Politics at it's worst, er, stupidest

From the December 22nd "i, cringely" column:
On this theme of corporate consistency I'd like to continue by looking at H.R. 4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, which proves the point I've made many times over the years, that when it comes to technology, government doesn't really know what it is doing. H.R. 4569, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 16th, is intended to protect the intellectual property rights of movie studios by MAKING ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL CONVERSION ILLEGAL.

I am not making this up.

Under the Act as proposed, manufacturers will have one year after passage to stop making devices that convert analog signals like music and video into digital forms unless those forms preserve some original Digital Rights Management technology present in presumably the pre-analog stage.

What this is about, then, isn't making it illegal to use a digital recorder to record from analog microphone. Heck, that would destroy the music industry. Congress's thinking (if we dare call it that -- I see no flashes of synapses firing) is that media are going digital more and more and the greatest opportunity for snatching content is during the actual performance when, for the sake of driving a screen or a speaker, the digital signal goes analog.

What's covered by this proposed law are things like TiVO and RePlay Digital Video Recorders, TV tuner cards for your PC, software intended to record audio or video streams, or just about any device or program you might use to actually implement that part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that says you have the right (though soon not the equipment) to backup or media-shift your own music and movies.

This is law-making at its worst. It isn't burning books, but very close to that since one could see how scanners, too, will be outlawed, making for some people the production of books more difficult. And of course it simply won't work. Since the act doesn't require destroying existing TV tuner cards, then the half dozen I own ought to be worth plenty on eBay. Same for every kind of DVR you can think of. And some people will still make their own devices, which won't be illegal as far as I can see, as long as they don't offer them for sale. We'll see TV tuner cards for sale minus a single resistor, thus turning them from products and into kits for, well, something. Could it be a TV tuner? Nah.

And of course the bill completely ignores the fact that the Internet is a global network. Expect our friends in Canada to create a robust industry in grabbing signals from U.S. radio and TV stations and feeding them back across the border, just as we can expect the French, who this week pretty much took all restrictions off peer-to-peer file sharing, to provide us lots of free music.

This is political posturing and special interest pandering at best and is unlikely to do much to protect intellectual property rights while doing quite a bit to alienate folks who actually understand the breathtaking inanity of what's being proposed.

Which sadly reminds me of a political fundraising breakfast years ago at the Yale Club in New York City. Bill Bradley was trying to run for President and raising money as fast as he could with events like this. Comedian Bill Cosby was there in the audience. "Bill, you are a comic, tell us a joke," asked Bradley.

"Senator, you are a politician, first tell us a lie," said Cos.
Whose interests are the pols in Washington representing? Who comes up with these ideas? The problem is that most people don't read Slashdot or Arstechnica and have no ideas that their "fair use" rights are being stepped on like this.

File this under: Female Teachers a Threat, Female Porn Stars Not

The Walkerville Weekly Reader has an article about a 29 year-old female high school teacher from New Zealand who was asked to change seats by an airline steward because she was sitting next to an unaccompanied 13 year-old boy on a flight. Huh?
When asked if the airline considered female teachers to be dangerous to children, Ms. Fualaau replied, “That’s not what I said.” According to Fualaau, “this is just as much to protect teachers from potential allegations as it is to protect children from predatory female teachers.”
One has to ask, if female teachers are such a threat, why would they be allowed to teach in the first place? I didn't realize that there were so many predatory female teachers outside of New Hampshire.

Message to unaccompanied 13 year-old boys: strippers are safer than teachers so it is OK to skip school and go to Centerfolds or Scores.

NB: The above post and referenced article are a joke. The real article is regarding the banning of men from sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights. Excerpt:

Auckland man Mark Worsley says an air steward approached him after take-off on the Christchurch to Auckland flight and told him to change seats with a women sitting two rows in front. The steward said it was the airline's policy that only women were allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children.

"At the time I was so gobsmacked that I moved. I was so embarrassed and just stewed on it for the entire flight."

gobsmacked defined


The Misadventures of Hello Cthulhu

This series has to be the most twitsted, yet funny sites I have seen in quite a while. Do take the time to read through as may of the comics as possible.


Which side are you on?

Well, the continent of Africa has spoken! They want to keep the Thinkpad black -- in fact, they're the only continent to feel that way.

You can vote here.


Who is this Hubble guy?

Another Beavis and Butthead moment over at CNN. How does stuff like this get past the editors?


Another excellent rant at one of my favorite blogs

Jeff Harrell over at The Shape of Days has another rambling rant that covers topics from XML and Web 2.0 to the current Presidential "crisis" over the "illegal" wire tapping that's been going on.
Good read, as always.


Barbie, uh, mods

Some British researchers have discovered what kids (girls as well as boys) do to Barbie. Mastectomy surgery wasn't specifically mentioned.


My State Legislators are Dumber than Yours

You think the Europeans think Americans are stupid already? Ok, you actually care what the Europeans think of Americans? I don't know what to say. This should give Hugo Chaves a shitload of ammunition against the people of the USA.

Why? I really don't know what to say.


If I knew how to do this in college

Hell, what about the kids working at A&F or J. Crew? They use those stupid plastic boards and the shirts never come out looking that good.


Stuck in Chelsea

One of the joys of owning a Blackberry is the ability Blog from it. Right now I am on a standing-room-only train stuck right outside the Chelsea station. The train hit a car and we have been sitting here for about 45 minutes. Oh, did I mention that we're also getting pounded by the snow storm from hell?

People really get agrivated. I really don't want to see what the bathroom looks like now.

What do I get when I get home? No power. Joy of joys. Thank God it's Friday...


What to do with free time in Ohio

Growing up in NJ I saw my fair share of gaudiness (and Guidos) but this Ohio family has set a new standard for over-the-top Christmas (yes Christmans, not the generic "holiday") lighting. The "geek" side of me says, "cool" while the homeowner says "not in my backyard."

Here is a link to an explanation of it all: how he did it, the song title, how he piped the sound through an FM modulator so the sound wouldn't disturb the neighbors, etc.


Palm Oil and Kyoto

What happens when one geographical region has to restrict the amount of CO2 it emits, and another doesn't? Gosh, that's a good question. Maybe some kind of arbitrage?

This guy talks about what's going to happen when Malaysia and Indonesia ramp up their production of palm oil to sell to the EU.


Dilbert Strikes Again

Found this through blog goddess Jane Galt, who is an MBA that writes for The Economist in her real life.

Scott Adams just nails it.
Best and Worst Jobs

Yet another “third highest ranking al-Qaida leader” has been killed, this time by a rocket attack from an unmanned drone. There are a lot of jobs that I wouldn’t want, and “third highest ranking al-Qaida leader” is right at the top. But I can tell you for sure that if I ever got that job, the first thing I’d do is narc out one of the top two guys so I could move up a notch. Apparently one of the perks of being in the top two is having a really, really good hiding place. The number 3 through 10 leadership guys are pretty much scurrying between mud huts and looking at the sky a lot.

Read the rest!

3D Pavement Drawings

Yet another linkblog entry (take that, Mÿke!):

3D Pavement Drawings from some crazy Australian artist. I wouldn't mind it if he spent some time here in DC; I'd like to see what these look like from non-favored angles.


Foresight is NOT 20/20

Even the best journalists get it wrong when they try to divine the future from the entrails of the present.

At least Forbes is willing to reach into the vault occasionally to pull up gems like this:
November 1, 1975

Toyota on Top

This is the year Toyota will become the top auto importer to the U.S. It may also be the company's last hurrah. With the lower end of the compact market increasingly crowded by Datsun and Chevette and Honda, and with the upper end increasingly preempted by Volkswagen, the next few years may not be such a happy ride for Toyota. Toyota Motor Sales' new president, Isao Makino, is watching nervously as GM's new Chevettes begin arriving on dealer floors.

I'm not exactly the picture of style tooling around in my Toyota Corolla but it beats the hell out of a Chevette. I suppose I'd be psyched to be driving one if my previous car was a Pacer. (I actually knew someone like that.)

Google Video Of The Day Blog

If you ever felt overwhelmed by the Google Video website, this site helps you wade through the morass of mediocrity to find only the best of the best.

This site gets 5 Rusties...


Friday Afternoon Cat Blogging

Say hello to Rusty. This 5-year-old picture captures Rusty at his best, sunning himself without a care in the world.


There are no words to describe this...

...I am speechless.

Take a look.


You can find the play-by-play for this "fascinating" two-part episode here and here.