Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I’m still sick so that’s why I’ve not been around much this week..  That flu led to a secondary infection and I’m really sick now.  I’m trying to negotiate the world of Health Care with no Insurance at the moment.  It’s awful.  This put me in the hospital last year when I had insurance.  Now, after a shot and some horse pills, I’m trying to improve on my own.

The Justice Department has moved against a file-sharing site just one day after the SOPA protests. Interesting timing, isn’t it?

The Justice Department seized Megaupload.com, one of the world’s most popular file-sharing sites, and several of its related sites on Thursday.

Prosecutors charged seven employees of Megaupload with criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit racketeering and other charges.

Each faces up to 55 years in prison.

Megaupload, which operates sites such as Megavideo.com and Megapix.com, claimed to receive 50 million daily visitors, accounting for 4 percent of total Internet traffic. According to court documents, Megavideo.com was the world’s 52nd most frequently visited website.

The crackdown comes just one day after a massive Web protest against legislation to expand the power of law enforcement and copyright holders to go after infringing websites.

Prosecutors accuse Megaupload’s owners of generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners.

The authorities seized 18 domain names related to Megaupload and $50 million in assets.

New Zealand police arrested four of the alleged Megaupload employees in New Zealand on Thursday at the request of U.S. officials. Three of the alleged employees remain at large.

The NYT has some interesting details about the company.

According to a grand jury indictment, Megaupload — one of the most popular “locker” services on the Internet, which lets users anonymously transfer large files — generated $175 million in income for its operators through subscription fees and advertising, while causing $500 million in damages to copyright holders.

Four of the seven people, including the site’s founder Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, have been arrested in New Zealand, the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Thursday; the three others remain at large. The seven — who a grand jury indictment calls part of a “Mega Conspiracy” — have been charged with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, the authorities said.

The charges, which the government agencies said represented “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States,” come at a charged time, a day after online protests against a pair of antipiracy bills being considered by Congress — the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the House, and the Protect I.P. Act, or PIPA, in the Senate.

In response to the arrests, the hacker collective known as Anonymous said it had taken down the Web sites of the Justice Department,the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Recording Industry Association of America. All three sites were inaccessible late Thursday afternoon.

I got a really good laugh out of this James Kwak post responding to news of big spending Republicans at the  NYT.  All the spending proposals of the Republican candidates for president will increase the deficit.  Most of them are the usual huge tax cuts for megawealthy “job creators”.  Romney himself would be a big beneficiary of Gingrich’s plan.

The tax cuts proposed by the Republicans would more than wipe out the budget-balancing effects of the cuts that were agreed to as part of the compromise that was ultimately reached last summer to raise the debt ceiling. One part of that compromise called for a series of automatic cuts to begin next year with the goal of reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade — cuts that some members of Congress are trying to avert on the grounds that they are too onerous. The Tax Policy Center has calculated that by extending the Bush tax cuts, Mr. Romney’s tax plan would add $1.2 trillion to the deficit in just two years. The tax plans offered by Mr. Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania would add more than that to the deficit in just one year, the center found.

“The amounts of revenue loss we’re talking about in one year is the kind of thing we’re used to seeing over a decade,” said Roberton Williams, an analyst at the Tax Policy Center.

Experts from across the spectrum acknowledge that the Republican tax proposals would benefit the wealthiest the most. Polls have repeatedly shown that a majority of Americans favor raising taxes on households earning more than $1 million a year to reduce the deficit

Kwak-writing at baseline scenario called his response the “Department of Duh” and had these figures. So, who is the fiscal conservative, hmmmm?

Surprise, all the Republican candidates’ tax plans increase the national deficit! The numbers(reduction in 2015 tax revenues, from the Tax Policy Center):

  • Romney: $600 billion
  • Gingrich: $1.3 trillion
  • (Late lamented) Perry: $1.0 trillion
  • Santorum: $1.3 trillion

I guess that makes Romney the “fiscally responsible” choice, at least among the Republicans. But President Obama’s tax proposals would only reduce 2015 tax revenues by $222 billion. (That’s $385 billion in Table S-4 less $163 billion in Table S-3.)

Second surprise: The big winners in all of these tax plans are the rich! (That’s not just in dollars, but in percentage increase in after-tax income.)

Leave it to Nebraska to try to figure out a way to deny sexual preference status as a protected class.  This would deny legal protection against all kinds of things for members of the GLBT community in that state.  Religionists are interested in being exempted from civil rights legislation and would like to freely discriminate based on sexual orientation.

A new debate is brewing at Omaha City Hall and in the State Capitol over who can qualify as a “protected class” under discrimination laws.

City Councilman Ben Gray says he plans to place a measure to ban discrimination against homosexual and transgender people on the council’s agenda — as early as the end of the month or by late February.

But an Omaha state senator wants to bar cities and local governments from unilaterally creating such protected classes. Instead, the bill would grant such authority solely to the state.

The conflicting proposals are likely to reignite debate about more than a municipality’s rights. The conversation will center on sexual orientation, the rights of private enterprise, religion and civil rights.

Local business groups and religious-based organizations were pitted against a cadre of supporters of the anti-discrimination ordinance during Gray’s first attempt to place a similar measure on city books in 2010.

State and federal governments and the court system continue to wrangle with such issues. The U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws, a move that would often clear religious institutions to dismiss their leaders with legal impunity.

In the Legislature, State Sen. Beau McCoy’s Legislative Bill 912 would amend state law to prohibit local governments from creating new classes of residents protected from discrimination.

Such changes could only come from the Legislature, the proposed law says.

“It just merely says that if we’re going to change the protected classes … we need to come to the Capitol to do it so that it’s consistent across the state,” McCoy said. “If it’s the right thing to do, it ought to be the right thing to do border-to-border, not just in one city or municipality.”

In Omaha, Gray said he knows of gay or transgender people who have left the city “because they saw it as an unfriendly place towards them.”

“I’ve seen enough smoke that I think there’s a fire,” Gray said. “If we have a segment of our community that is not enjoying those freedoms, or are in fear of not enjoying those freedoms, government has an obligation to act.”

It’s nice to know there are a few reasonable people left in government there.  Nebraska is also in the limelight over the Keystone Pipe line decision made by President Obama. The governor believes the president made a mistake.  Interestingly enough, it was the complaints of Nebraska officials that put the project on hold.  Partisan politics any one?

Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Dave Heineman, whose state is a key part of the Keystone XL oil pipeline debate, expressed his disappointment with the final decision the Obama administration made yesterday to kill the project.

“I want to say I’m very disappointed,” Heineman told POLITICO. “I think the president made a mistake.”

“Really what he was saying in denying the permit was ‘no’ to American jobs and ‘yes’ to a greater dependence on Middle Eastern oil,” he said. “We want to put America back to work.”

The White House has used Heineman as political cover in the fight, pointing to the fact that the original route approved by the State Department was opposed by Heineman for ecological reasons. He said that his Legislature and his administration were working to get the final approvals in place and that the State Department should have approved conditionally while Nebraska worked out the final route. The company seeking to build the pipeline, TransCanada, was perfectly willing to begin construction at either end and finish in Nebraska, according to Heineman.

The administration pushed back yesterday that Heineman’s suggestion was wise but wouldn’t elaborate on whether it was legally possible to grant such a conditional approval.

Somebody must’ve gotten to the governor.  It certainly wasn’t the farming community.

So, that’s it for me today.  What’s on you reading and blogging list?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

There’s another Republican Debate in South Carolina tonight. Can you believe it? This one is hosted by CNN. How much more of this torture can American stand? These debates just keep on coming! We’ll live blog this one later on, perhaps with some interesting variations on the theme.

Speaking of horrible things that never end, can you believe Obama is considering appointing Larry Summers to head the World Bank? Here I thought we were finally free of Summers, but the guy just won’t go away. He keeps coming back, no matter how ghastly of job he does. From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama is considering nominating Lawrence Summers, his former National Economic Council director, to lead the World Bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Summers has expressed interest in the job to White House officials and has backers inside the administration, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations….

A nomination of Summers would bring scrutiny of his previous stints in government, both as former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and Obama’s NEC director, as well as his tenure as president of Harvard University.

“Larry is controversial,” said Erskine Bowles, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff. “Anything you appoint Larry to, you know there are going to be some people who are going to take shots at him. But you know he’s a brilliant economist, which I think everybody recognizes.”

Oh really? If he’s so brilliant, then why is teaching college freshman? Why doesn’t he publish in academic journals? Why did he get fired by Harvard and the Obama administration? Enough with the retreads, Mr. President.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Mitt Romney has admitted he pays somewhere close to 15% of his income in Federal taxes. NPR’s Here and Now had an interesting discussion yesterday about how he and other richie-rich folks get away with this. I recommend listening to the show if you have time. Here’s a bit from the write-up:

“Carried interest is the way that hedge fund managers and private equity firm managers get paid when they do a deal,” Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Institute told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Gleckman says private equity firms bring in outside investors. To get in on the deals, investors pay the firms in two ways– an initial fee, and a 20 percent cut of future profits.

When the owners of private equity firms pay taxes on that compensation from the investors, they pay as if it were capital gains– so that means they are paying a top rate of no more than 15 percent.

“Ordinarily if they were paid like the rest of us in wages and salaries, they’d be paying a top rate of up to 35 percent,” he said.

Gleckman said the carried interest tax arrangement is completely legal and not uncommon.

Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice said that this kind of income comes from work and should be taxed as such. And Gleckman agreed, saying that capital gains taxes are lower because the goal is to encourage people to risk their own money. Romney isn’t doing that.

Here’s another explanation at Bloomberg:

Romney, one of the richest men to seek the presidency, probably benefits from a controversial tax break that allows him to pay a lower overall rate than do millions of American wage-earners whose votes he’ll need to capture the White House.

That’s because private equity executives, as Romney was for 15 years when he ran Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, receive much of their compensation as “carried interest.” That enables them to treat what would be ordinary income for other service providers, taxed at rates as high as 35 percent, as capital gains taxed at 15 percent….

Yet those investments were largely made by Romney’s former partners with other investors’ money, not his personal funds. The vast majority of the resulting gains represent compensation for Bain’s work acquiring, sprucing up and selling individual companies, critics say.

“This is labor income for them, not a return on capital invested,” said Victor Fleischer, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado whose 2007 paper on the topic helped spark a move in Congress to try to change the law. “It’s a method of converting one’s labor into capital gains in a way that’s unusual outside the investment management industry. Ordinary people wouldn’t be able to do this.”

If Romney just paid his taxes like the rest of us, he’d probably be doing a much greater service to the country than if he becomes president. BTW, the articles says that Obama has paid 31% of his income in taxes for the last three years.

But that’s not all. Romney keeps millions of dollars of his vast wealth in the Cayman Islands, a well-know tax shelter.

Official documents reviewed by ABC News show that Bain Capital, the private equity partnership Romney once ran, has set up some 138 secretive offshore funds in the Caymans.

Romney campaign officials and those at Bain Capital tell ABC News that the purpose of setting up those accounts in the Cayman Islands is to help attract money from foreign investors, and that the accounts provide no tax advantage to American investors like Romney. Romney, the campaign said, has paid all U.S. taxes on income derived from those investments.

“The tax consequences to the Romneys are the very same whether the fund is domiciled here or another country,” a campaign official said in response to questions. “Gov. and Mrs. Romney have money invested in funds that the trustee has determined to be attractive investment opportunities, and those funds are domiciled wherever the fund sponsors happen to organize the funds.”

Bain officials called the decision to locate some funds offshore routine, and a benefit only to foreign investors who do not want to be subjected to U.S. taxes.

Whatever. The guy is filthy rich, pays very little of his income in taxes, and has no clue how most Americans live. His attitude is that capitalism is sacred and if millions of “little people” are hurt by the machinations of people like him, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And we shouldn’t have any safety nets for when things go wrong either. This man should never be POTUS.

A few more Romney items …

While he was at Bain Mitt used large donations of stock to the Mormon church to avoid paying taxes.

The New York Daily News got ahold of John McCain’s oppo research on Romney from 2008. “Talk about awkward,” the first line reads.

And here’s another awkward moment for the Mittster: Mitt Romney Allegedly Pulls Back Handshake Upon Learning That DREAM Act Advocate Is Undocumented.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly pulled back his hand after hearing that a young college student who greeted him at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night was undocumented, according to DREAM Act activists.

“He extended his hand to shake mine,” the young woman told The Huffington Post. “But once I said I was undocumented, he pulled his hand away from me.”

The 19-year-old college student, who asked to be identified only as Lucy because of her undocumented status, said she was also booed by Romney supporters as she was escorted out of a New York City fundraiser. One of the supporters told her to “go back to Mexico,” and she responded that she was “actually from Peru,” according to her account of the event.

Oops! There goes the Latino vote….

But we can’t forget that Romney still has at least one viable competitor for South Carolina’s delegates–food stamp obsessive and child labor advocate Newt Gingrich. Guess what Newt’s been up to? He’s using a fund-raising letter to threaten to punch out Barack Obama

Newt Gingrich’s campaign sent out a fundraising request to supporters this afternoon touting that the former speaker said he wants to knock Obama out, because, as the subject line of the email suggests, “A Bloody Nose Just Won’t Cut It.” The comment comes from a recent town hall where a questioner asked Gingrich how he would “bloody Obama’s nose.” “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out!” Gingrich responded. “This is exactly why Newt Gingrich is the candidate who must face Obama,” campaign spokesman RC Hammond says in the email, above a bright red “Donate” button.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent response to Andrew Sullivan’s silly Newsweek article defending Obama’s accomplishments as President. I think Friedersdorf is a liberatarian, but his assessment on Obama is still on point. Check it out. I’ll just reproduce his list of Obama’s “accomplishments” here:

(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, he didn’t include Obama’s many contributions to the war on women.

Speaking of Obama’s war on the Constitution, Chris Hedges is going to court to sue Obama over the indefinite detention portion of the NDAA.

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Thanks to Hedges for putting his money where his mouth is.

I’ll end with this piece from Reuters: Sunk! How Hollywood Lost the PR Battle Over SOPA.

In the space of a couple of days, Hollywood and its content creators lost the public relations war over Internet piracy SOPA legislation — which now appears poised to crumble into a million bits of dust.

Wow.

The messaging industry never had control of the message.

The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea — the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship — made it viral, and made it stick.

Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.

It shouldacoulda been a fair fight. But it wasn’t.

It seems that Hollywood still does not realize that it is in the information age. Knowledge moves in real time, and events move accordingly. The medium is the message in a fight like this.

I disagree that the fight is over, but it’s nice to see the battle for free speech and privacy getting some corporate media ink.

So … what are you reading and blogging about today?


Sky Dancing Joins The Strike!

Sky Dancing supports the Blackout against SOPA/PIPA

It shows what can happen when corporations or the government can shut down any website.

Without court orders.
Without any way to appeal.

SOPA/PIPA is trivial for hackers to circumvent, but legitimate websites would have no recourse.

Stop American Censorship

Email or call your Congresspeople.

Find and contact your Congress members by phone, email or fax at Congress Merge

Welcome to Tweetcongress. Enter your zip code or a representative’s name to see if your local representative is on Twitter.


SOPA/PIPA Update and Reminder…

Good Late Evening or Early Morning…depending on when you read this!

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.

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…


The SOPA strike

As many of you already know, websites will be going dark tomorrow, Wednesday Jan. 18th, to protest the SOPA/PIPA bills in Congress.

These bills supposedly protect intellectual property. In reality, they protect the profits of a few megacorporations at the price of, literally, damaging the internet irretrievably.

They rely on methodology which is trivial for hackers to circumvent. (For instance, Google is blocked? Just use 173.194.69.103 instead.)

They break domain name security (pdf).

They enable competitors, malicious people, the government, indeed anyone, to shut down any site because they make site owners responsible for all infringement on a site. That means someone could leave a comment containing a copyright infringement, report the site, and the whole site would be shut down. No court orders are necessary. Good luck getting someone on the phone to appeal the decision.

Actually, as of the last news I heard, SOPA had been removed indefinitely. Only the Senate version, PIPA, is currently on the active list, due to be voted on Jan. 24th. But many of us want to be sure that our concerns about these absurd bills are understood, that PIPA is also stopped, and that SOPA doesn’t re-emerge as soon as the House leadership thinks they can get away with it.

The blackout is going ahead to demonstrate how the internet would look if sites were blocked willy nilly. Sky Dancing Blog will be blacked out until 8PM on Wednesday. We will see you again on Wednesday night. We can say that with confidence, because so far we still have our free, open, and unblocked internet.

If you’d like to keep it that way, call or email your Congresscritters!


Tuesday Reads: SC Republican Debate, Karen Santorum, and Did Mitt Really Win Iowa?

Good Morning!!

Last night was the Fox News/WSJ South Carolina Republican Debate. As usual, it was a nightmare. It’s so strange to listen to people who feel they need to defend themselves if they ever did a decent thing in their lives or ever subscribed to some rational opinion or policy. And these men claim to be “Christians.” We had a live blog of the horrible thing, so check it out if you’re interested in what we said off the top of our heads.

I’m writing this late Monday night, so all the reactions to the debate haven’t come out yet. I’ll update in the comments in the morning, but here’s a preliminary report from Fox News.

Gingrich and Perry led the assault against Romney’s record at Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that bought companies and sought to remake them into more competitive enterprises.

“There was a pattern in some companies … of leaving them with enormous debt and then within a year or two or three having them go broke,” Gingrich said. “I think that’s something he ought to answer.”

Perry referred to a steel mill in Georgetown, S.C. where, he said, “Bain swept in, they picked that company over and a lot of people lost jobs there.”

Romney said that the steel industry was battered by unfair competition from China. As for other firms, he said, “Four of the companies that we invested in … ended up today having some 120,000 jobs.

“Some of the businesses we invested in were not successful and lost jobs,” he said, but he offered no specifics.

Romney claimed that the steel mill in SC that went bankrupt had been purchased by another company after he left Bain, and that all the employees were offered jobs, but not at union wages. Perry also demanded that Mitt release his tax returns. Mitt very nervously said he would “probably” do that in April. He is leaving the decision “open,” but made no definite commitment. Romney supported indefinite detention of American citizens without due process, while Ron Paul argued that American citizens should have the right of Habeas Corpus.

The Wall Street Journal had a live blog of the debate as did the Washington Post and Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast.

Did you know that Karen Santorum lived with an abortion doctor close to three times her age before she met and married Rick? There’s a pretty detailed piece on this at The Daily Beast. Mrs. Santorum’s

live-in partner through most of her 20s was Tom Allen, a Pittsburgh obstetrician and abortion provider 40 years older than she, who remains an outspoken crusader for reproductive rights and liberal ideals. Dr. Allen has known Mrs. Santorum, born Karen Garver, her entire life: he delivered her in 1960.

“Karen was a lovely girl, very intelligent and sweet,” says Allen, who at 92 uses a walker but retains a sly smile. A wine aficionado who frequented the Pittsburgh Symphony and was active in the local chapter of the ACLU, he lives with his wife of 16 years, Judi—they started dating in 1989, soon after he and Garver split—in the same large detached row house where he lived with the woman who would become Santorum’s wife. He and Garver also lived for several years in another house a few blocks away. “Karen had no problems with what I did for a living,” says Allen, who helped start one of the first hospital-sanctioned abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. “We never really discussed it.”

Karen Garver Santorum with former live-in lover

In fact, Karen told her older lover that he would like Rick, who was then pro-choice and “a humanist.” More from Hass’ story:

Mary and Herbert Greenberg, longtime friends of Allen’s through Herbert’s job as concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, recall that Karen had seemed entirely familiar and comfortable with the subject of abortion when the couples socialized. In October 1983, Mary Greenberg (who had moved to Baltimore with her husband) flew to Pittsburgh to consult Allen about an abortion. He directed her to colleagues at the Women’s Health Center; Karen, recalls Mary, immediately offered to accompany her to the clinic. “She told me it wasn’t that bad, that I shouldn’t be worried,” says Mary, who ultimately went on her own, and met Allen and Garver for dinner later that night. “She was very supportive.”

Allen says they split up because Karen wanted to have children and he had been there and done that already.

I’m just fascinated by this. I spent most of yesterday reading about the Santorums, and trying to figure out when and how their dramatic conversion took place. Neither was raised in a fundamentalist home, and neither was particularly religious before they got married. Then something happened. It really smells cult-like to me. I’m wondering if Santorum was approached by a fundamentalist group when he entered national politics. According to friends, he was a moderate Republican at first and then suddenly went off the deep end. If I can figure out what happened, I’ll write a post about it.

This is interesting. According to the Washington Times, fundy activists are now fighting over the endorsement of Santorum by the group of 150 who met in Texas on Sunday.

In an evolving power struggle, religious conservatives are feuding about whether a weekend meeting in Texas yielded a consensus that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the best bet to stop Mitt Romney’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination.

A leading evangelical and former aide to President George H.W. Bush said he agreed with suspicions voiced by others at the meeting of evangelical and conservative Catholic activists that organizers “manipulated” the gathering and may even have stuffed the ballot to produce an endorsement of Mr. Santorum over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Santorum, who nearly upset Mr. Romney in the Iowa caucuses, won the first ballot ahead of Mr. Gingrich in Saturday’s Texas meeting but the margin was too slim for organizers to claim a consensus. It was not until the third ballot, taken after many people had left to catch flights back home, that Mr. Santorum won more than 70 percent of those still in attendance and claimed the endorsement.

Former White House evangelical-outreach official Doug Wead, who represented GOP presidential hopeful Texas Rep. Ron Paul at the event, said it appeared the outcome obviously was determined in advance by the choice of the people invited.

The article is pretty funny. Read it if you enjoy fights among right wing nuts.

There has been talk that Romney was credited with too many votes in Iowa and should have come in second. Now Byron York is saying it could be true. According to York,

there is a very real chance that the Republican Party of Iowa will announce this week that Rick Santorum, and not Romney, won the Iowa caucuses.

Results released on caucus night — actually, at 2 the next morning — showed Romney won by eight votes, 30,015 to Santorum’s 30,007. Many observers assumed that those results were final, especially when party officials said there would be no recount.

But the results were not final. Even though there is no provision for a recount in the party caucuses, state GOP rules do require that the results be certified, which is nearly the same thing. That certification process began the day after the caucuses and is expected to wrap up this week, yielding a final, official vote tally…..

In the past two weeks, party employees have been working nearly nonstop to certify the results from each of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. During that time, they have regularly briefed campaign representatives on what’s going on. In the next few days, they are expected to finish tallying and certifying the last Form Es and come up with official certified results.

The final numbers will be different from those released on caucus night. One campaign source says the vote count as of midday Monday showed Santorum ahead by 80-something votes. If that number holds through certification of the last precincts, Santorum will win. Of course, there is always the possibility that some of the final precincts will contain discrepancies that put Romney back on top. It’s just not clear.

Hmmmmmmm….

Many internet sites, including Sky Dancing plan to go dark tomorrow, Jan. 18, as a protest against the Stop on-line piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) acts. The big news last night was that Wikipedia is joining the protest.

Might want to get your Encyclopedia Britannica set out of storage: Wikipedia will go dark Wednesday, joining a growing number of popular websites staging an online revolt against two anti-piracy bills.

Founder Jimmy Wales made the announcement in tweets on Monday, telling followers his goal is to “melt phone systems in Washington” in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate.

The online protest puts Wikipedia in the company of other websites such as Reddit and popular games such as Minecraft in leveraging its substantial size and clout to campaign against the bills. Wales suggested on Twitter the impact of the blackout could be significant, given that “comScore estimates the English Wikipedia receives 25 million average daily visitors globally.”

We’ll have more information today on Sky Dancing’s plans. As of now, we plan to black out our site beginning at 8AM Wednesday. The protest is scheduled to end at 8PM Wednesday night, so we’ll be posting after that.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?


The Tide Could Be Turning on SOPA/PIPA

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.”

On the WH announcement, Lee writes:

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!