“Protecting” the Internet…From Itself!

Those of us who online research, or are curious about a subject or a historical event, know, love and depend upon Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that has amassed the largest compendium of human knowledge in history.  So imagine how the millions of internet users are surviving today, Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 as Wikipedia has blacked out its web site for the entire 24 hours.

Wikipedia and other techno sites on the internet are protesting a pair of bills being considered in the US congress:  SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the US house of representatives and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) in the US senate.  What these bills aim to do is to provide more tools to prevent foreign web sites from infringing on copyrighted materials by offering pirated products such as software, movies, music, and so forth.

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea, and the problem is not that there is disagreement over the need to protect copyrights.  The real problem is, among other things, the near-unlimited power that would be granted to certain companies to black out suspected web sites without a court order or government oversight if the site has any copyrighted material on it.  That could include social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and Google, where millions of people interact and it is impossible for anyone to examine and police every single item that millions of contributors place on these sites, or make available via these sites.

Additionally, the SOPA bill contains a provision that would allow the US government to target web sites that provide information regarding how to get around the censorship provisions in the this bill.  In other words, the government could pick and choose which web sites to go after, or black out, or order private internet providers to black out or hide, solely on the basis of available information on that site.  This would constitute an unconstitutional “prior restraint” against protected free speech, as guaranteed in the 1st amendment in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.  It would also have the effect of severely limiting online innovation, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).  For a more comprehensive examination of SOPA and PIPA and their detrimental effects on the internet and free speech, click HERE.

What’s interesting and even somewhat amusing about these bills is who supports them and who opposes them.  The bills are the result of intense lobbying by groups in the entertainment and media industry such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Time-Warner and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  They all support the bills as a way to protect their copyrighted properties.  On the other hand, the internet- and computer-techno-intensive companies such as Wikipedia, AOL, YouTube and the social networks are adamantly opposed to these bills in their present form.

Additionally, right-leaning venture capitalists seem to have joined with left-leaning free speech advocates by stating that they would not want to invest in online start-ups if these bills pass because of the massively increased liability they would face if someone posted something (anything!) found to be copyrighted.

As a result of the convoluted division of issues with these bills, both democrats and republicans are jumping on both the anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA bandwagons, just as some members of both parties support the bills.  It’s unfortunate that it takes something like this to see some bipartisanship occur in Congress.

On the other hand, Wikipedia shutting down for a day in protest isn’t something you get to see every day, either.

For those that have an opinion about these bills, several organizations have been sending out emails asking people to sign on to petitions against these bills.  If you go to Wikipedia today, you’ll see one way to get the message to your congresspeople.  Or you can go directly to this site to just fill in the blanks and get your view up to congress.

This actually is very important stuff.  Once censorship starts, even for the noblest of causes, it is very hard to stop and reverse.  And besides, who wants an internet where there is no Facebook, no Twitter, no free online encyclopedia with all human knowledge just a click away, and no YouTube?

No YouTube???  They may as will just shut the entire internet down if there’s no YouTube!!!   🙂

 

Super PACs: Corporate America’s Control of US elections

Super PAC:  An independent-expenditure only committee, which is free to collect and spend as much money as it can, for the purpose of supporting a political candidate and/or agenda, as long as that candidate and/or agenda is not DIRECTLY tied to, coordinated with, or directed by a single political candidate or his/her campaign organization.

Super PAC’s were born out of two US federal court decisions:

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the US Constitution’s first amendment right to free speech extended to corporations and other non-personal entities, and

Speechnow.org v. FEC, in which the US Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided that there could be no limit on the money contributed to groups such as independent super PACs which are prohibited from coordinating DIRECTLY with the candidates or political parties they support.  The only control exerted by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is that Super PACs are required to disclose who their donors are.

So what?

Obviously, as long as a Super PAC doesn’t coordinate DIRECTLY with the candidates or political parties it supports, it can throw as much money toward a candidate’s success as it wants, which in this mega-media environment means buying TV and other media time to bash the opposition candidates and/or political party.

The problem with this abusive system is unfair political system influence.  These Super PACs are primarily supported by corporations and organizations with tons of money to spend on their singular agenda item of buying votes that enhance their corporate bottom line.  They are not, and never have been, about what is best for the nation, known as the United States of America (USA), as a whole.  The corporate and economic philosophy of enhancing the bottom line at all costs is driving these Super PACs.  The average lowly middle class USA worker cannot possibly compete with the resources that these mega-corporations can bring to bear upon the electoral system of the USA.

As an example to the huge out-of-proportion influence that only the super-rich can exert on the political system of the USA, the ultra-conservative Koch brothers and their buddy Karl Rove (engineer of GW Bush’s lying political campaigns, justifications for the war in Iraq, and the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame), made available more than a quarter of a billion US dollars that have ALREADY BEEN SPENT under the Super PAC concept in the republican political campaign process underway during and following last night’s republican primary in New Hampshire (NH).

NH is just a tiny state in the grand political primary scheme of things, so it’s not going to be that big a numerical influence in the republican nominating process.  But what it does very well is provide the  Super PACs with their testing ground for future proposed hate-, fear- and falsehood-mongering, as well as misleading political ads.   All this happens at the expense of the average voting citizen who is either too busy or too stupid to do his/her own political fact-finding.

At least on the surface, it is unbelievably bizarre that today’s USA citizens would accept even a moment of this unbelievably assaulting abuse on their voting rights from entities able to exert enormous amounts of political and financial pressure on the American electorate system.  Perhaps the explanation is that the both the internet and  today’s instantaneous telecommunications have made people so lazy that they no longer check rhetoric against facts.

Yet, whatever it is, it’s proving the old axiom that people get the government they deserve.  If they’re too lazy or too stupid to check facts and reality before they vote, then too bad for them for electing liars and businesspeople that only care about the benefits to the sponsors of the Super PACs that spend millions (or in the case of the Koch brother industrialists, billions!) of dollars influencing an election in a way that is good ONLY for the already wealthy profit mongers.

There is no way to rationalize that the founding fathers of America intended for this to occur, all explanations by Corporate America and the Tea Party to the contrary.  The truth is that our founding fathers were VERY concerned with the powerful suppressing the less powerful.

Although the founders obviously couldn’t see everything coming, they saw far enough into the future to realize that they needed to provide an amendment procedure into the US constitution.  That means that it is ultimately possible to change the Constitution in order to fix past mistakes and to make the individual USA citizen more important than the obscenely rich corporate American company, as well as the middle class who is at least as important as our obscenely profit-capable corporate American environment.

Obscenely rich corporate American eletoral influence is not about true democracy….it’s the Roman Empire, just before it collapsed.

Only problem is…the wealthy  front-runners absolutely love this shit…so they will fight any effort to suspend their power.  And the hell wit true democracy.

Bachmann & Perry: Fork ’em, They’re Done

Anyone paying attention to the GOP Iowa caucus circus last night knows that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum tied for first place, each with 25% of the vote cast.  The unusual factor of this caucus vote was that Romney received 30,015 votes to Santorum’s 30,007 votes, a difference of only 8 votes.  That made Rowney’s “victory”, if you can even call it that, the closest in GOP caucus history.

Rick Perry spent over US$4 million on advertising in Iowa but only received 12,600 votes, or 10% off all votes cast, and did not win a single county among Iowa’s 99 counties.  The math says he paid $350 per vote!  In contrast, Rick Santorum spent only US$30,000 on TV ads, costing just US$1 per vote.  As a result, following the pasting he took in Iowa Perry said he was going back to his home state of Texas to “reassess” his campaign.   But Perry, with his bible-thumping mass prayer get-together functions and his belief that such things can make in rain in Texas (except that it didn’t), is out of touch with reality, perhaps more so than Michele Bachmann (if that’s even possible).

Michele Bachmann only received approximately 6000 votes, or just 5% of the votes cast, and also did not win a single county in Iowa.  She came in 6th in a field of 7 candidates, just behind Perry’s 10%, and beating only John Huntsman, who did noteven campaign in Iowa at all.  That’s like losing to everyone except a dead person.

After her defeat last night in Iowa, she told the press that was still going to press on with her campaign.  But leaks from her campaign people made that doubtful.   As weird and religiously oriented as Michele Bachmann is, she listened to her campaign advisers and withdrew from the race.  That’s to her credit, and the first smart thing she’s done in quite some time.

Not surprisingly, in announcing this action she misrepresented health care reform, the founding of the USA, and President Obama’s political views, all while making it sound as if she was simply doing “God’s work”, according to “God’s plan”.  It was a speech seemingly designed to fire up the most evangelical ultra-extreme right religious fanatics out there.  After all, she and her husband believe and actively advocate that homosexuality is a perverted choice (as opposed to a genetic predisposition), and they own and administer a clinic that purports to “cure” homosexuality with prayer therapy, which, evidently, they also believe is”God’s work”.

Additionally, Bachmann has made speeches claiming that the “founding fathers” of the USA (who signed the US Constitution in 1787) ended slavery in the USA, when most (or all) had been dead for at least 40 years when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the USA in 1863, or 76 years later!!!!

Nonetheless, regardless of how delighted her niche constituency was, no one was more delighted than Rick Perry, whom, immediately after Bachmann’s withdrawal speech, was reported by members of his campaign to have completed his “reassessment” in favor of continuing his run for president, by concentrating on the South Carolina primary on January 21st.  After all, Perry knows he hasn’t got a chance against Mitt Romney in New Hampshire next Tuesday.   Additionally, Newt Gingrich and John Huntsman have campaigned hard in New Hampshire and will probably do well.  Perry’s strategy has always been to concentrate on the south, and now he seems to believe he’ll pick up Bachmann’s supporters.

For people who pay attention and think for themselves, Perry’s a buffoon who couldn’t debate well, couldn’t remember the names of the federal agencies he wanted to abolish, thinks much like Bachmann that he’s doing “God’s Work”, and simply cannot (or will not) see the handwriting on the wall that is screaming that he cannot possibly win the republican presidential nomination no matter what he says or does (or prays for).

The conclusion of this interesting turn of events is that though we may never know for sure if Perry’s “reassessment” was cut short by Bachmann’s decision to withdraw, it certainly seems to be more than a just a weird coincidence that the political campaign “leak” announcing Perry’s sudden decision to stay in the race was reported less than five minutes after the conclusion of Bachmann’s speech.

The one person who can’t be too happy with Bachmann’s departure is Mitt Romney.  He wants as many ultra-conservatives as possible to remain in the race to split the inevitable Tea Party, born-again, and evangelical vote which will make his vote percentages look better, since that’s the way plurality voting  systems work.  If Perry had dropped out as well, the anyone-but-Romney vote would have benefited Gingrich,Santorum and the space cadet (Ron Paul) the most.

And speaking of space cadets…Ron Paul did remarkably well last night with the 17-29 year-old folks, according to the polls.  Problem is…one has to be 18 to vote for president in the USA.

Except, maybe in Iowa??