Monthly Archives: April, 2012

CISPA, The Latest Threat To Internet Freedom And A Further Erosion Of Privacy

From Scott Lemieux at Alternet:

Six things you should know about the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 3523, which is scheduled to go to the House floor this week for a final vote.  The Bill has 112 cosponsors and is expects to pass the House.

1. CISPA would allow companies to share potentially sensitive customer data with each other in ways that would otherwise be inconsistent with current laws that protect consumer privacy, such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). As the ACLU notes, “Health records, gun records, tax records, census data, educational records – essentially all information now protected under privacy laws carefully considered and passed by Congress over the past decades –would no longer have that protection as cybersecurity information if these bills are to become law.” CISPA would also allow the government to require companies to share customer data without the warrant or subpoena that would be required under current law. The privacy rights of customers may be violated, in other words, without substantial evidence that they pose any kind of security threat.

2. CISPA would also pre-empt state laws that provide more privacy protection than the federal standard. Citizens in some states would face diminished privacy rights both now and in the future.

3. Companies would be broadly immunized from both criminal and civil liability for sharing personal data under CISPA. This is important, because the threat of lawsuits is crucial to ensuring that companies respect the privacy of their customers. Under CIPSA, conversely, corporations would have little incentive to err on the side of protecting privacy and would not face legal sanctions for even wholly unjustified invasions of privacy.

4. Private companies would not be required to remove identifying information from data they share with the government. Private information could be shared not only with civilian but with military authorities. Given the deference that courts generally show to invocations of national security interests by entities associated with the military, this makes the risks of privacy invasions even more severe. Any information shared under a new legislative framework should go to a civilian rather than a military agency.

5. The only restriction on the sharing of data is that it be related to “cybersecurity.” The bill makes no serious attempt to specifically define what would qualify, and hence this limitation will do very little to limit privacy violations in practice. As the Electronic Freedom Foundation correctly points out, the bill would apply to “far more than what security experts would reasonably consider to be cybersecurity threat indicators — things like port scans, DDoS traffic, and the like.” Without a more careful definition, the potential for abuse is simply too great.

6. Not only does the language of the bill not provide enough protection before the fact, but it also does too little to protect individual privacy after information is first shared with the government. As Sharon Bradford Franklin explains, “CISPA lacks any meaningful limitations on the ways in which the federal government may use personal information.”

May Day. We’ve been here before.

Last year on this day, Occupy called for a General Strike and created a series of posters surrounding the event. Although no general strike has been called this year, there are events being held across the nation–and across the world– in honor of the Haymarket Riots and in protest against the austerity measures that continue to cripple the world economy.

From Spain to Greece activists are taking to the streets. Thousands of protesters marched in Madrid, snaking up the Gran Via central shopping street, waving flags and carrying placards reading “austerity ruins and kills” and “reforms are robbery”.

Trains and ferries were canceled in Greece, and bank and hospital staff walked off the job after the main public and private sector unions there called a 24-hour strike, the latest in a string of protests in a country in its sixth year of recession.

Tens of thousands marched in Italy’s major cities to demand government action to tackle unemployment – at 11.5 percent overall and 40 percent among the young – and an end to austerity and tax evasion. Most marches were peaceful, but demonstrators in Turin threw hollowed eggs filled with black paint at police.

In New York City and LA, Occupy has called for a much needed ‘celebration’ from the work day. Below is a little history on the origins of May Day and some clever posters put together to celebrate last year’s General Strike.

Occupy’s May Day Strike! – by Jack Johnson

We’ve been here before. About 126 years ago, thousands of workers and their families were marching through the streets of Chicago on May 1st, 1886. It was a Saturday. Everyone left work, because in those days people had to work on Saturday. They were working a ten- and twelve-hour day. Most of these people were immigrants, and they were fighting for an 8 hour work day rallying in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. It was near the end of a fairly successful rally, when about 176 police showed up, uninvited.

Yes, we’ve been here before.

The police captain had actually disobeyed the orders of the mayor, who said, “The rally is peaceful. There’s no need to disperse it.” The police captain acted on his own, marched right up to the crowd and said, “You must disperse,” and the speaker said, “But we are peaceful.” And he said, “You must disperse anyway.” And as the speaker was coming down from the wagon, someone — and to this day, we don’t know who it was — threw a bomb that landed into the ranks of the police. One officer was killed immediately. Six others later died.

The police were panicked, of course, almost hysterical. They’d never expected anything like this, began firing, probably shot each other, shot people in the crowd, and in the end, seven police died and at least three of the demonstrators. Many, many people were wounded, and later seven anarchists were fingered for trial, although no conclusive evidence was brought to bear. May Day became a global labor holiday in honor of the “Haymarket Martyrs” who were tried by a judge so prejudiced against them that their execution has often been referred to as “judicial murder.” More importantly, May 1 became a traditional day across the world to honor workers rights.

Occupy’s call for a General Strike this May 1st is the latest in a long series of actions against a system designed to marginalize workers and the poor. As they put it on their website:

“The General Strike is a demand for good jobs and good pay for everyone on the planet–citizens of the country they work in or not. Outsourcing will no longer be tolerated by the so called “job creators” for cheap labor. All human beings deserve a living wage. Education, Housing and Healthcare are human rights NOT ‘entitlements’.”

That might sound a little far fetched to our contemporary ears, but so did the idea of an 8 hour work day and time off for weekends to those who started protesting some 126 years ago.

Below are some of the more creative posters Occupy has produced in their effort to agitate for a General Strike on May 1st, 2012 with some observations and historical notes.

(click posters to open)

1) In the 1700s, sailors would sometimes strike or lower their ship’s sails as a symbol of their refusal to go to sea. From this refusal to acquiesce with the requirements of the work day we get the term ‘strike’ and this poster playfully toys with both meanings. In 1888, young girls in London were forced to dip matches in dangerous white phosphorous for 14 hours at a stretch. After one of their numbers was unjustly fired, they went on strike. Thus the match blossoming with the starry night flame indicates both the match girl’s strike of 1888 and the underlying flame that occurs when a match is struck. Floating in the upper darkness of the poster are two cats. A general strike—which is what is being called for—is also sometimes termed a wild cat strike because it is not authorized by a union and hence is ‘wild’. Anarchists and IWW affiliates will often use cats or sabot-cats in their graphics as well. The woman is likely either Hispanic or Afro American; both races (and gender) have been roundly abused by a system that would rather produce matches than well rounded humans.

2) Time is money wasn’t always the case. There was a time, well before the advent of industrialization and what we have come to call ‘time discipline’ when biology and nature ruled our internal clocks. If you were a hunter or early farmer, the shifting of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun was your only ‘clock’. In fact, time in hours and even minutes has become the single most used measurement for tying labor to value (justly or unjustly). With background colors reminiscent of a naval signal flag (an inverted man overboard, perhaps?), this poster features a brilliant sun eclipsing a clock, telling the world that for at least one day, the tyranny of time discipline will be thrown off. Says Jess Goldstein of Occuprint: “To me, this really sums up the spirit of a general strike; it’s a call to realize that we, collectively, can and should be in control of our time.” The poster’s words echo the famous street call and response….: whose time? our time! Whose street? our street! Of course, only time will tell.

3) The Guy Fawkes mask, celebrated in the movie V for Vendetta, and becoming a near universal symbol of rebellion, has also been closely associated with the hacking collective known as Anonymous. Both Ad Busters (the Canadian anti-advertisement collective) and Anonymous have been the moving spirit if not direct organizers of the original Occupy Wall Street. The poster artfully uses an old arcade video game metaphor to shout out the relevance of computers to the Occupy movement. The words, Hack The Day, are a reminder of Hacks twofold meaning in both the virtual and wider world. Commonly, a hacker is someone who breaks into or disrupts normal operations—fitting perfectly with a call for a General strike. But perhaps, more importantly, a hack is also a provisional solution to a systemic problem. One thing we’ve seen over and over again at the Occupy sites is the brilliant and provisional nature of their solutions to restrictions imposed by a mostly antagonistic environment. Fittingly, the Wall Street Bull looks as though it is being levitated or is under attack by a Guy Fawkes mask.

4) Flowers jamming the cogs of a machine represent one approach to a general strike, taking time away from ‘productive work’ that profits others to simply grow on our own. This self oriented activity has another consequence—it fouls the smooth working of a system that depends on our devotion to its functioning. It’s also reminiscent of Mario Savio’s famous 1964 speech at The University of California’s Sproul Hall: “And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

To extend the metaphor in the image, our bodies are those flowers.

5) One of the more fun (and subversive) posters, this one was developed by the Institute for Experimental Freedom (the small publishing collective who put out the brash but fun-filled insurrectionary text “Politics Is not a Banana.”) asks us to replace the main image with some sort of “riot graphic” while using the appropriate, hip font (Haas Grotesk). At first blush, a kind of meta joke, it’s also got a point: everything about this strike and Occupy is essentially do it yourself. That’s not just an accident, it’s by design. Part of the rationale comes from a deep historical awareness of how other movements have been co-opted in the past; the symbols and fashion of a movement become commoditized, while the underlying reality and message is diminished or crushed. Ad Busters, among others, is especially sensitive to the phenomena. This poster seems to be going on the offensive. Note the Coca Cola style font and bottle cap design that surrounds the General Strike notice. It would be interesting if a set of images could retool major corporate ‘brands’ with subversive messaging. A Pepsi shaped bottle with a General Strike Message in it, the Wal-Mart smiley face, announcing the next round of boycotts against that behemoth. None of this would be exactly ‘legal’ of course, but maybe that’s the point.

6) Intentionally or not, the refrain, Let’s go fly a kite, belongs to a song that forms the climax to Disney’s Mary Poppins. For those who haven’t seen the movie in a while (has anyone not seen it?) Flying a kite becomes the ultimate resolution of the family tensions that bind the banker (Mary Poppins’ employer) to his family while rejecting his work life. That particular plot is an old cliché, but, as with most clichés, there’s more than a germ of truth to it. The song and characters in the movie, like the kites, offer wonderful overtones of an existence not tethered by work day concerns—liberated, floating and free. Flying a kite is just one possibility of things that can be done once the carefully enumerated list of modern distractions are abandoned: No work, no school, no housework, no service, no banking, no shopping, no data. For those who haven’t seen the movie or this clip, enjoy: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

7) In the popular idiom, a general strike is as old as the hills, or at least as old as the hills of Rome. According to H.G. Wells, the first general strike properly took place in Rome by the lowly plebeians. The plebeians “saw with indignation their friends, who had often served the state bravely in the legions, thrown into chains and reduced to slavery at the demand of patrician creditors.” For veterans of the Iraqi or Afghanistan wars this might sound eerily familiar. In the U.S., one of the first general strikes was the infamous Railroad Strike of 1877. This was, in infancy, the beginning of a nascent labor movement showing its muscle across the nation, culminating ultimately in the May 1, Haymarket strikes and riots that led to the weekend, child labor laws, and the 8 hour day. The typeface is just a reminder how far things have come, and sadly, how far we still have to go. What this poster delivers in simple type face is almost as important as the message itself: We’ve been here before.

Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground

The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away. ~William Golding, Lord of the Flies

PRwatch has chosen A Police Officer Speaks on ALEC and “Stand Your Ground”, by Brian Austin, as one of their highlighted opinions this week. Interestingly, Austin has been a state prosecutor and is now a police detective in Wisconsin. He was “a police officer for 15 years, and a SWAT officer for 12 of those”. Aligning his experience with his insight was a curious task for me, but I was delighted with his ability to step way back and apply a patchwork of current events to one of our nation’s most profound and troubling choices – which is where he leaves us at the end.

Insinuating Golding’s Lord of the Flies was also a little curious. Afterward, I thought about it … so will you.

Here’s a taste:

The Castle Doctrine is just one part of the “shiny object” campaign that the corporate right has waged for decades to prevent this awakening from occurring. (…)

I believe that in order for the corporate elite to continue to further an agenda that favors a select few, they have to turn the masses against each other. That need becomes even more urgent as more and more people wake up to the realities of America in 2012, and uprisings like the Wisconsin protests and the Occupy movement spread. If the corporate elite failed to keep us at each other’s throats, and we actually developed a sense of community and compassion and empathy, we would see with total clarity the insanity that grips our nation. At that moment, their gig would be up. We would no longer tolerate what is occurring in America, and the corporate elite and their legislative water boys would be driven from power post-haste.


Truth, Love, Power

Love is the symbol most often associated with perfection – the power of love, the power of truth …. It’s the stuff of poets.

Poets are all who love, who feel great truths,
And tell them; and the truth of truths is love. ~ Philip Bailey

It may be innate – I think so, but early gratification, when we’re defenseless and being cared for is surely a time to feel the give and take of love. When we present at birth, we begin taking from others straight away in lovely, greedy, gulping neediness – and that creates a miracle. It may feel at times like the most under-appreciated part of the human experience, but taking enables giving. It’s good and right and makes possible that feeling we associate with perfection.

When the baby looks around him
It’s such a sight to see
He shares a simple secret
With the wise man ~ Leon Russel

Completing the cycle is the consciousness of giving. Heart-felt giving, generosity, is the true and ultimate form of greed. The pay-off, of course, is love – what we truly crave and what makes us healthy. Our desire for love is as wonderfully selfish and greedy as every breath we ever take, or more so. In that respect, our survival simply depends on the needy taking and the greedy giving.

I believe the harmony and balance that enables that cycle is available all the time; that our numbers, personalities, strengths and weaknesses are complimentary. But when we separate people into takers and givers, making one group bad and one group good, it depletes our source of power – the love we create when we help one another. In providing for each other we thrive. Love is plenty, and plenty divides into more plenty.

When we can’t count on each other, our sense of community is destroyed and we feel isolated. I think that’s when our quest for love is bastardized into a feeling of worth that’s disconnected from the truth. We collect and hoard and mood-alter in a million ways, chasing one vanishing point after another, but it’s loveless. That’s why we know health and happiness as fleeting or temporary states, and why we don’t get along, live in peace, feel safe or feel saved. Give and take are separated on our balance sheets.

Do you recognize the bells of truth
When you hear them ring
Won’t you stop and listen
To the children sing ~ Leon Russell

Asking if your butt looks big is a test you probably shouldn’t give to a three-year-old. Truth is their reality, their community, a universe of boundless energy where the freedom to create is the freedom to fail, where trial and error are perfect partners. In loving innocence, children understand the harmony that allows everybody to be a work in progress as givers and takers at the same time. They accept and encourage others regardless of imperfection or weakness, and they need the same in return.

And so … we’re wonderfully thoughtful, creative, needy and generous until we learn to distrust, and then we try to live among people who might not help us if we fail, if we’re needy, or if we have a big butt. We learn to criticize and fear criticism, and it smothers our natural inclination to create and offer our gifts. That fear sickens us and weakens humankind as surely as the lack of touch and human kindness kills an infant. Our resistance to helping each other is so sad and irrational. Love provides. Deviating from our source of love weakens us individually, and as a society.

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen

The enlightened and the creative among us have always given rise to the light of truth. It cleanses everything, revealing purity, essence. But truth is not a choice. And we can’t visit the light or feel the power of our love during a weekly visit to the museum.


It’s true we live and die within the margins of our experience, but I believe our best thoughts and deeds ripple out over time and space to touch others. And those who defeat resistance and unleash themselves to change the world and experience mankind’s greatest gifts are with us. We raise them up to feel the glory of truth and love around us. What makes them adorable, though, is what they did when they had the chance. Here on earth, they showed us how to care for each other. It’s what gave them the strength and power that has made them eternal.

I love this analogy: When a fearful puppy rolls over to expose its belly, it’s a correction, an offering of trust, a submission to the highest power – love. Trust is the door love comes in through.

Love is the only miracle we know; unfailing, undying, available and waiting for us in every thought and every deed. Evidence of love’s power to transform anything into good is everywhere we choose to see it and honor it with the truth.

Our symbols are often so inadequate that it’s difficult to assign mere words to a feeling of such power and importance, but it’s been done. It’s around the world in every language known to man: God is love. Love is perfection. Truth, Love, Power.

Whatever that means to you, I hope you feel the best of it. I hope you feel love.

Stranger in a Strange Land – Leon Russell and Don Preston

Debuting at #1

This Alternet article, Rachel Maddow: How America’s Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane is an excerpt from Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Maddow’s new book that will debut at #1 on the New York Times best seller list.

Here’s a little taste of it:

It’s not just the small-potatoes post-9/11 Homeland spending that feels a little off mission. It’s the big-ticket stuff too. Nobody ever made an argument to the American people, for instance, that the thing we ought to do in Afghanistan, the way we ought to stick it to Osama bin Laden, the way to dispense American tax dollars to maximize American aims in that faraway country, would be to build a brand-new neighborhood in that country’s capital city full of rococo narco-chic McMansions and apartment/office buildings with giant sculptures of eagles on their roofs and stoned guards lounging on the sidewalks, wearing bandoliers and plastic boots. No one ever made the case that this is what America ought to build in response to 9/11. But that is what we built. An average outlay of almost $5 billion a month over ten years (and counting) has created a twisted war economy in Kabul. Afghanistan is still one of the four poorest countries on earth; but now it’s one of the four poorest countries on earth with a neighborhood in its capital city that looks like New Jersey in the 1930s and ’40s, when Newark mobsters built garish mansions and dotted the grounds with lawn jockeys and hand-painted neo-neoclassic marble statues.

The New York Times, Janet Maslin, published one of many good reviews, How War Came Home to Stay:

A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.

Sounds like a good read. 275 pages, Crown Publishers, $25.

1 Cop, 2 Cops, 3 Cops, 4 Cops

1 Cop, 2 Cops, 3 Cops, 4 Cops ~ by John Marshall

Movies that mock the police range from the Keystone Kops to Beverly Hills Cop, from Police Academy to Police Academies 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Mission to Moscow.

Films that satirize police states are few and far between (Sleeper, Brazil), usually depicting an exaggerated totalitarian system meant to warn us what could happen, but also to reassure us that we aren’t there yet.

Two current films take a different approach, showing characters living under police states that are exaggerated, but not that far removed from our Patriot Act-ruled present day.

What further distinguishes them is that they are not gritty indie films made for an audience of disaffected adults – they are extravaganzas aimed at children.

Now playing at a free speech zone near you are the 3D environmental manifesto The Lorax and the dystopian teen action film The Hunger Games.

What is truly frightening in both movies is the unspoken acceptance of repression as an everyday fact of life, by characters who look and sound just like we do (if a little stylized).

In The Lorax surveillance cameras are everywhere, making this the first cartoon that is as Orwellian as it is Seussian. Instead of The Cat in the Hat, there’s a robot tabby that keeps tabs on the innocent. (Its motto could be “I Can Spy All By Myself.”)

Bad-guy elected officials have been a cartoon staple forever, but here pint-sized O’Hare is not just mayor, he is also a corporation president, who profits handsomely by preventing citizens from having access to free, clean air (instead he sells it to them in plastic bottles).

O’Hare embodies, in one classic comic character, both a police state and the lack of a boundary between business and government that makes such a thing possible, and does so with buffoonery, slapstick and other low-comedy devices that paint the story’s highest authority figure as so obviously wrong that a child couldn’t miss it.

The authorities in The Hunger Games are also comic figures, but chilling ones. With their gaudy, garish costumes and exaggerated speaking styles, they are like a cross between Batman villains and Lady Gaga, but grotesquely inhuman.

Here humor is used not to relieve tension, but to increase it. When the chaperone Effie Trinkett (Elizabeth Banks) speaks to the potentially doomed Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), it’s in cheerful, proper tones, as if Mary Poppins had become an executioner.

On the other hand, Katniss’s stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), both have a genuine sense of humor, which doesn’t serve them in a society so dead its members can only feel hope by watching child murder.

There are enough references in both The Lorax and The Hunger Games to contemporary culture to make it impossible to think you are watching visions of the future. Instead, you are watching commentaries on the present, both of which wield satire as a weapon.

Satire in The Lorax is no less blunt than in The Hunger Games; both are saying, in their own way, that cooperating with evil isn’t just wrong, it’s ridiculous.

Comedy has made similar warnings before.

The first film to parody Hitler was You Nazty Spy by The Three Stooges, which came out nine months before The Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin.

Low comedians are often the first to see people in authority, from the mildly inflexible to the insanely evil, as comic figures.

However, no less a highbrow comedian than Woody Allen has said that only drama can deal with truth directly, that comedy can dance around a problem but can’t solve it.

Nevertheless, two films are dancing as fast as they can, teaching that a police state in any form is so ridiculous, a child couldn’t miss it.

But adults take more convincing, so Steve Guttenberg and Kim Cattrall should reunite for a movie even Effie Trinkett couldn’t deny – Police State Academy: No Shirt, No Shoes, No First Amendment Rights.


Thanks to APV’s friend and activist, John Marshall for today’s post.
John Marshall is a writer/comedian who has written for The Chris Rock Show (Emmy nomination), Politically Incorrect, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and the current version of The Electric Company. He has also written for Bazooka Joe comics. He contributes a political comedy blog to The Huffington Post.