I read an account yesterday of a woman who was arrested (let's just call it that right now, to simplify things) for reading the US Constitution while being scanned at an airport security checkpoint. I think the point of the article, given its source, was meant to elicit a reaction of outrage. But I can't help but think how outright foolish everyone involved is.
For example, what possible outcome could the woman expect from her actions? Did she expect that the crowd would suddenly decide not to be subject to scanning? Did she expect to casually walk through security unmolested after having made this stir? Did she truly expect that the only consequence would be that she'd have informed her fellow air travelers that their rights were (possibly) being violated?
But it's not all one-sided. As I said, you are all idiots. The TSA then decides to make a big deal about it, rather than letting it pass. To me, this is what belies a deeper story. Was the woman yelling? Because certainly it would be easier to simply let her pass through the detectors, mark her ticket as "no-fly", and let her be on her way, than to cause a scene, (questionably) detain her, and then let her fly anyway.
Switching tacks for a moment, I think the current SOPA legislation being considered is questionable at best, and an outright breakage of the internet at worst. But look at the wording of the legislation (103.b.5.A.iii) before you jump on the bandwagon:
A statement under penalty of perjury that the owner or operator, or registrant, has a good faith belief that it does not meet the criteria of an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property as set forth under this section.
If you read through the whole thing, you realize that there is a specific process that is involved to shut down a site or payment to a site that is supposedly infringing. The copyright owner sends an official notice (103.b.4.A) to the site or payment provider, which includes many useful things, like the name of the infringed material, how to contact the copyright holder, who holds the copyright, where the material is located, etc. This official notice is made under penalty of perjury -- if you accuse someone of hosting or providing payment to infringing material, you can be taken to court for these false accusations (which is not possible under current law, and a useful deterrent for rampant casual accusations).
The recipient of the notice then gets five days to respond, and has the option to say, in good faith, that they do not believe that the material is infringing, and continue about their business. Seriously. They can just say "no". But they do so under penalty of perjury, so there are more severe consequences if they protect an obvious infringement of copyright in bad faith.
I admit, the bill is very, very imperfect. There are technical aspects of it that don't make any sense. But the claims that it's going to irreparably damage the internet are questionable, and it does have some effect on ending obvious copyright infringement. I'm talking about foreign sites that obviously offer things for download that don't belong to them. Notice that the bill (if you actually read it) deals almost exclusively with foreign sites that host infringing material, and only targets US payment processors and advertising syndicates that cater to them.
Moreover, people that take preemptive measures to deal with copyright infringement are immune from prosecution for those infringements! It's right in the bill!
But the outright insanity that pervades the internet about SOPA is the rhetoric that agencies like the EFF use to scare you into opposing this legislation. I am of the personal belief that the government should just get out of the internet; regulation of this tool would cause more problems than the problems that the tool causes. Yet the EFF would have you believe that the world economy would crash and armageddon would commence due of the passing of this bill. I simply don't see that happening.
Do I believe SOPA should be opposed? Yes, but not for many of the reasons explained online. The online petitions, "signed" by thousands to oppose the legislation, are as ineffective a method for change as reading the constitution aloud while standing in an airport backscatter scanner.
I admit to not knowing a lot about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I was in Australia when it all started, and not really connected to the news at the time. But looking over the material that is available online, I will say two things: 1) I agree that I think it's unfair that the richest 1% of the people are in control of everything, although I'm not surprised. 2) Standing around in "public" places protesting doesn't actually get you anything.
Whether the protests are effective, I don't know. What the people there stand for or hope to accomplish, I don't know. What I do know is that I see a ton of people standing around in places where nobody seems to want them. And I hear in my head the fictional voice of fathers everywhere, "Get a job, hippie!" Maybe the problem is that they can't get a job? I can't imagine that with so many people standing around, they couldn't come up with something together. The whole thing seems a little "off" to me.
I kind of understand what they're saying. Like I said, I think this is something I can agree with from a certain perspective, but just like oration from the backscatter scanner, and online petitions, this doesn't seem to be the best means of attack at... whatever the target of frustration happens to be.
I read " Dear Internet, It's no longer ok to not know how congress works", and I agree with many of the points there. This primarily deals with SOPA, but I think it extends to things like the TSA and OWS. The problem is the government. Generation We has a good point: Everything is screwed up, and the youth who will be saddled with it is finally able to make a decision about what they want to do about it.
Sadly, their options are also crap. The options tend toward Republican or Democrat, and neither of those - at least in my mind - embody the choices that this youth vote would want to make. Even our votes as non-youth voters over the past years have amounted to one of:
- "I dislike what the current guy is doing, so I'll vote for the guy from the other party."
- "I dislike what the current guy is doing, but I vote Democrat/Republican, so I'll vote for him again anyway."
- "I like what the current guy is doing, so I'll vote for him again."
Part of the problem is the republican process; that we elect people to represent our interests in government. It would be impossible to elect someone who could reflect our desires in voting, unless they truly voted using their own electorate's opinions. That would be impossible because while many people have opinions, they don't offer them. (I know, hard to believe, right? Well, you saw that only 54% of people voted in the 2008 presidential election, haven't you?)
At the risk of putting my own idiotic solution forward (at least it's not causing a scene at the airport), it seems to me like we need a strong third party that represents the people, rather than campaigning on their own issues. A candidate for this party would simply say "I will educate my electorate on the issues, poll them, publish the results, and vote as the electorate indicates I should."
Thinking about this, it seems still impossible that you could educate your electorate while maintaining an impartial stance. Surely, the information you provided for education would be biased based on who provided the information. At least the electorate could make an informed decision. Although, if we're already doing these insane things to get causes noticed, there's no guarantee that handing the keys to the idiots would gain us a better country.
So that's my monthly delve into politics. Leave a comment to illustrate how stupid I am, and keep me from getting involved for another month.