Monday, 06 February 2023

Opinion

If you value the Internet, it's time to take action.


Monday, July 16 is the deadline to sign a petition to Congress demanding that they protect the Internet from being taken over by phone and cable companies who want to become the gatekeepers of the Internet.


To sign the petition, go to www.savetheinternet.com, where you can learn more about this important issue.


The central issue is “Net Neutrality,” which no discrimination on the Internet.


Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.


Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.


The battle for Net Neutrality won't end next week, and it requires everyone to educate themselves about the issue.


Helping spread the word is the www.savetheinternet.com coalition, an historic grassroots alliance of hundreds of groups from across the political spectrum, thousands of bloggers, and millions of everyday people concerned about the future of the Internet.


The coalition came together last year when Congress first took up dangerous telecom legislation that failed to protect Net Neutrality, which has been called the Internet's First Amendment.


"I think www.savetheinternet.com's success surprised everyone, especially those who thought the public was way too uninterested in issues like 'Net Neutrality' to give a damn," said Tim Wu, a leading Internet scholar who first coined the term Net Neutrality the fundamental Internet principle that prevents big phone and cable companies from discriminating against Web sites and services.


After leading the effort to stop telecommunications legislation last year that would have handed phone and cable companies unprecedented gatekeeper power over what Internet users see and do online, www.savetheinternet.com is ramping up its campaign to reinstate Net Neutrality this year.


While phone and cable companies spent millions and millions on inside-the-Beltway advertising and Astroturf groups, the SavetheInternet.com Coalition which takes no corporate money kick-started a public conversation about what the future of the Internet should look like. Word spread thanks to local organizers, bloggers of all stripes, and Internet auteurs, who made dozens of viral videos about the looming threat to Internet freedom.


To find out more about Net Neutrality, check out the following video.


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Recent labor developments in Lake and Sonoma counties illustrate the strong roots of some persistent union problems.


Unions appear to have largely forgotten what made them successful in the first place, and management has been getting smarter for many years.


For more than a decade I served as a shop steward, officer, and regional representative for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat unit of The Newspaper Guild, and am a retired member. I am far from anti-union. However, during those years I regularly battled the Guild.


First it was over defending members in discipline or firing cases: There were times when the member clearly had no legitimate defense and the union could have worked to convince them they should not abuse a very generous sick leave policy, or that they needed to seek help for personal problems.


Then it was helping to persuade the Guild it should not accept money from a CIA front organization, the American Institute for Free Labor Development, which purported to be training labor organizers in Latin America, but was in fact targeting them for totalitarian governments. (See Ronald Radosh, “American Labor and United States Foreign Policy: The Cold War in the Unions from Gompers to Lovestone”, or George Morris, “CIA and American labor; the subversion of the AFL-CIO's foreign policy”).


Finally, there was a proposal that the Guild join with other Northern California unions to establish a non-profit summer and holiday camp for union members' children. Guild staffers weren't interested, although there was ample evidence members desperately needed that help if they were going to concentrate on their jobs during working hours.


Those experiences convinced me my union had lost interest in serving its members in any way except increased salaries, although its mission statement includes raising the standards of journalism and ethics of the industry.


The Lake County Board of Supervisors, in offering slightly higher pay to IHSS members who take drug tests, is trying to raise standards of home care. The union wants to recall the supervisors, and says the proposal is an invasion of privacy and creation of a two-tier pay system. Instead, why don't we call it merit pay? Who wouldn't prefer a caregiver who has tested clean and sober?


In Sonoma County, Gallo winery workers have just voted out their union, the United Farm Workers. They said the dues were high and they couldn't see much benefit in union membership. Some complained they couldn't understand the English ballot. So why doesn't the union offer language help to its many immigrant members? Management does.


Smart move


The Press Democrat recently reported “The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation are sponsoring two Spanish-language employee development workshops on the use of the Internet for viticulture on July 14 ... Samuel Barros, of Greenfield Winery, will teach Spanish speakers how to perform basic searches on Google and use industry-related Web sites such as the University of California pest-management Web site. . . . There is no cost to seminar participants.”


That's smart.


The winery situation, and that of any industry which employs immigrants, is complicated by more than a language gap. Mexican workers come here with a justifiable distrust of unions. For many decades, the role of the official unions was to maintain labor peace and keep wages low, to keep Mexico profitable for Mexican capitalists and attractive to foreign investors.


Fidel Velázquez Sánchez was Secretary General of the Confederation of Mexican Workers, the national umbrella workers union, from 1941 until his death in 1997. He regularly sold out the workers, Mexican friends in the construction, music and domestic workers unions have told me. They called him a dinosaurio, and complained he supported a series of four presidents who privatized state-owned industries, a center of power for the unions, and agreed to national contracts that shifted most of the burden to workers — while their minimum wage in real terms fell by nearly 70 percent. Velázquez also supported passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 after initially denouncing it as a disaster for workers of all three countries.


Earlier waves of immigrants from Europe came here with more trust in unions – their countries had a long history of guilds and unions which taught their members a craft and gave them places to stay when they were traveling in search of jobs. (That's where we get the term journeyman.) Often, they were also the center of social life and a surrogate family.


The UFW complains labor contractors opposed the union. Of course they did. They're employed by management and have a huge role in the lives of immigrant workers, who depend on them for housing, translation, transportation and advice.


There was a time in the United States when unions played that role. The union helped immigrants learn English, find housing and medical care, get their kids into school and learn the ways of their new country. They knew how to develop loyalty.


If today's union leaders would take a look at history they might figure out how to raise their nationwide membership above its current 12 percent.


E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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In case you have not yet been informed there is no longer a Constitution or a Bill of Rights in this country.


Ask your banker. He or she will tell you that your ATM does not belong to you; it belongs to the bank. He or she will not state that there are any rights available to you that might conflict with those who run the country. That is: banks, corporations, members of Congress whose Web sites cannot be reached much of the time, aides to members of Congress, and their spawn.


The last one of those I talked to, in Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's Palo Alto office, could not or would not and certainly did not tell me anything that might lead me to think I actually still might have any rights under the Constitution and certainly not under that suspect Bill of Rights.


I worked for a very liberal newspaper for about eight years way back when there may have still been a Constitution. One of its reporters famously went out onto the Square in Madison, WI, where the state capitol is located and took along a copy of the Bill of Rights. He asked passersby to sign it. No one would. Most thought it might be a communist document or, at least, a communist plot.


That was at the height of Tailgunner Joe's tyranny, the time George Clooney so correctly depicted in "Good Night And Good Luck." That was at a time when your thoughts or your refusal to be a traitor to your friends by turning over their names, were the soup du jour.


Now there isn't even any soup. George the Lesser has pocketed the Constitution, or what little is left of it after congress failed in its care and feeding. The Bill of Rights, he stomped to death one minute after, maybe even before, he was anointed the Supreme Court's President in 2000. We don't elect presidents anymore; we anoint them. Or, maybe Jesus does.


After all, King George IV does have breakfast with him or the voice of Dick Cheney on the intercom and disguised as the Son of Man, to whom Shrub has long sworn allegiance.


Presidents, not to mention your own congressional representatives, used to take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States then maybe even try, at least, to do so.


They still take that oath as do credentialed teachers such as myself who have no choice in the matter. Some of us actually take that oath seriously. But, just try to act on it? Double dare you!


This president and his minions and they are legion has done everything that could be done to make the Constitution and the (what is this?) Bill of Rights disappear "Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches!" just like on that commie plot to destroy all that is good about our beloved country, Sesame Street, which currently harbors a nasty little red furry subversive puppet with a high voice, ELMO.


ELMO, according to congressional neo-cons, is now the enemy, just as any of us who want to know if there is still a Constitution or maybe (and cross your fingers here) even a 10 point Bill of Rights is?


How dare we ask knowing how Elmo "hates our freedom."


I called my congresswoman's office recently to ask just that and no one, at least not her personal representative on the other end of the phone, could say anything in response to my questions about whether or not there still is a Constitution or a Bill of Rights and whether or not I could still call upon or even hope for their protections.


Silence. I got lots of silence. It was so loud I could hardly not hear it.


That Constitution's not for the little people, the ones who still pay taxes, as the unforgettable Leona Helmsley, once informed us all. We, the little people, are just supposed to roll, over, play dead or maybe get up and beg like Tony Blair, Bush's lapdog, does in the presence of his master.


Ask the same questions of your banker or at least the under assistant night vice president in charge of the day crew (I think) and you will be informed that all rights are the property of your bank. Your job is to get back in line and goosestep like the good German you ought to be.


The people who run your life at the retirement center you might live in will inform you that you are "insulting their intelligence" if you ask them the same. Then they will hang up on you.


Have the decency to at least act like one of the Lemmings!


I guess the only one who can address these questions now is the Decider. And we all know what he decided a long time ago.


He decided like Mel Brooks in "History of the World, Part One," that "it's good to be king."


But Mel Brooks was funny. The Attorney General of the United States. some of those Vietnamese displaced understudies to "Duck" Cheney, who work for our fearless leader, pick any bank vice president, director of housing in the "free" world or in the homeless underground of hopelessness- and you will not find them funny at all.


They ain't gonna take your side.


Lobbyists and Corporations, those entities Dianne Feinstein sneaked through a law for recently, a law that says it is a crime to do anything to harm a Great God Almighty They Are, At Least, Free At Last, omnipotent corporation!


And La Diane has her 18 million dollar new home, one meant to make room for her grandchildren. It's paid for by the blood of the people of Iraq the country her husband is rebuilding with all those fat contracts.


Wait a minute: Didn't we, or George the Great Argument for Birth Control, destroy it first?


Ghosts of "You're Doing A Great Job, Brownie," those same ghosts Cindy Sheehan told a San Francisco audience "don't exist" in 2005. Yet they still "make us afraid."


Don't try to wash that off your hands, Senator. It didn't work for Lady Macbeth and it won't work for you, either.


Corporations are, legally, individuals, and these individuals, who you may well have hated in high school, now run the world.


So send not to know for whom the bell tolls citizens?It tolls for them.


You can maybe take a number.


Gary Peterson lives in Belmont.


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I wanted to let the dust settle for a while before leaping into the Scooter Libby-Bush commutation fray, for several reasons.


First, this was not unexpected, at least not to anyone who has consistently watched this administration distance itself from any problems or hints of illegality (except for that part about defending the Constitution, which Bush never really meant anyway).


Second, when it did happen, either a pardon or some other intervention, it was clear the Democrats would scream and the loyal GOP members would praise it as the right thing to do, since “there was never any underlying crime in the first place” and Libby should never have been prosecuted or tried or found guilty or punished, apparently.


And third, how can the Dems complain about this when President Clinton (perhaps we’ll have to start referring to him as Clinton I soon) lied to a grand jury and faced impeachment and walked away without punishment? That third point is the most partisan and intellectually dishonest of the arguments.


Here’s why: Lewis “Scooter” Libby was a career administrative operative, and worked in his last government job as the chief of staff for the vice president of the United States. He got caught up in the Valerie Plame-CIA outing incident, and we know that Scooter did not leak her name or identify to anyone. (We actually know that Karl Rove did that, and probably Cheney, too, but they’ll never be prosecuted.)


So Scooter didn’t give up a CIA agent, but learned that someone had. And then under oath to a grand jury, he lied about what he knew, who he got it from and when, and basically protected the backsides of his bosses and his bosses’ bosses.


He was prosecuted by a Republican-appointed special attorney, tried in a federal court before a Republican-appointed judge and found guilty unanimously by 12 people from all persuasions.


The federal law specified a sentence for lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice, and the judge imposed that sentence. Bush said “Tut-tut, too much” and while giving lip service to honoring and respecting the jury system and the verdict, essentially wiped away any punishment but a fine.


I hope Bush sees fit to do so for all those currently incarcerated for perjury and/or obstruction of justice who have no prior records, because if it’s too much for Libby, should it not be too much for anyone similarly situated? We are, after all – or so I’ve been told – a nation of laws not of men. Or are we?


Enter the Republican pundits who say Bill Clinton did the same thing and went unpunished. Wrong, wrong, wrong and here’s why that is dishonest: Clinton faced impeachment, and articles were voted out of the House and delivered to the Senate. That’s the same as the filing of a complaint, and it’s up to the Senate (think court) to conduct the trial.


The Senate did, and was unable to convict Clinton of any of the charges contained in the articles.


“That’s just politics!” one harumphs, and should have been impeached anyway.


Remember who held the majority of both houses in 1998 when this entire Clinton-Lewinsky thing occupied our spare time (and way too much of the media)? That’s right, the Republicans. And they couldn’t convict a Democratic president.


Libby convicted, not punished. Clinton not convicted, not punished. Not quite an even equation, is it? George Bush stated for the world to hear when the Plame case emerged that if someone in his administration was responsible for breaking the law, he would take care of them.


He certainly has.


Doug Rhoades is an attorney. He lives in Kelseyville.


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Earlier this year National Crime Victims Rights Week was marked both in Lake County and the City of Clearlake. How many of these victims were a result of a driving under the influence (DUI) tragedy? How many of these victims have struggled to rebuild their shattered lives all because someone made a selfish decision to drink and drive?


The family and friends of DUI victims struggle daily with the thought that the victim’s senseless tragedy or death was because someone made a conscious decision to drink and drive. The offender was aware of the risk, but he/she chose selfishness over responsibility. That decision is NO ACCIDENT. That decision instantly changes the lives of many forever. DUI fatalities and recklessness must never be labeled as accidents, but rather tragedies.


When a loved one is taken from their family suddenly without warning because of a selfish DUI driver, there is no way their lives will ever be whole again. The hole in their hearts can never be repaired.


Each day of their lives they are victimized, as every day is a reminder of what is not here. Each day a victim struggles to learn to live with the enormity of their loss and pain, trying to reconcile their permanent loss with the fact that the negligent DUI driver just has to do some time and then they are free to get their life back.


The victim will never be “free” again because the pain is deep and it cuts so sharply, consistently and, sometimes, at the most inopportune times. The negligent DUI driver has to live the rest of their life with what they have done, but they do not have the burden with the fact that the family of the deceased has on a daily basis with the loss of their loved one.


Summer festivities are under way. These can be happy times with fond memories or tragic times with fatal memories.


Remember with these festivities comes accountability. Accountability comes when you step into a motor vehicle. When you are the driver of a motor vehicle, you hold your passengers life in your hands along with the life of passengers in other vehicles.


No matter what one’s age is, please stop and think what the consequences of drinking and driving can do. Don’t be the one that is selfishly responsible for permanently damaging someone’s life or cutting another person’s life short. Don’t be the one responsible for robbing a victim and their family of all of the years that should have been theirs together.


If you are an adult and are partaking in a social festivity that offers alcohol, you can still enjoy yourself while still being responsible. Remind yourself before you participate, that you need to be responsible for your actions.


Don’t think you can risk driving home without being caught after consuming those few “extra drinks.” Will your selfish negligence be worth the risk of a lifetime of pain and guilt that you could infringe on yourself and an innocent family whose life will be forever victimized by injury or death of their loved one? A designated driver will help keep everyone safe as well as just saying “no” to those extra drinks.


If you are a parent, do your best to alert your child to the tragic consequences and legalities of under age drinking. To tragically lose a child is the most piercing pain imaginable.


Lake County is stepping up the “good fight” against drinking and driving. Various agencies, organizations and individuals are joining together to help stop the drinking and driving malignancy that has unfolded in our County. The more aware each of us are to the tragic consequences of drinking and driving, the less victims there will be and more lives will be saved.


Join the “good fight” against drinking and driving by being a responsible driver behind the wheel. DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.


Judy Thein is the mayor of the City of Clearlake. Her daughter was killed as the result of a DUI tragedy.


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I often wonder why the media, meaning primarily network television and most radio, doesn’t carry the important news. I mean stuff that really affects either our lives as we now live them, or us an individuals based on the lives we have thus had.


Here’s a great example of this hypothesis (which is a science term you’ll understand in a moment):


If you’re under 45, stop reading this now. It won’t make any sense to you. But if you’re like me, mid-50's something or perhaps older, and grew up anywhere that television reception was possible, you’ll know what I’m talking about.


On June 12, 2007, another icon of our youth was lost to eternity. His passing by itself doesn’t mean much, other than the end of a long and probably meaningful life. In the past 40 or more years, his name hasn’t appeared anywhere, but as a footnote to some other story about the golden age of television, or the current state of educational television and the decline of science education in America.


But if you’re of the right age, with memory intact, and understand basic principles like the displacement of a body in water, or what static electricity is and how it works, or why the filament in a light bulb glows to light our hours of darkness, you may want to thank one man: Mr. Wizard.


“Watch Mr. Wizard” was a television program in the infancy of the medium, originally broadcast from Chicago, then later from New York. It featured a very pleasant man in white shirt and tie, sleeves usually rolled up to show he was serious about his science. He did something rare in those early days, starting in 1951. He didn’t talk down to children, or adults. Oh and they watched too.


Before the thought gets lost in the nostalgia, here’s the main question: What was his name? We all knew he was Mr. Wizard, but to the world at large, he was Don Herbert. Mr. Wizard hit the airwaves and stood his ground for 14 years, on network television, and his show was even revived for a new generation much later. But he was personally responsible for the love of science by many young people, including me.


When he left network television, Mr. Wizard would appear on other shows from time to time, including “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman” among others. He won a Peabody Award for his television show, and later was seen on the cable channel Nickelodeon for a brief time.


What most people don’t know is that Mr. Wizard was an accomplished actor, and in private life, had been a bomber pilot , flying missions over Germany and Italy, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.


Mr. Wizard knew that science and magic were the same things, but science could be explained. It was still magic by another name. He let his young audience share his awe of the majesty of its principles, and respect for its unbending rules. He explained the forces of the universe without resulting to a heavy hammer, but instead did so with an appreciation of the simplicity of its rules.


As I wrote once before, upon the passing of Bob Keeshan (“Captain Kangaroo”), we will miss Mr. Wizard. Not for who he was, but for what he left to us, and what he let us become.


Doug Rhoades is an attorney. He lives in Lakeport.


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