Category Archives: Whimsy

Moving to Black and Red United

Howdy all! Over the last few days I was offered, and accepted, a position as a contributor to Black and Red United, the D.C. United blog on SB Nation. So, going forward, you can find all of my rumor mongering (and more!) over there. I’m excited by the opportunity to write there and keep providing you all with interesting news.

However, what does that mean for this blog? The short answer is: I don’t know. Perhaps this season I will finally make it to some USL games; if I do, I’ll write about them here. Regardless, this site won’t be going away anytime soon (I just renewed it for the year a few weeks ago), and maybe something will come of it soon. Again, thanks for following me here, and I can’t wait to see you at Black and Red United!

The dangers of SOPA/PIPA

Now, this is obviously not a political blog and I will rarely, if ever again, bring politics into your soccer. As you may know, many websites are participating in a strike against SOPA and PIPA, two bills currently proceeding through the House and Senate, respectively. These bills, besides being impossible to implement, strike against the very heart of free speech. They would allow the US government to remove access to websites, anywhere in the world, if they merely suspect them of having pirated content. They would be able to require Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines to take suspected infringers out of their search results. And they would be able to take down advertising from sites suspected of copyright infringement, all without proving anything. Piracy is a problem, but breaking the Internet is not the solution. (The US copyright system is also a problem that needs fixing, but that is an entirely separate topic) Your humble soccer blogger could even be held liable just for linking to YouTube videos of foreign prospects that feature pirated clips.

The following article is copied in whole from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s post “How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free Speech and Innovation” and used under the terms of their license, CC-BY 3.0 United States. I encourage you to take action and contact your senators and representatives and make sure this bill doesn’t pass. I’ll be back later today with a post about Andy Najar and the Honduran Olympic team.

“Over the weekend, the Obama administration issued a potentially game-changing statement on the blacklist bills, saying it would oppose PIPA and SOPA as written, and drew an important line in the sand by emphasizing that it “will not support” any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

Yet, the fight is still far from over. Even though the New York Times reported that the White House statement “all but kill[s] current versions of the legislation,” the Senate is still poised to bring PIPA to the floor next week, and we can expect SOPA proponents in the House to try to revive the legislation—unless they get the message that these initiatives must stop, now.  So let’s take a look at the dangerous provisions in the blacklist bills that would violate the White House’s own principles by damaging free speech, Internet security, and online innovation:

The Anti-Circumvention Provision

In addition to going after websites allegedly directly involved in copyright infringement, a proposal in SOPA will allow the government to target sites that simply provide information that could help users get around the bills’ censorship mechanisms. Such a provision would not only amount to an unconstitutional prior restraint against protected speech, but would severely damage online innovation. And contrary to claims by SOPA’s supporters, this provision—at least what’s been proposed so far—applies to all websites, even those in the U.S.

As First Amendment expert Marvin Ammori points out, “The language is pretty vague, but it appears all these companies must monitor their sites for anti-circumvention so they are not subject to court actions ‘enjoining’ them from continuing to provide ‘such product or service.’” That means social media sites like Facebook or YouTube—basically any site with user generated content—would have to police their own sites, forcing huge liability costs onto countless Internet companies. This is exactly why venture capitalists have said en masse they won’t invest in online startups if PIPA and SOPA pass. Websites would be forced to block anything from a user post about browser add-ons like DeSopa, to a simple list of IP addresses of already-blocked sites.

Perhaps worse, EFF has detailed how this provision would also decimate the open source software community. Anyone who writes or distributes Virtual Private Network, proxy, privacy or anonymization software would be negatively affected. This includes organizations that are funded by the State Department to create circumvention software to help democratic activists get around authoritarian regimes’ online censorship mechanisms. Ironically, SOPA would not only institute the same practices as these regimes, but would essentially outlaw the tools used by activists to circumvent censorship in countries like Iran and China as well.

The “Vigilante” Provision

Another dangerous provision in PIPA and SOPA that hasn’t received a lot of attention is the “vigilante” provision, which would grant broad immunity to all service providers if they overblock innocent users or block sites voluntarily with no judicial oversight at all. The standard for immunity is incredibly low and the potential for abuse is off the charts. Intermediaries only need to act “in good faith” and base their decision “on credible evidence” to receive immunity.

As we noted months ago, this provision would allow the MPAA and RIAA to create literal blacklists of sites they want censored. Intermediaries will find themselves under pressure to act to avoid court orders, creating a vehicle for corporations to censor sites—even those in the U.S.—without any legal oversight. And as Public Knowledge has pointed out, not only can this provision be used for bogus copyright claims that are protected by fair use, but large corporations can take advantage of it to stamp out emerging competitors and skirt anti-trust laws:

For instance, an Internet service provider could block DNS requests for a website offering online video that competed with its cable television offerings, based upon “credible evidence” that the site was, in its own estimation, promoting its use for infringement….While the amendment requires that the action be taken in good faith, the blocked site now bears the burden of proving either its innocence or the bad faith of its accuser in order to be unblocked.

Corporate Right of Action

PIPA and SOPA also still allow copyright holders to get an unopposed court order to cut off foreign websites from payment processors and advertisers. As we have continually highlighted, copyright holders already can remove infringing material from the web under the DMCA notice-and-takedown procedure. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that power abused time and again. Yet the proponents of PIPA and SOPA want to give rightsholders even more power, allowing them to essentially shut down full sites instead of removing the specific infringing content.

While this provision only affects foreign sites, it still affects Americans’ free speech rights. As Marvin Ammori explained, “The seminal case of Lamont v. Postmaster makes it clear that Americans have the First Amendment right to read and listen to foreign speech, even if the foreigners lack a First Amendment speech right.” If history is any guide—and we’re afraid it is—we will see specious claims to wholesale take downs of legitimate and protected speech.

Expanded Attorney General Powers

PIPA and SOPA would also give the Attorney General new authority to block domain name services, a provision that has been universally criticized by both Internet security experts and First Amendment scholars. Even the blacklist bills’ authors are now publicly second-guessingthat scary provision. But even without it, this section would still force many intermediaries to become the Internet police by putting the responsibility of censorship enforcement on those intermediaries, who are usually innocent third parties.

The Attorney General would also be empowered to de-list websites from search engines, which, as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt noted, would still “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself.”  The same applies to payment processors and advertisers.

These are just some of the egregious provisions in PIPA and SOPA that would drastically change the way we use the Internet (for the worse), and punish millions of innocent users who have never even thought about copyright infringement. As Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian explained, PIPA and SOPA are “the equivalent of being angry and trying to take action against Ford just because a Mustang was used in a bank robbery.” These bills must be stopped if we want to protect free speech and innovation on the web.”

All-Virginia Team

On Jason Davis’ blog, Match Fit USA, there is an experiment to try and create soccer teams of people just born in one of each of the 50 states.  As I live in Virginia, and feel more affinity to it right now than Ohio(born and raised) or North Carolina(grad school), I took at stab at creating the Virginia team.  It has some decent parts, but it doesn’t hold up; in particular, the lack of forwards would doom this team. So, in addition to MLS/NASL/USL players, I started to look at colleges as well.

GK:
Bill Hamid-DCU
Matt Van Oekel-NSC Minnesota Stars
Alexander Stopa-Louisville

D:
Devon McTavish-DCU
Clarence Goodson-IK Start
Danny Cruz- Houston Dynamo
John Gilkerson-Carolina Railhawks
Josh Rice-UNC
David Walden-UNC

M:
Corey Ashe-Houston Dynamo
Conor Shanosky- DCU
Brian Carroll-Philadelphia Union
Bobby Foglesong-Richmond Kickers
Jordan Cyrus-University of Maryland
John Sterzter-University of Maryland
Nicholas Abrigo-College of William and Mary

F:
Brandon Massie-Charleston Battery
Roger Bothe-Richmond Kickers
Jordan Evans-Richmond Kickers
Trevor McEachron-Richmond Kickers
Alan Koger-College of William and Mary
Brian Ownby-UVA

Head Coach: Wade Barrett-Dynamo assistant
Assistant Coaches: Steve Jolley, and Greg Vanney
Captain: Clarence Goodson

So with that group of players, I come out with a 4-4-2

Hamid
McTavish Goodson Cruz Gilkerson
Ashe Shanosky Carroll Fogelsong
Bothe Evans

Vuvuzela Hero and other gimmicks

The USA needs a gimmick.  No, not the national team itself.  They have trademarked American Grit, allowing them to get scrappy wins and play above their nominal talent level.  But no, ESPN is the king of gimmicks, and yet they’ve tried to market the World Cup with things like British announcers, top-tier studio talent, and a concerted effort to try and do right by soccer fans around the world.

But, in Germany, there is a new sensation.  No, not Mesut Özil or Thomas Müller.  Its Paul the Octopus, AKA Pulpo Paul or Paul Oktopus.

If anyone doesn’t know about Paul, he’s an octopus that picks games of the German National Team.  His handlers put two bowls of food in his tank, one with Germany’s flag and one with the flag of the other team; whichever bowl he choses, that team is supposed to win.  American sports are built on gimicks: there are rally monkeys, thunder sticks, giveaways, and all of NASCAR.  To keep up, ESPN needs a gimmick that can capture the hearts and minds of the common sports fan in America.  With that in mind, I’ve come up with a couple of gimmicks that I am sure[1] will catapult the USMNT in the center of the US sporting world.
Ian Darke: We all now know that Ian Darke is far better than Martin Tyler.  Tyler’s understated style, overall, is not a good fit for the US public.  Combine that with the fact that he wasn’t really as good as billed has led to an underwhelming performance.  Ian Darke, on the other hand, has been great.  His highlight, of course, was his call for Landon Donovan’s goal in the USA-Algeria game.  To build off of that, ESPN should hire him full time and start a line of “This Is Sportscenter,” commercials, in the style of Donovan and Jozy’s commercials before the World Cup.  Darke commentating on someone’s attempt to pick up a girl in a bar would also be hilarious.

Vuvuzela Hero: Everyone’s most hated plastic horn has not nearly been overexposed enough. ESPN needs to get the creators of the Fifa World Cup games and Rock Band to combine their talents to create a new game: Vuvuzela Hero.  One player will control his side as the other plays the new vuvuzela accessory to try and get their team bonus power-ups and weaken the morale of the opponent.  But if the Vuvuzela player isn’t enthusiastic, their team will weaken due to lack of support from their fans. (Note: Vuvuzela accessory is 4 times as powerful when playing against France.)

Any suggestions for other gimmicks you would like to see?
[1]All predictions wrong or your money back.