Money wins Elections is an excellent, scrolling infographic that illustrates how money corrupts the American legislative process, showing that time and again, Congress has voted the way that the big money told it to, against the prevailing popular opinion. It's all in support of the American Anti-corruption Act, and it was created by Tony Chu for part of his MFA thesis project.
Great old indie bookstore in St Louis faces demolition as town considers proposal to site an industrial storage facility on its lot
Thorne sez, "I grew up in a bookstore in a 150 year old Victorian mansion in Rock Hill, St. Louis. I lived in an upstairs room until I was about 10, and we needed the space for more books. This weekend a demolition crew came into my family's store to take measurements for a proposed demolition. An out of state company wants to build an industrial storage facility on this location. This has been an operating independent family business for 30 years and I'm posting it because I believe this type of development needs attention. A friend started a change.org petition over the weekend. Also - it's haunted."
Apparently, the landlord is an "older guy who just wants to sell the property," and the real leverage point here is whether the city grants permission for the demolition and the storage facility.
Book House Issues Call To Stave Off Eviction [Publishers Weekly]
The idea of forcing Congresscritters to wear NASCAR-style coveralls with the logos of their financial backers has been bandied about before, but here it is in official White House petition form.
Since most politicians' campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company's logo, or individual's name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate's clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those "sponsor's" names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4" by 8" on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.
As funny as this is, it would be easy-ish to turn this into a browser plugin that looked for politicians' names in the pages you looked at, and automatically surrounded them with a semi-opaque halo of corporate logos that you could click on to see more.
The UK's Department for Work and Pensions is squatting on an unused block of super-scarce IPv4 addresses. Specifically, they're sitting on a /8 network with 1.67 million spare addresses. A petition asks the government to sell these off.
It has recently come to light that the Department for Work and Pensions has its own allocated block of 16,777,216 addresses (commonly referred to as a /8), covering 184.108.40.206 to 220.127.116.11. The estimated market value of this block of addresses is between $0.5 and $1.5 billion.
Analysis shows that the DWP is not using any of these addresses in public. If they are being used for internal, private networks then this is a phenomenal waste of public funds - the block 10.0.0.0/8 is specifically earmarked for use on internal private networks, and using the globally routed 18.104.22.168/8 internally is madness.
£1 billion of low-effort extra cash would be a very nice thing to throw at our deficit.
Animation teacher faces the sack for refusing to push "unnecessary, expensive" textbooks at hedge-fund invested Art Institute of California
Mike Tracy teaches at the Art Institute of California—Orange County, but not for long. In a note on his Facebook page, Tracy explains that AIC-OC (whose parent company, EDMC, is 41 percent owned by Goldman Sachs) has told him he'll be fired if he doesn't agree to sell a quota of expensive and, in his opinion, unnecessary e-textbooks.
Here's the note Tracy posted:
As many of you know, I have been in a dispute with our school, the Art Institutes, for some months now, over their policy of mandatory e-textbooks in classes where their inclusion seems arbitrary, inappropriate and completely motivated by profit. In July I asked the US Department of Education, the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education and WASC (our accrediting agency) to look into my concerns. Since that time, the school and its parent company EDMC have escalated the pressure on me to select a book for a class I teach that I don’t think requires one.
Today, the President of the school, Greg Marick, presented me with an ultimatum; either choose a book by Tuesday, Aug 14th or the company will terminate my employment for insubordination. My response, of course, is that I will not change my mind on this issue and that I’m determined to resist the policy however I can. I think this means that, as of this week, I will no longer be teaching at AI.
I want you, my students and colleagues to know that it has been my great honor and privilege to have worked with you over the last 11 years, and that I will miss the opportunity to work for you and with you. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher very much, but it appears as though it is now time to move on. Furthermore, you can count on me to continue the struggle that I have instigated on this issue, if only from the outside. Although it aint over till it’s over, it looks like a 99.5% deal, barring an 11th hour change of heart by the corporation, which would surprise me.
Here's a petition from Tracy's colleagues and present and past students, asking the administration to reconsider its position.
(Image: Robot, Mike Tracy)
White House TSA petition goes dark as it nears the finish line, disappears when the lights come back on
A White House petition about the TSA's screening procedures was 90 percent of the way to completion when Wired ran a story giving it a final push. The White House's petition site went down for unannounced maintenance, and when it came back up, the petition had "expired" -- though the Electronic Privacy Information Center says it still had time left on the clock:
At approximately 11:30 am EDT, the White House removed a petition about the TSA airport screening procedures from the White House "We the People" website. About 22,500 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the Administration were obtained when the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition. The site also went down for "maintenance" following an article in Wired that sought support for the campaign.
Update: The petition's creator reportedly disputes EPIC's version of the timeline, saying that the petition had run out its time during the outage.
Bruce Schneier writes,
Year ago, EPIC [the Electronic Privacy Information Center] sued the TSA over full body scanners (I was one of the plantiffs), demanding that they follow their own rules and ask for public comment. The court agreed, and ordered the TSA to do that. In response, the TSA has done nothing. Now, a year later, the court has again ordered the TSA to answer EPIC's position.
This is an excellent time to add your name to the petition the TSA to do what they're supposed to do, and what the court ordered them to do: take public comments on full body scanners. The petition has almost 17,000 signatures. If we get 25,000 by August 9th, the government will respond. I doubt they'll capitulate, but it will be a press event that will put even more pressure on the TSA. So please sign the petition. (Here is my first post about it.)
Jeff sez, "Some graphic designers in Seattle anonymously created these cool "Corporations Aren't People" posters for the I103 initiative... they are editable PDFs so you can change the text as needed."
What is Initiative Measure 103? Measure 103 is a citizen's initiative in Seattle to elevate peoples' rights above corporate rights and put an end to corporate personhood and other legal privileges corporations use to overrule communities in our democracy. Read the initiative.
What does Measure 103 do? If enacted, the measure would prohibit corporations from making political contributions or lobbying, end corporate personhood and close the revolving door between elected officials and corporations impacted by their lawmaking. The measure would establish community rights to fair elections, clean government, self-government, citizen oversight of the police, rights for neighborhoods to approve zoning changes, Constitutional rights for workers, rights for nature to protect Puget Sound, our resident Orca pods and salmon runs and legislate status quo network neutrality.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has launched a signature drive to get the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, to intervene to stop the extradition to the USA of Richard O'Dwyer, who created the TVShack website. TVShack had links to places from which users could download TV shows, and was legal under UK law. The US entertainment lobby has demanded O'Dwyer be rendered to an American court, which may persecute him for violating the law of a distant land. As Wales writes, it's time to stop letting the entertainment industry's priorities define the regulatory regime for the Internet.
Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean it can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood.
One of the important moral principles that has made everything we relish about the internet possible, from Wikipedia to YouTube, is that internet service providers need to have a safe harbour from what their users do. There are and should be some limits to this. Under US copyright law, there are notice and take-down provisions requiring service providers to remove content under a properly formatted notification. And there is a distinction between hosting copyrighted material and telling people where it is. The latter is protected under the first amendment.
When I met Richard (along with his mother), he struck me as a clean-cut, geeky kid. Still a university student, he is precisely the kind of person one can imagine launching the next big thing on the internet. Enthusiastic, with a sharp mind and a quick wit, he reminds me of many great entrepreneurs. He tried to follow the law, and I would argue that he very likely succeeded in doing so.
Given the thin case against him, it is an outrage that he is being extradited to the US to face felony charges. No US citizen has ever been brought to the UK for alleged criminal activity on US soil. There is a disparity here that ought to raise concerns at the highest levels of government in both the US and UK.
If you're as outraged as I am that the UK Coalition government is planning on spending £1.8B to spy on every click, IM, email and Facebook update, without a warrant under the Draft Communications Data Bill, then please consider visiting the Open Rights Group's petition page where we're gathering signatures to present to MPs. The Coalition is deeply divided on this issue, and there's a very good chance we'll be able to put paid to this proposal just as we did with Labour's national ID scheme, but not without your help.
Yesterday the Government unveiled the 'Communications Data Bill'. It's a proposal for more powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online. Your communications via Google, Facebook or Skype would be open to what may be a large number of government officials. You can help! Please email your MP and tell them why you want to see the powers to collect and access communications data tightened up, not extended ever further.
Don't forget that ORG is running nationwide workshops to help you meet effectively with your MP to lobby them on this issue and on Internet censorship.
(Disclosure: I am proud to have co-founded the Open Rights Group and to volunteer on its advisory board)
Canada's warrantless surveillance bill is back, and bigger than ever, with surveillance powers for US gov't, too
Bill C30, the sweeping Canadian warrantless Internet surveillance bill, is back from the dead. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (who declared that opposition to his bill was tantamount to support for pedophiles) has been working behind the scenes to resurrect his legislation, joining forces with the US government in the name of "perimeter security." This proposed deal would expand the warrantless surveillance to US authorities, who could also access Canadians' private information.
OpenMedia.ca has been rounding up the names of Canadian MPs who oppose C-30, compiling a master list of the politicians who'll stand with Canadians against this kind of wholesale, international surveillance of their data. They want Canadians to pressure their MPs into taking the pledge.
Vic Toews, far from backing down, is pushing for a renewed multi-faceted scheme to erode Canadians’ online privacy rights: Toews has been working on a deal with the U.S. known as “Perimeter Security”, which could lead to the U.S. government having access to your private data.2 Additionally, the Federal Budget for this year includes a plan to cut funding to the watchdog responsible for overseeing Canada's spy agency, CSIS.3
All in all, Toews’ actions could lead Canada to become a large, recklessly-governed surveillance society.
But we have momentum now, with nearly two-thirds of opposition MPs on our side. You got us this far, now take a moment to get your friends, family, co-workers—everyone you know—to speak out about the costly scheme to collect your private online information at any time, without a warrant.
The Canadian federal government recently announced that they are cutting $9.6 million from the budget of Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Canada's national archives. This will seriously undermine the archives, which was already struggling due to chronic underfunding to live up to its mandate 'o preserve the documentary heritage of Canada.'
Hundreds of other archives across Canada will also be negatively affected by these cuts because LAC is terminating the National Archives Development Program (NADP), a long-running contribution program that helped fund projects by small archives to preserve documentary heritage locally and make it publicly available. The NADP cost only $1.7 million annually, but has done a world of good in helping to ensure that Canadian history survives and is accessible by all. If you want to help fight these devastating cuts to Canada's archival heritage, please sign the online petition to save the NADP and spread the word about these harmful cuts.
Robert sez, "Azerbaijan is hosting the final of this Saturday's Eurovision song contest. Amidst the absurdity and kitsch, human rights groups are worried that Azerbaijan's autocratic government will use the occasion to airbrush its appalling treatment of journalists and activists. Index on Censorship is asking Boing Boing readers to make the President of Azerbaijan face the music during #Eurovision, by signing a petition demanding he end the persecution of writers and artists who speak truth to power."
My father was born in a refugee camp in Azerbaijan -- to Russian/Polish/Belarusian parents -- and I've always felt a distant kinship to the place, enough so that I take this sort of thing more personally than I would if it were in another post-Soviet Asian dictatorship. I signed.
The Eurovision Song Contest is a guilty pleasure for millions across Europe. But this year the competition has a dark side – it’s being hosted by Azerbaijan, a country whose people face violence, prison and persecution for exercising their right to free speech. On 18 April, Idrak Abbasov, an investigative reporter who won the Guardian/Index Award, was beaten unconscious by private security guards while the police looked on.
Other journalists have been attacked, abducted and tortured. In November 2011, writer Rafiq Tagi was attacked outside his home and later died. No one has been brought to justice for his murder. In fact, in the last seven years, there have been no arrests or prosecutions related to violence against journalists.
But it’s not just journalists – musicians, gay rights campaigners and political activists are also under attack.
CISPA, the pending US cybersecurity bill, is a terrible law, with many of the worst features of SOPA -- surveillance and domain seizures and censorship and so on. What's more, it is being supported by one of the largest Web companies in the world: Facebook. DemandProgress is asking its supporters to write to Facebook and ask them to withdraw their support.
What is Facebook thinking? They've signed on in support of CISPA -- the new bill that would obliterate online privacy, give the military crazy new abilities to spy on the Internet, and potentially let ISPs block sites and cut off users accused of piracy.