Volatility

November 6, 2011

How Do You Get An Occupation Event Going?

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms, Freedom — Tags: , , — Russell Bangs @ 9:56 am

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Wherever you are, of whatever sort?
 
The possibilities vary greatly, from urban to suburban to rural areas; the economic state of the region; the predominant politics and political conflicts; whether there’s an immediate proximate struggle which is part of broader structural issues; what forces could possibly be mustered for the action; whether those forces exist ready for action at the moment or if educational and organizational work is needed, and if so, what.
 
Someone I know wants to get an event going here in suburbia, but so far there’s been a disappointing response to feelers sent out to e-mail lists, and we’re mostly at the stage of casting about for a specific rationale. (Then there’ll be the nuts-and-bolts logistics of it, “permits” and such, but first we need to know we wouldn’t be “giving a demonstration and nobody came”.) There are several specific corporate assaults in this town, like a federally imposed pipeline (taxpayer money, federal thug enforcement including overriding of state law, “private” profiteering). It seems like people are mostly glum about things but not particularly ready to do anything about it. (I personally experience it as a foreign invasion.) There’s some other general swinishness going on. Verizon recently informed the town it would no longer pay taxes on its properties because it just dipped below a 50% market share, and some law allegedly exempts it from taxes if it doesn’t hold this majority share. The law actually means the opposite (though it does sound like a very stupid law to have written in the first place), but this is an example of something we’ve discussed previously, how corporations are increasingly simply refusing to pay bills and taxes and forcing creditors and governments to sue them. There’s also a flap over the municipal water authority, with privatization looming in the background. We know the record is 100% across the board – no matter what the public water utility was like, privatization always brings far more expensive water with worse services. That’s what’s happened everywhere privatization has won out.
 
So there’s a few examples of possible hooks upon which to hang a participation event. There’s also the broader question of the future of the town. For the moment it’s “legally” safe from further development, but that of course can change. The subdivision onslaught is just about economically spent anyway, but the barbarians of suburbia can still do lots of damage yet, even in a fairly short period of time. If we’re going to resist and overcome the vandals, we need a coherent plan of our own for the post-oil agricultural future of the area. Maybe an Occupation event could become a participatory assembly to discuss this future. Well, that’s a pretty far-out idea, but it could at least impress upon people the need for such a plan. So far as I know the only plans that exist still assume infinite growth. These are impossible, of course, but can still accomplish great destruction.
 
In the meantime, it sounds like lots of preparatory work needs to be done even before we can get a good turnout for an acute event. People need to be reminded of everything that’s happening, and have it all be presented as one big picture, with each specific feature placed in the big context. We also need an ongoing media project to keep people aware of all these things. We already have the building materials for that – websites, cadres, a base to build upon (although even this base seems lethargic at the moment). We just need to put it all together to function the right way, to generate its own energy.
 
So if the issue here is chronic, and people “aren’t ready” to come out for an acute Occupy event, that’ll have to be changed systematically. Of course, OWS itself seemed to be falling short on its first day, and even I thought it was fizzling out. So if we could get something started, who knows what kind of enthusiasm it might spontaneously call into being? 
 
So there I was talking about how to use existing forces to get an Occupy event going. And perhaps for the longer run we could use an Occupy event as a consciousness raiser and recruitment tool for the vaster arc of the general democratic movement. At our farmers’ market we have a dedicated space where a non-profit organization can set up a booth and engage in those two activities. So an Occupy event itself could serve the same purpose for any number of food, energy, transportation, health, education, political, and anti-corporate struggles. Just as these proximate struggles can be the rallying point for a broader occupation, so the Occupation can teach and recruit for the struggle.
 

October 1, 2010

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

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russell Bangs @ 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: , , — Russell Bangs @ 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.

August 16, 2010

The Usual Suspects (Net Neutrality/Google Edition)

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russell Bangs @ 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.

August 9, 2010

Tightrope: No Wire, Shredded Net (The Google-Verizon Deal)

Filed under: Internet Democracy, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: , , — Russell Bangs @ 4:00 pm

 

After disputed news reports last week, today Google and Verizon announced their “deal”, a set of promises to guide their own behavior going forward and a proposal for legislation.
 
Although the plan has lots of nice words about net neutrality, non-discrimination, investment in infrastructure expansion, and transparency, it’s all predicated on a basic scam.
 
This scam is that they fraudulently claim wireless and landline transmission are fundamentally different and need to be treated differently. Specifically,  they say that since wireless is allegedly so new and radical, lots of study and learning from experience will allegedly be needed before we can know the right policy. If anyone actually believed this, one would think the precautionary principle would be indicated, and that this inscrutable new frontier should receive the same guiding principle of net neutrality which was so benevolent in the evolution of the Internet itself. But no, for Verizon and Google, somehow this time around we should meet uncertainty by doing the exact opposite.
 
That doesn’t meet the smell test, even if we believed that wireless is all that new and different. But that’s in fact a lie anyway. There’s no reason at all to treat wireless transmission differently from wireline. This is a bogus distinction meant to carry out a vast bait and switch. The legislative proposal is a classic exercise in “what we give with one hand, we take away with the other.”
 
The proposal has seven points. The gist of points one and two is that Verizon concedes, indeed celebrates, net neutrality and vigorous FCC authority – but for landline only. This is because Verizon and the other telecoms think wireline is headed for the antique shop, while all future action will be wireless. So every “concession” in the deal is, from their point of view, a meaningless pseudo-concession since it regards something they regard as almost obsolete, while it doesn’t touch what they think is the wave of the future.
 
Point three calls for transparency. This is the only point of the legislative proposal they would let apply to wireless. 
 
Point four indicate that the vigorous FCC ain’t supposed to exercise so much vigor where it comes to judging complaints regarding wireless discrimination. Here, the legislative proposal calls for the FCC to be stripped of rule-making authority, and to instead have to deal with things case by case, each decision an island.
 
Point five brings us to the gutting of net neutrality,the VIP lane. Providers are to be empowered to set up “additional, differentiated online services.” In their conference call, Verizon CEO Seidenberg promised that Verizon won’t offer transmission regular Internet stuff over the VIP channel, just special entertainments, games, health care applications and such, while Eric Schmidt promised that Google won’t be using the VIP lane at all. Seidenberg also said the rackets will undertake all necessary capacity expansion for the Open Internet so that the investment starvation and bottleneck scenario won’t come to pass the way I and many others suspect. Never mind that they’ve been refusing to undertake any expansion except with massive subsidies for overa decade now.
 
These are lovely promises, and I’m sure we can trust them once the FCC surrenders completely, once Congress gives the rackets carte blanche, once we’re at their mercy. Does everybody agree we can trust to their mercy?
 
Point six simply asserts that wireless is a totally new thing which needs totally new practices and rules. This is the basic lie anchoring the deal, rendering all the promises irrelevant.
 
What they really want for wireless, which they expect to be the dominant mode of Internet transmission going forward: “Paid prioritization”, i.e. the end of net neutrality; no systematic FCC authority; on the contrary a privatized judiciary to sort out all Internet issues. This private arbitration scheme would simply enshrine a permanent session of the elitist closed door meetings the FCC was just forced to adjourn by the wave of public outrage which met the initial news of precisely this Google-Verizon deal. So we’re being whiplashed in a matter of days from a bottom-up surge on behalf of net neutrality and transparency to what’s expected to be a meek submission to the permanent enshrinement of exactly what we condemn.
 
We started the year demanding permanent formal enshrinement of net neutrality; we’re slated to conclude with the permanent formal enshrinement of the radical opposite.
 
What boggles the mind in all this, and even more the moral imperative, is that we the people built the Internet; we paid for it; it belongs to US. How did we get to this extremity of abjection and servility, how did we again end up squirming under the filthy thumb of a handful of gangsters? Once again, it was a criminal government which has committed treason against us, alienating our property, alienating our sovereignty, murdering our democracy.
 
And now the killers have tracked down the last heir to the democratic heritage, the child Internet Democracy. Can any guardian arise to defend this child from their knives? There can only be one, we the people have to guard our child.