Thursday, December 8, 2011

CNN Piracy Propoganda - Back in the USSR

CNN's Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room had a very disturbing segment concerning piracy. The segment was reminiscent of old style Soviet Union propaganda. Unfortunately, it seems that the segment has yet to be posted, so no link. Here is a link to an earlier story: Anti-piracy bill meets Web-freedom backlashTechDirt has greater detail and analysis here.  Essentially, today's Situation Room segment was a sob story highlighting how those in the entertainment industry are suffering greatly from wanton piracy that needs to be controlled to protect the starving artists.

I believe in very limited copyright/patent privileges and do not believe in so-called "intellectual property".  However, this post will not be digging into the concern over the legality or non-legality of piracy but of the purposely unstated consequence of what a so-called "war" against piracy will mean. To be fair and balanced, Wolf Blitzer should have delved into the concerns reviewed below.

We are supposed to be a Nation based on laws.  Implicit in that context are things such as "due process" and innocent until proven guilty.  The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  The so-called "war" on piracy will be a nullification of the Fourth Amendment.

Beyond the obvious Fourth Amendment there is the issue that the law should apply equally to everyone.  But the trend in the so-called "war" against piracy is to eliminate the rights of the consumer in-order to protect the revenue stream of the content industry. Simply put, the content industry will be allowed, without a warrant, to monitor you and take whatever unilateral actions they deem appropriate against you.

Update (12/9/2011): Since originally posting TechDirt came out with the following: Constitutional Scholars Explain Why SOPA & PROTECT IP Do Not Pass First Amendment Scrutiny.  Laurence Tribe notes that:" delegates to a private party the power to suppress speech without prior notice and a judicial hearing. This provision of the bill would give complaining parties the power to stop online advertisers and credit card processors from doing business with a website, merely by filing a unilateral notice accusing the site of being “dedicated to theft of U.S. property” – even if no court has actually found any infringement.".

In the "old" days, it used to be that the police had to obtain a warrant to search your premises, had to collect evidence, and then had to present that evidence to a court to obtain an arrest warrant. This of course was then followed by a slow irritant of a trial by jury. In the interests of economic efficiency these impediments and the need for courts are being eliminated. Not only that, but if you believe that you are innocent, you will have to go through a tortuous, tedious, and expensive process to prove that!

The content industry is eliminating the consumer's property rights. Funny how the content industry wants to protect their property, but is figuratively "stealing" your property.  The Concept of Sale Is Under Attack.

Then there is the "Broken Window Fallacy".  The content industry claims that pirating costs the industry money and puts people out of work.  It does not. What happens is that people still use that money to buy other things, which other people have to manufacture.  There is no net loss to the economy.  The only loss is to the content industry. And if we are good capitalists (as most people claim to be); if an industry can't make money, too bad. It goes out of business.

As a conclusion, developing research and anecdotal evidence is demonstrating that piracy does not hurt sales! So, if piracy does not actually hurt sales, why must the US public be stripped of their civil rights and live in a police state to supposedly protect the revenue stream of a selected industry?  Time put an end to this onerous "land grab".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What do the Republicans Mean by Small Government?

The Republicans claim to want small limited government, but do they mean it?  As usual  the devil is in the details. As a quick Casual Observation; the Republican loudly proclaim with much fanfare to be unfailing advocates of the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution. The Tenth Amendment holds that: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In casually observing the various Republican debates, it seems that downsizing government under the Tenth Amendment only applies to eliminating social service programs, environmental protection, and entitlement programs.

However, when it comes to so-called "security" and fighting the various so-called "wars", it seems that the Republicans foam-at-the-mouth to toss aside the Tenth Amendment along with the First and Fourth Amendments. If this trend continues, we will soon have a police state.  (Obama has already taken the initiative to diminish the First, Fourth, and Tenth Amendments).  Of the Republican candidates, only Ron Paul seem to clearly recognize that the Tenth Amendment really means downsizing the Federal government in ALL areas and that we should not trade "liberty" for "security".

As an editorial aside, I tend towards a Federal government that will be involved in issues that are nationally significant, such as environmental protection. Regulations that establish a level playing field for business is a valid government action.  Republican claims to eliminate these types of regulations are equivalent to granting a license to private enterprise to "steal".  I will also concede that some Federal government programs such as Education and all loan subsidy programs should be eliminated.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Speed Cameras and So-Called "Intellectual Property"

One may not think that concerns over speed cameras can be associated with the inappropriate protection of so-called "intellectual property", but they can. The association is the implementation of "automated" justice.

A Washington Times editorial on speed cameras writes: "The editorial writes: "Traditional law-enforcement duties are best performed by men, not machines. This is the case in Maryland, where speed cameras continue to pronounce the innocent guilty, regardless of mounting evidence that the measuring devices are faulty.  ... In a May 24 letter, Mr. Warrington explained his interest in addressing reliability problems was not ensuring justice but “how we can optimize the productivity of our camera.”" (emphasis added)

Concerning the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) Larry Downes wrote in CNET that: "It creates vague, sweeping new standards for secondary liability, drafted to ensure maximum litigation. It treats all U.S. consumers as guilty until proven innocent. If passed, the bill would give media companies unprecedented new powers to shape the structure and content of the Internet.... He argues that SOPA effectively introduces new monitoring requirements for all websites that allow user content, even comments posted to blogs. Rightsholders, Sohn wrote, need only "a good faith belief that a Web site is 'avoiding confirming' infringement, and they can demand that payment systems and advertising networks cease doing business with the Web site.""

Like the speed camera silently monitoring traffic, the ISPs are under ever increasing pressure to monitor (spy on) user traffic for the sole purpose of maximizing some entity's assertion for profit, not for ensuring justice. Furthermore, the concept of "due process" is being diminished through the imposition of "automated" justice.

Do Nothing Obama

The Washington Post recently carried this headline: "Obama urges supercommittee leaders to reach deal; warns against undoing consequences of failing to reach accord".  This headline re-emphasizes that Obama's rhetoric is nothing more than smoke-and -mirrors for misleading the citizens.  Obama himself, has purposely avoided making the tough decisions he is supposed to be making as President.

Recently, Obama delayed making a decision on the Keystone Pipeline. "Keystone pipeline delayed by Obama until 2013".  The issue isn't whether you agree or disagree with the pipeline, but the fact that Obama demands that others make a decision when he himself refuses to do so.

Obama eloquently speaks of solving or deficit spending.  As part of that theme, he demands that the supercommittee reach a decision. Well a supercommitte (The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform)  made recommendations back in February 2010. Obama promptly ignored the recommendations of the prior committee.

One of Obama's soundbites is "We Can't wait on Congress, the time to act is now". If Obama calls on others to reach decisions, he must make decisions too.

Plus One For Microsoft

I have been highly critical of Microsoft concerning the proprietary nature of Windows and the evolution of Windows into a corporate product to be managed by computer professionals rather than as a hobbyist operating system. Well, I just bought a new computer with Windows 7, and much to my surprise the upgrade has gone relatively well. So plus one for Microsoft.

Specifically, based on prior concerns with Windows XP and reading various posts. I anticipated issues with Windows 7 not recognizing other computers on my home network and not connecting to the printer. Both these concerns turned out to be non-issues.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Go - Ron Paul

I do not support everything Ron Paul is proposing. I am pro-environment and I support regulations that protect the consumer from corporate abuses. I would not support the elimination of the Department of Commerce or the Department of the Interior.  I would support the elimination of government programs that are based on collecting revenues at the local level, transferring them to Washington, only to redistribute the money back to the local level. That is wasteful. The selling of government assets and the privatization of some government services would be a major mistake that I won't expound upon at this time. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be eliminated.

Well, I am pleased to see that that Ron Paul has made graphs that summarize his proposals.  Obama speaks eloquently, vaguely, and misleadingly about reducing the national debt. Obama, from what I have seen has yet to produce any graph summarizing how his proposed spending would achieve real deficit reduction.  Obama is playing "smoke and mirrors". All that Obama seems to have proposed are reductions to proposed deficit spending falsely claiming that he is reducing the deficit. Spending will still exceed revenues. That is not deficit reduction.

Ron Paul, when interviewed before the camera gives a much better presentation than he does at the Republican debates.  I would even conjecture that the debate moderators have bee working "around" Paul to focus on other candidates such as Romney.

Nevertheless, Ron Paul deserves the chance to be elected president.

Washington Post article: Ron Paul puts out ‘Plan to Restore America’
Ron Paul Website: Ron Paul Announces Ambitious ‘Plan to Restore America’
Cato Institute: Ron Paul’s ‘Plan to Restore America’

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Are Cameras the New Guns?

A growing concern has been the increased assertion by law enforcement that they have the ability to arrest people who are filming them, even in public places. This flies in the face all logic. Why should the police be able to film and tract someone for the purpose of collecting evidence to prosecute that individual, yet individuals are not allowed to similarly collect evidence that my exonerate them and/or demonstrate the use of abusive police tactics. This would seem to violate the First and Fourth Amendments of the US Constitution.

We supposedly live in a free society that is based on the rule of law where government is supposed to be transparent. The police should not have the ability to arbitrarily arrest members of the public for recording  police under the guise of "obstructing law enforcement". If police can arbitrarily arrest people for vague assertions of  "obstructing law enforcement" we now become a police state.

The title for this post "Are Cameras the New Guns?" came from Gizmodo.  I ran across this article in following links at the POI Factory which had several articles concerning increased tracking of people through GPS devices. My recent post OnStar and the Outer Limit reviews this concern. Below are (revised) excerpts of my comments at the POI factory.

In the article "Are Cameras the New Guns?" Gizmodo writes:  "In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer. .... The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. ..."

To me, it is unfortunate that Gizmodo uses the word "illegal" as if the action of recording is actually illegal and second that Gizmodo has not challenged the supposed legality.  Furthermore, the issue before the public media seems to "privacy",  As I have previously expressed; privacy is "dead" and the arguments opposing the supposed "illegality" should be based on the First and Fourth Amendments.

Particularly egregious is the phrase "obstructing law enforcement". So it is legal for law enforcement to obtain evidence documenting your actions by recording you, but it is illegal for you to have evidence obtained by recording the police that might document your innocence and/or illegal police behavior?!?!?!

Below are some recent headlines highlighting the trend towards the US becoming a police state.

CA Governor Lets Police Search Your Smartphones At Traffic Stops

Guy Arrested, Threatened With 15 Years For Recording Traffic Stop In Illinois

Does The NYPD Really Think That Shooting Photos/Videos Of Protests Is 'Disorderly Conduct?'

Special Segment: Felony Eavesdropping

9th court of appeals rules it's okay for government to implant GPS on your car to track you without court order

Since posting I remembered this one.
Police Say They Can Detain Photographers If Their Photographs Have 'No Apparent Esthetic Value'

Law enforcement is necessary to protect society from those committing crimes. The police do not have a right, especially in public places, to criminalize people so that the police can "hide" their actions from the "sunshine" of transparent government. When the police can arrest you for filming their actions to "hide" the truth, then we have descended into a police state. In the movie "V" there is a very prophetic quote: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

OnStar and the Outer Limits

Every once in a while you run across a story that stimulates a reaction. In this case it was recently reported that OnStar would be selling customer data, nothing unusual about that. What became apparent as I read on here and here was that this data collection would be occurring even if you were not subscribing to the service. In other words, the OnStar unit is always on and always in contact with home.

Again data collection today is pretty much endemic. Everything you do is recorded.  Every time you use your credit you are disclosing where you are and at what time you made the transaction.  But the issue that I intend to review has nothing to do with tracking or privacy but the potential that the companies that you bought the product from can continue to CONTROL that product.

We have already witnessed some occurrence of post-sale control. Witness the Amazon Kindle boondoggle where Amazon, post-sale, ironically removed some Orwell books. Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle.  Then there is the Sony PlayStation, where Sony, post-sale, removed some features. Sony Sued Again For Removing PS3 Linux Feature. Whether these instances are isolated or an indicator of a coming future tidal way of similar actions is currently un-discernible.  But what is clear is that the potential is there.

Headlines from Utopia noted that the US is moving towards "Get ready for pay-as-you-go driving." Where GPS devices and associated black boxes will record your driving. While the article raises the typical privacy concerns, the real concern from the article is that “The device the government wants to install on vehicles does more than record miles,” said Cliff Young of the Privacy Awareness Institute.  “It can also override on-board GPS systems, block cell phone signals, and tap into national databases containing information on individual drivers.  It’s an electronic Trojan horse.Feds to require black box event recorders in all new cars.

As a quick wrap, the TV Show "Outer Limits" had this tag line: "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits." Quote from IMDB

Welcome to Orwell's "1984" where Big Brother will be able to control your electronic devices without your knowledge and/or consent even to the point of "bricking" it. So if your OnStar equipped vehicle comes to a slow stop in the desert at the dead of night you might want to reflect on why.  Be nice Big Brother is listening.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Question That Should be Asked

The media should ask the Republicans candidates for President the following question.

"Taxes and regulations were cut under blame Bush. That gave us the financial crises which resulted in today's economic malaise. So if taxes and regulations would be further cut as you propose; why do you believe that further tax and regulation cutting would solve our economic woes?"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Bread and Circuses Economy

 The Washington Post, unintentionally, helped me make my case that our politicians are running a  Bread and Circuses Economy. In the article "Ever-increasing tax breaks for U.S. families eclipse benefits for special interests" (along with some nice graphics) the Washington Post writes: "Over the past two years, largely because of these popular benefits in the federal income tax code, the government has reached a rare milestone in tax collection — it has given away nearly as much as it takes in. ... All told, federal taxpayers last year received $1.08 trillion in credits, deductions and other perks while paying $1.09 trillion in income taxes, according to government estimates. ... For those reasons, the tax code is a popular venue for both parties to pursue costly policy goals. ... Policymakers can give taxpayers a government benefit and get credit for lowering their tax bills — a combination lawmakers find “irresistible,” Kleinbard said, because they can portray themselves as tax cutters rather than big spenders."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"The America Invents Act" - Another Non-Solution

Obama just recently signed into law "The America Invents Act", which is another piece of useless legislation that will adversely affect the economy in the long-run. Click here for a brief summary of the "The America Invents Act". My essential concern with this bill is that it is an administrative band-aid; not a fundamental re-thinking concerning what deserves to be eligible for patent protection.  Business plans, software, cloud concepts, and natural products such as genes should not be eligible for receiving patent protection. Eliminate the eligibility for these types of activities to receive patent protection and allow the concept of prior-art to have a a real effect on the decision making process; the workload of the patent office will drop dramatically.

When this type of legislation to protect so-called "intellectual property" is passed into law, it damages the free market system. This type of legislation is essentially designed to protect dying business models that should be allowed to gracefully exit the economy.  Mike Masnick  noted that "Nearly all of the good ideas were excised in the process, and you can tell that's true by the fact that no actual tech company appeared with the President at the signing. Instead, it was chemical and pharma companies -- old school legacy industries that are trying to "protect" old businesses, not innovate with the new."

Lets dig a bit deeper into the Mike's comment that innovative companies weren't at the signing ceremony. By coincidence, the September 26, 2011 issue of Forbes had the following article: "Out Sourced Forever, Why Amazon can't make the Kindle in America" by Stephan Denning. (Unfortunately this article does not yet appear to be available on the Forbes website at this time.)  The significance of Mr. Denning's article is that as we loose our capacity to manufacture high tech product here in the US, that the creators of those products will leave the US to work in the attractive overseas markets. In other words, brain drain.

If innovation is moving overseas, that means that patents will also be moving overseas.  If we continue in the US to pursue a "strong" patent regime it won't take long for the overseas companies to start seeing the monetary benefits of formulating their own "strong" patent system. In the end, we will loose when we have to start paying these companies exorbitant licensing fees. The hand writing is on the wall, neither our politicians nor business leaders seem to be aware that they are pursing a suicidal policy by insisting on "strong" patent protection. Be careful of what you ask for. It may bite you.

As a final jab. The political right taunts the phrase: "“That government is best which governs least.” ( I actually agree with the phrase). Derived from that logic, the political right assets that the government stay out of our personal lives and the economy. The political right then goes on to say that entitlement programs for the poor are "bad", regulations are "bad", and that consumer protection is "bad".  If all these things are "bad" why do we need welfare and protection for private businesses? My take; if a business cannot compete in the free-market without government protection, too bad. It goes out-of-business.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Government Job Creation Is An Oxymoron

The title makes for a good sound byte. The title comes from a CNBC interview with William Dunkelberg,Chief Economist of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). In that interview Mr. Dunkelberg makes it plain that our economic malaise is a debt problem. In the course of the interview (Unknown person at the 6:53 mark), the statement is made that "... this is not a traditional recession. this is a recession caused by too much debt. Debt went from 120% of GDP in the '50s to 360% of GDP now."

Since the consumer is busy paying down debt, they are not buying. Consequently, the stimulus programs being proposed by Obama will not work because businesses will not hire unless there is a demand for new employees in order to increase production. One could even make the case that the recent bankruptcy of Obama's showcase green energy company, Solyndra is a precursor pointing to the stimulus programs eventually failing.

The interview gets to the point at the 3:40 mark. At the 4:40 mark Steve Liesman asks Mr. Dunkelberg if reducing the marginal cost of hiring will help. The answer was essentially no. Mr.  Dunkelberg says that what he needs is customers and they are not buying.  Mr. Dunkelberg does go on to state that businesses would not be interested in hiring since it would not significantly improve the ability of companies to make a profit. Following Mr. Dunkelberg interview, in an unrelated interview Representative Jeb Hensarling (R,TX) made the complimentary statement that temporary tax relief would only bring temporary jobs.

Stimulus programs that provide amorphous "incentives" and "tax breaks" to businesses will not resolve our economic malaise. Government job creation in this manner is an oxymoron.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Science Fiction Database Screen Shots

Screen shots of the Microsoft Access version of the database.  Though I am adding data, I do not expect to be enhancing the programming. Click on the images to see them better.

Please be sure to checkout the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB).  Makes my project somewhat redundant. The ISFDB is a great resource.  Cover art can also be viewed here.

Main Screen

October Issue

Story Listing by an Author
UPDATE (3/18/2012) If you are a regular longtime reader of Analog or another SF magazine and wish to have a copy please email your address. I will have to (snail) mail the database on a CD, assuming that there aren't too many requests. The database is just over 82 Megabytes in size. You will need MS Access and you will need to tell me what version of MS Access you have. Familiarity with Access would also be recommended, since the user interface is sparse with minimal user protection for making dumb mistakes.  If you find errors and missing data - I would be interested in fixing them. Please email me. If you send any corrections or additions, please provide a copy of the table of contents.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Obama - Deficit Reduction?

Tonight Obama gave another eloquent positive dynamic speech on jump starting the economy.  In his speech he referred "THE AMERICAN JOBS ACT" . He urged Congress to pass the jobs act "right away". In his speech he stated that the implementation of this legislation would be "paid for" as part of his long-term deficit reduction plan. Huh???????

Below are two excerpts from the Fact Sheet.
5. Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan.To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan. 
  • To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
Following the increase in the debt ceiling, two graphs were published documenting that the deficits would continue over the long term and that our National Debt would continue to increase. So where is the deficit reduction?

Washington Post graph.

The Economist graph from the Cato Institute

If Obama is truly proposing deficit reduction, it should be possible for the White House to produce graphs refuting the two graphs above. I look forward to seeing them, but I won't hold my breath.