Opinion

The Great Debate

Theodore Roosevelt on net neutrality

tr & crowd

“Above all else,” President Theodore Roosevelt admonished Congress in 1905, “we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”

Roosevelt could not have imagined digital computers and fiber-optic cables. He was talking about railroads, the highways of commerce in his day.

But though the technology has changed, the principle TR expressed remains as essential as it was a century ago. We ignore it at our peril.

Until now, our digital highways of commerce have been open to all on equal terms. Media conglomerates and big-box retailers transmit information through the same pipes as bloggers, startups and boutiques. This principle of equality, known as net neutrality, has stimulated competition and spurred innovation since the Internet began.

Wheeler testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the FY2015 budget justification for the FCC, on Capitol Hill in WashingtonBut it might not last much longer. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now preparing new rules that would let broadband providers charge premiums for “fast-lane” content delivery.

Boehner: The fight to hold the party line

U.S. House Speaker Boehner holds a news conference at the Republican National Committee offices in Washington

In his latest attempt to impose discipline on his famously disorderly Republican caucus, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) chose the soft power of public mockery over the more militant promise of private retribution. Speaking at an event in his home state, Boehner lashed out at fellow Republicans who have stymied immigration reform. “Here’s the attitude,” Boehner said of his recalcitrant colleagues. ‘Oooh, don’t make me do this. Oooh, this is too hard.’ ”

He spoke not in his usual solemn tones but with a high, child-like pitch, suggesting that his tormentors were in need of adult supervision.

Back to Baker

Boehner is hardly the first legislative leader to reach that conclusion. Howard Baker, the Tennessee Republican who served as Senate majority leader in the early 1980s, famously said that rounding up votes was like “herding kittens.” But during Boehner’s three-plus years as speaker, he has been notably unable to prod his colleagues in a productive direction. Earlier this year, Boehner was forced to withdraw his own debt-ceiling bill after realizing that, despite being speaker of the House of Representatives and commander in chief of his fellow House Republicans,  he didn’t have enough GOP votes.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Why the Russian sanctions don’t work

putin!!

Why did the U.S. and European sanctions against Russia earlier this week trigger a rebound in the ruble and the Moscow stock market?

To understand this paradox it is worth recalling Yes Minister, the British TV comedy about a blundering politician who stumbles from crisis to crisis with the same justification for every panic response: “Something must be done. This is something --– therefore it must be done.”

The problem with this syllogism is that doing something may be worse than doing nothing -- and the Western decision to rely on economic sanctions in the Ukraine crisis is a case in point.

Don’t cry for the Nabucco pipeline

The site of a newly opened distribution hub of the gas pipeline Gazelle is pictured in Primda

It is too late for regrets. With Europe worried that Moscow could cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine, which would trigger price volatility and supply risks throughout the continent, the failure of the Nabucco pipeline project stands out.

Created to carry Caspian gas into Europe by bypassing Ukraine, Nabucco would have given Europeans and Americans a much-needed sense of supply security — though the pipeline would have carried its capacity of 31 billion cubic meters of gas annually only near the end of this decade. Instead, Europeans are left scratching their heads and searching for alternative energy supplies.

Russia, meanwhile, is likely to remain Europe’s chief natural gas supplier through at least 2020, despite the anticipated growth of diversified gas shipments to Europe, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the vast U.S. shale-gas resources.

Supersize salaries: How much is that CEO worth?

california combo

The disparity between what chief executive officers earn and what their employees earn continues to grow exponentially. CEO pay levels have increased dramatically for more than 20 years. Pay levels for workers, however, have stagnated. This is a much-cited statistic. But now a proposed bill in the California state Senate aims to do something about this.

Two state senators want to make sure that companies based in California pay a price for granting super-sized salaries to their CEOs. Businesses that reward their top officials with outlandish bonuses and salaries would be forced to pay a special tax.

ellison -- small unhappyOracle CEO Larry Ellison, for example, was paid $78.4 million in 2013. If the median pay for all Oracle employees, including contractors and non-U.S. workers, is less than $200,000 (roughly one four-hundredth of Ellison’s pay) — and my guess would be it is — under the new law the company could soon be paying a 13 percent state corporation tax rate, rather than its current 8.84 percent.

Exorcising the voter fraud ghost

A poll worker looks at voter authorization forms and provisional ballots after the polls closed at the Covenant Presbyterian Church during the U.S. presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane

When it comes to the fight about voter fraud and voter suppression, how do you prove a negative?

One key question in the battle over the legality of voter identification laws is whether such laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud and whether they suppress a lot of votes from eligible voters.

Though the answer to the second question remains in considerable dispute, after Tuesday’s federal court decision striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law, it is time for voter ID supporters to throw in the towel and admit state voter ID laws don’t prevent the kind of fraud they are supposedly targeted for.

Donald Sterling: Pariah

Amid the outcries over Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling’s heinous comments about African Americans, something is likely to be overlooked. The response to Sterling in both degree and magnitude was different from that of previous instances of racist ignorance — which shows just how much times have changed when it comes to race.

This time, there was no backtracking, no trimming, no apologies or excuses, no veiled support of the “yes-but” variety. Sterling was slammed with the weight of the world.

He is a pariah. National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver has now even taken the unprecedented step of formalizing Sterling’s non-personhood. He can have nothing whatsoever to do with professional basketball. He is through — an old man with a life sentence.

An America beyond black and white

America is growing too complicated and mixed — very brown, I would say.

Everyone is becoming everything. And the old man was a fool not to see it.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is on record pleading with his companion, V. Stiviano, not to be seen in public with black people and certainly not to post pictures of herself on the Internet with black athletes — particularly Magic Johnson.

But the most ironic thing about his comments is that Sterling was often seen and photographed at Clippers games sitting alongside Stiviano, a woman much younger than he and who is, by her own description, Mexican and black.

In the parlance of modern-day Los Angeles, Stiviano is a “Blaxican.”

from Stories I’d like to see:

Regrouping for Detroit, GM’s bankruptcy evasion and Chinese corporate records

1. Kevyn Orr and a Detroit rebound?

Last Friday, I happened onto a C-Span broadcast of a speech to a national group of bankruptcy lawyers given by Kevyn Orr -- the emergency manager who Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed to take over Detroit’s finances and guide the fallen city through bankruptcy. Since I couldn’t stand watching the Yankees get slaughtered by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I stopped on the Orr speech for a minute. I stayed 45.

I had never seen Orr speak or paid much attention to Detroit’s troubles and his efforts to dig the city out from under. But if his talk -- riveting, funny, emotional, self-effacing, forceful, fact-filled, wholly convincing and seemingly off the cuff -- is any indication, both Orr and Detroit 2014 are big national stories.

They are worthy of coverage beyond the good work that’s been done by, among other local outlets, the Detroit Free Press, which ran this comprehensive story  last month, on the one-year anniversary of Orr leaving a lucrative partnership at the Jones, Day law firm to take on the rescue job.

The increasing significance of race

Behind every Supreme Court decision is a sociology of ordinary life. Opinions reveal the justices’ view of what’s what in the world, how people act and why things change.

Justices probably prefer that we focus on their legal analyses, but we can glean the sociology behind their assumptions. Last week, judicial world views spun into interplanetary conflict when the court voted to affirm Michigan’s vote to bar all consideration of race, gender, ethnicity, color or national origin in public decision-making, including in state college admissions.

The justices based their decision on a novel faith in the democratic process, which Justice Sonia Sotomayor spent 58 pages countering in a dissent that seemed to come from another universe.

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