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Net Neutrality – The FCC Strikes Back (sort of)

It looks like Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is following through with his promise to rewrite the Open Internet rules that were vacated by DC Circuit Court of Appeals in January. Though many are skeptical that the proposed rules will be enough to protect consumers. In a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) the FCC will be asking for public comment on new rules that would allow internet service providers to charge streaming content providers, such as Netflix and Amazon, more for preferential treatment as long as the same deals are available to others on “commercially reasonable” terms. The FCC would use its authority to review these arrangements to ensure that they don’t harm consumers and competition.

The rules are not expected to be made public before a May 15 FCC meeting to discuss them. Following a public comment period, a commission vote on the rules is likely to occur sometime in the summer.

Wheeler says the FCC will not allow an internet ‘slow lane’. While the proposed rules would allow for paid priority access, he said the focus on the so-called “fast lane” ignored that non-priority traffic would have to be “sufficiently robust to enable consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand.”

Tom Wheeler-Chairman FCC
Tom Wheeler – Former head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) 1976-1984. Now chairman of the FCC.

In his official FCC blog the Chairman lays out some good arguments for the course that he is pursuing. He reminds us that the court did not throw out the rule requiring providers to manage their networks in a transparent manner, making oversight possible (nice of them). In theVerizon v. FCC  decision the D.C. Circuit laid out a blueprint for how the FCC could use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to create Open Internet rules that would stick, and this is the course he pursuing (see my post: Net Neutrality – To Be or Not to Be).

Tom Wheeler seems to be acting with good faith to find a way forward that the majority of people will find acceptable. He seems genuinely determined that no ISP will be allowed to block or slow down any legal content but the goal is to also have rules in place that will encourage broadband providers to continually upgrade service to all. As demand for bandwidth increases network congestion becomes a bigger and bigger problem. Managing network congestion is very complicated and expensive. He believes the best way to do this is by exercising the FCC’s authority,  upheld by the court,  to enforce the “commercially reasonable” standard that is in the communications act of 1996. Here is what he says are not “commercially reasonable” on the Internet:

Michael Powell
Michael Powell – Former chairman of the FCC under George W Bush now head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA).
  • Something that harms consumers is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading service in order to create a new “fast lane” would be shut down.
  • Something that harms competition is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading overall service so as to force consumers and content companies to a higher priced tier would be shut down.
  • Providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable. For instance, a broadband provider that also owns a sports network should not be able to give a commercial advantage to that network over another competitive sports network wishing to reach viewers over the Internet.
  • Something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement is not commercially reasonable. For instance, if the creators of new Internet content or services had to seek permission from ISPs or pay special fees to be seen online such action should be shut down.

This course of action is the easy way out for Mr. Wheeler as it stops short of reclassifying broadband service providers as telecommunications providers subjecting them to regulation as public utilities.  He has this power under Title II of the Communications Act but he has only threatened to use it if providers abuse their power.  He knows there would be massive backlash from Republicans and Business Groups if he tried. Michael Powell, former FCC Chairman under George W. Bush, now working as head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has come out strongly against it. It was he who, back in 2002, classified cable broadband as an “information service” rather than a telecommunication service that got us into this mess.

Corporate-Profits-as-Percent-of-GDP
Corporate profits (after taxes) as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Notice how it has more than doubled since 2000 going from less than 5% to over 11%. This is what I mean when I say chronic binge profiteering.

Powell’s simplistic argument that all one has to do is look at the state of disrepair of public infrastructures – bridges, roads, electric grid etc.- controlled by public utilities, to see why regulations are bad is specious; sidestepping a major cause which is Wall Street apathy driven by an intense and selfish focus on maximizing corporate profits for a few and to hell with the public good. Are we to just pretend that the financial collapse of 2008 was an accident and the massive greed of the banks and corporations had nothing to do with it? Six years later while communities everywhere are still struggling to pick up the pieces corporate profits have never been higher  – check it out, it’s from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Wheeler, himself a former head of the NCTA from 1976 – 1984, should know better than anyone that it is inevitable that abuses will take place. “Commercially reasonable” is a very subjective term that can mean whatever you want it to. Does he really believe that this will protect consumers from the ill effects of the industry’s chronic binge profiteering problem? Rather than just threaten to, he needs to take a deep breath and get it over with – force them to go cold turkey – declare broadband internet, once and for all, a public utility. He can do this by simply calling it by its true name – a telecommunications service – which everyone already knows it is. Truth can set you free. He needs to act on his principles and stand up to the Plutocrats.  Doing so he would win the gratitude of decent, hardworking people everywhere. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’s up to it. We’ll see. I’m afraid a public intervention is going to be needed.

He would do well to read the 2011 article  “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”  in it the Nobel-Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote:

Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise. …There is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else. The cards are stacked against them. [There] is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity.

Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

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Net Neutrality – To Be or Not To Be?

Internet_Satellites
No one owns the Internet. It is a network of networks sharing a common infrastructure for the mutual benefit of all.

The benefits of open access to all the wonders on the World Wide Web is something most of us take for granted these days – enriching our lives and providing opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise. For many, it is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. Developed with tax-payers money for the use and benefit of everyone, our ability to freely access all the content available on the network is due, in part, to the forward thinking of the builders who were guided by a principle known as  “Net Neutrality” Neutrality, as used here, simply means internet service providers (ISPs) should give all lawful traffic equal and unfettered access to the network without bias or prejudice. They must not block or discriminate based on content or source of that content and they must provide their services in an open and transparent manner to all.

Given that access to the internet is a vital and integral part of American life it is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) responsibility to regulate the internet to ensure that this principle of “Net Neutrality” is enforced for the benefit of us all. The goal is to “preserve the Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission.”

At least it was until a recent Federal Court ruling decided it wasn’t. In a lawsuit that Verizon brought against  the FCC challenging the validity of “net neutrality” a DC Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Verizon’s favor – throwing the principles of non-discrimination and no blocking of content out the window.  This controversial decision severely impacts the ability of the FCC to enforce a legitimate and very important public policy. It hinged largely on a technicality centered around the definition of “common carrier” and the fact that broadband providers are not classified as public utilities, and therefore, not subject to the same kind of regulations. FCC has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court – leaving some legal scholars wondering why not?

Should the profits of a wealthy few trump the public good?  That is the question.

Connecting-to-the-Internet
ISP’s own only a small part of the Internet “pipelines” – They are more like the gate keepers to the network of networks that rely on the ISP’s to provide the last few miles of common infrastructure to reach their users.

In a nut shell, the court was asked to decide whether internet providers, like Verizon, be able to charge high bandwidth users like Netflix and YouTube higher premiums for higher speeds. While this may sound reasonable, it contradicts the FCC’s 2010 Open Network Rules (see page 14) which state clearly and with good reasons why internet providers may not block, edit or discriminate based solely on content.

To allow otherwise gives the ISP’s – who in many areas of the country have little or no competition –  the undeserved and unwarranted power of being able to unilaterally threaten content providers with slower service unless they meet their demands to  pay more. The ruling now makes it legal (though not ethical) for ISP’s to partially – or even completely – block legitimate content of other providers whose content competes with their own. — so much for “end-user control, competition, and freedom to innovate without permission”.

Dick Wiley and Bert Rein-LLP
Thanks to Wiley Rein LLP’s legal team the court threw out that unfair no unreasonable discrimination rule along with the odius no blocking provision. But then, we shouldn’t be too surprised. If you go to their website you can find this — “Wiley Rein holds a commanding grip on the communications market,” and its “prolific record of success in contentious matters” can be attributed to “the fusion of [its] highly rated regulatory group with a contingency of litigation expertise” held by the firm’s “brilliant and unequivocally effectual” communications litigators. — Wow! so there you have it. And it probably doesn’t hurt none that Dick Wiley was chairman of the FCC during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
This opens the door (flood-gate?) to the concept of “pay to play” on the internet. Their plan is to have two lanes – a fast lane and a slow lane. This means the average website will now have to settle for a smaller slice of the limited available bandwidth (pipeline) along with much slower connections or compete with the big guys for bandwidth by paying a higher price. This becomes ever more important as consumer demand for video streaming grows. This gives those who can afford it an unfair advantage in marketing their products using what should be a public utility much like telephone, electric, and water companies – which are, by law, to be fairly and reasonably regulated as “common carriers” for the good of all (you might want to ask your Congressman about that). Remember, the ISP’s are already – very profitably - collecting hefty fees from all of us, the end users – though, apparently, it’s not enough to suit them. We pay them because they promise to connect us to any legally available content we chooseNOT to arbitrarily degrade the content  of competitors so we’ll settle for their’s just because it’s a better connection. Also remember – it’s not like most of us have a lot of choice (if any) of how we connect.

This ruling against the FCC will fundamentally alter the relatively level playing field that has, up until now, characterized the Internet, essentially, turning it into an auction house selling to the highest bidders.

CEO-Verizon
Lowell McAdams CEO of Verizon
Made close to $16 MILLION dollars last year.
$14 MILLION the year before.
$23 MILLION the year before that
Because of his hard work he’s due for an extra $1.85 MILLION bonus this year (Yes, really!)

In the past, access to video media platforms that could reach a mass audience was basically limited to the corporations. With the Internet, everyone has access to such platforms – at least they did. Allowing paid prioritization will shift power away from the small companies with limited capital, the startups on a shoestring, the lone but brilliant innovators, the legions of altruistic open-source programmers and content providers who believe in the promise of the internet to make a better world – the ones who are really behind the internet’s economic and technological growth – returning it to a few giant multi-national corporations like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time-Warner-Cable; companies run by people whose sole purpose is to grow and maximize profits in any way they can in order to justify to their investors the tens of millions of dollars they collect in bonuses.

Maintaining a system of inequality and disparity of wealth that is surpassing even that of the “robber barons” of the late 19th century, these “last mile bottleneck” monopolies can now become the gate-keepers to online content and will be in a position to stifle or buy out any innovation that threatens their plans to control the new media economy.

For an enlightening inside look at Verizon’s corporate culture checkout the Proxy Statement for their 2014 Annual Meeting for Shareholders. Page 21 should be of particular interest as it deals with a shareholder’s proposal (Item 5) for management to provide more clarity regarding its position on “Net Neutrality” – Board of Directors recommendation? Vote No. The same goes for Item 6, a proposal to make a report on the amount of money that is being spent on Government and public lobbying efforts ($31 million in 2012) – Vote No.

Starting on page 30 you may find interesting the discussion of how fair and reasonable they are in the “performance based” compensation of their executives. For example on page 41 you will see that for 2014 Mr. McAdam’s “incentive opportunity” was increased from  625% of his base pay to 750%. His base salary is $1,480,769 dollars. This increases his incentive from $9,254,806.25 dollars to $11,105,769.50 for a raise of $1,850,961.25 in 2014. (That ought to get him moving, right?) This is on top of the $780,874 dollars in “other perquisites” of course; like, security  for his home, “financial planning services” (definitely need that), life insurance, personal use of the company jet, travel expenses for the Mrs. etc.  – but I digress.

Think about how well cable TV has worked in providing us choices in programming – the tiered packaging, the exorbitant add-on fees, the poor service and quality of content. This is what could happen to the Internet. It is no exaggeration to say that this could have a huge impact on how the internet will be used in the future – potentially affecting the daily lives of millions of Americans in negative ways. Schools, libraries, e-government services, licensed databases, job-training videos, medical and scientific research, and many other essential services – all rely on open, affordable access to the internet.

The internet is a resource that was developed with taxpayers money. Unbiased access to the internet  should not be a privilege open to a few but a right enjoyed by all. An open internet is key to a vibrant cultural, economic, and civic life, and the FCC has an obligation to protect it. This means the FCC needs to reclassify broadband internet providers as telecommunications companies subject to the same “common carrier” rules as the other public utilities. These rules need to be strong enough to protect an open internet from the greed and power of the giant corporations.

But we needn’t despair just yet, there’s still hope. Many organizations are now mobilizing to support net neutrality. They come from widely varied political backgrounds including groups such as the  American Library Association, Public Knowledge,  MoveOn.org, Free Press, Consumer Federation of America, AARP,  the Media Access Project  TechNet, and Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web). And, of course, Netflix has come out strongly in favor.

Tom Wheeler
Tom Wheeler – Chairman Federal Communications Commission

The FCC simply has to re-establish its legal authority and begin to vigorously enforce the fair and reasonable Open Internet Rules already in place (just read the first page summary and decide for yourself). Fortunately, the FCC claims that it has not abandoned the principle and is talking about rewriting the rules to satisfy the Court. We’re in this mess because the FCC, under Michael Powell, made the mistake in 2002 of classifying broadband cable companies as information service providers. Information services (or content providers) aren’t subject to the same regulations as telecommunications services (phone and digital communications providers). This is the crux of the problem – how to regulate providers who are engaged in both. This technicality of determining “common carrier” status was first defined in the Communications Act of 1934 and later was ammended in the Communications Act of 1996. A discrepency between the two versions is the reason the Court gave for ruling in Verizon’s favor. For an illuminating (or NOT) discussion of the Courts thinking See page 45. Besides reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, the FCC needs to augment the rules with common sense ideas like these.

It’s hard to not be cynical but if enough people, informed with the facts, stand up and make their views known change can happen. It just isn’t right that the greed of a wealthy few can ride rough-shod over justice and common decency in this country. We should not have to accept a fast lane for the haves and a slow lane for the have-nots  The promise of the Internet is too important to sell to the highest bidder – it belongs to us all.

“The success of contemporary citizen activism depends upon the ability to ferret out key information, often against the efforts of powerful interest, and the skills to put such information to effective use.” Harry C. Boyte. CommonWealth: A Return to Citizen Politics. 

You can help make a difference by contacting your Congressman and adding your name to these petitons.The first is a petition to President Obama, and the second a petition to the FCC to restore “Net Neutrality”. Do it now, and pass this on; at least you’ll be able to tell your kids you tried to do something.

Big_Brother

1984 Now?

Big Brother is Watching You
Hey you . . . Yes YOU ! Reading this article has been correlated with crimethink. For your own good, please exit immediately. Thank you. Have a nice day.

Do you value your privacy? Well, here’s something to think about – your phone company  could be compromising it in ways that you hadn’t realized. Using the tracking data from your cell phone, it is keeping precise records of your whereabouts at any given time and it is now being compelled by court order to share these records with the government. This so called “meta” data does not include the actual content of the communications but it does include who, when, where, how and how long. This is enough information to develop a very revealing profile of your private life. To give you an idea of just how revealing  check out this interactive graphic of the data  on Malte Spitz a politician in Germany who sued the telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom to release the data collected from him from August 2009 to February 2010.

“It revealed when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when he was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life.”

The Thinker
I wonder how they knew that …?

This is important and has far reaching privacy implications. Everyday, going about minding our own business, just about all of us are generating huge amounts of electronic data. Records are being kept not just of our phone use, but of our use of the internet, what we listen to, what we watch on TV, what books we read, what we purchase, our bank transactions, who we associate with, organization we belong to, our health records the list goes on and on.  Theoretically, with the  advanced technology now available and the science of big data there is virtually no limit to the amount of data that can be collected, stored and analyzed.  And now this is no longer even theory, because under the banner of National Security and a policy of “total information awareness” our government has been quietly building a top-secret data center – the largest in the world – that has the capacity to process and store a complete and detailed record of every single person on the planet if they wanted to. The future is here. It is now technically possible, with a  few clicks on a keyboard, to have the history of your whole life – in minute detail – opened for inspection. Thank goodness we live in country that has a Constitution with a  Bill of Rights that protects us from the government making any unreasonable searches and seizures of our private data – . . . or does it?

They know you are here!
Map of the World Wide Web

 When we  give permission to someone for private data to be collected from us we have every right to expect that this information will not be given to others without our expressed consent. And most of us certainly would not consent to allow some stranger to secretly make copies of all their e-mail, telephone, and internet records so that they could be stored for later analysis. But, thanks to the whistle blower Edward Snowden, it has become clear that this is precisely what our government is doing. The documents he released show how the National Security Agency (NSA) with very little Judicial or Congressional oversight has been secretly vacuuming up  vast amounts of personal information; collecting and storing nearly everything we’re doing on the internet. - including our phone records – even as they deny that they are violating anyone’s privacy and are acting completely within the law.

What the NSA does is induce, under oath of secrecy, backed by penalty of law, private companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Verizon, ATT and any other they deem necessary, to share their records of our private data. This clearly, even by their own admission, would be a violation of the fourth amendment - except, (according to them) they are very reasonable and we just need to trust them, because they’re only trying to keep us safe – remember 9/11? It’s all top-secret, of course, but we’re not to worry because they have safeguards in place – they only violate the privacy of those that deserve it, that is,  foreigners and anyone who communicates with foreigners and anyone who communicates with those that communicate  with a foreigner. It’s all legal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Privacy is an important and fundamental right of a free and open society. It is not enough to just say “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about.”  History has shown, time and again, we relinquish this right with grave peril. As George Orwell once wrote: “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” –Noah Webster

 

The IV Amendment of the Bill of Rights

(Privacy of the Person and Possessions)  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.

 Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis had this to say on the subject of privacy:

“The makers of our Constitution understood the need to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness, and the protections guaranteed by this are much broader in scope, and include the right to life and an inviolate personality – the right to be left alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized man. The principle underlying the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is protection against invasions of the sanctity’s of a man’s home and privacy’s of life. This is a recognition of the significance of man’s spiritual nature, his feelings, and his intellect.” ( Olmstead vs. U.S. – 1928 )

Total_Information_Awareness_--_system_diagram
Office of Information Awareness document. Notice how your privacy is protected.

Should we just trust that a government with almost complete access to our most personal and private affairs will always do the right thing with that information – to act only for the sake of the common good?

Expediency in protecting us from some unknown potential harm from some unknown enemy is not a legitimate excuse for the NSA to disregard universally held values on the sanctity of personal privacy and the right of due process in a court of  law – both guaranteed by the fourth and fifth amendments of the constitution. It’s called the Bill of Rights for a reason. Just because they have the technology and ability to eavesdrop on everyone and can cite good reasons for doing so, doesn’t mean they should be allowed to. Even with the best of  intentions, this kind of power could easily – and no doubt has – lead to innocent people being harmed by being wrongly targeted or even worse, political blackmail and extortion – remember J Edgar Hoover?

While some may feel that we can trust the current administration to use this incredible power judiciously, there could easily come a time when there will be those in government for whom the temptation will be too great and will conspire to use it for totalitarian control. This is a real possibility – particularly when one considers the growing awareness of people to the unprecedented disparity of wealth and who are now demanding  fundamental change to an inherently unfair system of distribution – not to mention the toxic atmosphere within the government itself causing a dangerous paralysis of the legislative body. The end simply does not justify the means.

The dangerous powers of the NSA and the other secret police agencies must be reined in and held accountable.

Nowhere to run
“Citizen 292-64-5031 – Report to the Ministry of Love and Security – Immediately!”
Do we really want to live in a society where everyone is treated as a possible suspect and some hidden bureaucracy is watching and listening – monitoring our behavior from a vast network of surveillance platforms; reading our mail; profiling  us using huge electronic databases?
 Do we really want this secret bureaucracy to be the Judge, Jury, and Executioner and allow them to use drones to assassinate someone because that person happens to fit a profile that they have deemed to be a threat?   Without a trial?  With evidence that is classified and only a few get to see?  All in the name of public safety?
 
This not only could happen –  it already has!  killing somewhere between 1,299 and 2,264 people

Because of 9/11 are we really so fearful that we are willing  to give up on a basic social contract that so many have fought and died for? If the rule of law means anything it is that any accused person has the right to confront their accuser and defend themselves in front of a judge in an open court of law. The founding father built in checks and balances precisely to prevent this kind of usurping of power. They rightly understood that unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it. This is a very real danger that must be guarded against. History has shown time and again that ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Have we not learned anything from the experience of the German and Russian people where even the mention of the words “Gestapo” or “KGB” could induce terror?

The Government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes — would bring terrible retribution.– Justice Louis D. Brandeis

What kind of world do we want to pass on to our children: A totalitarian world order like George Orwell’s 1984 – where we think we’re safer because thought crimes are prosecuted? Or a society based on fairness and justice with a limited government that is transparent and accountable to the people – not just the wealthy – that respects human dignity, due process and the rule of law; a world that protects the rights of all its citizens regardless of their wealth, race, religion, gender – or national origin? After all, isn’t this the ideal that we all believe in – that so much blood, sweat and tears has been spent in trying to achieve? Are we or are we not an exceptional country that upholds these high values that serve as a beacon for people around the world?

“Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix.” – Harry S Truman, 33rd President

NSA Headquarters
NSA Headquarters – Fort Meade, MD

Yes, the world is a dangerous and uncertain place but let’s put this in perspective. We are 9 times more likely to be killed by gun violence from a neighbor than we are from a collective attack by a foreign nationalist (2.8 verses 0.3 per 100,000); We are 25 times more likely to die from the flu  (7.4 verses 0.3 per 100,000 people); 42 times more likely to die by committing suicide (12.8 verses 0.3 per 100,000); 62 times more likely to die by diabetes - a treatable and largely preventable disease! (18.6 vs. 0.3 per 100,000).  In fact, we have a slightly higher risk of being killed by contact with a non-venomous animal than we do with a terrorist.

Life is risky, no doubt about that, but we should not go through it living in fear. We must not let fear cloud our judgement. We can have a reasonable level of security without giving up our fundamental rights of privacy and due process. It is not reasonable to think that we somehow can eliminate risk by a government policy of “total information awareness” which is, of course, an absurdity.   If saving lives is the goal, the 52.6 billion dollars of taxpayers money spent in 2013 on secret intelligence could obviously be put to use in much more effective ways.

Keith Alexander
Gen. Keith Alexander – Director of the NSA

Yes, there are legitimate reasons for the government to have secrets but these should be few and must be done with proper oversight and the checks and balances that the founding fathers so wisely wrote into the constitution. Government officials should not be able get away with lying to Congress with impunity. Yet, this is exactly what happened when both James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence and Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA, testified that the NSA did not collect and store meta data on the communications of the American people when in fact it did. Meanwhile, they are prosecuting Snowden as a traitor for simply telling the truth to the American people.

We need to be keeping an eye on the government not the other way around. Congress is woefully mired in gridlock unable to pass any meaningful reform – largely because of the unprecedented amount of money being spent by a wealthy few to promote their personal agendas. These issues need to go before the American people where they should be given the truth in order to hold their government accountable. If you would like more information or if would like to get involved check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This is one of the many groups working to defend our rights in the digital world. We all need to do our part to make a difference. While we are still free to do so we must stand up for our rights, otherwise we could very well lose them.

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist . . . We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty  may prosper together.” –President Eisenhower (1961, at the end of his second term, in his farewell speech)

P.S. Thank you Edward Snowden for having the courage to blow the whistle and speak the truth for the sake of us all, even while facing great personal peril.  History will record that you acted as a true patriot.

drone
Freedom Protector?

Feeling Safer?

They know you are here!

 

 

Does the recent revelations by Edward Snowden that the American government is collecting vast amounts of private data on citizens in order to protect us make you feel any more secure?

Instead of treating him as a traitor we should be thanking him for his patriotism and having the courage to stand up and speak the truth.

It reminds me of the words of George Orwell: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”

I  hope he finds a decent place to go for his exile.

 

 

 

Some other quotes from Orwell worth thinking about.

Orwell

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.

Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

 

Plain Language Humor: How to Write Good

 

The following is a public service message from the United States Goverment that I found at www.plainlanguage.govWho says the government doesn’t have a sense of humour -well, irony anyway?

How to Write Good.

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.’
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  24. Parenthetical words however must be enclosed in commas.
  25. It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
  26. Avoid archaeic spellings too.
  27. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
  28. Don’t use commas, that, are not, necessary.
  29. Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can do it effectively.
  30. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.
  31. Subject and verb always has to agree.
  32. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
  33. Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to catch typograhpical errers.
  34. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
  35. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
  36. Don’t never use no double negatives.
  37. Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  38. Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  39. Eschew obfuscation.
  40. No sentence fragments.
  41. Don’t indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
  42. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  43. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  44. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  45. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  46. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  47. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  48. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  49. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  50. The adverb always follows the verb.
  51. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  52. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  53. And always be sure to finish what
via Plain Language Humor: How to Write Good.
 
 

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