Category Archives: Politics

The National Jamboree is NOT Your Personal Political Rally

I’m an Eagle Scout, and I find myself once again infuriated with the Boy Scouts of America.

There is a long history of Presidents speaking at the National Jamboree, going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. They came to inspire leaders of the future. They didn’t come to self-promote, or take cheap shots at political rivals, or encourage the Scouts to boo a former President and First Lady. And they certainly didn’t brag about how they were going to take away many of those kids’ access to healthcare. (Better brush up on that First Aid merit badge!)

Trustworthy? Loyal? Helpful? Friendly? Courteous? Kind? Obedient? Cheerful? Thrifty? Brave? Clean? Reverent? (Well, 1 out of 12…)

If you’re going to speak at an organization that’s supposedly about building character, you ought to show some.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Trump made it all about himself and treated it like a campaign rally. That’s what he does. I’m angry, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m disappointed by the BSA, and I’m especially disappointed by those scouts in the audience who jeered and cheered along with the partisan BS. They should be better than this. The whole point of the organization, in theory, is to be better than this.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the BSA, either. While it depends on the individual troop, at the county and national levels the organization has been fighting for the “right” to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation for years. They finally realized maybe it wasn’t a good idea to kick out gay scouts, but they’re still digging in their heels on religion.

So much for helping other people at all times.

Battle for the Net: Help Keep the Internet Open!

The FCC wants to eliminate net neutrality, the principle that ISPs should treat all traffic the same, and not block, throttle, or promote data based on what service you’re using or who you’re connecting to. But we can stop them.

What’s Net Neutrality? Simple: your cable company shouldn’t decide where you get your news, what businesses you buy from, which video chat services and streaming services you use, or who you talk to.

Why do we need it? It used to be an unofficial rule, underlying the way the Internet was built over the years, until ISPs started to break it. For example:

  • Multiple ISPs intercepted search queries and sent them to their own portals.
  • AT&T blocked Skype on the iPhone.
  • Verizon blocked tethering apps.
  • Multiple carriers blocked Google Wallet in favor of their own payment services.

In 2015, after a public advocacy campaign, the FCC made it official: ISPs in the United States are now required to treat all traffic equally.

So what’s the problem? There’s a new chairman in charge, and he wants to remove the rule.

No doubt cable and phone companies will go back to their old tricks. Plus they could slow down access to news sites that disagree with them, or charge websites extra for the privilege of reaching their audience (when they already pay for their upload connection), or slow down services owned by competitors (consider: Verizon owns Tumblr and Flickr now, and Comcast owns NBC) in favor of their own.

That’s right: free speech, fair competition, and the price you pay for your internet service are all protected by net neutrality.

Rolling back net neutrality doesn’t help you, doesn’t help business, doesn’t help anyone but the existing carriers.

That’s why I’m joining the Battle for the Net — and you can, too. The FCC’s public comment period is still open. Contact the FCC and Congress (here’s a form), and tell them why Net Neutrality matters to you. Then spread the word.

Keeping the internet open is critical. Let’s work to keep it!

Why Net Neutrality Matters

The FCC wants to abolish “net neutrality”, which states that ISPs should treat all traffic the same, and not block, throttle, or promote data based on what service you’re using or who you’re connecting to.

In short: Your cable company shouldn’t decide where you get your news, what businesses you buy from, which video chat services and streaming services you use, or who you talk to.

ISPs are people’s and businesses’ gateway to the internet. They shouldn’t also be gatekeepers. Net Neutrality protects free speech, communication, and economic activity that could otherwise be limited or adjusted to push a carrier’s own agenda at the expense of alternate views, create barriers to competition and innovation, and further entrench existing monopolies. The internet works best when it’s allowed to innovate at the edges, rather than locking us all into a near-monopoly’s choices.

This isn’t a hypothetical problem: ISPs have violated net neutrality in the past. ISPs have intercepted search queries and redirected them to their own portals. AT&T once forced Apple to block Skype on the iPhone. Verizon used to block tethering apps. Multiple carriers blocked Google Wallet in favor of their own payment services.

We fought this battle years ago. And now we have to fight it again. The FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality doesn’t help subscribers, doesn’t help businesses, doesn’t help startups, doesn’t help publishers, doesn’t help you — doesn’t help anyone except the existing carriers and those they might decide to prop up.

I sent the third paragraph (minus the link) as a comment to the FCC through this Free Press Action Fund petition. Mozilla also has a petition, and is collecting voicemails to forward to the FCC before the May 18 meeting. So far they’re up to 50 hours’ worth of audio!

UPDATE! On July 12, 2017, the internet will come together again. Like the SOPA blackout in 2012, and the Internet Slowdown in 2014, everyone from tech companies to small websites to individuals will sound the alarm. Learn more and join the protest at the Battle for the Net.

Predictive Frameshift

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night the last few months. It links human cruelty, psychopathy, and mob behavior to the nature of consciousness, mostly focusing on the main characters but playing out against a global crisis brought on by a rising tide of xenophobia.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about Frameshift. His 1997 novel deals with (among other things) eugenics, Neanderthals, Nazis, and health insurance companies doing everything they can to avoid covering people with pre-existing conditions.

I can’t imagine why that keeps coming to mind….

Vote Local!

Remember to vote in local elections.

Initiatives, council and school board members, judges, etc. affect you and your community directly. It may not be as exciting as the Presidential race, but it determines who makes decisions in your town, who passes and enforces city laws and regulations, local taxes, which services are offered and how. If the national government wants to drop the ball, states and cities are going to have to step in, and local elections impact how it gets picked up — or doesn’t.

It impacts national politics too: the people elected locally go on to build the pool of state and national candidates. If you care about 2018 or 2020, get out and vote locally to get the ball rolling!

Voter turnout is always lower in off-years than in Presidential election years, and it’s even lower in local elections. That means your vote makes a bigger share of the result than it does when you vote in November – even in an off-year.

So get out there, register to vote if you haven’t, and help make decisions at the local level.