Category Archives: Politics

Last Day For Net Neutrality (comments)

Today, July 15th, is the last day that the FCC is accepting comments on the new “Net Neutrality” rules.  For those of you who haven’t heard of this yet, have you not been listening to me?  Net neutrality is one of my big, passionate causes.  In short, it states that all types of data on the Internet should travel at the same speed.  Click here for a quick, easy-to-read explanation of the issue via webcomic.  Or watch John Oliver, if you’d prefer.

The FCC, currently headed by a former cable company lobbyist, is looking to change that.  They want to create a “fast lane” structure, that would allow ISPs to create tiered service levels, where certain companies and services could pay to ensure a faster connection, leaving small players in the proverbial dust.  Here’s the FCC’s official fact sheet on the ruling.  The Consumerist has a handy guide, as does the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

There’s an easy solution to this: classify broadband ISPs as “Title II common carriers,” like telephone companies already are.  Of course, the ISPs don’t want this to happen (except when they do).  They want to be able to charge twice for the same content: once to the provider, and once to their subscriber.

This is not cool.  With only a little bit of hyperbole, this may be the biggest threat to the Internet as we know it yet.  So please, take a moment out of your day to tell the FCC what you think about their plan.  The EFF has made a handy tool to help you make your comments.  Keep in mind that your comments will become part of the public record, so try to to be civil.  Here’s my letter:

Dear FCC,

I’m Joshua Natzke and I live in Lakewood, CO.
Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data that travels over their networks equally, is important to me because without it ISPs could have too much power to determine my Internet experience by providing better access to some services but not others.
A pay-­to-play Internet worries me because new, innovative services that can’t afford expensive fees for better service will be less likely to succeed.
The Internet is unlike anything we as a society have had access to before. It allows people of every sort to create their own space and find things that matter to them. It significantly lowers the barrier of entry for creative endeavors in ways that are only now becoming apparent. To risk losing this unique environment to a tiered service organization would be a travesty.

I believe that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be allowed to give preferential “fast lane” treatment to certain kinds of data. Doing so would inevitably degrade the quality of services that cannot pay additional fees. After all, the only way to make a “fast lane” is to slow the other lanes down by comparison.

I also believe that high-speed ISPs should be classified as Title II common carriers, much like the telecom companies that provide land-line phone service. The fact that these ISPs are not already classified as common carriers is a fluke, an abuse of a loophole that should be closed as soon as possible.

I also feel that mobile broadband services should be classified the same as cable, DSL, and satellite ISPs, that is to say, as Title II common carriers. Internet access is Internet access, and these numerous loopholes should be closed.

Yes, ISPs will complain. But they are not the FCC’s customers: the public is. And the public does not want to see a tiered Internet that makes this wonderful sphere of innovation just the same as every other entertainment and communication venue. We have the opportunity, through TRUE net neutrality, to create a wonderful new world of opportunity for everyone. Please, don’t throw away this opportunity, letting innovation and change languish.

So yeah, it’s a big issue, one that I’m passionate about.  If you’d take even a few minutes out of your lunch break or evening to throw in your two cents, I’d really appreciate it.  Please comment.  I promise you can get back to cute cat videos and Netflix shortly after.  Thanks!

Man, This Soapbox Is Getting A Lot Of Use

I was having another discussion recently about the Science vs. Creationism debate. I was trying to sketch out the broad positions, describe my stance, when I was asked a simple question:


Why does it matter if some people “believe” in evolution, while others believe that the earth was created 6,000 years ago? What effect does it have on our day to day life? Why can’t we all just get along?

Why, you ask?

Because 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form thousands of years ago.

Because these people are degrading our public schools by insisting their junk theories be taught as fact.

Because teaching religion in public schools is unconstitutional and illegal.

Because teaching creationism discourages critical thinking and promotes an unscientific worldview.

Because these people are making our laws and shaping our future, either through direct legislation or through voting.

Because these selfsame anti-science people are the ones denying anthropogenic climate change.

Because religious politicians and corporations are seeking to deny basic human rights to half of the nation’s population.

Because these people are lying to women about their healthcare options.

Because these people are wrong.

THAT is why this discussion matters. Because for far too long we have been silent, thereby letting these evil philosophies worm their way into national discourse. And it is killing us. True, we may not convince the people on the other side of the “debate,” and that makes me sad. But others may see or hear these conversations, people who are more open to changing their minds. I have to hope eventually they will. Otherwise, we may have to wait for the conservative sticks-in-the-mud to die of old age, hoping they don’t screw things up too much on their way out.

Because these are important issues.

Because we have good reason to be angry.

Because all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

We Are Star Stuff

Hey, have you guys heard about the new Cosmos? The sequel to the original Carl Sagan PBS special, but this time hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and airing on Fox of all places? No? Well then what are you doing reading random blog posts? Go watch it now! I’ll wait.

Now I’ll admit I never watched the original series, as it was a little bit before my time. But the idea was one I can totally get behind: making science and astronomy accessible for the masses. And who doesn’t love Carl Sagan?

In that sense, the new series is a worth successor. Tyson does a good job explaining the mind-boggling scale of space and time. Although I have to wonder if I’m the true target audience. After all, there hasn’t been much presented so far that I have not been exposed to some time in the past. But then again, I suppose I’m not the “typical” average TV viewer: I’ve had training in physics and astronomy, and it’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. One of my greatest regrets is that I never got to see a Space Shuttle launch.

So if I’m not learning anything new, am I watching the show for anything more than the pretty visuals? Yes, actually. I absolutely love how unapologetic they are about science. The second episode, “Some of the Things That Molecules Do,” touched on the role evolution has played in the history of our planet, both through natural and artificial selection. In this day and age, when creationism is still sadly being trotted out as “science,” it’s quite refreshing to hear someone on a major network say “The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact.”

And it saddens me that science is still so misunderstood and denigrated, even in the 21st century. We’re seriously still debating this? Maybe the producers were on to something when they defended their choice to air the new Cosmos on Fox, saying that (for better or for worse) the kinds of people that needed to see Cosmos weren’t the kinds to watch PBS.

So why do I watch Cosmos? Because it gives me hope, promising a more rational and scientifically-minded world. It illustrates that learning can be fun and enjoyable. It reminds us that even though we may be extremely small and insignificant on the grand scale of things, we are still a way for the universe to know itself.

And that, in all senses of the word, is awesome.


While I was writing my article about the Nerf party yesterday, I found myself getting slightly off track. Unlike most times that happens, however, this time I noticed it, and decided to break the new train of thought into its own post. Which is probably a good thing, since the topic is one a lot of people (on either side of the fence) find it hard to be balanced and rational about.

I’d like to talk about guns.

One thing that made the Nerf party interesting for me is the fact that I don’t really like guns. No, that’s not quite right: I don’t have much of an interest in real-world, bullet-firing guns. I don’t own any, I’ve never shot one, and to be honest the cultural fixation on them (and resulting impossibility to be rational about them) makes me a bit nervous. But I’ve had fun playing laser tag and paintball, to say nothing of some of the video games I play. The Nerf party was, for me, abstracted enough from reality that I could have fun with it. It’s much like the melees I do in the SCA: sure, I may have no desire to wander into a crowded public space and start hacking and slashing indiscriminately, but I can still have fun hitting my friends with sticks.

While I was writing, that last thought gave me pause. After all, was my fascination with medieval combat and equipment (armor, swords, etc.) really that much different than modern gun culture? When I go to fighter practice every week, how is that any different than someone who goes to the firing range every Saturday? Is the collection of swords in my room any different than someone else’s gun rack?

Part of the problem, I think, is that “the gun issue” has been made out to be far more black-and-white than it really is. Guns are either elevated as a symbol of personal freedom or condemned as a bogeyman, with no room for subtlety in between. That sort of polarization will inevitably poison the well of any attempted conversation.

I know I’m guilty of this myself. It’s hard to stay rational when it seems you can’t turn around without hearing about some new incident of gun violence. And it’s so much easier to respond with a knee-jerk reaction than it is to take the time to stop, think, and perhaps face some uncomfortable truths.

Like I said, I don’t have any personal interest in real-world guns. I do find the intensity of gun culture in this country to be disturbing at times. But I do have several violent hobbies myself. To condemn someone else for theirs would make me something of a hypocrite. It’s not easy admitting that, but I try. I also tried hard to avoid offending anyone with exaggeration and straw-man arguments. No matter what your opinion on the subject, I hope I succeeded. If I fell short, I’m willing to have a conversation with you, as long as we can all agree to follow Wheaton’s Law.

P.S.: I would encourage you to go read this Cracked article on the subject that I think is relevant to what I’m trying to say. Too often the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the situation gets depicted as more polarized than it might actually be in reality.

Politics And Gaming? Say It Ain’t So!

So I realize that this may look like filler, but I want the other post I wrote for today to go live at a more reasonable time. So in lieu of some deep navel-gazing, I would encourage you to watch this video:

For those of you who don’t follow it, Extra Credits is a web series about gaming and the games industry from an insider perspective, with the goal of educating players, developers, and the like in various aspects of game development and culture. This week’s episode took a decidedly political turn, looking at the American system of government as a poorly optimized system, and started proposing ways of fixing it.

Now, I know politics can be a touchy subject, but this video is refreshingly non-partisan (at least in my opinion) in its critiques and suggestions. It reminded me of Reality is Broken, a book by game designer Jane McGonigal that talks about ways that real life could be incentivized and make as engaging as the virtual worlds we create. The big point that the video makes is the current decoupling of actions and consequences a lot of our congress critters face.

So if you are as politically disgruntled as most people of my generation and have a few minutes to spare on an interesting thought experiment, you should watch this video. It sounds like they’re going to go more in-depth next week, so maybe tune in again on their YouTube channel.