I’m not seeing any particular theme in today’s news, but there is quite a bit of good stuff to read; so I’ll just toss out a few items that interested me.
Poor Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems all his efforts to use the Republican Congress to squash President Obama’s negotiations is one big giant fail. He managed to get reelected with the help of John Boehner et al., but that’s about it. First Obama said that Iran recognizing Israel wouldn’t be part of any deal, and then yesterday the White House mocked Bibi on Twitter.
The Washington Post: Why Obama says Iran does not have to recognize Israel as part of a nuclear deal.
President Obama, who doesn’t get along with Netanyahu, seemed to dismiss the Israeli premier’s latest demand in an interview this week. When asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether Iranian recognition of the state of Israel would be included in any final deal, Obama deemed such a move a “fundamental misjudgment.” Here’s an excerpt of his remarks:
Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy….
There’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.
The point here is one that diplomats would take for granted. When attempting to make a deal with your interlocutor, particularly one where there’s a considerable history of grievance and animosity, you can’t expect to win a total capitulation.
Duh. Poor Bibi, like today’s Republicans doesn’t comprehend the notion of compromise.
David Knowles at Bloomberg Politics on the Twitter gag: White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.
The White House has employed a graphic first used by Benjamin Netanyahu to push its case for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Israeli Prime Minister opposes. On Wednesday, the president’s office posted a tweet that borrowed the graphic representation of a bomb that Netanyahu had held up during a speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly in which he warned of Iran’s growing nuclear capability.
The fuse on the original image was intact, and there was no sign of the metaphorical scissors or accompanying text that the White House saw fit to add.
And how about this op-ed from the Jerusalem Post: How Netanyahu is single-handedly hurting the US-Israel relationship.
Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962. The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.” [….]
even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.
According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a“dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections. Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull—t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did notpost an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.
When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.
The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.
From The Washington Post, here’s more interesting news from the White House: White House condemns therapy to ‘cure’ gay youth.
The statement was issued in response to a White House petition signed by more than 120,000 people after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Ohio whose suicide note condemning the society’s treatment of transgender people went viral after her death. In the note, she indicated she had been subjected to such therapies.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in her note.
The White House statement, issued by President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, condemned “conversion” therapy, also known as “reparative” therapy, which she defined as any treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” she wrote. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
Shortly before releasing the White House response to the petition on conversion therapy, according to a White House official, Jarrett spoke with organizers of the petition. “She listened to their personal stories about why this was important to them and thanked them for their efforts,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in order to describe a private conversation.
And from The Advocate: The White House’s Executive Office Now Has Gender-Neutral Bathroom.
An all-gender restroom is for the first time available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, confirms a White House spokesman. Alternatively, guests are invited to use whichever bathroom fits with their gender identity.
“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, “which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors.”
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, had mentioned the policy change in an op-ed today for The Advocate, saying the adminstration had “closely examined” its policies on “restroom access” to help “ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”
Gender neutral bathrooms, if single-stall, also often offer a safe space to differently abled users, parents with their children, and anyone else seeking privacy.
The push for gender-neutral restrooms in public buildings and workplaces has been one cause taken up by transgender rights activists — and one that’s found the most visible sucecss on university campuses — making Jarrett’s anouncement feel to many like a win for trans Americans.
“It is heartening to see that, even if legislators in some states are attacking the dignity and humanity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, at least the White House is still moving in the direction of dignity and common sense,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate.
Within the past several years, the Obama administration has been increasingly affirming of trans citizens, with Vice President Joe Biden referring in 2012 to transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time” and President Obama using the word “transgender” (in addition to “lesbian” and “bisexual”) in this year’s State of the Union Address for the first time ever for any president. Federal employees have had the right to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identiy since 2011.
Around the country, heads of Republican homophobes must be exploding. Read the whole article for more on LGBT-positive actions the Obama administration has taken.
Some not so good news: the Secret Service’s credibility continues to slide downhill rapidly.
The D.C. police’s sex-crimes unit and a government inspector general are investigating the female agent’s allegation that Xavier Morales, a manager in the security clearance division, made unwanted sexual advances and grabbed her on the night of March 31 after they returned to the office from a party at a downtown restaurant, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the probe.
The woman told police and agency investigators that Morales, her boss, told her during the party at Capitol City Brewing Company that he was in love with her and would like to have sex with her, according to two people briefed on her statements. In the office later, she alleged, Morales tried to kiss her and grabbed her arms when she resisted, according to the two people briefed on her complaint. The woman alleged that the two scuffled until Morales relented.
Through an agency spokesman, Morales declined to comment, and he did not respond to requests for comment left on his personal phone.
Late last week, the Secret Service took the unusual step of placing Morales on indefinite administrative leave and adding his name to an internal “do not admit” list prohibiting entry to the office, a Secret Service official said. The Secret Service also took away his gun and badge after agency investigators launched a preliminary review of the complaint and conducted “subsequent corroborative interviews” Thursday afternoon, said agency spokesman Brian Leary.
More details at Heavy.com: Xavier Morales: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.
Ugh. Maybe we need more female Secret Service agents to quell the “boys will be boys” atmosphere in the agency.
More trouble may be coming for NJ governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.
NJ.com reports: Indictments may come very soon in Bridgegate, report says.
Indictments may be coming very soon in Bridgegate, the investigation into improper lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in late 2013 that has also led to questions about bribery and conflicts of interest possibly involving Gov. Christie and the Port Authority, sources told The New York Times.
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman launched the probe a few months after three lanes were closed to the bridge in September 2013, causing gridlock in Fort Lee. The closures were initially attributed to a traffic study by a Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, but emails unearthed during an investigation revealed that the lanes were shut down on the orders of a Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, to a Port Authority official appointed by Christie, David Wildstein. Some believe the lane closures were retribution for the failure of Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election at a time when the governor and likely Republican presidential candidate was trying to build bipartisan support.
The Times previously reported that Fishman’s office may bring indictments to the operators of the bridge under a little-used statute that makes it a crime to use the bridge for something other than its intended purpose. Fishman’s office declined to say what course the investigation is taking.
This could be very interesting.
I have more news links, but I’m running out of space and time. I’ll add them to the comments.
What stories are you following? I’d love to read your comments on this post and click on your links to your recommended reads for today.
Still feeling down in the dumps today, so forgive the sparse content. Hopefully these links are not repeats…
I have not had a chance to read this first link…yet. Kurt Eichenwald: Let’s Repeal the Second Amendment | Vanity Fair
Haven’t read this one either: 6 Biggest Religious Right Threats to America | Alternet
Something on gun control: Muhlberger’s World History: The Bonfire of the Vanities
Check out these official pictures from the White House 2012:
A few science articles:
This first link needs a bit of funk to make it right:
If you have what James Brown likes…then you may also suffer from Fatty Liver.
One thing that can help with this next link about Fatty Liver, is to get a little more active:
For Dakinikat…it isn’t about old grave discoveries, but it still has a touch of death to it: Dried squash holds headless French king’s blood, study finds
Another one for Dak, Maya Funerary Vessel Represents “Tremor 8” – Archaeology Magazine
For Boston Boomer, you may find this interesting: Language Acquisition Could Begin In The Womb | Geekosystem
Is it a man’s world? Now for some mood music, for the next few links about Women’s Rights and Women in History:
Annie Lennox has a blog she writes at: Annie Lennox Calls For Action On Women’s Rights In 2013 – Starpulse.com
Here is direct link to it: Annie Lennox – Official Website
Maybe Women’s Rights will have a louder voice now: 101 Facts About 100 Women of the House and Senate
History looks at Viking Women: Don’t underestimate Viking women | Medieval News
Another one on religion, and women’s influence in culture: Research uncovers how single and widowed women shaped the religious culture of colonial Latin America
Sick twisted doctors…10 Derailed Doctors Who Creatively Abused Their Patients
An iconic song turns 30: ‘Billie Jean’: Michael Jackson’s landmark single turns 30 | theGrio
Video of a big ass plane landing at a tiny airport.
Video of the same big ass plane taking off from a tiny airport.
Video of a cartoon we have all seen before, but should watch again.
A few movie reviews:
This Amanda Marcotte review of Django Unchained is good, she gets it: Django Unchained: A Movie About Other Movies About the 19th Century
And…another review…about Django…only this one asks the wrong question: How Accurate Is Quentin Tarantino’s Portrayal of Slavery in Django Unchained? : The New Yorker
Sticking with the movie topic a bit more: alicublog: I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES.
Now for an actor who is Super Bad, and one of my favorites, bet you can guess who that is?
An interview with my man: Samuel L. Jackson is right about bad Hollywood endings, but then real life isn’t much better
I wonder if this film will be made in time for the 2016 campaign season: Tennessee Guerilla Women: Hillary Clinton’s Life, Soon to Be a Hollywood Movie
And…its a squatch! One of those elusive Georgia Redneck Big Foots! Yup, a few of them are getting together to talk about another kind of Bigfoot…Inaugural Southeastern Bigfoot Conference being held in Dahlonega
More fantastic Bigfoot reads:
Bigfoot or Good Foot you decide:
Have a fantastic Sunday…and hope everyone is feeling good!
Mitt Romney’s gaffetastic journey began before he even arrived in London when the Telegraph published this now-infamous article based on interviews with some Romney “advisers” who indicated that Mitt would Mitt would “restore ‘Anglo-Saxon’ relations between Britain and America.” The advisers also said that Romney would
seek to reinstate the Churchill bust displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush but returned to British diplomats by Mr Obama when he took office in 2009. One said Mr Romney viewed the move as “symbolically important” while the other said it was “just for starters”, adding: “He is naturally more Atlanticist”.
Romney claims he “does not know who these advisers are,” but he apparently agrees with them about the Churchill bust because last night
he told a group of more than 200 supporters in [a] hotel in the heart of London…[that] he is “looking forward” to returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House after it was sent back to Great Britain by President Obama.
Mitt the Twit told these supporters [actually wealthy banksters involved in the LIBOR scandal] that he was deeply impressed by the statue of Churchill in London.
The GOP candidate, who suffered a brutal day of press after he suggested that he wasn’t sure the London Olympics would go off without a hitch, spoke highly of the British monuments — singling out the Churchill statue — that he said he got a firsthand look at while stuck in traffic — likely caused by the Olympic Games.
“You live here, you see the sites day in and day out, but for me as I drive past the sculpture of Winston Churchill and see that great sculpture next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament and with him larger than life, enormous heft of that sculpture suggesting the scale of the the grandeur and the greatness of the man, it tugs at the heart strings to remember the kind fo [sic] example that was led by Winston Churchill,” said Romney, speaking in a ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the edge of Hyde Park.
Boy, he really laid it on thick, didn’t he? But Mitt the Twit was misinformed, as were the “advisers” that he says he doesn’t know. It turns out that the Churchill bust never left the White House! The White House put up a “fact check” post to clear up the misinformation, although they studiously avoided mentioning Romney.
Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.
Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”
This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
So where did that story about a bust being removed from the Oval Office come from?
The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence. The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency. On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.
I’m sure this won’t stop Nowhere Man from claiming otherwise, since he appears to delight in lying about just about everything.
Here’s a brief video of some of the reactions to Romney in the London tabloids
I won’t bore you with many more tales of Romney’s European vacation, but I really liked this piece in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland: Britain is an easy date. So how did Mitt Romney mess up so badly?
For an American politician, Britain is an easy date: just praise the country as a steadfast ally, mention Churchill a couple of times and we’ll roll over. Yet somehow Romney managed to provoke both the prime minister and the capital’s mayor – both fellow conservatives who should regard a Republican nominee as a kindred spirit – into public rebukes. That takes some doing. So what explains how an accomplished politician, with the resilience to have prevailed in a bruising primary campaign, could mess up so badly? The answer says a lot about Romney – and a fair bit about the dire state of today’s Republican party.
In the first category comes the observation that, despite having sought the presidency twice and served as a state governor, Romney is not really a politician at all – not in the Bill Clinton sense of someone who thinks, talks and breathes politically, constantly calculating the likely impact of both words and deeds. Instead Romney speaks and acts like the chief executive he was for so long, whether of private equity firm Bain Capital or the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics of 2002.
As we’ve learned in recent weeks, thanks to the likes of Barclays’ Bob Diamond or G4S’s Nick Buckles, corporate titans, so used to the nodding appreciation of yes men, can lack elementary tact and diplomacy, failing to weigh their words for tone, timing and likely reception. Technically, nothing in what Romney said about London 2012 was especially contentious – if, that is, he were merely the former CEO of the 2002 Games speaking privately to Coe a month ago. But for a man who seeks to be the lead partner in the US-UK alliance, speaking on the day before the Olympic flame was lit, it was a diplomatic disaster.
It’s surely CEO thinking too which has led Romney to refuse to release all his past tax returns, even though President Obama has published his in full. CEOs recoil from such personal transparency, while politicians know they will have to succumb eventually and so had better get it over with. Above all, their exorbitant pay means the elite chief executive class is habitually and unavoidably out of touch with everyone else. It is the Romney of the 1% who could smilingly tell an audience in hard-pressed Detroit that his wife has “a couple of Cadillacs”, beaming again today as his wife referred to the “horses”, plural, she owns (including one competing in the Olympic dressage event, providing a picture-perfect image of elitism for his opponents to feast on).
I thought that was a very insightful assessment.
In other news, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota “being evaluated for depression, ‘gastrointestinal issues'”
This one is for Pat: Katherine Jackson Returns Home, Paris Jackson Tweets About It.
I’m not sure I understand everything that happened, but Katherine Jackson says she needed a rest and so she went to Arizona, getting rid of her cell phone so she wouldn’t be bothered. But there’s something else going on:
While Michael’s will gave Katherine custody of his children and a 20 percent stake in his massive estate, her husband, Joe Jackson, and the eight surviving Jackson siblings were completely cut out. Some of the siblings have reportedly been exploring a move to have the will invalidated by arguing that Michael was in New York on the day that the document was notarized in Los Angeles.
In a video that surfaced earlier this week, Janet Jackson is seen trying to take a cell phone away from Paris, 14, and berating her niece for using her phone to tweet about family business. That video leaked after Janet, Jermaine and Randy Jackson reportedly attempted to persuade Paris and Prince, 15, to leave Katherine’s home on Monday. Both resisted and a short time later, sheriff’s deputies arrived to break up a scuffle between Randy, Jermaine Jackson and TJ.
MTV has more detail on the family fracas via TMZ:
Sources tell TMZ that Randy, Jermaine and Janet Jackson entered the home uninvited and then tried to coerce Michael’s children, Paris, Prince and Blanket, into coming with them to Arizona where their grandmother Katherine has been staying.
Sources say that Paris resisted the intervention and apparently things got violent. Allegedly, Janet slapped Paris and yelled, “You’re a spoiled little bitch!” to which Paris responded with a slap and told Janet, “This is our house. Not the Jackson family house. Get the f–k out!”
TMZ shares that Trent Jackson (Joe Jackson’s nephew who deals with Katherine’s daily affairs) put Randy in a headlock and punched Jermaine in the mouth. Tito Jackson was reportedly trying to get temporary guardianship of Michael’s kids.
And I thought my family was dysfunctional!
There may be a breakthrough in the Eurozone crisis. Reuters:
Stocks rallied on Friday on expectations the European Central Bank will tackle high borrowing costs hitting Spain and Italy, but the euro pared gains on market uncertainty about the specific action to be taken.
The benchmark S&P 500 closed at its highest since early May, climbing further after Bloomberg News said ECB President Mario Draghi will meet with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann to discuss several measures, including bond purchases, to help the euro zone.
The French and German governments said they are “determined to do everything to protect the euro zone” and its single currency. The joint statement echoed similar remarks by Draghi on Thursday, but in comments on Friday, Germany’s Bundesbank pushed back against Draghi’s pledge.
Tim Geithner will also meet with Schaeuble and Draghi next week in Germany.
The meeting with Schaeuble will take place on the German island of Sylt in the afternoon of July 30, and the session with Draghi will be held that evening in Frankfurt, the Treasury Department said in a statement today.
The Treasury said the meetings will be closed to the press, with a photo opportunity before the Schaeuble meeting. A Treasury official with knowledge of the matter said that Geithner and Schaeuble won’t hold a news conference after the meeting.
The Guardian has a live blog with updates on the ongoing crisis.
Bobby Knight hit the Google top stories list last night, because Neil Reed, the former IU basketball player who was choked by Knight during practice, has died at age 36.
In March 2000, Reed accused Knight of choking him during a practice in 1997. When video of the practice surfaced backing Reed’s claim, Knight, a Hall of Fame coach who was known for his angry outbursts as well as his success, was put on zero-tolerance notice by Dr. Myles Brand, then the university president. That September, Knight was fired after a student said he had grabbed his arm.
Reed transferred to Southern Mississippi shortly after the choking incident and played there in the 1998-99 season.
He is survived by his wife, Kelly, and two daughters.
So sad that he was known for that horrible incident and then died so young. When I first saw Knight’s name on the list, I thought maybe he had died.
Finally, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to hold a fundraiser for Scott Brown in August. Get this:
A spokesman for Bloomberg, Stu Loeser, says the mayor’s top reason for supporting Brown is the senator’s opposition to a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
Loeser said Warren’s tough stance on Wall Street regulation was not the basis for the endorsement.
Hahahahahaha!! Somehow I doubt that Warren is a big NRA supporter….
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
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!