Potpourri: Net Neutrality, The Blacklist and Michael Pollan

If by today you haven’t been pulled into a Facebook debate about “Net Neutrality,” you have my sincerest envy. For those of you not familiar with the concept, Net Neutrality is a scheme whereby the Federal government would mandate that internet service providers like Comcast provide the same access at the same price for heavy content use (streaming 200 high-definition Netflix movies per month) as for light content use (reading Fly in My Bourbon once per week). This is little different than if a President Bushama signed an executive order requiring all delivery services (e.g., USPS, Fedex, UPS) to charge the exact same for mailing a letter to Altoona, Pa., as for shipping three cows to Gjirokastër, Albania. The economically predictable result would be less competition, fewer market entrants, less innovation, and a boon to extreme users subsidized by everyone else. But give this bad idea an appealing name (“What is this you are against neutrality, you commie fascist eater of worms!?”), and every IT guy in America becomes a lobbyist for Obamacare of the internet.

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I’m never on the forefront of popular culture. If it weren’t for my wife, I’d still be wearing my pleated khakis from the 90s. The same is true with tv shows. Breaking Bad premiered in 2008. I watched my first episode, and then the entire season, in fall 2013 after the season finale had aired. My new Benny-come-lately show is The Blacklist, starring James Spader as a Mensa-intelligent master criminal working with the FBI to catch even worse bad guys than he. Having recently Netflixed the first 22 episodes in a one month period, you can say I am addicted. It’s no Breaking Bad, though. Typical of network series, The Blacklist is spoilt by slick production standards and J Crew model-looking costars. That said, the characters, especially Raymond Reddington, are compellingly cool as they maneuver through an epic storyline laced with fast-paced mini-plots. My biggest gripe is the subliminal (and occasionally explicit) support for the NSA and its Orwellian surveillance machine, which Edward Snowden aptly labeled as turnkey tyranny. Which is why I root for bad guy Reddington, who avoided the US globalist dragnet until he voluntarily surrendered in the show’s pilot.

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One of my most loaned books is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (2008). The first three sentences: “Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Pollan is an advocate of natural foods but a critic of nutritionism, and he writes lively of food history and lab-created frankenfoods which Pollan argues are the root of downers like cancer and heart disease. As someone who reduced elevated cholesterol and blood pressure solely through healthier eating and exercise, I was keen on Pollan’s message. That is, until yesterday, when Pollan went full food nazi on his Facebook page, recommending that Obama issue an executive order mandating a National Food Policy. So I posted this response: “Michael, I loved your ‘In Defense of Food’; in fact, that may well be one of my top ten most shared books. But what makes you think that desires equal results, or stated differently, what government program or regulation or “War-on” eliminated poverty, drugs, the dearth of surgeons, etc? Your food commissars are no more likely to eliminate Cheetos from Americans’ pantries than Richard Nixon was able to weed out Mary Jane from Grateful Dead concert grounds.”

Eat that, Michael Pollan.

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One Response to Potpourri: Net Neutrality, The Blacklist and Michael Pollan

  1. Enviable or not, I don’t have a TimeSuck (FaceBook) account 😉 If I want to find out about things, I do research using the net, but also the old-school way, pawing tediously through physical documents at libraries. Reading the opinions of non-experts is entertaining, but it isn’t really research as much as a form of “vox populi” polling.

    Many people do not realize that Net Neutrality is what we have NOW, and that the FCC is proposing a FUTURE INCREASE IN REGULATION to favor businesses over individual users. ISPs currently handle all data from commercial and non-commercial users equally, and speed is determined by file size alone.

    The proposed elimination of Net Neutrality would grant big companies like Netflix and Comcast a larger amount of bandwidth at the expense of anyone who does not pay an additional access fee. The proposed change would likely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and ideas now available to all. ISPs would be allowed to “throttle” down the speed for individual users, which is currently forbidden, if any of the large commercial users goes online at the same time in the same region.

    The result would be that a blogger here on WordPress, and a student trying to gather material for their dissertation would get to watch the spinning icon go round and round, because somebody’s kid in your town wants to watch “Frozen” for the 75th time, they paid Netflix, and Netflix paid the “superhighway” fee.

    Liked by 1 person

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