GOP fires author of copyright reform paper

Derek Khanna, the Republican House staffer who wrote an eminently sensible paper on copyright reform that was retracted less than a day later has been fired. So much for the GOP's drive to attract savvy, net-centric young voters. After all, this is the party that put SOPA's daddy in charge of the House Tech and Science Committee.

But it's pretty terrible for Khanna -- what a shabby way of dealing with dissent within your ranks.

Staffer axed by Republican group over retracted copyright-reform memo [Timothy B. Lee/Ars Technica] (via /.)

Time magazine: the GOP is "full of it" and the press won't call them on it

A stirring editorial in Time by Michael Grunwald calls out the US press for failing to report on contradictions in the GOP's platforms (for example, condemning Obama for not cutting Medicare enough while also telling people to vote against him because he wants to cut Medicare). Grunwald cites many examples of this, and says that the press is so anxious to appear nonpartisan that they're simply unwilling to state the obvious: the party's strategy is based on saying whatever is convenient at the moment.

I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.

The next fight is likely to involve the $200 billion worth of stimulus that Obama included in his recycled fiscal cliff plan that somehow didn’t exist before Election Day. I’ve taken a rather keen interest in the topic of stimulus, so I’ll be interested to see how this is covered. Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs...

Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.

I'm all for pointing out this sort of thing whenever it arises -- including pointing out that Obama's "most transparent administration in history" is the most secretive in history. It's the press's job to hold politicians to account for their public utterances and to point out contradictions. If the press committed to calling out BS whenever it arose, we could, in fact, produce a who-lies-most scorecard, without letting anyone off the hook for lying less than the other guy.

Fiscal Cliff Fictions: Let’s All Agree to Pretend the GOP Isn’t Full of It

SOPA's daddy, Lamar Smith, to chair the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Mr_raccoon sez, "Remember Lamar Smith (the guy who tried to pass off SOPA as being good for the internet)? Well there is a lot of talk about his chairing the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The GOP is set to vote on this today. This is like making an arsonist the fire-chief." Cory

Darrell Issa proposes 2-year ban on Internet legislations, will appear in Reddit AMA today to discuss

Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) has pretty good credentials as a friend of the Internet, being one of the early Congresscritters to stand up to SOPA and PIPA (though there's the little matter of sponsoring a corporatist bill to limit open access for state-funded research). He's introduced a bill called the "The Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA)" which proposes a two-year moratorium on Internet-related legislation. Presumably, this would give Internet freedom activists a couple years to prepare an offense game, rather than having to always be reacting to pro-surveillance and pro-censorship proposals from Hollywood and the DHS.

Issa's appearing in a Reddit AMA today at 1030h Eastern to discuss the bill.

The Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA)

Staffers for millionaire/wrestling magnate/failed GOP Senate candidate say they were stiffed, got bad checks and condoms: "you're screwed"


Linda McMahon (a wrestling magnate who built up the WWE with her husband Vince McMahon) is a failed Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut with a reported net worth of $500M, who has spent a reported $100M on a pair of failed Senate bids. She has also reportedly stiffed her staffers, who claim that they were sent bounced checks from the campaign, and, when they complained, were sent more rubber checks, along with a condom and a message saying "you're screwed." From CBS:

Campaign staffer Twaine Don Gomes was reportedly among the first to make the matter of the bad checks public knowledge through local news media – an action which allegedly inspired the campaign to send a second check with something extra.

“Basically he handed me a check with a condom in it, told me I was screwed,” Gomes told WTNH. “That’s the rudest gesture you can ever do to a person, it’s like spitting in a person’s face.”

Checks Issued By McMahon Campaign Reportedly Bounce

Cowardice: Gutless House Republicans retract copyright paper in less than 24 hours


It took less than 24 hours for the entertainment industry's lobbyists to bully the House Republican Study Committee into retracting its eminently sensible copyright position paper. They did it with a mealy-mouthed apology, claiming the paper "was published without adequate review." Here's Mike Masnick on the subject:

The idea that this was published "without adequate review" is silly. Stuff doesn't just randomly appear on the RSC website. Anything being posted there has gone through the same full review process. What happened, instead, was that the entertainment industry's lobbyists went crazy, and some in the GOP folded.

Frankly, if they wanted to win back the youth vote, this was exactly how not to do it. If you just look through the comments on our post on the original, or through the Twitter response to this report, there were tons of people -- many of whom were lifelong Democrats -- claiming that they would switch parties if the GOP stuck with this. Instead, they folded like a cheap card table in less than 24 hours.

Here's a mirror from KEI, and another from the MD Pirate Party.

That Was Fast: Hollywood Already Browbeat The Republicans Into Retracting Report On Copyright Reform

(Image: Chicken., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 29278394@N00's photostream)

House Republicans release watershed copyright reform paper

Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it (PDF) is a position paper just released by House Republicans, advocating for a raft of eminently sensible reforms to copyright law, including expanding and clarifying fair use; reaffirming that copyright's purpose is to serve the public interest (not to enrich investors); to limit statutory damages for copyright infringement; to punish false copyright claims; and to limit copyright terms.

This is pretty close to the full raft of reforms that progressive types on both sides of the US political spectrum have been pushing for. It'll be interesting to see whether the Dems (who have a much closer relationship to Hollywood and rely on it for funding) are able to muster any support for this.

Mike Masnick's got good analysis of this on TechDirt, and notes that this is a huge shift from the House that, 10 months ago, was ready to pass SOPA.

Update: It took less than 24 hours for the entertainment industry's lobbyists to bully the House Republican Study Committee into retracting its eminently sensible copyright position paper. They did it with a mealy-mouthed apology, claiming the paper "was published without adequate review." Here's a mirror from KEI, and another from the MD Pirate Party.

This document really is a watershed moment. Even if it does not lead to any actual legislation, just the fact that some in Congress are discussing how copyright has gone way too far and even looking at suggestions that focus on what benefits the public the most is a huge step forward from what we've come to expect. In many ways, this is the next logical step after the completion of the SOPA fight. Rather than just fighting bad policy, it's time for Congress to recognize that existing copyright law is bad policy and now is the time to fix it. It comes as a surprise, but kudos to the Republican Study Committee -- and specifically Derek Khanna, the policy staffer who wrote the document -- for stepping up and saying what needed to be said, but which too many in Congress had been afraid to say for fear of how the entertainment industry lobbyists would react.

House Republicans: Copyright Law Destroys Markets; It's Time For Real Reform

Ohio GOP Secretary of State orders secret, last minute, unaudited software updates to voting machines

Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has asked voting machine giant ES&S to install last-minute, unverified, custom firmware updates on the state's voting machines. This is highly irregular, and the details of it are shrouded in secrecy and silence -- the few, terse statements from Husted's office on the matter have been self-contradictory and unhelpful. On Salon, Brad Friedman tries to untangle the mess, and concludes that it's impossible to say what the new software in Ohio's voting machines actually does, nor why unaudited, unapproved software should be added to voting machines in a critical swing-state at the last minute, but that it's highly suspicious and possibly illegal.

I’d like to have been able to learn much more before running anything on this at all, frankly. But the lack of time between now and Tuesday’s election — in which Ohio’s results are universally believed to be key to determining the next president of the United States — preclude that.

So, based on the information I’ve been able to glean so far, allow me to try to explain, in as simple terms as I can, what we currently know and what we don’t, and what the serious concerns are all about.

And, just to pre-respond to those supposed journalists who have shown a proclivity for reading comprehension issues, let me be clear: No, this does not mean I am charging that there is a conspiracy to rig or steal the Ohio election. While there certainly could be, if there is, I don’t know about it, nor am I charging there is any such conspiracy at this time. The secretive, seemingly extra-legal way in which Secretary of State Husted’s office is going about whatever it is they are trying to do, however, at the very last minute before the election, along with the explanations they’ve given for it to date, and concerns about similar cases in the past, in both Ohio and elsewhere, are certainly cause for any reasonable skeptic or journalist to be suspicious and investigate what could be going on. And so I am …

One thing that Friedman doesn't say is that this all wouldn't be such a problem if voting machines produced voter-verified paper audit trails of their actions. That is, after you vote, the machine could print out a paper record of your vote, move it into position in front of a plastic widow so you could verify the vote, and then move it along into a locked audit-box. Virtually every other kind of digital tabulating device does this, from EEGs to ATMs to cash-registers. The technology is trivial. And it would give us the ability to verify, after the fact, whether the votes had been correctly counted and transmitted from each machine.

Update: Friedman updates via Twitter: "The machines in question are the tabulators. The machines already have 'paper trail'."

Is the GOP stealing Ohio?

Pink Gipper


More fine housewares/gift ideas from New York Comic-Con: Frank Kozik's pink bust of Ronald Reagan. Only 50 were made! Sold by Clutter Magazine.

Clutter Exclusive PINK Gipper/Reagan Bust By Frank Kozik

Bring-Your-Own-Puppet Million Muppet March planned


A group of public TV fans have announced a "Million Muppet March" on November 3 on the National Mall in DC. They are upset at Mitt Romney's vow to have Big Bird waterboarded. This will be a Bring Your Own Puppet event. More from Reuters:

Within 30 minutes of the end of the debate they were on the phone with each other, planning the march.

"I figured, why just make it a virtual show of support? Why not take this opportunity because it seemed like there was already a growing interest in it and actually make it an active, participatory event," Bellavia said. "I literally just said, 'It's happening.'"

Both men consider themselves fans of "Sesame Street," perhaps the best-known program on PBS, which received $445 million of $3.8 trillion in federal budget outlays in 2012.

Coming from rural Idaho, Mecham said he was aware how important public broadcasting was in sparsely populated areas that receive no other signals over the air.

"Million Muppet March" planned to defend U.S. backing for PBS (via Reddit)

Anti-choice Tea Party Congressman pressured pregnant mistress to get an abortion

Tennessee Tea Party Rep Dr. Scott DesJarlais -- a serial philanderer who told a court he'd cheated on his wife four times -- calls himself anti-abortion. His website says, "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life." He has consistently voted for legislation that restricted abortion. But when he got his mistress pregnant, he insisted that she get an abortion. Here's a transcript of some of that conversation:

"If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let's do it," Desjarlais says.

“Well, we’ve got to do something soon. And you’ve even got to admit that because the clock is ticking right?” he says at another point.

I guess that this is consistent with an anti-choice position (he doesn't want women to choose, he wants their married boyfriends to choose), but "pro-life"? Not so much.

Anti-choice GOP Congressman pushed mistress to get abortion (Thanks, Winkel!)

Mitt Romney agrees with you

Use the RoboRomney service to fill in your positions on issues from abortion to the economy to gun-control, and the system will mine a database of real Romney quotes to produce a position paper in which the candidate agrees with everything you say. Cory

Maine GOP attack-flier condemns Democratic candidate for playing an orc rogue in online game


A flier distributed by the Maine GOP attacks Democratic state senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz for playing an orc assassin rogue in World of Warcraft, using quotes she's made about the virtual violence her imaginary fairy-tale creature gets up to in order to imply that she is unfit for office. Timothy Lee has more on Ars Technica:

"I love poisoning and stabbing! It is fun," the flyer quotes Lachowicz as saying. The candidate is apparently a regular commenter at DailyKos, a liberal blog. And the Maine GOP has mined the site looking for what it regards as damning comments. Most of Lachowicz's remarks were posted in 2009 or 2010, most likely before she began her current campaign for office.

"I can kill stuff without going to jail," she wrote in December 2009. "There are some days when this is more necessary than others." The flyer points voters to a website, called "Colleen's World," that highlights more cases where she describes virtual violence she committed in the online world.

Candidate for Maine State Senate attacked for Warcraft character

Mitt Romney: "I don't know" why airplane windows don't open

Update: Apparently, Mitt was joking

At a $50,000/ticket fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton (home to one of the great Trader Vic's of America, I might add), Mitt Romney expressed his controversial views on aerospace engineering, as recounted by the LA Times's Seema Mehta:

Romney’s wife, Ann, was in attendance, and the candidate spoke of the concern he had for her when her plane had to make an emergency landing Friday en route to Santa Monica because of an electrical malfunction.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

I expect that's the sort of insight into technology that Romney acquired while creating jobs by remaking American industry to be more efficient.

Mitt Romney pulls in $6 million at Beverly Hills fundraiser

(Image: Virgin Atlantic Window, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from aplumb's photostream)

Tuesday linkdump

* Clockwork fairy. Steampunk! Steampunk! Set aside the impulse to tedious kvetching about nonfunctional gears and sit agog with me. (via)

* Stop Pretending Art Is Hard. From botched art restoration to manifesto in one t-shirt.

* The Science News Cycle [PhD Comics]. Don't believe the hype. DING DING! (via)

* Talk on Beat SF, Turing and Burroughs. Rudy Rucker being as Ruckerian as is humanly possible, and we're all better for it.

* The Real Romney. Biography of the man before he became a quadrillionaire sovereign nation in a vat. (via)

* Spanish microcurrency boom. When the going gets tough, the tough issue fiat scrip. (via)

* Anarchist scaremongering at RNC. Black bloc bogeymen for everyone! They've got acid-filled eggs, you know. Because that would totally work. (via)

* Deporting parents of children born in America. No human is illegal*. If your family values demand that the mothers of American children should be sent abroad forever, you're doing it wrong. (via)