politics, pop culture, social justice

Save the Net! Hug a Laptop!

So the thing about Net Neutrality is, it’s the kind of phrase that’s really easy to ignore when you’re scrolling through Twitter at 2AM trying to convince yourself to put the phone down.

Which, it turns out, is a bit of a problem, because Net Neutrality is what’s going to allow you to keep accessing random pictures of puppies hosted on the blog of that girl you used to go to high school with who was always kind of weird, but now she has this really frickin’ cute puppy… Net Neutrality is also what makes it possible for all seven of you to notice that my little blog exists when there are other blogs out there that seventy thousand people are reading. Blogs that people get paid to write. Blogs that are actually websites, and websites that (if Net Neutrality is murdered) could afford to “fast track” their exposure online in a way that I personally would probably never be able to do.

Lucky for you, I’ve been in Texas for two days and I’m already bored of job hunting! So I’m taking a little time away from Witches of East End to explain in simple terms what Net Neutrality is, why we need to keep it, and what you can do about it.

Also lucky for you, I learned almost everything I know about this from John Oliver on “Tonight with John Oliver” so here’s him, being funnier and smarter than me:

I sincerely recommend you watch that video, but if you didn’t, here’s a very simple recap:

1) There are only a few companies that provide internet, and they are evil

2) The guy now in charge of the FCC (aka Federal government Craps on online Communication) is the guy who used to be one of the top lobbyists for cable companies

3) Right now on the internet, all data is equal

4) The FCC wants to introduce a class system into the internet that will require companies to pay extra for faster speeds, better service, etc. Meaning, some data will be privileged over other data

5) There is very little we can do about this, because they are regulating themselves

6) What we can do is go online to fcc.gov/comments and tell the FCC how we feel about this potential change

Now here’s where it gets (more) irritating, because if you go to that website, you’ll notice that it looks like this:

FCC comment page 1And if you click on the numbers to the right of one of the many titles (title for what, the website does not make abundantly clear) you are directed to a list of comments that looks like this:

FCC comment page 2


Not exactly inviting or easy to navigate. Lucky for you, I have lots of time on my hands. And I used that time to create step-by-step instructions for where to go and what to say to make it clear that you want the internet to remain an equal opportunity circlejerk. So if you do nothing else today, do this:

1) Go to fcc.gov/comments and select one (or all) of the many numbers to the left of the titles on the screen.

2) If you select the first one (“proceeding 14-57”) you can file a comment on the pending merger of Time Warner and Comcast–which will create an even larger and more harmful cable company monopoly, so I highly recommend you do! Here are a few links to some excellent examples of individual criticisms of the merger!

3) If you select the third one, (“proceeding 14-28”) or the twelfth one (“proceeding 9-191”) or both, you can file a comment specifically on the issue of net neutrality. Here are myriad links to excellent examples of individual pleas for the legal preservation of net neutrality.

3b) A lot of people are also demanding that internet providers be classified as “common carriers” which would solve a whole bunch of our problems, too!

4) No matter which proceeding you want to comment on, you will be directed to a page that looks like this:

FCC comment page 3

4b) Fill in your personal information at the top, then add your comments! If, after the million examples I linked, you still don’t know what to write,  you all have my permission to copy this:

I urge the FCC to implement strong and unambiguous legal protections of Net Neutrality. A “tiered” system will only lead to discrimination online, and can do nothing to support the innovation and growth for which the free and neutral internet has been, thus far, a fertile breeding ground.

The greatest power of the internet has always been its role as a level field for communication and commerce. Allowing cable companies to take monetary incentives to privilege one user over another goes against the nature of the internet as it has come to be used. Companies like Time Warner and Comcast, which possess near-monopolies on the market as it stands, do not prioritize the interests of the consumer, and cannot be trusted with free rein to control the internet.

It is the responsibility of the FCC to protect the consumer, and ensure equal access to online resources for all Americans. Therefore, I strongly support the legal re-classification of the internet as a “telecommunication service,” to be regulated under a title II “common carrier” framework.

5) Once you have entered this basic information, you will be redirected to another page, where you will be asked to confirm what you have just written. Click “confirm!” Then you’re done.

There you go, internet weirdos! copy and paste my words. It will take you three minutes. Just go! Do it! Help prevent cable company fuckery!

This puppy believes in you.



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media, politics

A Drinking Game for Tonight’s State of the Union!

Wow, guys! I haven’t talked to you since last year! Crazy!

So tonight is the State of the Union, and there are not 1, not 2, but 3 exciting Republican rebuttals to watch afterward, so you can bet I’m excited for that representation of our politically diverse voting public.

But tonight is a night designated for fun and booze, so I’m going to keep it short. Here are a few simple rules for how not to remember anything Obama said:

1. Drink when someone says “America” and “Freedom” in the same sentence.

2. Drink when the person sitting behind Obama does anything except stare at Obama.

3. Drink when (and be honest now) a politician says something you don’t understand.

4. Watch the hands of the speaking politician. When you can’t remember the last thing he or she said, finish your drink.

5. Finish your drink if anyone says any variation of the name “Edward Snowden.”

6. Finish your drink if anyone calls Obama a “socialist” or a “communist.”

BONUS: Finish whatever you’re drinking right now if you’re a hipster and this is the first time you’ve watched cable since the 2012 election.

OH! I ALMOST FORGOT. JUST FOR FUNZIES. Here is the version the real menz will be playing. Just three rules, so it’s easy to remember:

1. Drink when anyone says something you agree with.

2. Drink when anyone says something you don’t agree with.

3. Finish your drink when your Mom calls to tell you to stop re-posting your profane tweets on Facebook.

politics, social justice

The Difference between “Activist” and “Almost Activist”

I’m sure it’s fairly clear from the nature of my blog, but I’m the kind of person who takes note of social and political injustice, thinks about it, talks about it, maybe blogs about it, but rarely does anything concrete in the name of fixing the problem. Every now and then I write an email to a state representative explaining to them that I would really appreciate it if they would veto legislation that restricts my and other women’s right to make health decisions about our bodies (and you can, too!). And sometimes I sign online petitions to the white house in regards to issues I care about, like for instance the fact that there has been no response to the recent petition to pardon Edward Snowden (and here’s where you sign that!). One time I protested a thing. Which was pretty fun, because gay people with signs tend to have a high denominator of fun even while addressing serious, civil-liberty-related issues.

But there is a difference between being a person with opinions about how the world should be, and being a person who is willing to devote his or her life to making the world the way it should be. I’m a writer, so you could say I’m an expert (or, let’s be real here, I’m working toward the goal of someday being an expert) on expressing my opinions. I certainly hope that over time, with my work, or my blog, or my emails, or my voice I can help change peoples’ minds about how this world should work, but I don’t harbor any illusions about the real-time effects of what I say and do. I have opinions, but so does everyone else, and opinions are very, very hard to change. I believe that the dissemination of information towards better informed discussion has power.  But I also believe that, in many ways, this power is nothing compared to the power of individual people like Narayanan Krishnan.

Mr. Krishnan amazes me, because he gave up a career in a 5-star hotel restaurant in order to feed 400 hungry people three meals a day, every day, without holidays, for the last ten years. Every day, Mr. Krishnan feeds hundreds of people who are totally forgotten by their communities, often mentally ill, without resources. He sometimes feeds them by hand, and also gives them haircuts. His charity doesn’t make enough donations to cover every meal, so he subsidizes it with money from a house he owns, makes no salary, and lives in the building where he and his team work. It blows my mind. (Check out their website if you want to donate.)

The dictionary defines “activist” as “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause.”  Mr. Krishnan’s cause is not an explicitly political one, but if anyone is an “especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause,” he is. To be any more active, he’d have to learn how to never sleep. But he’s not the only person out there whose activism amazes me.

When Edward Snowden decided to give up life as he knew it to make the American people aware of the government’s overwhelming information monopoly, he became an activist, whether he ever wanted to be one before. Likewise Julian Assange has risked political backlash from numerous countries to keep the public informed of classified government actions in and attempt “to radically shift regime behavior.”

I know not all of you are going to agree with what these men are doing (although I can’t imagine anyone denigrating Mr. Krishnan’s actions), but I can not help but admire the dedication it requires to give up so much personal happiness in the name of an ideal. And there is the real kicker, to me. Because I have a lot of difficulty imagining doing such a thing myself, and in some ways this makes me ashamed. I find myself hesitant to act when it seems possible that my actions could meet with familial disapproval–I haven’t even considered doing anything that might get me into actual trouble. Do I really stand for anything if I’m not willing to take risks in order to keep standing?


Democracy? I Don’t Think So

I don’t know how many of you have seen this new Republican initiative to repress the student vote. I mean, if you haven’t, you should definitely check out this article, or this more comprehensive series of videos, because the whole plan is economically unsound and almost certainly unconstitutional.

Basically,  if you haven’t heard, Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio are trying to punish students’ families and Universities for the privilege of allowing students to vote. In North Carolina, they’re trying to raise taxes for the parents of students that vote at their college, and in Ohio, they’re trying to force Universities to lower out-of-state students’ tuition to in-state rates if they provide their students with the resources to vote in the state of their scholarship. Meaning that Universities would make less money if their out-of-state students vote. Meaning that they will be far less motivated to help these students vote than they might have been otherwise.

Now, I am not any big supporter of disparate tuition rates at universities, or really anything about tuition at universities. I think universities are overpriced diploma-factories about to burst their little economic glory days into an oblivion that changes academia into something actually worthy of admiration again. Any damn day now. And I am waiting.

But that’s not what this article is about. This article is about the incredibly underhanded and sneaky methods that Republicans continue to use to prevent the people who don’t agree with them from voting. The Ohio bill is, first and foremost, unconstitutional. And, it specifically targets the student votes in a state that went blue in the last election (North Carolina went blue in 2008 for Obama’s first term, one of only two times that has ever happened). Ohio is a state that, without the youth vote, would likely have gone the other way. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, without the youth vote in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, those states would have been red states in the 2012 election, making Romney (shudder) our current President. I am shocked that this is the demographic the Republicans are targeting. Sneakily. In a single paragraph at the end of a budget amendment. Which reads like this:

“(E) The rules of the chancellor for determining student residency shall grant residency status to a student to whom a state institution of higher education issues a letter or utility bill for use as proof that the student is a qualified elector in this state.

 Nothing in division (E) of this section shall be used to grant residency to a student for any purpose other than for state subsidy and tuition surcharge purposes.”

Translation: “Dear universities. If you help students vote, we call those students residents and take half your money. But they’re not really residents, it’s just a money thing. Love, Republicans.” That’s a pretty thinly disguised attempt to keep students from voting in Ohio, if you ask me.

And it’s not like this is the only time this kind of thing has happened. Active attempts to prevent non-Republican voters from making their voices heard were rampant in the 2012 election.  In Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia (note the proximity of this list to the one above) early voting was severely limited, presumably in response to the fact that it had been so successful in 2008 for African American and Latino voters–people who, shockingly, don’t really love the Republican party. New laws requiring specific ID’s would have made voting disproportionally difficult for college students, minorities, and the elderly according to this article, although some of these laws were luckily overturned. Check out this great article for a full list of all the restrictions that were added to the voting process in 2012. In case you were wondering, there were 21 new restrictions in 15 states. That’s kind of a lot. And let’s not forget to mention this guy, who believed that Republicans were purposely sabotaging the economy just to make Obama look bad before the election. Go ‘Murica!

Now, I’ve given a lot of examples here, and that’s because I care about evidence and credibility and all that fancy stuff. I want it to be clear that this is not a Republican hate-rant. This is a Republican concerned-and-angry rant. I am very, very concerned that there are people out there with the ability to disproportionately limit the voting power of citizens who are already disenfranchised. I am concerned that these people are in public office at all, since they clearly have some moral issues they need to work out. I am very angry that there are public officials who believe that it is more important to win the election than it is to get an accurate gauge of what the voters want. And who are even willing to admit that that is what they actually think.

This country is supposed to be a federal constitutional republic (not quite a democracy, I know, but “Constitutional Republic? I Don’t Think So” was not a catchy title). Our elected officials are supposed to represent us, and if the behavior above is any indication, they seem a lot more interested in representing their own interests. Which I’m not really cool with, you know?