If there were no Internet (5×8 – 1/19/12)

The next move in the SOPA debate, Packer proud, just deserts, who should own Nell the dog, and your daily Ricky.



What is the point at which rights are so violated, that we sacrifice ourselves — or a piece of our lives — to say “no!”?

The SOPA protest is over. It was impressive in its ability to generate buzz, but did it work? Was it enough? Wikipedia never really disappeared (people with iPhones could get to it, or the Google cache would make it available), and the black bar across Google’s logo is gone this morning. Point made? Maybe. Politicians no doubt got an increase in e-mails and maybe phone calls and perhaps it’ll make a difference; we’ll see.

Their display of “expertise” on the subject does not suggest subtle protest will get through:“The issue of pending legislation aimed at curtailing internet piracy is a violation of the Constitution and a slippery slope away from censorship ‘because we can,'” Kate Harri of Minneapolis said in an e-mail yesterday, objecting to my point on The Current that the protest was more marketing than a strike. “It’s closer to slapping a magnet on a car and saying, ‘we support our troops,’ while refusing any and all sacrifice in a time of war,” I said. That’s not a reflection on the underlying issue; it’s a statement of the nature of protest in 2012.

Anyone who noticed that the U.S. recently enacted a policy of being able to detain American citizens without charges doesn’t need a lesson about the slippery slope. How do you think we got this far but for the slow erosion of due process that went unnoticed by those it did not immediately affect?

If reality matches allegations and the legislation designed to stop online privacy is the march toward actual government censorship, to what extent would Americans who object go to say “no!”?

Within hours of the beginning of the “Internet strike” yesterday, people on Twitter — mostly against SOPA — were already posting details of getting around Wikipedia’s front page “closed” sign. As I posted on Twitter, that’s like calling a hunger strike and then eating Twinkies. Sometimes, we seek to minimize the inconvenience of our own protests. We’re addicted to our connectivity.

The Los Angeles Times calculates the protest by the numbers:

8,882 people have liked the Against the Stop Online Piracy Act page on Facebook.

Google is reporting more than 3 million Americans have signed various petitions opposing SOPA.

51,689 signed a petition on the White House’s website We the People, asking the Obama administration to veto SOPA.

1.4 million people worldwide signed a “Save the Internet” petition on the activist website Avaaz.org

BlackoutSOPA.org is reporting that 68,620 people have changed either their Twitter, Google+ or Facebook profile picture to feature an anti-SOPA message.

The New York Times noted the impressive response, but still…

Engine Advocacy, a service that helps people call their local members of Congress, said on Twitter that it was averaging roughly 2,000 calls per second, while Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees Wikipedia, said four million people used its blacked-out site to look up contact information for their local representative. Opponents of the legislation also took their demonstrations into the real world in New York, San Francisco and Seattle, but drew relatively modest numbers of protesters. Still, for a group that tends to be more comfortable showing solidarity from behind the warm glow of a computer screen – by changing a profile picture or reposting a favorite motto – it was a considerable showing.

“You’re dealing with a world now where people genuinely believe that tweeting something constitutes activism,” a Twitter follower said last evening.

Did the protest match the threat? Or are politicians simply waiting opponents out, calculating they’re not about to stand in front of the virtual tank — and certainly not a real one — to make the point and save the Constitution? What would have happened if the “Internet strike” actually had been a real strike — the kind with sacrifice and pain? What if protests weren’t changing a logo, but shutting down a service? How long would the principles behind it last in the face of the effect of making the point?

The Associated Press considered what would happen if there were no Internet, even for a short period of time.

If an Internet outage lasted more than a day or two, the financial hit would be huge, with mass unemployment, said Ken Mayland, a former chief bank economist and president of ClearView Economics. Eugene Spafford, director of Purdue University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, worries about bank runs and general panic.

Psychologically, too, it could be wrenching.

“I think it’s easier to get off heroin,” said Lisa Welter of New York City, who weaned herself for a month last year from just the social aspects of the Internet — she still paid bills online — and felt as if she was “living in a cave.”

“There would be a sense of loss: What would I do with my time?” said Kimberly Young, a psychologist who directs the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery.

Yesterday’s online protests contrasted with a real one outside a taxi company headquarters in the Twin Cities. Two-hundred cabdrivers sacrificed their jobs to make their point.

If Wednesday’s “strike” doesn’t change the minds of politicians, what’s the next move?


You have to admire Wauwatosa, Wis., native Casey Lewis for admitting this is Wauwatosa, Wis., native Casey Lewis. If you can spell Internet, you probably know that Lewis’ sister filmed her, while driving, after they went to a bar and “had a couple of shots.” Terrific.

This, you can probably tell, was after the Packers’ loss to the Giants in the NFL playoffs.

Star Tribune sports columnist Michael Rand tracked her down and asked her a series of questions, one of which was not, “hey, if you’re really crying and breaking down over the tragedy of it all, where are the actual tears?”

Find the “interview” here.


How great must it have been last night to be a copy editor at the Star Tribune, the target of scorn by a well-respected website on newspaper and graphical design, and be able to turn the tables on the virtual school marm?

“The Star Tribune needs a copy editor!” blared the post headline on Charles Apple’s blog at the American Copy Editors Society.


“The pun they’re looking for, I believe, is desserts,” Apple sniffed.

Except that it’s not. It’s actually “deserts,” just as the paper said.

If English is your first language, this would be a good day to slap the back of someone who speaks and writes it as a second language and say, “I don’t know how you did it.” Because it seldom makes any sense.

(h/t: Vince Tuss)


In Minot last summer, a couple surrendered their dog and cat to the Humane Society. They had lost their rented home in the flooding and couldn’t take care of either. Two weeks later, Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald writes, they asked for the pets back, but it was too late. The cat had been killed, and the dog — Nell — had been adopted. The couple who adopted the dog refused to give her back.

“The people who adopted the dog are an older couple,” she said. “They went through an adoption process, filled out a questionnaire and signed a contract. They spent time with the pet and learned about its temperament and personality.

“They’re doing fine together.”

Moen said she also thought it was unfair to put the couple in such a difficult emotional situation.

“They in good faith adopted this dog,” she said. “It would be devastating to them.”


Storms in Africa, and the Milky Way above. It’s the latest video from the space station. If you only see a black box here, go here instead.

Bonus I: It’s pretty clear now that whoever the person was who appeared at Edgar Allan Poe’s grave every year on Poe’s birthday, is probably dead now. Insert obvious Poe reference here.

Bonus II: Your daily Ricky.

Bonus III: Your daily Gary.


An influential Republican pundit suggested on Tuesday that the GOP would be better off if Ron Paul left to mount a third-party challenge for the presidency. Today’s Question: Under what circumstances would you vote for a third-party candidate?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour:The long-term impact of teachers.

Second hour: Julie Weisenhorn, master gardener with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, with some tips on how to protect your plants.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Midday’s Council of Economic Advisors: Chris Farrell and Louis Johnston.

Second hour: Gov. Mark Dayton answers listeners’ questions.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Venture capitalists,

vulture capitalists, crony capitalism and more.

Second hour: The sometimes daunting process of seeking second opinions, plus Elmore Leonard on “Justified,” the FX show inspired by his short story, “Fire in the Hole.”