19 Jan

TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea)

What does a bill like PIPA/SOPA mean to our shareable world? At the TED offices, Clay Shirky delivers a proper manifesto — a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume.

via TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea). Clay Shirky delivers a clear and cogent history and explanation of PIPA/SOPA, walking through both the intent and what the ramifications of the bill and how it changes the entire legal system under which websites operate. Shirky also makes the very real point that even if PIPA and SOPA are killed (as appears increasingly likely) a bill similar to them will be back.

19 Jan

Electronic Frontier Foundation – The Internet at its Best

Today, we watch in awe as the Internet rallies to fight dangerous blacklist legislation, the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House. The originality, creativity, and magnitude of action we’re seeing represents exactly what these bills would harm most: the value of a vibrant and open Internet that fosters these activities.

As the day goes on, we will continue to update you on Twitter (@EFF) and in this space. In the meantime, here are some of today’s #SOPAblackout highlights. Thank these organizations for their participation and go here to make your voice heard!

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – The Internet at its Best. EFF highlights some of the largest sites that participated in the SOPA/PIPA blackout.

16 Jan

ArsTechnica – Wikipedia to join reddit in SOPA blackout Wednesday

Seeking to “send Washington a BIG message,” Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has announced that the English version of Wikipedia will go dark on Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, anti-piracy bills now being considered by Congress.

“Student warning!” Wales tweeted on Monday. “Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!”

He said the blackout, which is expected to last 24 hours, was a decision of the Wikipedia community.

via ArsTechnica – Wikipedia to join reddit in SOPA blackout Wednesday. I’ll also be posting a message to protest and inform people about PIPA and SOPA, though I imagine Wikipedia will have a much larger influence. Stop American Censorship is your one stop information portal to find out more about SOPA and PIPA and how these bills hurt the internet.

27 Sep

Ars Technica – Three Senators condemn OnStar for tracking former customers

Three Senators have raised concerns about an announcement by GM’s OnStar’s subsidiary that it would continue collecting data from customers’ cars even after they cancelled their OnStar service. In a Wednesday letter to the company, Al Franken (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) warned that "OnStar’s actions appear to violate basic principles of privacy and fairness."

On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) raised objections of his own. He released a letter he has written to the Federal Trade Commission seeking an investigation of OnStar’s privacy practices. Schumer described OnStar’s new policy as "one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory."

via Ars Technica – Three Senators condemn OnStar for tracking former customers. Glad I don’t own a vehicle with OnStar installed. It’s more than a little sleazy to collect and sell information from former customers.

10 Apr

Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again

The U.S. House of Representatives resumed its flight from reality earlier today (April 8th) when it voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to mandate an open and non-discriminatory Internet.

What was remarkable about the vote was how the Republicans pushing the legislation managed to at once speak in favor of the legislation as helping small business and innovation, while ignoring the testimony and other advocacy from those very businesses that opposed it.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), for example, cited the success of companies from Apple to Zipcar because of the absence of government regulation. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) questioned the future of startups in an environment without government regulation.

It appears that Upton, Scalise and their colleagues missed the article published earlier in the week by Robin Chase, who founded Zipcar. She wrote a well-received article for Politico on how that company wouldn’t exist without an open Internet. None of it mattered to those on an ideological mission to protect the large Internet providers. Other companies have said much the same thing. They similarly ignored the experience of their colleague, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who made his fortune as an Internet entrepreneur, and who earlier in the week opposed the GOP bill during debate on a procedural motion.

And when Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said that the FCC had taken control over business plans of big Internet Service Providers, he was partially right. If the business plan’s goal was to drive competitors out of business, he was right. Terry, ironically, said it was the open Internet that allowed Netflix to develop.

His statement was ironic because Netflix sent one of the strongest letters ever seen from the corporate sector to the Congress opposing what Terry wanted to do. As senior Commerce Committee Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, a cable or telephone company could stop Netflix simply for competitive reasons without it being an antitrust violation. Without Net Neutrality, there would be no stopping phone companies from controlling Netflix’s access to its customers.

Through it all, the Republicans argued that the FCC wanted to take control of the Internet, much as totalitarian governments wanted to do. That argument is so tiresome. The purpose of Net Neutrality is to make sure no one can take control of what’s online — not the government, not the big businesses that control Internet traffic on a day-to-day basis and have the incentive and opportunity to harm competition.

via Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again. If it wasn’t so frustrating you have to almost admire Republicans ability to ignore their own experts or examples when legislating.

09 Apr

NYTimes.com – “Serious”

James Fallows has a very good take on this; my version would be this: I don’t think a budget plan is “serious” unless it has numbers that remotely add up, says something specific about how it will cut spending and/or raise revenue, and puts forward proposals that have at least some chance of actually going into effect.

So, we have a plan that proposes to cut spending to Calving Coolidge levels, without explaining how it will do that; that includes $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but asserts that it will make that up by broadening the base — yet says literally nothing about what that means; and has as its centerpiece a Medicare plan that will collapse as soon as seniors start getting their grossly inadequate vouchers.

There’s nothing serious about this plan. And the way our pundit class swooned over this fantasy document suggests that all those people lecturing the American people about our unwillingness to face up to reality and make hard choices should spend some time looking in the mirror.

via NYTimes.com – “Serious”. Serious is making stuff up apparently.

07 Apr

NYTimes.com – Ludicrous and Cruel

In short, this plan isn’t remotely serious; on the contrary, it’s ludicrous.

And it’s also cruel.

In the past, Mr. Ryan has talked a good game about taking care of those in need. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, of the $4 trillion in spending cuts he proposes over the next decade, two-thirds involve cutting programs that mainly serve low-income Americans. And by repealing last year’s health reform, without any replacement, the plan would also deprive an estimated 34 million nonelderly Americans of health insurance.

So the pundits who praised this proposal when it was released were punked. The G.O.P. budget plan isn’t a good-faith effort to put America’s fiscal house in order; it’s voodoo economics, with an extra dose of fantasy, and a large helping of mean-spiritedness.

via NYTimes.com – Ludicrous and Cruel. I love that term voodoo economics, but in this case it seems to fit so well when you try to understand some of the ridiculous assumptions made.

02 Apr

Sunlight Foundation – House Violates 72 Hour Pledge Again

Two weeks ago the House of Representatives violated a pledge made by Speaker John Boehner to provide a 72 hour window for all legislation to be viewed by the public before it is brought to the floor for debate by voting on a bill to defund National Public Radio. Today, the House majority is again violating that pledge by voting on the Government Shutdown Prevention Act.

The Government Shutdown Prevention Act, a bill that deems the budget cutting bill passed by the House earlier this year to have passed Congress without the Senate’s assent, was introduced on March 30 at 1:13 pm. At the present moment, this bill has not been available for even 48 hours.

The House majority sent the bill to be approved for floor debate by the House Rules Committee under emergency rules. The NPR defunding bill was also considered by the House Rules Committee in an emergency session.

It’s worrying that the majority would repeatedly evade a pledge that they made to the American people to make the House a more transparent body. It is especially worrying that the majority would do this on two votes that are clearly not emergencies.

How was the defunding of National Public Radio an emergency requiring the circumvention of normal Rules Committee procedures and the 72 hour pledge? The current Continuing Resolution to fund the government expires on April 8. Why can’t the majority wait until Monday to vote on this bill?

The 72 hour rule is needed to give the public not only a chance to read the bills, but a chance to voice their opinion. This is especially important when bills are crafted and pushed forwards for political purposes. The public needs to be involved, but the majority is blocking that involvement for nothing other than the pursuit of quick political wins and message control. This is very disturbing.

via Sunlight Foundation – House Violates 72 Hour Pledge Again. De-funding a valuable public resource and usurping democracy, all emergencies and all in a days work for Republicans. Side note: totally in favor of the 72 hour pledge, it’s a great rule for transparency within the government.

24 Mar

Bad Astronomy – Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity

Today, House Republicans made it clear just how antiscience they are (as if we didn’t know already): they voted down a simple amendment declaring the reality of climate change. Not that it was human-caused, or dangerous, just that it existed. Which it does.

Y’know, whenever I use the term denier (as in "global warming denier") I get lots of comments accusing me of using a loaded word. But it’s not: it’s precise, and given what we’re seeing in Congress, it’s the exact word to use.

via Bad Astronomy – Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity. I’ve been trying thing of something to put here but can’t.

03 Mar

Ars Technica – “No lobbying,” says senator before taking movie biz lobby job

Former Senator Chris Dodd has a new gig—head of the motion picture industry’s main lobbying group, the MPAA.

The group has been looking for a new leader for quite a while, and in Dodd they found another long-term, high-level government official (former head Dan Glickman had served in Congress and as Secretary of Agriculture). But hadn’t Dodd said something about not going to work as a lobbyist once his Senate career was through?

via Ars Technica – “No lobbying,” says senator before taking movie biz lobby job. I won’t lobby, but I’ll take the top job of a lobbying firm.