Category: Politics


What a tough year for the world.

I could write a maudlin post about the end of America as we know it or about the many deaths of celebrities we used as role models. It would be easy, and I suspect many better writers than I are doing so even now.

I choose to instead share my plans for the coming year. Particularly how I will be dealing with what I expect will be an overwhelming flood of *NEED* from so many causes and places I believe strongly in: ending racism, women’s equality, gay rights, protecting animals, caring for children, and supporting our civil liberties.  Not to mention the periodic outbreaks of violence and natural disasters that will claim my time, energy, and money.

In the end, it’s all about managing resources.

In 2017, I will be making children my other priority. Whether in Aleppo or Detroit, Somalia or Paris, if a child is in need I will be looking for smart, efficient, ways to assist them.

That doesn’t mean I will ignore all of the other issues. I am human and I have empathy. I will continue to care about how racist our country is and proudly announce that Black Lives Matter. I will continue to care that this country treats half of its citizens as if they are brainless, weak, and amoral, and fund Planned Parenthood so they can keep providing the necessary services that all women need. I will continue to care that there are a group of people who are so frightened of those who love others of the same sex that they will do anything to take away their rights as citizens, and will fund the ACLU so their rights are protected. I will continue to care about protecting my rights as a digital citizen in an era of increasing surveillance and data mining, and therefore the EFF will receive my donations. Moreover, I’ve chosen to be a patron to two artists, to help fulfill my need for beauty.

I already set my goals for this year, but here is my resolution:

I resolve that children are to be protected from adults who would make war on them, bully them, prey upon them, or in any way hurt them. I resolve that I will be one person who will help protect them from others, no matter what form that might take. I will speak up when they cannot, offer money to take care of their needs, and protest those who would do anything — active or passive — who would hurt them.

In doing so, I will remain civil yet firm and rely on facts, not opinions. I grew up in a household that often quoted the 60’s slogan: “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” and now I’m continuing my work on solving problems, not just narrating them.

Here are some resources for all of the ills I consider important:

  • 5 Ways to Disrupt Racism (a 2+ minute video). It’s from the UK, but is useful for any place you witness racism.
  • The ‘hate map’ from the Southern Poverty Law Center: https://www.splcenter.org/
  • If you’d like to protest with your wallet, you might find this (oft-updated) spreadsheet of companies that promote or carry Trump merchandise: https://grabyourwallet.org/
  • Wear a safety pin when you are out in public.
  • Find, and support, news sources that report the news, not opinions. You can get started at this article from the Enoch Pratt free library (one of the oldest public libraries in the U.S.). I’ve started following Dan Rather on Facebook, and he thinks highly of the reporting coming out of the Washington Post; Reuters also seems to be pretty accurate, as is BBC.com for world events. I personally like to review the articles at FactCheck.Org on a weekly basis. And, for balance, here is a list of HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE ‘news’ sources.
  • Finally, I offer you Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda. I’ll quote from them directly:

We believe that the next four years depend on citizens across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize our fellow citizens. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen.

May 2017 bring about the change we most need to see.

 

(How’s that for an attention-grabbing title?)

An August 10 feature story in the Seattle Weekly –“Porn, Piracy, & BitTorrent“–takes a deeper than ‘it’s wrong’ look at illegal file-sharing technology. What I found fascinating was the information on how copyright holders are using mass lawsuits to indict and fine people using such technology, a tactic that I (and other right-thinking people) see as extortion.

A recurring topic throughout the article is the reportedly devastating financial toll that piracy is taking on movie producers and distributors. There’s a problem with that: at least one study says that pirates aren’t the problem . . . and it seems that (so called) pirates actually end up paying for more content than the average consumer. That finding, according to several film-industry insiders is pure poppycock:

The film industry loses $6.1 billion annually to digital piracy, according to a study conducted by economist Stephen Siwek and cited recently by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). And the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) says royalty rights for indie films have been halved from what they were five years ago . . .. . . For better or worse, BitTorrent has made it easy to swap a DVD-quality feature film or a musician’s entire discography. The latest in peer-to-peer, or “P2P,” file-sharing, Torrents, as they are known in techie vernacular, are staggeringly popular. With more than 100 million monthly users–more than Hulu and Netflix combined–Torrent file transfers account for 20 to 40 percent of all Internet traffic at any given time, according to BitTorrent, Inc., the San Francisco company that developed the technology.

 On the other hand, the researchers at GfK Group, a respected German market-research company, found the opposite to be true. Via Geek.com:

The study states that it is much more typical for a pirate to download an illegal copy of a movie to try it before purchasing. They are also found to purchase more DVDs than the average consumer, and they visit the movie theater more, especially for opening weekend releases which typically cost more to attend.The conclusion of the study is that movie pirates are generally more interested in film and therefore spend more money and invest more time in it. In other words, they make up some of the movie industry’s best customers.

 Trouble is, the study in question has never actually been published. Telopolis, a German politics and media site, only learned that the research exists through an anonymous source at GfK. Apparently, the unnamed client who commissioned the research requested that it never see the light of day because the findings are “unpleasant.”

Pirates make a convenient scapegoat for struggling movie makers, and they undoubtedly do have some impact on studios’ bottom lines. But there are many factors–the struggling economy, unwillingness to embrace new technology, and fewer quality flicks –that have all played a part in the downturn. I look at the returns for fun, good movies (like Harry Potter, Thor, or Captain America) and I see healthy profits for all concerned.

What I find especially despicable is that some studios– primarily porn producers–have figured out a way to profit from piracy. Their strategy is to sue large blocks of Internet users and offer them a “get out of trial” settlement to make the problem go away. So if Joe Jones downloads “Anna Gives Blow” from the Internet, he might just get a notice that it was an illegal download and he’s one of 2,000 “John Does” who are being sued. Scary enough, right? What’s worse is the next missive, or later in the same Notice where it says that the so-called copyright holders are asking the Court to order the ISP to release personal information, so in the next round it won’t be John Doe, it’ll be Joe Jones at 123 Maple Dr. . . . and court documents are public records.

Read the whole thing: Invasion of Piracy: The film industry mounts a sketchy legal strategy in response to illegal downloads.

Also, this is one of the things the EFF is fighting. So, give ’em $20 (or more!) and let them know you care. 

EDIT: They have a great page of info about this topic, here: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/08/open-wifi-and-copyright-liability-setting-record

 

In 1950’s America, the equality of man envisioned by the Declaration of Independence was far from a reality. People of color — blacks, Hispanics, Asians — were discriminated against in many ways, both overt and covert. The 1950’s were a turbulent time in America, when racial barriers began to come down due to Supreme Court decisions, like Brown v. Board of Education; and due to an increase in the activism of blacks, fighting for equal rights.

Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, was a driving force in the push for racial equality in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. In 1963, King and his staff focused on Birmingham, Alabama. They marched and protested non-violently, raising the ire of local officials who sicced water cannon and police dogs on the marchers, whose ranks included teenagers and children. The bad publicity and break-down of business forced the white leaders of Birmingham to concede to some anti-segregation demands.

Thrust into the national spotlight in Birmingham, where he was arrested and jailed, King helped organize a massive march on Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. His partners in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom included other religious leaders, labor leaders, and black organizers. The assembled masses marched down the Washington Mall from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, heard songs from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and heard speeches by actor Charlton Heston, NAACP president Roy Wilkins, and future U.S. Representative from Georgia John Lewis.

King’s appearance was the last of the event; the closing speech was carried live on major television networks. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King evoked the name of Lincoln in his “I Have a Dream” speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The next year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The following is the exact text of the spoken speech, transcribed from recordings.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

From: http://www.usconstitution.net/dream.html

A video of the speech is here. (I highly recommend watching it and listening — the man is incredible.)

I too have a dream. I dream that one day, soon, this speech will be recognized for its prescience. I dream that one day, soon, we truly will all be free.

 

As of October 29th, the TSA has instigated a new set of security standards. These include body scanners that look like an x-ray with flesh. Here’s an example. There is an alternative to the bdy scan: a more physically invasive pat down. A number of people have written about the new procedures– and how deliberately embarrasing they are. It’s pretty clear that the ‘opt out’ is deliberately invasive and humiliating so as to convince others to go through with the x-ray scanner instead. Hey, what’s a little radiation? Any problems from it are in the future, not now.

What disheartens me is the number of people I see who’s response is “That’s it. I’m not flying anymore.” One person even went so far as to say “The solution is to boycott the airlines. They are so financially crippled that they’ll *have* to listen and do something about the TSA.” 

Sadly, no. The airlines will just get govt $$ because they are a needed service. Or get more expensive.

The thing to do is to fly MORE and be very proactive and specific about complaining. I’m going to be doing a lot more traveling next year (domestically) and I’m contemplating carrying a recorder so that the entire experience is captured (at least the aural part), with me narrating the process (I need to check with my lawyer as to the feasibility of this — C., are you reading this?). I will NOT be going through a body scanner — I don’t need more radiation than what already occurs when I fly. Of course, I’m also going to plan to be at the airport extra early to allow for delays.

The more we complain, the more they need to pay attention — we don’t need to be the loudest voice in the room, we need to be the most persistent. And the authorities will pay more attention to the person who says “I fly 1 million miles a year and I do not want to have that much radiation;  I also don’t want to be physically violated every time I fly” than the person who says “I refuse to fly.”

Rosa Parks didn’t say “I won’t take the bus any more.”