Archive for July, 2009

How the US Media SHOULD Be

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

If you get all of your news from media outlets in the US, you're totally missing out. Podcast clients like Miro make it not only possible, but very easy, and very convenient, to get on-demand news from around the world. You pick and choose your content sources, and episodes just download automatically. I see content every day that I would never, ever see from the US media. One example from just a few minutes ago is this two-part interview between Josh Rushing and Michael Mullen about the US military strategy in Afghanistan. Just ask yourself while you watch: "Would anyone in the American mainstream media ever dare ask questions like this?" I will list the RSS URLs of some of my content picks in case you're interested in checking it out for yourself:

  • Al Jazeera English 
    • Feed URL
    • Nationality: Qatari
    • Description: One of the three largest English-language news channels worldwide.  It's a 24-hour English-language news and current affairs TV channel headquartered in Doha, Qatar.
  • Russia Today
    • Feed URL
    • Nationality: Russian
    • Description: Also known as RT, is a globally broadcast English-language news channel from Russia, and the first all-digital Russian TV channel.
  • Press TV
    • Feed URL
    • Nationality: Iranian
    • Description: An English language international television news channel, based in Tehran.  It has 26 international correspondents and more than 500 staff around the world.

These are just three out of about thirty content sources that I receive video from daily.  If you have one that you feel should be listed here, let me know.  Or, if you want to see my list of Technology or Libertarian content sources, let me know.

Bernanke Argues Against Transparency of the Fed

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

If you watched Ron Paul’s opening statement and discussion with Bernanke regarding the definition of inflation, I’d encourage you to check out Alan Grayson’s and Bill Posey’s follow-up questions:

The Case Against College Entitlements

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Click here if you can’t see the video.

Max Keiser: “Goldman Sachs Are Scum”

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

I don’t know much about Max Keiser, but I think I just became a huge fan.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Click here and here if you can’t see the videos.

Peter Schiff on his father Irwin Schiff

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

If you became a libertarian through the Ron Paul movement, please, please watch this video. Be sure to catch the point that government judges do not care about the law — they work for the government, after all.

Click here if you can’t see the video.

Props to the MHD crew for getting such a great interview!

The Right to Read

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

by Richard Stallman

For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college—when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her—but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong—something that only pirates would do.

And there wasn’t much chance that the SPA—the Software Protection Authority—would fail to catch him. In his software class, Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing. (They used this information to catch reading pirates, but also to sell personal interest profiles to retailers.) The next time his computer was networked, Central Licensing would find out. He, as computer owner, would receive the harshest punishment—for not taking pains to prevent the crime.

Of course, Lissa did not necessarily intend to read his books. She might want the computer only to write her midterm. But Dan knew she came from a middle-class family and could hardly afford the tuition, let alone her reading fees. Reading his books might be the only way she could graduate. He understood this situation; he himself had had to borrow to pay for all the research papers he read. (10% of those fees went to the researchers who wrote the papers; since Dan aimed for an academic career, he could hope that his own research papers, if frequently referenced, would bring in enough to repay this loan.)

Later on, Dan would learn there was a time when anyone could go to the library and read journal articles, and even books, without having to pay. There were independent scholars who read thousands of pages without government library grants. But in the 1990s, both commercial and nonprofit journal publishers had begun charging fees for access. By 2047, libraries offering free public access to scholarly literature were a dim memory.

There were ways, of course, to get around the SPA and Central Licensing. They were themselves illegal. Dan had had a classmate in software, Frank Martucci, who had obtained an illicit debugging tool, and used it to skip over the copyright monitor code when reading books. But he had told too many friends about it, and one of them turned him in to the SPA for a reward (students deep in debt were easily tempted into betrayal). In 2047, Frank was in prison, not for pirate reading, but for possessing a debugger.

Dan would later learn that there was a time when anyone could have debugging tools. There were even free debugging tools available on CD or downloadable over the net. But ordinary users started using them to bypass copyright monitors, and eventually a judge ruled that this had become their principal use in actual practice. This meant they were illegal; the debuggers’ developers were sent to prison.

Programmers still needed debugging tools, of course, but debugger vendors in 2047 distributed numbered copies only, and only to officially licensed and bonded programmers. The debugger Dan used in software class was kept behind a special firewall so that it could be used only for class exercises.

It was also possible to bypass the copyright monitors by installing a modified system kernel. Dan would eventually find out about the free kernels, even entire free operating systems, that had existed around the turn of the century. But not only were they illegal, like debuggers—you could not install one if you had one, without knowing your computer’s root password. And neither the FBI nor Microsoft Support would tell you that.

Dan concluded that he couldn’t simply lend Lissa his computer. But he couldn’t refuse to help her, because he loved her. Every chance to speak with her filled him with delight. And that she chose him to ask for help, that could mean she loved him too.

Dan resolved the dilemma by doing something even more unthinkable—he lent her the computer, and told her his password. This way, if Lissa read his books, Central Licensing would think he was reading them. It was still a crime, but the SPA would not automatically find out about it. They would only find out if Lissa reported him.

Of course, if the school ever found out that he had given Lissa his own password, it would be curtains for both of them as students, regardless of what she had used it for. School policy was that any interference with their means of monitoring students’ computer use was grounds for disciplinary action. It didn’t matter whether you did anything harmful—the offense was making it hard for the administrators to check on you. They assumed this meant you were doing something else forbidden, and they did not need to know what it was.

Students were not usually expelled for this—not directly. Instead they were banned from the school computer systems, and would inevitably fail all their classes.

Later, Dan would learn that this kind of university policy started only in the 1980s, when university students in large numbers began using computers. Previously, universities maintained a different approach to student discipline; they punished activities that were harmful, not those that merely raised suspicion.

Lissa did not report Dan to the SPA. His decision to help her led to their marriage, and also led them to question what they had been taught about piracy as children. The couple began reading about the history of copyright, about the Soviet Union and its restrictions on copying, and even the original United States Constitution. They moved to Luna, where they found others who had likewise gravitated away from the long arm of the SPA. When the Tycho Uprising began in 2062, the universal right to read soon became one of its central aims.

Author’s Note

This note was updated in 2007.

The right to read is a battle being fought today. Although it may take 50 years for our present way of life to fade into obscurity, most of the specific laws and practices described above have already been proposed; many have been enacted into law in the US and elsewhere. In the US, the 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act established the legal basis to restrict the reading and lending of computerized books (and other works as well). The European Union imposed similar restrictions in a 2001 copyright directive. In France, under the DADVSI law adopted in 2006, mere possession of a copy of DeCSS, the free program to decrypt video on a DVD, is a crime.

In 2001, Disney-funded Senator Hollings proposed a bill called the SSSCA that would require every new computer to have mandatory copy-restriction facilities that the user cannot bypass. Following the Clipper chip and similar US government key-escrow proposals, this shows a long-term trend: computer systems are increasingly set up to give absentees with clout control over the people actually using the computer system. The SSSCA was later renamed to the unpronounceable CBDTPA, which was glossed as the “Consume But Don’t Try Programming Act”.

The Republicans took control of the US senate shortly thereafter. They are less tied to Hollywood than the Democrats, so they did not press these proposals. Now that the Democrats are back in control, the danger is once again higher.

In 2001 the US began attempting to use the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty to impose the same rules on all the countries in the Western Hemisphere. The FTAA is one of the so-called “free trade” treaties, which are actually designed to give business increased power over democratic governments; imposing laws like the DMCA is typical of this spirit. The FTAA was effectively killed by Lula, President of Brazil, who rejected the DMCA requirement and others.

Since then, the US has imposed similar requirements on countries such as Australia and Mexico through bilateral “free trade” agreements, and on countries such as Costa Rica through CAFTA. Ecuador’s President Correa refused to sign the “free trade” agreement, but Ecuador had adopted something like the DMCA in 2003. Ecuador’s new constitution may provide an opportunity to get rid of it.

One of the ideas in the story was not proposed in reality until 2002. This is the idea that the FBI and Microsoft will keep the root passwords for your personal computers, and not let you have them.

The proponents of this scheme have given it names such as “trusted computing” and “palladium”. We call it “treacherous computing”, because the effect is to make your computer obey companies instead of you. This was implemented in 2007 as part of Windows Vista; we expect Apple to do something similar. In this scheme, it is the manufacturer that keeps the secret code, but the FBI would have little trouble getting it.

What Microsoft keeps is not exactly a password in the traditional sense; no person ever types it on a terminal. Rather, it is a signature and encryption key that corresponds to a second key stored in your computer. This enables Microsoft, and potentially any web sites that cooperate with Microsoft, the ultimate control over what the user can do on his own computer.

Vista also gives Microsoft additional powers; for instance, Microsoft can forcibly install upgrades, and it can order all machines running Vista to refuse to run a certain device driver. The main purpose of Vista’s many restrictions is to make DRM that users can’t overcome.

The SPA, which actually stands for Software Publisher’s Association, has been replaced in this police-like role by the BSA or Business Software Alliance. It is not, today, an official police force; unofficially, it acts like one. Using methods reminiscent of the erstwhile Soviet Union, it invites people to inform on their coworkers and friends. A BSA terror campaign in Argentina in 2001 made slightly-veiled threats that people sharing software would be raped.

When this story was first written, the SPA was threatening small Internet service providers, demanding they permit the SPA to monitor all users. Most ISPs surrendered when threatened, because they cannot afford to fight back in court. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1 Oct 96, D3.) At least one ISP, Community ConneXion in Oakland CA, refused the demand and was actually sued. The SPA later dropped the suit, but obtained the DMCA which gave them the power they sought.

The university security policies described above are not imaginary. For example, a computer at one Chicago-area university prints this message when you log in (quotation marks are in the original):

This system is for the use of authorized users only. Individuals using this computer system without authority or in the excess of their authority are subject to having all their activities on this system monitored and recorded by system personnel. In the course of monitoring individuals improperly using this system or in the course of system maintenance, the activities of authorized user may also be monitored. Anyone using this system expressly consents to such monitoring and is advised that if such monitoring reveals possible evidence of illegal activity or violation of University regulations system personnel may provide the evidence of such monitoring to University authorities and/or law enforcement officials.

This is an interesting approach to the Fourth Amendment: pressure most everyone to agree, in advance, to waive their rights under it.

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Socialism Kills. Literally.

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Here’s just one example.

Click here if you can’t see the video.

The idea that this will be thrusted upon everyone in American really, really pisses me off.

Cursing makes you feel better, research shows

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Cursing can have a “pain-lessening effect,” according to research from the school of psychology at Britain’s Keele University

Click here for the article, and thanks to Jason C. for the link!


Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I pretty much always use my meal times to catch up on the news by watching video podcasts on Miro. One such podcast is the Obama-worship-session that is NBC Nightly News.

So I was sitting here, minding my own business, scarfing down a cheeseburger before I go to work replacing a Cisco access point, and then this pops up:

mandatory healthcare

Okay, the bit about crowding out the private healthcare industry with government bullshit was bad enough, but the next point that read “REQUIRE ALL AMERICANS TO GET COVERAGE” almost made me choke on my food.

Are you fucking serious?

Does anyone understand the gravity of what this means??

Are the Americans who support this FUCKING MORONS?

This is so fucking dumb that I hardly know where to start.

No, I’m not talking about the inevitable 4-hour-wait-times, or the total destruction of incentives that would otherwise cause healthcare providers and healthcare customers to act fiscally sensible. And let’s set aside for the moment the fact that subsidies DRIVE UP PRICES, which has brought today’s outrageously expensive healthcare prices to what they are now. And never mind that some people will literally die from not receiving the care they need because they had to wait on a list for years before getting their life-saving operations. We can discuss all of that later.

It’s bad enough that the government wants people to engage in this nonsensical Socialist bullshit, but mandatory coverage means that sensible people won’t have a choice. You will literally have to register with the state for really expensive, really shitty, “free” healthcare coverage, or be penalized. And then, once “the government” (ie. you) is paying for your healthcare, guess who gets to dictate how you live and what you eat? (Hint: It won’t be you.)

That’s right, suckers. Watch and learn. This will give the government every excuse on the planet to intervene in your life. You’re fat, you see, and they’re paying for your healthcare. So, the fatty foods have got to go. You smoke, you see, and that causes cancer, which the government has to pay for. So, your cigarettes must be outlawed.

Banning trans fats was just practice. You’ll see.

Meanwhile, all the good doctors will go where they can make money on their ridiculously expensive investment of an education, you get to wait in line for two to four hours when you go to the doctor, your aunt who fell and broke her hip will wait two to four years for a replacement, the real cost of healthcare will skyrocket, and you’ll be forced the pick up the tab.

What really kills me is that this has been done in plenty of other countries, and what I describe above is what actually happens. (Just ask a Canadian about his or her last trip to the doctor.) And yet, there are morons — lots and lots of morons — who still support this.

Way to go, America!

Buzz Report: Google OS Special

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I love Molly Wood.

Click here if you can’t see the video.