one of jon stewart’s better moments

In a career of many many good moments of political commentary, surely one of the highlights of Jon Stewart’s career was the Wednesday March 4 episode of The Daily Show, which was almost entirely Jon Stewart doing commentary & interview about the financial situation.

I particularly loved his comment to Joe Nocera about CNBC’s “journalism” on Wall Street:

How does a guy like Rick Santelli have the balls to get mad about this idea of giving homeowners a break, when this network, CNBC — how did they miss this entire story? They’re a financial news network , I mean, it’d be like the weather channel interviewing hurricane Katrina and saying, “You know there’s reports that you have high winds and flooding,” and Katrina’s like, “No no no I’m sunny,” and they’re like “alright,” and then they walk away. This is insane!

At around 17:30 in the video.

Obama’s FCC pick

Obama has appointed Julius Genachowski to head the FCC, which I think is pretty good. Genachowski is on the record as supporting network neutrality. Also, there’s a fair amount of eco-friendliness and tech-savviness in his background — he headed up the Obama team’s internet campaigning, and also worked on Obama’s tech plan.

And, to boost his media credentials, he has worked with “Common Sense Media”, a media group that “believe[s] in media sanity, not censorship. … [S]ince we can’t always cover our kids’ eyes, we have to teach them how to see.” That last bit’s a little airy-fairy, but I like the strong first sentence. When investigated a little further, it still mostly looks pretty good:

Five Internet Challenges for Parents:

1. Keeping up is hard to do.

The Internet gets more portable every day, which makes it easier for our kids to be online more of the time. Today your kid may go online from a computer or even a mobile phone. But tomorrow? Who knows! It could be via something not yet invented. New sites appear and become “hot” overnight, replacing old ones. Parents need to help their kids learn about safe and appropriate behavior, not just safe and appropriate sites. Because teaching them about the dangers of one site or form of access today will be outdated information tomorrow.

….

4. … We need to help our kids think critically about what they post, read, and see online. ….

And then there’s also a lot of “Hey parents! Those crazy kids nowadays, huh? We may not always understand ’em, but they sure do need us!” I find this sort of thing patronizing, personally, which is a little ironic for a site targeting parents about parenting. But, anyway, I love the media literacy bits, which, when all is said and done, is what this whole 5-point “Internet challenges” boils down to: “Teach them media literacy because it’s more effective.” Which I can totally get behind.

The Obama tech plan that Genachowski worked on includes a significant broadband access component, which the FCC will play a significant role in.

Some trivia: Interestingly, I note that he was on the board of TicketMaster, which I mostly think of in context of their various attempts to stifle database harvesting (e.g., Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com (C.D. Cal. 2003). Of course, it seems unlikely that he would have had any input or interaction with that particular business decision. I can’t help that my first association with TicketMaster is this sort of thing. My second association — annoying ticket fees and the memory of feeling ripped off by their high-priced stadium rock concert tickets back in the day — isn’t much better.

Some other trivia: His wife is a documentary filmmaker. Score one for content re-users! Take that, cell phone ring tone incidental capture cease-and-desist senders!

And — I love this — “He worked on the select committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair”.WP Ah the glory days when Congress investigated executive wrongdoing — even before they felt safe in the knowledge that the wrong-doing president & his party had been ousted in ignominy from governance. Seriously, this is probably my favorite part of his resume. I love a good Iran-Contra investigator.

h/t: bradfox.com

see also: Washington Post 3/3

Speechless

Just like Maddow after Jindal, I am rendered speechless by the DOJ memos released on Monday. Most were by my former Con Law professor; among the notable exceptions was the repudiation of these policies last October.

Holy Constitutional Law, Batman.

* DOJ – Office of Legal Counsel memos

* NYT (3/3)
* LAT (3/3)
* links to the memos with brief annotations at salon.com

* Jack Balkin @ Balkinization (3/3 7am)
* Scott Horton @ Harper’s (3/3 716am)
* Dan Froomkin @ the Washington Post (3/3 12:52 pm)
* Glenn Greenwald, 3/3

following in daddy’s footsteps

A health blog (why a health blog?) at the NYT covered research showing that as the 20th century progressed, more and more women followed in their father’s footsteps, career-speaking. Men have for a long time followed in their fathers’ footsteps at a rate of about 30%; women born in the 1910s followed in their father’s footsteps at a 6% rate, while women born in the 1970s followed in their father’s footsteps at an 18% rate.

What I thought was interesting was that they posited a couple of possible explanations but left out what, to me, is the most obvious explanation — that girls are tending towards parity with boys in this area because the obstacles against them following these careers have diminished. In other words, probably 30% of all kids would like to follow their career-parent into their career. But women were prevented from doing so, and as those barriers fell, women began doing what men have done — take as a default the career that they have already seen, become familiar with and perhaps interested in, have a professional networking leg-up in, and so forth.
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egg rights: South Dakota’s latest ventures into unintended consequences

South Dakota is at it again, with a new egg rights bill that defines “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” as a person under the South Dakota Constitution. Man it’s hard to keep up with all the really poorly thought out legislation from that state!

Broadsheet has the simplest quickest coverage, and links to Feministe “Even More Questions for Pro-Lifers”, always a good read.

Anyway, inspired by the Broadsheet post title “Eggs are people, too”, henceforth I will be referring to this sort of thing as “egg rights”. (A phrase which I now see has already gained some traction.) Egg rights activists, egg rights bills, and so forth.

The DOJ and current copyright conflicts of interest

The Dept. of Justice is threatening to weigh in on one of the numerous cases relating to the Constitutionality of statutory damages in copyright law. In case anyone hasn’t heard this, the Obama Administration has larded the DOJ with numerous copyright litigators and lobbyists.

I just sent the following letter to whitehouse.gov:

I’m writing in regard to the Department of Justice’s stated intent to intervene in the case, Sony BMG Entertainment Media v. Cloud. This case is one of several seeking Constitutional review of the egregious statutory damages available to copyright plaintiffs, which can be up to $150,000 for a single instance of copyright infringement, regardless of any actual damages.

I strongly urge the Department of Justice NOT to intervene in this and similar matters, based on clear conflicts of interest of top decision-makers at the Department of Justice.

The Administration has appointed numerous officials at the DOJ who have been formerly active in the issue precisely at stake — copyright enforcement and damages. Unfortunately, however, the appointments have not been representative of all sides of this issue, and have resulted in an imbalance in the nominees for decision-making positions at the DOJ. Neil MacBride, Thomas Perrelli, and Donald Verrilli, in particular, have all represented the trade associations for the copyright industry.

Thomas Perrelli, Managing Partner at Jenner & Block, has been nominated for Associate Attorney General of the United States. At Jenner & Block, he has represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Sony BMG — the very client at issue in this litigation.

Donald Verrilli, another partner at Jenner and Block, is President Obama’s nominee for Associate Deputy Attorney General, and has stated that he is likely to have a civil portfolio. Mr. Verrilli directly represented the recording industry in the “Jammie Thomas” case, the infamous case that resulted in an almost quarter-million dollar judgment against a single mother for making 24 songs available on a P2P network. Moreover, he was the lead attorney for the RIAA, personally delivering oral argument at the hearing in which the Court threw out the verdict.

Clearly, all former Jenner & Block attorneys now at the Department should recuse themselves from the decision-making process, as should any other attorneys who directly represented clients on matters adverse to either of the parties in this important Constitutional case.

Unfortunately, however, because the Department of Justice has so many appointments representing one side of copyright-related matters, any intervention by the Department on behalf of Sony BMG in this case carries not just the appearance, but the actual risk, of violation of President Obama’s conflicts of interest policy. An ethical firewall will not suffice to remedy the conflict of interest when multiple top decision-makers are similarly conflicted.

Therefore, I strongly discourage intervention by the Dept. of Justice in this case and urge President Obama to consider balance in copyright and information policy in his future nominations. I also inquire specifically as to whether Mr. Perrelli and Mr. Verrilli have committed to recusing themselves in this and related matters, and what steps they plan to take to create an ethical firewall between themselves and the relevant decision-making processes.

Best regards,

etc.

Thanks to Jonathan Band for flagging the issue on a list, Mike Masnick at techdirt for the brief summary & relevant links, and Kevin Donovan at freeculture for his submission (which I took as my starting point).

Equal Pay Legislation – passed and signed

The Lilly Ledbetter Act was passed and signed.

So fuck off, Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy.

Your utterly superficial and mean (as in, scanty, beggarly, stingy) interpretation of the Equal Pay Act managed to hurt some people but did not carry the day.

Jackasses. Also, a big fuck you to the Republicans (including George W. Bush) who held off this legislation since 2007.

data privacy day — no, i did not know

Someone twittered today, “Did you know today was Data Privacy Day?” No, I did not know. But indeed it is. Behold!

On January 28, 2009, the United States, Canada, and 27 European countries will celebrate Data Privacy Day. One of the primary goals of Data Privacy Day is to promote privacy education and awareness among teens across the United States, helping teens learn to network and work online safely and responsibly. Data Privacy Day also serves the important purpose of furthering international collaboration and cooperation around data protection issues.

Celebrated jointly with the European Union for the first time in 2008, Data Privacy Day is quickly gaining recognition here in the United States. Congressman David Price has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives seeking support for the declaration of January 28, 2009 as National Data Privacy Day.

Please join ITAA for our event commemorating Data Privacy Day and featuring remarks by Congressman Price and Member of European Parliament, Alexander Alvaro, as well as key representatives of the privacy community. A networking reception will follow.

ITAA would like to acknowledge Intel, Microsoft, AT&T, Oracle, and Google as supporters of Data Privacy Day.

from the Information Technology Association of America ….

sweet (day 1: stop the bush regulations)

sweet:

Obama halts all regulations pending review

17 hours ago AP 2009/01/20

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Barack Obama’s first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama’s White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The waning days of former President Bush’s administration featured much debate over what rules and regulations he would seek to enact before he left office.

(also? i loved that whitehouse.gov flipped over right about noon. badgerbag tells me that the old robots.txt was like 2500 lines long, but the one is only a couple of lines long. heh.)

marital happiness, kids, and, umm, housework

The New York Times covers research showing that marital happiness increases when the kids leave home. Contrary to popular opinion, which has suggested that parents — particularly moms — suffer depression from “empty nest syndrome”, research published in November in Psychological Science found that “marital satisfaction actually improves” when the kids leave home.

But if you read closely, you realize that the research shows marital satisfaction increasing not among “parents” generally, but among women specifically — presumably, women in a heterosexual marriage. Apparently, it’s not about increasing the amount of time the couple spends together; the couples spend the same amount of time together during and after the kids. “But they said the quality of that time was better.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that “the quality of time” might have something to do with this:

The arrival of children also puts a disproportionate burden of household duties on women, a common source of marital conflict. After children, housework increases three times as much for women as for men, according to studies from the Center on Population, Gender and Social Equality at the University of Maryland.

the giant hologram theory of the universe

Yes, yes, the Inauguration is a big deal. And I am soooo glad that our long national nightmare is finally over.

But.

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our politics, fellow Horatios.

Recent physics results help stitch together a number of findings, unexplained phenomena, and the usual bizarre physics theories into something which I find both compelling and, frankly, a bit disturbing.

The gist is that the universe, as we know it, in its adorable 3-dimensionality, is really a projection of the 2-dimensional edge of the universe. No, seriously.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time – the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into “grains”, just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. “It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time,” says Hogan.

If this doesn’t blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: “If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram.”

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard ‘t Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

Marcus Chown, “Our world may be a giant hologram”, New Scientist issue #2691 (Jan. 15, 2009).

You have to read the whole thing.

This is going to be rocking my brain for a long time to come.

hat-tip to larry shaw ….

Google Book Search panel at ALA Midwinter

The ALA’s Copyright Subcommittee (Committee on Legislation) is hosting a panel on the Google Book Settlement at ALA Midwinter this year — Saturday at 1:30 at the Grand Hyatt. (I’m on the committee and on the panel.) Should be interesting.

Come to the Google Book Settlement Session at ALA Midwinter Conference January 24th, 2009, 1:30-3:30, Grand Hyatt, Maroon Peak Room

If you’ll be at ALA’s Midwinter Conference in Denver at the end of January, please check out the session “Google Book Search: What’s In It for Libraries?” The open forum will be hosted by the ALA Committee on Legislation’s Copyright Subcommittee to discuss the proposed Google Book Search settlement. The discussion will take place on Saturday, January 24, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt, Maroon Peak (listed as the Washington Office Breakout Session IV – Google Book Search in the program).

Panelists will include Dan Clancy, Engineering Director for the Google Book Search Project, Karen Coyle, Digital Librarian and Consultant, Paul Courant, Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, and Laura Quilter, Librarian and Attorney at Law. The session will be moderated by Nancy Kranich, chair of the COL Copyright Subcommittee. Following brief opening remarks by each panelist, there be an opportunity for dialogue and questions from the audience.

Additional information about the proposed Google Book Search settlement is available at http://wo.ala.org/gbs/.

oclc will take member feedback on catalog records policy change

OCLC will take member feedback on its recent proposed change in licensing terms on cataloging records. See OCLC’s press release from yesterday, “OCLC Board of Trustees and Members Council to convene Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship.” link from librarythingtim

yaay.

update 2009/1/15: Salon on OCLC at Radical Reference, Friday, Jan. 23, 8 pm, at ABC No Rio, 156 Rivington St., Manhattan.

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do people ever actually *read* Roe & Casey?

Ross Douthat’s op-ed in the NYT is a showcase for the deceptive rhetoric of the right. The piece is a long paean to the supposed reasonableness and willingness to compromise of the anti-choice movement. He wraps up by attempting to lay the “blame” on Roe and Casey for the “failure” of Americans to reach peace on safe and legal abortion:

But no such compromise is possible so long as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey remain on the books. These decisions are monuments to pro-choice absolutism, and for pro-lifers to accept them means accepting that no serious legal restrictions on abortion will ever be possible — no matter what the polls say, and no matter how many hearts and minds pro-lifers change.

Wow. Where to begin.

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new US Trade Rep; same bad Hollywood favoritism

see below for update 12/19

Obama has appointed the next US Trade Representative, current U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31); see also Becerra’s House site. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s going to be in the pocket of tank for Hollywood, just as prior USTR’s have been.

A few notes from some fast research (“googling”):

* He’s a Dem from LA. That’s almost saying enough right there.
* The Washington Times (crazy! but it’s what news.google.com pointed me to) reports:

With strong ties to Hollywood, Becerra fought to have the film industry included in the $137 billion tax bill. He wanted to stem the exodus of film production overseas and to Canada with tax-code changes.

* Google shows him on many, many events with, for, or about Hollywood, P2P, etc.
* He’s taken money from copyright maximalist PACs, e.g., $3000, Jan-June 1995, which went waaay up over the next decade: $38,750, 2005-06 (plus $3000 printing, for a total of $41,750 from copyright industries, against $12,000 from telcos & Internet companies). In ’07-’08, he took $47,500 from Hollywood, plus $5,000 from printing & publishing. Cost-of-lobbying increases, I guess. open secrets

But, while it may be bad on the copyright-front (did we expect anything good?), it’s not necessarily all bad. Like I’ve noticed before, Hollywood copyrightists who can’t see the public interest in copyright can definitely see it in patent law. Becerra cosponsored the “Genomic Research & Accessibility Act” to ban gene patents. Michael Crichton, Patenting Life, NYT, 2/13/2007

Last Friday, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat of California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican of Florida, sponsored the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act, to ban the practice of patenting genes found in nature. Mr. Becerra has been careful to say the bill does not hamper invention, but rather promotes it. He’s right. This bill will fuel innovation, and return our common genetic heritage to us.

He’s also done some pro-librarian work, for example, seeking to add librarians to loan forgiveness plans, e.g., by introducing the Librarian Education & Development Act of 2003 (HR 2674).LIS News 2004/6/9

And of course in other areas — human rights not dealing with access to knowledge — he’s pretty good. So, the task is to get the access to knowledge message to him …

update 12/19 So Becerra turned down the job on Monday (12/15), and instead Obama has appointed Ron Kirk, former Mayor of Dallas, and supported by tech. tech daily dose, from private list

reasonable limits on presidential pardoning power

I’m contemplating Bush’s potential pardon of his various underlings for their roles in torture or other illegal actions, and I’m angry.

The Presidential pardoning power can be and should be used for humanitarian reasons — for mercy, or for justice, when for whatever reason those are not available through ordinary means. There’s also a good argument for using it for “national reconciliation” — e.g., pardoning the Viet Nam draft dodgers, or (gag) pardoning Nixon. (Those situations are clearly distinguishable, obviously, but even though I firmly disagree with the Nixon pardon, it’s a reasonable argument.)

But the pardoning power should not be available for use to eliminate responsibility for one’s own misdeeds, and for members of the government that includes actions committed on orders. Members of the government already receive a wide variety of protections for “following orders”. Use of the Presidential pardon power to pardon those who followed one’s own illegal orders is the worst kind of self-dealing, and it places the President above the law. Since “[t]he President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it’s clear that impeachment for such crimes was envisioned. Yet pardoning one’s underlings for their illegal activities render it virtually impossible to prosecute the superior that ordered the actions — the President thus protects himself from any such impeachment or other prosecution.

It’s regularly stated that the Presidential pardon power is “plenary” and virtually unlimited, but there must be some level of absurdity. Can the President pardon himself for, say, ordering the massacre of Congress and the suspension of the Constitution? Or bribe an investigative commission and then pardon himself for doing so? Well, yeah. Bush I showed us that they can, with his Iran-Contra pardons. So here we go again. There is just no fucking justice or accountability for members of this administration. God that makes me angry.

update 2/28: See, this is why I should save my wrath until after the fact. I could have used it so much more effectively ….

middle-rite nation

Lately annoyed by all the (conservative & mainstream) pundits asserting confidently that the US is “a center-right nation”. What? When did that happen? As long as I’ve watched these things, people’s positions on issues trend ever leftward — although the Right has successfully managed terminology such that feminists hate the “f-word”, liberals hate the “l-word”, socialists hate the “s-word”. (Anarchists and atheists are apparently so lost to reason that they can’t even be brought to disavow those terms.)

And happily David Sirota noted the same thing:

[Conservatives] contend that no matter how big progressives may win on election day, this is nonetheless a center-right nation. Indeed, a LexisNexis search shows this poll-tested term — “center-right nation” — is lately among the Punditburo’s most ubiquitous Orwellian buzzwords. From a Newsweek cover story by conservative dittohead Jon Meacham to a Wall Street Journal screed by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to a Politico.com diatribe by former Rudy Giuliani aide John Avlon, the “center-right nation” phrase is being parroted with the propagandistic discipline of Cuba’s Ministry of Information.

The proof of this center-right nation? Republicans cite polls showing more Americans call themselves conservative than liberal. While that data point certainly measures brand name, those same surveys undermine the right’s larger argument because they show majorities support progressive positions on most economic issues.

Sirota, Mandate ’08: Reagan vs. FDR, SF Chronicle, 2008/10/31.

Yes, not only are these pundits wrong, but indeed, there is a concerted push this year on this term — the latest conservative talking point. Has anyone tracked the origin and dispersal of these phrases? I’d really like to know.

eta 2008/11/09: Lots of other folks have noticed this as well. See, e.g., Frank Rich 11/9, ….

unidentified flying pasta monster

oh, sure, there are lots of interesting goings-on in the world of copyright / IP / info / intellectual freedom / privacy / tech law / policy / librarianship / etc.

plus of course the endlessly fascinating polling data on the various elections. (i’m voting YES on questions 2 and 3 in massachusetts: ban dog racing and (sort of) decriminalize mary jane.) (could sarah palin be any more freakin’ clueless about science? dozens of nobel laureates think not.)

but i can only be dragged online to post by evidence of copy-editor cluelessness:

“a noodle monster”??? Come on! This is the flying spaghetti monster !!! Pastafarianism is, like, one of the biggest new religions in centuries! Waaay bigger than LDS despite their legions of black-nametagged youthful proselytizers.

oh well — the article (on mad scientist cooking experiments) was fun despite this glaring impiety.

(hat tip to michele, as ever)