Politics

“poly” = Many. “Ticks” = Blood sucking creatures. I guess the name fits.

Rep. Brown-Waite (R-FL) Fears Network Neutrality will “Clog the Pipelines of the Internet”

I just wrote to my congressional “representative”, Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), regarding Network Neutrality. If you’re not familiar, Network Neutrality is a principle stating that Internet service providers should not charge different prices based on the type of information that’s sent over the network: it doesn’t matter whether that information is in the form of a video or an email. Basically, people should pay for the bandwidth used, not what is done with it. In the letter I asked her to vote in support of Network Neutrality legislation [Edit: full text of current legislation.], mentioning that unless the principle is upheld, consumers would in the end lose. (Here’s a great example of what you could expect would happen should network neutrality not be defended.)

Here was her response to me (emphasis mine):

Network neutrality is the principle that a consumer has equal access to all sites. However, the term is misleading. The problem is that over the next couple of years, large Internet sites are planning to offer high-definition video services, which will use large amounts of bandwidth and clog the pipelines of the Internet. Telephone and cable companies want to be able to charge for such large amounts of bandwidth; otherwise, they will have to pass the costs on to the consumer. These Internet sites obviously oppose such a move, as it forces them to pay for using increased bandwidth. Accordingly, these same Internet sites are aggressively lobbying Congress, and liberal special interest groups have seized on this opportunity to garner guaranteed access to Internet services.

Coupled with these special interest groups, Internet website lobbyists are distorting the picture by calling pay-for-performance fees a punishment to small business websites, using the term “network neutrality” as the hands off approach, when in fact their changes would be the first major government regulation of the Internet. Moreover, the changes that telephone and cable companies would like to implement consist of large amounts of bandwidth that a typical small business website would be extremely unlikely to use.

Rest assured, though, that as this debate continues, I will continue to monitor the issue and listen to the experts and my constituents. Should any legislation regarding network neutrality come to the floor, I will keep your comments in mind.

Congresswoman:

First, when you talk about Internet “pipelines” make sure you understand that the Internet is not a “series of tubes”. It’s also not a toilet. It won’t get clogged, by “liberal” groups or otherwise. (It’s almost as painful to see a representative using “liberal” as a derogatory term in a letter to her constituents as it is to see that she has as good a grasp of the Internet as Ted Stevens, former Rep R-AK.)

"The Internet Does not Work That Way!"
“The Internet does not work that way!”

Second. companies already pay for increased bandwith. What network neutrality protects is consumers paying different prices for how they use that bandwidth. Imagine going to any store selling office supplies and being charged different prices for the same type of printer paper based on how you plan to use it. This wouldn’t make any sense there, why does it make sense online?

Third, just like people already pay for increased bandwidth, they also already pay for performance. If I have DSL–as a web surfer or a website owner–I’ll be paying less (in theory) than the guy paying for T4 speeds. Network neutrality simply means that this will be the case, that network speeds and access to its features won’t be tampered with artificially. However if network neutrality is not upheld, then companies will be able to artificially throttle speeds based on the type of content being delivered or received, separate from the amount. This could be devastating for small business, and makes it fertile ground for monopolistic activity.

The idea that all regulation is bad regulation is a popular one among conservatives. It’s also a wrong one. I’m not saying that the idea that all regulation is good regulation is any better, what I am saying is that despite opinions to the contrary there is such thing as good regulation. This is an example. It is not onerous heavy handed regulation aimed at destroying business, it’s common sense regulation aimed at ensuring that the system is not abused and used for anti-competitive purposes.

If you’re concerned about this issue–and if you access the Internet for any reason you should be–then I urge you to contact your representative and contact your senators. Write to them, call them, and show up in their offices if you can. Tell them that network neutrality is worth defending.

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Posted by Gnorb - October 29, 2009 at 7:40 am

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Sounds Familiar, Doesn’t It?

Imagine, if you will a place and time where…

  • …a fight over health care tears countrymen apart in bitterness, fear, and anger.
  • …protesters appear in large numbers to fight this health care reform; some use racist images.
  • ….a left-leaning leader is constantly confronted for this health care proposal by opposition preferring private insurance, opposition which accuses his plans of being socialist and claiming quality of health care will be lower.
  • …some doctors fear significant loss of income as well as government interference in medical care decisions due to this plan for universal medical insurance.
  • …physicians vow to close their practices if and when these reforms come into being.

Welcome to Saskatchewan, 1961. It was here that Tommy Douglass, the man voted as having been the “Greatest Canadian”, introduced reforms which would bring about universal health care coverage to the Canadian province.

While I’m not suggesting here that a plan like this be introduced in the US, I wanted to point out that a very similar debate to this, with very similar tactics and arguments, has happened before.

In the end, despite the protests, including a doctors’ strike the reforms were passed. Soon thereafter the Saskatchewan plan was adopted at the federal level, and all Canadians had health coverage. Sure, their system has its problems, but they’ve managed to solve two of our biggest: first and foremost, everyone is taken care of (eventually). Second, the nation spends less per person than its neighbor to the south, all the while their citizens get longer life spans.

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Posted by Gnorb - September 30, 2009 at 8:47 am

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Obama’s Civil War?

John Voight, in a recent interview with the Washington Times, said the following regarding President Obama and the prospect of another civil war.

“There’s a real question at stake now. Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country? We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can’t see this is probably hoping it isn’t true. If we permit Mr. Obama to take over all our industries, if we permit him to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation.”

Sadly, this is a theme I’ve heard far too many times, particularly over the past 9 years, when it has become somewhat mainstream in certain circles, circles which can now grow very easily and aren’t limited to small, unorganized militias. In fact, a Russian academic, Igor Panarin, has been suggesting that the US would disintegrate in 2010.

I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if there was a major disturbance at that time. Disintegration? I’m not sure, but a civil war isn’t entirely out of the question. (Honestly, in the US, has it ever been?) Jefferson’s thoughts on “the tree of liberty” comes to mind. All this said, I can’t help but wonder why people feel this way, and what has led us to this point. Here’s my take:

If another civil war were to be brewing, it would not be caused by Obama. It may ignite under Obama, but the fuel would have had to be in place long before. In fact, I venture to say that it would have really picked up steam during the Bush years, since it was during that time that political partisanship skyrocketed to levels unheard of throughout most of American history. But of course, the seeds of that go even further, to Nixon, and the betrayal of the American people, after which point people stopped trusting their government. (Polls indicated that pre-Nixon, ~70% of people trusted the government to do the right thing. Post Nixon that number dropped to ~30%.) A little of this steam was let off when Reagan was elected under the “let’s drown government in a bathtub” banner, giving the feeling that “One of us” was in charge. Of course, the lines were being quickly defined here. Then some more steam was let out when Clinton was impeached over a clearly partisan witch hunt, another event which made some people feel vindicated over their mistrust of government. Whatever feeling faded, however, returned with the 2000 election, when trust in our electoral systems were shaken. Evidence has come out to the effect that indeed some manipulation, at least of the also-contested 2004 election, did indeed go on, as admitted by Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security, who “was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.”

The lines were drawn even deeper when Congress became implicated in the criminal activities of the Bush administration (pretty much everything done under the mantle of “Protecting the country from terrorists”). While some attempt to excuse themselves by saying “we didn’t know”, the fact that the leadership of both parties in power refused to investigate allegations and push “impeachment off the table” means that they were both implicated. That’s because the Bush doctrine very clearly drew a line, explaining it (as they did so many times) in Biblical ways: “You are either with me or against me,” or more specifically, “you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” the crux of the Bush doctrine. Another perfect example of that was the more common “America: Love It or Leave It”, featured in bumper stickers everywhere, usually on the back of a pickup truck.

Now, how does Obama fit into all this? The lines were clearly drawn, left vs. right. As a perceived member of the left, Obama has become a lightning rod for all of this, particularly during this time of economic upheaval, when the very worst fears of many, the fear of a socialist oligarchy, in which only a select few are the social beneficiaries, have become manifest. Obama is way for some to focus and embody their fears. The fact that we have a Democratically controlled Congress means that some conservatives, the group most likely to mistrust the government (considering Nixon and Bush, the irony here is dripping, isn’t it?) feel “trapped”. Entertainment media feeding that fear will help create a feedback loop of fear which would make this the most likely group to start striking out. This, of course, is a natural reaction to feeling trapped and powerless. (All the times in my life I’ve struck out in anger have been times when I felt there was no other recourse available to me. In other words, I felt powerless to stop whatever external force was creating that sense of powerlessness within me.) The Tea Bag parties are a perfect example of this, and as we’ve seen, the health care debate is its extension: generalized fear over the loss of control. (Again, a feeling perpetuated not by any actions we can see around us, but by some media outlets telling us that we’re seeing all that around us right now. The fact that it’s now so easily to talk exclusively to people who feel exactly like us makes that cycle all the more pervasive.) For people who believe that any government action is aimed at exactly that, removing personal control, and for which that can be its only aim, then any action taken by the government which is not retreat into seclusion is a threat to them. And once you feel under threat and out of control on all sides, what do you do? The only logical choice: you strike out.

Obama’s no more the cause of this civil war than the sky is the cause of the color blue, but because he’s in power, and because there is a large group of people who oppose everything they think he and his kin stand for, he gets blamed for things like dividing the country to a civil war.

Remember the story of Moses, when he parted the Red sea. He may have been in charge, but he didn’t part the sea: a force far greater than him parted it. He could wave his hands around all day long and that water wouldn’t have done a thing if there wasn’t a force greater than him at work. In Obama’s case, there are very few things he can actually do to divide people more than they are. Historical forces are already doing all that work for him, whether he likes it or, as I suspect, not.

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Posted by Gnorb - August 22, 2009 at 1:20 pm

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Karen Armstrong: Charter for Compassion

I caught this talk from TedPrize.com and thought it so very inspiring and holding such significance that I felt it needed more than just a share via Google Reader, it needed to be reposted.

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Posted by Gnorb - February 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

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Elected, Not Selected.

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Posted by Gnorb - November 5, 2008 at 9:57 am

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Republicans for Obama

The following videos present what I’ll call the “Colin Powell wing of the Republican Party,” members of the party who see the party as having lost the ability to lead, to inspire, and to think past their narrow range of issues to the obvious and dangerously hypocritical crossroads they have led the country.

I’m one of those members. I’m a Republican for Obama. And if you’re one of the vast numbers of still un-sure individuals, most of which I’m betting lean to the right more often than not, then you’ll want to continue reading, and watch these videos. They might not sway you one way or the other, but they’ll help put a few things in perspective. Read more…

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Posted by Gnorb - October 24, 2008 at 6:00 am

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Can the Federal Government do Anything Right?

I saw this on Fark today, and thought it needed to be repeated somewhere other than in a thread which will by tomorrow be forgotten. It’s basically a very good answer to a complaint I hear all the time from backers of privatization and deregulation, people whose primary argument regarding things like universal health care boils down to this statement: “When was the last time the government did anything right?” Here’s the answer: Read more…

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Posted by Gnorb - March 31, 2008 at 3:16 pm

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Politics Time

In light of the upcoming Florida primaries, I’ve been wanting to write about this topic. However, while I’m always reading up on politics, political issues, and philosophical issues affecting the current political trends and process, I purposely keep that out of this site for a myriad of reasons, ranging from “I don’t care to piss people off (as I have in the past)” to “a fair number of readers

are from other countries and therefore don’t particularly care about US elections.” I read a post today on the XCKD blag (yes, “blag”, pronounced “blawg”) which expresses my thoughts on the current issue more eloquently than I could. Here’s a clip:
Read more…

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Posted by Gnorb - January 28, 2008 at 11:16 am

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China, Russia gearing up for war?

Are China and Russia setting themselves up for a war against the US, and possibly NATO allies? Recent events within and between the two nations seem to point in that rather ominous direction. Read more…

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Posted by Gnorb - September 13, 2007 at 9:51 am

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Why the Free Press is Like Your Car’s Maintenance Light

A thought occurred to me yesterday which I was rather surprised at having thought, since it came to me so seemingly randomly, having the qualities of the sudden recollection of a fleeting dream, coming with such force and clarity so as to make me question from whence it came.

The press — newspapers, reporters, investigators, and yes, even blogs (well, some of them) — is, collectively, like the “Maintenance Required” light on your car. Read more…

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Posted by Gnorb - May 2, 2007 at 9:08 am

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