Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Net Neutrality will rise from the dead

I'm glad that the FCC will reinstate net neutrality. But does anyone know if I can read an examination of how the internet changed after the Trump FCC repealed net neutrality in 2017? My impression is it wasn't nearly as bad as net neutrality proponents thought it would be. But maybe I'm not seeing all the bad stuff, or maybe ISPs were holding back on going full-on non-neutrality evil because they weren't sure if Biden would bring NN requirements back.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Are all the Russian-backed unrecognized separatist nations in danger?

I've been wondering about fall-out from Russia's stalled invasion of Ukraine on other parts of the former Soviet space. There have been plenty of signs that Russia was losing influence over the Central Asian Republics. But I've been wondering about what will happen to all the Russian-inspired separatist regions as this drags on.

Russia has supported (and maybe even artificially created) separatist breakaway states in regions of Azerbaijan (the ethnic Armenian Republic of Artsakh), Georgia (both Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and Moldova (Transnistria). Those four, "countries" which have not been recognized as nations by most other countries in the world have even formed an organization which is unofficially called the Commonwealth of Unrecognized States. It is hard to tell how much local support there are for the governments of those breakaway republics without Russia propping them up. But with Russia distracted by the war in Ukraine, and more importantly, diverting most of its military resources to Ukraine (and thus away from those breakaway regions), can those alleged countries survive?

Yesterday, the first member of the Commonwealth of Unrecognized States lost any pretense of independence when Azerbaijani troops recaptured all of Nagorno-Karabakh and effectively ended the Republic of Artsakh. Russian "peacekeepers" were on the scene but did nothing to stop the surrender of the Artsakh government, nor did they do anything to enforce the Russian imposed 2020 ceasefire that had stopped Azerbaijan's prior effort to reconquer the territory.

I can only imagine what the leaders of Georgia and Moldova are thinking as they watched Russia do nothing to save the separatist regime they had propped up within Azerbaijan.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

No defense treaty with Saudi Arabia

 Biden's presidency has been much better than I expected (admittedly I had low expectations and supported him almost entirely because he wasn't Trump), but this is a phenomenally bad idea.
Why the fuck would Biden want to agree to a mutual defense treaty like the US-South Korea or US-Japan defense treaty? Even though the treaty would be worded as a two-way street (that's what "mutual defense") means, the reality is that if the US was facing a serious threat KSA has little it can bring to the table to defend America whereas the US can do a lot to defend the KSA. So really it would just be an open ended commitment to risk American lives to defend a wealthy absolute dictatorship with a horrible human rights record and which, by law, treats women and religious minorities like complete shit. This is the same regime that murdered an American resident with a bone saw and Biden himself vowed to make a pariah during his presidential campaign. Meanwhile, even as Biden is trying to give the Saudis a big kiss, the Saudi government is working hard to make inflation rise in the U.S. so Biden loses the presidency next year.

I realize that Biden really wants an Israel-KSA peace treaty on his watch, but such a treaty would be more about symbolism than substance. The fact is that Saudi Arabia and Israel have been quietly cooperating and in an informal cooperative agreement for almost a decade. This would be just making official something that has already been happening, and will continue to happen even if they don't have a formal peace agreement. In other words, Biden would be paying a high price (endless American commitment to defend Saudi Arabia) for little actual gain. Is this just about getting a Mideast peace agreement because Trump did?

What is Biden said that he would agree to defend Saudi Arabia so long as the price of oil was less than $80/barrel? I wouldn't like that either, but at least it would have some concrete benefit for the U.S.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

An unlikely but possible story about how Trump could be knocked off the ballot

But here is a scenario in which the Court would allow exclusion: It has been clear for a while that anti-Trump Republicans are largely anti-Trump because, unlike most Republicans under the spell of MAGA, they can see that Trump is pretty toxic with the overall electorate. Those anti-Trump Republicans are a tiny minority of the party, just enough to give Pence, Christie, and Hutchinson a combined 9.1% in polls of Republican primary voters, but are viewed as heretics by the other 90% of Republicans. The anti-Trump Republicans, however, tend to be more educated, more well off, and more connected with traditional Republican elite than the MAGA masses. I'm thinking of people like George Will.

Who else fits that profile? Many of the Republican appointees to the Supreme Court. What if a few conservative Justices also believe that Trump can't win in the general election but also that Biden is so weak that almost anyone else would deliver the presidency back to the Republicans? Actually it would only take two Justices for this to work. It wouldn't be Thomas, who has his feet firmly planted in the MAGA world via his wife, or Alito, who writes and talks like he suffers from serious Fox News Brain Rot. But the other conservatives, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Roberts, could all plausibly have those kind of private thoughts. With the three liberal Justices , they could get five votes to rule that Trump is excluded from office under the insurrection clause in an appeal of any of the current cases to have Trump excluded from the ballot.

In fact, I could see that line of reasoning particularly appealing to Roberts. If his Court, with its solidly conservative majority, were to rule that way, it could be used as evidence that Justices are above politics, while still increasing the chances that Republicans win back the presidency.

I have no idea if Roberts, or any other conservative Justice, thinks that way. And it probably is unlikely to be true. But I think the scenario is at least plausible. People have occasionally remarked that many Republican leaders don't want to be in their current situation, tethered to a crazy candidate like Trump with a long list of criminal charges, and a solid majority of Americans who hate him. Many have noted that Republicans would not be in this mess if they had just voted to convict Trump in his last impeachment. But they were too cowardly to risk their neck to do it. Having the Justices do it for them would be the perfect way out. They do not have to face Republican primary voters to be reelected.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Must not stop thinking about it every year on this date

For a while, on this date, there would be a ton of "never forget 9/11" stuff. That has largely faded. That doesn't mean that people forgot. Maybe it just sunk in that you don't have to yell at people to remember a major historical event.

To be honest, I'm pretty happy that the forced sanctity on this date has faced. I don't think Americans should ever forget what happened on September 11, 2001, but I also don't think Americans ever will. Having it become a regular date on the calendar is not a bad thing. We can still remember historical events without losing our minds and demanding everyone honor the day in exactly the way that some small group of people want it to be honored. During the Bush-era anniversaries, conservatives were completely insufferable on this day. I mean more than normal.

My archives go back to June 2003. So I was curious how many times I wrote a post about the 9/11 anniversary on September 11th. Here is what I found: I posted about 9/11 (the significance of the date/anniversary/attack) on September 11th in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2019. So fairly common in the Bush-era. In fact, the only reason I missed 2003 and 2005 is because I happened to be traveling and, as would happen in those days, the blog turned more into a travelogue. 9/11 was mentioned incidentally in my September 11, 2003 post from Uzbekistan, but it wasn't mentioned at all in my September 11, 2005 post from Syria.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Trump should be excluded from office but he won't be

I think it's pretty clear that Trump should be disqualified from running for President under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. I mean, if some obscure wacko is legally barred from being Otero County Commissioner in New Mexico because he participated in the January 6th Insurrection, then surely the instigator of that insurrection should be held to the same standard.

But I am just as sure that Trump will not actually be barred from the ballot in any state. People will try (and they should!) but I'm just to cynical to think that it will work. Even if some court rules against him, the Supreme Court will bail him out. That's the kind of Justice that Harlan Crow pays for!