Politics: November 2011 Archives

Two similar bills targeting online piracy, the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261), threaten free speech by putting unprecedented and unchecked power in the hands of the Attorney General, according to an analysis in Conservative Daily News. Under the current circumstances, with the Left in control of the Department of Justice, these bills, if passed into law, would be a particular threat to conservative blogs and websites:

The most catching part of SOPA, is that it allows the Department of Justice, run by Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder mind you, to pursue court orders for websites "outside" of US jurisdiction accused of enabling or hosting pirated content on their website.... Once a court order is obtained, the Attorney General could then direct a US web based companies to suspend business with the company or face the possibility of federal prosecution. The AG would also have the ability to direct search engines from blocking the IP in a search. The bill would also make it a felony to stream unauthorized copyrighted content.

...Can't you see it now? All the liberals will be scouring the Internet, with the music and movie industry's best interest at heart no doubt, looking at every conservative blog and website they can find regardless of importance with sole purpose of locating "pirated" content.... The Justice Department will request the court order to shut that blog down with the individual facing the potential of fines and restitution. Not a bad way to break the spirit. Lets not forget about all the new litigation that will ensue.

Blogs regularly make fair use of small excerpts of copyrighted material for the purpose of comment, and it would be easy enough for the DOJ to misconstrue that fair use as theft of intellectual property. Once shutdown, a website owner would have to go to great expense to reverse the DOJ block; in the meantime, his point of view is blocked from the internet.

The threat is bigger than the possibility of a leftist DOJ blocking conservative sites. Liberals should be concerned that some future administration could use PROTECT IP / SOPA to target their websites. It's not hard to imagine allies of Orrin Hatch, the Senator from Disney, using this law to shut down blogs promoting his conservative primary challenger. PROTECT IP / SOPA would be another tool in the tool box, along with SLAPP suits, for well-funded crony-capitalist cabals of both parties to shut down bloggers who oppose and expose them.

I'm happy to see that no Oklahoma legislators are sponsoring these bills; I hope they will oppose them vigorously. While most of the Senate sponsors are either Democrats or squishy RINOs (like Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain), I'm disappointed to see names of conservatives like Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the list. The support is somewhat understandable based on the stated intent of the bill -- to protect businesses that have invested in intellectual property from piracy -- but no amount of good intentions can make up for putting internet blacklisting power in the hands of one politically appointed official.

The best way for the music and movie industries to dampen down piracy is to make their content more easily and affordably available. If someone can watch episodes of a long-gone but favorite TV series on Netflix, or pay for and download MP3s of an out-of-print album from Amazon, they won't go hunting for pirated copies online.

Call your senators and congressman and urge them to oppose this threat to free speech. I consider these bills a key vote for determining my future support.

MORE: No article on online piracy is complete without "The IT Crowd" parody of anti-piracy warnings.

See the update below about what happened shortly before the hearing was to begin.

As the 12-member congressional debt commission flounders in its task to reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars, the Tea Party Debt Commission, a crowd-sourced, online initiative organized by FreedomWorks and Contract from America, has identified trillions in cuts. The results will be announced at a special hearing, broadcast on C-SPAN-3 and C-SPAN.org today, November 17, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. Tulsa time.

The hearing will be led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (OH-4), Senator Mike Lee (UT), Senator Rand Paul (KY), Congressman Jeff Flake (AZ-6), Congressman Paul Broun (GA-10), Congressman Joe Walsh (IL-8), Congressman Michael Burgess (TX-26) and Congressman Steve King (IA-5). Twelve Tea Party Debt Commissioners will testify, followed by Q&A from House and Senate members.

The New York Times covered the launch of the Tea Party Debt Commission back in June, outlining its goals and structure:

"If you look if you look at the landscape in Washington, D.C., there's a lot of Democrats who control two-thirds of the process who are now sitting on their hands, waiting to point fingers at Republicans who propose something, and there's too many Republicans who are afraid that the public won't understand a serious proposal to solve the budget deficit," said Matt Kibbe, [FreedomWorks] president.

"We think, like with the first days of the Tea Party movement, that the only way we will ever reduce the debt and balance the budget is if America beats Washington and Tea Party activists take over this process, take over the public debate and engage the American people in the hard work of making tough choices."...

The activists, along with FreedomWorks staff, came up with parameters for their budget proposals, declaring that they would have to balance the federal budget within 10 years, reduce federal spending to 18 percent of the gross domestic product, reduce the national debt to no more than 66 percent of the G.D.P., assume that revenue accounts for no more than 19 percent of the G.D.P., reduce federal spending by at least $300 billion in the first year and reduce federal spending by at least $9 trillion over 10 years.

UPDATE: Shortly before the Tea Party Debt Commission hearing was to begin, Senate staffers kicked them out. FreedomWorks New Media Director Tabitha Hale tells the story:

It has been 932 days since the Democrats have passed a budget. With the formation of the Super Committee, we saw an opportunity for Americans to tell Congress what they would be willing to cut, and offer suggestions to make the budgeting process easier for them. The Senate Rules Committee, headed up by Chuck Schumer, told us they were uncomfortable with the word "hearing", and locked the doors and took away our microphones minutes before the event was scheduled to start.

So basically, they have nearly three years to put a budget forth and fail. We finally act, they kick us out. Senator Mike Lee's office took the lead and quickly found a new location at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center, where the hearing took place not too far behind schedule.

We will be heard, Washington.

More from the New York Times:

But the Capitol police shut down the room where they planned to meet, after a suspicious package was found in the office of Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama.

Tea Party activists who arrived at Hearing Room 325 in the Russell building at 2 p.m. discovered Capitol police there, removing microphones and locking the room.

Evicted from the Russell Building, they saw suspicious motives - big government strikes again! -- and issued another press release declaring the shutdown "outrageous."

"They're kicking us out of our own building because they're afraid we are going to do something crazy, like balance the budget," said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks president.

Capitol Police claimed that the removal was for security reasons, but why would you take the time to remove microphones from a hearing room if there was a suspicious package in the office next door? Wouldn't you clear the building? Utah Sen. Mike Lee thinks so:

"The Rules Committee was threatening to shut us down," he said in an interview. If there was a threat, he said, the building should have been evacuated. And he disputed the Senate rule. As a senator, he said, he can call a meeting with an outside group in a Senate office building. "Is the First Amendment so weak that someone calls it a 'hearing' and so we can't have it?" he said.

The Tea Party Debt Commission report has been released; click that link to read it online. Key features:

  • "Cuts, caps, and balances" federal spending.
  • Balances the budget in four years, and keeps it balanced, without tax hikes.
  • Closes an historically large budget gap, equal to almost one-tenth of our economy.
  • Reduces federal spending by $9.7 trillion over the next 10 years, as opposed to the President's plan to increase spending by $2.3 trillion.
  • Shrinks the federal government from 24 percent of GDP -- a level exceeded only in World War II-- to about 16 percent, in line with the postwar norm.
  • Stops the growth of the debt, and begins paying it down, with a goal of eliminating it within this generation.

A bit of unscheduled excitement this afternoon at BlogCon, the blogger conference sponsored by FreedomWorks. A couple of dozen protesters from OccupyDenver showed up in the hotel lobby and made as if they intended to Occupy the convention hall. They were not accompanied by Shelby, the border collie that was elected leader of OccupyDenver. (There's something fitting about an Occupy group being led by a dog whose breed is renowned for herding sheep.)

The thing about a bloggers' conference is that nearly everyone there has the means to record video, so the confrontation between "Cokeheads and Koch-heads" (as Warner Todd Huston put it) was well documented.

Here are links to a number of after-action reports, with photos and video, too:

John Hayward at HumanEvents.com:

I'm at BlogCon 11 in Denver today, and we had our much-anticipated visit from the Occupy movement at around 2 PM local time. About twenty of them stormed the lobby - shouting, chanting, and stinking to an astonishing degree. No exaggeration: the stench of these characters easily reached through closed doors. They were quickly surrounded by camera-wielding bloggers who outnumbered the Occupiers about five to one.

Why would the Occupy Denver crowd "protest" a group of people peacefully gathered at a hotel to practice their free-speech rights? Well, they were apparently under the impression that BlogCon organizer Freedom Works is part of the sinister Koch Brothers enterprise (it isn't.) It's so unlike the Occupiers to show up and start screaming when they don't know what they're talking about....

On balance, it was a disappointing appearance: no drum circles, no human microphone, no up twinkles, no celebrity dog, and no tuberculosis yet as far as we can tell.

Warner Todd Huston at Publius Forum:

It was all good fun, though, for we bloggers here at Blogcon. The Occupiers were silly, loud and rather pointless -- pretty much like they are everywhere else in the country. As the little disruption wound up the Occupiers went back to their tents and the rest of us got back to business at Blogcon 2011.

The topic after the Occupiers left? Wikipedia, a how to. That was preceded by such world-conquering and evil ideas such as a seminar on how to visualize data in pleasing ways, and how to better use WordPress and YouTbue features. Yeah. We're taking over the world with our Koch money!

... by the way... I've been waiting for a check from these guys for years.

Jeff Dunetz at The Yid with a Lid: Occupy Denver Fails in Attempt to Invade BlogCon:

The gentleman under the arrow was screaming that we were all getting money from the Koch brothers, that's when we began to chant "Where's the Dog?" referring to Shelby, the dog who was elected the leader of Occupy Denver.

Jeff has a photo of one protester with a Coors Light hat and a Guy Fawkes V-for-Vendetta mask. I guess he's not aware of the ideological leanings of the Coors family.

Ace's in-the-moment account:

Several of the BlogCon guys are barring the door to the conference room.

There's about 20 of them. They're fairly young and dirty and speak in a strange jargon like the Oasis Tribe in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome....

The BlogCon people continue chanting snarky things, like "I like spaghetti!" "Breitbart, Breitbart!" and "This is what losing looks like!" The cops are escroting the hoboes out to the rousing serenade of nah-nah-nah, hey-ey-ey, goodbye.

Here's Sunshine State Sarah's video of the confrontation (many more videos at the link):

Here's Weasel Zippers video of the arrest of one of the Occupods:

Tabitha Hale, FreedomWorks frequent-flying new media director, was confronted on Tuesday with an extremely unpleasant screening experience at at Houston's Bush Airport, the site of last November's "Don't Touch My Junk" rebellion.


Then she got to my waist band. I had on black tights under my dress, which I'm certain is not uncommon. She asked me to lift my dress so she could check the waistband of my tights.

I felt my stomach drop. I said "I'm not lifting my dress for you. No way." She was obviously irritated with me now and said that she would take me to the private screening area if I would like.

I said "No, absolutely not. If you can't do this in front of everyone, you should not be doing this to me."

She then called a manager over. The manager approached me and explained what they were going to do and that if I failed to comply, they would escort me from the airport. I told her I saw no reason that they should have to lift my dress to clear me to get on a plane. I would have, however, allowed them to escort me out of the airport before they got me to lift my skirt and stick their hands down my tights. I was bracing myself to spend another night in Texas.

They figured a way to check her waistband without lifting her skirt, but the resulting pat down "was so vigorous I had to readjust my clothes when she was finished."

Here's the thing. If anyone else had done this to me, I would have decked them and likely filed charges. The fact that the person has on a TSA uniform is supposed to make it okay? It isn't. Why should any person be subjected to this to get on an airplane? We're supposed to subject ourselves to inappropriate touch for teh sake of "safety"?

I fly for my job. I travel frequently. I take trains when I can, but most of the time it's just not practical. The fact that I have to endure this type of force just to do my job is horrifying. I don't really have another option. Most of us who travel for work don't have a choice.

I have to get on a plane to Denver tomorrow, and am honestly dreading the idea of going through the airport. TSA needs to go. This has gone so far beyond a security precaution, and is a clear violation of the rights of travelers. Showing my business to an airport full of people is not in the interests of safety. It is wrong.

Too bad for Tabitha that Republican legislative leaders in Texas blocked freshman State Rep. David Simpson's bill forbidding government employees from touching a person's private areas without probable cause. The bill passed both houses by wide margins, but fell short of passage on a procedural issue. In a personal privilege speech on the final day of the special session, Simpson explained the importance of the bill and what happened to it:

On Friday, after calling the Texas House of Representatives to order, declaring a quorum, and making a few brief announcements, the House was adjourned--without opportunity to lay before the House its scheduled business, specifically the legislation (HB 41) recently added by the Governor to the call for the special session that prohibits the intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation. This is the same legislation requested by the Lt. Governor, the State Republican Executive Committee, and a deluge of grassroots activists to be added to the call. A nearly identical bill (HB 1937) was passed unanimously through the House during the regular session. The bill has had over 100 coauthors in the House; it was passed out of committee, and was placed again on the House Calendar by the leadership team the Speaker has chosen.

What is the objection of some? They object to the words used in the legislation to describe the private parts of the body. Specifically, the legislation prohibits the touching of the anus, the sexual organ, the breasts or the buttocks of an individual as part of a screening search without probable cause.

There is a specific reason those words are in the legislation. They happen to be those sensitive and private body parts of a traveler that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents are routinely groping, and sometimes in retaliation for simply opting out of a virtual naked body scan. The bill could prohibit the touching of your nose, or ear or kneecap, and those would be easier body parts to discuss in public, but it wouldn't solve the problem.

I fear the emperors in our state government, at least at times, are people who would rather allow despicable behavior to continue than speak out loud the necessary words to describe it.

In the name of security, travelers are being required to submit to a virtual naked strip by use of a scanner. Should one oppose the scanner based on modesty or for health reasons, then the result is a humiliating groping hand search which includes touching (and sometimes hitting or hard pressing) of the most private parts of an individual's body.

But will it stop here? The TSA claims in public records to have the authority to require a strip search as a condition of travel. In fulfillment of that belief, this last week the TSA forced a 95-year-old cancer stricken woman to remove her diaper in an extensive and extremely intrusive search.

Fifteen years ago, would you have believed that allowing a government agent to put their hand inside your underwear would ever be a condition of travel? If we do not stop now, what will our children be required to endure?

A delicate matter? Yes, certainly. But is it better to define what is indecent government behavior and to prohibit it by legislation, or to be "discreet" and allow the official oppression of travelers to continue?

Rarely in the history of this legislature has the State's leadership so masterfully worked against the will of its members and the people they represent. Leadership managed to arrange it so that every member could cast a vote in support of a bill which they ensured would not pass. No doubt, this deception will confound many Texans.

But, the people of Texas should not be confused. The explanation is simple and clear. The defeat of this bill can only be laid at the feet of the leadership of this state.

If you appreciate Rep. Simpson's stand for liberty and would like him to try again to pass this bill in the next legislature, he could use your help getting re-elected.

Gadsden Flag adaptation courtesy gulagbound.com, which notes that, like the original, this version omits the apostrophe.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from November 2011.

Politics: October 2011 is the previous archive.

Politics: December 2011 is the next archive.

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