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Nancy Pelosi, Ron Paul join SOPA opposition (arstechnica.com)
461 points by ajaymehta on Nov 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

I don't think there was any doubt that Ron Paul would oppose SOPA. Nancy Pelosi's opposition, on the other hand, is somewhat surprising, but also quite promising.

Nancy Pelosi represents the 8th Congressional District, which is basically San Francisco. She knows who her constituents are.

Is there any real chance she could fail to get re-elected?

I suspect some other reason for her stance on this (can't fathom what, though).

Pelosi will never fail to get re-elected. But as House Minority Leader she has other things to worry about, in particular getting all the other Democrats re-elected. And that means trying not to piss off any big donor group. Big Content is a big donor group for the Democrats, which is why she'd be naturally inclined to support something like this. On the other hand, overwhelming opposition from Big Internet (particuarly Google, etc) is a bit of a dealbreaker even if Silicon Valley isn't nearly as conscientious about paying its protection money (err, political donations) as Hollywood.

So, like she says, "we need to find another way". They'll come up with a new bill that is either less objectionable or one that hides the objectionable parts more clearly... and then they'll pass it when nobody's paying attention.

This is roughly correct. Please do not confuse Pelosi's temporary and minor objections to the bill as written with any sort of principled long-term objection to the concept behind the bill. Pelosi supports copyright maximization as much as anyone; she's just attempting to find some minimal accommodation to stop Silicon Valley from squawking so loudly.

They'll come up with a bill which is less objectionable in these areas in exchange for a lot of favors and other, probably completely unrelated clauses being added.

Err - it's a bad bill that will screw over many of her constituents.

It's unclear how motivated her constituents are against it, but it seems likely that all that letter writing may be paying off. In extreme cases, sitting members can be vulnerable to losing their nomination within the party (eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Lieberman#2006_Senate_elect...).

Edit: Downvotes? I'm not from the US - what did I get wrong?

The general consensus these days is congressional representatives don't actually care how a bill affects their constituents.

Do you really believe that? I work at one of the largest employers in my congressional district - 10,000+ people. Our congressman in at the office a couple times each year. During election season he stands out in front and shakes hands with everyone - as do his competitors. During the rest of the year he fights really hard for things that would help us (a defense contractor) even if they would conflict with his national party position.

That isn't praise, I personally don't like the guy's politics much. But clearly he pays attention to the needs of the large employers in his district. I think it's on target to point out that many of the large employers in her district oppose SOPA. That probably does have some influence on her stance.

Me personally? No, not entirely. But I would observe your anecdote illustrates exactly what people see to be the problem. At first blush you might think, "What is good for your employer must be good for you!", but really that's not the case. I'm sure if you sit down and think about it, you'll see why. I'm sure you can think of countless ways a law could be good for business but really bad for employees.

It is true laws that are good for your employer can be good for you, because you of course have a vested interest in your employer. But I think many people feel it should be the other way- i.e. representatives shouldn't be looking out for business and hoping to cover the voters, they should be looking out for the voters, who will do the worrying about their employers. The way you illustrate, the power dynamic is in favor of business. Some crazy people feel it should be in favor of voters.

That's precisely the problem. He's out there at the defense contractors, but since when were the defense contractors his constituents?

I'm not sure if you misread the parent comment, but he pretty much spelled it out: the 10,000+ employees who work for the contractor ARE his constituents and thus have a vested interest in the business' interests...

Yes, I understand that.

But that only work when their constituents are insuffiently motivated to actively target them to remove them from power.

Members are quite vulnerable to losing their party nomination as it takes less votes than at an election. That was how the tea party got members elected (although usually that wasn't against sitting members)

Constituents that live in their districts, or constituents that get them re-elected?

Presumably they have figured out that acting in the interests of your constituents and getting re-elected are not mutually inclusive. Voting to please your party instead of your citizens gets you full party support, and as far as beating the other guy, it has been shown that campaign funding has an unsettlingly strong correlation to campaign victories.

Making matters worse, voters tend to want conflicting things. For example, in general they want more government programs and also lower taxes.

Making matters even more difficult, what voters say they want and what they actually want can be different stories. Schwarzenegger got elected on the premise that he was going to do certain things. He tried to do those things. He was shut down by everyone- including directly by the voters.

> it has been shown that campaign funding has an unsettlingly strong correlation to campaign victories.

Do you have a citation on this? I recently read Freakonomics where the authors claimed to be able to prove this theory false, but I didn't look up their numbers.

Sure to a point. But you don't see many politicians out of the bible belt who votes for abortions.

From a few years living in DC, congressmen and Senators care about three things: Money, publicity and votes.

The first two deliver the third.

Pork (bits added to bill that affect something in their electorate) affects the second and third, and was probably delivered as the result of a contribution from a lobbyist who was retained by a corporate.

I cannot recommend Larry Lessig's latest book enough to US voters.

don't actually care how a bill affects their constituents

How to explain the widespread practice of earmarking, then?


If HN also discouraged upvotes for the same reason, then that'd be a fine way to handle downvotes.

I expected Ron Paul to oppose it, too. He was also one of the very few who opposed the persecution of Wikileaks.

A guy who praised a leak of secret government documents, running for president and beating half the other contenders, just blows my mind.

You might be surprised to know that the founding fathers supported whistle-blowers: "Nearly two centuries later, the Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas, praising the founders’ commitment to freedom of speech, wrote: 'The dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of government suppression of embarrassing information.'" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/opinion/13kohn.html?_r=1

In a good way, I hope. He opposes a Big Brother government.

He has principles. Off-topic but to the people who so often say, "I agree with him but I'm not going to support him because he can't win," I say, "Where are -your- princples?"

Predicting Ron Paul's opposition of legislation is hardly prescient. Heh.

That's the wonderful thing about SOPA -- there's something for everyone to hate in it.

I wish all nasty legislation had this...

As bentlegen indicated, Pelosi serves something of a different demographic. In fact, I think Democrats as a whole will consider this bill more carefully than Republicans because the Democratic base skews much younger and technologically inclined. Republicans don't have much to lose on this front since most of their base doesn't really know how to use the internet.

since most of their base doesn't really know how to use the internet

Neither do I identify myself as republican, nor do I support this bill in anyway but these are the types of sweeping statements that make it difficult to have any sort of rational conversation.

(Frankly, I think this whole topic seems like exactly the type of thing that shouldn't be on HN. I flagged it for whatever that's worth)

Has anyone yet made a serious estimate of how likely SOPA is to pass?

I would hope that if our legislative system is so divided that they can't agree on legislation relating to budgets or healthcare, they won't agree on this legislation either.

Not that its a good thing for the legislation system to be so ineffective, but it would seem truly ironic if they agree on something that will hurt the economy, but not on things that will help the economy.

The House did manage to pass a bill upholding the status of pizza as a vegetable: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/18/us-usa-lunch-idUST...

They did no such thing. That part of the bill concerned how much tomato paste has to be on the pizza for the tomato paste to be enough to count as a serving of vegetables. The USDA wants 8 tablespoons, and Congress wants 2.

Correct. They're protecting french fries, too.

for the tomato paste to be enough to count as a serving of vegetables

Sigh; I live in a country where tomatoes are considered a vegetable.

Tomatoes are actually both a fruit and a vegetable. Fruit is a botanical distinction, while vegetable is a culinary one.

There is no such thing as a 'vegetable'. Some are leaves, roots, tubers, gourds, stalks. Vegetables have always been an essentially tautological group. Other fruits considered vegetables include peppers, beans and squash.

I actually believe pizza as a vegetable is easier to buy than what SOPA portends (plus pizza had the "ketchup is a vegetable" precedent). For that reason, I think its passing will be more contentious.

New legislation on average tends to hurt more than help.

Fortunately last couple of years US has government gridlock and that helps. A lot.

I hope gridlock in government would help again and SOPA bill would fail.

This is not remotely true. You hear about the big ones, DMCA, PATRIOT, etc, but most legislation is routine stuff that keeps the country humming along.

Saying gridlock in government is a good thing is like saying gridlock in Google's management was a good thing. We need government and we need effective government.

I don't see how incomprehensible amount of legalese can help more than it hurts.

Sure there are some useful gems in legal system, but most of the laws are more of a burden.

Yes, we need government, but we need smaller government and smaller government is more efficient.

Government gridlock reduces government and makes it more efficient. Really useful bills still can go through gridlock, but amount of legal junk is significantly decreased.

Less legal junk output results in improving economy. You can actually see that unemployment rate started to improve in 2011 - the year when Republicans took over Congress while Obama (Democrat) still holds President office.


Comparing US Government with Google is not correct, because US Government is much bigger and is pure monopoly, while Google functions in competitive environment.


"Slanted"? Tech is bringing a knife to a gun fight.

You make the mistake of thinking the "representatives" in congress are there to represent citizens.

They are there to represent who put them there, their campaign donors (after Feingold and Grayson were defeated in 2010, there are now no congress-critters that refrain from corporate funding).

Their funders by-and-large want this bill to be passed. Whether it's the BSA or RIAA or Big Religion, everyone of those anti-Internet folks is thrilled to see the freedom aspect of the Internet being small enough to drown in a bathtub.

I have a sinking feeling this bill will pass.

Health care is something that has been an issue in this country for a long time - so everybody already knows a lot of the arguments, has a firmly held position, and people's positions correspond to party lines which means there's more for politicians to gain by fighting over it.

IP stuff, by contrast, isn't something that legislators have strong pre-existing opinions on and its not a partisan issue. And because it doesn't really spend any new money there it can be neatly separated from the overwhelming complexity of the US federal budget and people's intense partisan positions on things like taxation.

I am assuming it will pass, at this point; I'd be happy to fight it, but at this point I'd definitely be looking at how to mitigate the damage technically, challenge it in court, etc.

There is way more money lined up to support it vs. oppose it, so I suspect going into an election season, a lot of congresspeople will support it for financial reasons.

In all seriousness, all we need is President Obama to say he is for SOPA and it will immediately be voted out of existence.

Sadly, that won't happen, though. Obama and Biden are big supporters of RIAA and MPAA. They were the ones setting up the "voluntary" ISP alert system for people downloading illegal torrents, too.

I missed your logic. If Obama is a big supporter of RIAA and MPAA, then why wouldn't he come out and say that he is for SOPA?

Two words for you: Overton Window.

SOPA was designed to fail. It was designed, however, to help pass a less evil version of it in the future, by leaving the impression we have to defend content creators, but not this much.

Wanna bet?

Cialdini's book on influence mentions this. An effective persuasion tactic is to request something absurd, then request something less extreme, and people are more likely to comply.

No doubt the SOPA writers know this.

Are you sure Protect-IP wasnt the bill to be shot down, and SOPA is the replacement?

It may take more than one absurd bill to shift the window enough.

The real question is, "Can Barack Obama stand to sign this bill when he relies so heavily on youthful support for election?" Also, "what happens if Republican nominee comes out against it?"

I don't hear much about Obama vetoes, does he just sign everything that hits his desk like Bush?

That is not going to chang enuch I am afraid. We could always count on Ron Paul to vote against it but there are way too many people in the house for one vote to matter.

This is very interesting news, but I am scared that there will be a bit of a backlash against this post because of its political nature, on HN specifically.

How do people feel about Ron Paul's standpoint on Net Neutrality?

Discussion of specific points of Ron Paul's beliefs has always seemed a little pointless to me. If you understand the basic things he cares about, you can accurately guess what his opinion and explanation on almost everything will be. So any discussion of a specific topic is either shallow or derailed into a much broader political discussion.

It doesn't feel productive.

WRT this topic, I tend to agree with you. But Ron Paul is not some Valley Libertarian. Did you know that Ron Paul doesn't believe in evolution?: http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/08/29/307010/the-cont...

More broadly: http://www.tnr.com/article/94477/ron-paul-distorted-libertar...

Okay. I'm stopping this here. We do not need HN to turn into /r/politics.

Who cares what Ron Paul thinks about evolution? He doesn't believe it's the government's job to cram creationism down kids throats, so what he personally believes is fairly irrelevant. And anybody who knows anything about Ron Paul knows that he isn't some ignorant, fundamentalist bible-thumping hick like Mike Huckabee... Ron is a freaking medical doctor who got his degree from Duke. He's clearly an intelligent man, who just happens to have this one quirky religious thing going on. And lots of very intelligent people are conflicted over the whole evolution / creationism thing, because of their religious beliefs.

Not a big deal, IMO.

Who cares? Nearly all US politicians are complete idiots (often insane people). What matters is where a given politician stands on issues I care about. What are you afraid he's going to do, outlaw evolution?

Please redact your comments before others feel compelled to respond.

What is libertarian position on evolution?

That it's a matter of science and not government.

The pure position is not to have a position. Schools would be privat so if they want to teach evolution or something else is up to them.

His standpoint is consistent with other libertarian views he has. No regulation. The Internet has worked fine without regulation for so many years. And if your carrier/isp is throttling your connection, switch to a different one.If many people switch then they'll stop throttling. Simple as that.

The Internet has worked fine without regulation for so many years.

Ummmm, no. Markets are segregated and each municipality grants a franchise to a specific company. Most markets in the USA have one cable company, one phone company, plus maybe some wireless and satellite coverage.

ISPs have been given billions of dollars in federal subsidies. Also, there are strings attached to every one of those dollars.

The FCC and FTC have pretty restrictive regulations regarding spectrum usage, how much power you can push over phone lines, etc.

There is a lot of regulation on the internet in the USA, which is why we can't let the market settle the Net Neutrality issue.

Only problem is many people, like me, cannot actually switch. Comcast is the only provider in my apartment. No DSL company would hook me up and no other cable company has wires in here.

Consider the situation in which most subscribers of Comcast in your area wanted to switch..if there are enough of them to build a business, that strong 'latent' demand is a market waiting to happen.

It doesn't work like that, not even in theory. Communications infrastructure is a market that inevitably involves natural monopolies: first because of the cost structure of the industry (marginal cost curve always decreasing) and second because of network effects.

The internet is the product of a government project and has been heavily regulated since its inception.

> and has been heavily regulated since its inception

Interesting; I wasn't aware of this. I know that the original network design grew out of a DARPA project, but I wasn't aware of any significant federal regulatory involvement since the internet became open to general, non-government use in the '80s. Do you have any references you could point to that might provide more detail?

I actually meant the Word Wide Web. It is probably more specific.

I think his view is consistent but I disagree. The principal for me is a ISP can not treat diffrent packages diffrent if the pay the same. The should be allowed to offer high speed low latency connection if the wish to.

From a libaralist perspectiv I would argue it like this. The packages you send on the net are your property, the ISP is not allowed to look into it just like I don't want my letters to be opend and treated diffrently if somebody thinks what I wrote is not to importend. The ISP is only allowed to look at the header.

This is a good model for everybody. ISP can offer for example a flatrate that is not to fast and offer some high speed threwput witch you could use for VoIP.

> How do people feel about Ron Paul's standpoint on Net Neutrality?

I think he has a fairly pro-Net-Neutrality standpoint, which is to say that he opposes legislation that nominally intends to preserve net neutrality while, in practical terms, actually would create a significant threat to the same.

Love this. Thank God.

Not so fast. I heard God is in favour of SOPA.

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