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Common ground for strange Web bedfellows

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President Obama came out against some of the provisions in the two bills in Congress that would put the boot on online piracy so you’d think the remaining Republican contenders would make it one of their top priorities to pass the bills, no?

You would be wrong, Bucky. At last night’s debate, all four GOP contenders were unequivocal in their opposition to the Senate’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the House version, Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA.)

In essence, the two bills would require search engines and other Web sites to become the online police in cleaning up the theft of other’s work. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and backed by a host of Left Coast elite headed up by Christopher Dodd, the former Connecticut senator who is now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America. And there seemed for a time that this was a bipartisan effort that might actually have a chance to pass.

But then the might of the Internet came down with a worldwide web of protest never before seen that caused many a Republican lawmaker to retreat and others, such as Sen. Scott Brown, to announce they would vote against the bill if it indeed came up as promised. But it won’t because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning he is postponing the planned vote that was slated for Tuesday. No one ever said Reid can’t count.

Tech companies protested the bills were so loosely written, they could allow some large music and movie entities to force them to shut down if a questionable site ended up on their search engines. More than 7,000 Internet sites went dark in protest, including some of the biggest names such as Google and Wikipedia, giving the world a taste of what it was like in the days of the Luddites. It was effective. And impressive in who it aligned.

The ideology, if not the actual power, of the Occupy Wall Street movement was a major force behind the protest and the opposition also drew the likes of Al Jazeera and a slew of liberal bloggers.

The Republican opposition, though, may be easily summed up by Newt Gingrich’s reply in last night’s debate.

“Well, you're asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood,” he kind of joked, although it may have something to do with Rupert Murdoch tweeting his feelings.

There could be a price to pay for Obama, as the Los Angeles Times and others report Hollywood heavies, who have been among his strongest backers, are none-too-pleased with his stance and it could result in a fundraising hit for the president.

But perhaps this is not as complicated as it seems. Keller@Large has a solution to online piracy: Stop stealing.

                                                                                                                                                        --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Senate President Therese Murray tells a Salem audience that casino operators must pay for roadway improvements and also pledges to pass a health care bill soon, the Lynn Item reports. Gambling commissioner Steve Crosby says it could be two years before the state awards its first casino license.

The state’s unemployment rate falls to 6.8 percent in December, its lowest level since 2008, WBUR reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Alex Morse, Holyoke’s 22-year-old mayor, goes on Radio Boston to discuss his hard line on casinos. For more on Morse, check out CommonWealth’s story on him.

Brockton City Councilor Jass Stewart wants to implement minimum qualifications such as requiring college degrees for city department heads, which currently do not exist.

Brian McGrory attends a non-protest in Hingham.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Oklahoma bill would expand that state’s open records law to include the Legislature, Governing reports.

The feds go after Megaupload ,a site they claims shares movies and other media illegally. Hackers then move to disrupt the US Department of Justice’s website.

ELECTION 2012

In campaign kickoff, Sen. Scott Brown stresses his independence and role as a political outsider, the Lowell Sun reports. He starts his reelection campaign in Worcester where his last campaign ended, NECN reports. Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren campaigns in Worcester, too. RedMassGroup has the text of Brown’s speech.

Newsweek’s Niall Ferguson asks if there is a credible conservative answer to the attack on the 1 percent.

Daily Beast contributors dissect the South Caroline debate. Here’s the National Review’s rapid reaction. At the Weekly Standard, William Kristol thinks Mitt Romney had the most problematic debate performance because of his taxes and Romneycare. Time examines Newt Gingrich’s scorching attack on the media after the “open marriage” question. The New Republic has a piece about the media’s failings in covering Newt Gingrich, namely their tendency to underestimate him. Mother Jones digs out a 1984 profile of Gingrich which leads off with an epic House battle with Speaker Tip O’Neill. A New York Times editorial says it’s little wonder Gingrich is being stung by the open marriage accusation: He’s been trafficking in a “toxic combination of infidelity and sermonizing” for years. But at least the guy lets the media peek at his tax returns. Peter Gelzinis scorches the GOP presidential contestants: “Now we have the supreme spectacle of Newt Gingrich, the Tim Tebow of fallen House speakers, on his pudgy knees and crawling up Mitt’s perfect back, begging for forgiveness as he pledges his fealty to the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman ... and another woman ... and another woman.”

Scot Lehigh warns that if Mitt Romney can’t adequately address concerns about the practices of his private equity firm to GOP voters, he will have a much harder time doing so in the general election. Romney also did  little in last night’s debate to dampen down curiosity about what exactly is in his tax returns.

Paul Krugman is in typical Paul Krugman form, which means he isn’t writing about open marriages, but is instead insisting that rich folk pay more taxes.

Meet the Somerville resident who was arrested for trespassing at a Romney campaign event.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Massachusetts auto insurance rates fall 12.7 percent over a three-year period, CommonWealth reports. Was it do to the Patrick administration’s “managed competition” or just the natural course of business?

The Senate-approved supplemental budget included an amendment that would remove the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s oversight over the Meditech project in Fall River, a battle that was detailed in the most recent issue of CommonWealth.

FISHING

While most commercial fishing advocates have been unhappy with the Commerce Department’s stewardship of NOAA for years, not everyone is convinced the proposed shift of the agency to the Interior Department is a good solution.

EDUCATION

The Bridgewater-Raynham school superintendent lifted the suspension on the high school’s wrestling team after a week-long investigation determined several members of the team violated the school’s anti-hazing rule, though she did not release any disciplinary action.

State officials led by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray yesterday announced a grant to fund a feasibility study to build a marine and environmental community college in Scituate.

HEALTH CARE

The Globe reports on the Massachusetts biotech industry’s entrance into the generic drug market.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Northeast Utilities, the Hartford-based utility, seeks permission to buy NStar.

The American Spectator says Obama’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline could be his and the environmental movement’s undoing.

Dolphins continue to get stranded in Wellfleet.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating the labor practices of the Marriott Copley Place renovation project. The project is being completed by laborers from a Philadelphia church shelter.

The state Parole Board turns down Thomas Maimoni, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 1991, calling him a “pathological liar,” the Salem News reports.

The Patrick administration is releasing its Corrections Master Plan and some proposals on how to deal with the expected 10,000 more inmates than the state has beds for.

Because more than two dozen books is apparently not enough to tell the whole story, there is a new one about James “Whitey” Bulger and his relationship with the FBI.

NEVERMORE

For the third year in a row, the “Poe Toaster,” a mystery visitor who would annually appear at Edgar Allen Poe’s grave in Baltimore on the dark novelist’s birthday and leave a half-empty bottle of Cognac and three roses, failed to show, marking what many think is a quiet end to a nearly seven-decade tradition.

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