Archive for December, 2010

We Need to Stop Fake Net Neutrality

I don’t agree with everything Credo Mobile stands for, but on many issues I do. This is one of them, crossing my desk this evening…

Today President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission betrayed the fundamental principle of net neutrality and sold us out to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

This is the culmination of a long struggle, and it’s important we discuss frankly what led to this point. So this will be a longer e-mail than we traditionally send, with some recommended action items at the end.

Despite what you may have read in the headlines, the rules passed by the FCC today amount to nothing more than a cynical ploy by Democrats to claim a victory on net neutrality while actually caving on real protections for consumers.

Make no mistake, AT&T lobbyists pre-approved this proposal, which means consumers lost and Big Telecom won.

Net neutrality is a principle that says that Internet users, not Internet service providers (ISPs), should be in control. It ensures that Internet service providers can’t speed up, slow down, or block Web content based on its source, ownership, or destination.

Yet today the FCC, let by Obama-appointee Julius Genachowski and cheered on by the White House, voted to adopt rules that will enshrine in federal regulations for the first time the ability of AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other ISPs to discriminate between sources and types of content. And despite the fact that there is only one Internet, the rules also largely exempt cell phones and wireless devices from what meager protections the rules afford.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this decision marks the beginning of the end for the Internet as we know it.

Senator Al Franken laid out what’s at stake with this ruling, saying:

“The FCC’s action today is simply inadequate to protect consumers or preserve the free and open Internet. I am particularly disappointed to learn that the order will not specifically ban paid prioritization, allowing big companies to pay for a fast lane on the Internet and abandoning the foundation of net neutrality. The rule also contains almost no protections for mobile broadband service, remaining silent on the blocking of content, applications, and devices. Wireless technology is the future of the Internet, and for many rural Minnesotans, it’s often the only choice for broadband.”

So how did we get here? Just two years ago, net neutrality advocates were heartened by the election of a president who promised to defend net neutrality and appoint an FCC Chair who would do the same.

Initially, things looked good. After President Obama was inaugurated and after he appointed Chairman Genachowski to head the FCC, we had what we thought were three net neutrality supporters on the five-member commission and the support of the president. It seemed reasonable, therefore, to support the FCC in writing the net neutrality regulations that we needed.

But it was the FCC’s unwillingness to undo a Bush-era decision to deregulate broadband Internet providers that demonstrated how weak the Obama administration’s support for net neutrality really was.

This Bush-era decision classified broadband Internet providers outside of the legal framework that traditionally applied to companies that offer two-way communication services

After a federal court ruled that unless the FCC reversed the Bush-era decision to deregulate broadband the FCC couldn’t enforce net neutrality rules, Genachowski tested the waters with a proposal to reregulate (or in the jargon of the FCC “reclassify”) broadband. Genachowski himself said that, according to the FCC General Counsel, pushing ahead with policies without reregulating broadband would be unwise given the tenuous legal footing the FCC would find itself in. In fact, Genachowski said:

“…continuing to pursue policies with respect to broadband Internet access [without reclassifying broadband] has a serious risk of failure in court. It would involve a protracted, piecemeal approach to defending essential policy initiatives designed to protect consumers, promote competition, extend broadband to all Americans, pursue necessary public safety measures, and preserve the free and open Internet. The concern is that this path would lead the Commission straight back to its current uncertain situation-and years will have passed without actually implementing the key policies needed to improve broadband in America and enhance economic growth and broad opportunity for all Americans.”

But the Chairman changed his tune after he unsurprisingly came under pressure from the telecom giants.

From what we can gather, one of the decisive moments came when 74 Democrats signed a letter to the FCC warning Genachowski not to reclassify broadband. The letter, which was promoted by telecom lobbyists, cleverly included language to support Congressional action to address the issue of net neutrality. But given that Congress was demonstrably beholden to the telecom lobbyists, and with the Republicans threatening the FCC outright, the subtext was clear. No FCC action on reclassification meant no viable chance to implement real net neutrality rules.

CREDO aggressively acted to hold these Democrats accountable for their letter. 119,096 of us signed petitions. We held in district meetings at the offices of 12 signers. But at that point it was too late. The damage had been done.

Chairman Genachowski was quickly cowed by political pressure and signaled an unwillingness to reclassify broadband. And rather than trying to give us net neutrality protections, he has instead sought to find a way of cynically passing something he can claim is net neutrality, when it’s nothing of the sort.

We continued to fight and over the course of our campaign we submitted 158,702 public comments supporting real net neutrality. Our members made over 6,500 phone calls to the FCC. And sent 65,911 faxes to liberal FCC Commissioner Michael Copps in a last ditch attempt to get him to refuse to go along with Genachowski on his fake net neutrality proposal.

In the end, there is no way to paint this decision today as anything less than a defeat for net neutrality advocates and for our democracy.

The process demonstrated a breakdown in institutions of government that are supposed to safeguard the public interest and implement the will of the people. Here we have an example of a federal agency with the full power and authority to fulfill its mandate and protect the public interest, caving to nothing more than the withering stare of those they must regulate. The president said he supported net neutrality. There was no Republican filibuster holding us back. We simply needed the Chairman to propose real net neutrality rules that would hold up in a court of law, and we needed the three Democrats on the FCC to vote to pass them. It was that simple. And yet we failed to make it happen.

The lack of political will to confront the telecommunications giants effectively gave these oligarchic interests a veto over the rules that govern their behavior. In this way the narrow interests of a few powerful and wealthy corporations were prioritized over the public good and the literally millions of people who spoke out and demanded that the FCC protect our free and open Internet.

This is a clear example of industry capture of a regulatory body, and a damning indictment of government institutions that are supposed to regulate — not be run by — corporate interests.

Also let’s remember that a free and open Internet is an important part of 21st Century democracy. By failing to protect it, this set of rulings is similar to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that tilted the realm of public discourse even more in favor of the wealthy and the powerful.

We have to be honest and share with you who have fought with us for real net neutrality a frank assessment of what just happened at the FCC. There is not right now a next step we can propose that will undo the damage that was done today to the free and open Internet.

But we will not simply lie down and give up. Here are four things you can do now to fight the corporate interests that gave birth to this situation we find ourselves in:

1) Read and share this blog post by our friends at Progressive Campaign Change Committee with three things everyone needs to know about Chairman Genachowski’s fake net neutrality rules.

2) Tell the FCC to at least oppose the increased consolidation of our media by opposing the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. Click here to take action.

3) Harry Reid’s new chief of staff is a former telecom lobbyist and contributor to Republican causes. Tell Reid to fire him. Click here to take action.

4) Lastly, one senator fought to the end — Sen. Al Franken. Click here to join us in thanking him for standing up for net neutrality.

Thank you for continuing to fight.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

C’mon Sea Legs, Pull Yourself Together

So after letting a strange man put his hands all over me, I had to go back for more. For my second Rolfing session with Jason Sager, we worked on legs. Rolfing, if you recall, works directly on one’s fascia to remove restrictions in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles, giving the benefits of improved posture, muscular and skeletal pain relief, enhanced athletic performance (we’ll see when this one happens for me – I’m not holding my breath!), coordination and flexibility.

And this – the second in the foundational Rolfing ‘ten’ series – definitely moved me in this direction. Quoth Jason’s official explanation:

Session 2 is the first step towards rebuilding support in the legs. The primary territory for this session is below the knee, restoring motion between the bones of the feet, tuning up the arches, and starting to rebalance how the body rests on the feet. Depending on need, this session may also involve some work on the upper legs and hips.

If you’ve never had someone work between the bones of your feet, you really should try it. It’s like my feet were able to ‘breathe’ for the first time. I didn’t want to put on shoes afterward – in fact, Jason tells me he doesn’t wear shoes when he doesn’t have to, and even wears those crazy Vibram five fingers occasionally.

Like my first session, this foot and leg work was relaxing, but not in the way one would expect. It’s an intense form of relaxation that is nonetheless cathartic.

A funny thing happened halfway through our session: Jason stopped. And asked me to stand up and walk around a little bit. Man, that is one deft maneuver to demonstrate that Rolfing is actually working – ’cause you know what happened? I felt like I was in one of those old V8 juice commercials – I was walking sideways! One half of my body was wonderfully elongated and free – it was like the difference between a nice, higher-end, multiple-points-of-articulation action figures you can buy in a comic book store versus those immovable-hunk-of-plastic inaction figures you find in the remainder bins at Big Lots. Only it’s all part of your one body. Crazy.

Thankfully, Jason got me back on the table and did for my right side what he did for my left. I departed feeling more limber, more graceful – like I have a better center of gravity. I’ll definitely be coming back.

God is Good – How We Get There

Just over a year ago, I raised the question – Walter Brueggemann‘s question, actually – “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?” It was a provocative question he raised in Atlanta during one of the original Emergent Village theological conversations. The esteemed Old Testament scholar was raising questions about our neat & tidy ways of trying to sweep God’s messy history under the rug; his concern was that many who profess the loudest to be “Bible-believers” are least familiar with its contents. He was not calling the faithful to abandon the witness of Scripture, contra an Ehrman or Spong; rather, he was suggesting we embrace Holy Writ with all its pain. (And if you read the text, there is pain.)

This original post stirred a lot of thoughtful commentary, as well as some rabid denunciation among some Christian fiction writers (of all folks) – earning me my own TAG at Rebecca Miller’s blog, where as far as I know they’re still praying for my wayward soul. 🙂

Today a thoughtful blog reader named Mark chimed in with a question of his own:

Hey everybody, I know I’m reading this a year after the fact so maybe nobody will see this. But if so, I’ve just got a question or two.

I listened to the Brueggemann talks a couple of years ago. He’s one of my favorite authors/speakers. However, the more I’ve thought about his ‘God as a recovering practitioner of violence’, the more I’ve been disturbed (I guess that was his purpose, so that’s fine). I’m o.k. with being disturbed.

The main thing I’m wanting to ask everybody who was posting here toward the end is do you pray? If so, what do you say to a God who may be capricious, violent, arbitrary, etc.? What do you say, good and bad?

The other comment I have is that I just finished reading N.T. Wright’s NTPG, JVG, and RSG books. Actually, as he says, ‘as a matter of history’ it does seem to be highly likely that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead. For me, this means atheism is not a viable option. How does everyone feel about this? Have you read these books?

Also, I ask many of these tough questions that you are asking very regularly but also wonder what moral high ground I can stand on to put God on trial. Is this reasonable?

Thanks for the discussion!

Mark’s is an excellent question that really brings things home: How, and to whom, do we pray (if we pray)? I think that all of us, regardless of what we’ve argued about in the original post, want to say we’re praying to an unambiguously good God. Even Walter B. would probably affirm this. Now, I think that questioning God’s goodness is one of the deepest struggles of faith for many of us, especially in contemporary times – I mean, theodicy is a b!tc#, right?

What many of us simply cannot go back to is what I call the Juggling Trapeze Artist version of God; this is where we juggle all of these conflicting biblical and experiential portraits of God, swinging from one pendulum to the other, desperately trying to make them form one coherent portrait. No – if we’re to be people of the book, we need more honesty and integrity than this – rightly dividing the word of truth, or what have you.

In my experience, most people who have a mature, stable, first-hand relationship with God know instinctively that God is good. This often comes in spite of, not because of, the theology they’re taught in church, on television, or the radio. But if we’ve settled God’s goodness in our hearts, it seems to me that there are several options out there to settle this in our heads:

1.) What Brueggemann and others (notably Jack Miles) seem to be advocating for, at least here: An evolutionary understanding of God. God develops, God grows, God changes. This idea is at the heart of the debate between Greco-Roman Theism and Open (or Process) theology – too much to hash through here. Suffice it to say for these considerations, just because God may have ordered genocide at one point in time (as the text says he did) and prohibits even ethnic judgement at a future time (as Jesus seems to in the later text), one can say that God grows without implying that earlier stages of development were sinful – for God or humanity. To put it another way: Sin, like Covenant, is not a static absolute, but rather a moving target based on increasing spheres of empathy and maturity.

2.) Another angle to come at this would be to posit a changeless God who nonetheless accommodated himself to immature-but-developing cultural mores. This is difficult to apply in actual practice – when in the text God insists that people wipe out women and children, or (perhaps more disturbing) to save virgins for mating…really? But one can do some comparative analysis with nearby cultures and conclude that God is gradually pushing his chosen people out of the nest of violent ethnocentrism by fully entering into & communicating from that world. Hence John Calvin wrote that ‘crude’ images of God are “often ascribed to him in Scripture, are easily refuted. For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.”

3.) A variation on this theme would be to apply the apostle Paul’s “we see in part, we prophesy in part” to the writings of Scripture itself. When looking for traces of God’s presence and speaking in our lives, “we see through a glass darkly” – a glass colored by our history, culture, and indeed prejudices. So the children of Israel and various biblical redactors ‘heard’ God say some atrocious things that God could not have said if we is the Father of Jesus Christ who loves indiscrimately and forgives enemies. One can in this way read Scripture as a conversation – yea, an argument – with itself over which interpretation of God will prevail: a vision of God-as-power that serves the interests of the already-powerful, or God-as-Love who empties himself and serves the lowly? (Brian McLaren develops this Scripture-as-conversation perspective in his A New Kind of Christianity. This view is appealing in that it posits an all-good, changeless God and let’s God off the hook for any of the unsavory stuff we see in the Old Testament – and presumably, the New as well. But then, critics will assert, Where does this stop? Do we simply edit out everything that makes us uncomfortable? Does this make us better than 21st century Marcionites? But proponents of this perspective would be quick to suggest a New Covenant hermenutic, starting with Jesus’ own “Moses said to you _____, but I say to you…”

So there we have it. Either 1.) God changes for God’s sake, 2.) God changes for humanity’s sake, or 3.) God is changeless but humanity is increasingly adept at apprehending a fuller revelation of God’s character. To me any of these visions can be held with integrity, and would result in a good God worthy of trust and worship.

What strikes me, further, is that all of these are valid options, and that all of these are problematic. I think as the Church we ought not micro-manage people’s opinions about these different ways of processing the goodness and character of God; rather, we should be places that can hold all of these images of God in abeyance, as we worship and pray together.

Recommended Reading (covering the gamut of these perspectives):

Anything by Rene Girard

A Sociable God: Toward a New Understanding of ReligionKen Wilber

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the FaithBrian McLaren

Christ: A Crisis in the Life of GodJack Miles

Discovering the God ImaginationJonathan Brink

From Eternity to HereFrank Viola

God Christ Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology – Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (minibook here)

Saving Paradise: How Christians Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire – Rita Brock & Rebecca Parker

The Bible as Improv: Seeing and Living the Script in New WaysRon Martoia

The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in CrisisJeremy Rifkin

The Hidden Face of GodRichard Elliot Friedman

The Human Faces of God – Thom Stark (see also his booksiteReligion at the Margins)

The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About GodDarin Hufford

This is My Beloved Son – Hear Him! and Is There a Covenant of Grace? – articles by Jon Zens

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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

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    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
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    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave