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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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FCC staff leaning against Comcast deal


Federal Communications Committee staff want the agency to block Comcast’s $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable, according to multiple sources with knowledge of an internal FCC briefing Wednesday.

For the agency to go that route, it would likely send the issue to an administrative law judge for a hearing, a step that could drag out the review for months or even years and is widely seen as tantamount to killing the deal.

The development marks another sign that the merger faces serious regulatory hurdles in Washington.

A report from Bloomberg News last week said staff attorneys in the Justice Department’s antitrust division are poised to recommend against the deal due to concerns it would stifle competition in the cable and broadband industries.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/fcc-staff-leaning-against-comcast-time-warner-cable-deal-117275.html#ixzz3Y8zvauVi

Bwwwaahahahah! "The coming GOP demolition-derby circular firing squad"

The Coming GOP demolition-derby circular firing squad:

1. With the announcement two weeks ago that four super-PACS — headed by the mysterious Robert Mercer from Long Island, N.Y. — had donated a stunning $31 million to Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) presidential campaign, a new era of GOP primary battles was launched.

2. In the past, the GOP establishment wing always handsomely funded their candidate.

3. It was always the conservatives who were underfunded.
4. And thus the primary outcome was preordained: After the initial dustup-up in Iowa and perhaps South Carolina, the establishment money wore the conservative(s) down and ultimately prevailed in a war of attrition.

5. That is not going to happen in the 2016 election cycle.

6. No, we are about to witness something we have never before seen: A full-on, well-funded-on-both-sides, nuclear war inside the GOP pitting the establishment (mostly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) versus the Tea Party (Cruz, Ben Carson and others) versus the neo-cons (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio) versus the libertarians (Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul) versus the hybrid (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has both establishment and Tea Party support).



Police Officer 'Bill of Rights' Blamed for Baltimore’s Information Blackout in Freddie Gray Death

Ten days after Baltimore cops crammed Freddie Gray into the back of a paddy wagon, there's still an information blackout about how exactly the 25-year-old black man ended up with a severed spine while in police custody. Initial attempts at transparency have been thwarted, leaving several gaping holes in the series of events that occurred after Gray's April 12 arrest.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the information gaps in the case at a press conference after Gray's death Sunday, saying officials had not yet been able to "fully engage" with all six officers involved in the arrest — all of whom have since been named and suspended without pay.

"The officers who were directly involved because of our Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights we have yet to fully engage those officers, and we will get to the bottom of it," the mayor said. "I am determined to make sure that we have as full investigation and we follow all of the rules and procedures so if there is a finding of wrongdoing that we have done everything possible to protect policy and procedures so we can hold those individual accountable."

Roughly 1,000 protesters and activists converged Wednesday in Baltimore at the site of Gray's arrest, voicing support for statements made this week by an attorney for Gray's family alleging that the police department has been involved in a cover-up from the onset.


Why the Constitution Trumps Any State's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

By Brianne J. Gorod

With the Supreme Court scheduled to hear oral argument next week in marriage equality cases, everyone is looking to the marriage cases the Court decided in 2013 in an attempt to predict what it’s likely to do this time around. But another recent case on a very different topic may actually have much more to say about marriage equality than one would think: last year’s case about warrantless searches of an arrestee’s cell phone. In that case, the Court held such searches unconstitutional and underscored a principle that bears on the marriage discussion—namely, that constitutional protections cannot be undone by popular vote.

The basic question in the marriage equality cases is simple. Does the Fourteenth Amendment—which prohibits states from denying any person “liberty... without due process of law” and “the equal protection of the laws”—bar state bans on same-sex marriage? The text and history of the U.S. Constitution, not to mention the Court’s own precedents, make clear that it does. Opponents of marriage equality thus are resorting to what is becoming a familiar argument, saying marriage equality should be decided not by the courts, but by the people. By that logic, citizens of individual states can trump the Constitution’s broad equality guarantee if they vote to do so.

One of the most significant statements of this view can be found in the lower court opinion the Court is reviewing. Last year, federal appeals court judge Jeffrey Sutton described the question in the marriage equality cases as a “debate about whether to allow the democratic processes begun in the States to continue... or to end them now by requiring all states in the Circuit to extend the definition of marriage to encompass gay couples.” He noted that “in just eleven years, 19 states and a conspicuous District, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to expand the definition of marriage.” He described that “timeline” as “difficult... to criticize as unworthy of further debate and voting.” Unsurprisingly, defenders of that opinion have continued this line of argument in the Supreme Court. One of the parties’ briefs argues that the Court should adopt a deferential standard in reviewing state marriage bans because that standard “defers to voters in order to protect the democratic process.” Another asserts that “he Constitution delegates most sensitive policy choices to democratic debates, not judicial mandates.”

These arguments about “democratic process” may seem more attractive than some of the other arguments made by opponents of marriage equality. For instance, leaders of the 2012 Republican National Convention Committee on the Platform filed a brief arguing that marriage bans are constitutional because, in part, men need “traditional marriage” so women can “‘transform male lust into love.’”

But there’s a basic flaw in the “democratic process” arguments, as last year’s cell phone search decision confirms. They get the Constitution exactly backwards.



An Ex-Cop Keeps The Country’s Best Data Set On Police Misconduct


When Talking Points Memo, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post needed data on how often police officers are charged with on-duty killings, they all turned to the same guy: Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip M. Stinson.

Stinson, 50, has become an indispensable source for researchers and reporters looking into alleged crimes and acts of violence by police officers because he has built a database tracking thousands of incidents in which officers were arrested since 2005. His data has shown that even the few police officers who are arrested for drunken driving are rarely convicted and that arrests spike for cops who have been on the force 18 years or longer, contrary to prior research showing it was mostly new officers who were acting out.

The whole data-collecting operation is powered by 48 Google Alerts that Stinson set up in 2005, along with individual Google Alerts for each of nearly 6,000 arrests of officers. He has set up 10 Gmail addresses to collect all the alert emails, which feed articles into a database that also contains court records and videos.

It all adds up to a data set of alleged police misconduct unmatched by anything created inside or outside of government, which itself often uses Google Alerts to catch these cases.1 Yet Stinson’s database inevitably has holes because it relies on the media to cover every officer arrest, and because it takes immense effort to code each entry. The data set keeps falling behind.



Even a blind squirrel finds a nut, or maybe it is the other way around!

Donald Trump slams Pacific free trade deal

The outspoken businessman, who is known to start brawls on Twitter, sent out a series of tweets explaining his opposition.

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an attack on America's business. It does not stop Japan's currency manipulation. This is a bad deal," he said.

The U.S. government has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) since 2009 with 11 other nations, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Chile, Canada and Mexico.


Tesla wants to power your home with a battery

Tesla will introduce a battery for your home during its highly anticipated April 30 event.
In a letter sent to investors and analysts on Tuesday, the electric car company said it will announce a "home battery" and a "very large utility scale battery." Similar products already exist on the market, but Tesla said it will explain why its batteries are better than competitors' solutions at the event. CEO Elon Musk thinks rivals' batteries "suck," according to the note from Jeff Evanson, Tesla's investor relations director.

Tesla (TSLA) shares rose more than 5% Wednesday on the news.

Home batteries power up overnight, when energy companies typically charge less for electricity. Then, they can be turned on during the day to power a home. Though home batteries cost thousands of dollars, many utility companies will offer rebates.

Musk announced the event late last month on Twitter, only hinting then that the new product is not a new electric car. The event will be held at Tesla's Hawthorne, California, Design Studio on April 30 at 8 p.m. PT.



Jeb Bush is tearing down what little campaign finance law we have left.

In February, the Campaign Legal Center, a group which works on campaign finance reform issues, released a “white paper” contending that many of the leading potential presidential candidates were likely breaking federal law by not declaring their candidacy or setting up a “testing the waters” committee for a presidential election run. Such a declaration, among other things, limits donors to giving only $2,700 to the (would-be) candidate for the presidential primary season. It was an excellent report, but many shrugged off its findings as just one more way in which the campaign finance system has begun to unravel since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

But news this week that Republican (pseudo-non)candidate Jeb Bush intends to outsource much of his campaign to an allied super PAC reveals that Bush’s decision to delay declaring his candidacy has allowed him to undermine one of the last rules in campaign finance law. Worse, his approach will be the new model of presidential funding in future elections and greatly increases the threat that large donors will have even greater influence over electoral and policy outcomes than they already have.

The idea that Jeb Bush is not “testing the waters” for a presidential run is absurd. He is appearing at presidential candidate forums, traveling to early primary and caucus states, and leading the Republican field in fundraising.

While Bush isn’t alone in delaying his formal campaign announcement and the rules that go with it, he has created unprecedented connections with the “Right to Rise” super PAC, whose sole purpose appears to be the election of Bush as president.* The Sunlight Foundation reported that Bush has already headlined 47 events for his super PAC, with five more events this week. And the Associated Press reported that once Bush becomes a candidate, he plans to outsource many of the core functions of his campaign to Right to Rise, including expensive television advertising and direct mail.



The FBI faked an entire field of forensic science.

The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.”

What went wrong? The Post continues: “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.” The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country’s largest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

Chillingly, as the Post continues, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death.” Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison.

The massive review raises questions about the veracity of not just expert hair testimony, but also the bite-mark and other forensic testimony offered as objective, scientific evidence to jurors who, not unreasonably, believed that scientists in white coats knew what they were talking about. As Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, put it, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”



The American Dream is a myth, says Nobel-prize winner

It has become increasingly difficult for Americans to climb the economic ladder, says Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-prize winning economist.

The U.S. has one of the highest levels of income inequality among its peers and is among the worst in offering equal opportunities for advancement, said Stiglitz, who spoke Tuesday in New York City. Whether an American gets ahead is also more dependent on the income and education of their parents, he said.

"The American Dream is a myth," said Stiglitz.

A left-leaning authority on income inequality who teaches at Columbia University, Stiglitz is on a publicity tour for his new book, The Great Divide, which is a compilation of his articles on unequal societies for the New York Times, Vanity Fair and other publications.

His timing couldn't be better. Income inequality and economic mobility have already emerged as hot topics for the 2016 presidential election, with candidates on both sides of the aisle offering their prescriptions for solving the growing income gap. Stiglitz is one of several economists who has spoken with Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton on these issues.

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