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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Net Neutrality Vote Thursday

Net Neutrality Vote Thursday

Okay, people. We need to heed Christy's words and light 'em up. It looks like the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006 (COPE Act) is due for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday. Christy has all the Senators' contact info, as well as the great coverage of Misener and McCurry. And while you're calling, also encourage them to sponsor the Dorgan-Snowe Net Neutrality.

We all know what's at stake here; I won't bore you with any details. Suffice it to say if you want to continue enjoying the wild and wacky internets, you need to call. And get everybody else to call. If you need that extra incentive, Ted Stevens sits on this committee. UPDATE: More details at this comment - the committee's schedule and more information on the bill itself. Apparently, it isn't just that Ted "Tantrum" Stevens is on the committee; this is his bill altogether.

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What you may not realize (I didn't) is that America has been here before; this fight is nothing new.

Once again, history repeats.

Beginning in the Progressive Era, there was extensive criticism of the reactionary political trajectory of the commercialized and concentrated newspaper industry, but there was little sense that any change was possible (5).

Such was not the case with radio broadcasting which emerged in dramatic fashion between 1920 and 1922. If only due to the physical scarcity in the number of channels available, it was recognized by all comers that the federal government would have to determine who, among the plethora of contenders, would be permitted to broadcast and, conversely, who would not.

...This opposition, which I term the “broadcast reform movement,” existed for less than a decade but played a central role in the debates over how best to structure U.S. broadcasting in the early 1930s. Although crushed unmercifully by commercial broadcasters, these reformers generated an impressive critique of the limitations of an oligopolized, capitalistic media industry for the communication requirements of a democratic society, a critique which has aged very well.

Aged very well, if at all - if specific dates and "radio" weren't in there, McChesney could just as well be writing about net neutrality today. There's a lot to be gleaned following the fight over allocation of radio airwaves.

The networks were the big winners. Thirty-seven of the forty clear channel stations went to network-affiliated stations. By the early 1930s, NBC and CBS affiliated stations accounted for seventy percent of U.S. broadcasting when hours broadcast and power levels are factored in (13). Advertising went from non-existence on a national basis in 1927 to the point where the networks accrued $72 million by 1934 (14). The other side of the coin was reflected in the equally dramatic decline of the non-profit broadcasting sector, from well over one hundred stations in 1927 to less than one-third that total by the early 1930s. Moreover, almost all of these stations operated with low power on shared frequencies. By 1934 non-profit broadcasting accounted for only two percent of U.S. broadcast time (15). For most Americans it effectively did not exist. *The FRC defended its practice of showing preference in granting licenses to commercial broadcasters* unequivocally in its Third Annual Report (16).

In 1930, a coalition of national education organizations organized as the National Committee on Education by Radio to keep the airwaves accessible to public broadcasting. The group's leader, Joy Elmer Morgan, had this to say:

Private monopoly in industry is bad enough; monopoly in the agencies which control the distribution of ideas is infinitely worse. It strikes at the very roots of free democratic government.

That is no understatement - and given the broader scope and power of the internets, the stakes are that much higher. Please, call the Senate Commerce Committee. If they give you guff about not being a constituent, just remind them that you don't get to choose your Senator's committee assignments and can't help the fact that you are not directly represented on this committee. But as the Senate Commerce Committee's ruling do not only affect the sitting Senators' respective states, you are making your opinions known. It is YOUR Senate Commerce Committee, no matter what they might say.

If you haven't checked it out already, Save the Internet has lots of info for sharing, as well as graphics for your webpage to spread the word. And now, for something completely different, John Perry Barlow channels a bit of Mr. Joy Elmer Morgan, God rest his soul:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Big Oil's Fingers In So Very Many Pies...

Big Oil's Fingers In So Very Many Pies...

Not that I've professionally done the first thing with it, but I have a degree in biology, believe it or not. So, naturally, I take a healthy interest in scientific news stories. Given the release of An Inconvenient Truth, and the contentiousness inherent in the global warming debate, it was with quite an interest indeed that I read this recent AP article.

I can't even say why it caught my fancy; it's a perfectly respectable piece about the ice cores taken from beneath the Arctic Ocean and what they tell us of the geologic record. But something about it just seemed odd; I suppose seeing the North Pole described as a tropical paradise will do that to a person. So I decided to make my own expedition of sorts and look into the groups and organizations sponsoring this research. Shall we explore the layers of sediment below the fold?

Reading the article, we learn that this exercise was undertaken by a group identified only as the "Arctic Coring Expedition." Layer 1, if you will. A few moments with google leads us to layer 2, an organization called ECORD, whose website then points us to the third layer, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. This is where things get interesting, starting with the history of the organization. The IODP has two predecessors - The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) and before that, the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP):

The Levingston Shipbuilding Company laid the keel of the D/V Glomar Challenger on October 18, 1967, in Orange, Texas. The ship was launched on March 23, 1967, from that city. It sailed down the Sabine River to the Gulf of Mexico, and after a period of testing, the Deep Sea Drilling Project accepted the ship on August 11, 1968.

Over the next 30 months, Phase II consisted of drilling and coring in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Technical and scientific reports followed during a ten month period. Phase II ended on August 11, 1972, and ship began a successful scientific and engineering career.

The success of the Challenger was almost immediate. On Leg 1 Site 2 under a water depth of 1067 m (3500 ft), core samples revealed the existence of salt domes. Oil companies received samples after an agreement to publish their analyses. The potential of oil beneath deep ocean salt domes remains an important avenue for commercial development today.

But the purpose of the Glomar Challenger was scientific exploration.

Are they reminding us or themselves, I wonder? Digging into yet another layer, IODP has a nonprofit managing company, IODP Management International, Inc. (IODP-MI).

IODP-MI serves as the central management organization for IODP, receiving advice from Science Advisory Structure (SAS), and working in consultation with vessel/platform operators referred to as “Implementing Organizations” or IOs. IODP-MI's job is to translate the scientific priorities of the international scientific ocean drilling community into annual program plans.

IODP-MI has offices in Washington, D.C. and Sapporo, Japan and is responsible for program-wide science planning, and oversight of engineering development, publications, education and outreach, site survey data management, and core sample repositories.

I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this...some of the main players at that Washington, D.C. office have ties to the oil/energy industry:

Manik Talwani, President & CEO - received a Master’s degree in Physics from Delhi University in India. Following that he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and served as professor of geophysics there through 1982 and as the director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory (now the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) from 1973 to 1981. He left Lamont to join Gulf Oil Company to serve first as director of the Center for Crustal Studies and then as chief scientist. When Chevron acquired Gulf in 1985, he left Gulf to accept the appointment at Rice and simultaneously he founded the Geotechnology Research Institute at the Houston Advanced Research Center where he served as its director until 1998.

...Hans Christian Larsen, IODP-MI Vice President for Science Planning - received his scientific degree in geologically applied geophysics from University of Copenhagen in 1977. He served as a researcher in the Geological Survey of Greenland before being promoted in 1984 to be leader of the department for basin analysis and petroleum exploration. During his tenure as department leader he established major co-operative projects with industry.

John Emmitte is their Contracts Officer. I'm still trying to confirm iformation on him, but it seems like his past lies on K Street, where he worked as director of Grants Management for the lobbyists at the Propane Council. And to think we've just begun our explorations!

It turns out that IODP's science is guided by yet another acronym, SAS. I suppose this is layer five, but it's hard to keep track.

IODP-MI submits an annual IODP Program Plan for review and approval first to the executive committee of the SAS, called the Science Planning and Policy Oversight Committee (SPPOC), then to the IODP-MI Board of Governors (BoG), and finally to the Lead Agencies who give final budget approval.

...IODP science planning is provided by the Science Advisory Structure (SAS), which involves many scientists and engineers on eight standing committees and panels. IODP-MI Sapporo works very closely with the SAS by managing the submission and review of drilling proposals, assisting SAS committee chairs, and organizing and maintaining public records of SAS activities.

According to the IODP's directives, "educational and/or research organizations, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and for-profit companies ineligible for membership." According to their committee rosters, though, the rule doesn't seem so cut and dry; besides the fact that IODP actually has an "Industry-IODP Science Program Planning Group," the eight committees of SAS all seem to be fairly crowded with oil interests. Here's a list from just three of the panels - Industry Group, Environmental Protection and Safety, and Engineering Development:

John Hogg - ConocoPhillips

Andrew Pepper - Hess

Martin Perlmutter - Chevron Corporation

David Roberts Rockall Geosciences Ltd.

Kurt Rudolph - ExxonMobil

Yoshihiro Tsuji - Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation

Yasuhiro Yamada - Kyoto U, Petroleum geology

Robert Bruce - BHP Petroleum

Akito Furutani - JDC

Masahiro Kamata - Schlumberger K.K.

Barry Katz - Chevron

Jean Mascle - Geosciences Azur

Sumito Morita - GSJ

Jerome Schubert - Texas A&M U, Petroleum engineering

Craig Shipp - Shell Internat'l E&P

Dieter Strack - Private consultant, Petroleum geology

Mark Alberty - BP

Masafumi Fukuhara - Schlumberger K.K.

Leon Holloway - ConocoPhilips

Yoichiro Ichikawa - JDC, Ltd

Yoshihiro Masuda - U. of Tokyo

Haruya Nakata - Geothermal Energy R&D Co., Ltd.

Roland Person - IFREMER

Peter Schultheiss - GEOTEK Ltd., UK

Axel Sperber - Private Consultant, drilling technologies

Mitsugu Takemura - JAPEX

And so it goes, panel after panel. One of the organizations involved, IFREMER, has a name that says it all: The French Research Institute for Ocean Exploitation. At least they're being honest, I guess. So what does this all mean? I'm not sure. This doesn't seem to be a case of buying science; the article does the fossil fuel industry no favors, citing greenhouse gases as responsible for an Arctic tropical paradise:

First-of-its-kind core samples dug up from deep beneath the Arctic Ocean floor show that 55 million years ago an area near the North Pole was practically a subtropical paradise, three new studies show.

The scientists say their findings are a glimpse backward into a much warmer-than-thought polar region heated by run-amok greenhouse gases that came about naturally.

...Millions of years ago the Earth experienced an extended period of natural global warming. But around 55 million years ago there was a sudden supercharged spike of carbon dioxide that accelerated the greenhouse effect.

Scientists already knew this "thermal event" happened but are not sure what caused it. Perhaps massive releases of methane from the ocean, the continent-sized burning of trees, lots of volcanic eruptions.

So, if they're not there to skew the science, what is the skinny? Like Deepthroat said, "follow the money." IODP is funded by its four "international partners." Some of these members are entities from Japan, one of them is an international consortium. And one of them is our very own National Science Foundation. While it's always possible the scientists in league with the oil industry could manipulate the scientific reports, it seems to be more a case of yet another taxpayer subsidy to Big Oil - we are, it would appear, sponsoring their exploration exercises.

I wish I could say I was shocked...