Tag Archive for congress

SOPA Must Die

If you surfed the Web Wednesday, I’m sure you ran into a SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) blackout somewhere. If none of that made sense to you, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s one-page summary of the problems with SOPA.

It’s a good example of Congressmen not understanding what they’re legislating, or what they’re asking this legislation itself to accomplish. A SOPA supporter and PIPA (SOPA’s sister, the Protect Intellectual Property Act) co-sponsor Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) recently posted copyrighted video to his own YouTube channel. His excuse? “YouTube is excluded from the bill as it is written right now.”

Say what?

This means posting copyrighted clips to YouTube violates the spirit of the law, but not the word of the law. In other words, someone can upload pirated crap to YouTube and get a free pass. (Or, more likely, it’s a matter of “We’re afraid of Google’s lawyers.”)

Make no mistake, this is not about protecting the little guy, it’s about protecting big corporate bucks in the guise of protecting the little guy. Do the Hollywood unions like the WGA, SAG, or the production support unions support these bills? Not the general membership. In fact, most creators oppose SOPA, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep Lamar Smith, says they don’t count. It’s all about the lobbyists who are protecting their own interests.

As a creator myself, I’m not a fan of pirates.┬áIn fact, I would prefer to deal with pirates like this:

Whoops, I guess that would get my site blacklisted! No, wait, the video is on YouTube. Guess I’m golden after all? Brain hurts. Moving on.

No, I’m not a fan of piracy. But I’m also not convinced they’re doing as much harm to me as some think, and I’m sure as hell not convinced protecting my meager income by destroying the very network I’m leveraging to make a living is going to do a damned thing to help any of us.

The worst case scenario? We end up with a censored, restricted Internet that countries like China and Iran have. We rally behind freedom of speech and condemn other countries for blocking their citizens from access to information, yet we’re attempting to pass legislation to give corporations the same capabilities to shut down websites that China and Iran have. It’ll be a new age of digital McCarthyism, where Hollywood will point a finger and someone will get blacklisted.

It just boggles the mind.

Here are the 67 pinheads (as of this writing) who think $$$ trumps freedom. SOPA may be “shelved” for now, but that’s not good enough, and PIPA has to die with it. Make sure these people understand the damage they’re trying to do, even if it’s just by taking a few seconds to sign petitions like Google’s.

UPDATE

Khan Academy has posted an excellent video explaining SOPA and its problems, as well as outlining some of the scarier provisions of the bill.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Stimulate Me

Congress just sent a bill on to Bush to spend $170 billion (yes, billion) to “stimulate the economy” by sending us tax rebates.

I’m all for more money in my pocket, but we’ve already got a deficit of over $9 trillion! How about we do something intelligent, like revamping the tax system or cutting pork barrel spending? Cripes.

Before anyone tells me there’s nothing wrong with the tax system, let me lay out an illustration. In the 2006 tax year, the feds refunding every penny I gave them. For the 2007 tax year, they only kept a couple hundred bucks. How does this make any sense?

If I get a $1200 check like the article suggests, the government is giving me free money, which is actually a loan we’re going to have to pay for later. They may as well be saying “Well, the economy sucks, here’s a free 42″, high-def Vizio for everybody! But don’t worry, you’ll pay it all back when the next administration raises taxes to fix the mess we made.”

Assholes.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

They Just Don't Get It

I’m really, really glad I only have one car to pump gas into.

Bush is headed out to Saudi Arabia to beg King Abdullah to reduce oil prices because the US economy is suffering. What makes him think Abdullah — or any of the sheiks or princes, for that matter — is going to give a flying dog turd what’s happening in the US? These guys live in ultimate luxury, surrounded by yachts and Rolls Royces, while right across the street their own people live in abject squalor. If they’re more interested in pouring their own money into making the Burj Dubai higher and higher than they are in improving their own country, they sure as hell aren’t going to sweat US unemployment rates or the mortgage crisis.

Meanwhile, a Congressional commission wants to increase gasoline taxes to pay for our aging highway infrastructure, including crumbling bridges. So while Bush is off pissing up a rope, Congress has a panel asking them to make things even worse.

Increasing the tax by 40 cents across five years doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but think about that for a minute: gas down the street from me was $3.07 per gallon last I checked. That means in five years it will be a minimum of $3.47, or a 13% increase. That, of course, is without inflation, speculation, conditions in the Middle East, etc., etc., etc., not pushing the per-barrel pricing up from where it is now (and it seems like every month it’s breaking record highs.

The article also discusses putting money into the rail infrastructure. That too makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s really only practical for people living in the city and the suburbs. While I was unemployed in 2005, I was exploring several job opportunities in downtown Chicago because I could jump on Metra for a reasonable rate; even if it did cost me a little more than gas, it saved time, frustration and wear & tear on the car. I could even have called it a bonus by bringing along a laptop to get some writing done.

But out here in the boonies, we’re not so lucky. Let’s say I want to visit Cullen Bunn in St Louis this weekend. If I drive, it would cost me about $52 in gas. If I take the Amtrak, it would only cost me $36 round trip. However, I would need a ride to the train station about 30 miles away. If my wife drops me off and picks me up with our van, that’s 120 miles for two round trips, which works out to a little under $20 in gas. We break even financially, and even the convenience of writing on the train ride is negated by having to arrange rides on both sides of the trip. (Incidentally, if I bring the whole family, the train ticket price jumps to $90 plus probably parking costs, making the van the clear winner in that scenario.)

Unless the ticket prices get more attractive than gas prices, people (out here) aren’t going to see an advantage in train travel. Even putting ticket pricing aside, we don’t have rail access like the city does. I was once chided by a city dweller for not using my bike or public transportation for day trips. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that I lived in the middle of a cornfield and we have no train stations, and a five-minute bike ride isn’t going to get me past the cornfield, much less into the city. Building the infrastructure out to us would cost a fortune, which would in turn raise ticket prices, making the train even less an incentive than before.

The car companies tease us with electric cars, but they tell us they don’t make them because we don’t buy them. How can we buy what’s not there? Not to mention we just shift our spending from gas to the electric bill. That’s the whole reason I got my motorcycle license last summer: between better mileage and the availability of affordable bikes, they’re cheaper all around to operate (presuming I don’t get my ass run over riding it).

I guess the short answer is solving this problem is going to take some innovative thinking. (Or maybe Jimmy Carter has what we need.)

Unfortunately that’s something our government representatives have in very short supply.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.