Month: July 2011

Colbert’s Nation

On January 21st, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that money used to express one’s opinions is synonymous with speech, and as the 1st amendment to the United States Constitution protects most forms of expression, money spent to express an opinion should not be limited by law.[1] There are other aspects of this, such as the idea that a corporate entity is considered an individual, and therefore has rights that should be protected by the Constitution, but we’ll these arguments for another day. 

June 30th, 2011. Actor, comedian, and host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report received permission from the Federal Election Commission to form an organization protected under the above referenced Supreme Court ruling.[2] To put it simply: Colbert is free to use the resources provided to him by Comedy Central (Viacom) for the purpose of operating his show in the pursuit of whatever cause he sees fit. Additionally, he can collect donations of any amount, with no limit, and with no need for recording or reporting the donors, for use under the organization he formed, called a Super Political Action Committee, or PAC. 

I’m going to rephrase the above one last time, just so it sinks in: Stephen Colbert is free to collect unlimited funds to do with as he pleases (with a few exceptions that are largely irrelevant given what I believe he intends to do, which we’ll get to shortly), and he may use his show to promote the existence of, donations to, and cause of his PAC with no need for Viacom to report any of these show-related expenses to the FEC. 

“Making a Better Tomorrow… Tomorrow.”

Many know Colbert as a satirical caricature of a conservative Republican. He offers his ‘support’ of conservative causes by finding absurdity of the position, argument, or behavior of those involved and whole heartedly endorsing that absurdity. The obvious intent here is to poke fun at the targets of his support, and to display a deeper truth behind much of the goings on in the political scene. Currently, most of his activities are limited to his show.

So, why the PAC? On the episode of The Colbert Report aired on Thursday, July 28th, Colbert admitted, for the first time to my knowledge, something that many of us assumed already. Colbert stated that his PAC is a way for him to “receive unlimited funds so that [he] can tamper with the 2012 elections.[3]” Suddenly, the scope of his satirical influence can more beyond those who willingly choose to watch his show, and into the murky sea of political advertising.

My Republican Friends 


Colbert has a plan, and given the nature of his show it isn’t hard to guess what it is. I’m going to put it bluntly: The Colbert Super PAC is going to run political ads in support of Republican candidates that are either completely insane, or just off enough to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many moderate conservatives. 

Imagine a group with theoretically unlimited funds, led by what many would argue one of the best satirists of our times, with the support of a world-class writing and production staff, and legal authorization to act granted implicitly by the United States Supreme Court and expressly by the Federal Elections Commission, creating campaign ads designed to appear as though a candidate or candidate’s party is delivering a message that is wholly unappealing to their constituents. The campaigns, parties, and supporters of these candidates will need to spend significant resources combating this. Applied correctly, Colbert could have a significant impact on the outcome of our next Presidential Election

Wait, This Seems Bad

I want to quote FEC Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub:

“Thank you, Mr. Colbert, not only for coming in today and presenting us with this interesting question, but for raising the profile on the important issues that we deal with every day. “

I believe the end goal here is to create such a substantial disruption to the political process that lawmakers take action to change the rules which are causing them. Removing the ability for corporations and special interests groups to funnel monetary support to political causes with no oversight or accountability is truly the end goal here. The campaign finance system in this country is broken, and the only way to fix it is to stress it until it fails, spectacularly.





A Gun to Our Heads

James Surowiecki at The New Yorker on the debt ceiling:

That may be why all the deals that have been taken seriously this season rely much more heavily on spending cuts than on tax increases: the deals represent Republican priorities, because the Republicans seem to be more willing than the Democrats to let the country default.

This insanity must end. Republicans have lost touch with reality at this point, which is the only possible explanation for a willingness to throw the nation, and likely most of the world’s financial markets, back into the turmoil we’ve just started to climb out of.

The outright disregard for those most at the mercy of the economy is a perfect example of how out of touch the Republican party has become. Take, for example, this recent study on the wealth gap between racial classes before and after the recession:

Source: MSNBC

The recession, arguably triggered by cumulative deregulation of the banking industry and reduced government oversight, both core tenants of conservatism, destroyed the accumulated household wealth of non-whites. While the gap prior to the recession wasn’t exactly something to be proud of as a nation, it certainly isn’t worth triggering another event that would cause further deterioration.

Mr. Surowiecki goes on to explain the origins of the debt ceiling, and how the practice itself places conflicting laws in front of our nation’s Chief Executive:

If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, we’ll face an absurd scenario in which Congress will have ordered the President to execute two laws that are flatly at odds with each other. If he obeys the debt ceiling, he cannot spend the money that Congress has told him to spend, which is why most government functions will be shut down. Yet if he spends the money as Congress has authorized him to he’ll end up violating the debt ceiling.

The entire situation is rather nicely represented in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s debt-ceiling plan:

Under McConnell’s Plan B, the onus would be on President Obama to request a debt-ceiling increase from Congress — and, along with that, propose spending cuts, in three separate sets of votes. The vital catch is that Congress would vote each time on a resolution to disapprove of the debt-ceiling request. That means Congress would have to muster a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto and prevent the increase. 

So, there it is: The Republicans are simply concerned about their political position, and their credibility in the eyes of their most vocal constituents. It’s a good thing their most influential supporters can afford to bankroll their campaigns, as illustrated by the chart above.

‘When Patents Attack’

Fantastic episode of This American Life:

Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

On pressing a patent attorney about one of his clients:

 I don’t think so. But thanks for asking. Although I love NPR and I love the work you guys do.

Love it.


The $979 Android Tablet

Verizon Wireless and Samsung’s press release over at Engadget:

Verizon Wireless will offer two 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 models both priced with two-year customer agreements: $529.99 for the 16GB model and $629.99 for the 32GB model.

The currently subsidy on a 16GB iPhone 4 brings the price from $649 to $199, a $450 savings. Assuming a similar model for the above mentioned Tab, the full retail price would be just shy of $1000.

Great job, guys. Keep up the good work!

Armchair Economists

Brier Dudley “reporting” for the Seattle Times:

I tried to find something to quote from the article to put the banality of the whole thing into perspective, but I could not. Mr. Dudley somehow managed to write 653 words of Apple-hating link-bate with no single statement coherent enough to be quoted in, or out, of context.

Please, read it for yourself.

‘Chief Operating Officer in Charge of Operations’

More RIM shenanigans from This is My Next…:

…in addition to (in)famously having two CEOs, RIM actually had three COOs, so Morrison’s role will be split up between Product and Sales COO Thorstein Heins and Operations COO Jim Rowan. (Yes, that’s Chief Operating Officer in charge of Operations Jim Rowan.)

4 CMOs a buying, 3 COOs a planning, 2 CEOs a fightin’, and a 65% 52-week loss in stock value!