Category Archives: argybargy

Clay Shirky’s eloquence

If you are going to read or watch JUST ONE summary of sopa/pipa stuff, Clay Shirky’s TED talk is my current candidate. It’s 14 minutes, but (or, better, AND) you get the Backstory of the continuing machinations of the “content industries” … the point that WE SHARE STUFF is at the heart of his presentation. And The Mouse doesn’t like that.

Another good presentation: Khan Academy on YouTube

…and here’s another essential piece: Dan Gillmor’s commentary in The Guardian, which says that the proponents aren’t proceeding from ignorance, and in fact they understand the Internet quite well:

…the Protect IP Act (Pipa) – and a host of activities around the world – share a common goal. These “fixes” are designed to wrest control of these tools from the masses and recentralize what has promised to be the most open means of communication and collaboration ever invented… it’s fair to say that some individual members of Congress have demonstrated, via their public statements, a lack of attention to the technical details of how the net works. I assure you, however, that the staff members who have taken dictation from Hollywood and its allies know precisely what their measures would achieve, if enacted. And I assure you that Rupert Murdoch and his top staff are fully cognizant of the realities they fear and loathe.

This is developing into a much more interesting and important dispute than first met the eye and ear, and a number of commenters have pointed out that sopa/pipa is just another skirmish in the wars of “the copyright cartel and its allies” (in Gillmor’s words) against, well, us. Do I see 99% here? Gillmor again:

The people who want to protect “intellectual property” from all infringement have set up a binary choice. They tell us that if we do not agree to their absolute control, we are endorsing stealing. This is another lie, though it’s been an effective one until recently – when people began to realize what was at stake.

And there’s more, in fact so much more that I’m not sure what to leave out, but meanwhile take a look at NewLeftMedia’s 12-minute YouTube analysis, which provides some more valuable context.

These presentations will turn out to be really interesting examples of explanations, once we can see and analyse a broad range of them.

And while we’re exploring motivations and reactions, add this bit from John Battelle’s SearchBlog:

…Major Obama donors in Hollywood assumed they were buying their way into legislative protection of their threatened business models, and when the President didn’t do their bidding, they “leaked” their displeasure…

The pipeline so desired by congresscritters

It’s ALWAYS been easy enough to find examples of Big Lies and Shell Games and Emperor’s Transparent Raiments in the stream of foolishness that passes for “news” in American mass media, but the last few years has been an especially fruitful epoch. Today’s OMG OMG OMG (at least so far, and it’s not yet 7:30) is from Anthony Swift at National Resources Defense Council, and won’t take long to read: Keystone XL is a tar sands pipeline to export oil out of the United States. A bit to whet the whistle:

Keystone XL would be Canada’s first step in diversifying its energy market. The pipeline would divert large volumes of Canadian oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, where it would be available for the first time to buyers on the world market. To sweeten the deal, many of the refineries on the Gulf Coast happen to be located in foreign trade zones, where they can export Canadian oil to the world market without paying U.S. taxes. Oil Change International investigated this issue in a report that found the Keystone XL pipeline was part of a larger strategy to sell increasing volumes of Canadian crude on the international diesel market… Simply stated, Keystone XL is a way to get Canadian oil out of the United States, not into it.

Getting the attention of congresscritters

Hafta say, Clay Johnson is righter than I wish he was (Dear Internet: It’s No Longer OK to Not Know How Congress Works). A few bits, yanked from their contextual underpinnings, to get your attention:

Right now, if you want effective legislation around your industry, then you need to pay the right lobbyists, make the right campaign contributions, and write the right legislation at the right time in order to get it out of Washington. If you had to objectively pick the winning team in Washington, pick the team with deep pockets and great lobbyists, not the team with community organizers and signed petitions. It’s a gross system that needs change. It’s a cancer on our democracy.

But looking for a specific innovation to try and change the way Washington works by the time Congress votes on SOPA is about as foolish as Steve Jobs trying to diet his way out of having pancreatic cancer. With billions of dollars in the bank, and not a lot of time left, isn’t it worth going for the sure bet? Just spend the money. Then, after you’re sure you beat cancer, worry about disrupting the system that caused it…

Right now, Congress uses a tool called “Intranet Quorum” to effectively listen to constituents. It’s a tool built by Lockheed Martin, built in the 1990s, and built without any real social media… Unfortunately, the world of government is a world of locked-up vendor contracts and displacing Intranet Quorum isn’t as simple as just building a better product, offering it at a lower cost. It’s entrenched, and there are all kinds of rules and regulations around what kinds of software members can use in an official capacity… Both chambers have the same problem, really: in order to provide software to members offices, that software must be hosted inside the data centers of each chamber, using the hardware that each chamber provides, using only the languages and software available on that hardware…

It’s no longer acceptable for us to not take responsibility for our Congress anymore. If we want it to be better then throwing bums out, and replacing them with new bums doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. Let’s work instead to educate whomever is in Congress, and the professional class around them. Let’s do more of the stuff that works, and less of the stuff that doesn’t.

Right on

The closing paragraphs of today’s Tom Dispatch:

It’s clear enough — or should be by now — that the electoral process has been occupied by the 1%; which means that what you hear in this “campaign” is largely refracted versions of their praise, their condemnation, their slurs, their views, their needs, their fears, and their wishes. They are making money off, and electing a president via, you. Which means that you — that all of us — are occupied, too.

So stop calling this an “election.” Whatever it is, we need a new name for it.

And this just in via Juan Cole:

Iran has US Surrounded, All Right

Some quotage

from Tom Dispatch:

The outrage that it has transformed into activity is over those who are still living high and profiting off that world’s demise — the privateers, looters, subprime hucksters, corporate grifters, Wall Street gamblers, and all those willing to take a buck to shill for them, to make sure in every way that they thrive as other Americans crash and burn.

From Jeff Madrick in New York Review of Books:

…compensation tied to stock options along with unusually high profits by financial firms, much of which was passed on to their executives, seems to be the overriding factor. This is probably now the main driver of what we call income inequality in America and what we should more accurately call runaway incomes at the very top…

…This may seem counterintuitive at first. After all, analysts have long painted a picture of growing inequality over the past few decades in which the top quintile’s share of the national income has risen while the share of the other 80 percent has fallen. But almost all the gains for the top 20 percent was for the top 1 percent. And half of that is accounted for by a tiny group within the top percent—those earners in the top 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, for the four quintiles below the 80 percent level, the share of total income fell significantly. For those from the 80th to the 99th percentile, the share rose only slightly (a little more rapidly as you go higher up). In other words, Occupy Wall Street’s claim that “We are the 99 percent” is dead on right.

Yglesias throws out a challenge

It’s interesting to consider that there may be Nothing New Under The Sun –that the problems of the moment have been around once, twice, many times before, in slightly different guises, and that it might just be worth our while to look to historical precedents… if only we can somehow see past the panics of the moment, and develop a bit of perspective. So here’s Matthew Yglesias, commenting on a book about James Monroe and looking back 200 years, and making more sense to me than all the intemperate punditry I’m seeing:

Most voters, and many pundits, seem to …think, with a mixture of condescension and naivete, that policy problems have obvious answers. The failure of policymakers to converge on these obvious answers is attributed to partisanship and the assumption is that if people didn’t have nefarious partisan interests the solutions would be forthcoming. The reality is quite different. Policy problems are difficult and the machinery of government is complicated. You need some kind of organizing institutions to get disparate individuals to work together, and the parties disagree not only because they’re jo[c]keying for influence, but because serious people have principled differences of opinion about what we should do.

I see plenty of “nefarious partisan interests” with big bucks and loud mouths. What I wish I could see more evidence of is the “principled differences of opinion” of which he speaks.

Well now here’s a practical education

Read carefully through today’s Lincoln Steffens Show post at No Fear of the Future and just see (a) how many dots you had/hadn’t already connected, (b) how many things you vow to keep an eye upon as the Circus continues to unfold before our eyes. Some exemplary bits:

…the perfect Narcissists to star in the next generation reality show are the ones who created their own illusory documentary narrative long before Survivor and The Bachelor: the American politicians who love nothing more than to engage in on-camera histrionics designed to manipulate the emotions of the general public around a largely illusory conflict between two political parties who represent an illusion of meaningful ideological difference…

…The 20th century revelation that probably had the most lasting cultural impact was Freud’s—that people are governed by primitive animal natures and appetitive drives that are often more powerful than reason. Freud’s insights were cynically employed on the this side of the Atlantic through his nephew Edward Bernays, the father of modern public relations, who overthrew the 19th century convention of fact-based advertising in favor of subtextual appeals to the baser natures…

Kunstler again

Jim Kunstler sure knows how to turn a phrase and sharpen an aperçu, exemplified in this bit from today’s blog posting:

We’re out of cheap oil, cheap and good ores, ocean fish, good timber, and lots of other things. All the stuff we erected to live our lives in – the stupendous armature of highways, strip malls, suburban houses, skyscraper condos, sewer systems, electric grids – is beyond our power to repair now. We can only patch it, and that can only work for so long before things go dark. (Can you sharpen a saw blade?)

Hmmmm… not a carbide-tipped blade.

Well worth the time to read in toto

Tome Engelhardt’s The Urge to Surge: Washington’s 30-Year High is a fine think piece for the New Year, and puts the present moment into highly relevant context. Down towards the end is this little trip down Memory Lane:

The 23 men and two women who signed the initial PNAC [Project for the New American Century] statement urging the United States to go for the military option in the twenty-first century would, however, prove something more than your typical crew of think-tank types. After all, not so many years later, after a disputed presidential election settled by the Supreme Court, Dick Cheney would be vice president; I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby would be his right-hand man; Donald Rumsfeld would be Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Zalmay Khalilzad, head of the Bush-Cheney transition team at the Department of Defense and then the first post- invasion U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, as well as ambassador to Iraq and UN ambassador; Elliot Abrams, special assistant to the president with a post on the National Security Council; Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Aaron Friedberg, Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs and Director of Policy Planning in the office of the vice president; and Jeb Bush, governor of Florida. (Others like John Bolton, who signed on to PNAC later, would be no less well employed.)

This may, in fact, be the first example in history of a think tank coming to power and actually putting its blue-sky suggestions into operation as government policy, or perhaps it’s the only example so far of a government-in-waiting masquerading as an online think tank.

I see little hope that the present-day DC crowd will grok their own hubris and repent.