Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2011

If Money Equals Speech, Both Must Be Distributed

Given the recent Occupation evictions (and returns!) and the associated reports of police brutality (UC Davis, I'm looking at you), a few thoughts about rights and liberal democracy have been steeping in my mind. There is some symbolic merit in the rights to religious freedom, free speech, a free press, and free associated being collected at the beginning of the Bill of Rights. While I'm no Constitutional scholar, I cannot readily explain the historical reasons behind the composition and ordering of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. I do recall that the Bill of Rights formed a package of compromises, things that the colonies demanded be added to the Constitution before ratifying it. As that is the case, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Bill of Rights consists of some non-organizational necessary conditions for a liberal democracy. Let me give an example using the First Amendment rights.
The freedom from state religion or “religious tests” is crucial fo…

The Intellectual Property Arms Race

Among the many hot news items is this week is Congress's consideration of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that would give private copyright holders sweeping enforcement powers. The details of the bill can be found in a variety of places (Wikipedia, as usual, has an excellent summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act ). Since I've written a dissertation around the argument for copyright reform in exactly the opposite direction of current trends in Intellectual Property law, I thought long and hard about exactly how to weigh in on this issue. Before providing my own opinion, let's be clear about some of the more problematic provisions of the bill.
For one, SOPA would make websites responsible for enforcing copyright infringements on user-uploaded content. In effect, social websites would then be liable for failure to enforce, so those sites that have become the backbone of the internet for many people will either have to institute draconian content-regul…

New Orleans: Occupied

Today, I spent my lunch hour at the local Occupy New Orleans encampment. The movement has established their tent city, perhaps more like a village, at Duncan Plaza, across the street from city hall. As a political philosopher and a sympathizer, I wanted to finally make way out to the front line as it has manifested here, to talk to some folks, find out what has motivated them, what they are doing, and talk about what challenges they are facing.
I was only there for an hour, but I walked through the entire camp. Being New Orleans, a city that we locals know for its apathy and cynicism, I didn't find myself surprised at the low turnout. In addition to the ones directly involved in the action, many homeless have camped out there since the NOPD cleared the homeless encampment from their camp under the overpass at Oretha Castle Haley and Calliope. I spoke to a few groups of people, some making signs, some picking up stakes to join the occupation on Wall Street, and some digging in and…