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The Internet Government Politics

Congress's Techno-Ignorance No Longer Funny 477

Posted by Soulskill
from the like-a-series-of-irritating-tubes dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "Since its introduction, the Stop Online Piracy Act (and its Senate twin PROTECT-IP) has been staunchly condemned by countless engineers, technologists and lawyers intimately familiar with the inner functioning of the internet. Completely beside the fact that these bills, as they currently stand, would stifle free speech and potentially cripple legitimate businesses by giving corporations extrajudicial censorial powers, there's an even more insidious threat: the method of DNS filtering proposed to block supposed infringing sites opens up enormous security holes that threaten the stability of the internet itself. The problem: key members of the House Judiciary Committee still don't understand how the internet works, and worse yet, it's not clear whether they even want to."
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Congress's Techno-Ignorance No Longer Funny

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  • They don't want to (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:51PM (#38402074)

    Ignorance is bliss. And when shit hits the fan, they can claim plausible deniability.

    • by forkfail (228161) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:13PM (#38402420)

      To be more specific, their supposed ignorance allows them to allow the (paying) lobbyists to write the bills in the manner that most benefits our purported representatives true constituency - the corporations and their owners who aren't satisfied with the majority of the pie, but who want the whole damn thing.

      • by tsa (15680)

        Yep. Liberty and justice for all corporations!

        • by Old97 (1341297) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:47PM (#38402930)
          Because "corporations are people too". (Mitt Romney)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lgw (121541)

            Corporations are made of people. Get together with a million other geeks to throw money at this problem, and you'll be able to buy serious ad time and lobbying power for a small amount of money each. But guess what - you'll need to incorporate somewhere along that path.

            A corporation is a tool, nothing more than a way for many not-so-rich people to fund an effort and own the result, rather that the prior model where only the 0.01% could play. Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil.

            • by PopeAlien (164869) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:17PM (#38403302) Homepage Journal

              Get together with a million other geeks to throw money at this problem

              This is the problem with allowing money to act as a form of 'free speech'. It's an arms race with more and more money trying to buy the 'right' laws and the people (corporations) that financially benefit from those laws will always have more money to buy more laws.

              • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:53PM (#38403858)

                Well. Either you allow no one to make signs, commercials, hold rallys, or do anything that will cost some amount of money or you do.
                If you choose to allow no one to spend a dime of their own money to support or oppose a cause or candidate then you are definitely running into a free speech area.
                If you allow any amount to be spent you get some problems.
                If you allow certain amounts to get spent in certain ways you get loopholes.

                I say fuck it.
                Allow any US citizen or corporation spend as much as they want.
                Then all contributions of any type must be put into a publicly accessible database within 48 hours.
                All contributions must be stopped within one week of the vote.
                All failures result in prison.

                Easy and cheap to implement. Easy to follow. People can make informed choices.

                If people want to vote in a politician that takes $450,000 from Wal-Mart and the people know that this is the case then they get what they deserve.

                • Horiible idea (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday December 16, 2011 @07:08PM (#38404656)
                  what good is knowing about it if you can't do anything about it? Congress has an approval rate of 9%, and they still get elected. You're completely missing the point with your suggestion, which is that these people are our ruling class. You are not free. They own you.

                  The correct solution is to only allow individuals to donate, and then cap the donations at a reasonable amount. If everyone has the same opportunity to express your view with money, then you have real free speech. Also, you only get to donate to an election you can vote in. No donations if you can't legally vote. Corporations can't vote, so they don't get to donate. Period. Problem solved.
                • by lexsird (1208192) on Friday December 16, 2011 @11:43PM (#38406404)

                  How about we just outlaw all bribery of officials? It's not free speech, it's BRIBERY. It's not free speech if it's a crime. I can't call "free speech" if I say to you, "hey fucker, give me your wallet or I will shoot you and fuck your pretty wife", that's ROBBERY. I look at lobbyists as criminals that we should have lynched a long time ago. If you want to influence your Congressman, you write him and letter and plead your cause. Anything else should be considered a bit of intimidation or influencing of our legal system and should be considered a capital punishment crime. Not only for those to try to influence our politicians and officials but those same politicians and officials if they take the bribes, it should be capital punishment.

                  Only then will we be rid of career politicians who spend millions of dollars to get a job that pays little in contrast to what they spend to get there. Only then will we have a nervous representative system that fears and respects it's masters and works for our interests. Public servants, not public masters. We must assert our freedom or it will be taken from us, that is the nature of the world. The Constitution isn't magical, we have to do the damn work, lately we have slacked off and it's becoming void and nil.

            • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:24PM (#38403390) Journal

              Corporations are made of people.

              No, corporations are made of *money*.

              Corporations are bodies created to remove people from the equation. When an entity is incorporated, the shareholders are absolved of personal responsibility for the actions of the corporation (aside from their financial interest).

              A corporation is a tool, nothing more than a way for many not-so-rich people to fund an effort and own the result (...) Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil.

              No. Corporations also shelter the investors from personal responsibility. If a corporation is made of people, why is that those people are not personally liable for the actions of the corporation?

              Corporations are likely to be used for evil because the perpetrators (the investors) are not personally responsible for the evil outcomes of the corporation's activities.

            • by forkfail (228161) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:25PM (#38403414)

              Thing is, though, it is the 0.1% who get to play. Just the way the system works.

              http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertlenzner/2011/11/20/the-top-0-1-of-the-nation-earn-half-of-all-capital-gains/ [forbes.com]

              It's a nice idea that everyone gets to play, but like it or not, this tool has been pretty much completely conscripted by not the top 1%, but by the top 0.1%.

              • by lgw (121541) on Friday December 16, 2011 @06:04PM (#38403990) Journal

                I'm not in the top 1%, but I own some micro-% of the means of production in this country through my stock ownership. It's not a lot, but it's more than 1/300,000,000th.

                What percentage of basketball players get to play in the NBA? What percentage of drivers drive in Formula-1 races? Sure, investing is by nature competitive, but it's actually less concentrated at the top than most competitive groups. Scrape together a few bucks to buy some shares of an S&P500 ETF fromm a discount broker, and you're in, making capital gains and owning part of major corporations.

                Everyone certainly does get to play, it's just that most people spen their money on toys instead, then whine about the inevitable results. Your television, cable bill, sneakers, new rims, and iPod - none of these pay a dividend. It's not some secret that this is how money works, no special handshake is required to start investing, and in fact the majority of americans own stock indirectly, through a pension plan or 401k. Being good at investing is a different matter, of course.

                • by Whorhay (1319089) on Friday December 16, 2011 @06:36PM (#38404362)

                  Based on some probably out of date numbers, in order to own a 1/300,000,000 stake in the market capitalization of the publicly traded stock in the US you'd need to invest $50,000. Now that's entirely possible for one person to do and have obviously. I know people who probably have 20 times that in the market right now. I'm somewhere around half myself. But I wouldn't say that it's easy for the most of the population to achieve that in the short term. And this isn't even counting market cap that isn't publicly traded, but is instead held privately.

            • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:29PM (#38403476) Journal

              A corporation is a tool, nothing more than a way for many not-so-rich people to fund an effort and own the result, rather that the prior model where only the 0.01% could play. Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil.

              A corporation is also a means of dodging responsibility for one's actions. Because the leaders of a corporation can't be held responsible for what the company does except in certain extreme situations, corporate speech does not have the same liability/risk that individual speech does. This is why it must be regulated in ways that individual speech is not. No freedom without responsibility and all that.

              And the reality is that even if you get together with a million other geeks, you will not be able to do much in terms of lobbying. Congresspeople don't give a rat's ass about any group of people, including corporations, unless that group is creating lots of jobs in their district. What this means is that no political organization has any real bearing on anything in politics beyond perhaps a little lip service from the politicians as they try to make it appear that they still represent the people as a whole. Maybe, maybe you might be able to sway an election to the other candidate. The problem is that the other candidate doesn't give a rat's ass about your opinion, either, which means the best you can really do is nudge the ball a few feet to either side of the fifty yard line.

              In short, corporations are so much unlike the general public that any attempt at comparison is meaningless.

            • by Jawnn (445279) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:33PM (#38403546)
              Bullshit.
              Corporations are business entities. There mission is not to represent n% of the populace "banding together and funding an effort" as you so romantically put it. A corporation's mission, it's sole reason to be, is to make money for it's shareholders. As a matter of principle and law, all other priorities are secondary. If doing "the right thing" reduces profit, the corporation is obliged to avoid doing the right thing if it can legally do so. This is not a case of the corporation being "evil". As you say, it is only a tool.
              Alas, more often than not, this places corporations at odds with the interests of the citizens, you know, the actual living, breathing, and voting people. Corporations have their place, but it is not anywhere near the role of citizens. Since we have allowed corporations to essentially co-opt the men and women WE elected to represent US, we no longer live in a representative republic. We could debate the name, but it is nothing like what we were taught in school. Wake the hell up.
              • by ffflala (793437) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:02PM (#38405114)
                I understand your outrage, but you've overgeneralized it past any point of accuracy, let alone usefulness. What you're saying is simply incorrect. Don't believe me? Ask the Electronic Frontier Foundation for starters, which is a (gasp!) corporation.https://www.eff.org/about [eff.org]

                Non-profit corporations are every bit as much corporations as are for-profit corporations. By definition, corporate charter, and law the overriding mission of these CORPORATIONS is to actively accomplish some sort public good. US nonprofit corps currently control ~1 trillion dollars, and last stats I saw indicated they disseminated about $50 billion in *direct* financial support annually (this doesn't include the public services they provide.) This isn't some uninformed romantic fantasy; it's reality. There isn't a lot of profit in public services, yet 501c(3) corps and related foundations do indeed "band together and fund" all sorts of efforts that, while financially unprofitable, serve some actual good.

                Grandparent was both correct and informed: the corporate form *is* a powerful type of group organization, and it can be used for good or evil. It can be abused, and obviously is, has been before, and will in the future. It is also a form that can be used to diminish or even eradicate the influences of the worst of the for-profit corporations.

                This is because, again, a corporation is a form of group organization to achieve a common goal, and that goal doesn't *have* to be profit.
            • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:36PM (#38403602) Homepage

              Corporations are a legal fiction meant to shield it's members from liability. It removes the accountability that ANY morally aware entity should be subject to.

              A corporation is effectively a (rioting) mob. It has no self awareness or moral awareness or even any social encouragement to be a good citizen.

              Anyone that tries to conflate a corporation with a person is an idiot.

              If rights can be blindly transferred from individuals to a collective, then the reverse should also true. The corporate veil should vanish and all members of the collective should be jointly and severally liable for any harm the collective causes.

              The rights of a limited liability entity should be limited too.

              • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle@hotmail . c om> on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:51PM (#38403824) Homepage

                If rights can be blindly transferred from individuals to a collective, then the reverse should also true. The corporate veil should vanish and all members of the collective should be jointly and severally liable for any harm the collective causes.

                The rights of a limited liability entity should be limited too.

                They used to be much more limited. As late as the 1870s and 1880s, various states had laws on the books that amounted to a "corporate death penalty"--that is, companies that repeatedly broke the law or existed only for the purpose of breaking the law, could have their corporate charters' revoked and their assets seized to pay off any existing debts.

                This is had the effect making corporate managers think long and hard about straddling the line between "lawful" and "unlawful." These laws were mostly gutted during the Gilded Age (or, perhaps, I need to start referring to the First Gilded Age since we seem to be in the early stages of a second one,) by robber-barons who wanted as few barriers as possible between their wealth and unlimited power. ...Sound familiar?

      • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:58PM (#38403074) Journal
        There used to be the Office of Technology Assessment, a highly respected (so much so that it has been imitated by other governments) body whose function was to advise Congress on science and technology matters. Newt Gingrich lead the Republicans in killing it off as a part of their Contract with America back in 1995. The OTA would have denied Congress the cover of ignorance when it came time to vote on this SOPA monstrosity.
        • by mikael (484) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:23PM (#38403370)

          The corporations would always lobby against something like that because (as the lobbyists would say) "the private sector was more informed and better at making such decisions that law-makers" and "it was far better to allow market forces to prevail" than to allow "marxist style central planning dictate economic direction".

          Reality, they didn't want anyone who really knew the limitations of the technology to become involved in the scrutiny of public sector contracts. As is typical in the UK, such public sector contracts usually include NDA agreements to "guarantee the public gets value for money".

      • by LoyalOpposition (168041) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:09PM (#38403214)

        To be more specific, their supposed ignorance allows them to allow the (paying) lobbyists to write the bills in the manner that most benefits our purported representatives true constituency - the corporations and their owners who aren't satisfied with the majority of the pie, but who want the whole damn thing.

        Some time ago the topic was our (US's) winner-take-all election laws, and its tendency to produce only two parties and similar candidates. I took issue with someone who thought that proportional election laws would solve all that. Now that you've posted this comment I'm gratified that perhaps more people agree with my way of thinking that I had first thought.

        ~Loyal
         

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:16PM (#38402448)

      And when shit hits the fan, they'll either be retired, promoted or have a nice position on the board of some nice corporation.

      FTFY

    • by alexborges (313924) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:26PM (#38402590)

      Change:
      "...it's not clear whether they even want to" [understand how the internet works]

      To:
      "....its clear they dont even want to"

      I saw ALL the discussion yesterday. This is ridiculous, the people advocating this act are entirely ignorant of any and all issues regarding WTF they are doing and they dont even realize it will ALL backfire. I ended yesterday thinking this could even be good for "us" (freedom loving people all over the world): its clear that if SOPA passes, bitcoins, tor proxies and ways to monetize darknet access will be a good way to make money.

      They want their broken internet: let them have it.

    • by datavirtue (1104259) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:48PM (#38402940)

      I recall an interview with Sandra Day O'Connor on PBS when she was asked out of the blue, by Margret I believe, if she browsed the internet. I thought it was kind of dumb question at the time and was totally floored when she answered: "No, no I don't." Completely shocked my head was almost spinning as I came to the realization that we have serious problems in government. These people do not take in new information, in fact they avoid it. I suspect most of Washington's elite make no effort to educate themselves on things they know nothing about. It dawned on me that these people are not using the internet and that they most likely view it in a contemptuous light. In my naivety I assumed everyone was immediately running Google searches whenever their mind tripped over an unknown factor pertinent to an important decision. Boy was I wrong. These people in Washington do not need to be curious; they are already taken care of and they have no incentive to rock the boat or even look over the side.

    • Notably, four representatives on the committee—Darrell Issa (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Jared Polis (D-CO)—are fighting against SOPA all the way. Issa proposed an amendment yesterday that would have gutted the worst parts of SOPA out of the bill, though it unfortunately failed. Chaffetz's appeals to the potential compromise of DNSSEC finally got the thing shelved until real Internet experts can testify before the committee.

      As the chief opponents of the bill are equally

  • Fuck them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:52PM (#38402082)

    Seriously.

    • Re:Fuck them (Score:5, Informative)

      by GodInHell (258915) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:56PM (#38402146) Homepage
      Usually I look form more onsight in commentary. But this time AC has really said all that needs to be said.
    • by forkfail (228161) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:14PM (#38402438)

      Unfortunately, it's you and I who are going to receive said fscking.

    • Re:Fuck them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:27PM (#38402608)
      End the two-party system. That is the only way we're going to get ANY kind of accountability or responsibility from the American government. We need the alternative vote NOW, and we need to end the electoral college.

      The United States aren't a democracy, and we're not even a republic anymore. We don't have the right to vote on matters of policy, nor do we have the right to vote for the president and his cabinet. We participate in a shell game they set up through gerrymandering and the threat that your vote will be meaningless if you don't vote for one of the two approved party candidates.

      There is NO legitimate excuse why we shouldn't have the alternative vote in America, except that the Democrats and Republicans don't want it. There is NO legitimate excuse as to why we need the electoral college in America, we don't even have ballots anymore, it is all done electronically.
      • Re:Fuck them (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:28PM (#38402634)
        Also incumbency is way too powerful in the house and senate, terms should have limits.

        And maybe you should have to pass a basic political quiz before you're allowed to vote. I'm not talking about "literacy tests" to keep out minorities, I'm talking about do you even know which party this person is a member of? Do you know this person's view on ____ important policy?
  • a hypothetical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fightinfilipino (1449273) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:54PM (#38402104) Homepage
    if one is receiving insane amounts of money and political clout to deliberately ignore severe problems in a proposed bill, is it still ignorance?
    • Re:a hypothetical (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flirno (945854) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:59PM (#38402180)
      Willfull ignorance.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by forkfail (228161)

      I might call it a form of treason, except for the fact that the Robert's court endowed corporations with personhood for all intents and purposes, and the representatives to which you refer are simply serving their true constituents....

      • Re:a hypothetical (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Genda (560240) <mariet@got.nERDOSet minus math_god> on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:30PM (#38402680) Journal

        And if a "citizen" through acts of collusion with a member of the federal legislature attempts to have a law passed which fundamentally damages the national infrastructure and security, the rights of the country's citizens, and the ability for millions of businesses to rightfully function, then that "Citizen" has committed a crime against the nation (corporation or not) and the representatives that have colluded with that citizen should be censured and if necessary charged with criminal offense.

        Time and time again, the arguments presented by the media have proven to be hollow, without basis in fact, and utterly grounded in the need to lay white knuckled fists on all intellectual property (including that which does not belong to them.) This is offensive at best and almost certainly should be considered illegal. Its time to wake up. You can't monopolize other peoples work anymore, and get away with it. There are simply too many ways to circumvent you. You are no longer significant in this equation. You better hustle up a new way to get relevant, or prepare yourself to go the way of buggy-whips and whale bone corsets.

        For the love of all that's holy, please get the bankers and lawyers out of entertainment. They've been screwing it up for years and now they're trying drag the whole world into the black hole they've created. Just do us all a favor and go away please.

    • Re:a hypothetical (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aztektum (170569) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:29PM (#38402642)

      If it can be held to a citizen that ignorance of the law does not excuse them from liability for breaking it, we should hold our elected officials to account for legislation they vote for in ignorance of sound judgement and reason.

      Note I say "we". It's obvious Congress is not listening. It is up to the people to make them.

    • Re:a hypothetical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MLRScaevola (1984056) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:29PM (#38402652)
      "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." -Upton Sinclair. I think this describes our situation, and your hypothetical, quite nicely.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:54PM (#38402110)

    Congress just rubber-stamps bills that are written up by lobbyists. That has been fairly well proven.

    • by Kristian T. (3958) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:02PM (#38402232)

      It's just to cheap for coorporate america to hedge it's bets when they only have to bribe.... errh I mean make campaign contributions, to 2 parties. Try to elect some representatives from the pirate party, like sweden has.

      • It's just to cheap for coorporate america to hedge it's bets

        It's way worse than that. When you compare donations to legislation, earmarks and kickbacks, the ROI for corprorations is just insane.

        Shorter: Your representatives are selling you out for $14 worth of shiny trinkets!
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:55PM (#38402124) Homepage Journal

    The opposite of Progress is Congress.

    I don't think they are as willfully stupid as people make them out to be, but tend to let lobbyists and industry representatives do a lot of their thinking for them - in all areas, we're just focused on SOPA and Protect-IP because they are closer to our hearts.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Well when it was even mentioned that proponents of SOPA might be payed to be in favor of it, Watt went on a long spiel about how that was a subject they shouldn't go into, and they should move on to passing the bill.
    • I don't think they are as willfully stupid as people make them out to be, but tend to let lobbyists and industry representatives do a lot of their thinking for them - in all areas, we're just focused on SOPA and Protect-IP because they are closer to our hearts.

      Correct. They may sincerely think that they are doing a good job, too. Their entire world view is so far removed from the way that we see it, that they can't be expected to understand the repercussions of their actions. This is why we need to stop electing billionaires and hereditary politicians, or else force them to spend some time living a normal life. How about living with a different random family of their constituency every year? Or else force them to work minimum wage for one year before taking

    • by inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:44PM (#38402878) Homepage

      in all areas, we're just focused on SOPA and Protect-IP because they are closer to our hearts.

      That is actually the part that scares me the most. If things are this bad in areas that I actually have some knowledge about, how much badness am I not seeing because I am too ignorant? How many horrible ideas have we silently let be implemented, just because we didn't know?

  • That's because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogue (652570) on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:56PM (#38402140)
    all of Congress is made up of lawyers. Where are the engineers and scientists? There are none.
    • by MiniMike (234881) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:00PM (#38402200)

      Well, there was President Carter- sorry, my bad. Nevermind. Please forget I said anything. I'm really sorry.

      • Re:That's because (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rrohbeck (944847) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:10PM (#38402368)

        Engineers and scientists don't promise pink unicorns to everybody and are generally not very interested in money and power.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)

        President Carter, IIRC, wasn't really a bad president the way Bush II and Obama have been; he was just an ineffectual president for the most part, and didn't handle the Beirut problem that well, leading to Reagan winning the 1980 election.

        However, there's a problem with your comparison: Carter was President, head of the Executive branch. The previous poster was talking about the lack of engineers and scientists in Congress, the lawmaking Legislative branch. The two branches have very different functions,

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        There was also President Hoover, who was an absolutely amazing metallurgist and mining engineer. Trouble was, he didn't know jack about economics, and deferred to people who he thought knew jack about economics but didn't.

    • Re:That's because (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@@@gmail...com> on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:17PM (#38402468)

      My congressman, Rush Holt, is a former rocket scientist and beat IBM's Watson supercomputer on Jeopardy. I did my part and voted for someone intelligent. You get the government you deserve, not the one you need.

    • Re:That's because (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kethinov (636034) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:44PM (#38402872) Homepage Journal

      I voted for Zoe Lofgren, and she vigorously opposes this travesty.

      Here's a statement she made today, on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/SOPA/comments/nfhhy/member_of_house_judiciary_committee_ama_on_sopa/ [reddit.com]

      (Yes, she has a Reddit account.)

      thanks to all for your kind words. My best assessment is that most members of the House who do not serve on the Judiciary Committee have not yet focused on SOPA. People should realize that incredible power they have to impact the thinking of their own Representative on the subject. For example, a very intelligent colleague who is not on the Committee approached me today asking about the bill. Why? He had received an urgent and forthright telephone call from a small business person in his district who is tremendously opposed. He wanted to know more about our Open Act Alternative. This is the power that each of you have with your own Representative.
      I have noticed lot of commentary on line, many thoughtful comments, tweets, etc. But most Representatives are not as plugged into the net world as many of you are. To be heard, you must speak, directly and either by phone or in person. Tweets, emails, petitions are nice, but they don't get the same level of attention.
      If I had to bet right now (no, not a $10,000 bet!) I would guess that SOPA proponents currently have the upper hand in Congress. But that is because you have not yet been heard from fully yet. That is very much subject to change.
      I learned long ago not to try to explain the thinking of other Members of Congress on any given subject. Instead, you should ask them. If they represent you in the House, they most likely will be happy to take your call. Please remember if you do call to be not only forthright but also polite. It's likely that the person answering the phone is some young person who is working long hours for low pay who does not deserve rude treatment. The House is out of session now but I will be happy to participate in AMA on SOPA again in the days ahead. Best wishes, Zoe

  • by Jibekn (1975348) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:05PM (#38402286)
    Vote with lead, if you see an elected official, shoot them.
  • by mseeger (40923) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:06PM (#38402300)

    We had the samw try here. The result was a new party in the parliamental race.

    If you don't break the grip of the two party system, you will have a ruling aristocracy in less than a generation.

    • by forkfail (228161)

      We've already got one.

      They're just too smart to take titles like "earl" and "duke".

      But they most certainly exist.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertlenzner/2011/11/20/the-top-0-1-of-the-nation-earn-half-of-all-capital-gains/ [forbes.com]

    • If you don't break the grip of the two party system, you will have a ruling aristocracy in less than a generation.

      Proof needed please. I'll take it in the form of pointing to other countries which have more than two parties and do not suffer from special interests having undue influence in government, OR in the form of an explanation as to how special interests can buy two parties but can't possibly buy three or more.

      Every country that I've heard of with more than two parties has problems with corporations and the wealthy buying the government, and I'm not seeing anything to suggest that three is a magic number tha

      • by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:14PM (#38403280)

        Despite all that is politically fucked in California, or maybe because of it, we're taking baby steps towards weakening the grip of the two party system.

        Citizen Redistricting Commission - The legislature no longer gets to gerrymander districts in their favor. Instead, redistricting is done by a citizen's commission drawn from multiple parties and independents. Both the Republicans and Democrats are mad about the recently released maps, which is probably a good indicator that the commission is doing good work.

        Nonpartisan Primary - All candidates from all parties compete in the same primary, and the top two candidates advance to the main election. The initial effect should be to eliminate hyperpartisan extremists, but getting more moderates into office will only bode well for passing future changes to the election system.

        Instant Runoff Voting - Some cities, most notably San Francisco and Oakland, have switched to IRV. IRV is basically the next step after nonpartisan primaries, so hopefully it will move statewide if it's seen as successful in city elections. Unfortunately, Jean Quan, Oakland's mayor, only won because of IRV and is now coming under fire for mishandling Occupy. The fear is that people may equate IRV with producing bad politicians, even though the traditional voting system has created more than its fair share of horrible politicians.

        If things continue progressing in California, this bodes well for the nation as a whole. We were ahead of the game on having completely dysfunctional hyperpartisan politics. Term limits and other measures didn't make things better, and perhaps even made it worse. If these new steps lead to a more civil and productive legislature, hopefully the trends will get picked up nationwide.

  • by drb226 (1938360) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:07PM (#38402304)

    To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.

    "Combating the theft of U.S. property"...honestly? The words "theft" and "property" are HUGE red flags that these people have no clue what they are talking about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:09PM (#38402356)

    As a non American I hope this bill backfires and makes the younger and smarter more concerned and aware of politics. Yesterday tons of 4channers had streams of the amendment hearings and saw how ignorant politicians really are. Pissing off the internet is never a good idea.

    Obama isn't going to pass it and if he did I see it causing major sites to simply change from American ownership to somewhere else. Of course really big sites like google would just be heavily censored like youtube.

    Wouldn't be a bad time to go ahead and create some foreign sites now though.

    I wouldn't mind going back to IRC personally.

  • by sstamps (39313) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:13PM (#38402404) Homepage

    The ignorance of our elected officials was never funny. It was sad and grossly pathetic, and still remains so.

    Given the democractic system, it is a direct reflection on who we are as a people. As much as people piss and moan about the retards we end up electing, vanishingly few of said people either vote for non-retards, or run against the retards. As such, we get the government we deserve; the government that WE THE PEOPLE voted for.

    Just like the corporatocracy/plutocracy/Fascist state that we're fast becoming (which is an obvious symptomatic effect of the problem), people don't get how they are empowering the very evil they rail against. Corporations would have NO power if people stopped feeding them.

  • by Xanny (2500844) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:14PM (#38402424)

    I mean, I would much rather having accomplished scientists, engineers, and other professions representing me than someone who majored in law in college with the sole intention of being a politician. There is a breakdown in the system, and it was completely intended - when individual senators represent and are elected by up to 60 million people (Cali) they have no connection to their constituents at all.

    I mean, the process to fix it is an arduous process. We need to take money out of politics, take it out of campaigning, and we can easily use technology to develop a mutually agreed upon open platform on the internet to market representatives. Like, say, each county could host a site called elections.XXXX.gov and it would allow people to apply and run for the office. Probably have a tiny $10 running fee to keep people from flooding the sites, but besides that make it open to all constituents and all it takes is the ability to type in ones positions and appear at public debate. And then outlaw the spending of money on political advertising, because once we have an easy to access platform for knowing all the candidates where they can respectively give their standings on different political topics, we can move away from the grossly unintended 2 party system and more towards electing people and not parties that don't work in the publics interest.

    Problem is, the entrenched powers have absolutely no desire to move towards a system where anyone but the in crowd of each party could ever get nominated and handed to the public. They want 2 partys because they are easier to control and mutually benefit from the status quo.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:21PM (#38402522)

    Imagine if they applied their level of tech knowledge to other areas. Like the economy:

    "Congressman, how do you counter the charge that the 150% tax rate on the middle class and 0% tax rate on anyone making more than a million dollars in the Save Our Poor Affluent bill will result in millions going bankrupt?"

    "Well, I've been assured by the good folks in the Rich Individuals Association of America that this tax rate change will result in people buying more summer homes, yachts, and expensive cars. So obviously, it will highly boost the economy!"

    "But won't it...."

    "Look, I just pass the laws written for me by powerful lobbying organizations. I'm not an economics nerd!"

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:32PM (#38402692)

    "Let's get ignorance off the streets of America and back into Congress where it belongs!"

    Why can't these Congress folks just contact a University in their constituency for advice in such matters? Professors would love to get the opportunity to advise Congress for free. Great PR for the school and their department.

    The Congress folks can brag about the local "technical expertise" and that the constituency will benefit with economic growth, more jobs, and free coke and hookers for all . . .

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:37PM (#38402778) Homepage

    Congress can't even comprehend the Constitution. How can we expect them to comprehend technology.

  • by B1oodAnge1 (1485419) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:38PM (#38402798)

    Term Limits..

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:47PM (#38402932)

    OK, folks, let's concede that the government has ceased to be anything but an extension of the kleptocracy. Let's drop the left-vs-right, Republican-vs.-Democrat BS that is a dangerous distraction. Let's drop all the BS memes that have been focus-group tested by the 1% to take everyone's minds off what's really going on. OK? Let's stop pretending that Congress or any part of the government will listen to any level or form of input or bitching and change its ways. Let's just drop that stuff because it's unproductive.

    Instead, let's approach this problem like the scientists, engineers, geeks, nerds, and can-do people we are and see it as a technical challenge we can solve. Society is broken, the economy is broken, government is broken. How do we fix it?

    If SOPA is threatening the traditional internet, how do we route around the damage? Can we dramatically grow the number of nodes and routing capabilities? Can we design an open source ad-hoc mesh network that makes any attempt to shut it down an impossible project of confiscating every router, cellphone, car, and thing in the world that can communicate with each other?

    Can we design crowd-sourcing tools that allow the 99% to track and neutralize the 1% far more effectively than they could ever do to us? Can we make it possible to in every way tell them that their BS is no longer welcome on Planet Earth?

    Can we re-wire technical systems to promote and support the Steve Jobs & Woz's of the world to create a brighter future for us all?

    That's really the conversation we ought to be having on /. every day, not endless hand-wringing about the supposed government and big companies who JUST WON'T LISTEN TO US.

    Let's work the problem, folks.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday December 16, 2011 @04:53PM (#38403010)

    It's not just technolgy that politicians are ignorant of, it's pretty much everything outside their political sphere. This is why central planning always collapses eventually; every stupid new law passed by people who don't understand what they're doing without considering the consequences adds more cost and complexity to society until it can no longer sustain itself.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday December 16, 2011 @05:06PM (#38403196)
    I doubt most bill authors on technical subjects write much of the copy themselves. The congressman sets forth the general policy and lets a specialist flesh it out. I heard something on NPR about lobbyist firms that specialize in writing bills for a fee. So when an omnibus bill opportunity comes up they spam the bill with tons of earmarks on short notice.
  • Not all of them (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xelios (822510) on Friday December 16, 2011 @08:14PM (#38405224)
    Probably too late here, but I actually watched most of the judiciary hearing yesterday and while I was probably in the middle of a stroke for most of it the parts I remember paint a pretty clear picture.

    On the one side you had a few (very few) congressmen/women, namely Mr. Issa, Mr. Polis, Mr. Chaffetz, Ms. Lofgren and Ms. Jackson. They spent the entire hearing pleading with the chairman and the rest of the committee to allow experts (nerds as they often said) to essentially come in and explain the internet to them, because it was obvious that 99% of the members of the committee had no idea what they were talking about. They made reasonable, logical arguments and put forth one amendment after the other trying to clarify some really vague areas of the bill, all of which were shot down by the rest of the committee usually by a vote of ~6 to 24.

    On the other side you had 5 or 6 members of the committee who also admitted several times that they had zero understanding of the technical aspects of the bill, but that the bill was awesome anyway. This group was mainly the chairman of the committee Mr. Smith, Mr. Berman, Mr. Watt, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Goodlatte and Ms. Waters. They made no arguments beyond "We have to do something. This is something. Therefor we should do this". Unlike the first group they didn't care that they were ignorant on the subject, they just wanted to get the damn thing passed. I doubt anyone here would be surprised to learn they all [opensecrets.org] received [opensecrets.org] large [opensecrets.org] campaign [opensecrets.org] contributions [opensecrets.org] from the TV/Music/Film industry. Check the contributions of the first group and you'll find the same industry conspicuously absent. It's also worth noting that more than half the committee never said a word during the entire session that wasn't "No" in response to an amendment vote. This third group cared so little they couldn't even be bothered to take part in the debate.

    So when you're condemning this committee for being willfully ignorant just keep in mind that 5 or 6 of them don't deserve to be thrown in with the rest like that. I'll end with a quote from a frustrated Darrell Issa, speaking to the chairman of the committee half way through the second day:

    I thank you for continually trying your best to go Republican, Democrat, Republican, Democrat. I might suggest that you might as well go 'for' and 'against', that'll save a lot of your 'for' people some wasted time because you'll run out of the 'against' pretty quickly. Mr. Chairman it's very clear we're gonna lose here eventually, and we're gonna lose in the worst possible way. We're gonna lose without all the facts, and we're gonna lose without the process being open in the way that I would hope it will be in the new year.

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