Saturday, January 21, 2012

SOPA/PIPA - A small victory for the Internet and democracy

Democracy is the most difficult government to maintain. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
A republic, if you can keep it. - Benjamin Franklin
Democracy is not a free ride, man. - Joe Wilson in the movie Fair Game
Internet users have won a small victory in fending off SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). This was the third attempt at passing a bill to give the government greater control over the Internet. (Compilation clause removed from PRO-IP bill in 2008 and the failed COICA bill  in 2010). The third attempt came with two bills - one in the house (SOPA) and one in the senate (PIPA) under the guise of stopping online piracy. Internet users mobilized and fought back effectively killing the bills - for now. You can see why the government really wants more control of the Internet - Internet users can mobilize effectively against them. Time time around has been a been a cat and mouse game. The bills were dead and then they weren't and then they were dead again and then they weren't. Once it looked like the bills were finally going to die, the white house came out against them too - fooling no one. And a 'shame on you' to my two state senators who supported these bills: Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten GIllibrand (D-NY).

Nevertheless, it was a victory and it shows a path for which democracy can prevail - even in these times where the candidate who raises the most money wins 94% of the time.

It got me thinking about democracy.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on democracy

From Equality and Democracy:
Rousseau is regarded as the father of the modern theory of democracy. He wrote three famous essays on the subject of moral philosophy and politics. In his first discourse, he raises his doubt about the value of social and scientific progress which he thinks brings about the loss of morality and is associated with vice, alienation, envy, and vanity. 
Rousseau's second discourse deals with the origins of inequality, from which all human vices develop. Rousseau thinks there are two forms of inequality. The first is natural inequality (such as physical differences) and the second is moral inequality (such as differences in wealth and social status). The development of inequality is an evolution from the natural inequality to the moral one. 
Rousseau presents two solutions to the problems of the third stage. The first is personal or therapeutic, which relies on family education and nurturing. Critics, however, point out that family power is limited. The second solution proposed by Rousseau, therefore, is political, which relies on the social contract and focuses on eliminating alienation through collective forces. This political solution is the subject of Rousseau's third discourse, The Social Contracts. 
Rousseau considers inequality to be the major threat to freedom. Due to people's natural tendency to compare and to envy, inequality creates jealousy, vanity, and alienation. The development from natural inequality to moral inequality is a process of moral corruption, through which the freedoms of independence and transparency are lost. 
From, "Of The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right"  by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1762
Book III, Chapters IV-VII Summary (link):
Democracy is the most difficult government to maintain, and few (if any) states meet the conditions required to support it. First, the state must be very small so that it is easy to hold public assemblies. Second, to prevent acrimonious debates and to expedite the public business, the people must have similar moral attitudes and habits. Third, everyone must have similar amounts of wealth, because economic inequality creates power differences that cannot exist in a democracy. Finally, there must be no luxury, because luxury corrupts public morality by making the rich vain and the poor covetous. Out of all governments, democracy is also the most prone to civil wars and internal conflict. Because of this and other reasons, Rousseau believes that democracy is too difficult for ordinary humans to maintain. He asserts that only gods could govern themselves democratically.
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau quotes

From: Wikiquote:
A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it.
In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed.
Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse.
From Jean-Jacques Rousseau Quotes:
Force does not constitute right... obedience is due only to legitimate powers.
Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.
It is unnatural for a majority to rule, for a majority can seldom be organized and united for specific action, and a minority can.
Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains.
Most nations, as well as people are impossible only in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow older.
No man has any natural authority over his fellow men.
Our greatest evils flow from ourselves.  
Religious persecutors are not believers, they are rascals.
The body politic, as well as the human body, begins to die as soon as it is born, and carries itself the causes of its destruction.
Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves.
You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one.
Benjamin Franklin Quotes

Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" 
With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."
From Wikiquote:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Robert Hutchins quote

From Freedoms Phoenix (also a good read):
The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.
Joe Wilson from the movie Fair Game
The responsibility of a country is not in the hands of a privileged few. We are strong, and we are free from tyranny as long as each one of us remembers his or her duty as a citizen. Whether it's to report a pothole at the top of your street or lies in a State of the Union address, speak out! Ask those questions. Demand that truth. Democracy is not a free ride, man. I'm here to tell you. But, this is where we live. And if we do our job, this is where our children will live. God bless America.
Margaret Atwood

From Orwell and Me:
Democracies have traditionally defined themselves by, among other things - openness and the rule of law. But now it seems that we in the west are tacitly legitimising the methods of the darker human past, upgraded technologically and sanctified to our own uses, of course. For the sake of freedom, freedom must be renounced. To move us towards the improved world - the utopia we're promised - dystopia must first hold sway.
It's a concept worthy of doublethink. It's also, in its ordering of events, strangely Marxist. First the dictatorship of the proletariat, in which lots of heads must roll; then the pie-in-the-sky classless society, which oddly enough never materializes. Instead, we just get pigs with whips.
For a fair debate about SOPA:

Update 1:

Glenn Greenwald, in his latest article Two lessons from the Megaupload seizure, points out  that the government assumes all powers and codifies the law afterwards (as with the NDAA):
Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.
Greenwald also points out that the bills were halted: the wake of vocal online citizen protests (and, more significantly, coordinated opposition from the powerful Silicon Valley industry).
William Shakespeare gets the last word from Hamlet (1.4.90), Marcellus to Horatio:
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Graffiti Philosophy

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

In 1999, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s family won a wrongful death suit in civil court against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". The jury concluded that Jowers was guilty and that government agencies were involved in the assassination plot.

From Occupy This: US History exposes the 1%’s crimes then and now:
It is therefore a factual statement that under US Civil Law, the US government assassinated Dr. King. 
This included the Director of the CIA’s admission to Congress that they have over 400 agents working in corporate media to make the US public believe what the CIA wants them to believe.
Let’s summarize: Under US Civil Law, covert US government agencies were found guilty of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest speakers for what it means to be human. The family’s conclusion as to motive was to prevent Dr. King from ending the Vietnam War because the government wanted to continue its ongoing covert and overt military operations to control foreign governments and their resources.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Defense Authorization Act

(Update below)

The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most insidious bills ever passed by the US government. President Obama signed the bill quietly and regretfully(!) on December 31, 2011. But don't worry, he has promised not to use the provisions that allows for US citizens to be apprehended on US soil, turned over to the military and detained indefinitely without counsel or trial. What a brilliant strategy! "Reelect me because you really don't want these powers in the hands of a Republican president!"

President Obama threatened to veto the bill, not because of this but because there was originally a provision to exclude US citizens from indefinite detention. The Obama administration felt the restrictions were an infringement on their established authorization to do just that. Now, it's just nicely codified into law. (Sources: Obama to sign indefinite detention bill into law and BREAKING: Obama Signs Defense Authorization Bill)

Fortunately for us law abiding citizens, the NDAA only applies to terrorists. Bear in mind that 'terrorist' is not defined and that the government already considers protesters as low-level terrorists. Soon, the working definition of a terrorist will be a dissenter of the government.

Let's not forget the 86 senators who voted for this bill. Only the following (good guys) did not:
Cardin (D-MD), Coburn (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Durbin (D-IL), Franken (D-MN), Harkin (D-IA), Lee (R-UT), Merkley (D-OR), Paul (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Sanders (I-VT), Wyden (D-OR), Moran (R-KS) (did not vote) (Source: US Senate)
Also, there was an amendment to the bill to take out the unconstitutional clause. Democrats who voted against it were (bad guys):
Casey, Conrad, Hagan, Inouye, Kohl, Landrieu, Levin, Lieberman, Manchin, McCaskill, Menendez, Bad Nelson, Pryor, Reed, Shaheen, Stabenow, Whitehouse.  (See: Villain rotation.)
From Washington's Blog (Psychopaths Caused the Financial Crisis … And They Will Do It Again and Again Unless They Are Removed From Power):
The U.S. has become a kleptocracy, an oligarchy, a banana republic, a socialist or fascist state … which acts without the consent of the governed. There is a malignant symbiotic relationship between the governmental leaders and their cronies, which makes a handful rich at the public trough (in the same way that the Mubarak family raked in between U.S. $40 and $70 billion dollars through bribes and cronyism).
From Occupy Wall Street's NYCGA:
Not only does this act violate our first [freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assembly, petition the Government for redress of grievances], third , fourth [security from unreasonable searches and seizures], fifth [not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law] and sixth [fair and expedient trial] amendments, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but this Act was signed quietly this past New Years Eve violating what little trust remained between the people and their established government. We see what’s happening here, and we will not stand for it.
From The NDAA Repeals More Rights by Ron Paul:
The Bill of Rights has no exemptions for “really bad people” or terrorists or even non-citizens.  It is a key check on government power against any person.  That is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system.  The NDAA attempts to justify abridging the Bill of Rights on the theory that rights are suspended in a time of war and the entire Unites States is a battlefield in the War on Terror.  This is a very dangerous development indeed.  Beware.
Now while there is no mention of 'torture' in the law, you can be sure that the US will use 'advanced interrogation' techniques including isolation, removal of clothes or worse, in violation of the eighth amendment to the Constitution. They tried to break Bradley Manning with these techniques.

I might add that NDAA also makes a mockery of the 'Pledge of Allegiance' (emphasis added):
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Even though the NDAA is grossly unconstitutional, don't look for the Supreme Court to strike down the act. The Supreme Court is just another organization bought and paid for by America's elite.

We the People have let this happen through lack of involvement in the democratic process.  Democracy is not a free ride. All is not lost though. We must get involved to take back this country. It is time to petition the government for redress of grievances. Call and write your congressmen, congresswomen and senators. And most importantly, you have to get your feet in the street.

We the People must mobilize:

The NDAA is now law but the battle is not over. From Demand Progress :
Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced legislation to undo these provisions of the NDAA, in the form of the Due Process Guarantee Act.  
We need to urge other Senators to support it.  Will you click here to ask your lawmakers to stand with us?
The Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 amends the Non-Detention Act of 1971 by providing that a Congressional authorization for the use of military force does not authorize the indefinite detention—without charge or trial—of U.S. citizens who are apprehended domestically.
If there's enough of a public outcry, we have a real chance of making this happen:
More than 40 senators voted against the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA -- and that was before the media and general public caught on to what was happening.
Please urge your Senators to remedy this terrible wrong.  Just click here -- it'll only take a few seconds.
It's been a tough year for civil libertarians -- thanks for keeping up the fight.
-Demand Progress
P.S. If there's enough of a public outcry, we have a real chance of making this happen. Please use these links to ask your friends to join the fight:
[fb]If you're already on Facebookclick here to share with your friends.
[fb]If you're already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the campaign: Tweet
Other fronts of the war on the American people

The 'powers that be' attack on several fronts at one time with the expectation that something gets through. Here's what else they have up their sleeves:

SOPA and Protect IP

The government and the elite behind the government really want the ability to censor the Internet. The Internet is the last bastion of free speech, free thought, real investigative journalism and dissent outside the Republican-Democrat duopoly. Perhaps the government just wants to codify what it is already doing with their corporate partners such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T, etc.

FCC works for media conglomerates

Did you hear? While most of us were busy with the holidays, the FCC pulled a fast one and proposed terrible rules that would unleash a new wave of media consolidation across the country.

Free Press' criticism of the FCC's proposal has been reported in media outlets nationwide. Now it's time to hold the FCC accountable to people who want better media — not more consolidation — in their communities.
Bradley Manning pre-trial hearing

The pre-trial has finished. It is a foregone conclusion that there is enough evidence for a trial. If the allegations are true, they will court martial Bradley Manning for blowing the whistle on government crimes. Follow his plight at

Update I: Boumediene v. Bush (2008)

The Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees were entitled to habeas corpus. Lakhdar Boumediene's account of his Guantanamo Bay nightmare, in his own words, is here:
My Guantánamo Nightmare
From Glenn Greenwald's article The evil of indefinite detention and those wanting to de-prioritize it:
Post-Boumediene, indefinite detention remains a staple of Obama policy. The Obama DOJ has repeatedly argued that the Boumediene ruling should not apply to Bagram, where — the Obama administration insists — it has the power to imprison people with no due process, not even a habeas hearing; the Obama DOJ has succeeded in having that power enshrined. Obama has proposed a law to vest him with powers of “prolonged detention” to allow Terrorist suspects to be imprisoned with no trials. His plan for closing Guantanamo entailed the mere re-location of its indefinite detention system to U.S. soil, where dozens of detainees, at least, would continue to be imprisoned with no trial. And, of course, the President just signed into law the NDAA which contains — as the ACLU put it — “a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision,” meaning — as Human Rights Watch put it — that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” Those held at Guantanamo will continue to receive at least a habeas hearing, but those held in other American War on Terror prisons will not. Read Boumediene’s Op-Ed to see why this is so odious.
"So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause." – Senator Padme Amidala, Star Wars Episode III

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy Caucus Day!

The 2012 presidential election officially starts tonight with the Iowa Republican Caucuses. This is the first presidential election after the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United verdict. The consequences are as follows:
The difference between a “normal” Political Action Committee and a super PAC is in the disclosure laws and uncapped “issue” expenditures, meaning a super PAC can spend whatever it can raise on targeted issues but not donate directly to a campaign. (Colbert Gets His Super Pac with Media Implications)
So, to review: Super-PACs focus only on politics but must disclose their donors. The 501(c) groups must not have politics as their primary purpose but don’t have to disclose who gives them money.
But it gets even more interesting when the two groups combine powers.
Say some like-minded people form both a Super-PAC and a nonprofit 501(c)(4). Corporations and individuals could then donate as much as they want to the nonprofit, which isn’t required to publicly disclose funders. The nonprofit could then donate as much as it wanted to the Super-PAC, which lists the nonprofit’s donation but not the original contributors. (Super-PACs and Dark Money: ProPublica’s Guide to the New World of Campaign Finance)

Stephen Colbert explains it quite nicely through the following three videos. If you would like the abridged version, watch the first two minutes of the last video.