I really ought to write more on zancarius.com since it is the domain of my online moniker that I’ve had for almost my entire life on the Internet (going on close to 20 years), but I’ve never had any idea what to do once I moved my primary content to bashelton.com. As of now, politics works as well as anything.

Disclaimer: I’ve been in the political tank for Trump for quite some time. I’m completely aware his public persona paints him as a total jerk, but I think it’s wrong. Privately, Trump is not the man the media gleefully portrays (undoubted with some cultivation from Trump himself). I can’t vouch for this from the basis of personal knowledge, but through observation of his children and their successes, his close friends and associates, and people who have worked for him, the relationship between the real Donald Trump and the media Donald Trump is a complex web of branding, business, successes, failures, and, perhaps more so than anything else, necessity.

Of course, that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing this Thursday, July 21st because of the speech Ted Cruz delivered last night, and I think it’s important to offer some insight into why I think Cruz was booed off stage, why Trump supporters felt immense disappointment, and what this means for Cruz’s career. Before I start, I’d like something from you as well, dear reader: I want you to approach this post with an open mind. Many of Cruz’s staunchest acolytes (of which there aren’t many) have been both busy and vocal on Twitter and elsewhere, spinning Cruz’s speech–and more importantly, the reaction to his speech–in a futile effort to defend their general routed in the waning hours of his campaign. I can understand their emotions, but I have a difficult time empathizing with their continued attacks. The campaign is over. Go home.

There are three or four common talking points among the self-described “Cruz crew” currently making their rounds on social media. They are, with some varying degree of importance: 1) He has no obligation to endorse a man who attacked his wife and father; 2) booing Cruz was shouting down his principles, freedom, and the constitution, rather than his lack of endorsement; 3) he’s a man of principles and will not support someone who he feels is neither conservative nor a Constitutionalist; and (somewhat rarely) 4) a reiteration of his encouragement to vote one’s conscience, usually with the implication that “voting one’s conscience” is synonymous with “writing in Ted Cruz” (both disastrous and stupid). Of these, the first two are the most commonly parroted and intellectually dishonest.

Senator Cruz is under no obligation to endorse a candidate in this race. Whether that’s a reflection of his personal feelings and convictions (or his ego) is between him and God. However, I can fully appreciate his lack of endorsement following brutal primaries and personal attacks (from both sides). When one’s family is dragged into a campaign, it’s difficult to ignore attacks targeting them, and it’s certainly unfair to them as citizens who are not running except by way of association. Believe me: I wish US politics weren’t always so dirty, but it does make for incredible entertainment. That’s not just my analysis–record setting ratings and viewership across the board for all media suggests (sadly, perhaps) US politics are more exciting the uglier they get. I’m not attempting to justify it; the truth is what it is.

Cruz admitted during breakfast with the Texas delegation this morning that at least part of his refrain from endorsing Trump was due to the attacks on his wife and father. I understand his sentiments, but I find it somewhat surprising given the actions of his campaign and their associates. Cruz’s supporters refuse to acknowledge this, but his campaign, his PACs, and many of his campaign’s foot soldiers were by no means entirely aboveboard or as pure as the wind-driven snow. Everyone can acknowledge that Trump’s campaign was, at times, brutal, but I’ve run into few Cruz supporters who will admit that their own candidate was responsible for instigating at least some of the mud-slinging. Where Cruz supporters are quick to point out Trump’s retweet comparing Melania Trump to Heidi Cruz as a personal attack on the latter’s looks (and let’s admit: The photo of Mrs. Cruz was unflattering), they’re less inclined to recall the Utah ads paid for by a pro-Cruz super-PAC showing Melania Trump posing in her birthday suit next to a few lines of unsavory text. In the rare event they do remember the ad, they usually believe it was justifiable. After all, not only should no woman pose in the nude for a photo shoot, but she most certainly cannot be forgiven if she does. (Curiously, the inability to forgive others has been an ongoing theme within the Cruz campaign.)

Legally, super-PACs cannot work directly with campaigns; I will concede this much. Furthermore, I will concede that perhaps retweeting a comment written by someone else may be slightly more problematic than an ad paid for by an allegedly autonomous organization. However, I also believe this is a glaringly hypocritical double standard by the Cruz campaign and his supporters. Holding Trump accountable for comments made by his supporters, regardless of whether he retweeted them or not, and comments made by independent publications or organizations regardless of his relationship with their staff while simultaneously refusing to hold Cruz accountable for the exact same infractions is, in my opinion, an indictment of intellectual dishonesty. They will fervently disagree with this charge, of course, but it’s indisputable: Their faith in Cruz absolves him of any wrongdoing, even if he commits actions that reflect the same or similar behavior of his opponents.

It’s a bit ironic coming from a campaign whose followers often recite Trump’s quote “I could shoot somebody […] and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Sorry, Mr. Trump. I think Mr. Cruz may have you beat in terms of blind loyalty from his adoring fans.

My favorite charge by the Cruz acolytes thus far has been the implication that delegates booing him off stage were jeering against freedom, the Constitution, and the principles Cruz represents. It’s humorous to me precisely because it’s nothing more than blatant disregard of context and a little behind-the-scenes brouhaha. Actually, no, maybe it’s not humorous–instead, it’s so brazenly stupid, it cannot be anything other than malign deviousness with the intent to provoke harm. I watched the entirety of Cruz’s speech, and the booing started after his dismissiveness of the New York delegates’ chant “Endorse Trump.” It wasn’t a delegation shouting down his principles. It wasn’t a delegation shouting down the freedoms of this country. It wasn’t a delegation shouting down the Constitution, the United States, or everything this great country stands for. To advocate that the delegates were shouting down principles isn’t merely rude: It’s a slap in the face of anyone with an IQ above room temperature. It’s an expression of bitterness and anger, maybe even a little resentment. Take your ball and go home.

On the other hand, I may be wrong. It could be argued that the delegates were booing the principles Cruz holds dear if those principles are petulance, pettiness, and selfishness. I’ll have to ask for further clarification in the future. Sometimes it’s difficult to read through Cruz supporters’ smugness.

The next question is whether a man of principles, allegedly one like Ted Cruz, should support someone who is neither conservative nor a Constitutionalist. This question is a loaded question. What this means, for those of you keeping score at home, is that loaded questions are considered a form of logical fallacy. Logical fallacies are often used in a debate when the opposition has neither evidence to support a claim nor a means of logically disputing a statement with which they disagree.

First, the implication of such a question is that Trump is neither a conservative nor a Constitutionalist. This much is up for debate. Trump has a history of vacillating between political parties, and his donations have been more or less uniformly divided among Democratic and Republican candidates. There’s also plenty of anti-Trump propaganda, like the suggestion he’s donated or supported only Democrats, which is easy to counter (Trump supported both McCain and Romney in 2008 and 2012, respectively). Yet, deeper investigation into Trump’s statements, policies, and interviews going back as far as the 1980s suggests a man who was politically agnostic for much of his career. As a businessman, remaining apathetic to political divisions can be advantageous, and retaining influence through political donations is an investment tactic myriads of business owners utilize each year with varying degrees of success (usually more donations equals more success, particularly in corrupt arenas). The question would be better served if it were asked under an ethical framework rather than one of principles or political philosophy. Recall that a business is only obligated to increase value for its stakeholders. Any other concerns are ancillary to this core tenant. No, Ben and Jerry’s save-the-rainforest nonsense is not an obligation, although you could argue that “green” environmental policy increases shareholder value by reducing certain externalities, but I digress.

Second, should a man of principles endorse or support someone who may hold views counter to his own? Cruz supporters phrase this question somewhat ambiguously as a leading question, and since few have experience as attorneys, their efforts usually provoke further dissent and bruised egos (although I’m rarely sure what they expect). Yet the answer to this question is complicated and may depend more on intent than principles. If the intent is to encourage unity and promote healing after a bitter campaign, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” If the intent is to encourage further dissent and division, the answer is “no.” If one has an ego as bruised as Ted Cruz, then the answer is absolutely “no.”

Readers may find it surprising that the one question I find somewhat unfair is whether Cruz is beholden to his principles if he’s unable to uphold his promise to support the GOP’s nominee. On our side, this talking point has been repeated so frequently as to become ineffective, and it’s not even the right question to ask. Even if Cruz signed a pledge to support the nominee, the pledge is legally non-binding. It’s essentially a non-issue. Whether or not it’s ethical to back out of a pledge is another question, but it’s one I leave for the moralists to debate. That’s when it’s a question of whether or not Senator Cruz is acting ethically.

The problem with Senator Cruz taking a verbal or signed pledge has surprisingly little to do with the contents of the pledge. It has everything to do with his campaign. Both Ted Cruz and his campaign have portrayed the junior senator as a man of impeccable integrity and principle. If you put forth substantial effort to hone your image as a man of integrity, principles, morals, and values, but cast them (and your promises) aside the moment someone else treats you poorly, don’t expect your foundations to be free from criticism. It’s not unlike cheating on your wife because she called you lazy. It’s a testament of Cruz’s preparedness for office. If Donald Trump was able to ignite last night’s tantrum, how would Cruz have handled the Left’s relentless assaults? I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, but that sort of behavior is surprisingly similar to President Obama’s (also a junior senator once upon a time).

Lastly, we come to the Senator’s plea to “vote [our] conscience.” Pundits have flagged this as a “non-endorsement endorsement,” and Newt Gingrich cleverly twisted it as an appeal to vote for Donald Trump. I suspect–but cannot prove–that this was simply lip service to the last remaining dozen or so of the #NeverTrump movement (click here to donate to the World Wildlife Fund for endangered species). Whether Cruz hoped to inspire his supporters to write in his name instead may never be known as during the course of the latter part of his speech, Cruz’s rant was beset by technical difficulties and jeering from his opposition.

Cruz’s languishing departure from the stage and his ongoing difficulties today touch on the displeasure felt by Trump’s supporters. To many, the time for primary campaigning has passed. The convention was supposed to be a time for unity, but since Monday, the #NeverTrump dissenters (no matter how few) have continued their disruption with diminishing results. They knew their efforts were futile, ugly, and childish. They knew the media would devour any signs of division. Yet, paradoxically, their autistic focus on a nebulous concept of “principles” and “values” is so tremendously important to their cause that they would rather elect Hillary to make a queerly myopic point. Let me say that again: #NeverTrump dissenters are so bitter that they would rather install 3-4 leftist SCOTUS appointments, countless other judges, and subject us to another four years of liberal rule of law simply because of hurt feelings. I’m not sure there’s enough Preparation Hâ„¢ in the world to remedy this much butthurt.

I guess this is what happens when you condense your entire movement into a single hashtag.

What this means for Ted Cruz and his career remains to be seen. There’s no crystal ball we can gaze in, there’s no looking glass through which we can see the future. We know that Cruz’s ego implored him to speak yesterday, and instead of accepting an olive branch extended by the Trump campaign, he took the opportunity to hang himself. Eloquent though he may be, there is one lesson to be had from last night’s show: Trump’s shrewdness as a businessman is just as useful in politics–something Cruz underestimated. Trump knew what Cruz was going to say, and he let him say it. Trump likely knew the reaction Cruz would receive and did nothing to stop it. Indeed, there was little need: Cruz eagerly offered to say his piece, all while happily tying his own noose at the gallows.

Cruz will be up for a primary election in 2018, two long years from now. I depart from my fellow Trump supporters here and wager that Cruz will be safe during his primary election. Political memories are short. If Trump wins, there may be some unintended forgiveness. However, if Trump loses, Cruz may find himself the party’s scapegoat and be punished with a loss in his primary bid. I can’t say it would be entirely undeserved, but where his supporters will blame the “stupid” people for electing Trump, you and I will know the truth. The man who found no allies in his impressively lonely filibuster found his allies at the convention stretched thin, and a Clinton victory would likely alienate all but the small handful of #NeverTrump adherents, most of whom are old enough to be dead or in a nursing home by the time 2018 rolls around.

The irony that Cruz’s political eulogy, being a self-described man of the book, may be most dependent on his ability to forgive others isn’t lost on me. Perhaps even more damning is that he’s just another politician.

One of my greatest weaknesses is indecisiveness. Sometimes I just can’t make up my mind as well as I would like. I think much of this is because I find myself mired in internal speculation over the outcome of an n-problem system. The mental simulations I entertain during such times often become sufficiently complex that I completely lose sight of the original decision’s scope. That’s why I really like it when the decisions are already made for me. It’s so liberating.

I dumped DigitalOcean as my VPS provider today. It’s not that there was anything particularly wrong or troublesome with their service. In fact, I’d argue that DigitalOcean’s service has been among the most fantastic I’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy. Counter to some of the opinions made elsewhere, in my experience, service disruptions have been minimal (enough so that I had a VPS with 319 days uptime–I meant to update it, honestly!), and although I never had to contact support, their team simply seems far more transparent than many other service teams you encounter in the wild. I greatly enjoyed my time as part of their family of customers, and I wish I could have stayed with them indefinitely as I grow my own projects.

Sadly, such things are not often meant to last.

About a year ago (perhaps longer), I followed their primary Twitter account as an extra source of information about DigitalOcean’s ongoing activities. It was great, at first, but it slowly transformed into a political mouthpiece of leftist philosophy. Retweets often appeared from self-described “social justice warriors,” feminists, and other personalities that were less reflective of (in my opinion) the forward march of technology and more a symptom of a push to substantially change culture for no reason other than for the sake of changing culture. I get why: DigitalOcean’s headquarters is in New York city, and so they’re steeped in a left-wing thought bubble. I’m not complaining. This is a free country, and they’re free to do what they want. I’m also free to send my money to businesses whose politics align with my own or are, at the very least, more private about their leanings.

Before you pick up the phone to arrange a protest outside my window, consider this: I’m not upset that they’re politically active (and very vocal about it). Quite the contrary: I’m happy for them. I would much rather live in a country where free speech is protected, even for businesses, than to live in a country where businesses are shut down by government agencies and fined into bankruptcy on the merit that they don’t wish to participate in activities counter to their beliefs. Unfortunately, the latter describes in horrific detail the nature of our society at the present moment, and of one that is teetering dangerously over the precipice of tyranny.

I’m reluctant to engage in debate, but even I will freely admit that this isn’t a free country anymore because First Amendment protections (religious, press, speech) are no longer guaranteed. Call me a bigot, call me hateful, call me whatever you like. I don’t really care at this point, but it definitely gives me pause for thought. Hell, forget the pause, I’m taking a tremendous risk just typing this (much less publishing), because the instant my blog is discovered by the thought police masquerading as activists, their perverted notion of justice will be swift, and they’ll do everything they can to destroy my career, my future, and my life–all while reminding me that free speech is free, but it’s not without consequences.

I think one of the most dangerous facets of this movement is that it has no concept of proportionality. It’s ironic to consider given that one of their core tenants involves a harsh critique of the proportionality inside the criminal justice system. Thus, rather than engaging in polite discussion, it becomes a matter of all-out victory regardless of cost or collateral. It’s necessary to completely annihilate the opposition and to rationalize it with seething vitriol and by labeling the other side with “hate.” The debate itself doesn’t matter. What matters is how hateful we perceive the opposition as, and it certainly doesn’t matter if the opposition is “hateful” simply because they disagree. The more fervently they disagree, why, the more hateful they are! It’s easy to win debates when one no longer must consider finding common ground or supporting an argument with facts.

It would be an understatement to suggest I’m growing horribly tired of it. I’m tired of being labeled because I’m a Christian, because I’m politically right of center, because I believe in personal responsibility. I’m tired of being labeled because I think politeness and mutual respect for your fellow man are more meritorious virtues than “social justice” and wanton disregard for tradition. I’m tired of the divisiveness perpetrated by political interests who are more keen on accumulating power than helping those who granted such power to them. Honestly, if the first thing you want to do is to storm out your door and protest in the streets, you’re part of the problem, and I’m tired of that, too!

All of this nonsense is really just a round-about way to say that I’m done. I’m taking greater care from this moment onward to support organizations and companies I agree with, or are not overtly partaking in providing aid to these groups, and retracting my support from those in opposition. Let’s be honest, when retweeting comments from anti-religious activists and plastering rainbows all over your company logo well into the week following a political victory, it makes me feel unwelcome. It makes me feel unwanted. It was never about #LoveWins; it was about marginalizing my convictions.

So no, I don’t want to continue rewarding individuals–or companies–who personally attack my God, my beliefs, or me. I was raised believing it virtuous to respect others’ convictions and feelings. I can’t be the only one, but there’s a whole gaggle of lost souls whose childhood was obviously void of such a foundation, and therefore continue happily tearing down the pillars that once held our society true to the virtues of honor and respect.

Nevertheless, I don’t wish ill of anyone. I pray that DigitalOcean will continue to grow and prosper. They’ve worked exceptionally hard to build one of the best cloud providers in the world, and I think they deserve to reap the rewards of their labor. I also hope they continue to exercise their First Amendment rights as granted to them by the Constitution of the United States. It’s an important amendment–that’s why it’s the First–and I will fight for their rights to say what they wish, because no one will fight for mine. I just regret that I no longer feel welcome as part of their family of customers. C’est la vie. My contributions were regrettably minimal, but on a positive note, it also means they won’t miss my departure.

I’m glad there are some decisions I don’t have to make alone. Moving forward with a different provider is a difficult choice to make but not so much when it was made for me.

Thank you for everything, DigitalOcean.

It’s no secret that yesterday, February 26th, the FCC voted to reclassify Internet service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934–and on dozens of new regulations that will affect ISPs and content providers. We’re not yet sure how many such regulations exist, or of their composition, but we expect to see them posted to the federal archives within 30 days provided no further amendments are added or petitions made against the FCC. Since I doubt the reconsideration period will be met with silence, I’m not especially hopeful that I’ll find a copy of these rules in my hands before April.

Taking a step back to observe the aftermath of the debate on net neutrality has been educational. One of the most curious (and unusual) things to me has been the raw emotion that has overtaken the pro-regulation crowd. Anger, resentment, and suspicion reign above all else in their minds, casting doubt as to the intentions of those who are opposed to such regulation. Thusfar, I’ve seen accusations of astroturfing (comments made en masse by paid shills) levied against the opposition, insults, and broad statements suggesting that any opponent of such regulation simply wants the Internet to die. Certainly there’s plenty of irrationality to go around, but the pro-regulation camp is so vehement about their beliefs that I’m not sure there’s much of debate left. It’s been supplanted instead by argument and dissent. I don’t think this is a good thing.

I am mostly opposed to regulation in general and net neutrality in particular because government intervention is often unpredictable and unnecessary. That does not mean, however, that I’m on the payroll of a cable provider (or any telecommunications company for that matter) simply by the merit of my disagreement (I’m not). Unfortunately, my opinion and that of many others who have urged everyone to approach this matter with cautious discretion have been demonized, threatened, and bullied. Oddly enough, the tide of comments made by pro-regulation forces are so similar, it’s almost as if they are the ones astroturfing, electing to disguise their motives and benefactors by accusing their opponents of the inflicting the same ills. When presented with reasonable inquiries and concerns, they immediately shut down the debate in a spat of disgust, claiming that the opposition isn’t interested in intellectually honest discourse. If there’s any irony, it’s not hard to miss.

I should clarify that I don’t necessarily doubt the sincerity of net neutrality’s proponents. However, it is important that we maintain context in this debate by pointing out that that opponents of net neutrality aren’t the only ones who’ve been receiving outside funding. George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Ford Foundation have both contributed $196 million to pro-net neutrality groups. Therefore, while I may not be inclined to suggest that the pro-regulation camps are insincere, I certainly do doubt claims that they are entirely without bias and untainted by outside money. It seems disingenuous that Reddit’s management has declared on their blog “Today, we defeated opponents of net neutrality who have spent tens of millions of dollars every year lobbying government. […] We defeated them by spending our time.”

Opponents of net neutrality weren’t defeated solely by an army of mouse-wielding twenty-somethings; nay, an order of magnitude more money–nearly $200 million, in fact–certainly helped. I charge then that if anyone in this debate is intellectually dishonest, it is surely those who claim themselves to have been underdogs, under-funded in a fight against corporations with deep pockets. They’re ignoring the deep pockets of left-leaning philanthropists and are simultaneously unaware that they have been bought out. It’s just that it’s different (and acceptable) when the hand that feeds you agrees with your cause, regardless of whether not they are also your masters. Such is human nature.

Now, that’s not to say I’m completely against the concept of net neutrality. So, before you take to the streets with your torches and pitchforks in the hopes of beating down my door, I should point out that I’ve generally been supportive of the principle underlying net neutrality in the sense that I don’t believe origin traffic should be throttled simply on the merit of where it came from or how much traffic it comprises. Consumers pay for their bandwidth, and it’s up to them how they ought to use it; it shouldn’t be decided by intermediaries whether or not to serve or throttle that traffic. That said, we must exercise caution with our choice of language: Quality of Service (QoS) and TCP congestion control protocols are inherently discriminatory by virtue of their design. Overly broad language that precludes any discrimination against packets is dangerous. In words not all that dissimilar to those uttered in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: all packets are equal, and some are more equal than others. This is what we need to be cautious about.

It’s like the adage “Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it.”

Aside: I actually saw someone on Reddit a couple of days ago arguing that we need to do away with QoS, precisely because it is discriminatory. Granted, that individual was swiftly and sternly corrected, schooled in the nature of TCP/IP congestion control, but I’m afraid his (or her) belief, incorrect as it was, isn’t uncommon among certain proponents of Internet regulation. I wonder if this reaction is the result of our Pavlovian-like conditioning against specific words: Whenever the “discrimination bell” rings, students of left-leaning thought become excitable and froth at the mouth. It doesn’t matter that the things discriminated against (packets) aren’t tangible or self-aware. It’s discrimination itself that is inherently evil.

To continue: If the FCC’s language is overly broad and skirts the design behavior of routing hardware, it could impact the availability of real time services. Many consumer-grade routers include QoS packet handling algorithms for VoIP and streaming video services to improve their throughput and reduce stuttering during traffic spikes, but overly broad regulations may make it illegal to enable these protocols or ship devices that include them. I’m fairly optimistic the FCC wouldn’t be quite so stupid as to enact such rules, but my pessimism creeps back when I’m reminded that this is a government agency and government regulations are subject to extensive feature creep. If you think I’m paranoid, there are some sources that have accused the Whitehouse of operating what essentially amounts to a parallel FCC (WSJ), drafting their own regulations in secret, and strong-arming the commission into passing them. Whether or not this is true (and I suspect it is), the very notion that the Whitehouse could be manipulating an independent government agency is worrisome. Had this occurred under any other administration, I suspect things would have happened differently.

The powerful, emotional involvement of the pro-regulation crowd is troubling to me. Unexpected groups, like Code Pink, have orchestrated numerous marches in favor of an “Open, Free Internet,” pushing further regulation as a means to that end. (Ignoring for a moment the ironic belief that strict regulations equal greater freedom.) I’ll even bet you don’t remember that incident in December when protesters were able to unfurl a “Reclassify Now!” banner behind the FCC’s dias. How’s that for brazen? (I wonder who paid for the banner?)

Yet in spite of the insistence from net neutrality proponents, I can’t bring myself to agree that the Internet was so horribly broken that it desperately needed such far-reaching regulations. Certainly providers like Comcast have been poorly behaved, but the FCC has managed to reign them in using existing policy frameworks thanks in part to consumer complaints. If the problem has simply been a matter of wishing for unfettered access to Internet services, did we really need hundreds of pages of new regulations?

The answer, of course, remains to be seen. As it stands, we have no idea what any of these rules are outside of a few hints dropped by FCC commissioner Ajit Pai and his speculation that the new regulations will lead to potentially half-a-dozen new taxes on ISPs–costs, of course, which will be passed on to the consumer. We’ve been promised by the pro-regulation crowd that net neutrality would lead to cheaper, faster Internet access, yet broadly reclassifying all broadband services could potentially pave the way for new taxes at the local, state, and federal level. If it seems like a stretch, remember that just after the announcement was made yesterday, protesters interviewed following the vote were adamant that this was a win for “Internet security” and access for the “disadvantaged.” How will the rest of us maintain cheaper, faster Internet if these rules require further help for Internet access to the disadvantaged? The money comes from somewhere. (Hint: The consumer–that’s you.)

I’m also somewhat terrified if these rules include some vague notion of “Internet security,” and if you’ve been troubled by the NSA’s so-called metadata-collection-scheme, you should be, too. Security isn’t something that can be willed into existence through regulation alone. For proof of such a claim, I need only point to the banking and healthcare sectors where there’s no dearth of examples. Just last year, health insurance provider Anthem was breached, possibly as early as April, only to discover the compromise nearly nine months later. Healthcare providers are heavily regulated through various compliance and privacy requirements, yet breaches still occur and it took nine months for one of the largest providers in the United States to discover customer data had been compromised. Believe me, if you’re convinced that a couple hundred regulations passed by the FCC will make the Internet more secure, it might be helpful to move to Colorado (even Alaska or DC as of this week) to partake in a hefty dose of altered reality. The surprise will be rather unpleasant otherwise.

I’ve also seen (and heard) comments from supporters of net neutrality who believe they’ll be receiving free Internet by year’s end. Could someone tell these people that “freedom” (as in speech) is different from “free” (as in beer)? I hope they never discover the GPL versus BSD debate!

Of course, all of this is just my opinion. I’d be happy if I were wrong, but I’m not convinced government intervention is always the correct (or best) answer. And in this case, I’m not convinced either that the Internet was so badly broken it demanded such broad regulation. When the rules are released in the next month or two, we’ll see who was right.

Looking through my posts on this site, I’m greeted with a half dozen unpublished articles I’ve been meaning to do something with for quite some time. Many of them have since slipped through the cracks, and because they addressed current events at the time they were written, they’re no longer relevant. Yet, I’m reluctant to delete them simply on the merit that they might one day be of interest to me. Really, though, it’s little more than the sentimental value of re-examining opinions of mine that were recorded at some point in the past, and to view how much (or how little) they’ve changed. Unpublished posts are a snapshot in time gazing back through the looking glass to an earlier day when things weren’t quite the way they are now.

Simultaneously, I’m greeted with fear. Fear that opinions expressed in the past might negatively affect my future: We’ve seen the dangers of Internet vigilantes and what they can do to one’s career (remember Brendan Eich?), and there’s little recourse once you’re in the crosshairs. Yet another part of me finds it strangely humorous. On the one hand, we’re reminded by the vigilantes that “rights are not without consequences,” and while everyone is free to express themselves, we must be aware that our freedom of speech is subject to sanctions imposed upon us for expressing our opinions; yet on the other hand, these are the same people who have long lauded punishment directed to the borderline-lawless behavior of groups like Occupy Wallstreet. These are, on occasion, the same individuals who feel that defecating on a squad car and setting a small business on fire are legitimate means of sticking it to the man.

It’s puzzling to me, because it reminds me one of the most important books (second only to 1984) I’ve ever read when I was a child–one I’ve been reluctant to re-read because it’s been taken by some as a sort of instruction manual by idealists who’ve likely never understood it. Whenever a group fueled by vitriol against another gains a certain amount of influence–and believes themselves to be the majority opinion holders–the rights of those against whom they are poised diminish. We’ve seen this directed most obviously toward those who are opposed to gay marriage in some (or all) form(s), but it also exists elsewhere as illustrated by the SCOTUS decision in Hobby Lobby and probably a dozen other exhibits.

I remember when the Hobby Lobby decision was reported. I once followed a self-described liberal on Twitter whose work for Archive.org I’ve been a tremendous fan of, but I changed my mind when he retweeted a comment by someone else who asserted the decision was made exclusively because the majority justices were male. It was a comment that suggested a slew of societal ills, hearkening back to an age where women had no rights and were often thought of as property. Many of the subsequent comments were in vocal agreement with this assertion, and many more suggested that SCOTUS wished to deny women of basic health services (one such comment asked, chidingly, when SCOTUS would deny women access to antibiotics to treat infections). Sadly, the sort of non-sequiturs parroted by a mob of very angry people aren’t uncommon. It’s actually getting worse.

It’s no surprise (or maybe it is to some) that researchers from Beihang University in China discovered substantial evidence anger spreads faster than any other emotion on social networks. The oft-joked about Internet torches and pitchforks are, in practice, less of a joke and more of a frighteningly reality. They’re illustrative of the strange variety of “mob justice” that permeates online communities and motivates various miscreants into committing acts of questionable legality. It’s the emotion behind proclamations like “Brendan Eich should never have a job again” or “Hobby Lobby wants women to die.” It’s the desire to alienate those with whom you disagree and deprive them of basic rights. It’s the driving force that lends one to believe many of us on the political right are hateful bigots. It’s the burning hatred that wishes we would all simply die.

Ignoring, for a moment, the sort of pitiful irony in calling for the death of someone with whom you disagree, and the use of highly vitriolic, hateful language to describe those you claim are the legitimately hateful bigots, the mob justice this behavior inevitably leads to is quite real and rather dangerous. The further irony that those prone to this sort of behavior are also vehemently opposed to “Internet bullying” is not lost on me (though it might be on them). It’s an eye-for-an-eye philosophy seen as a valid mechanism of protest against the rights of others by those who are often staunchly opposed to vigilante justice. Killing a murderer is bad while depriving my neighbor the right to speak his mind is good.

Animal Farm, indeed.

I think the crux of the problem lies in the tribalistic intolerance we humans tend toward. We naturally gravitate toward those who share our opinions, those who look like us, those who talk like us, and those who praise us for expressing opinions with which we agree. It’s why online communities become insular echo chambers. It’s why atheists tend to avoid Christians and vice-versa. In its most sinister form, it’s why racism still persists. We, as a species, naturally disdain and hold suspicious those who are not like us. Paradoxically, some of the worst offenders seem to be the ones who are most vocally opposed to this behavior. It’s almost as though an intolerance toward intolerance drives one to become the same–to become that which they most hate. But then, relying on seething hatred to promote an agenda of so-called tolerance is likely to beget the same. I’m not sure where we lost our way, or when the philosophy “love thy neighbor” was swept under the rug.

I don’t know what Jesus, Gandhi, or Dr. Martin Luther King might think of this modern world, but I do know it’s in desperate need of men like them.

One tragedy of American politics is the limited public discourse that follows (or erupts after) the legislative process. Bills that attract fervent attention invariably disappear, forgotten, once defeated. Sadly, so too does important public debate.

If you’re unfamiliar with SB1062, it’s the bill that has been lauded by some to be oppressive to homosexual rights and was vetoed on Wednesday the 26th of February. I’ve been reluctant to post this article in the immediate aftermath of the debate, but I think the dust has sufficiently settled to go ahead and punch the publish button.

I’ll try to avoid some of the common arguments for and against the bill for a couple of reasons. First, both arguments have been repeated ad nauseum in the press, so I won’t do anyone a service by repeating them here. Second, the emotions (on both sides) driving argument served to divert attention away from the motives for proposing SB1062 in the first place. It’s unfortunate, but the reason public discourse is often so vehement belies the fact that the public in its default state is apathetic until such time that support (or opposition) to a specific cause gains sufficient momentum before triggering a landslide of emotions, often anger, and uproar. It’s regretful, but by the time public support has thrust itself behind a particular faction, the initial catalyst of the debate is forgotten or hugely misunderstood.

I think that happened with SB1062.

What follows is my analysis. I’m a programmer, not a lawyer, so appropriate restrictions apply. Much of this analysis is peppered with opinion and should not be taken as legal recommendation. If you’re examining this post because you’re in a similar situation to any of the parties involved, please seek legal counsel.

Ultimately, understanding SB1062 and why it was proposed requires some knowledge of recent history. In particular, the events leading up to the defeat of a small photography firm in the New Mexico Supreme Court (Elane Photography, LLC v Willock) are of vital importance. Although it was superficially a case contemplating the limits (or extents) of public accommodation law, the NMSC utilized a loophole in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was intended, at least in part, to address limitations imposed upon religious practice by public accommodation. In the RFRA, individuals are protected from government unduly burdening religious freedom by way of law or litigation. The NMSC, however, ruled that RFRA protections did not apply in Elane Photography, LLC v Willock because both parties were private entities and therefore undue governmental burden did not apply.

Arizona’s state legislature followed the New Mexico case closely under fear that similar cases might be brought before their own courts using the New Mexico decision as precedent. Although Arizona businesses opposed the bill, claiming that they could already discriminate, it’s worth noting that Arizona’s public accommodation laws prohibit discrimination against race, national origin/ancestry, sexual orientation, religion/creed, or mental/physical disability. Such public accommodation prohibits businesses from denying or blocking entry to affected persons. I’m not precisely sure whether those businesses in opposition to SB1062 were aware of the law (I suspect they were) or whether it was politically or economically motivated (which I suspect it was).

The Elane Photography, LLC v Willock ruling, Arizona’s public accommodation law, and the inability of RFRA to protect religious business owners against private parties motivated the Arizona state legislature to amend their statutes protecting the free exercise of religion by business owners. Contrary to progressive analysis and the widespread belief that the Arizona legislature was attempting to stage a social coup in effort to reestablish segregation and discriminate against homosexuals, the bill was most certainly not motivated by prejudice beliefs. I think it would be a fair charge to suggest that the bill was drafted as a knee-jerk reaction to lawsuits that have affected business owners in other states, but I don’t think such fear was entirely unfounded either. Remember, these legislators had already witnessed a court ruling that decided against a religious business owner on the grounds of sexual discrimination through denial of service. They were keen to prevent the same from happening under Arizona law.

Bearing this in mind, it’s important to read the text of the bill as it was presented to Governor Brewer (and later vetoed). Regardless of the fiction reported by CNN and other outlets, believed to be true by many on the Left, nowhere does the bill authorize discrimination on the basis of religion. Instead, a careful reading of the bill correctly reflects prior analysis that suggested it was drafted as a direct response to New Mexico’s ruling. In particular, the language was to be changed such that religious burden may be imposed only if an opposing party (rather than the government as a sole actor) could demonstrate an interest (i.e. discrimination) whose remedy was the “least restrictive means” against the religious party. Of note, the changes would have also prevented “state action” from affecting religious persons even in cases of “general applicability”, that is, public accommodation.

To suggest that the wording of SB1062 would violate the rights of minorities is patently absurd. No one was advocating a return to segregation nor was SB1062 a power grab by the “extreme right.” Careful reading of the bill’s text would have been the only action required to establish such fact, yet it was precisely that act which the pundits avoided. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the validity of the bill and its ability to protect business owners from litigation on the assumption of sexual discrimination can only be determined by the courts. As such, the vehement reaction by pro-gay groups and progressive liberals was largely unwarranted. If the bill were used for blatant discrimination, and such could be proven in a court of law, the bill would be struck down by the judicial system.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have checks and balances drafted into the most fundamental law of our government. If a bill does happen to be discriminatory, it is the power of the court to decide (and nullify) and, if necessary, strike it down. That the bill was tried and defeated by the court of public opinion is a testament to the power of negative (and inaccurate) reporting. It’s a curious state of affairs when a political faction’s agenda is capable of overriding legitimate concerns, but it’s exceptionally troubling when that same faction refuses to address these same concerns under the guise that they don’t exist or are discriminatory.

The troubling thing about the defeat of SB1062 and the public discourse that followed is that it most certainly does impact a religious business owner’s right to practice as they choose. The opinion among progressives is effectively “tough luck.” If you’re in business, you have no rights except to serve the public (even if the business is “privately” owned). Yet it could be argued that discrimination based on adequate dress (“no shirt, no shoes, no service”) places an unfair burden on the poor, of whom minorities in particular are disproportionately affected. It’s not much of a stretch then to argue that discrimination-by-dress-code is merely a subversion of public accommodation laws in effort to deny the poor–and by extension, minorities–service by wealthy white business owners who seek to impose servitude upon the underclasses.

But the other problem is the precedence this sets for other religious business owners. Should Muslims or Jews be forced to sell pork products to a particular individual who seeks to purchase them for, say, cultural reasons? It’s a question worth asking, because we have essentially established that public accommodation laws override religious protection. At the risk of invoking the “slippery slope” fallacy, I certainly do think it’s worth consideration and has already been established as fact.

One last question that comes to mind. Is is discrimination to refuse service to a gay wedding if you would otherwise happily provide service to gay people in any other context? In other words, is it discrimination to provide service to a particular venue or activity when you’d otherwise provide your services to the persons involved outside that venue or activity? Is it really any different from denying service to, say, skydiving weddings or weddings in circumstances outside your realm of expertise? Perhaps it’s splitting hairs, but I think the distinction is important. It isn’t substantially different from selling meat products–with the exception of pork–to a customer. If you’re willing to provide a service to anyone who walks inside your door with the exception of specific kinds of service counter to your convictions or capabilities, it’s a denial of specific service (“we don’t/can’t do that”) not discrimination.

Or to take it one step further. What would stop someone from using this decision as precedence to sue someone who denies service on the merit that the service sought after isn’t something they can do? Small time contractors beware! The travesty of this is the narrow-minded nature of everyone involved. It seems insignificant, superficially, but once precedence has been established, it can be used to induce a desired outcome provided the party in question has sufficient capital to continue litigation.

That point has since been lost in the public debate that erupted a couple weeks ago. I think that’s a shame. Emotion wins against rational argument because it is a stronger motivator than reasonable discourse. The other shame is the abuse of our legal system: Provided one party can out-spend the other or simply has the least to lose, a sufficiently motivated plaintiff can wreak havoc on someone else’s livelihood–or worse, freedoms.