High-speed internet is now legally essential as water and electricity

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15, 2021, was hailed by the White House and advocates as a historic investment to improve internet access in America…

In the law, Congress finally recognizes that “access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to full participation in modern life in the United States.” In other words, broadband access is like access to running water or electricity. It is essential infrastructure, the lack of which is a barrier to economic competitiveness and the “equitable distribution of essential public services, including health care and education…”

Many studies…have documented how investments in fiber-optic lines and related next-generation broadband infrastructure are going to more affluent communities, often bypassing low-income residents in highly urbanized areas such as Los Angeles and Detroit. The law not only empowers the FCC to monitor and correct such practices, but also helps align private investment incentives with public benefits by creating the Affordable Connectivity Fund, a permanent broadband subsidy for low-income households.

So, check in with your friendly neighborhood politicians. Make certain they’re up-to-date on the importance, usefulness, benefits to society provided by broadband access. Especially to middle and lower-income communities. It’s the law!

Canada will stroll past the United States to become cannabis capital

…Chief executive of Denver’s largest marijuana dispensary…Andy Williams struggles with a lot of financial hurdles.

The First Bank of Colorado closed the accounts of everyone in the family business, Medicine Man Technologies, including children who have no part in the industry. Williams can’t take on any investment and needs to fund expansion through personal loans from friends and family.

Customers can only pay in cash; banks refuse to hold his money and everyone from employees to contractors need to accept cash payments. Employees, who can’t prove their income as a result, often struggle to get loans and mortgages.

Furthermore, section 280E of the US tax code prohibits the deduction of expenses related to controlled substances for tax purposes, and Williams predicts that he gives the internal revenue service an additional $600,000 each year as a result of business expenses that can’t be written off.

While recreational marijuana legalisation is well on its way in states like Colorado, it remains illegal at the federal level, stifling the growth and innovation of the industry’s first movers.

Our elected officials waver from know-nothing moralists to anti-science hypocrites to old-fashioned cowards. Most know better. Damned few have the courage to act.

Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to legalise recreational marijuana consumption on a federal level, opening the door to investment, less restrictive tax policies and banks that can treat the marijuana industry like any other. While legalisation hasn’t yet taken place in Canada, when it inevitably does American marijuana businesses may suddenly find themselves at a disadvantage.

“They’ll be first to market,” says Williams. “There’s going to be a lot of development and innovation in Canada that’s going to spur economic growth and attract investment. First to market is going to get a lot of attention, so it’s a lost opportunity for the United States if and when that happens.”…

“The real setback will be longer term in their jump in developing that intellectual property, whether that’s in producing marijuana or developing brands or discovering new uses for cannabis in the medical field,” he said. “It’s the long-term effect of being behind the eight ball that I’m concerned about.”

Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Canada but many look to its medicinal marijuana system, which is considered among the best in the world, as a sign of things to come. Health Canada, the country’s federal health authority, already regulates over one million square feet of approved marijuana production space spread across 30 industrial-sized facilities…

Recreational legalization in Canada, however, could force policymakers in the US to modernize their federal policies in order to level the playing field.

Between populist hypocrite dope-smokers and spineless liberal hypocrite dope-smokers, our elected officials are doomed to a reaction policy roughly akin to snails racing to escape roadrunners. Trudeau in Canada will be replacing lost revenue from previous conservative government’s allegiance to fossil fuel producers. Obama – and whoever next sits in the Oval Office confronting a Congress populated with close-minded Republicans and centrist-dominated Democrats – will continue to dither and panic over popularity polls that show American consumers ready and willing to move ahead on legalizing cannabis as readily as they have every other so-called controversy petrifying the brains of our spoon-fed politicians.

Other nations in the educated world will continue to remind Americans there ain’t any greatness associated with being backwards, governed by fear.

On 2nd anniversary, school shooting takes another victim


The funeral procession of Russell King Jr. winds through Chardon streets in March 2012

The father of a boy killed in the Chardon High School shooting died Thursday morning at his home on the second anniversary of the rampage.

Russell King, 48, was found in his bed by a family member at his home in Chardon Township, said Lt. John Hiscox of the Geauga County Sheriff’s Department. He said there were no signs of foul play. He said Coroner Robert Coleman is investigating.

Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said Thursday that he could not comment on the case, saying it “was an ongoing criminal investigation, although we believe foul play was not involved.”

King’s son, Russell, was one of three students killed Feb. 27, 2012, at Chardon High School. T.J. Lane opened fire in the school’s cafeteria with a .22-Ruger before classes began. He also killed Daniel Parmertor, 16, and Demetrius Hewlin, 16. Russell was 17. Three other students were wounded…

Lane pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault for a shooting that shined an unwanted spotlight on a suburban school district and plunged it into the political donnybrook of gun control…

Russell King Sr. went to all of the court hearings involving Lane. He was a tall, strong man who seemed deeply hurt by the senseless loss of his son. He and other family members of the victims struggled last March, when a Geauga County judge sentenced Lane to three life sentences in prison.

Lane mocked his victims during that hearing, wearing a T-shirt with the word “Killer” on it, swearing and flipping his middle finger to their parents and families.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he was saddened and stunned by the news.

“That’s just horrible,” he said. “Anyone who loses a child never gets over it. Anything anyone says to you has no relevance.”

The NRA gives the finger to every sensible American who wants to support the 2nd Amendment with strict regulations against criminals and disturbed individuals having access to deadly weapons.

I’ve been a gun owner and hunter most of my life. I own guns, right now. I also support the efforts of gun owners to manage access to firearms by strict regulation, licensing and record-keeping. I consider fools who dedicate time and money to maintaining easy access for criminals to be no better than the thugs they aid.

It doesn’t take a whole boatload of logic and reasoning to increase the safety of our populace without infringing on anything more than individual ignorance and fear.

Sooner or later, we have to grow into a society where children and their parents are less likely to fear death on a daily basis.

6 Confederate states say they have a right to be bigots


Click to enlarge

On the morning of Sept. 3, the first day the Pentagon said they could, Alicia Butler and her spouse, Judith Chedville, who is a Texas Army National Guard officer, went to Austin’s Camp Mabry so Ms. Butler could get a military spouse identification card and register for the same federal marriage benefits provided to wives and husbands of heterosexual service members.

The two women handed a sheaf of official papers, including their 2008 California marriage license, to a clerk who glanced at the documents and declared, “It’s one of those.” She then called over her boss, who told the couple that they would have to travel to a federal military base like Fort Hood, 70 miles to the north, to get the ID, Ms. Butler recalled.

The reason: Texas is one of six states refusing to comply with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order that gay spouses of National Guard members be given the same federal marriage benefits as heterosexual spouses. Mr. Hagel’s decree followed the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages…

But the six states are violating federal law, Mr. Hagel told an audience recently. “It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice,” he said. Mr. Hagel has demanded full compliance, but Pentagon officials have not said what steps they would take with states that do not fall in line…

The military grants a range of significant benefits to the spouses of active-duty guardsmen, including the right to enroll in the military’s health insurance program and to obtain a higher monthly housing allowance. Spouse IDs allow unescorted access to bases with their lower-priced commissaries.

RTFA if you think you’re going to find new lies to supplement those offered when bigots used the States Rights defense in their attempt to maintain segregation and all the other crimes of racism.

Civil Rights under the US Constitution have always been a class of laws where federal law eventually and appropriately takes precedence. Hypocrites and liars like Rick Perry and Mary Fallin, the governors of Texas and Oklahoma and their backwards peers vacillate between hatred and cowardice in their excuses. Nothing new to offer. The facts remain the same. Homophobia is just one more ignoranus crime against constitutional democracy and should be dealt with as such.

IRS to recognize all gay marriages

All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.

The federal rules change is one of many stemming from the landmark Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That ruling found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, but left open the question of how the federal government would actually administer those benefits.

As of the 2013 tax year, same-sex spouses cannot file federal tax returns as if they were single. Instead, they will have to opt for filing as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” The location of their marriage — as long as it is legal — or residence does not matter: a same-sex couple who marry in Albany and move to Alabama will be treated the same as a same-sex couple who marry and live in Massachusetts.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

The important part about mundane is the government finally starting to treat same-sex couples like anyone else. They won’t stick out in the crowd of ordinary people assuming too much of our nation’s tax burden, anyway.

The ruling applies to all legal marriages made in the United States or foreign countries – it does not extend to civil unions, registered domestic partnerships or other legal relationships. So, that’s the copout handed to right-wing dorks who can’t stand civil rights being fully extended to a class of people their grandfather wouldn’t have approved of.

A memo from the boss – Vote the way I say or lose your job!

Imagine getting a letter from the boss, telling you how to vote.

Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.

But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall…

Dave Robertson, the president of Koch Industries, sent an information packet and letter this month to more than 30,000 employees of a subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, a paper and pulp company. The letter attacked government subsidies for “a few favored cronies” as well as “unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses.”

The letter added, “Many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills.”

The Georgia-Pacific letter, first reported by In These Times, included a flier listing several candidates endorsed by the Koch brothers, the conservative billionaires, beginning with Mitt Romney, as well as opinion articles that the brothers had written.

Travis McKinney, a forklift driver for Georgia-Pacific in Portland, Ore., said the company’s political packet had spurred widespread discussion. “It leaves a bad taste,” Mr. McKinney said. “I won’t even wear my Obama pin to work because of the mailer…”

Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, he said, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

The scumbags who voted the Supreme Court majority decision for this case are as out of touch with the needs, feelings problems and life of working people as Romney, himself. To equate the political voice, the political power of an employee with their employer is not only absurd – it is criminal.

This past week, Chevron set a new record – donating $2½ million to the SuperPAC run by John Boehner. The dollars and dime donated by oilfield workers ain’t about to equal that sort of clout in decades. The thugs at the top just write a check from petty cash.

Free abortions, free contraception for teenagers in France


Meanwhile – back in the US, back in the US, back in the US of A

France is set to reimburse 100 percent of the cost for all abortions, and provide free contraception to girls aged between 15 and 18 under a bill passed by France’s Lower House on Friday.

At present French women can only claim back between 70 and 80% for the operation, which can cost up to 450 euros.

The move to full reimbursement is designed to improve women’s access to abortions, and was included in the 2013 social security budget and a specific campaign promise of President Francois Hollande.

By allowing free contraception, France hopes to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Everywhere free contraception has been introduced, this is exactly what has happened. A bit of education helps, as well.

The much publicised move was welcomed by Martine Hatchuel, president of ANCIC, the French Association which counsels women on contraception and abortion. “It’s about time,” she said previously. “Minors should have access to contraception and it should be free and anonymous. But unfortunately just because a girl reaches 18 doesn’t mean she is out of the woods, and we would like to see this extended to women aged 25.”

Keep on rocking in the Free World. We’ll catch up to France on healthcare, some day.

Pregnant — means you can be pushed out of a job because you’re too much trouble

Few people realize that getting pregnant can mean losing your job. Imagine a woman who, seven months into her pregnancy, is fired from her position as a cashier because she needed a few extra bathroom breaks. Or imagine another pregnant employee who was fired from her retail job after giving her supervisors a doctor’s note requesting she be allowed to refrain from heavy lifting and climbing ladders during the month and a half before her maternity leave: that’s what happened to Patricia Leahy. In 2008 a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that her firing was fair because her employers were not obligated to accommodate her needs…

Federal and state laws ban discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. And amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees (including most employees with medical complications arising from pregnancies) who need them to do their jobs. But because pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, employers are not obligated to accommodate most pregnant workers in any way.

As a result, thousands of pregnant women are pushed out of jobs that they are perfectly capable of performing — either put on unpaid leave or simply fired — when they request an accommodation to help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Many are single mothers or a family’s primary breadwinner. They are disproportionately low-income women, often in physically demanding jobs with little flexibility…

This kind of law is a public health necessity. Without its protections, pregnant women are reluctant to ask for the accommodations they need for their own health and for the health of their unborn children. For many women, a choice between working under unhealthy conditions and not working is no choice at all. In addition, women who can work longer into their pregnancies often qualify for longer periods of leave following childbirth, which facilitates breastfeeding, bonding with and caring for a new child and a smoother and healthier recovery from childbirth.

Pregnancy-related accommodations also promote economic security for families. Women who are forced early into unpaid leave are set back with lost wages and, when they return to work, with missed advancement opportunities. Women who are let go don’t just lose out on critical income — they must fight extra hard to re-enter a job market that is especially brutal on the unemployed. Worse yet, they often confront a bias against hiring mothers with small children…

Three-quarters of women now entering the work force will become pregnant on the job, yet gaps in our civil rights laws leave this enormous class without the right to the modest accommodations that would protect them…No pregnant woman in this country should have to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy.

You’d think these simple accommodations would already be on the books, right? Ask your Congress-critter if they’ve worked to get something like this on the federal books. Ask your state representatives.

Dare I ask – how up-to-date is your state? Given that an essential part of denying aid to people is states rights.

Texas – and 27 other states – seek permission to jam jail cell phones

After finding 775 prohibited cell phones in Texas prisons so far this year, state officials are petitioning federal regulators and the U.S. Senate for the power to jam cell phone signals in lockups — joining 27 other states who want the same authority.

Texas and other states hope to use jamming technology to keep cell phones out of the hands of inmates, who can use them to order criminal acts outside prison walls. “It’s critical,” said the Texas prison system’s inspector general, John Moriarty. “The cell phones are the most immediate threat to public safety in Texas. … We’ve had a lot of crimes orchestrated over those phones…”

But cell phone jamming by states is apparently prohibited by a 1934 federal law that bans states from interfering with federal airwaves.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has filed a measure to specifically give the Federal Communications Commission authority to allow the jamming. Under Hutchison’s proposal, officials seeking to jam signals would have to get authority to do so separately for each facility.

Let’s make certain there’s enough paperwork and red tape.

“The problem with jamming technology is that’s it’s imprecise,” Walls said. “We’re certainly not at odds on the intent. There’s not one legitimate customer that we have behind bars, and shutting that off is as much of a concern to the industry as anybody else.”

Walls said they want a solution that will “protect legitimate use while still solving the problem.”

Tell you what. Let the fracking cell phone companies come up with a technology that does what they want. Meanwhile, jam the signals in the prisons. Save the “what-ifs” for your favorite soap opera.

There are systems already available that allow jamming in general while allowing communications for guards and other prison personnel. Wasting government time over interpretation of a law from 1934 is bloody absurd. More profit-driven nanny-state neocon politics.