I find stories like this frustrating. Despite the power it wields, Google is still not a nation. It is a company that endeavours to make as much money as possible.
So, by changing the website through which is makes money from Palestinians, isn’t safe to assume that the decision has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with appealing to that site’s customers?
Put another way, isn’t possible that Google saw an opportunity to make more money off of Palestinians by using the word “Palestine”?
The Weirdest Unsolved Mysteries of World War II [Secret History]
World War II was a period of dramatic change across the globe. But along with all the political machinations and military strategies, some seriously bizarre stuff happened. Here are five of the most mysterious incidents from World War II.
The Baffling Battle of Los Angeles
A few months after Pearl Harbor, America was pretty on-edge, especially along the west coast. Everyone was scanning sky and sea in fear of another Japanese attack. In fact, a Japanese submarine had shelled the Ellwood oilfield near Santa Barbara in February of 1942. Later that month, the mounting tension exploded into full-blown hysteria. An AWOL weather balloon triggered the initial panic. After that, flares were fired into the night sky, either to illuminate potential threats or signal danger. People saw the flares as more attackers, and a barrage of anti-aircraft fire soon filled the night.
The activity continued for several nights. In the end, the only casualties from the whole affair were three heart attack victims and three dead due to friendly fire. No Japanese aircraft were found, and the Japanese later denied having anything in the air near L.A. at the time.
That’s the official story, at least. At the time, there were claims of a coverup and a bunch of wild theories. The incident was five years prior to the Kenneth Arnold flying saucer report that sparked the U.S. UFO craze, but this is sometimes retroactively described as one of the first major UFO sightings. Newspapers at the time thought the whole thing was orchestrated to drum up support for the war effort by inducing panic. Tight-lipped military reports did little to alleviate concerns – a full public investigation wasn’t performed until 40 years later.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Flight 19
This is one of the most famous mysterious incidents of all time. It technically happened a few months after the war had ended, but it involved the U.S. military and aircraft used during World War II. The basic story is quite simple: Lieutenant Charles Taylor lead a flight of five TBM Avenger planes on a training exercise from a Naval air station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Over the radio, Taylor complained that his compasses weren’t working and that he didn’t know where he was. After flying around in confusion for several hours, the planes ran out of gas. None of them have been seen since, and all 14 men on board were presumed dead.
The Navy’s inquiry was pretty clear-cut as well. Taylor had a history of getting lost while flying, and several radio operators and even junior members of Flight 19 seemed to know where they were, but following Taylor’s faulty leadership, they flew far into the Atlantic instead of back to Florida. Much of the mystery surrounding the incident stems from the Navy’s efforts to assuage Taylor’s mother, who complained when the inquiry blamed her son without hard evidence. They changed it to, “cause unkown.”
Later writers would wrap supernatural elements around the story, creating the legend of the Bermuda Triangle and inventing details out of whole cloth, such as pilots having premonitions of tragedy that prevented them from joining the doomed flight, and mysterioso radio transmissions like, “the sky is all wrong here.”
It’s a creepy enough story on its own – five planes lost over open sea with night falling and bad weather moving in, the encroaching certainty of their own deaths looming over them. The actual final radio transmission was a faint, garbled message. Radio operaters could only make out the flight’s call sign, “FT…FT…FT…”
Since the planes have still never been recovered, the true fate of Flight 19 technically remains a mystery.
The Strange Life of Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Hess’ life is straight out of a spy novel, filled with bizarre twists and turns before you even to get to the really weird stuff. He was a high-ranking Nazi who carried the title “Deputy to the Fuhrer.” On May 10, 1941, Hess ate dinner at his home in Augsburg, Germany, then hopped into a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and flew to Scotland. He was chased by British planes, crashed, survived and was captured by a farmer. He asked to speak to the Duke of Hamilton and other British officials, claiming he sought a peace agreement between Germany and Britain (he feared the bloodbath of a lengthy war between Germany, Britain and Russia).
It’s not really clear that Hess had the authority to create a peace agreement on his own (Hitler was certainly not in on the deal), and the British simply kept him as a prisoner of war. He spent some time in the Tower of London and other prisons, then was tried at Nuremberg. Found guilty of conspiracy and crimes against peace, Hess was given a life sentence. He spent most of that time at Spandau Prison in Berlin – for the last 20 years of his life, he was the only prisoner in the entire place. When he died in 1987, they tore Spandau down, partly because it was obsolete and unneeded, but partly to prevent it from becoming a shrine for neo-Nazis.
That’s all pretty weird, but there are conspiracy theories galore. The Russians always suspected that Hess was trying to secretly unite Germany and Britain so they could team up against Russia. Churchill and Stalin had some memorable confrontations over the matter. Hess’ mental state declined dramatically once he was imprisoned, despite reports that he seemed mentally fit when he first arrived in Scotland. By the time of the Nuremberg trial, he was suffering from severe amnesia and was periodically unable to remember anything from his years as a Nazi. This resulted in claims that the real Hess was in hiding, and the man tried at Nuremberg and left to rot at Spandau was an impostor.
The Haunting Case of WW II Ghost Planes
It’s not hard to find reports of World War II ghost planes. Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to find documented sources of these ghostly tales. The fact is, they’re all pretty much folk tales. They take many forms, but there are two basic types.
First, you have post-war stories about people encountering planes from the past. Typically, you’ll have a young couple out for a country stroll in the 1960s, 70s or 80s. They hear an odd sound and turn around to see a prop-driven vintage warplane cruising along at low altitude, or perhaps an entire flight of them. Some of these stories are heavily embellished (the plane disappears into thin air, the sighting was a harbinger of a tragic plane crash that happened shortly thereafter, the ghostly pilots waved sadly to the witnesses as they passed). Stories might incorporate speculation about “time slips.”
The second type is more interesting. These are ghost plane sightings that happened during the war. In its most common form, the story revolves around a flight of planes that left for a dangerous mission. Later, all the planes return and are accounted for except one. Everyone watches the sky, hoping they made it out alive, but no plane appears on the horizon. Then, hours later, the drone of radial engines sounds in the distance. A plane is spotted. Could it be their missing comrades? But, no they would have run out of fuel hours ago. Still, there it is, heavily damaged, limping along toward the air field. It makes a ragged landing and fellow airmen rush to the scene. Inside the plane they find…nothing. Not a soul. Not a corpse. And the fuel tanks are bone dry.
There are variations – sometimes the crew is on board, but dead. Sometimes the plane is so badly damaged there’s no physical way it could have flown. There’s a story that a U.S. plane appeared over the California coast hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, smoking and sputtering. Witnesses could see a pilot on board, but when the plane crashed, the wreckage was empty.
The Creepy Coincidence of the Deadly Double
If you dive deep enough into the rabbit hole of paranormal experiences, you’ll eventually run into numerology. Numerologists find meaning in odd numeric coincidences that seriously strain credulity. But in the case of the Deadly Double, the numbers lined up just a little too perfectly to be dismissed out of hand.
A few weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack, a pair of strange ads appeared in the New Yorker. They seemed to be advertising a dice game called The Deadly Double. One of the ads showed a pair of dice with the characters 0, 5, 7, xx, 24, and 12 on the visible faces. Above were warnings in a variety of languages: “Achtung! Warning! Alerte!” The other ad showed people in a bunker and explained that the dice game was essential air raid survival gear. The company logo was a suspiciously Germanic looking double eagle.
The ads have a somewhat strange design, but only in retrospect did they appear to contain a coded message. The numbers could allude to the date of the Pearl Harbor attack (12/7), with the other numbers representing codes to be deciphered by sleeper agents in the U.S. The Deadly Double itself was thought to refer to the twin threats of Germany and Japan.
Like many mysteries, retellings of this story emphasize the unknown and leave out crucial facts. The 0 and 5 are sometimes thought to foretell the exact time of the attack, but the first aircraft opened fire on Pearl Harbor at 7:48 a.m. local time. Books on mysterious events like to leave this story unresolved, as though the identity of the ads’ creator remains unknown to this day. In truth, it was traced to a game company in Chicago that made a dice game called the Deadly Double. Their war-themed ad might seem like poor taste today, but the numbers on the dice matching the date of Pearl harbor was pure coincidence. Still, it was weird enough that the FBI got involved.
Breuer, William B. Unexplained Mysteries of World War II. Wiley, 1998.
To start, let me say that I really don’t have any issues with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) or with Chief Bill Blair. That’s not to say that I don’t think that TPS is the most efficiently run city service or that Blair has been perfect since taking over as Chief, but I think he’s done a better job of running TPS than did superstar Julian Fantino and he certainly took it on the chin for Fantino during the debacle that was the running of the G8/G20 situation in 2010.
So, when I say that the budget situation, as described by the article linked from the title of this post, is an exercise in thoughtspeak and basically bullshit, I do so with only the greatest of affection. Let’s lay out the numbers, shall we?
- TPS budget, 2011: $930 million - TPS “starting” budget, 2012: $953 million - Increase from 2011 to desired budget for 2012: 2.5% - Mayor Ford’s demanded budget reduction from 2011 amount: -10% - TPS budget with 10% reduction from 2011 amount: $837 million - Number of 4th-class constables that would need to be laid off to achieve this figure, at $56,731/year: 1,640 - Proposed budget presented by Blair three weeks ago: $944 million - Proposed budget presented by Blair yesterday: $935 million - Percentage by which this budget fails to achieve Ford’s demand: 11.7% - Dollar amount by which this budget fails to achieve Ford’s demand: $98 million
This is all just basic math, but it underscores the fact that there are different rules at City Hall for different players. The TTC was required to cut $70 million from its budget, a 10% reduction from the 2011 dollar amount. This, while Blair was allow to count his reduction from his pie-in-the-sky “starting” budget for 2012.
Frankly, I think the whole process has become political theatre. While we sit and argue who has to cut what from where, we fail to ask more relevant questions such as:
- Why is the city not exploring other revenue options to offset the burden on property taxes? - Did anyone really need for the vehicle registration tax to be repealed? - And, most importantly, what on earth did the $80-$100 million surplus left by the Miller regime get spent?
There’s no doubt that the budgeting process is painful and necessary, but we’re definitely not asking the right questions when it comes to how the current city administration is running things.
I love data. Somewhere in my past as a poetry-writing football player, a Master of letters, a soul-sucking advertiser, and a creator of web pages, I missed my calling as a bean counter. I get it honestly—my Dad has “mad skills” in math, my sister has managed multi-million dollar companies, and my brother grew up planning to be an accountant until he, too, got distracted by the arts.
But back to data and my unholy love for it. (The “unholy” part being the point I’m driving toward, so bare with me.) I enjoy nothing more (well, that’s not true—there are lots of things I enjoy more: piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, the feel of the ocean, the taste of champagne, just to name a few) than looking at reams of data and finding the nugget that changes everything. It’s a part of my job I love and, were it ever offered to me, I’d do it all day every day. Between piña coladas, that is.
But, within the last 24 hours, I’ve been presented with two cases for why more data is not always better. It’s a bit of a mind job for me, but it makes complete sense when you think about it.
The more recent of these two cases was reading Tim Nekritz’s blog post, "is higher ed still a mouse-in-the-maze model?" Tim, like me a web worker at a public university, argues in this post that social media should be considered valuable because it “helps students with questions, information-gathering and decision-making in a way they find convenient [emphasis his].” But, in making his point, he states that university administrators demand from social media “justification of return on investment (the dreaded ROI) for everything from personnel to software packages, the ability to establish benchmarks and determine the inquiry-admissions-yield funnel.” In short, they want data from a tool (set of tools, really) that works, in large part, without need of data. It works because it’s not analytical, but human.
The other case occurred last night. Now, I’m going to out myself a little here. Anyone who knows me knows that my politics skew to the left. Way, way to the left. As such, I volunteer rather a lot with the most left-wing political party in Canada, the New Democratic Party. This is only relevant to my point because, I think, the conversation that I had last night could only take place within the context of doing work for that party. That conversation, which centred on my helping to redevelop the website of my local riding association, when we got to the subject of analytics, resolved itself on the idea that, as a political institution that values individual privacy, it is not our place to contribute to the knowledge that a for-profit international corporation like Google has about the users of our website. So, we decided that, for the sake of our users privacy, we would not install Google Analytics.
So, here I am, “the morning after” as it were, forced to rethink my love for data. Or, at least, to re-evaluate when less data is, perhaps, the better option. Don’t get me wrong—I welcome the coming domination by our Googly overlords. But, I think that there are times when I don’t have to be the one to hasten the arrival of that (u-? dis-?)topia.
Having just spent the past two days at provincial council, I find my drive to get behind the NDP renewed and when I read and watch stories like the one linked above, I know why. I believe in a Canada that benefits Canadians. Not for some abstractly patriotic reason, though. No, my reason is that I believe we have a duty to the other members of our community, whether that community is our street, our city, our country, or the world.
When a company like Vale is allowed to break its promises and close operations, putting Canadians out of work for the benefit of greater profits and higher shareholder value, we see in action the worst this world has to offer: a society that ignores the welfare of people in favour of money and greed.
This world doesn’t work if we don’t take care of each other. The best of Canada comes from our shared belief in that. Our entire social safety net is built on that. We can’t let corporations take it away from us.
Canada is one of the richest countries in the world. Not just economically, but in resources, as well. Our wealth should be made to benefit all the members of our community. Yes, that includes the shareholders of Vale—they are members of our community, too, and just as deserving of their share of our wealth. But, they aren’t entitled to all of it. They, too, must share.
When I first heard about the Catholic-church endorsed Confession app, I passed it off as another lame attempt at relevancy in a modern age, much like Kirk Cameron’s post Growing Pains film career and the recent tendency toward beatification of someone for having a really good shit after eating cheese. But it turns out this little app could actually be capable, according to LGBT rights groups, of doing real psychological harm to people confused about their sexuality.
So, from the Catholic perspective, the app inventors seem to have got it right, then.
So, explain to me why it is now a matter of Cabinet confidence how our federal government plans to spend our tax dollars. Moreover, how is it okay that federal departments are able to simply ignore requests for information issued by independent internal auditor Kevin Page?
These are just a couple of the questions left unaswered by the link above, which begs another question of the CBC: shouldn’t our national, publicly-funded, and (arguably) most-respected news agency be asking these questions when they report the story?
Rob Ford has already cost Toronto hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Not bad for one day’s work.
I’d guarantee that if you asked Torontonians why they voted for Rob Ford they’d say something like “Stop the Gravy Train” or “Respect for Taxpayers”. And, if you asked them what they meant by that, they’d almost certainly say something like “stop waste at City Hall”.
So why has Rob Ford, on his first day as mayor, demanded that Transit City be scrapped when it means an immediate waste of $130-million in taxpayer funds followed by as-yet unknown penalties (also, likely, in the hundreds of millions of dollars) for breaking contracts with suppliers? Does that sound like he’s fulfilling the wishes of his electorate?
How about this: by killing Transit City, Mr. Ford is also killing most (if not all) of the estimated 200,000 jobs it would have created in an economy where jobs are becoming more scarce. Does that sound like he has Torontonians best interests in mind?
My challenge to Toronto is this: make Rob Ford answer for this. If his plan benefits the city, make him explain how. It’s the least amount of "respect" that citizens of this city deserve.
Too ambitious. It’s on that I’m blaming my lack of updating this blog. I keep having (and even starting) great ideas for posts, but they never see the light of day because they’re too ambitious. So, I’m going to take a step back and try to be more off the cuff.
To start, let’s talk about Rob Ford. Specifically, his plan to cancel Transit City, a plan that will cost Torontonians more than $100 million and for which he has no viable alternative. Moreover, it’s a plan that would deny improved transit service not only to areas rapidly becoming among those where lower income residents (aka those who cannot afford to drive) are now required to live due to rising housing costs, but also where Ford garnered a great deal of his support.
I’m not the biggest fan of Transit City. It has some flaws that I’d love to see revised. But, it’s the best plan we have and is at least 90% right. Ford’s whim is to build subways instead of streetcars, but everyone knows we’ll never get the money to build a fraction of the mileage in subways that we can build as streetcars. This means that much of the city will exist under the status quo — accessible only by car or several TTC transfers — an utterly unsustainable and unfair proposition.
Here’s the good news: Toronto’s council is remarkably progressive considering our choice of mayor, so he’ll have some obstacles to carrying out this and other schemes. But, if we let our councillors know that Transit City is worth saving, then even those more likely to follow Ford won’t so as to not anger constituents. There are a lot of new councillors and they don’t want to be one-term (lack of) wonders. Call them or write them or pay them a visit or whatever it takes to let them know what you expect of them, be it on this or any other issue.
It’s your city, not just Rob Ford’s. Make sure it still looks like it’s yours four years from now.
Turned out I was busier last week than I expected to be, plus I got a little distracted this weekend by life, so this post is coming out later than I’d planned. Still, it’s here and that’s what matters, right? Right? Hello…?
But that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the recent pattern of failure we see from demonstrable political action. I think you know what I mean by that, but just in case, to what I am referring are the “Million Man March” type of actions that people take to protest, often an injustice or a political policy that is loathsome or destructive to the greater public good. And, I don’t just mean the rallies and the impromptu parades, but any exhibited action taken in the name of a cause. I’ve noticed that these don’t seem to have the impact on our elected officials that they once did.
I see this as a problem. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that for every one person who demonstrates their displeasure (be it marching or writing a letter or what have you), there are hundreds or more who feel the same way, but don’t know how to express it. Certainly that was the view hammered into me during my brief time as a journalist. Letters to the Editor have always been viewed as a sample from a greater, discontented population. Yet, it seems that these days, anyone who complains or demonstrates their opinion is seen as an aberration rather than representative of an voiceless mass.
I don’t know how or when the attitude switched, but I wonder if this is a product of what I like to call the “increasing stupification of the North American populace”. As education systems are forced to get by with fewer and fewer resources while having half-baked techniques or poorly-designed curricula imposed on them by political forces, is it any wonder that students are graduating with less general knowledge. Sure, perhaps these people are better equipped to find out information on their own, thanks to Google, for example. But, when it comes to understanding mass political action, I would argue that it takes having learned and retained concepts and information about such movements as the French Revolution and the demonstrations on behalf of Civil Rights in 1960s U.S. to understand the importance of any group of people standing up for what they believe. These are people who should be heard because they have gone to great lengths to make their voices clear. Yet, instead, they are ignored. And, we ignore them at our own peril.
Such severely limits the methods by which we, as citizens, can voice our displeasure. For, when we no longer have the ability to convince with such actions, when these actions are seen as irrelevant and ignored by elected officials, especially when referenda and other “official” channels of speech go unused or are abandoned or shut down, allowing politicians to dismiss those who protest their decisions or actions or inactions as “special interests” or even crackpots means that the only voice we have is that given to us on election day - a voice with a very limited vocabulary, and one we use with less and less effectiveness.
Allow me to inform you that, in one week’s time, I shall be returning from my prolonged hiatus to rant and rave once again about any number of topics and situations. How about some upcoming post titles to whet your appetite?
Really, Toronto? Rob Fucking Ford?
…And I for one welcome our new Google overlords
Why you should really vote NDP (and not just ‘cause they gave me a fancy title)
Turning My Back on Apple. Maybe.
I’ll Tell You What’s Depressing. Holocaust Literature. That’s Depressing!
I’m not sure what aspect of this makes me more frightened, ashamed, and horrified about the current government in Canada. There’s the fact that they have suddenly taken this socially conservative stance that we always knew was possible but heretofore they have refrained from pursuing. Or, the idea that, in the face of vocal opposition from its constituents (because they are beholden to the bleeding hearts in this country as much as their conservative base) they would, petulantly, cause “more backlash” on this issue. Or, the fact that any member of their caucus, male or female, would even suggest that Canadians should not express themselves on an issue. Hell, even the profanity is shocking!
Let’s look at this a bit more closely. First, that the Conservatives are making an issue of this at all is an indication of their true colours. What I mean is this: in Canada, the abortion debate, isn’t - it’s a non-issue. An Angus-Reid poll in January showed that only 7% of Canadians think that the health care system should, under no circumstances, fund abortion. So, is it for this tiny portion of the Canadian population that the government is making this stand, the second such blatant socially conservative stand they’ve taken since taking government. (The first was the absent gay rights section in the immigration guide.) I would be shocked to hear of any Canadians who didn’t think such action was possible from this government, but I suspect most of us thought we’d be safe from it so long as the Conservatives ruled with a minority. I guess, though, that the pathetic state of our opposition parties, none of whom appear at all ready (nor to have the confidence of the country) to take over, has made the Conservatives brave. Or, perhaps, Harper and his pals just couldn’t contain their ultra-right-wing ideology any longer.
What we have seen before, though, is the kind of childishness that Senator Ruth suggests is possible if Canadians don’t shut up about this issue. One need only point to the two prorogations of Parliament as evidence that, when things aren’t going exactly as he wants, our Prime Minister is more than willing to take his ball and go home. Still, it is surprising to hear from a member of his own caucus that this kind of pettiness is actually a part of his political agenda. It makes it very hard to see Harper as a functioning adult and I hope that at least one of the Opposition parties runs with the spoiled schoolyard bully metaphor during the next election campaign. I fear, though, that none of them are that clever.
That leaves the rather anti-democratic sentiment behind Senator Ruth’s statement. Canadians are an apathetic lot, so any issue that gets any part of our population talking is something to which it is obviously worth paying attention. Even still, the Conservatives have it pretty easy. Can you imagine how badly Harper would behave were he faced with the kind of public protest that is commonplace in France? Besides, the idea that any democratic leader would pay retribution upon a segment of his or her society for the mere act of speaking against the government is, by definition, counter to our constitutionally-protected freedom of “thought, belief, opinion and expression” (see 2b of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). The Conservatives garnered less than 38% of the vote in the last election. Yet, this kind of sentiment is the stuff of tyranny and tin-pot dictators. Isn’t the mere suggestion of this behaviour, from someone close enough to the leader of our government to have perhaps heard such opinions first-hand, disturbing?
All of this adds up to something that truly frightens me. If Senator Ruth truly supports women’s health issues in general and the right to an abortion in particular, should she not be standing up to the Prime Minister in caucus? We don’t ask much of our Senators for the comforts they enjoy but we do ask for the “sober second thought” that is the job of the Senate. That includes telling the Prime Minister that he’s wrong when, frankly, he’s wrong. Who better to tell him to shove his fundamentalism where the sun don’t shine than a Senator who, once appointed, gets to keep her job until she turns 75 years old. It makes me wonder what are the real reasons behind Conservative attempts to change the nature of Senate appointments (literally the only plank in their platform that I support).
So, to Senator Ruth, I counter with this: why don’t you do less shushing and more shouting? As one international aid advocate says in the article linked above, ”I don’t remember any women’s rights ever gained by staying silent”. Be the leader you were appointed to be and speak out against the Government on this issue. The vast majority of Canadian women are depending on politicians like you to protect their rights. Shame on you for even suggesting that these rights are negotiable, even for a limited time. You have the hutzpah to use the word “fuck” in a statement to the press. Put that moxie to good use and tell Harper what you really think.
The idea that a few gun-toting, Reagan-loving, conservative nut-jobs can dictate the narrative being taught in high school history classes in the U.S. scares the hell out of me. Anyone who paid attention in history class knows that historical narratives are, by the nature of being written by people, biased and unreliable. The victors write the history and all that.
The fact is that this example of blatant NewSpeak is being done in the open and will generate wide-spread vitriol. But, short of a “Million Man”-esque march on the Texas State Legislature, that vitriol will be dismissed as a liberal sour grapes.
This is what’s wrong with Western governments right now. Arguments have become so partisan, that anyone trying to participate needs to choose the metaphorical black or white - there is no longer any grey. It once would have horrified liberals and conservatives alike to blatantly alter along partisan lines the historical “truth” being taught to children. Now, school curricula are just another medium for delivering a political message. Basically, truth (or the closest we can come to it) has been replaced by “truthiness”.
If you have an opinion of free speech, copyright, and an open internet, the time for action is now.
As we all know, thanks to Michael Geist, the ACTA Treaty, being negotiated in secret by representatives of many governments, will institute a three-strike model for dealing with internet piracy. This model will make internet service providers responsible for the use of their networks, requiring them to issue, to anyone accused by copyright holders of piracy, two warnings to cease their actions followed by a denial of service should a third accusation be made. There will be no requirement to prove the allegations in court and anyone whose service is revoked would be added to a “black list” making access to the internet much harder to acquire.
Now, as outlined in the article linked from the title, the Obama administration is considering the implementation of such a law in the United States. It’s impossible not to see this as the result of a conflict of interest - that the representative of copyright holders negotiating the use of this model with POTUS staff is the brother of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is a detail that cannot be ignored. My fear is that means such a law is inevitable in the U.S. and that could start an avalanche of similarly draconian measures in other countries.
It’s already been shown that the model likely doesn’t work. France enacted their law that institutes the policy last fall. Since then, piracy has increased. Admittedly, it isn’t by a lot (3%) and usage of tools covered by the law has declined sharply while tools ignored by it is on the rise. But, still, it has yet to be the deterrent against piracy that was intended.
It’s not hyperbole to say that this model is a very bad idea. First, it’s lack of judicial involvement flies in the face of the due process that many of the countries participating in the ACTA negotiations have enshrined in their legal systems. France, in a way, did it right by requiring judicial review of the case before an ISP could turn off an accused pirate’s internet. Still, the French legal system is based on a “guilty until proven innocent” structure and I can’t imagine something harder to prove than not being a pirate.
Second, by putting the onus on ISPs to enforce the law, these companies are caught between maximizing revenue by selling their service to as many people as possible and cutting off customers for the nature of their internet use. The way I see it, this can only result in ISPs monitoring in detail the activities of their customers. They will bend laws and invade privacy in order to know exactly what we are all doing online. This data will need to be stored somewhere and, inevitably, there will be leaks. I think we can all imagine nightmare scenarios resulting from that.
Third (and, this is could be the most despicable part), every one of us living in countries with three-strikes laws or under ACTA itself will be seen by our governments either as a criminal or a potential criminal. If retribution is only an accusation (okay, three accusations) away, there is no due process, no way to clear one’s name. Law enforcement is handed to corporations with agendas and without objectivity.
In doing this, a slope is created and made slippery, for if one industry can change the nature of our legal system, then how can we deny another industry the same power? How do we keep shop owners from training guns on their customers because they might be robbers? Or, more likely, how do we keep corporations from hiring jack-booted thugs to keep their employees in line?
Our fundamental freedoms are not to be taken for granted. They will always be threatened by interests who seek to adjust the system for their own benefit. It is up to us to keep our elected officials honest. We are the electorate. We put in place those who make these decisions. We have the power. No matter how much money and influence any lobby group might throw around, they can never combat an informed and engaged public. That’s something we need to remember.