Constitution 2.0

April 2, 2007

Ed Foster should leave Info World and do political satire full time:


You, the people of the United States of America (herein referred to as “You”), in order to form a more perfect union with your Government (herein referred to as “Government” or “We”), do agree to be bound by the terms of this Constitution. If you do not agree to the terms of this Constitution, do not use any Government services, including but not limited to justice, domestic tranquility, the common defense, the general welfare, the blessings of liberty for you and your posterity, and/or residence in the United States of America.

Article I. You agree that all legislative, executive, judicial, and other powers shall be vested in the Government. The times, places, and manner of selecting Government officials will be determined by the Government. We may at any time make or alter such regulations, rules, or laws and shall have the power to appoint or remove officials as We deem appropriate.

Article II. You agree that your access to services We provide may be terminated immediately without notice on the sole and absolute discretion of the Government if you fail to comply with any term or provision of this Constitution. Upon termination, you must immediately cease to make use of all Government services including but not limited to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You agree that treason, copyright infringement, and other high crimes and misdemeanors shall be punishable by death, bill of attainder for corruption of blood, and other penalties as the Government may direct. []

What’s great about Ed characterization, here, is that it points up exactly how it is that we let this happen. I know a lot of commentators drag out that tired old saw from Franklin about people who sacrifice liberty for temporary security deserving neither, and I don’t entirely disagree. But I think Foster’s closer to the truth, here. It’s not about being scared, or actually believing that the current government’s policies actually foster security. I think even the most vocal elements of the Right have finally admitted that this administration’s policies have systematically made Americans less secure, both at home and abroad. The real problem is that we’ve become so used to signing away our rights without even reading the fine print that it’s ceased to bother us.


On the road this week, and not looking forward to heading home. I’ve tried to ignore as much of the news as I can–the little bit I get in the gym in the morning is perennially the Fox experience, complete with Ads to send money to support Israel in its “time of need”. The first time I saw one, I thought it was a sick joke, or that it might turn into a commercial for the Colbert Report or the Daily Show. But no, they’re real. Horribly, terrifyingly real. I swear, every time I watch Fox, I feel like a worse human being. I’ll give them credit, though, even they have been questioning the current police state, which is scary. If even the White House’s unofficial press office is wondering out loud if our civil liberties are being trampled, it’s even worse than I thought. At this point, I think I’ve moved past anger to sadness. Sadness that we have an administration this desperate to make our lives less safe and secure, this desperate to create a crisis mentality in everyone that will aloow them to grab a few more scraps of useless power. It’s difficult anymore to even blame it on greediness or personal gain. What’s to be gained from dehydrating travelers? At this point it seems to be pure pathology. What’s even sadder is that they are willing to endanger people’s lives to feed their mania. In order for this latest ploy to work, they needed the big news story, so the whole time there was a real danger to travelers, they did nothing. They waited until the arrests were made and the danger past to use the publicity.

The only hope here is that this time the shrub may have gone too far. Take away basic rights and no one seems to care–the only people illegally wiretapped are the ones that deserve it anyway, right?–but start making suburban families stand in line with four kids and no orange juice for six hours in Orlando on the way home from Disney Land, and maybe something happens. Maybe. We’ll see when I go though MCO on Sunday.

As Ryan over at 27B/6 reminds us, it’s the World Wide Web’s birthday! 15 years ago yesterday Tim Berners-Lee posted a message to the alt.hypertext newsgroup announcing CERN’s W3 project and offering “a prototype hypertext editor for the NeXT, and a browser for line mode terminals which runs on almost anything” to anyone who was interested. Ryan sums up the past 15 years beautifully:

And on a more serious note — thanks Mr. Berners-Lee. Thanks.

Your gift to the world turned out to be more than just a world of data — WWW is the most thriving democratic and anarchic human artifact ever created.

WWW is the commons without the scarcity.

WWW is beautiful and boring and ugly and life-altering and mundane, dangerous in places and as banal as a strip mall in others.

WWW strikes fear into the hearts of dictators, prudes, law enforcement agencies, media conglomerates, fundamentalists, and self-appointed protectors and censors of children.

WWW made possible Wikipedia, online dating, Craigslist, the United States Geological Survey’s earthquake site, political satire, 500,000 bad blogs and 5,000 great ones, Mahir Cagri’s homepage, online maps, a million YouTube videos,’s bargain of the day and TechMeme’s ever updating internet newspaper, among thousands of other innovations and flowerings of personal expression and political action.

He also gives us all a challenge. It’s not a difficult challenge. In fact most people reading this are already doing it. But if you stumbled in here (god knows how) from MySpace or another pay-to-play site with Terms of Service and a url you don’t own yourself, then I pass this along. You use the ‘net everyday. It’s time to give back a little. It’s time to feed the web:

Post a photo on your homepage, write in your blog, link to a friend or a good website or if you are a MySpace user without your own url (all your webcontent are belong to Rupert), go spend a few bucks at a place like Laughing Squid, and build yourself a homepage or install a blog that you own — where no one can censor what you say or what you post (at least, that is until you libel someone or your ISP gets served with a DMCA takedown notice).

And then email your friends and tell them to go look at your new stuff and this time, don’t forget to stick in that WWW after that http://.


Finally shocked out of my posting lethargy by this post from Julia. The title is her final observaton; I couldn’t resist.

The Detroit News has the details:

Joseph Hanas was 19 when he pleaded guilty to a marijuana possession charge in February 2001 in Genesee Circuit Court and was placed in a diversion program for young, non-violent offenders.

Upon the recommendation of a probation officer, Judge Robert Ransom sentenced Hanas to the state-sponsored rehabilitation program – the Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, run by a Pentecostal church.

Hanas said the program did not offer drug treatment or counseling, nor did it have any organized program other than reading the Bible and attending Pentecostal services.

He said his rosary and prayer book was taken from him and his religion was denounced as “witchcraft.” Hanas said he was told his only chance of avoiding prison and a felony record was to convert to the Pentecostal faith.

After seven weeks, his mother and lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union in Flint succeeded in getting Hanas back to court.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claims Ransom acknowledged the failings of the center but ruled that Hanas did not satisfactorily complete the program and sentenced him to three months in jail, three months in a boot camp, and placed him on a tether for three months. Ransom also placed Hanas on four years probation, which he continues to serve.

“This man was punished for insisting on the right to practice Catholicism and refusing conversion to the Pentecostal faith,” said Kary Moss, director of the Michigan ACLU.

I wish I had something witty or even mildly interesting to say about this, but the foam boiling out of my mouth keeps dribbling on the keyboard. On the one hand, you’d think people who speak in tongues might know witchcraft when they see it, but fortunately for Hanas, we stopped prosecuting that partiular offense the last time religion and the law got too cozy.

One would think that the conservative wackjobs, when they start barking about the Second Amendment, might stop and ask themselves why it’s the second, and if there might, in fact, be a First Amendment they should look up at some point.

It seems a couple of parents in Newark, OH, are intent on giving the local children a lesson in irony. As the rest of the country moves ahead with plans to read banned books as part of the ALA’s yearly Banned Book Week, Greg and Tina Angeletti are going to their school board to protest their daughter being assigned Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon in high school English class:

They believe the book to be lewd and unsuitable for high school students, and plan to discuss the issue with the board of education.

“As far as I’m concerned this is pornography,” Greg Angeletti said. “How can we raise our kids to be good, quality people, bring them to church every Sunday and then put stuff like that in their hands?” [link]

It takes all kinds, I suppose, but if an 8- year-old boy breast feeding fits your definition of “pornography,” you probably want to take that up with your mental health professional, not your local school board. The district was also very clear that the book was only appropriate for certain advanced classes, and presumably “advanced” means Seniors. If you’re child of or about to be of the age of majority, then 1) it’s not really you business what they read anymore and 2) it’s a little bit late to worry about how they’re going to turn out; they’ve already turned out. I’m encouraged, though, that the parents are going to read the book; a story about a child of an overprotective mother who isn’t allowed to grow up and has to come of age well into his adulthood should be enlightening for them, I hope. Of course, it would have been nice if they’d reserved judgment until after they’d read the book.


Reminder: Banned Books Week

September 26, 2005

[2005 BBW logo; It's Your Freedom We're Talking About; Link to the ALA's Banned Books Week page;]Just a reminder to everyone that the last week in September is Banned Books Week, when the American Library Association urges all to go out and read at least one book that has been challeneged or banned at some point.

If “mainstream blogosphere” isn’t an oxymoron; I don’t think it is anymore. That may be part of the problem, I’m not sure.

Anyway, this isn’t how it’s supposed to work, folks. I feel like the uncool kid in high school who was always three years behind the times for mentioning this almost two weeks after is was big news, but I’ve been really disappointed–not to mention disturbed–by the recent attacks on technorati. Not because i want to defend technorati (they’ve got serious content issues) but because it really shouldn’t matter. The whole idea of blogging is the decentralization of communication and the promotion of open conversation. Technorati (and now IceRocket) has not only never helped in that regard, it’s actively inhibited the growth of meaningful inter-blog conversations and relationships. Organizations like technorati and IceRocket serve as central clearing houses, granting authority and legitimacy to whoever can manipulate their tags to place highest in the search engines…and whoever can get the most links the most quickly to move up in the ranks and get yet more clicks.

Worse, blog search engines preclude meaningful conversation by hiding the conversation behind a web of links and search results. Sure the diligent blogger could click the “linking blogs” link one is now almost required to put at the bottom of every post (most blogging tools do it automatically), but who has the time for that. Most bloggers have a good idea how many people are commenting on what they write, but no idea whatsoever what those people are saying. Bloggers now operate in the feedback-less vacuum previously enjoyed only by the mainstream media, hearing only from the people who take the time to come and comment on their websites.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. And it hasn’t always been that way. As little as a year ago, trackbacks were the norm, or well on their way to being the norm, and that is the way to have a blogging conversation. To have your remarks show up in the comments of the post your commenting on, and to have other people’s responses show up in your comments box. To get an email not only every time someone uses your comments form, but every time someone posts about something you’ve said. In short, to be ripped out of the vacuum and forced into a dialog. a dialog with everyone, not just the (generally like-minded) people who have the time or interest to visit your site, perhaps register, and comment. It would be nice, of course, if we all had time to post to our own sites, and then go to other people’s sites, open up the comment form, and repeat ourselves. But we don’t, and the duplication of effort would be silly anyway.

These days, however, many of the big names in blogging, Jason Calacanis, The Social Software Weblog, Dvorak, don’t even allow trackbacks. And those that do, like Atrios, Phil Torrone, and Dan Gillmor, don’t get many.

C’mon people. Get with the program.