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Big media continues to push Congress to repay their millions in bribes with punitive legislation

While U.S. President Barack Obama and his advisors haven't always seen eye to eye with digital freedom advocates, they have joined forces with the advocacies on one critical issue. They are at last speaking out against the proposed Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and its Senate counterpart the "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (S.968).

I. White House Blasts Big Media's Anti-Internet Bill

The bills have many controversial provisions.  Some of the provisions are controversial due to the outrageous approach they take with online businesses.  For example, in a provision likened to an internet death penalty by DailyTech and other sites -- the bills would look to create a takedown system where any site found to be hosting user generated content pointing to infringing content (say a URL to a torrent) could be immediately taken down.  

This would be a crippling blow to Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Google Inc. (GOOG), online news, and any other site that allows user-generated content, as a malicious user (e.g. a prankster or competitor) could intentionally plant an offending URL and then contact the regulators to take down the site for weeks at a time.  The measure would essentially end all American online commerce, online searching, and online news if enforced.

Other measures of the bill are criticized for their heavy-handed approach.  The bill would look to put members of the American proletariat in prison for rebroadcasting (the language is ambiguous about the criminality of watching) via streaming copyrighted content.  An example of this would be if a sporting event was blacked out locally (this often occurs in professional sports like the NFL if tickets go unsold) and a friend from out-of-town broadcasts the game to you by streaming their view of the game (not blacked out, as it's not the local market).  

Even though your friend is giving you access to content you have no easy way of legally accessing, your friend who sent you the stream is now going to prison if they get caught.  America already imprisons more of its proletariat than any other nation -- including North Korea and Iran -- and spends an estimated $80B USD annually to keep up this record imprisonment.  Thus such measures are at least somewhat controversial.
 
Prisoners
The U.S. already spends $80B USD in federal debt to imprison more of its citizens than any other nation in the world.  Now it's looking to add more proles to the galleys.
[Source: David Sanders for The New York Times]

In a post on White House blog White House cyber-security czar Howard Schmidt and two other key officials echoed criticisms of firms like Google and Amazon, in questioning wasn't cyber equivalent of amputating a limb to combat an ingrown nail.

Writes Mr. Schmidt, "Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."

Obama, tired
President Obama's advisors' decisions to publicly speak out against SOPA/PIPA have raised hopes that the President might veto the bill, preventing catastrophic damage to America's high-tech economy. [Image Source: Associated Press]

Despite nearly unanimous opposition from America's top online innovators -- Google, Amazon, Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), Facebook, Twitter and eBay Inc. (EBAY) -- Congress people have vowed to ignore their economic leaders and public outcry and forge ahead with the Orwellian measures.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R- Tex.) who co-wrote SOPA, states, "It is not censorship to enforce the law against foreign thieves."

He claims that 19 million jobs and 60 percent of American exports are at stake in the war to protect intellectual property.

II. SOPA Author Caught Infringing, Feels Above the Law he Pushes on the Proles

Rep. Smith's comment seems slightly misleading, given that the bill contains many provisions that are equally punitive to American businesses and individuals as they are to foreign ones.  And there's a strong irony in his hardline towards copyright infringement as the office of Rep. Smith was itself recently caught by the blog Vice stealing content.

Lamar Smith
Rep. Lamar Smith feels he's above the laws he's looking to subject his lowly proles to.
[Image Source: Lamar Smith]

While Rep. Smith's office has tried to keep this offense quiet, by offering a newer, cleaner version of the Representative's webpage, Vice was able to locate older version using web tools like the WayBack Engine.  

Lamar Smith website
Rep. Smith infringes a hard working artist's work to promote his election campaign.
[Image Source: Lamar Smith]

It was found that the office of Rep. Smith had illegally used a photograph from artist DJ Schulte as a background, without proper citation (and hence without permission).

DJ Schulte photo
DJ Schulte is an artist who deserves credit for his work, but the office of SOPA author Rep. Lamar Smith stole the work without attribution. [Image Source: DJ Schulte]

States Mr. Schulte to Vice:

I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes."

I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith's organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com.

(To be clear Vice and DailyTech can legally repost the image, as we are not reselling it and are properly citing the artist, unlike Rep. Smith.)

The offensive infringement isn't exactly surprising.  Recent surveys of active torrents have revealed the offices of members of Congress downloading infringed content, including pornographic films.

Furthermore, SOPA/PIPA's big media backers aren't exactly foreign to the realm of hypocrisy themselves.  Major record labels yearly claim access to scores of "unclaimed" independent works in the U.S. and abroad, thanks to favorable laws.  Independent artists often find their work stolen by the major labels and are forced to navigate a maze of roadblocks designed to stymie them from recouping the profits the major labels are stealing through wanton infringement.  It is estimated that such theft on behalf of major media labels accounts for tens, if not hundreds of millions in lost revenue annually for independent artists.

III. Big Media Looks to Collect on Their Congressional Bribes 

The U.S. Recording Industry Association of America, a notorious copyright abuser known for suing dead people and other extreme measures, blasted the White House's opposition to the bills, stating, "[It is illegal for websites] to direct law-abiding consumers to unlawful and dangerous sites.  Hyperbole, hysteria and hypotheticals cannot change the fact that stealing is wrong, costing jobs and must be contained."

Similarly the Motion Picture Association of America, another famous enforcement firm, states, "Protecting American jobs is important too, particularly in these difficult economic times for our nation."

These statements are parroted near verbatim by the U.S. Senate Chamber of Commerce, who comments, "Given the broad consensus that this issue needs to be addressed, it is time to come together and adopt strong legislation that ends the ability of foreign criminals to prey on innocent consumers and steal American jobs."

This Congressional echo of America's most notorious and abusive media copyright watchdogs is not terribly surprising.  After all, media lobbyists paid approximately 10 percent of active U.S. Senators' total combined election costs, and donated generously to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro, an active technology advisor to federal policy makers, attacked these bribes, stating, "[SOPA is championed by] politicians who are proudly unfamiliar with how the internet works, but who are well familiar with favors from well-heeled copyright extremists."

It remains to be seen, amidst this sweeping bribery of public officials, if the Obama administration would truly be willing to veto a bill like SOPA/PIPA.  The administration faces the challenge of trying to push back against an issue that enjoys broad bipartisan support on account of the sweeping bribery.  But the administration must weigh the value of its big media benefactors against the value of its legacy -- after all, it could go down in history as the administration that killed the internet economy if PIPA/SOPA passes on its watch.

Most policy makers and critics of SOPA/PIPA agree -- infringement is wrong and needs to be stopped.  But as the Obama administration and countless others are stated -- there are less self-destructive, reasonable approaches to fighting piracy.  Such positive solutions stands in sharp contrast to the harsh totalitarian policies pushed by big media onto their paid employees, members of Congress.

IV. Who is Fighting For SOPA/PIPA

The U.S. Senators sponsored the PIPA bill:
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Chris Coons (D-Dela.).

The following U.S. Representatives sponsored the SOPA bill:
Lamar Smith (R-TX) [house.gov] *
John Conyers (D-MI) [house.gov]
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) [house.gov]
Howard L. Berman (D-CA) [house.gov]
Tim Griffin (R-AR) [house.gov]
Elton Gallegly (R-CA) [house.gov]
Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL) [house.gov]
Steve Chabot (R-OH) [house.gov]
Dennis Ross (R-FL) [house.gov] *
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) [house.gov]
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) [house.gov]
Lee Terry (R-NE) [house.gov]
Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) [house.gov]
Mel Watt (D-NC) [house.gov]
John Carter (R-TX) [house.gov] *
Karen Bass (D-CA) [house.gov]
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) [house.gov]
Peter King (R-NY) [house.gov]
Mark E. Amodei (R-NV) [house.gov]
Tom Marino (R-PA) [house.gov]
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) [house.gov]
John Barrow (D-GA) [house.gov]
Steve Scalise (R-LA) [house.gov] *
Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) [house.gov]
William L. Owens (D-NY) [house.gov]

If you have thoughts on this issue, please email your local representatives and let them know how you feel, and consider your incumbent Senator/Representative's actions come election time.

Source: We The People [Obama admin.]



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RE: End it
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/16/2012 10:56:59 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
Another shining example of why lobbying should be illegal. There is no excuse for allowing any compensation of any kind...monetary, gifts, jobs, etc. - to be given from anybody to an elected official.

There is no way that lobbying serves the interest of the public as a whole...it serves only the interests of the people paying for the lobbying - or else they wouldn't do it.

Absolutely. The problem is -- who is going to make the bold move to ban federal bribery when everyone is taking bribes?? It's kinda like asking mafioso to cut down on organized crime.

Something needs to be done, but until the glorious leadership is swept away via people educating themselves, putting forth viable non-corrupt candidates, and properly representing themselves by voting, no change will be had.

The only real promise for change, again, in my mind is mass education coupled with a fundamental societal change to remove the American public's deeply ingrained laziness when it comes to dealing thoughtfully with politics.

Look at yourself. You realize the problem and could probably think up a solution or two. You are the kind of person America needs. The issue is that people who care about the issues that affect their life are in the minority in America. Most voters would prefer to select their corrupt party of choice and continue on their blissfully ignorant way. Or equally bad many Americans just don't vote -- and not out of moral objection, but out of being too lazy to care.

quote:
The solution is simple and obvious: make all lobbying illegal. Then maybe our elected officials would even listen to normal individuals who don't have money to buy lobbyists...since everyone would be on equal footing at that point. We'll get around to outlawing political parties and disbanding the RIAA/MPAA later...

Good news on the SOPA front, though... look @ my latest post... news just came in.

These days you gotta be thankful for the small victories. Time to roll back the doomsday clock a few hours.


RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/16/2012 12:03:36 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
who is going to make the bold move to ban federal bribery when everyone is taking bribes??
Ron Paul. Although he won't ban it because that is an ineffective and illegal. We have the right to form associations and unions as customers and as citizens. RP is the only candidate for president that thinks he should have less power as president. And he has an above average record on refusing graft.

He once said that if elected officials would adhere to the oath they were sworn to then we wouldn't have all of these problems. Well the hour is long past the point where we should have held them to it instead of trying to sway them to our own little political agendas. We the mini-lobbyists (I mean we all focused on e.g. pro-life v. pro-choice instead of being pro-freedom, pro-constitution and anti-corruption.)

I mean who has more power politically speaking in this country? Walmart or the pro-life lobby? (and I am just using the pro-life lobby as an example and am not making a statement. I could have just as easily used the pro gay marriage lobby or anything else.) [<--here is me being afraid of being written of as a biased pro-choicer by the pro-life lobby.]

And the big guys like Walmart and Exxon and anyone else that the anti-capitalists want to call evil donate heavily to the campaigns of BOTH candidates because the most important thing to promote in their eyes is big-easily-to-lobby gov't. Make the target smaller and we can curb unscrupulous lobbyists.


RE: End it
By Regected on 1/16/2012 6:09:30 PM , Rating: 3
I never thought I would EVER say this, but I agree with you Raven. If this country stands a chance, we NEED Ron Paul in office.


RE: End it
By Reclaimer77 on 1/16/12, Rating: -1
RE: End it
By Skywalker123 on 1/17/2012 6:24:37 AM , Rating: 2
Ron Paul is tainted? How very stupid you really are. He can't pass a single agenda because of morons like you.
I suggest your read this

http://counterpunch.com/


RE: End it
By YashBudini on 1/19/2012 12:01:21 AM , Rating: 2
People have quickly forgotten that Reagan had asked for the line item veto. Guess which party got rid of it after he left office?


RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/18/12, Rating: 0
RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/18/2012 11:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I never thought I would EVER say this, but I agree with you
Interesting enough, I used to say the same thing about Ron Paul.


RE: End it
By YashBudini on 1/19/2012 12:17:30 AM , Rating: 2
He may be the most viable of the "I'm not pro-mega-corporate-at-any-and-all costs" candidate, but there simply aren't enough people willing to jump off the 2-party dictatorship bandwagon to make it work.

IE we're all going to be stuck with the usual results of whatever corporate spending uses the most lobbyist funding in the most successful manner.


RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/19/2012 1:52:32 PM , Rating: 2
I used to agree with that thinking but now I see how stupid I was (sorry, judging myself here and not you).

How would we ever buck a 2 party system (or at least pressure either of those parties to change) if there is not the first guy to speak out against it and withdraw support of it (by not voting in it)? And so now I am the nth person to follow suit. I don't care if a 2-party candidate gets elected this time around or continuously, I will continue to vote small gov't 3rd party or try to change the makeup of their candidates through primary participation (such as supporting candidates I can agree mostly with like Ron Paul or Barry Goldwater).


RE: End it
By YashBudini on 1/19/2012 3:15:57 PM , Rating: 2
The only candidates that hate Ron Paul are the ones bought and paid for.

Oh, that would be all of the others, and all those doing the buying. It's like trying to succeed in the drug war, cash keeps winning.


RE: End it
By MechanicalTechie on 1/16/2012 6:40:48 PM , Rating: 5
Unfortunately most americas are more interested in the kardashians than how the country is being ran.

You have to give credit to mass media... they have done a fantastic job in dumbing down the average citizen.


RE: End it
By Mint on 1/16/2012 12:34:31 PM , Rating: 2
You could also try to figure out a way to make the tax-phobic American populace support publicly funded politics.

It's (usually) great for the economy to be run by the free market and dominated by corporations and the wealthy, but it's blatantly obvious how bad it is for democracy. The reason we put up with it, though, is that most Americans don't want to directly pay for it with their taxes, so we're left to rely on those that do want to, and more often than not those entities do so with the expectation of return on their "donation".


RE: End it
By Solandri on 1/16/2012 2:32:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You could also try to figure out a way to make the tax-phobic American populace support publicly funded politics.

That's pretty much the conclusion I've reached. No campaign donations or contributions allowed at all. Instead you donate to a federal election pool (or more likely some of your taxes go to the pool), which distributes money to candidates based on things like number of signatures collected, and voter support in primaries.
quote:
It's (usually) great for the economy to be run by the free market and dominated by corporations and the wealthy, but it's blatantly obvious how bad it is for democracy.

It goes a bit deeper than that. A good economy is also good for democracy, but when the economy becomes too good the people become complacent and democracy starts to break down. That's the reason voter participation in newly-freed countries like Iraq and Libya is usually in the 80%-90% range, while established democracies languish around 50%.

Statistically, the lower percentage wouldn't affect election outcomes if it were random. But it's not random. I'm pretty convinced that the "swings in voter sentiment" between 2006, 2008, and 2010 weren't really changes in what individual voters thought. It was more a reflection of which voters were more likely to go out and vote that particular year. In 2008, the economic downturn caused those on the left blaming the finance and real estate industries to turn out en masse to vote. In 2010, anger over things like health care reform caused libertarians and those on the right to turn out en masse to vote. So any time participation approaches 50%, you're in a position where a well-motivated group can heavily influence the election outcome.

The natural protection against this is to keep voter participation up near 80%. But I'm not sure how to do that. Paradoxically, the people may need to be in a constant state of suffering and discontent for democracy to function effectively. Complacency is the true enemy of democracy.

quote:
The reason we put up with it, though, is that most Americans don't want to directly pay for it with their taxes, so we're left to rely on those that do want to, and more often than not those entities do so with the expectation of return on their "donation".

That's why I suggested eliminating corporate taxes while simultaneously banning corporations from participating in politics in any way. If you can't vote, you shouldn't be meddling in politics. And whether taxes are paid by corporations or individuals is immaterial. In the end it's all paid for by individuals - corporate taxes just get passed on to them as higher prices in the products they buy.


RE: End it
By Mint on 1/18/2012 9:49:28 PM , Rating: 2
I was basically talking about a difference in the mechanics of the economy vs. politics. With the economy, the influence of large corporations is a natural byproduct of them being the cheapest way to produce many products/services. There is debate between liberals and conservatives over whether we should try to tweak whom exactly the economy produces for and how it does it, but even the most die-hard liberal accepts that you cannot possibly have a functioning economy where everyone has equal purchasing power. You necessarily need some people with orders of magnitude more economic power than others to maximize an economy's ability to serve society.

The central tenet of democracy, however, is giving every individual an equal voice. That is in direct conflict of free market mechanics, where an entity's inclination to influence politics (whether through advertising or direct/indirect bribery) through "donations" is related to the expected ROI. The whole point of political donations is to try and upset that tenet by buying votes.


RE: End it
By Mint on 1/18/2012 10:41:02 PM , Rating: 2
Regarding corporate taxes vs. income taxes, you're right about the equivalence when you just look at the sum/average, but it does cause shifts at a finer level. If you made a revenue neutral shift of corporate taxes to income taxes, then you'd be rewarding companies that have lower than average percent of revenues going towards labor cost, and punishing those that are spending less on labor. That's basically a disincentive to create jobs.

People who want to reduce corporate taxes fail to realize that they are a punishment for companies that don't reinvest profits. Suppose you run a profitable company, and you think that hiring $500k/yr of workers for 10 years will grow your company's value by $4M (assume 0% interest/inflation for simplicity - obviously I could make my case for any rate). If your company pays 40% income tax, that worker will reduce its taxes by $200k/yr, so this hiring will get you $1M in the end. If your company pays 0% income tax, then the hiring will lose $1M, as it's better off just saving that $500k/yr. Corporate taxes encourage business growth, at least when you ignore irrational decisions based on spiting the gov't.

The whole "Joe the plumber" line of reasoning is BS. Corporate tax cuts don't create jobs, because wages reduce a company's taxable income; rather, product demand creates jobs.


RE: End it
By Rukkian on 1/16/2012 1:44:46 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with most of what you post, however I think that people not voting is not the answer. I would like it to be a little harder to vote so that the people that do care would get more of a say. As it stands now, it seems that the majority of people voting have no clue at all, and simply go vote because they feel it what they should do, and are not doing it in an informed way.


RE: End it
By EricMartello on 1/17/2012 3:42:33 AM , Rating: 2
I think a very simple solution would be that new proposed laws or changes to existing laws should be put on a ballot and there should be voting sessions where US citizens can vote in support of a proposed law OR against it, at least bi-annually.

I also think that voters should have the power to repeal a law that is already on the books if they disagree with it. Other things these ballots could include are proposed spending bills to give the people the power to decide where their tax dollars are spent.

This would make lobbying ineffectual and prevent "fast tracking" of bullsh1t legislature that go on the books nearly instantly but can take years if not decades to amend or repeal.

The voting public should have the final word about what laws they are subjected to by their government.


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