Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Noam Chomsky on Union Busting

Noam Chomsky was on Democracy Now! and spoke about governmental policy on unions so eloquently (as usual) that I really have nothing to add. Transcript from AlterNet:

NOAM CHOMSKY: We were talking about unions before. Union busting is criminal activity by the government, because they’re saying, “You can go ahead and do it; we’re not going to apply the laws,” effectively. And the COINTELPRO, which you mentioned, is actually the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government. It maybe compares with Wilson’s Red Scare. But COINTELPRO went on from the late ’50 right through all of the ’60s; it finally ended, at least theoretically ended, when the courts terminated it in the early ’70s. And it was serious.

It started, as is everything, going after the Communist Party, then the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Then it extended—the women’s movement, the New Left, but particularly black nationalists. And it ended up—didn’t end up, but one of the events was a straight Gestapo-style assassination of two black organizers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, literally. The FBI set up the assassination. The Chicago police actually carried it out, broke into the apartment at 4:00 in the morning and murdered them. Fake information that came from the FBI about arms stores and so on. There was almost nothing about it. In fact, the information about this, remarkably, was released at about the same time as Watergate. I mean, as compared with this, Watergate was a tea party. There was nothing, you know?

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask you—we’re obviously entering very soon a new presidential season, and for many of the progressives and liberals who had placed some much hope in the Obama administration, they’re now going to be faced with the quandary of what to do as they move into a new administration. On the one hand, they feel betrayed by many of the things the administration has done; on the other hand, they see this extreme right that is attempting to paint Obama as a socialist, as destroying the Constitution and freedom in America. And they’re going to have to figure out how they’re going to maneuver in this new reality, especially with the Citizens United case, the enormous amount of money that’s going to be poured into. Your thoughts on what progressives who are still glued to the ground and understand the reality of what’s happening in the country should be doing?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, my feeling—actually, I had the same feeling in 2008. I’m not disillusioned, because I didn’t have any expectations, just looking at the funding, looking at his background. Actually, I wrote about it before the primaries even. But nevertheless, you know, when I was asked in 2008, “Who should you vote for?” my own feeling was—and it will be next time—that if you’re in a swing state, you better vote against the prehistoric monsters, because they’re going to cause much more trouble. Well, in our system, the only choice you have would be to vote for Obama. Hold your nose and vote, but don’t expect anything.

Just take a look at where he’s coming from, where his funding is coming from. Over a long period, like a century, you can pretty well predict policies by just looking at concentration of campaign funding. Thomas Ferguson, very outstanding political scientist, has done the main work on this, and it’s convincing. So, when you find that the core of the funding is the financial institutions, you can pretty well expect that the major policies will be to reward them. Yeah, OK, it’s pretty much what happened. You shouldn’t be disillusioned. But if you have to make a choice between that and, you know, Newt Gingrich, well, OK, you have to make that choice. Don’t expect anything.

What has to be done is what’s happening in Madison, or what’s happening in Tahrir Square in Cairo. If there’s mass popular opposition, any political leader is going to have to respond to it, whoever they are.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I wanted to ask you about the situation in Haiti. The country is preparing to hold a controversial runoff presidential vote next month. The U.S. has resumed deportations to Haiti despite the earthquake-ravaged, cholera-ravaged country. And former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been given a passport that would allow him to return home seven years after he was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup. I wanted to go back just to a brief clip. I spoke to President Aristide at the time of the coup in 2004, and he talked about the role of the United States in Haiti and in the world.

PRESIDENT JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They went to Iraq. We see how is the situation in Iraq. They went to Haiti. We see how is the situation in Haiti. Pretending imposing democracy, we saw people killing people. Why don’t they change their approach to let democracy and the constitutional order flourish, slowly, but surely? After imposing an economic embargo on us, being, from the cultural point of view, very rich, from an historic point of view, very rich, but from an economic point of view, very poor, because we are the poorest country of the Western hemisphere, after imposing their economic embargo upon us, because the people wanted one man, one vote, so equality among us.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Aristide in 2004.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s right. I mean, in 2004—I don’t have to tell you—the United States and France, the two traditional torturers of Haiti for hundreds of years, joined by Canada, you know, plodding along, carried out a military coup. They kidnapped the president, sent him off to Central Africa. The United States has tried hard to keep him out of the hemisphere ever since, blocked him from coming back to Haiti.

This last election, which is a complete farce, I think about less than a quarter of the population voted even. By most accounts, Aristide is the most popular figure in Haiti. He’s kept out of the election. His party, Fanmi Lavalas, has easily won every election in which there was even a modicum of sort of honesty. They were kept out of the election by the United States. So we have an election in which the most popular political figure is out, most popular political party is out, country is a total wreck, people can’t get registration cards. I mean, that’s a total ruin. A lot of money was pledged; very little of it has actually been allocated. Having an election under those conditions, it doesn’t rise to the level of a joke. There was an OAS, Organization of American States, investigation, but if you look at the people on the commission, it’s mostly the United States or its puppets, totally unserious. You can’t even laugh about it. I mean, Haiti, once again, is being denied the possibility of having a democratic election.

Now, it’s not the first time. The first real democratic election in Haiti was in, 20 years ago, 1990. To everyone’s amazement, Aristide won. Everyone assumed—me, too—that the U.S. candidate would win. Former World Bank official, he had all the money, all the elite support.

AMY GOODMAN: Marc Bazin.

NOAM CHOMSKY: He got 14 percent of the vote. You know, nobody was—it’s kind of like Egypt and what Marwan was saying about the Middle East. Nobody is paying attention to what’s going on in the slums and the hills, which happens to be where the population is. They’re just paying attention to what’s happening up in the rich sectors of Pétionville, you know, where the rich people live. Well, it turns out a lot of popular organizing was going on, a really impressive democratic achievement. It’s something that I wish we could even come close to here: actual, real, live democracy.

And they swept into office, with a big majority, a populist priest who immediately initiated programs which were in fact pretty constructive. They were in fact highly praised, even by the international financial institutions, you know, which don’t usually go for this. He cut back corruption. He fixed up the budget. Well, you know, just kind of waiting, and it took seven months for the military coup to come, which threw him out.

The OAS declared an embargo. The U.S. technically joined the embargo, but within weeks the government, that was Bush number one, announced that U.S. firms would be exempt from the embargo. I remember the New York Times, that report, saying this is a very humanitarian gesture: the embargo is being fine-tuned for the interests of the people of Haiti, namely by exempting U.S. firms. It turned out—and trade increased. Actually, I was there during—it was a horrible terror. I was right during it. Maybe you were, too. It was just awful. The CIA was reporting that all—to Congress, that no oil is coming in. You could see the oil farms being built by the rich families. And in fact, it later turned out that first Bush, then Clinton, had authorized the Texaco Oil Company to ship oil to the military junta and to the elite in violation of presidential orders. Barely mentioned. The Wall Street Journal had an article on it. And so it went on.

You know, every time there has been an effort by the Haitian people to overcome the misery and poverty that comes from 200 years of bitter attacks, really bitter, the U.S. steps in and blocks it. And that’s what’s happening now with this so-called election.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask you one final question on the U.S. situation. Yesterday the Federal Reserve Bank upped its prediction for growth in the United States. Corporations are getting record profits. The banks are back in great shape. The Dow is back up before it was in the crisis. And yet, we still have massive unemployment, conservatively estimated at nine percent, and we still have a huge mortgage crisis in the country, more and more people losing their homes. The disconnect between what the indicators are saying and the reality of what the American people are facing?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, actually, it depends how you look at the indicators. I mean, for the last 30 years, for a majority of the population, real incomes have pretty much stagnated. I mean, there’s growth. And the growth is going to—and the wealth is going into very few pockets. That’s by design. Tax laws are designed that way.

Take, say, the Bush tax cut. It was very cleverly done. It’s devastating the economy, but not the rich. The tax cut was done so that at the beginning, the first—right off, everyone got a check, you know, so it looks, “Oh, great. We’re getting a tax cut, couple hundred dollars.” But it was designed so that over the years the cut would shift. By the end, over half the tax cut, I think, was going to maybe one percent of the population. But by then, nobody notices anymore. Well, that’s the way fiscal policy has been designed. It’s the way corporate governance rules have been designed. They come from the federal government. And they effectively give the CEO the right to pick the panel that gives him the salary, and all sorts of things like this, along with the deregulation, which—bipartisan, incidentally—which has led to a situation where, you know, maybe you can talk about growth on the average, but for most of the population it’s not there.

For a large part, especially maybe the lower half of the population, they’re basically living in the Depression. Not quite. I mean, I’m old enough to remember the Depression. My family was mostly unemployed working class. It was objectively worse than now, if you count, you know, objective standards. On the other hand, it was hopeful. There was a sense that something is going to happen. You had a government which was doing things that helped the population, because they were under pressure. In fact, Roosevelt famously talked to the labor leaders and said, “Make me do this. You know, so you go have sit-down strikes and you protest and so on, then we’ll push this legislation through.” Well, it happened. So you had WPA. You had—Social Security was coming in. There was a sense that we’re going to get out of this somehow. There was hope for the future. Now there isn’t. The industrial workforce is living in the Depression. Unemployment is at Depression levels.

And the jobs aren’t coming back, because policy is designed, by the man in charge of jobs for the Obama administration and others like him, to send production abroad. It’s cheaper. It’s more profitable for the banks and the management. Or to move from investment in production to investment in finance, which does nothing for the economy, probably harms it, but it is very profitable and has the nice feature that when it crashes, as it’s going to do, the taxpayer will come in and bail you out. It’s a great system. It’s a real racket. We will—the regulations are such so that we can take very risky transactions, make a lot of money, it’s going to crash, but no problem, there’s that nice taxpayer. They will come in and bail us out. We’ll be richer than before. And each time it gets worse than it was the last time. Now, this one is really bad. So whatever the growth figures show, for the population, that’s not happening, except for a small sector. So the numbers could be right, but that’s not what it means for people’s lives.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you quickly about Vermont. You have Madison, Wisconsin. You have all of Wisconsin now, Scott Walker saying they’ll break the unions, bring out the National Guard if the teachers and other union workers protest. In Vermont, the new governor, Peter Shumlin, has run on a platform of instituting single-payer healthcare immediately. And in January, a landmark measure was introduced to revoke the granting of personhood rights to U.S. corporations. The bill calls for a constitutional amendment declaring corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States. you live next door in Massachusetts. How significant is this whole movement?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The movement is significant, but of course it has to take root and spread. I mean, take, say, the personhood goes back a century, and it was not by law. No legislation saying corporations are persons. That was by court decisions, a series of court decisions over time which have given these fictitious legal entities—established by the state, incidentally, and protected by the state; they’re basically state-based organizations—giving these entities more and more rights. It was bitterly attacked by conservatives when—because it was a big attack on the classical liberal ideals a century ago. Citizens United, which you mentioned, is just the last state of it. So that’s quite right.

The other thing about single payer is extremely significant. I mean, you know, we’re supposed to be upset about the deficit. Whether we should be or not is another question. You should have a deficit in a recession. But let’s say we’re worried about the deficit. Where is the deficit coming from? About half of it is military spending, which is out of sight. You know, it’s as much as the rest of the world combined. It’s not for defense. In fact, it probably increases dangers to the United States. But it’s there. The other half is our totally dysfunctional healthcare system. I mean, it costs about twice as much per capita as comparable countries and doesn’t have—has pretty poor outcomes, plus 50 million uninsured and other scandals. And it’s the only privatized, virtually unregulated healthcare system. So costs are out of sight. Administrative costs are very high. You have profits. You have cherry picking, all sorts of things that cost money. That’s about half the deficit. In fact, if we had a healthcare system like comparable countries, we’d problably have a surplus.

Well, if you look at the debate that’s going on—you know, you read New York Times, anybody—they say the big problem is entitlements. Entitlements means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Well, Social Security is just pure lies. I mean, Social Security doesn’t even add to the deficit. It’s funded by payroll taxes. And furthermore, it’s in quite good shape for decades. So that’s just mentioned in order to try to destroy Social Security. Social Security does nothing for the wealthy. It’s a means of survival for working people and poorer people, so therefore let’s get rid of it. Also, Social Security is dangerous. Social Security is based on a principle which is frightening: namely, we care about each other. So, Social Security is based on the idea that you care if a disabled widow across town has food to eat, and you have to drive that out of people’s heads. They’re supposed to care only about themselves, not anybody else, like part of the reason for attacking unions. So you’ve got to get rid of Social Security, so therefore lie about it. But what about Medicare and Medicaid? It’s true, those expenses are going through the roof, and they’re going to tank the federal budget. But that’s because of the healthcare system. I mean, Medicare—

AMY GOODMAN: So, what could Obama do right now?

NOAM CHOMSKY: He could do what the population has wanted for years: put in a national healthcare system like every other industrial country has in one form or another. That was just given up during the healthcare—they didn’t talk about it. There was one last residue of it in the healthcare reform: namely, the public option. The public was in favor of that by I think about five to three or something, substantially. That was just given away, you know? We’ve got to make sure that the rich—financial institutions are richer and richer—insurance companies, in this case.

Same with pharmaceutical corporations. Drug prices in the United States are much higher than comparable countries, with one exception: Veterans Administration. Veterans Administration has reasonable prices, and there’s a reason. The government is allowed to bargain with pharmaceutical corporations for the VA, but not for the rest of the population. So, of course, the prices are out of sight. Well, yeah, the public has views on this, too. In fact, actually, it’s only one poll. It showed about 85 percent opposition. But it’s not even discussed.

So, yes, entitlements are a problem, but not the entitlements. What’s a problem is paying off the insurance companies and paying off Big Pharma. That’s a problem. And unless we do something about that, that problem is going to get worse and worse, and you’ll have a bigger and bigger deficit, plus the military. So what Vermont is doing is picking the right problem. But, you know, it’s a small state. What they can do depends on how—if we have a popular uprising like, say, Tunisia or Egypt or Bahrain, yeah, then you could get somewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: We just had this breaking news that the Obama administration is making a call to Bahrain to use restraint. I mean, again, we have the U.S. military base there. But did you ever think you’d see, Noam, in your lifetime, what we are seeing now in the Middle East, this rolling revolution?

NOAM CHOMSKY: No, not really. But then, I never expected to see what’s happened in Latin America for the past 10 years. Over the past 10—what’s happened in Latin America is very dramatic. There’s 500 years of history here. And this is the first time, since the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors came, that Latin America has started to take its fate into its own hands. They’ve kicked out all the American military bases. The countries are integrating. They’re beginning to deal with the absolute scandal, that’s internal to each country, a tiny sector of extreme wealth, Western-oriented—

JUAN GONZALEZ: The wealth gap is shrinking.

NOAM CHOMSKY: And it’s shrinking, and they’re doing something about it. A long way to go, but at least being faced. And there also integration of the countries, which is a prerequisite for independence. Now, that’s dramatic. It’s far more significant than what happened in Eastern Europe. I mean, the comparisons to Eastern Europe I don’t think are very convincing. First of all, in Eastern Europe, remember, you had Gorbachev. Now, the person who was in charge, basically, and had the guns was saying, “Go ahead.” You don’t have any Gorbachev in the West, nothing like him. Furthermore, in the case of Eastern Europe, the major power sectors in the world—the United States and Western Europe—were supporting the uprising, of course, because it was undermining an enemy. There’s nothing like that here.

In fact, about the only comparison to Eastern Europe that isn’t sort of ridiculous is the one that’s never talked about: Romania. Romania, which had the worst dictator in Eastern Europe, Ceausescu, he was a darling of the West. The United States and Britain loved him. He was supported until the last minute. They couldn’t support him anymore, so, you know, turned against him—the usual game plan. But that’s about the only analogy.

On the other hand, what happened in Latin America is extremely significant, and what’s happening in the Middle East could turn into something similar.

AMY GOODMAN: And the role of the U.S. in the Middle East, what it should play right now? And I know you have to go after that.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, what it should do is say, “OK, we’re out of here. This is your country. You live there. You do what you want. We’re going to support democracy. Or we’ll support whatever comes out.” But think what’s involved in that. Just take a look at Arab public opinion. You take a look at Arab public opinion, you see democracy would be a disaster for the U.S. leadership. I mentioned the figures, but the whole of U.S. policy in the region would instantly collapse if you had democracy.

Well, you know, the Middle East is an important area. It goes back to almost 90 years, since oil was discovered, especially since the Second World War. Take a look at internal documents. The Middle East oil was regarded as the most important and strategic—the strategically most important area of the world, because it’s got the major oil reserves. And if you think what’s happened in the Middle East over the years, the big—the United States and Britain have traditionally supported radical Islamic fundamentalism. The core of radical Islamic fundamentalism is Saudi Arabia. That’s also the main fundamental of jihadi terror. That’s our main ally. In fact, in 1967, when U.S. relations with Israel took on their current form, the primary reason was that there was a war going on, literally, between Saudi Arabia and Egypt in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia is the center of radical Islamic fundamentalism. Egypt was the center of secular nationalism. And secular nationalism is frightening, because—it wasn’t democratic, it was autocratic, but it was secular and it was nationalist. And Nasser was talking about using the resources of the region for their own populations, not to enrich Western oil companies and, you know, the Saudi elite. Well, that’s frightening. So there was this conflict going on, the U.S. and Britain of course supporting radical Islamism. Israel won that battle for them. That’s when relations were established in their current form, and that continues. It’s not 100 percent, but substantially the U.S. and Britain have supported and continue to support radical Islam, because it’s a barrier against democracy. If it goes the wrong way, they don’t like it, but as long as it’s going your way, fine.

Actually, during this entire crisis, I thought one of the most astute comments was a two-sentence comment by Marwan Muasher. He’s a former high Jordanian official who’s head of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment. He said, “There’s an operative principle in the Middle East.” He said, “The principle is, as long as people are quiet and passive, we’ll do whatever we like.” That’s a general principle of statesmanship that applies here, too. As long as people are quiet and passive, we’ll do whatever we like. Now, of course, if they stop being quiet and passive, we’ll have to adjust somehow. Maybe they’ll even throw us out, but we’ll try to hang on as much as we can. And that’s what we see going on in the Middle East. That’s what we saw going on in Latin America. It’s what we see right here.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, thank you so much for spending this time.

 

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Don’t You Want To Stay At Guantanamo Bay?

In need of a tropical spring break destination? Tired of the relentless gray skies, slushy brown snow on the side of the streets and the biting chill of the wind? Well, you’re in luck because, boy, do I have the getaway for you!

If the Bahamas is too commonplace for your family vacation, consider visiting sunny Guantanamo Bay! A steely paradise in the middle of the Caribbean, Guantanamo Bay (or Gitmo, as it’s fondly known as to its slender, tanned residents) combines the steamy climate of the region with all of the penal charms of a private prison.

While busy families certainly can book short stays, vacationers are encouraged to sojourn indefinitely to better appreciate the resort’s unique sights and sounds.

Call 1-800-GTMO-BAY to embark on the holiday of a lifetime!

Our facilities are completely safe and non-lethal.

Comments Off on Don’t You Want To Stay At Guantanamo Bay?

Filed under Civil Liberties

So, apparently there are categories of rape.

Well, this happened. In what can only be described as pandering to the Old White Man lobby, the GOP has decided that rape is, well, too broad a term. But apparently women didn’t like that and fought back. And so the “forcible rape” wording of the Hyde Amendment disappeared.

Mother Jones describes what made Chris Smith, the representative who decided that date rape and incest and statutory rape aren’t rape-y enough to be called rape, retract his wording.

The GOP effort to rewrite the meaning of rape incited a Twitter campaign of protest (using the hashtag #dearjohn). Editorial pages and columnists protested. Progressive groups initiated a crusade to kill the bill. And The Daily Show, of course, got in the act (around 9:15) too. MoveOn.org launched a petition against the bill, saying Smith’s legislation would “set women’s rights back by decades…As far too many women know, bruises and broken bones do not define rape—a lack of consent does.” EMILY’s List, issued its own petition, declaring war on the bill and one of its most prominent proponents: Speaker of the House John Boehner. Its website, BoehnersAmerica.org, urged “Boehner and his cronies to stop using rape victims as political pawns.” The group said, “it was known from the beginning that Boehner and his boys would fight to take away women’s freedoms whenever possible.”

Smith’s bill did unsettle some GOPers. Differentiating between types of rape, Politico reports, befuddled Republican aides. “Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual,” one GOP aide says.

Well, I’m glad they’re on the same page as us when it comes to the definition of rape.

Maybe when a man slips a drug into a woman’s drink, and she can’t control her body when they have sex, that doesn’t seem violent. But you tell that to a woman who has been impregnated by a man who took advantage of her. You tell her that what she experienced was not rape but rather “rape-ish,” to quote the Daily Sho

And the thing is, this legislation will still disenfranchise women if it goes through, even if the word “forcible” isn’t attached to it. It will still make it even harder for lower-income women and women of minorities to get safe abortions. Maybe Chris Smith doesn’t have to worry about affording an abortion, but that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.

Also, just an administrative note: I’ll be blogging for Alan Colme’s website, Liberaland. If you want to support this awkward little kid, you can read my first article here.

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Filed under Civil Liberties, Women's Rights

Well, that’s not good.

Just… gah. From Free Press:

The Federal Communications Commission announced its decision, by a vote of 4-1, to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, one of the largest media mergers in history. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Meredith Attwell Baker and Robert McDowell voted for the merger, while Commissioner Michael Copps dissented.Tuesday’s vote will allow Comcast, the nation’s largest cable and residential broadband provider, to take control of NBC Universal, a major content provider and the owner of national English- and Spanish-language broadcast networks, more than two dozen local TV stations, numerous cable news and entertainment channels, and movie studios. With the FCC’s blessing, Comcast-NBC will now control one in every five television viewing hours.

I can’t stress how monumentally devastating this is for our democratic process. If Comcast controls one in ever five television viewing hours, that means they will be controlling a fifth of all of the information we receive through the TV. Now, maybe we are informed enough to generally avoid corporate media, but a great majority of the country is not. That means that a great majority of the country will be getting the information Comcast wants them to get.

It boils down to our definition of democracy. Thomas Jefferson believed that the “only security of all is in a free press.” He explained that a free press enables the public to keep the government in check, that “the force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed.” Free information, he said, “is necessary to keep the waters pure.”

Now, I’m of the opinion that media conglomeration is inherently dangerous to democracy. We trust the smiling faces we see on the screen. And when there is trust, when there is perceived, mutual loyalty, it’s hard for us to question the things those faces say. Without creative, critical thought and debate, even amongst our own “sides,” we are easily manipulated. And suddenly we have no control.

We believe what the people at the top want us to believe, and we don’t have a clue.

The FCC released a statement, suggesting “that granting the application, with certain conditions and contingent upon enforceable commitments, is in the public interest.” Because it’s in the public interest to allow a corporation to monopolize, to kill media diversity and competition, and limits our choices as consumers of media. Yeah, that makes a lot of fucking sense.

President and CEO of Free Press Josh Silver argued that the decision to allow this merger “represents a failure of the agency to live up to its own public interest mandate,” in addition to ignoring the President’s promise to “promote media diversity” and “prevent excessive media concentration.”

But the approval of this merger represents yet another failure of the Obama administration to live up to the president’s promises to protect against media consolidation and ensure access to a broad range of diverse sources of news and information. Apparently, such promises aren’t worth much in the face of Comcast’s army of lobbyists, PR shops and generous campaign contributions.

The dissenting voice of the FCC decision, Commissioner Michael Copps, expressed concern that “the public interest requires more — much more — than it is receiving.”

And what’s next? The Internet.

Back in December, Senator Al Franken penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post, calling net neutrality “the most important free speech issue of our time.” I’m going to share most of it here because he did a great job taking a complicated issue and making it easy to understand.

As a source of innovation, an engine of our economy, and a forum for our political discourse, the Internet can only work if it’s a truly level playing field. Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations. A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.

This principle is called “net neutrality” — and it’s under attack. Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it.

The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality. The bad news is that draft regulations written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski don’t do that at all. They’re worse than nothing.

Well, that’s decidedly troubling.

For many Americans — particularly those who live in rural areas — the future of the Internet lies in mobile services. But the draft Order would effectively permit Internet providers to block lawful content, applications, and devices on mobile Internet connections.

Mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be able to shut off your access to content or applications for any reason. For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn’t nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a Tea Party group in your area).

That’s right. This really isn’t just a progressive issue. This is a democratic issue. Republicans like Ron Paul are for net neutrality, but they make up a small percentage of congressional Republicans. And honestly, a lot of “moderate” Democrats are sketchy on net neutrality as well, so it’s not a partisan thing. It’s a principle thing, and either you’ve got principle or you haven’t.

The FCC has never before explicitly allowed discrimination on the Internet — but the draft Order takes a step backwards, merely stating that so-called “paid prioritization” (the creation of a “fast lane” for big corporations who can afford to pay for it) is cause for concern.It sure is — but that’s exactly why the FCC should ban it. Instead, the draft Order would have the effect of actually relaxing restrictions on this kind of discrimination.

And that’s how we know that maybe, just maybe, the federal agency created to protect our airwaves might be bought. If there is any doubt left…

Here’s what’s most troubling of all. Chairman Genachowski and President Obama — who nominated him — have argued convincingly that they support net neutrality.

But grassroots supporters of net neutrality are beginning to wonder if we’ve been had. Instead of proposing regulations that would truly protect net neutrality, reports indicate that Chairman Genachowski has been calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of this draft proposal, which would destroy it.

Um.

After all, just look at Comcast — this Internet monolith has reportedly imposed a new, recurring fee on Level 3 Communications, the company slated to be the primary online delivery provider for Netflix. That’s the same Netflix that represents Comcast’s biggest competition in video services.

Imagine if Comcast customers couldn’t watch Netflix, but were limited only to Comcast’s Video On Demand service. Imagine if a cable news network could get its website to load faster on your computer than your favorite local political blog. Imagine if big corporations with their own agenda could decide who wins or loses online. The Internet as we know it would cease to exist.

When we lose net neutrality, we lose our last haven for free speech. For progressives and for the poor and disenfranchised peoples of this world, that is a devastating prospect.

 

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Filed under Activism, Civil Liberties, Media, US Politics

Weekly Potpourri: MLK’s Greatest Hits

1. “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

2. “We shall overcome.”

3. “I have a dream.”

4. “Why I Am Opposed to the Vietnam War.”

5. “Nonviolence is the Most Powerful Weapon.”

 

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Assange has some shit on Rupert Murdoch

Julian Assange apparently doesn’t like the vitriol with which Fox News pundits have covered him and WikiLeaks. Understandably. And well, like the badass he is, he won’t take Sarah Palin’s execution threats lying down. Apparently, Assange claims to have “insurance files” on Murdoch and News Corporation that WikiLeaks would release if he were killed.

According to the Guardian, Assange told one journalist that WikiLeaks possesses “504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organization and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.”

Is he bluffing? I doubt it. He wouldn’t make the claim if he didn’t have anything to offer up. And besides, Murdoch has some serious skeletons in his over-sized closet, methinks. Anyway, I love seeing someone stand up to the bully that is Fox News.

Honestly, the way WikiLeaks is being treated by the government isn’t surprising. Our government has quite a bit to hide, for better or worse. And clearly, it’s not interested in transparency. But the media? Well, to someone who understands just how much the mainstream media lusts after access, it shouldn’t be shocking that they abhor Assange and WikiLeaks. Unfortunately, most of the country accepts the narrative about WikiLeaks without a second thought, and that’s it. WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization with malice toward the US.

The media hates WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is doing what the mainstream media refuses to do. However, Assange made a great point in his interview.

“I think what’s emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too,” he added. “Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the first amendment, which journalists took for granted. That’s being lost.”

That is appalling, and we should be out in the streets.

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Thoughts on violence and rhetoric.

I’ve not written much about my opinions on gun rights because, well, I have some conflicting beliefs on guns. For instance, while I abhor them, I also know that they are useful for various things (hunting, protection, etc). But the assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords of AZ really shook me.

I didn’t want to comment on this too much before more information came out. What were his motives? Who were his influences, if any? Why did he act? I didn’t, and still don’t really, know the answers, but most people came to their own conclusions.

It would be too easy to turn this into a “OMG GLENN BECK AND SARAH PALIN CAUSED THIS@!!!!!” sort of story. And that’s just not responsible. Not before we know more about Jared Lee Loughner, of course.

We are learning bits and pieces about the killer. He has possible ties to the publication called American Renaissance, run by an anti-immigration group, The New Century Foundation. The Christian Science Monitor quotes a memo from the Department of Homeland Security as having explained that American Renaissance is decidedly “anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG [Zionist Occupational Government], anti-Semitic.”

It is important to note that both Giffords and her aide, Gabriel Zimmerman, are Jewish. The Anti-Defamation League says that the paper “promotes pseudoscientific studies that attempt to demonstrate the intellectual and cultural superiority of whites and publishes articles on the supposed decline of American society because of integrationist social policies.”

In 2007, he had contact with Representative Giffords.

“His writings will be virtually impossible for most people to understand, what with his references to unexplained numbers, his fondness for weird syllogisms, his unexplained references and his apparent semi-literacy,” writes Mark Potok for the Southern Poverty Law Center. I can say that I have read quite a bit of his YouTube stuff, and damn. I mean, I consider myself pretty cerebral, but he’s talking about currency and government control of GRAMMAR…

…the hell?

This was not a random act of violence. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know if this man is a conservative, but there’s NO way that he is a fucking liberal. He’s an atheist because he believes in creating his own religion. He enjoys pot.

Pot and liberal aren’t mutually inclusive. Atheism and liberal aren’t mutually inclusive.

It’s hard to say that this is an isolated incident when I come across quotes like this:

“I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus — living fossils — so we will never forget what these people stood for.” – Rush Limbaugh

“The day will come when unpleasant things are going to happen to a bunch of stupid liberals and it’s going to be very amusing to watch.” – Lee Rogers

“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” – Ann Coulter

“Where does George Soros have all his money? Do you know? Do you know where George Soros, the big left-wing loon who’s financing all these smear [web]sites, do you know where his money is? Curaçao. Curaçao. They ought to hang this Soros guy.” – Bill O’Reilly

“All you Muslims who have sat on your frickin’ hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets and have not been saying, ‘Hey, you know what? There are good Muslims and bad Muslims. We need to be the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head.’ I’m telling you, with God as my witness… human beings are not strong enough, unfortunately, to restrain themselves from putting up razor wire and putting you on one side of it. When things — when people become hungry, when people see that their way of life is on the edge of being over, they will put razor wire up and just based on the way you look or just based on your religion, they will round you up. Is that wrong? Oh my gosh, it is Nazi, World War II wrong, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen.”

And so on, and so on, and so on. Look, I believe that people are responsible for their own actions. And the Timothy McVeighs and the John Bedells and the Scott Roeders and the Jared Lee Loughners of the country act of their own volition.

But here’s the deal. The right-wing machine purposefully stokes the flames of the fringe. And they do it at a great cost. And if anyone suggests that liberals are behind these attacks, that’s bullshit. Because the few liberals that thrive in the media don’t incite violence. The people in the media who incite violence are on the far, far right.

Glenn Beck is a fascist. Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage are fascists. And they are waging a propaganda war on the common welfare. And that’s the honest-to-Dog truth. They drop hints about killing and shooting and revolution while talking about how it’s the end of the country. It’s irresponsible, but they do not give two shits about responsibility. It’s about the money, baby.

I’ve talked to some liberals who have called for the FCC to get involved. No fucking way, kids. Regulate them and we will only end up regulating our own speech. Free speech is non-negotiable. We don’t get to censor people because we disagree with them and find their rhetoric foul. But sponsors have the power to censor.

So that brings me to my opinion on guns. Do I believe they have a place in our society? Yes. Do I trust most people to handle them appropriately? Hell no. Right now, it is easier for someone in Arizona to buy a gun than to get proper health care. What does that say about our priorities as a nation?

Six people died on Saturday. One was a girl born on 9/11. One was a federal judge. They were all civilians trying to participate in the political process. And now, the right wing is trying to shift the blame of this incident on the parents and, according to Rush Limbaugh, heavy metal music.

 

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