GAG’s Friends: Not So Earth Friendly

I haven’t bothered writing much about the Graphic Artists Guild this past year, mostly to preserve my peace of mind and save energy for more productive matters, but every now and then something comes to my attention that tempts me to write more about them. A recent news item posted by the Guild about Milt Glaser’s climate change message, “It’s not Warming, It’s Dying” finally caused a big enough spike on my irony-o-meter for me to go to the trouble, not to mention that with Earth Day being here the timing’s exactly right.

Milt’s work is great and I love it, but it kills me that the Guild can talk about climate while at the same time their Copyright Alliance friends are up to no good when it comes to the environment. In case you haven’t visited my previous posts or learned this elsewhere, the Copyright Alliance is a front group created largely by associates of former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and his lobbying firm, the Nickles Group LLC, that caters to the interests of a few corporate interests and not so much those of the individual creators as they frequently claim. Despite knowing this the Guild continues to support them and has sent them a fair amount of money. (Directly to the D.C. office of the Nickles Group, as a matter of fact.) Sen. Don Nickles is a staunch conservative and longtime opponent of organized labor, workplace safety regulation, affordable healthcare, equal rights, and he has supported ALEC and other conservative causes during and after his time in the U.S. Senate, making it not the least bit surprising that both he and the people around him have quite a track record on the environment.


 

The Copyright Alliance and the Nickles Group on the Environment

The Copyright Alliance has been advocating for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has been widely denounced as a serious threat to laws protecting the environment both within the U.S. and around the world. This effort by the Alliance is part of a larger campaign by the MPAA and the other corporations it serves to get the TPP passed.

The Nickles Group Lobbies for Koch Industries. Other high profile fossil fuel clients of the Nickles Group: Anadarko Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, and National Oilwell Varco.

Don Nickles has been a vocal opponent of renewable energy, recently pushing for the elimination of tax credits for renewable energy producers.

Don Nickles was a board member of fracking giant Chesapeake Energy, which has not only polluted aquifers, but also screwed landowners with abusive pipeline contracts while doing it. Nickles resigned from the Chesapeake board in 2012, however, after being involved in CEO Aubrey McClendon’s troubles. It appears he’s still on Valero’s board of Directors.

Mitch McConnell’s new policy director is Hazen Marshall, a top aide to Don Nickles, and until taking the new position had been a lobbyist at the Nickles Group serving their oil and gas clients. If you heard about Sen. McConnell’s call for states to block President Obama’s initiatives on climate change, well then, you now know of one of the players behind the scenes who might have had a hand in formulating that bit of politicking.

The Nickles Group’s top client is the notorious patent troll Intellectual Ventures LLC, reported to be attacking the renewable energy industry. Intellectual Ventures has been harshly criticized for its modus operandi of threatening businesses with expensive lawsuits unless licenses to the patents owned by IV are purchased. Tech industry startups have been particularly hard hit by trolls; a past epidemic of poorly defined and very broadly written patents on items such as software code and other new technologies not sufficiently understood at the patent office has handed Intellectual Ventures and other trolls the opportunity to demand victims purchase licenses to dubious patents, or risk wasting millions on a legal fight even if they stand to win in court. This bloodsucking is now being done to companies in the renewable energy business with the help of the Nickles Group. Here’s the punch line- Cindi Tripodi, a key architect of the Copyright Alliance, is a founding partner of the Nickles Group and one of the lobbyists helping Intellectual Ventures do its damage to renewable energy.


So maybe now you’ll understand why I don’t take the people at the Graphic Artists Guild to be all that environmentally conscious. At some point I’ll probably also get worked up enough to write more about how they’re also not entirely credible when it comes to copyright and the economic interests of individual creators.

(P.S.- I must have done something right in a past life, because HBO just aired “Last Week Tonight” in which John Oliver did a marvelous job explaining patent trolls.   Must see!)

 

 

TPP: Free Trade, Free Cheese.

Illustration of a wedge of cheese set as bait in complicated trap-like machinery, with misty, shadowy sci-fi environment.

Here, have some cheese.

Don’t mind the stuff connected to it that you can’t quite see or don’t understand. Trust me, it’s safe. Think of the darkness as comforting. But if you just can’t help yourself and still feel a little apprehensive despite repeated assurances that it’s perfectly safe, and tasty, and safe, you can always learn a little bit more about it.

Public Citizen / Tradewatch

Robert Scott. Fast Track to Lost Jobs and Lower Wages. Huffington Post. April 12, 2015

George Zornick. Now Congress is Fast-Tracking the TPP Fast Track. Nation. April 16, 2015

 Democracynow.org / topics / TPP

Wikileaks / TPP Investment Chapter

 

FCC Votes on Regs, Thursday Feb. 26

The FCC is scheduled to vote on regulations for the internet this coming Thursday, and it’s expected that they will do the right thing and declare that Title II authority of the Telecommunications Act applies to internet services. To make sure the public and FCC commissioners know that many people care deeply about this, a large group of organizations such as Daily Kos, the Nation Magazine, Greenpeace, Reddit, and Credo Action  have organized a campaign to present messages via Jumbotron outside the FCC offices on Thursday.

For your amusement, here’s my submission.

Cartoon with caption: We Need Title II Because- On the INternet, Some People Really Don't Give a Rat's Ass That You're a Dog.

Net Neutrality- What’s the Problem?

Open and Competitive Markets, . . Yeah, Sure.

ISPmarketplace_F05b_700x

No need for a long essay, since there shouldn’t be any problem at all- anyone who hasn’t spent thirty years in a cave understands that the internet is an essential utility on the order of electricity and water, and not some optional service like pet grooming or astrology reading.  Yet in Washington, D.C., where all too often it’s impossible to reach agreement that water is wet, the FCC under chairman Thomas Wheeler is still bent on regulating the internet as an “information service,” rather than a “telecommunication service.”  This makes about as much sense as attempting to regulate nuclear reactors as if they were household appliances, using product safety laws to craft the regulations needed to keep stuff from melting down and going BOOM.  My preference, though, would be for the FCC to stop screwing around, and correct its 2002 ruling before any more damage is done.

Oh, that’s right, we’re talking about Washington; what was I thinking?  Anyhow, here’s my reading list for getting deeper into the weeds.

 

John Nichols.  Net Neutrality Will Be Saved Only If Citizens Raise an Outcry. The Nation.  April 24, 2014

Lee Fang. Former Comcast and Verizon Attorneys Now Manage the FCC and Are About to Kill the Internet. VICE.  April 25 2014

Marvin Ammori. The FCC’s New Net Neutrality Proposal Is Even Worse Than You Think.  SLATE.  April 24, 2014

Mike Masnick. How The FCC Plans Neuter The Net, Even As The FCC Insists Everyone’s Got It All Wrong.  Techdirt.  April 25th 2014

April Glaser and Corynne McSherry. FCC’s New Rules Could Threaten Net Neutrality.  Electronic Frontier Foundation.  April 24, 2014

Bartees Cox Jr. FCC To Allow Commercial Discrimination on the Internet. PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE.  April 23, 2014

Editorial Board. Creating a Two-Speed Internet. New York Times. APRIL 24, 2014

 

Now for Something Completely Different-

 

If you’re in a short-attention-span kinda mood, here’s a video that really nails the situation with our telecoms and the coming COMCAST / Time Warner merger- (contains explicit and entirely suitable language.)

And just in case you aren’t already supersaturated with bad news about telecoms and net neutrality, here are a few additional articles and resources:

Brendan Fischer.  “How ALEC Helps Big Telecom Change State Laws for Corporate Gain” Center for Media and Democracy. February 13, 2014

Michael J. Copps. “From the desk of a former FCC Commissioner”  Journalists need to generate a national discussion on the future of the internet.  Columbia Journalism Review.February 13, 2014

John Light.  “What’s the Right Path Forward on Net Neutrality?” Moyers & Company. February 4, 2014

 

 

 

 

Big Cleanup Job, Tip #1

 

Tip: When facing a large mess, forget about developing a plan of attack. You’ll only waste time standing around rather than actually making progress. Just reach in, grab the nearest thing, haul it out into the light, and deal with it. Step and repeat.  Mind the spiders.

Cleanup02_700x

Lots of stuff has piled up in the last few months; so following my own advice, I’m just going to grab one or two items from the pile and drag them out in no particular order. Additional posts will follow as I work my way through the accumulated junk.

Proposed COMCAST / Time Warner Merger

While this has been pushed back in the news by impending climate catastrophe, revival of the cold war, and planes falling from the sky, this is still something you should be paying attention to. After all, it would really suck to not have anything decent to watch on TV as the world crumbles. The New York Times continues its “who the hell knows, make up your own damned mind about things” approach to covering the COMCAST deal, with a positive article in today’s business section by James B. Stewart- A Vision Beyond Cable for Comcast After Merger . This merger-friendly article contrasts with a piece by David Carr on Feb. 16- Stealthily, Comcast Fortifies its Arsenal, as well as a doubtful editorial on Feb. 13-  If a Cable Giant Becomes Bigger.  I find it hysterical that Stewart, supporter of  COMCAST taking over Time Warner, mentions he’s a Time Warner customer and hates them.  Carr, in opposition to the deal, states he’s a customer of COMCAST, and loathes them.

Susan Crawford, author of “Captive Audience- The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age” has also spoken out in opposition to the merger.  In a presentation at Harvard on March 04 and also in an interview with the Harvard Law Record, she gives numerous reasons for concluding the merger will not be good for consumers.  Here’s an excerpt from her interview:

For most Americans, the only choice for high capacity Internet connection is their local cable monopoly, . . . A Comcast-Time Warner merger would make an already terrible situation incrementally worse in that Comcast would have additional scale. And scale is the secret to this business.    -Susan Crawford

The NY Times had another interesting piece by Eric Lipton, on Feb. 20- COMCAST’s Web of Lobbying and Philanthropy that focused on COMCAST’s lobbying machine, and mentioned that  former Sen. Don Nickles, the Copyright Alliance’s facilitator, is now on COMCAST’s newly formed merger strategy team.  The article digs into the web of charities and special interest groups that receive support from COMCAST and which might now be expected to lend a hand in getting the merger with Time Warner approved.

But don’t worry, Graphic Artists Guild members and defenders of the Copyright Alliance!! I’m sure this has nothing to do with you. Oh, wait, that’s right, the Copyright Alliance lobbyists work for Sen. Nickles at the Nickles Group LLC, and Executive Director Sandra Aistars was a Time Warner VP before coming to the Alliance. Move along!  Nothing to see here, folks.

 

TPP: Text on Copyright and IP Leaked

The Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to spook a growing number of people, and today Wikileaks dumped a ton of fuel on the fire by publishing the chapter of the TPP that covers copyright and intellectual property rights.  In addition to the Wikileaks bombshell, 151 house Democrats sent a letter to the President today, declaring their opposition to “fast track” trade negotiation authority on TPP.

Here are resources with further details.

WikiLeaks: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

Public Citizen: Leaked Documents Reveal Obama Administration Push for Internet Freedom Limits, Terms That Raise Drug Prices in Closed-Door Trade Talks
.

DeLauro, Miller Lead 151 House Dems Telling President They Will Not Support Outdated Fast Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Knowledge Ecology International: KEI analysis of Wikileaks leak of TPP IPR text, from August 30, 2013

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Last but not least, here’s a video on why all this business about the TPP should be important to you. (Discussion on TPP begins at 13:27, after drone warfare segment)

The Top Secret Trade Deal You Need to Know About / MOYERS & COMPANY Oct. 30, 2013