I don’t see Nancy Pelosi’s State of the Union “power move” as a power move at all

Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi yesterday sent President Donald J. Trump a letter withdrawing her invitation to the President to deliver his State of the Union address before the entire Congress in the House chamber. Mrs. Pelosi cited lack of funds to provide a secure venue for the event. The move has been cited by some as a power move that scores political points for Mrs. Pelosi and her Democratic Party as 2019 sees the potential challengers for the Oval Office come out of the wood works.

It is not necessary for Mr. Trump to deliver a report on the State of the Union via a speech before Congress. As Mrs. Pelosi herself pointed out, pursuant to Article II Section III of the Constitution the President, “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient … ”

Mr. Trump can simply send an executive summary attached to a voluminous report addressing how the political economy of the United States is doing. The “State of the Union” is constantly on display, given access to economic material found online and the constant buzz of a 24-hour news cycle.

This move by Mrs. Pelosi could backfire even in light of the move scoring short term points with the party faithful. This is the era of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle previously mentioned. Mrs. Pelosi, rather than subjecting Mr. Trump to an Obama-Wilson moment where a Republican congressman from South Carolina, Joe Wilson, called former President Barack Obama a liar during an address before both chambers of the Congress in September 2009, seems to be letting Mr. Trump off the public embarrassment hook. Democratic boo birds would not have passed at the chance of subjecting Mr. Trump to vocal push back during a partial government shutdown.

Instead, Mrs. Pelosi risks having Mr. Trump look (or at least attempt to look) Kennedy-esque as when during June 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation in the aftermath of threats of violence at the University of Alabama in response to racial integration efforts at the university. Mr. Trump, ever the marketer, has options in the 21st century. He could, for example, pack a fairground or gymnasium with thousands of middle Americans and deliver his interpretation of the State of the Union without the blandness called for in the formal setting of Pelosi’s House. With cable news, C-SPAN, and the internet as his platform, Mr. Trump could signal a willingness to circumvent the Democratic-controlled House by speaking directly with no filter to the American people.

In the end, Mrs. Pelosi’s power move may end up looking like a sour move.

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A quick thought on stablecoin, Facebook nation, and government pushback

Just had a thought on creating a digital nation and admittedly I am still just fleshing out the idea so bear with me.

Crypto currencies still have a chance at succeeding, but the issue commenters and the public continue to overlook is that as currencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and whatever the hell else is out there have no underlying political economies to support them. Currency valuations transmit to the world the value and/or level of economic output a nation has. Bitcoin, for example, is not a nation’s currency. If it were, it would give Zaire’s currency volatility a run for the money. With the advent of stablecoin, particularly Facebook’s expected issue of the digital coin in 2019, we could see the beginning of a truly digital political economy.

Stablecoin is defined as a cryptocurrency pegged to some reserve currency like the U.S. dollar or another crypto currency such as Ethereum. No matter the model, the goal is to provide users with some stability in the coin’s exchange price. Consumers and investors may like the convenience of not having to check Bitcoin’s price every time they want to buy a cup of coffee or make a currency exchange. Stablecoins, at least in theory, helps to avoid all that.

Facebook will reportedly first play in India’s remittance market. As we descendants of the Commonwealth are all to familiar with, the remittance process can be emotionally taxing when the lack of necessary middlemen are not in place to get money to our relatives in Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean.

The blockchain technology platform that Facebook’s stablecoin will use is expected to provide the transparency and peer-to-peer capabilities that ensure that monies are sent and received under a system of trust, verification, and lack of intermediaries.

But I can see Facebook and even Amazon going beyond playing a relatively minor role in a country’s payment system. Not only could Facebook or Amazon issue digital currencies in the next ten years, they could and should go all out in developing their own digital nations.

Facebook could finally add some meat to his currently weak mission of “connecting the world” by leveraging every business and consumer in his network to engage with each other commercially by using his stablecoin. Consumers subscribing to Facebook or Amazon could be assessed annual membership fees or be charged a “tax” substantially less than the average state or local sales tax in exchange for exclusive access to every merchant listed on either platform with the medium of exchange being a stablecoin.

As one of the largest companies in the world with a 2.5 billion people user base, Facebook, via commercial exchange on its platform, can generate the value necessary for traders in currency to express enough faith in the currency to trade in it drive up its value. Unlike current crypto currencies, a “Facecoin” could exhibit more organic and trustworthy movement because it would be backed by a company large enough to be a national economy.

As for local, state, and federal governments, they could be left a few decades from now with nothing left to regulate and tax but physical infrastructure. Would government be understanding and wish more and more taxpayers a fare thee well, or would government act like the pharaoh in the Old Testament, chasing the people with its tax chariots.

The ensuing issue may be the legal relationship between the old State and the new Digital State that online platforms like Facebook and Amazon will hopefully morph into and how best to treat citizens who have to spend time in both worlds.

For Christmas, give yourself a new brand of representative democracy

Every two years we hear candidates for election argue that incumbent representatives are not accountable to the public; that incumbents make political and public policy decisions that are in opposition to the public interest. We hear arguments that incumbents have served in office too long and that they should be term-limited either by law or by the voters. But instead of change, we usually see voters sending incumbents back to office to continue the supposed damage. Maybe it is time to call the voters’ bluff. Maybe it is time to give the voter more control of the process by implementing a new indirect voting system for national leaders; a voting system where the voter is the troll under the bridge.

In my opinion, a more electorally effective voting system i.e. the troll system creates a concrete connection between state and national elections. An electorally effective voting system would put a U.S. congressman or senator’s electoral fate in the hands of state legislators and vice versa.

Specifically, the system would allow direct elections of state representatives by a state’s citizens, just like the states have today. However, instead of popular vote for representatives to either chamber of the U.S. Congress, state legislators would be responsible for selecting these federal representatives.

And instead of popular or electoral college vote for the president, the Congress would be responsible for nominating from their body candidates for president and vice-president. Preferably, the U.S. House would select the president while the U.S. Senate would select the vice-president who would continue her dual role as president of the senate.

One advantage of this system is that it ties the state and federal levels of representative government. If national representatives and the president fail in their management of the political economy, state representatives who hold the responsibility for vetting national representatives would incur heavy political liability up to and including removal from office. Removal or the threat of removal from state office would translate into lost support for national representatives who may find themselves heading out the door at the end of their terms.

Another potential advantage is a better alignment of political choices with the political values of the electorate. It has been argued and observed by pundits, commenters, and analysts that America is a center-right nation, yet the political noise has emanated from the fringe elements of its two major political parties or that the two major parties represent the more radical voices in the Left and Right of the electorate. Under my proposed system, state legislators may focus their search for national representatives on candidates who best represent a middle of the road, collaborative characteristic of governance and policy making, thus ensuring that national representatives are in line with the political culture of a plurality of the electorate.

Another advantage of the troll system is that it would severely reduce campaign expenses. Most campaign spending would occur on the state level as candidates vie for the state houses out of which national representatives will come. While the political action committee system that owes its success to its flyover view of the electorate would take a hit, the upside is that resources will have to be spent on the ground. Local advertisement as well as old fashioned “knocking on doors” campaigning will gain new life because voters would be able to impart consequences on elected officials more efficiently, with only one visit to the voting booth.

Another advantage to consider is that candidates on the state level may be forced to admit up front what their stances are on national issues thus further tying the consequences of poor national management of the political economy to state politicians. Candidates for state office will have to take a more holistic and cohesive view of the political economy; being more thoughtful of the role their jurisdiction plays in extracting, managing, and distributing resources.

I have merely scratched the surface on alternative views on democracy. An increasing number of commenters have been pondering democracy’s inability to allocate resources, capital, and opportunity to citizens and elected officials can only brush off how complicit they are in the problem but for so long.

The American voter bears significant burden as well. Her burden emanates from an unwillingness to promote evolution of the electoral system. So enamored or frozen by tradition that the voter believes that pursuing improvement of the system of change in leadership by replacing it is somehow heresy. It makes me wonder about a people who go bonkers every July 4th celebrating revolution but are lazy when it comes to electoral evolution, willing instead to suffer through the inequities in the name of tradition.

A misinterpreted federalism narrative fuels more misinterpretation of net neutrality

A number of state legislatures are ramping up for their legislative sessions where they will pass bills addressing various matters from funding their governments to other state government operational issues to civil rights to fighting crime. I have been giving some thought to the sovereignty of states, to these so-called laboratories of democracy and I am starting to question just how sovereign states are? As I read between the four corners of the U.S. Constitution, I am at a point where I don’t believe states were meant to be sovereign. Instead, states are merely administrative lordships existing to better manage the population, manage the extraction of resources, and convert citizens into tax coin. The U.S. Constitution makes clear that the extent of their powers is set by the federal government, not the other way around, and the regulations of state powers, in my mind, eliminates any claims to sovereignty.

The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is usually referred to when describing the extent of state sovereignty. It reads:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The Tenth Amendment reads like a “shifting screen”, where the federal government via legislation passed by the Congress or changes in how the administrative states interprets its rules, can determine the amount of power it will either delegate or take back. We have seen over the last 85 years how the federal government has used the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause to support laws and extend regulations into social and commercial relationships that on the surface seem confined to a particular state, bakery, or bedroom. With changes in presidential administrations or U.S. Supreme Court membership, we also expect to see changes in this shifting screen as public policy, regulations, or court rulings redefine federal and state powers.

Besides, how sovereign can a state be if, as spelled out in Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, it is not allowed to enter into any treaties or alliances with other national governments? How sovereign can a state be if it cannot mint and issue its own coin? How sovereign can a state be if it cannot, without the consent of Congress, assess duties on imports and exports? How sovereign can a state be if it cannot even maintain troops and ships in time of peace?

In the net neutrality debate where a number of states, either through legislation or executive orders issued by their governors, states have made the assumption that promoting how an advanced communications network is to be managed is a power reserved to the states under the U.S. Constitution. The internet, as an advanced communications network, is a platform responsible for moving an increased amount of commerce across state and international borders. As a channel for commerce, its regulation falls under the jurisdiction of the Congress, as determined by Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. This alone, in my opinion, invalidates any attempts on the part of the states to use the net neutrality narrative to regulate the internet.

I would go one step further. Net neutrality is a management philosophy stemming from the business judgment of network managers and designers. It would not benefit a network manager to provide the public access to an interconnected global network of computers if that manager blocked its subscriber’s access to certain websites.

Nor would it make good business sense to degrade a subscriber’s experience by slowing down the speed of traffic from a subscriber’s chosen content provider. And given the level of competition between network providers, being transparent about prices and charges that a network manager’s subscribers face not only increases the level of faith subscribers have in a network, but also gives the network manager an edge over other competitors. She would be seen as being considerate to her subscriber’s consumer protection interest, a position a network manager can ill afford to ignore in these days of privacy violations.

Because of the interstate nature of the internet, the responsibility lies with the federal government to ensure the above net neutrality principles are met. State governments, as administrative lords over certain populations and territory, should focus on aligning their state advanced communications policy with national policy, including properly administering any national funds allocated for encouraging the deployment of advanced communications. To interpret “state sovereignty” as permission to go one’s way would disrupt the interstate nature of commerce and its regulation by a central government.

Rather than regurgitating the standard rhetoric of “states’ rights”, policymakers need to take a fresh look at federalism and adjust its meaning to the proper interpretation under the four corners of the Constitution.

In this theater, the media is also a combatant

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is meeting over the next two days to discuss whether or not to raise the federal funds rate.  The federal funds rate is an interest rate that banks assess each other when borrowing money overnight from each other.  The Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, drove the rate to near zero in attempt to boost the economy after the financial markets crashed. 

Lenders became wary of the collateral other financial firms were carrying in their portfolios, typically asset and mortgage-backed securities that were declining in value due to the inability of commercial and residential borrowers to keep up with interest and principal payments. By buying these securities from financial firms on poor footing and giving them cash, the Federal Reserve hoped to prime the lending pump and provide financial institutions with the confidence to go out and lend again.

 Mr. Trump has been taking issue with rate hikes, making the argument that the timing is horrible for the financial markets and the economy overall.  To some extent, he has a point; increasing rates could eventually lead to a devaluation of assets sensitive to rate increases, and where these assets are used as collateral for loans, being awarded a loan becomes a lot tougher if a bank does not think collateral is strong enough.

From a political warfare perspective, the media has time to time pointed out Mr. Trump’s apparent lack of respect for the independence of the Federal Reserve, specifically taking issue with Mr. Trump questioning Federal Reserve Board chairman Jerome Powell’s rationale for rate hikes.

But by commenting on the direction of rate hikes, is Mr. Trump really attacking the independence of the Federal Reserve? My answer is no.  

Under the Full Employment Act, the Congress, the Federal Reserve, and the President are to coordinate their activities in order to bring about the effective control of inflation, genuine full employment, production, balanced growth, and a balanced federal budget. The chairman of the Federal Reserve is to connect his monetary policy to the numerical goals established by the president in his economic report. That the President was transparent and vocal in pointing out what he considers the Federal Reserve’s pursuit of a policy that seems out of sync with his may be brash, but is not out of step with the coordination the law requires and even the transparency that many citizens in the United States allegedly prefer.

How well has the Trump administration, the Board of Governors, and the Congress coordinated on the economy is subject to another discussion, but the point here is that the media and other critics have failed to give the public a full picture of what is entailed in economic management and this lack of full disclosure on the part of media only adds to Mr. trump’s assertion of fake news and unfair targeting of him by the press.

The other takeaway, of course, is going and investigating other sources of information on the management of the American political economy.  In political warfare, you need to know where all the bullets are being fired from.  In this theater, the media is a combatant.   

Diversity is a fraud

As a black person I have grown increasingly suspect over the years of calls for diversity. It is not that I have succumbed to another race’s false sense of superiority over mine.  It is because diversity is really nothing but an expression of weakness by blacks in America.  It is a rallying cry for inclusion of those blacks who consider themselves the cream of the crop and deserving to be placed ahead of other blacks due to their education and their networks. Diversity is a willingness to shun the need to generate and contribute real economic value settling instead for creating arguments that have at their base the need to make white people feel guilty. Diversity is a feel good political package sold to black voters who stand as much of a chance of breaking glass ceilings as the Atlanta Falcons have at playing in the Super Bowl in Atlanta next year.

As an expression of weakness, calls for diversity are calls for permission to enter a house you are otherwise unwelcome in.  We’ve heard the arguments. “Inclusion is the right thing to do.” “Dr. King died because he believed we are all equal in character.”  ” It is immoral to exclude people, etc. etc.”  It really boils down to begging to be included, basing arguments on weak moral grounds that can fade away when tough economic times appear and animal spirits rise up to battle for scarce capital and jobs. 

Diversity benefits only those who come from a certain pedigree.  In the real world, diversity doesn’t get most blacks a full time job with benefits. What gets people work in the real world are skillsets that bring value to an employer’s efforts at output and a network that through his new employee an employer can tap into.  This is especially important in an information driven economy where workers are no longer “nodes for manufacturing”, where the emphasis is on an employee’s manufacturing skills, but instead is a “node of information”, where the employee uses technology to gather data that helps his employer make the best resource allocations. 

The flip side to this argument is that blacks may not be in the position to be “information nodes” given centuries of being locked out of certain networks.  My answer is, tough.  After being in North America for 400 years and 153 of those years post slavery, Black Americans have had opportune time to accumulate the educational and work experience to access information, garner the appropriate skills, and build valuable networks. Instead of diversifying ourselves into a system dominated by a racial majority and created for a racial majority, blacks need to offset the negative repercussions of the current system by supplementing the current system with a dose of increased self-reliance.

Earlier I described diversity as a feel good political package designed by a political party dominated by white people and sold by an educated small black elite to the masses of black voters.  It is a weak package that is comprised of slight modifications to existing civil rights and labor laws with no meaningful transfer of capital involved.  It is empty with the only blacks getting paid being the fraternity and sorority boys and girls who have some mid-level office driving cars that they look good in. Diversity has not translated into a political economy that takes us to a higher form of human engagement, one where the basic needs of all are truly provided for. 

Diversity is a fraud.

Current black elected leaders are in no position to provide a disruptive campaign finance model that helps poor blacks

I am seeing no serious attempt  on the part of blacks to step up our political game.  Oh yes, we may have a Stacey Abrams, Ben Jealous, Andrew Gillum, or Mike Espy run for a governor or U.S. senate seat.  We may even show case a couple “winners” like Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, or Tim Scott, but in the larger scheme, beyond these “one-zee, two-zees”, are blacks posing a meaningful impact in the area of national politics? 

What I am seeing so far post mid-term 2018 is the current national black political leadership moving lockstep with Democrat Party messaging, messaging that does not address economic needs of blacks.  To assess the  needs of blacks, you need look no further than the income disparity and wealth gap between white and black people in America.  According to research by the Pew Research Center, the adjusted income for households headed by blacks was $43,300 versus those households headed by whites came in at $71,300.  Pew also reported that median net worth of white households was 13 times higher ($144,000) than that of blacks ($11,200).

As we saw in the last major recession, not having a wealth cushion can be disastrous for households that lose their income.  Having some wealth that can be monetized can help tide a person over until the storm passes, but for many blacks, there may not be any chances of seeing the eye of the financial storm because the first wall of the hurricane wiped them out. 

In the political theater, not having a wealth cushion also means diminished influence on elected officials, during a campaign and post elections.  Being able to finance targeted and strategic messages or finance a campaign’s operational spending increases the chances of being listened to during the interval between elections, when policy making occurs.  Blacks are disproportionately participate in general elections and forego midterms or even some local elections. But worse, blacks are likely less inclined to keep up with the granular needs of day-to-day governance.   Not donating to campaigns or keeping constant pressure on elected officials only makes overlooking blacks as a constituency easier for elected officials.

Sure there are advocacy groups out there that allegedly speak on behalf of “people of color”, but these groups tend to look out for the concerns of the fringe upper crust of minority groups. the highly-educated, higher-wage types who do not reflect the needs of the vast majority of everyday blacks.

This is the downside of being low-income in a political eco-system that stresses buying the eardrums of candidates, where candidates need money to run campaigns while poor blacks have to decide between electric bills, food, or rent. 

It would be beautiful to construct a campaign finance model that disrupts the status quo of political party leadership and incumbent elected officials.  A disruptive system that keeps black elected officials especially focused on why the masses elected them won’t be created by blacks beholden the party leadership and messaging that does not serve blacks.

  

On philosophy and scared academics

Yesterday I looked up the qualifications of “philosopher” and came across this definition that was offered on Quora:

“If you want, seek or need “qualifications”, you’ll never be a real philosopher.  You can be a philosophy student, a philosophy professor or something in that vein (or vain — or even “vane” if you can grasp my abstract meaning).

Philosophers were brilliant thinkers who could see beyond standard thinking and lead man to better understand life and the human experience.  There have only been a few of them.  Philosophy professors and experts are well versed in other people’s thinking — amazingly so in some instances.  There are and have been thousands of them — brilliant in their own way, but incapable of formulating vision on their own.  They are far too stuck in ideas initiated by other people to recognize the function of Consciousness/Reality beyond their deduced “truths”.

Equate these two types (real philosopher vs. philosophy student) to composers vs. performers.  There are many wonderful pianists who can play Chopin with perfection and expression.  But there was only one Chopin.  Gobs of academicians argue Kant’s ideas or assign meaning to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  But the originators were guys who could see things beyond standard thinking of their time. 

Generations of philosophy students up until our time only bandy about preset ideas, conceptualizations others initiated.

In any case, if you are fascinated with ideas, indulge in philosophy and want to explore the vast array of -isms and -ologies, set your sights on being a philosophy professor, retreating from the real world and impressing people with your command of minutia concerning established (but invalid and non-functional) ideas.

If you are capable of seeing Reality as the flowing, fully integrated Oneness that it is, responding in the scope of each individual’s life to his/her deep inner Self — and if you are capable of discerning the function of the subconscious in a depth beyond established theory — and if you have the capability of expressing your vision in understandable terms — and if you have the fortitude to proceed in life even though most others don’t grasp your perspectives — and if you have added capacities or external wealth to not have to depend on income derived from your valuable insights…

Then you can be a real philosopher.  With one exception I know of, real philosophers went extinct with Wittgenstein a century ago.  But in a very troubled time, there is surely an opening for such a free-thinking individual…” — Thomas Daniel Nehrer

My takeaway from Mr Nehrer’s definition is that a free thinking individual should be just that; free to use what she observes while in first principals mode and draw her own conclusions on the “why” of the world.  She frees herself of the general consensus which brings her closer to freedom.

A philosopher won’t make it her first point to regurgitate someone else’s principles, observations, or conclusions although she may readily admit the moments when she does share another person’s position on an issue.  But a philosopher should always be ready challenge her and anyone else’s conclusions by questioning them.  She should always be ready to ask, “What am I seeing?” and “What does it mean” according to her own rules.

I don’t believe I should be ready to join the first “academy” that raises its head.  Nor m I afraid that avoiding consensus means inviting chaos and disorder.  I am not afraid of viewing order as temporary but admit its pursuit by humans is a constant.  Man is so ready to create order at the expense of enslaving what is natural that he creates the very prison his alleged pursuit of freedom wants to avoid.  Where that moment of harmony and collegiality arises, yes, enjoy it, for it is the exception, not the rule. 

This type of freedom scares the academy.  It is no wonder it is becoming less influential. 

Does an “open internet” promote a representative democracy? No, because democracy is not its job

Techopedia defines the open internet as “a fundamental network (net) neutrality concept in which information across the World Wide Web (WWW) is equally free and available without variables that depend on the financial motives of Internet Service Providers (ISP).”

The political debate over net neutrality over the last three years has focused on the ability of ISPs such as Comcast and AT&T to discriminate against third-party content provider traffic in favor of ISP content, to the extent that ISPs are expected to use their gateway status to slow down traffic from certain websites or outright block subscriber access to certain websites.

The internet as a platform plays an important role in American commerce as American consumers are expected to spend an estimated $7.8 billion on Cyber Monday. Net neutrality violations could mean lost advertisement revenues for content providers who are unable to get their products and advertisements in front of consumer eyeballs.  Being cut out of $7.8 billion of revenues during the holiday season could pose an existential threat for small businesses depending on those holiday sales to break even or stay in the black.

Besides the issue of staying in the black is the issue of whether an open internet promotes the components of American political culture; whether an open internet or lack thereof poses an existential threat to the American republic.  I think as currently construed, an open internet does not pose an existential threat to the American republic. On the contrary, when it comes to navigating the political-economic environment of the United States, knowledge on how well American representative democracy is working is best ascertained by reviewing hard political-economic data published by public agencies or academic or other research institutions.

The open internet has inundated the political economy with junk. It has Americans sacrificing value of specialized information for volumes of narcissistic junk.

First, why has the internet not eroded the American republic?  Contrary to the hoopla surrounding assertions that the Russian government sponsored psychological warfare on the American electorate during the November 2016 elections, the populace participated in the selection of the electors that voted for the president of the United States. More votes were cast for president in 2016 (135,719,984) than were cast in 2012 (128,768,094).

In addition, what I refer to as “insurgent” parties, i.e., the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, etc., did better in 2016 than they did in 2012.  The Gary Johnson-led Libertarian Party ticket picked up approximately 4.5 million votes in 2016 compared to 1.3 million votes in 2012.  The Jill Stein-led Green Party almost tripled its 2012 showing during the 2016 campaign, with approximately 1.5 million votes cast for the Green Party in 2016 versus approximately 470,000 votes in 2012.

Rather than eroding representative democracy, an argument could be made that the internet provided less expensive outlets for insurgent parties to get their messages out to the voting public.  I saw more of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein on YouTube than I did mainstream press.

America’s founding aristocracy chose a republic as the best vehicle for promoting the three major components of American political culture: liberty, equality, and democracy.  Does the open internet help promote these characteristics of American political culture? I would argue only if the government expressly decides to use the open internet itself in order to accomplish these goals or requires by charter that every private entity operating on the internet do so.

Liberty is freedom from government control where Americans expect a great degree of economic and personal freedom without the government unreasonably regulating personal and commercial behavior.  The open internet itself does not have this responsibility. In the end it is just a communications platform.  Problems would arise if government were to use the internet for surveillance purposes, i.e., use deep packet reading to ascertain what messages you are sending over the internet or, under the guise of “smart city” technology, surveil minority neighborhoods to regulate citizen movement.

Nor does the internet have the responsibility of creating political equality. Political equality refers to the right to participate in politics equally based on the principle of “one person, one vote.”  Notwithstanding the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 general elections, the “one person, one vote” characteristic of American political culture is, again, the responsibility of national and state governments.  Online voting as a concept is in its infant stage.  And while the Russians allegedly interfered by waging a messaging campaign via social media, there were other outlets, both online and offline, where Americans could get their information and strengthen their “one vote” with knowledge.

Lastly, there is democracy itself, the right to cast that one vote for the candidate of your choice.  How does the unimpeded flow of information across 100,000 interconnected global computer networks impact your ability to choose a leader? The above discussion summarizes the answer: it doesn’t.  Yes, one could go to the internet and look up information on a candidate, but there are millions of Americans with no access to broadband that function normally in society; that buy groceries, go to work, and yes, vote, without having to access the information floating around the internet that is deposited by various sources.  Besides traditional media, they probably access information from the original sources i.e. city council meetings; public access television, government agency public information offices, and make just as accurate a political decision as the woman surfing the internet in her bunny sandals and pajamas.

Yes, the internet has afforded millions of people to express themselves in cyberspace via blogs, websites, podcasts, and online videos, but the open internet neither promotes or hinders democracy.  Only humans can and there are other sources of information through which humans can accumulate knowledge on liberty, equality, and democracy.  Democracy is the responsibility of government and its citizens.  The open internet is neither savior, devil, or panacea….

There is nothing progressive about opposing zero-rated broadband service

When liberal organizations attacked zero-rated broadband access services offered by internet service providers, they may have lost some of their progressive bona fides.  Fortunately for them the 2016 general elections and the 2018 midterm elections did not make net neutrality in particular or broadband access in general a battleground issue.

Here in Georgia, broadband got nary a mention during the gubernatorial debates with both candidates, former Georgia state senator Stacey Abrams and Governor-elect Brian Kemp giving the nod to increasing consumer access to broadband services, especially for citizens living in rural areas.

I sense that Mr Kemp would have no problem with mobile wireless providers targeting rural consumers with their zero-rating plans.  Under zero rating, a wireless provider may choose not to apply data usage caps where a subscriber is accessing particular content, whether the content is provided by a third-party of by the wireless carrier itself.  For example, Verizon may decide not to reduce the amount of data available to me by the amount of time I choose to view a video on Facebook or on one of Verizon’s media properties.  In other words, my data cap would not take a hit.

I can see two primary benefits from such a non-pricing plan. First, for new subscribers being introduced to mobile web service, it provides the consumer with incentive to become familiar with more sources of content and services.  Second, the value of the carrier’s network increases as demand for its content and services increase.  While overall costs of operating the network may go up as more subscribers establish accounts, cost per subscriber should fall providing incentive for keep the price each subscriber pays flat.

Especially given the second benefit, the incentive to keep subscriber rates flat, I would think that progressives would promote zero rate pricing for broadband.  Progressives tend to position themselves as protectors of the middle class and if there is an issue that progressives should empathize with when it comes to the middle class are the increases in consumer prices the middle class encounters given wages that have been flat for decades.  One would also think that as the U.S. economy and educational system requires workers, producers, and students to have access to data via the internet that progressives would encourage consumers to jump on the opportunity to get on the internet at a lower cost.  Instead opponents of zero rating have been emphasizing the alleged negative impact zero rating has on competition between content providers.

For example, the Electronic Freedom Frontier, an internet freedom advocacy group, is concerned that zero rating will divert consumer eyeballs to large content providers such as Facebook that can afford to subsidize a broadband access provider’s lost revenue in exchange for more traffic being sent to the large content provider.  That the consumer may be incentivized to probe content or spend more time on broadband networks is of very little concern to EFF.  The potential threat to market entry by smaller or newer players appears to be more of their concern.

Given this stance by EFF, it is no wonder that the zero rating narrative, while bantered about inside the Washington, DC beltway, has no traction with the general public.  Politically it is a non-starter with a general public made up of consumers that are more concerned with getting bang for their dollars versus whether a content provider has the innovative or content creative capabilities to enter the content market.

For progressives, zero rating is another example of how the Left has strayed away from matters that mean the most to most Americans.