Monday, November 22, 2010

Last Call

It seems even the FCC's completely half-assed plan to provide some net neutrality (to landline internet and not mobile networks) is going to be killed by House Republicans.

After the mid-term Republican landslide in the US House, many political observers proclaimed that hopes for true "Net Neutrality" policies passing Congress had gone up in flames along with the Democratic majority.

Now the last chance for those rules, known to supporters as the First Amendment of the Internet, may be slipping away as well.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which would have to act independent of Congress, is formulating a series of proposals based upon principles from legislation first proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), according to a Monday report by Politico.

Waxman, who vowed that he would support the so-called 'Net Neutrality' policy proposals favored by most Democrats and progressives, instead put forward a legislative framework that explicitly prohibits the FCC from regulating broadband Internet under Title II of the Communications Act. It would have effectively enshrined proposals by telecom and data giants Google and Verizon, which mandate neutrality for wireline networks but allow for tiered services over wireless.

A disturbing number of Democrats who signed on to a net neutrality program were defeated in the House in 2010.  They were targeted and removed from office by Super-PACs with unlimited cash and anonymous donors.  Unfortunately, it's looking like now the FCC will fail to take any action, meaning that a de facto tiered system will be created in the meantime as Google, Verizon, and other net giants plunge ahead.

Even the halfway system would have been some improvement.  Now?  Who knows where the net will be in two years, or online news services, or bloggers, or anything.  What's to stop Google from having Droid connections to any of its Google products go ten times faster than iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Phone 7 phones, or cutting a deal with Verizon to give its network priority traffic?

And so it goes.  Which internet will you be able to access in the future?

The Price Of Justice

A haunting story of what lengths people will go to in order to get law enforcement by the always outstanding Mac McClelland.

The first people who hired Ruben, five years ago, were a regular, law-abiding couple from the Cherokee Nation who had been robbed, their savings snatched from under the mattress. The couple knew who'd stolen from them, but they couldn't prove it, and they didn't have any faith that the cops would take action. Ruben was a young Pawnee who had always gotten in a lot of fights and always seemed to win. He didn't have anything against the guy; it was just a job, like his other odd jobs, roofing or tiling or cement work. He waited for the guy to walk out of a bar one night and started hitting him. Two facial fractures: eye socket and cheekbone. Two thousand dollars. Ruben—who's asked me to use that name to protect his identity—says he can't count how many times he's played vigilante since then in the Indian nations of northeastern Oklahoma. Most often, it's about stolen property. Sometimes, it's about a raped sister or daughter.

"It's about justice," Ruben, 29, tells me when I say it doesn't make any sense for victims to scrape together a pile of beating-up money after getting their cash stolen. "People want people either beat up or locked up. And on a reservation, they're probably not gonna get anybody locked up."

Statistically speaking, he's probably right. The rate of violent crime among Native Americans is twice the national average (PDF); on some reservations, it's 20 times higher. At least one in three American Indian women will be raped (PDF) in their lifetimes. Yet just 3,000 tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officers—the only kinds of cops with jurisdiction on Indian land—patrol 56 million acres. In 2008, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas had nine officers for 9,000 people in an area twice the size of Delaware. (A typical town with the same population has three times that number.) Tribal courts can only prosecute misdemeanors such as petty theft and public intoxication. They can't issue sentences longer than one year without meeting special criteria, and even then, three years is the maximum. More serious crimes must be handled by federal prosecutors, who turn down 65 percent (PDF) of the reservation cases referred to them.

Non-Indians commit two-thirds of violent crimes against Indians, including 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults. Yet thanks to a 1978 Supreme Court ruling, tribes can not prosecute outsiders who commit crimes on their land. (The case involved a white guy who'd assaulted a tribal police officer and another who'd attempted a high-speed getaway from reservation cops.)

"Going out there was like trying to do your job with one hand tied behind your back," says Damon Roughface, a former tribal police chief of White Eagle, in Oklahoma's Ponca trust land. "People don't care to report crime, because it's just blowin' wind. I'll have to admit that sometimes people think the code of the street works a lot better than the BIA." He points out that it's not uncommon in poor communities, Indian and non-Indian alike, for people to develop their own mechanisms of enforcement. "But on reservations," he says, "it's only compounded by the BIA's history."

 Like something out of a Tony Hillerman or Lee Child novel, only this is real.  Luckily, somebody is doing something about it.

In July, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act (PDF) in the White House's East Room. Standing beside him were two Indian men in headdresses, and Lisa Marie Iyotte, a Lakota woman whose rape case the feds had decided, without even interviewing her, not to pursue. (She couldn't stop sobbing, even after Obama put his arm around her.) The act includes reforms like increasing tribal courts' sentencing authority to three years—if they provide public defenders and trained judges. It mandates that tribal officers be instructed how to interview sexual-assault victims and collect evidence. It requires the Department of Justice to keep track of any Indian cases it declines to prosecute, and to gather more statistics on crime on Indian land. Obama called it "an important step to help the federal government better address the unique public safety challenges that confront tribal communities."

Most likely Americans never heard of the TLO Act, let alone that President Obama signed it into law.  But we're all too worried about what Obama hasn't done for us these days, and continue to ignore what he has accomplished.

Go Go Moosezilla

"I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she's very happy in Alaska," Bush said, before adding, "and I hope she'll stay there."

That's from Barbara Bush, folks. Like her or hate her, she's a pretty classy broad, and she makes a firm point while keeping her manners in check. It's begun, Moosezilla is on her way out. Now, all we can do is hope she takes out as many of the brainless followers as possible. I laughed out loud when I read it, and I know I wasn't alone.

The only reason Larry King kept a straight face is because he's Larry King. This is going to be too good to miss.

[UPDATE: Zandar]  Don't believe Palin's going to run?  She's already making her "liberal media" hit list of people she refuses to do interviews with, starting with Katie Couric.

You think CBS is going to keep Couric on if Palin wins in 2012?  In the universe inside Palin's head, she's already having the Tiffany Network fire her ass.

Sorry State Of Medicaid

The WSJ notes with dozens of states facing nasty budget shortfalls, many are looking for any way out, including dropping Medicaid.

Medicaid, begun in 1965 and jointly funded by federal and state dollars, is the nexus of care for the neediest Americans, and a huge payer to hospitals, nursing homes and doctors. Medicaid enrollment totaled 62 million nationwide in 2007, the most recent data available.

But Medicaid has become one of the biggest items on state budgets, and states complain they don't have enough flexibility to pare it without losing their federal matching funds. The federal government, on average, covers 57% of the cost of the program for states. In exchange, states must keep Medicaid open to all who qualify.

Some states, in particular those led by Republicans, are calculating whether they'd be better off giving up the federal funding and replacing Medicaid with a narrower program of their own. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has proposed that his state get out of Medicaid in favor of a state-run system unburdened by federal mandates—including the one that prohibits states from reducing eligibility for the program if they want to qualify for the federal matching funds.

"We feel very comfortable that we could come up with a more equitable, a more efficient, and obviously a more cost-effective way to deliver health care," he said.

And if you can do that and cover all the people on the program now, then congratulations.  I'm betting however that this isn't going to happen, and that the rolls of any state program that would replace Medicaid would have far fewer benefits and cover far fewer people.

What does Gov. Perry propose then happens to the people that would be removed from the rolls?  Nobody apparently has an answer for this, and the WSJ article doesn't bother to ask the question.

But I guess that's somebody else's problem.

[UPDATE] And Gov. Perry believes he'll be more powerful than the President soon.  Take that as you will.

Today In Village Idiocy

Politico's Ben Smith is 100% right for once...but 100% wrong as well.

The weekend collapse of the Adminisration's airline screening policy is hard to understand as a matter of messaging, with Clinton undermining the TSA's screening regime and the relevant official sending a hazy mixed message on the subject, even as the screening policy remains in place.

There's no doubt about who won on this issue: Matt Drudge chose it and drove it, illustrating both his continued power and his great sense of the public mood, and it now seems a matter of time until he gets results.

But the moment is also, a smart Democrat notes, representative of how this administration (and to be fair, everyone in public life) continues to wrestle with "populism as narrated by the Drudge Report." There are some echoes of the Shirley Sherrod mess in the panicked, mixed reactions.

Drudge still rules the Village whenever he sets the shiny ball rolling, but it's Villagers like Smith who follow it and then blame the left for saying "You know what?  He has a point for once."  Obama really is on the wrong side of this TSA problem, and it's not a messaging issue, but a "continuation of a moronic Bush policy issue."

Drudge wouldn't have his power if it wasn't for guys like Ben Smith, who manage to A) confirm that Drudge runs the Village High School Cool Kids and B) dump on the Left by equating anyone who thinks the TSA issue is a serious problem to Breitbart and his Shirley Sherrod story.  Ben Smith ought to know better than this.

Just because Drudge covered the story doesn't mean it wasn't a problem before he used it to attack Obama.

Ahh, but the real problem is the Left's reaction to this, and the normally excellent Kevin Drum is a prime example.

I know I'm totally off the reservation on this, which is a little weird since I'm a bit of a privacy crank. But I think liberals have been badly rolled on this. We're usually better about letting ourselves get sucked into the Drudge vortex.

Yes Kevin, you are waaaaaaaay off the reservation on this, and doing Drudge's work for him.

Meanwhile, In Hell

As feared, Haiti's cholera epidemic has spread to the capital, Port-au-Prince.  Doctors are trying to do what they can but the human toll is horrendous.

The death toll has risen to at least 1,344 in the cholera outbreak in Haiti that has sickened nearly 57,000 people, the Haitian government said Monday.

The announcement came as international health officials predicted that the scale of Haiti's cholera epidemic will exceed initial estimates of 200,000 over coming months.

"Having seen how the bacteria is behaving in this environment with these people, having seen just how poor and how hungry the people are, we know we have to revise our numbers up," said Nyka Alexander, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, in a phone call with CNN.

Health workers say the Haitian population lacks immunity to cholera and Haitian medical workers lack experience treating the infection because the bacterium has not been detected on the island in more than a century.

The impoverished country's weak health and sanitation systems are only compounding the problem.

"Another factor why this epidemic has spread as far as it has and why it will continue to spread, is dirty water, poor sanitation, no toilets, malnutrition and poor access to health centers," Alexander said. "People have to walk five hours to a health center and if you have diarrhea you're not going to make it.

She added, "The disease is showing the weaknesses in the country."

Hundreds of thousands will become ill, thousands more will die.  Haiti still has no infrastructure, and no real way to defend against this epidemic.  I know we have our own problems in America, and the rest of the world has their own issues too...but it's all the more depressing to get such a powerful dose of perspective.

There's still years of work to be done there.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Popcorn time!

The new Quinnipiac poll shows Sarah Palin holding a narrow plurality among Republicans across the country for the party's presidential nomination in 2012. And at the same time, the poll makes clear that while President Obama is vulnerable in a closely-divided country, Palin would be the GOP's worst possible nominee for the general election race.

Among Republicans and GOP-leaners: Palin 19%, Romney 18%, Huckabee 17%, Gingrich 15%. Bringing up the rear are Tim Pawlenty at 6%, Haley Barbour 2%, Mitch Daniels 2%, and John Thune 2%. The Republican primary poll has a ±3.1% margin of error.

And for the national match-ups against Obama:
Obama leads Palin by 48%-40%
Romney edges Obama by 45%-44%.
Obama edges Huckabee by 46%-44%.
Obama leads the lesser-known Daniels by 45%-36%.
The survey of registered voters has a ±2% margin of error.

As I've said before, the only guy who has a real chance vs Obama is Romney, and there's no way he wins the primary.   Let's not forget Quinnipiac was the most accurate of the major pollsters, either.  That 4 way tie for first is not going to last long.  The real battle begins as soon as Sarah Palin declares.

Irish Eyes Are Crying, Part 8

Things are moving rapidly in Ireland now.  The country has agreed to the EU/IMF bailout, but Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is submitting an even tighter austerity budget for 2011 that will make draconian cuts in services and jobs, despite the complete and documented failure of Ireland's 2010 austerity plan in this "Irish Eyes" series of posts.

As a result, Ireland's Green Party is telling Cowen to kiss its Blarney and is pulling out of the government, calling for new elections in January.

Ireland’s Green Party will quit the government after next month’s budget is passed and talks with the European Union on an aid plan are completed, leaving Prime Minister Brian Cowen without a majority in parliament.

The Green party plans to support the government’s budget and wants an election in January, leader John Gormley said at a press conference in Dublin today. Irish voters “feel misled” by the government, he said.

Ireland yesterday became the second euro-region state to ask for external help after surging costs to bail out the country’s banks pushed up the budget deficit and eroded investor confidence. The aid, which Irish officials said as recently as Nov. 15 they didn’t need, marks the latest blow to Cowen’s popularity, which has plunged as he raised taxes, cut public workers’ pay and pumped billions of euros into lenders.

“I suppose it’s not very surprising. It’s clear that the public are very fed up,” said Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham Stockbrokers in Dublin. “We need elections sooner rather than later. It makes sense for them to support the budget and then walk away.” 

Full statement from the Green Party's John Gormley here, at Tyler's place.  There's a pretty good chance that Ireland's 2011 austerity budget will blow up, and from that point it's anyone's guess.

Adult Conversations Without The Adults

Dean Of The Village Serious People David Broder is SHOOOOOOCKED that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are acting like spoiled brats instead of the adults that he thought the Tea Party Republicans were going to be.

Washington began last week to come to grips with the new order of things, a regime in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell holds as much sway as the president of the United States.

With the additional leverage that six more Republican senators and a new Republican majority in the House has given him, McConnell is challenging President Obama's agenda for the lame-duck session of Congress and signaling that he is prepared to keep up the fight right into the 2012 election.

Whether it is tax rates or nuclear arms, Republicans are being assertive about their views and challenging Democrats to step up to the fight. Not one sign has appeared so far of any willingness to compromise

Oh well gosh, it's not like anyone saw THAT coming.  You know, except me, 95% of the blogs in the blogroll list there, all of you guys, and my brother's pet rescue ferret.  Republicans sure as hell knew this was coming.  Dems knew this was coming.  In fact, it seems the only people caught unaware of the fact that the Republicans were going to go complete scorched earth is David Broder and the Village.

Well, it's good of the old man to figure out what's going on, even if it was two years too late.  Maybe a sharply critical look at the Republican Plan is in order here by Broder and company.

And if you believe THAT's coming, well you've been asleep along with Broder here.

The Kroog Versus Blood And Lots Of It

Paul Krugman weighs in on Centrist Dalek Master Alan Simpson and the Republican scorched earth tactics.

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.”

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore. 

Krugman has definitely gotten the GOP Plan for some time now.  There's no reason for the Republicans to want to improve the economy now when they will be rewarded by doing nothing and blaming Obama for it.  Literally hundreds of House bills that Nancy Pelosi got through the House died to Republican filibusters in the Senate, threatened, real, or otherwise.  Hundreds of bills that could have improved all kinds of things died thanks to the Senate.

Now these bills won't even make it through the House.  Instead we'll see legislation challenging Obama's birth certificate and weekly attempts to nullify parts of health care reform.  That'll help the average American with their finances, right?

So yes, there will be blood, as Krugman says.  And it's not going to be from anyone on Capitol Hill.


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