June 1, 2007

OT: Peggy Noonan [10:09 am]

[Via Rising Hegemon]

Peggy Noonan gloats: So Much to Savor, The Wall Street Journal, 2004 November 04 (pdf)

God bless our country.

Hello, old friends. Let us savor.

Let us get our heads around the size and scope of what happened Tuesday. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, became the first incumbent president to increase his majority in both the Senate and the House and to increase his own vote (by over 3.5 million) since Franklin D. Roosevelt, political genius of the 20th century, in 1936. This is huge.

Today, Peggy Noonan moans: Too Bad, The Wall Street Journal, 2007 June 01 (pdf)

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom–a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don’t need hacks.

Hmmmm — she’s surprised?

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Another Reason Privacy Policy Is So Hard [8:40 am]

The “revealed preference” expressed in this settlement is not exactly what one might expect if those directly harmed got to negotiate: ChoicePoint Settles Data Security Case

ChoicePoint has settled with 44 states over a data breach that potentially gave criminals access to personal information from more than 145,000 consumers.

The company agreed to adopt stronger security measures and pay $500,000 to the states, Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut, said yesterday.

In *total*?!?!?!

ChoicePoint characterized the settlement as “fair and reasonable.”

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A ‘Spam King’ Run Down [8:37 am]

How many more are out there? Longtime ‘Spam King’ Charged With Fraudpdf

From his 17th-floor Seattle apartment overlooking Puget Sound, Robert A. Soloway allegedly ran an illicit network of computers around the world, secretly commandeering the machines of thousands of unsuspecting bystanders. Prosecutors say Internet users who clicked on infected e-mails and Web sites inadvertently took part in his criminal endeavor: spam.

Soloway, 27, used his empire of hijacked “zombie” computers to send tens of millions of unsolicited e-mail messages over the past four years, prosecutors allege. Described as a spammer since he was a teenager, he allegedly covered his digital tracks using Chinese servers, fabricated Web sites and the purloined identities of hundreds of Internet users whose names and e-mail addresses were slapped on the bulk mailings. He opened and closed bank accounts faster than creditors could track them, prosecutors said.

But federal authorities caught up this week with the man prosecutors call the “spam king” and arrested him on 35 charges of fraud, identity theft and money laundering, casting a light on the byzantine, highly lucrative underworld of mass e-mail marketing. Soloway pleaded not guilty.

Also, Spammer Arrested and Charged With Fraud

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OT: This Guy Is A *Lawyer*? [8:17 am]

Another headline story that could easily be fiction, but sadly is not: TB patient is son-in-law of a CDC microbiologistpdf

The patient was identified as Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old personal injury lawyer who returned last week from his wedding and honeymoon trip through Italy, the Greek isles and other spots in Europe. His new father-in-law, Robert Cooksey, is a CDC microbiologist whose specialty is TB and other bacteria.

[...] The disclosure that the patient is a lawyer — and specifically a personal injury lawyer — outraged many people on the Internet and elsewhere. Some travelers who flew on the same planes with Speaker angrily accused him of selfishly putting hundreds of people’s lives in danger.

[...] Speaker said in a newspaper interview that he knew he had TB when he flew from Atlanta to Europe in mid-May for his wedding and honeymoon, but that he did not find out until he was in Rome that it was an extensively drug-resistant strain considered especially dangerous.

Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he flew home for treatment, fearing he wouldn’t survive if he didn’t reach the U.S., he said. He said he tried to sneak home by way of Canada instead of flying directly into the U.S.

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OT: Rhetoric and Reality [7:55 am]

The LATimes has an edited version of a commencement speech that is given in full in Salon and at TomDispatch: Words in a time of warpdf

Here is my favorite quotation about the Bush administration, a description of a conversation with the proverbial “unnamed administration official” by the fine journalist Ron Suskind in October 2004:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’ ”

I must admit to you that I love that quotation. The unnamed official, widely believed to be Karl Rove, sketches out with breathtaking frankness a radical view in which power frankly determines reality, and in which rhetoric — the science of flounces and folderols — follows meekly and subserviently in its train. Those in the “reality-based community” are figures a mite pathetic, for we have failed to realize the singular new principle of the new age: Power has made reality its bitch.

[...] We were asked what we were looking for; ‘upper half’ replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. ‘Over there.’ We looked for our boy’s broken body between tens of other boys’ remains; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.

“Millennia later, we found him, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony.”

These words come from those who find themselves as far as they can possibly be from the idea that, when they act, they “create their own reality.” The voice comes not from “history’s actors” but its objects — and we must ponder who exactly its subjects are.

Graduates, you have chosen a path that will let you look beyond the rhetoric that you have studied and into the heart of reality. Of all people, you have chosen to learn how to see the gaps and the loose stitches and the remnant threads. Ours is a grim age, this Age of Rhetoric, still infused with the remnant perfume of imperial dreams. You have made your study in a propitious time, and that bold choice may bring you pain, for you have devoted yourselves to seeing what it is that stands before you. If clear sight were not so painful, many more would elect to have it.

Related: An Egghead for the Oval Officepdf (responding, I think to Is It Wise to Be So Smart?pdf)

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Copyright Registration Reform and Transaction Costs in the Information Economy [7:45 am]

And Larry and Hal Varian find some common ground: Copyrights That No One Knows About Don’t Help Anyone (Frankly, I hope that some of my colleagues at least read the first two paragraphs; the pretentiousness of liberally festooning even the most basic of presentations with “© My Name, year” is just overwhelming sometimes)

Here’s a quiz question for authors: To copyright a written work in the United States, you must (a) register it with the Copyright Office; (b) insert a notice that says “Copyright © 2007;” (c) insert a notice that says “All rights reserved.”

Answer: none of the above. Under current law, a work is automatically copyrighted the moment it is “fixed in tangible form.” And these days, that copyright lasts virtually forever: 70 years after the death of the author, in most cases.

Since there is no requirement to register a work and a copyright lasts so long, the legal owner of a work can be difficult to find, particularly when the work is more than a few decades old.

When some librarians at Carnegie Mellon University tried to request permissions to digitize a collection of out-of-print books, they were unable to find more than 20 percent of the rights holders, despite persistent efforts.

Failing to locate rights holders can be costly since copyright infringement may be subject to statutory damages of up to $150,000 an incident.

The costs of locating rights holders are an example of what economists call transactions costs. Not surprisingly, high transactions costs tend to discourage transactions from occurring.

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A Privacy Debate [2:34 am]

Google Photos Stir a Debate Over Privacy - New York Times

Ms. Kalin-Casey, who manages an apartment building here with her husband, John Casey, was a bit shaken when she tried a new feature in Google’s map service called Street View. She typed in her address and the screen showed a street-level view of her building. As she zoomed in, she could see Monty, her cat, sitting on a perch in the living room window of her second-floor apartment.

“The issue that I have ultimately is about where you draw the line between taking public photos and zooming in on people’s lives,” Ms. Kalin-Casey said in an interview Thursday on the front steps of the building. “The next step might be seeing books on my shelf. If the government was doing this, people would be outraged.”

Her husband quickly added, “It’s like peeping.”

[...] Google said in a statement that it takes privacy seriously and considered the privacy implications of its service before it was introduced on Tuesday. “Street View only features imagery taken on public property,” the company said. “This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street.”

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