It’s Not Hubris, It’s a Conviction that Dems aren’t Legitimate

Point of clarification: When I refer to Republicans in this article I’m referring to Republican leadership

Yesterday a friend linked an article which talked about the approach that Mitch McConnell is taking for the appointment of cabinet members, where he won’t wait for until ethics reviews are completed before holding confirmation hearings. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the same standard he held the Democratic party to under Obama, where he specifically wrote a letter outlining the requirements before holding hearings. While he believe that these standards are required for the Democrats he doesn’t believe the Democrats should be able to hold the Republicans to the same set of standards, because they lost the election.

I don’t believe that this is arrogance, or even that “Do as I say not as I do” approach. I believe that this comes down to the basic fact that Republican leadership doesn’t believe that have a legitimate right to ever govern, no matter how many people vote for them. To be fair, I don’t believe that this is only applies to Democrats, I believe that it applies to all other political parties.

If we start with this framework, which really began to be applied in the ’90’s with Clinton in office, we can begin to see a behavior, that successfully, stripped authority from the Democratic party. They continually attacked and continued to come up with new ways to attack the Democratic party and ideas until they were gradually pulled more and more right. They used an approach like OODA loop to continually keep the left on their heels. It worked.

However, they truly felt that they didn’t have the right the govern, which is why the Republicans were in the “right” to do this. Moving forward, we can see continually pressuring the right of predominately Democratic leaning voters. Where many organizations like Think Progress and the ACLU believe that the Republican party successfully suppressed voting.

There is something of a virtuous cycle going on for the Republican party when it comes to sidelining and suppressing votes, the more they suppress votes, the more then can sideline strong blue areas, which allows them to continue suppressing votes. They have been able to do this through the repeal of portions of the voter’s rights act which reduced Judicial oversight of state ‘s that had historically racist voting practices, like much of the south. This combine with Gerrymandering which, as the link shows, can be used to take a predominately Democratic district and string them all together so that even if it was 60% Democrat and there were 5 districts Republicans could still win 60% of the votes. This is happening and has happened in the past. In fact, during 2012, there were definitely cases where more Democrats voted in the house elections, but still lost a more seats than Republicans.

With such a concerted effort to continually win more and more power, the only reason why it’s a MUST do, is that the Republicans do not think that the Democrats have the legitimate right to govern the country. They continually undercut their right to govern, in fact, going so far to curb the authority of the Democrat governing coming into power in NC.

Using this perspective, I believe that this further supports the agenda to impeach Trump. However, this will not stop the Republicans as they definitely seem themselves as the only party with the right to govern. This has to change if the US is going to have an effective government for all the people in the near future.

Protecting the web and user through a Internet Bill of Rights

The guy who helped invent the internet, no not Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee wants a new Magna Carta for the internet. If he was American it’d be a bill of rights or declaration of independence, if he was an anarchist, it’d be a manifesto. This call for a clear set of rules for the online/cyberspace is nothing new. The first article was written in 1986 – 3 years before the internet was created. This was when kids were using phones and a few other systems to hack things. The most recent was only a few years ago from an internet website.

Creating these documents is an effort in futility. We already have a bill of rights in the US that SHOULD be protecting us from the NSA, GCHQ, CIA, and other organizations. These organizations, at least the US ones, should be forbidden from given information they “accidentally” collect on US citizens to other governments. They do though. We have secret courts with secret interpretations of laws that we as citizens have no idea what they are. How is ANOTHER Magna Carta going to help?

There’s absolutely no reason to expect our governments to abide by these new laws when they are flouting the current laws – attempting to undermine existing laws through intentionally narrower interpretations of rulings – in many cases getting slapped on the wrist later for infractions that have been going on for years.

Creating a new bill of rights, Magna Carter, or whatever will not solve the problem. The problem is not the current set of laws, though that doesn’t help, the root cause of the problem is corruption and arrogance.

Now that it’s been uncovered that the CIA hacked Congress’s Intelligence Committee, one that had been defending the NSA, there’s all sorts of kerfuffle. Congress didn’t care, excepting Ron Wyden (and a few others), until they realized that they were just as likely targets any the average Joe.

Most members of Congress are funded through companies and special interest groups. These include companies that support the NSA and other intelligence organizations. If any of those orgs funded any member of Congress on a committee that oversees anything related to intelligence gathering there’s going to be corruption. Regardless of if it’s quid pro quo or not.

We will never pass a bill of rights for the internet as long as there’s potential conflicts of interest (funded by companies that bills are trying to regulate). We must address corruption before we can hope to have an effective set of rights for the internet or anywhere else.

Are we talking past each other with the net neutrality debate?

I started reading (yes another book) “Internet Architecture and Innovation” on my flight to Portland Tuesday night. It’s going to be a really interesting read, if you like the internet, economics and innovation of course. One of the first parts discusses the history of the internet and a design principle called end to end. This means that when something is transmitted certain events must happen. There are two meanings to the same principle though, which complicates things. In one version only peers can “talk” to each other and share the information. This isn’t exactly literal, because if I’m skyping the data isn’t just between skype on my pc and yours, it goes through many, but the idea is that only your pc and mine know we are skyping. In the second method, some intermediaries might know that we are skyping, through something called deep packet inspection where a router is able to read the information it processes. Both ways are still called end-to-end. Which is obviously a problem.

Another easy example. One version would require equal up and download speeds, the other doesn’t. Let’s say you have a picture and want to upload it, in the one version it would take you the same time to upload as to download it the next day back to your pc. We know this doesn’t happen.

Until reading this book I really thought that the internet was truly designed in an equal and neutral manner. However, this isn’t the case. Using these two design principles results in an internet that looks very different and we would expect it to evolve differently based on which understanding was applied.

It’s obvious that for consumers the first option is better. Where the network behind the internet is neutral and a “dumb” pipe. Why is it better? Because no one would be able to intercept your data or change the speeds you get your information or even cap your data downloads. This is bad for network owners because they can’t charge or filter as easily for specific content. They simply become a pipe that information flows through.

The differences in incentives and contexts which the design rules are applied drives this discussion. Since the participants believe they are talking about the same thing there is confusion over the disconnect. This leads to an obvious other problem, our clueless elected officials. They don’t understand how the internet works at the simplest level, let alone the esoterics of the minute differences in this argument. It is no wonder they have tried to do back door deals to get this topic to go away.

This also has led to confusion within the internet community of how the telcoms can say that the internet wasn’t developed as a neutral platform. In a way they are correct, in other ways they are wrong. It was just a matter of what was being discriminated. Before it was up vs down speeds, now it could be content. Which to them is no different. For us, it matters a whole lot more.

SOPA hearing today

For all of those interested in protecting the Internet today is the last day to try to prevent congress from passing SOPA. This law, would censor the internet. There have been a lot of people talking about this law on both sides of the argument. Chris Dodd president of the RIAA is pushing heavily for this law. He argues that if China has the same ability to control content in China, then the US should have the exact same authority. In a previous blog I argue that this is the biggest killer to internet innovation. Effectively this would create a Great FireWall of the US.

Opponents of the law have started a censorship the internet campaign. I tweeted one of these yesterday. Effectively it blocked out parts of your writing in simulation of the final impact of the law. In addition to these campaigns a few other big hitters have come out against the law, including the Writers’ Guild of America. This group understands that copyright laws shouldn’t dictate the future of the internet and it’s openness. In addition yesterday the EFF posted an open letter from internet leaders arguing that SOPA would crush innovation. I strongly suggest reading this letter. It’s written by the people that created things like IPv6. These people know what they are talking about.

We users have had a blessing in disguise with the MegaUpload and Universal Music Company DMCA Take down issue. Effectively, they took down legal songs using a copyright provisions in addition to taking down videos ABOUT the discussion.

So what are some of the key problems with this bill? It requires DNS level blocking. Which could potentially break the internet. It takes down entire domains if there is a single alleged copyrighted material online. It can block payment to sites through requiring Master Card and Visa to shut down payment for the site. All of these have to happen within Five DAYS. Nothing gets done in five days in any business.

There are additional problems with these laws and our foreign policy. Recently Hilary Clinton gave an extensive speech on net freedom and how repressive regimes are censoring the internet and killing free speech. So, our international rhetoric is completely out of line with what we’re doing internally. Furthermore, this is going to create problems with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has decided to institute a policy framework which is effectively the opposite that everything SOPA stands for. Finally, this has a negative impact with the #NoDisconnect policy that the EU has recently pushed for.

If you want to keep up to date with the comments being discussed in the hearing today. Follow @EFFLive as they are tweeting comments from congressional leaders about the problems with this law. Additionally, please contact your congressional leaders today (scroll down to the bottom) about this issue.

Watch Live Stream Here: http://www.keepthewebopen.com/sopa

Additional Reading:
Internet Blacklist vs. Constitution – EFF
SOPA and Educators – EFF
Recent SOPA amendments – TechDirt
DC Decided to Regulate Hollywood to prevent innovation – TechDirt

Biggest threat to internet innovation

Regardless where you live, the largest threat to the internet is the US Congress/Department of Justice and close second may be the UK court system. In this post i’m going to focus on the US congress and DOJ because what they are doing is fairly ridiculous. The US Congress is currently considering a bill called Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA, critics like to call it the E-parasite act. This act, according to various sources, this bill amounts to online black-listing. It’s also being called the Great FireWall of America. This is a complete disaster in my opinion. The internet is one of the fastest growing parts of our economy. Anyone can start up a web based company. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy at first, but over time you’ll get more sophisticated.

The EFF notes three extremely popular sites that are in the cross hair of SOPA. Etsy, because there are simply too many little shops that could be selling illegal material. For instance, the US Supreme Court Ruled that you couldn’t resell AutoCAD, the likelihood of that happening might be low, but what about a screen printed shirt with some band logo? That’s just as illegal. Another site is Flickr, which is pretty obvious because it’s so easy to claim a picture as your own. The last they mention is Vimeo for the same reasons. I would also expect YouTube to be on that list as well.

So aside from a black list what does the actual bill do? What legal censorship isn’t enough for you to be outraged against this bill? I mean we’re talking about Turkey and Pakistan level of censorship of sites here. It’s not unrealistic to expect facebook and Google to get black listed with this law. Facebook could get hit if some one quotes stuff illegally or posts video with copyrighted material on it. Since you’re able to post and stream through facebook, it might raise some questions over copyright.Google of course links to a huge amount of copyright material that a user can get illicitly.

Ok, what else is there you really want to know? The rights holders can request payment processing companies (read Visa, Mastercard and ad companies) to block payments to your site. For some people that will mean no more YouTube money, for others it will be a death sentence. Does the court get involved with any of this? Nope. The companies have 5 days to respond to a payment stop. Which means even if you are in the clear, if a request happens, you likely won’t get paid. Check the EFF’s break down for more details.

But this is ‘Merica! Surely something like this won’t happen. They’ll take our jerbs! Yes, they could in fact take away your jobs. Is anyone fighting against this? Yep. Google, Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Michelle Bachmann (Yes the crazy lady), Ron Paul (Yes the crazy in a different way guy) and a small list of Congress members from both sides of the aisle are banding together to try to kill the bill. They are arguing that the bill is too broad and doesn’t appropriately address the problem is trying to “fix.”

What do most Americans feel about copyright legal action? As a whole they are against it. In fact most only think that a small fine of a maximum of $100 is appropriate for a downloaded song. Many have indicated that as more legal alternatives have appeared users have been less likely to use the illegal versions. Of course this is self reported data so it could be skewed, but even if you add 10 points it’s still showing that legal alternatives are best deterrent for illegal downloading.

You can email your representatives here. I strongly suggest you do. The more voices that speak out in protest the more likely at least a few people will hear. Personally, I don’t think the US government should even be talking about copyright right now. They need to be working on jobs.

Review: Republic Lost. Or the hand book for OWS

I just finished Republic Lost by Lawrence Lessig last night. If it’s not obvious by now, I’m a big Lessig fan. I find his work extremely interesting and relevant to the changing world. It is a bit dry to be honest, all of his writings deal with how society, the market and laws interact.

In my opinion this book should be the handbook for anyone interested in the Occupy movement. I’ll explain why in a few steps. First, he mentions various different cases of inequity which are highly promenient in the US. He specifically addresses the 99% argument and does it a great deal of good. He fully explains what it means to be in the 99% in a way that has been missing in the dialogue. He actually says that the 1% isn’t the biggest problem it’s actually a much smaller percentage, but the 1% can cause a lot of damage as well.

In the book he systematically explains how and why money is a problem in the system. In many cases it’s not that there is quid pro quo corruption going on. More that it seems like there is corruption going on because of the money involved. As an outsider it’s hard to trust a system where the Teachers union (or wall street or exxon) can say I will give $1 million dollars to any candidate that supports tenure (or bail outs or deep water drilling). This is an implicit threat because if you don’t support these topics your opponent will, because it will give them campaign donations. As donations play a huge amount of time for a congressman (30-70%) anything that makes it easier to get money the congressmen will campaign to support.

There have been studies that question if these gifts actively change legislative voting behavior, but many quotes from former congressmen explaining that there is a sense of obligation to the donor. This isn’t a tit for tat type exchange, Lessig argues it’s more of a gift economy. Like what buy a round of beers for your friends, you don’t want money for it, you want them to buy you the next round. The fact that you bought instills (in most people) a sense of obligation to buy the next round. This analogue is perfect in fact, as Lessig argues that congress is dependent on these funds like an alcoholic. This is an illicit dependency as he shows that Congress should be “dependent on the People alone.”

Lessig builds an extremely will supported case that donations impact the legislative process by impacting what congressional leaders allow debate on. Even if it doesn’t impact votes, it impacts what is considered important by the congress. This is one of the ways that congress seems out of touch with regular people. I believe Lessig builds a strong enough case to demonstrate that something must be done. He actually has a few suggestions on how to deal with the problem.

The first is the old fashioned way of trying to build support through congress to enact real campaign reform. Lessig doesn’t believe this is realistic and gives it about a 0% chance of success. His next idea is to get about 300 well known people to run as super candidate to force the issues. Have these people run in multiple different districts (it’s legal) and garner enough attention to force the politicians to say they will vote for reform. Do this in enough state and in the right states and it might work. He calls this a kind of political terrorism. He gives it a 5% chance of working once you get started.

His next idea is to have one of those types candidates run for the of president making the promise to hold congress hostage until the reforms are made, BUT resign as soon as the reforms are completed. He argues that this is required for people to honestly believe that the changes would happen and for congress to actually enact the changes. There would be no negotiations other than making sure all the normal people get paid and services don’t impact most business. He also gives this one a 5% chance of working.

The final suggestion is to push for a constitutional convention. This would require 38/50 states to OK the convention. He, at length, describes all the potential problems and legal issues with the convention, which matter once the ball gets rolling. In addition to this he suggests creating about 300 shadow conventions where regular people are given the opportunity to make constitutional amendments. These could then be the basis for what is sent to congress.

In total, if you are part of the OWS movement you need to read this book. It will help give more firepower for your arguments against the 1% and it will give some guidance on what the first priority should be. I agree with Lessig that until we get money out of the system no other reforms are possible. We will not have a function government until the People are the only thing the government relies on for choices of legislature.