Wow – we finally made it to March!

Now – if only the weather would improve (instead it’s snowing – AGAIN). And with the snow, and the cold, came the inevitable – someone (in this case my husband) finally fell on the ice that we’ve been unable to lose in our driveway. Thankfully, he’s fine, but concussed and bruised and not too clear on the fall itself, so mercifully we spent very little time in the ER this morning. But it’s added to my general winter malaise (because this is my blog, after all, and it really is about me). And then, in the ER there was little else to do but watch the Sunday morning news/commentary that I generally avoid like the plague – I prefer to read & digest it all myself, thank you. And I had been up for over four hours with no caffeine. So, here we are…. Fed, caffeinated, and ready to tackle some of the sillier things that I’ve seen in the news recently (and by silly, I probably mean pathetic).

I figure I may as well start big. The Department of Homeland Security has been funded for one more week. We were, of course, hoping for three more weeks, since a loud and well-funded handful of Tea Party Republican Representatives refused to allow a clean annual funding bill (i.e – one with no other bills attached), and the Senate Republicans offered up a clean three week compromise that was also shot down on Friday. Somehow we got clean funding for a week, but the battle will obviously continue this week, and the divisions in the Republican party should make everyone – including the majority of Republicans, very nervous. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a man not known for his moderate views on immigration, said that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives needs to take a firm stand, with the Speaker of the House, to make it clear to the 40 or 50 more extreme Republican House members that DHS cannot be made a political issue. He’s absolutely correct – too bad that immediately prior to the vote, much of what he said seemed to give the opposite impression. Glad he woke up, but seriously… The majority of Republicans in the House have failed to rein in the minority extremists previously. That is the primary reason we have a Congress that has done nothing for the last several years. We keep electing people that don’t particularly like the government, or governing, do not seem to understand what it is that the Legislative brach of our government is supposed to do, and who absolutely refuse to compromise in their apparent quest to take us back to the some highly idealized prior point in history that likely never existed. Gerrymandering is the reason why they keep getting elected, and polling would seem to indicate that the side they are on is largely their own. But Congressional redistricting is another topic. For now, I just hope that the Republican Party can relocate its center before they implode and take the rest of the country with them.

“The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use — of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.”

— Robert Kennedy

Which brings me to the Federal Communications Commissions happy vote to protect Net Neutrality. You would have thought that this would be less controversial, but nope – there has been much hysteria over the high cost of this effort, that it is of questionable legality, that it will hurt consumers, that the government is incapable of regulating anything. Most of this hysteria was funded by the telecommunications industry, who (surprise!) would much rather be able to recoup their costs under a pay to play system. Two problems immediately come to mind with that notion: 1) they all own content providers (but they can be trusted not to play favorites), and 2) smaller content providers & web service providers (no, Google, I don’t include you here) would suffer under a pay to play system. Rather than encouraging free market competition and improving costs, any other outcome would have stifled competition and done nothing to reduce costs (and then, like the banks, they’d become too big too fail)  Since our noble broadband providers have already been caught screwing with download speeds, and failing to deliver on network expansion, and actively stifling competition by lobbying for state laws preventing communities from setting up independent broadband networks, I think it is apparent that they cannot be trusted to do the right thing. In a clever, but disturbing, response to the FCC’s vote, Verizon published printed morse code (with a translation available in a typewriter font dated 1934). I thought it was incredibly immature, personally (clever, yes, but also immature). And it really does bother me. When corporations publish responses like this, are we really supposed to trust them to behave responsibly without regulations?

Less well-know, the FCC also issued regulations that will allow cities, like Chattanooga, TN, to set up independent broadband networks in spite of lawmakers’ attempt to stop them (because obviously setting up an independent broadband network somehow stifles the corporate rights of the telecommunications giants). So, the not-exactly-little Google, got a boost out of the FCC vote, too. And make no mistake, they also did a significant amount of lobbying to swing public option in their favor. In this case, though, I think they had a valid point.

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