Justice will not happen when killers run the state

DN!’s headlines today included

Amnesty: Prosecute Bush for Torture

And the human rights group Amnesty International is calling on the Obama administration to prosecute former president George W. Bush following his admission to authorizing the waterboarding torture technique. Writing in his new memoir Decision Points, Bush says he first granted the CIA permission to waterboard self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In a statement, Amnesty International said, “Under international law, anyone involved in torture must be brought to justice, and that does not exclude [Bush]. If his admission is substantiated, the U.S. has the obligation to prosecute him.”

Democracy Now!, 2010-10-11

But you’re dealing with President look-forward-and-not-into-the-past Obama. We knew this in April 2009 when he and the Republicans agreed that investigations leading to prosecutions would be somehow unsavory and unwise:

Obama said in April that CIA interrogators who had used waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning — on suspected militants will not face prosecution and he released Bush-era memos specifying that the practice did not constitute torture.

Republicans criticized Obama’s release of the memos, saying it left the door open for the prosecution of former Bush officials who authorized severe CIA interrogations.

Reuters

Obama has been true to his word; former president George W. Bush thinks prosecution is so unlikely he can admit to authorizing drowning people in print and on his book promotional tour. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is coming out with a book as well in which his publisher said he’ll cover “previously undisclosed details and insights about the Bush administration, 9/11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq”; perhaps more admission of torture is coming soon there too. Meanwhile, the CIA destroys taped evidence of two foreign prisoners’ interrogation and Obama’s Justice Department announces that there will be no charges:

Justice Dept.: No Charges in CIA Destruction of Interrogation Tapes

The Justice Department has announced no one will be charged for the destruction of videos showing the interrogation of two foreign prisoners. The tapes were destroyed amidst worries they would do political damage if ever publicly revealed. According to the Washington Post, charges still could be filed related to obstruction of justice or misleading investigators during the probe. The prosecutor heading the case, John Durham, is conducting a separate investigation into whether CIA interrogators and contractors should be charged for the Bush-era torture and abuse of foreign prisoners.

Democracy Now!, 2010-11-10

Apple infringing copyright…again

Background

In May 2010 Apple distributed copies of a computer version of the classic board game Go through its App Store. This GNU Go variant is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GNU GPL) which does not allow additional restrictions to be added to the license. Apple’s App Store imposes additional restrictions on the applications distributed through the App Store, restrictions which are incompatible with the GNU GPL. Hence the incompatibility Apple introduced when it drafted the rules for its App Store.

Apple reviews every program it distributes through its App Store so Apple knowingly distributed this Go program in violation of the GNU GPL. This constitutes copyright infringement.

Apple has all the permission they need to distribute GPLed software through their App Store. The GPL ensures this; Apple could even distribute GPLed programs commercially charging users for downloading copies of GPLed programs.

The Free Software Foundation, GNU Go’s copyright holder, pointed this out to Apple in their usual way aiming for compliance not litigation:

In most ways, this is a typical enforcement action for the FSF: we want to resolve this situation as amicably as possible. We have not sued Apple, nor have we sent them any legal demand that they remove the programs from the App Store. The upstream developers for this port are also violating the GPL, and we are discussing this with them too. We are raising the issue with Apple as well since Apple is the one that distributes this software to the public; legally, both parties have the responsibility to comply with the GPL.

The only thing we’re doing differently is making this announcement. Apple has a proven track record of blocking or disappearing programs from the App Store without explanation. So we want to provide everyone with these details about the case before that happens, and prevent any wild speculation.

Free Software Foundation’s License Compliance Engineer Brett Smith

Instead of changing the App Store rules to get themselves into compliance with the GPL, Apple decided to stop distributing GNU Go. This choice deprived Apple’s users of GNU Go.

The latest chapter: VLC

Now Apple is at it again: this time with VideoLAN Client (VLC)—a versatile media player one can use to watch all sorts of movies. VLC is quite famous in free software because it is so easy to use and because it plays so many different media formats.

Someone made a version of VLC for Apple’s iOS (the operating system Apple ships on the Apple iPad). The programmers submitted their variant of VLC to Apple’s App Store and Apple chose to distribute the program. Apple never changed the conditions which prohibit them from distributing GPL-covered programs, so they are again infringing the copyright of a free software developer.

This time one of the VLC copyright holders, Rémi Denis-Courmont who is also one of VLC’s primary developers, complained to Apple:

VLC media player is free software licensed solely under the terms of the… GNU General Public License (a.k.a. GPL). Those terms are contradicted by the products usage rules of the AppStore through which Apple delivers applications to users of its mobile devices.Rémi Denis-Courmont

and the FSF concurs:

The GPL gives Apple permission to distribute this software through the App Store. All they would have to do is follow the license’s conditions to help keep the software free. Instead, Apple has decided that they prefer to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and proprietary legal terms on all programs in the App Store, and they’d rather kick out GPLed software than change their own rules. Their obstinance prevents you from having this great software on Apple devices””not the GPL or the people enforcing it.

Apple continues to use more DRM in their products: they just announced that a Mac App Store will be coming soon to their laptops and desktops, and you can bet it will have the same draconian restrictions as today’s App Store. Meanwhile, people enforcing the GPL like Rémi are fighting against DRM, so that everyone can be in full control of their own computers. We’re thankful to him for taking a stand. If you want to show your support, too, it’s easy: just steer clear of Apple’s DRM-infested App Store.

Free Software Foundation’s License Compliance Engineer Brett Smith

Anyone failing to comply with programmers who license their work to freely share and modify comes off looking very bad because they step on the efforts of people who are trying to treat people nicely. Therefore Apple comes off looking very bad every time they deny their users free software for non-compliance with copyright.

Update (2010-11-23): Brett Smith posted FSF analysis of Apple’s terms and conditions to the VLC-devel mailing list (local copy). Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn also go into this issue on their show “Free as in Freedom” (Ogg Vorbis recording, local copy). As I pointed out elsewhere, Apple’s changed terms and conditions still don’t allow them to distribute GPL’d works; Apple is still disallowing themselves from distributing GPL’d works.

Update (2011-01-07): Rémi Denis-Courmont writes to Planet VideoLAN:

At last, Apple has removed VLC media player from its application store. Thus the incompatibility between the GNU General Public License and the AppStore terms of use is resolved – the hard way. I am not going to pity the owners of iDevices, and not even the MobileVLC developers who doubtless wasted a lot of their time. This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone.

Apparently war is not an issue to discuss

US President Barack Obama’s program-length (27 minute) appearance on The Daily Show just aired. There was no mention of the preeminent moral and financial issue of our time: occupation and war. The US is killing civilians, occupying foreign lands, engaging in torture beyond what is being owned up to (thanks to WikiLeaks for publishing war records and confirming what so many knew for years!), and civil liberties are diminishing before our eyes at a cost of trillions of dollars. These occupations are using up money which could have helped millions of poor unemployed Americans facing an ongoing mortgage fraud crisis (which the government refuses to stop). The mid-term elections are coming up and apparently the corporate media is showing itself to be useless. Indeed, war should be an election issue.

Will Americans care that most of their chocolate is made by children?

Document thumbnailsDocument thumbnails[O]n Halloween much of the chocolate Americans will hand out to trick-or-treaters will be tainted by the labor of enslaved childrenAndrew Korfhage

Apparently capitalism and big business vertically integrate oppression. Korfhage writes that Congress shelved legislation that would have ostensibly kept slave child labor out of US chocolate companies but when the chocolate companies announced a voluntary plan to deal with the problem themselves, Congress backed down. As a result most Americans won’t find it easy to distinguish which chocolate was produced with slave child labor. The self-regulation plan was a ploy to keep on using child slave labor without Congressional oversight. US chocolate companies kept legislation at bay in 2005 and again in 2008 by renewing their call for self-regulation and Congress keeps buying it.

When businesses use slave child labor they have already demonstrated that they are incapable of self-regulation. I’m guessing Congress knows this but has fallen into the time-honored trap of soliciting campaign donations from the businesses they’re supposed to regulate. Any business which promises to clean things up from within should be ignored; clearly we need more punitive anti-child/slave-labor legislation. It’s unlikely that anything but disincorporation, prison time for business leaders, and heavy fines will stop businesses from being slavers.

Can you have an economic system designed to push for the lowest possible price without treating people as marketable objects? Capitalism has never demonstrated that this is possible.

With the majority of modern slaves in agriculture and mining around the world ”“ and forced labor prevalent in cotton, chocolate, steel, rubber, tin, tungsten, coltan, sugar, and seafood ”“ it is impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor. Even reputable companies can profit from abuse when they do not protect their supply chain ”“ whether at the level of raw materials, parts, or final products ”“ from modern slavery.US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

Relevant links


Update 2011-01-02:
I highly recommend seeing “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and continuing to only buy chocolate from the organizations the researchers, journalists, and investigators working against child slave labor have pointed to (see the aforementioned PDF for more on this).

Don’t fight your own chosen license

Occasionally you come across an informative source for information and you want to republish what you find, but you look into the licensing terms and find that the copyright holder’s opinion of how to properly interpret the license is at odds with the license text.

Consider ProPublica; an investigative journal with interesting articles and research. Their FAQ for “Can I republish one of your stories?” says yes: “Unless otherwise noted, you can republish our articles and graphics (but not our photographs) for free” and that their articles are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 US license. But their page entitled “Steal our Stories” attempts to add bizarre requirements not found in the CC license. Adding more confusion, this page isn’t in sync with their FAQ.
Continue reading

Escalating the arms race through fraudulent foreclosure and intrusion?

The headline and story tells the tale succinctly enough:

JPMorgan Chase Agent Breaks into Home of Borrower

A Florida woman has revealed an agent hired by her bank broke into her home after she fell behind on her mortgage payments. Nancy Jacobini of Orange County was inside her home when she heard the intruder. Thinking she was being burglarized, Jacobini called 911.

Dispatcher: “Do you hear somebody trying to open the front door?”
Nancy Jacobini: “Yes, yes.”
Dispatcher: “Ma’am?”
Nancy Jacobini: “My alarm is going off.”
Dispatcher: “OK.”
Nancy Jacobini: “He’s in. He’s in the house.”
Dispatcher: “He’s in the house?”
Nancy Jacobini: “Yes.”

The intruder turned out to be an employee hired by Jacobini’s bank, JPMorgan Chase, to change her locks. But Jacobini was only three months behind on her payments and wasn’t in foreclosure. Chase has apologized for the incident. Jacobini has hired an attorney to pursue legal action against the bank.

With the plague of fraudulent bank actions against homeowners (breaking in with intent to lock the homeowner out, fraudulent foreclosures) these days, one wonders how attractive it would be for politicians to campaign for letting homeowners kill intruders on their property.

Apparently both corporate parties agree to do little to help homeowners from being kept out of their homes without due process (Republicans raise no objection to Democrats saying the US doesn’t need a national moratorium on foreclosures). It would be far more wise to not give homeowners reason to reach for their weapons.

Update (2010-10-25): More on this from Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

Putting corporate “news” in perspective

Recently I had time to watch the Wednesday, March 12, 2003 Charlie Rose interview with Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! (transcript, video). Despite Rose asking if she’d return to his show, Rose has not had her back. After watching this interview I think it’s readily apparent why: Rose’s arguments just don’t work out.

In that 2003 interview Goodman talked about how, during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, corporate news presented the American public with a “parade of retired generals” and a “military hardware show”.

In the years after this interview studies have found exactly what she was talking about:

  • May 2009: Amy Goodman interviewed David Barstow about his Pulitzer-prize winning corporate news exposé. As Goodman put it in February 2010, Barstow is “the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who exposed how dozens of retired generals working as radio and television analysts had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to military contractors that benefited from policies they defended.” (emphasis mine) Barstow, despite winning such a widely lauded prize, didn’t get interviewed much about his story.
  • February 2010: Goodman interviewed Sebastian Jones about his Nation cover story called “The Media-Lobbying Complex” summarizing it as “A four-month investigation into the covert corporate influence on cable news found that since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials have repeatedly appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure that they are paid by corporate interests.

Continue reading

One Nation Working Together to promote a party that isn’t worthy

On Saturday, October 2, 2010 some unions and other Democratic Party sympathizers organized the “One Nation Working Together” rally at the Washington Memorial which appears to have been, from both attendees Danny Schechter and Amy Goodman’s descriptions, far less critical of the Democratic Party than is called for.

They discussed their experiences on Democracy Now! (video, audio, high quality audio, transcript). Schechter also wrote a blog post about what he didn’t hear at One Nation Working Together. Here’s an excerpt from both the show and the blog post (emphasis mine).

I didn’t hear any one mention the eleven MILLION workers who shut down Spain for a day in a protest against cutbacks in the name of austerity, or the three MILLION who angrily marched in France to defend their pensions. American workers do not have the consciousness or political culture of their European counterparts.

Danny Schechter, Marching on Washington: One Nation Listening Together

All in all, the One Nation Working Together rally seems to have been almost a complete waste of time. I get the impression the Democrats care mainly about silencing dissent at home: the recent health care legislation is an attempt to silence those pursuing single-payer universal health care (caving into the HMOs through compulsory business is the best we can do!), blowing the horn about the “Last full U.S. combat brigade leaves Iraq” is about silencing the anti-war crowd (never mind the tens of thousands of US troops and countless mercenaries we’re leaving there to kill Iraqis, these troops are moving out!). One Nation Working Together is about keeping the Left in line: this rally featured little talk that would convince people to either not vote at all (out of disgust with their choices) or vote against the Democrats by voting for a truly progressive candidate in their district. We’ve recently seen both corporate parties run Congress and the presidency. Both of those parties bring war (primarily), environmental destruction, a reduction in civil liberties (PATRIOT act, domestic spying whether illegally via telecoms or through compulsory back doors), and bailouts to benefit their backers (mostly major corporations) all at the cost of an increasingly impoverished citizenry. Perhaps this is why the rally was so sparsely attended.

GNU Telephony has their aim set the right way

The GNU Telephony project is a software project for using computers as telephones. By now this isn’t new but it is important as few other telephony projects are based in code we are all free to share and modify.

This project is also important because its politics are in the right place. Recently the US government announced intention to compel American software developers to introduce a means for investigators to get access to all communications—known as “back doors”. This pursuit specifically includes allowing the government to break encryption and allow peer-to-peer services to be intercepted by the government. Such a request defies the entire purpose of speaking freely in a manner which is technologically difficult for others to spy on. David Alexander Sugar, head of GNU Telephony, had this to say in response

Good morning my relations. Today is not such a great day. In the United States the Obama administration is actively seeking a new law to legally mandate the forced introduction of insecure back doors and support for mass surveillance into all communication systems. Specifically targeted are Internet VoIP and messaging systems.

Speaking on behalf of the GNU Telephony project, we do intend to openly defy such a law should it actually come to pass, so I want to be very clear on this statement. It is not simply that we will choose to publicly defy the imposition of such an illegitimate law, but that we will explicitly continue to publicly develop and distribute free software (that is software that offers the freedom to use, inspect, and modify) enabling secure peer-to-peer communication privacy through encryption that is made available directly to anyone worldwide. Clearly such software is especially needed in those places, such as in the United States, where basic human freedoms and dignity seem most threatened.

You’ll no doubt want to read the rest of Sugar’s post. It is well worth your time. Our privacy isn’t just convenient, privacy is critical to the proper functioning of a civilized society.

Sintel

SintelSintel movie poster is out!

Background

Sintel is the latest Blender Foundation movie. Previous movies were Elephant’s Dream and Big Buck Bunny. Every couple of years the Blender Foundation puts out a movie made with Blender, a free software renderer and sequencer program. The Blender Foundation improves Blender as they go and we all get a better Blender program after their efforts (it should be noted that theirs are not the only Blender improvements).

The Blender Foundation raises money for these movies (which function as both entertainment and technical demo for Blender) in part by asking people to buy a copy of the movie on home video well ahead of time. They accept donations all the time, you can still buy a copy of the 4-DVD Sintel set.

The Blender Foundation movies are unlike other independent movies in that these movies are licensed to share (even commercially), and distributed with all the parts that went into making the movie so you can make derivative works. I know of no major Hollywood studio that encourages you to work with the movie in this way, which is partly why I find it so hard to spend time or money on Hollywood movies; free culture movies set the bar so high Hollywood simply doesn’t compete.

You should demand better for your freedom’s sake and demand more for your money by helping free culture artists do their work.

Download

Local Archive

Sintel is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.