Anyone who has attempted to organize an event on a shoe-string budget knows the importance of free services. Many of these services are available on the web. There are sites that provide free , business cards, email marketing tools and even teleconferencing services. I’ve used many of such freebies on the net in order to organize rallies, protests and conferences. One of the most important tools that I’ve found is free telephone conferencing.
While I’m perfectly capable of joining in a couple of people on a call, I can’t join in the large number of people it sometimes requires to get the activism ball rolling, in spite of the nearly limitless powers of my Android mobile phone. To accomplish this, I signed up for an account with freeconference.com, a telecommunications provider which assigns a “call-in” number and “pin code” to me for use whenever I need it. I love the service. It’s convenient, easy to use and doesn’t cost me a small fortune like the teleconferencing services from AT&T.
Recently, the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee jeopardized my ability to use these services for free. In response to a proposal that would eliminate this free and much needed service, freeconference.com and its subsidiary, Global Conference Partners, launched a campaign asking the users of the service to contact their representatives and let them know how important the service is to them. I was one of the 100,000 users that responded in the first week. While Lamar Smith and John Cornyn responded in typical political fashion with something to the affect of, “You’re comments are noted and considered,” Kay Bailey Hutchison took it a bit further… perhaps too far. In fact, after reading her response I wasn’t sure if she was calling me a phone sex operator or a mob boss for telecommunications fraud.
Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, wireless and long distance carriers pay access fees to local exchange carriers for calls to those carriers’ local subscribers. Rural carrier are allowed to charge significantly higher access fees than carriers in more urban areas, based on the rationale that rural areas have lower call volume, but higher infrastructure costs.
In order to increase their call volume, rural carriers sometimes work with phone sex and conference call providers to route their calls and then share the profit of the fees collected. This is known as ‘traffic pumping,’ and is a source of gaming that results in higher costs for companies and consumers.
Obviously, I appreciate Kay Bailey Hutchison’s position that routing calls through a rural access point to charge higher access fees should be properly monitored, but here’s what tripped me up a bit. I never mentioned phone sex. In fact, as soon as I read those words, it became clear to me how the republicans remain in power. The issue of grassroots organizers being able to use a telephone conferencing service at no charge was suddenly about phone sex… morality. The issue, which concerned me because I can’t afford huge teleconferencing fees, was now “Do you really want phone sex operators routing your teleconference?”
This same tactic is being used in Uganda to promote the anti-homosexuality bill. Martin Ssempa has learned well from the American evangelicals who have visited the . His declarations that not murdering and/or imprisoning homosexuals will result in homosexuals “eating the poo poo of our children” have taken a human rights issue out of context (and ridiculously out of context) and turned it into a sexual morality argument. After all, straight people eat poo poo to.
But in the spirit of fair play, let’s use the republican evangelical logic and create some arguments that would support LGBT issues:
- Not allowing same-sex marriage increases divorce rates.
- If same-sex marriage is banned, men will drink the breast milk of their wives.
- Banning gays in the military will result in heterosexual orgies.
- Forbidding same-sex couples from uniting with their foreign partner means they will seek out an American to corrupt.
- Firing LGBT people for their sexual orientation/gender identity results in increased homelessness. (oh wait… that one is too logical).
I think you get the point. If you are arguing something you can’t win, find a way to turn it into a sexual and/or morality issue and “ta da” you’re a right-winger.