I will be visiting my grandchildren over the next few days and so blogging will be light or non-existent until early next week.
Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a bold plan to provide free broadband internet access to everyone in the UK.
Labour believes the plan, part-funded by a tax on internet giants such as Facebook and Google, is a vote winner, combining a consumer-friendly pledge to cut bills with a commitment to taking on powerful corporations.
Outlining the proposal in Lancaster, however, Corbyn said it would guarantee what was now a basic utility, encourage social cohesion, bolster the economy and help the environment.
He said the service would become “our treasured public institution for the 21st century”.
“What was once a luxury is now an essential utility,” the Labour leader told an audience at Lancaster University. “I think it’s too important to be left to the corporations. Only the government has the planning ability, economies of scale and ambition to take this on.”
The plan would involve nationalising elements of BT connected to broadband provision, forming a new company called British Broadband. Labour says it would cost about £20bn to roll out universal full-fibre broadband by 2030.
Corbyn portrayed the idea as a central element of “the most radical and exciting plan for real change the British public has ever seen” in the Labour manifesto, being launched next week, saying: “It’s going to knock your socks off – you’re going to love it.”
In his speech, Corbyn said universal rapid broadband “must be a public service, bringing communities together with equal access in an inclusive and connected society”.
He said: “Fast and free broadband for all will fire up our economy, deliver a massive boost to productivity and bring half a million people back into the workforce. It will help our environment and tackle the climate emergency by reducing the need to commute.”
The internet now has become an essential tool for people. Corbyn is right that the internet is now an essential utility and I applaud his move.
In the US private companies have carved out the market to create quasi-monopolies in many areas so that they can make big profits while providing sub-par service at high prices. They have fought tooth and nail those local communities that seek to provide broadband access to everyone.
In the UK and some countries of the Commonwealth, the poppy symbol began to be used after World War I to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in wars on Remembrance Day, their equivalent to Memorial Day in the US. Little red plastic poppies are given out in return for a charitable contribution and then worn on the clothing to signify that the person has donated money to the cause. Collectors will stop you in the street or come to offices (with permission) with little tin cans into which you drop your money and get a flower in return.
In the US, we do not have charities going up to people and asking for a charitable donation in return for a token but the pressure can be similar. Here it is the flag pin or the flags flown on cars and houses especially when wars are begun, or demands that stores say ‘Merry Christmas’, and to a lesser extent, the ‘I voted today’ stickers that have become ostentatious symbols that one is on the ‘right’ side. This can have the effect that those who do not publicly conform are somehow lesser people.
Jonathan Pie rails about how what were once harmless symbols have now become weaponized and used to stoke nationalism and pressure people. (Language advisory)
Donald Trump has famously said that his base is so loyal to him that he could openly kill someone and they would still stick with him. There is some evidence to support that claim. But it appears that there is something that matters more to his supporters than murder and that is their right to vape.
When reports of the deaths and mysterious lung-related ailments that are thought to be associated with vaping first emerged, Trump came out in support for a federal ban on it. That would be understandable for Trump since he does not smoke or drink alcohol and he likely sees vaping as in the same category of things he personally dislikes. But it turns out that many of his supporters are passionate about this issue and are threatening to revolt against him if he carries out his threat, and Trump is apparently caving in to them
Donald Hoffman is a cognitive neuroscientist and in this interview, he discusses his own ideas of what makes up reality and consciousness. He argues that what we call the ‘reality’ of the world we experience need not have any correspondence with what we might consider the ‘real’ world but is just a construct that our brains have evolved over time that better fit us for survival.
In among all the noise surrounding high-profile events, we should take some time to celebrate some progressive wins that have gone under the radar. In a race for the Seattle city council, Amazon poured in a lot of money to defeat a socialist candidate Kshama Sawant who had been advocating for policies that would put a tiny, tiny dent in that corporate behemoth’s profits. They of course could not let that stand and backed a rival candidate. But after initially seeming to be losing, Sawant pulled out a win.
Readers may remember the case of Scott Warren who was arrested and charged for providing food, water, clothing, and shelter to weary undocumented migrants who had undertaken the dangerous trek over arid and barren land on the southern US border. The trial resulted in a hung jury that refused to convict him. Of course, the Customs and Border Protection agency has decided to waste time and money by retrying him.
That the police in the US often use unnecessary force is well known. What is shocking is how much this abuse is costing the cities. Take the case of New York City that paid out nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to settle thousands of lawsuits against them just in the last year alone. The previous year it was even more. Assuming a city population of ten million, this amounts to an annual tax of about $25 paid by every individual in the city just to settle police abuse cases.
New York City taxpayers spent a whopping $230 million to pay off 6,472 lawsuits settled against the NYPD in the last fiscal year, according to an annual report released Monday by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.
The amount reflects settlements made from July 2017 through June 2018, and marks a 32% decrease from the prior year, when the city paid out $335 million for lawsuits against the police department.
Critics say the numbers in the report are not indicative of a reformed police department.
“This is just another spin effort by the comptroller and the Law Department,” said civil rights lawyer Joel Berger. “The trend over the past 10 years tells you there’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there, and not everyone harmed by the police files a lawsuit. Plenty of people decide they don’t want to go through the hassle.”
Berger pointed out that 44% of the claims against the city resolved by settlements of judgement in 2018 were against the NYPD, and took issue with the police department and unions claiming that many of the cases against the NYPD were frivolous.
The size of these signs is a sign of how poorly trained the city’s police department is but the city seems to think that these payouts are just the cost of doing business and not a big flashing signal that the police force needs serious reform. That attitude is similar to the way that big banks treat fines levied against them for illegal activities.
When you run a corrupt and inefficient organization in which the people at the top are utterly corrupt and anyone with integrity and competence is shunted aside in favor of cronies and grifters (in case no one realizes it, I am of course referring to the Trump administration), con artists quickly realize that they can find a lucrative niche there because no one really cares about honesty.
So it should be no surprise that Mina Chang landed a six-figure salary job as deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations by, as this article states, inflating her educational achievements and exaggerating the scope of her previous work with a nonprofit. Her biggest talent seems to be self-promotion and schmoozing with political figures and taking selfies with celebrities like former President Bill Clinton, retired Gen. David Petraeus, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Karl Rove, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Buzz Aldrin.