07/05/2012 archive

Digital Developments

European parliament rejects anti-piracy treaty

Eric Pfanner, Business Standard

Jul 06, 2012

Foes of the treaty said the vote, by an overwhelming margin in the European Parliament at Strasbourg, would probably end the prospects of European involvement in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, which has been signed by the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, South Korea and a number of individual EU members.

The vote was not even close, with 478 members of Parliament opposing the treaty, only 39 supporting it and 146 abstaining, yet it leaves considerable uncertainty. Under EU law, the treaty cannot go into effect without the Parliament’s endorsement.

“It’s a crushing victory,” said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesman for La Quadrature du Net, a group in Paris that was active in the treaty protests. “It’s a political symbol on an enormous scale, in which citizens of the world, connected by the internet, have managed to defeat these powerful, entrenched industries.”

The legality of second hand software sales in the EU

by Jas Purewal, Gamer Law

Posted on 3.7.12

The second hand sale of physical and digital software has effectively been declared legal, according to a judgment published by the Court of Justice of the European Union today.  This has the potential to have a real impact on the way that software is sold and consumed – but at the same time the case raises more questions than it answers, so we’re really not in a clear cut situation at all.

Essentially, the court held that, under EU law, the right of software developers to control distribution of a piece of software – whether stored physically or digitally –  is “exhausted” (i.e. lost) once the developer has been paid for it (known as a “first sale“).  This means that developers lose the ability to prohibit any second hand sale.

However, if a second hand sale goes ahead then the first purchaser must stop using her copy of the software and render it unusable, because the developer’s right to control reproduction of software is not exhausted on a second hand sale.  In order to make sure that the first purchaser stops using the software she has sold on, it is permissible for the software developer to use “technical protective measures such as product keys“.

(h/t Ian Welsh)

Verizon Playing Dangerous Game in Net Neutrality Battle

By Tony Bradley, PCWorld

Jul 3, 2012 5:13 pm

This time around, Verizon is playing the First Amendment card. The challenge, essentially, is that by limiting Verizon’s ability to choose which content to block or promote, the FCC is infringing on Verizon’s right to free speech.

There are a couple major flaws in the argument. First, an individual’s right to free speech shouldn’t apply equally to a corporation.

Second, the FCC net neutrality rules don’t actually inhibit an ISP’s ability to express itself freely. Under the FCC rules, Verizon is free to publish whatever content it chooses–it simply can’t block or discriminate against other content as a matter of business practice.

The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the data traversing the ISP’s network (like Verizon) doesn’t belong to the ISP in the first place. An argument could be made that by throttling or blocking traffic Verizon is actually the party guilty of stepping on the First Amendment rights of others.

Part of the underlying problem is the fact that the major ISPs are also content providers. Verizon has a vested interest in preventing Netflix traffic because it has its own streaming entertainment services. Comcast is owned by NBC, so it could gain a strategic advantage for its own content by throttling the bandwidth for rival networks. The simple solution is for Congress to impose regulations banning ISPs from delivering their own content, or being owned by companies that publish or deliver content.

If the net neutrality rules suggested by the FCC to keep the Internet fair and open to all seem too draconian for Verizon, perhaps the problem is that Verizon the ISP needs to be separated from Verizon the cable TV provider, or Verizon the wireless broadband provider, or Verizon the VoIP (voice over IP) phone provider.

The SCOTUS Leaks & Leakers

I haven’t paid too much attention to this uproar since I feel it is a distraction to the issue of real health care reform. But since everyone seems to think it’s significant, I will let our readers decide.

CBS News’ reporter Jan Crawford reported that Chief Justice John Roberts had switched his vote on the individual mandate, supporting it under the right of Congress to levy taxes, allowing the Health Care Law to stand.

After the historic oral arguments in March, the two knowledgeable sources said, Roberts and the four conservatives were poised to strike down at least the individual mandate. There were other issues being argued – severability and the Medicaid extension – but the mandate was the ballgame. [..]

On this point – Congress’ commerce power – Roberts agreed. In the court’s private conference immediately after the arguments, he was aligned with the four conservatives to strike down the mandate.

Roberts was less clear on whether that also meant the rest of the law must fall, the source said. The other four conservatives believed that the mandate could not be lopped off from the rest of the law and that, since one key part was unconstitutional, the entire law must be struck down.

Because Roberts was the most senior justice in the majority to strike down the mandate, he got to choose which justice would write the court’s historic decision. He kept it for himself.

Over the next six weeks, as Roberts began to craft the decision striking down the mandate, the external pressure began to grow. Roberts almost certainly was aware of it. [..]

It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law. At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation. [..]

Never mind the ramifications on the limits the ruling puts on Congress’ ability to regulate interstate commerce, it completely ignored precedent (Wickard v Filburn). Roberts’ siding with the conservatives drew the ire of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY):

Although he upheld the health care law on another basis, Roberts sided with the court’s four conservatives in declaring that Congress may not, under the Commerce Clause, force people to engage in a market transaction. The five-member majority view effectively rewrites existing law. It’s the first time since before the 1942 case Wickard v. Filburn, a precedent that was affirmed in the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich, that the Supreme Court has placed a limit on Congress’s authority make national economic regulation that substantially affects interstate commerce.

In 2005, during Roberts’ confirmation hearing, Schumer grilled the soon-to-be chief justice on whether he would support the legal framework established by Wickard.

“Now it was reaffirmed in the Raich case and that is a precedent of the court, just like Wickard, that I would apply like any other precedent,” Roberts said at the time. “I have no agenda to overturn it. I have no agenda to revisit it. It’s a precedent of the court.”

TPM asked Schumer whether Roberts went back on his word in the ‘Obamacare’ decision.

“Yes he did,” the senator said. “If you read his testimony about Wickard, about some of the other, more recent Commerce Clause cases at the hearing, and looked at what he said here, it’s quite different.”

But the news media and some pundits are far more interested in who leaked the story

But who are those two sources?

GWU Law professor Orin Kerr, the one who got the ball rolling on this discussion, notes that Crawford’s story has details “only the justices and their clerks would likely know.”

“The leaks go into what the justices were thinking and what signal they meant to send with their actions,” he argues (and provides evidence – but you should read the story because there’s plenty). “Further, I doubt Crawford would run with a story with that kind of detail that was sourced less directly. So my best guess would be that the two sources she relies on are from the among the justices and their clerks.”

But Kerr rules out the clerks, simply because a clerk would be “crazy” to leak. “A clerk who leaked this and is identified has likely made a career-ending move. … Even assuming a clerk or two was so extraordinarily dismissive of the confidentiality rules to leak this, it would be nuts to leak over the weekend when you have to show up at the court for work tomorrow.”

Then law professor Paul Campos wrote this piece for Salon.com suggesting that there us strong evidence that Roberts penned both decisions:

It’s notable that Crawford’s sources insist on the claim that the joint dissent was authored specifically in response to Roberts’ majority opinion, without any participation from him at any point in the drafting process that created it. It would, after all, be fairly preposterous for the four dissenters to jointly “author” an opinion that was in large part written originally by the author of the majority opinion to which the joint dissenters were now so flamboyantly objecting.

Yet that, I am told by a source within the court with direct knowledge of the drafting process, is exactly what happened. My source insists that “most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts’ chambers in April and May.” Only the last portion of what eventually became the joint dissent was drafted without any participation by the chief justice.

This source insists that the claim that the joint dissent was drafted from scratch in June is flatly untrue. Furthermore, the source characterizes claims by Crawford’s sources that “the fact that the joint dissent doesn’t mention [sic] Roberts’ majority …  was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him” as “pure propagandistic spin,” meant to explain away the awkward fact that while the first 46 pages of the joint dissent never even mention Roberts’ opinion for the court (this is surely the first time in the court’s history that a dissent has gone on for 13,000 words before getting around to mentioning that it is, in fact, dissenting), the last 19 pages do so repeatedly.

University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos broke the news on the Last Word that, according to his sources inside the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote both opinions in the case involving President Obama’s health care reform law. MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell is rejoined by Prof. Campos and author Glenn Greenwald to take about the leaks, Roberts’ vote and what it say about the institution of the Supreme Court.

So the right is flipping out because Roberts voted with the “liberal” justices to uphold the law based on a twisted view that the penalty for not buying health care insurance is a tax. The so-called “left” is cheering but totally misses the long term problems this ruling has created. I still say the “leaks and who did the leaking” is a tempest in a tea pot that is distracting from the main issue that this country needs universal health care.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: A Gap in Health Coverage

The Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of health care reform inadvertently opened a hole in health insurance coverage that could harm some of the nation’s poorest citizens. The problem arises from a mismatch between how the law was framed and how the court’s ruling will affect Medicaid, the joint state-federal health program for the poor. [..]

In states that choose not to expand Medicaid, substantial numbers of the very poor could be left out of coverage. The reform law provides tax credits to help people with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $23,000 to $92,000 for a family of four) buy private insurance. But the bill’s drafters made no provision to provide subsidies for anyone below the poverty line because they assumed that those people would be covered by expanded Medicaid.

Tina Rosenberg: In Rwanda, Health Care Coverage That Eludes the U.S.

Last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding of the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law moves the United States closer to the goal of health coverage for all. All other developed countries have it. But so do some developing nations – Brazil, Thailand, Chile. These countries are mostly middle income. But one country on the list is among the poorest of the poor: Rwanda.

The point is not that Americans should envy Rwanda’s health system – far from it. But Rwanda’s experience illustrates the value of universal health insurance.  “Its health gains in the last decade are among the most dramatic the world has seen in the last 50 years,” said Peter Drobac, the director in Rwanda for the Boston-based Partners in Health, which works extensively with the Rwandan health system.

It couldn’t have happened without health insurance.

Dean Baker: Why Americans Should Work Less – The Way Germans Do

There is a solution to unemployment: if we worked the same shorter hours as Germany, we’d eliminate joblessness overnight

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman and Richard Layard, a distinguished British economist, took the lead last week in drafting a sign-on “Manifesto for Economic Common Sense“, condemning the turn toward austerity in many countries. This manifesto seems destined to garner tens or even hundreds of thousands of signatures, including mine.

While the basic logic of the manifesto is solid, there is an important aspect to the argument that is overlooked. We can deal with unemployment every bit as effectively by having people work fewer hours, as we can by increasing demand.

The most important point to realize is that the problem facing wealthy countries at the moment is not that we are poor, as the stern proponents of austerity insist. The problem is that we are wealthy. We have tens of millions of people unemployed precisely because we can meet current demand without needing their labor.

Jim Hightower: Supreme Court’s Plutocratic Political Hacks Rule Against the People in Montana

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” as my old Texas momma used to instruct my brothers and me. But apparently, five of the justices on our Supreme Court didn’t have mommas with such ethical sensibilities – or perhaps they’re just ignoring their mommas’ wisdom now in order to impose their extremist political agenda on you and me.

That agenda became startlingly clear in 2010, when the black-robed cabal of Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Sam Alito hung their infamous Citizens United edict around America’s neck. It allowed unlimited sums of corporate cash to spew into our elections, effectively legalizing the wholesale purchase of America’s elected officials. In his majority decision, Supreme joker Kennedy drew from his deep well of political ignorance and judicial arrogance to declare that these gushers of special interest money “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Is he on the court – or in a comedy club? Not only were Kennedy and his fellow corporatists wrong on the substance of their decree, but also ridiculously wrong on the politics. You don’t need a law degree to see that CEOs are presently flooding this year’s presidential and congressional races with hundreds of millions of corporate campaign dollars, gleefully perverting the political process to buy government policy for their own gain. That not only gives the appearance of corruption, it is corrupt.

Laura Flanders: Workers vs. Investors: Famous Windows Factory in Danger of Liquidation

A workers’ cooperative in the Goose Island area of Chicago is desperately trying to stop the liquidation of a windows and doors factory the sale of which will scuttle their plans but benefit some well-connected investors.

Union members who put their bodies on the line not once but twice to save their windows and doors factory in Chicago found out Sunday that their former employer has broken a pledge to give workers a fair chance to buy factory equipment and plans instead to sell off machines as soon as Friday rather than let a Black and Latino-led workers’ cooperative buy and keep the plant in operation.

The workers, members of the United Electrical and Machine Workers of America Local 1110, sat in and briefly occupied their plant this February after owner, Serious Energy of California, announced a shut-down and a plan to move jobs out of state. Many of the same workers occupied the same factory in December 2008, becoming a cause-celebre at the height of the unemployment crisis.

Jules Boykoff and Alan Tomlinson: Olympian Arrogance

While Europe roils in economic turmoil, London is preparing for a lavish jamboree of international good will: in a few weeks, the city will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

But behind the spectacle of athletic prowess and global harmony, brass-knuckle politics and brute economics reign. At this nexus sits the International Olympic Committee, which promotes the games and decides where they will be held. Though the I.O.C. has been periodically tarnished by scandal – usually involving the bribing and illegitimate wooing of delegates – those embarrassments divert us from a deeper problem: the organization is elitist, domineering and crassly commercial at its core.

The I.O.C., which champions itself as a democratic “catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family,” is nonetheless run by a privileged sliver of the global 1 percent. This has always been the case: when Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympics in the 1890s, he assembled a hodgepodge of princes, barons, counts and lords to coordinate the games. Eventually the I.O.C. opened its hallowed halls to wealthy business leaders and former Olympians. Not until 1981 were women allowed in.

On This Day In History July 5

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 5 is the 186th day of the year (187th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 179 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1937, Spam, the luncheon meat, is introduced into the market by the Hormel Foods Corporation.

Spam (officially trademarked as SPAM) is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Spam’s gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock. The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.

Varieties of Spam include Spam Classic, Spam Hot & Spicy, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Lite, Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, Hickory Smoked, Spam with real Hormel Bacon, Spam with Cheese, and Spam Spread. Availability of these varieties varies regionally.

Spam that is sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota, (also known as Spam Town USA) and in Fremont, Nebraska. Spam for the UK market is produced in Denmark by Tulip under license from Hormel. Spam is also made in the Philippines and in South Korea. In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold. On average, 3.8 cans are consumed every second in the United States.

Name origin

Introduced on July 5, 1937, the name “Spam” was chosen when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share. The name was chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest. A Hormel official once stated that the original meaning of the name “Spam” was “Shoulder of Pork and Ham”. According to writer Marguerite Patten in Spam – The Cookbook, the name was suggested by Kenneth Daigneau, an actor and the brother of a Hormel vice president, who was given a $100 prize for creating the name. At one time and persisting to this day in certain books, the theory behind the nomenclature of Spam was that the name was a portmanteau of “Spiced Meat and Ham”. According to the British documentary-reality show “1940s House”, when Spam was offered by the United States to those affected by World War II in the UK, Spam stood for “Specially Processed American Meats”. Yesterday’s Britain, a popular history published by Reader’s Digest in 1998 (p. 140), unpacks Spam as “Supply Pressed American Meat” and describes it as an imported “wartime food” of the 1940s.

Many jocular backronyms have been devised, such as “Something Posing As Meat”, “Specially Processed Artificial Meat”, “Stuff, Pork and Ham”, “Spare Parts Animal Meat” and “Special Product of Austin Minnesota”.

According to Hormel’s trademark guidelines, Spam should be spelled with all capital letters and treated as an adjective, as in the phrase “SPAM luncheon meat”.

2012 Le Tour – Stage 5

Rouen / Saint-Quentin (122 miles)

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

There was another withdrawal at the beginning of stage 4.  Maarten Tjallingii of Rabo Bank broke his hip on Tuesday in a crash and though he was able the finish the 40 km left he was unable to start yesterday.

BruceMcF our resident Sprint expert has this assessment of the classification competition so far.

Cav(endish) is riding for stage wins and for the Green Jersey, and he completely lost any chance at points at the finish. However, since he contested the intermediate sprint points remaining after the break went through, and since its only one intermediate sprint with points stacked up, he ends the day in 4th in the Green Jersey classification. Sagan is on 147 (between the stage wins and finishing in the top ten in intermediate sprints and the other Sprinty McSprinterperson stage), Matty Goss is on 92 (he’s also been contesting intermediate sprints), Greipel the Gorilla is 87 points (not contesting intermediate sprints, but didn’t fall down today), Cav is 86 points (contesting intermediate sprints and did fall down today), Boasson Hagen (a team-mate of Cav) is 81pts.

Cancellara is 74 points, but is not contesting for the Green Jersey, Petachi is 71pts, but he’s stage hunting, Veelers is is 56pts, Renshaw is 46pts, they both seem to be stage hunting as well, and Morkov rounds out the top 10 with 40pts, but that is because he collected intermediate sprint points as he was on three successive breaks chasing the “Pretender to King of the Mountain” title before the race hits the high mountains and the KOM competition begins in earnest. I like to call someone like Morkov “Prince of the Hills”.

So the Green Jersey competition looks to be between Sagan as a puncheur and three sprinters in Matty Goss, Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish. If I was a betting man, my money would be on Sagan or Goss, since Green jersey is the height of apsirations for Liquigas or GreenEdge, while Sky has Yellow Jersey hopes. Greipel is likely to win a few more stages riding for Lotto, a long time sprinters team, but he doesn’t seem to be chasing intermediate points, which puts him at a disadvantage.

Pescheux thinks that lack of points in Rouen means Cavendish is done.  There are no mountains today.  One point award.

General Classification

Place Rider Team Time/Delta

Coverage is customarily on Vs. (NBC Sports) starting at 8 am with repeats at 8 pm, and midnight.  There will be some streaming evidently, but not all of it is free.

Sites of Interest-

The Stars Hollow Gazette Tags-

Pretty tables-

My Little Town 20120704: Independence Day

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Before we get started, please allow me to wish our great Nation a very happy 236th birthday!  Although the United States is not completely perfect, it is indeed a more perfect Union than had ever been conceived up to the time, and remains more perfect than any other.  As long as the People are in charge, this will not change.  Actually, I sort of begrudgingly look at 04 July as the anniversary, because I believe that the Nation actually came to be with the adoption of the Constitution of the United States on 04 March 1789, making it 213 years old, but the Founders chose 04 July, so I shall not argue too much.  Actually, the Declaration of Independence was signed on 02 August 1776, but the wording of the document was approved by the Continental Congress on 04 July 1776.  By the way, John Adams preferred 02 July because that is when the Congress voted to secede from the UK.

There were not very many formal observations of Independence Day in Hackett when I was little.  Actually there were none.  However, we still celebrated it in our own ways.

“A Paddle For Your Boat”

Republished from 6/4/2010 at The Stars Hollow Gazette

It’s two years and this has not gone away. Some of the titles of the players have switched but essentially all the names are the same. Remember, this was Barack’s idea. We are still up the creek

and can’t afford the paddle.

Shit Creek Paddle Store

The Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as the “Cat Food Commission” has targeted Social Security and Medicare for some serious reductions that will put many senior citizens and future senior citizens in jeopardy of being relegated to homeless shelters or the streets. Sound harsh, over the top? Well listen to the co-chair former Sen. Alan Simpson, who was hand picked by President Barack Obama, in the video below the fold. And how about Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi who purposely put a “requirement that the House will vote on the deficit commission’s recommendations in the lame duck session if they pass the Senate“?

Alan Simpson: Cutting Social Security Benefits to “Take Care of the Lesser People in Society”

(transcript for the hearing impaired is in this link)

Cutting Social Security and Medicare is how Sen. Simpson thinks the US can obtain fiscal responsibly works and his co-chair, Investment banker and former Clinton chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, who negotiated Social Security cuts with Newt Gingrich, now wants to do it again.

Although the commission is composed of 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans and the final report will need a super majority of 14 to pass, most of the members are Wall St. fiscal conservatives to whom Obama and Congress have catered.

Warnings from both House Majority and Minority leaders, Rep. John Conyers and John Boehner, that the final report will be presented to a lame duck Congress were ignored by Obama, Reid and Pelosi who are determined to bring whatever this commission decides to a vote by the end of the year. Now Pelosi has sealed the deal by slipping in the provision into the War Funding bill that requires the House to vote on whatever the Senates passes.

This Presidential Commission, which is also proposing tax hikes beyond the increases in 2011 when the Bush tax cuts expire, is selling out the middle class who is virtually up that “shitty” creek without a paddle and can’t afford to buy a paddle.