SOPA & PIPA

Tomorrow is the Big Day. There will be an internet blackout by some sites in protest of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act). I won’t be online tomorrow. If I can figure out how to make my whole blog private I’ll do that, unless I figure out how to post a protest banner or something. The technical stuff gets ahead of me. But free speech, I understand.

A lot has already been written about what this is and why folks are upset, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. But for those of you who may live in other countries and don’t know what all the fuss is about, I’ll say this: We already have laws against content piracy with consequences for the thief. I’ve heard of people going to jail for downloading music illegally. In my opinion, that’s pretty harsh. What more do they want? Hollywood wants providers to be held accountable. So, sites that have something posted that has been stolen could be shut down without a trial or anything.

We have already seen our government hold people in detention without charges, and now they have written it into our laws, so American citizens can be held indefinitely without charges. Last night in a political debate we heard Mitt Romney tell us we are supposed to trust him and President Obama with indefinite detention! We are mauled by TSA agents and exposed to radiation and humiliation by scanning machines at our airports in order to “keep us safe” while our Constitutional rights against unlawful searches are ignored. Our government has even had European governments protesting when  they wanted the internet providers who are located in Europe to keep records of emails for longer than EU law allows. The laws in Europe concerning this take a person’s right to privacy into account. We are seeing our rights chipped away bit by bit. If they are able to pass these bills, or any others like them, we could see sites shut down supposedly because they contained pirated content, while the effect would be to stifle our ability to speak to each other concerning our government. Some of us can easily envision our government, who thinks we need to be humiliated at airports and held without charges, (and even more, but isn’t this enough?), shutting down the internet site by site in order to keep public peace. I read that Occupy Wall Street set up their website in Canada to keep the US from shutting them down. See what we are facing here?

I’m only one person, but I’m not the only one. Even if I was, I’d still protest. I’m going to go now and catch up on some email. I won’t be online tomorrow.

ADDENDUM: I just read a blog by Reddit that explains a lot more about this than I previously understood. This is bad in so many ways. Here’s a quote: “SOPA and PROTECT IP contain no provisions to actually remove copyrighted content, but rather focus on the censorship of links to entire domains.” Please go here and read this blog; it’s really good!

ADDENDUM II: I managed to get the Stop SOPA ribbon that WordPress provided on my Home Page. Now I’ll just clean a closet or do some art or something tomorrow. When the protest is over, I plan to come back and write about some birds.

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We’ve Gone Completely Berserk in This Country

Our government mauls citizens at airports, and Janet Napolitano is at Walmart telling shoppers to watch out for anything suspicious, and to report whatever they think they see. And now they have come to the Interstate highways. Are we not making a loud enough protest? Are people scared stupid? Do they think this is necessary? What country is this?

Internet Privacy Issues

I know from conversations that I’ve had with friends, as well as things that I’ve read, that internet and privacy don’t go well together, and that we should never expect what we say, or where we go on the net, to be our personal business. We all know that everything is subject to prying eyes, whether we like it, or not.

Last night I was reading an old issue of World Magazine, (Dec 2010), that had a short piece about “sentiment analysis.” The article said that businesses have been using “sentiment analysis” and that political campaigns are beginning to catch on and use it, too. “Sentiment analysis” is when a software program is used to crawl the web for certain items, such as a product or a candidate’s name. Each time the item is found the program tries to determine if the mention is positive, or not so positive. It’s thought that this is a more accurate way to get opinions than phone polls because apparently more republicans have land lines than other groups. Does this bother me? Not too much. I’m thinking this is not grabbing any personally identifying information. It does make me want to be perfectly clear in my remarks about candidates though, since the article said sometimes the programs aren’t good at picking up sarcasm.

On the same page, I read about a study that was done on how people make friends. The study was published in “American Journal of Sociology.” I wanted to look into this, but I don’t have the right affiliations, and I’m not going to pay $14.00 to buy it so I can read it. Anyway, all I want to know is which university gave out the students’ names. I did find out that the authors of the study are Andreas Wimmer from University of California, Los Angeles, and Kevin Lewis, of Harvard. They “tracked a class of new university students” (wish I knew which school…so curious…) to see how they made friends. They used their photos on Facebook to determine the students’ criteria, whether it was race, or common interests, or friends in common, or what. I’m thinking the university probably sold the list to the sociologists. I doubt that it was given it to them for free. Whichever university this was, along with Facebook, thought it was just fine to do this. The students never knew they were studied. Well, no doubt how I feel about that. It’s very intrusive.

I guess we have to get our news from the United Kingdom, since so many things like this story come from there and not our own media. The UK Guardian had this story about how our government snoops through our email. There are 12,000 orders a year for phone and internet data to be picked up by government snoopers in the US. At least Google lets people know their emails have been handed over. We sure do need to update our old laws that pertain to what we say and what we write.

What I wonder is this: Would the students care if they found out today that they were studied without their knowledge? Does anyone read things any more like “1984” and “Animal Farm”? Does anyone in our government think about the difference between snooping and investigating? I remember when I was about six years old I heard that the Russians had a satellite that could see a matchbox on the sidewalk. I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of my house and thinking about how they could be watching me at that very moment. I didn’t care for the idea. That is snooping and it’s what bad governments do. This earth is populated by flawed human beings, and governments are made up of flawed human beings who need laws to keep them in check. We better make some changes and make them pretty quick.

I Know Where Obama is Leading

I’ve been reading and thinking about Obama and his promises and his results. He wanted to lead us to Someplace. Ha. As we can all see from his low approval ratings,  he’s leading us to huge disappointment. Well, I’ll only be a little disappointed because I didn’t vote for him and had no hopeful expectations, other than hoping he won’t get his way often enough to destroy us. I thought he might be a bit better on matters of civil liberties than the republicans, but his putting Janet Napolitano in charge of Homeland Security was a letdown. Especially last April when that report was released on Right-wing Extremism.

Did you know that according to a poll done by Reuters and Zogby back in December, 72% of Americans expected a better economy this year because of Obama? What is the unemployment rate? How is Wall Street really doing? I read that the latest bump in stock prices – before this latest slide in stock prices – was a result of the banks investing some of the bailout money in the stock market. And they say it’s only electronic money and not real money anyway. What is this? The economy of illusion? All is illusion?

Obama also seems to be caught between groups. The gay rights folks have sort of been promised a few things and that has upset a whole lot of black pastors. They said homosexuality is not a civil rights issue, it’s a moral issue and they won’t vote for democrats any more if Obama follows through on the promises. I do have to wonder about something. Did these Christians vote for him in the first place because of something he promised to them? He made no contradictory promise in this instance. Did they want him to keep some promise to them and break only promises they didn’t support?

And then there are the folks who thought he would get us out of Iraq. Did they not hear him say he wanted to beef up forces in Afghanistan? I got the idea he planned on shifting – if he could – troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan. I hardly think if someone thinks we shouldn’t be in Iraq, they would think we ought to be in Afghanistan instead. He is pleasing no one on this issue. Except the folks who make tons of money on wars by producing the hardware and supplies it takes to fight wars. And maybe a few others who think, as I used to, that it takes a whole army to go after one person. And that person is not in Afghanistan, by the way.

There is one group who won’t be disappointed. Just as there is a sliver of way right-wing neoconservatives, there is also a sliver of way left-wing, uh, progressives, aka, communists, and folks in this second group like the direction he’s trying to go. Next year, 36 states will elect governors. These elections are as important as the congressional elections. I will be looking for a candidate who will stand up for the right of my state to refuse to follow mandates from the federal government that they have no authority to require. The state’s right to refuse comes from the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. It says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Well, we can all see where he is trying to go and it’s not where I want to go.  It’s not what most Americans want. I think we can make our own changes starting when we vote next year. In the meantime, it sure is interesting to watch him try to keep everyone happy.