Stop SOPA/PIPA

I’ve been busy with work, but I’ve been keeping my eye on the news. Politics have always been a bit…screwy. I’m not sure if they’re getting more screwier or I’m becoming more aware of what’s going on. – maybe just more cynical.

Representative Lamar Smith and Senator Patrick Leahy now joins the ranks of former Senator Ted Stevens1 in Internet Hall of Shame with his further bastardization of the copyright clause2 with their introduction of SOPA and PIPA

I’ve long rallied against the MPAA, RIAA, and their cronies, and for copyright reform (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

SOPA/PIPA is yet another horrible piece of legislation in a growing list of legislation unscrupulously backed by large corporations, and the Supreme Courts expansion of “corporate personhood” in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission doesn’t help either.

It expands the reach of copyright in ways that are detrimental to the very purpose of the copyrights, in particular by hindering the promotion of useful arts. And all this is done at the behest of corporations who, essentially, bribe politicians.

Even more unfortunate, the politicians writing these pieces of legislation — or at least responsible for introducing them, I have no idea if they actually write them — have no idea of the technical ramifications of what they are doing. Would you trust your Congressman to perform surgery on you? There are actually 18 medical doctors3, so you have about a 3.4% chance of standing a chance, but I think in general the answer would be no.

When it comes to technical issues though, of the 535 members of congress, one is a physicist, one is a chemist, six are engineers, and one is a microbiologist4. This is not to say that other members of congress may not be tech savvy, but with the average age of a congressman pushing 60, I’m guessing not so much. Of the 12 original co-sponsors of SOPA, not one has a technical background.

Surely the United States House Science Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, the subcommittee through with SOPA passed, has some technical experts. Nope. Not a single engineer or anyone with experience (as far as I could tell) in computer science. I would expect that people making the such decisions have, you know, actual expertise in those areas — a technocracy.

Anyway, I have poked around the SOPA legislation, and read many different analysis on it. I also do have an engineering degree. And so I feel very confident in saying that SOPA/PIPA is a bad idea from a technological standpoint. I also think’s it’s pretty bad from an overbearing-copyright standpoint, but that’s my personal bias.

In response to what SOPA/PIPA will do to the Internet if passed, I am joining other sites5 to protest SOPA and PIPA and will black out AFdN for all of Wednesday, January 18th, 2012. Any attempts to access AFdN will result in a HTTP 503 Service Unavailable error.

Seriously though, if SOPA/PIPA passes, I may have to take down AFdN lest I avoid getting sued. That’s a bridge I hope to never have to cross. In the meantime, take some time to educate yourself on how the internet works. Ask questions and I’ll try to answer them. And maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference.

Also, while I currently use GoDaddy as my domain name registrar, they supported SOPA and thus I will no longer support them. I’ll have another post on that in the future.

Some, but not all, interesting links:
Everything is a Remix
SOPA Infographic
House takes Senate’s bad Internet censorship bill, tries making it worse
Contact your congressman
Sopa 101: a guide to the USA’s proposed anti-piracy legislation
IP Law Wiki
Stanford Law Review: Don’t Break the Internet

Shit, I used Wikipedia about ten times to look up references for this post. Oh well, see you all Thursday!


  1. “And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.” 

  2. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” 

  3. Membership of the 112th Congress: A Profile 

  4. Membership of the 112th Congress: A Profile 

  5. such as Wikipedia, WordPress, reddit, Google, and BoingBoing 

Ignorance

I recently received an email from someone. I’m not going to say whom; and if this person happens to read my blog: I’m not trying to point you out or pick on you. Promise.

The email essential asked me to sign an online petition to make Obama prove that he’s an American.

The above mentioned website states, in part, that:

There are numerous questions as to Obama’s citizen status raising suspicion and doubt about Obama constitutional qualification to be president. To settle these questions Mr. Obama must produce proof of citizenship!

It is reasonable that these documents should be produced considering that his father is Kenyan, his adoptive father is Indonesian, and his grandmother claims to have been present at his birth in Kenya. If he is a natural born citizen then producing these documents should not be any problem.

I’m not quite where to start on this one. I don’t know if this petition is being passed around because Obama is black or because people were upset John McCain didn’t get elected. Either way, it should not matter. Low-blow tactics like this are lame, ineffective, and divisive.

Just before the election, I heard of cases (and even received a text message) that said that due to the amount of people wanting to vote in this election, people wanting to vote for Barack Obama should vote on Wednesday, November 5th. I also saw a similar tactic used to ask McCain supporters vote the day after the election as well.

Now, I’m not a lawyer (IANAL), but I would suspect that making statements to that effect are illegal. If they’re not illegal now, I bet they soon will be. And in any case, I have incredible disdain for anyone who would post, publish, transmit, etc such a message. Like I said before, low-blow tactics like this are lame, ineffective, and divisive.

So, in my ongoing mission to quash ignorance and I typed up a rather lengthy email and sent it back to this person. I now present to you an edieted version of my response:

I’m concerned by your potential motives and you lack of research. I suspect that you are not in favor of Barack Obama being elected President, which is fine. I’m not here to debate politics. What causes me concern is that you are willing to spread rumors or even lies because you do not favor Obama and without doing any research of the facts.

Now, let me stop for a second. Those are some serious charges that I’ve levied against you and I make them based on indirect evidence. It is easily within the realm of possibility that my allegations against you are false. If they are, it’s important that you let me know so that I can correct the record and apologize.

My request is that the next time you want to forward something, especially something as potentially divisive as claiming Obama may not be an American Citizen, I would strongly urge you to research the facts. Ignorance is a dangerous thing and I would encourage you to always seek the truth. Always.

Now, you would probably not be receiving this email if, in fact, the allegations held truth. However, they don’t. Here are a few links from reputable sources that I believe prove that President-Elect Obama is an American Citizen.

The first place I like to check is Wikipedia. And Wikipedia does confirm that that Obama was born in Hawaii: “Barack Obama was born at the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu, Hawaii,[1] to Barack Obama, Sr., a Luo from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Nyanza Province, Kenya, and Ann Dunham, a white American from Wichita, Kansas[2] of mainly English, Irish and smaller amounts of German descent.[3][4][5]” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama#Early_life_and_career)

However, Wikipedia, by itself, should not be considered an authoritative source. That is to say, just because Wikipedia says Obama is an American citizen doesn’t mean that he actually is. Fortunately, Wikipedia provides sources for their information. The [1] link refers to an article in the Washington Post, “Before crossing the overpass above the H1 freeway, where traffic zoomed east to body-surfing beaches or west to the airport and Pearl Harbor, he passed Kapiolani Medical Center, walking below the hospital room where he was born on Aug. 4, 1961.” (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/23/AR2008082301620_pf.html)

More research leads to confirmation of these facts by the LA Times, “Well, the folks at FactCheck.org say they have seen the certificate, touched and vouched it — Obama is as American as baseball, apple pie and, these days, burritos, pasta and kung pao chicken.” (Source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/08/mystery-solved.html) and provide an image of the actual birth certificate (Source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/06/obama-birth.html)

The aforementioned FactCheck.org writes, “The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31 that Obama was born in Honolulu.” (Source: http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html)

The Associated Press confirms all of the above:
“State officials say there’s no doubt Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Health Department Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said Friday she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama’s original birth certificate.” (Source: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iw1At-4G1xuE50oXVFRlBPfR3dqgD945OLU00)

I could probably continue to find proof of Obama’s American citizenship until the cows come home. But I think you get the point.

And lest you think that this entire email is from an overzealous Obama supporter, I did not vote for Barack Obama….although I have no way of proving that to you 😉

–End email–

So, let’s recap. Hawaii became a state in 19591. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. Barack Obama is, under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, eligible for Presidency. If you have a problem with this, feel free to make “a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.”2))3.))

Please tell me I’m not alone in my thoughts.


  1. I didn’t actually state this fact in my argument since I assume it’s an easily confirmable fact that is not subject to interpretation. 

  2. (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5 

  3. My point is not that you should renounce your citizenship because you don’t want Barack Obama to be President. My point is that you might consider renouncing your citizenship if you don’t want to play by the rules ((Staples, I’m suspecting you’ll want to argue this point. 

Unsolved Problems

Alright team, let’s get cracking:

From www.kottke.org:

Another Wikipedia gem: a list of unsolved problems from a number of different fields, including linguistics, physics, and computer science. (via lone gunman)

I think my favorite problem deals with the existence of one-way functions, also called hash functions1:

From en.wikipedia.org:

Description
One-way functions are easy to compute but hard to invert. Although there are several candidates for which no good (i.e. quick) reverse algorithms are currently known, it hasn’t yet been proven that any function exists for which no such reverse algorithms exist.
Importance
If one-way functions do not exist then public key cryptography is impossible. Their existence would imply that many complexity classes are not learnable, and that P≠NP.
Conjecture
It is assumed but unproven that they do exist. Several encryption systems are based on the assumption that modular exponentiation is a one-way function.

1 Kind of. Hash functions usually return a value of fixed length, which precludes them from being true one-way functions.

Other Properties of Prussian Blue

As told by Wikipedia:
From en.wikipedia.org:

  • It is electrochromic-changing from blue to colorless upon reduction. This change is caused by reduction of the Fe(III) to Fe(II) eliminating the intervalence charge transfer that causes PB’s blue color.
  • It undergoes spin-crossover behavior. Upon exposure to visible light the Fe(III) centers change from low spin to high spin. This spin transition also changes the magnetic coupling between the Fe atoms, making PB one of the few known classes of material that has a magnetic response to light.

Despite the presence of the cyanide ion, PB is not especially toxic because the cyanide groups are tightly bound.

As a note, the chemical formula of Prussian Blue is Fe7(CN)18(H2O)x where 14 ≤ x ≤ 16. Cyanide is the CN part.

I was able to find out this relatively useless, albeit interesting, information due to a flaw in Wikipedia that allows one to wonder through the system aimlessly.

I had watched and then was reading up on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Thine Own Self” on Memory-Alpha which links to the Goiânia accident which links to Prussian Blue.