Tag Archives: government


It’s easy to derive the wrong lesson here. The point is not that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite. If you have strongly held political principles, you can’t live in the world without compromising them.

The point is that it’s impossible to build a market-driven healthcare system that works. Even the 20th Century’s greatest advocate of free markets needed government social programs to stay alive.

Internet death sentence

AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

The customers who are being disconnected have never been able to face their accusers or have a day in court. The people they live with are not accused of any wrongdoing. The internet they are losing is likely the only option they have for broadband — or one of two options, with the other one likely being a cable company like Comcast who may now join AT&T in a race to the bottom.

The internet is not a video-on-demand service, it’s the nervous system of the 21st century. Terminating someone from the internet terminates their access to family, education, employment, civic and political engagement, health care information, and virtually everything else we use to measure whether a society is functioning well for its citizens.

Defending the indefensible

Prop. 7 looks to change daylight saving time in California (CBS8.com)

I’ve become a convert to the Daylight Saving Time/Standard Time switch. Sure, it’s a problem for a couple of days – but it maximizes daylight for the maximum number of people. Year-round DST means kids going to school in the dark and getting hit by cars.

We should spend more of the year on standard time, though – six months of each, as used to be the case.

How America feels to Trump supporters

Ezra Klein talks with anthropologist Arlie Hochschild, who visited Trump country in Louisiana, and talked with many of his supporters to learn how America looks to them.

They see themselves as patiently waiting in line for their due reward, only to find the line isn’t going anywhere. When they look ahead, they see immigrants and other special interest groups cutting ahead, and Barack Obama and the federal government waving the line-cutters in. Trump supporters feel like aliens in their own country.

Much of Trump’s support comes from divisions between social classes — something that Americans still pretend doesn’t exist here. Trump supporters are told they’re privileged because they’re white, but they don’t feel privileged. And they’re right, because they’re white but they’re lower class.

Not discussed much in this podcast: Trump’s supporters aren’t the white poor; they’re more affluent than their neighbors. That doesn’t necessarily contradict the narrative that Trump supporters come from the lower classes; economic class and social class aren’t the same thing (as anybody who watches Downton Abbey knows!).

This is a terrific podcast, with many thought-provoking points.

Arlie Hochschild on how America feels to Trump supporters – The Ezra Klein Show podcast:

I’ve been reading sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s writing for about a decade now. Her immersive projects have revolutionized how we understand labor, gender equity, and work-life balance. But her latest book, “Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” is something new: she spent five years among tea party supporters in Louisiana, trying to bridge the deepest divide in American politics. It was, she says, an effort to scale the “empathy wall,” to create an understanding of how politics feels to people whose experiences felt alien to her. In this conversation, we discuss:-How she approaches immersive sociology-The kinds of questions she asks people in order to get them to open up about their political feelings-What it takes to “turn off your alarm system” when you encounter oppositional ideas-What she describes as the “deep story” that explains how conservative Americans, particularly older white men, feel increasingly looked down on-Why she feels empathy on the part of people who disagree is an important part of creating dialogue-Whether empathy and respect are in tension with each other-Why many white men don’t feel they’re part of a privileged group-What she thought of Clinton’s comments that half of Trump’s supporters are a “basket of deplorables”And much more. This is a time when listening and empathy are in shorter supply than ever, at least in American politics. It’s well worth listening to Hochschild’s advice on how to bring both back.

“This Election Is Testing The Republican Loyalties Of Military Voters”

I’m not sure about the headline on this story on FiveThirtyEight. The article shows military voters are still staunchly Republican, even though the one veteran quoted prominently is unenthusiastic about both Clinton and Trump.

That veteran opposes Obama because Obama has cut military spending drastically — which is one of the best things Obama has done. Sure, the military is the most important thing the government does, but we don’t need a Cold War sized military when the threats against us aren’t Cold War magnitude. Every dollar the government spends on military is a dollar not being spent on something else, and increases military domination over civilian society.

Peter Thiel makes the case for his bankrolling the Gawker lawsuit

Peter Thiel, The New York Times:

Last month, I spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland because I believe our country is on the wrong track, and we need to solve real problems instead of fighting fake culture wars. I’m glad that an arena full of Republicans stood up to applaud when I said I was proud to be gay, because gay pride shouldn’t be a partisan issue. All people deserve respect, and nobody’s sexuality should be made a public fixation.

Unfortunately, lurid interest in gay life isn’t a thing of the past. Last week, The Daily Beast published an article that effectively outed gay Olympic athletes, treating their sexuality as a curiosity for the sake of internet clicks. The article endangered the lives of gay men from less tolerant countries, and a public outcry led to its swift retraction. While the article never should have been published, the editors’ prompt response shows how journalistic norms can improve, if the public demands it.

Not mentioned here: The vast databases of private information compiled by business and government in the name of marketing and national security. That kind of information is potentially far more damaging to far more people than sex tapes.

Also, while Thiel is right that even public figures have a right to privacy,I don’t want to live in a world where billionaires decide the boundaries of legitimate journalism. (See also.)


Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing:

The TSA gambled on millions of wealthy Americans opting out of its pornoscanner-and-shoe-removal process and signing up for its Precheck policy, which allows travellers to pay for the “privilege” of walking through a metal-detector with their shoes on, while their laptops stay in their bags.

It was a gamble that they lost. Americans have stayed away from the process in droves, but the TSA had already committed to cutting staff in anticipation of much lighter queues at their checkpoints. Instead of lightening, the queues have got longer, as the US economy has recovered and low fuel prices have kept the price of plane tickets down.

The TSA is now warning travelers to expect very long security lines this summer (Denver Airport warns that its TSA queues can take three hours to clear), as it scrambles to train more staff. In the meantime, whole airports’ worth of people are missing their flights, sending the airport managers and airlines into rare public displays of temper against the agency, calling the lines “unacceptable” (American Airlines), a “fiasco” (Brent D. Cagle, interim director of aviation for Charlotte Douglas International Airport) and accusing the agency of lying when it cites crowds as the reason for lines (Denver Airport).

Cory also notes that long lines for services used to be the symbol of Soviet oppression.

I quibble with the characterization of Pre customers as “wealthy.” I use Pre. I’m just a middle-class guy who travels a lot on the company dime. I’m only wealthy in the way that middle class Americans are wealthy on the global scale. If I traveled only one or two times a year or less, and had to pay for it myself, I would not buy Pre. Indeed, I suspect business travel is where TSA is getting its Pre revenue.


Internet users overwhelmingly voted to name the research vessel “Boaty McBoatface,” according to Josh Hafner on USA Today. Says the British government: Nope.

BBC host Nicky Campbell exclaimed that the government would “ride roughshod over democracy” if it did not go through with naming the ship “Boaty McBoatface,” which garnered 120,000 votes — four times that of the next closest choice.


“I wonder if it has occurred to anyone that the US might be going through now what the Soviet Union was going through at the end of the 80s.” [Dave Winer – Scripting News]

Dave recaps an editorial by Rachel Maddow: We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years. Every year is the same. Because the US has no functional government that can change course.

The USSR in the late 1980s looked like a functioning superpower. But it wasn’t. It was a rotten tree that could be felled with one swift kick. Ronald Reagan saw that and delivered the blow.

That metaphor about the tree and Reagan was something I saw years ago. I don’t agree about Reagan. But the metaphor of the tree that can be felled with one kick stuck with me.

Who will deliver the kick to the US? If things go they way they have been, I suspect it will be internal. And I suspect it will come in the form of de facto secession. States like California, New York, or Texas, with large population and economic clout, will simply start saying no to Washington, while continuing to fly the stars and stripes and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom. Indeed, we may have already seen that starting with marijuana legalization.

I feel safer already!

Self-described TSA employee: “You don’t have shit for rights. If you don’t like it shut the fuck up.”

A woman named Rebecca Hains expressed skepticism on Facebook about the TSA’s effectiveness, and a self-described TSA employee excoriated her for speaking out.

Hains was previously famous because the TSA confiscated a cupcake from her because it was a potential security threat. I am not making this up.

Why the US Supreme Court was wrong to uphold public prayer at government meetings

The problem is that the town of Greece, N.Y., wasn’t opening with a generic prayer addressed to “God,” “the Almighty,” or “the Supreme Being.” It as an Easter prayer, stressing “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” in a town with synagogues and mosques within its borders.

I’ve been listening to a history of the English Civil War, which was fought in part over religious establishment. Fighting war over religion, particularly civil war, is absolutely insane. The Founders were wise to establish religious freedom, not just because it protects individual rights but also because it keeps the state from getting ripped apart with ridiculous disputes about nothing. Let everybody worship whatever God they want, in whatever way they want, and as long as everybody pays their taxes and obeys the law, everything runs smoothly. The government keeps the roads paved and the trash picked up, and leaves people’s souls to other authorities.

It’s best to be loose about church-state separation. For example, Christmas decorations in City Hall are technically a flagrant violation — but what the heck, it makes people happy and does nobody any harm, particularly if City Hall also makes some acknowledgement of other people’s religious celebration. But opening a city council meeting with an Easter benediction goes too far.

Amazingly, the Supreme Court is currently made up of six Catholics and three Jews, two groups who have historically suffered religious persecution, the Catholics in the US, Jews seemingly everywhere else in the world.

The Founders—so backward in their attitudes on race—launched the republic on the basis of religious tolerance. Benjamin Franklin believed in prayer but stressed the importance of ecumenical “public religion.” Thomas Jefferson did not include his service as president of the United States on his tombstone but requested that his authorship of the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom be included. James Madison believed that “religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” With God unmentioned in the Constitution, the Founders set a course that allowed, over Madison’s objections, for chaplains offering prayers at public meetings. But the tradition has favored deistic references (“God,” “the Almighty,” “the Supreme Being”) over sectarian specifics. “The Founders wanted to keep it general because theological disputes led to political upheaval,” says Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel.

In his majority opinion, Kennedy tried to argue that the court was merely upholding that ecumenical tradition. “Willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs,” he wrote. But the prayers before town meetings in Greece, New York, were not about a “higher power,” which is a standard and unobjectionable prayer that would not have merited an appeal to the Supreme Court. Instead, the ministers in that New York town—who not once gave way to rabbis or imams, though they had Jewish and Muslim congregations nearby—opened a public meeting by stressing, “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength, vitality, and confidence from his resurrection at Easter…”

A Supreme Religious Injustice – Yahoo News

MIT Tech Review: Proposed net neutrality rules are already hurting innovation

Some venture capitalists at the cutting edge of Internet innovation say they will shun startups requiring fast connections for video, audio, or other services, mindful that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission may let ISPs charge extra fees to major content providers.

MIT Tech Review: Proposed Net Neutrality Rules Already Hurting Innovation – Technology – Boston.com

The US government is rolling out a “driver’s license for the Internet.” No way this could go wrong.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identies in Cyberspace starts testing in government agencies in two US states. “Calling this move ill-timed would be the most gracious way of putting it,” says Techdirt’s Tim Cushing. (US Government Beings Rollout Of Its ‘Driver’s License For the Internet’)

[A]t a time when the public’s trust in government is ant an all-time low, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST – itself still reeling a bit from NSA-related blowback) is testing the program in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The first tests appear to be exclusively aimed at accessing public programs, like government assistance. The government believes this ID system will help reduce fraud and overhead, by eliminating duplicated ID efforts across multiple agencies.

But the program isn’t strictly limited to government use. The ultimate goal is a replacement of many logins and passwords people maintain to access content and participate in comment threads and forums. This “solution,” while somewhat practical, also raises considerable privacy concerns.

The keepers of the identity credentials wouldn’t be the government, but rather a third party. Banks, technology compaies, and cellphone service providers were suggested as keepers when the program was introduced in 2011. “[S]o theoretically Google or Verizon could have access to a comprehensive profile of who you are that’s shared with every site you visit, as mandated by the government.”

The proposal also raises security concerns, creating a central store of identitiy information susceptible to hacking. And with the government behind the proposal, citizens may not have the option of opting out.

Here’s the original statement on Whitehouse.gov: “President Obama Releases the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.” It cites banking and online health records as example applications.

A modest proposal for fixing copyright

First 12 years are free, followed by several elective renewal periods that require paying an increasing percentage of royalties. All copyright terminates after 46 years.

Now we have de facto perpetual copyright. Every time Mickey Mouse is near to entering the public domain, Disney lobbies Congress to extend copyright. Ironically, Disney itself is built on the public domain, including Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, the Swiss Family Robinson, Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland.

The author of the proposal is R Street Associate Fellow Derek Khanna, who was fired from his job as a Republican Congressional staffer after authoring a paper calling for copyright reform.

“We have clear evidence that, rather than serving as an incentive to create, excessively long copyright actually hinders creation,” said Khanna. “New artists, directors and writers are unable to create derivative works without paying fees that can be so high as to make the cost of derivative works prohibitive or even impossible.”

In addition to hindering new creation, perpetual copyrights lead to a host of other problems, including historical works being unavailable to future generations, the growing number of “orphan works,” limitations on digital archiving and derivative works, higher transaction costs and a limited volume of publicly available content.

“When historical clips are in the public domain, learning flourishes,” said Khanna. “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is rarely shown on television because the speech is not in the public domain.”

R Street paper calls for shortened copyright terms and examination of international treaties

Via Cory Doctorow – thanks!

Elon Musk is suing the government to stop awarding no-bid contracts for national security satellite launches.

The Air Force awards lucrative launch contracts to a sole rocket provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), on a non-competitive basis.

Musk says it’s a continuing monopoly, unfairly blocking SpaceX from competing, and costing taxpayers billions.

ULA is a joing venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that manufactures Delta IV and Atlas V unmanned, expendable rockets that are currently the only boosters certified to launch high value military payloads at issue in the lawsuit. Musk wants his newer and much cheaper Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets certified and includd in competition for launch contracts.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Sues Government to Break US Air Force’s National Security Launch Monopoly.