Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Call For Decidedly Un-Neutral

House Republicans aren't about to allow the FCC to do its job, not when it means being mean to the corporations that make sure America has some of the most overpriced broadband internet access on Earth because of forced lack of competition.  

And Republicans are perfectly OK with Americans paying two to five times what users do in Asian and European countries for the same broadband access speed, which would explain why US broadband giants like Time Warner Cable happily make a 97% profit margin on the service.

So when the Obama administration and the FCC released net neutrality rules and agreed that in 2015, broadband internet is as vital a service as water and power and should be regulated as a public utility and made more affordable, Republicans flipped out.

Now their latest attack is to back the broadband internet industry 100% by defunding the FCC's ability to implement any net neutrality rules.

A House appropriations bill released Wednesday would block the Federal Communication Commission from implementing its net neutrality rules until the courts weigh in on the issue.

The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year includes funding for the communications regulator that falls $73 million below what the agency requested. In total, the bill grants the agency $315 million. It was introduced by the House Appropriations Committee and includes $20.2 billion in total funding for a number of agencies. 
Included in the bill is a provision designed to stop implementation of the net neutrality rules until the issue has finished winding its way through the courts. It says that none of the funds in the bill can be used to “implement, administer, or enforce” the rules until three legal challenges are resolves.

The cases in question are brought by Alamo Broadband, CenturyLink and trade group U.S. Telecom.

Unless the courts rule otherwise, the net neutrality order will take effect on Friday.

The bill includes a line specifically banning rate regulation by the FCC for either standard broadband service or wireless service. Conservatives say that the net neutrality order will open the door to rate regulation by the agency.

The funding bill also includes a provision specifying that the Commission cannot use funds to implement rules unless they post the text of the regulation online within 21 days.

So not only does the FCC take a whopping $73 million cut if the GOP gets its way, but net neutrality rules that go into effect this week never will, as the FCC would be blocked from implementing the rules until years of future court battles are resolved.  Effectively, the rules would never be implemented.

Why are Republicans so scared of the FCC?  One has to wonder just how much money GOP lawmakers are taking from these internet giants in order to make sure they remain allowed to reap massive profits off American consumers.

Kansas Tornado, Meet North Carolina

Tax cuts for coporations and for the rich can never fail to magically create new revenue, they can only be failed by not cutting taxes enough.  Given all of the problems in Kansas with GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's ridiculous Laffer Curve lunacy that left that the state in a massive budget hole, you'd think other Republican states would back off.

Not North Carolina, no sir.

N.C. Senate Republicans have stuffed a House economic development bill with 46 pages of their own proposals – including lower personal income tax rates, a change in corporate taxes, a new formula for distributing sales tax revenues among counties, and a retooled jobs incentives program. 
The Senate substitute for House Bill 117 – the “N.C. Competes” bill favored by Gov. Pat McCrory – looks far different than the proposal that passed the House in March with bipartisan support. But Senate leader Phil Berger says it represents a compromise between varying proposals for growing the state’s economy. 
“I think there was a lot of give and take in putting this together,” Berger said during a rare appearance at the Senate Commerce Committee, where the new bill was rolled out. “A proposal such as this takes a great deal of compromises, a great deal of working together.” 
The new bill drew immediate praise from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which said senators “demonstrated bold leadership today by maintaining this proven path to prosperity with a tax cut proposal.” But the liberal N.C. Justice Center criticized the plan, saying further tax cuts “will hinder the state’s progress” with “a strategy that has failed in many other states.”

So what's in this mess of a bill from the GOP-controlled NC Senate? Check the first two "features":

New sales tax on services: To help pay for new income tax cuts, the bill would broaden the sales tax base. Among the purchases that would face sales taxes: Advertising, veterinary and pet care services, and repairs and maintenance work on personal property such as cars. Large nonprofits, such as hospitals, would lose a sales tax exemption. Collectively, the changes would create $171.3 million each year in new revenue, senators said. A news release from Berger said additional sales tax would “continue the goal of moving away from unfair and burdensome taxes on property and income.” 
Personal income tax cuts: The personal income tax rate would be cut from from 5.75 percent to 5.5 percent beginning in 2016. The standard deduction would increase gradually over a four-year period, meaning a married couple filing jointly wouldn’t owe income taxes on the first $18,500 of income by 2020. A single person wouldn’t owe taxes on his or her first $9,250 in income. “People will have more disposable income in their pockets,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican. “That is a great way to lower the tax burden on working families and small businesses.”

So a $171 million dollar tax increase on service industries, like auto repair, veterinarians, and hospital care, but a big tax cut for those who earn a lot.  It's as regressive as a tax system can be. What this happens to be?  Good old tax cuts for the rich paid for by taxing the poor, period.  It failed in Kansas and unfortunately if this passes it will fail in NC as well.

And a lot of good people back in my home state will be hurt as a result.

Read more here:

Read more here:

From Shakespeare To Saruman

Legendary actor Christopher Lee has passed away at the age of 93 on Sunday after a nearly seventy year career.  Best known to my generation as Saruman the White from the Lord of the Rings movies, Lee started out as the heart and soul of the now famous Hammer Studios horror films.

Sir Christopher Lee has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

The veteran actor, best known for a variety of films from Dracula to The Wicker Man through to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, passed away on Sunday morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, according to sources.

The decision to release the news days after was based on his wife’s desire to inform family members first. The couple had been married for over 50 years.

As well as his career in film, Lee also released a series of heavy metal albums, including Charlemagne: The Omens of Death. He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded the Bafta fellowship in 2011.

His film career started in 1947 with a role in gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors but it wasn’t until the late 50s, when Lee worked with Hammer, that he started gaining fame. His first role with the studio was The Curse of Frankenstein and it was the first of 20 films that he made with Peter Cushing, who also became a close friend. “Hammer was an important part of my life, and generally speaking, we all had a lot of fun,” he said in a 2001 interview.

Lee had no problem poking fun at his status as a schlock movie icon either, as his turn as wacky mad scientist Doctor Catheter in the 1990 film Gremlins 2 attests.

But prolific doesn't even begin to describe his many roles, from Dracula to Space 1999's Captain Zandor (no relation) to Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun to Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels to all kids of voice work in games like the Kingdom Hearts series and more.

And that's not counting his massive stage presence, his service in WW II or his career as an opera and heavy metal singer.

He did it all folks, and he was amazing at it.  We'll not see his like again.


And I'm back, more or less.  Thanks to Bon for filling in!

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