What’s all this fuss about Net Neutrality?

Hail, hail, the FCC has just enacted Net Neutrality. What is that? Techno-geek types have been concerned for some time about service providers’ plans to charge different rates for different levels of Internet service. The reason is that some applications – HDTV for example – require a very high bandwidth. Some people opposed such differential rates, out of fear that the big players, for example digital content providers like Hulu and Netflix, will hog all the bandwidth, leaving smaller providers out in the cold.

I feel this fear is misguided, for several reasons. Internet bandwidth is not a fixed-sized pie. It’s been steadily increasing with demand, and it will continue to do so. As long is there is competition, the little guy won’t get squeezed out. My bigger concern is about the customer’s connection, the so-called “last mile.” Competition is an issue here, because of state and local governments’ encouragement of telephone and cable monopolies. Many of us have only have three choices – phone, cable, and satellite, and I’ve seen tons of online complaints about the billing practices of Dish Network. City-run wifi networks might help somewhat, but any subsidized service could undercut private providers and become a monopoly, a problem I’ll address later.

As far as the FCC regulation, it’s unlikely to address the problem, even if there is one. That’s because of a phenomenon call regulatory capture – the industry ends up controlling the regulatory agencies. Corruption is one cause, but the biggest reason is that no one knows an industry better than the companies themselves. People often bounce between the corporations and the agencies that supposedly control them. Secondly, regulation costs money, and will undoubtedly increase the cause of our service. Thirdly, why do we need 300 pages of regulation? As usual, the government doesn’t want the public to see the rules until they’re implemented.

The other issue with net neutrality is the allegation, mostly by conservatives and libertarians (see Alex Jones’ infowars.com) that the FCC is doing this as part of a plan to regulate content, which will eventually lead to censorship and licensing of websites. I agree that classifying the Net as a “public utility” sets a bad precedent, but I don’t see the threat as imminent. Censorship will likely come from other directions, such as the un-PATRIOT-ic ACT or “hate crimes” legislation, Furthermore, if city governments take over the “last mile” via public wifi networks, they will be tempted to impose their propagandistic agendas on their citizen customers.

A much bigger threat, I think comes from Obamacare. Well, not exactly the Affordable Care Act itself, but the medical fascism that gave rise to it. Obama’s adviser Cass Sunstein has advocated outlawing the promotion of unapproved, non-mainstream health theories, such as the idea that moderate sun exposure is beneficial. If the insurance companies or Big Pharma were to sue, for example, an anti-vaccine website for cutting into their profits, I doubt that the Supreme Court will have the cojones to go against them. After all, the Supremes were dumb enough to buy the notion that a mandated purchase is the same as a tax. But that’s an issue for another time.


Man Up, Mr. Obama

Mr President, everybody is talking about your address to West Point graduates. Republicans and other neoconservatives are upset because you showed an insufficient degree of blood lust. Anti-interventionists like myself are upset because you persist in keeping America in its role of global policeman. I’m aware that you Democrats seem to have a psychological need to prove you’re as “tough” or more so than the Republicans. But why? Let me humbly offer a suggestion. You can be much tougher by doing a 180 degree turn and, in the manner of statesmen from George Washington to Robert Taft to Ron Paul, renounce foreign entanglements completely.

This is, after all, one of the main reasons the American people elected you in 2008, because we were already weary of George W Bush’s constant war-making and intrusions on our civil liberties. Not only that, but you promised us “one of the most transparent administrations ever.”

Here are my top 10 suggestions:

1. End all US military operations in the Islamic world, including support of rebels in Syria and the deployment of “advisers” in Afghanistan, thus removing a major motivation for terrorism.

2. Announce an end to the use of weaponized drones, with a pledge to never again to deploy them absent a Congressional declaration of war.

3. Issue sweeping restrictions on NSA spying, as required by the Bill of Rights.

4. Close Guantanamo – not just the prison, but the entire naval base, and hand it back to Cuba, as part of an unconditional normalization of relations with that country. Release all prisoners against whom the US has no evidence, which, according to terrorism experts, would be all but a handful.

5. Announce your intention to veto any extension of the USA PATRIOT Act or the NDAA.

6. Normalize relations with Iran, and end sanctions immediately in return for thorough and frequent inspections of nuclear facilities.

7. Issue executive pardons for Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and James Risen. Terminate any ongoing prosecutions of government whistle blowers.

8. End all US aid to and special bilateral agreements with the apartheid regime in Israel. Prohibit all US arms sales until illegal settlers are removed from Palestinian land. Alternatively, all Arabs, including those in the occupied territories and refugees living abroad, should be granted full rights and equal status with Jewish citizens.

9. Abandon the “Pivot to Asia.” Support negotiations between China and its neighbors to fairly divide claims to the Senkaku Islands and mineral rights in the South China sea.

10. End all sanctions against Russia and invite them to talks between the Kiev government and rebels in Donetsk and other Russian speaking areas. Support the notion of Ukraine as a neutral, decentralized buffer state with good relations with both Russia and the EU. Recognize the annexation of Crimea as consistent with Russia’s historic claims to the region.

Contrary to the assertions of the corporate-owned media, all of these actions would have substantial public support, some of them overwhelming majorities. I assure you that if you take even one of these actions, everyone, including Republicans, will have to admit you have the cojones. Furthermore, the United States would no longer be seen as the bully of the world, but would once again be “the shining light on the hill.”