Volatility

December 20, 2017

Confusion and Irony: Corporate “Politics” Makes Stupid

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There’s much ado on the internet about the Trump administration banning the CDC from using several terms and phrases. The list is peculiar, and perhaps gives evidence of the unusual stupidity of Trump’s people, in that it includes well-established corporate propaganda terms which Trump evidently misunderstands.
 
In particular, “science-based”, coming from any elite/mainstream source, is a dog whistle to every technocracy supporter, scientism cultist, and the pseudo-educated in general to close ranks in support of whatever corporate propaganda point or project is the subject of a controversy. When an outfit like the CDC says “science-based” this means science according to the corporate science paradigm. In other words it seeks the same goals Trump seeks.
 
It makes sense for the liberals suffering from Trump Derangement to deplore this misguided censorship, since they support the corporate line and want corporate rule every bit as much as Trump does. They’re just more flexible about it and recognize that sham virtue signaling about climate change is at least as helpful to the corporate imperative as Trump-style de jure denial.
 
On the other hand, the Dembots have been engaging in their own misguided paroxysm. Out of hatred for all things Republican they’ve been deploring the destruction of net neutrality. This is ironic because these are the same aspiring censors who for a year now have been denouncing everything not officially sanctioned by the mainstream media and big corporations as “fake news”. They also exalt corporate rule in general. They applauded Google’s censorship of leftist and progressive websites and Facebook’s promise to impose its own censorship campaign. Therefore in principle they ought to despise net neutrality and applaud its destruction.
 
Once again we see how liberal Democrats have zero principle and zero brains. Their thought structure literally is nothing more than, “Republicans = Bad”. Just as for the dumber Republicans it’s nothing but “Liberals = Bad”, even though in substance they and the liberals agree on everything.
 
 
 
 
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January 1, 2011

2011

Filed under: Freedom, Internet Democracy — Tags: — Russ @ 5:42 am

 

Throughout history cowards and criminals always told the commenters of the time, “You’re wasting your time. That can’t change anything.” Often the aspiration didn’t happen at all. Other times it was tried and failed. And other times the great change succeeded.
 
So we can’t know whether everything we’re doing in the blogosphere will count for anything in the end. I know it’s worth trying. The evidence of history proves that. I get up every day and go online, conscious that I’m entering the fray and participating in the democracy, the only one we have left so far as I’m aware.
 
Perhaps a hundred years from now, and for the rest of history, people will say the blogosphere was the place of ferment for the great change. Or one of the places.
 
Or maybe there will be no change, Gated Community 2.0, the end of net neutrality, and the intensification of direct censorship will lead to the death of Internet democracy, and it will all have been for nothing except the experience lived now, but not remembered in the future, since under those circumstances there will no longer be “history”, but only totalitarian stagnation. There will still be hominids, but humanity will be extinct.
 
We cannot know today. Maybe it’s sometimes hard to even believe today. All we can do is live as if we believed there was a fighting chance. It’s the living and the pretending which always generate the true belief. And that belief in turn makes what was impossible possible. And once things are possible and fought for, they are sometimes achieved. 

November 16, 2010

Reversing the Polarities: The First Amendment and Commercial Speech

 

I was rereading the FCC’s “Third Way” proposal. (Why? I don’t know. The thing’s dead as the dodo, unless somehow Republican overreaching in the Congress to totally gut net neutrality inspires a surge of public outrage.) I thought I was wasting minutes of my life I’ll never get back, when this verbiage caught my eye:
 

Working to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet through high-level rules of the road to safeguard consumers’ right to connect with whomever they want; speak freely online; access the lawful products and services of their choice; and safeguard the Internet’s boundless promise as a platform for innovation and communication to improve our education and health care, and help deliver a clean energy future.

 
I hadn’t really noticed at first, but looking back over the preceding lines I saw how the word “consumer” is littered all over the brief.
 
Now, maybe one shouldn’t read much into a political suck-up document by itself, but in fact the disparagement of the citizen in favor of the consumer is practically universal by now. The reason this example seemed interesting was because it’s a good example of how free speech as well is being redefined in “consumerist” terms, which is one manifestation of its being redefined in corporatist terms. Whether or not the FCC cares about freedom of political speech on the Interent (there is a brief mention elsewhere of “expressing opinions”), it clearly believes the most important speech interaction is commercial in nature.
 
This is implicitly a complete reversal of polarities. Historically, the First Amendment applied to political speech most of all. Implicitly, other kinds of speech were less important, while at the opposite end of the spectrum purely commercial speech was subject to the most regulation. Today we see how political speech is the speech most under assault, while Citizens United is the prime example of a SCOTUS surge to empower purely commercial speech as pseudo-political. We’re now in the midst of a complete inversion of these priorities. It’s a prime example of how politics itself is under assault by a corporatized anti-politics.
 
Consider the logic of Citizens United:
 
1. The SCOTUS enshrines “free speech”, including the right to make campaign donations, to “corporate persons.”
 
2. As the corporate apologists never get sick of saying, in principle a corporation is responsible only to the shareholders. Its one and only responsibility and prerogative is profit.
 
3. So by definition a corporation does not and should not function as a citizen. It functions only as a commercial entity.
 
4. So how can you call for free speech for a corporation unless you’re calling for the First Amendment to apply to exclusively commercial speech? Doesn’t this mean that all regulation of commercial speech – truth-in-labeling regs, terminological restrictions, nutrition listing, required warnings and disclaimers, any limits whatsoever on advertising – are implicitly void? Shouldn’t the tobacco companies fire up the old ad campaigns selling to children, claiming cigarette smoking is good for your health?
 
Implicitly, according to CU, the government can’t legitimately restrict it. Nobody can say, “CU was about political speech only”, because by definition a corporation cannot engage in political speech, only commercial speech. How can a corporation donate to a candidate other than as a bribe? Wouldn’t it be in breach of its duty to the shareholders if it donated on any other basis?

October 29, 2010

Chinese Internet Racketeering, Coming Soon to A Pipe Near You

 

Maybe for once I can get in on the China-bashing too. (But all China-bashing is really just misdirection from the crimes of our own corporate and government elites. China can’t do anything to our economy or security except in close collaboration with home-grown criminals.)
 
The NYT had a piece about a Chinese telecom equipment provider, Huawei Technologies, which is seeking to break into the US market through a proposed $3 billion wireless equipment deal with Sprint. US information and hardware providers have long had a close, lucrative collaboration going with the repressive Chinese regime. This deal would be a kind of cultural exchange. (We have the concept of the FIRE sector and the term: finance, insurance, real estate, as one closely synergized, malevolent complex. In light of the Google-Verizon Pact; Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco and others partying in China; telecom immunity; and now deals like this, maybe we need a term for the surveillance/telecom/IT complex. “SITT”? “STIT”?)
 
The threat is that Chinese knowhow will be put to use by US telecom rackets to engage in transmission discrimination (gutting net neutrality) and content censorship. It might be able to do both of these by stealth. The real threat, in other words, is simply that the Chinese, with their more extensive practical experience, will help the US rackets do the things they already do and want to keep doing at an escalated level. 
 
Of course the Congressional objections, as always, aren’t to racketeering as such, but to phony “national security” concerns. None other than “cyberwar” fear-monger and architect of a bill to impose total government shutdown power over the Internet, Joe Lieberman, took the lead in sending a letter of protest to FCC chief Genachowski. (The piece, with inadvertent truth-telling, refers to Lieberman as “independent of Connecticut”. That’s supposed to refer to his nominal non-aligned status vis the parties. But the small “i” highlights how truly independent he is of any concern for the wishes or well-being of the people of Connecticut or of America. It highlights what illegitimate rogue tyrants all these officeholders are.)
 
Given Genachowski’s record of craven inertia ever since the Comcast court case, we could expect him to cave in upon receiving this letter. But wait:
 

Anticipating these hurdles, Huawei has hired a remarkable array of Washington lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and public relations firms to help it win business in the United States. It has also helped create Amerilink Telecom, an American distributor of Huawei products whose high-powered board includes former Representative Richard A. Gephardt, the former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn and the one-time chief executive of Nortel Networks, William A. Owens.

 
(What happens when the easily movable object is squashed between two irresistible (for him) forces? Stay tuned.)
 
There’s the “American way”. It’s not “capitalism”, it’s never capitalism. It’s corporatism, racketeering. No one who has the muscle to do otherwise ever lets the idea and the product speak for itself. No one believes in “the market”. Instead, they always use their pre-existing wealth hoard in a might-makes-right manner to impose market presence by brute force. That’s the Rule of Rackets.
 
This is a charming bunch of businessmen:
 

The company has repeatedly been linked to the People’s Liberation Army of China. And over the last decade, Huawei has been sued in the United States by two of its major competitors, Cisco Systems and Motorola, over accusations that it stole software designs and infringed on patents.
Cisco settled its suit with Huawei soon after filing it. But in court documents filed in a lawsuit last summer, Motorola claimed that a group of Chinese-born Motorola engineers developed contacts with Huawei’s founder and then, between about 2003 and 2007, conspired to steal technology from Motorola by way of a dummy corporation they had set up outside the company.

 
It’s also funny how European corporatists are worried about Chinese government subsidies to Huawei. How’s that agricultural dumping going, Europeans?
 
Now THIS is funny:
 

“We’re an innovative company driven by the business needs of customers…”

 
How does that square with this again?
 

Anticipating these hurdles, Huawei has hired a remarkable array of Washington lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and public relations firms to help it win business in the United States. It has also helped create Amerilink Telecom, an American distributor of Huawei products whose high-powered board includes former Representative Richard A. Gephardt, the former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn and the one-time chief executive of Nortel Networks, William A. Owens.

 
But the NYT then goes into stenographer mode, reproducing some boilerplate from the company’s flackery pamphlet. I especially like the adjectives and adverbs.
 

Industry analysts say Huawei, based in Shenzhen, has quickly matured into a fierce competitor in one of the most important and hotly contested technology arenas: sophisticated equipment that enhances the delivery of voice and video over the Internet and through wireless devices.

They say Huawei is gaining, in part, because of heavy spending on research and development. Chinese companies are generally weak in R.&D., but Huawei has 17 research centers around the world, including in Dallas, Moscow and Bangalore, India, and most recently in Santa Clara.

Indeed, of the company’s 96,000 employees, nearly half are engaged in research and development. In May, Huawei opened a stunning $340 million research center in Shanghai that it says will eventually house 8,000 engineers.

 
That’s reportage. Yup, John Burns, you’re right – the NYT doesn’t engage in “hagiography”.
 
They also perform their usual routine of attributing their own bias and lies to anonymous sources, in this case phantom “industry analysts.”
 
I’ll conclude by highlighting a good example of media corporatist bias. Here’s two excerpts from the piece:
 

Despite those successes, Huawei has struggled to break into the United States market, largely because of the security concerns and accusations of intellectual property theft and corporate espionage….

In 2008, worries about national security and China’s weak protection of intellectual property forced Huawei to drop its $2.2 billion joint bid with the American firm Bain Capital to acquire 3Com, the American networking company.

 
They just assume, probably unconsciously, that:
 
1. There’s such a thing as corporate IP;
 
2. That “protecting it”, i.e. using it as a weapon, should be a priority for government policy.
 
But the communications infrastructure was built by the public in the first place, and only continues to exist at all as a project of the society. So all intellectual property relating to it is already public property in principle. (The same is true in all other rackets.) All that happens when government privatizes things is that it illegitimately and unconstitutionally alienates public property. This is a crime, not a legitimate action. So it cannot create a private property right.
 
On the other hand, if we accept privatization’s premise, if we’re to disregard the social context for all industrial ideas, then we also have to disregard the corporate context. A corporation is, after all, just a different kind of “social structure”, right? So anyone who rejects the proposition that society creates all ideas can’t coherently turn around and say a corporation does create them. In that case we’d have to revert to the superman inventor theory, and we’d have to repose all patents in individuals only. So either way corporations can never legitimately own ideas.
 
(If someone wanted to say, “OK, I accept the social ownership concept, but the corporation is the proper kind of society”, the response is that society itself legitimately exists for the well-being of the people. Any society which fails in that practice is a failure, period. Corporations go even further in their failure, however, since they not only fail to bring weal to the people, but bring only woe; but even in principle they renounce any social responsibility. The institutional sociopathy of the corporation whose only responsibility is to the shareholders places it outside civilization and in the state of nature. It declares itself, in principle, the enemy of the people and of any human society.
 
So that disposes of any theoretical legitimacy of corporations as societies.
 
And of course we’re familiar with their record in practice – eroded wages, gutted amenities, destroyed jobs, stolen and destroyed public property, environmental devastation, socioeconomic devastation, global repression and mass murder, mass fear and hatred, a genocidal assault on democracy itself.
 
Yes, on the practical level as well the corporate “society” has to be called a failed society.)
 
But from reading the NYT or the MSM in general you’d think there wasn’t even a question here. That’s just one of the characteristic Status Quo Lies, most of them implicit, of the corporate media. That’s why not a single word they say can ever be trusted in itself, but has to be distilled through an anti-corporate filter.
 
The people need a completely new media. 

October 24, 2010

Transparency, Wikileaks, and Odious Secrecy

 

Today the people are the beneficiaries of the latest Wikileaks document delivery, nearly 400,000 pieces of information touching on every aspect of the horrors of the Iraq war of aggression. I’ve previously written about Wikileaks here and here.
 
We ought to be the beneficiaries, if we choose to use this opportunity to learn about the crimes of this system. Unfortunately the previous deliveries didn’t have much immediate effect on the shocking complacency of what may be a terminal slave populace. But it’s too early to know how the beer will taste until it’s fully brewed. These things sometimes fester underground, like the flame that can slowly smoulder its way invisible through miles of subterranean pine needles before it bursts into the air as wildfire.
 
We have no idea what the tipping points will be, and what gradual, organic forces and tensions will have undermined the balance to the point of sudden imbalance.
 
However that may be, sunlight is a pure value. It warms, it invigorates the air, conjures the photosynthetic basis of complex life. It illuminates, it directs, it teaches, it inspires.
 
And while as individual human beings we also need and are entitled to our shade and shadow and our night as well, no one has the right to block out the sun. The information our society creates belongs to us all. It is our property as citizens. It’s our social sunlight, which illumines our collective truths. Top down secrecy is odious. It’s a theft of public property. It’s a characteristic crime of tyranny, committed for the obvious reason of concealing from us the rest of their crimes against us. It’s also done for its own sake, out of the inertia of power and the haughty sense of entitlement of elitism itself. It’s the smothering fog coughed up to obscure our sun. It’s shoving us into the grave dug for us, and the shoveling of sterile dirt upon our heads. Secrecy is death.
 
There’s certainly no “practical” reason for it. America has no existential enemies, except the criminals themselves. And even its lesser terrorist enemies are not a threat worth all we’ve pusillanimously surrendered to them. They’re mostly a threat to the elite empire, not to the citizenry. And it’s the empire’s war which creates the terrorists anyway. The Arab world long ago got sick of jihad. Only US aggression still fans those flames. So the pretext for the secrets is the same crime which generates the opposition whose alleged threat is supposed to justify the secrets. This is the same crime whose details the secrecy seeks to cover up. We’ll find that this applies in every example, not just the war.
 
So secrecy has no practical purpose or moral validity. Secrecy can only be part of legitimate sovereignty to the point it is absolutely necessary on account of some existential threat. Where, as in our case, this threat is nonexistent, the justification is nonexistent. So to the rest of our indictment we can add that a secretive government is an illegitimate government. In our case secrecy is not part of sovereignty, but is only instrumental toward tyranny.
 
Julian Assange of Wikileaks is an eloquent articulator and relentless activist of this ideal.
 

WikiLeaks receives about thirty submissions a day, and typically posts the ones it deems credible in their raw, unedited state, with commentary alongside. Assange told me, “I want to set up a new standard: ‘scientific journalism.’ If you publish a paper on DNA, you are required, by all the good biological journals, to submit the data that has informed your research—the idea being that people will replicate it, check it, verify it. So this is something that needs to be done for journalism as well. There is an immediate power imbalance, in that readers are unable to verify what they are being told, and that leads to abuse.” Because Assange publishes his source material, he believes that WikiLeaks is free to offer its analysis, no matter how speculative…..

Assange does not believe that the military acts in good faith with the media. He said to me, “What right does this institution have to know the story before the public?”…….

In some respects, Assange appeared to be most annoyed by the journalistic process itself—“a craven sucking up to official sources to imbue the eventual story with some kind of official basis,” as he once put it. WikiLeaks has long maintained a complicated relationship with conventional journalism. When, in 2008, the site was sued after publishing confidential documents from a Swiss bank, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and ten other news organizations filed amicus briefs in support. (The bank later withdrew its suit.) But, in the Bunker one evening, Gonggrijp told me, “We are not the press.” He considers WikiLeaks an advocacy group for sources; within the framework of the Web site, he said, “the source is no longer dependent on finding a journalist who may or may not do something good with his document.”

Assange, despite his claims to scientific journalism, emphasized to me that his mission is to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events. In an invitation to potential collaborators in 2006, he wrote, “Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations.” He has argued that a “social movement” to expose secrets could “bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality—including the US administration.”

 
And here:
 

This information has reform potential. And the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform. So they engage in work to prevent that reform . . . .

There are reasons I do it that have to do with wanting to reform civilization, and selectively targeting information will do that — understanding that quality information is what every decision is based on, and all the decisions taken together is what “civilization” is, so if you want to improve civilization, you have to remove some of the basic constraints, which is the quality of information that civilization has at its disposal to make decisions. Of course, there’s a personal psychology to it, that I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge, so do a lot of the other people involved in WikiLeaks. We like the challenge.

 
He writes in his manifesto, “Conspiracy as Governance”,
 

He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks”—one of his favorite expressions—that contort the human spirit. He sketched out a manifesto of sorts, titled “Conspiracy as Governance,” which sought to apply graph theory to politics. Assange wrote that illegitimate governance was by definition conspiratorial—the product of functionaries in “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” He argued that, when a regime’s lines of internal communication are disrupted, the information flow among conspirators must dwindle, and that, as the flow approaches zero, the conspiracy dissolves. Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.

 
The organization is a model of rhizomatic resilience and redundancy:
 

Assange is an international trafficker, of sorts. He and his colleagues collect documents and imagery that governments and other institutions regard as confidential and publish them on a Web site called WikiLeaks.org. Since it went online, three and a half years ago, the site has published an extensive catalogue of secret material, ranging from the Standard Operating Procedures at Camp Delta, in Guantánamo Bay, and the “Climategate” e-mails from the University of East Anglia, in England, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account. The catalogue is especially remarkable because WikiLeaks is not quite an organization; it is better described as a media insurgency. It has no paid staff, no copiers, no desks, no office. Assange does not even have a home. He travels from country to country, staying with supporters, or friends of friends—as he once put it to me, “I’m living in airports these days.” He is the operation’s prime mover, and it is fair to say that WikiLeaks exists wherever he does. At the same time, hundreds of volunteers from around the world help maintain the Web site’s complicated infrastructure; many participate in small ways, and between three and five people dedicate themselves to it full time. Key members are known only by initials—M, for instance—even deep within WikiLeaks, where communications are conducted by encrypted online chat services. The secretiveness stems from the belief that a populist intelligence operation with virtually no resources, designed to publicize information that powerful institutions do not want public, will have serious adversaries……

Assange also wanted to insure that, once the video was posted online, it would be impossible to remove. He told me that WikiLeaks maintains its content on more than twenty servers around the world and on hundreds of domain names. (Expenses are paid by donations, and a few independent well-wishers also run “mirror sites” in support.) Assange calls the site “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis,” and a government or company that wanted to remove content from WikiLeaks would have to practically dismantle the Internet itself……..

As it now functions, the Web site is primarily hosted on a Swedish Internet service provider called PRQ.se, which was created to withstand both legal pressure and cyber attacks, and which fiercely preserves the anonymity of its clients. Submissions are routed first through PRQ, then to a WikiLeaks server in Belgium, and then on to “another country that has some beneficial laws,” Assange told me, where they are removed at “end-point machines” and stored elsewhere. These machines are maintained by exceptionally secretive engineers, the high priesthood of WikiLeaks. One of them, who would speak only by encrypted chat, told me that Assange and the other public members of WikiLeaks “do not have access to certain parts of the system as a measure to protect them and us.” The entire pipeline, along with the submissions moving through it, is encrypted, and the traffic is kept anonymous by means of a modified version of the Tor network, which sends Internet traffic through “virtual tunnels” that are extremely private. Moreover, at any given time WikiLeaks computers are feeding hundreds of thousands of fake submissions through these tunnels, obscuring the real documents. Assange told me that there are still vulnerabilities, but “this is vastly more secure than any banking network.”

 
This is a new model for the kind of sunlight activism we need. Imagine a whole media system dedicated to such recovery of the people’s stolen information. (I’m of course referring to collective public information, regarding politics, the economy, business, foreign policy. Just as with property in general, the personally used item or information belongs to the individual; the collective infrastructure belongs to those who build it.) We can know our need for so many suns as we survey the wasteland of odious secrecy. I’ll just select some of the examples from some of the fronts.
 
The Banks:
 
So many secrets of the Bailout. The Fed’s still stonewalling the fight for sunlight which has outlived its originator, Bloomberg reporter Mark Pittman. Will we ever know how much taxpayer money was embezzled by the Fed’s “facilities” and arcane Treasury programs? How much was handed to the banks practically for free to let them gamble against our economy, prosperity, and society?
 
No sooner was the sham finance bill passed than it came to light (heh) that the bill contained a provision allowing the SEC to keep practically all of its activities veiled from the FOIA. Although Congress went through the charade of “fixing” this “oversight”, even the fix still adjures the SEC to protect the secrets of hedge funds.
 
So there’s a good example of what the sham finance “reform” bill was really about. Since they were worried that SEC activities which were subject to FOIA requests could become a conduit for throwing sunlight on the shadow banking system, they used the bill as a mechanism for indirectly gutting the FOIA where it comes to the finance sector. We should look for such anti-FOIA gambits in every other kind of bill.
 
Mortgages:
 
Among its many vectors of criminality, the MERS system is meant to cause all mortgage information to disappear down a black hole. But the land belongs to the people, and the banks have no right to secrets over it. Why should we ever agree that some secret system vouches for the ownership of land? It’s not bad enough we have private property in land on the part of unproductive bankster “owners”, but this system of ownership is also being kept secret from we the people, from whom this potentially productive land was stolen in the first place?
 
The truth is that the banks themselves have long since lost track of this ownership, and abrogated the chain of title beyond redemption. Part of the point of MERS was to carry that out, and now part of its point is to conceal it.
 
Even a neoliberal propertarian like Hernando de Soto deplores this assault on transparency, considering it subversive of property rights. Among the criteria he lists for stability of the property regime are that all assets and transactions be listed on publicly accessible registries, that all finance deals must stay closely tied to the real value of the underlying asset (so it follows that this value must be transparent), and that government must forbid opacity and obfuscation in the language of market transactions.
 
(I mention de Soto to demonstrate that a leading neoliberal concurs in the assessment that the MERS system, including its secretiveness, has called landed property itself into quesion.)
 
The Health “Insurance” Rackets:
 
They’re notorious for total darkness where it comes to pricing. (Doctors and hospitals are guilty of that too.) The customer has practically no basis for cost comparison or any kind of understanding of why he’s being quoted the rate he’s experiencing. The racket bailout bill alleges it will change that, but we’re already seeing how well the bill’s provisions are being enforced.
 
Internet Access and Participation:
 
The telecoms and cable companies have so far mostly refrained from transmission discrimination because they fear political fallout and a consumer backlash. But the formal enshrinement of net neutrality has become all the more critical as the technology now exists to let the telecoms discriminate in a secretive manner.
 
(The FCC’s proposed net neutrality principles, even if enshrined, may actually be pretty weak against such secret discrimination. But one fight at a time. Let’s get a basic net neutrality enshrinement, and then we’ll improve it.)
 
Food:
 
The FDA, a corporate tool, has done all it can to keep secrets from the American people about the safety and costs of their own food. It seeks to ban GMO-free labeling. Although it hasn’t (yet) banned bovine growth hormone labeling, it allows and is encouraging states to do so. Recently a federal court overturned an Ohio state ban where the Agriculture Department sought to intervene on behalf of the state.
 
The Obama administration also continues the Bush tradition of refusing to update public environmental databases even where required by law. In this case the USDA has refused to update its pesticide use database since 2007.
 
The Gulf Oil Eruption:
 
Perhaps the most chilling secrecy event, imposed not by stealth and bureaucracy but by brute force, was Obama’s literal handing over of (anti-)sovereign jurisdiction over much of the US part of the Gulf of Mexico to BP. Federal employees openly said they could only do or allow what BP authorized, and federal agents became de facto privatized deputiesWe still know almost nothing about what’s really happening in the Gulf, and while we’ll eventually know the full effects if only by experience, the system criminals will do all they can to keep our information from us as long as they can, to our economic and health detriment.
 
(With all of these, we should recall the sick joke out of Chicago, how markets were going to be “free” and “efficient” and “rational” since all “participants” would have all the necessary information. But as I described in my deconstruction of the ideological and “constitutional” rationale for the Stamp mandate, we were really never considered participants in this utopian market, but passive subjects, clay to be worked, a resource to be mined, victims. That’s the full Orwellian truth of neoclassical economics. So there also lies their explanation for how Secrecy = Transparency. Their theory was only ever meant to apply to the elites themselves.)
 
It’s easy to see how many powerful interests are ranged against the people’s sunlight. So it’s also no surprise that Assange and Wikileaks have been demonized by the government, the MSM, and conservative and liberal hacks alike. (Including quite a few of the “real progressives” who oppose Obama, but who nevertheless as liberals remain elitists and still viscerally abhor the ideal that the elites are entitled to no secrets at all.)
 
The fact that such an array of criminals has assembled against Wikileaks is a metric of its effectiveness, and even more, of its perceived threat, and a badge of honor. We can expect every kind of tactic to be deployed against Assange and the rest of the team, but the aspirations of the organization and the task may just withstand the onslaught. It’ll help if more people and organizations follow on this path.
 
We who reject the existence of the “elites” also reject their nonexistent right to keep secrets. Every leak against the will of the elites is a restitution of stolen property. Wikileaks is in fact an agent of law and order, and its people are part of the human citizenry.

October 1, 2010

Net Neutrality Silly Season Ends With A Whimper (Also an update on copyright thuggery)

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russ @ 4:50 am

 

Congress has been rushing to finish its useless session so its members can rush home to lie about all they accomplished. Given the caliber of recent accomplishments, this is on the whole a good thing. Not by design, certainly, but these days a do-nothing Congress is at least fulfilling the first Hippocratic dictum, Do no harm. I guess that’s the best we can hope for these days. (So let’s have no more nonsense about ending the phony filibuster.)
 
Meanwhile the FCC continues to set a standard of do-nothingism all its own on net neutrality. It seems to be in a permanent holding pattern of comment-seeking. Any reader of the Peter Principle will recognize this evasion tactic. It’s not that commissioner Genachowski (who has three votes for his “Third Way” proposal, and probably for full Title II reclassification, any time he wants them) doesn’t know what to do. It’s that out of whatever combination of cowardice and corruption he refuses to do it.
 
To recap, a year ago Genachowski, seemingly following up on Obama’s pro-net neutrality campaign promises, issued a passable-though-not-great rule-making proposal. The FCC seemed to be moving expeditiously through the rule-making process when everything was upset by an April court decision which invalidated the existing basis of FCC authority over the Internet. This basis, dating from 2005, classified all ISPs as “information serivces” under Title I of the Communications Act. This was a Bush ploy to avoid the correct Title II classification as communications services. (An ISP provides Internet access, and few care about the potemkin information services it may tack on. People purchase access, and they purchase it based on price and performance. So it’s clear by any non-Orwellian measure that they purchase a communication service, not an information service.)
 
The Bush FCC claimed it could still enforce net neutrality by using authority “ancillary” to Title I, typically vague bureaucratic notions of powers over things “related” to core goals. This is the theory the court struck down. So the court said the 2005 Bush framework of Title I plus ancillary authority was insufficient for the FCC to regulate Internet access and competition.
 
But contrary to telecom racket lies, the court said nothing about reclassification to Title II. By some readings of the decision the court was implicitly inviting the FCC to do just that.
 
So that’s what the FCC should have done, and what it still should do. Instead Genachowski came up with his “Third Way” compromise, which would formally separate the actual communication service from the tacked-on “information service”, retaining Title I for the whole but regulating the communication aspect according to the standards of Title II. This is in essence the same thing as the pre-court status quo, except more formalized. That’s often sufficient to satisfy a court, and the import of this decision was that such clarification of the lines and purposes of authority would satisfy it.
 
So although this compromise is pretty craven, it still could work to protect net neutrality if enforced*, and there’s no reason to think it would be rejected by a non-corrupt court. The FCC has already jumped through all the procedural hoops. It can and should now go forward with rule-making. The moment Genachowski is ready to vote for his own proposal, he’ll have the three votes he needs. But he keeps flip-flopping between calling for regulation and rolling over for the rackets and their whores in Congress. (He seems highly inertial and prone to obey whoever last put real pressure on him. From that we can deduce that Obama has put no pressure on him to protect the Internet, and that as with everything else his campaign happy talk about net neutrality was all a pack of lies.)
 
[* There’s some evidence, as we’ve seen during the legislative process with the food bills and the rule-making process with the FCC and net neutrality, that not every issue is like finance sector reform. There are some areas, these two in particular, where the political center of gravity seems closer to the ground and where public pressure can beneficially affect the outcome. So while we recognize that the kleptocracy as a whole is beyond redemption, and in most cases there’s no point engaging in the kind of stuff highlighted in the civics textbooks, nevertheless we must always be tactically flexible and be ready to identify exceptions to rules.] 
 
So the status is that we’re now waiting for public comment on the Google-Verizon proposal. Or as the FCC put it, comment on “the issues it brought up”, like managed services and whether or not wireless needs pre-emptive deregulation. Never mind that the public has already commented and recommented on all these same issues which are no newer just because Google and Verizon are trying to formalize them. The public has already overwhelming demanded strong net neutrality protection. And they were especially ferocious in their rejection of the G-V Pact as any kind of template for regulation of legislation.
 
The Google-Verizon Pact is intended to serve as such a template, such a setting of standards, much like 1486’s Malleus Maleficarum was intended to set standards for European witch-hunting. (Although that book was far more popular than the G-V Pact is today.)
 
In a bizarre development, Google and Verizon quickly had a taker in Congress, none other than Henry Waxman, previously a public defender of net neutrality. It was Waxman along with Senator Jay Rockefeller who sent a letter to Genachowski back in May demanding that the FCC take strong action to protect the Internet. This letter has been credited with bolstering Genachowski’s spine or what passes for it when it looked like he was going to cave in completely.
 
A few days ago Waxman proposed a bill which adheres closely to the Google-Verizon framework. Now it seems that the bill will fail to come up for a vote before the recess. In a statement conceding defeat, Waxman again called on the FCC to take action. Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge (who has written good stuff on net neutrality) interprets the whole weird incident as a Machiavellian ploy on Waxman’s part. He thinks Waxman really still does support net neutrality and was trying to put a scare into Genachowski by offering a glimpse of the kind of legislation which is bound to fill the vacuum if the FCC insists on leaving this void open.
 
To say the least, this kind of 11-dimensional chess interpretation runs counter to every other example we have of the way things work these days. To add to how bizarre this all is, the surface reason for the defeat of the Waxman bill is the “obstruction” of Joe Barton, whose reason for obstructing a bill the telecoms want closely tracks the same old telecom talking points: that any legislation regarding the Internet is a “government takeover” of the Internet.
 
But this is the kind of takeover AT&T, Verizon, etc., want to get behind. Waxman’s bill would enshrine the Google-Verizon paradigm of no regulation for wireless and a wired VIP lane to run alongside the existing fixed-wire Open Internet. What’s more, Waxman would explicitly forbid the FCC from regulating wireless or otherwise significantly upsetting the G-V Pact concept.
 
So the narrative we’re getting is that the crazy tea partiers have so internalized the telecom anti-“takeover” rhetoric that the Republicans are now obstructing even bills the telecoms actually want, because beyond a minimal threshhold the politics become way too nuanced for them. This is hard to credit. Although I’m sure Joe Barton is basically stupid, he certainly knows the difference between a bill supported by the rackets and a bill they oppose. So even if he’s getting lots of angry calls from yahoos, it’s hard to believe he’d listen to them over the demands of the rackets. (Ironically, that would be far closer to real democracy.)
 
So I don’t know yet what was up with the details of this nonsense. But the basics are clear. The FCC needs to do its job and either enact its “Third Way” or, far better, just reclassify under Title II. If it continues to refuse, one of two things will happen. Either Congress will do nothing, in which case the rackets will steadily, and probably sooner rather than later, gut net neutrality. Under the status quo, especially given this craven, inertial regulator, nobody’s going to resist discrimination even on the fixed lines, let alone wireless.
 
Or Congress will pass a bill enshrining something like the G-V Pact. Waxman’s bill was bad in concept and detail but probably represented the least bad it could be. So that’s where we’re at.
 
To end on a higher note, the other day I wrote about Leahy’s bill to set up a copyright blacklist and censor the Internet. This bill too has stalled out. So there at least we have a piece of evil temporarily thwarted. 

September 4, 2010

The NYT’s Nocera Lies About Net Neutrality

Filed under: Corporatism, Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russ @ 7:04 am

 

The NYT has fitted to print a pack of lies about the telecom rackets, net neutrality, and the future of democracy. The flack du jour is business columnist Joe Nocera.
 
He starts out describing the basic situation – a broad coalition at least claims to support net neutrality, but the FCC keeps dithering.
 

And yet, here we are, a year and a half into the Obama presidency, and net neutrality is no closer to being encoded in federal regulation than it was when George W. Bush was president. Just this week, the F.C.C. asked for comments on two of the issues surrounding net neutrality, issues that have been hashed over for months. It was an obvious effort to push any decision beyond the midterm elections.

 
Correct so far. But then the lies commence:
 

The F.C.C.’s punt doesn’t begin to get at the turmoil. When Google and Verizon, a month ago, put together a well-meaning proposal for enforceable net neutrality rules, the two companies were vilified by the net neutrality purists — because they wanted to exempt wireless. “There was universal condemnation of Google for abandoning its ‘don’t be evil’ ethos,” said Art Brodsky, the chief spokesman for Public Knowledge — the very group that was leading said condemnation.

 
There was nothing at all “well-meaning” about the Google-Verizon Pact. Its goal is clear: to set standards for gutting net neutrality. They want to exempt wireless (which they and many others believe is the future of the Internet) completely, while setting up a paid VIP lane alongside the “open Internet”. But there’s no reason as all why wireless should be treated any differently from fixed lines. And we can fill in the blank for ourselves as to where all subsequent infrastructure development for fixed wires will go. The proposals of the Pact are a way of passively killing the democratic Internet.
 
Here’s a truly malicious distortion:
 

In the wake of the Google-Verizon announcement, the F.C.C. abruptly called off talks among the various parties aimed at coming up with net neutrality rules. The talks have since been restarted, more or less, though without the involvement of the F.C.C. Yet even if the talks succeed, the resulting framework wouldn’t have the force of law, so it is hard to know precisely what they would accomplish.

 
These talks were nothing but an end-run around the democratic process. The goal was to remove public policy regarding the public Internet from the public purview. Instead they’d deliver democracy into the hands of racketeer elites whose goal isn’t to “come up with net neutrality rules”, but to gut net neutrality for profit.
 

And last but not least: thanks to a court decision in March — a decision that resulted directly from the F.C.C.’s effort to punish one big Internet service provider, Comcast, for violating the principle of net neutrality — the agency’s very authority to regulate broadband is in doubt.

 
Another lie. Only its “ancillary authority” under the tendentious and arbitrary 2005 classification is in doubt. At will the FCC can reclassify these communications services as communications services.
 
Nocera goes on to spew a telecom talking point:
 

Surely, this has to rank as the Mother of All Unintended Consequences: there is an outside chance that in its zeal to make net neutrality the law of the land, the F.C.C. could wind up as a regulator with very little to regulate.

 
This is a version of the Big Lie that net neutrality constitutes a government “takeover” of the Internet. On the contrary it’s a defense of the Internet against a monopoly racket takeover.
 
So we already see how Nocera and the NYT are in the bag for the rackets. Note how throughout the entire piece Nocera takes for granted the rationale for the very existence of the access rackets, and never explains why the public Internet which the public built and paid for shouldn’t be in the public’s hands, since the very fact that we’re even having this fight proves that the private sector can’t be trusted with it. (As we’ll see later, Nocera agrees with this but draws the opposite conclusion – the very fact that the rackets want to destroy the democratic Internet is sufficient reason for the citizenry to surrender completely.)
 
Just in case there was any doubt left, Nocera brings in Wall Street for commentary. Now we know Nocera and the NYT are on the side of the people!
 

“Net neutrality arguments have been reduced to bumper stickers,” sighed Craig Moffett of Sanford C. Bernstein, Wall Street’s premier telecom analyst. Mr. Moffett’s point is that like most political slogans that wind up on bumper stickers, the issue isn’t nearly as simple and straightforward as it might appear to be at first. Net neutrality is, in fact, incredibly complicated.

Data networks, after all, have to be managed. The engineering is complex. The capacity is limited. Inevitably, some form of prioritization is bound to take place. Rules also have to be created that will give companies the incentive they need to spend the billions upon billions of dollars necessary to extend broadband’s reach and improve its speed, so we can catch up to, say, South Korea.

 
Again, a flat out lie. Network management can be reasonably performed under net neutrality, and the FCC’s proposed rules allow for “reasonable network management”. Indeed, they’re probably too lenient.
 
Nocera goes on with some backhanded “balance” and distortions, repeatedly sneering at citizen advocates as “purists”. (Of course, mercenaries like Nocera arguing for the existence and aggrandizement of parasitic monopoly rackets aren’t “purists” making a “furor” with hatchet jobs like this piece, oh no!)
 
He lies and calls the existing adherence to net neutrality standards “purely voluntary”, representing the FCC’s attempt to sanction Comcast for discrimination as capricious and autocratic. On the contrary, implicit in the ancillary authority argument was that net neutrality could and would be enforced. Even the Bush administration said so.
 

Since that ruling came down in March, the agency has been going down two tracks at the same time. It has been desperately trying to find a way to re-establish jurisdiction over broadband services, while at the same time continuing to push for net neutrality. It has become a very complicated dance.

In May, for instance, Mr. Genachowski proposed that the F.C.C. could use Title II of the Telecommunications Act to re-establish jurisdiction. (Trust me: You don’t want to know the details.) But Title II brings with it all sorts of onerous, outmoded regulations better suited to the age of rotary telephones — including price regulation. Although Mr. Genachowski vows not to impose such regulation, who is to say that his successor will agree with his “forbearance” approach (as he calls it)?

 
Another lie. There’s nothing at all complicated about Title II classification. It’s very simple: Title II applies to communication services like telephone and cable lines. The ISPs deliver Internet access over telephone lines (Verizon, AT&T) or cable (Comcast). They are communication services. They should be classified under Title II.
 
Was that so hard? Are we the people really as stupid as Nocera pretends we are?
 
As for Genachowski’s forbearance, the real question regards the “voluntary” forbearance of the rackets, in which propagandists like Nocera always want us to believe.
 

And no matter how strenuously Mr. Genachowski vows not to impose price regulations, the Internet service providers have made it plain that they will sue to prevent the F.C.C. from asserting Title II jurisdiction over broadband. It is not inconceivable that the providers will win. At which point, the F.C.C. might as well close up shop.

 
So we should give in to extortion. Yes, Nocera’s colleague Errand Boy Sorkin has made a career of it. I guess Nocera wants to get on that ransom note delivery gravy train.
 

It is this strange stew — uncertainty over jurisdiction, combined with a campaign pledge to establish net neutrality — that explains the recent Google-Verizon proposal. The truth is, virtually every player involved wants the F.C.C. to have oversight over broadband services. Otherwise, chaos is likely to ensue.

 
Yeah – in exactly the same way the banksters want Treasury and the Fed to “have oversight” – in order to serve as bagmen for bailouts and otherwise enable them. Otherwise, to do nothing. To help privatize public wealth and socialize risk and cost. That’s all the telecoms and their flunkeyboy Nocera want here.
 
And now back to the earlier lie about the anti-democratic cabal of “stakeholders” against the net neutrality:
 

That’s why, at the request of the F.C.C.’s chief of staff, Edward P. Lazarus, representatives from all the sides of the issue, including the Open Internet Coalition, convened to see if they could come up with a framework for net neutrality they could all agree on — and that the F.C.C. could supervise. When those talks bogged down, Google and Verizon decided to come up with their own plan, thinking that they could help lead the others into the light.

Instead, they were slammed. Why? Because even though the framework they came up called for no discrimination of Web sites, for transparency and for all sorts of good things when it came to the kind of broadband that came in through a pipe, it exempted wireless broadband.

Google’s rationale — and, without question, Google was the one that compromised — is that wireless was still too new, and the capacity constraints were still too severe, to impose net neutrality, at least at this point. To put it another way, Google was looking at the issue realistically, instead of theologically.

 
There’s totalitarian code. Read: Our corporate theology cannot coexist with net neutrality, so it must be gutted. The FCC sought a realistic way to apply theology here but failed, so Google made its own attempt. The most realistic lie to try to put over is that wireless is somehow “new” and “complicated” and needs special study and lots of time before we can decide if net neutrality should apply. That way we can entrench the wireless Internet free of democratic requirements. It’ll be a done deal. Net neutrality will be dead.
 
Nocera proceeds with his sermon:
 

So there we now stand. Net neutrality is in limbo because the public interest purists believe that any compromise is a sellout, and because the F.C.C. so badly shot itself in the foot by pursuing the Comcast case. It is difficult to see how we’re ever going to get net neutrality rules.

 
Yes, net neutrality isn’t in limbo because it’s under attack by the monopoly rackets. No, this attack is simply part of nature’s way, God’s order. The world was put here for the profit of gangsters. They have an absolute god-given right to assert every prerogative everywhere. Anyone who resists this is resisting the market god himself….There’s the corporate theology. Nocera’s one of its priests.
 
And then an anodyne ending:
 

Then again, maybe the current snarl isn’t such a bad thing. “If everybody just walked away, the probability of anything bad happening is quite small,” said Mr. Moffett. I agree. Consumers have come to expect an open Internet, and companies will violate net neutrality at their peril. That is just the way the Internet has evolved.

 
Um, no. Access to the Internet has (d)evolved into a monopoly. If nothing is done the rackets will destroy the open Internet. That’s the Rule of Rackets. The moment a corporation can switch from competitor answering to the customer to an oligopolist who buys power and rams that power down the public’s throat, it will. That’s what’s happening here. Nocera knows that. He’s simply lying about it.
 
He does make one useful admission:
 

Without the F.C.C., the Federal Trade Commission would probably wind up serving as the Internet’s sheriff, using antitrust law as its guide and bringing tough enforcement actions. Nobody in the industry wants that.

 
Yes, the “industry” definitely doesn’t want real public interest enforcement. I’ve always said that breaking up the rackets is the only answer. That’s as true here as everywhere else. Anti-trust would be a good tool for this and should be applied to both the horizontal and vertical monopolies that afflict us.
 
Then with any luck a parasite like Nocera would lose his paid liar gig and have to get a real job for the first time in his life. We already know he can figuratively shovel shit. So maybe physically doing so is his proper place in this world.

September 2, 2010

The FCC and Net Neutrality: Superfluous Public Comment = “No Comment”

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , — Russ @ 7:05 am

 

Continuing its truant pattern since spring, the FCC has called for an extension of the comment period on its proposed net neutrality rules.
 

After months spent gathering comments about preserving an open and competitive Internet, the F.C.C. requested more feedback on Wednesday about whether regulations should apply to wireless Internet service.

The agency is also asking for comments about one of the most hotly debated Internet regulatory issues: special services that offer to prioritize certain digital traffic for a fee.

Those two issues were at the center of a recent proposal by Verizon and Google that generated widespread debate in the telecommunications and Internet communities.

 
To recap the timeline, the FCC issued its proposal for rulemaking and held the requisite comment period. In April an appeals court ruled that under the FCC’s existing classification scheme (a classification done by fiat in 2005 and which can be changed at the FCC’s will) it lacks authority to informally enforce net neutrality principles. (The 2005 classification of access providers as “information services” rather than “communications” claimed any additional regulation needed could be performed under “enhanced authority” provisions; this is what the court denied.) This called into question the agency’s formal net neutrality proposal as well as its proposed National Broadband Plan.
 
The obvious solution is for the agency to reclassify ISPs as communications services. The Communications Act also provides for separating communications from information elements of a bundled service, applying the two different levels of regulation. The FCC’s own proposed “Third Way” is a version of this. Either would certainly satisfy any non-corrupt court.
 
But instead of doing what it can, should, and must, the FCC has consistently acted as if the court setback has permanently traumatized it. Later last spring it was hinting it wanted to cave in completely. Pro-racket Congressmen signed threatening letters while astroturf groups propagated the lie that net neutrality would constitute an FCC takeover of the Internet, when on the contrary it would prevent Interent racketeering, a takeover of the Internet by the same corporate criminals who crashed the economy. A stern letter from Waxman and Rockefeller seemed to have reinvigorated the process; after some earlier defeatist talk, Commissioner Genachowski reaffirmed his devotion to the Third Way and the net neutrality rulemaking.
 
But at the same time he convened an anti-democratic cabal of telecom rackets and big information providers to negotiate the issue. The FCC’s goal was to contravene the democratic process and gut net neutrality indirectly. The goal was to broker a deal between the telecoms and big information providers like Google and Amazon which would be beneficial to the latter and pull up the ladder behind them on all smaller info providers. Big Info would join the big telecoms as entrenched rackets dominating a newly enclosed, feudalized Internet.
 
The evidently unsatisfactory tempo of this haggling led Google and Verizon to strike their own bilateral deal and spew their own proposal for a phony “net neutrality” deal which would actually gut it. Genachowski apparently took this as emblematic of the failure of the FFC-brokered discussions and ended them. (For a more optimistic take on this closure, see here.)
 
Public commentary throughout the process has been overwhelmingly in favor of strong net neutrality rules and against a corporate takeover of the Internet. The reaction to the Google-Verizon Pact was particularly fierce.
 
Optimists took all this as a hopeful set of indicators that the FCC would finally find a backbone and go ahead and do the right thing – issue the net neutrality rule and go ahead with the Third Way classification.
 
Instead today we get the ultimate whimper: an extended comment period, which will extend the existing procrastination at least beyond November.
 
There have already been two extended comment periods, both of which established a clear demand for strong net neutrality rules among everyone except the lobbyists. The agents of delay and subversion are trying to claim that yet another round of comments is necessary to satisfy the courts:
 

F.C.C. officials said the request for additional comments was tied in part to the Google-Verizon proposal. But the agency was also trying to guard against generating unintended negative consequences, and to ensure that any rules it did adopt would not be thrown out on a technical claim that the commission had not followed federal rule-making procedures.

“As we’ve seen, the issues are complex, and the details matter,” Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said in a statement. “Even a proposal for enforceable rules can be flawed in its specifics and risk undermining the fundamental goal of preserving an open Internet.”

 
But this is a lie. The agency has been punctilious to a fault about the process. No non-corrupt court would ever find that the FCC hasn’t already gone by the book. And of course if judges on a court (or anyone else) are corrupt, then nothing you could do would ever satisfy them. (Appeasement never works – a rule; no exceptions.)
 
So there’s no conscientious reason for this delay. The real reason is simply to again “kick the can down the road” as Derek Turner of the Free Press said. The FCC is now using the parameters of the G-V Pact itself (as Google and Verizon intended; they were trying to set political standards for the struggle going forward) as the pretext for starting from square one.
 

The FCC will seek comments on whether net neutrality rules should apply to mobile broadband or specialized and managed services, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Wednesday. Under a net neutrality proposal released by Verizon Communications and Google in August, mobile broadband and managed services would be exempt from net neutrality rules, but many consumer and digital rights groups have complained that those exemptions would fragment the Internet and hurt users.

 
There’s no call whatsoever for recasting the crux of the debate this way and saying we need to rehash the whole thing. This is a wretched little ploy by Google and Verizon whose spirit was already resoundingly rejected in the prior comment rounds, and has been rejected in particular since the pact was announced. No one who commented before would feel the need to rethink because some new consideration has been brought to light. There’s nothing new here at all. (Indeed, if anything the fact that Google sold out after having claimed to support net neutrality for all those years will probably deepen feelings that net neutrality rule-making is even more imperative and should be considerably stronger than the rules the FCC actually proposed.)
 
If there’s still any doubt, look who’s praising the extension:
 

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group representing cable-based broadband providers, promised Wednesday to work with the FCC on net neutrality rules. The new inquiry raises “important and complex issues,” NCTA said in a statement.

Randolph May, president of conservative think tank the Free State Foundation, praised the FCC for issuing the new inquiry.

“Seeking further comment on the issues relating to specialized services and wireless platforms can only serve to further clarify the issues and, potentially, bridge differences,” May said. “This is surely positive.”….

Thomas J. Tauke, an executive vice president at Verizon, said the company was encouraged by the commission’s decision to further study net neutrality as it applied to wireless broadband and specialized services.

“At the same time, it remains clear that whatever action the F.C.C. takes will be clouded by legal uncertainty until the Congress enacts legislation that spells out the authority of the F.C.C. and establishes a broadband policy,” Mr. Tauke said.

 
As that last line said, the rackets want this thing decided in Congress, which is likely to either do nothing (thus ratifying the status quo heading toward Internet enclosure) or pass a sham bill. This outcome would be even more likely in next year’s Congress.
 
The FCC again looks willing to abdicate and abandon net neutrality and Internet democracy to its fate.
 
Was there ever any reason to hope for effective regulation here? Is there still any chance of it, if everybody comments yet again, this time demanding even stronger rule-making? This time explicitly rejecting the parameters of the Google-Verizon Pact as absolutely unacceptable? Even under a Republican Congress, a resolute FCC could still accomplish this.
 
My rationale for thinking it’s still possible is that the FCC never had to issue proposed rules in the first place. The number one piece of evidence that Obama wants to gut Social Security is that he unilaterally, as an act of pure volition, set up his Star Chamber, his Catfood Commission. So by the same logic, the FCC’s original unforced, voluntary proposal of net neutrality rules is the best evidence that in principle it does want to make such rules. If they’d always wanted to gut net neutrality, the path of least resistance would’ve been to do nothing, right from the start. So I go with the premise that, while maybe never gung-ho about it, the FCC did have a basic interest in preserved net neutrality.
 
Since then, the evidence has been that, while maybe having started with these good intentions, Genachowski is craven and inertial, and is likely to act in accordance with the strongest stimulus upon him at any given time. Thus his multiple flip-flops in terms of indicating his will: proposing the rule, then backpedaling in the face of the adverse court decision, then flipping again after receiving one Congressional letter, but convening the racket cabal in the face of corporate pressure (including a contrary congressional letter), now seeming to want to just throw the bone out there once and for all for the public and the rackets to fight over by reverting to “comments” again. (Anyone who’s read The Peter Principle will recognize this pattern of behavior. The “teeter-totter syndrome”, perhaps? Or in this case the “John Q. Public Diversion”.) Almost certainly his dream is that Congress will take the whole mess off his hands.
 
But as I said, I think it’s still possibly worth trying again, so I hope people will comment. As I’ve pointed out before, this seems to be an issue where renouncing the system can’t work by itself. Internet democracy, so far as I can see, will need regulation to protect it.
 
That doesn’t mean I think it’s an exception to my Rule of Rackets (you cannot regulate rackets; they will always win the war of attrition; you have to destroy them completely; as a rule the ROI will be much better if we eschew the “regulation” delusion completely and work on the destruction). All I mean here is that while we try to muster the counterforce to destroy these rackets, we do still have to keep fighting the war of attrition. Here rejection and passive resistance won’t suffice; action within the system is necessary.

August 30, 2010

The Internet and Its Two Kinds of Monopoly

 

The whole net neutrality issue boils down to racketeering. How can the public interest co-exist with rackets, is this even possible? We know it’s not possible. Net neutrality and equitable broadband access wouldn’t even be issues, let alone bitter bones of contention, if the publicly built Internet infrastructure remained a public utility as it legitimately must be. Only a rogue government’s illegitimate alienation of this public property created this monopoly mess in the first place.
 
Thus we’ve been driven into this impasse where horizontal integration has throttled all competition among Internet providers. Contrary to the lies of the rackets and government, in most parts of the country the customer for Internet access has two options, tops: the phone company and the cable company. (Let the “libertarian” spew his let-them-eat-cake lies about taking one’s business elsewhere or starting one’s own company on this one.)
 
So as we approach the FCC’s upcoming meeting where it’s expected to announce (or fail to announce, thereby caving in) net neutrality regulations, we must remember that underlying all the obfuscations and lies are two simple, moral facts.
 
1. We the people paid for and built the pipes. They belong to us. What subsequent investment the telecom rackets have undertaken has been heavily subsidized by the public. We continue to pay for it all. So why were the pipes privatized at all? Simple gangsterism, corporatism, with the veneer of neoliberal ideology. (Neoliberalism is nothing but ideologically dressed-up gangsterism.)
 
So the real debate here must be over the scope of the restitution required.
 
2. Beyond the legitimate ownership of the pipes, we know that oligopolies in any necessary sector are contrary to the public interest as well as to textbook capitalism. So anyone who claims fidelity to either of those must support the breakup of such monopolies. Therefore the very existence of the telecom rackets is odious and shouldn’t be conceded. By definition they are not “stakeholders” (to use the enemy’s own ideologically loaded term), from any public interest or even capitalist point of view. Whatever they argue is on its face invalid.
 
So the real debate here should be over the scope of the anti-trust action required.
 
Meanwhile, the fact that what are obviously communications providers who should therefore always have been regulated under Title I of the Communications Act were able to scam their way into Title II “information” classification by cobbling together some rump e-mail and similar services nobody cared about in signing up for access, proves that vertical integration is also at least a major political threat, before it becomes an economic one.
 
But we can see both threats in the monopoly antics of Intel, whose latest gambit is to gobble up Infineon’s wireless outfit. (This is also a commentary on how the consensus seems to be that wireless is the real future of the Internet, not fixed line. Therefore this acquisition seems to be on the same wavelength as the Google-Verizon deal to gut net neutrality for wireless. Everyone who has the muscle is staking a monopoly claim on this pre-enclosed frontier.)
 
We see the level of “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” and “competition” involved here:
 

Intel’s own efforts to build a wireless chip business through its Atom processors have faltered, analysts say. Intel has deals with LG and Nokia to provide wireless chips. Mr. Otellini has been seeking ways to get into this market and diversify the company beyond PC chips.

 
Unable to innovate or compete, Intel uses congealed wealth to buy, i.e. destroy, the competition.
 
What might our heroic public servants do about this?
 

Intel expects the deal to close in the first quarter of next year, pending regulatory approvals…..

Intel has also faced antitrust scrutiny in its primary chip business. This month, it reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to resolve regulators’ complaints that the company had thwarted the efforts of competitors like Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia.

Under that settlement, Intel agreed to refrain from a variety of business practices in an effort to resolve accusations of anticompetitive behavior in the market for computer processor and graphics chips.

 
We see indeed how much this brush with the law has deterred them. But of course the “reformists” will continue to call for better, sleeker, shinier “regulation”, looking for that magic formula which will get the gangsters to behave.
 
The same which has worked so well with the finance gangsters, agriculture gangsters, oil gangsters (BP sure has cleaned up its act over the years, hasn’t it?), and which they all assure us will work so well with the health insurance gangsters.
 
Yes, if we do get a good announcement from the FCC, I’m sure everyone will play nice from then on. The “Third Way” will be sufficient, and we can all go home.

August 16, 2010

The Usual Suspects (Net Neutrality/Google Edition)

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russ @ 8:40 am

 

Anyone who’s written about Obama’s crimes and witnessed the anguish of his disillusioned voters is also familiar with several kinds of Obama hacks and cultists.
 
One type is the troll who says he dislikes Obama but places the blame for his crimes on anyone who voted for him. Indeed, given his sneering contempt for anyone who expresses any version of, “Obama lied to us”, this troll implicitly blames only those who have renouced him while giving his hacks and terminal cultists a free pass. Obama himself always gets a free pass.
 
This is obviously a pernicious way of viewing things. Yes, it’s true that most of Obama’s voters were evidently ignorant about his record, and most have hung on way too long in wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt long after his real nature became clear. In that sense they deserve to be “blamed”. But what purpose does this serve? The voters in a large, centralized representative “democracy” are always going to be relatively ignorant. (Once again we see the lie of “market” ideology, that all participants have all the information they need. Market fundamentalism and representative democracy are the two sides of soft corporate tyranny.) If you support this kind of pseudo-democracy, that’s the kind of voter you want. And if you reject pseudo-democracy, then it’s the system itself you reject, and the incompetence of the voter under such a system is one of the reasons you reject it. Either way you have no basis for blaming the voter. If your contention is that representative democracy necessarily disempowers the voter because of built-in information imbalances and the way special interests manipulate obscure leverage points in the system, then how can you blame the voter for the way the system intentionally renders him incompetent to carry out his duties as a citizen? The system itself has sought to destroy citizenship.
 
It would be wonderful if every individual could be reborn overnight as the heroic citizen of the civics textbooks. But that’s not reality. Citizen democracy, if it’s to arise out of an initially hostile environment and flourish, needs to be nurtured. One aspect of this is 
 
So while this troll either claims to despise Obama or holds aloof from the whole mess, his actions are objectively pro-Obama, pro-system, pro-corporate.
 
On the other hand, we can sympathize with the troll just a little bit when we encounter the idiots still high on “hopium”, still clinging desperately to the delusion that Obama means well but is somehow thwarted from carrying his good intentions to fruition. I guess here we see the terminal flat-earth liberal version of the terminal fascist 20% who still supported Bush at the end of his calamitous reign.
 
Unfortunately, both of these types seem to be endemic to all fronts on the great civil war of citizen democracy against corporate tyranny. This NYT piece on the Google-Verizon coup attempt provides examples of both.
 
The piece recapitulates how the deal would gut net neutrality. The real goal of most anti-neutrality conspiracy is to turn it into a version of the “public option”. The PO of course never existed except on paper, but the term was politicized precisely because it could be applied to anything or nothing. This was done in the expectation that process liberals would focus on the term and never consider the content or lack thereof. This expectation proved to be fully justified.
 
Today we have net neutrality, which has fully existed in concept and reality since the earliest days of the public Internet. The concept and practice have always been clear – carriers cannot discriminate among packets of information; all packets, whether sent between two megacorporations or two obscure and powerless individuals, are equal. Increasing carriage which portends congestion is to be solved by expanding capacity. Only temporary acute congestion could justify temporary, limited, specifically targeted anti-congestion discrimination.
 
That’s net neutrality as it’s always been conceived and done. But the goal today is to subvert this practice and still slap the term “net neutrality” on practices like “paid prioritization” and “managed services” which abrogate the core premise of net neutrality. Thus the Orwellian Google-Verizon deal claims to uphold “net neutrality” even as it would set up a paid VIP lane outside the public Internet, which would then sap all resources from it in favor of the VIPs. Meanwhile wireless carriage would be exempt from even the semblance of non-discrimination.
 
The new propaganda line is that net neutrality is actually a vague, ill-defined ideal no one really understands, and which needs to be clarified today in a way it wasn’t previously clear. So nearly twenty years of practice and principle have clarified nothing; it’s Year Zero, Day One on the Internet frontier, and Google says we need to start as new in asking, “what is this thing, net neutrality?” As we see, the answer they want to impose is that “Paid Discrimination = Net Neutrality”.         
 
The Google-Verizon deal is the attempt to enshrine a version of the basic plan that’s been batted about for a long time now. If the people fall for this, fall for fake “net neutrality”, they’ll lose the real thing, lose Internet democracy, which in turn would be one of the final stages of the destruction of American democracy itself.
 
While Citizens United was more of a symbolic and formal enshrinement than a significant practical change, any new Internet paradigm based on the kind of arrangement Google-Verizon attempts to enshrine would constitute a sea change in practice as well as symbol. This is therefore a far worse gambit of corporate tyranny.
 
And then it’s typical that we’d see this piece assembling the various kinds of pro-corporate talking points seeming to emanate “from outside”, “from below”, “from net neutrality supporters”.
 
First we have the trollish neutrality “supporter” Susan Crawford:
 

“I don’t fault Google and Verizon for striking a deal,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and a longtime supporter of net neutrality. “A large private company is always going to operate in its own interest, and for anyone to believe otherwise would be naïve.”

Professor Crawford, who is critical of the proposal, said the F.C.C.’s lack of action on access rules pushed Google to seek a compromise. “Google had no choice but to cooperate with the friendliest carrier it can find, which is Verizon,” she said.

 
As many times as I see it I can never understand the logic that if your enemy is acting in his own interest then you’re somehow wrong to blame him for assaulting you.
 
What does the assailant’s interest or intent have to do with anything? I view a mosquito and a corporation in the same way. Both seek (N.B., seek is philosophically the only concept we ever need, not “intend”, “want” etc.) to do us harm. Both must be smashed. From there, morally blaming a malevolent hominid seeker is a tactic of the struggle. To put it in Nietzschean terms, it’s a moral manifestation which is “necessary for life”. That’s the only measure of what we can, should, and must do.
 
So how interesting is it when the first impulse of someone who claims to support the anti-corporatist side of an issue is to defend the corporation? This is an example of that same blame-the-victim troll. Her personal opinion may be to support net neutrality, but her objective trend is to accept whatever the rackets do as the rightful way of the world. Thus we see her already identifying with the power structure and against the stupid “naive” peasants, already caving in and making her peace with the death of net neutrality. Her support for it was therefore really an accident or a whim, but she’s objectively pro-corporatist.
 
Of course the opposite impulse, from those of us who side with the democracy and the people, would be to say, “Google has built its whole brand around ‘Don’t Be Evil’, and it was therefore naive of them to think they could act in clearly evil ways and not generate outrage and protest.”
 
Sure enough, the piece gives an example of how it’s done:
 

But disappointed consumers and advocates seem to be holding Google to a different standard, in large part because of the image it created.

“If the world of business is an ugly world full of rats, they’ve managed to create a bushy tail for themselves and come across as a very, very cute rat with terms like ‘Do no evil,’ ” said Scott Galloway, professor of brand strategy at the Stern School of Business at New York University. “The downside of that is that people have expectations that they’re going to fight these quixotic battles, and the bottom line is their obligation to their shareholders.”

 
So who’s “naive”? Who one chooses to say is the most naive provides a window into one’s objective position, regardless of the whims of personal opinions on policy.
 
Obviously it is subjectively naive to believe a candidate with a neoliberal record when he promises “Change” or any corporation, even in its pre-racket stage, when it vows, “Don’t Be Evil”.
 
But like I said, this is a basic of human nature, and if we’re to have a civilization at all it has to be arranged in a way to help bring out the best of this idealism which can be prone to naivete and prevent the exploitation of it by criminals. By definition a system where top-down systematic lying and manipulation is institutionalized is neither a democracy nor a civilization at all. This is simply a monstrous power imbalance which seeks to destroy all that’s wise and good in any individual and whip up and manipulate all that’s stupid and bad in him. One would have to be a civic hero to hold up to this pressure, as a mere individual, and maintain a high level of integrity. There’s no way the mass can do so.
 
Under these conditions, the conditions of such an imbalance, anyone who in any way sides with the system and against the people (even where the merits of a particular isolated incident might warrant that, if it could ever be possible to take any incident out of context, which it could never be) is acting as an agent of tyranny, regardless of any accidental “opinions”. 
 
And finally we have the moron who says, “No amount of evidence from actions can ever convince me! I know my hero means well, and it’s a Mystery to me how he’s prevented from doing the good and forced to do the evil, but I shall keep faith!”
 

Not all believe that Google has betrayed its principles. Some longtime Silicon Valley chroniclers say they still think Google is trying to do the right thing, not only for itself, but also for the Internet as a whole.

“I would rather have a company like Google that means to do no evil and is struggling with compromises on these hard issues than a company that doesn’t see a struggle,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive of the technology publisher O’Reilly Media. “Most companies don’t even see things in those terms.”

 
This kind of thing coming from a powerless Obama supporter is just pathetic and contemptible. Coming from an IT cadre it may be more calculated and tactical (i.e. more treacherous). Either way this paltry way of looking at things again abets the tyrant. Why exactly the supremely powerful and potentially populist Google would need to “compromise” with a loathed, parasitic telecom racket is left a complete mystery. Here we see idealism perverted by enabling its laziness and inertia. You believed and have been disappointed? But surely it’s simpler and easier to keep believing rather than go to the trouble of switching allegiances, let alone actually creating something to believe in out of yourself?
 
In the end that’s what every tyrant and every enabler of tyranny, including the astroturfers and even the self-astroturfed, fears the most: That the people might break free of all the lies and manipulations and build their own world, purged of all criminals.
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