Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less guess what you’re thinking about.”
—  former Google CEO Eric Schmidt at a Washington Ideas Forum last October


[Start at 16:02]

 Much has been said about Google’s evolution from a hip, niche technology outfit to a behemoth advertising machine over the years.  As the company has grown in its product offering, so has all that valuable user data – and their users’ online habits.  With almost 200 million users monthly of the Gmail service alone, there’s no shortage of juicy email content from which Google can serve up a cacophony of those automated “creepy” integrated advertising links in and around your email messages based upon your email habits.  When Google launched its Buzz product and automatically opted all of its users IN rather than OUT, the outcry for privacy and data protection was deafening.  And most recently, we’ve read the news reports of Facebook blocking the Google Chrome extension Facebook Friend Exporter, citing its violation of Facebook’s terms of service for vacuuming data right out of other users’ Facebook accounts without their permission.  Names, email addresses, websites, addresses and even phone numbers of users’ friends were being sucked out of their Facebook accounts straight onto Google’s servers where the information could be used by Google in any way they saw fit.  I share my info with my Facebook friends, but that doesn’t mean I want them extracting it for other applications they might want to use.  (But hey, how dare I complain, when Google calls this openness.)

Now, it’s copyrights that Google is seeking to hijack from users.

The Washington Post reports that under the fine print of the Google Terms of Agreement for Google+ there is a provision that robs photographers of the ability to sell their works if they upload their pictures on the site.

The Post noted:

Google’s Terms of Service on photography, Photofocus cautions, should be read carefully, especially these sections:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

Scott Bourne at Photofocus writes that there’s a reason he doesn’t use Google photo sharing services and won’t be signing up for Google+.

“If I do share images on Google services – under the current terms of service – I will risk genuine harm to my ability to earn income from those images. As a professional, I don’t see the reward of using the Google services as being worth more than the risk.”

At least this time Google had the courtesy to notify users upfront that they’ll have to abandon rights to their intellectual property–unlike the launch of Google Books, where Google uploaded copyrighted material without even asking the authors, which resulted in a class action suit.

Some will argue that the Google+ terms state that users do retain any rights they already hold, but the practical application of protecting those rights simply isn’t assured under Google’s model, and most certainly not under its current terms.  In these times of open source and file sharing, artists of all stripes can barely avoid making some of their content available for free to keep customers happy.  In fact, most will find it beneficial to do so to increase their traffic and to build up a customer following.  But many of those artists make their money in exclusive licensing agreements, the boundaries of which become a bit blurred by portions of Google policy, especially now that Google+ has launched. My mother is an artist and as someone who helps her market her work, the Google dilemma is one with which we struggle all the time.  Her artwork is quite unique and sometimes a customer may inquire about an exclusive licensing agreement to use a work of hers, for a line of fashion t-shirts, for example.  If she uploads photos of her paintings to Google+, it might be great to have millions of eyes looking at and sharing her work, but at the same time, she can’t necessarily promise her customer that the “exclusive” image he’s purchasing won’t show up in a Google ad or at a trade show booth someplace.

We frequently hear people in our country say, “we used to make things here in America, we used to create things.”  The truth is, we still do. We now create ideas, innovations, inventions, technology.  We create inspiration: words, music, art.  And while our society is speedily growing accustomed to sharing these creations collectively and openly, and expecting them at zero cost, we must remember that for some – for many, in fact – these creations are the very lifeblood of their creators.

Google itself started as the creation of two young college graduate students.  In the end, Google is built on the acquisition and use of more and more data from more and more people that is used to build marketing profiles and sell advertising. And that insatiable need coupled with a long track record of outright disregard for privacy and property rights should prompt users to exercise caution.

After all, these are the same do-as Google-pleases and take-whatever-Google-wants policies that Congress and the FTC are currently investigating.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” 

— Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt [video]

 

21 days after Weinergate first broke, the Congressman from NY finally resigned today.  For the record – for me, it was never about the sexting or the pics.  This was about the false accusations and the sociopathic lying of a man who was elected to hold the public’s trust.  That trust was shattered three weeks ago.  It never should have taken this long.  (TMZ has confirmed that the heckler is in fact Benjy Bronk from the Howard Stern show).

For the best, most complete coverage out there on every step of this story, please visit Patterico’s site.  It was Patterico who first reported the details on the 17yr old girl from Delaware with whom Weiner was communicating via Twitter.  Hopefully, our research will continue on this part of the story and others to which it is connected.  We have not been permitted to publish certain components, but perhaps this will change soon.  We hope.

Also, this post from The Prudence Paine Papers entitled Weiner and the Teen is fantastic – a comprehensive look into the girl we’ve come to know anonymously as “Ethel.”

by Liberty Chick

If you want to take a pulse on the political vibe in this country, one need only look at Wisconsin.  The state has become the barometer for judging not just the public’s appetite for political battle, but the competitive landscape as well.  The spotlight on anything that has six degrees of separation from a Koch brother has been great drama for Wisconsin’s ongoing soap opera, but audiences in the state and nationwide might get a better show by turning their attention leftward.  Few have examined the strange pattern of money and favor trading that’s been pervading Wisconsin’s beloved circle of progressive politics.

The activity in Wisconsin over the last few months becomes crucially pertinent as the state gears up for the 2012 Wisconsin Senate race.  It’s worth looking at the financial innards  of the Supreme Court race and the protests against Governor Scott Walker in order to assess what the fight for the Wisconsin Senate seat, soon to be vacated by retiring Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, will look like.  What many don’t realize is that this race could have broader implications – not just in national politics, but in specific policy areas, like health care and your personal medical records, for example.  Lots of money, fueled by liberal business interests and an ever-growing progressive movement in Wisconsin, has already been freely flowing.

But is anyone watching? Who are some of these donors?

Let’s start by looking back at the recent Wisconsin protests and the Supreme Court election, and then dissecting some of the money trail.

The hostility stemmed from the union reform bill signed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on March 11th as a stand-alone portion of the overall budget repair bill.

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[original post 11/20/2010]

The blogosphere is all abuzz over yesterday’s comments from Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, in which he opined about the annoyance of today’s cable news television programming.  Apparently cable news gets in the way of his desire for American citizens to do nothing but worship our government, rather than challenge it.

We need new catalysts for quality news and entertainment programming.  I hunger for quality news.  I’m tired of the right and the left.  There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: Out. Off. End. Goodbye. It would be a big favor to political discourse; our ability to do our work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly, in their future.

Many are making this solely about the issue of the Fairness Doctrine or of Net Neutrality.  And to some extent, this is true.  But there really is a much larger picture at play here – a transition period to government-run media.

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[original post 10/29/2010]

Tea Party groups in New Jersey are outraged over ads that have mysteriously surfaced in support of a supposed Tea Party candidate.  The sponsored ads on Google are being served up all over the web, in places like BlogTalkRadio, in support of one Peter DeStefano, and direct viewers to the website of njteapartycoalition.org.

The problem is, the NJ Tea Party Coalition, the owners of that website, did not purchase any such ads.

“I find this ad extremely troubling,” Brian Baldwin of the NJ Tea Party Coalition told local press. “We did not authorize this nor are we supporting Mr. DeStefano.”

What’s worse is that the group – and every Tea Party group in NJ that I’ve communicated with – has been denouncing DeStefano as a “fake” Tea Party candidate for months now.  They’ve all been complaining about this to the appropriate authorities for some time now.  After seeing these latest ads, Tea Party leaders in NJ are urging their members and other like-minded leaders to contact the local election officials and the Secretary of States’ office to look into DeStefano’s candidacy.

destefano-adler

After hounding the press about their suspicions, some in the media had taken notice of the Tea Party’s claims in NJ.  And they agreed.

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[original post 9/11/2010]

In the six days that followed the attacks on September 11th, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for the first and longest time ever since the Great Depression and World War I.  The markets would reopen on September 17th, but to quite a rocky start.  During the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the heartbeat of our nation’s economy stopped, suspended in time.  And a forgotten class of Wall Street workers faced the difficult decision of whether or not to return to work. Those who did would return to a completely different world, one that had already changed them forever.  And today, nine years later, many of them are still there.  In a polarized political environment where the bad behavior of a few has unfairly demonized all of Wall Street’s workers, their contributions to our post-9/11 recovery have been largely ignored.  But had these workers made the choice back in 2001 never to return again, what might have happened?  This is one story, out of many, of the courage, determination and dignity of an entire class of forgotten patriots who stood by their country in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 when it would have been so easy to simply walk away.

 

Nine years ago, my brother Will was working for a Wall Street brokerage firm just steps away from what is now known as Ground Zero.  His office building overlooked Trinity Church on one side and the World Trade Center on the other.  Just on the other side of the river, near his home in Hoboken, NJ, he boarded the PATH train every day, bound for the bustling station at the World Trade Center.  Like so many others, he went to work on September 11th thinking that day would be just like any other.

Just before 8:46 am as Will was settling into his day with his co-workers, a loud, screeching sound of shearing metal boomed just outside their building.  He looked up at the trading desk manager, and both were stunned.  Will thought it might be a high rise construction accident; the desk manager suspected an explosion.

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[original post 8/17/2010]

obamamural460

A stinging report was issued yesterday by Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The report, titled “Analysis of the First Year of the Obama Administration: Public Relations and Propaganda Initiatives,” outlines a host of propaganda activities conducted by the Obama administration at the direct expense of the American taxpayers.  It notes in part,

“The Obama Administration frequently used federal resources to promote the President’s agenda. In many cases, the Administration relied on the reach and resources of federal agencies and their personnel to promote certain of the President’s favorite programs. The White House also leveraged ties to the arts and entertainment community to embed propaganda in the content of television programming and artwork. These propaganda efforts violated appropriations riders and federal law prohibiting the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes.”

“The White House also used its inherent visibility advantages to multiply the effectiveness of websites containing misleading and controversial information. The White House used its resources to push visitors to websites that urge grassroots activism based on false and misleading information. The President’s right to sell his policy recommendations to Congress and the public is not disputed; however, using the resources of the federal government to activate a sophisticated propaganda and lobbying campaign is an abuse of office and a betrayal of the President’s pledge to create “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.”

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[original post 5/13/2010]

The financial reform bill is finally in its home stretch in the Senate, but Americans have yet to fully engage on the issue.  In fact, in recent weeks as I’ve worked with various grassroots leaders across the country to discuss the bill, its impacts on our economy and on us as American citizens, I must admit, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever found myself frustrated at the progress of activism.

It’s a complex issue, and let’s face it, not exactly an exciting one either.  But that’s precisely what the left is counting on.  So, whenever I find myself feeling frustrated that others might not share my same level of fervor on the issue, I remind myself of its complexity and lackluster appeal.  And then, I proceed directly to the source – the bill itself.

I hone in on a few key points in three categories that resonate with most activists I know:  Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Brother.  Put those together in the context of Big Banks, and they spell out big disaster.

As the left goes on demonizing Wall Street and big bankers on one hand, Democratic lawmakers on the other hand are busy making sweetheart backroom deals with them up on Capitol Hill, promoting their legislation to the public as “consumer protection.”  But really, such measures are nothing more than payback to the likes of three-way mortgage entitlement partnership stronghold of the Bank of America, Center for Responsible Lending and Fannie Mae.

Meanwhile Democrats and Obama allies like Organizing for America are also using the issue as a shameless fund-raising opportunity.

ObamaAd

The banks actually SUPPORT this bill – so don’t let that “Main Street Not Wall Street” message fool you, no matter which side of this issue you’re on.

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[original post 4/16/2010]

The activity surrounding the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) in the financial reform legislation is really picking up these days.  But many Americans would never know it.  It seems Democrats may have learned something from the experience of the health care bill after all.  In their efforts to avert a repeat disaster of losing control of the message, they appear to be taking every step necessary to ensure that the public engages as little as possible in this debate.eric-stein2But I assure you, this is a debate that the American public should engage in, pronto.

Because behind the scenes, certain lobbyists are quietly but aggressively scurrying about, pushing hard for the passage of the CFPA in a power grab by the Executive Branch that would dwarf the Health Care Reform bill and the Patriot Act.  And with the passage of the proposed CFPA, one man in particular with a history tied to some of the deepest tentacles in the financial crisis – and to the Community Reinvestment Act changes of 1995 – would gain the power to selectively manipulate the entire landscape of the financial, small business and housing markets.

Last week, we reintroduced you to an early trigger in the financial crisis, with good reason. In “Death by Senator: As Financial Reform Looms, We Revisit IndyMac,” we revisited the role that Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) very public letter played in the fall of one financial institution.  As I ended that piece, I teased that there was more to the story that would soon follow.

So, let’s pick up from June 30, 2008.

Merely days after the now infamous Schumer letter triggered a run on the bank that would total over $1.3 billion, this lengthy and scathing report was released to the public:

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[original post 4/5/2010]

schumer-indymac

Now that the health care bill has been passed into law, many Americans are asking, what’s next? Will it be Immigration Reform?  Will it be Cap and Trade in the Senate?

Take a cue from the White House’s recent announcement to use TARP funds to expand the housing aid program, which will also enable some homeowners to refinance their current private-lender mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) instead.  And if you’ve followed some of my SEIU posts in recent months, you know very well that Financial Reform has been number two on their list.

Just days ago, the Senate Banking Committee approved Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-CT)  financial reform proposal, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.  Behind the scenes, Dodd is said to have been working with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) to negotiate a final version of the bill that the House will approve.  Just two weeks before it passed the Health Care bill last December, the House passed H.R.4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.  While Dodd’s bill is viewed as less stringent than the House bill, both include a controversial stand-alone Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).  If these next several weeks of closed-door negotiations are successful, word on The Hill is that we could see financial reform enacted by Memorial Day.

The proposed legislation, most specifically the CFPA, extends far beyond Wall Street; it will expand government even further and give it unprecedented powers like never before.  And with more government power comes the potential for abuse.

Let’s be reminded, for example, of what Senator Chuck Schumer did to one financial institution in 2008.

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