Two stories made for each other

From el Reg:

Colonel: US Army has working electropulse grenades

From The Washington Post:

Lost U.S. Weapons May Be Going to Taliban, GAO Says

Is this what safety feels like? Brings to mind an awesome idea for a finale to Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. Using time travel, future humans who were somehow affected by the events of the first three Terminator films (for continuity’s sake) return to the past and loot US Army munitions stores, feeding the Taliban and leading to an Afghan-led victory over the machines. Yay!

(To the overly pedantic: Yes, I’m aware that the latter is about lax controls over gifts of arms to tribal militias. Still, these stories make for one hell of a set of neighbors sitting one tab apart in Firefox.)

Illinois: Who should I vote for – OR – Ballot access

Being registered in Illinois where Obama won the Senate race by a 30-point margin (and lost in my home county by the same), there seems to be next to zero chance that the state will vote Republican for the first time since Reagan. As such, I’d be throwing my vote away if I vote for a Democrat or a Republican. The only goal I can hope to reach with my senatorial and presidential votes is to help ensure future ballot access for a third party or two. Disregarding certain joke candidates and the rather scary Socialists and Constitution types, should I be voting for crazy tree huggers or crazy capitalists?

The old hippy lady runnin’ on the Green ticket for the Senate seems a little, well, odd. Is the party dead in Illinois? Is the Libertarian party any more or less likely to lose ballot access than the Greens in the near future? Should I split the vote and go for a lib Presidential candidate and a Green in the Senate?

Please keep in mind that I don’t give the slightest bit of a hoot about any of the following when formulating a response:

  • Abortion
  • Gun ownership

And I do care rather a lot (obviously) about consumer, privacy, and fair use rights. I’d love to see the borders opened up to substantially higher numbers of immigrants, and I wish to see barriers to international trade continue to be chopped away. I’d like to see poverty abated in the third world, and feel that the problem in the United States is miniscule in comparison. Obviously neither the Greens nor the Libs are a good fit, but neither are the (D)s and (R)s. Any thoughts?

Open letter to US Representative Timothy Johnson on the eve of the Pro-IP bill’s expected passage by the House.

I fired off the below after reading Corey Doctorow’s recent news post about Wal-Mart’s about face on DRM. It occurred to me shortly afterwards that there may be enough consumers affected by the Yahoo, MSN, and Wal-Mart server shut-downs that we might be able to make noise enough to get a new DMCA exemption for those law-abiding music purchasers. Here’s the text of my letter. Kindly write your own Representative and push for the same sort of change. The bill has already been passed by the Senate, but there’s still a window for opportunity to enact reform that benefits the consumer along with its massive gifts to industry.

———————————————————————–

The 1996 Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed a few years before you came into office, did a great deal of damage to the Fair Use rights of consumers in your district. I firmly believe that, as we play host to neither Nashville nor New York City nor Los Angeles, that it did far more harm to your constituents than good. It rendered it a criminal act to bypass the easily-bypassed encryption used in intellectual property management schemes known as “Digital Rights Management” or DRM. This is something that has caused me considerable trouble, given my interest in academic pursuits based around open source development.

More recently, though, the problems that the technical community predicted at the bills passage have come to fruition and begun to affect many voters in your district, including many people without a strong technical background. Yahoo, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart previously “sold” DRM-protected music through their online stores for several years prior to 2008. In 2008, however, they and stores like Amie Street and Amazon.com have led the way in hammering out licensing deals to allow the sale of DRM-free MP3 files with the music of major labels. Competing against the unrestrictive competition from the above, Yahoo and Wal-Mart have switched to selling DRM-free media as well. Microsoft has taken a different tact, ending sales of its older standard, PlaysForSure, through MSN.com in favor of selling a new format to owners of Microsoft-licensed Zune media players.

Unfortunately, but predictably, all three of the vendors listed above have either shut down or announced plans to shut down the servers that end user computers use to authenticate the media purchased from them. This ultimately strips the user of the ability to transfer the media to a new computer, new media player, etc, and leaves the consumer without any meaningful recourse, due largely to the aforementioned 1996 Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Very, very soon the bipartisan Pro-IP bill will come up for a vote in the House. I would like to ask you to add a simple amendment granting an exemption to the DMCA to consumers affected by these issues, allowing them the legal right to remove the DRM protections from their legally purchased media files. This has happened before, with CircuitCity’s DivX program, and it could very well happen again (should Blu-Ray be superseded or otherwise begin to collapse). A broad exemption allowing those who legally purchase this media to legally unlock it would be greatly welcome. The precedent created would not only help consumers: Media producers would also benefit, insofar as this exemption would add another level of disincentive to piracy, eliminating one (of many) common complaints about DRM.

<s>Personal contact information that doesn’t need to be as open as the letter proper</s> The morning business hours in DC and our mutual home coincide with my evening, when I would be happy to speak with you or your staff. Please call me with any questions you may have about the common-sense proposal above.

Thank you for your time,
Sean Crago
Kathmandu, Nepal

———————————————————————–

Update: Went ahead and sent the below off to Rick Boucher of Virginia, too, as a result of this old Ars Technica article. Anyone else want to help?

———————————————————————–

My name is Sean Crago. I’m a member of the EFF and a longtime admirer of your work. <s>Personal job and contact information not intended for the blog</s>, and am unable to fight as strongly as I should to support you as a result. Please accept my apologies.

I’m writing to urge you to step up pressure to append some positive changes to the PRO-IP Act prior to its passage. If you can’t get the entire FAIR USE Act tacked on, would you please try to use the recent outrage over Wal-Mart’s plans to shut down their DRM authentication servers? This will prevent many legal purchases from being retained by their owners, encouraging piracy over DRM when those are the only available options. It would be very much in the best interests of consumers and media producers alike to have a DMCA exemption that allows for users to bypass DRM on files purchased from the now defunct DRM music services at Yahoo, Wal-Mart, and MSN Music rather than lose their purchases when they buy their next computer.

This low-lying fruit should, I hope, provide an easier target for you to hit.

I’ve written to my parents’ Congressman as well on this same subject, for lack of one I can truly call my own:
http://mrzaius.com/blog/?p=108

Thank you for your time,
Sean Crago
Kathmandu

PS: I’d love to answer any questions you may have, but please do not call after 1PM Washington DC time, due to the time difference between there and Nepal.

Shoot…

http://badbarr2008.com/

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080606/0136491330.shtml

The libs aren’t even running a libertarian (small L) this year? So which of these three folk who want to strip away my fair use rights am I supposed to vote for again? Bad year for IP counter-reform. Bad year for privacy rights. Bad year for consumer rights. Bad year for folk who’d like to survive doing business with the police. (By the way, here’s a good free read.)

Now both mainstream candidates want to break out everyone’s favorite dead horse, instead of dealing with timely national issues in which it’s possible to enact real, meaningful change? This when American workers and employers are already struggling to meet increasing demands for stringent privacy policies in the global marketplace?

Bad campaign year all around.

Running with the first draft, eh?

Just a quick note – I just saw the much anticipated Hillary Clinton speech, and I must say, that was the most unprofessional, poorly written mess of a speech I’ve seen in a long time. Everyone’s hero Mike Gravel could have done better.

Did anyone else notice how it turned from a concession speech to a self-serving 2012 campaign rally after the first 5 minutes? Did anyone else notice the frequency with which she strayed off topic? Did anyone else notice how she was bringing up tiny little tidbits about a fellow who died in Alabama without any real context, expecting everyone to be fully versed in Alabamian party maneuvering?

With the frequent topic changes and the incoherent language (how did the incoherent “No way, no how, No McCain” get a standing ovation?), this speech was structured in a way that one must imagine only an intern’s first draft of a State of the Union can best.

Transcript: NYTimes

Update: Saw the second half of the speech again, and, though the language was still rather jilted and infantile, it was a great deal more focused than the introduction. Guess I oughta make a partial redaction.

Biden’s anti-privacy, anti-personal rights stance on technology getting some press

Joe Biden’s pro-RIAA, pro-FBI tech voting record

I’ll be shocked if this news breaks outside of technical circles, but at least there’s some vibrant discussion on CNet, /., et al about this man’s frequent attempts to do substantial damage to our basic fundamental human right to privacy. Any chance at all that the Republicans might do less damage?

Big, big problems a-comin’ (Aka Rick Boucher for President)

Obama’s choice of veep is far from comforting. An active opponent of our basic fair use priveleges, Senator Joe Biden introduced and actively promoted legislation that would have criminalized far more than the already-rather-wretched Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1996. The “bill would [have? – is it dead?] make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law–even if it’s to share music by your own garage band–could land you in prison for up to five years. And that’s not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense.” Aren’t Democrats supposed to be gung-ho for consumer rights? May this man’s vision never be implemented – The last thing any knowledgeable consumer wants is crippled hardware that, to hack/fix would be a criminal act.

The law could have conceivably outlawed or prevented development of any number of unendorsed/unsigned applications for a number of different devices:

  • Rockbox – Open Source Jukebox – Firmware replacement for iPods et al
  • All the iPhone/iPod Touch jailbreaks
  • Ports of Linux to myriad architectures – Xboxes, Dreamcasts, Gamecubes, Wiis, etc, etc (to say nothing of XBMC)

Actively undermining consumer rights, creative fair use, and open source development sure as hell ain’t change I can believe in.

Now if only the Republicans were any better. *le sigh* – I guess I might just end up throwing my vote away on a third party candidate again – Biden’s worse than Bush, Kerry, and Gore combined in this respect. (Update: Lawrence Lessig might not write off McCain too quickly.)

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