Given This Congress, So What?

I mean, what’s it going to take to get Congress to decide that we elected them to do their jobs, rather than meekly accede to whatever illegalities the Executive wishes to undertake? Ruling Limited Spying Effortspdf

A federal intelligence court judge earlier this year secretly declared a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal, according to a lawmaker and government sources, providing a previously unstated rationale for fevered efforts by congressional lawmakers this week to expand the president’s spying powers.

[…] “It clearly shows that Congress has been playing with half a deck,” said Jim Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. “The administration is asking lawmakers to vote on a very important piece of legislation based upon selective declassification of intelligence.”

As I said, so what’s new? Look at the example we’re setting — compare and contrast: Bush officials use soldiers case to argue for new spy powers (pdf) and Zimbabwe passes law to monitor communications (pdf). I mean, Mugabe’s other policies have been such a success, I’m sure that our government will happily eventually copy him in other respects as well.

Arghhhh!

How long before this evolves into the “Fritz Chip?” If these folks get their way, all communication devices will become CRM-114s — the radio device in “Dr. Strangelove” specifically designed NOT to receive information: Senate panel backs development of super V-chip

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation Thursday asking the Federal Communications Commission to oversee the development of a super V-chip that could screen content on everything from cell phones to the Internet.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., the sponsor of the Child Safe Viewing Act [S.602], claims that the new law is necessary because content is no longer confined to the TV or radio, and he contends the same technology that allows content to increasingly migrate from device to device also can be used to empower parents.

“It’s an uphill battle for parents trying to protect their kids from viewing inappropriate programming,” Pryor said. “I believe there is a whole new generation of technology that can provide an additional layer of help for these parents.”

OT: Calling A Spade A Spade

This is risky stuff, but I’m glad to see that the question is being posed. Count on tons of negative reaction, but she’s touching on something that is, in fact, quite chilling about our language these days: Heroism and the language of fascismpdf

‘Everyone’s a hero, everyone’s a star,” sings Jon Bon Jovi on his 2005 album, “Have a Nice Day.” It’s an insipid song, but a fitting anthem for what has become a thoroughly insipid age.

Once upon a time, you had to do something truly exceptional to qualify as a full-fledged hero: single-handedly hold off a battalion of enemy soldiers to allow your platoon to escape, or rescue 100 children from a Nazi concentration camp. But today, just showing up at your Army recruiting station makes you an instant hero — and getting yourself hurt or killed doubles your heroism, even if you were sound asleep when your supply convoy went over an IED.

The empty rhetoric of heroism is everywhere these days. […]

[…] Bah, humbug.

Before you run me out of town on a rail, let me be clear: I respect the service and sacrifice of the troops. It takes guts to volunteer for the military. Injured service members deserve top-quality care, and the families of those killed deserve our deepest compassion. Soldiers, firefighters, police and many others accept risk and privation to serve the public, and we should be grateful.

But it’s a big mistake to mix up the idea of service — or the idea of sacrifice and suffering — with the idea of heroism.

[…] [T]here’s a deeper reason to be wary of the “everyone’s a hero” rhetoric. Simply put, it fits neatly alongside other terms beloved of the powers that be, such as “warrior” and “the Homeland”: It’s part of the language of fascism.

For a chilling account of another society in which “the devaluation of the concept of heroism” was “proportional to the frequency of its use and abuse,” check out Ilya Zemtsov’s “The Encyclopedia of Soviet Life.” […] “With time, the awarding of the title came to be used as a token to be disbursed or withheld according to political considerations. . . .”

In other words, comrades, whenever it seems as if they’re handing out “hero” medals for free, look out: There’s usually a hidden price.

For example — Bush officials use soldiers case to argue for new spy powers (pdf)

The Evolution of Retail, and the Music Business

Remember, in the early days MTV was nothing more than music videos (i.e., ads for albums) interspersed with conventional advertising: Shopping channels tune in to musical actspdf

That’s right music fans. In between the blond women selling jewelry and the dermatologists shilling skin-care products, television retail channels are booking live musical acts — and not off-brands, either. Think LeAnn Rimes, Barry Manilow and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Manilowis [sic] preparing for his second QVC gig this fall to promote his new CD, “The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.” His first appearance, to promote “The Greatest Songs of the Sixties,” resulted in 43,000 CDs being sold in one hour, according to QVC.

It’s just one way the home-shopping channels are trying to change their image. As network and cable TV shows become laden with ads and branded products, shopping channels such as QVC and HSN are going in the opposite direction — attempting to attract new viewers by working more content into their shows and making them seem less about selling.

“Scraper” Sites in the News

Please Dont Steal This Web Content

VanFossen isnt referring to the kind of plagiarism in which a lazy college student copies sections of a book or another paper. This is automated digital plagiarism in which software bots can copy thousands of blog posts per hour and publish them verbatim onto Web sites on which contextual ads next to them can generate money for the site owner.

Such Web sites are known among Web publishers as “scraper sites” because they effectively scrape the content off blogs, usually through RSS Really Simple Syndication and other feeds on which those blogs are sent.

Dorkman Heard From

Sorry, but I have to assume that Sir Elton was on some sort of mind-altering drug at the time he gave this interview to The Sun — actually, isn’t that the only circumstance under which any nominally rational person would give them one? Why we must close the netpdf

POP legend Sir Elton John wants the internet CLOSED DOWN.

Never one to keep his opinions to himself, the Rocket Man has waded into cyberspace with all guns blazing.

He claims it is destroying good music, saying: “The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff.

“Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision.

More YouTube Complaints

YouTube blasted over copyright issuespdf

A coalition of Japanese television, music and film companies slammed YouTube Thursday, saying the online video sharing service was not doing enough to rid the site of cartoons and other clips that infringe copyright.

[…] YouTube has been immensely popular in Japan, trumping rival Japanese video sharing sites. It launched a Japanese language version of the site in June in a bid to win further viewers — and to post clear warnings against uploading copyrighted materials in Japanese.

The New Yorker on Spam

A little history, and some scary statistics: Damn Spam

[…] “The amount of harm done by any of the cited ‘unfair’ things the net has been used for is clearly very small,’’ the Internet pioneer Richard Stallman wrote a few days after the DEC e-mail. Stallman opposed any action that would interfere with the aggressive openness that came to define the Web. And he still does. In his message about the DEC spam, Stallman pointed out—three decades before the appearance of Craigs-list and Monster.com—that the network provided a unique opportunity to advertise jobs and an entirely new way to sell products. He went even further: “Would a dating service on the net be ‘frowned upon’ . . . ? I hope not. But even if it is, don’t let that stop you from notifying me via net mail if you start one.”

I have no idea whether anyone on the Arpanet tried to help Stallman find a date, but thousands of people have tried to help me. […]

[…] [Microsoft’s John] Scarrow told me that of the four billion e-mails processed by Hotmail every day, they deliver only six hundred million. The rest are spam.

[…] “But I wanted to fix the problem and return to the bliss that existed before spam,’’ he said. “Often the fight is fun, like a game. But last year there were some low points. We started getting these image spams, and the spammer would adapt to anything we did. He would write software that cut the image into little pieces that reassembled by the time you opened your mail. When we figured out how to deal with that, he started making text that waved around and curved in odd ways. So we figured that out. Then he started with random images.’’ [Google’s Brad] Taylor laughed. “This went on for a while. But, finally, he just gave up. And that’s our hope. It’s kind of like war. One side eventually gets tired. And we just can’t let it be us.”

More on the CCIA Complaint

Content Makers Are Accused of Exaggerating Copyright

In a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the group, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said that the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NBC and Universal Studios, DreamWorks, Harcourt and Penguin Group display copyright warnings that are a “systematic misrepresentation of consumers’ rights to use legally acquired content.”

The complaint alleges that the warnings may intimidate consumers from making legal use of copyrighted material, like photocopying a page from a book to use in class.

[…] Louis M. Solomon, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm in New York, is representing several companies that have joined Viacom in the suit. He said the announcement on Wednesday was nothing more than an effort by Google to deflect attention from copyright infringement on “hundreds of thousands” of video clips on sites like YouTube.

“The fundamental problem with Google and YouTube is not fair use but their desire for free use,” Mr. Solomon said.

See also yesterday’s post: Expanding The Scope of Copyright Claims (updated)

Expanding The Scope of Copyright Claims (updated)

Who gets to decide (and profit from) digital distribution? Just as the music performers want money for radio play, now music publishers want music for digital sales of performances: Eminem suit targets Applepdf

Eminem’s music publisher filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Apple Computer Inc. on Monday, alleging the computer giant violated copyrights by allowing unauthorized downloads of the Detroit rapper’s songs onto iPods.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit is the latest move by Eminem’s music publishers to aggressively protect the rights to his music.

A top California entertainment lawyer, Owen Sloane of Berger Kahn, said the Eminem lawsuit is likely a sign of more to come in the music industry as artists and those with the rights to their compositions fight for a bigger share of revenues from the burgeoning music download industry.

A “burning issue” in the music industry today is whether the rights record labels hold to sell a recording artist’s CDs include the rights to authorize music downloads, or whether further permission is needed from the music publishers who hold the copyrights to the lyrics and sheet music.

The “burning issue,” IMHO, is how much greed can the system stand before we just drop the whole thing, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Related: A little push-back here — Update: Tech group files complaint against sports leagues

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) complained that the copyright warnings from the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NBC Universal, and other companies trample on fair-use rights that allow consumers to copy portions of copyright works for criticism, commentary, educational and other reasons. CCIA called for an FTC investigation into the copyright warnings.

The companies use copyright warnings on broadcasts, books and DVDs “not to educate consumers, but to intimidate them,” said Ed Black, CCIA’s president. “Certain warnings mislead consumers.”

Major League Baseball’s copyright warning says broadcasts “may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any form, and the accounts and descriptions of this game may not be disseminated without express written consent.”

CCIA wants “balanced” copyright enforcement, but the warnings are unfair and deceptive, Black said. “No deceptive message may be more widespread, more pervasive, more ubiquitous in our vast nation than the copyright warning which tells you that you have no rights,” he said.

The copyright warnings impede adoption of new and innovative products from the technology industry, Black added.

The CCIA press release; their initiative WWW site DefendFairUse.Org; the FTC Complaint (local copy)