WASHINGTON (AP) — The lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in favor of upholding California’s ban on gay marriage learned while he was handling the case that one of his children is gay and now is helping her plan her wedding with another woman. Attorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.
“Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)
In this Special Pre-Issue Release, Bill Nye gives his own first-person view of this much-watched and much-discussed debate, the circumstances surrounding it, his preparations and strategy, and the reasons he decided to take part.
We’re in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. Those laws should prevent or bust up concentrations of economic power that not only harm consumers but also undermine our democracy — such as the pending Comcast acquisition of Time-Warner.
In 1890, when Republican Senator John Sherman of Ohio urged his congressional colleagues to act against the centralized industrial powers that threatened America, he did not distinguish between economic and political power because they were one and the same. The field of economics was then called “political economy,” and inordinate power could undermine both. “If we will not endure a king as a political power,” Sherman thundered, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”
Shortly thereafter, the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed by the Senate 52 to 1, and moved quickly through the House without dissent. President Harrison signed it into law July 2, 1890.
In many respects America is back to the same giant concentrations of wealth and economic power that endangered democracy a century ago. The floodgates of big money have been opened even wider in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in “Citizen’s United vs. FEC” and its recent “McCutcheon" decision.
Seen in this light, Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time-Warner for $45 billion is especially troublesome — and not just because it may be bad for consumers. Comcast is the nation’s biggest provider of cable television and high-speed Internet service; Time Warner is the second biggest.
Last week, Comcast’s executives descended on Washington to persuade regulators and elected officials that the combination will be good for consumers. They say it will allow Comcast to increase its investments in cable and high-speed Internet, and encourage rivals to do so as well.
Opponents argue the combination will give consumers fewer choices, resulting in higher cable and Internet bills. And any company relying on Comcast’s pipes to get its content to consumers (think Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, or any distributor competing with Comcast’s own television network, NBCUniversal) also will have to pay more — charges that will also be passed on to consumers.
I think the opponents have the better argument. Internet service providers in America are already too concentrated, which is why Americans pay more for Internet access than the citizens of almost any other advanced nation.
Some argue that the broadband market already has been carved up into a cartel, so blocking the acquisition would do little to bring down prices. One response would be for the Federal Communications Commission to declare broadband service a public utility and regulate prices.
But Washington should also examine a larger question beyond whether the deal is good or bad for consumers: Is it good for our democracy?
We haven’t needed to ask this question for more than a century because America hasn’t experienced the present concentration of economic wealth and power in more than a century.
But were Senator John Sherman were alive today he’d note that Comcast is already is a huge political player, contributing $1,822,395 so far in the 2013-2014 election cycle, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics — ranking it 18th of all 13,457 corporations and organizations that have donated to campaigns since the cycle began.
Of that total, $1,346,410 has gone individual candidates, including John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid; $323,000 to Leadership PACs; $278,235 to party organizations; and $261,250 to super PACs.
Comcast is also one of the nation’s biggest revolving doors. Of its 107 lobbyists, 86 worked in government before lobbying for Comcast. Its in-house lobbyists include several former chiefs of staff to Senate and House Democrats and Republicans as well as a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.
Nor is Time-Warner a slouch when it comes to political donations, lobbyists, and revolving doors. It also ranks near the top.
When any large corporation wields this degree of political influence it drowns out the voices of the rest of us, including small businesses. The danger is greater when such power is wielded by media giants because they can potentially control the marketplace of ideas on which a democracy is based.
When two such media giants merge, the threat is extreme. If film-makers, television producers, directors, and news organizations have to rely on Comcast to get their content to the public, Comcast is able to exercise a stranglehold on what Americans see and hear.
It’s that same equal carelessness toward average Americans and toward our democracy that ought to be of primary concern to us now. Big money that engulfs government makes government incapable of protecting the rest of us against the further depredations of big money.
After becoming President in 1901, Roosevelt used the Sherman Act against forty-five giant companies, including the giant Northern Securities Company that threatened to dominate transportation in the Northwest. William Howard Taft continued to use it, busting up the Standard Oil Trust in 1911.
In this new gilded age, we should remind ourselves of a central guiding purpose of America’s original antitrust law, and use it no less boldly.
Noted anti-vaccination advocate Jenny McCarthy is describing herself as “pro-vaccine” now.
McCarthy, “The View” co-host who has campaigned against vaccinations due to a widely discredited alleged link to autism, claimed in a Saturday op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times that she has been “wrongly branded” for years when it comes to her position on the matter.
There has been speculation that this vulnerability could expose server certificate private keys, making those sites vulnerable to impersonation. This would be the disaster scenario, requiring virtually every service to reissue and revoke its SSL certificates. Note that simply reissuing certificates is not enough, you must revoke them as well.
Bloomberg News: The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.
“High-tech executives are the ones who don’t want to let the market work. If they really faced a shortage of high-tech workers in America, they’d pay higher wages. In fact, the wages of programmers, systems designers, software engineers and others have barely budged over the past decade, adjusted for inflation. High-tech firms want skilled foreign workers because they don’t want to pay more than they’re paying now. According to the latest government statistics, the median wage for new H-1B holders in computer-related occupations is only $50,000 – way below the median wage for those occupations in the U.S., and even below the starting salaries of new U.S. graduates in these fields. So I’d say “no” to increasing the number of H1-B visas.”—Robert Reich (via azspot)
With climate change generating way more wildfires, a new Interior Department strategy calls for people to learn how to “live with fire.”
America is burning. Wildfires in California, the state with the most wildfires per year, are expected to increase by 50 percent by the end of the century — if trends continue. Terrible droughts, higher temperatures, and more extreme weather are some of the causes of the increase in wildfires and the increase in their severity. The climate is a complex thing.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century is, as I hope I’ve made clear, an awesome work. At a time when the concentration of wealth and income in the hands of a few has resurfaced as a central political issue, Piketty doesn’t just offer invaluable documentation of what is happening, with unmatched historical depth. He also offers what amounts to a unified field theory of inequality, one that integrates economic growth, the distribution of income between capital and labor, and the distribution of wealth and income among individuals into a single frame.
And yet there is one thing that slightly detracts from the achievement—a sort of intellectual sleight of hand, albeit one that doesn’t actually involve any deception or malfeasance on Piketty’s part. Still, here it is: the main reason there has been a hankering for a book like this is the rise, not just of the one percent, but specifically of the American one percent. Yet that rise, it turns out, has happened for reasons that lie beyond the scope of Piketty’s grand thesis.
“Their lives, in short, will be transformed. The value to these patients, and to their loved ones and society—you can’t put a price tag on it.”—Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) President John Castellani • Defending the price of Sovaldi, the hepatitis C drug which is extremely effective, but costs $1,000 per day to take. A full regimen of treatment costs $84,000, a level that effectively shuts out most of the people that would need to take it. (via shortformblog)
“The corporations that profit from permanent war need us to be afraid. Fear stops us from objecting to government spending on a bloated military. Fear means we will not ask unpleasant questions of those in power. Fear permits the government to operate in secret. Fear means we are willing to give up our rights and liberties for promises of security. The imposition of fear ensures that the corporations that wrecked the country cannot be challenged. Fear keeps us penned in like livestock.”—(Chris Hedges, ‘The Death of the Liberal Class’)
How did a catastrophic online security flaw remain undetected for two years? Rusty Foster on Heartbleed, and why your login names, passwords, and credit-card information may all be at risk: http://nyr.kr/1jwIwVj
“Now, unless you believe that the earth is actually flat, set on pillars, and that a solid sky dome holds the waters above from careening down upon us, then you don’t really believe Genesis 1 literally. Yes, there are flat-earth creationists who do believe these things and, at least, they are consistent. But if we’re going to be realistic and consistent, we have to acknowledge that the writer’s worldview is not our worldview. Most of us do not believe that the earth is flat and the sky is a dome. Most of us know that the earth is round and rotates around the sun. If that’s the case, then we have to acknowledge that Genesis 1 is not a scientific description of the earth. It is a theological one. We don’t have to become flat-earth creationists to accept the theology the writer is communicating—that God created the earth and everything in it.”—Reading Genesis 1 “Literally” (via azspot)
“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values [and] conservatives. Now, it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy.”—
Rush Limbaugh, not loving the pick of Stephen Colbert as host to replace David Letterman.
As Andrew Sullivan points out, Colbert is both a practicing Catholic and a Sunday school teacher. Something tells me David Letterman … wasn’t. (Neither is Politicalprof, but no one is asking me to host a late night comedy show.)
The next billionaire tech visionary will be whoever can invent an “uncrackable” encryption method, and/or someone who invents a way to allow people to identify themselves online without separate passwords.
Actually, both would be nice.
Imagine what it would be like to only need to know one password, and to be able to store and transport this password via an encryption method so secure there is no way at all to crack it? Man, how nice would that be?