Deanna Zandt

Are the Cyber Battles with the Enemies of WikiLeaks the New Civil Disobedience?

The WikiLeaks controversy has opened up one of the most complicated intersections of politics and the Internet that we’ve seen in a while. One particularly interesting development has been the launch of attacks against companies and politicians perceived to be foes of WikiLeaks, by a loose group of online activists called Anonymous.

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How You Will Change the World with Social Networking

The following is an excerpt from Deanna Zandt's 'Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking' (Berrett Koehler, 2010).

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Outrage Builds Over Extermination of Hundreds of Geese from Major City Park in New York

It was a sickening shock that no one saw coming: In the dark, early morning hours of July 8, officials from the US Department of Agriculture, along with NYC Parks Department representatives, rounded up several hundred resident geese in Brooklyn's largest park, ziptied their feet and legs together and carted them off--to gas them with carbon dioxide. They were then double-bagged, and shipped off to a landfill. It's not entirely clear how many geese were killed altogether; estimates range from 250-400 in total. (Also notably missing are the several hundred mallard ducks that also populate Prospect Park's lake; at the moment, only a few dozen black ducks are seen now.)

The reason? Well, it all starts with America's favorite hero, Captain Sully. Since the Hudson landing in January 2009, rules around geese populations near airports have been shifting. Recently, it was decreed that no geese can exist within seven miles of New York's airports. The decree is fraught with numerous problems.

First, the geese that US Airways Flight 1549 struck were not resident geese -- they were migratory geese from other parts of the continent. It's well-known in Prospect Park that the geese there are resident; not only do they stay their year-round, but their flight muscles are relatively atrophied in comparison due to their sedentary lifestyle. They are simply unable to fly as high as the airplanes that make their way over the park. (It's a common joke amongst park regulars that some of the geese spent their winters in nearby Green-Wood Cemetery.)

Second, I'm told by local Park waterfowl aficionados Anne-Katrin Titze and Ed Bahlman that the measurement that was taken of the new seven-mile rule is wrong: officials measured from the border of the airport's property, and not the runways. Measuring from the runways, they say, would have spared the lives of the park geese.

Even if the park geese were a danger, no public opportunity to discuss or brainstorm a better solution (such as those offered by groups like GeesePeace), contributing to the outrage and feelings of powerlessness  Last year, Mayor Bloomberg supported the killing of local geese in a radio address, saying, "There is not a lot of cost involved in rounding up a couple thousand geese and letting them go to sleep with nice dreams." Protests outside City Hall and his home resulted; the Mayor is notably silent now.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is "distraught" over the killings, but so far has not taken further action against the federal officials and park representatives who sanctioned them. Park administrator Tupper Thomas (noted for her ushering in the era of public-private partnerships taking over Prospect Park) is reportedly not answering any questions, and is directing inquiries back to the USDA. Park officials are already on the public's hotseat with the ongoing garbage problems within the park.

For days after the geese disappeared, there were lies and confusion being spread about their whereabouts. The Audubon Society claimed the geese suddenly flew off to nearby Jamaica Bay, for example, though the geese had otherwise never left the park in large numbers. Finally, on Monday, the USDA admitted publicly what they'd done.

No one disputes that public safety is everyone's top priority. But these geese posed no threat, and were senselessly taken from the community. According to the Brooklyn Paper, the Humane Society of the US "called on federal officials to 'immediately halt' its killing program and focus on 'a plan that will truly protect public safety.' The group claims that evidence shows that airplanes typically encounter migrating birds, not resident populations like the hundreds that call Prospect Park home."

The park community mourns the senseless death of these animals that were so much a part of our Prospect experience. On a telephone pole near the lake, an anonymous poster has been taped to a telephone pole. It reads, "R.I.P. Geese. Call 311, voice your outrage." 

Solving Hunger at SXSW

The annual SXSW festival of music, film and interactive may be well known for its party atmosphere—they don’t call it “spring break for geeks” for nothing—but this year’s conference also set a lofty goal: to end hunger in America.  

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Are Celebrities Destroying Twitter?

On April 17, Oprah joined Twitter, topping off a several-month media frenzy around the new microblogging service that allows people to post 140-character messages for others, known as "followers," to read.

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Iraqi Journalist Killed In Raid

Via Nathan Freitas, I learned that last night that Iraqi journailist Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi was killed during an Iraqi raid on his neighborhood in Sadr City:

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Take Back America Next Week in DC

Next week, thousands of progressive activists are descending on Washington, DC for the yearly conference put on by Campaign for America's Future: that's right, everyone, it's time to Take Back America!

From June 18 -20, you'll have a chance to hear Edwards, Barack, Hillary and Dennis all within the few days of the conference. Not to mention Michael Moore talking about Sicko, plus loads of progressive and liberal elected officials laying out their plans. Add in the labor leaders, immigration reformers and other grassroots activists, and you've got a conference of folks coming together to hammer out their visions for the future of the country.

Register here for the conference, and if you're coming -- AlterNet will be there in the Progressive Media Row, so be sure to stop by our table and say hello!

Demanding progressive infrastructure

In more ways than one, progressives are sorely lacking in some basic infrastructure that the right has had in place for years-- media machines, intensive internship programs to rear the young activists, business associations, etc. But one area that neither side has addressed, and which is rapidly becoming a blinding necessity as online interactivity skyrockets, is the area of technology standards and interoperability.

Inter-wha'? It's just a geeky way of saying that all our tools can play well with others. Fundraising technology, social networking, email lists-- believe it or not, all these things should actually talk together. Yes! Really!

Fortunately, a new group, helmed by former AlterNet Managing Editor Tate Hausman, is tackling these issues head on with the Integration Proclamation. Here's the dream:

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Election Protection volunteers needed

This just in from Ray Beckerman:

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Indy journalist slain in Mexico violence

It was a horrific weekend in Oaxaca, Mexico. After months of teachers and other workers protesting against the conservative government of the state, and the country, pro-government forces cracked down on the protesters. Violence erupted, and people were shot and killed at the mercy of plainclothes para-military special forces removing a protest barricade.

Among those killed was American independent journalist William Bradley Roland, aka Brad Will, on location reporting for Indymedia. Also killed were striking schoolteacher Emilio Alfonso Fabian and Oaxaca resident Esteban Zurrita.

I knew Brad and was shocked to learn of his death via a front-page photo of his bleeding body in La Jornada. Here was a guy who believed so deeply in the power of making media, whose convictions drew him to struggles around the world for democracy and human rights, that they ultimately brought him his demise. Activist Ben Shepard had this to say:

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How your cellphone portends the future

There's lots of theory running around the Internet about what things might look like if Net Neutrality is taken away from us. The free-market-willy-nilly folks seem to think that an Internet stripped of basic connection requirements -- my network can talk to your network at a fundamental level -- will inspire loads of innovation and whiz-bang tech to knock our socks off.

If only we had a real-life example to show them just how silly that idea is... Wait! We do! Our cellphone networks!

NewsForge has an excellent article that details what happens when private companies control what goes out on the network, and prevents users from making those choices. They compare starting a peer-to-peer news service (like Slashdot or Digg) on the current Internet (total time: about two hours), to the hell one must sludge through to get a new service onto various cellphone networks. Some excerpts:

Congress trying to send spying scandals to secret court

Looks like the Bush Administration and its gang are up to some new tricks in their bid to sweep the warrantless spying scandal under the rug of Orwellian "national security." There's a bill coming from the Senate Judiciary committee, headed up by Arlen Specter, that would transfer all of these spying cases to the secret FISA court, and it's being hailed as this great big concession by the administration -- which is, of course, complete BS. From the EFF:

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Subway groping arrests on the rise

The New York Times is reporting that the NYPD announced an increase in the numbers of arrests for subway groping and flashing -- 13 in total for the last week. As the Times points out, whenever a story like this gets published, the women who ride public transportation daily (especially subways) all over the world nod in unison, remember their own experiences.

The Times asks the question:

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Peace activists silenced at Hillary speech

Trouble was brewing at a progressive conference this week when Campaign for America's Future chose Senator Hillary Clinton as a keynote speaker to open up Day 3 of the Take Back America conference. Numerous groups and people were buzzing about the choice, since Hillary isn't exactly what anyone would call "progressive" -- especially when it comes to Iraq.

Peace group CODEPINK took CAF to task for choosing Hillary to speak. Their efforts were met with a willingness to negotiate the terms of dissent... at first. From Medea Benjamin:

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Internet headed back to Dark Ages

Does anyone else remember in the (very) early days of online computing, when Prodigy, AOL and Compuserve were all services that couldn't talk to each other, or access major parts of what was the Internet back then? That's the model economist Trevor Roycroft uses to show what an Internet without Net Neutrality could be like once again, if telcos and cable companies are to have their way. Via Sascha Meinrath:

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Craigslist blocked by Internet provider

Amidst the battle for Net Neutrality, there's some discussion happening around Cox Internet, who provides software to customers that intentionally blocks Craigslist. Why would they do that? Well, because Cox has its own classifieds service, of course.

The background: Whenever you sign up with just about any Internet service provider, they provide you with a bundle of software that they want you to install and use. Outside of AOL, no one actually has to install the stuff in order to use their internet service, but most people don't know that. Thus, people get the install CD, and happily plug away through (often crappy) software that the ISP bundles.

In the case of Cox, they provide a little suite of apps called the "Cox Security Suite." Any unwitting (meaning, non-geek level) Internet subscriber would probably want to feel secure online, so they go ahead and install it. The ugly part is when this so-called Security Suite also blocks universally-accepted-as-awesome websites like Craigslist.

Kiddie propaganda poisoning young Canadians

Yesterday on the "Wide World of Digital Rights," we visited Sweden and the Pirates who've decided to take their police-raided mess and talk about the origins and meaning of copyright in the digital age. Today, let's make our way back to the North American continent, where the Canadian government has launched a new propaganda campaign targeting little kids, in order to "teach" them the ins and outs of legality of copyright. Pleeeeeease welcome to the stage: Captain Copyright!

Those wacky Canadians up north have created a cartoon character to inform kids about how to spot illegal activities such as copyright infringement, much like our own Eddie Eagle, who pimps for the NRA. (Luckily, taxpayer dollars aren't paying Eddie's salary, though.) What does Captain Copyright want little kids to do? Here are some activities:

International pirates take on Hollywood

This morning, we're reporting live from the Wide World of Digital Rights, a.k.a., the future of your cultural intake. Today we'll be in Sweden, where a website called ThePirateBay.org has decided to thrust the discussion of "what does copyright mean today?" into the limelight following their raid by Swedish police.

The background: US authorities are rumored to have put pressure on Swedish police to shut down and raided the offices of the website ThePirateBay, which is a BitTorrent tracking site. The short explanation of what that means: it's a website that allows people to post torrent files, which facilitate peer-to-peer file sharing. BitTorrent traffic accounts for huge percentages of all Internet traffic these days, because it's one of the most valid ways to transfer large chunks of data. Remember Napster? Child's play, compared to what BitTorrent-based technologies can do.

Needless to say, people in Hollywood and the RIAA are completely freaking out over all this BitTorrent stuff (though Warner Brothers did make the bold move of setting up a BitTorrent pay-for-play deal a month ago), and thus, sites like ThePirateBay are coming under fire.

Women who play video games and other mysteries

There's not much that can be added to Richard Cobbett's excellent, very very satirical, and very very funny piece on writing about women in the wild world of video gaming. Read on:

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Handing your life over to tyrants

There's a famous quote from Ben Franklin that gets thrown around a lot these days, given the copious amounts of egregious invasions that the federal government is performing on its citizens: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." It sounds nice, but it unfortunately doesn't quite capture the essence of what we're dealing with.

Let's take a moment to connect some of the dots in the latest round of the NSA scandals, and recap some of what we know is happening:

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Feds pressuring Internet companies to track you

What will they think of next? In a closed door meeting last week, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller put pressure on Internet service providers to retain records of their customers' online activities for two years. That means the feds want your ISP to hang onto a copy of what you've been doing -- which could mean your emails (sent and received), records of the websites you've visited, information about what you've downloaded -- every packet sent or received, just in case they need it for a criminal investigation.

What kind of investigation? Take your pick: child pornography, music downloads or terrorism are the usual suspects whipped out for making new Big Brother requirements; in this case, it's the child porn.

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Who speaks American here?

There's an old phrase in linguistics that says, "A language is just a dialect with an army and a navy." Meaning, what we think of as a distinct language might not be at all, depending on the political lines that get drawn around who speaks what, and the social implications of speaking the way you do. For example: the two main dialects of Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese, are not mutually intelligible (speakers of one can't understand the other), but are considered the same language because of politics. On the other hand, speakers of Dutch and some speakers of Northern German dialects can completely understand and communicate with each other, yet their languages are considered different.

This week the Senate voted that English should be the "unifiying and common" language for the United States. It's downright silly, and the LA Times has an excellent satire on the subject asking the question, "But whose English shall we use?"

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Moby and the Dixie chicks to the rescue

It seems that some Congresspeople are getting the message loud and clear on the Net Neutrality issue. Rep. Sennsenbrenner (R-WI) introduced a new bill into the House Judiciary committee yesterday called the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act," and for once, that's not some Orwellian name for legislation that's going to totally screw you. From News.com:

Internet thieves and straw men

Yesterday at the Personal Democracy Forum Conference, the closing panel of the day was a debate concerning Net Neutrality and the future of our free (as in speech) access to the Internet. Representing advocates for keeping the Internet fair and open were Timothy Karr of Free Press, and Susan Crawford, who is an Associate Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School, covering communications and copyright issues galore. On the other side, pushing for corporate gatekeepers to take over who gets to do what on the Internet, we had Steve Effros, the former longtime head of Cable Telecommunications Association, and Christopher Wolf, co-chair of Hands Off the Internet.

Hmmmmm... "Hands Off the Internet?" Doesn't that sound like an advocacy group who would be in favor of Net Neutrality, of preserving the status quo for how the Internet operates? From their website:

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McCain hates bloggers

An excerpt from the pages of "How To Make Enemies and Alienate People:" John McCain spoke about the egotistic nature of the blogosphere this weekend while giving the commencement speech at Jerry "Gays and Feminists Are To Blame For Everything" Falwell's Liberty University. ThinkProgress has the scoop:

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MySpace hijacks artists

Chatter around the web -- see this post at The Register, for example -- is buzzing about the realization that MySpace users give up rights to any material that they post to their profiles on the site. Someone actually sat down and read the terms of service, which include gems like this:

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Does Wal-Mart own the smiley face?

Despite the fact that the Smiley is taking more and more of a back seat in Wal-Mart's advertising and marketing (check out this blog post from a couple weeks ago), Wal-Mart is looking to trademark the smiley face. That's right: that old symbol of '70s counter-culture and all its derivatives -- maybe even including the emoticon? :-) -- is going to fall under licensing terms pursued by the Big Blue Evil if they have their way.

According to the BBC, the smiley has long been considered public domain in the US; Wal-Mart says that it wasn't going to trademark it until Frenchman Franklin Loufrani moved to do so earlier this year. Loufrani is just one of a bunch of smiley-face inventors, though; folklore in the US points to Harvey Ball as the creator. Regardless, a decision from the Patent & Trademark Office is expected this summer.

No more cancer screenings for you

Just the way everyone wants to start their work week -- with word of their healthcare benefits being stripped away. Via Christy at Fireddoglake, there's a bill in Congress right now, the Enzi bill (S. 1955), that would allow insurers to bypass state regulations requiring insurers to cover:

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The dicks of Digg

Remember a few weeks ago when Annalee Newitz was talking about the downside of being a woman who's article gets posted to Slashdot? For those just tuning in, here's a little bit of a background: one of her articles was linked to on Slashdot, a community-driven technology news site, which is the geek equivalent of getting a mention on national prime-time news. The commenters on the site then took the time not to discuss the merits of her article, but whether she was too fat; a second Slashdotting experience a few months later also centered around her attractiveness, but at least that time, there were a good number of commenters saying that it didn't matter. Some might call that "progress."

This morning finds us over at Digg, a similarly community-driven news site that mostly focuses on technology and geek issues. Upon reading the headline, "Finally... Fembots" I was struck with a sense of impending doom, but like a car crash you can't look away from, I clicked through and started perusing the comments. The article itself discusses the release of a lifelike Korean android, built in female form, who can move from the waist up, make four emotional expressions, and understands 750 words. It's the second android of this caliber to be built (the first was also a female form, built in Japan).

What does the Digg community have to say?

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No permission slips for the Internet

The man that created the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, doesn't often weigh in on political issues. He started a blog last year that was highly anticipated, but only posts an entry every three or four months. Bottom line: the man is a scientist -- he doesn't spend a lot of time huffin' and puffin' about what a cool invention he made.

That said, he's decided this week to weigh in on Net Neutrality, and has written the most eloquent piece yet that I've seen on the subject. I'm going to repost the whole thing here in full:

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The economic American Dream turns into a nightmare

The Center for American Progress has released a new study, "Understanding Mobility in America," which documents several generations' travels (or, as it were, non-travels) through the American class system. The new American Dream, according to this study, is for successive generations to at least stay at the economic level of their parents -- fewer and fewer have the chance for upward mobility. Some key findings:

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