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Dear Mr. Keller, Jimmy Wales is Not Naive

By: ondelette Monday February 6, 2012 2:30 pm

Dear Bill Keller,

I wrote this response to your Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this morning, but your comments column rejected it because it was not shorter than 1500 characters. I didn’t want to trim it down to a meaningless response, so I’m posting it here. Please drop by and have a look. After all, someone who thinks himself so net knowledgeable as to write a column like yours, should be able to find this place.

I somehow got the impression in this column that you, Bill Keller, were calling Jimmy Wales naive. At the same time, you were calling those who predicted dire consequences from the SOPA/PIPA bills, which include organizations like Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU, as overwrought and exaggerating.

Either you don’t really understand how the law works for internet service providers and those who provide servers on the internet for publicly available content, which seems hard to believe from a senior editor of the New York Times in 2011, or you are being facetious and purposely missing the point.

Those who provide the conduits and storage space for content have a choice. They can be a “dumb pipe” to such content, in which case they are not liable for what it is, and only need to comply with requests, from law enforcement, or from the content owner, to remove it or supply information about it in certain circumstances, or they can be cognizant of the nature of the material, in which case they become liable for its effects, it’s violations of limitations on free speech, its violations of copyright or other intellectual property rights, even its possible incitement to violence, or more mundanely, can be included in suits for defamation of character, or other such things, for what people post there.

Much of the freedom that exists on the internet as a public space does so because providers choose to operate as dumb pipes. Those two bills were designed to force them to operate cognizant of their content, as censors. The bill you advocated also asks them to operate as censors, and in general, the stance you took in your article is about these people stepping up to the plate to act as monitors of their content, and therefore not as dumb pipes. And because they need not accept that rather huge liability and change in their status, it does indeed change the nature of the internet fundamentally. It’s a completely different business model, and one which will, in fact, cause many to consider not allowing users to post content at all.

So it wasn’t Jimmy Wales that was being naive, it was possibly you. Except that as an editor of a publication with a long history of operating online, I fail to see how you didn’t know that. Sites posting peoples photos and videos know it. Blog sites know it. Just about any site that allows users to post know it. The New York Times undoubtedly knows it. Do we have to believe that nobody there told Bill Keller?

And as for the Founders having created copyright to be “an engine of free expression” — they certainly did, but that was because they intended to give the original creator a limited time to enjoy the financial benefits of their creation, before it passed into the public domain for all to use. They did not intend for it to be in the possession of a non-creative entity called a corporation for 150 years, first. The Founders, Mr. Keller, did not author the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

 

Who is Sheldon Adelson?

By: ondelette Tuesday January 24, 2012 11:55 am

Last night, Bin Quick put up a post that speculated that maybe the unlimited funding from the Citizens United decision had the potential to shake up the system and that could somehow be a silver lining. I traded a few be careful what you wish for’s with Bin Quick, or rather, in round robin, but the whole thing takes on a new light this morning as the funding for Newt Gingrich gets another $5 Million jolt from Sheldon Adelson’s wife this time.

Another round of negative ads? Shaking things up in Florida? Will this finally tip the race or just bring more of the same? Who’s to say. Does Citizens United change the system or not? Montana is openly challenging the system according to the New York Times Editorial page. We’ll see.

But what takes a human, not a computer or a web page to discern, by reading the Times this morning, is that the two articles on the front page give a very dark tone to the $5 Million in campaign contribution money given to the Gingrich campaign. It seems that Sheldon Adelson is also a major contributor to something called the Clarion Fund. And that fund is on the page break of the front page article called,

The article details how a film called The Third Jihad sponsored by the Clarion fund was running on continous loop during some functions — admissions, medical checks, etc., during counterterrorist trainings of the New York Police Department by the Department of Homeland Security for thousands of officers a year ago. The movie darkly asserts that the first jihad was that of the prophet Muhammed, the second, the Crusades, and the third is the takeover of the modern world. It shows mocked up atrocities, and a “Muslim” flag flying at the White House and generally panders to the worst in anti-Muslim fears. It features clips of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as well.

It took the Brennan Center months to get ahold of the film, after a Muslim officer complained to a reporter about the film. The department stonewalled, and originally said they only showed it once or twice. But here’s the kicker for the funder:

The 72-minute film was financed by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit group whose board includes a former Central Intelligence Agency official and a deputy defense secretary for President Ronald Reagan. Its previous documentary attacking Muslims’ “war on the West” attracted support from the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel who has helped reshape the Republican presidential primary by pouring millions of dollars into a so-called super PAC that backs Newt Gingrich….

Repeated calls over the past several days to the Clarion Fund, which is based in New York, were not answered. The nonprofit group shares officials with Aish HaTorah, an Israeli organization that opposes any territorial concessions on the West Bank. The producer of “The Third Jihad,” Raphael Shore, also works with Aish HaTorah.

Clarion’s financing is a puzzle. Its federal income tax forms show contributions, grants and revenues typically hover around $1 million annually — except in 2008, when it booked contributions of $18.3 million. That same year, Clarion produced “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The Clarion Fund used its surge in contributions to pay to distribute tens of millions of copies of this DVD in swing electoral states across the country in September 2008.

“The Third Jihad” is quite similar, in style and content, to that earlier film. Narrated by Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim doctor and former American military officer in Arizona, “The Third Jihad” casts a broad shadow over American Muslims. Few Muslim leaders, it states, can be trusted.

Personally, I’d like to know a whole lot more about what the donors to a SuperPAC get out of their donations. Newt was a big provider to his donors when they were “members” of his various consulting groups for which he was “not a lobbyist”. And I’d really like to know more about the film and how it got both Raymond Kelly in it and into the DHS curriculum: “An undated memorandum from the department’s commanding officer for specialized training noted that an employee of the federal Department of Homeland Security handed the DVD to the New York police in January 2010.” I want to know who that employee is, and why (s)he isn’t unemployed and facing complaints.

The three deadliest words

By: ondelette Thursday January 19, 2012 6:38 pm

A friend sent this to me.  Please watch.  Between 1980 and 1990, 889,000 female infants went missing in Shanghai province. In recent years, the imbalance of births in the northern provinces in India has reached record proportions.  This is a trailer to a movie, the site for more information is here.

The Real Cost of Material Support

By: ondelette Wednesday December 28, 2011 2:02 pm

It’s not my intention to become a fixture here. I find myself writing my second column in twenty four hours, please don’t not read my first. The good people of the Philippines do need you to find them.

But there is another issue that burns and needs your attention. It has long been my contention that the graver costs of the material support laws and the PATRIOT Act laws and the Holder v. HLP decision are not the individuals who get accused, however grave the cases of those individuals may be, but the cost of the accusations in preventing humanitarian organizations from doing their work.

This is being brought to bear now by the influence not directly on a humanitarian organization, but on a bank.  The Minnesota Franklin Bank, to be exact, part of the Sunrise Community Banks Network.  It is closing down its business with the hawalas that operate in Somalia, in response to the conviction of two Somali women in Minnesota on charges of having sent money to  al Shabab through hawalas and financed terrorism.

Oxfam says this is a disaster. IRIN reports much the same, that the loss of money flowing into the already stricken country will produce actual starvation deaths.  There is no government in Somalia that is functioning, and therefore not much of a banking system. So no banks really function there, and the country depends on the hawala system.  That means that people here must use the hawala system to send money to relatives and friends, and even small NGOs over there. They are a lifeline.   And so many banks in so many states have got out of the business of transferring to the hawalas, which are licensed businesses with the State and Treasury departments, that it comes down to this: this bank is almost the only one left up and running, and it wants an assurance from the government that it will not be liable for prosecution by December 30th, or it will shut down it’s operations, too.

The Sunrise chief executive, David Rieling, doesn’t like that, and hates having the world on his shoulders on this one, but he doesn’t see any way out of his situation.  I must admit, being as a lot of us are liable just for doing what we do under these laws and court decisions, I don’t envy his position. But this is one banker I’d say we support and ask the government to back down and give in. People don’t need to starve. There has to be some other way.

Got time to turn your eyes outward, please?

By: ondelette Wednesday December 28, 2011 1:32 am

This is a short post, to ask people to turn their attention to the Philippines, where what has been described by some as an onland tsunami hit on December 17, when Typhoon Washi (local name for the disaster is Sendong) unleashed flash floods that brought down rivers of mud and logs and took out villages, towns and parts of cities in the southern islands of the country, especially Mindanao.

That it happened so close to the holidays hampered peoples attentions and donor nations’ reactions.  But as well, until people began to react and determine that people were and are missing, it wasn’t clear how many people were gone. It still isn’t, in some ways.  Here are some sources of information about the relief efforts underway:

Save the Children

The ICRC and Philippines Red Cross

The IFRC

OCHA (The UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

If you know people with relatives there, and they cannot contact them, if the relatives are American, they could contact the State Department, if they are not, they could contact their local Red Cross.  It’s important, since people don’t know that people are missing sometimes unless people try to find them.  One of the sources I read several days ago said that the number of missing jumped from a few dozen to nearly a thousand when people started to try to contact people, because otherwise nobody knows who hasn’t been heard from.

Read any one of the resources I’ve linked, this is a bigger disaster than the amount of print it’s gotten.  Almost half a million people are displaced, and they’ve just raised the death toll again to 1,249 (that’s an increase of 200 since yesterday).  There are at least a thousand still missing, and tens of thousands in shelters and headed for temporary tents.

You would like to be good on the homeless? Here’s an opportunity.

Something I Have to Post

By: ondelette Wednesday December 21, 2011 11:33 am

Today, Glenn Greenwald has an update containing the following:

On a related note, Mother Jones‘ Adam Serwer looks at a conviction today to document a very ominous trend, one I’ve written about several times: the way the DOJ and courts are jointly converting pure free speech into the crime of “material support for Terrorism.”

I have written about that case, too. I’m the only one who wrote about it on Glenn’s blog, actually, I wrote a few weeks after Tarek Mehanna was arrested. I knew about it and followed it at the time because I used to go to his website to collect information about Aafia Siddiqui, the case which in all the time I followed it, neither Glenn, nor the ACLU, which ended up writing a refused amicus curiae in the Mehanna case, ever spoke. I feel that I should re-post what I wrote about Tarek Mehanna now. I think it’s all too strange to have written it then, have seen it through the eyes of feeling that the only people who worried that his site was Al Qaeda then were Jawa and the Weekly Standard (although you should note my disclaimer when I posted) and to see how the press is reacting now.

Monday, December 8, 2008 at 6:07 am

OT

This is something that’s been bothering me, principally because I’m not sure whether or not it should bother me, but I think it should. I’m apologizing ahead of the thought because I’m really not sure of the thought.

In mid-November, a blogger named Tarek Mehanna, who blogged under the name Abu Sabaya, was arrested at Logan Airport by the FBI. Having recently graduated from school, he was on his way to start a job at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Mehanna is a U.S. citizen by birth and residence, he lives in Sudbury, MA.

In early 2006, the FBI had questioned Mehanna about someone named Dan Maldonado, and according to them and an informer, Mehanna had told them he hadn’t talked to Maldonado in weeks, and when he had, Maldonado was in Egypt. Subsequently, Maldonado was arrested crossing from Somalia into Kenya as the Ethiopians, with American backing, drove the Islamic Courts group from power in Somalia. Maldonado was transferred to the U.S., and was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to 10 years.

The FBI alleges in the affidavit that Mehanna lied to them, which is a crime, and that Maldonado had actually called him 4 days earlier to try to talk him into joining the fight in Somalia.

Okay. The blog that Mehanna ran is, to me, somewhat unreadable, as it is mostly invocation of Muslim scripture and a lot of quotes from Egyptian brotherhood and such people. He may not be a nice guy. If you read sites like Jawa Report or The Weekly Standard, he is al Qaeda and they acted to end a grave threat to the U.S. due to his jihadi postings on the site, (The Weekly Standard in particular has trouble distinguishing between people who take handles named after Muslim radicals and the radicals themselves, although the latter are long dead). But there is a charge that can be filed if he was recruiting or engaged in hate speech, and no one has filed such a thing. It isn’t, as I said, my favorite site either.

But this guy’s lawyer says he was arrested to 1) prevent him from leaving the country, and 2) because he would not inform for the FBI. And if lying to the FBI is justification for holding someone without bail, then shouldn’t Rove and Libby have been imprisoned during the Scooter Libby trial? The first reason is ominously close to sounding like a mathematician who had been on the Manhattan project who was forbidden from leaving the U.S. (ever) in the 1960s to go to China. Or a friend of mine who was once accused of transporting classified restricted information out of the country because of the knowledge that was in his head. The mathematician’s case, at the time, was seen as a violation of freedom of movement by international law types. And the second allegation, jailing someone because they refuse to inform, if true, is just wrong, flat out.

Am I wrong to think this is fishy? Blogs that have written about the guy seem to disappear with site apologies (this page has been removed…) He may be a very evil guy, but with no criminal record and natural born American and resident status, is it permissible to charge someone with a crime so they won’t leave the country because of what you think they could possibly do if they did? Am I in error wondering if this is an al Marri case in the making?

[Feel free to delete this if there is truly a real risk to allowing discussion about him on blog sites and I shouldn't have posted this comment. I will understand.]

ondelette

 

Somalia — Please try to help

By: ondelette Wednesday August 3, 2011 1:26 pm

Yesterday, the New York Times put the Somalia famine on its front page, with a poster child — a likely dying child at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu. The article was as poignant as the picture, and, according to a piece at Salon for which Bill Keller was questioned, was fully intended to arouse public interest in the famine.

It’s really hard to write about the famine and keep up. Comments I’ve left on blogs about it have inevitably been out of date within a day or two, sometimes within hours. Yesterday, I responded to another commenter by saying that the price tag for humanitarian efforts was $1 billion, today it seems I was behind on that, the estimate is $2.5 billion. Don’t know how I missed that.  The number of children in need of immediate intervention is 1.25 million, those with acute malnutrition (that would be MAM = moderate acute malnutrition or SAM = severe acute malnutrition, defined by the circumference of their upper arms per normal, weight below 2 to 3 standard deviations of normal for height or length for both, SAM includes bilateral nutritional edema (swelling)) are at 640,000 with some reports now saying  or projecting 800,000.

This map synopsizes a lot of facts about the famine and is worth perusing.  About 1/2 of Somalia’s population is at risk, about 1/4 of Somalia’s population is now displaced, either as IDPs or as refugees, or en route.  A pattern has emerged among pastoral families: The mothers go first with the babies and smallest children, then the eldest daughters, often ill fed themselves, with the young children, the eldest sons and men stay to try to protect the livestock and keep them alive. As the map shows, in some places 40 – 60% of the livestock have perished.

Humanitarian aid has been hampered by several factors: The war and lack of government in Somalia, U.S. law, specifically the material support for terrorism law, al Shabab, and apathy, together with the overwhelming size of the catastrophe and its impact on surrounding countries.  The U.S. State department announced yesterday that it would suspend the enforcement of the material support law with respect to humanitarian organizations working on the famine, so we have that breakthrough, thank you Mrs. Clinton et alia.  The Shabab had announced it would permit the humanitarian organizations to work in their territory in mid July, but they rescinded that agreement. Some of their lower ranking chieftains are bargaining on their own, and some aid is flowing, but the situation is dangerous and some humanitarian organizations, e.g. UNWFP, are calling it the greatest impediment to the flow of aid.  General apathy?  That’s rampant. That’s why this is my second article and I’m hoping it does better than the first (which had zero comments).

The crisis is larger than Somalia, although the regions in which famine has been declared are in Somalia, and that is where the intersection of the lack of access to the target population by humanitarian workers, the violence, and the acute need has produced the worst conditions. The crisis is throughout the Horn of Africa, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya. It is caused in no small part by a collision between the mismatch between nation-states and the pastoralist cultures, and a prolonged La Niña. I had originally reported elsewhere that it was one of the worst La Niña ever, that doesn’t appear to be the case globally, there have been longer ones (in the 1950′s).  The temperature hasn’t been as hot in the region during one, and it hasn’t caused this much dryness in the Horn of Africa before. It’s been the worst in the region on record.  Although the last decades of strife in Somalia have contributed, it isn’t an inevitable consequence of them that can be brushed off as deserved or someone’s fault, if it were, then how come it’s hitting Kenya and Djibouti as well?

The drought and famine is also putting pressure on other nations, with refugees and asylees interacting with governments in Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, and South Africa, as they attempt to move out of refugee camps and find stable places to live and work. South Africa is the only place where asylees are guaranteed that they can work, and not live in refugee camps, so many refugees attempt to get there, and find themselves imprisoned as illegal immigrants elsewhere. This is illegal, but many countries are not far from crisis and poverty themselves for other reasons.  If it is hard to raise money in the current climate for the crisis itself, it is always hard to raise money to help affected neighboring countries that end up shouldering the burdens of such a crisis when a country begins to hemorrhage.

Please try to help.  As usual, all the humanitarian organizations are looking for donations. Here is a short list. But on this page of ReliefWeb, there is a spin button in the lower right corner where it says, “Who’s Reporting” that lists all the humanitarian organizations that post there. If you don’t like the organizations that I list, I’m sure you can find something else among the ones that spin by.

http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home

http://www.wfp.org/

http://www.care-international.org/Featured-Articles/the-most-severe-food-crisis-in-the-world.html

http://www.ifrc.org/

http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.8D6E/Official_Site.htm

http://www.rescue.org/

http://www.zakat.org/where_we_work/campaign/somalia/horn_of_africa_humanitarian_crisis/