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The Internet Blackout

By Tim Butler | Posted at 0:10

OFB participated in the Internet Blackout today, an event which involved many sites replacing their normal content with information on stopping the dangerous bill known as SOPA from continuing through Congress. Overall, I think the blackout was a success. According to one statistic I read, approximately 1 billion people encountered part of the blackout today, most notably through Wikipedia's participation in the event. By my count, 18 senators have turned against the act over the course the day today.

Let's just hope they stick to their new found principles.

Drum Major

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:55

The MLK memorial is (thankfully) going to be revised to have a proper quote from the civil rights activist:

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” the monument says. What an odd choice for a quote, I thought, when I visited in August before its scheduled dedication. It sounded almost … conceited. And it was past tense, as though King was speaking from the grave. It didn't sound like King at all.

I went looking for the context, read the whole speech and found there was a reason it didn't sound like him. “If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was …” is how King began his statement. As many have since pointed out, the “if” and the “you” entirely change the meaning. To King, being a self-aggrandizing drum major was not a good thing; if you wanted to call him that, he said, at least say it was in the service of good causes.

Context, as one of my professors from Covenant likes to say, is king. I'm glad that Martin Luther King's context, a context that does not sound conceited, is going to be restored.

Minutes to Midnight

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:49

Jason Ukman writes on the “Doomsday Clock” moving closer to midnight:

BAS said not all news was bad over the past year. The group's members say they were heartened by the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements and political protest in Russia.

I think the clock's message is becoming diluted. Obviously, it has always been quite subjective, but when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is factoring in points such as the Occupy movement, they've not only made it even more subjective, they have also boldly positioned themselves chasmal distance from their area of study.

Including the Arab Spring is nearly as bad, showing that atomic scientists make lousy political scientists. To the extent that the Arab Spring has affected the coming of “doomsday” in the nuclear sense the clock was suppose to symbolize, I would wager it moved us closer to midnight. (Not because I am against middle eastern democracies, obviously, but the parties looking poised to take control potentially could destabilize the region further.)

The Cult of Centrism?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 20:25

Paul Krugman opines that the president has managed to get himself caught in a “cult of centrism:”

We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president.

The must read tech blogger John Gruber apparently agrees. The problem with this analysis is that it implies that a basic sensible fiscal policy — that when one is spending too much, one should lower spending — is somehow “radical.”

As Gloria Borger noted on CNN last night, the president is the only notable figuring advocating further taxes right now. Obviously, spending cuts are the Right's answer to government spending problems, but when a one trillion dollar debt ceiling increase only staves off the problem for six months, can anyone really provide an explanation of how spending is not out of control?

The only reason Krugman can look at President Obama and suggest he is somewhat “conservative” is that the columnist is so far left that anything in the American mainstream of politics must be of the radical right. Even if his reputation was set aside, Krugman's incredible remarks suggesting that the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 was some sort of quasi-conservative health care bill make it clear how radical the columnist, and not the alleged conservatives in the Congress, are.

The people did not elect boatloads of Tea Party candidates last year because they thought increased taxes and spending would be the way to fix our situation. How about this: before we talk about how Uncle Sam needs more of the citizenry's money, let's see if we can quit wasting the money he already takes.

How to Hurt Small Businesses with the Amazon Tax

By Tim Butler | Posted at 9:49

Because it is unconstitutional to tax companies without a physical presence in a state, various states have been passing laws that absurdly count having affiliates such as myself in a state as having a “physical presence” in that state. It doesn't work out well:

Board of Equalization Member George Runner blasted Brown for signing the law. “Even as Governor Jerry Brown lifted his pen to sign this legislation, thousands of affiliates across California were losing their jobs. The so-called 'Amazon tax' is truly a lose-lose proposition for California. Not only won't we see the promised revenues, we'll actually lose income tax revenue as affiliates move to other states.”

Given that affiliate programs are essentially advertising programs, the legislation's concept is fundamentally flawed. Moreover, since the major online retailers terminate affiliates in a given state when that state passes this sort of crazy law, the laws do not produce revenue for the state, they only eliminate revenue for the affiliates.

This is helpful how?

Buy Partisan

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:43

If you follow Woot, you know the minds behind it come up with a humorous story to go with each day's deal. Today's is a must read for every political junkie.

What a Night

By Tim Butler | Posted at 23:26

A fascinating night politically. My only major disappointment was the loss of Carly Fiorina. I am quite shocked at Ike Skelton's loss.

Hope Souffle

By Tim Butler | Posted at 14:01

Edward Luce writes in the Financial Times:

Having been elected partly on the basis of hope, Mr Obama may have to put the accent on fear in 2012 if he wants to be re-elected – fear, that is, of what the other guy might do. As Bill Galston, the respected US political observer, points out: “Hope is a souffle that never rises twice.”

Astute.

Beck, Religion and Politics

By Tim Butler | Posted at 14:04

Carl Trueman writes,

Nonetheless, in identifying the syncretism of Beck as the major problem in Beck, I think Mr Olasky misses the point. Beck is also both a function and a perpetuating cause of a wider problem in American politics: his idiom is the rhetoric of extremism and fear; he trades in Manichean cliches which see the political world as a very black and white place; he models for the wider world a form of discourse which is a million miles from anything which represents thoughtful, critical engagement with the issues and with those with whom he disagrees; he rarely puts forward a real argument (at least as I would understand an argument, with evidence, engagement with the strongest points of his opponents etc.); his attitude and tone when speaking about legally elected government are difficult to square with New Testament teaching on respect for those in authority (the Greek Apologists did a much better job, in conditions much more hostile to the faith — not to mention, of course, the Apostle Paul); and his continual inflammatory rhetoric about Marxism indicates both a basic failure to grasp what Marxism is (or, rather, what Marxisms are  — Marxism these days being akin to `Christianity' as a rather vague catch-all term) and a lack of precision in handling matters that, quite frankly, need to be handled with precision.   As Os Guinness indicated at a recent lecture at Westminster, the Religious Right (of which Beck is emerging as an unlikely hero) is often first past the post these days in the incivility of its discourse and of its engagement in the public sphere.

The last observation is especially apropos, sadly.

HT: Jeff Kerr

If This is What the Senate Does...

By Tim Butler | Posted at 23:38

And it is, no wonder our country is in trouble. From Sen. Schumer's letter to Apple:

But Consumer Reports disputed that explanation on Monday. In a review posted on the organization’s website, researchers with Consumer Reports said they would not recommend the product for purchase. The magazine said it found that the antenna was in fact the culprit behind the drop-off in the phone’s reception. It said a design flaw was responsible for the glitch.

Interestingly, Schumer was not nearly as concerned that Consumer Reports announced its “non recommendation” of the iPhone 4 while also giving the iPhone 4 the highest rating it gave to any phone. Maybe he should call on CR to “reconcile the competing claims” the magazine put out, too.

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