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Things we don’t need

USTR has issued a request for comments on ACTA. The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2011. The notice gives very little guidance regarding the issues the USTR would like addressed in the comments.

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement: Request for Comments from the Public

Agency: Office of the United States Trade Representative

Action: Request for written submissions from the public

Summary: The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has concluded negotiations on a proposed agreement to strengthen international cooperation, enforcement practices and legal frameworks for addressing counterfeiting and piracy. USTR is requesting written comments from the public on the final text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in connection with consideration of U.S. signature of the agreement.

The deadline for submission of written comments is, 5:00 PM, Tuesday, February 15, 2011.

Address: All written comments should be sent electronically via http://www.regulations.gov, docket number USTR-2010-0014. Submissions should contain the term “ACTA Public Comments” in the “Type comment & Upload file” field on http://www.regulations.gov.

See further coverage at Knowledge Ecology: http://keionline.org/node/1037

http://www.ustr.gov/webfm_send/2379

Before commenting be sure to hear Michael Geist, a Canadian Law Professor, speaking about the ACTA threat: http://blip.tv/file/2837223

Or read his blog entries about ACTA here: http://www.michaelgeist.ca/index.php?option=com_tags&task=view&tag=acta&Itemid=408

Here is a list of those individuals and groups that have taken a critical look at ACTA and found it wanting, again from Michael Geist’s blog:

Elected Officials

Public Interest Group Letters

So what can the general public do?  One thing is to learn more and work together with groups already active on ACTA.  These include:

Every individual concerned with ACTA can also speak out.  Write to your local MP or national leader or participate in the specific activities sponsored by some of the organizations listed above.  These include the EFF ACTA Action Alert, the effort to encourage UK MPs to support the cross-party motion for ACTA transparency, and the signing of the A2K ACTA Petition.

And so there is this (ouch!) Reminds my of the scene in the Lord of the Rings, when after fighting the Great War of the Ring and winning, Frodo returns to the Shire to find Saruman has taken up residence:

Mrs. Hanson, who is 81 and has been a library patron for nearly 50 years, was so bothered by the outsourcing contract that she became involved in local politics for the first time since 1969, when she worked for a recall movement related to the Vietnam War.

She drew up a petition warning that the L.S.S.I. contract would result in “greater cost, fewer books and less access,” with “no benefit to the citizens.” Using a card table in front of the main library branch, she gathered 1,200 signatures in three weekends.

Article here:

Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries
By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: September 26, 2010
Library Systems & Services was hired to run the libraries of Santa Clarita, Calif., setting off an outsourcing debate.

Some thoughts on the blind adoption of technology:

Hat Tip: La Petite Claudine

Efficiency and interest

The most important point is that our devotion to technology blinds us to the issue of what education is for. In America, we improve the education of our youth by improving what are called “learning technologies.” At the moment, it is considered necessary to introduce computers to the classroom, as it once was thought necessary to bring closed-circuit television and film to the classroom. To the question, “Why should we do this?” the answer is: “To make learning more efficient and more interesting.” Such an answer is considered entirely adequate, since, to the technological fundamentalists, efficiency and interest need no justification. It is, therefore, usually not noticed that this answer does not address the question, “What is learning for?”

“Efficiency and interest” is a technical answer—an answer about means, not ends—and it offers no pathway to a consideration of educational philosophy. Indeed, it blocks the way to such a consideration by beginning with the question of how we should proceed rather than with the question of why. It is probably not necessary to say that, by definition, there can be no education philosophy that does not address what learning is for. Confucius, Plato, Quintilian, Cicero, Comenius, Erasmus, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Russell, Montessori, Whitehead, Dewey—each believed that there was some transcendent political, spiritual, or social idea that must be advanced through education. Confucius advocated teaching “the Way” because in tradition he saw the best hope for social order. As our first systematic fascist, Plato wished education to produce philosopher kings. Cicero argued that education must free the student from the tyranny of the present. Jefferson thought the purpose of education is to teach the young how to protect their liberties. Rousseau wished education to free the young from the unnatural constraints of a wicked and arbitrary social order. And among John Dewey’s aims was to help the student function without certainty in a world of constant change and puzzling ambiguities.

What does technology have to do with finding a profound reason for educating the young?

Nothing.

http://www.ait.net/technos/tq_01/4postman.php

“Strictly speaking, economic liberalism is the organizing principle of a society in which industry is based on the institution of the self-regulating market…For as long as such a system is not established economic liberals will call for the intervention of the state in order to establish it, and once established, in order to maintain it.”

–Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation

And here is the greatest intervention ever proposed in order to maintain this self-regulating market.  (It is also the largest and most brazen criminal act in history.)

LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL FOR TREASURY AUTHORITY

TO PURCHASE MORTGAGE-RELATED ASSETS

Section 1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as ____________________.

Sec. 2. Purchases of Mortgage-Related Assets.

(a) Authority to Purchase.–The Secretary is authorized to purchase, and to make and fund commitments to purchase, on such terms and conditions as determined by the Secretary, mortgage-related assets from any financial institution having its headquarters in the United States.

(b) Necessary Actions.–The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation:

(1) appointing such employees as may be required to carry out the authorities in this Act and defining their duties;

(2) entering into contracts, including contracts for services authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts;

(3) designating financial institutions as financial agents of the Government, and they shall perform all such reasonable duties related to this Act as financial agents of the Government as may be required of them;

(4) establishing vehicles that are authorized, subject to supervision by the Secretary, to purchase mortgage-related assets and issue obligations; and

(5) issuing such regulations and other guidance as may be necessary or appropriate to define terms or carry out the authorities of this Act.

Sec. 3. Considerations.

In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for–

(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and

(2) protecting the taxpayer.

Sec. 4. Reports to Congress.

Within three months of the first exercise of the authority granted in section 2(a), and semiannually thereafter, the Secretary shall report to the Committees on the Budget, Financial Services, and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committees on the Budget, Finance, and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate with respect to the authorities exercised under this Act and the considerations required by section 3.

Sec. 5. Rights; Management; Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.

(a) Exercise of Rights.–The Secretary may, at any time, exercise any rights received in connection with mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act.

(b) Management of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary shall have authority to manage mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act, including revenues and portfolio risks therefrom.

(c) Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary may, at any time, upon terms and conditions and at prices determined by the Secretary, sell, or enter into securities loans, repurchase transactions or other financial transactions in regard to, any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act.

(d) Application of Sunset to Mortgage-Related Assets.–The authority of the Secretary to hold any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act before the termination date in section 9, or to purchase or fund the purchase of a mortgage-related asset under a commitment entered into before the termination date in section 9, is not subject to the provisions of section 9.

Sec. 6. Maximum Amount of Authorized Purchases.

The Secretary’s authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time

Sec. 7. Funding.

For the purpose of the authorities granted in this Act, and for the costs of administering those authorities, the Secretary may use the proceeds of the sale of any securities issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, and the purposes for which securities may be issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, are extended to include actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses. Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure.

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Sec. 9. Termination of Authority.

The authorities under this Act, with the exception of authorities granted in sections 2(b)(5), 5 and 7, shall terminate two years from the date of enactment of this Act.

Sec. 10. Increase in Statutory Limit on the Public Debt.

Subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking out the dollar limitation contained in such subsection and inserting in lieu thereof $11,315,000,000,000.

Sec. 11. Credit Reform.

The costs of purchases of mortgage-related assets made under section 2(a) of this Act shall be determined as provided under the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, as applicable.

Sec. 12. Definitions.

For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Mortgage-Related Assets.–The term “mortgage-related assets” means residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before September 17, 2008.

(2) Secretary.–The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of the Treasury.

(3) United States.–The term “United States” means the States, territories, and possessions of the United States and the District of Columbia.

If you ask the question: Have Computers made us more efficient? you have set the bar rather low. Instead ask: Have computers made us as efficient as they possibly can? When you ask that question, you will start to use computers differently. Brad DeLong, deputy assist to the Treasury in the Clinton administration, notes in this article in Wired that they can be a distraction, and this is so true.

Paul Virilio also talks a lot about the unintended effects of technology, but he has been doing that for a long time now.

And of course, remember the Mennonites!

Here’s the article:

The High Cost of Efficiency
Computers make us more productive. Do they also slow us down?
July 2003 Wired Magazine

By J. Bradford DeLong

In the spring of 1994, I wiped the game Civilization off my office computer. I wiped it off my home PC. I wiped it off my laptop. I threw away the original disks on which it had come. It was clear to me that I had a choice: I could either have Civilization on my computers, or I could be a deputy assistant secretary of the US Treasury. [emph bye_f] I could not do both. It wasn’t that my boss ordered me to – she herself played a mean game of computer solitaire. In this, I was the boss, and I had decided that with Civilization on DeLong’s hard disk, DeLong’s productivity would be unacceptably low.

Computers are tremendous labor-saving devices. They give us power to accomplish extraordinary amounts of work in extraordinarily short intervals of time: financial analysis, data mining, design automation. But they also give us the capability to do things like play solitaire. Or send instant messages. Fiddle with fonts. Futz with PowerPoint. Twiddle with images. Reconfigure link rollovers.

But he really gets going when talking about the needless use of powerpoint (Full Disclosure: I really really dislike Powerpoint)

At the organizational level, however, the uses of high tech that might be valuable for an individual can be pointless or counterproductive. Consider a meeting to decide between two courses of action. Often, the same decision would be made whether weeks were spent preparing overheads or no overheads were prepared at all. It’s easy to see that, from the company’s point of view, all the hours spent on PowerPoint slides are dissipated waste.

But of course the best attack on powerpoint comes from Ed Tufte, who takes his criticism a step further, and notes how powerpoint interferes with thinking, hides information, and leads to wrong decision making. Yes, choice of tools is important!

Certainly, the situation described in Anne Applebaum’s recent article in the Washington Post rings true, but what can we do, here sitting in America, to effect change in Tibet?

Yes, we can protest in front of the Chinese embassy, and we should do that. But what if you don’t happen to live in DC?

We can do a lot to help Tibet. China depends on it’s trade with the United States, and Walmart is a the primary vehicle that trade with China uses to get to USA.

From a report at EPI:

Last year, the retail giant Wal-Mart imported $26.7 billion of Chinese goods into the United States. The cost of those goods to Americans went far beyond the sticker prices, however. Wal-Mart’s reliance on Chinese goods cost the United States over 308,000 jobs in 2006 – or about 77 jobs for every Wal-Mart store in the United States.

Wal-Mart was responsible for 9.3 percent of. U.S. China imports…

So a very simple action–boycotting Walmart–would quickly turn into an issue inside China. Just don’t buy all those Chinese bicycles/DVD’s etc, etc. Pretty soon Walmart will stop buying from China. China needs markets more than they need an empire. (Just ask Russia about that.)

It would be easy–all that the US public has to do is decide to confront wrongdoing, by not buying stuff from Walmart. It would also be good to do without so much stuff, that we really don’t need, do we? It would do something good for the planet, too.

Just do it.

(note: some edits, including link to EPI study were added 30 March 2008)

I’d received my email from the Marijuana Policy Project reminding me the US has past a milestone of some kind, and that tied in very well with a book I’d been reading too:

Our nation is currently incarcerating a record one in 99 adults, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States. You can read The New York Times’ article on the U.S. government’s war on the American people here.

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