Giuliani is Either a Liar or an Idiot

CNN.com is reporting that presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has said “We can end illegal immigration. I promise you, we can end illegal immigration.” Clearly that is not possible. If a much smaller country like England, which is on its very own island, can’t stop illegal immigration what hope does a much larger country with expansive shared borders have? This claim is scary because it shows that Rudy is either a liar, inexcusably arrogant, or so completely clueless that he thinks this is possible. Take your pick.

politics, technology

US Government's Slippery Slope Into Our Lives Doesn't Excuse China or the US Companies that Help China

There was an article on TechDirt yesterday that made an interesting connection and then bizarrely came up with a ridiculous conclusion.

The article pointed to a NY Times article about China’s high-tech surveillance campaign backed by technology from US companies, and connects that to two Boston Globe articles about the US efforts to track its citizens[1][2].

The TechDirt article gets all antsy about folks in congress not liking US companies helping China’s evil government when we are doing essentially the same thing here in the US, but instead of saying that it is time to check our own policies and stop US companies from doing inhuman things the author simple concludes that:

…unless we’re willing to look at the same issues in the US, it seems rather hypocritical to complain about US firms supplying the technology for China to do something quite similar to what we’re doing at home.

Clearly, we need to look at the same issues in the US, and I think in a small way we are. Do we need to do that more extensively? Of course. Does our government’s foray into totalitarianism mean that we should excuse the US companies supply technology that will be used to abuse human rights? No. Never.

When it comes to human rights no one country gets to set the standard, that standard is predetermined. The only question is how each country lives up to that standard. The US government has taken some steps back, and there is no excuse for that. The thing to realize is that nothing done in the US excuses the terrible things the Chinese government does and the US companies helping China can not be given a free pass.

politics, technology

Number One Reason for Net Neutrality

A while back I emailed my representatives and told them what I think of net neutrality. I got back some silly response kindly saying that I was wrong and that net neutrality was bad for business and hurts innovation etc etc. Now it is pretty easy to argue that those things are false. There really aren’t any quality arguments against net neutrality. That said, there are some pretty silly arguments for net neutrality too.

And yet, one ridiculous sounding pro net neutrality argument got a full turn around just recently. It’s the argument is that corporations could censor the web. Why isn’t it silly anymore? It appears that AT&T has done just that, just this week it was reported that AT&T censored anit-Bush lyrics during a webcast of a Pearl Jam concert.

We live in a world where corporations control just about everything, but the internet is the one place that still has some semblance of freedom. If large corporations are allowed to have their way they’ll destroy the internet as we know it. Period.

So, I’ve written back to my representatives, told them that I don’t buy their arguments and that I expect them to do their duty and protect the public interest. We’ll see how it goes.

business, politics

A Demonstration of How Copyright is Being Used in America

Some prisoners tried to get themselves out of jail by abusing copyright. They ended up in trouble of course, but one of the things they got in trouble for was extortion. It is hard to imagine how that might stick considering the prisoners are using the same system that “patent holders” are using on a regular basis.

The question then is why aren’t patent hoarding companies held to the same standard? Techdirt put it nicely when they said that

people are beginning to realize that it can be used as a hammer for all kinds of ridiculous lawsuits that have absolutely nothing to do with creating incentives for the creation of new content

I’d put it a bit more sharply. Greedy people without any ideas are abusing a poorly designed system meant to protect people with ideas from greedy people without ideas.

These greedy folks will make it harder for businesses to start and flourish, but they will also limit a lot of things for consumers. It means that products and services will cost more and that innovative products and services will be stifled. Lawyers have convinced doctors to patent medical procedures, convinced accountants to patent tax-strategies, and of course didn’t even need to convince large incumbent companies from using patents to stamp down rival startups.


Bush to Three Million Uninsured Children: Go Suck a Lemon

There is no shortage of reasons to decry Mister Bush, but threatening to veto a bill that would provide insurance for over three million children is among the lowest of the lows. The White has said that

It’s clear that it will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage purchased either through their employer or with their own resources…

—Tony Fratt, White House Spokesman

Which of course misses the point, which is that the private “coverage” those people are getting doesn’t provide quality coverage and is unfordable.


America's Biggest Threat is America

Politicians like to point fingers everywhere when talking about where America’s biggest threat is coming from. Whether it is legal/illegal immigrants, the ghosts of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, Iran, North Korea, even Russia— The list goes on. But the fact of the matter is that our country hasn’t done anything to actually decrease exposure to risk. For instance, the GAO (Government Accountability Office), which is probably the single most useful office in the government, just set up a bogus company and got a license to buy all the things they’d need for a dirty bomb. Who gives out this license? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission of course. Who’s the bigger threat, the ones trying to hurt Americans or the ones giving those people the tools they need to do it?

business, politics, technology

Where is Capitalism Anyway

There’s a hard case for saying capitalism still exists in America. Calling our market a free one is like saying a cage-free chicken is honestly free. The irony is that it is the market leaders (often ones who clamor for deregulation) are the ones that are steering America’s market towards a feudal system.

The linchpin in this drive is patents & copyrights and to a lesser degree trademarks. Patents & Copyright aren’t necessarily bad, but they are being heavily abused in the US. It only takes one look at Marshal, Texas to understand where we are heading.

While small businesses and start-ups are hurt, the folks sitting at the end of the punch are the America people. The state of intellectual property laws are such that we’ve stifled innovation in America and reduced competition. The concept of the free market is that those who can’t survive in business are pushed out of the market, however through intellectual property management any company that has established itself can remain on artificial life-support by abusing the system through lawsuits that either give failing businesses a cut of their competition’s income or by blocking that competition altogether.

The result is that old weak companies wheeze along while newer innovative companies are left emaciated or quietly strangled out of existence through a feudal market. A feudal market is one in which companies survive only through virtue of their heritage (intellectual property). If a new innovative company enters the market it must pay the old company to work on the land (license fees) or it can not work at all.

Companies have learned this and have begun hoarding patents. These patents abused to the detriment of America. The long-term result of a feudal business model is that innovative products will cost more and come from other countries. While the old companies flail in their slow death they are taking the economy with them. And while their death is slow it will not be nearly as painful for them as it will be for middle and low class Americans.

The life-span of companies has been artificially prolonged leaving us with undead monsters who scour the market for the brains of the living. There is always a balance, the dead trees fall down and decompose, feeding the young trees as the stretch upward, the question is where those trees will be. Will innovation be able to survive in America or will it find more fertile soil elsewhere? And consider this, sometimes the old dead trees don’t fall down and decompose, sometimes they pile up— the only thing for that is a fire, but fire destroys everything and it takes years for a new forest to grow in its place. Do we really want to wait for the fire?

humor, politics, technology

Ten Things I Hate About Comandments

Fair use makes great derivative works like this legal. Of course Viacom still had it taken down, even though they legally don’t own it. But now it is back, take a look.

This is just one of the many reasons fair use needs to be protected. The DVD-CCA (the folks is charge of DVD licensing) are trying to make it illegal to copy a DVD in anyway, in fact they don’t even want people to playing a DVD movie without the DVD in the drive. So for example, if you wanted to save battery life on your laptop during travel by watching a movie from its hard drive you’d be doing something illegal. The worse thing is that the DMCA will probably make it work— hope you’re all ready to say goodbye to your rights.

People should write to their representatives and let them know that we all think the DMCA needs to change. The content creator’s rights are important, but the rights of the people purchasing that content is important too. The problems with the DMCA go way beyond DVD protection— fair use and innovation freedom in general are being strangled.

politics, technology

Yahoo Just Doesn't Care about Human Rights

It has been said before on this little blog that Yahoo is a bad company for helping the Chinese government jail people for speaking out, but Yahoo just won’t admit to anyone that they did something bad. Free speech is obviously important and any company which helps a government suppress it should be regarded as equally repugnant.

It is even more repugnant to see Yahoo’s hollow response to a lawsuit that seeks to hold the company accountable for its poor ethics. The Associated Press reports that, Yahoo has taken the bold stance of saying, “China should not punish people for expressing their political views on the Internet.” While once again reminding us that the people working for Yahoo in China might have faced penalties. This of course is their way of say, sucks to be you, people in China hoping to express your beliefs and opinions. Yahoo does a little PR dance to spin spin spin the bad news of what it did into a finger pointing game, rather than say anything meaningful.

Shi [Tao] was writing for the financial publication Contemporary Business News when he circulated an e-mail with his notes about a government circular about media restrictions. He was convicted of leaking state secrets.

Wang [Xiaoning] was sentenced in September 2003 on the charge of “incitement to subvert state power,” a vaguely defined statute that the Communist Party frequently uses to punish its political critics.(Seattle PI)

It is time to stop using Yahoo things.  No more mail, searches, flickr, or anything else that is related to Yahoo until they make a concrete commitment to protecting free speech. It may cost businesses money to take the high road, but no one ever said freedom was cheap, and while having even this tiny ethic comes at a cost to deny it is far more expensive. Every time Yahoo (or any company) helps suppress the freedom of a people anywhere they are spitting on the ideals of liberty and democracy. These companies are not fit to be representative of the United States, within our country or abroad.