Thursday, January 26, 2012

USA Falls to 47th in Press Freedom Ranking

Reporters Without Borders released the latest ranking of countries press freedom. The United States fell 27 places to 47th due to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests. It is one more indication of the erosion of liberty in the USA. Related: Anti Liberty Sentiment in Congress - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Money Is Corrupting Our Political Process

I like capitalism.  I support those who provide benefit to society (as expressed by the market) being rewarded with money by the market.

We have allowed our politicians in the USA to focus on money instead of doing the business of the people.  The corruption is fundamental and endemic.  The liberty the founders of the USA gave us an opportunity to enjoy has been greatly impinged upon and the system continues to do harm.

It is hard to appreciate and understand the situation.  Those benefiting from the current system are very effective at using every lever they have to continue the current corrupt system.  Lawrence Lessig provides an excellent review of where we are.

Related: rootstrikers - Anti Liberty Sentiment in Congress  - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Health Care System Needs Much More Reform - Lessig Video: Information Revolution

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Anti Liberty Sentiment in Congress

Written for my management blog blackout in support of those fighting SOPA and PIPA:

This site is participating in the SOPA/PIPA blackout day. Sadly I don't have a simple way to just have this page for the USA and I decided having it show for everyone was better than not showing it.

As this is a management blog, I would like to explain my analysis of this situation. The SOPA and PIPA bills are not special cause results. They are the natural outcome of the current anti-liberty system in place in Washington DC. As such the proper counter-measure is not to band-aid this negative outcome and think you have done well. If you need a band-aid counter measure immediately, that is fine. But if you don't then look at the system creating that result: the bad result will just reappear.

My belief on the systemic cause is the anti-liberty sentiment in congress. This creates the conditions where lots of extremely bad anti-liberty laws are proposed and passed. SOPA and PIPA happened to be so horrible that an huge outcry they couldn't ignore and push through (most likely, it is still possible they might). But that is all. SOPA and PIPA are the natural result of the current system. They are not some special outlier that you can block and then be confident the system is working.

There are a few other systemic issues that contribute to the extremely bad law that SOPA and PIPA would be. A profound lack of basic understanding of technology. A profound lack of understanding of copyright. Those are compounded by a profound lack of respect of knowledge (so ignorance is not seen as any reason to act cautiously or seek expertise). A system where large amounts of cash seem to drive policy much more than anything else. Add those to the anti-liberty agenda of the last decade and you will continue to get SOPAs and PIPAs.

Where we are today
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" - Wendell Phillips
which is often quoted as "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" and attributed to Thomas Jefferson

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. - Richard Jackson (maybe)

Those outside the USA
Several other countries have already had the USA coerce their governments into adopting legislation desired by those who "donated" (in other words gave cash to) American politicians. I am surprised none of those countries has reversed the decision to harm their citizens as a favor to those paying American politicians cash but I don't think any have. If you live in one of those countries maybe you should see about getting rid of the people that do such things to your country. And the State Department may well be pressuring for SOPA like laws right now.

The USA's Anti-Liberty Agenda
Sadly the USA has been on a kick to reduce liberty and increase government and corporate power over liberty of citizens. I have written about the attacks on liberty on another of my blogs.

SOPA and PIPA are the recent outcome of this mindset of those in congress today. The attempts to payoff a few of the lobbyists that give them large amounts of cash has resulted in many bills; SOPA and PIPA being the current examples. They have become so used to egregious anti-liberty legislation being ignored that they allowed the lobbyists to go so far in writing SOPA and PIPA that even the normal apathy was overcome.

It appears they realize the price of their favors to those giving them lots of cash (for their campaigns) is too high in this case. People actually noticed how egregious the attacks on liberty were. And the reactions by those people have made it seem that the consequences to the politicians of passing the law (that they wanted to pass before the consequences to themselves was made obvious) are now too high.

Given past conduct I would expect them to bow to the current pressure and just sneak in most of the bad policy (to pay back those giving them cash) into future bills. They also seem to be trying to say by getting rid of a couple of the most vile parts of the laws that the rest of the payoffs to those giving them cash should be ok.

I was amazed when the politicians were able to withstand the maelstrom of criticism about he security theater/anti-liberty practices of TSA. So how far they are willing to fight in order to pay off contributors and further the anti-liberty agenda I am not sure. But the evidence seems to be pretty far. I would expect they will not learn from this and continue their normal conduct, which will mean continued attempts to pass similar measures.

Until we refuse to elect people that are willing to sacrifice liberty for their personal short term interests we have risks of such laws passing. Only extraordinary efforts seem capable of rolling back small pieces of the anti-liberty agenda currently being pushed by both parties in Washington DC. But it is only because the public lets them get away with it. So it is really our problem. If we want to stop the anti-liberty agenda (of which SOPA and PIPA are a minor, though dramatically flawed example) we need to stop electing those that support it.

There is an App to Help You Avoid Supporting Companies Actively Undermining Your Rights through their support for SOPA and PIPA.

Librarians Standing Up to the Madness

"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Martin Niemoeller

SOPA/PIPA resources:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

App to Help You Avoid Supporting Companies Actively Undermining Your Rights

Use the power of the internet to avoid supporting companies that actively seek to take away your rights: Android app to scan bar codes and reveal if the company supports taking away your liberty via SOPA. I am all for these kind of transparency initiatives. Shinning the light on the dirty dealing going on is a way to clean things up. Given that we chose to elect people that are more concerned with pleasing those that give them cash that protecting liberty it is more important that we act on our beliefs (or we will see them sold away). With transparency we can then choose what we want to support. I believe, with transparency many will decide they don't really care about principle and can more about whatever is cheapest or easiest. At least we then get the society we chose. I may well not like some of the choices, but I would rather have transparency let people make the choices than the lobbyist written legislation we have slipped into the last few decades. If there turn out to be consequences for trying to remove basic rights from people, companies will stop. Otherwise they will continue. Related: Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Liberty Again Denied, It is Sad How Little We Care - Freedom Increasingly at Risk