Friday, June 30, 2006

Late Night Update: Net Neutrality, Alternative Energy, and Other Fun Stuff

Net Neutrality: The net neutrality amendment failed to be added to the telecommunications bill on its way to the Senate. This older Slate article does a great job of breaking down the competing interests, some of the problem's ideological puzzles, as well as what it all means for the consumer. While many aspects of this issue have been discussed extensively, many people don't mention (or realize) that the reason why the telcos are in their position is because of regulation establishing their status as a "common carrier." This basically means that they are subject to different laws and regulatory models -- for example, they aren't liable for the nature of the content that is being transmitted. This is why its hypocritical for them to talk about leaving everything to free market system -- they are benefiting from entitlements that other content providers don't get! If they can trample on net neutrality they shouldn't be able to keep their status as a common carrier either, because in a true "free market" system they wouldn't be able to have it both ways.

Alternative Energy: According to the CS Monitor, lawmakers are scrambling to remake our energy policy to address environmental concerns and reduce our dependence on oil. Still, The Guardian asserts that U.S. cars account for almost half the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere from exhaust pipes, because our cars are less fuel-efficient and are driven for longer distances. The full report from Environmental Defense can be accessed here.

Media: Eric Alterman disputes the notion of a "bounce back" for Bush as being hailed by the punditocracy. Alterman does a great job of comparing last week's message to... reality.

Electronic Voting: Andrew Gumbel explains why electronic voting systems could cause massive complications in Ohio's gubernatorial race. Elsewhere, it turns out that one person with the right technical know-how could swing an entire Presidential election.

Odds and Ends: Finally, Juan Cole takes a break from the usual in a neat little piece on recent attempts to slander "Kos" of DailyKos. It normally pisses me off whenever bloggers go at great lengths emphasizing their own importance, but he does a great job of explaining what differentiates a distributed form of communication from what we're used to, and how that plays into the attacks we're starting to see.

Michigan House Democrats Combat Deadly Drugs

Everyone knows that the FDA just doesn't have the resources to test drugs as thoroughly as they need to be. Thanks to Governor Engler and a Republican-controlled legislature, in Michigan manufacturers of harmful drug products are afforded complete immunity if their product was approved by the USFDA. This ultimately means that drug companies are not held accountable for knowingly selling harmful products. Thankfully, the House Democrats remember that this affects real people, and today reaffirmed their commitment to fighting for the disclosure of drug test results in the face of criticism from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. I think this picture says it all.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot has more on the increased awareness of the issue. As usual, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce claims that the issue is "about trial lawyers" and that reversing the immunity will kill jobs. What about the idea of consumer protection? The fact is that most Michigan residents would rather be protected from products that are known to be harmful, and favor having some kind of recourse so that companies think twice before engaging in this kind of behavior. Given that we're the only state that grants this immunity for just one particular industry, I don't see how this is an issue of being business-friendly.

(cross-posted on Michigan Liberal)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Redistricting and the "Culture of Life"

It looks like a House Resolution sponsored by Rep. Gosselin, which establishes March 31, 2006 as "Terri's Day of Remembrance & Celebration of the Culture of Life Day," is on the agenda for tomorrow (err... today now). According to the May 30th Gongwer, the resolution declares official support for the "Schindler Schiavo Foundation," which advocates a so-called "Culture of Life." According to the piece, "Culture of Life advocates say the movement opposes abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, gay marriage and stem cell research."

The MI GOP supposedly prides itself in its advocacy of limited government and keeping the state from intervening in an individual's life. It is completely hypocritical for them to support a resolution that implicitly condones the most egregious intrusion of our government into the life of an individual that we have seen in recent history. I wish our State Legislature spent its time trying to fix our state instead of coming up with new holidays and hot air resolutions.

As everyone has heard by now, the Supreme Court O.K.ed the Republican Congressional redistricting in Texas, meaning that redistricting could happen anytime the sides switch in a state legislature or it is convenient to do so politically. While this can't be good for Democrats in the short-term, I don't see it working out for our democracy at all even if Democrats were the ones that benefited from this. Elected officials are supposed to be held accountable by their constituents, and shouldn't be removed from office because of the political considerations of a completely unrelated body.

For example, Candice Miller's district was carved out for her after the 2000 Census -- she didn't win because of her qualifications as a candidate, but because her district was handed to her on a platter by Michigan Republicans. The Republicans were also able to knock off a couple Democrats by forcing popular incumbents to either battle in the primaries against each other, like in the case of Dingell and Rivers, or force one candidate to take a step back, such as with Barcia and Kildee -- what's to stop them from doing this whenever they want?

We could all benefit from a redistricting system like Iowa's. Iowa's system is cool because nonpartisan staff define proposals for the borders of districts without election data or such as the addresses of incumbents. Some aspects of their system, such as determining geographic boundaries, are actually done before the Census collects or reports population information.

(cross posted on Michigan Liberal)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

hello world

This is going to end up as yet another abandoned project.

Ah well, here goes nothing!