Markey to Take Telecom Subcommittee

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has confirmed he will take the Telecom Subcommittee rather than seek chairmanship of the Resources Committee.

I can’t think of better news to close out 2006. Ed Markey displays that rare, brilliant combination of staying true to his principles at all times while still working well in coalition and with his counterparts accross the aisle. On just about every issue I can think of: net neutrality, media ownership, privacy, fair use, consumer protection, digital inclusion, Ed Markey has been a champion and leader.

Whoooooo Hoooooooooo!!!!!!!!

Stay tuned!

Rethinking the Paradigm: From “Theft of Wi-Fi” to Public Nuisance or “My Noisy Neighbor, Mr. Lynkisis”

This recent piece on mobile phones that use VOIP through open access points has revived the debate on whether your use of an open access point constitutes “theft” of wifi or “tresspass” into my neighbor’s network.

I’d like to suggest that we flip this and ask a different question: is my noisy neighbor Mr. Lynksis, who blasts his access point into my home thus causing interference and potentially screwing up my own network settings, a public nuisance? And if so, what should I do about Mr. Lynksis, the noisy neighbor that I may not even be able to locate with certainty?

As I argue below, I think we should establish by law that any open access point detectable by standard hardware and software is available for public use (assuming I have a legal right to be in the physical location I’m in when I detect the network). Such a law will poduce positive social benefits, whereas a presumption that use of an open access point is “stealing wifi” produces social costs.

My analysis below . . . .

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Babelicioius Porn

I saw the Cannes Film Festival “Best Director” prize winner Babel last night at the newly re-opened Capawok. This is the third film in a series, the other two being 21 Grams and Amores Perros.

After seeing the film I glanced at a few online reviews to see what others had made of it. Andrew O’Hehir of Salon, for example, liked a lot of what I liked about it and didn’t like some of the things that I didn’t like. Actually, I liked some stuff that he didn’t. He said it was philospophically lightweight, but I don’t think it was at all. Others have said it was more philosophically lightweight that the other two movies in this series, and there again I disagree.

However, no review that I’ve seen (I’ve only read a few) mentioned what to me was the most jarring thing about the movie, which was the exploitation of children; in particular of the child actors. There are scenes in this movie, whole themes, that very explicitly involve the sexual confusion of adolescents and the terror of very young children in bewildering, frightening situations. Especially in the case of the younger children, there is no way that they were “acting” confused and terrified. They were made so by the director, and he filmed them. The sexual scenes were in no way prurient, but I still found myself pulled totally out of the movie and thinking about the actors. Maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but I think there are things you just shouldn’t ask young actors to do. I think the movie could have worked as well without several of the scenes; I’m thinking of the minor subplot about the boy and his sister in Morrocco. I’m less bothered by the Tokyo subplot because it’s about an older child and it’s central to the story. Nevertheless I think it was exploitative.

Are there certain things you can do in literature that you just can’t do in movies without breaking the implicit contract between children and adults? I think the answer is yes.


I sent a note to a friend of mine, a longtime working Hollywood TV/movie actor & recently award-winning producer. I asked him to tell me if I was being too prudish. Here was is his answer:

I liked Babel very much, flawed though it was. I thought the Japanese
segment was nothing short of astonishing- the disco sequence is far and away
one of the best pieces of cinema I’ve seen in some time. I think he
generally pushes the drama too far, bordering on ludicrous, but I also think
he manages a “reality” few filmmakers can come close to, and I believe
you’re suggesting this “reality” is too real for the kids in the film. My
answer is- I doubt it. I suspect that it’s all staged on the up and up and
that he’s just that good a director. I could be wrong, but the financing
deals alone for these type of film ventures demand very professional,
heavily insured productions, and there are laws about this stuff. If you’re
saying that “reality” or no, kids shouldn’t be in those kind of situations,
I also disagree. They likely do more/worse on their own, and the positive
lesson kids learn as they participate in discipline and hard work that goes
into actual filmmaking would most likely overshadow the situations they’re

Plus, my wife tells me that the actress in the Japan story is 25 years old. To be clear, my concern was about the actors, not about the story being told or the characters portrayed by the actors. So maybe I went overboard. I’m not quite at Emily Litella’s “nevermind”, but maybe a bit closer to it.

The precogs are here

In Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, police detect and arrest for pre-crime; crime that has not yet been committed. Pre-crime is detected by precognition, and the entities that perform this future-seeing are called “Precogs”. This goes one step beyond Orwell’s Thought Police, who prosecute for bad thoughts. In the land of Minority Report, prosecution is for thoughts and actions that have not even occured.

Here we have an article about Sigard(tm) precognitive hardware and software from an outfit called “Sound Intelligence” that, it claims, “can also detect verbal aggression with a high level of accuracy.”

Combined with closed circuit television systems, Sigard can quickly notify security personnel about loud, angry people in outdoor public spaces, public transportation, nightclubs and bars.

Here’s how it works. A single analysis computer accepts sensor input from a variety of locations. Once the software detects a verbally aggressive human voice, it activates the camera associated with that sensor, bringing it to a security guard’s attention. This helps cut down on the number of people needed to monitor CCTVs.

Sigard Sound Intelligence software imitates the way that humans deal with sound, splitting it into different frequencies with varying amounts of energy. Just as a person can immediately detect anger and aggression in the midst of background noise, Sound Intelligence software “listens” for the same parameters that humans use in detecting aggressive speech.

This system is already in place in a few locations in the Netherlands. Police in the UK are also considering installing the system.

If this seems creepy to you, Another Sign of Overmind Emergent (ASOE(tm)), then you too might be a technoparanoiac Wetmechanic. Welcome to the club.

A little Parable on Orphan Works Reform

As Congress winds down, it faces the usual barrage of last minute bills — including requests from the usual suspects in the IP Mafia to expand yet again the value of their copyright holdings (you can read bout the latest push in the lame duck session at Public Knowledge or the new public interest/industry coalition website Digital Freedom). But one piece of legislation deserves to pass, the Orphan Works Act of 2006. This legislation seeks to address the problem of works where one cannot determine who holds the rights.

How does this happen? In 1976, we moved from a regime where we required someone to register a work with the Copyright Office to get protection to one where where everything rendered in fixed form is protected. So if you fnd a work, you must assume it is still under copyright. Even if you can find a record of the rights holder at the copyright office or elsewhere, you may no longer be able to find the current holder of the right because that person has died or moved on without a forwarding address. And since copyright has been continuously extended, the work remains protected and therefore unusable.

So after much prodding, the Copyright Office recomended to Congress to pass a bill that allows someone to do a due dilligence search for the rights holder and set up an escrow account to put some of the profits from republishing the work if the rights holder shows up. This bill is resisted by some trade groups. You can read a good statement about the bill by Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn here.

In any event, the subject came up on a local science fiction list I’m on. A fellow by the name of Keith Lynch wrote an excellent little piece illustrating the value of the Orphan Works Act, which I reprint below with permission.

Stay tuned . . .

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NAB Turkey of A Report

As reported at Consumers Union blog The National Association of Broadcasters has done its best to show that owning broadcast stations loses money. Unsurprisingly, they recommend relaxing local ownership rules to allow owners to chase the happy, mythical synergy rainbow that has proven such a winner for Clear Channel, Tribune, Viacom and growing list of companies that absorbed profitable businesses and turned them into failing operations ladden with debt.

We shall leave aside the absurdity of the NAB’s arguments for the moment to get to something even sillier, the absurdity of the NAB’s math. Not since fictional Fundamentalists supposedly redefined Pi as 3 has ideology so distorted the basic precepts of mathematics. Worse, these are not accidents or “fudging.” I count no fewer than two major errors in methodology or presentation per page as well as many major methodological errors that impact the paper overall.

How bad is this paper? It is so bad that you would expect it to appear in the “April Fools” edition of Econometrica. It is so bad that I would expect its author, Theresa J Ottina, to be banned for life from meetings of the American Economic Association. It is so bad that every professor of economics and statistical analysis should download it and give it to their class as a final exam question to see if the class can spot all the errors as a kind of economics “Where’s Waldo” of mistakes, gaffes, and deceits. It is such a botched attempt at a lie by statistical analysis that I have half a mind to file a complaint with the FCC requesting they sanction NAB and Ms. Ottina for violating the FCC’s requirement that submissions reflect an honest effort to provide true information (a certification NAB made in its filing).

What makes it so bad? And why does the NAB submit such a piece of obvious crap?

See below . . . .

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“The first cyberage-religion”

A friend sent me a link to the Frequently Asked Questions page for Logologie, “the first cyberage-religion” with the simple subject heading, “it’s all you”. I kind of dug the first paragraphs of the answer to the Frequently Ask Question, “What is Logologie?”:

LOGOLOGIE is “the first cyberage-religion”.

Main topic of Logologie is the entire abandonation of brutality and of
senseless brain destruction,because with the development of technologies the
man got more and more destructive power in a way that now the single man has
become a danger for the survival of the entire human race.Though the mankind
can only further survive when the wisdom(capability to overwiew complex cy-
bernetic relations in a holistic way) of all men will reach that level of
development that the men’s cleverness(capability to apply technologies) al-
ready has reached,because otherwise the mankind will destroy itself.

Now that sounds like something a technoparanoid like myself could get behind! Not only is the author right-on about threat amplification through technology, but he’s also in favor of the entire abandonation of brutality. Which is a proposition I also favor. Moreover, the “cosmic destiny” of Logologie sounds remarkably similar, dare I say it, to the cosmic destiny of Wetmachine, at least insofar as the perfectation of man is concerned:

The cosmic destiny of the man is persuit of perfectation and not destroying
himself – though Logologie’s task is to teach this mankind in sovereignous
holistical thinking to avoid mankind’s lemmingish selfdestruction and avoid
turning this nice world into a grey,dread,dead ball drifting through the
empty space…

Why, this paragraph would find itself quite at home in my own Cheap Complex Devices:

Logologie is a religion of logics and reason,though it is against forbidding
things without any logical reasonings – it trusts more in unbiased resear-
ching and experimenting then in strictly believing dogmatically to bookish
texts written by some ancient priests or by certain ferengiish(i.e. selfish
and capitalistic) cravat wearers of “white”(i.e. officially acknowledged,but
unholistic) sciences.

Could this Logology be just what I’ve been looking for? The perfect evolutionary synthesis of Unitarian-Universalist quasi-religious humanism and computer-tinged scientistology? Follow me below the fold for stunning answer the answer!

[UPDATE: fixed a few typos and the one word “application” to “amplification”. D’oh!]

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So How About That New Congress?

So how about that mid-term election? Of course, even before the dust settled, folks have scrambled to opine what changes and what happens next.

Unsurprisingly, most of the guesswork in media and telecom focuses on what we know right now – we know how Burns and Allen used to vote. We know (at least somewhat) about the priorities of likely House Commerce Chair Dingell, likely (unless he takes something else) House Telecom Subcom Chair Markey, Likely Senate Commerce Chair Inouye (who may or may not reconstitute the Telecom Subcommittee), and likely leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (and other existing shakers and movers).

But guessing how the new Congress will tackle these issues presents a lot more complicated guessing – particularly without knowing who serves on what Committees.

My guesses, and what activists need to do to drive the agenda, below. . . .

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Follow-up on “The Sign”

The first night night after attaching the letter to the political sign against meanness, the sign remained. Someone had pulled it out half way to steal this second sign, but thought better of it.

The second night the same. This time the sign wires were bent, but the sign remained.

Then we went away for two days. The sign was gone. Just the twisted wires remained.

Our friend in the cause brought us another replacement without asking. Actually, she brought two. She had been watching. We’re the first house in the neighborhood and prominent. And this isn’t any neighborhood. It is a mostly green-built conservancy full of kids and parks and porches behind small setbacks. Lots of salesmen and teachers raising kids. It is also the home of the Republican candidate for State Attorney General. A former U.S. District Attorney appointed by President Bush, he funded much of his compain by mortgaging his house.

We left the twisted wires and put in the new sign. Without the letter. Wife Robin had suggested all along that we just keep replacing the sign, and she had suggested — ok, she barred me — from retaliating with email to the neighborhood and letters to the editor. I wondered if the folks who had been told by their pastors to vote against gays would appreciate this example of turning the other cheek.

Anyway, the sign remained. No one stole the third sign. Yet bucking Democratic victories state-wide, our neighbor won his bid for Attorney General, and the people of the state of LaFollette voted to ammend the constitution so as to prohibit the state from ever granting couples rights to a group that Tuesday’s voters disapproved of.

We lost. But in my way I took a stand and I feel good about that. Our next Attorney General didn’t speak out in the neighborhood nor with the press for either private property or private love. But a few folks in the neighborhood have come out and told us about how they feel good about our little play. I feel that the wonderful thing about democracy is not that we each get to cast a vote. Mathematically, that just doesn’t matter. It is that in voting we have to decide. We can just do what we’re told to, but even that is a choice. I feel like we contributed to the inner decision process of a tiny-few people on both sides. That’s not a bad thing.

Congratulations Senator-Elect Webb! Congratulations Senator-Elect Tester

Congratulations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid! Great day in the Morning! Hallelujah!

Congrats of course to winners everywhere (most especially to those in the mainstream, majoritarian party, the Democratic Party). A Democratic-led House of Representatives! Speaker Nancy Pelosi! A Democratic majority in the Senate! Hoo-boy. Some hope, at last, that we may pull back from the brink.

In Virginia the Republican candidate for the Senate is the racist thug brownshirt liar George Felix Allen, and in Montana the Republican candidate for Senate is the corrupt firefighter-hating Abramoff flunky Conrad Burns. They’re backed by the full force of the Repubiican Bush/Cheney/Rove crime family, er, national party who rightly fear marginalization if not impeachment, trial and conviction if two more Democratic senators are seated, so don’t expect them to go down without a fight — a nasty, dirty, dishonest fight. But Tester and Webb and Reid are no patsies, and a fair count will prevail.

It will be easier to concentrate on my day job today. Somehow the dread is much, much less oppressive this morning.