Net Neutrality, And Why Veterans Should Care About It

This Post originally appeared in Havok Journal on March 5, 2015

“Freedom of connection with any application to any party is the fundamental social basis of the internet. And now, is the basis of the society built on the internet”. ~ Tim Burners-Lee – English computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web

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Net Neutrality is really confusing, so much so in fact, that most of us don’t take the time needed to understand it; but we should. In the next year legislation will be passed or not passed on this issue, and no matter how it goes down, one thing is for certain, the future of how we all use the internet will forever be changed for better or worse. This legislation will affect all Americans, but there is one group of Americans who should pay extra attention to the net neutrality debate: American Veterans. Here are the down and dirty facts about Net Neutrality and Veterans– your smart card, so to speak.

Close Up Of Person At Laptop Using Mobile PhoneWhat is Net Neutrality: Net Neutrality is a term coined by Columbia Law Scholar Tim Wu in 2003. It is the idea that the internet is a free space where all content is treated equally or neutrally. Content cannot be slowed, prioritized, or blocked depending on an internet provider’s interests. Customers cannot be subjected to different tiers of service based on what they pay.

Imagine if Verizon or Comcast could charge Americans one very expensive rate in order to see everything on the net, and another cheaper rate to see only what the internet provider wanted us to see. As it stands today, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, has ensured that all content on the net plays on an even field; all data is treated equally. This current situation sounds great right? We want to keep it right? It is, and most do want to keep it, but astoundingly, there are some Americans who want to fundamentally change the way we use our internet.

Who could possibly be against a neutral equal internet? Mainly the large media conglomerates; companies like Verizon, Comcast, ABC, and NBC. These large companies believe that they should be able to configure the access to the internet that they are providing as they wish; they feel that they should be able to experiment with different business models, promote certain things and not promote others. If that isn’t enough to scare the hell out of you…it gets scarier; each one of these colossal telecoms has a few key Senators/Congressmen/women (mostly Republicans) in their pocket, and these small group of lawmakers suddenly seem very interested in blocking the FCC from being able regulate the internet to prohibit such discrimination of information.

Many Republican law makers know that the large campaign donations they receive from these telecoms could dry up if they don’t block this legislation. Republican Senator and Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, John Thune of South Dakota recently stated: “It is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself.”

The backstory: A long time ago the FCC put in place regulations for phone companies; they determined that telephones and the lines they run on were a public utility, and thus, phone companies could not favor certain conversations and could not discriminate their services. In early 2000, with the rise of huge internet providers (Comcast and Verizon), the FCC began to see some troubling activity on the Net. In 2007 Comcast and AT&Tinitiated the blocking and slowing of large quantities of content from certain companies/organizations. The FCC was concerned that the telecoms had become Gate-keepers of sorts of the internet. So in 2010 the FCC laid down the Open Internet Rules. These rules enforced three ideas:

Transparency. Internet access providers must disclose how they manage their networks.

No blocking. Internet access providers can’t block access to legal content or applications.

No discrimination. Basically, net neutrality. Internet access providers cannot promote or favor one traffic source over another.

The FCC attempted to implement these net neutrality rules twice-but failed. Both times the FCC’s attempts were struck down after multiple Court challenges by deep pocketed telecoms; the courts sided with the telecoms and ruled that the internet is fundamentally different from a utility; that it was an information providing service, and therefore should not be regulated at all.  Now the FCC is attempting for a third time to ensure the Net remains a free digital format. Thankfully, Tom Wheeler, the leader of the FCC is a former lobbyist for the cable wireless industry-and has dug-in. He plans on fighting his corner.

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Without Net Neutrality, veterans’ voices might not get heard.

Why should Veterans care about this issue: The Iraq/Afghanistan War is the longest war in our history; 13 years to be exact, and even though only 1% of Americans fought in this war, 1% of our nation is still a lot of people – a lot of people with an American experience wholly different from the rest of society. So it would make sense that this unique population would organize in order to communicate with each other and provide desperately needed support to their community. This veteran organization has primarily taken place over the internet through online charities, journals, discussion groups, blogs, NGOs, activism, social media, and small start-up veteran run businesses of all types.

Imagine if these invaluable small Veteran run charities, NGOs, news outlets, and activists were subjected to tiered service and paid prioritization by giant telecoms? This pay to play situation would result in small veteran run NGOs and start-ups being shut out of the market because they likely could not afford this tiered service. Imagine what the Veteran Community would not have today if our internet was tiered and prioritized by telecoms? We would not have Task and Purpose, Wounded Warriors Project, Team Rubicon, Red, White, and Blue, countless popular veteran and military blogs…the list goes on and on.

What happens next and how can Veterans prevent the Internet from being commandeered by the giant telecoms? Two weeks ago Tom Wheeler the head of the FCC…the former telecom lobbyist, proposed the strongest open internet protections the American people have ever seen. Luckily for us he has a powerful tool in his tool-box: the Title II of the Communication Act. Title II was written to regulate telephone companies and allows the FCC to enforce consumer privacy rules, extract funds from Internet Providers to assist rural communities, educators, and the poor. He has vowed to go to the ropes and fight any last ditch effort by Republican lawmakers in Congress. But these Republicans at the FCC have also vowed to vote against Wheeler’s rules from becoming law.

Veterans must identify their elected officials and find out how they stand on this issue; they must read about net neutrality and seek to understand it…telecoms and certain politicians are banking on this multifaceted issue just being too complicated for the average American to understand. We must prove them wrong, or this legislation will quietly slip by us, and we won’t notice its effects until it is far too late. Veterans must use the powerful lobbying organizations that we have built and lobby for the FCCs ability to keep the internet a free digital space where all web traffic is treated equally regardless of its owner or content; our Veteran community, benefits, health, place in society, and future endeavors depend on it.

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“Martian”…A Book Review

“Of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.” ~ NASA Astronaut Mark Watney, Sol 199, Mars

A Sol is one day on Mars, and it is 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth, and NASA astronaut, Mark Watney, ends up spending a whole lot more Sols on Mars than he or anyone else ever dreamed he would. During a fierce Martian sand storm, Astronaut Watney, the most junior of his crew becomes lost and injured, and his Commander, believing him dead is forced to abort the mission and re-deploy from Mars without him. But Mark Watney is not dead, he has somehow survived, but he is utterly alone, has limited supplies, and is in the harshest environment known to man. He cannot communicate with Earth, and no one knows he is alive. All Astronaut Mark Watney possesses that can possibly save his life, is the gear left behind by his crew, his space suit, a whole lot of Martian sand, and his ingenuity.

“I am pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.” This is the first sentence in “The Martian”.“The Martian” is a story that the military and veteran community will love. The themes that run through Weir’s novel are universal to soldiers. Soldiers will intimately understand the constant struggle with one’s gear…and trusting it to save your life, the ever present battle with nature, the absolute need for the facts, constant inspections, the hysterical and wretched moments that are often illustrated as one literally fights for their life. Soldiers will intimately understand how Watney’s survival on Mars, can be both humiliating and divine at the same time, they will relate to the author’s themes of true bravery, true fear, friendship, and stepping off the line, genuinely not having any idea of what lies in front of you. Andy Weir is a keen writer, a writer that takes chances, one who trusts his reader to “get” all the science, and one that embraces exploration and human survival like no writer I have encountered in some time.

The MartianEveryone has heard someone say that a book was “so good, they just couldn’t put it down”…well New York Times Best seller, “The Martian” is so good, I literally had to put it down. At certain points Weir’s novel simply engulfs you, and you are afraid to read one more page, fearing that either you are actually on Mars with Mark Watney instead of in your neighborhood coffee shop, or that the page you’re on, will be the page in which Mark Watney dies on Mars alone. “The Martian” is the kind of book, one feverishly scribbles notes in the margins…my unreadable notes are all over it.

“The Martian” is not about sex, it is not about war or violence, it is not about romance, and it is not about drugs, or rock and roll. “The Martian” is infinitely more; it is a brilliantly written, unbelievable hilarious account about survival, science, trust, never leaving a team member behind, human error, despair, hope, the unbreakable American spirit, and the adventure and terror of truly going where no one has been before.

“The Martian” fiercely exemplifies that Space travel is like war – no matter how many politicians and uninformed Americans think it is safer and more sterile than it’s ever been, both are still a really big deal. Both are messy, punishingly hard, expensive, things break and people die. I am not a NASA Astronaut, but damn if I didn’t categorically comprehend what Mark Watney was going through on Mars, damn if I didn’t believe that Watney’s situation was absolutely believable, damn if I wasn’t in his corner the whole time, damn if I didn’t want to give NASA a trillion dollars tomorrow and volunteer for a one way ticket to Mars, and damn if I wasn’t proud to be an American as I read the last page of this book.

American Women and the Selective Service: It’s Time.

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This article originally appeared in Havok Journal

By Shelly Goode-Burgoyne

“The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”  ~ General George Patton

A few months ago Norway quietly became the first Western nation to require women (over half of their population) to participate in mandatory military service. The bill passed with a 96% majority in Oslo; the seat of Norwegian Parliament. The law will require all medically qualified Norwegian women aged between 19 and 44 years to complete at least 19 months of military service. During wartime Norwegian women will also be subject to conscription. The first Norwegian women to serve their 19 month stint will meet for training in the summer of 2016. Norway’s northern neighbor, Sweden is also in the process of passing a very similar law. Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said in a statement:

Conscription is an important principle of the social contract between citizens and the state, but only now can we say that all of the state’s citizens take part in this fully. Norway is now carrying out almost pioneering work internationally. We have every reason to be proud.”

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“Equality” means sharing the benefits and the burdens of citizenship.

Unlike Norway, the United States does not practice compulsory military service; we do not conscript our male citizens into military service. We are, and have been an all-volunteer force since the end of the Vietnam War, and the finest in the world in my opinion. However our country is not completely without the means to quickly raise an army during crisis; we have managed to maintain something called the Selective Service System, and every time an American male turns 18 in this country he must place his name onto this federal list.

To be clear the Selective Service System is not a draft, but simply a list of all American men age 18-44, to be called up for any reason of national emergency that our government sees fit. During the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and most recently the Vietnam War, the Selective Service System was utilized to fill needed military vacancies.

Since the end of the Vietnam War and the inequitable means by which the Selective Service System drafted young American men into service, the Selective Service System has rarely made waves or attracted much attention at all. This independent government agency resides quietly in a nondescript office building in Arlington Virginia; in fact, finding its actual physical address is not an easy task…but don’t be fooled, there are real consequences if an 18 year old American man does not register. An American man’s failure to register his name and permanent address with the Selective Service System constitutes breaking federal law, and young men actually become ineligible for federal student loans, grants, and many other benefits of our free American society. American women have never been required or permitted to voluntarily register their names, even to fill support roles.

Believe it or not many Americans, to include myself, actually have a problem with this discrimination, based entirely on gender. Twice this exclusion of young American women in the Selective Service Registry has been brought to the Supreme Court, and twice the men who have brought the case have lost. The first Supreme Court challenge to the exclusion of women into the Selective Service, Rostker v. Goldberg was decided in 1981. During this case, The Department of Defense used the Combat Exclusion Policy as the cornerstone for their decision to continue to exclude women from registering their names. In 1981 the United States Supreme Court, stated in their decision:

“The existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress’ decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them.”[45]

Iraqi Freedom
So the reason women don’t have to register for the Selective Service is…?

This Combat Exclusion Policy, the foundation of the Court’s 1981 decision came to an end in January of 2013, and taking this into account, The National Coalition for Men appropriately filed a new lawsuit in April 4, 2013, that again challenges the legality of requiring only males to register for Selective Service. This recent lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Selective Service System in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, but was dismissed on July 29, 2013. The NCFM has since filed for appeal.

Beyond challenging the exclusion in the Supreme Court many lobbying organizations are using different and more creative means to change this outdated and discriminating law. The Reserve Officers Association, a well-known congressionally chartered organization, with strong lobbying power also thinks the time has come for equality on this issue. In fact last year the ROA recently drew up Resolution 13-03, for which they will lobby heavily for in 2015…it calls for all American women to register their names on their 18th birthday. ROA officers state:

“Even though 275,000 women have deployed to fight America’s recent wars, an inequality exists between men and women between the ages of 18-26 under the Selective Service Act, women should be treated equally as responsible, competent, contributing members of America’s society.”

So what will come to pass on this issue? Taking into account the recent January 2013 termination of DOD’s combat exclusion policy, will women eventually have to register on their 18th birthdays? Will women actually be required to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk? Interestingly, Lawrence G. Romo, the current Director of the Selective Service System has stated: “The Selective Service System, if given the mission and additional modest resources, is capable of registering and drafting women.”

Let me first say that I don’t really care that much what our Congress does with the Selective Service Registry. If our elected leaders decide to alter it fundamentally or get rid of it altogether, so be it. In all truthfulness, I am not so sure how I feel about the federal government possessing a massive list of names to do with what they please, and frankly, if I am being honest with myself, I actually think that it is very unlikely that politicians would be willing to pay the political cost of requiring young American women to pay the same price for citizenship as men.

In my mind, what is a lot more likely, is Congress simply scrapping the requirement for men altogether. However, if our politicians actually do have the courage to preserve our nation’s only means of calling up American citizens in times of crisis, than I think we must require the 53% of our population who have two X chromosomes to register their names.

If American women expect to reap the benefits of our free American society; if they have any hopes of participating fully in our democracy, then they, like men ought to be expected to bear the responsibility of defending it as well.

That Time I Packed A Bad Guy’s Exit Wound With His Own Testicle

Wow, just when you thought there wasn’t anything else to read this guy comes along.

Thought Catalog

Producers Note: The following is an excerpt from “Lest We Forget” by Leo Jenkins. The true story of an Army Ranger Medic in the Global War on Terror. -Raul Felix

I don’t even remember the flight or the infill. The first shots that rang out on the objective startled me awake. Ah, there is my nightly adrenaline fix! I’ve got my feet under me now and me and my boys from second squad are chasing a couple of guys through a fig orchard. The UH6 “little bird” helicopters are circling above giving us a play by play on the direction that the two squirters were headed. They started doing gun runs on those poor bastards. There really isn’t much that you can do when those guns open up, the 160th pilots are the most accurate in the world. They are the reason why a lot of special operations guys that…

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A Dose of Reality for Ferguson, Missouri

Th other side

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Unlike much of America, I’ve stayed quiet about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. As a cop, I know initial media reports about any incident are usually wrong. I also know that many media outlets and internet commentators deliberately twist facts to inflame emotion. They’ll throw out empty, meaningless phrases like “he was shot in broad daylight, in his own hometown” even though that has literally nothing to do with the legality or illegality of the shooting.

And it goes without saying that in any incident involving a police officer, many people with absolutely no understanding of police work or lethal violence suddenly think they’re experts. After Brown’s death I expected a loud chorus of hysterical cries from people who had no idea what the hell they were talking about. I haven’t been disappointed.

“But he was unarmed!”

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the…

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“Attention on Deck…All Marines with XX Chromosome will be Assigned Their Very Own Mentor”

MARINE DRILL

Imagine if a 5 foot 3 inch, 150 lb enlisted Marine were going through the Marine Corps Infantry Course and the Marine Corps decided, that in order to ensure that this short, skinny Marine did not get badly injured or harassed, he was not only forced to attend the Infantry course with five additional short and skinny Marines to be his “Buddies”, but this short, skinny Marine would also be assigned two enlisted Marines of his same physical stature to be his Barracks “Monitors”.  His “Monitors would be there if he should happen to need advice about being short and skinny.  His “Monitors” would also be present to ensure that he did not inflict permanent physical damage to his body that would result in “career threatening injuries”. After all, a short and skinny Marine couldn’t possibly be able to determine this himself.

This is hard to imagine right?  It is hard to fathom because it would and has never happened.  Yet this is the very training arrangement that has been authorized by the Marine Commandant, as the first group of enlisted female Marines attempts to complete the enlisted Infantry course in Camp Geiger, N.C.  One note: the female Marines that will attempt the Infantry course will not actually be awarded the Infantry MOS should they graduate, they are simply volunteering to assist the Marine Corps in their study to determine if women should be allowed to pursue the Infantry as a career.

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What Do We Expect After America’s Longest War?

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One of the best pieces I have read about returning from war. PTSD is almost always temporary, it affects men and women of many dangerous professions, and considering the circumstances, it is an absolutely normal physiological response to prolonged periods of hyper stress.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/long-return