Category: Politics (page 3 of 4)

Let’s Talk Net Neutrality

I love the Internet. I love all the things a free flow of data can do. It’s how I’ve met some of the most important people in my life. It’s how I not only got to PAX but became an Enforcer. It’s how people bought my writing for the first time. The Internet is awesome!

There are those, unfortunately, who want to make it less so.

Comcast Tower. A big glass dick.

This is the Comcast building, just down the river from me in Philadelphia. It’s a titanic construct. It’s an interesting architectural design.

It’s a massive middle finger to fair business practices and net neutrality.

Let’s leave aside how Comcast muscles out smaller potential ISPs, and how atrocious their customer support can be. Our focus has to be on how this powerhouse of a provider wants to deal with ‘net neutrality’, a term that encapsulates the idea of all data on the Internet being treated equally the way electricity and phone calls and telegraphed messages have been treated in their wires for decades.

Basically, Comcast wants to eliminate this concept so it can make more money.

Along with Time Warner Cable and others, Comcast has been working to create a two-tier system of Internet service in the United States. They call it “fast lane” or something. It’s a woefully inaccurate moniker: in essence, what they would do is put speed bumps all over the current lanes, and the un-bumped parts become faster by comparison. And if you’re trying something new in a field they don’t want any competition in, they will slow down your data so much that your idea will fail before it even gets off of the ground. And even if you’re an established brand – like, for example, Netflix – an ISP in this situation will have every right to throttle your data’s speeds, especially if the service does not pay the premiums. Comcast has already done this once to Netflix, and if the initiative to preserve net neutrality fails, it’ll happen over and over again.

Don’t believe me? Think this seems far-fetched? Operating under the belief that United States anti-trust laws limit evil, ruthless, throat-cutting monopolies to game boards with little metal tokens?

Try this video on for size.

Or this one.

The icing on the cake, though, is here.

This is the link. You can click the Proceeding number (14-28) and leave a comment on why this issue is important to you. I’ll send you there with two caveats:

Don’t be intimidated. The form is unfriendly to users and demands your name and address. Don’t worry about that. These systems are in place to prevent you from posting. They want to have people leaving as few comments as possible so they can ramble on without oversight from the people. Don’t let it stop you.

If you can’t get through, keep trying. Unlike other things I’ve said, this is unsubstantiated: a rumor is going around that TWC and Comcast are slowing down connections from their users to the FCC website. This is (a) a massive pile of bullshit that clearly illustrates why this is a bad thing, and (b) what a character in Blazing Saddles called “the last act of a desperate man.” Keep trying. Keep posting until your comment is taken. Let your voice be heard!

I’ve left a comment. I’ve given a finger right back to Comcast. Won’t you do the same?

Does That Banner Yet Wave?

Courtesy Betsy Ross

One of the reasons I love living near Philadelphia is the history. So much happened in that little port town in a short period of time before New York grew to gargantuan proportions and Washington, DC became the capital city. The reason Americans have a holiday to celebrate on this date, in fact the reason why Americans have a country, was a document signed in Philadelphia 234 years ago this year.

It was signed because a few colonial land-owners didn’t want to pay taxes to the British crown anymore.

…Okay, all right, there’s more to it than that. The English had demonstrated that America was something of an annoying step-child, a sore spot with the French and while its resources were valuable to the Empire, the populace was somewhat irritating. After the French were beaten in the North American front of the Seven Years’ War (commonly known as the ‘French and Indian War’ in America, because who cares what the rest of the world calls something), England turned their attention to some of things America had been doing that the English didn’t like. Americans were skirting mercantile procedures to bolster their own profits, pushing westward despite angering the native tribes and were training militia rather than relying on troops from England. King George’s response was first to ask the colonies to help with the cost of the war fought on their soil (this was the ‘no taxation without representation’ thing), and then to tax the colonies directly, quarter troops in colonial homes and refuse to recognize colonial commissions of officers, basically sending the message that American soldiers were not as good as English ones.

So everybody was a little pissed off all around.

Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, which became a best-selling book on American shores with over 500,000 copies in circulation during the first year – impressive even by today’s standards. It glossed over the philosophies of Rosseau and Locke that were informing the impulses of American movers and shakers towards libertarian thinking, and presented the argument for independence to common American folk, by way of making the argument something of a sermon. So the American rhetoric began as it meant to go on, it seems.

Back in those days, freedom for Americans means freedom from foreign rule. Nowadays, freedom for most Americans seems to mean freedom to do whatever the hell we want to whomever the hell we want, whenever the hell we want. That sounds less like a democracy and more like anarchy to me, or at the very least an autocracy. Most Americans need someone to tell them what to be afraid of and who to hate today, at least. But there I go again, breaking the promise I made that I wouldn’t let this blog get political.

What bothers me is that this holiday, the day on which Americans celebrate the fact that they did win freedom from foreign rule, has been ‘dumbed down’ in a sense, at least for me. In fact American nationalism feels kind of dumb of late. Instead of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which is in fact our national anthem, a lot of sporting events and whatnot begin with “God Bless America.” The implication of that, for me, is that God should bless America and no place else. I hate to break it to these so-called patriots, but there are nations in the world other than America that need help from the Divine a lot more than we do. The worst thing we have to worry about is running out of oil or pissing off another country so much that they nuke us. Other countries have people wondering what the hell they’re going to feed their kids today.

Americans have that problem, too, but ask the average conservative Republican if they care.

I’m going to veer into political territory one more time, if you’ll indulge me. To me, being an American means having freedom of thought and expression. We are forgers of our own destinies as individuals, and any force that seeks to oppress, dumb down or stifle our ability to think and decide for ourselves should be our enemy, not necessary a foreign power with a different point of view. We should be worrying about how to feed and educate our children, honor and care for our elderly, employ those in need of a job and play a positive role in the future of our planet.

Instead we are told to buy what we can, even if we can’t afford it, that we should be afraid to go anywhere outside of America and any notion of health care or fuel supplies that cost less (if indeed they cost anything) are decidedly un-American. All “good” Americans should bow down to the Free Market the way they bow down to the blond-haired gun-toting Jaysus that loves little fetuses and hates anybody who worships anything other than Himself, meaning Jaysus is “a good American.”

I hope I don’t need to go into detail as to why that line of thinking is bullshit.

Francis Scott Key asks the question “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

To me, it does, and it will. As long as people continue to think freely, and bravely rail against notions that seek to stupefy, retard or oppress the rights of the individual, it’ll wave proudly. This is why I call today ‘Independence Day’, not ‘the 4th of July’. This is why I pay as little attention to fanatical rhetoric from either side of the political debate as possible – in the case of the right, I follow some folks on Twitter just to know what the enemy is thinking. I want to engage my brain when I salute my flag, you see. I don’t want to do it just because some bloated blowhard tells me I should. I want to be proud of this country and, in a way, I am.

I’m proud of the fact I can bang out all of these words without fear of getting dragged away in an unmarked van to be shot behind the chemical shed. I’m proud that the people with whom I disagree can be marginalized or even ignored because nobody in this country has absolute power. I’m proud that in spite of all of the free-floating negativity, people are still out there trying to do good, making an effort to improve the world around them instead of just fattening their own pocketbooks and being kind to one another – and some of those people happen to be Americans, thank God.

Yes, Americans are arrogant. Yes, we throw our weight around a bit more than we should. And yes, we have a lot of humble pie to eat from the last decade or so of shenanigans we’ve perpetuated in the name of defending ourselves.

But America is still a country worth defending, and even if in the future the word ‘expatriate’ might follow my nationality, I’m proud to be an American.

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

The New Fascism

fas·cism (\’fa-,shi-zəm) n.

1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

This is the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of fascism. The combination of autocracy, regimentation of commerce and strong-arm tactics should make this form of dictatorial government easy to spot. And yet we have people, some of whom would claim to be well-educated, bandying the term “fascist” around when it comes to President Obama’s administration.

Obama is seeking a bipartisan solution to the problems faced by America. He is struggling to foster this bipartisanship through open dialog and keeping the public informed. A fascist would shut the people out of the decision-making process and further their own agenda without thought of what’s actually best for their citizens. Obama’s speeches address the concerns regarding his policies, and he does his best to convey that his decisions are not being made arbitrarily or in a vacuum. Just because the majority of the people agree with you does not make you a facist. It just makes you popular.

And popular people are going to make enemies. Think back to high school. The smartest, best-looking and most charismatic kids found themselves in positions of leadership and popularity. Most other kids accepted that they wouldn’t be included in the popular kid’s circle and moved on. Some tried very hard to be included in that circle. And some tried to carve out a niche of their own by pushing around kids smaller than they are.

When people feel marginalized, when it seems that someone has taken power away from them in an unfair manner, they get angry. In a classist society such as ours, the people working day in and day out under back-breaking conditions with this sort of attitude look up to those living in luxury and feel a seething sort of hatred. Since this is a democracy, all the people need to do is wait for the next election to sue for a change of leadership. But some people are not so patient. Some feel they must take action now. Some rally support from the working class, push forward speeches that are laced with vitriol and hatred, and shout down anybody who dares speak up against them. This is a situation the world has seen before.

In Germany, back in the early 20th century, a sentiment prevailed among the working class that the first World War had been brought to an end by internal political sabotage. They believed that the people in power, in this case German Jews, had steered their country on a course that would take it far from the intents of its founding. They festered, complained and plotted, and in 1934, the Nazi Party rose to power with Adolf Hitler as its Führer. The Nazi party, from its beginnings, was charartarized by a singular autocratic agenda, social regimentation (i.e. putting the Jews under the heel of the ‘superior’ Aryan race) and control through force and fear. Their rise to power came from those in the working class supporting men who cried out for justice against those who seemed to be taking their country in the wrong direction.

Today, in America, several men and women are crying out for justice against those who seem to be taking our country in the “wrong” direction. They appear on Fox news, at tea parties and town hall meetings. They are characterized by a singular autocratic (perhaps even theocratic given the central place God is given among them) agenda, social regimentation (ensuring the Liberals do not push forward their plans to destroy all America stands for) and control through force and fear. If I can pick out the parallels that exist between the American Neo-Conservative movement and the National Socialist party of 1930’s Germany, you can bet others around the world have as well, and it probably makes them very nervous.

This country was founded on the notion that every citizen is entitled to their opinion, no matter how wrong you might think they are. I know there are people who are opposed to health care reform or economic stimulus or pursuing peace instead of war. They’re allowed to think that, even if I believe they’re wrong. Should we meet, I’d want to try to get them to understand the other points of view that exist, not necessarily verbally strong-arm them into agreeing with me. You don’t have to yell to get your point across. As I have mentioned before, this is not ancient Sparta, and you won’t win by being louder than the other guy. If your only goal in talking to someone with a different political opinion is to shout them down and call them stupid or crazy instead of actually listening to what they have to say, you’re not being a good American. You’re just being a bully. And if you’re doing this in the course of furthering your own political agenda, you move up from bully to jerkass.

All I’m really trying to say, here, is that before you scream to the rafters about the fascistic mote in someone else’s eye, you should really do something about the fascistic beam in yours.

Double Standards

Courtesy Salon.com

It’s staggering how much can change in a few short years, isn’t it? During the previous administration, if you spoke out against the President or his policies, you were quickly shouted down as a moron at the very least, and possibly called a terrorist sympathizer or a Communist. Nowadays, if you speak a word of protest against the President and what he stands for, pundits come out of the woodwork to laud your patriotism and common sense, and you just might land yourself a show on Fox News.

Back when the words “Mission Accomplished” were first getting batted around in reference to the wars in the Middle East, saying that the wars were being mishandled got you called a coward and you’d quickly find yourself being sanctioned by any conservative within earshot. Talk about health care getting mishandled now, and you’re a hero. I could go on but I’d rather not belabor the point.

More and more a double standard is emerging. If your political party is in power, anybody who disagrees with you should be rounded up lest they begin an insurgence or secession movement. If they aren’t, it’s a moral obligation for you to protest their policies as loudly as possible and if they won’t listen, maybe it’s time to secede. The more the issue is examined the more ridiculous it becomes. I’ve said before we should treat our disagreements more as debates and less like open warfare. Shouting louder than your opponent in order to win an argument last worked as a system for political disagreements in the days of ancient Sparta. As eager as I’m sure Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh would be to grow manly beards and comport themselves in leather thongs (ew…) if that’s what it takes, I doubt Ann Coulter or Andrea Tantaros would be that keen on the idea.

How about this: Let’s put down the defaced photographs depicting Obama as Hitler and stop acting like we’re on a slippery slope into a Stalinesque meat grinder. Let’s actually talk about our differences of opinion and work together to find a common solution between them, rather than pointing out every potential character flaw and scandal as reasons why the opposition’s reasoning is stupid. Because, clearly, the errant behavior of a couple people within the party show the moral bankruptcy of the party at large, since political parties and ideologies are obviously a homogeneous group of individuals with identical viewpoints and lifestyles, so if one of them is a Communist, the entire group is Red.

Not that such reasoning applies to the Republican party, of course. If it did, their party is composed entirely of pederasts and closet homosexuals.

Let’s Talk About Fox

Faux News courtesy ediablo.com

First and foremost, if you didn’t see Jon Stewart talk about the drastic ‘liberal’ turn FOX News has taken of late, watch the clip below. Trust me, it’s worth your time.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Fox News: The New Liberals
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests

I’ve had a problem with Fox’s coverage of politics for a while, and not just because they’re conservatives. It’s fine to disagree with the policies of the government – that’s why we have the First Amendment. One should be able to voice their opinion without fear of harm in a free country. However, while I can tolerate a difference of opinion, I have a very different feeling over what has been highlighted here, albeit in a very comedic way.

Fox News is full of hypocrites.

When there was a Republican in the office of the president, an attack on that president’s policies were unpatriotic, stupid, and possibly an indication of a terrorist frame of mind. Now that a Democrat is in office, it is clearly the duty of a fine, upstanding American citizen to point out how socialist, racist or fascist their policies are, especially if a given policy is all three at once. Expanding the amount of wiretaps put on Americans isn’t fascist if it’s a Republican claiming to protect the country, but trying to fix what’s wrong with health care is clearly fascist because it takes money away from people who have growing piles of it.

When last I checked, this was a country with a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” To me, that means that everybody contributes or even sacrifices for the betterment of the country as a whole. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” proclaims the Statue of Liberty. There’s no stipulations to that – no color restrictions or religious bias or base income requirements. Now, that might be considered a socialist frame of mind by some, but in my opinion, those who consider a tendency towards charity and goodwill to those less fortunate as socialist are more fascist than they realize.

Fascism, after all, a political ideology that follows the same lines as Darwinist evolutionary theory: “Only the strong survive.” In a free market economy, this could be interpreted as “Only the rich survive.” Instead of promoting the rise of an Aryan race, a lot of conservatives talk about not “spreading the wealth around” and letting the rich hold onto their assets while the poor wither and die in obscurity and silence. They’d be quite pleased if the disenfranched simply ceased to exist, though I’m sure they wouldn’t say “put the homeless in concentration work camps” out loud. Fascist societies of the past saw abortion as a crime against the state, opposed homosexuality, and spread propaganda through media domination and scare tactics. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies, the disenfranchised need help to get back on their feet, and every citizen of a free country should have access to health care without worrying about extravagant bills or obfuscatory ideas such as “pre-existing conditions.” These, to me, are not opinions, but rather moral imperatives. And if that makes me a socialist, I’ll start speaking Russian and eating more borscht.

But I know for a fact I won’t be saying things to contradict those imperatives four years from now. Unlike some people.

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