Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Save The Internet

Don’t rest easy just because the Democrats have taken control of Congress. Net Neutrality — the idea that everyone has equal access to the Internet — is still in jeopardy.

Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and a few other robber barons are still trying to hijack the Internet and divide it into the Fast Lane for their “preferred customers” and the Slow Lane for everybody else. Don’t let this happen!


Blogger I.M. Dedd said...

I'm forwarding this...thanks.

December 20, 2006 at 6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent video. Thanks for sharing that. Do the Dems have a consesus opinion on this issue?

December 20, 2006 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

Don't you just love big companies ruining everything just because there's some pie in the sky idea that they know what's best for you? It's good to know they can do the choosing for us. NOT!

December 20, 2006 at 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great video. Thanks for sharing that. Would you say the Dems have a consesus opinion on this issue?

December 20, 2006 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Hands Off The Internet said...

For the record, the reference to a tiered internet isn't entirely accurate. The tiering would be for those online activities that require higher bandwidth--streaming video, for instance, which gets choppy with a slower connection. Things like pageloads and email do not need very high bandwidth in order to function properly.

In any case, the danger with forcing net neutrality regulation into place is that you turn over control of the internet to the government, which is notorious for sticking its fingers into all sorts of places once it has control of something. If the US government is given the power to regulate over the internet, and some bureaucrat one day decides to censor content that he deems inappropriate, who's to stop him?

That's one of the concerns my coalition holds with government regulation. Check out our website for another side of the net neutrality debate at our blog: http://handsoff.org

December 20, 2006 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

I.M. Dedd: Thanks for spreading the word.

J. Marquis: I don’t think there’s a consensus among Democrats, unfortunately. A lot of Democrats are seduced by massive donations from Big Business; they just aren’t quite as bad as Republicans about this. And the telecom industry is using incredible amounts of money to fight net neutrality.

Ricardo: Yup, these robber barons are just so lovable. They have to keep grabbing a bigger and bigger share of everything. Like the Beatles’ song goes, “one for you, nineteen for me.”

Hands Off The Internet: I know that’s the line the telecom industry uses — that streaming video needs more bandwidth and they should be able to charge more. But I think that’s just a foot in the door for the biggest and greediest to step and grab a bigger share.

I agree we need to be cautious about government regulation. I’m not a Libertarian but it’s true that Democrats and Liberals (which I am) tend to think a government solution is always the best solution. But it’s crucial that we not let the Internet become the personal fiefdom of a few CEOs. That’s what’s happened to print media, radio and TV, and they all started out being this great unlimited frontier. We can’t let this happen to the Internet.

December 20, 2006 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

This whole idea fucking sucks. I hope it doesn't go through.

I can see what the gummint would go along with it though. It would help put the kiabosh on some of those pesky upstart bloggers who won't be able to afford the fast lane or who's page will load so slow that their traffic will drop.

December 20, 2006 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: Yeah, I think that's one of the biggest dangers to the Internet. Politicians and mainstream media stars would love to squelch the competition they're getting from thousands of bloggers and online news sources. Between the greed of telecom executives and politicians' lust for power, there are lots of challenges to Net Neutrality.

December 20, 2006 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Okay, Tom, I don't mean this as in an argumentative manner, but simply as a request for information. But...

How is "net neutrality" something that anyone can claim exists? Anyone who was still on dial-up while "everyone" was using DSL or Cable knows that there's nothing neutral about accessing the net! If you can't afford to keep up with the technological advances, you're left behind. You can get dial-up for $10 or less, but DSL & Cable cost $20 or more. That ten dollar difference paid every single month makes a big difference to some people. Add to that the cost of the shiny new computer than can actually keep up with the multipedia smorgasbord of information... People are left behind every single day. I've been one of them.

Net neutrality seems to me like a fantasy, and a jab of corporate advancement. Not that I mind jabs at corporate advancement, but claiming fact of fantasy always bothers me.

Another point, the government already has a better net than we do, and it's going to stay that way. The net's already not neutral in that respect.

Also, through my textbooks, I'm learning about all sorts of "hidden" nets that you can only access through certain portals, and you have to know where and how to get in to access the "free and public" information that's inside.

So, tell me, how is whatever the "bad guys" are doing more not-neutral than what's already been done? It just seems like more of the same to me.

December 21, 2006 at 12:41 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Stephanie: This present situation is imperfect, to be sure. But the power grab that the telecom companies are trying — if they succeed, we’ll be longing for the days when the only inequalities were that some people had dialup and some people had Broadband. I don’t have much technical knowledge, so I’m not claiming any kind of expertise on this. But:

Newspapers, radio and TV all started out as this great unlimited frontier. Everyone thought the playing field was finally leveled. And in all three of those cases, a few huge companies gobbled everything up and turned it into their own personal fiefdom. The airwaves are supposed to public, whatever that means. So how is Clear Channel able to “own” most of the public airwaves? When the Dixie Chicks suddenly vanished a few years ago after making that joke about GW Bush, it was because one radio executive had a tantrum and ordered all 45 gazillion of his radio stations to stop playing their CDs. So much for those “public” airwaves.

Right now because of the Internet (in spite of the inequalities you mentioned), the worldwide playing field is more level than it’s ever been. Billions of people can sit at their keyboards and communicate with each other, sell everything imaginable and spew out their opinions on everything. If a few telecom executives could grab ahold of this and start monopolizing and manipulating everything, it would be a goldmine for them; and it would suck for everyone else.

December 21, 2006 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

RE: Dixie Chicks

It wasn't just one guy who decided to cancel the Dixie Chicks career. Since the vast majority of country music listeners are patriotic, whether they like Bush or not, they were offended by the Dixie Chicks making fun of the President of the United States in a foreign country in a time of war. The Dixie Chicks didn't lose their career because of some fiefdom leader; they lost their careers because they had the idiocy to offend their own fan-base. Thus, they now write angry songs addressed to those former fans.

I actually listen to country music. I listen to three different stations owned by different companies, and they all still play the Dixie Chicks. But, when it comes to choosing which music I buy, they're not on the list...partial because their music was always a bit too bitchy for me.

RE: Internet goldmine

A lot of people are making a lot of money off the Internet. People buy up bunches and bunches of domain names for cheap, and then auction them off at prime rates. Advertising, which is virtually unavoidable, sells big as well. That's not even counting the porn industry that takes up so much of the Internet and is also virtually unavoidable. One little mistake in typing in a name, especially if it's college associated, and you get hit with porn...no matter how well blocked you think you are. People make money off the internet all the time, and it's usually NOT the little guy.

So far the main argument in favor of net neutrality is that whole picture of bandwidth. Little people get the slow lane; people who can afford it get the fast lane. Except, that already is the reality with dial-up versus DSL/Cable. So, what we'd end up with is the slow lane, the fast lane, and the faster lane -- which happens with technological advancements all the time.

If these companies have a way to make a faster lane, how is that any different than dial-up versus cable/DSL. Again, aside from the Dixie Chicks thing, I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm just trying to understand. The video doesn't seem to indicate these companies aren't doing anything different than has already been done to the Internet.

December 21, 2006 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Stephanie: As far as country music goes, I don't listen to any of it, so I'll take your word for it about the Dixie Chicks and whether their fans turned against them.

As far as fast and slow lanes on the Internet, I don't have much technical knowledge (as I stated above). But from everything I've read, the telecom companies don't have any kind of upgrade in mind. They just want the chance to manipulate prices and gouge customers.

A lot of powerful people are threatened by the level playing field provided by the Internet. Politicians (of all political views) and mainstream media executives are not happy about having millions of upstart bloggers and online news sources. It's easier for the government to control the flow of information if they only have 3 or 4 large media companies to worry about. And Big Media is probably tired of getting scooped by groups of bloggers and alternative news sources.

The wealth and political clout of the telecom and media companies, plus the power of politicians: that's a pretty powerful team. Democratic legislators are probably somewhat more likely than Republicans to support Net Neutrality. After all, Democrats have all these slogans about populism and caring about regular people; they have to at least look like they mean it.

But it's still gonna be an uphill battle. I think what the telecom companies have in mind will be a lot more drastic than dialup vs. broadband.

December 21, 2006 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I will preface my admittedly snotty, elitist rant about "country" music by saying I agree that net neutrality is vital. We saw what happened to radio once the Fairness Doctrine was voided by the Republicans... they took over the airwaves with their snake oil. I don't want to see them, through their corporate power and influence, take over the internet as well. Let's keep it as unregulated as we can!

Now, my admittedly tangential rant:

I think it is refreshing to see purveyors of the stuff referred to as "country" music nowadays expressing political opinions other than what the majority of their fellow "country" musicians express or hint at with their lyrics. When Natalie Mains and her Dixie Chick bandmates spoke of Bush in a disparaging manner, my first thought was "Well, more power to them!" Trying to find a leftist in the "country" music world (or the NASCAR world, for that matter) is about as hard as trying to find a conservative in the Screen Actors Guild! While I don't agree with many of the right-wing political opinions of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, or Ted Nugent, or Bruce Willis, Kelsey Grammer or Pat Sajak, I have to admire them to a certain degree for having the guts to be open about their philosophical differences with most of the rest of those in the Hollywood and rock music scenes. I don't know if the Dixie Chicks are flaming liberals or if they are just moderates or conservatives who simply disagree with the way Bush goes about things... I do know that what they did could be considered courageous by some, within the conservative context of the "country" genre. I believe the time in which they did this has some bearing on things too, seeing that it wasn't too awfully long after the terror attacks on the U.S., and most of our country was still in a post-"9-11" funk at the time; many people were afraid to publicly speak against the Bush administration.

If people were truly offended by what the Chicks said then, I really doubt that as many people would be offended by it had the Chicks spoken out about it in a similar way during the past few months, as public opinions do tend to change. My faith in the modern "country" musical genre was renewed, if only very slightly, by what the Chicks had the guts to say, whether it was here or in a foreign country or hell or wherever.

I put the word "country" in quotes because I view most of it as nothing more than lame crap-pop music being performed by people with affected accents who probably have never lived on a ranch or ridden a horse... put on the right clothes, sing with a twang, add a fiddle and a steel guitar into the mix, and you have modern "country". I find just about all of the genre to be contrived, disingenuous, and to an extent, politically motivated in a conservative way. Sure, lots of it has a good beat, and if it is on in my chiropractor's office I might catch myself tapping my toe to it. The musicianship is often very good, and very creative... but like contemporary Christian music's lyrics, you can only sing about the same thing in the same terms so many times before it just gets flat out boring. At least it sure gets boring for me. Rock lyrics are often not too original either, but at least with rock music the listener has lots of sound styles from which to choose within the genre of rock music.

I am a rock musician (singer and keyboardist), and I think for lots of popular "country" artists to sing the stuff they do would be like me trying to sing tough-guy Lou Reed-style New-York-City-attitude songs when I have spent about 90% of my life living in towns with less than 20,000 people.

Also, I would argue that the Dixie Chicks did not "lose their career". They just set their career back a bit... I think that in the eyes of some of their more conservative fans, maybe "lost their way" would be a more appropriate term (although I view it more as a case of them finding themselves!) Their most recent CD happened to sell quite a lot of copies. I have heard some of it, and I didn't find it objectionable. It may not be selling as much as some of their earlier material, but people still buy it. The Chicks aren't hurting that much, they just aren't heard on the radio as much because the arch-conservative Clear Channel owns so many radio stations.

I'm sure lots of "country" fans miss hearing the Dixie Chicks as often on the radio, but as there are parents who want to protect their children by getting Harry Potter removed from school libraries, there are probably also puritanical squeaky wheels (probably a minority of "country" radio listeners) who want to make sure their "country" music stays uniform and within their comfort zone, and that listeners' horizons are not broadened or their views/beliefs challenged. That might invite too many of them to become Democrats, and people like Clear Channel's Tom Hicks certainly won't be standing for that.

With modern "country", Christian and rap, honestly, the only way I can tell one song from the next is by the title. Sorry to be such a musical snob/elitist, but I just can't stand "country". I know lots of people love it, and while I consider it bad stuff in a number of ways, I am glad people can find joy in it! If it gets you going, then go for it, by all means. I just won't partake in something I consider to be a musical version of political kool-aid!

If you want to play me some Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, even Tennessee Ernie Ford... I will gladly listen! Same goes for bluegrass music by the likes of Doc Watson, John Hartford, Flatt and Scruggs... to me, THAT is the stuff country music is made of.

Different strokes for different folks, eh!

December 21, 2006 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Net Neutrality makes for good buzz words, a good slogan. I'm not a friend of the corporate money-grubbing by any means, so standing up to that makes perfect sense to me. Last time Tom brought this up, presumably in the crunch to get the legislation killed in the old Congress, I jumped on board on reflex.

However, upon investigating this further, I have yet to find the substance behind the buzz words. That doesn't mean it's not there; it just means I haven't found it yet. As Tom, a blogger I respect, though often disagree with, brought it to my attention, I was hoping he knew where the substance lies. Since he doesn't, I will look elsewhere.

As for the elitism against the "country" sub-culture and music, you're welcome to it. I can't respect rap, the music or the sub-culture, so I don't listen to it.

However, it does seem ironic that most of the people who defend the way the Dixie Chicks did what they did are people who don't listen to country. I've heard many people claim that they started listening to the Chicks after the incident, because they liked that sort of thing. That could explain their resurregence in sales just as well as anything else could. I don't think there'd be proof one way or the other at this point.

However, I would like to point out that the Dixie Chicks are not, by far, the only country music artists who've stood up to Bush & Co. Most just haven't been idiots about it. From Tim McGraw, native of Louisiana, who stood up against the whole Katrina failure, to Kenny Rogers and his song "The Last Ten Years." And, my current favorite lyrics from that are:

"Well, the last ten years, look at the hills we've climbed;
The best golfer's black, the best rapper's white;
And it's about damn time;
But we best beware, there's a brand new fight, you see;
And I hate to say we might be our own worst enemy"

More subtle than the Chicks, but a helluva lot more effective too.

There are others, but that pretty much proves the point that country music starts can have successful careers without being in step with Bush & Co. Take it for what you will.

December 22, 2006 at 3:56 AM  

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