Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister: Pam Hrick was robbed

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation recently released “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister“, a competition show where five candidates competed to become the crowd favorite. The show is licensed to share. There’s been some buzz about it online (1, 2) and for good reason: their take on DRM is right-headed

While plenty of TV networks have experimented with offering shows online for free, it is CBC’s use of DRM-free BitTorrent downloads that is the most interesting. Guinevere Orvis, one of the interactive producers on the show, told me that the motivation for this choice was their desire for the “show to be as accessible as possible, to as many Canadians as possible, in the format that they want it in.” As for DRM, she said: “I think DRM is dead, even if a lot of broadcasters don’t realize it.” She added that “if it’s bad for the consumers, it’s bad for the company.”

and this alone puts them considerably ahead of American broadcasters who are still not clear on how they can retain control over every copy of every show, restrict copies electronically, and track viewers so as to more effectively sell them stuff. For American media distributors, DRM is still taken seriously. It’s this kind of thinking that creates a huge competitive edge for those who treat their viewers better. The CBC is way ahead of the US’ PBS in terms of licensing, DRM-freeness, and modern decentralized distribution of their shows.

But the most interesting part of this show has to do with the level of debate, a debate you won’t hear on American TV.
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Still want to support the Democrats?

Remember how the Democratic Party, freshly voted into control of US Congress, said that impeachment was “off the table”? After explaining how light impeachment really is, Ralph Nader lays it on the line for the Democrats:

Repeatedly during the past seven years, Mr. Bush has lectured the American people about “responsibility” and that actions with consequences must incur responsibility.

It is never too late to enforce the Constitution. It is never too late to uphold the rule of law. It is never too late to awaken the Congress to its sworn duties under the Constitution. But it will soon be too late to avoid the searing verdict of history when on January 21, 2009, George W. Bush becomes a fugitive from a justice that was never invoked by those in Congress so solely authorized to hold the President accountable.

Is this the massive Bush precedent you and your colleagues wish to convey to presidential successors who may be similarly tempted to establish themselves above and beyond the rule of law?

Is this the way you and your colleagues wish to be remembered by the American people?

So what’s your breaking point?

Progressive Leftists can’t vote for Obama or the Democrats

Thanks to C. G. Estabrook for his help with this post. Check out News from Neptune and share it with your friends.

Critical reading on why Progressives can’t vote for Barack Obama:

Tony Yarusso says Barack Obama (D-IL) “spoke out against the war from the beginning, and continues to consistently do so (while still providing the necessary support to the personnel on the ground to keep them relatively safe until they are allowed to come home)”. This is more commonly known as paying for the continued occupation of Iraq. What the US should be doing instead is paying to bring US military and mercenaries home immediately (with war crime trials and paying for Iraqi ruination to follow, of course). So if Obama is such an anti-war hero why isn’t he telling Nancy Pelosi to stop bringing funding bills to the floor? The Democrats control the Congressional calendar. Obama’s rhetoric indicates that to the degree he opposes Iraqi occupation he’s likely to simply shift the war from Iraq to Afghanistan (or “AFPAK,” as Richard Holbrooke says).

Obama’s “well-considered response” amounts to saying he is willing to send rockets into Iran, welcome Iranian sanctions and he doesn’t mind that 300-to-1 death rate of Palestinians over Israelis or the recent Gaza raids (and the deaths and injuries resulting from them). In fact, he wrote to the US Ambassador to the UN while Israel was killing more than a hundred Gazans to urge that the Security Council not interfere.

“Now the gravest threat … to Israel today, I believe, is from Iran. There the radical regime continues to pursue its capacity to build a nuclear weapon and continues to support terrorism across the region” … “Threats of Israel’s destruction can not be dismissed as rhetoric. The threat from Iran is real and my goal as president would be to eliminate that threat.”Barack Obama 25 February 2008 (transcript)

This despite the IAEA telling us that Iran isn’t the threat Obama claims: there is no evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Obama praises Israel’s recent Lebanon invasion and says that Palestinians have much to give up under an Obama presidency: “[Any] negotiated peace between Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past,” he averred. “And that doesn’t mean that that there may not be conversations about compensation issues.” (see Joshua Frank’s article for more on Obama and the Middle East).

When one considers the recent history of US-Iranian relations one can’t ignore American mistreatment (coup, the Shah puppet leader, President Carter helping the Shah after Iranians chased the Shah out, America helping the British exploit Iranian oil resources—Anglo-Iranian Petroleum later to become British Petroleum or “BP”) Stephen Kinzer concludes that history tells us Americans will feel the aftershocks of treating Iran so badly (transcript, video, high-quality audio, lesser-quality audio). Obama’s threats and hopes against Iran represent no substantive change in policy. Obama’s views highlight why he’s being taken seriously: Obama promises to keep American hegemony going.

Mosaddeq’s policies aren’t the issue here. There’s a big difference between being able to control your own government and having another government choose your leaders for you. Americans would not tolerate an “Operation Ajax” (the American and British coup d’état that removed Mosaddeq from power) letting someone else choose the next American president. Americans would certainly rather replace Bush through their own mechanisms and impeach Bush and Cheney, thus insuring that the American people’s needs are being addressed. Speaking of impeachment, this brings me to another reason not to support the Democrats (including Obama): they are following through with their promise to keep impeachment “off the table“. The Democrats will probably later say impeachment, if pursued in earnest, would come too late.

Obama can’t be trusted to punish offenses against the Constitution. He, like his Democratic party leadership, said he won’t pursue impeachment of President Bush or Vice President Chaney. Obama would “reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president’s authority”. Meanwhile others have long assembled lists detailing why impeachment is necessary now (which directly implicates the national Democrats in Bush/Chaney’s dealings). While the national Democrats don’t pursue impeachment, Ralph Nader tells us that New York State Assembly “Speaker Sheldon Silver told [Eliot] Spitzer that many Democrats in the Assembly would abandon him in any impeachment vote.“.

The war is the critical issue of our time because of its moral and financial weight. Let’s not repeat the same immoral and unjust policy with Iran that we’ve pursued with Iraq and Afghanistan. As I’ve said before: Democrats will pay attention to anti-war views when anti-war proponents stop giving them money and votes. The US needs a real anti-war movement and that movement will only come from the people giving orders to politicians.

What’s the long-term price of focusing on cost?

In Federal Computer Week Vice Adm. Mark Edwards, deputy chief of naval operations for communications was quoted saying:

The days of proprietary technology must come to an end,” he said. “We will no longer accept systems that couple hardware, software and data.

Jeff Waugh endorsed what he read as a step toward open source saying “The US Navy warmly embraces Open Standards (a natural talent for Open Source), for all the right reasons” but what are those reasons?

FCW refers to “a combination of motivations” but focuses chiefly on cost:

The Navy’s decision was informed by a combination of motivations, including the desire to provide the latest capabilities to warfighters and control the costs of its information technology operations, he added.

“We can’t accept the increasing costs of maintaining our present-day capabilities,” Edwards said. “In the civilian marketplace, it’s just the opposite. Some private-sector concerns are cutting their costs by 90 percent while expanding their performance.”

Is this just a negotiation tactic to temporarily lower the cost of the proprietary systems the Navy has apparently been satisfied to purchase so far?

When you look at proprietary systems as a cost issue (instead of preserving national sovereignty, or gaining freedom to improve the system outside of the proprietor’s control) you find that proprietors pitching to big clients are usually willing to lower their price in the short term to get the contract. Then the proprietor ramps up the price later on, leaving the client with a monopoly for “support” all along. I have a hard time believing that any serious escape from the links between government and the large proprietary software/hardware firms will come quickly.

Radio Canada en Français!

Nifty Nate informs me that

Radio Canada, the francophone side of the CBC, is now streaming in ogg:

48kbps of Free goodness.

I’m glad the francophone side finally caught of with the anglophone side (which has been streaming ogg for a while).

Merci Nate! Mes pensées exactement.

The Story of Stuff

Got 20 minutes? Of course you do. Watch “The Story of StuffThe Story of Stuff promo image” and learn about how we’re killing ourselves and each other with corporate power, government subservience to corporate power, unsustainable development, marketing, and the linchpin that keeps it all going: shopping for stuff we really don’t need (and will likely throw away less than a year after we get it).

What can we do about this?

Free software can play a role here. Annie Leonard talks about her 5-year old computer, a model that looks huge compared to other sleek modern computers. I’m using a 10-year old computer right now to type this message. I’ve been keeping my computer going without forgoing security, software updates, or modern online conveniences by using free software. Sure, I can’t play the latest video games on this computer, it’s too slow for all of the very latest 3D free software games. But that’s a secondary issue; I don’t need games to get work done and there are plenty of free software games I can play.

I can do all the things most people do on their computers: watch movies, read email, surf the web, play music, and chat with my friends. I upgrade small parts of my computer hardware occasionally when things fail such as replacing a hard drive and adding a new DVD burner when my old CD burner stopped burning CDs. I plan to use this computer until it simply won’t run anymore.

The key is changing the priorities of our lives: I spend more time away from my computer now so I can get some exercise. By prioritizing my software freedom above following the latest glitzy trends, I can use less than the latest model of computer. When I can’t run this computer anymore, I’ll spend a little extra money to get a computer that will last another 10 years and keep it going.

The XO-1 is an impressively low-power computer with a monitor that doesn’t contain as much mercury as common LCD monitors. The XO-1 also has some recyclable parts. The XO-1 shows by example that we can make better computers. I hope the technology that goes into innovative machines like the XO-1 make it into popular mainstream computers.

Get it for yourself

The Story of Stuff is compelling however it took far too long for my ordered copy to arrive. Feedback from the producers indicated that they are overwhelmed by the number of orders for the DVD. The signed slip of paper that came with my copy of the DVD says that I should “Feel free to copy and share it freely for any non-commercial use” so I am.

Download The Story of Stuff

You can also order a copy for someone else and give the $10. In any case, enjoy the downloaded version now.

I now know where my vote is going: Ralph Nader enters the 2008 US Presidential race

Voting for US President from any county in Illinois except Cook County is mostly a waste of time. Cook County basically dictates where all of Illinois’ electoral votes will go and Cook County favors any Democrat regardless of what that Democrat stands for. So despite Sen. Obama’s sabre-rattling against Iran

[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point … if any, are we going to take military action?

[L]aunching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in” given the ongoing war in Iraq. “On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse.

Barack Obama, September 26, 2004 to the Chicago Tribune

Obama will probably do well in Illinois (his hometown appeal probably plays well too). Obama also argued that attacking Pakistan shouldn’t be ruled out if “violent Islamic extremists” were to “take over”.

I just learned that Nader has entered the 2008 race (BBC, MSNBC transcript) so, barring any substantive change in his politics, I now know for whom I’m voting in this race. Nader’s got a great record including being for single-payer universal health care, against the war, and not threatening Iran. I’m sold.

It’s a shame the next major stage of the rigging of the US election will kick in: excluding anyone but Demopublicans from the TV “debates”. It’s a good thing the US airwaves aren’t owned by the American people or we’d really look like chumps.

Related: Chris Hedges on Ralph Nader: what happened in 2000 and 2004

Clinton and Edwards get their wish: “a more serious ”¦ smaller group” of candidates

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) and John Edwards (former Democratic Party senator from North Carolina) got what they wanted—Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced today he was dropping his presidential bid. The corporate media mentions Kucinich’s name now chiefly to draw attention to his competitors for his House seat; no need to let issues like challenging the Iraq occupation, threatening Iran, corporate hegemony, or the ongoing lack of fairness in mass media get in the way of covering a horse race that might rid the media of an agitant.

Now the Progressive Left is free to support their favorite pro-war, anti-universal single-payer health care candidate of their choice without interference from the “not serious” candidates…again…just like they did in 2004. Rather than object about poor choices by organizing for a third party or independent candidate who reflects the values they claim to hold (the values they go on about 3 years out of every 4), they can rationalize their Democratic Party vote by arguing the margins of difference between the remaining Democratic Party candidates. They can tell us how important this election will be, despite how worse the same indicators will be in 4 years as a result of consistently voting the least worst. No need for a grass-roots campaign of birddogging every candidate who voted for the Iraq war and the Iran resolution, no need to hound one’s elected officials to co-sponsor and vote for HR676 (the Conyers-Kucinich single-payer universal health care plan).

And what do you know: the New York Times accurately “projected” back in July 2007 who would be left in the Democratic Party race: Clinton, Edwards, and Obama. It’s a good thing the other Democratic Party contenders with something different to offer weren’t excluded from any of the televised “debates” (high-bandwidth audio, low-bandwidth audio, video—currently unavailable, transcript), or else it would be too obvious that the corporate media is trying to manage the election, rigging the choices to guarantee a corporate-friendly outcome.

Public Domain Day challenges: what effect does copyright power have on us socially?

Boing Boing celebrated Public Domain Day today, when many works by authors who died in 1957 enter the public domain in countries that use a “life plus 50 years” term of copyright for personal works (the minimum term required by the Berne Convention). Celebrations like these invariably remind us of what we’re restricted from doing if we abide by the law. One of the Boing Boing followups struck me as interesting:

Eclectro says “I consider the Copyright Term Extension act the most vile piece of copyright legislation to date, moreso than the horrible DMCA.”

Neither is desirable, both should be repealed, and there should be no more extensions to the term of copyright. I’d rather not get into a dispute over which is worse. However the effects of the DMCA which allow copyright holders to control access to works last far longer than the US Constitution would let copyright’s term last outright. The term of copyright is finite but the anti-circumvention provisions in the DMCA don’t expire. Magnetic media (like videotapes) will eventually become unplayable and there’s plenty of work only distributed on digital media with digital restrictions management (DRM) applied. When the DMCA was signed into law it was possible that a movie on an encrypted DVD could enter the public domain while disallowing you from breaking the DRM to get to that PD movie.

DMCA exceptions are artificially hard to obtain, they’re only considered periodically, and they have to be renewed to last. The DMCA makes it hard to do things people will want and need to do including legally circumvent the encryption on an encrypted DVD, tell anyone how to break it, or distribute a device that breaks it. One could make their own deCSS on their own but that’s very unlikely to happen yet people need a way to leverage fair use by copying extracts of their legally obtained media.

DRM must be implemented with proprietary software because people won’t tolerate digital restrictions if they don’t have to. Free software hackers will remove the DRM from free software and distribute their improved DRM-less version of a program which will then become the more preferred version of the program to run, study, and build upon.

Publishers are pushing for electronic media which give the copyright holder unprecedented power over how the media is used. It’s not hard for engineers to imagine how GPS data (which tells where the device is on the planet), wireless communication devices, and clocks can be used together to make a media player that restricts where and when the user can play, read, or see certain tracks, books, or movies. Digital restrictions seem to come before good answers to social questions like how one lends a digital work, transfers ownership of a digital work without a copyright holder’s permission or notification, or how someone sees or hears in a digital work without copyright holder permission or notification—in short, how do we do the things we are all used to doing with paper books, DVDs, and older audio players?

Should anyone have to live sub rosa so they can enjoy their new digital media at least as freely they used to enjoy older media? Is it appropriate to give up treating one’s friends like friends and withholding copies or lending in order to satisfy publisher’s profit and control desires?