I just saw this quote on BoingBoing from Michael Massing of the Columbia Journalism Review.
Katie Couric’s annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined. Couric’s salary comes to an estimated $15 million a year; NPR spends $6 million a year on its morning show and $5 million on its afternoon one. NPR has seventeen foreign bureaus (which costs it another $9.4 million a year); CBS has twelve. Few figures, I think, better capture the absurd financial structure of the network news.
Pretty unbelievable. Imagine how much actual news CBS could report if they didn’t have to sink all that money into the mouthpiece of the drivel they do report on.
A Federal judge in Vermont ruled today that a defendant can’t be compelled to reveal the password used to decrypt files on his or her hard drive. From the ruling:
Compelling Boucher to produce the password compels him to display the contents of his mind to incriminate himself…The foregone conclusion doctrine does not apply to the production of non-physical evidence, existing only in a suspect’s mind where the act of production can be used against him.
This is good news for electronic privacy. Unfortunately, there is already precedent allowing law enforcement to install a key logger on a suspect’s computer to obtain the encryption password without the suspect’s knowledge. So I guess this ruling (for as long as it stands) just protects us when law enforcement wasn’t smart enough to install a key logger before charging us with a crime and seizing our computers.
I wonder what, if any, case law exists to compel a person to reveal the code used to encrypt a hand-written diary? Do we have more privacy rights now that our PGP/GPG keys are part of our fifth amendment right not to act as a witness against ourselves?
I got my first Baffler in the mail yesterday from dusty groove america, Issue No. 17, Superslayer Storybook. The cover shows an armored guy standing over another decapitated guy. Strange.
Then I started reading it, beginning with The Gilded Mean by Thomas Frank. It’s an indictment of the centrist philosophy that has strangled the Democratic Party (no, not the Democrat Party you nitwit) since Reagan was in office. Here’s a fantastic section, taken from his review of David Harvey’s Brief Review of Neoliberalism:
His new book achieves the effect it does through the simple device of speaking plainly about the momentous economic and political change that, beginning in the seventies, swept over America and then the rest of the industrialized world.
It is a story we all know instinctively, and it’s not a very centrist affair. We have loosed the forces of the market, and this is what the market has done to the United States: It has destroyed manufacturing and enthroned finance; beaten organized labor almost to death; demanded round after round of tax cuts; defunded public services while raising the price of education and health care to inaccessible levels; decoupled wages from productivity, allowing wages to erode to a level lower today than in the early seventies despite all the advances in worker efficiency. We are often told that we live in a time of otherworldly prosperity, but what has changed the most, Harvey tells us, is distribution, not production. Our new economy is a banker’s triumph, not an engineer’s. Today the nation’s affluent areas glitter, it’s blue-collar neighborhoods crumble, and its rich people are richer, as measured by their percentage of the national income, than they have been since the twenties. The class divide has returned with a vengeance, with one class consistently getting what it wants while another just as consistently loses out. (Page 7)
I haven’t read much of the second essay yet, but it’s equally strong-worded and honest about how screwed up industrialized society is today:
Consider this single fact: It took ten years, almost all of the nineties, for the median family income to get back to the same level that it was, in real terms, in 1989. But in 1999, when we got to the same income level we had in 1989, this same “median” family had to work…six more weeks a year. (Page 14)
I think I’m really going to enjoy (and really not enjoy, if you know what I mean) reading this magazine.
Apparently one of the encryption keys for the high definition DVD (HD-DVD) format has been discovered, and is now appearing and disappearing all over the Internets. The organization in charge of “administering” the encryption scheme has started sending out Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices to Internet Service Providers and corporations whenever they find the key on a website. Here’s one such notice sent to Google. The incredibly stupid part about this document is that it contains the key they’re trying to hide in the letter, officially putting it in the public record.
The whole thing is ridiculous. If I buy an HD-DVD disc, I’m not allowed to make a copy of it in case my copy gets scratched or broken because doing so would require “breaking” the encryption which is a violation of the DMCA. The key is part of this process, so the content corporations are trying with all their might (and their lawyers in concert with the DMCA) to keep the key a secret so that people can’t make backups of the items they have purchased.
But you can’t take back a secret once it’s out. And even if you could, it’s ridiculous that it’s possible to shut down a web site because it contains a simple string of letters and numbers that by themselves mean absolutely nothing. Or a photograph of something that happens to contain the string (click on the image for a whole set of these from Flickr). The string isn’t copyrighted, and it’s not a trademark. It seems like free speech means I ought to be able to print this string of letters and numbers.
[Update: There's a great legal discussion of the issues at the Electronic Freedom Foundation's web site. The link is 09 f9: A Legal Primer. The gist is that putting the key on the Internet serves no other purpose than to aid in circumventing protected content, and thus, posters can be sued for “trafficking.”]
Here’s the secret key, which I’ve converted to bits and then encrypted: 00010011 11110010 00100010 00000101 00111010 11101001 11000110 10110111 10110000 10000010 10101101 10001010 11000110 10101101 00010001 10000000. Is this a violation of the DMCA? It’s not actually the key and thus is useless to someone who wants to exercise their right to make a backup of something they’ve purchased because I’ve “encrypted” it (does x << 1 mean anything to you?). Because I’ve encrypted it, does that give me protection under the DMCA? If I get a takedown notice, that implies that the laywer sending the letter has circumvented the access controls to my copyrighted data (because this post is Copyrighted, and so the bitstring is too).
When will this insanity end?
Michael Pollan was interviewed for the April 2007 issue of The Believer magazine. I've been a fan of his writing since The Botany of Desire, and although I haven't gotten around to reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, from reading the interview, I'm sure I'll like it.
You know, compared to the early 1960s, the percentage of our income that goes to food has fallen from 18 percent to less than 10 percent today. We're paying less for food than anyone on Earth, anyone in the history of our planet, in fact. But in that same period, the percentage of our national income that goes to health care has risen from 5 percent to 16 percent today. Some of that increase, not all of it, is the result of eating terrible, cheap food. If we spent a few more percentage points of income on food, we could surely spend a few percentage points less on health care. What I'm suggesting is that spending more on food, as a society, will not end up costing us more overall.