A “Separate But Equal” Internet?

The phrase “knowledge is power” dates back to at least the seventeenth century, and it’s as true today as it was then. But today, technology has become the essential portal to information, and information technology has potential to be a great social and economic equalizer — but only if we preserve today’s open Internet.

That is not by any means a sure thing.

There is a real danger we could let ourselves slip into a sort of “separate but equal,” segregated Internet, as my colleagues in The Greenlining Institute’s telecommunications team explain in their new report, “Saving the Open Internet: The Importance of Net Neutrality.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about net neutrality. For example, some on the far right would have you believe that net neutrality is code for government control of the Internet. It’s no such thing.

Net neutrality is actually just a modern version of a very old principle, first embodied in the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860. Back when the telegraph was cutting-edge communications technology, there was concern that telegraph companies would pick favorites — transmitting messages they liked right away while delaying those they disliked, including communications from rivals or competitors. So Congress stepped in to require that each telegraph message be “impartially transmitted in order of its reception,” without the telegraph company picking out favored communications for preferred treatment.

Today’s technology has advanced far beyond dots and dashes transmitted over wires, but the basic idea remains precisely the same: Companies that control the “pipes” through which information flows shouldn’t become censors, favoring or disfavoring messages because they approve or disapprove of the content.

In short, net neutrality simply preserves the free, open Internet we know and depend on today. But is that free and open Internet really in danger? In a word, yes. In one particularly egregious example, a few years ago Verizon blocked text messages from NARAL Pro-Choice America on the grounds that it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” communications. After howls of public outrage, the company backed down, but the threat of censorship remains.

Without net neutrality, any provider could block or slow down messages it doesn’t like, including those from competitors. Or it can force low-income individuals or small businesses into Internet “slow lanes,” reserving faster speeds and swifter transmission for those who can afford to pay the most. This could impose real hardship on millions. In a wired world, those with the weakest wires are at a permanent and serious disadvantage.

The winners in such a scenario will be the largest, wealthiest firms and individuals. The losers will be small businesses and people with low incomes.

Of particular concern is the wireless field, where the FCC’s efforts to preserve net neutrality have been weakest. This weakness especially threatens communities of color: As documented in Greenlining’s 2011 report, “iHealth“, people of color are less likely than whites to have broadband access at home and are more likely to access the Internet via a smartphone rather than a computer.

At present, the FCC’s level of authority to preserve an open Internet is under dispute. Congress could solve the problem
instantly by passing legislation such as S 74, proposed last year. This bill would provide the FCC unquestioned authority to maintain a free Internet. Without federal action to preserve net neutrality, any of us could be forced into the slow lanes of the information superhighway.

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Congratulations on Achieving a Post Racial America!

In a perfect world, more difficult games.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and lucky for us, the election of President Barack Obama and the wide spread acceptance of multiracial marriage has led our nation to an era of racial harmony (Except perhaps West Virginia). Okay, maybe we are not really there.

In my mind, the election of Barack Obama was not a sign of racial harmony; it was a sign of tolerance. Forgive my poorly cloaked (and constructed) use of an If-Then but tolerance is not a sufficient sign of harmony. When was the last time you tolerated teachers in schools and oxygen in the air you breathe? They are necessary components, but not the only components necessary.

Further, Barack Obama is a politician, and public officials are far removed from the average citizen’s social conscience. Harmony is best regarded and measured between neighbors. Here is a quick review of the more “tolerant” party. Do white Democratic activists mingle with members of their local Black Caucus or members of Democracia? Do minority Democratic activists support their local party as much as they do their own constituency? In most cases no.

This does not mean something is wrong. It just means that the races are an alliance. Just remember these words from Ambrose Bierce. “An alliance [is] the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other’s pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.”

Here are a few view points for you to consider.

The first is by Andrew Young in an article by CBS News: Post-Racial America? Not Yet, Civil Rights Legend Andrew Young Says.

Here is a different perspective from NPR: Post-Obama, Black Americans More Optimistic.

In case you were wondering, here’s what the Tea Party has to say:

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The Dismissal of Captain Owen Honors – Explicit Article Content

Everyone has heard the idiom “Swear like a Sailor,” and there is a good reason why. Sailors swear a lot! Owen Honors, Captain of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the longest naval vessel in the world (insert phallic joke here) is being removed for a series of short films he created while XO (Executive Officer) of the ship. Their purpose was to highlight ship-wide concerns like water usage, cleanliness, and leave behavior. The films were presented to the crew during XO movie night, and were filled with extremely profane material. References to masturbation, women showering together, homosexual behavior, gay slurs, etc. My opinion…Who cares!?!

My defense of this decorated and honored officer does not segway from my high-minded progressivism. It is an acknowledgment that his service and that of others like him are why I am free to form my own political opinions. Also, I was a military policeman in the US Army…also I was the commanding officer of my Navy ROTC. :)

That is me in basic training, holding an M16A2 rifle pointed at my blindfolded battle buddy’s head (He washed out of basic because “they” discovered he was gay). Somewhere he has one with me in the blindfold.

Frankly, the military is not a place for the squeamish or the delicate of mind or body. Some of the aforementioned XO’s film material may be out of line, but the wavelengths that define the boundaries of civilized society are different in the military than in the civilian world. If the XO were to have made less quirky videos to highlight ship-wide concerns, the sailor’s would have ignored them.

Our fighting men and women are rarely the same folks who buy ethical notebooks and eco ipad sleeves. Take Harry P. Hobbitfeet for instance, who lectures consumers that bypass the organic tomatoes at Trader Joes. Run him through Boot Camp, let him establish a family when he gets out, and then deploy him to the middle of the Persian Gulf for 18 months (twice) and then ask him if he cares where his tomatoes come from.

To be fair, this would not be in the news, nor would he have been relieved of his command, if no servicemen and/or women objected to the films. If I was the Emperor of the world, I would sanction him if a review of the films revealed utterly inappropriate behavior, but I would not remove him from command. Since I am not Emperor of the world, I would like your opinion. Please comment below with your opinion on the matter.

To end this article on a positive note, here is some military slang for you:

Navy:

Baboon Ass: Nickname for corned beef, based on color and flavor.

Bitchbox: Intercom or amplified circuit used to communicate between spaces of a ship.

Eagle Shits: Slang for military payday (e.g., “The eagle shits today.”).

M.A.R.I.N.E. – My Ass Really Is Navy Equipment

Army:

FUBAR – Fucked up beyond all recognition

SNAFU – Situation Normal: All fucked up

Even innocent words can betray more than you hoped. Heck, first recorded in 1865 as an alteration of the word hell, has a varied modern interpretation, which includes the following: “What the Heck happened here.” Where Heck often replaces Hell or Fuck…well the replacement is worse than both: He(ll)(fu)ck.

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