreign company, then moves its tax domicile into that foreign company and its home country, while leaving core business operations in the United States. Doing such a deal ends U.S. taxation of the company’s foreign profits and makes it easier for the company to take other tax-cutting steps…

The Democrats’ legislation would bar federal government contracts from going to businesses that incorporate overseas, that are majority-owned by the shareholders of the original U.S. corporation and that lack substantial business opportunities in the foreign country in which they are reincorporating.

Over the past 32 years, 52 U.S. corporations have completed inversions, a nickname that refers to the idea of turning the company upside down so a small, offshore unit becomes the head and larger, U.S. operations become the body.

Of those 52 deals, 19 have come since 2009, while 10 more are being finalized and many others are said to be in the works. For instance, Illinois-based drugstore chain Walgreen is considering whether to invert to Switzerland.

Medical technology group Medtronic of Minnesota, and drug maker AbbVie, also of Illinois, are in the midst of deals to invert to Ireland.

Screw ’em to the wall, I say. While every copout talking head on TV wanders off into rationales and blather about tax code reform, that ain’t about to happen until and unless Republicans are finally shoved into a little corner as a minority party representing only the most reactionary business interests and theocrats.

Meanwhile – act like an adult is in charge of Congress and penalize runaway tax cheats.

House Republicans vote to shut down prefrontal cortex

In an escalation of the stalemate gripping Washington, House Republicans voted today to shut down the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses.

The resolution, which passed with heavy Tea Party support, calls for a partial shutdown of the brain, leaving the medulla and cerebellum, sometimes referred to as the “reptilian brain,” up and running.

The Tea Party caucus cheered the passage of the bill, which was sponsored by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who called the measure “long overdue.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) offered no timetable for restarting the prefrontal cortex, telling reporters, “It will most certainly remain shut down during any negotiations with the President. That’s the only leverage we have.”

Representative Bachmann agreed: “The President can go ahead and put a gun to our heads. There’s nothing there…”

While the G.O.P.’s decision to shut down the prefrontal cortex rattled Wall Street, the neuroscientist Davis Logsdon said it should be seen as little more than a symbolic vote, noting, “It’s actually been shut down since the 2008 election.”

Har. In fact, that’s a double-har!

Congress-critters not even loved by their moms, anymore!

Americans are holding Republicans primarily responsible for the partial government shutdown as public esteem sinks for all players in the impasse, President Barack Obama among them, according to a new poll. It’s a struggle with no heroes.

The Associated Press-GfK survey, out Wednesday, affirms expectations by many in Washington — Republicans among them — that the GOP may end up taking the biggest hit in public opinion from the fiscal paralysis, just as that party did when much of the government closed 17 years ago. But…there’s plenty of disdain to go around.

Overall, 62 percent mainly blamed Republicans for the shutdown. About half said Obama or the Democrats in Congress bear much responsibility…

The poll found that the tea party is more than a gang of malcontents in the political landscape, as its supporters in Congress have been portrayed by Democrats. Rather, it’s a sizable — and divisive — force among Republicans. More than 4 in 10 Republicans identified with the tea party and were more apt than other Republicans to insist that their leaders hold firm in the standoff over reopening government and avoiding a default of the nation’s debt in coming weeks.

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Berlusconi commemorates the Holocaust by defending Mussolini

Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi triggered outrage from Italy’s political left on Sunday with comments defending fascist wartime leader Benito Mussolini at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Speaking at the margins of the event in Milan, Berlusconi said Mussolini had been wrong to follow Nazi Germany’s lead in passing anti-Jewish laws but that he had in other respects been a good leader.

“…the government of that time, out of fear that German power might lead to complete victory, preferred to ally itself with Hitler’s Germany rather than opposing it,” he said.

“As part of this alliance, there were impositions, including combating and exterminating Jews,” he told reporters. “The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini as a leader, who in so many other ways did well,” he said, referring to laws passed by Mussolini’s fascist government in 1938…

Berlusconi’s comments overshadowed Sunday’s commemoration of thousands of Jews and others deported from Italy to the Nazi death camps of eastern Europe. They were condemned as “disgusting” by the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which is leading in the polls ahead of the February 24-25 election.

“Our republic is based on the struggle against Nazi fascism and these are intolerable remarks which are incompatible with leadership of democratic political forces,” said Marco Meloni, the PD’s spokesman for institutional affairs.

Antonio Ingroia, a former anti-mafia magistrate campaigning at the head of a separate left-wing coalition, said Berlusconi was “a disgrace to Italy“…

“We must be very careful to ensure that these sparks, which recur every now and then, cannot bring back tragedies which humanity should not suffer again,” outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Sunday.

Berlusconi has always been the sort of opportunistic pig who would grovel for support from the bigots and racists still powerful in corporate Italy. Mussolini didn’t hesitate to imprison and torture jews – but also gypsies, members of the socialist and communist opposition, ordinary democrats who spoke out against his alliance with other fascists ranging from Horthy in Hungary to Hitler in Germany.

That he spent a portion of the national budget on infrastructure is only a symptom of a cunning swine – not largesse doled out to a needy populace. He did little more than the Mafia has ever done within their own fiefdoms. Criminals and gangsters who practice sufficient diplomacy to provide rationales for collaborators.