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I've found yet another log to throw on the pyre on which I hope the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon finds itself immolated.

As I just learned in this Boing Boing article, amongst the myriad noxious and obnoxious proposals in this treaty affront to common sense and public benefit, is a provision that would actually commit the US to maintain its current system of copyright for life plus seventy years—or perhaps even expand that to a term of 100 years, to match Mexico's regressive policy.

However, even more surprising is I find myself agreeing with Derek Khanna, the conservative former Congressional staffer who got canned for coming up with a workable draft policy for copyright that not only respects the need for material to promptly enter the public domain, but it even—gasp! horror!—raises revenues for the government. (So obviously, he had to be canned for that.)

While I get why Big Media wants copyright to last as long as possible ($$$$), the truth is, most of the money you're going to make off of 99.9% of publications is going to happen in the first few years. There's simply no reason for most materials to be protected for so long. If there's something worth protecting, sure. But don't bother keeping the 99.9% of stuff that doesn't have commercial value just because you're too damn lazy to file a renewal application and pay a few bucks for the 0.1% that matters!

Ugh. But yes, this just another reason why the Trans-Pacific Partnership needs to be deep-sixed with dispatch.


Perhaps the math is a little bit simplified, but it's quite astonishing to hear a quote like this from anybody who would really have a media spotlight. It's even more astounding when you hear who actually said it.

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Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:51 AM PST

What Aaron Swartz did at MIT

by lone1c

Courtesy of The Tech, we have the following summary of what led to the prosecution against Swartz:

In the basement of Building 16 there is a wiring and telephony closet, known as Room 16-004t. Between November and December 2010, Aaron Swartz accessed this room and hard-wired his Acer laptop into the network, assigning himself two IP addresses. The computer was hidden under a cardboard box in the closet, and it remained there undetected for weeks. In this time it downloaded over 2 million JSTOR articles, more than 100 times the number of legitimate JSTOR downloads at MIT during that time period. (Emphasis added.)
It's the boldfaced section that's the most important. He accessed an unauthorized area of a campus of which we was not a community member, and added his computer to the network in a way no "outside" computer should ever be connected to a network like MIT's: directly to the switch system that controls and routes information over the network.

This, ultimately, is the real issue; the JSTOR downloads are ultimately secondary to this (although they may have been the primary source of the prosecutions). It's the unauthorized access to the network that had to have been MIT's biggest concern. While in this particular instance, there was very little in the way of ramifications, that is just a fortuitous happenstance. The next person to try such a stunt might be more malicious—perhaps introduce spyware into the network, or malware that might bring down the network. With more "direct" access to the network than can usually be obtained through standard access points, the damage that could have been inflicted is limited only by the creativity and skill of the hackers in question.

If MIT was indecisive in this matter, I can understand the two positions that they had to try to balance:

* Swartz's actions did not ultimately harm anyone, and had a (somewhat misguided) logic to them.
* However, his actions compromised one of the world's largest and most important computer infrastructures, and did disrupt the work of numerous MIT employees.

Faced with this, I think MIT needed to demand some criminal prosecution. The actions of the prosecutor in question were too overzealous; but to have just let everything slide, or lead to a "slap on the wrist" penalty would have only encouraged further attempts to compromise the network. (Seeing somebody get away with something like this would be a green light for more ignoble hacking attempts.)

There might be those who comment about MIT's reputation for "hacking" and tolerance of outrageous stunts. There is, in fact, a "hacking" culture at MIT, but it should be kept quite distinct from the "hacking" culture outside of MIT. MIT's variety of "hacking" is supposed to be non-destructive and non-disruptive. Getting the marquee in Lobby 7 to display IHTFP on the first day of finals? That's OK. Taking down a research group's website? Not cool.

It should also be kept in mind that Swartz was not a member of the MIT community. That means he isn't bound by MIT community rules—he couldn't be fired or administratively punished—so legal measures were the only option. Would it have been better to go about this via the civil system? I think so, but that wasn't the decision MIT and prosecutors reached.

Also, keep in mind that MIT's vast computer infrastructure supports the entire MIT community. This means that it also supports research projects from DOD, DOE, NSF, and many other sources, private and government. Some of those projects have various levels of confidentiality associated with them—which could be compromised if machines such as the one Swartz attached to the network were allowed to "pry."

Was this whole event a debacle? Absolutely. Aaron Swartz was mistreated by prosecutors, and the whole series of events was unfortunate. But I think it's important to realize that he was an active participant in the events that led to his decision to take his own life. He chose to exploit the MIT network, rather than the one at Harvard, presumably because it was more powerful. He chose to trespass and illegally attach his computers to the network. His actions resulted in disrupting the availability of a major research tool to a large fraction of the campus for a period of several weeks. While his cause was noble, his means were anything but.

(Disclosure: I am an alumnus of MIT.)


I'd like to thank Dumbo for giving me another opportunity to fill in as a guest blogger in the Thursday Classical Music series.

After the events of last week, I felt that it was time to offer up a timely piece: Johannes Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem). It's a piece designed not only to mourn the dead, but to offer healing and consolation for the living. It's one of my favorite works, both as a listener and as a chorister—in spite of (or perhaps even because of) its amazing challenges.

The notes below are based on those written for a concert given by one of my choirs back in 2005. The analysis is not nearly as extensive as the normal entry in Dumbo's series; this is one of those pieces where the music speaks for itself, and anything I have to say almost gets in the way.

And stick around to the end for a special treat. (Dumbo made me do it!)

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I'd like to thank Dumbo for giving me the opportunity to be a guest blogger in the Thursday Classical Music Series. It's a great series, and I'm looking forward to covering Mahler's Fourth Symphony today. It's one of the most wonderful symphonies in the entire canon, with its last two movements being some of the most gorgeous music ever composed for orchestra. So let's get started, shall we?

[Panic-stricken conductor comes up to lone1c and whispers frantically in lone1c's ear.]

Wait. I'm supposed to cover Beethoven's Fourth? Really? Do I have to? You're sure you wouldn't rather want to hear about the Shostakovich Fourth, or Vaughan Williams's, or Brahms's, or Ives's Fourth instead?

[More whispering.]

Or Bruckner? Or Mendelssohn? How about Mendelssohn? Come on—€”everybody would rather hear about the Italian, right? Bah-dah-dah, bah-dah-dah, bah-DAAAH-ta-ta-ta!

[More frantic whispering ensues. lone1c deflates in defeat.]

No? Well, okay then. Beethoven's Fourth it is. Follow me under the flourish while I suffer my penance, will you please?

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DKos operatives have just learned that Republicans in the Nevada legislature, troubled by the campaign financing woes of John Ensign and the gaffes of Sue Lowden, plan to introduce a bill which would return Nevada to the so-called "poultry standard." Details of this shocking announcement are below.

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In watching the adorable family moment tonight with all of the Obamas--and it wouldn't be a picture-perfect moment if the youngest child didn't completely steal the show out from everybody--I was struck by a random thought: can McCain even offer something similar?

I believe it's a relevant question: we all know about his second wife's reluctance to even mention her own half-sisters, and her own insistence that she was an only child at her father's funeral. But can McCain even bring his entire family on stage for this convention?

In particular, the person I'm thinking of is Bridget, their adopted daughter from Bangladesh. I suspect a substantial portion of the GOP "base" would not be so thrilled to see a "brown" person on stage with the McCains. Of course, I also don't see how they could leave her out of a family moment like that without earning some coverage in the press. (Of course, this would then probably turn into an even bigger story, because it's the kind of "gotcha" moment what passes for the press loves these days.)  


Will McCain bring his family to the convention?

13%23 votes
22%40 votes
10%18 votes
53%93 votes

| 174 votes | Vote | Results

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Who doesn't love a nice hot shower in the morning?

But have you considered how much energy your hot shower uses?

As the cost of energy keeps going up and up, I got curious as to how much heat is required for that wonderful morning (or evening) ritual.

The answer surprised me--and it will probably surprise you, too.

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Watching the NM returns, I thought there was one interesting statistic that wasn't being reported, that could tell us a lot about how the Land of Enchantment will track in November.

Everybody's talking about the multiple close races--but nobody seems to be paying any attention at all to the aggregate vote totals. And that's where the real story is.


How many House seats do Democrats get from NM?

0%0 votes
9%5 votes
44%24 votes
46%25 votes

| 54 votes | Vote | Results

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Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 07:56 AM PST

The next anti-stem cell research push

by lone1c

It's on its way.

The ad couldn't be any better at expressing the anti-stem cell lobby's talking points. Unfortunately, it does such a good job largely because it's deceptive about its main point.

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Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:28 PM PST

Fundamentalists and HS curricula

by lone1c

I was reading a post on Steve Gilliard's blog regarding homeschooling, and noticed that some of the articles were talking about the fundamentalists' "war on science," and it got me thinking about how much influence it really has on public education.

It occurs to me that I don't really know enough to say what's going on--and I'd love to hear from any Kossacks who have heard more about this.

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There can be no doubt that the netroots made a huge difference in this campaign season--we've raised millions of dollars for candidates this cycle, and helped change a few race dynamics. Just look above--that's the amount ActBlue has forwarded to candidates since its inception two years ago.

We turned out 34 Republican congresscritters last night--even though some reports claim we were outspent by $100 million during the course of the campaign cycle. Could you imagine the losses we could have inflicted on the with an extra $100 million?

I have an idea for how we can get started on getting that extra $100 million: spare change now for big changes in 2008.

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