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Say “No” To Secret Treaties – Especially This One (update)

Corey Doctorow at Boing Boing has gotten a leaked copy of what is characterized as a “secret treaty” – secret because of so-called “national security” implications (secrecy, as we were told during the last election, is the first refuge of tyrants). In fact, it is a copyright treaty alleged to be a part of the Anti-Counterfitting Trade Agreement. Doctorow distills the treaty’s salient points as he understands them:

* That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.

* That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.

* That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.

* Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM).

I’m assuming “DRM” stands for Digital Rights Management.

Read each of those points carefully. If accurate these measures would effectively shut down much of the internet and certainly, at a minimum, change the way political blogs function. And there is no question, given the onus being put on ISPs by this treaty to police copyright infringement, that they would err on the side of caution.

This is being negotiated right now in Seoul, Korea by the administration (and, as this Canadian blogger points out, these provisions are being pushed by the US) which so derisively trashed the “Patriot Act” during the presidential campaign. As Doctorow points out, it’s draconian provisions leave ISPs with little choice but to take down anything about which there is even a hint of doubt.  “Chilling effect” doesn’t even begin to describe the effect of such a treaty on free speech.

As for the transparency promised by this administration, this, among a mountain of things since it has taken office, apparently doesn’t fit that category.  Being negotiated away in secret is  your ability to access the internet and speak out if there’s even a hint (proof is not necessary) that copyrighted material is included in your piece.

Sound reasonable?  Or are you still a bit of a traditionalist and want to see legal due process and the presumption of innocence remain as the first line defense of your rights? If you enjoy the ‘net as it stands now, you need to speak out against this obvious attempt to control speech.  Treaties, even secret ones, still have to be ratified by the Senate.  The way to stop this one is to make it not so secret and demand that the Senate vote it down.

UPDATE: Reason’s Jesse Walker:

As the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement enters its sixth round of secret negotiations, rumors are emerging about the provisions under discussion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted the reports it has heard here; if the leaks are true, the treaty will be filled with measures that, in EFF’s words, “have nothing to do with addressing counterfeit products, but are all about imposing a set of copyright industry demands on the global Internet.”

See Michael’s discussion about “corporatism”.  It’s like slipping an amendment to build a museum to Ted Kennedy into a defense appropriations bill – hide the desired but unpopular special interest legislation in a more popular and necessary bill.

~McQ


White House Stuck On Stupid

Well, über defensive and stupid, to be more accurate. At least with its war on Fox News there was some calculated ability to garner sympathy and support from the fevered progressive masses. Taking on one of the most reputable reviewers of the car industry, when it’s giving you good news, is just plain idiotic:

It is an odd, and we’d say regrettable, pattern of this White House that it lets itself get dragged down into fights with specific media outlets.

[...]

But in addition to Fox News, now The White House is going after highly-respected and influential car site Edmunds.com.

They’re actually using The White House blog to dispute the site’s analysis of Cash-For-Clunkers (via Detroit News).

The post is snarkily titled: “Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers”

For its part, Edmunds.com responded with a sober yet forceful smackdown. After pointing to the obvious flaws in the White House’s (defensive) thinking, they put the once-venerable office to shame:

With all respect to the White House, Edmunds.com thinks that instead of shooting the messenger, government officials should take heart from the core message of the analysis: the fundamentals of the auto marketplace are improving faster than the current sales numbers suggest.

Isn’t this a piece of good news we can all cheer?

I’m not sure which is more pathetic: the fact that the White House clearly lost a blog war, or that it is stupid enough to get involved in one in the first place.


Breaking: Government Figures Out How To Shut Down Blogs

The Federal Trade Commission has just released a ruling (PDF) that requires bloggers to disclose anything–and I mean anything–they receive as a result of their blogging.  Free review copies of books.  Trips to oil rigs.  Payments.  T-shirts.  Whatever it is, you better disclose it, or you get slapped with a fine of $11,000 per infraction.

In other words, the government is now putting all web sites, professional or personal, under its thumb for failing to disclose everything they receive from any source.  And what are the guidelines for disclosure?  Why, none at all.  So, assuming you receive a free copy of a book–even if you don’t review it–you must disclose that you received it.  How do you disclose it?  I dunno.  How do you you know if your disclosure is sufficient?  I dunno.  The FTC, you see, will make those decisions on a “case-by-case” basis.

<sarcasm>I’m sure they’ll be quite fair about it, too.  And I’m quite certain that the FTC will never, ever selectively enforce these new rules so that more scrutiny is given to opponents of the current regime than to its supporters.</sarcasm>

The main thing to remember here is that free speech is not nearly as important as protecting the public from some blogger who doesn’t disclose that he got a free review copy of the book to read, in order to write the review.  And, of course, you’re all too stupid and venal to protect yourselves from the danger to the republic that freebies to bloggers represent.

But, we already knew that.

More info and quotes here.


QandO Welcomes It’s 6,000,000th Visitor

I know – there are blogs out there that do 6,000,000 in a year.  And we’ve been at it a lot longer than a year. But I’m pretty proud of that number. It took us a long time to turn a million. Not as long to turn 2 million. Then we were turning a million in about a year. Now we’re getting a million visits, per sitemeter, in less than a year.

Readership is up (from about 2,200 visits a day to over 3,000). Page views, which to me are really the key, are over 9,000,000 and the average time spent per visit (which is an even bigger key) is at a minute fifty seconds. That’s pretty darn good in the big scheme of things.

Thanks to all our loyal readers (and yes we do enjoy hearing from you and appreciate all the tips you send – don’t stop doing either) and I especially want to thank our commentariat. We have a good group of intelligent commenters, for the most part, who keep it lively and impart a pretty enjoyable sense of community – especially Ott Scerb.

Heh … anyway, thanks a million, very poor pun intended, for another great QandO year.

~McQ


Media’s Credibility Continues To Tank

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the media’s credibility is at its lowest level since the poll has been taken (1985). Skepticism about the truthfulness of the media is rampant.

The survey found that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research’s previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy.

The AP points out that the poll didn’t differentiate between bloggers and broadcast and newspaper reporters. The obvious implication is that “the internet” may be a primary reason the numbers are so low. I may have missed it, but I don’t know of any bloggers who present themselves as news people. Most of blogging is commentary on the news, the newsmakers or the media and its handling of the news. While “new media” might suggest that bloggers are on a par with what is commonly referred to as the MainStream Media (MSM), it’s simply not true. Few if any bloggers claim to be “journalists” (but there are journalists who are bloggers).

AP then reports:

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

Carroll hopes the increased scrutiny and accountability fostered by the Internet will lead to better journalism.

“We’re in the early stages of a changing relationship between news organizations and consumers, who are becoming much more vocal about what they like, what they don’t and what they want to know,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “It’s not always pretty or pleasant, but that engagement can and does help improve coverage.”

The “internet” isn’t some amorphous blob. The part of the “internet” which “increased scrutiny and accountability” is the blogosophere. And that underlines the way the roles have broken out in the media as a whole – something the “internet” and blogosophere now figure in prominently. The monopoly on what is news as well as how that news is reported has been irrevocably broken.

It is that which the MSM is dealing, and, in most cases, it isn’t dealing with it well.

When the price of publishing dropped to the cost the price of an internet connection fee, the monopoly was broken. No longer consigned to letters to the editor (which may never be published), the people were able to speak out in various forums, but primarily through blogs. The result has been pretty stunning. Now a much more dynamic and democratic group decides what is news and how it is covered. In many cases, the MSM has been forced to cover stories it has obviously tried to ignore.

That is most likely one of the primary reasons their credibility remains low. In 1985 about 55% believed newspapers and broadcasters generally got things right.

By 1999, the figure had fallen to 37 percent. The only time the Pew survey recorded a significant shift in the media’s favor was in November 2001, when 46 percent said they believed news stories were accurate. Dimock attributes the anomaly to the sense of goodwill that permeated the United States after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The most recent poll found just 29 percent believed news reports had the facts straight. (Eight percent said they didn’t know.)

Similarly, only 26 percent of the respondents said the press is careful to avoid bias. The figure was 36 percent in 1985.

As has been the case for years, television remains the most popular news source. The poll found 71 percent of people depend on TV for national and international news. Some 42 percent said they relied on the Internet, 33 percent turned to newspapers and 21 percent tuned into the radio. (The figures don’t add to up 100 percent because some people cited more than one medium.)

A decade ago, only 6 percent of the survey participants said they leaned on the Web for their national and international news while 42 percent relied on newspapers. (TV also led in 1999, at 82 percent).

If you read this carefully, you realize that the credibility problem for the MSM began well before the internet, seeing a slide from 55% in ’85 to 37% in ’99. ’99 is when the internet began to be a factor. But note that even then, only 6% said they used it for their news source. In 10 years that has grown to 42%, faster than any other source.

And what has the internet and blogs been most successful at doing? Fact checking the MSM and pointing to bias. That’s one reason only 26% now believe the MSM to be unbiased in their reporting.

Obviously the media world is changing, and as AP’s Carroll says, the MSM is still trying to come to grips with the change. What seems to finally be dawning on the MSM is the “new media” isn’t going to go away. In some cases they’ve been successful in co-opting various players. But with bars to entry as low as an internet account, there are always new players who will enter the “new media” market. The MSM may as well resign themselves that fact and step up their game (maybe they need 4 levels of editors) unless they want to continue to see their credibility shredded.

~McQ


Comments

OK folks – we’ve had numerous complaints about the comment system and it is our considered opinion that it is a problem with one of the plug-ins. So I’ve disabled the plug-in.

That means that you need to use html tags if you want bold, italic or blockquotes.

It looks like spacing will work without html tags. If we find a plug in that works with WP or the one we disabled is updated to work with this version of WP, we’ll hook it back up

~McQ


Style Evolves

So, based on some comments throughout the day, I’ve made a revision to the site again.  What I see on my monitor is now red, dark blue, white, and taupe.  I don’t see the “olive green” any more.  If you still see olive green on your monitor, let me know, so that I can do some re-shading.

As far as the column widths go, the main content area is 1000 pixels wide.  A variable width template doesn’t work out for everyone.  Sorry, but that was one of the complaints with the old template, so If you use a really wide screen at 1900px wide, then this is something you’re gonna just have to deal with.

For everyone else, 1000px seems like a good compromise, although I can go wider.  I just don’t want to make people who are still using 1024×768 to have to scroll horizontally to see the whole page.


Style Evolves

Don’t panic!  You’re at QandO.  The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve been a busy little beaver, and have–finally!–changed to a new template designed specifically for QandO, instead of the quick and dirty one I slapped together when we switched to WordPress.

I think you’ll find this one easier to read, and easier on the eyes.


About Our Recent Outage

We had a server problem which caused us to be down for a few hours and you to get the message “Bad Domain Name”. Naturally when something like that happens we have no way of letting you know what the problem is. The good news is, we’re back. Sorry for the inconvenience but, as we all know, life happens.

~McQ


A Word On “Manufactured Outrage”

It apparently was manufactured by lefty blog Think Progress.

Mary Katherine Ham takes a look at the “shocking, secret memo” that Think Progress “”unearthed and the DNC prominently displayed in their ad attacking those who are protesting at townhall meetings as “right-wing extremists” put up to the task by high-profile Republican groups.

As it turns out in this case “high-profile” means no one had heard of him, he is a libertarian and his “group” consists of 23 Facebookers who’ve joined his cause and 5 followers on Twitter.

When the “manufactured” outrage the Left is trying to demonize lines up so inconveniently with public polling, it’s sometimes necessary to create evidence for the “manufactured” storyline.

Enter Think Progress, which unearthed this shocking, secret memo from the leader of a small grassroots conservative organization in Connecticut, which allegedly instructs members on “infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress.”

Right Principles PAC was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008, and has taken in a whopping $5,017 and disbursed $1,777, according to its FEC filing.

“We’re just trying to shake this state up and make a difference up here,” MacGuffie told me during a telephone interview. He’s surprised at his elevation to national rabble-rouser by the Left.

Read all of MKH’s story about this elevation of a absolute unknown to an evil political manipulator by a blog, a national political committee and a willing network (naturally MSNBC jumped on this like a duck on a junebug).

In the meantime Jake Tapper has a report by Steven Portnoy about a townhall meeting in Mardela Springs, MD:

There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school’s auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats’ health care reform plans is “manufactured.”

“I went to school in this school,” a man named Bob told me. “I don’t see anyone in this room that isn’t from Mardela Springs right now.”

“We’ve been quiet too long,” said a woman named Joan.

So much for the “manufactured outrage” meme. Oh they’ll keep trying, but it appears the outrage is genuine and the only thing being manufactured is a story line by the left.

This sort of grassroots dissent obviously makes them very uncomfortable. And, of course they’re in denial right now – how could it turn around this fast to where they, who were on the offensive for at least 4 years, are suddenly on the defensive? The easiest thing to do is hand-wave the troubles away and deny their importance.

Well, they do that at their own political peril. This seems to be far more than a few angry right-wing dissidents as was evident when a registered Democrat called Steny Hoyer a liar the other day in a townhall meeting.

People are rightfully worried about the direction this current government has taken, and, apparently, they’re not going to sit quietly by as they tax and spend us into penury.