Wikipedia is on strike today

If you try looking something up today on Wikipedia, you won’t be able to.  The ubiquitous online encyclopedia is shutting down as a way to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) currently before Congress.  Other sites, such as Reddit and Boing Boing are also joining the strike.  Google and others will not shut down, but they will put up messages decrying the attempt at internet “censorship.”  Here are some details:

Though the Stop Online Piracy Act has the support from the likes of Hollywood, the music industry, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, many Silicon Valley firms say it effectively amounts to censorship. To show their opposition to the bill, some sites are planning a service blackout on Jan. 18. Hayley Tsukayama reports:

Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing are planning to black out their services Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act by showing users the bill’s effect on Web companies. These companies object to language in the bills, which are aimed at stopping online piracy on foreign Web sites, that grant the U.S. government the right to block entire Web sites with copyright-infringing content on them from the Internet.

Wikipedia will block all of its English-language pages — the first time since the encylopedia’s 2001 launch that it has ever restricted access to those pages as a form of protest.

“[It’s] a decision that wasn’t lightly made,” the company said on its blog Monday. The decision to take down the free encyclopedia’s English pages was made with the input of 1800 Wikipedia users who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the blackout, according to statement from the Wikimedia Foundation. . . .

via SOPA protests planned by Google, Wikipedia and others on Jan. 18 – The Washington Post.

What would SOPA do?  As I understand it, the target is sites that pirate movies and music.  But what the bill does is to allow for court orders that would actually take down sites–including those from other countries–by delisting the domains and stopping search engines and service providers from accessing them.  From Everything You Need to Know about Congress’s Online Piracy Bills:

At a basic level, SOPA — and its Senate analogue, the Protect IP Act — would enable copyright holders and the Justice Department to get court orders against sites that “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement. That could include, say, sites that host illegal mp3s or sites that link to such sites (the revised House bill focuses primarily on foreign sites like, oh, Pirate Bay). Courts could bar advertisers and payment companies such as PayPal from doing business with the offending sites in question, order search engines to stop listing the accused infringers, or even require Internet service providers to block access entirely. The bills contain other provisions, too, like making it a felony to stream unauthorized content online. . . .

Why are tech start-ups so vehemently opposed? These companies have argued that the bills are tantamount to Internet censorship. Rather than receiving a notification for copyright violations, sites now face immediate action — up to and including being taken down before they have a chance to respond. Intermediary sites like YouTube and Flickr could lose their “safe harbor” protections. Nonprofit or low-budget sites might not have the resources to defend themselves against costly lawsuits. And, meanwhile, larger companies like Google and Facebook could be forced to spend considerable time and money policing their millions of offerings each day for offending material.

Do these online piracy bills threaten free speech? Plenty of law professors, including Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, think so. The original version of the bill would have allowed copyright holders to block advertising and payment services for an accused Web site before a judicial hearing even took place. The new version of the House bill would require a hearing first, but, as Julian Sanchez notes, the bill “still makes it far too easy for U.S. corporations to effectively destroy foreign Internet sites based on a one-sided proceeding in U.S. courts.” Other critics have worried that the bill’s language is far too broad, threatening all sorts of potentially benign Internet uses. What’s more, the Electronic Frontier Foundation worries that the bill cracks down on electronic tools to circumvent government blacklists that are essential to human rights activists and political dissidents around the world.

Could the bills actually “break” the Internet? Many tech experts think so. The bills would give courts the power to order rogue sites to be de-listed from the Domain Name System — basically, the Internet’s phone directory. U.S. service providers would be tasked with acting as if the site didn’t exist at all (although the newly revised House bill gives a little bit of flexibility here). A big potential pitfall here is that the Internet is global, and it’s possible that users could seek out foreign DNS servers to access blacklisted sites. Some experts have raised security concerns about this splintering of the Internet’s architecture.

I’m curious who in Congress is pushing for this?  Democrats or Republicans or both?

Do you think this is much-needed protection of intellectual and creative property?  Or are the methods too heavy-handed, with unintended consequences that could damage the internet as a whole?

Demagoguing contraception

Pro-abortion advocates are claiming that what pro-lifers and Republicans in general really want is to outlaw birth control.  As evidence they are citing Rick Santorum’s stated belief as a Roman Catholic that he does not believe in contraception (even though he underscored that he is not trying to make it illegal), efforts to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood (for its abortion clinics), and proposals to allow Catholic organizations to have a “conscience clause” so they won’t have to provide health insurance that includes contraception coverage.

Roman Catholics, as well as other Christians and members of other religions, do not believe in practicing artificial birth control.  But I am not aware of any Catholics, social conservatives, pro-lifers, or Republicans  who are trying to outlaw contraception.

The pro-abortionists, continuing to lose the arguments about the humanity of the unborn child, are resorting to demagoguery, trying to rally women by alarming them with an out-and-out falsehood.

For an example of what I’m talking about, see this column:  Conversation over abortion continues 39 years later – The Washington Post.

Nothing distinctly Christian about the Lord’s Prayer?

Arguing for Christian observances to the point of denying they are Christian:

A lawsuit against the Sussex County Council in Delaware alleges that by reciting the Lord’s Prayer before meetings, the council “has publicly aligned itself with a single faith” in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. During a hearing in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, however, the county’s attorney argued that the prayer isn’t necessarily just a Christian one.

Attorney J. Scott Shannon told U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Stark that although the Lord’s Prayer is mostly associated with Christianity it was first spoken by a Jew, Delaware Online reports.

“[Jesus] was not offering a Christian prayer in the Christian tradition because no Christian tradition existed,” Shannon said. He also argued that the prayer, which contains no specific mention of Jesus Christ in it, contains language that is fitting for other faiths, and is not required to be “inoffensive to all” or “all-inclusive,that ” anyways.

According to court documents, the Lord’s Prayer has been the invocation of choice at Sussex County Council meetings since 1971.

Alex Luchenitser, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke on behalf of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – four Delaware residents who feel that the saying of the Lord’s Prayer at Sussex County Council meetings is offensive.

Luchenitser argued that the opening words of the prayer – “Our Father” – indicate that it is a Christian prayer because it implicitly refers to Jesus.

“That’s a Christian way of referring to Jesus,” Luchenitser said, according to Delaware Online. “This is not something reasonable people disagree over.”

via The Lord’s Prayer Is Not Exclusively Christian, Attorney Tells Judge, Christian News.

The other side also knows not of what it speaks.   The Father is NOT a reference to Jesus!  The Son is NOT the Father.  That’s a denial of the Trinity.

The “Lord” of the Lord’s Prayer, though is Jesus, according to the Holy Spirit.  And the Father He addresses is His Father, who is the Christian deity.  And the prayer is in the New Testament, the Christian Scripture.  And it’s a staple of Christian worship and devotion.  So, yes, it’s a Christian prayer.

If the pro-prayer faction wins, would it be worth it, if victory involves denying the meaning of what is being prayed?  This principle applies to those who insist on putting up Christian symbols–nativity scenes, Christmas trees– on public property during Christmas with the argument that Christmas is a secular holiday.  In cases like these, to win is to lose.

If they can’t pass the test, get rid of the test

For all that I love my native Oklahoma, education is not one of its strong points.  Harold Cole, writing in the Daily Oklahoman, gives  an example of the mindset that keeps holding it back:

A group of school superintendents recently expressed concern that about 6,000 high school seniors won’t graduate this year because of mandatory end-of-instruction tests. While others attempt to ascertain why this problem exists in order to propose preventive measures, Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, already knows what to do — simply pass legislation eliminating the tests. According to McPeak, “Every youngster who lives up to the contract the state has set up for them — which is complete this amount of coursework and you can graduate” — should receive their high school diplomas.

McPeak’s message seems to be, after serving time in classrooms, give students diplomas whether they learned anything or not. Never mind that giving out undeserved diplomas sets up students to fail in colleges and deceives prospective employers and military branches that require applicants to have legitimate high school diplomas that signify basic competency in math, logic and communication skills.

Rather than making conditions worse, legislators should do something to transform a public education system whose students struggle to pass end-of-instruction tests and, in comprehension of science and math, lag significantly behind students in other industrialized countries.

Correcting these deficiencies requires implementing mandatory coordinated science and math curricula targeted to grades 1-6. Quizzical young minds must be rewarded by instruction that expands understanding of surroundings. Such structured learning provides students with foundations and confidence to excel in future courses.

Science and math courses in grades 7-12 should be reviewed to ensure coverage of core subject matter. Weekly detailed course objectives and outlines should be made available to students, parents and others interested in improving student learning.

And most importantly, administrators and teachers must leave comfort zones and exert tough love by requiring students to earn grades by learning subject matter as indicated by performances on well-written quizzes, periodic exams and mandatory comprehensive final exams. Initially, enforcing this policy will cause consternation among students and teachers since traditions of allowing students to pass science and math courses without learning subject matter will end, and teachers’ abilities to educate will be spotlighted.

via Status quo in Oklahoma education not good enough | NewsOK.com.

I’ve heard school compared to prison, but this takes it to a new level.  If you do the time, they have to let you out!

More ballot problems for GOP candidates

I have been complaining that only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified to get on the Virginia primary ballot.  But candidates, except for those two, are also having ballot problems in Ohio, Illinois, D.C., Missouri, and Arizona:

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who came within a few votes of winning the Iowa caucuses, didn’t get on the ballot in Virginia or the District of Columbia. His campaign also filed incomplete slates of delegates in Illinois and Ohio, which could limit his ability to win delegates in those key states.

Virginia has been a tough ballot to crack for several GOP candidates because the state requires campaigns to collect signatures from at least 10,000 registered voters. Romney and Paul were the only ones who made the ballot for the March 6 primary.

Perry sued, and was later joined in the lawsuit by Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum. But on Friday, a federal judge in Richmond refused to add them to the ballot, saying the candidates should have challenged Virginia’s primary qualifying rules earlier.

Santorum is the only major candidate who will be left off the ballot in the District of Columbia primary April 3, said Paul Craney, executive director of the DC Republican Committee. The party provides two ways to get on the ballot: Pay $10,000, or pay $5,000 and collect signatures from 296 registered Republicans in the heavily Democratic capital city. . . .

Huntsman, the former Utah governor, failed to get on the ballot in Arizona or Illinois.

The requirements to get on the GOP ballot in Arizona are pretty easy — all you have to do is fill out a two-page form. Twenty-three candidates managed to do it properly, so they will be on the ballot for the state’s Feb. 28 primary.

Huntsman, however, was left off the ballot because his filing had a photocopied signature and wasn’t notarized, said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. . . .

Gingrich, the former House speaker, didn’t make it on the ballot for primaries in Missouri or Virginia, though he has joined the lawsuit to get on the Virginia ballot and Missouri won’t award any delegates based on its Feb. 7 primary. Instead, Missouri Republicans will hold caucuses March 17.

Perry, the Texas governor, made the ballot in Illinois, but he will only be eligible to win one delegate in the state’s March 20 primary — a contest in which 54 delegates will be up for grabs. . . .

Illinois has a unique way of awarding delegates to candidates. The winner of the state’s GOP primary doesn’t necessarily get any delegates. Instead, Republicans will vote for the actual delegates, who are listed separately on the ballot but are identified by the candidate they support.

Each of the state’s 18 congressional districts will elect three delegates, for a total of 54. To appear on the ballot as a delegate, candidates had to collect signatures from at least 600 registered voters in the district where they are running.

Only one Perry delegate filed signatures by the deadline, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Gingrich, Paul and Romney filed full slates, while only 44 Santorum delegates filed signatures.

Ron Michaelson, who served as executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections for nearly 30 years, said he doesn’t remember presidential candidates having these kinds of problems in previous elections.

“They’re concentrating so heavily on the early states, devoting so many resources there that they’re not looking down the road far enough,” said Michaelson, now a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield.

via GOP candidates fail to get on some primary ballots | NewsOK.com.

Huntsman, since this article was written, has dropped out of the race.  Since the presidential race is not a popularity contest but, you know, an election, shouldn’t some of these others who can’t get on ballots drop out too?

Christian right leaders anoint Santorum

A conclave of leaders of  social conservative organizations and evangelical political activist groups voted to rally behind Rick Santorum:

A week before the pivotal South Carolina primary, Rick Santorum’s quest to emerge as the chief alternative to Mitt Romney received a boost Saturday from a group of evangelical leaders and social conservatives who voted to back his candidacy in a last-ditch effort to stop the GOP front-runner’s march to the nomination.

About three-quarters of some 150 pastors and Christian conservative political organizers meeting in Texas sided with Santorum over a home-state favorite, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — an outcome that illustrated continuing divisions within the ranks of conservatives who make up the base of the GOP.

The gathering also reflected the lingering dissatisfaction with Romney over abortion rights and other issues, and the belief of conservatives that they need to unite behind one contender before the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary if they are to derail the former Massachusetts governor they view as too moderate. Romney leads narrowly in polls here after victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“There is a hope and an expectation that this will have an impact on South Carolina,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who attended the Texas meeting.

It’s unclear, however, whether conservative voters will heed the advice of these leaders and back Santorum particularly with other conservative candidates still in the race. The backing of a chunk of conservative leaders could help Santorum, who long has run a shoestring campaign, raise money and set up stronger get-out-the-vote operations.

via Santorum Backed by Social Conservative Leaders – ABC News.

Much will be said about Santorum as the evangelical candidate.  Remember, though, that he is not an evangelical.  He is a Roman Catholic.  Notice how tolerant evangelical activists have become!

I know the complaints about Santorum, as have come up in the discussions here, is that he is a big government conservative, that he wants to use the power of the federal government to promote his moral agenda (however laudable that might be).  What would be an example of that?  His opposition to gay marriage and abortion?  His favoring constitutional amendments to address those issues?  Isn’t it the government that has been pushing gay marriage and abortion?  The constitution limits government, so why isn’t working for a constitutional amendment an appropriate tactic?  Or are you thinking of something else?

Also, in other election news, Jon Huntsman has dropped out of the race.


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