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Hardball Tactics For The Geek Lobby 360

sfjoe writes: "The San Francisco Chronicle has this story on how to effectively make the point about online freedom of speech. In a nutshell, until a legislator gets slapped around (electorally-speaking) for kowtowing to the narrow corporate interests, nobody in Congress will take online civil liberties seriously. On the other hand if, for example, Senator Disney gets his balls whacked (electorally-speaking), monstrosities like the DMCA will start getting bottled up in congressional committees. The NRA has been doing this for years and it works."
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Hardball Tactics For The Geek Lobby

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  • by chrisd ( 1457 ) <chrisd@dibona.com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:25PM (#3391286) Homepage
    So it's like this, would you say to yourself "X's policies on abortion are reprehensible, but since he is for freedom on the net, I'll vote for him" and vice versa?

    That's the essence of the NRA, their membership votes guns, so the question is are there enough people to vote geek? (and pay a real membership fee)


    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think it largely depends on the weight of the issues to the voter. If we, as voters, make online privacy, the defeat of the DMCA, etc, our priority and vote that way it will get politician's attention.

      Another thing that should happen is that more of us (and by "us" I mean the average slashdot reader - not mom and pop AOL) should actually seek office.

      Sure, it's expensive, but somebody's got to bring down jackasses like Hollings, Feinstein, Daschle, Leahy, and Biden. Not to mention Jeffords..

    • I see where you are coming from, but I don't think anyone with real feelings about freedom (net or meatspace) will have reprehensible views on abortion. Of course, no one with real feelings about freedom would have voted for the USAPATRIOT act. Or the DMCA.

      Screw it, folks. I don't care if you vote geek or not; just fucking vote! We'll get better government if we vote instead of whine. I do both- voting just shows that I actually care about what I'm whining about.

    • Excellent Point (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stephen VanDahm ( 88206 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:23PM (#3391665) Homepage
      Warning: this post is seeping with my political views, many of which are controversial. I'm using them as an example, not to try to convert folks or pick a fight.

      I'm from Senator Disney's home state. Hollings is a Democrat, so voting against him means voting for a Republican. In other states, this might not be a problem -- there are a lot of moderate Republicans in the Senate that I respect, even if I disagree with some of their opinions. Unfortunately, they aren't on the ballot in South Carolina. Republican politicians in the South are fucking scary. If anyone doubts this, think about Strom Thurmond (segregationist), Jesse Helms (well-known racist), and Trent Lott (pork-barelling thug). I don't know if I can vote for a Southern-style Republican after seeing what damage out-of-control conservativism has done to the South.

      In effect, saying "no" to Hollings is saying "yes" to the religious right, "yes" to corporate welfare, "yes" to the war on drugs, "yes" to irresponsible military expenditures (that, unlike much government spending, do nothing to grow the economy), "yes" to wiretapping the Internet, "yes" to mandatory censorware in libraries and schools, and the list goes on. It means saying "no" a woman's right to an abortion, "no" to affirmative action, "no" to spending money on public education, "no" to space research, "no" to any and all liberal social programs. You may not have a problem with all of these issues, but if any one of them is dear to your heart, you've got a real dilemma.

      I'm a CS student, and I hope to work in software development one day, but frankly, if I never saw another computer again, or never bought another CD, I could live a happy and rewarding life doing something else. However, I don't think I could, in good conscience, advance a destructive conservative agenda just so I can use Linux instead of Windows, or use a traditional, uncrippled PC. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just saying that I can't, and that many people won't. Technology issues are important, but is it worth abandoning everything else that I believe in just to vote a few (OK, a lot of) crooked Democrats out of office? Sadly, I don't think so.

      We have a couple of choices, in my view. We can lobby in the traditional manner -- attempting to purchase influence via campaign donations. This is very expensive, and we'll get spanked by Microsoft and Disney, but maybe it will work if we generate enough public awareness. Barring that, we could just leave. I question whether other countries are still scrambling for computer programmers, but frankly, I'd go to Scandinavia or the Netherlands in a heartbeat if I could.

      I hate that this sounds so negative, but I'm pretty demoralized about the whole thing -- it would be interesting to see if someone comes up with a solution.

      • I'm from Senator Disney's home state. Hollings is a Democrat, so voting against him means voting for a Republican.

        Um... How about in the primary? Up heah in NH, our R congressman is going to take our R senator's spot. The senator is going to fight it, but it won't do him any good. The moral of the story is that you can lose an incumbent and keep the same party. Of course it helps that they're a mercenary bunch of unprincipled bastards. With some funding and some really good arguments spoon fed, finding the right candidate for the primary should be easy.

      • Why can't you vote for another Democrat for the senate? It doesn't have to be a party issue. (Or is there something I'm forgetting about senator races vs. president races?)
      • Re:Excellent Point (Score:3, Interesting)

        by einTier ( 33752 )
        Hollings is a Democrat, so voting against him means voting for a Republican.

        In these 13 words, you've just summed up everything that's wrong with our political party. I don't care who I have to vote for, if a politican attempts to screw me over the way Hollings has, I'll vote for whomever is running against him, even if he's a cross burning pedophile member of the KKK who stands against everything I believe in. I'll vote for him no matter repulsive he is as a person, or how insane he is mentally. Why? Because it sends a message. It says "I'd rather vote for this crazy kook than vote for someone who proposes an insane bill like the CBDTPA." Besides, he'll likely get voted out next election anyway, and probably won't have any real effect as a freshman member of congress.

        Even at that, if you simply cannot vote for the Republican running against your horrible democrat, there is a third party candidate out there whose beliefs happen to coincide well with yours. Before you tell me that third party candidates cannot win, I will inform you that both current parties were not the ones we originally started out with. Hell, Mexico's president won in a country where there was traditionally one party.

        Personally, I vote third party whenever I can, because I hate the politics of both parties, and I don't find much difference between them to justify voting for one or the other. Make the system work for you.

      • Re:Excellent Point (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MrNipha ( 522561 )
        These are my opinions and IANAL (I am not a Lobbiest), but I believe that we as a group can have an effect on the American electoral process if we are able to do two things well -- pick a good target, and pick a good issue.

        Sen. Hollings may be an attractive target, but he may not be a good target. A good target for a small organization is one who is vulnerable, and who has an opponent (in the primary or general election) that shares our views and is electable. A primary election is the best place to start because even if our target gets the nomination, if we make enough noise, we may be able to convince him/her that they need to re-examine their stance on issues that are important to us.

        Picking a good issue is another vital piece to the equation. I am a strong advocate of privacy, but it is an issue that is up for debate as to how much are we entitled to have, and the benefits of trading some privacy for convenience/security/etc.
        I believe corporate control over what we can do with our purchases (computers, movies, music, etc.) to be a much stronger issue to fight. Even people who have never touched a computer have likely taped an LP to listen to the music in their car, or taped a movie off of HBO for their personal video collection, or loaned a book to a friend. It is an issue that most people have had some relevant past experience that we can point out that will become illegal, and to avoid breaking the law will cost them money -- money that will go to rich corporations.

        Leaving the US for a more geek-friendly country may seem like an option (and is has to me on more than one occasion) but it is not an option for most of us, and it doesn't do anything to help solve the problem. It may even just be a delaying tactic. because once the policies are implemented in the US there are strong forces (political and corporate) for getting those policies implemented internationally.

        We have a couple of choices, in my view, give up, or do something concrete about it. The cure for becoming demoralized to to do something to raise your moral. What you or I would like to do may be outside our grasp for the moment, but doing something that is within our means is more than just a morale booster -- it is the right thing to do.
        For me, what is in my means this month is:
        1. Making a pledge to the AOTC and GeekPAC
        2. Ordering replacements for the motherboards/CPUs that I own that are based on AMD cpus, and writing emails to AMD explaining why they have lost a customer.
        3. Stop buying my wife's 5 DVDs a month at Best Buy, destroying my Best Buy credit card, and writing them to tell them how their position on Digital Rights Management prompted me to take this action.
        4. Telling everyone I know that cares to listen what I have done, and why I have done it -- not as some ego-trip, chest-beating proclamation, but as a quiet, "this is what I believe and why, and what I am doing about it" statement.

        None of these things are earth-shattering, but they are things that I can do.
  • Read the manifesto here. [thelinuxshow.com].

    Vote with your /.ing for starters...
  • You must have a stick and carrott.

    They do talk about providing money to candidtates that help. But, there is more than just money.

    People can question the bad candidates about their position and publically humiliate them.

    People can use the web to expose the i>bad candidates.

    And the carrot would be the publicity and assitance for the good candidtates. Money helps, but it takes more.

  • I'm begging.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikosullivan ( 320993 ) <miko.idocs@com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:31PM (#3391328)
    ... please let's not call it the "Geek Lobby". Even if we use the term amongst ourselves, it just won't fly for the general public.
    • The bad news is that the most effective name would probably be (gulp) "The CyberFreedom Lobby."

      I feel dirty.

      • How about the "intelligent vote" or the "people who can actually be bothered to vote so don't bother wasting your time trying to appeal to the other one's vote" - no I think the first one's catchier!
    • Especially when other terms like "Tech Lobby" are so readily available and better understood by the general public. When an average person thinks "geek" they likely think either "pimply-faced kid who sits around all day playing either Diablo 2 or Dungeons & Dragons" or if they're too old to think that they think "carnival freak who bites the heads off chickens."

      Now "technology" on the other hand is a word whose meaning is mostly understood by the general public (even if the technology itself usually isn't...).
      • There is a "tech lobby." They are the corporations of Silicon Valley. Sometimes, as in the case of the hardware manufacturers who are sick of Hollywood's insane demands, they are on the same side as the "GeekPAC." Sometimes, when it comes to preventing reverse engineering and other forms of open research, they are not. In any case, they take care of themselves.
        • "They also wonder out loud why the $600 billion-a-year information-technology sector is letting itself get pushed around by the $20 billion-a-year entertainment industry.

          The answer to that question seems pretty obvious. The IT industry is getting pushed around because it isn't pushing back. Unfortunately, GeekPAC's proposed approach promises to continue that sorry trend."

          • Re:definitely (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 )
            Reading the extraordinary combination of naivete and arrogance that this thread betrays, plus the wide array of partisan agendas and chips-on-shoulders that gets revealed here, it's no wonder at all. The entertainment industry is used to working crowds, used to working together, knows how to talk to people in ways that people like, knows how to be sexy, is used to working across class boundaries. I've known film producers who can quite comfortably talk with sound engineers and technical staff - the geek contempt for anyone who isn't a geek is overwhelming and obvious.
    • Sounds good to me. The name won't matter, we have our man:

      Senator Disney.

      Read the following quote what we are going to do with him, all else is irrelevant:

      When the National Rifle Association, or the Christian Coalition or Emily's List, for that matter, want action on an issue, the strategists behind those well-run groups usually pick a smart fight with one or more of their key opponents. They target their resources to just those specific races, sometimes to just one race. Rather than give 200 politicians $1,000 each, the savviest PACs instead will spend $200,000 or more kicking the bejesus out of just one single office holder.
      • Re:I'm begging.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:42PM (#3391403) Homepage
        The problem is that Senator Disney's consituency is in South Carolina. We will never get enough critical mass together to threaten his lock on his voter base - not enough of the right demographic is there (and please, all 5 of you in Columbus and Charleston, don't take umbrage.)

        The person whose cage we should be rattling is in California. Dianne Feinstein. I'm a Democrat, yet I don't vote for her. She's generally vulnerable on civil liberties issues. If we could threaten her seat, it would make a lot of people sit up and take notice.

        • The person whose cage we should be rattling is in California. Dianne Feinstein.
          That's damn right. From 1997 to 2002, she raised $22,750 from Disney (4th contributor) and $18,100 from AOLTW (7th contributor). I think GeekPAC can raise much more than that. And throwing that money on his opponent would be a good complement to grassroot actions (grin). I don't like senators to be for sale, but so it is. Then why not just buy them ?

          disclaimer: I sent my check to GeekPAC two days ago, and I'm not even an american citizen. So what are you waiting for ?
        • His constituancy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Enry ( 630 )
          He's not representing the interests of SC. When I think "entertainment", SC doesn't come to mind first . Based on the money he's received and the interests he's put forward, he's more suited to represent CA.

          Perhaps he should move there and represent them.
        • We will never get enough critical mass together to threaten his lock on his voter base - not enough of the right demographic is there (and please, all 5 of you in Columbus and Charleston, don't take umbrage.)

          The problem isn't the lack of the right demographic, it's still just too much of the wrong kind of money. In case you haven't noticed, Myrtle Beach is like Vegas by the Sea without the gambling- bought and and built by the entertainment industry. From the House of Blues to Broadway at the Beach, they're all there. Myrtle Beach is fast eclipsing Columbia and Charleston as SC's major metropolis. If it's not the fastest growing city in the country, it's certainly one of them. There's big, big money there, and much more on the way- and it's all enemy money.

        • As one geek in CA, Feinstein (and Boxer, they are both 0wned by the RIAA and MPAA) is NOT getting my vote. My senatorial votes are going Libertarian the next time they stand for reelection. That way I don't dirty up my hands with the GOP nutcases and I still give my upraised middle finger to Valenti's Made (wo)Men.

          So much for moderating this thread...oh well...
          • Look, I like the Green party, and I even understand the Nader vote (although anyone who votes Green in the next Presidential election is an idiot - if the Bush victory isn't enough of a lesson in the nature of compromise, maybe the LePen victory should be), and you may like the Libertarians, but that's not what politics are about. Politics are realizing that there are lots of different groups of people with different interests, beliefs and goals, and that you have to unite with enough of them to win. Democracy is always about the lesser of evils, the art of compromise, and scratching-of-backs. By saying that you won't vote against the one person who could unseat Feinstein, you have neutered yourself politically. Because if Valenti's goons win, then your middle finger is meaningless. A threat to vote 3rd party is a threat to do nothing - it doesn't scare anybody.

            Personally, I believe that a Campbell would probably switch to the Dems once elected.

            • Re:I'm begging.... (Score:3, Insightful)

              by fwc ( 168330 )
              That is exactly the attitude which prevents anyone from the Green or Libertarian or any other third party from being elected. There are too many people out there who think there are really only two choices and are afraid to vote "outside of the box".

              I think the first thing we've got do do is to change our election system to something else where people can really vote their conscience instead of people voting such that "their vote can count".

              • It's not an attitude. It's a fact. If you really want to give 3rd parties a chance, you'll change the structure of the legislature and government to something on a European model. I used to vote Green. I've learned my lesson. I speak my conscience, but I vote for results. Consciences don't pass laws, elected officials do. And I realize that the majority of the population of this country does not share my beliefs. I can communicate them by a variety of channels, but frankly, most peoples' beliefs are the result of their interests as they perceive them, not just differences of opinion. (Is it any accident that laissez-faire economics are popular among the class of people who feel they have the most leverage in the job market? Unpopular among classes of people who do not?)
      • Now this is someting we all know. We've been on the receiving end through school so we should be able to dish it out.

        Now I can say look mom I learned someting in high school...I learned how to be a BULLY

    • ... please let's not call it the "Geek Lobby". Even if we use the term amongst ourselves, it just won't fly for the general public.

      Why not the "Geek Lobby"? If you look around society recently, you'll find that "geek" no longer has the negative connotations that it use to. Take, for example, Comedy Centrals boring game show "Beat the Geeks" (which should be called Pop-culture Trivia Extravaganza, I mean seriously, a South Park geek? C'mon... but I digress). The "geeks" are recognized as the experts they are. And aren't ridiculed. Call it Geek Pride, call it a social movement towards a technocratic society, but there's nothing wrong these days with the word "Geek". Be proud of what you are. Embrace your trackball. Tell your friends how quickly you reached the karma cap on slashdot. Go out into the sun with your pasty-white arms raised on high and cry out to the world "I AM GEEK...WATCH ME CODE". And let the world tremble...for we are coming.

    • please (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Please, please, can i spend all my karma to get this post at a score:10?

      "Geek" is just not a good word to describe this. Slashdot users use that word so often they forget *it means something totally different in the real world*. On slashdot, "geek" means "a person of an intellectual bent who is interested in science or computer esoterica, and open to internet subculture." That's JUST to slashdotters. To EVERYONE ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE, geek means "geek". You know, a perjorative term for a person who thinks they're really intelligent but has no social skills.

      This is a problem becuase the point of a geek lobby, or of the GeekPAC that they had those stories on a couple weeks ago, is to communicate to people who don't read slashdot and don't know what "source code" is and don't know what the slashdot definition of "geek" is. Thus, if a geek lobby cannot figure out how to communicate with "the norms" in their own language, it becomes absolutely pointless. Can ANYONE come up with a better name for this? Even "open source lobby" would be better, even though it doesn't quite cover the issues at hand, because it doesn't sound so.. geeky.

      "Open Computing Lobby"?
      "Computer End-user Forum"?
      "Copyright Fair Use PAC"?
      "Americans for Consumer Freedom"?

      It doesn't matter. All i know is that in my dictionary, "geek" is defined as "a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake". This is not how i want my political views being presented to society at large.
  • by Bowfinger ( 559430 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:41PM (#3391396)
    So when is Senator Hollings/Disney up for reelection, who is his opponent, and is he at all vulnerable? If he is, what's the address for a contribution?

    If even 5% of the geeks who are appalled by the SSSCA/CBDTPA sent a small check to Disney's opponent, we could turn the election. If we include a quick note explaining the contribution, our message will be loud and clear. Formal lobbying groups, public education campaigns, and all the other trappings are nice to have, but the fundamental force comes from lots of people putting their money where their hearts are.

    I think one key, however, is that Hollings must be vulnerable. If he has a token opponent, we should focus on someone else - key word being "one". Sending money to the opposing party, or to several candidates won't cut it at our level. Our pockets aren't deep enough, and we don't have enough of them.

    • What other people have hinted at, I'll say out loud: a Pacific Coast or New England Republican would be tolerable. A Bible Belt Republican would be just a step to the right of the Ayatollah. I'd rather have Mickey Mouse tattooed on my forehead than vote for the encroaching Theocracy.
  • Finally, a realist. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft ( 516230 ) <john.oyler@c[ ]ast.net ['omc' in gap]> on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:41PM (#3391398) Journal
    Still, I think this guy underestimates how easy/cheap it would be. I'd donate a few bucks to such a PAC, but I'm not rich. And if we all banded together somehow, and wanted to votefuck Hollings when he's up for re-election, could we win? Imagine that we somehow come up with enough cash to mount a decent tv ad campaign. We'd still be the new guys, and they would retaliate. Does anyone believe they are somehow above lying and namecalling?

    "These hippy anarchists, aren't even from your district. Yet they want to dictate to the good people of N. Carolina who you should vote for. They want to allow dirty thieves to steal movies and games from struggling artists, bankrupting them, and stealing from you in the long run. We can't tell you to do anything illegal, but by god, if we ever see them on the street alone at night..."

    Remember folks, if you pick on one of Hollywood's bought and paid for politicians, you are **picking on Hollywood**. There is no way that we could ever do political ads that are as slick, as decietful, and unfortunately, as effective as they could. They'd have Cher saying how she supports Senator Asswad, and we'd have some finnish geek saying something that Joe Sixpack doesn't understand, in an accent that annoys him.

    The system is broken, and can't fix itself. No matter how much we help it from the inside.
  • Emphatically Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by frost22 ( 115958 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:43PM (#3391409) Homepage
    Both the article as well as the slashdot poster hit the nail on the head.

    Do It ! Please !

    You would be amazed how good political muscle can work if applied this way.

    Just take someone and (politically) string him up! And don't take Hollings - as much tempting he is as a target he's far east of seventy and probably doesn't need (or even maybe doesnt seek) another term in the Senate. Take one of his allies instead. Get one who's prominent enough to be associated with Hollings' legislation, one who is young enough to loose something when booted out of Congress (The Never Come Back), but too old already to just shrug it off and do something else. Preferably have him (or her) squeal all over the place.

    In short, inflict maximum pain. Make the guy (or the lady) an example.

    It's an old principle of Germanic Law: Justice has to be seen.
    • I'd suggest Diane Feinstein. She's visible, noisy, and on the wrong side of the tech argument. (And IMO, her ultimate goal is to be President.)

      Like I pointed out in a similar discussion, the geek approach won't work, because geeks don't know how the system works. What WOULD work is hiring experienced lobbyists, who know all the rules and all the inside tricks.

  • by jvollmer ( 456588 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:44PM (#3391412)
    The NRA has been doing this for years and it works."

    Perhaps this is the key.

    Under some circumstances, exported computers are classified as munitions. Can't we simply apply the Second Amendment to assure our freedom to use computers as we see fit?
  • Preemptive post... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rothfuss ( 47480 )
    Will the person who is going to write "send real letters through the mail... do not email... do not fax... yadda, yadda" please shut up.

    Insert obvious anthrax analysis here.

    There, now that all of that is out of the way, please continue with other more lucid points.


    • Insert obvious anthrax analysis here.
      Do I have to be a full-on Conspiracy Nut to think that it's an interesting coincidence that the Anthrax
      Scare came along to make our elected representatives afraid to open mail from their constituents
      at the very time their kneejerk reaction would be to attack our liberties in the name of National Security?

      Fight Wide Posts! Put in your own line breaks. The <br> tag is your friend.

    • So fax the mofos!
  • 2002 targets (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rev Snow ( 21340 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:46PM (#3391424)
    Representative Adam Schiff of California.

    Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.

    They are the highest profile supporters of SSSCA who are facing election in 2002.

    • As another post already said, Stevens will be in office until he's ready to leave. He's been stealing your tax dollars for us for many years, and has so much power that we couldn't afford to get rid of him, even if most of us wanted to.

      Loosing our pork-barrel-power would decimate our economy. Worse than that, actually; I'm pretty sure that the Federal $s are more than 10% of the economy here. Stevens is always the first to point out that WHOEVER replaces him won't be able to bring home the bacon as effectively for many years.

      He is also a master at appealing to Alaskan voters. He knows how to fool enough of the people enough of the time, and there are plenty of single issue voters whose buttons he can push reliably.

    • Ted stevens has the biggest airport in the state named after him. He'd probably be harder to dislodge than hollings. I live in Alaska, btw.
    • Re:2002 targets (Score:3, Informative)

      by astroboy ( 1125 )
      Senator Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is widely considered to have a safe seat. While it's certainly worth keeping an eye on, especially given that the ANWR drilling, which he campaigned hard for, didn't survive the Senate, he is in pretty good shape -- he won with 77% of the vote last election, and already has about $1.4 million in the war chest for this election. you'll never guess where he got it [opensecrets.org]. There aren't any serious opponents.

      Schiff [opensecrets.org] is a more interesting possibility. He's a rookie representative, just come from the state senate. He won in 2000 largely by spending possibly more than anyone in US history on a House of Representatives election ($10 Million (search for Schiff) [ajc.org]). It's hard to say if he has a safe seat or not, since it's a new seat created by redistricting. Oh, and if you want another reason to dislike him, the guy he defeated went on to be chief of everyone's favourite gov't agency, The US patent office. [stlcu.com] It looks like Schiff will be facing Jim Scileppi [attbi.com], although you have to be skeptical of a political site hosted at attbi.com.

  • Vote Geek? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lothar+0 ( 444996 )
    It takes a fundamental shift in ideology by the masses, not a "whistlestop tour" of geeks going from one gathering to another where maybe 50 people at most will show up, for anything to take effect. People have to change their minds about capitalism and how it does not necessarily equate democracy, not just about the evils of the DMCA or [insert hated law here]. Otherwise, the RIAA and MPAA will simply invoke the "they're stealing our stuff" BS rhetoric because most Americans are convinced that intellectual property equates physical property in terms of stealing.

    Until the bigger issues are addressed, these concerns are always going to crop up in a public that has been taught to buy into the unexamined idea of corporate priviledge since birth.
    • capitalism? Corporate priviledge since birth?

      I grew up in the age of the Alien saga and grunge. No love of corporations there!

      As for capitalism? How is intellectual property a capitalistic tool? I'd figure government getting involved and creating monopolies of any kind (even copyright/patent) would be the opposite of capitalism.
  • Making Points Count (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:51PM (#3391464) Homepage Journal
    how to effectively make the point about online freedom of speech

    Everyone and their brother has free speech as an issue.

    What "geeks" need right now is to know how to make a point about the fact that:

    • This kind of stuff is exactly why I don't like the idea of a "geek" PAC... The second it gets a little money it's going to be hijacked into a labor union (i.e. someone you pay to tell you you can't work, protection-racket style).

      And that's the last thing I need.

      Benjamin Coates

      P.S. If you can't compete with the foreigners, it's time to get a new job.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:59PM (#3391508) Homepage
    Is the NRA is a properly run orginization that all the members are active in permoting it and following through with the beliefs and goals of the org.

    There is NO WAY IN HELL you can get geeks,dweebs,nerds and spaz's to agree on anything. Hell when it comes down to the wire the bulk of us are too damned lazy to even write a letter to our congressperson or a letter to the editor, let alone become an activist.

    and then you try and get geeks to pay dues... Hell they wont pay for a slashdot subscription (Me included) what makes anyone believe that anyone would pay the $150.00 a year dues that would be required?
    • I totally agree. Why not vote republican though. Not to get in a mud slining thing, but of all republicans I can think of In office except one or two, who are really wolfs in sheeps clothing, they atleast stand for something, not just for money, and at least work for the people who voted them into office... not just collect monies for possible relections all the time.

      But, Don't vote for the party, don't vote for some idiot's political ambition. Vote for what is right, for what is good, not just for your self, but for us all.
  • by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @08:59PM (#3391510) Journal
    I know that we're all supposed to be for reform and all, but didn't Senator McCain just make this tatic illegal?

    Get the special interest groups out of Washington!

    If GeekPAC were to target a single Senator for removal with political adverstising, like the columnist suggests, it would violate the 60-day rule in the new laws.

    Maybe those anti-Campaign Finance Reform people whining about free speech had a point after all. How does it feel to be a special interest?
    • Then run ads before the 60-day deadline, and give enough money to the oponent to run his own ads non-stop during the 60 days before the election...

      The deadline is to prevent last moment "non-campaign" ads from special interest groups after the candidate has run out of money...
  • by aoeuid ( 250239 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:11PM (#3391583)
    You know, it's kind of funny that I'm not even American, hardly follow American politics, and yet I still know who you mean when you refer to Senator Disney.....
  • The medium..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Stromfeldt ( 462230 )
    "They also wonder out loud why the $600 billion-a-year information-technology sector is letting itself get pushed around by the $20 billion-a-year entertainment industry.
    The answer to that question seems pretty obvious. The IT industry is getting pushed around because it isn't pushing back."

    That's such a ridiculous answer. It isn't even an answer and more of a cop out. It's like saying X is getting beat up by Y because X isn't fighting back. It's not stating why this could and is happening.

    Who imposes greater control over people? Computers or the actual medium (entertainment industry)? Computers are the messenger, but it's the message that people are affected by, and why the entertainment industry is a much more important asset. This is how the people are influenced and controlled.

    A good book to read (if you haven't) is "Manufacturing Consent" by Noam Chomsky and ___.

    And as a side note, I think today happens to be the first day of TV Turn off week: http://www.adbusters.org
    • A good book to read (if you haven't) is "Manufacturing Consent" by Noam Chomsky and ___.

      I'm sorry, but i've yet to see a recommendation for this book that didn't come off as terribly conceited... "The media controls everything everyone thinks! Well, not everyone, just, you know, everyone else..."

      Seriously, if the media mind control works that well, why doesn't it work on you?

      Benjamin Coates
  • by Beliskner ( 566513 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:15PM (#3391615) Homepage
    We need a precedent that specifically extends Bill of Rights Free Speech protections to computers.

    Current state:

    1. Physically shouting at people - Free Speech.
    2. Talking over the Phone - Free Speech (correct me if I'm wrong)?
    3. IM, IRC, email - in dispute
    4. Website links - apparently Free Speech (but see 5. wtf?)
    5. Links to sites local+offshore sites breaching laws e.g. DMCA(DeCSS), child porno, goatse.cx deep-linking-to-acertain-JPG (any deep links), Al-Qaeda Jihad Manual of Terror
    6. cgi links (e.g. google.com/cgi-bin&query=slashdot+foo+CowboyNeal+i s+wooly+mammoth) - not necessarily Free Speech.
    4. Code C++, Java - NOT Free Speech, they are direct/indirect instructions to CPU to perform data manipulations.
    6. Books? If books are Free Speech, then what if that book is typed on a computer, is it then not free speech? Under 3,4,5,6 it might no longer be. If what you type on a computer is Free Speech, then great. But what about typing C++, why is that not free speech then? What is the difference then between writing a book in English, and speech recognition? If I use voice recognition to code C++ then my Free Speech is protected, but when does it suddenly become "computer instructions" and therefore DMCA-protected? Can heavily commented code pass off as English and therefore be Free Speech protected?

    • Wow, your numbers jumped around a little there. Concerning the second 4:

      4. Code C++, Java - NOT Free Speech, they are direct/indirect instructions to CPU to perform data manipulations.

      I've been wondering, if source code is not expressive, how can it be copyrightable? I'm not even talking about object code, which is blatantly not anything that a human can understand. How is it that source even falls under copyright law if it is not 'speech'?
  • Voting records (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:41PM (#3391788) Homepage Journal
    If I wanted to research my Congressmen's voting record on Geek-centric issues, I'd have to do quite a bit of work.

    Does anyone keep just lists of the Bills, voting records, etc. on these issues? Opensecrets.org [opensecrets.org] does this for their issues, and Common Cause [commoncause.org] publicizes voting record for their issues, but I haven't seen anything like this for Geek issues.

    Perhaps the EFF would do something like this, but I didn't find it on their Web site. Well, they are probably open to suggestions, especially with a contribution in the envelope!

  • by SysKoll ( 48967 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @10:08PM (#3391964)
    On the other hand if, for example, Senator Disney gets his balls whacked (electorally-speaking), monstrosities like the DMCA will start getting bottled up in congressional committees. The NRA has been doing this for years and it works.

    Funny, I was just watching TV when I came accross that post. The AIPAC is dining and wining Washington's political elite at the Hilton tonight and various pols are brownnosing their generous sponsor so hard they are growing warts on their nose.

    (Note for non-US readers: AIPAC is the pro-Israel lobby dropping millions of soft-money every year onto grateful Congresscritters to influence the US foreign policy.)

    The AIPAC is one of the most efficient lobbies in the world. I think we geeks should find inspiration in its mode of operation:

    • They carpet-bomb a few influent commission members with fat checks
    • Then they run press campaigns against election candidates who rub them the wrong way.

    And you know what? It WORKS. Nobody in their right mind ever speaks against AIPAC in Washington.

    Carrots and big sticks. That's the way to deal with Congress. Collateral damages include democracy and ethics, but nobody said politics was pretty.

    If we want to nip the SSSCA insanity in the bud, we geeks have to forget about the artificial political divisions and make sure Mickey Hollings gets his testicles shoved up his big mouth at the next election. Whether his adversary is Ralph Nader or Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant, Hollings has to get his fat ass kicked and painted with "who's next?" in day-glow paint.

    If we don't do that, we developers might as well try to find a job as a data entry clerk at the MPAA's headquaters, because life as a software creator is going to suck.

    -- SysKoll
  • Consortium

    Visit the GeekPac [thelinuxshow.com] homepage on the Linux Show. Right now it appears they can only accept pledges, as they are not yet legally setup to solict funds. They have both memberships and donations.

    From the website:
    GeekPAC is the second proposed entity and is intended as a funding channel to directly affect the outcome of elections and legislation. The actions of GeekPAC will include (but not be limited to) the purchase of political advertising that may impact the outcome of elections or legislation and direct lobbying to congress, including the hiring of lobbyists to represent members. Further actions may include contributing directly to political campaigns of people seeking local, state or national office. GeekPAC will be a registered Political Action Committee (PAC). Under McCann-Feingold, GeekPAC will not be able to accept donations from businesses or foreign nationals. Contributions will not be tax-deductible.
  • by tony clifton ( 134762 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @10:39PM (#3392110)
    Dianne Feinstein was up for re-election in 2000. Despite being from San Francisco, she's probably one of the least friendly congresspeople towards technology and the internet. Her opponent was Tom Campbell, an imminently sensible pro-technology Republican. He got his clock cleaned.

    Since Feinstein's up in 2006, I'd volunteer Boxer in 2004. There's plenty of time, she's in favor of the Hollings bill, and she's a perrenially weak candidate. If the California Republicans would re-run Campbell, or someone else similar from Silicon Valley, it's be a great way of getting our voices heard.

    Is there a similarly weak Republican?

  • The author is right-right-right-right-right.

    When power is evenly split, as it is now, coalition politics come to the fore and relatively small groups -- if focused -- can make big gains.

    This is where the NRA and AARP shine. They know how to focus on the issues that matter to them. As it stands today, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have demonstrated any particular warmth to digital rights issues. Carefully targetted efforts that endanger the balance of power could generate major wins.

    Remember: all of those dollars that corporations spend aren't powerful because they're dollars, but because they help to generate votes, which politicians need if they are to retain power. Well-focused and well-targetted campaigns can get attention all out of proportion to the resources involved if they will be backed up by people going to the polls.

    That will be the real trick, given the basic cynicism of so many in the techi spectrum.
  • Overall, the article was very good. But, unless I missed something, he was wrong about the Hollings' Bill mandating Microsoft.

    What really has the GeekPAC founders steamed, though, is Hollings' most recent entertainment-industry-backed proposal, which would mandate that all future home-entertainment electronic devices and computers contain "rights management" technology patented by Microsoft.

    As far as I know, the content restriction method is not developed yet (one of the huge gaping problems with the legislation).
  • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @01:38AM (#3392754) Journal
    If I recall correctly, aren't there some quarter million people who read /. daily? Many of us are computer professionals and would have no problem (at least from a financial standpoint) giving a couple hundred dollars a year or so to a responsible group who could organize and push forward with lobbying to our benefit. Assuming less one in twenty gave an average $100, you could be looking at over $1,000,000 ($100 * 10,000 people) per year. I should think this would be plenty for a small staff to maintain a single focal point where everyone concerned about their rights can keep up to date and can be informed about how to help with an organized fight to ensure our continued freedoms.

    As corny as that sounds, look at what we're facing. The DMCA, the SSSCA, they exist for one reason: money. Being elected is a great way to get rich quickly, so these people will do anything they have to to ensure they're re-elected. Attacking people like Hollings with a million dollar+ annual budget would certainly make a point. The Senator from Disney would have one heck of a time getting elected if negative adds were running non-stop for the last few weeks before the next election. When you can take down the big boys, the small fish learn quickly to sit down and shut up, and do as they're told.

    With all the high tech people that are out of work right now, I'm sure some must be reading this who have some sort of campaign/government experience who can set this up. Show me a responsible, organized effort to put a PAC together and I'll not only join and donate, I'll do everything I can to make sure other people do as well.

  • by crucini ( 98210 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @01:57AM (#3392851)
    As soon as I saw the name "GeekPAC" I shuddered. It seems like geeks are cursed with an utter lack of communication skills - which means that they have never really observed how communication works. The name "GeekPAC" does not connote a benevolent, respectable organization speaking for computer professionals or users. Imagine if the NRA were called "GunPAC" or "GatPAC" or "PAC'n heat". The message is obviously targeted for internal consumption, and the founders seem unable to look at themselves from the viewpoint of a normal person.

    Plotkin is right - the scheme of spraying small amounts of money around randomly is not going to work. As he points out, the winning strategy is deterrence - we make an example of one legislator, and thereby get the attention of the rest.

    Ever watch a movie and find yourself wanting the bad guy to win, just because the good guy was such an ass? That's how I'm starting to feel about this "geeks vs. entertainment industry" war. I think I first felt this when geeks were protesting something (maybe the Microsoft EULA?) and a few of them showed up in Star Wars costumes. Naturally, that's what the media covered. This "GeekPAC" looks like a great way to shoot ourselves in the foot more publicly and more expensively than usual. These guys are about as competent to wage a political battle as the average lobbyist would be to admin a farm of web servers.

    The core idea is sound, of course. If computing is going to survive, we have to start paying tribute to Congress. It's that simple. Doctors pay $700 a year to the AMA, essentially to ward of legislation that would destroy their profession.

    I hope that the inevitable humiliating failure of this "GeekPAC" will not discourage geeks from seeking political representation.
  • What bothers me the most about this article is that it makes tremendous sense. Using the proven intimidation tactics of groups like right-wing Christians does make sense. Kicking a few carefully targeted politicians out of office would be a good way to get their colleagues' attention.

    What's sad is that the bought and paid for nature of government in America is such an accepted fact nowadays. Apparently we finally woke up and smelled the coffee, but then all we did was order biscotti to go with it. Plotkin is suggesting throwing it right in some senator's face instead, and I think that's a hell of a good idea. I hope somebody at GeekPAC is listening to him.
  • Take one out (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @10:01AM (#3394248) Homepage

    Instead, to stem the tide, GeekPAC, or some other similar organization, needs to make an example out of someone in Congress, and do it quick. When the National Rifle Association, or the Christian Coalition or Emily's List, for that matter, want action on an issue, the strategists behind those well-run groups usually pick a smart fight with one or more of their key opponents. They target their resources to just those specific races, sometimes to just one race. Rather than give 200 politicians $1,000 each, the savviest PACs instead will spend $200,000 or more kicking the bejesus out of just one single office holder.

    I say Diane Feinstein. She'd be a great one to be made an example because she's thought of as such a leader in Congress on this stuff.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson