URLs du Jour

2022-06-13

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  • Let's check out the other side. Yes, I still subscribe to WIRED, at least for the next few months. Even though it continually threatens to make my eyes roll clean out of my head with articles like this: The Internet Socialists Want. It's an interview with author Ben Tarnoff, who presumably speaks for "socialists". The WIRED interviewer, sadly, avoids tough questions. Mostly he wonders whether the government shouldn't just regulate/antitrust the crap out of existing companies, instead of wholesale nationalization. Sample (interviewer in bold):

    There are many places around the world that have way faster, way cheaper internet than in the US, and it's provided by the private sector. So is the problem here privatization, or is it deregulation? The internet wasn't just handed over to the private sector in the US, it was handed over on super-favorable terms.

    You're pointing to something important for people to understand, which is that the US has a highly concentrated market for internet service. We have four companies that control 76 percent of internet subscriptions in this country. As a result, we pay some of the most expensive rates in the world for awful service. I mean, we pay higher average monthly prices than people in Europe or Asia. Our average connection speeds are below that in Romania and Thailand.

    This sounds like an argument for antitrust enforcement to increase competition, rather than getting rid of the whole concept of for-profit internet service providers.

    You raise an interesting question: Is my goal simply better speed for lower cost? Or is there something else? Research shows that if you were to bring competition to the highly concentrated market for internet service in the United States, it would almost certainly improve speeds and lower cost. That's a very important goal. But it's not quite enough, for two reasons. One is that competition tends to work best for people who are worth competing for, which is to say, competition is best at bringing down prices for higher-end broadband packages. Where competition is not so effective is in bringing connectivity to people who really can't afford it, or who live in communities, particularly rural communities, in which it's not profitable to invest under any circumstances.

    Disclaimer: I have very good service (via Comcast) at a price I find reasonable. But I agree that competition would probably bring that price down.

    What's missing from the Tarnoff interview: any example where government has taken over the "Internet": not just the infrastructure, but the companies providing products and services. And where that takeover has resulted in something that could be objectively called "improvement".

    Please let some other country be the canary in Tarnoff's coal mine.


  • But I'm sure they have great Internet, right? Right? Nellie Bowles describes How San Francisco Became a Failed City. She's a long-time, but now ex-, resident. Here's just one anecdote:

    On a cold, sunny day not too long ago, I went to see the city’s new Tenderloin Center for drug addicts on Market Street. It’s downtown, an open-air chain-link enclosure in what used to be a public plaza. On the sidewalks all around it, people are lying on the ground, twitching. There’s a free mobile shower, laundry, and bathroom station emblazoned with the words DIGNITY ON WHEELS. A young man is lying next to it, stoned, his shirt riding up, his face puffy and sunburned. Inside the enclosure, services are doled out: food, medical care, clean syringes, referrals for housing. It’s basically a safe space to shoot up. The city government says it’s trying to help. But from the outside, what it looks like is young people being eased into death on the sidewalk, surrounded by half-eaten boxed lunches.

    A couple of years ago, this was an intersection full of tourists and office workers who coexisted, somehow, with the large and ever-present community of the homeless. I’ve walked the corner a thousand times. Now the homeless—and those who care for the homeless—are the only ones left.

    I guess it's a nice place to live if you're rich enough to insulate yourself from all the shit, quick enough to avert your eyes from immense human suffering, and progressive enough to pat yourself on the back for all your good intentions.


  • An investigation that didn't really investigate. Andrew C. McCarthy describes What the January 6 Committee Hearing Left Out.

    So I watched Bennie’s Hill Show on Thursday night, the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time hearing of the House January 6 committee under Chairman Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.). The committee is crafting a narrative about — as opposed to conducting a by-the-book investigation of — the Capitol riot.

    Notwithstanding the exertions of the former ABC News exec the Democrat-dominated panel retained to make a slick TV production of this month’s much-hyped hearings, Thursday’s extravaganza did not break new ground, let alone “blow the roof off the house,” as committee stalwart Jamie Raskin (D., Md.) had breathlessly anticipated. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Capitol riot was a disgrace, and any congressional committee would be within its rights to show that vividly, even if doing so didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. Still, more notable than what we saw was what we didn’t see.

    First, contrary to this wickedly comic Babylon Bee post, Miley Cyrus did not actually perform at halftime of the production. That was unfortunate. Unlike the sparse but invested spectators at a normal congressional hearing — you know, those quaint affairs that used to happen during business hours — a national television audience is tough to hold. As Bennie Thompson is really not Benny Hill, it was unrealistic to expect viewers to hang in through his plodding opening statement, to say nothing of the meandering break he took in the middle of the, um, action. Those who did stick around got a well-structured story line from Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), effectively interspersed with video mined from riot footage and witness testimony — not quite Emmy material, but effective to the purpose nonetheless.

    More on this tomorrow, sorry.


  • Freedom to hold popular opinions has never been in jeopardy. Jeff Jacoby looks at the latest issue SCOTUS has to decide: The freedom to uphold an unpopular opinion.

    LORIE SMITH is a graphic artist and Web designer in Colorado who wants to expand into the field of custom-made wedding websites. Under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, such a business would be considered a "public accommodation," which may not refuse to serve customers on the basis of sexual orientation. As Colorado officials interpret the law, if Smith offered her services for weddings between men and women, she could not lawfully refuse to do so for same-sex weddings.

    That's a problem for Smith. She opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds and does not want to design websites promoting something she believes is wrong. Colorado acknowledges that she "will gladly create custom graphics and websites" for LGBTQ+ clients and that she objects only to using her talents to create content that violates her religious beliefs. The state maintains, however, that she may not pick and choose: If she wishes to design websites for traditional weddings, she must be willing to do so for gay and lesbian weddings.

    Smith's case is now before the Supreme Court. The justices have agreed to settle a question they ducked four years ago in a similar Colorado case, that of specialty baker Jack Phillips, who was punished because he declined to design a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. In a 7-2 decision, the high court ruled in Phillips's favor, but the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy was very narrow. It avoided the free-speech issue, and focused instead on the overt hostility shown by Colorado officials toward Phillips's religious beliefs.

    George Maynard, who famously got in trouble for taping over the Live Free or Die slogan on his New Hawmpshire license plates makes an appearance later in the article.


  • Would you like to go for Double Jeopardy where the scores can really change? Abigail Shrier uses a different Die Hard quote to argue "In Defense of Political Escalation": Welcome to the Party, Pal. Noting the asymmetry in the culture wars:

    This week, conservative writers Ryan Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis lost the ability to offer pre-orders of their new pro-Life audiobook when the book’s distributor dropped them—on ideological grounds, of course. One year ago, Anderson’s critique of the transgender movement, When Harry Became Sally, was effectively vaporized—deleted by Amazon on the specious grounds that it “framed an LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” (It’s nearly impossible to speak of gender dysphoria without reference to its inclusion in the DSM-5, psychiatry’s most authoritative manual of mental illnesses; indeed, the word “disorder” is in the title of the DSM.) Even third-party sales of Anderson’s book were banned from Amazon and all sites they control. Given that well over half of all U.S. book sales flow through its channels, Amazon’s actions represent an issue entirely different from Masterpiece Cakeshop (the difference is scale), as I’ve written before. An Amazon deletion is a death sentence for a book.

    Not to be outdone, this week, PayPal and Etsy shut down the accounts of biological realist and writer Colin Wright for his persistence in arguing that there are only two sexes. Etsy permanently disabled Wright’s account – where he sold his “Reality’s Last Stand” merch promoting his newsletter – on the grounds that Wright “glorif[ied] hatred or violence toward protected groups.” That’s a lie; Wright never did.

    Wright is a biologist who made the grievous error of knowing a thing or two about biology and refusing to genuflect before the Torquemadas who insist he parrot their phony gender science. But of course, while Wright pays this price for his harmless (and, honestly, inoffensive) t-shirts and mugs, Etsy continues to list for sale stickers and pins and other bric-a-brac emblazoned with messages like “Fuck TERFs,” “TERFs can choke,” and “Shut the Fuck up TERF” with an anime creature pointing a semiautomatic handgun at its presumably female interlocutor.

    Well, I'm sure a socialized Internet would fix all that.


Last Modified 2022-06-14 5:41 AM EDT