Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Neutral Net, or Prior Restraint?

Julius Genachowski, nominee for the all-important position of Federal Communications Commission chief, has a disturbing history when it comes to freedom of expression. As head of the FCC, he will oversee the nation's communications industries—hardly a job to be entrusted to one with a penchant for stifling regulation and rampant censorship.

Yet “Baron” Genachowski is no friend to the free flow of ideas, or the marketplace of public discourse.

A proponent of “Net Neutrality,” Mr. Genachowski supports the idea that government should regulate the Internet—ostensibly to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from “discriminating” against content or hardware. But in reality, it serves as a method for the government to “orchestrate” the Internet, denying ISPs the right to innovate as the Internet is developed further.

“Net Neutrality,” while it sounds good in name, is essentially the “fairness doctrine” of data: Under Mr. Genochowski's heavy hand, all data would be forced to flow at the same speed for the same price. If it were codified, the government regulators who claim they are preserving the Internet will have certainly done just that—in a moribund state—and at the cost of future innovations and improvements.

Ultimately, in such a scenario, the government would be dictating what private websites can post, which flies in the face of all the web is, and was intended to be. In its current incarnation, if a website wishes to allow paid advertisement, then so be it. If consumers deem its service too poor—or too biased—to meet their needs, another will be created.

Software is the perfect example: Users who didn't care for leading brands Microsoft or Apple developed an open source platform, Linux. Versions of the user-developed software are now in use by clients ranging from the U.S. Department of Defense to Pixar. Even Dell is offering consumer-grade computers equipped with Linux. And all this by private citizens, without government intervention.

Clearly, those who push for government intervention have a surprisingly low view of individual entrepreneurship—or of web users' ability to interact and self-police. Certainly, the Internet has enough forms of instant communication (email, social networking, blogs, forums) that it would be impossible for a corporation to discriminate unfairly without notice by its many eagle-eyed users. All of which has worked impeccably to date.

Yet now comes Baron Genachowski. Mr. Genachowski's “Net Neutrality” ideas would not, as he would like to claim, “neutralize” the Internet; rather, they would decrease innovation, stifle competition, and ultimately set the stage for increased government involvement and regulation. That, of an industry many in government do not understand. And then there is the speed of the Internet's development—it advances far too quickly for any government regulation to keep up with it. Any attempt would doubtlessly end in disaster—except, of course, for those who consider the U.S. Postal Service the very embodiment of innovation.

Making matters worse, if government can force ISPs to broadcast particular types of information, there's no limit to what they can do to force them to broadcast content. Most agree that it is unconstitutional—prior restraint on free speech. Even so, the nation may be headed there.

On another front where Genachowski's heavy hand could spell censorship, top Obama advisor David Axelrod refused to comment on the “fairness doctrine” back in February, stating that it would be up to the President and Mr. Genachowski as to whether or not it is reintroduced. And on that issue, Baron Genachowski has been chillingly silent—though his influence in authoring the President's technology agenda, including its focus on “diversity” (read: "liberalism") in media ownership and viewpoints, is alarming, to say the least.

With ideas such as these, Baron Genachowski clearly does not belong in the role of the nation's primary communications regulator. American's don't care to see Internet freedom fall to the heavy hand of federal hegemony. Nor do they wish to see broadcast fairness fall to the dictates of liberal duplicity.


Pro-Obama Group Demands Socialist Media

A socialist-oriented "media reform" group with ties to the Obama Administration is calling for new federal programs and the spending of tens of billions of dollars to keep journalists employed at liberal media outlets and to put them to work in new "public media." The group, which calls itself Free Press, is urging "an alternative media infrastructure, one that is insulated from the commercial pressures that brought us to our current crisis."

However, Free Press didn't say one word about the well-documented liberal bias that has contributed to the decline in readers and viewers for traditional media outlets and has enabled the rise of the Fox News Channel, conservative talk radio, and the Internet. Instead, Josh Silver of the Free Press attacked the "bellowing ideologues" on the air and declared that "The entire dial is empty of local news in many communities."

This was a tip-off that, in order to take conservative radio hosts off the air, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be flooded with complaints that "local news" has been shortchanged by stations airing conservative personalities with national programs such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Michael Savage.

Free Press, whose June 2008 "media reform" conference in Minneapolis turned into a virtual Obama for President campaign rally, is in a position to provide those complaints to the FCC. It claims nearly half-a-million supporters and a staff of 30, mostly in Washington, D.C.

As part of the proposed new "media infrastructure," Free Press is calling for a $50 billion "Public Media Trust Fund" to underwrite the creation of new jobs for journalists and the use of the existing federal AmeriCorps program "to include journalistic activities as part of its mission" in the form of "journalism positions" and "journalism projects." AmeriCorps is a federally-funded national and community service agency.

The group is also urging a direct federal bailout of liberal media institutions, declaring that "The Department of Labor could design a program aimed at keeping reporters employed at existing news organizations or at new outlets." Free Press explains, "If the government were to subsidize 5,000 reporters at $50,000 per year, the cost would be $250 million annually, a relatively modest sum given the billions coming out of Washington."

In addition to the $50-billion "Public Media Trust Fund," another one of the proposals from the Free Press group is a $50-million "government-seeded innovation fund for journalism," described by Craig Aaron of Free Press as "a taxpayer-supported venture capital firm that invests in new journalism models."

None Dare Call it Socialism

The socialist nature of the proposals should not be surprising. Aaron is one of two Free Press staffers who have been employed by the socialist magazine In These Times and previously worked at Ralph Nader's Congress Watch. The group's policy director, Ben Scott, has been an aide to Senator Bernie Sanders, an openly declared socialist who has criticized the media for covering both sides of the global warming debate. Another Free Press staffer was an activist with Planned Parenthood.

All of the controversial recommendations, which are certain to find a sympathetic ear in the Obama Administration, are included in the new 185-page book, Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age, officially released in Washington on Thursday, May 14, at the Free Press summit held at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the journalism profession. Several hundred people showed up in a cramped conference room that one speaker laughingly described as "cozy."

Although Free Press didn't want to examine the problem of liberal bias contributing to the decline of traditional media, the Newseum's fifth floor, the News History Gallery, includes a film about liberal media bias.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which is already subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which itself gets $400 million a year in federal payments), wasn't good enough for acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Michael Copps, who delivered a keynote speech.

He declared that we need a PBSS-"a Public Broadcasting System on Steroids" -based on the extraction of more dollars from hard-pressed American taxpayers. "That can't be done on the cheap, and we'll hear laments that there's not a lot of extra cash floating around these days," Copps said. "But other nations find ways to support such things."

He added that "...if things go well, we may be launched on an era of reform to match what the Progressives and New Dealers of the last century gave us. What a shining, beckoning opportunity we have."

Targeting Talk Radio

Copps ruled out the FCC bringing back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which enabled bureaucrats during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to mute or silence on-air conservative personalities. "The Fairness Doctrine is long gone and it's not coming back-as much as some conspiracy theorists see it lurking behind every corner," he said. However, he did say that the FCC would force broadcasters to sell media properties to approved women and minority groups. He called this "equal opportunity" and "diversity."


British Town halls hire citizen snoopers as young as SEVEN to spy on neighbours and report wrongs

Children as young as seven are being recruited by councils to act as 'citizen snoopers', the Daily Mail can reveal. The 'environment volunteers' will report on litter louts, noisy neighbours - and even families putting their rubbish out on the wrong day. There are currently almost 9,000 people signed up to the schemes. More are likely to be recruited in the coming months. Controversially, some councils are running 'junior' schemes which are recruiting children.

After basic training, volunteers are expected to be the 'eyes and the ears' of the town hall. They are given information packs about how to collect evidence, including tips about writing down numberplates, which could later be used in criminal prosecutions.

Luton Borough Council's Street Seen scheme encourages its 650 volunteers to report 'environmental concerns'. It is also recruiting 'Junior Street Champions', aged between seven and 11. Primary schools could also be involved within two years.

Similarly, Islington Council in north London has recruited 1,200 'Islington Eyes' to report crime hotspots, fly-tipping and excess noise from DIY. Volunteers are given a list of things to do when confronted with fly-tippers, including taking photos 'without being seen'. Last year the council undertook a recruitment drive for youngsters aged nine and above, called Junior Eyes. Children are given special books to write down reports on littering or graffiti in their schools, which they then send to the council.

A spokesman for Islington town hall said: 'It's not possible for the council to see what's going on in the borough at all times, so our Eyes for Islington are a great help, reporting issues such as dangerous footpaths, fly-tipping and graffiti.'

Welwyn Hatfield Council in Hertfordshire has given its 13 volunteers handheld computers to take photographs of problem areas. The information is then uploaded to a map of trouble spots.

Overall, a total of 8,442 volunteers have signed up at 17 councils in England. Other councils are set to follow their example and set up their own networks of volunteers. They say the scheme helps them find out about problems which they might not know about otherwise. But critics are worried the schemes could easily be abused and encourage a 'Big Brother society'. The move comes as local authorities dish out £100 fines to householders who leave out too much rubbish or fail to follow recycling rules.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Community spirit is one thing, spying on your neighbours is quite another. 'It is the job of the police to maintain law and order, and there is no reason taxpayers should have to pay twice for the same service. 'People are sick and tired of being spied on by their councils and in a recession we simply cannot afford luxuries like handheld computers at a time when the most basic public services are being scaled back.'

The Welwyn and Hatfield scheme is run by waste collection and environmental contractor Serco, which hopes to recruit more volunteers this summer. A spokesman for the council said: 'Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and its project partner Serco do not conduct any surveillance of residents in enforcement of environmental crimes, and neither do the community champions that have volunteered.' Serco said other councils were keen to introduce its handheld computers, although many areas are conducting similar schemes using more low-tech methods.

For example, Hillingdon Borough Council in north London, which has recruited 4,800 volunteers from the age of 16 in the past 18 months, simply gives its 'Street Champions' pens and a folder of contact details. A spokesman said: 'Street Champions themselves have confirmed that it is not a scheme where people are asked to spy on neighbours. Street Champions are asked to act just as any other resident might to report issues in their local area.' The spokesman added that two brothels had been closed down this year as a result of reports.

In North Devon, where trial schemes are currently under way, some of the volunteers have helped the police close down a drug den by giving witness statements.

However, the controversial pilot schemes have been dropped in a number of areas including Stoke -on-Trent in Staffordshire and Tower Hamlets in east London. A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: 'Environment volunteers are people who care passionately about their local area and want to protect it from vandals, graffitists and fly-tippers. 'These community-spirited residents are not snoopers. 'They help councils cut crime and make places cleaner, greener and safer.'


Australia: Aboriginal campaigner breaks Aboriginal tradition to protect his family

A rare example of realism about chronic Aboriginal child abuse

A LONG-TIME campaigner against racism says he banned his Aboriginal relatives and friends from staying in his home for fear of his two children being sexually assaulted. Stephen Hagan said his decision a decade ago initially caused resentment, but he felt it necessary to ensure the safety of his children, Stephen Jr, now 16, and daughter Jayde, 13. "I chose not to have people, in particular men in town on business, sleeping under the same roof as my young children," the University of Southern Queensland academic said. "I took that decision principally because I was not fully cognisant of their past inclinations around children."

The former Aborigine of the Year - who fought a successful decade-long campaign to rename the ES "Nigger" Brown Pavilion at the Toowoomba Sports Ground - also refused to lend money.

In a speech to a forum on preventing violence in indigenous families in Mackay, Mr Hagan said he gave up drinking alcohol and gambling to be a better role model for his children. He told the forum he would never have been able to live with himself if he allowed someone to stay the night in his Toowoomba home and later found out that the person "abused my trust by wandering into one of my children's rooms with the intent of violating their innocence". "Today, I sleep soundly knowing they are safe in their beds without a worry in the world about devious intrusions from within," he said.

Referring to the federal Government's National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children report released last month, Mr Hagan said that if women who were the victims of violence got no satisfaction from the Government, they should "do what we are best at in times of crisis - look out for and protect each other".

"In 1999, I reprioritised my personal and family goals," he said. "It was the year I discerned the critical proactive role I needed to play in support of my immediate family. I took those decisions knowing they were directly opposed to the desire to always attempt to satisfy the shallow expectations of my extended family and friends. "In its infancy, this process was quite painful as I stopped lending money to my family and friends - most of which anyway was never returned in full, or sometimes at all - and I declined requests from them to bunk down for the night at my residence when visiting from out of town. "While initially my actions put me offside with disgruntled relatives and longstanding acquaintances, it nevertheless gave me complete confidence to provide uncompromising safety and financial security for my family - and an increase in quality time with them."

It was a sad reality that other indigenous parents could not sleep soundly in their homes because community expectation was often so great they "succumbed to the pestering of visitors seeking free accommodation", he said. "It is in fact this very issue of overcrowding of indigenous homes that today has been identified as one of the chief reasons for high incidents of sexual abuse of children as articulated in the Little Children are Sacred Report done in 2007 in the Northern Territory.

"I often wonder why perpetrators of domestic violence don't take out their frustrations on someone in the pub and spare their loved ones at home the indignity of being violated by them. "Too high-risk, I guess - the other fellow in the pub might hit back and, worse still, hit a lot harder."

Mr Hagan criticised indigenous adults who did not take action when they knew of violence occurring in their communities, even being committed on their daughters by drunken husbands. "Although men's groups are growing steadily around the nation with the goal of assisting other men to address issues of intergenerational violence, I'm afraid they still lag behind their female counterparts nationally and globally in setting strategic goals," he said.

"I recently spoke to an Aboriginal friend I had not seen since high school and she told me of her past 30 tumultuous years of unsuccessful and painful relationships. She told me she tolerated the first 15 years of hell at the hands of her unstable high school sweetheart before finding the courage to leave while she still had her sanity. "She said she forgave him for the first assault as she justified the loss of his job as a passable excuse for the unanticipated violent outburst." But the woman told Mr Hagan the bashings continued "a couple of times a week after drinking sessions with his mates".

"She said her children knew when he was drinking and left to visit friends for the night to be out of harm's way. I noticed a deep sadness in her eyes when she recalled how she waited, fearful and alone at home, cowering in her lounge room chair for him to arrive and commence his usual verbal abuse, telling her she was a useless so-and-so. She said she never sought protection from friends at their house after her first experience that resulted in her husband tracking her down, forcing entry to the house and beating her in front of her friends, and then bashing them as well.

"The day after these beatings, her children would routinely return home to get dressed for school and attempt to patch their mother's wounds. "Their inebriated father slept soundly, sprawled across the blood-spattered sheets on the double bed in their rented Aboriginal Housing Company house.

"My friend took some delight in saying, with a toothless grin, that she was now living alone, but ashamedly revealed her sons became teenage statistics in the prison system and her daughters 'had children to a couple of no-hopers while still children themselves'. Only time will tell whether the vicious cycle of violence will be continued into the next generation of this unlucky family whose only mistake their loving mother made was an extremely poor choice of partners."

Mr Hagan's battle to remove the word "nigger" from the now-demolished stand at the Toowoomba Sports Ground was settled out of court in February. He had gone to Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Tribunal seeking $10,000 in damages for the "hurt and humiliation" caused by the Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust. The trust counter-sued Mr Hagan for $80,000 in legal costs for the court battles, which went as far as the UN.

Mr Hagan's bid to have the sign removed failed in the Federal Court and the High Court. In 2003, a UN committee deemed "nigger" offensive and insulting, and recommended the sign be removed. But the signage remained and it was intended the nickname would be included in a planned memorial to the footballer after the stand was demolished last year. In September, the state Government - which is funding a $2.15million upgrade of the stadium - declared it unacceptable for the word "nigger" to appear at any venue.

Mr Hagan launched legal action last year against the Toowoomba Chronicle for $750,000, saying the newspaper encouraged people to lampoon and vilify him on the basis of his race. He blames the Toowoomba Chronicle for fuelling racial hatred in his home town.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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