Net Neutrality Fight ‘Not Over’: Groups Launch Internet-Wide Campaign Pushing Congress to Overrule FCC Vote

“The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away.”

"Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year," said Fight for the Future in a statement. (Photo: Fight for the Future)“Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year,” said Fight for the Future in a statement. (Photo: Fight for the Future)

The Republican-controlled FCC voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal net neutrality, but open internet defenders are urging the public to not be swayed by the proliferation of “net neutrality is officially dead” headlines—the fight is “not over,” they say.

“The backlash to the FCC’s attack on the Internet has reached a boiling point.”
—Fight for the Future

Just hours after the FCC’s vote, the coalition of activist groups behind Team Internet and BattlefortheNet.comannounced the launch of “a massive internet-wide campaign” calling on members of Congress to overturn the FCC’s move by passing a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which only requires a simple majority in the House and Senate.

The CRA gives Congress the power to review newly passed regulations and overturn them through a joint resolution.

“Think of it as a double negative,” explained Free Press’s Dana Floberg. “If we repeal Pai’s repeal, we could end up right back where we started—with strong Net Neutrality rules.

Fight for the Future (FFTF), one of the groups that helped launch the campaign to nullify Pai’s plan, said in a statement on Thursday that “lawmakers cannot hide from their constituents on this issue.”

“The backlash to the FCC’s attack on the Internet has reached a boiling point,” FFTF observed. “Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year.”

As Common Dreams has reported, the American public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality. FFTF argues that now, more than ever, Americans must place pressure on their representatives to do the same.

“The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before,” FFTF concluded. “We’re going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away.”

‘Wake Up Call’: Charles Barkley’s Wise Words to Democrats on Alabama

How long can Democrats count on being rescued by the very people our government is failing?

"Without black voters, an accused pedophile would be preparing to assume one of the highest offices in the land."

“Without black voters, an accused pedophile would be preparing to assume one of the highest offices in the land.” (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Before he became one of the great basketball players of his time, Charles Barkley was a son of the Alabama soil.  He went home to help Doug Jones pull off his upset victory against Roy Moore in this week’s special Senate election. Here’s what he had to say on CNN after Jones was declared the winner:

This is a wake-up call for Democrats. Democrats, I told Mr. Jones this, and I love Doug, they’ve taken the black vote and the poor vote for granted for a long time. It’s time for them to get off their ass and start making life better for black folks and people who are poor. They’ve always had our votes and they have abused our votes .. This is a wake-up call for Democrats to do better for black people and poor white people.

Professional Democrats were not nearly as insightful. They overlook some of the most critical lessons of this election, including this one: They might not have won this election at all if Alabama Republicans like Richard Shelby had not encouraged voters to write in other names rather than vote for Roy Moore. As of this writing, the number of write-in votes is greater than Jones’ margin of victory.

In other words, Democrats were rescued by a conservative Republican politician. How often is that likely to happen?

And instead of acknowledging this vote as a “wake-up call” for their party after a decade plagued by losses, however, centrist insiders are seizing on it as an opportunity to fortify their hold on an institution they’re slowly strangling – and to take cheap shots at the left.

The Cornerstone

Charles Barkley is right: Black voters did play a critical role in Jones’ victory. Without them, an accused pedophile would be preparing to assume one of the highest offices in the land. But this begs the question: Why did African American voters turn out in such heavy numbers, despite the barriers thrown in their way by Republicans eager to thwart democracy?

The answer is not yet entirely clear, but a clue can be found in an observation by Washington Post reporter Eugene Scott:

More than two dozen black voters here said they did not feel inspired to show up for a candidate who they felt did not aggressively pursue their vote. They were moved to wait in line — some people for hours — with the goal of keeping Moore from winning.

Their antipathy for Moore certainly understandable.  The defrocked judge commented in the runup to the election that the last time America was great was “at the time when families were united – even though we had slavery – they cared for one another. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

He went on to say he thought all constitutional amendments except the first ten should be repealed – including the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery, and the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship and equal rights to former slaves. And Moore  said he had doubts about President Obama’s citizenship, echoing Donald Trump’s racist “birther” theory.

African-American voters were also aware of the well-documented claims that Roy Moore sexually abused teenage girls, and they undoubtedly heard his bigoted remarks against Muslims and Jews. Black Alabamians turned out in impressive numbers to save the country from the scourge of a Sen. Roy Moore, and they undoubtedly did so for a number of reasons.

Thank you.

The Poor Vote

Barkley is also right when he says this vote is a “wake-up call” for Democrats.  They will not always have the good fortune to run against a candidate who reaches Moore’s staggering levels of venality, ineptitude, and moral perversion.

Barkley’s meaning couldn’t have been clearer:  Democrats can’t take black voters, or poor voters of any race, for granted. They must offer concrete policies to improve their lives.  There’s not much time to waste, either, either in Alabama or nationwide.

More than 40 million Americans live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. has a higher rate of poverty than any other Western, developed country. And Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, recently told a reporter that Alabama’s sewage disposal conditions were the worst he’d seen in a developed country.  As AL.com reported:

On Thursday, Alston visited communities in the Black Belt’s Butler and Lowndes counties, where residents often fall ill with ailments like E. Coli and hookworm – a disease of extreme poverty long eradicated in most parts of the U.S. – in part because they do not have consistently reliable access to clean drinking water that has not been tainted by raw sewage and other contaminants.

Jones carried that part of the state decisively. But how long can Democrats count on being rescued by the very people our government is failing?

Suburban Surprise

Interestingly, Alabama’s GOP-friendly suburbs also went for Jones. Is that a sign of their growing discontent with Donald Trump, or was it a one-time effect — the result of Moore’s views, which are extreme even by Republican standards, and the impact of the stories of his sexual predation on family voters in these areas?

It’s too early to know for sure, but Democrats shouldn’t rush to assume this is a sign of victories to come. Some of them did anyway.

Throwing an Elbow

And yet, despite Barkley’s clarity, a few short minutes later Democratic politician Bakari Sellers offered a completely different interpretation of his words. Sellers insisted that he and Barkley were friends, affirmed the former athlete “spoke the gospel,” and added that he wanted to shout “amen” as Barkley spoke. But then Sellers said:

You have, you know, the Bernie Sanders, the Elizabeth Warrens, Joe Biden who are focusing specifically on the Trump-Obama voters and white working class voters, saying bring them back into the fold. There’s a group of us who think we need to make sure that we’re speaking to the base and giving them a reason to come out, because the country’s getting browner and the way to electoral victories is through that.

That’s a gross mischaracterization of Sanders, Warren, and Biden. None of them are “focusing specifically” on Trump-Obama voters or white working-class voters.   Quite the opposite, in fact. The Democratic Party’s progressive wing has taken the lead in addressing the social issues that plague black and brown Americans, as well as the economic issues that are hurting middle-and lower-income people of all races.

If any faction of the party places too much emphasis on Trump-Obama voters, it’s the so-called Blue Dog Democrats who lean right on economic issues ranging from the minimum wage to Wall Street reform. They consider the Sanders/Warren wing of the party their nemesis – and they’re right.

The Left Side of the Road

Sellers had already taken a swipe at the party’s progressive faction earlier in the CNN broadcast, when he said, “What Doug Jones showed tonight is that there’s a wing in the party that wants a litmus test. And Doug Jones doesn’t fit anybody’s litmus test.”

That’s not entirely accurate. Jones did say that he won because he was “center of the road,” but that’s a ritual disclaimer for any red state politician. While he wouldn’t represent the leftmost wing of the party in Vermont or California, Doug Jones is quite progressive for a Southern Democrat.

His website includes this declaration, for example, which comes straight out of Bernie Sanders’ platform: “Health care is a right, not a privilege limited to the wealthy and those with jobs that provide coverage.” It celebrates the New Deal’s impact on Alabama, while touting Jones’s support for the Lily Ledbetter Act and a higher minimum wage.

Sellers appears to be defending his own faction within the party, but he does a disservice to progressives – and to Charles Barkley – in the process.

Waving Goodbye

But Sellers isn’t the only professional Democrat to read this election result incorrectly.  “The recriminations have been tough and stupid,” says longtime Democratic operative Robert Shrum, “(and) the Bernie Sanders people arguing with the Hillary people has been counterproductive. Jones sends a powerful signal not to do that.”

Does he? Jones’ victory was by a far narrower margin than it should have been, because the national party has neglected states like Alabama for years.  Part of the intraparty struggle that Shrum dismisses is a struggle to ensure that the party fights for all voters, in all states, with policies that will appeal to precisely the kind of white/black alliance Charles Barkley describes.

“We’re looking at a wave election next year,” says Shrum. But then, he has lost so many races that people sometimes talk about the Democrats’ “Shrum curse.”

Sadly, Shrum is far from the only party insider peddling bad advice to Democrats.

Double Negative

Writing for Fox News on the morning after Jones’ victory, the serially incorrect Douglas Schoen asserts that if they want to win, “Democrats will need more than a message of resistance or opposition. They will need a centrist, pro-growth agenda of their own.”

Schoen correctly notes on Alabama that “early indications from exit polling indicate deeply negative favorability and approval ratings for both major parties.” This is also true at a national level, where Republicans are unpopular and support for Democrats recently fell to a 25-year low.

A reasonable person might conclude that these low approval numbers reflect a lack of faith in either party’s ability to improve people’s lives. But Schoen, like other veterans of the party’s failed leadership, has yet to learn this lesson.

Insanity

Instead, Schoen proclaims Democrats will only “succeed in 2018″ if they implement an alternative governing strategy that is fundamentally different from what the most progressive voices in Washington are advocating.”

That’s exactly what Democrats have been doing for the last ten years. In the process, they’ve lost two thirds of state houses, two thirds of governorships, both houses of Congress, and the presidency.  These failures were produced by 25 years of “centrist” leadership.  They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

To hear these folks talk, you’d think they’ve been out of power for decades. But they’ve been in charge, and  they’re the ones who got us into this mess. Sure, they might win the day in 2018 or 2020 – but only if Republicans cooperate by running a slate comprised entirely of proslavery advocates and accused child molesters.  Otherwise, Democrats better be prepared to learn how to win.

One thing’s for sure: These aren’t the people who can teach them.

ED LEE’S HISTORIC LEGACY

by  on December 14, 2017 (beyondchron.org)

I envisioned writing about San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s historic legacy—-in December 2019, as his days in office ended. It is with great sadness that I publish this now. I may have written more stories about Mayor Lee’s tenure than anyone, and this is one piece I wish I did not have to write.

Many see Lee’s legacy as his being the city’s first Chinese-American mayor. But Lee’s impact on San Francisco is far more significant for his policy accomplishments.

His historic legacy is primarily in three main areas: housing, the revival of Mid-Market/ Tenderloin, and transitioning San Francisco’s economy into the post-tech era.

Lee took on issues in all areas, such as pushing to build housing on the Westside, that no prior mayor had adequately addressed. He consistently offered a bold approach at odds with media depictions of him as an unambitious city leader.

Building Housing a Priority

Ed Lee was the first mayor in San Francisco history to make building new housing a top priority. His commitment of 5000 new units annually more than doubles the city’s annual approach over the last five decades. Helped by a new generation of YIMBY activists, Lee forever eliminated San Francisco’s historic hostility toward building enough housing to meet rising population and job growth.

I had a chance this fall to sit down with Lee to discuss how he became the first mayor to prioritize tackling the city’s longstanding housing deficit. The interview was for a new book I have coming out from UC Press next fall on how blue cities across the nation can slow if not stop the pricing out of the working and middle-class.

Ed Lee was a visionary in this area. Lee was ahead of his time in recognizing San Francisco desperately needed to build a lot more housing. He also understood that building housing alone was not enough, and had to be accompanied by stronger tenant protections.

Lee signed all of the major tenant protection measures passed by the Board. He invested more money in stopping no-fault evictions than all prior mayors combined.

Critics of Lee’s housing affordability record ignored that the working and middle class was priced out of most San Francisco neighborhoods before Ed Lee took office. They also ignored that housing prices also skyrocketed in Seattle, Denver, Portland, Los Angeles, Austin, New York City, Cambridge and many other cities. It was not a unique San Francisco problem caused by Mayor Ed Lee.

The truth is that what happened to housing prices in San Francisco starting in 2011 was part of a national urban housing crisis. The idea that Mayor Lee could have kept San Francisco, long among the priciest of cities, immune from these price hikes is something out of a fantasy novel. It has no connection to urban reality

With single family home prices and rents on vacant apartments exempt from government regulation, a mayor’s options are limited. The only way Lee could meaningfully address rising prices was by dramatically increasing affordable housing and increasing housing supply overall.

And that’s exactly what he did.

Mayor Ed Lee imposed a more comprehensive affordable housing agenda from 2011-2017 than in any other city. He also brought in more new affordable housing funds than any prior San Francisco mayor.

Recall that San Francisco had three failed affordable housing ballot measures prior to Lee placing a winning $310 million bond on the November 2015 ballot. Why did this bond pass while others failed and one affordable housing measure did not even get 50% on the November 2008 Obama ballot?

Mayoral leadership provided by Ed Lee made the difference.

Lee passed a $1.3 billion housing trust fund for the very poor families living in public housing, a $310 million affordable housing bond, and allocated major general fund dollars to housing homeless people. Think about the above facts when someone tells you that Lee “only cared about housing for the rich.”

Ed Lee will go down in history as San Francisco’s housing mayor.

Homelessness

Ed Lee greatly increased spending to address homelessness.  Yet the results, based on encampments and what people see on city sidewalks seem to not reflect either this financial commitment or a sound strategy. But ignored by critics of Lee’s approach to homelessness is how Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, New York City and other cities saw homelessness rise far more than San Francisco during the Lee years.

Every San Francisco mayor since homelessness reemerged in 1982 —Feinstein, Agnos, Jordan, Brown, Newsom, and Lee— has been criticized for not effectively dealing with homelessness. It should be obvious by now that no mayor can solve homelessness because no city can solve a problem requiring a major federal response.

You can’t evaluate a mayor’s record on homelessness by comparing it to a city outside the United States (in a country that funds affordable and public housing) or to a mythical city within this country; homelessness is a national problem that no city has the space or resources to solve.

That’s why homeless advocates from across the nation held Ed Lee in such high regard. They know what all cities are doing and recognize that San Francisco has the most comprehensive approach. When people say Lee did a “bad” job on homelessness, ask them what city in the United States they are comparing San Francisco to.

Mid-Market/Tenderloin

Until Ed Lee took office, no mayor invested major resources in two great historic neighborhoods that had endured fifty years of hard times. Ed Lee took up the challenge.

Among my saddest feelings about Ed’s death this week is that he did not live to see the fruition of his work in these two neighborhoods. I always thought that he, I, and Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) staff would take a tour of Mid-Market and the Tenderloin in December 2019 to appreciate all that the mayor’s leadership has achieved.

We will have to take that walk without him. Projects in both neighborhoods encountered unexpected delays due to rising construction costs in 2017, but they will be completed or nearly done by the date Lee was supposed to leave office. By this scorecard Lee fulfilled his goal.

Ed Lee rescued Mid-Market. He invested economic development resources in the Tenderloin, paving the way for the Tenderloin Museum, 826 Valencia, the Black Cat, Onsen Spa, CounterPulse, PianoFight, and neon signs and façade improvement throughout.

Ed graciously did a blurb for the back cover praising my book on the Tenderloin. At virtually every event in Mid-Market or the Tenderloin, Lee would always urge the audience to visit the Tenderloin Museum. He loved the Tenderloin, a neighborhood that did not get a fair shake from prior mayors. Lee matched his love with OEWD staff, and they made a huge difference.

Mayor Lee took such joy in the opening of new Tenderloin businesses. And nothing would have made him happier than when the long overdue Tenderloin streetlight project (adding roughly 100 streetlights) is completed next summer.  The Tenderloin is very dark at night due to a lack of streetlights. I asked the mayor to request $3.5 million from CPMC for this project as part of his negotiations for their big new hospital on Van Ness. I figured the mayor would use that number to compromise down to $3 million.

But Lee did not get us $3 million. He got us $4 million. That’s the real Ed Lee. He was a far bolder, innovative and creative thinking mayor than the media has portrayed him.

Thanks to Ed Lee’s leadership, by the end of 2019 we will have a revitalized Mid-Market and safe, healthy, and economically diverse Tenderloin. This is a crucial part of Ed Lee’s historic legacy.

A Prosperous City

One reason some have not appreciated Lee is that he made huge advances look easy.

When he began as mayor, San Francisco unemployment was at near record highs. He soon brought it to record lows.

When Lee started as mayor, tech companies routinely left San Francisco for the South Bay to avoid a payroll tax no other city in California imposed. Ed created a political coalition to get voters to eliminate that tax.

Those thinking that San Francisco would be more affordable had tech not stayed, check out the other blue cities across the nation whose skyrocketing housing prices are not driven by tech. Lee helped make San Francisco the envy of other cities for its prosperity. And he used that prosperity to house homeless people, improve transit, and otherwise improve the city for everyone.

No San Francisco mayor had greater economic success than Ed Lee. This is part of his historic legacy.

A New Type of Leadership

Ed offered a new type of leadership for San Francisco. He did not yell at department heads, threaten staff, or dominate meetings that he attended. For these very reasons some in the media saw him as weak.

But Ed Lee was as strong a mayor as the city has ever had. He did not need to yell or threaten to demonstrate strength. He had no problem being self-deprecating, particularly about his height.

Ed Lee assembled the broadest electoral coalition on behalf of affordable housing in the history of San Francisco. He then won the biggest electoral victories for housing. That does not happen without strong mayoral leadership.

I was with Lee the day after the November 2016 election. Nobody hearing his public commitment to retaining San Francisco as a sanctuary city would have ever called him weak.

Lee was as outspoken against the Trump Administration as any mayor in the country.

Lee’s strength was also shown in his ability to take criticism.  When I told the mayor at a small meeting why his D3 supervisor appointment the preceding day of Julie Christiansen instead of Cindy Wu was a colossal mistake and betrayal of Chinatown (Rose Pak insisted I pull no punches), he accepted it. We maintained our ability to work together on issues where we agreed. With other mayors that would have been the last words we spoke.

But Lee had the inner strength to recognize that people who strongly agree on many issues will equally strongly disagree on some—and that you cannot allow what divides you to define your relationship.

Lee did not micro-manage department heads. That’s one of the reasons he was so popular with them—he let good people do their jobs. Sometimes his lack of supervision caused projects to drift, as occurred with Better Markets Streets. But people underestimate the high level of proficiency Lee’s government operated because they are not comparing it to other cities, but rather to a lost city of Atlantis where double-parked trucks do not exist and busses never come late.

Ultimately, Ed Lee laid down the foundation for San Francisco to avoid becoming a city of only the rich and rent subsidized poor. This was his greatest gift to the city, and the core of his legacy.

San Francisco will miss Ed Lee. He has set a very high bar for his successors.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. If you are looking for a fun holiday read with 118 rare photos, pick up his book, The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

To leave feedback, go to feedback@beyondchron.org

We Saved Net Neutrality Once. We Can Do It Again

Just a few years ago, powerful grassroots pressure rose up to protect a free and open internet.

Recently, more than half a million people called Congress about net neutrality and approximately the same number filed comments on the FCC website.

“Recently, more than half a million people called Congress about net neutrality and approximately the same number filed comments on the FCC website.” (Photo: Joseph Gruber/Flickr/cc)

Democracy lives or dies on the quality of public conversation. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Today it doesn’t take the smarts of a Jefferson to realize that our public conversation, filtered through corporate-controlled, often-fractured media, is faltering. While analyzing how to fix our broken news system, from the promotion of public broadcasting to eliminating fake news, is complex, right now is a critical moment to hold the line. If we hope to reinvigorate our media, today democracy defenders are called upon to play defense—and quickly.

Earlier this month, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a plan to dismantle net neutrality, an extremely worrying move—one that has provoked the ire of organizations and citizens across the country. And this Thursday, the commission will vote on the plan.

“Given the current composition of the FCC, the fate of net neutrality looks bleak.”

If you’ve heard the term “net neutrality,” is it something you imagine only internet fanatics can grasp? Not at all. It simply refers to baseline protection ensuring that no internet service provider can “interfere with or block web traffic, or favor their own services at the expense of smaller rivals.” As such, it is integral to democratic dialogue. To abolish it, explains Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the media advocacy group Free Press, “would end the open nature of the internet and leave activists, media makers and all the rest of us at the mercy of the biggest phone and cable companies.”

Needless to say, given the current composition of the FCC, the fate of net neutrality looks bleak.

Yet, the recent history of net neutrality offers an encouraging story of the power of the people to protect the core democratic principle of free exchange and shows that even if things look bad, grassroots pressure holds the key to saving the internet as we know it.

The story starts in 2010. That December, the FCC passed what those most concerned considered pretty weak half-measures prohibiting internet service providers from blocking websites or imposing limits on users, Aaron says. And by 2014, a federal lawsuit brought by Verizon succeeded in striking down even this half-measure. Verizon’s hubris ignited a massive call for the FCC to fight back. Protests demanded even stronger rules to reclassify internet service providers as “common carriers,” requiring them to act as neutral gatekeepers to the internet and to protect access for all.

By May 2014, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests, concerned citizens had set up camp in Washington, D.C., at the FCC headquarters. It had all started with a protest organized by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Flowers, a pediatrician who cut her teeth in the fight for universal health care, and Zeese, a lawyer who fought injustices in the 1980s’ war on drugs, announced at the protest’s end that they were not going to leave. The duo rolled out their sleeping bags on the grass, stayed the night, and before they knew it, the occupation grew drastically. Fellow concerned citizens flooded in with tents and banners. One day followed the next, each to the tune of passing cars honking in solidarity. Not only did employees of the FCC come out to thank the occupiers, but three of the five FCC commissioners came to meet Flowers and Zeese.

A week later, then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler put out a “notice of proposed rule-making” that asked the public, “What is the right public policy to ensure that the internet remains open?” The preferred solution put forward by the FCC, outlined in the notice, would have left the door ajar for a “two-tiered internet” plan, wherein internet service providers could sell content providers priority access to their subscribers at rates only big companies could afford. Citizen reformers couldn’t and wouldn’t get behind this proposal.

“We can actually stay true to what we are fighting for and win.”

But the notice also sought public comment on whether the FCC should “reclassify” the internet as a common carrier under the law. Doing so would give the FCC greater legal authority over providers to fully and truly keep the internet open. This request for comments gave citizens, especially those emboldened by the FCC occupation, an opening.

For months citizens continued protesting and spreading awareness about the importance of net neutrality. Leading up to the closing of the comment period in September 2014, the activist group Fight for the Future parked a Jumbotron outside FCC headquarters. The giant video billboard played videos of fellow citizens explaining why net neutrality mattered to them. Later, reformers performed a skit outside the FCC, a “Save the Internet Musical Action.” The musical’s chorus—“Which side are you on, Tom? Which side are you on?”—would soon be answered.

These courageous public actions built on the momentum sparked by the FCC occupiers. Together, they galvanized citizens to submit 4 million comments to the FCC. The FCC chairman reversed his position, endorsed strong rules, and moved to restore the agency’s authority. In February 2015, the FCC announced it would reclassify internet service providers as common carriers. Wheeler called it “the proudest day of my public policy life.” Another FCC commissioner called it “democracy in action.”

The victory taught one very important lesson. As Flowers put it, “it showed we don’t have to compromise. We can actually stay true to what we are fighting for and win.” For that win, a broad coalition of citizen power united folks ranging from the tech industry—such as Netflix and Tumblr—to the Black Lives Matter movement. They all understood the democratic value of a free internet on which independent media is kept accessible and online grassroots organizing is made possible. “This cross-generational and multi-issue movement was critical in pressuring the FCC commissioners and lawmakers to support net neutrality,” Aaron says.

The situation in which we find ourselves today is different from how it was in 2014. The composition of the FCC has changed, and, after a year of resisting President Trump’s agenda, many perceive grassroots activists to be tired. Yet, the takeaway from the above story is that citizens have untold political power and, when they effectively wield it, can influence even politically removed bureaucrats to win major democratic victories.

Countless Americans are already rising to the challenge. Recently, more than half a million people called Congress about net neutrality and approximately the same number filed comments on the FCC website. Moreover, on Tuesday, activists across the country began a “Break the Internet” campaign to raise as much awareness about the issue as possible before the FCC’s critical vote. According to Aaron, “public awareness has never been higher.”

This grassroots pressure will have to be sustained and significantly expanded to save the internet. And even if the FCC votes to repeal net neutrality, the fight must continue. Concerned Americans will have to pressure Congress to pass a bill to overturn the FCC decision. The fate of democracy depends on it.

Frances Moore Lappé is the co-author, with Adam Eichen, of the new book, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. Among her numerous previous books are: EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want (Nation Books) and the acclaimed Diet for a Small Planet.  She is also a YES! contributing editor.

Adam Eichen is a member of the Democracy Matters board of directors and a fellow at the Small Planet Institute. He is the co-author, with Frances Moore Lappé, of the new book, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. He served as the deputy communications director for Democracy Spring. Follow him on Twitter: @AdamEichen

If the Trump Revolution Is Possible, So Is a Progressive One

The increased tempo of the GOP’s snatch and grab in recent days suggests that they’re feeling a certain desperation.

Hundreds of New Yorkers joined a nonviolent, permitted rally and march from Times Square to Washington Square Park on Nov. 4, 2017, declaring that the regime is illegitimate. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This post originally first appeared at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Don’t kid yourself: 2016 was a revolutionary year in the United States.

Yes, I know, the United States is a deeply conservative country. Americans don’t engage in periodic attempts to overthrow the system. There is no viable political party that threatens the status quo. When protesters gather in Washington, they have no intention of storming Congress, the White House or the Federal Reserve.

The most radical movements, like Occupy Wall Street, are leaderless and amorphous, and thus toothless.

When a revolution does occur, Americans can’t even recognize what’s in front of their eyes.

Americans are so conservative that the revolution that created the country in the 18th century appears in history books as more a break from England than a break from tradition.

So, when a revolution does occur, Americans can’t even recognize what’s in front of their eyes.

The election of Donald Trump last year was revolutionary — even though it took place through established institutions and had all the hallmarks of a reaction (to the Obama “revolution”). Trump supporters thrilled to their candidate’s promises to tear down everything that hitherto represented the establishment: all politicians, Wall Street, the Pentagon, federal institutions, Hollywood — even the international community.

This urge to destroy even carried over to the cultural level, where Trump effectively abolished “political correctness” — a derogatory term for what other folks would just call being respectful. Such a sweeping transformation of social conventions was comparable to French revolutionaries creating their own calendar, replacing the names of the months with such peculiarities as Brumaire and Thermidor.

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s own elite cred. Many revolutionaries — George Washington, Lenin — came from the same segment of society that they aimed to overthrow. Also, don’t fall for the “restoration” rhetoric of the Trumpistas. The America of the past that they invoke is imaginary. They are out to construct a bold, new America that combines elements of the past — racism, homophobia, extreme wealth — with a new vision of shrunken government and corporations run amok. It is an overturning of the liberal order that has prevailed for much of the last century.

Of course, the Trump victory resulted from the same kind of improbabilities as most revolutions. His electoral margin was miniscule (a matter of some 80,000 votes in three key states, though he in fact lost the overall popular vote by millions more). He benefited from the huge intervention of unrestricted “dark money” made possible by the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. And he had the twin tailwinds of WikiLeaks and Russian digital skullduggery (which might have been a single tailwind, protestations of Julian Assange notwithstanding).

All revolutions are doomed to eat their own. The insurrectionists have their knives out. The bloody feast has begun.

In other words, Trump didn’t represent an overwhelming urge by a majority of Americans to upend their own society. Ever since Russian revolutionaries called themselves Bolsheviks (the majoritarians) when they were so manifestly the political minority, insurrectionists have made misleading claims about their popular support. Trump is a man of the (ever-diminishing slice of the) people.

There’s another important revolutionary aspect to consider. All revolutions are doomed to eat their own. The insurrectionists have their knives out. The bloody feast has begun.

A Russian Meal

In the old days, when insurrectionists feared a countercoup and had to clear out of the royal palace as soon as possible, they stole whatever they could easily transport — the silverware, a few bottles of fine wine, priceless paintings sliced from their frames and rolled up.

Trump and his cronies always planned a grand looting of the commonwealth. But the increased tempo of their snatch and grab in recent days suggests that they’re feeling a certain desperation as the Russiagate noose tightens. There’s the gerrymandering of the two national monuments in Utah that will open up vast tracts to energy and mineral companies. There’s the tax reform package that will reward America’s wealthiest. There’s the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which is a big giveaway to Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his US backers.

Even if they believe that they can escape the Russian probe, the Trump insurrectionists are certainly worried about next year’s mid-term elections. They are checking their watches to see how much longer they can use their positions for maximum personal benefit.

As in any revolution, the truly ruthless are waiting in the wings for their chance.

Yes, of course, they all protest loudly that they’re serving their country. But you probably didn’t hear the mumbled end of their sentence. They’re serving their country … to the wolves.

Now, in a fitting turnabout, they are also worried about being served.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has already pleaded guilty to lying about his Russia contacts. The plea also involves cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller. That means that the investigation will acquire more details not only about what took place after the election, but also before the election.

In light of the ongoing revelations, major administration figures have had to recast their earlier stories of their contact with Russia and WikiLeaks, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We used to call such initial statements “perjury.” But revolutionary times demand a new revolutionary language: and thus Kushner and Sessions simply “misremembered.”

The president has already tried to diminish the importance of earlier indictments against former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, as well as foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous. It won’t be so easy for Trump to diminish the importance of Kushner or Sessions. As we slouch further into this era of implausible deniability, the president himself will be backed against the wall, not by counter-revolutionaries with pitchforks but lawyers with summonses. Imagine all the delicious secrets contained in his tax returns alone.

Such is the logic of revolution. After Lenin: Stalin.

Of course, it’s not just the Russia probe that’s causing a change of personnel in the Trump administration. Infighting, scandal and sheer incompetence have already claimed Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Tom Price, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci and Sebastian Gorka.

As in any revolution, the truly ruthless are waiting in the wings for their chance. Rumors abound of a shake-up at the highest level that would expel Rex Tillerson, a relative vegetarian among the carnivores, and replace him at secretary of state with the truly repellent Mike Pompeo. The new CIA chief, according to The New York Times report that Trump later blasted as “fake news,” would be Tom Cotton. The young Arkansas Republican will soon be the standard-bearer for the new Republican Party, someone who can combine the aggression of the neocons with the social conservativism and “common touch” of the Trump wing.

Look upon 2020 and despair! Cotton is far more dangerous than Trump or even the telegenic evangelist Mike Pence.

Such is the logic of revolution. After Lenin: Stalin.

On the Bright Side

As with all revolutions, the Trump insurrection has opened people’s eyes to the potential instability of all that had previously seemed solid. If the Clinton dynasty could come to an end at the hands of someone so obviously ill equipped to lead the country, then perhaps the institutions of the status quo are not as firmly entrenched as conventional wisdom would make them out to be.

First off, the victory of an outsider has encouraged other outsiders, this time on the progressive side of the spectrum, to get involved in politics, from transgender candidate Danica Roehm snagging a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates to Liberian refugee Wilmot Collins becoming mayor of Helena, Montana. There are two Indivisible chapters in every congressional district, and much of the new electoral energy is coming from women. According to Emily’s List, 20,000 women have thrown their hat into the political ring (including my former IPS colleague Daphne Wysham, who is running for a seat in the Oregon State Legislature).

The resistance is not confined to the electoral arena. The Black Lives Matter movement is mobilizing with renewed energy against the uptick in racism in the Trump era.

Then there’s the widespread resistance to sexual harassment.

At one level, the accusations that continue to take down powerful men in the entertainment industry, politics, commerce and journalism represent the determination by victims to get rid of the “bad eggs.” But such a campaign promises to be much more: a thoroughgoing resistance to the combination of privilege (generally male) and power (also overwhelmingly male).

Replacing a few malefactors is hardly revolutionary. Transforming American institutions so that they no longer reproduce patriarchy — well, that’s a paradigm shift.

Revolution is in the air. Why should the far right have all the fun?

 

JOHN FEFFER

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. His dystopian novel, Splinterlands, a Dispatch Books original (with Haymarket Books), was published in 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @johnfeffer.

Democracy Earth’s Ambassadors Program!


Democracy Earth
Published on Dec 7, 2017

Welcome to Democracy Earth’s Ambassadors Program!

TO FIND OUT HOW TO BECOME AN AMBASSADOR, CLICK HERE: goo.gl/89YTxK

We need your help to bring our message to all four corners of the world 🌎, and create a global movement that will redefine what democracy is in the 21st century!

As an Ambassador, you will help us spread 📣 ideas of Liquid Democracy into your home town, and find others that can do so as well.

We need Ambassadors in every city, and in every country!

We want you to help us start Democracy Earth meetups in your local city, so we can bring the community and kick start the debate about what kind of democracy do we want in the internet age!

Our belief in democracy means we believe that human collaboration is the best possible way to arrive at great solutions, therefore we use github and document our work as open source projects where anyone is free to contribute. Democracy is always a work in progress, and so is our work: we encourage you to take an active role in building it with us, making suggestions and creating debates!

We will give you resources to help you carry the message and implement our work: videos and slides so you can make presentations in all kinds of events, in the name of Democracy Earth, and also technical information of how to implement sovereign in a local server so your local groups can start using it!

You can find extensive material that we have put together for our Ambassador’s program on Github ( https://github.com/DemocracyEarth/amb… ), and engage with us – both on Github’s issues and Slack – discussing our paper, The Social Smart Contract, where we are debating liquid democracy with collaborators from all over the world! We have also created a channel on Slack called #ambassadors ( https://democracyearth.slack.com/mess… ), where you will be able to connect with all the Ambassadors, share and learn from each other experiences!

As an Ambassador of Democracy Earth you will represent the Democracy Earth Foundation vision of a borderless, post-nation state world, its mission to put the tools of liquid democracy in the hands of every self-sovereign global citizen of the world, and our values of being open source, transparent, accountable, and decentralized. It is fundamental that you embody our open-source values, welcoming everyone into our collaborative work as co-creators of the future of democracy.

Join us!

Soundtrack credits: Alex Lappin

Leaked Documents Expose How Corporations Use Spies to Subvert People’s Movements Worldwide

Given what “these companies have gotten away with,” concluded Naomi Klein, it is “no wonder they fear our power.”

 Anti-war demonstrators rally in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations September 19, 2006 in New York City. (Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

That governments deploy undercover law enforcement officers to infiltrate, gather information on, and subvert protest movements has long been common knowledge. Less well-known, however, is the extent to which some of the world’s most profitable businesses have hired private spies to keep tabs on political movements they perceive as a threat to their power and profits.

“The leaked documents suggest the use of secretive corporate security firms to gather intelligence about political campaigners has been widespread.”
—Meiron Jones and Rob Evans, the Guardian

Hundreds of pages of newly leaked documents—reported on for the first time Tuesday by the Guardianand the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ)—provide an unprecedented glimpse into this mysterious world of “corporate spies,” who have been hired by major companies like the German carmaker Porsche, the U.S.-based manufacturing giant Caterpillar, and the Royal Bank of Scotland to monitor anti-war demonstrations, protests against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and environmental campaigns against the destruction of the planet.

“The leaked documents suggest the use of secretive corporate security firms to gather intelligence about political campaigners has been widespread,” report the Guardian‘s Rob Evans and Meirion Jones.

Despite this fact—and despite claims by police that corporate spies embedded in protest movements frequently outnumber undercover law enforcement officers—these private firms face “little or no regulation.”

And while these “security” companies have attempted to fashion themselves as run-of-the-mill service providers, they are in reality quite different.

“One key distinguishing factor is that corporate investigation firms are often staffed and run by former spies and veterans of special forces, even if they work alongside graduates, accountants and lawyers,” TBIJ notes. “Some of the companies even have private military arms.”

Speaking anonymously to the Guardian, a man who claims he personally infiltrated political groups for a corporate spy firm said that his work involved more than merely collecting information on protesters.

“He described how the spies surreptitiously fostered conflicts within a campaign to set activists against each other, in order to wear them down and make them lose their political motivation,” the Guardian reports.

One of the companies featured heavily in the cache of documents is the private security firm C2i International, which has deployed spies on behalf of Porsche and other major companies to infiltrate groups of environmentalists and anti-Iraq war campaigners.

According to the Guardian, “documents show that C2i claimed it had ‘real-time intelligence assets’ in a range of environmental campaigns including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, local green groups in Oxford and ‘all anti‐aviation groups.'”

In 2008, C2i also “pitched its services to Donald Trump’s property development firm, which was seeking to create a huge golf course and build a hotel and flats on ecologically sensitive land in Scotland.” C2i reportedly warned Trump that his company was “under threat from a consortium of environmental activists,” but it is unclear whether Trump took C2i up on its offer.

In one case exposed by the leaked documents, C2i—hired by Caterpillar—spied on the family of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003 while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes. The bulldozer was manufactured and sold to the Israeli military by Caterpillar.

As the Guardian reports, “Corrie’s family took legal action against Caterpillar, alleging that the firm was complicit in war crimes by exporting bulldozers to the Israelis knowing that they would be used to demolish Palestinian homes.”

Just days after U.S. judges dismissed the lawsuit, Corrie’s mother spoke to members of the campaign supporting the family’s legal action on a conference call. C2i appears to have listened in on the call and obtained the campaign’s notes pertaining to the conversation.

After learning that her conversation was infiltrated by private spies, Corrie’s mother Cindy told the Guardian that it is “really distasteful” that corporate operatives would lie about their identities to listen to a conversation she believed only consisted of supporters.

Reacting to the newly leaked trove of documents, author and environmentalist Naomi Klein—who has written extensively on the exploits of corporate contractors—argued that given the enormous human and environmental abuses global corporations have committed, it is not surprising that they would hire spies to monitor those who threaten to expose their criminality.

Warning Against Abdication of Duty, Senators Demand FCC Abandon Net Neutrality Vote

Ajit Pai’s plan would leave the U.S. with a “gaping consumer protection void,” say 39 senators

At one of hundreds of protests last week, net neutrality supporters in New York City demanded that the FCC abandon its plan to repeal net neutrality protections. (Photo: TeamInternet/Flickr/cc)

Thirty-seven Democratic senators, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), sent a letter (pdf) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday, urging the panel to abandon its “reckless plan to radically alter the free and open Internet as we know it.”

If pushed through, the letter warns, the move, spearheaded by Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai, “would amount to the largest abdication of [the agency’s] statutory responsibilities in history.”
The lawmakers argued that Pai’s plan to gut net neutrality regulations represents an abandonment of its “primary responsibility to protect consumers and the public interest with respect to the nation’s communications networks.”
“In short, you are walking away from your statutory duties and effectively eliminating FCC oversight over high-speed internet access,” wrote the senators.

In the House, after hearing from many of his constituents on the issue, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) became the first Republican to ask Pai to delay the vote and allow Congress to hold hearings on the issue, while Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) vowed to introduce a bill after the FCC’s vote, to roll back Pai’s new net neutrality policy.

Pai has proposed repealing Obama-era net neutrality regulations which prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against web content. Without the rules, ISPs like Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast would be able to offer a “fast lane” for wealthy Internet companies like Google and Facebook, allowing their content to reach users more quickly.

If the FCC, which consists of three Republican commissioners and two Democrats, adopts Pai’s proposal on Thursday, the panel will permit ISPs “to freely block, slow down, or manipulate a consumer’s access to the internet as long as it discloses those practices—no matter how anti-consumer—somewhere within the mounds of legalese in a new ‘net neutrality’ policy,” wrote the senators.

The new rules would also prevent states from implementing their own regulations, resulting in what the Democrats called a “gaping consumer protection void.”

In recent days, Pai has been dismissive of net neutrality supporters’ concerns over his proposal, calling dozens of consumer advocacy groups and the City of New York “desperate” after they sent him a letter about the vote last week. The groups urged him to delay the decision until a court case involving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s right to sue telecom companies that mislead the public—including over net neutrality issues.

The FCC chair has also refused to turn over information to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who’s opened an investigation into whether fake comments were left on the FCC’s website during its public comment period on net neutrality. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat who supports open internet rules, has urged Pai to delay the vote until that inquiry is complete.