Today’s links:

1) Bush Moves Toward Martial Law. The US has previously had admirably strict laws regarding the use of the military on it’s own soil. Is this a move toward a dictatorship? I’d be astonished if it were (although the fact that the question is one that even occurs is a little disturbing). Is it alarming anyway? Yes. You all know the quote I’m thinking of about liberty and safety…

2) Via sigma7, strong rumours that Studio 60 is to be cancelled. Not a shock, given that it’s a ratings disaster, but the rumours that it’s to be replaced by reality TV or a game show have a particularly (sickeningly) inevitable ring.

And get more “death of internet” stuff piles on…

So, this BBC headline Industry to stop ‘music cheats’ is a bit fucking disingenuous. What is should more properly read is “Industry to ‘cripple internet’, and ‘fuck with consumers’ at whim”.

In short: they’re asking for the right to pull the plug on the internet connection of anyone they suspect is pirating music. Not, you understand, the ability to prove that someone is engaged in illegal activity, and get a court order. Just y’know, the right to get in touch with your ISP and have your account yanked.

Noted copywonk Cory Doctrow explains it rather better than I might.

Yes, this all just a “maybe” in the future. A “might happen”. But still: the strength of the internet is that it’s a level playing field. That anyone with the right equipment can connect to it, from anywhere, and do as they please. It’s device and activity agnostic, and as Doctrow explains, that’s why it has become this fantastic medium. And I feel that any threat to that should be taken very seriously indeed.

American Legislation To Remove Public Access to Social Networks

Here’s a .pdf of a proposed amendment to American law the “Deleting Online Predators Act 2006”. The broad effect of this bill will be “to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.”

Let’s be clear: “protect” in this instance means “remove access to”. Social networking sites are defined as “allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.” This definition encompasses Myspace, Livejournal, Flickr, Blogger, and loads of others.

The act, in fairness, says thing like “prohibits access by minors without parental authorization” rather than outright “ban”. However the act is aimed at schools and public libraries, and the only reliable and efficient means these institutions have to achieve that end is a to simply prevent access to these sites.

The problem with this legislation is that it will foster the already widening digital gulf between the rich and poor, and it’s the poorest families, for whom access is primarily through public terminals like schools and libraries, that benefit most from the increased opportunities available on the internet.

While I’m thinking of it: have I bored you all rigid on the subject of network neutrality, and why you should give a shit yet?

Swear to god, 2006 is starting to look like it’s going to be the year when the internet went away.

Politics: Pay Attention

I’m sure a good number of you know about this already, but give the discussions of “V for Vendetta” recently, this is perhaps an appropriate time to flag this one up, just in case anyone has missed it:

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

This is a bill that will, broadly, allow ministers to change the law without requiring the changes to be ratified by parliament. Students of history may remember that similar laws were passed in Germany in the 1930s. Now, it’s only fair to point out that this bill has a number of curbs in place, like for example, ensuring that any term of imprisonment resulting from crimes arising such change not exceed 2 years.

Shall we just look at that again?

Under this bill, it would be possible for a minister of the crown to criminalise almost anything they felt like, provided the sentence wasn’t greater than two years.

Is there anyone here not boggling at that?

And it can get worse, but I won’t ask you to take my word for it.

Just go and read one MP’s view of the subject.

I cannot urge you strongly enough to stop by and ask your MP to vote against this bill.

Oh, if only I’d known

I confess: I’m a politics junkie. Election time rolls around, British or American, and I start following candidates and campaigns, in the same way other people watch sports. It’s the only thing I’m ever tempted to wager on.

American elections are much more entertaining than Britain, because there’s a longer selection process to go through, and the campaigns are much nastier, bloodier and more personal. They’ve long since abandonded the pretense that the election is about policy, in the States. Now it’s all about the personalities. One huge media circus. Brilliant fun.

Normally. This year, though, I’m bored. Really bored. There’s nothign to chose between the candidates. Nothing at all. Normally, I find myself dreading one or the other winning, but this time around, both parties are fielding the same sort of slime, and aiming for the centrist vote. Normally, I find myself able to guess which one will win by watching for the burning light, the need for victory. Which one of the wants it more? Which one will be smarter, more vicious? There’s no hunger in this campaign, no drive. Just two dull fuckers who seem to think that they have a right to be president, because of their situation.

At least I’m not alone. Even the good doctor thinks this one is boring.