Sunday, January 29, 2012

A thing barely noticed

Wikipedia: the Enemy Expatriation Act

Stephen D. Foster Jr., New Bill Known As Enemy Expatriation Act Would Allow Government To Strip Citizenship Without Conviction, January 6, 2012:

The new law would change a part of US Code 1481 which can be read in full here. Compare 3166 to 1481 and the change is small. The new section makes no reference to being convicted as it does in section (7). So even though the language of the NDAA has been revised to exclude American citizens, the US government merely has to strip Americans of their citizenship and the NDAA will apply. And they will be able to do so without convicting the accused in a court of law...

The SOPA/PIPA legislation encountered massive push-back, whereas the NDAA passed with BHO's signature, after language was inserted to exclude American citizens. And now this. SOPA is dead, at least for now, but the interests that favor it learned lessons about how to better market their wares, and in the meantime types got to bask in the warm relevance of a still functional democracy. As with the Keystone Pipeline, one imagines SOPA/PIPA will be back, if in some other form. Of course as Arthur Silber recently pointed out, all of these measures are just designed to make legal (and seemingly respectable) things the government does anyway.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More regarding the SOPA protest

The Democracy Now interview above with Corynne McSherry is from Tuesday: 'Wikipedia, Reddit to shut down sites Wednesday to protest SOPA'

Presently the Obama administration is making vague noises against SOPA and PIPA, but their track record suggests the president will eventually sign a bill that's substantially the same as what they're looking at now, as he did with NDAA.

Technorati: List of sites going dark today

Google re sopa

Below, NO SOPA: 'American Censorship Day'
Uploaded by The AlyonaShow on Nov 16, 2011

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on their version of the bill known as SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act. The Protect IP Act would allow the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites they see as engaging in infringing activities, to be blocked by ISP providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising networks all without a court hearing or trial. Numerous groups have come out against it but will Congress listen. O'Reilly Media's Alexander Howard discusses.

Per Rob Payne's suggestion, here's what I wrote in comments yesterday:

As is so often the case, the devil is in the details. In practical terms, SOPA and PIPA negate the rights of the accused, and create a set of conditions which privilege larger corporations over smaller ones, and the more politically connected over the less powerful, whenever there might be a copyright dispute.

SOPA allows a complaining party to have content they don't care for removed from a website and the web site shut down, just based on filing a complaint, skipping court hearings and trials and such.

Part of the problem is the real-world selective nature of enforcement. In all likelihood most people have potentially illegally obtained copyrighted material in their possession, in negligible quantities. Most blogs that feature quotations or images from elsewhere probably are in violation of copyright, at least in a small way, even if they don't actually cause any tangible harm to the copyright holder, and the copyright holder is generally unlikely to go after you are me or your pal Digby, etc.

But imagine if, for example, a copyright holder can shut you down outright, without providing proof.

Presently the complainant(if that's the right word) has to ask a court to compel you to remove the offending material, which might just be a few lines of text or an image on one article at a blog, out of dozens or hundreds of posts, and usually demonstrate that they've been harmed if they also want to collect financial damages. Because of this requirement, generally big companies just send letters from their lawyers to the offending party(who may not know he's violating copyright), and the thing in question is often removed without legal proceedings, etc.

Let's say that a major establishment news portal is scooped by some small-fry blog or indie news site, like Counterpunch or Consortium News or even Free Republic, and "" decides to just ask a judge the Justice department to shut them down, alleging that they stole a story, without proof.

Or a songwriter wants to sue a major recording act, alleging that they stole an obscure song of his, and the big label turns around and makes a counter-claim, because they know they don't have to prove anything, and the judge is more likely to favor the better known and therefore more respectable party.

(Actually, SOPA borrows a page from the war on drugs in that respect, because it creates an incentive to shut people down so you can take their stuff, or at least eliminate the competition.)

I wish I could post an image of the KFO-signal, a lá a certain old time comic book superhero, and then maybe he could better evaluate the scenarios I offer regarding SOPA, but naturally I don't want DC comics to get on my case.

And finally, Hitler reacts to SOPA.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Wiki blackout

Wiki anti SOPA banner

Maybe you've seen this. Wikipedia explain their actions here:
Wikipedia’s community calls for anti-SOPA blackout January 18

Now Wikipedia is a huge web presence, and this blackout may call more attention to the nefariousness of SOPA and PIPA than the mealy-mouthed and vague descriptions of them that you'll get from most major journalistic media portals.

From their statement:

It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web.

Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about this proposed legislation. The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a “blackout” of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support.

On careful review of this discussion, the closing administrators note the broad-based support for action from Wikipedians around the world, not just from within the United States. The primary objection to a global blackout came from those who preferred that the blackout be limited to readers from the United States, with the rest of the world seeing a simple banner notice instead. We also noted that roughly 55% of those supporting a blackout preferred that it be a global one, with many pointing to concerns about similar legislation in other nations.

In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position. That’s a real, legitimate issue. We want people to trust Wikipedia, not worry that it is trying to propagandize them.

But although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not. As Wikimedia Foundation board member Kat Walsh wrote on one of our mailing lists recently,

We depend on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to operate. And we depend on a legal infrastructure that also allows other sites to host user-contributed material, both information and expression. For the most part, Wikimedia projects are organizing and summarizing and collecting the world’s knowledge. We’re putting it in context, and showing people how to make to sense of it.

But that knowledge has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it. Where it can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikimedia. Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or, if your views are pre-approved by someone who does, the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.

I've written about this before, here and here. My impression is that a lot of people just don't understand the gravity of the threat. Possibly this is partly due to a general unease people have with the rapidly changing pace of technology, and they revert to an "if in doubt, better trust authority" mindset.


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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Apostate Paul and Iowa

Ron Paul triptytch

update below [16 January]

I have no idea if Ron Paul is racist, although I'm inclined to think he isn't. But the vehemence with which people on both the ostensible left and the right have gone after him for his newsletters from years past, and implicitly his seeming unwillingness to disassociate himself with some of his evidently racist supporters is fascinating. I realize it isn't exactly the same thing, but I'm reminded of how Obama so eagerly repudiated the reverend Jeremiah Wright in 2008, and vaguely said we should have a "dialogue on race", then decided not to.

At the time I thought, what if BHO had stood by his friendship with Wright, offering the distinction that while he disagreed with his views, and added that a lot of us have friends and associates who have views we wouldn't want to defend, people shouldn't have to disown their friends in order to run for office. After all, to expect that of a pol means that, as a society we expect , in fact require, our politicians to be shallow and venal and pliable, to only stand up for comparatively uncontroversial virtues, and not offend us by sticking with their friends, or by expecting us to grasp nuance, like the idea that one can have a friend who holds disagreeable views and only be responsible for our own.

(Yeah, I know, I'm talking about Barach Obama, and it's pretty hard to imagine him ever behaving that way. At any rate I assume the establishment media would have excoriated him in much the way they're doing with Paul now.)

Now I also doubt Jeremiah Wright is a racist, but that's not really the point. Actually, I gather that Wright and Paul both disapprove of the imperial quality of American foreign policy, even if they might both have supporters who like their differently expressed views on this subject but wouldn't care for each other too much. (Maybe they should get together and talk about it and try to understand one another's views, without the big media mediating. I wonder what would happen.)

It's not that racism is no big deal, but you have to ask, whose racism are we talking about? Racism is about the dehumanizing of an other, right? I don’t hear anybody at The Atlantic or The National Review, et al, calling racism on, say, Hillary Clinton for joking “we came, we saw, he died” about the killing of Qaddafi, or on Rick Santorum for saying he’d pre-emptively bomb Iran even if they don’t have nuclear weapons, or on Obama for yukking it up at the Washington Press Club dinner about how funny it is to send unmanned drones after people you don’t like.

But Ron Paul is marginalized as crazy and dangerous and possibly racist because of his newsletters, and because he doesn’t do things like that, and in fact takes issue with long-standing US foreign policies of financially ruinous imperial overreach and the farce of characterizing resentment of the US as “hating us for our freedoms.”

(If anything, I’d argue that his desire that we turn away from an aggressive foreign policy that requires us to demonize people in far off lands who have oil and other goodies we want to take from them may serve as prima facie evidence that he isn’t racist.(1)

I will admit that I dislike many of Paul's positions. He would get rid of social security and medicare, and certainly his dismissal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn't sit right with me. All the same even if Ron Paul doesn't approve of the civil rights initiatives from the 1960s, somebody like that seems less harmful than numerous establishment pols, both right and left, who won't say something like that but are okay with indefinite detention and the endless imperial wars. Doesn't not wanting to jail people without charges and not wanting to kill so many people trump unsavory views, alleged or otherwise?

We shouldn't have to choose of course, but in repudiating Paul it's not as if we get a choice anyway. The supposedly less crazy non-Paul-like politicians in both parties also want to gut social security, but they are less upfront about it, avoiding alarming us by explicitly telling us their plans, and arguing about super-committees and interminable stop-gap budget deals instead to distract and confuse us. I guess this is pretty big of them, even if it suggests they regard us as a nation of distressed Tennessee Williams heroines who need to be protected from the truth of what's being done to us.

The people on cable TV news tell us again and again that Ron Paul doesn't have a chance in the long run, that his base of support is passionate but narrow. Maybe that's true, at least of politically oriented people who think elections make sense and actively support the two-party system, even if they routinely tell pollsters how much they disapprove of the actual politicians.

Monday night I watched Erin Burnett on CNN talking about the Iowa Caucus and how the turnout for the polls were expected to be about 100,000 out of over half a million eligible to vote. (About 17% of eligible Iowa voters participated in 2008's caucuses.) In other words, the Iowa caucus is kind of a joke, because of the complicated caucus system, but also because of the traditionally low turnout.

Evidently its purpose is to push candidates who don't have money to burn out of the race, so that the "serious" candidates who do know how to raise buckets of money don't have to deal with the unserious in New Hampshire and elsewhere. The fact that it's a low-density, low-population state with lots of opportunities to showcase scenes of serious fundraiser candidates pressing the flesh and meeting normal people is a nice bonus. I guess noticing the ridiculously low turnout numbers and concluding that Iowans also think their caucus is a joke will simply mean you'll never get invited to those swell Washington D. C. parties the jus' folks fundraisers probably can't wait to get back to after Iowa is in the can.

Of course if Ron Paul did luck out and somehow win Iowa the script for that was ready. One imagines it would’ve proved how out of touch Iowa GOP voters are, at least according to the fine folks at the cable TV networks. (A week or so ago I saw a discussion on HLN(the former CNN Headline News) in which one of the panelists argued that Iowans should be concerned that if Paul won it would prove that their caucus was irrelevant, which struck me as the height of arrogance, and reinforced my long-held sense that Iowa is intended to weed out populists and others who don't toe the corporate line, or problematic figures like Ron Paul, whose views and appeal serve to highlight in sharp relief the phoniness and mutual complicity of the major political parties and the press who tell us about them.

Christian Science Monitor, "If Mitt Romney wins both Iowa and N.H., it may be 'game over'"

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic,"Grappling with Ron Paul's racist newsletters"

Dave Lindorff, "Why the Establishment is Terrified of Ron Paul"

KFO, "How to prove bigotry"

KFO’s pal Glenn Greenwald at Salon,"Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies"who writes

Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

Cüneyt,"Pardon My Glibness in Response to Glibness"

[FYI: The girl in the triptych above is pop singer Kelly Clarkson, who endorsed Paul last week. I was tempted to be willfully obscure and not tell you, but decided against it. I have no idea of her views of PIPA and SOPA, etc.]


JM of Political Anxiety Closet writes in the comments, sharing 3 links. One doesn't seem to work, but here are the other two:
Judd Legum, Think Progress, FACT CHECK: Ron Paul Personally Defended Racist Newsletters

Teddy Partridge, FDL Is Ron Paul Also Homophobic?

Both are from December 27th.


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