Firefighters For SOPA (Again): The Congressional Fire Services Institute Rehashes Cliches And Debunked Anecdotes
from the jobs-safety-foreigners-REPEAT dept
Another pro-SOPA/PROTECT-IP op-ed detailing the horrors wrought by “rogue sites” has appeared at The Hill. This time, it’s William Jenaway of the Congressional Fire Services Institute decrying the ready availability of counterfeits goods and the risk to “public safety” these items pose.
It opens with the usual “the internet is wonderful but mostly it’s a den of thieves” rhetorical device before wading into the shallowest waters of the overused “appeal to patriotism” argument, stating that “Foreign-owned, rogue websites are increasingly selling counterfeit products to U.S. consumers,” reminding us yet again that xenophobia and lousy legislation still go hand-in-hand far too frequently.
Then there’s this touching display of concern (feel free to throw quotes around touching, display, concern or all three):
The economic impact of these counterfeit products is only one part of the problem. Many of these products are of poor design and quality and cannot perform basic safety functions. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimate 15% of seized counterfeit goods pose a direct risk to public safety.
Our pro-SOPA representatives are just worried about the consumers. By properly censoring the internet, we can ensure that Americans will only be harmed by faulty, genuine products, possibly made by Americans themselves. Jenaway then goes on to bring us a real life example of how counterfeit goods have harmed decent, hardworking Americans:
Counterfeit goods can pose a very real threat to the public and to the firefighters who protect our communities. Here in Atlanta, more than 18,000 counterfeit smoke detectors were recalled after they were distributed in high-risk, low-income communities earlier this year.
If you’ll recall, back in November, Mike published a post taking the International Association of Firefighters to task for sending a letter in support of PROTECT-IP and the (now renamed) E-PARASITE Act. This particular anecdote surfaced in the comment thread as Exhibit A in defense of these acts. After all, knockoff smoke detectors are dangerous and blocking rogue sites would ensure these fakes wouldn’t end up in consumers’ hands, while also “explaining” why firefighters were concerned with taking pirate sites offline.
But as Josh in Charlotte pointed out, this story has nothing to do with rogue sites, censorship or consumer protection. This was a government agency screwing things up on its own and distributing counterfeit goods to its citizens:
About 18,500 counterfeit photoelectric smoke alarms were distributed for free in the Atlanta area between 2006 through May 2011 as part of the Atlanta Smoke Alarm Program.
And this has exactly what to do with censoring internet websites?
“More than 18,000 of the apparently uncertified units were purchased in 2005 and 2006 from a company in California.”
“The problem dates back five years to when the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department bought the alarms from a vendor in Calabasas, California.”
“While the Atlanta firemen work to replace the alarms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the vendor, Silver Sails Corp. The City of Atlanta is “currently examining all available legal options” to recover the $100,000 spent on the counterfeit alarms, according to the fire department.”
“We are an industrial supplier to local, state and federal agencies…”
Bids were submitted to AFRD, according to City of Atlanta Department of Procurement policies and procedures, with specifications for the detector purchase to include: new ionization type; Federal and State of Georgia Occupational Safety and Health Act compliancy; UL compliancy; continuous alarm duration; alarm sound level of 85 dB@ 10 feet; low battery indicator; hush button; test button; twist off mounting bracket; and long life 10 year lithium battery
Three bids were submitted from the following vendors: Englewood Electrical Supply (June 7, 2005), Silver Sails Inc. (June 7, 2005), and Cintas (July 8, 2005)
July 29, 2005- Silver Sails Inc. was awarded the procurement bid (8337-BA)”
You can’t even play the “sold on a rogue site” card on this one. A government program got duped into buying them and distributed to people.
Oh, so the same government who can’t even source legitimate goods on its own is now going to be allowed to decide which sites are valid and which sites are “rogue?” And it’s going to be assisted by a variety of self-interested corporations? Sounds almost like the fever dream of turn-of-the-century robber barons rather than a 21st-century piece of legislation. Jenaway’s not done, though, making one last mention of “protecting” consumers.
It is imperative that Congress address this growing danger with safeguards that support commerce and innovation, while protecting American consumers, our communities, and the first responders who keep us safe. These bills do just that.
Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21) and Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) should be applauded for introducing these important bills. Congress should act quickly to pass comprehensive legislation protecting consumers from dangerous, counterfeit goods.
Whatever. This is lazy conflation designed to stoke the fires of protectionism under the guise of “public safety.” If it’s just “dangerous” fakes we’re worried about, why spend the time and energy shutting down sites selling counterfeit jerseys and handbags? If it’s the health and well-being of Americans we’re so “concerned” with, why are we even bothering with blocking so-called “pirate” sites? Did someone pass out and lapse into a coma brought on by over-torrenting? Did someone get hospitalized for “DVD burns?”
This rhetoric is repeated over and over by SOPA’s supporters, taking on a mantra-like tone: JOBS SAFETY JOBS SAFETY, occasionally interrupted by promises to take it out on the “foreigners” who are “endangering” Americans when not “stealing their jobs.” They certainly have the fattened wallets and corrupted power to shove this bill through, but they’re severely short on justification.