Archive for November 23rd, 2012

This, House Republicans, Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Tech Voters


Posted: 21 Nov 2012 10:40 PM PST

About a week ago, a little flurry broke out in a corner of Republican Congressland called the Republican Study Committee. The RSC is a caucus of conservative House members formed in the early 1970s to help keep an eye on the House leadership (who are precluded from membership). One of the more valuable things the RSC does is work on policy briefs, which it hopes will turn into bills the leadership will push to legislation.

Earlier this week, the RSC issued a 9-page policy brief on copyright legislation that said, essentially, currently law was hopelessly broken and proposed four big potential solutions.

  1. Statutory damages reform — in other words, saving granny the legal headaches
  2. Expand fair use — set those DJs free!
  3. Punish false copyright claims
  4. Heavily limit copyright terms, and create disincentives for renewal

It caused a huge splash in the tech community — articles complementing the report and the Republicans who issued it appeared at Techdirt, Slashdot, Ars Technica, and Boing Boing. Folks who are usually very skeptical of Republicans, especially on tech and intellectual property issues suddenly perked up and wanted to hear more.

Then something happened. The RSC withdrew the report and replaced with an apology that is perhaps best described by the headline in a follow-up article written by the legendary tech guru Cory Doctorow, founder of Boing Boing.

Cowardice: Gutless House Republicans retract copyright paper in less than 24 hours

Ouch. I think you see the huge problem here. In less than a day, Republicans essentially confirmed every fear the tech community had about them, the largest of which is how deeply the party is in the pocket of Big Business, especially Big Hollywood. Whether or not it’s true, that’s the obvious (and probably quite correct) conclusion tens of thousands of tech-savvy people, most of whom are in that coveted “young people” demographic*. Ron Coleman, an attorney who is my go-to guy on anything that involves copyright law, put together a very good timeline of events, including links to all the documents, retractions, and apologies.

The GOP rang a bell impossible to un-ring, then tried their best to dampen the tone and noped no one would notice the mountain of quilts where an impressive bell tower once stood.  I honestly don’t know how they can buy back the honest interest they got from the tech community and not seem like a bunch of pandering politicians.

Then again, maybe they can’t look like anything else. There is that possibility.

*Whatever that is. I’m not so enamored with the “young person” conversation going on in the party right now, but that’s a discussion for another time.

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“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human  passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or  gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes  through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious  people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.” – John Adams, Oct. 11, 1798 in  an Address to the military

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The Conservative Insurgency-Kurt Schlichter

In 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army insurgents rose up against the American and South Vietnamese forces in the Tet Offensive.  They were wiped out, yet seven years later they were in control of the country.  There are lessons there for us conservatives.

Conservatives, as opposed to the Republicans who partially overlap them on the Venn diagram of American politics, need a strategy.  Strategy differs from mere tactics – it is a synchronization of potential ways (think courses of action) and available means (think resources) to achieve a long term end.  Tactics are the techniques supporting the strategy.  The Tea Party/conservative revolt had effective tactics – rallies, town halls – but the movement’s decentralized nature, with groups springing up around the country, kept it from developing an effective, coherent strategy this year.

Obama certainly had a strategy, to make the election a choice of him versus Romney.  In contrast, Romney’s strategy seemed to be not to be Obama, which was not really a strategy at all, and the conservative strategy was merely to back the GOP nominee.

Obama won.

Right now, there is one strategy that offers us hope of turning the leftward tide.  Insurgency is the classic fallback strategy for groups that cannot prevail in a stand-up fight, and right now we can’t.  It’s clear that while we represent a significant minority of voters, we are facing highly organized ideological opponents who occupy the high ground in the government and who can rely on the unwavering support of the mainstream media.  Like the allies in Vietnam, they have the cities and they have the firepower.

Insurgents survive and win by avoiding decisive engagements until a time and place of their choosing.  Tet was not the Communists’ time, and right now, we are not in a position for a decisive battle either.  So what do we do?

We start thinking like guerillas – political and cultural guerillas.

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