Remember School House Rock's cartoon about how a bill becomes a law? Here's the updated version (a little depressing for those of us who would prefer to save our children from unprecedented climate disruption)...
Rep. Ed Markey has a post up on HuffPo today that calls for the online public to support his bill, HR 3458, The Internet Freedom Preservation Act", which he and Rep. Anna Eshoo proposed in July. He notes that it is a legislative support for the actions the FCC took last week to preserve equal access to the internet for all content providers (this is what is commonly referred to as "net neutrality").
Contrast that with John McCain's recently introduced "Internet Freedom Act of 2009", which is a newspeak name for an attempt to make sure that the internet can be easily controlled by commercial entities - the "freedom" it refers to is freedom from regulation by the FCC (because watching the economy crash has shown us how well deregulation works!)
McCain admitted during his campaign for the presidency that he didn't use the internet, but has received more donations from the companies who would benefit from this legislation than any other senator. His bill would allow those companies to privilege the upload of some content over other content (kind of like what's happening with your cable bill now), and frustrate the actions the FCC just took to preserve the open access to the internet that has made it the most successful communications development in history. Here's Boing Boing Editor Xeni Jardin describing the argument to Rachel Maddow (note the observation that Vint Cerf and most of the others who created the web as we know it today are all on the side of preserving equal access):
In other words, McCain's bill is crafted to do exactly the opposite of Markey's bill. The distinction is critical, and Markey's bill deserves the support of anyone who values the free exchange of ideas on the web. E-mail, call, or write your representatives today!
The essential function of a political party in governing the country is to manage the procedural issues in the legislature, and the strong tradition in both houses is to follow the party line as regards procedural matters. Lieberman is an independent, but he chairs a powerful committee on the sufferance of the Democratic caucus. If he joins a filibuster of the health care bill with Republicans as he has just said he would, he will have forfeited the last semblance of allegiance to the Democratic party that he promised when he was re-elected.
He should be removed as chair of his committee tonight, and begin a vigorous effort to see him turned out of office in the next election, right now. I'll donate to any candidate with more integrity than Lieberman, and any progressive who wants to be anything other than a doormat for his ambition will do the same. This was predictable (and predicted), and Joe must go.
Foreign Service officer Matthew Hoh resigned in protest from the State Department in September, saying he had lost confidence in the policy he was helping to implement in Afghanistan, according to an article by Karen DeYoung in this morning's Washington Post (read the article, it's very good work).
Hoh, a former Marine who served in Iraq as part of a reconstruction team, has a personnel file that's full of glowing reports, and the article includes comments from several of his colleagues in Afghanistan that indicate that they hold him in the highest regard. Indeed, when he first sent his letter of resignation, they were so interested in not losing him that both the US ambassador to Afghanistan and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke tried to talk him out of resigning. They offered him a promotion to senior embassy staffer, a job which he initially accepted, and then declined a few days later, as he realized that he wouldn't be able to support the mission in which he no longer believed.
Two things about this turn of events are significant. The first is that when someone of this caliber sacrifices his career and submits a principled resignation, we owe it to them and ourselves to pay close attention to what they're protesting with their resignation. In 2003, a diplomat named John Brady Kiesling resigned from the foreign service over our developing jingoistic fervor about Iraq. Had anyone that resignation the attention it deserved, we might have saved ourselves the loss of tragic amounts of blood, treasure, influence, and national prestige. Unfortunately, Kiesling worked in Athens, not Iraq, and his resignation went unnoticed by the public at the time. At least he did better than Scott Ritter, the UN weapons inspector who protested publicly that there were no significant WMD in Iraq, and was savaged for his trouble by the Bush administration and accused of treason by its Greek chorus in the press.
That the Obama administration isn't attempting any similar slander of Mr. Hoh is encouraging, and I hope they give his protest and its reasons their full attention. (As a side note, if Dick Cheney should decide to unburden himself of any opinion concerning Mr. Hoh that isn't laden with a huge measure of respect for a man who was willing to make sacrifices that Cheney's own "other priorities" prevented him from considering, someone should horsewhip him back to whatever rock he's currently living under.)
The more important aspect of Hoh's resignation, though, is the reason behind it. He's become convinced that the Afghan people have turned against the US troops in their country out of national pride, and that our continued presence there is only inflaming a nationalist resistance that we'll never overcome. His analysis draws on having spent most of this year doing what his superiors recognize as great work at winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, after doing a good deal of the same thing as a Marine in Iraq.
Hoh's resignation letter alludes to the non-existence of any central authority to support in Afghanistan. The largest coherent political unit in much of the country is the local valley's tribe, and in each of these valleys, that tribe's interest in working with NATO troops is losing out to its interest in driving foreign invaders from its territory. Winning them over would be a valley by valley proposition, and Hoh considers it impossible. Apparently it was the failure of the Afghan election that was the straw that broke the camel's back, but even if we had a central government that we could trust, the NATO support that government relies on would deprive it of legitimacy in the eyes of its people.
It's become cliche to say so, but we've seen this movie before. We confused what was essentially a nationalist revolt in Vietnam with a communist conspiracy to overthrow the French colonial government there, and involved ourselves in 15 years of supporting a corrupt government which had no credibility with its people, at the end of which we'd lost over 50,000 lives and gained nothing except our first military defeat as a country. We got into that war in exactly the same way we're getting into this one - slowly, a little bit at a time. If Matthew Hoh's resignation prevents us from repeating that mistake, he will have augmented an already impressive career with a service to his country that few can provide.
If there's any justice, though, this should not be the end of his career in government. I understand he is due to meet with VP Biden's advisers on Afghanistan today, and it would be both just and a wise use of human resources if Hoh were retained as one of those advisers by Biden or some other part of the administration's policy apparatus. John Brady Kiesling's bravery and Scott Ritter's were "rewarded" by wrecking their careers. It would be a great change if we didn't lose Hoh's services as a result of his principled objection to a dangerous policy.
On November 15th, at about 1:30 in the afternoon, we'll be hosting a house concert for guitar wizard Walter Strauss at our house. Some of you came this summer to see the show my friend Steve Coyle put on on Centre Island. Walter produced and played on Steve's album, and as you can see, he's got some pretty fierce chops himself.
We're doing this one at my house, where space is a bit more limited, so we'll suggest a donation of $15 per person if you reserve space in advance, or $20 if you wait 'till the day of the show (if you want to bring a bottle of wine, a jug of bloody marys, or a bag of bagels or brownies as well, that would be great). Either way, space is limited, so you have to contact us before you come, so we can tell you if there's room.
If you want some more samples of Walter's music, you can find them here and here. Please come, it should be big fun!