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Ivan Makfinsky
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Meet Andrew Wheeler: former coal lobbyist and current acting administrator of the EPA.
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This week there was a quiet change of tremendous significance in the way the US government works.

Many things that look like courts in the US aren't actually ordinary courts: they're "administrative law courts," part of a parallel legal system that specializes in particular areas of the law. This includes all of immigration law, most of securities law, environmental reviews, FCC rules, and nearly anything requiring a decision to be made by a regulatory body.

Unlike normal federal courts, administrative law judges aren't part of the Judicial Branch; they're part of the Executive Branch. Many other aspects of these courts differ a great deal - especially in terms of due process, which has a very different (and much weaker) definition in these courts. For example, there's no right to counsel or to a translator, even in an immigration court.

What holds these courts together is that administrative law judges, by and large, take their jobs incredibly seriously. In many ways, their job is harder than that of traditional Article III judges: absent the normal guarantees of process, it's their attention, control over process, and care that make their courts function at all.

On Tuesday, Trump issued an executive order changing this. Administrative law judges will no longer be selected by competitive examination, and subject to civil service protections; instead, all new ALJs are now political appointees, who can be replaced or fired at will.

While the order doesn't affect existing judges, it allows nearly infinite court-packing - and you should note that one of the biggest legal obstacles to the program of mass deportations has been a lack of immigration judges, so there's a natural opportunity to hire a few thousand people for their loyalty. This effectively would end the system of immigration courts altogether.

This is sure to be challenged in court: the appointment status of these judges was set by the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, which would imply that an executive order can't change that. But I'm not even remotely an expert on this chunk of the law, and it's hard to guess how this will pan out.

But this is extremely serious: it's a direct assault on the rule of law.
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Do the thing! Let them know you want net neutrality.
No, the repeal of net neutrality protections did not go into effect today
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I missed this article when it came out. Its key result: levels of racial resentment among white Americans have remained nearly constant for thirty years, but the correlation between those attitudes and nearly every other aspect of political affiliation has skyrocketed.

That is, in 1988, deeply-rooted racism was no more or less common than it is today, but someone's level of racism didn't tell you how they felt about health care, unions, or the environment, or which party they voted for. Today, it's a strong predictor, about 60% explicative.

Something that interests me which this article doesn't mention is that, until roughly the 1980's, religion was rather predictive of political attitudes, but since then (as Putnam and Campbell's work showed), not only did it stop being a predictor, but the reverse became true: people's religious affiliation was increasingly predicted by their attitudes on other political issues. (And yes, they did the hard work of time-series causal analysis to show that; cf their book "American Grace")

While the data here uses 1988 as a baseline, I strongly suspect that the real inflection point was a few years earlier. The replacement of de jure segregation with de facto segregation in the 1960's threw a great number of established institutions into turmoil, but many aspects of the response weren't organized. It was only after Bob Jones University v US (1983) crystallized the Evangelical movement into a political arm of fighting to "make America great again" - defined specifically as a return to the 1950's, ie before both desegregation and the sexual revolution - that religion became more a consequence of politics than its engine. (Note that Roe v Wade and Griswold v Connecticut were both seen as minor, fringe issues before then - they only became politically significant in the 1980's, as a consequence of the post-Jones mobilization)

This starts to paint a coherent picture of American politics in the post-Civil Rights era: a first rapid scramble to recreate systems of segregation, initially chaotic, but systematically captured by a religio-political alliance starting in the early 1980's. Beyond this point, that alliance's interest in maintaining racial boundaries became a self-accelerating force: people joined or left that coalition primarily on the basis of their feelings on that one issue ("are Black people human?"), and shaped their political and religious attitudes on everything else to align with that.

This had seemingly weird effects, as a number of other groups aligned with this same coalition not out of belief, but as vehicles to protect their interests: eg, business leaders with a vested interest in climate change not happening, or in policies to protect the rich. This worked for quite a while, until during the "Tea Party" revolt (and even more so during the 2016 election) the wheels came off it: the underlying purposes of this coalition swamped everything else, and the aligned groups who had deluded themselves into believing that they controlled it, or even that the rank and file genuinely believed in their ideas, had a nasty reckoning.
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Acting in isolation, autonomous car makers have few incentives to share data. But if sharing accident data is the rule, their vehicles will be collectively safer, and the public will be much better off.
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“For the US overall, an electric vehicle is much cleaner than a gasoline vehicle, even when you take into account the emissions from natural gas, coal, or however else you’re generating the electricity."
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Yesterday's blizzard in Washington did permanent damage to your civil liberties online.

First, Congress overwhelmingly passed SESTA/FOSTA, a bill that will force web platforms to censor their users:
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/how-congress-censored-internet


Next, lawmakers snuck the CLOUD Act into a must-pass spending bill. The CLOUD Act will allow law enforcement agencies to bypass protections for your personal data: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/new-backdoor-around-fourth-amendment-cloud-act
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This is awful.
BREAKING: Today is a dark day for the Internet. Congress just passed the Internet censorship bill SESTA/FOSTA.

SESTA/FOSTA will silence online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/09/stop-sesta-whose-voices-will-sesta-silence

As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law ostensibly tackling the problem of trafficking, let’s be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/10/sex-trafficking-experts-say-sesta-wrong-solution

Sex trafficking experts have tried again and again to explain to Congress how SESTA/FOSTA will put trafficking victims in danger: https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/08/how-section-230-helps-sex-trafficking-victims-and-sesta-would-hurt-them-guest-blog-post.htm

Sex workers have spoken out too, explaining how online platforms have literally saved their lives. Why didn't Congress consult with the people their bill would most directly affect? #LetUsSurvive: https://theslot.jezebel.com/the-senates-anti-sex-trafficking-bill-is-a-disaster-for-1823704879

In all of Congress’ deliberations on SESTA, no one spoke to the experiences of the sex workers that the bill would push off of the Internet and onto the dangerous streets. #SurvivorsAgainstSESTA: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180314/00004839422/sex-workers-survivors-raising-alarm-about-sesta-it-will-literally-put-their-lives-danger.shtml

Thousands of you have called your members of Congress urging them to oppose this attack on online communities. EFF, the ACLU​, the Center for Democracy & Technology​, and other experts pleaded with Congress to recognize the dangers that the bill presented: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/stop-sestafosta-dont-let-congress-censor-internet

Senator Senator Ron Wyden​, one of the original authors of Section 230, stood up early against SESTA, saying he was "deeply troubled that this bill’s approach will make it harder to catch dangerous criminals..."

Even The United States Department of Justice​ urged Congress not to go forward with the bill that was passed today. The DOJ believes the expansion of federal criminal law in SESTA/FOSTA is simply unnecessary, and could possibly undermine criminal investigations: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180227/15314039324/doj-tells-congress-sesta-fosta-will-make-it-more-difficult-to-catch-traffickers-house-votes-it-anyway.shtml

When platforms choose to err on the side of censorship, marginalized voices are censored disproportionately. SESTA/FOSTA will make the Internet will become a less inclusive place, something that hurts all of us.

This might just be the beginning. Some of these groups behind #SESTA / #FOSTA seem to see the bill as a mere stepping stone to banning pornography from the Internet: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170929/01242638309/campaigners-sesta-see-it-as-first-step-to-stomping-out-porn.shtml

We will continue to fight back against proposals that undermine our right to speak and gather online. We hope you’ll stand with us.
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Holy smokes...!!!

"SpaceX does not intend to become rich and lazy in their success — they mean to develop technology that will provide affordable internet on a global scale, return humanity to the moon, and one day establish a permanent and self-sustaining city on Mars."

That's a mission statement...!
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