Last week, I wrote about the debacle behind the study that was used to promote fiscal austerity in a time when just the opposite policy is prescribed by economic theory. One of the big questions I had was if the results of study’s hypothesis was now insignificant–which in scientific method means the conclusions were not proven–would we see a stop to these crazy austerity policy pushers. We’ve learned the answer is no. Dumber and Dumber–heads of the so-called cat food commission–who couldn’t lead their committee to a written conclusion are on the road touting their call to deficit hysteria based on the always controversial and now highly flawed study.
On April 19, just after I had written about how the key academic research used to bolster austerity policies was exposed by a 28-year-old grad student at U Mass-Amherst, I got a surprise in my email inbox: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson giddily announced their new deficit-reduction plan, which includes, among other things, a recommendation to increase the eligibility age for Medicare. Their plan would reduce debt as a share of GDP below 70 percent by 2023, and as the Washington Post reports, “seeks far less in new taxes than the original, and it seeks far more in savings from federal health programs for the elderly.”
What’s incredible is that over the last week, the study by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff that famously warned of the dangers of government debt has been proven to be riddled with errors and questionable methodology. To recap: R&R’s paper purported to show that countries with public debt in excess of 90 percent of gross domestic product suffered negative economic growth. Austerity hawks everywhere used it to justify cuts that have cost people jobs and vital services. The original spreadsheet used by R&R was obtained by a U Mass grad student, who found that in addition to the mistakes already noted by several economists, there was a coding error in their Excel spreadsheet that significantly changed the results of their study.
As New York magazine’s Jon Chait has pointed out, that same discredited research has been used by Bowles and Simpson to formulate their deficit-reducing austerity plans.
You simply cannot get these tools of the plutocracy to come clean. They’re going to go down with the stupidity and are trying to bring the rest of the country with them.
I promised myself to make sure we pointed to injustice and suffering around the world as well as our own home towns. Today I want to provide information about Myanmar–a country I’ve spent time studying and a country trying to change–with a history of brutal ethnic cleansing of its Muslim minority population.
Ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have been committed against Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya people, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based nongovernmental organisation.
According to the report released on Monday, entitled All You Can Do is Pray, more than 125,000 ethnic Rohingya have been forcibly displaced since two waves of violence in May and October 2012.
Satellite images show almost 5,000 structures on land mostly owned by Muslim Rohingya have been destroyed, says the report.
The October attacks, the report states, were coordinated by Myanmar government officials, an ethnic Rakhine nationalist party and Buddhist monks. The deadliest attack took place on October 23, in which witnesses say at least 70 Rohingya – including 28 children – were massacred in Mrauk-U township.
The UN has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Most Rohingya who live in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government, which claims they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and often refers to them as “Bengali”.
The Myanmar government has done nothing to prevent the violence, alleges the report, and at times government forces have joined in the attacks on the Rohingya.
“The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement,” Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said.
“The government needs to put an immediate stop to the abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable or it will be responsible for further violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the country.”
I am so ashamed to read that Buddhist monks may have been participants. They have been targets themselves and this behavior violates the most important teaching of the Buddha which is the vow of non harming. No real Buddhist would participate in such horrors.
I also wanted to mention the return of CISPA and its impact on internet users in this country. This was slipped back into Congress while we were all watching Boston.
Described as “misguided” and “fatally flawed” by the two largest US privacy groups, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) threatens the online privacy of ordinary US residents more so than any other Bill since Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008.
Its sole purpose is to allow private sector firms to search personal and sensitive user data of ordinary US residents to identify this so-called “threat information”, and to then share that information with each other and the US government — without the need for a warrant.
By citing “cybersecurity”, it allows private firms to hand over private user data while circumventing existing privacy laws, such as the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act. This means that CISPA can permit private firms to share your data, such as emails, text messages, and cloud-stored documents and files, with the US government.
It also gives these firms legal protection to hand over such data. There is no judicial oversight.
To make matters worse, because there is little transparency and individual accountability, those who have had their data handed to the US government may not even know about it or be given a chance to challenge it.
Norway’s ruling party is pushing for drilling around environmentally sensitive areas in the Arctic Circle. Could this impact a return to attempts to drill the area by US Oil companies? I hope this doesn’t lead to a race to destroy ANWR
Exploration in the waters around the Lofoten islands just above the Arctic circle is becoming one of the most contentious issues for parliamentary elections in September.
The picturesque area had been off limits because it is home to the world’s richest cod stocks, with environmental groups and the tourism industry opposed to any development.
The Labour party voted for the study, a precursor to any exploration, but also said it would take another vote in 2015, before actual drilling could begin.
Oil is the Norwegian economy’s lifeblood – the nation is the world’s seventh-biggest oil exporter and western Europe’s biggest gas supplier.
Its sprawling offshore energy sector continuously needs new areas to explore to halt the decline in production and energy firms have argued that they should be allowed to investigate the Lofoten islands.
Norway’s oil production will fall to a 25-year low this year as North Sea fields mature. Even a series of recent big finds, like the giant Johan Sverdrup field, which could hold over 3 billion barrels of oil, will only arrest the decline.
Waters off Lofoten are estimated to hold 8 percent of Norway’s undiscovered oil and gas resources with seismic tests identifying 50 prospects that could hold recoverable reserves or around 1.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent, the petroleum directorate said earlier.
With Labour’s support, Norway’s top three parties now favor exploration in the area, raising the chance that the next government would begin the process.
So, here’s what Boston’s “union thugs” will be doing this morning: Boston Teamsters vs. Westboro Baptist Church: Teamsters to form a human shield at Bombing victim’s funeral, Look out BB and our Boston friends! These Westboro folks have come to disrupt funerals there. Down here, our Bikers block them.
Teamsters from Local 25 in Boston will protect the family of bombing victim Krystle Campbell during her funeral tomorrow morning. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are expected to protest.
The Associated Press reports,
Family and friends are saying final good-byes to Krystle Campbell, one of the three people who lost their lives in the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line.
A wake for Campbell is being held Sunday at a funeral home in Medford, where the 29-year-old restaurant manager was raised and graduated from high school in 2001. A private funeral is scheduled for Monday at St. Joseph Church.Local 25 was contacted by some concerned citizens of Medford asking for help to keep members of the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting the funeral of Krystle Campbell, scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10 AM in Medford.
Local 25 President Sean O’Brien asked all off-duty Teamsters to participate:
Teamsters Local 25 will be out in full force tomorrow morning at St. Joseph’s Church in Medford to form a human shield and block the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting the funeral of Krystle Campbell. The Campbell family and friends have already endured immeasurable amounts of heartache and tragedy this week, and deserve a peaceful funeral with time to grieve privately.
Westboro Baptist Church should understand that we will go to great lengths to make sure they don’t protest any funerals of the victims of the past week’s tragedies, and that those we lost receive a proper burial.
Teamsters Local 25 represents 11,000 hardworking men and women from the Boston area.
There are three dead from the bombing. Westboro is also connected to a law firm that makes money from the antics of these folks. They usually claim their first amendment rights were violated and then collect government money defending their case.
And just because I’ve quit watching CNN around a year ago after watching the station for years, I thought I’d end with this: “Last Week, CNN Itself Became the Poop Cruise”. Frankly, I’ve thought they were full of it and lacking substance for some time.
As reactions to the media’s handling (or rather, mishandling) of breaking news during a busy week continue to flow in, perhaps none is more condemning than David Carr’s latest column in The New York Times. The media critic came down hard on correspondent John King, newly appointed chief Jeff Zucker and the rest of the CNN news team that famously fumbled during the aftermath of the Boston bombing and hunt for the suspects. Most notably, the network erroneously reported the arrest of a suspect on Wednesday, when everybody now knows that a suspect wasn’t arrested until Friday when police found Dzokhar Tsarnaev hiding in the back of a boat.
Carr has an analogy for that. In discussing the mistake, one that more than one person described as “devastating,” Carr reminded us of the most recent moment that CNN’s stolen the limelight — perhaps not in a good way:
It was not the worst mistake of the week — The New York Post all but fingered two innocent men in a front-page picture — but it was a signature error for a live news channel. … Until now, the defining story in the Zucker era had been a doomed cruise ship that lost power and was towed to port, where its beleaguered passengers dispersed. This week, CNN seemed a lot like that ship.
Zing. Inevitably, Carr’s piece comes off almost as apologetic. In his parting words, the veteran journalist points out how even the president “wants CNN to be good.” So when it’s bad, it’s hard to watch.
I’m just praying for a better week and that we can get some attention on the small town of West Texas that really needs our help.
What’s you your reading and blogging list today?
We’re baaaaaack! Or should I say, we are back on board?
So, did you miss us? If you did, I certainly hope you sent a message to your congresscritters about stopping SOPA/PIPA.
Since we have been post free and comment free this Wednesday, today’s evening reads is going to be a big fat juicy one! Lots of links for you today, so grab your afternoon drink of choice and let’s get down to business.
I’ll go ahead and break the links down into sections.
First lets dive into the ripple effect today’s blackout is having on the proposed SOPA/PIPA bills. Hmmm…what shall we call this section? How about “Catching up on the Blackout Revolution!”
It looks like the blackout may be working, for now…but concerns about the bills being slipped through within a larger piece of legislation are still in the backs of people’s minds.
First a few video links:
You may have already seen this video via vimeo…
Here is a clip from RT News, discussing the blackout from a foreign press point of view…
From the Video Cafe at Crooks and Liars…MSNBC Brings on MPAA Lobbyist Chris Dodd for ‘Fair and Balanced’ Discussion on SOPA Protest | Video Cafe
MSNBC decided to bring on recently retired Senator and now lobbyist for the motion picture industry, Chris Dodd, for a nice “fair and balanced” discussion on the blackout. Dodd more or less accused the web sites participating in the blackout of acting like a bunch of spoiled children and offered little in the way of details to address the concerns of those who are against the legislation.
And here are a couple basic links discussing the blackout:
For a geeky way to understand and follow the events of today, this flowchart is fantastic, take a look at it: Choose Your Own PIPA-SOPA Protest Adventure [Flowchart] | Geekosystem
Let’s focus on the effects of the blackout, from the users point of view. From gamers to right wing megalomaniacs to students, this blackout has given many time to think and ponder just how important freedom of speech on the web is…
First let me say that I would never do a report that relied on Wikipedia…that said, here are a few tweets from the crowd who depends on their Wiki resources.
Just like Jon Hendren’s Christmas brat list, fellow Internet superstar Katie Notopoulos’ tweet curation is a brilliant way to peek into a world of obliviousness. Apparently some people just have a hard time accepting an important symbolic gesture when that big book report is on the line.
Here’s a sample:
Don’t these people know who to actually look something up other than on the Wikipedia site? Sorry, but this is a bit ridiculous. Hopefully, these people will stop a minute and realize just what the blackout was about…and that their complaints are proving the point!
From the Gaming perspective: EA Speaks Out on SOPA | Piki Geek
SOPA is a hot topic among gamers, and understandably so. The effect the bill would have on the gamer community would be huge, as much of our culture revolves around the internet with things ranging from streams, to Let’s Play videos on YouTube, to sites like this one. So, it’s reasonable to want to know what our favorite game companies feel about the bill, especially since the ESA has put their support behind it.
Responding to a user on reddit, EA’s head of corporate communication, Jeff Brown detailed their lack of a stance on the legislation.
“EA has not expressed a position on SOPA,” Brown said, “We never supported so, naturally, never withdrew. We tried to correct the record but there is still plenty of confusion.”
Brown went on to point out that while the ESA supports SOPA, not all of publishers and developers that are members individually support it.
From some of the Wikipedia’s volunteer editor’s standpoint: Today’s e-Reads: Some Wikipedia Editors Question Blackout; E.U. to Decide Soon on Google Probe – Juliana Gruenwald and Josh Smith – NationalJournal.com
Some of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are criticizing the site’s decision to protest controversial antipiracy legislation by blacking out the site, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal editorial also assailed the blackout protest by many websites.
Murdoch has been in a furry today, thank you Boston Boomer for these next three links on Murdoch’s reaction to the blackout…it was a big help as I was putting this long post together.
From a legal perspective, the First Amendment and connecting it to the “corporations are people” decision, this is a good one: The Volokh Conspiracy » The Google Anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act Statement, Corporate Speech, and the First Amendment
Following Citizens United, I heard many people argue that the Court was wrong because corporations should not be seen as having First Amendment rights — not just that they do have First Amendment rights but that there’s some special compelling interest that justifies restricting corporate speech about candidates, but that corporations aren’t people and therefore can’t have First Amendment rights at all. (UPDATE: I don’t agree with this, for reasons that include those briefly sketched here, but I set those arguments aside for now.) Let me then ask this question of our readers who take this view:
Today, Google’s U.S. query page features an anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act statement from Google. Say that Congress concludes that it’s unfair for Google to be able to speak so broadly, in a way that ordinary Americans (including ordinary Congressmen) generally can’t. Congress therefore enacts a statute banning all corporations from spending their money — and therefore banning them from speaking — in support of or opposition to any statute. What would you say about such a statute?
Here is the “Abuse of power” angle: SOPA Blackouts: Free Speech or ‘Abuse of Power’? – Josh Smith – NationalJournal.com
Among the thousands of lesser-known websites that blocked access to their content or posted statements against the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act, were big names such as Wikipedia, Craigslist, and the online news aggregator Reddit.
But the names not on the list highlight a fine line for companies that depend on neutrality to maintain their credibility.
While they oppose the legislation, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, whose CEO called the blackouts “foolish,” decided to sit the protest out.
Google, which is so sensitive to its neutral reputation that it recently punished itself after inappropriately promoting its own web browser, was among those taking a middle road. The search giant remained up and operating but blacked-out its logo and linked to a petition against the bills.
And now for the important reactions to the blackout, meaning the change in various congresscritter support for the bills…Support for Internet Bill Wanes as Protests Spread – NYTimes.com
A freshman senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising Republican star, was first out of the starting gate Wednesday morning with his announcement that he would no longer back antipiracy legislation he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly followed suit and urged Congress take more time to study the measure, which had been set for a test vote next week.
By Wednesday afternoon, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah and one of the Senate bill’s original co-sponsors, called it “simply not ready for prime time” and withdrew his support.
Protests organized in the real world drew far less attention. A rally convened in Midtown Manhattan outside the offices of Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who co-sponsored some of the proposed legislation, drew a few hundred protesters.
Members of Congress, many of whom are grappling with the issues posed by the explosion in new media and social Web sites, appeared caught off guard by the enmity toward what had been a relatively obscure piece of legislation to many of them. The Internet sensibility of the Senate was represented a few years ago in remarks by the late Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, who called the Internet “not a big truck” but a “series of tubes” — an observation enshrined in the Net Hall of Shame.
In reaction to the pending legislation, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia went dark. Google’s home page had a black banner across its home page that led to pointed information blasting the bills.
Such new-media lobbying was having an impact.
Give that New York Times a read through, it has more info on the support flip-flops the blackout seems to have influenced today.
More on the “…new-media lobbying” i.e. blackout that is having an impact. Oh yes it is…Terry to remove name from bill – Omaha.com
Rep. Lee Terry said Tuesday that he will pull his name as a co-sponsor of a heavily debated bill that has taken aim at online piracy and intellectual property protection.
The Nebraska Republican co-sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, because of the economic impact that online piracy has on the U.S. economy, said Charles Isom, a Terry spokesman.
But after waves of negative sentiment toward the bill from free speech and civil rights groups, technology companies and others, Isom said, Terry has concluded that SOPA, as currently drafted, isn’t the solution.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who was a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act — became the latest lawmaker Wednesday to pull his support. In the House, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), originally a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, pulled his name from the list of sponsors on Tuesday. A spokesman for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), meanwhile, told the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday that the congressman is also unable to support SOPA as written.
And this from The Maddow Blog – Senator Blunt withdraws sponsorship of PIPA, blames Senator Reid I especially love the picture associated with this post at Maddow!
Photo: Andrew Dallos
Protesting today in New York, where Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are both listed as supporters of PIPA. Click for whip list.
Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) has pulled his sponsorship of the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. He writes:
“American innovation is a cornerstone to our nation’s economic growth, and job creators have lost $135 billion in revenue annually as a result of rogue internet sites.
“While I believed the bill still needed much work, I cosponsored the Senate version of the Protect IP Act because I support the original intent of this bill – to protect against the piracy of lawful content.
“Upon passage of this bill through committee, Senate Judiciary Republicans strongly stated that there were substantive issues in this legislation that had to be addressed before it moved forward. I agree with that sentiment. But unfortunately, Senate Leader Harry Reid is pushing forward with legislation that is deeply flawed and still needs much work.
“That is why I’m withdrawing my co-sponsorship for the Protect IP Act.
“The right to free speech is one of the most basic foundations that makes our nation great, and I strongly oppose sanctioning Americans’ right to free speech in any medium – including over the internet.
“I continue to believe that we can come to a solution that will cut off the revenue sources for foreign websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy that steal American jobs, hurt the economy, and harm consumers. But the Protect IP Act is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.”
We trust that Senator Blunt’s decision had nothing to do with Vice magazine exposing him earlier today as a violator of copyright laws himself. In the last 24 hours, Senators Scott Brown, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Merkley have come out against PIPA. Senator Ben Cardin, a cosponsor of PIPA, said earlier this week that he won’t vote for it.
UPDATE: Senator Tim Holden, another cosponsor, withdraws his support. And Senator John Cornyn.
Look for more links in the comment section.
Moving on, we come to the Global “Extra Extra” portion of the post…after the jump…as I said this is a looooong ass post!
This post is just a reminder that Sky Dancing is participating in the web blackout scheduled for Wednesday. We will have a protest static post up and the comment section will be shut down in spirit of the 12 hour strike.
Here are some of the latest reports and news items discussing the SOPA/PIPA legislation and strike. The links sorted in order of newest to oldest. (The oldest being published a few hours ago…) I figured it is the best way to get you caught up.
- SOPA on life support after web protests, White House and GOP rebellion – Jonathan Allen and Jennifer Martinez and Anna Palmer – POLITICO.com
I have a big Wednesday Reads Round Up scheduled at 8 pm…there will be lots to talk about!
So, see you after the blackout at 8pm!
This is an open thread…
This morning I got a “breaking news” e-mail from Politico reporting that the White House had come out with a (somewhat wishy-washy) statement on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Here’s the text of the e-mail:
Obama administration officials said in a blog post today that they would “not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” The White House did not take a definite position on SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, but said “the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online.” The officials said, however, that legislation is needed to combat online piracy.
A number of sources are reporting this now as Obama “coming out against SOPA and PIPA. For example, at Slate, Matthew Yglesias writes:
SOPA/Protect IP fights are turning into an example of how the political system sometimes does work correctly after all. The con forces on these bills initially looked numerically overwhelmed in congress and hugely outspent. But opponents really mobilized vocally, got people and institutions who don’t normally focus on politics to write about this, and perhaps most important of all demonstrated that more people genuinely cared about this issue than most members of congress initially realized. Now the momentum has slowed incredibly and the White House technology policy team has come out against these bills.
Still, even Yglesias admits the WH statement is qualified.
To look a gift horse in the mouth for a second, however, I note that the White House statement does contain a “reasonable” to-be-sure line stating that “online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.”
Politico calls it “walking a thin line.”
In a blog post penned by three administration officials, the White House said it opposes any bill that would make it easier for government to censor the Web or make the Internet less secure, but it stopped short of saying whether that includes two bills that have sent the tech industry into a panic.
If that sounds like a careful effort to walk a thin line, it is: Some of the president’s biggest supporters in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and beyond are sharply divided over the bills, and the White House needs a way to keep both sides happy.
The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and Protect IP Act in the Senate are an attempt by business interests led by Hollywood to crack down on people pirating movies and music and stop the sale of knockoff goods.
But Web companies and Internet freedom activists have cried foul, saying the bills would put restrictions on the Web in a way that could destroy the fundamental openness of the Internet and prevent the next generation of Facebooks or eBays from getting off the ground.
At Ars Technika, Timothy B. Lee reports that Congress is feeling the heat. They provide a number of examples of powerful legislators who are now having second thoughts–including Pat Leahy (one of the prime movers of the bills), Paul Ryan, Orrin Hatch, and Lamar Smith, who
announced that he would be pulling the DNS-blocking provisions from his own bill. “After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision,” Smith said in a Friday statement.
DNS blocking would basically impose the kind of censorship used by China to block internet users from foreign websites that provide information the government doesn’t want people to be able to read. It would really kill what’s left of the First Amendment.
In addition, Lee notes in an update that Eric Cantor has said there will be no vote on SOPA until there is a “consensus.”
The statement was made in response to a petition on the White House’s “we the people” site asking the president to veto SOPA if it reached his desk. The officials—IP enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel, CTO Aneesh Chopra, and cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt—did not commit the president to vetoing SOPA. However, they laid out criteria for an anti-piracy bill that seems to clearly rule out SOPA and the Senate’s Protect IP Act in their current form.
Also reported in the Ars Technika story,
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a SOPA opponent, announced Saturday that he is postponing hearings on SOPA’s DNS provisions that had been slated for Wednesday, January 18 before his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,” Issa said. “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
All this seems to bode well for the anti-SOPA/PIPA fight, along with the escalation in pushback by opponents that I posted in a comment yesterday that Anonymous has revealed the personal information of some powerful men in the media and Hollywood who are pushing for the bill.
Power to the People!
The United States Congress has been racking up historically low approval ratings, numbers bouncing from 3-9% over the last year. Why? Our legislative process has become paralyzed by partisan politics and perhaps, more importantly, the influence of massive amounts of money. When lobbyists outnumber our representatives in the Halls of Congress by 5-1, the current inability and/or refusal to work in the interests of the American public is a given.
Money speaks. Even the Supreme Court agreed in their disastrous Citizens United decision. The more money, the bigger the noise. The Do-Nothing Congress has earned its title.
Yet with all the pressing problems facing the Nation, one piece of legislation was kicked through the process and then flown, until recently, under the radar. Specifically, that’s SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, and its kissing cousin IPPA, Protect IP Act.
On the face of it, copyright concerns are absolutely legitimate. Any artist, musician, writer, etc., wants and expects protection of his/her creative efforts from rip-off artists. You create something, it takes off, you expect the financial and psychic reward from that success. There have been [and probably will continue to be] amoral individuals who plagiarize [steal] with abandon. Corporations–those that still develop ideas and products–are also open to thievery by competitors. Governments are vulnerable as well, which if anything [at least in my pea brain] demands that security measures around highly sensitive material be strong and effective, including careful clearance of those working with said materials. Regardless of where one falls on the Manning case [hero or villain], anyone ever wonder how Bradley Manning, a private first class, was able to so easily tap records for Wikileaks, particularly after several red flags were ignored by Army personnel?
Accountability for lousy security anyone?
However, are we as a population willing to accept the radical tradeoff that SOPA represents, a serious curtailment of free expression and innovation, a barrier in the exchange of information between individuals and groups around the world to protect the financial and security issues of other entities? And if so, what will the Internet be reduced to?
Think about the information that has circulated on the Net, regarding corrupt practices on Wall St. that led to the financial meltdown, the collusion of political partners, the failure of government bodies to investigate and prosecute guilty parties. Do you think this information would have been disseminated as widely without the Internet access? Have we heard much about it in the mainstream press/newscasts? Beyond Dylan Ratigan, that is, a MSNBC commentator. Or, the ongoing global protests—The Arab Spring, the European Summer, the American Autumn, the Russian Winter. Do you think these Movements would have gotten off the ground without Facebook and other social media outlets? Do you imagine we would have known of subsequent police over reactions?
Here’s the scoop from Techdirt on the byproduct of this asinine proposal, which is now suppose to be cleaned up and improved—the 2.0 version:
End result: SOPA 2.0 contains a crazy scary clause that’s going to make it crazy easy to cut off websites with no recourse whatsoever. And this part isn’t just limited to payment providers/ad networks — but to service providers, search engines and domain registrars/registries as well. Yes. Search engines. So you can send a notice to a search engine, and if they want to keep their immunity, they have to take the actions in either Section 102(c)(2) or 103(c)(2), which are basically all of the “cut ‘em off, block ‘em” remedies. That’s crazy. This basically encourages search engines to disappear sites upon a single notice. It encourages domain registries to kill domains based on notices. With no recourse at all, because the providers have broad immunity.
Here’s another question—do you not find it odd that so little time [make that anytime at all] has been spent by the mainstream press to discuss the problems with this legislation? This is the same mainstream press that is suppose to be ‘free’ but has been consistently found wanting in actual reporting the news or investigating much of anything. Yes, there are exceptions [Dylan Ratigan and recently 60 Minutes]. But by and large, the press today is held captive by the very forces paralyzing the government and buying off politicians. These forces are keenly aware that restriction of a free-information vehicle, the Internet, is in their best interests. There’s no doubt major news outlets are concerned by online sources ripping off their reports word-for-word. But as far as distribution, information sharing and dissemination? They’ve lost that battle to the Electronic Age. And frankly, if the MSM had been doing their jobs–speaking truth to power–instead of playing lapdogs, their market share would not be as dismal.
In addition to the music and movie industries supporting this legislation [which at least makes sense], the American Bankers Association is a sponsor as well. In fact, here’s a list of sponsors [interested parties].
If that link turns to gobblety-gook on you, check here at Wikipedia:
The link turning to gibberish was pretty weird—maybe a sign of things to come. It worked perfectly fine the first time I checked it.
We do not need a bazooka to bring down a mouse. The collateral damage can be significant, sometimes worse than the original problem. That’s what this legislation represents. And by collateral damage, I mean you, me and anyone plugged in at moment. Sorry, but there’s something very disturbing that a complaint against a website can result in that site being ‘disappeared’ without explanation or appeal.
Consider this the ‘indefinite detention’ for objectionable sites on the Internet.
For additional information on the legislation itself, go here, here, here, and here. Note that numerous online bigwigs [Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.] strongly oppose SOPA and have threatened a boycott/blackout, most likely on January 23rd in opposition to the upcoming cloture vote on the 24th. Yves Smith has a good essay on what we’re looking at in terms of implications.
This is an important issue. Citizen/online pressure can bring results. Paul Ryan, for instance, stepped back just this past Monday from his initial support. Resistance is everywhere and comes in many forms. Here’s a boycott of another flavor.
An informed public is the best weapon against Big Brother and the invisible supporters of authoritative repress-freedom-for-the-sake-of-security measures. We need to protect access to information to protect the present and future. We need access to information to save and preserve the core of our freedoms.