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Thursday, December 02, 2010

More proof that black people can be sell-outs too -- Or: The strange case of the purchased Panther

I chose a deliberately provocative title. A headline about net neutrality might have served this piece just as well...but it wouldn't have made so sharp a point.

Please meet Congressman Bobby Rush, pictured on your left. He hails from Illinois. Interestingly, he is the only person in history (so far) to defeat Barack Obama for elective office. This quote, from that 2000 race, bears repeating:
"Barack Obama went to Harvard and became an educated fool. Barack is a person who read about the civil-rights protests and thinks he knows all about it."
Rush truly does know all about it: As a young man, he took part in civil disobedience campaigns in the segregated south and helped to found the Black Panthers. He voted the right way on Iraq.

So far, I like this guy. But.

Rush now has something in common with the teabaggers: He wants to end net neutrality.

The teabaggers are conducting a massively deceptive propaganda campaign on this issue. They want to convince the populace that net neutrality is some strange new "socialistic" scheme by which Barack Obama hopes to achieve control of the internet. The truth: Net neutrality is the way things are right now.

The opponents of net neutrality hope to get rid of our present system, where the funded and unfunded -- the big and the small -- have equal standing on the web. The monster corporations want to replace this happy land of equal opportunity with a new scheme called tiered service.

Under this proposed plan, websites from big corporations will load up super-fast, while websites from Charlie Nobodies will load slowly, or not at all. Unless you're willing to pony up big dough, fewer eyeballs will see your internet offerings. Ordinary folk will probably have to pay higher monthly internet bills in order to access sites like the one you're reading right now.

The likely results: Ruination for small business. The end of cheap VOIP telephone service. Political debate will be restricted.

You know damned well that the websites run by (for instance) Andy "Big Asshole" Brietbart will load up immediately, while unfunded websites will putter and sputter like a Model T running on corn syrup. Right now, on the left side of the internet, Daily Kos and The Confluence reach your retinas with equal speed. If net neutrality dies, it'll be all Moulitsas, all the time. Hell, we'll be lucky to get that.

The people pushing this crap offer casuistic and deceptive arguments. They tell us that a tiered internet will offer more rapid downloads of movies and TV content. Sure, you'll give up your internet freedom -- but hey, you'll get FOX News faster. So it all evens out, right?

What the propagandists don't tell you is that broadband already works much faster in other countries than in the U.S. Right now, if you're in the UK, you can watch high-def programming from the BBC over the internet in real time -- and the shows look great.

Other nations did not have to give up net neutrality in order to achieve lightning-fast download speeds, so why should we?

The big communications companies have spent heavily to purchase lawmakers. Among the recipients of this largesse, I am sorry to say, is Bobby Rush.

He wants to become the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. At the moment, the leading Democrat on that committee is Rick Boucher. The Republicans will take over next year -- and you know damned well that they will stand united against net neutrality. Rush will stand with the GOP and the teabaggers.

A group called Color of Change, headed by one James Rucker, doesn't want Nancy Pelosi to give Rush this appointment. Rucker hopes that you will call Pelosi's office -- (202) 225-4965; (415) 556-4862 -- and tell her to avoid the Rush:
“I have grave doubts that Congressman Rush is capable of being an honest broker on important telecommunications matters,” Rucker, who headed grassroots mobilization for Political Action from 2003-2005, wrote. “AT&T, America’s oldest and largest telecommunications company, has long been one of the largest donors to Congressman Rush’s campaign committee and leadership PAC.

“In addition, from 2001 to 2004 the company donated $1 million to a community center Rush founded in Chicago – an off-the-books donation that could lead one to wonder about the prospect of quid pro quo regarding the Congressman and AT&T,” Rucker added.

During his congressional career, Rush has received $78,964 from AT&T. The telecom giant is Rush’s second largest career contributor, which is also true for the leading Republican candidate to run the committee, Fred Upton (R-Michigan). Rush’s other top donors include the National Cable and Telecommunications Association ($43,499), and Verizon ($42,000), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
As Jerry Brown (between governorships) once told Gore Vidal during a broadcast interview: "It's amazing how little we sell out for." Those words apply across the whole of Congress, good and bad, D and R.

So why did I choose the "in your face" headline that stands atop this post? Because some Rush defenders have chosen to racialize the issue. Their argument: Bobby Rush is an African American who did laudable work in previous years -- therefore he can't possibly be corrupt now.
Using the old, “you can’t trust them because they take money from corporations trick”, the group’s executive director James Rucker asks Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi to oppose Rush’s candidacy...
That's a trick? A freakin' trick?!? Jesus H. Kee-rist, who writes this gunk -- Maxwell Smart?

Here's how Rush's defenders describe Color of Change:
Color of Change is a 5-year old advocacy group that is known best for its ground-breaking work on three campaigns: 1. assisting the Jenna 6 defendants get the case dropped against them; 2. helping Hurricane Katrina victims’ and 3. organizing an internet campaign that resulted in some corporate sponsors pulling out from sponsoring Glenn Beck’s Fox News television show over the race baiting Beck does on his show.
Sounds good to me. One doesn't have to reach back across decades to find positive things on this resume. But the Rush backers are not impressed.
Let’s see… hmmm. Who to trust? Who to believe?

The head of a 5-year old group that has abandoned its previous mission of empowering people of color through real tangible means in exchange for championing one issue about arcane network prioritization, a “problem” that is NOT on the minds of any jobless, undereducated, disempowered and underemployed person of color…

Or Bobby Rush. For all of the man's previous accomplishments, the fact remains: Power corrupts.

As long-time readers may know, one of my pet theories holds that the movie Lawrence of Arabia contains a quotation appropriate to every occasion. In this case, the quote comes during an early scene between Peter O'Toole and Anthony Quinn: "The servant is the one who takes the money."

Rush takes the money. Even his defenders admit it.

True, the jobless and the under-educated may not have net neutrality uppermost on their minds right now -- but that's only because they haven't heard the news about what lies ahead, or because they can't visualize the pay-to-play internet that the big corporations have in store for us. They don't understand that the telecoms want internet service to be like cable TV: For a certain price you get certain websites; for a higher price you get even more websites...

The end of net neutrality will be another libertarian nightmare. It will be the ultimate disempowerment device. Minorities will be hit particularly hard by a new internet in which the axiom "money talks" determines which sites pop into your browser.

Yeah, my skin is white and Rush's is black. So? In the end, this issue is not about black or white -- it's about green.

The servant is the one who takes the money.
I agree with your general position, but you do not seem to understand the actual net neutrality issues. For one thing, we do NOT have a system right now. We are defacto semi-net neutral, but any of the large last mile providers could introduce tiering plans tomorrow if they wanted. Tiering, btw, has always existed at the backbone level. A system needs to be put in place that supports net neutrality, and the fight currently is to keep that system from being put in place. The principal opponents of Net Neutrality laws are generally--though not always--the last mile providers whose cable networks and iptv delivery systems are in direct competition with services like Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. You know, AT&T, Comcast, etc. The proponents of Net Neutrality laws tend to be large non-traditional content providers like Apple, Google, and the like.

Your argument about thin sites like blogs being seriously effected is not particularly sound. Its the large files that are at issue here, not wisps of html.
This battle is going to be primarily fought over last mile entertainment delivery.
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