Article 43

 

Dying America

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 11

Against An Imperial Internet
by Bill Moyers and Scott Fogdall
Common Dreams
October 17, 2007

It was said that all roads led to Rome. However exaggerated, the image is imprinted in our imagination, reminding us of the relentless ingenuity of the ancient Romans and their will to control an empire.

For centuries Roman highways linked far-flung provinces with a centralized web of power. The might of the imperial legions was for naught without the means to transport them. The flow of trade the bloodstream of the empire’s wealthalso depended on the integrity of the roadways. And because Roman citizens could pass everywhere, more or less unfettered on their travels, ideas and cultural elements circulated with the same fluidity as commerce.

Like the Romans, we Americans have used our technology to build a sprawling infrastructure of ports, railroads and interstates which serves the strength of our economy and the mobility of our society. Yet as significant as these have been, they pale beside the potential of the Internet. Almost overnight, it has made sending and receiving information easier than ever. It has opened a vast new marketplace of ideas, and it is transforming commerce and culture.

It may also revitalize democracy.

“Wait a minute!” you say. You cant compare the Internet to the Roman empire. There’s no electronic Caesar, no center, controlling HOW THE WORLD WIDE WEB IS USED.”

Right you are - so far. The Internet is revolutionary because it is the most democratic of media. All you need to join the revolution is a computer and a connection. We don’t just watch; we participate, collaborate and create. Unlike television, radio and cable, whose hirelings create content aimed at us for their own reasons, with the Internet every citizen is potentially a producer. The conversation of democracy belongs to us.

That wide-open access is the founding principle of the Internet, but it may be slipping through our fingers. How ironic if it should pass irretrievably into history here, at the very dawn of the Internet Age.

The Internet has become the foremost testing ground where the forces of innovation, corporate power, the public interest and government regulation converge. Already, the notion of a level playing field - what’s called NETWORK NEUTRALITY - is under siege by powerful forces trying to tilt the field to their advantage. The Bush majority on the FCC has BOWED TO THE INTERESTS OF BIG CABLE AND TELEPHONE COMPANIES to strip away, or undo, the Internets basic DNA of openness and non-discrimination. When some members of Congress set out to restore network neutrality, they were thwarted by the industry’s high spending lobbyists. This happened according to the standard practices of a rented Congresswith little public awareness and scarce attention from the press. There had been a similar blackout 10 years ago, when, in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress carved up our media landscape. They drove a dagger in the heart of radio, triggered a wave of consolidation that let the big media companies get bigger, and gave away to rich corporations - for freepublic airwaves worth billions.

This time, they couldn’t keep SECRET what they were doing. Word got around that without public participation these changes could lead to unsettling phenomenonthe rise of digital empires that limit, or even destroy, the capabilities of small Internet users. Organizations across the political spectrum - from the CHRISTIAN COALITION to MOVEON.ORG rallied in protest, flooding Congress with more than a million letters and petitions to restore network neutrality. Enough politicians have responded to keep the outcome in play.

At the core this is a struggle about the role and dimensions of human freedom and free speech. But it is also a contemporary clash of a centuries-old debate over free-market economics and governmental regulation, one that finds Adam Smith invoked both by advocates for government action to protect the average online wayfarer and by opponents of any regulation at all.

In The Wealth of Nations, Smith argued that only the unfettered dealings of merchants and customers could ensure economic prosperity. But he also warned against the formation of monopoliesҗmighty behemoths that face little or no competition. Our history brims with his legacy. Consider the explosion of industry and the reign of the robber barons during the first Gilded Age in the last decades of the 19th century. Settlements and cities began to fill the continent, spirited by a crucial technological advance: the railroad. As railroad companies sprang up, they merged into monopolies. Merchants and farmers were often charged outlandish freight pricesuntil the 1870s, when the Granger Laws and other forms of public regulation provided some protection to customers.

At about the same time, chemist Samuel Andrews - inventor of a new method for refining oil into kerosenepartnered with John D. Rockefeller to create the Standard Oil Company. By centuryחs end Standard Oil had forged a monopoly, controlling a network of pipelines and railways that spanned the country. Competition became practically impossible as the mammoth company manipulated prices and crushed rival after hapless rival. Only with the passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890 did the public have hope of recourse against the overwhelming might of concentrated economic and political power. But, less than a century later a relative handful of large companies would assemble monopolies over broadcasting, newspapers, cable and even the operating system of computers, and their rule would go essentially unchallenged by the U.S. government.

Now we have an Internet infrastructure that is rapidly evolving, in more ways than one. As often occurred on Romes ancient highways, cyber-sojourners could soon find themselves paying up in order to travel freely. Our new digital monopolists want to use their new power to reverse the way the Internet now works for us: allowing those with the largest bankrolls to route their content on fast lanes, while placing others in a congested thoroughfare. If they succeed in taking a medium that has an essential democratic nature and monetizing every aspect of it, America will divide further between the rich and poor and between those who have access to knowledge and those who do not.

The companies point out that there have been few Internet neutrality violations. Don’t mess with something thats been working for everyone, they say; don’t add safeguards when none have so far been needed. But the emerging generation, which will inherit the results of this Washington battle, gets it. Writing in The Yale Daily News, Dariush Nothaft, a college junior, after hearing with respect the industrys case, argues that: Nevertheless, the Internet’s power as a social force counters these arguments.A non-neutral Internet would discourage competition, thereby costing consumers money and diminishing the benefits of lower subscription prices for Internet access. More importantly, people today pay for Internet access with the understanding that they are accessing a wide, level field of sites where only their preferences will guide them. Non-neutrality changes the very essence of the Internet, thereby making the product provided to users less valuable.

So the Internet is reaching a crucial crossroads in its astonishing evolution. Will we shape it to enlarge democracy in the digital era? Will we assure that commerce is not its only contribution to the American experience?

The monopolists tell us not to worry: They will take care of us, and see to it that the public interest is honored and democracy served by this most remarkable of technologies.

They said the same thing about radio.

And about television.

And about cable.

Will future historians speak of an Internet Golden Age that ended when the 21st century began?

Bill Moyers is host of THE NET AT RISK, a documentary special airing Wednesday, October 18 at 9 p.m. on PBS. Scott Fogdall is with Films Media Group.s

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Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

READ MORE...
Posted by Elvis on 10/18/06 •
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Tips For Dealing With A Bad Boss

From WORKING AMERICA

Protect yourself first by building relationships with co-workers and other managers. These relationships can be an important source of support at workand it’s always helpful when a co-worker witnesses your bosss bad behavior.

Get it in writing when your boss makes promises or threats. If there is an incident between you and your boss, writedown your version with the date and time. Mail a copy to yourself in a sealed, postmarked envelope. This could be an important record of the incident later.

Talk to your boss about your concerns. Sometimes bosses dont know when they are making bad decisions or treating employees unfairly. Plan ahead what you want to tell your boss. Practice keeping cool and speaking calmly.

Identify the problem with your boss. Is it a short fuse? A problem with giving clear directions? Once you know exactly what your boss does that drives you crazy, it becomes easier to keep it from getting under your skin. And you can try alternative strategies to deal with your boss’a flaws. For example, if your boss gives vague directions, you might try repeating them back to him or her to make sure you understand them.

Take back your life by establishing boundaries between work and home. Clearly define your time for work, family and friends. Remember that your boss pays you for eight hours a day, not 24.

Manage your stress off the clock. Eat healthy foods and exercise regularly to reduce stress and burn energy.

Ask for outside help. If you think your rights are being violated, read the KNOW YOUR RIGHTS fact sheet. Contact advocacy groups in your community and look for legal clinics and other kinds of help. For example, Working America MEMBERS are eligible for one half-hour of free legal consultation. Finally, if your boss ever becomes physically or verbally abusive, contact the police right away. Don’t be afraid to speak up and get help.

Organize a union at your workplace in order to have a legal say on the issues that matter most to you, including wages, benefits and work environment. Union members, on average, make 28 percent more than workers without a union and are much more likely to have employer-provided health care and pensions. Many unions also have a dignity and respect clause in their contracts. Click this link for more information on how to form a union at your workplace.

Plan your exit strategy if the situation is unbearable and all else fails. Network with colleagues, update your RESUME and watch for new job opportunities.

Join WORKING AMERICA

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Dealing With An Abusive Boss

By Gerri Willis
CNN/Money
October 15, 2004

It’s no secret that there are abusive bosses out there—you know the type. Bullies with big job titles that make the people working for them miserable.

According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, an abusive boss is more likely to be a woman than a man. That’s right—forget their nurturing image! Woman to woman bullying represents 50 percent of all workplace bullying; man to woman is 30 percent, man to man 12 percent and woman to man bullying is extremely rare—only 8 percent.

What should you know if you’re the victim of an abusive boss? Here are today’s five tips.

1. Identify the behavior.

There are all kinds of abusive bosses. The Institute classifies them a few different ways.

There are the constant critics who use put-downs, insults and name-calling. They may use aggressive eye contact to intimidate.

There are also two-headed snakes who pretend to be nice, while all the while trying to sabotage you.

Then there are the gatekeepers—people who are obsessed with control—who allocate time, money and staffing to assure their target’s failure. Control freaks ultimately want to control your ability to network in the company or to let your star shine.

Another type is the screaming Mimis who are emotionally out of control and explosive.

2. Don’t take it lying down.

If your boss has a difficult management style, you don’t have to let their bad behavior go. You can respond—just remember to stay professional.

So, if your boss insults you or puts you down, Susan Futterman, author of “When You Work for a Bully” and the founder of MyToxicBoss.com, suggests responding with something like, “In what way does calling me a moron or an idiot solve the problem? I think that there’s a better way to deal with this.”

If you find out that your boss is bad-mouthing you to higher-ups in the company, confront them directly and professionally. Get the evidence in writing from your source if you can. Then, ask him or her what is causing them to do this.

You could say, “I’ve been hearing from other people in the company that you’re not happy with my work, you and I know that this isn’t the case and I want to talk about how we can fix this.”

If your boss has been defaming you, that’s illegal. You may want to consult an attorney.

If your boss is a control freak who’s breathing down your neck, you should address it. Say, “I can’t function effectively if you’re going to be micromanaging me and looking over my shoulder all the time. If I’m doing something fundamentally wrong, let’s talk about it. But this isn’t working.”

If someone screams at you, don’t be a doormat. If you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it. But let your boss know that they’re creating a difficult work environment. Even if you haven’t made a mistake, you may want to calmly ask what they’re upset about and if you can address it.

3. Take notes.

Documenting your boss’s bad behavior is key for two reasons, according to Futterman.

First, you might not even realize the extent of the problem. Futterman explains, “Taken in isolation, these events may seem trivial, but taken as a whole, it often becomes more clear what’s actually going on. Some victims may be in denial or discount these events as isolated incidents. Your written records can documenthow severe the situation is.”

And, of course, if you decide to take legal action down the line, you may need the information. It’s best to documentthese incidents as soon as possible so they’re fresh in your mind.

Documentation is also important if you plan to report the behavior to your boss’s boss or to your company’s human resources department. And don’t dismiss the idea of taking the bull by the horns and working toward a solution.

Try arranging a face-to-face meeting with your boss. Tell them you want to discuss the problems you’ve encountered because you want to resolve them. Chances are often slim that this will work, however. If they reject the opportunity to discuss things with you, add that to your documentation.

4. Know when it’s too much.

Bosses may exhibit bad behavior sometimes. Hey, no one is perfect, not even bosses. But if your boss is abusing you, that’s a problem.

The problem takes on greater urgency if the abuse starts to make you feel bad. If you chronically suffer high blood pressure that started only when you began working for your boss; or you feel nauseous the night before the start of the work week; or if all your paid vacation days have been used up for mental health breaks.

When the bullying has had a prolonged affect on your health or your life outside of work, it’s time to get out. It’s also time to leave if your confidence or your usual exemplary performance has been undermined.

Ironically, targets of abusive bosses tend to be high achievers, perfectionists and workaholics. Often bully bosses try to mask their own insecurities by striking out.

5. Control your destiny.

Even after you leave your nightmare boss, you’ll still have to explain why you left to potential new employers.

Futterman advises against dramatizing your old work situation. One way to gracefully sidestep the issue: say you and your manager had a longstanding disagreement over the most effective way of getting things done and you thought the most professional way to resolve it was to move on.

“You certainly don’t want to start recalling and recounting the abuse you suffered. You’ll inevitably get upset and that’s not the way you want to handle a job interview,” she says.

Try to control the interview situation to the extent you can. Don’t give your abusive boss as a reference but rather someone else with whom you worked previously. Another good choice might be a colleague or a peer you’re on good terms with or someone who can speak about you professionally.

Also, if you only worked for your bullying boss for a short time, you may want to consider leaving that job off your resume altogether.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/16/06 •
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Northwest’s Advice to the Laid Off

layoff.jpg

Northwest’s Advice to the Laid Off: Dumpster Dive

By Frank Langfitt
NPR
August 23, 2006

Losing your job hurts.

But earlier this month, NORTHWEST AIRLINES made things even worse. The company gave pink-slipped employees a tip sheet on how to cut living expenses. Among the suggestions: Rummage through other people’s garbage (Tip# 46: “Don’t be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash").

The tip sheet was called “101 Ways to Save Money,” and it went out to 60 Northwest employees slated to lose their jobs this fall in Montana, Texas and North Dakota.

The top 10 tips on the tip sheet:

1. Set your thermostat to 64 and turn it down to 60 at night.

2. Use the phone book instead of directory assistance.

3. Use coupons at the grocery store.

4. Carpool.

5. Ask for generic prescriptions instead of brand name.

6. Do your own nails.

7. Rent out a room or garage.

8. Replace 100 watt bulbs with 60 watt.

9. Make long-distance calls at night and on weekends, instead of mid-day, mid-week.

10. Throw pocket change in a jar and take it to the bank when it’s full.

SOURCE

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Northwest Airlines List Of 101 Ways To Save Money

Minesotta Headhunter
August 23, 2006

1. Set your thermostat to 64 and turn it down to 60 at night.

2. Use the phone book instead of directory assistance.

3. Use coupons at the grocery store.

4. Carpool.

5. Ask for generic prescriptions instead of brand name.

6. Do your own nails.

7. Rent out a room or garage.

8. Replace 100 watt bulbs with 60 watt.

9. Make long distance calls at night and on weekends, instead of mid-day, mid-week.

10. Throw pocket change in a jar and take it to the bank when it’s full.

11. Always grocery shop with a list.

12. Buy spare parts for your car at a junkyard.

13. Go to museums on free days.

14. Quit smoking.

15. Get hand-me-down clothes and toys for your kids from family and friends.

16. Meet friends for coffee instead of dinner.

17. Request to get interest on a security deposit for your apartment.

18. Take a shorter shower.

19. Writeletters instead of calling.

20. Brown bag your lunch.

21. Make your own baby food.

22. Use public transportation.

23. Drop duplicate medical insurance.

24. Buy old furniture at yard sales and refinish it yourself.

25. Apply for scholarships and financial aid.

26. Exercise for free-walk, jog, bike, or get exercise videos from the library.

27. Form a baby-sitting cooperative with friends and neighbors.

28. Buy your clothes off season.

29. Go to a matinee instead of an evening show.

30. Share housing with a friend or family member.

31. Hang clothes out to dry.

32. Do not use your calling card.

33. Volunteer two hours a month for reduced cost food through the Share Program.

34. Change the oil in your car yourself regularly.

35. Get pre-approval from your medical insurance company before undergoing any procedures or tests.

36. But ‘no frills’ vitamins.

37. Take a date for a walk along the beach or in the woods.

38. Make cards and gifts for friends.

39. Shop in thrift stores.

40. Have your water company do an audit so you are not charged sewage fees for water used in your garden.

41. Refinance your mortgage.

42. Grocery shop on double coupon days.

43. Trade down your car for a less expensive, lower maintenance one.

44. Convert your cash value life insurance to term.

45. Shop around for eyeglasses.

46. Don’t be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.

47. Recycle.

48. Move to a less expensive place to live.

49. Use low flush toilets or water saving devices in the tank.

50. Drop unneeded telephone services like call forwarding or caller ID.

51. Buy fruits and vegetables in season.

52. Avoid using your ATM card at machines that charge a fee.

53. Bicycle to work.

54. Shop around for auto insurance discounts for multiple drivers, seniors, good driving records, etc.

55. Ask your doctor for samples of prescriptions.

56. Borrow a dress for a big night out. or go to a consignment shop.

57. When you buy a home negotiate the sales price and closing costs.

58. Turn the hot water heater down and wrap it with insulation.

59. Never grocery shop hungry.

60. If you qualify, file for Earned Income Credit.

61. Shop around for prescriptions including mail order companies (Medi-Mail 800-331-1458, Action Mail Order Drugs 800-452-1976, and AARP 800-456-2277).

62. If you pay for childcare, make use of the dependent care tax credit or your employer’s dependent care flexible spending account.

63. Buy, sell, and trade clothes at consignment shops.

64. Shop around for the lowest banking fees.

65. Caulk windows and doors.

66. Iron your own shirts.

67. Plan your weekly food menu before shopping.

68. Buy a good used car instead of a new model car.

69. Purchase all of your insurance from the same company to get a discount.

70. Cut your cable television down to basic.

71. Go to an optometrist for routine vision tests or to change an eyeglass prescription.

72. Buy pre-owned toys and children’s books at garage sales.

73. Have potluck dinners with friends and family instead of going out.

74. Use the library for books, video tapes, and music.

75. Inspect clothing carefully before purchasing it.

76. Don’t use your dishwasher dry cycle; open the door and let them air dry all night.

77. At the grocery store, comparison shop by looking at the unit price.

78. Make your own coffee.

79. Use old newspapers for cat litter.

80. Shop at discount clothing stores.

81. Skip annual full mouth x-rays unless there is a problem; the ADA recommends x-rays every 3 years.

82. Water your garden at night or early in the morning.

83. Shop around for long distance rates.

84. Hand wash instead of dry cleaning.

85. Grow your own vegetables and herbs.

86. Shop around for auto financing.

87. Donate time instead of money to religious organizations and charities.

88. If you are leaving a room for more than five minutes, turn off the light.

89. Shop at auctions or pawn shops for jewelry and antiques.

90. Keep your car properly tuned.

91. Request lower interest rates from your creditors.

92. Trade in old books, records, and CDs at book and record exchanges.

93. Pay bills the day they arrive; many credit card companies charge interest based on your average daily balance.

94. Buy software at computer fares.

95. Search the internet for freebies.

96. Compost to make your own fertilizer.

97. If your car has very little value, you probably only need liability insurance.

98. Cut the kids hair yourself.

99. Increase your insurance deductible.

100. Buy in bulk food warehouses.

101. If your income is low, contact utility companies about reduced rates.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/08/06 •
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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lawless Workplaces

By Stewart Acuff and Sheldon Friedman
TomPaine
July 7, 2006

The last thing America’s workers need is another economic kick in the groin, but the Bush labor board may soon deliver what could be its lowest blow yet.

In a series of pending cases known as Kentucky River, the Bush board could strip what remains of federal LABOR LAW PROTECTIONS from hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - of workers whose jobs include even minor, incidental or occasional supervisory duties. The pending cases involve charge nurses in a hospital and a nursing home and lead workers in a manufacturing plant, but these workers could be just the tip of the iceberg.

The Bush National Labor Relations Board is easily the most anti-worker labor board in history, but even against this sorry backdrop, the scope of what they now are contemplating is breathtaking.

The consequences of bad labor board rulings in these cases have the potential to strip coverage in every nook and cranny of the workforce and create innumerable new opportunities for mischief by employers bent on denying workers’ their fundamental human right to form a union. Long established collective bargaining relationships will also unravel, as employers emboldened by the NLRB’s rulings assert that they no longer have a duty under federal labor law to recognize or bargain with their employees’ unions. It will be back to the law of the jungle in industries like health care, where disruptions from labor disputes became so severe in the early 1970s that Congress passed special legislation to bring employees of private non-profit hospitals under federal labor law coverage.

The stakes are high for the public, too. In health care, for example, scholarly research has documented that heart attack survival rates are higher for patients in hospitals where nurses have a union than in hospitals where nurses do not.

Already in 2000, months before George W. Bush was declared president, Human Rights Watch issued a powerful report that found U.S. labor laws were grossly out of compliance with international human rights norms. That organizations bill of particulars was lengthy, but the first item on their list was the failure of U.S. labor law to cover millions of workers, including among others, managers and supervisors in the private sector.

Two years later, the Government Accountability Office estimated that 32 million workers lacked coverage under U.S. labor laws and thus were denied even the minimal protections afforded by these laws. Included in this number were nearly 11 million private sector managers and supervisors, even before the NLRB’s rulings in Kentucky River.

The ink was barely dry on the GAO report before the huge numbers they reported became out of date, in the wake of a full-scale assault on workers’ rights by the Bush administration, its labor board and right-wing Republican governors in several states. In the private sector, the Bush board stripped coverage from graduate student employees, certain disabled workers and employees of temporary help agencies. These retrograde rulings harmed large numbers of workers, but are a drop in the bucket compared with the possible impact of Kentucky River.

Congress opened the door in 1947 by excluding supervisors from coverage as part of the notoriously anti-worker Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act. Even that reactionary Congress, however, made it clear that it did not intend to deny coverage to professional workers, lead workers or others whose jobs did not include responsibility to hire, fire and discipline other employees.

Ever since, a shameful series of decisions by unelected judges and NLRB members has steadily expanded the supervisory exclusion. In its notorious 1980 Yeshiva decision, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that because professors at private universities participate in campus governance, they were supervisors and therefore not covered by federal labor law. Henceforth private universities could and did snuff out faculty organizing campaigns with impunity. Within a few years of Yeshiva, private university faculty collective bargaining virtually vanished.

The decisions pending in Kentucky River could be Yeshiva on steroids for workers who have ever given incidental direction to a colleague or coworker in the performance of their job. The United States is already paying a high price for its failure to protect workers’ freedom to form unions; the Bush labor board’s rulings may be about to make a bad situation dramatically worse.

It is therefore imperative to push back against the Bush board’s assault on workers’ rights. We must, moreover, go beyond good defense; we must win serious protections for workers’ rights. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is the most significant federal legislative proposal in nearly 30 years to protect the freedom of America’s workers to form unions and bargain collectively. Since its introduction in the 109th Congress by Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in the Senate (S. 842), and by George Miller, D-Calif., and Peter King, R-N.Y., in the House (H.R. 1696), EFCA has garnered 215 House cosponsors, just three shy of a majority, and 43 in the Senate.

EFCA’s three main provisions are democratic majority sign-up, first-contract arbitration and stiffer penalties for illegal employer conduct. When EFCA becomes law, workers will be able to form and join unions without fear and coercion. EFCA will honor workers’ choices, discourage employer interference, and create more democratic workplaces.

The AFL-CIO has declared a national week of action starting July 10 to protest against the Bush labor board at NLRB headquarters in Washington and at regional NLRB offices and other sites around the country. Members of Congress have been asked to urge the NLRB to permit oral arguments by workers who will be adversely affected by the pending decisions. This is the least the board can do before ruling in a matter of such importance, but so far its Bush-appointed Chairman Battista shows every indication that he will deny even this modest request to allow these workers to be heard.

The need is urgent and the stakes are high. These are important fights to protect workers’ rights.

Stewart Acuff is the director of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Department; Sheldon Friedman is research coordinator, AFL-CIO Voice@Work Campaign.

SOURCE

Links
LABOR LAWS NO LONGER PROTECT WORKERS RIGHTS
NLRB DENIES NEWS CARRIER UNION
SYMBOL OF THE SYSTEM
GLOBAL REPRESSION OF UNIONS ON THE RISE
DEMOCRACY AND UNIONS
SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS

Posted by Elvis on 07/09/06 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 10

House Rejects Net Neutrality

Reprinted from Free Press
By John Nichols - The Nation
June 9, 2006

The First Amendment of the Internet the governing principle of net neutrality, which prevents telecommunications corporations from rigging the web so it is easier to visit sites that pay for preferential treatment - took a blow from the House of Representatives Thursday.

Bowing to an intense lobbying campaign that spent tens of millions of dollars and held out the promise of hefty campaign contributions for those members who did the bidding of interested firms - the House voted 321 to 101 for the disingenuously-named Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE). That bill, which does not include meaningful network-neutrality protections creates an opening that powerful telephone and cable companies hope to exploit by expanding their reach while doing away with requirements that they maintain a level playing field for access to Internet sites.

Special interest advocates from telephone and cable companies have flooded the Congress with misinformation delivered by an army of lobbyists to undermine decades-long federal practice of prohibiting network owners from discriminating against competitors to shut out competition. Unless the Senate steps in, (Thursday’s) vote marks the beginning of the end of the Internet as an engine of new competition, entrepreneurship and innovation. says Jeannine Kenney, a senior policy analyst for Consumers Union.

In case there was any question that Kenney’s assessment was accurate, the House voted 269-152 against an amendment, offered by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, which would have codified net neutrality regulations into federal law. The Markey amendment would have prevented broadband providers from rigging their services to create two-tier access to the Internet with an “information superhighway” for sites that pay fees for preferential treatment and a dirt road for sites that cannot pay the toll.

After explicitly rejecting the Markey amendment’s language, which would have barred telephone and cable companies from taking steps to block, impair, degrade, discriminate against, or interfere with the ability of any person to use a broadband connection to access services over the Internet, the House quickly took up the COPE legislation.

The bill drew overwhelming support from Republican members of the House, with the GOP caucus voting 215-8 in favor of it. But Democrats also favored the proposal, albeit by a narrower vote of 106 to 92. The House’s sole independent member, Vermonts Bernie Sanders, a champion of internet freedom who is seeking his state’s open Senate seat this fall, voted against the measure.

Joining Sanders in voting against the legislation were most members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including its co-chairs, California Representatives Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, as well as genuine conservatives who have joined the fight to defend free speech and open discourse on the internet, including House Judiciary Committee chair James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and Intelligence Committee chair Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan.

The left-meets-right voting in the House reflected the coalition that has formed to defend net neutrality, which includes such unlikely political bedfellows as the Christian Coalition of America, MoveOn.org, National Religious Broadcasters, the Service Employees International Union, the American Library Association, the American Association of Retired People, the American Civil Liberties Union and all of the nations major consumer groups.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, opposed COPE, while House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, and Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, were enthusiastically supported it.

Among the Democrats who followed the lead of Hastert and Boehner - as opposed to that of Pelosi were House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Maryland Representative Ben Cardin, who is running for that state’s open Senate seat in a September Democratic-primary contest with former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. Illinois Democrat Melissa Bean, who frequently splits with her party on issues of interest to corporate donors, voted with the Republican leadership, as did corporate-friendly New Democrats such as Alabamas Artur Davis, Washington’s Adam Smith and Wisconsins Ron Kind - all co-chairs of the Democratic Leadership Council-tied House New Democrat Coalition.

The fight over net neutrality now moves to the Senate, where Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan have introduced legislation to codify the net neutrality principles of equal and unfettered access to Internet content into federal law. Mark Cooper, the director of research for the Consumers Federation of America, thinks net neutrality will find more friends in the Senate, at least in part because the Save the InternetӔ coalition that has grown to include more than 700 groups, 5,000 bloggers and 800,000 individuals is rapidly expanding.

“This coalition will continue to grow, millions of Americans will add their voices, and Congress will not escape the roar of public opinion until Congress passes enforceable net neutrality, says Cooper.

Coopers correct to be more hopeful about the Senate than the House. But the House vote points up the need to get Democrats united on this issue. There’s little question that a united Democratic caucus could combine with principled Republicans in the Senate to defend net neutrality. But if so-called New Democrats in the Senate side with the telephone and cable lobbies, the information superhighway will become a toll road.

SOURCE

Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

Posted by Elvis on 06/10/06 •
Section Dying America
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