Friday, June 7, 2013

The week that was

David Brin was the guest this week on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, discussing "transparency, security, privacy & openness in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? (Winner of the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association)." I actually recommend this - David actually brings up a lot of important points about the way the US was set up and what the goal was, and how accumulated inherited wealth is the enemy of freedom and of capitalism.

Max wants to get the old MaxSpeak site back up and says he needs html help. I really miss MaxSpeak, so I hope this happens soon.

Horrible news: Stirling Newberry has had a stroke. Updated here. This sounds a lot like what happened to Stu Shiffman, and right now Stu is able to eat baby food and speak on the phone and be understood - after a year of very good care. Let's hope Stirling also has very good care, but expect a long, scary, frustrating ride before he can talk to us again.

Glenn Greenwald's big scoop: "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama"
Charlie Savage and Edward Watt: "U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls"
Bruce Schneier in The Atlantic, "What We Don't Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know: The NSA's surveillance of cell-phone calls show how badly we need to protect the whistle-blowers who provide transparency and accountability."
@algore: "In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?"
Sam Seder talked to Marcy Wheeler about this on The Majority Report.

"Supreme Court upholds DNA swabbing of people under arrest" - We apparently have several Supreme Court justices who either don't understand or don't care that the point is to prevent cops from going on fishing expeditions. If they can retain data on people they've inappropriately arrested (as is so often the case), they can get anyone on anything, eventually, just because they don't like them. Interestingly, Breyer voted with the majority and Scalia voted against.

The British version: "Copyright extension: good for Cliff and the Beatles, bad for the little guys?" This is ghastly news for most musicians and for listeners. It means that many old recordings will remain hidden and buried while a tiny handful of already-rich performers will be the only beneficiaries. Those great forgotten recordings will remain forgotten, as will the performers' ability to generate income off of them. (Typically, I noticed that the mere act of linking to examples of great old British recordings in a Guardian article seems to have generated take-down orders. I've noticed a lot of that over the years, and since the previous industry-protection law came into existence, British creation seems to disappear off of YouTube like crazy. That means that, far from being protected, British creators are being robbed of promotional opportunities by these laws.)

The Democratic leadership thinks they're doing fine, even though their policies are not much different from Republican policies.
"If you hear a kind of whooshing, rushing noise, don't worry - it's not US jobs moving to China. Today's great sucking sound is the sound of agricultural wealth being siphoned off into the global financial system.
Why you need to be a corporation - so you can have some rights.
A rough week for Monsanto

The New Farm Bill is an Economic Disaster
Tom Tomorrow on SNAPs cuts in the Farm Bill, Those lazy babies.

It turns out that even with disastrous policies in place, Social Security and Medicare still aren't going to be bankrupted by the Baby Boomers. This fact is serious rain on the parade of Austerians, but, says Krugman (ever the optimist), "The truth is that the long-term outlook for Social Security and Medicare, while not great, actually isn't all that bad. It's time to stop obsessing about how we'll pay benefits to retirees in 2035 and focus instead on how we're going to provide jobs to unemployed Americans in the here and now."

Michael Hiltzik continues the call, saying, "Social Security should be expanded, not cut."

Sam Seder hosted Thom Hartmann's show and discussed the new, more optimistic report on Social Security and Medicare - and posted the show on his The Majority Report podcast.
Sam also talked to Trevor Aaronson about the FBI's Manufactured War on Terror.

Ian Welsh on The Decline and Fall of Post War Liberalism and the Rise of the Right, complete with scary graphs: "Liberalism failed because it couldn't handle the war and crisis of the late 60s and 70s. The people who could have, were dead or too old, they had not properly trained successors, those successors were paying attention to the wrong problem and had become disconnected from reality on the ground. And the New Deal coalition was fracturing, more interested in hating blacks or keeping the 'good' suburban lifestyle than in making sure that a rising tide lifted all boats (a prescriptive, not descriptive, statement.)"

"How Partisanship Enables Government Criminality."

Mike Lux notes that DC "centrists" are far away from the voters, and thinks populist Democrats have a good chance to win in red states.

"We Are Now One Year Away From Global Riots, Complex Systems Theorists Say."

"The Black Panthers And The Right To Bear Arms"

Susie Bright's film quiz (may not be work-safe). I was moved to link this because she includes a clip from one of my favorite films, Shampoo. Alas, a look at YouTube did not find me a clip of the scene toward the end when Jack Warden confronts Warren Beatty and George explains it all.

I liked this poster.

Cool aerial shots of London

"Poll: Are you sad to see Smith go?" - It was the comment thread that got me.

I've been reflexively skipping this ad after 3 seconds, but I decided to watch this time and realized it's a great little snap sightseeing tour of London.

Wired Space Photo of the Day: Hoag's Object

The Corrugation of Dreams - Sometimes I am completely amazed by what a creative individual can do with even the most unimpressive of materials.

Kenny Graham And His Satellites, "Sunday"

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars 1950. "Panama"

Roy Williams, George Chisholm, and the Alex Welsh Band, "It's Alright with Me"


  1. Glenn Greenwald's big scoop: "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama"

    Accompanied, of course, by the shrill sound of Opologists hating on Glenn G.

  2. So the next Dr. Who is the twelfth and according to holy writ the last regeneration. Unless they find a way to reset the character.
    Given that the Dr. Who franchise is pretty darn lucrative I'm betting on a reset.

    William Hurt is possibly the pre-doctor, the guy with a name. So we pop him out of the grave have him regenerate and Bob's your uncle we start all over.

    All three new doctors have been pretty good. While I'll miss Smith as I did Tennant, I'm betting there's more than one actor able to play the part.

    River Song and a female Doctor; now that's a happy thought.

  3. Two things David Brin said bear repeating - that the enemy is aristocracy and that the more effective response to spying is to subject elites to the same level of scrutiny the rest of us are subjected to. (Sorry if I've paraphrased incorrectly.) I like that idea because it's playing more offensive than defensive, directing energy towards making them operate in the light rather than towards futile attempts to regulate what they're allowed to do in the dark. It was an interesting conversation but, really, isn't it time to evolve beyond Adam Smith?

    1. Like turning it back in their faces, regardless how distasteful that may be.

    2. Like tilting the balance of power. I liked Brin's contention that we're all delusional and it's important that friends and foes have the power to challenge what we're doing and why we're doing it. It's when power's one-sided that delusion rules.

  4. We're all delusional smacks of paternalistic elitism. Of father, of the author of a handful of pppular fictions knows best. What I have read by Brin I found no more or no less enlightening than that of his contemporaries, a number of whom I've found to be quite distasteful, if not disstressing. Carl Sagan David Brin is not. Or Issaic Asimov.

    Though I'd not argue, stone to the bone on Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on CNN/Fox Kool-Aid as they are, that the vast majority are indeed delusional. The Cult of Male Domination remains the Cult of Male Domination regardless the reinforcer, The Authority Figure, is a priest, porn star or author of popular fiction.

    No fear.

  5. In addition to the issue of copyright protection which Avedon raises in the parent post, the patent troll issue is heating up. Sideshow sweetie Sam Seder is on the nuisance end of a suit being brought by plaintiffs claiming a proprietary interest in podcasting, a technology these trolls seem to be saying is, essentially, the dispersing of audio or audio/visual content over the Internet to an audience by any entity which is not a major media conglomerate. Seder retweets Felix Salmon [LINK] who, in an update to his column, links to this New York Times article. [LINK]:

    [Indent]>>>>> ...[V]exatious patent litigation continues to grind through our already crowded courts, costing defendants and taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year and delaying justice for those who legitimately need a fair hearing of their claims. Trolls, in fact, filed the majority of the roughly 4,700 patent suits in 2012 — and many of those were against small companies and start-ups that often can’t afford to fight back.

    The problem stems largely from the fact that, in our judicial system, trolls have an important strategic advantage over their adversaries: they don’t make anything. So in a patent lawsuit, they have far fewer documents to produce, fewer witnesses and a much smaller legal bill than a company that does make and sell something.<<<<<[End indent]

    Of course, not all the news on this front is infuriating. Here's a story from the just deserts section of the paper:

    [Indent]>>>>>Apple and Samsung have been fighting a war of attrition through the various patent courts in the US and around the world in which they have sought to ban and otherwise limit sales of each other's products in Europe, the US, Australia and Asia. The ITC decision is the most significant win for Samsung in the US after a series of losses and indeterminate rulings there.<<<<<[End indent]


    1. ...continued

      I don't know if a couple of years back Avedon ever linked to "New York based filmmaker" Kirby Ferguson's Everything is a Remix. I believe Ferguson rolled out the four parts over the course of a year with none of them as long as sixteen minutes and the last one completed and uploaded sometime in 2011. Here it is in a complete but compressed 36 minute 25 second version on YouTube. [LINK]

      The separate parts of Remix have stayed available at Vimeo over the years while a number of YouTube uploads have come and gone because of copyright challenges- I assume by those who own the rights to some of the footage used in the series and not by the Ferguson, himself. [LINK]

      In the original format about three quarters of the way through each of the first three parts the credits to start scrolling, cleverly locking the viewer into sitting through them in order to get on to the rest of the episode and, at the very end of each of these episodes, Ferguson passes the hat to finance his upcoming work. If only this were a viable way to finance alternative media.

      I'll provide three cued up links below as a sort of "CliffsClips" resource if you want to take a quick look to see if you're going to be interested in watching Everything is a Remix at all or if you want to save your busy self half of the 36 minutes it would take to watch the unabridged version straight through.


    2. ...continued

      But first I will nit-pick at one of Ferguson's factoids, the one about Elisha Gray having submitted his competing caveat on the same day that Alexander Graham Bell submitted his patent application for the telephone. Putting aside the earlier work done by others in developing their own versions of this technology, I think it pegs the irony needle that, given that it's been estimated that the now expired telephone patent remains the most valuable patent ever to have been issued, Bell may have pulled off the biggest "strictly business" crime of all time in securing it as his.

      I would recommend the Seth Shulman book on the subject. [LINK] Early on in the slim volume Shulman introduces a bombshell when he places two hand drawn illustrations side by side, one from a page from Gray's caveat, which was submitted to the Patent Office on February 14, 1876, and the other from a page in Bell's personal diary which was entered therein on March 3, 1876. If you're interested take a look at the two illustrations reproduced at the bottom of page 2 in Part 2 of some extended excerpts from the Shulman book. [LINK]

      That said, this spot in Part 3 of Everything is a Remix is a good place to start watching the series. [LINK]

      If you need a pop culture fix, or rather a 1977 culture fix, to keep you watching, begin at this spot in Remix's Part 2. [LINK] Except for Chicago Dyke, you might want to watch past the credits for an analysis of a 2003 cultural artifact. (Here's that additional KB footage juxtaposed with its antecendents, the link address given at the end of the Part 2 segment no longer works. [LINK])

      The most vital point of Ferguson's whole argument comes, unsurprisingly, in Part 4. [LINK] Somehow, in the space of several decades, we've been sold on what once would have been a perverse idea, that society has the moral obligation above most any other consideration to protect the copyright and the patent rights of corporations and even those of mortal persons if the latter are represented by expensive enough lawyers.

      This is all not just morally silly, it's wrong historically. Now I know Avedon and I do not look at these issues in exactly the same way as she is an author and I'm not but I think we can agree that copyrights and patents are themselves but legal concoctions created explicitly and solely to maximize the long-term benefits that will accrue to society at large from any inventions, techniques or methods, ideas, and reproductions from whomever or whatever are their sources.

      If society, in the broadest sense of the word, would be richer in the long run by not granting any copyrights or patents at all or by curtailing the amount of time any person or entity is granted the exclusive right to profit from certain types of manufactures, technologies, ideas or copies of creative works then these are the new rules that should be in place to govern the market- period.

      People who want to make the case that their intellectual property rights should be protected, for whatever length of time, should have to make the case that it is in everyone's (medium to) long-term interest to do so, not just that it's in their own interest and that they are deserving because of some overriding mystical libertarian imperative.

    3. First, thanks for all the links, CMike - my memory is spotty, but I don't think I recall Everything is a Remix.

      Not sure how differently you see my position on copyright, as an author, from your own. I maintain that as long as someone is going to be making money from publishing my works, I might as well be among those collecting, but since I'm not (a) an author of fiction or (b) creating work solely intended to make me money or secure me tenure at some university, having my stuff replicated all over the web doesn't hurt me and I'm delighted that some people want to do it and are increasing the number of people who will read it.

      I like to be credited, of course, but the ideas themselves eventually do come loose from their point of origin and eventually appear in other forms. And that, of course, is the point - to get the information out there to as many people as possible, to make them think about these things and maybe building on whatever I've produced. I don't ever want to see my copyright used to stop that from happening.

      And, as an author, I love it when people read my stuff and think about it and even consider it worth proliferating, even if they aren't paying for it. If that weren't the case, I wouldn't be blogging.

      Whit Diffie says he doesn't believe that a copyright holder should be able to prevent someone else from publishing the work. He's not suggesting (so far as I know) that others shouldn't pay appropriate royalties, but he thinks if someone is willing to, say, pay the Doors for the use of "Strange Days" in some other work (including an advertisement), the Doors shouldn't be able to stop them from doing it. The point of copyright isn't to maintain the purity of the work (impossible), it's to reward the creator (monetarily) for having created. I think he's right about that, even though I'm wholly sympathetic to the Doors' desire not to see their works in advertising for cars or burgers or headache medications.

      I think it's absolutely mad to prevent music or movie clips from appearing on YouTube. Madonna won't miss the money, but thousands of creators are being denied promotion by all those take-down orders they didn't even ask for.

    4. Just curious, is there anyone abroad who can not access those Vimeo and YouTube links?