Archive for December 3rd, 2010

Barack Obama punts on net neutrality

| December 3, 2010 | 4 Replies
Barack Obama punts on net neutrality

In my view, telecoms should be allowed to do only one thing: move data. They shouldn’t be able to decide what kind of data they are willing to move. They shouldn’t be allowed to decide that some sorts of data are more important than other types of data. They shouldn’t be allowed to charge more for some types of data than other data. They shouldn’t be allowed to prioritize some types of data at the expense of other types of data.

By his silence, Barack Obama has once again decided to allow a big well-monied industry to call the shots, at the expense of you and me. To the growing list that includes private health insurers and Wall Street so-called bankers, we need to add telecoms. Thanks to White House complacency (at a minimum, complacency), the telecoms have now been put in great position to argue, in Orwellian fashion, that they are not going to prioritize what we will see and hear on the Internet, and it will be done in the name of “net neutrality.” This is all coming up for a vote before the FCC while President Obama says nothing. As Josh Silver of Free Press indicates to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now, this is a huge issue that will affect all of us, and this new set of rules will be devastating to progressives:

What most people don’t understand when they hear “net neutrality,” their eyes gloss over, and they say, “How does that affect me?” What’s going on right now is we’re in the middle of a major transition from one media technology to another media technology: the internet, the first two-way experience. And with the internet brings this possibility that any website could act as a television network, a radio network. It is the ultimate game changer in the future of how Americans access information and learn about the world. Now, what we’re seeing is, since the internet started about 40 years ago, there’s this principle called “net neutrality.” And it essentially says that the companies that bring you the internet into your home or business cannot indiscriminately say, “This is going to move fast, this is going to move slow, and that’s our decision,” in order to make more money or for political gain or what have you. So what we’re seeing is, as the internet becomes more ubiquitous, the companies that deliver the internet—Comcast, AT&T, Verizon—they enjoy monopoly or duopoly control of connections, and they want to monetize the internet by getting rid of rules that prevent them from creating fast lanes and slow lanes.

The President, as you may recall, when he was campaigning, said, “I will take a backseat to no one in protecting net neutrality.” It was a huge moment for everybody who cares about this issue. The FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, also a big proponent. But what’s been alarming is what’s happened since President Obama has taken office. Just like in so many other issues, there’s been this big debate amongst the industry players, like Verizon and Google. The public interest community has been left out of the ring, so to speak. The FCC chairman has done nothing major in those two years since Obama took office. And what we’re seeing right now is, finally, after five, six years of debate over this issue at the FCC, the FCC chairman has introduced a set of rules, last Wednesday, that will be voted on December 21st, that are wrought with loopholes, that would essentially be the end of the internet as we know it. It allows these companies to prioritize content at will, essentially because of definitions and legal terms, and it doesn’t apply at all to wireless connections, which is the future of the internet . . . The problem here is, you can’t put this genie back in the bottle. If you fundamentally change how the internet works, the internet will become like cable television, where Comcast and Verizon and AT&T decide what’s on, how fast it goes.

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Natalie grows up

| December 3, 2010 | Reply
Natalie grows up

I’ve seen these sorts of videos before, but this one is especially good. The parents of “Natalie” took her photo almost every day for ten years to create this video. She ages a year every 9 seconds, a bit less than on month per second.

I’m fascinated by the many hostile comments under this video at YouTube. Why is this video so disturbing to so many people? The great dedication of Natalie’s parents to this video has enabled us to see something that can’t otherwise see day-to-day. Are so many people hostile because that watching this photo montage reminds them that they are mortal, that we are human animals? Or is it the result of decades of put-down humor pumped into Americans by sitcoms? Or something else?

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Senator Bernie Sanders discusses the immense magnitude of the backdoor bailout

| December 3, 2010 | 4 Replies
Senator Bernie Sanders discusses the immense magnitude of the backdoor bailout

Senator Bernie Sanders has presented some jaw-dropping facts about the financial bailout at Huffpo. He frames his article by mentioning that back in 2009, when he asked Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to identify the institutions that received a backdoor bailout from the Fed, he refused. Sanders refused to accept that answer. Instead, he worked hard to force an amendment into the “Wall Street Reform” bill, and we now know some of the startling things Bernanke refused to admit:

After years of stonewalling by the Fed, the American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed’s multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America . . .

We have learned that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout signed into law by President George W. Bush turned out to be pocket change compared to the trillions and trillions of dollars in near-zero interest loans and other financial arrangements the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution in this country. Among those are Goldman Sachs, which received nearly $600 billion; Morgan Stanley, which received nearly $2 trillion; Citigroup, which received $1.8 trillion; Bear Stearns, which received nearly $1 trillion, and Merrill Lynch, which received some $1.5 trillion in short term loans from the Fed.

We also learned that the Fed’s multi-trillion bailout was not limited to Wall Street and big banks, but that some of the largest corporations in this country also received a very substantial bailout. Among those are General Electric, McDonald’s, Caterpillar, Harley Davidson, Toyota and Verizon.

Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations including two European megabanks — Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse — which were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities.

Sanders has written a blistering piece in which he argues that the biggest banks padded their own executive’s pockets, refused to lend to small businesses, used near-zero interest loans they obtained from the Fed to buy Treasury securities and that they continued to gouge consumers through high credit card fees. He suggests that those banks that received this corporate welfare could also have used this money to work out mortgage loans. He is aghast at the conflicts of interest.

I am so relieved to know that we have at least one politician who is willing to shoot straight with the American people.

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