I Have Pointy Hats to Sell

I’m in the middle of an application I hope to roll out tomorrow if the pieces fall into place. I’m pushing up the publication date to celebrate all the Web 2.0 activity this week (both Yahoo and Google released map APIs today in honor of the Where 2.0 conference. I imagine the MSN folks are burning the midnight oil). However, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my new business: selling tinfoil hats to webloggers.

I already have the ideal domain: Tinfoil Project. Strange name for a photo weblog, but not bad for selling tinfoil hats, eh? And I think the market is ripe for this type of business. I mean, now that the US has become a fascist empire, it’s only a matter of time before The Party, mind-reading ray guns in hand, goes after webloggers who host their sites on US servers.

Consider the recent concerns about Flickr moving its data centers from Canada to the US. A free citizen of Canada, Tris Hussey, writes:

In the States civil liberties are truly a farce and a sham. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and compel Yahoo/Flickr to open up the data doors to them on the basis of “national security” or that a “person of interest” has photos there. They don’t need a warrant. Yahoo/Flickr will not be able by law to inform you that this has happened, going to happen, etc.

And it goes beyond this. Given the right-wing politics of the day, how long will it be before Yahoo is forced to close or restrict the tags “nude” and “erotic”? This would not happen in Canada.

The U.S. has become a country where law enforcement, the people supposed to be protecting our rights, can enter your home, without a warrant or you present, search it, take evidence, close it up, and not reveal this to you. You can be held without charges, access to a lawyer, or outside communications.

I’m sure that Osama Bin Laden will close his Flickr account before the data center move is finished. But just in case he doesn’t, he should be aware that his photos, residing in data centers in California, are subject to arrest by the Department of Homeland Security.

And too bad about Penthouse–those DHS-sanctioned drapes play havoc with the photos. The new Republican Greasemonkey script, which pastes cute little tape X’s over nipples in bare breast photos is kind of cool. However, I don’t know that I agree that Howard Dean’s face looks like a nipple.

Wait! Wait! Who’s that at the door! Oh sure he says pizza man, but how do I know he’s who he says he is? Does he have a digital ID? Where’s his InfoCard?

Sigh, it’s tough to be a blogger in the US.

Damn! That sounds like a song:

My baby done left me
She walked out the door.
She’s leaving the country
Won’t be here any more

Oh I’m just a US Blogger, and I’m feeling so blue.
Yes, I’m just a US Blogger, and don’t know what to do.
The world thinks we’re crap, and the government agrees.
I’m just a US Blogger, a global disease.

Of course, as Ben Hammersley has said, thank goodness the States isn’t the Net.

We don’t need to explain what the internet is, or what the funny “http://” thing at the bottom of the article means. Even the BBC can confidently state “for more on this, go to bbc dot c.o. dot u.k. slash radio four” and not have to explain just what the hell it’s talking about. In less than a decade, this is an incredible change.

But now we need to add a new clause. There’s something missing from sentences that needs to be replaced, lest we all get the wrong idea. That clause is “in the US”.

Almost every story, written in the past few days about the Grokster case have missed this clause out. So, filesharing applications are now liable to new legal contraints. Yes. In the US. Not here. Not in China. Not in India. Not across the majority of the world. The Supreme Court of the United States of America may have made a silly ruling, or it may not, but it did it in the US. Last we checked, their bailiwick doesn’t extend outside of the fifty states.

Tell me something, Ben. You ever tried to wax the floor of an elephant cage? With the elephant still in it?

I mean no disrespect to either Tris or Ben, truly I don’t. We in the States are all too aware of the precarious nature of many of our freedoms. I am ashamed of what we have done in Iraq, and horrified about what we’re doing in Cuba. Within the country, we frisk visitors in our airports, keep brain dead women alive and 13 year olds pregnant, monitor folks who check out certain books, and hassle photographers on bridges. Word has it with the new ruling on the Ten Commandments, some church groups are collecting money to put monuments everywhere. Soon we’ll be neck deep in cheesy, mass produced, ugly as sin monuments to Christianity; monuments, ignored as quickly and completely as Sunday sermons are ignored come Monday.

(Of course, more money on monuments means less money to give to politicians so every dog has his day.)

Our fight to maintain our freedoms, though, is hard enough without having to battle hyperbole on top of it. If it’s too dangerous to move Flickr photo databases to the States, do we now remove all data centers for all technology out of the country? Not just data centers: file sharing applications, too. Of course, as I wrote long time ago, the fact that the software is created in another country doesn’t matter once its effects cross borders. After all, P2P file sharing works by placing files on intermediate machines in response to requests. This means that at any point in time, your box could be hosting who knows what: copyrighted movies, nude pictures, illegally copied music, or the plans for an invasion of Pittsburgh.

What do we do then? Or since we’re talking ‘borders’ here, and I’m just a US blogger– what should you all do? Consider the US damage and route around us? Might be hard to reach Foo Camp, Ben. And Tris: what’s the French Canadian word for ‘Gnomedex’?

If this all were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun. At any time, any number of countries will come up with any number of rules and regulations and laws and walls; some might even make sense but knowing governments most will be silly if not downright oppressive. All we can do is do what we’ve always done: the best we can. Yes, even we poor old sods in the States.

We can’t start putting borders on the internet. What impacts one of us, impacts all of us.

(Link to Tris thanks to Suw, thanks to jr. Link to Ben thanks to Julian and Euan.)

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8 Responses to I Have Pointy Hats to Sell

  1. jerome says:

    Shelley, I must have missed your point. You don’t agree with what your government is doing but it’s not an outsider’s place to comment?

    People around the world are tired of listening to Americans sing the praises of freedom and democracy while their elected representatives continue to limit those freedoms. And pressure other countries to follow suit. The elephant is not alone in the cage, after all.

    I’m used to qualifying things as being “in Canada”. What’s the big deal with adding “in the US”?

    P.S. «Gnomedex» – but we say it with more panache.

  2. mobile jones says:

    Here’s a fun development as a result of the “eminent domain” ruling from the SCOTUS. A hotel developer plans to seek the seizure of Justice Souter’s residence to build The Lost Liberty Hotel. Appearing on a morning news show today the developer, Logan Darrow Clements, said that when it comes to the property owned by other Justices voting in the majority, “a chain of hotels is possible.”

    Justice Souter’s vote in the “Kelo vs. City of New London” decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

    On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter’s home.

    Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

    The proposed development, called “The Lost Liberty Hotel” will feature the “Just Desserts Café” and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon’s Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

    Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

    “This is not a prank” said Clements, “The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development.”

    The Lost Liberty Hotel Press Release.

  3. jcwinnie says:

    I’m in line… I just hope the person in front of me isn’t someone who thinks they understand Marshall McLuhan.

  4. mobile jones says:

    Jerome, the point is you, I or Shelley aren’t outsiders. Ben’s intent to isolate by using language to erect “borders” isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

    There was a comment on Ben’s post that “Europe” created the web, Linux and Skype. What’s the purpose in pointing out the country of residence for a developer? Linus lived in Europe when he began to contribute to Linux which btw didn’t originate with him. Subsequently, he moved to the US to work with Transmeta. So, are his creations at Transmeta now US inventions? It doesn’t matter where he lived. What matters is what he accomplished.

    Fortunately, only the talking heads of cyberspace care much about such trivia. The developers from around the world who have and continue to contribute to software projects share their work across land based borders. There was a time when cyber citizens considered themselves free of the constraints of governments and by doing so could collaborate in ways their governments would never have facilitated or condoned.

    Ben and those who agree with him can say that the net isn’t the US, but there’s no net without all of us. The net is successful in spite of borders not because of them. Dividing the individuals who participate and contribute by borders is dangerous business. It really misses the point of all of this.

  5. Scott Reynen says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure what your point is either. I’m all about tinfoil hats purely for fasion, but you seem to be vaguely implying that we’ve all become paranoid, without actually addressing whether or not that paranoia is justified. Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” seems appropriate:

    “Come on people now, smile on your brother,
    everybody get together,
    try to love one another right now…”

    When I was an alien, cultures weren’t opinions

    Gotta find a way to find a way when I’m there
    Gotta find a way – a better way – I had better wait

    Never met a wise man,
    if so it’s a woman

    “Just because you’re paranoid
    Doesn’t mean they’re not after you.”

  6. That’s not my point at all. My point was just that people talking about the sky falling in fail to remember it’s only falling in over there. In many places, perhaps most, it isn’t. Developers are going about there business, cultures are growing, new ways of thinking and working and, hell why not, sharing music are springing up, unencumbered by US law. It’s just never reported like that.

    Now if you guys want to pull the sky down on top of yourselves, go for it, but don’t assume that everyone else will do the same. The Western world’s rivals, for want of a better term, certainly won’t.

  7. Shelley says:

    Ben, I agree that the sky is not falling in with the Supreme decision–but I don’t believe it’s falling in ‘over here’, as well as ‘over there’.

    As for laws in one country having little impact on the overall internet experience for other countries, because what happens ‘over here’ doesn’t impact ‘over there’, aren’t you forgetting the nature of the internet? It doesn’t stop at the border of each country, so that what happens to a people in one country doesn’t impact on people in another.

    The Chinese are blocked from using certain words, but it doesn’t matter because it happens ‘over there’.

    UAE members are blocked from Flickr access, but it doesn’t matter because it happened ‘over there’.

    Iranian women are jailed for what they write in their weblogs, but it doesn’t matter because it happens ‘over there’.

    File sharing applications are development in the West Indies, but some kid in Seattle gets busted when a song ends up on his computer because he uses the software — but this doesn’t matter, because it happens ‘over here’.

    In a physical sense, though, what you’re saying is correct. What happens in laws ‘over here’ doesn’t really have to impact on you, ‘over there’.

  8. Shelley says:

    Jerome, I did want to also mention that your statement on saying gnomedex with more panache cracked me up.

    Scott, so can I put you down for a hat? They’re cool. And the business will help me keep myself in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed: desperate, hungry, worried.

    Just joshin’