Friday links! Irrational exuberance edition

Only Don moves toward him.

Only Don moves toward him.

Ben al-Fowlkes and I went out last night, to celebrate first good news and then life in general. Every prospect pleased and every person, if not a paragon of virtue, at least proved amusing. Life was wonderful and everything would be just fine. Our exuberance was irrational, because now life clearly sucks. You can’t really control what goes into or comes out of your body, and your so-called friends are poisoners who lie in wait. Today is Friday, and I blame forces beyond my control. Won’t you recount the perfidies with me?

Remember Wednesday, when we called deposed Missoula County Commissioner Michelle Landquist a machine for generating intemperate quotes? There was still a little gas left in the tank this morning, when Landquist placed the blame for her primary loss squarely on the town’s voters. “Missoula let Missoula down,” she told the Missoulian. “I thought Missoulians were much more engaged in the election process and getting people in office that they trust.” She shook her fist at a passing cyclist, urging him to read a newspaper or something.

It’s a harsh lesson to learn, but you mustn’t overestimate the loyalty of your so-called partners. Earlier this year, Netflix paid Verizon for faster streaming on its network, in an early glimpse of the telecommunications market after net neutrality. Yesterday, Verizon sent Netflix a cease and desist letter re: an error message saying “the Verizon network is crowded right now.” It seems the content provider is not getting the bitrate it paid for from the utility. Now you know how we feel, Netflix.

Of course, none of these he-said/she-sued shenanigans would be happening if the FCC had preserved net neutrality, a subject John Oliver hilariously incises in this 13-minute video:


That was funny and instructive, right? I was totally watching it with you, and not making those wrenching yelps you heard from the bathroom. While I wasn’t in there, I did some reading on the somehow underreported fact that new FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is a former cable lobbyist. Surely we could pass some kind of law against that, right? Lobbyists are registered with the federal government, and FCC chairpeople are registered with the federal government, so couldn’t we make it a rule that your name can’t appear on both lists? The important thing is that television news never mentions that television companies used to pay the guy in charge of regulating television to convince the government not to regulate television.

It seemed like a fun invention when it started out. The problem was that everybody wanted to watch it, so eventually all the shows were about fat guys whose beautiful wives loved their funny way of complaining. A good idea in the hands of common people will itself become common, Nietzsche said. Who knows what he meant, though? It’s easy to misread him, as the University College London’s student union did when it banned a philosophy club devoted to the Mustache of Basel and other German philosophers. Props to Caroline for the link. I think we can agree that what the university system needs to preserve its integrity is more forbidden ideas. And would it kill us to all wear the same kind of robe?

It starts as celebration and ends in mourning. This morning has extended well into afternoon, and my hangover subsides as the Nile gently subsides from the valley: hardly, leaving behind a lot of muck. Let these links be a lesson to you: the public is capricious and full of bad ideas for you to join. Damn you, Ben al-Fowlkes! Your drink and false promises tricked me into hoping once again.


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  1. I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about how to fix the problems with lobbyists. The problem with placing banning who can hold a position, while simple and appealing to people who don’t understand how power works or information is called on to make decisions, would probably be against the law and definitely be a bad idea. If we conceive of human beings as whose orientation on policy become set after working in an industry for some arbitrary number of years, then we are right to thinking someone who advocated will have a harder time advocating for an alternative later. But if we understand humans as social beings who rely on networks for their intelligence and increase their ability to arbitrate facts as their knowledge increases, then you recognize a former advocate is probably more qualified than an outside to make good policy choices. I mean, how did it work in your county to have Captain Dipshit at the helm of the Treasury? Would you have jumped at the chance to replace her with a crusty white man from Monsanto who had years of experience in accounting?

    It sucks that we don’t have telecom experts from the music industry we can plug into top positions, and it sucks that telecom is regulated therefore needs expert regulators, but them’s the breaks. It’s probably no more a threat to a positive public outcome than having a cook managing a restaurant. Thinking that a regulator cannot regulate because he was an advocate misunderstands the importance of knowledge around highly technical fields and suggests that somehow a regulator drawn from the outside will not quickly be brought into contact with the corrupting collegiality with those they work with (regulators meet with people because this is a democracy, and the only people who care are advocates). They will network with people from all the sides of the issue, and the only thing a ban would do was ensure the person making the final decisions is least equipped to know bullshit from fact.

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