Yubanet Indispensable and Unique in Nevada County

Yubanet’s report on the most recent Board of Supervisor’s meeting shows once again why they are a unique and indispensable source of news in Nevada County. No other news source  — neither the local hardcopy newspaper nor any of the local blogs — come close to the accuracy and depth and context of coverage of Yubanet, which no doubt explains their large readership.

Nothing New” in CABPRO-Sponsored Presentation to BOS

Excerpt:

Surprisingly enough, a contingent of Modesto residents had made the trip to attend this presentation, complete with a video camera operator and a photographer.

When Chair Weston opened the meeting up for public comment, the videographer left his post and lectured the BOS about county government actually being the highest authority in the land. He was followed by David Avila, another Modesto resident, who exhorted the BOS to nullify federal authority and take over the management of the national forest if needs be.

Their comments were met with applause from the audience and calls for the sheriff to do his duty as a “constitutional sheriff” and assert jurisdiction over federal lands.

Local resident Steve Willer disagreed with these proposals and invited the BOS to take a closer look at private properties that are actually within their jurisdiction. He suggested the BOS help property owners to reduce the fire danger on their properties instead of trying to circumvent laws and invite lawsuits.

CABPRO Executive Director Chuck Shea urged the BOS to pass an emergency ordinance similar to Apache County’s and start the process to assert authority over public lands.

Read the full article here.

As a Feminist, I Love this Song

I caught this song on the tail-end of a segment on Democracy Now a day or so ago, and I was thrilled by the inspiring imagery — both musical and visual — of the rise of woman power.

The song — an anthem, really — is a collaboration between the Eurythmics (Annie Lennox) and the great Aretha.

I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve heard this.


“If You Want to Head-Off Fascism, You’ve Got to Find a Politician Willing to Take on the Financial Sector”

Professor Steve Keen, prominent among a small group of economists who correctly foresaw the 2007 meltdown, talks about the parallels between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the current “great” recession.

The key indicator he uses to predict periods of major economic collapse is the ratio of private debt in an economy to GDP.

In America in the 1920s, he says, the ratio of private debt to GDP was something on the order of 190%. In the current crisis it was over 300% prior to the bursting of the bubble. By this indicator, I’d say we’re in another depression now.

Both the Great Depression and the current “Great Recession,” Keen reminds us, are periods of massive “deleveraging.”

Discussing the rise of Hitler after and as a result of the Great Depression, he sees a similar danger now, and says, “If you want to head-off fascism, you’ve got to find a politician willing to take on the financial sector.”

To which I say, be afraid … be vcry afraid.

Most Don’t Realize the Deficit is Falling Dramatically, So Sequester Not Needed

Reprinted from Campaign for America’s Future under Creative Commons License

By Dave Johnson

There is no deficit problem. The deficit is down about 50 percent as a share of gross domestic product just since President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 deficit and is falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. Yet the Washington debate is about how and where to cut us back into recession. Why?

Congress should just repeal the sequester – we don’t need it. We have 10 years to fix the long-term deficit situation. We should not be stampeded by deficit-scare propaganda and instead take the time to carefully consider the right approach. That way we won’t make the mistakes that Europe is making.

Deficit Falling

Here is a chart of the deficit as a percent of GDP: (Data sources below)

Deficit as percent of GDP

Once again, because it might be hard to register due to the drumbeat of deficit-scare propaganda, this is a fact: the deficit is falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. It is down about 50 percent as a percent of GDP just since Bush’s huge $1.4 trillion fiscal 2009 deficit. And the deficit is projected to be stable for a decade.

All of that means that no, we do not have a “deficit emergency,” the deficit is not “out of control” and we have 10 years to decide how best to fix things.

So let’s stop listening to the drumbeat of “deficit shock” propaganda and not be rushed into doing any more stupid, destructive cuts in the things We, the People do to make our lives better.

Medicare Cost Growth Way Down, Too

You probably hear again and again that Medicare is the driver of future deficit trouble.

Here is something you probably didn’t know because of the drumbeat of deficit propaganda: Medicare cost growth is way down. From 2000 through 2009, Medicare spending climbed by an average of 9.7 percent a year. Now those increases are down to 1.9 percent and are still falling.

Take a look at this report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,Growth In Medicare Spending Per Beneficiary Continues To Hit Historic Lows:

The very slow growth in Medicare spending in fiscal year 2012 follows slow growth in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, spending grew at only 1.8 percent per beneficiary, and in 2011 at 3.6 percent. Over the three year period from 2010-2012, Medicare spending per beneficiary grew an average of 1.9 percent annually, or more than 1 percentage point more slowly than the average annual growth of 3.2 percent in per capita GDP.

Public Does Not Know Deficit Is Falling

One reason there is so much pressure for cuts is that the public has overwhelmingly fallen for the deficit-scare propaganda drumbeat. Jed Lewison at Daily Kos explains the problem, in “94 percent of Americans don’t know the budget deficit is getting smaller,”

It’s an indisputable fact: The budget deficit is getting smaller.

… But when Bloomberg News commissioned a survey asking Americans whether they believed the budget deficit was growing or shrinking, just six percent answered the question correctly. Ninety-four percent had no clue. And 62 percent actually thought it was getting bigger.

Jed’s post points us to Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog, who has more details in the post, “A well-kept fiscal secret“:

A 62 percent majority believe the deficit is getting bigger, 28 percent believe the deficit is staying roughly the same, and only 6 percent believe the deficit is shrinking.

Here it is, louder: Only 6 percent believe the deficit is shrinking! But here’s the thing: the deficit is shrinking dramatically. That is not a political opinion; it’s just math.

Here is Steve again, “A conversation-ending chart”:

Now, I think it’s probably safe to say deficit hawks are no longer capable of embarrassment, so the chart’s impact is likely limited. That said, there’s a policy point to keep in mind: “Here’s a pretty important fact that virtually everyone in Washington seems oblivious to: The federal deficit has never fallen as fast as it’s falling now without a coincident recession.”

Got that? Every time the nation has reduced the deficit this much, this quickly, economic growth suffers to the point that the economy actually shrinks.

Role Of Media In Democracy

Isn’t it the media’s job to inform the public, not misinform the public? Isn’t correct, accurate, objective information necessary for the proper functioning of a democracy?

What does it say about our country’s information channels, when only 6 percent of the public knows that the deficit is shrinking? Shouldn’t that be a signal to the media to run headlines for a month informing the public, instead of continuing to scare people that the deficit is going to eat them up?

When only 6 percent of the public knows the facts (the deficit is falling fast, it is just math, not political opinion) about the most serious policy discussion that is occurring, with the most serious consequences for our jobs, standard of living, our future … a 94 percent misinformation rate is so far beyond just media incompetence that it has to be looked at as something else.

Propaganda And Its Policy Consequences

“Blowback” is a term that means propaganda you use against a target comes back and hurts you. Anti-government propaganda has convinced the public that “government takes money out of the economy” and “government is in the way of business.” Other propaganda has convinced people that we have a “deficit emergency.” This propaganda is paid for by billionaires and the corporations that mask them, with a vast apparatus that distributes the misinformation.

The billionaires and giant multinational corporations want to cut their taxes and get government rules out of their way. But now they’re killing the economy that laid their golden egg.

Austerity – budget cuts – hurt the economy. They reduce the pressure to make the wealthy pay their taxes, but they cut economic growth for the rest of us. Europe is engaged in a grand experiment with austerity, and we can see the results. They cut their budgets, their economies decline, less tax revenue comes in the door, and their deficits as a percent of GDP actually go up making the problem worse.

Unfortunately, their leaders think that means they should cut even more. The result has been that their economies decline even more, revenue falls even more, and their deficits as a percent of GDP actually go up, making the problem worse.

Unfortunately, their leaders think that means they should cut even more. The result has been that their economies decline even more, revenue falls even more, and their deficits as a percent of GDP actually go up, making the problem worse.

Unfortunately … you get the picture. Unfortunately they don’t.

No Deficit Emergency – Repeal The Sequester

So we don’t have a “deficit emergency” or a “fiscal crisis” or an “out-of-control” deficit after all.

But we still have the “sequester” budget cuts starting Friday, and the consequences to our economy are really bad.

Congress needs to just repeal the sequester. They do not need a “deal” to cut something else out of the budget.

President Obama does not need to make a deal involving cuts that will just make things worse. That’s just falling into the Republican framing of demanding cuts as a solution to everything, strangling our government’s ability to make our lives better. From last week’s post, “Obama Says Cuts Bad, Proposes Cuts”:

Common sense might suggest that if a thug is holding a kid hostage and demanding money you don’t offer him half the money and say he can shoot half the kid. That is a “balanced” response to hostage-taking. But it is not the correct response.

Just repeal the sequester. And instead of cutting, how about repairing the country’s infrastructure, which means a lot of people get hired! And it means we have a modern, competitive infrastructure making our lives and businesses better.

Chart data sources:
GDP Source: http://www.bea.gov/national/index.htm#gdp
2013 forcast using low 2.5%: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-13/fed-officials-upgrade-economic-growth-outlook-in-2013-2014.html
Deficit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals
2013, 2014 deficit estimates: http://www.foxbusiness.com/government/2013/02/05/cbo-sees-fy-2013-budget-deficit-at-845b-smallest-since-08/?

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If You Believe Agenda 21 is a UN Conspiracy, You May Be at Risk for Drinking Raw Milk

If you believe Agenda 21 is a UN conspiracy, then you may also be at risk for drinking raw milk, since both subjects seem to be issues of “personal freedom” in some peoples’ minds.

Judging by the fact that vaccine compliance in Nevada County is the lowest among all the counties in California (another example of the “personal freedom” to be dangerously foolish) I have no doubt that the misguideed belief in the safety of raw milk is also thriving here.

Before you drink raw milk, though, you should read this article from Food Safety News:

Raw_Milk_Article

Excerpts:

Last April, she [a 2 year-old girl from Oregon] was 1 of 15 children who became ill from drinking raw milk (containing E. coli) that was obtained from a farm that provides herd shares near Portland. This young girl and three other children developed HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) and acute kidney failure. She suffered a stroke and died, but was resuscitated. Almost a year later and she is not able to stand or walk on her own, she can’t speak, and she is fed through a feeding tube. Part of her colon has been removed, she has pancreatic problems and now her kidneys have shut down. As of last week, she is back on dialysis and has been placed on the list for a kidney transplant.

[…]

Many raw milk supporters and some legislators do not consider raw milk to be a food safety issue, but instead one of personal freedom. These supporters and a few legislators have stated that they “do not care about the facts or the science involved with raw milk. It is their right to drink whatever they want and it’s not the government’s job to protect a person from themselves.” However, this is where informed consent comes into play. Informed consent can only take place if a person is given all the facts including both risks and benefits. Since the organizations that promote raw milk market its unproven benefits and do not mention its risks, informed consent cannot possibly take place. Public Health is fighting to protect people from this scientifically unsupported data and not “protect people from themselves.” Public Health is also fighting to protect children from this misleading marketing campaign. Children are typically the ones who become seriously ill from drinking raw milk given to them by a parent who believed the unsubstantiated claims about its benefits. In these cases, the child did not have the freedom to choose and the parents did not have the information to make an informed decision.

Read full article from Food Safety News here: “The Raw Milk Battle in Iowa Continues

 

Do We Need An “Empathy Revolution?”

Can an empathy revolution (“outrospection,” a variation on Socrates’ injunction to “know thyself”) help us now as we speed toward so many civilizational tipping points (imminent climate catastrophe, peak fossil fuels, more and bigger economic meltdowns, demise of democracy … )?


Deficit Scaremongering By “Fix The Debt” Campaign

Reprinted from Pete Peterson Pyramid under Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike

Fix the Debt Astroturf Supergroup

Fix the debt logo2.png

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation’s “debt problem.” Through this special report — and in partnership with The Nation magazine — the Center for Media and Democracy exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and phony state “chapters” of this $60 million “astroturf supergroup,” whose goal is to achieve a grand bargain on austerity by July 4, 2013.[1. Campaign to Fix the Debt, CEO Talking Points 10/2/12, organizational document, October 2, 2012.]

Move over, David Koch and George Soros! Pete Peterson is “the most influential billionaire in America,” says the LA Times.

Peter G. Peterson has long used his wealth to underwrite numerous organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashing Social Security and Medicare, citing concerns over “unsustainable” federal budget deficits. Full of apocalyptic warnings, Peterson failed to warn of the $8 trillion housing bubble, but conveniently sold his private equity firm Blackstone Group on the eve of the financial crisis. He later pledged to spend $1 billion of the money from the sale to “fix America’s key fiscal-sustainability problems,” launching the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in 2008.[1. Peter G. Peterson, Why I’m Giving Away $1 BillionThe Daily Beast, May 29, 2009.] As of 2011, the Huffington Post reported that Peterson had personally given $458 million to the Foundation.[1. Ryan Grim and Paul Blumenthal, Peter Peterson Spent Nearly Half A Billion In Washington Targeting Social Security, MedicareHuffington Post, May 15, 2012.]

Even before the 2012 Campaign to Fix the Debt, Peterson poured millions into a multifaceted effort to support the Simpson-Bowles Commission and its $4 trillion austerity package, a plan that would cost the nation four million jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute[1. Josh Bivens and Andrew Fieldhouse, Fiscal commissioners’ proposal would cost millions of jobs, Economic Policy Institute, November 16, 2010.],  and “destroy Social Security as we know it,” according to Social Security Works.[1. Social Security Works, No Drastic Changes to Social SecurityThe Olympian op-ed, September 25, 2009.] He bankrolled nineteen “America Speaks” Town Hall meetings, which spectacularly backfired, launched the “OweNo” TV ad campaign, and funded the Concord Coalition’s Fiscal Solutions tour to take the message to the heartland. When the commission blew up — failing to get the votes needed to advance a plan to Congress — Peterson gave Bowles and Simpson a new perch at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to allow them to continue to scold Congress. Learn more about Pete Peterson in “Peterson’s Long History of Deficit Scaremongering” in The Nation.

Fix the Debt Firms: Unpaid Taxes and Underfunded Pensions

Fix the Debt CEOs say they are worried about the debt and deficits, yet many Fix the Debt firms pay a negative tax rate or a tax rate well below the standard 35 percent — adding greatly to our nation’s deficit.  Fix the Debt CEOs say that what is needed to balance the books is cuts to earned benefit programs like Social Security (which is a separate federal program not counted in  the federal budget at all). At the same time, many of these same CEOs under-fund their employee pension plans, making it likely that their workers will be even more dependent on Social Security.  This hypocrisy has led to a campaign called “Flip the Debt,” which calls upon major corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

 

Cote.jpg
  • Honeywell
    • CEO David Cote, compensation: $37,842,723
    • David Cote’s retirement assets: $78,084,717
    • Honeywell’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -0.7%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$2,764,000,000

 

Immelt.jpg
  • General Electric
    • CEO Jeffrey Immelt, compensation: $21,581,228
    • Jeffrey Immelt’s retirement assets: $53,301,387
    • GE’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -45.3%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$21,756,000,000

 

Mcadam.jpg
  • Verizon
    • CEO Lowell McAdam, compensation: $23,120,499
    • Lowell McAdam’s retirement assets: $8,725,445
    • Verizon’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -2.9%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$6,472,000,000
McNerney.jpg
  • Boeing
    • CEO W. James McNerney, Jr., compensation: $22,958,313
    • W. James McNerney, Jr.’s retirement assets: $39,089,893
    • Boeing’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -1.8%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$16,598,000,000
Weeks.jpg
  • Corning
    • CEO Wendell Weeks, compensation: $10,333,531
    • Wendell Weeks’ retirement assets: $21,229,195
    • Corning’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): -0.2%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$454,000,000

 

Frazier.jpg
  • Merck
    • CEO Kenneth Frazier, compensation: $13,347,652
    • Kenneth Frazier’s retirement assets: $14,428,904
    • Merck’s average effective tax rate (2008-2010): 11.5%
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$1,935,000,000
Anderson.jpg
  • Delta Air Lines
    • CEO Richard Anderson, compensation: $8,854,554
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$11,504,000,000
Bertolini.jpg
  • Aetna
    • CEO Mark Bertolini, compensation: $10,556,335
    • Mark Bertolini’s retirement assets: $1,499,282
    • Underfunded employee pension: -$833,500,000

The GOP Plan to Flush Your State’s Economy Down the Toilet

Reprinted from Alternet

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

The new “red-state model” seeks to turn your state into Mississippi.

The GOP has plans for a comeback. But it may cost you a lot. The idea is to capitalize on recent Republican state takeovers to conduct an austerity experiment known as the new “red-state model” and prove that faulty policies can be turned into gold.

There will be smoke. There will be mirrors. And there will be a lot of ordinary people suffering needlessly in the wake of this ideological train wreck.

We already have a red-state model, and it’s called Mississippi. Or Texas. Or any number of states characterized by low public investment, worker abuse, environmental degradation, educational backwardness, high rates of unwanted pregnancy, poor health, and so on.

Now the GOP is determined to bring that horrible model to the rest of America.

In Kansas, the Wall Street Journal reports that Governor Sam Brownback is aiming to up his profile by turning Kansas into what he calls “Exhibit A for how sharp cuts in taxes and government spending can generate jobs, wean residents off public aid and spur economic growth.” In remarks quoted in the same article, Brownback announced that “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’ ”

Brownback’s economic inspiration is Reagan-era supply-side economist Arthur Laffer and the folks at Americans for Prosperity, the conservative outfit backed by the deep coffers of the Koch brothers.

This new austerity talk focused on “fiscal innovations” is emboldening Republicans in other states that have been gerrymandered into submission to the GOP, including Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and alas, my home state of North Carolina.

Republications have been eyeing the Tar Heel state with interest due to its recent swing status in presidential elections. The state was also the target of a gerrymandering strategy that worked out wonderfully for the Republicans, but not so well for democracy. Sam Wang, the founder of the Princeton Election Consortium, wrote recently in the New York Times about how Republican redistricting thwarted Democratic voters:

“Although gerrymandering is usually thought of as a bipartisan offense, the rather asymmetrical results may surprise you….I have developed approaches to detect such shenanigans by looking only at election returns. To see how the sleuthing works, start with the naïve standard that the party that wins more than half the votes should get at least half the seats. In November, five states failed to clear even this low bar: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. … In North Carolina, where the two-party House vote was 51 percent Democratic, 49 percent Republican, the average simulated delegation was seven Democrats and six Republicans. The actual outcome? Four Democrats, nine Republicans — a split that occurred in less than 1 percent of simulations. If districts were drawn fairly, this lopsided discrepancy would hardly ever occur.”

The lesson of North Carolina tells you that the GOP red-state model is based, first and foremost, on efforts to flagrantly disregard the will of the people. NC’s discount-store mogul Art Pope, a longtime GOP donor and champion of free-market fundamentalism, has been appointed state budget director by the new Republican governor, Pat McCrory. In an incredible display of money buying political influence, Pope has gone well beyond his donor-counterparts in other states. Instead of just funding the politicians he wants, he has gone for direct rule by occupying government himself. Tax repeal is the centerpiece of his announced plans, but his hatred of public investment means he has much more than that in store for one of the most progressive states in the South. Pope is said to be more powerful than the governor, giving rise to the term “Pope administration” to describe the new political reality.

GOP pols are vying to out-do each other in extreme red-state programming. NC state senator Bob Rucho is pushing a plan to eliminate the state’s income taxes altogether. Such plans go hand-in-hand with calls for increasing the sales tax. Because low-income people pay a higher proportion of their income in sales taxes, abolishing income taxes and raising sales taxes shoves tax burdens onto them. Obviously, the Republicans will not give up on their passionate desire to cut taxes on the wealthy and stick it to the poor and the middle class.

Pope’s ideological opposition to public investment is ringing alarm bells. North Carolina, a state where progressives have fought conservative forces tooth and nail to achieve an enviable university system and a reputation for high-tech and research, is now in danger of being thrown into a period of regressive darkness. University of North Carolina sociologist Andrew Perrin put it this way: “Public investment is part of what has set North Carolina apart from our neighbors in the South.”

But Pope is hell-bent on turning North Carolina into Mississippi.

The GOP economic plans not only subvert common sense and the lessons of history (being played out right now in places like the U.K., where austerity has failed dramatically), they also flip a giant middle finger at the American voter. Unable to win support at the national level for their foolhardy economic programs, Republicans have turned their attention to state-level action because that’s where gerrymandering really works wonders.

Red-state model proponents claim that their maneuvers will spark economic growth. But that was basically what George W. Bush had in mind when he supported a similar program for cutting taxes on the rich. That didn’t work out so well, and increased the very deficits Republicans decry.

But here’s the really scary part. Slashing taxes, squeezing workers and throwing out environmental protections can indeed lure businesses to states where they won’t have to pay their fair share and can get away with all sorts of abuse. If a state like North Carolina promotes such policies, businesses from nearby states like Virginia may indeed move their operations down the road. Unless you believe in the “Confidence Fairy,” as Paul Krugman calls the naïve GOP faith that making everybody poorer is the way to become rich, then you know that what results is simply trade diversion, not genuine growth. In other words, one state’s gain is another state’s loss. The result is a headlong race-to-the-bottom whereby the states losing business will be pressured to slash their taxes and burden their workers and ordinary citizens, too. Nobody wins in that game — except the 1 percent.

The blue-state model, evident in high-income states like Massachusetts, has long been associated with high levels of state investments in education, transportation and other public goods. And guess what? It’s also associated with economic strength. The red-state model, on the other hand, is linked to backwardness, second-rate educational systems and economic weakness.

What the GOP wants to do is create an image-problem for blue states where taxes have been raised to balance budgets and continue vital services and jobs by crying “Look, Ma! No taxes!” in the states where they’ve taken control.

They’ll soon be able to say, “Look, Ma! No economy.”


Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of ‘Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.’ She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

“We Are Standing on the Brink of a Public Health Catastrophe”

From Food Safety News

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) reacted to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) report this week, calling the increases in certain types of drug resistance among bacteria found on retail meat and ground poultry “alarming.”

“We are standing on the brink of a public health catastrophe,” said Rep. Slaughter. “The threat of antibiotic-resistant disease is real, it is growing and those most at risk are our seniors and children. We can help stop this threat by drastically reducing the overuse of antibiotics in our food supply, and Congress should act swiftly to do so today.”

[…]

“The report found that 50.3 percent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found on ground turkey were resistant to three or more antibiotic classes. Interestingly, no bacteria were found to be resistant to vancomycin and linezolid , which are two antibiotics not used in food animal production.”

Rep. Slaughter is the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, legislation that would phase out medically important antibiotics from being used subtherapeutically.

Read the full article here.

Podcasting Community Faces Patent Troll Threat; EFF Wants to Help

Reprinted from Electronic Frontier Foundation under Creative Commons License

By Julie Samuels

Another day, another patent troll. Or so it seems. The threat of the patent troll is not new—we’ve written about it time and again. But the troubling trend of suing downstream users and content providers really makes us mad. First it was the app developers, then those who scan documents to email. Now, the latest outrage: podcasters. Yes, really. And EFF wants to help organize those facing the threat so that we can gauge the size of the problem and hopefully help people find counsel and a way to work together in response.

First, some background. A company called Personal Audio is claiming that it owns a patent that covers podcasting technology and has sent podcasters letters, demanding that they pay Personal Audio to use the technology. As with many patents, this one is dangerously broad and vague, allegedly covering, well, any and all podcasting. Just take a look at this language:

Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available…

Of course, as with most software patents, this one fails to explain how that “apparatus” would actually work, apparently letting its owner make the ridiculous claim that essentially anyapparatus that disseminates episodes infringes its patent.

So far, Personal Audio has sued some pretty high-profile and beloved podcasts, like the Adam Carolla Show and HowStuffWorks. It also sent its threatening letters demanding a license to numerous podcasters, like Majority Report’s Sam Seder (we got a chance to talk to him a little about the problem on his show here).

Are you a podcaster? Have you received a letter from Personal Audio? We think there are more of you out there than you realize. EFF would like to understand how big the problem is and make sure you’re all in touch with each other. We can also help you find counsel. If you’ve heard from Personal Audio, please send us an email at podcasting@eff.org.

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