Saturday, September 14, 2002

THE SOFTER SIDE OF RUDY

Rudy Giuliani's abandonment of his God-awful comb-over is getting rave reviews. A Newsday poll gives Rudy's new do an +80% approval rating. Apparently, people like seeing the 'softer' side of the man who told his wife he wanted a divorce through a public press conference.
IT JUST LOOKS BAD

Maybe there's nothing to it, but the timing sure looks suspicious. Bacardi, locked in a trademark dispute, gives Florida Republicans $50K. Two weeks later, Gov. Bush writes James Rogan, who was appointed to head the Patent and Trademark Office by President Bush, asking for a quick ruling in Bacardi's favor. 5 days later, Bacardi kicks Florida Republicans another $25K.
ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?

Toinight we find out, between two guys born in Southern California, who the 'real Mexican' is, when Oscar De La Hoya fights Fernando Vargas. Bill Plaschke explains in the LA Times why Vargas will win. Randy Harvey, also in the LA Times, explains why De La Hoya will win.

We don KNOW who will win, but we'll take a flyer on Vargas. He just seems nastier.

Friday, September 13, 2002

THE BEST OF BAD TV


We don't know about you, but we love bad TV. Really bad TV. Like The Love Boat. Well, we finally got around to watching the premier of Family Affair, and we couldn't be more thrilled to tell you that it is the worst TV program we've ever seen.

With Tim Curry starring as Mr. French, we knew that we might have something really horrible in Family Affair, as we remember the show Over The Top (Has Curry said 'No' to any role since The Rocky Horror Picture Show?). But nothing could have prepared us for how really rotten this program is. Sadly, we don't have the vocabulary to really express the show's badness.

Of course, now that we have fallen in love with this incredibly subpar program, we expect it will be cancelled within 6 weeks.
JUST WONDERING

But since President Bush is now such a big fan of the U.N. and their resolutions, are we going to war with EVERY country that has broken numerous U.N. resloutions?

Because next up would be a nation who has flouted U.N. resolutions for over 50 years, and possesses all three forbidden categories of weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical and biological.

Oh, wait, that's Israel. Forget that we brought it up.



OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BAY'S BROTHER

Pat Buchanan, ordinarily, is kind of a nut who's opinion is chuckled about around the office here. However, proving the old adage that even a blind dog finds a bone every now and then, Buchanan gave us this pontification today:

Buchanan: Let me take you back to 1861, the height of the civil war, the beginning of the civil war, an American, a Union war ship intercepted a British merchant ship and took off two confederate agents, Mason and Slidell, brought them to Boston Harbor. American's went wild with celebration. But then the British said, 'Listen, give us Mason and Slidell back or you're going to be at war with the British Empire'. Mr. Lincoln meekly complied and gave Mason and Slidell back to the British, and told his cabinet why. He said 'Gentlemen, one war at a time.' The United States is now at war in Afghanistan, we're at war here at home, there are jets flying over our home town right here in D.C. Is not one war at a time wise advice? We could, it wouldn't be a cakewalk in Iraq, but we would win. But do we really need a third war right now, or can we contain and deter Saddam Husein the way we did Stalin, Breshnev, and Mao Tse-tung? So American's ought to think about it. Do we want a third war, or should it be one war at a time.

Is it just us, or is Pat, for some unexplained reason, making sense?



Thursday, September 12, 2002

PEER-TO-PEER NETWORK BILL UPDATE!!

When last we left the discussion concerning the peer-to-peer network bill introduced by our Congressman, Howard Berman, we had gained some insight into the matter, but, along with several readers, had some more questions. Naturally, we turned the questions over to Alec French, the Minority Counsel on the House Judiciary Sub-Committee on Courts, Internet, and Intellectual Property (MCHJSCCIIP). Here are the questions posed to Alec French, and his answers in their entirety.

Question #1: Whitey, are you really that naive? Current copyright law gives copyright owners the ability to obtain court injunctions to stop distribution of pirated materials. What the new bill does is allow copyright owners to engage in "self-help" without a court order. To play silly analogies, if you are a landlord and someone doesn't pay rent, you are not allowed to throw them into the street without a court hearing. Robin Roberts

Alec French Responds: There are many circumstances today where a property owner is allowed to protect their property against theft or misappropriation without a court order. If you don't like the bike analogy, there are many others. If someone picks my pocket, I can chase them down the street and assault them without fear of liability, and without a court order, as long as I only use necessary force in getting my property back. While a satellite company could initiate a lawsuit against someone who is illegally accessing its programming signal, that company can also - without a court order and without fear of liability - send electronic countermeasures through its signal to prevent the illegal theft of that signal by "frying" counterfeit program cards.

Further, I would note that because H.R. 5211 only provides copyright owners with a DEFENSE against a claim of liability, it in no way limits the role of courts in supervising their activities. In other words, today if a copyright owner used self-help technologies to stop P2P piracy, the pirate would potentially have the ability to sue the copyright owner under a variety theories, including violations of 18 USC 1030. Passage of H.R. 5211 doesn't change this dynamic, or the involvement of the courts. That pirate would still be able to sue the copyright owner, but now the copyright owner would potentially be able to raise as a defense that their activities fell within the safe harbor, and the court would be charged with evaluating the applicability of the defense. Same court involvement, same claims, but now the court would have to evaluate an additional defense by the copyright owner.

Lastly, it is just laughable to suggest copyright infringement suits are an adequate solution to deal with billions of illegal files traded monthly by 200 million or more P2P users. ISPs resist identifying P2P pirates, P2P pirates are online so fleetingly that building a case is next to impossible, and the P2P systems are constantly evolving with the specific design imperative of thwarting suits (encryption and decentralization are two examples of such evolutions.) Further, the cost of individual suits would be astronomical to the court system, ISPs responding to court orders, copyright owners, and defendants and their privacy. In the end, such suits on their own would not make a dent in the piracy.

Frankly, anyone suggesting copyright infringement suits as the sole solution to online piracy does not want to see a solution....they just want to make it impossible to stop the piracy.


Question # 2: I still don't understand why this bill is necessary. What powers does this bill grant copyright owners that they didn't have previously? To go back to the stolen bike analogy Mr. French offered, weren't you allowed to stand on the sidewalk before? Hari Nair

Alec French Responds: Let me explain the bike analogy further. Under current law, I absolutely have the right to stand on the sidewalk and stop other people from taking my bike. I also have the right to take my bike back from someone's yard EVEN THOUGH entry into that yard would otherwise constitute trespassing. If I am recovering my stolen property, I have no liability for trespassing in that yard. However, due to the overbroad anti-hacking statutes, a copyright owner doesn't have a corresponding power to take back their property, much less the corresponding ability to stand on the sidewalk....i.e. on the P2P network....and prevent others from stealing their copyrighted works. H.R. 5211 would give copyright owners the equivalent ability to stand on that sidewalk and stop the illegal distribution of their works, but would NOT allow copyright owners to seize their stolen property back from someone's hard drive. In other words, H.R. 5211 doesn't even give a copyright owner the same powers that a bike owner has.

Question #3: I think the point that Alec French, the Berman FAQ, and you are collectively missing is that the remedies available to copyright holders are never really defined. What are they going to do to "watch the bike" that they can't already do? It's not against hacking laws to post fake garbage files that are filled with X's and named after popular mp3s. Failing this, and failing actually bombing the "culprit" off the net and/or damaging files, what's left? Am I missing something? Please cut the analogies which don't work -- what will copyright vigilantes be able to do that they can't already? Sam

Alec French Responds: What are the types of actions that will be given a safe harbor from liability under H.R. 5211?

The bill does not address any specific technologies, methods or techniques with good reason. Mr. Berman does not believe that the law should mandate or favor particular technologies. Further, he understands the fruitlessness of writing technology-specific legislation that will be obsolete as soon as someone engineers around that technology.

Instead of referring to a particular technology, H.R. 5211 defines the particular function that any technology must perform to qualify for the safe harbor. No matter what the technology, if you use it to perform the function described in H.R. 5211 - and ONLY the function described in H.R. 5211 - then your use of that technology will not subject you to liability.

The bill is quite clear as to the function for which it provides immunity from liability. It clearly states that a copyright owner shall not be liable for impairing the illegal distribution of her copyrighted works on a public P2P network. So no matter what technology you use, you will not be liable for impairing the illegal distribution of your copyrighted works through a public P2P network. However, you may STILL be liable for ANYTHING else that you did while using that technology if those actions are potentially be illegal.

For example, let's assume a copyright owner engages in a DOS against a corporate network and brings it down, ostensibly because one corporate client computer is making her copyrighted photographs available on Morpheus. Under H.R. 5211, the copyright owner would remain fully liable for bringing down that corporate network, but would be immune from any liability that might arise from stopping the trading of the copyrighted photographs.

On the other hand, let's assume that the copyright owner employs a technology that can target only the copyrighted photographs, and prevent them from being traded, without bringing down the corporate network or doing any other damage. In that case, H.R. 5211 would provide the copyright owner with full immunity from liability for what could otherwise be found a DOS under some of the state statutes and possibly 18 U.S.C. 1030.

To use analogies further, look at it this way. If I kill you after finding you in flagrante delicto with my wife, I probably have a defense against a charge of murder in the first degree because my actions were not premeditated and thus do not satisfy the elements that must be shown to prove the crime. However, I may still be liable for murder in the second degree. The fact that my actions do not subject me to liability for one crime do not mean that I am immune under the other.

I am perplexed as to why some in the tech community can't get their heads around this concept. After all, I understand it is common practice in RFPs for technology products to describe the functions the desired technology is to perform, and then technologists go off to create technologies that meet those functional specifications. H.R. 5211 intends to spur the same kind of technological development. Any technologies copyright owners and enterprising technologists can create to perform ONLY the function described in H.R. 5211 will be immune from liability. However, if those technologies perform other functions that are currently illegal - like bringing down networks or knocking people offline - then the use of those technologies will still create liability.

In summary, I say yet again that H.R. 5211 only says what it says: it immunizes from liability the specific actions described by it, and doesn't provide a safe harbor for any other actions. That is the only logical way to read the legislation. Folks who argue otherwise are essentially saying, "the bill allows a copyright owner to do anything as long as one effect of their actions is to stop illegal file-trading. Thus, a copyright owner could burn down a file-trader's house, and wouldn't be liable for arson under H.R. 5211, as long as that arson stopped illegal file-trading." This is patently absurd.


Whatever your feelings about the bill, you have to admire Alec French for taking the time to attempt to answer questions from some podunk little website like ours.




Tuesday, September 10, 2002

HAVE A GREAT 9-11-02

Tomorrow, marking the memory of the terrorist's attack on America, is a day when people should be remembering the tragedy in their own way. That's what we'll be doing, and we hope you are too. We won't be posting, and frankly, we hope you're not reading. Go be with your family, or friends and we can get back to political bickering and cheap shots come Thursday.
WHAT IF IT WERE CHELSEA?

OK, consider this: It's 1996, and Chelsea Clinton is found to be in possession of some crack. The right-wingers would be going nuts about the decline in the moral fabric of the nation due to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Leftward leaning Blogs, like Media Whores Online, would go absolutely ballistic, claiming the right-wingers are playing politics with a bad choice by a young girl, and that it has absolutely nothing to do with the moral fabric of the nation. And we would heartily agree.

But, change it to 2002, and make it Jeb Bush's daughter, and Media Whores Online can't get enough of it. Hey, we love MWO, but sometimes they are wrong. And this is one of those occasions. Noelle Bush's problems have nothing to do with politics, and Media Whores Online (and many other Bloggers and news services) ought to leave this one alone.

It's not newsworthy, and it's not any of our business.
IT'S NOT JUST US

We pulled a really unfair trick on Bruce Rolston, by fact checking the articles that he referenced in a recent post. Basically, we claimed that Rolston mis-quoted, mis-attributed, and mis-represented the articles that he did NOT originally link to. To prove our point, we picked one article, tracked it down, and showed that Rolston was playing fast and loose with the truth.

It turns out, we weren't the only one's suspicious of Rolston. Ampersand at "Alas, A Blog" did the same thing with a different article.

Funny thing, though. While Bruce has no problem delivering criticism to people, he doesn't care for it much. He deleted several comments from his blog that actually criticized him.
IN ARGUENDO'S MOVIE REVIEW

Today, The In Arguendo staff caught a two-fer, as the C.E.O. was out of the office all day, and he left the drawer holding the petty cash unlocked. Naturally, the staff did the only reasonable thing. We stole enough money to go see Michael Moore's documentary Bowling For Columbine.

The film, which is only playing in a limited number of theatres to qualify for the Academy Awards, is powerful and moving. At times, it's rip-roaring, gut-busting, laugh-out-loud hilarious. At other times, it's so sad that it will bring a tear to the eye of everybody.

The movie is a disturbing look at the love affair between America and guns (yes, we know Bloggers like Bruce Rolston will call this America-bashing). While the flick does have some extremely sad and sickening film clips from the Columbine massacre, the movie is more about how and why guns are so popular and widespread in our country. Why, Moore asks, does the America have more gun murders than England, Germany, Austrailia, Canada, and a bunch of other countries combined?

Moore never really finds his answer, but it's clear that Americans do own more guns than any other nation, and we have more gun related murders than any other nation.

The answer seems pretty clear to us.

The movie won't change the minds of anybody. If you're pro-gun, you'll still be pro-gun after seeing the movie. However, we don't think that will be a problem. Outside of our staff, there were 3 other people in the theatre.

Take our word for it. Bowling For Columbine was certainly worth the risk of embezzling the ticket money from our boss.

Monday, September 09, 2002

QUOTABLE QUOTE

Here's our favorite political quote of the day, if not the entire election cycle:

"I really don't want the press to get this."

Who said it? Griffith Simon, California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon's 9-year-old son, who was busy trying to rid his shirt of red stains from his snow cone.
TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF THE PENNANT RACE!!

The Oakland A's, winners of 20 of their last 21 games, invade Edison International Field to face the Anaheim Angels, winners of their last ten games. The A's lead the Angels by 2 games in the race for the American League's Western Division. THIS is what baseball is all about.
BLOGGING AT ITS WORST (UPDATE)

Max Sawicky points out that Blog readers must beware when reading Blogs. His sage advice is to actually check the link, when it is provided, to make sure the Blog is accurately representing the substance of what they are referring to. We heartily agree.

Now, we took Bruce Rolston to task for NOT providing links in a recent post, and it seems Bruce had a good reason for not providing the links. Because he was badly misquoting and paraphrasing the writer’s he was criticizing.

Let’s take a look at how Rolston describes the article written by Lynda Hurst (it actually appeared in the Toronto Sun, not The Globe And Mail, but since Rolston only claimed the stories were from ‘Canada’s largest newspaper’, Matt Welch and we assumed it was The Globe And Mail):

*Lynda Hurst writes how America's press has been censored and suppressed since Sept. 11. "Serious journalists who sought a less myopic perspective on the war were handicapped from the start by the emergence of patriotism into the picture that's never entirely been excised." Patriotism? Didn't we get rid of that with the Nazis? Serious coverage of Guantanamo bay and the "human rights violations of hundreds of detained Muslims, many of them U.S. citizens" is not being written because "it wouldn't be welcomed by the public." Neither is the "multi-layered backdrop" to the Sept. 11 attacks. "There has been less access to information in this war than all others before," she writes, apparently in total ignorance of her subject matter. "Americans expect the news to reflect their own point of view." Those silly Americans! Fortunately, she adds, the BBC World News and the Canadian CBC still make a "valiant effort to give the other side of the story."

Omitting the first eight words certainly misrepresents the first ‘quote’. Here’s Rolston’s quote:

"Serious journalists who sought a less myopic perspective on the war were handicapped from the start by the emergence of patriotism into the picture that's never entirely been excised."

Here’s how it appeared in print:

Commentators on both sides of the border say serious journalists who sought a less myopic perspective on the war were handicapped from the start by the emergence of patriotism into the picture that's never entirely been excised.

Hurst is writing something that apparently has been said by commentators in America and Canada, but that is far less powerful for Rolston’s rant against the author. It’s more damning to attribute the quote to Hurst herself.

Here’s Rolston’s second quote:

Serious coverage of Guantanamo bay and the "human rights violations of hundreds of detained Muslims, many of them U.S. citizens" is not being written because "it wouldn't be welcomed by the public."

Here’s how it appeared in print:

Reporters continue to stay off hot-button topics such as the fate of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay or the rights violations of hundreds of detained Muslims, many of them U.S. citizens. "They've been very quiet about that," he says. "They find it difficult because it wouldn't be welcomed by the public."

Who’s the ‘he’ Hurst is quoting? Anthony Collings, a former CNN and Newsweek foreign correspondent now teaching communications at the University of Michigan.

Did Hurst write, as Rolston charges, that:

"Americans expect the news to reflect their own point of view."

Technically, yes she did. BUT she was quoting Stephen Hess, the ex-presidential adviser and Brookings senior fellow.

Now, we are not saying that Hurst wrote a perfect article, or that we agree with it entirely. However, we do realize that purposely misquoting and misattributing a writer’s words is not right. Rolston proves himself over and over to be nothing but a Blogging hack.
BLOGGING AT ITS WORST

A post over at Matt Welch's blog caught our eye with this headline: Anniversary-Related America-Bashing in Sunday’s Toronto Globe and Mail and referred us to Bruce Rolston's Blog, Flit. Rolston has a lengthy post concerning eight, count 'em, eight stories where America is bad-mouthed, chidded, and debased for OUR role in the 9-11 terror attacks. The post has quotes from each author, and comments from Rolston, who at times shows amazing psychic powers with his ability to read each writer's mind. (Here's but one example: "This is still a one-superpower world and no terrorist outfit has so far succeeded in changing that," Oakland Ross writes, clearly disappointedly.)

There's only one problem.

Rolston didn't link to a single article.

Further, Rolston doesn't, exactly, say where the quotes come from. He attributes everything to 'Canada's largest newspaper'. Welch took him to mean The Globe And Mail. We spent the better part of an hour scouring The Globe And Mail website, and couldn't find a single article that was referred to.

Now, we are NOT saying that the articles weren't printed, or that the quotes aren't taken verbatim. But we ARE saying that if you are going to pretty much trash a writer's name (and make no mistake, that is exactly what Rolston does) you owe it to the writer, and your readers, to provide a link so that free thinking folks can read the writer's entire piece, rather than relying on selected quotes.

Matt Welch may disagree, but we feel that Rolston hurt his case by not providing links to the articles he was quoting from. His readers, certainly, deserve better.