aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
And what of Microsoft & Zune?
Microsoft’s response, specifically regarding the Apple / EMI announcement:
“Consumers have indicated [having DRM free music] is important to them so Zune has been working with a variety of partners to head in this direction. [Emphasis Endgadget’s] This is a time of transition for the music industry and Microsoft is committed to striking a balance between delivering the best consumer experience while still protecting the rights of the content owners.”
Microsoft’s general response with regard to DRM:
“Regardless of the outcome of DRM for music downloads, DRM technologies will still have a key role in enabling businesses involving digital content. Subscription music services are a good example - they use DRM to enable consumers to have unlimited access to literally millions of music tracks. Other areas include the delivery of high quality video content, such as movies. Our role continues to be to deliver flexible DRM technology that provides choice for the content owner in how they distribute their content and choice for the consumer so that they have access to a wide variety of high-quality content and ways to enjoy that content.”
Apple EMI anti-DRM love-in
But we don’t believe having free, usable, uncrippled media is a feature—it’s a right. You don’t pay a premium for higher quality DRM-free physical media—DVD Audio and SACD discs costs the same as CDs (in fact, often times they come as hybrids on the same media). Asking customers to pay 30% more for no DRM and a higher bitrate is a distraction, a parlor trick to take our attention away from the philosophical issue: EMI is still selling DRMed music. EMI CEO Eric Nicoli said, “Not everybody cares about interoperability or sound quality.” Since when did the two become so intrinsically linked? Sure, not everyone cares to vote either, that doesn’t mean it’s a premium privilege. Nicoli also stated EMI has taken the view that it must “trust consumers.” It’s true, today’s announcement shows more trust than they ever displayed before—but it’s still conditional trust.
So what does this news mean for the Online Music industry? Well firstly it emphasizes the stranglehold that Apple has over the online/digital music market. [All emphasis theirs.] You have to hand it to Steve Jobs, his February open letter to record companies can now be seen as a masterstroke of strategy - positioning Apple as ‘the good guys’ in the digital music industry and giving EMI Music a golden opportunity to take the DRM-free initiative, with Apple holding its hand. It’s win-win of course for both companies - Apple reinforces its dominance and gets DRM-free music, while EMI (which had been publicly struggling to compete with the other big record companies) gets to be seen as a leader in the digital music business. [...]
Also the fact that the music is no longer tied to the device is significant. From the webcast: “These songs will no longer be tied to iTunes and the iPod - any device that plays AAC format will play these songs.”
While this may seem like a concession from Apple, in reality iPod/iTunes is so dominant (85% of the market last time I checked) that this will have minimal downward impact on Apple’s sales. [...]
The other thing this augers for online/digital music is that prices are about to go up - and “quality” is the excuse for this. Apple is going to offer EMI’s DRM-free music at twice the quality on iTunes, but at 30c per song more. While it’s interesting that EMI/Apple decided to offer album downloads at the same price, in reality this is no different to a retailer offering you a bulk discount (buy 10 songs for the price of 7, etc).
Monday, April 02, 2007
Police suffer from pollen print problems
Allergy sufferers aren’t the only ones who dread pollen season. Police officers do, too.
The yellow stuff makes it almost impossible to lift fingerprints off cars, doorknobs, or any outdoor surface.
Crime scene investigators say this is a problem they face every spring, but they say this year, the pollen is making their jobs even more difficult than usual.
“With the pollen count the way it is now - it gets on everything. Everyone has noticed.” - Sgt. Steve Gatlin, Macon Police Department Crime Scene Investigator.
Genarlow Wilson: perverted justice
Emil Steiner’s WaPo OFF/beat updates “the Genarlow WIlson tragedy” noting that the Georgia Legislature Snoozes and a Promising Teen Loses:
The travesty continues. Despite a national outcry to help Genarlow Wilson, the Georgia teen sentenced to ten years in prison for engaging in consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, the state legislature recessed last week without addressing the issue. Even though that body has already changed the law to make his “crime” a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year, and even though Wilson has already served more than double that time, the Senate failed to push through a measure allowing judges to retroactively adjust earlier sentences. And so, Wilson will continue languishing in the Burruss Correctional Training Center for as many as eight more years. [...]
[N]o one involved—from the supposed victim to the Georgia Supreme Court—actually thinks he belongs in prison, and yet no one seems to be able to do anything about it. The legislature had a real opportunity to right one of the most heinous legal aberrations in recent American history and instead let it slip through the procedural cracks. And while lawmakers may be charged with serving their constituents, it is difficult to imagine in what way their actions (or lack thereof) could have done anything but a disservice to the citizens of the Peach State.
In last week’s Slate Political Gabfest, David Plotz described Satan as kind of Karl Rove for God whose impact is to “make God a better God.”
Plotz blogs the Bible for Slate. I’m guessing it’s this passage, in blogging Job, that explains why he called himself a Satan lover:
Job lives in the land of Uz, which is not to be confused with the Land of Oz (though, as we shall see, Uz, like Oz, is vulnerable to sudden tornadoes that cause deadly building collapses). Job “feared God and shunned evil,” and his goodness made him the richest man in the East, the Warren Buffett of Uz, with 7,000 sheep and 3,000 camels. He also had seven sons and three daughters. (That 7-3 numerical pattern is kind of odd-why are sheep like sons and camels like daughters?) One day, God’s divine beings drop by His house for a visit. Accompanying them is “the Adversary,” or as we have come to know him, “Satan.” (Satan means “adversary” in Hebrew.) Here is what this Satan is not: a fallen angel, wicked, omnipotent, demonic, living in hell, warring with God for dominion over the earth, carrying a pitchfork, smelling like brimstone, or wearing red spandex. Here is what he is: an arguer, a troublemaker. But Satan is actually the kind of guy any smart God would want around, because he questions authority. He asks the tricky, contentious questions that make God more thoughtful about His own work. (The kind of questions, say, that presidential advisers should ask the president.) Satan makes God uncomfortable, but only so God will do His job better.
The Judas Gospel’s contradictory Christianity
Religious historian Elaine Pagels, co-author of Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, argues that the recently discovered Judas Gospel offers a new understanding of the death of Jesus. Interviewed in Salon today, here she looks at how the gospel’s author offers a radically different Christian perspective on suffering and the nature of evil:
[The first or early second century] was at a time when all followers of Jesus were struggling with the question, Why did Jesus die? What does it all mean? In the New Testament, the gospels say he died as a sacrifice. Paul says Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for us. Why? Well, to save us from sin.
But this author is saying, wait a minute. If you think God wants his son to be tortured and killed before he’ll forgive people their sins, what kind of God do you have in mind? Is this the God who didn’t want animals to be sacrificed in the temple anymore? So this author’s asking, isn’t God a loving father? Isn’t that what Jesus taught? Why are we saying that God requires his son to die for the sins of the world? So it’s a challenge to the whole idea of atonement, and the idea that Christians—when they worship—eat bread and drink wine as if it were the body and blood of Christ. This person sees that whole thing as a celebration of violence. [...]
It contradicts everything we know about Christianity. But there’s a lot we don’t know about Christianity. There are different ways of understanding the death of Jesus that have been buried and suppressed. This author suggests that God does not require sacrifice to forgive sin, and that the message of Jesus is that we come from God and we go back to God, that we all live in God. It’s not about bloody sacrifice for forgiveness of sins. It suggests that Jesus’ death demonstrates that, essentially and spiritually, we’re not our bodies. Even when our bodies die, we go to live in God.
Genarlow Wilson: It’s not over yet
Leonard Pitts today:
Genarlow Wilson is a convicted child molester serving 10 years without parole for what happened. Last week, the Georgia Senate allowed a legislative deadline to pass without taking action on a bill that would have empowered a judge to reduce his sentence. But Emanuel Jones, a senator who co-sponsored the bill, says it’s not over yet.
He told me, “We are looking for another vehicle we can attach it to, another bill we can amend. And I will find one. ... This bill isn’t going to die until I’m dead.”
If you’re wondering why all this sympathy for a child molester, there are a few things you need to know. First, the “child molester” was 17 at the time of the crime. Second, the “child” was 15. Third, she willingly performed oral sex on him. In fact, she initiated it.[...]
Makes you wonder what is wrong with Georgia. Makes you think it’s wearing its Bible belt too tight.
After all, we’re talking about the same state that in 2003 gave 18-year-old Marcus Dixon 15 years for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl. Race hung over that case like a bad smell: Dixon was black and the girl, white. The smell has been less pronounced here, where both accused and accuser are black. Still, it did not escape notice of Atlanta magazine that there are major disparities in the treatment of black kids and white ones facing Georgia justice. Or that the teacher who got off with a wrist slap was—big surprise—white. [...]
Even the prosecutor says the sentence was “fairly harsh.” The “victim” agrees. The jury forewoman said that when the panel realized its verdict meant 10 years in jail, “the room exploded.”
None of which helps Genarlow Wilson, still waiting for justice, willing to settle for common sense. Yes, he did a stupid and ugly thing. But he did not abuse a child.
Georgia, however, did.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Katrina & Blackwater
Mr. Taylor: First let me tell the gentleman from Georgia I appreciate him trying to save some money. I think his efforts though are a year late. If you want to look for Katrina fraud look for the Katrina fraud that was perpetrated by the Bush administration. In south Mississippi at one point we had 40,000 people living in FEMA trailers. We’re grateful for every one of them. But those trailers were delivered by a friend of the president, by the name of Riley Bechtel, major contributor to the Bush administration. He got $16,000 to haul a trailer the last 70 miles from Pergus(?) MS down to the Gulf Coast, hook it up to a garden hose, hook it up to a sewer tap and plug it in. $16,000. So the gentleman never came to the floor once last year to talk about that fraud.
I return to the topic because I’m so galled and appalled by that Georgia legislator, but also because I came across yet another Katrina related Bush giveaway today, this time from Jeremy Scahill discussing his book, Blackwater: The Rise Of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, on Fresh Air:
Blackwater also has been deployed in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Several hundred Blackwater contractors were deployed in the hurricane zone, and what’s interesting is that Blackwater billed the federal government $950 per day per man in New Orleans, and their men on the ground that I interviewed in New Orleans told me that they were being paid $350 a day, so there’s a serious question of where that $600 went. [...]
And after I reported that they said that they were on contract with the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government was forced to admit it… At one point Blackwater had 600 men deployed from Texas to Mississippi, and they were raking in more than $240,000 a day.
I’m guessing our fine Georgia legislator, so concerned with saving Katrina money that he offered a stingy amendment to Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007 (it was defeated with a majority of Republicans voting against it), never looked into that either.
RELATED: Scahill also discussed his book last night on AfterWords.
Birds and glass
A bird died in my yard today. Insulation in the attic last spring meant moving everything to an outdoor storage building this spring. In the process, a large pane of glass from a retired picture frame sat propped up against a tree; the bird apparently didn’t see it, flew into it. The glass fell on it and the bird died trapped beneath it.
It was a beautiful bird - gray with yellow-tipped wings - and I was saddened. And reminded that I had read about birds and glass some time ago. It’s time again. From the New York Times, September 2005:
Tourists have always flocked to see the bright lights of New York City, but starting this week, the city is dimming parts of its renowned skyline to ward off one group of visitors: migratory birds. The Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, the Citigroup Center, the Morgan Stanley Building and the World Financial Center are among the high-profile high-rises that have agreed to requests from the city and the Audubon Society to dim or turn off nonessential lighting at midnight.
Thus the city’s skyscrapers will defer to nature at least twice a year: by dimming their lights in September and October, during the peak of the fall migratory season, and again in April and May, during the peak of the spring migratory season.
It’s voluntary and aimed at buildings over 40 stories tall.
The combination of glass, tall buildings and bright light is extremely dangerous for birds, according to Daniel Klem, an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. He says that a conservative estimate is that more than 100 million birds die each year from crashing into glass on structures of all types, even houses.
‘’Here is the bottom line: Birds just don’t see glass,’’ said Professor Klem. ‘’The animals are not able to recognize glass as a barrier and avoid it.’’
For more, visit Birds and Buildings.
RELATED: Why birds attack windows.
The yellow pollen pall astounds all.
They’re calling for rain today; we want it to wash some pollen away. None yet.
Jereme Scahill on the size of our mercenary army
Jereme Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise Of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, was the guest on C-SPAN’s AfterWords last night. He was asked by David Martin why, given that the United States has the most powerful military in history, do we have to hire a private firm to do what soldiers do:
I think that the Bush administration enjoys using these private forces because they provide a great deal of political cover. The deaths of Blackwater contractors are not counted in the official death toll. Some 780 contractors have been killed in Iraq. I actually think the number is higher, but we know that because the contractors use something called the Defense Base Act to provide insurance to their employees and their contractors, and so the Department of Labor has determined that 780 have been killed in Iraq; 7,600 have been wounded.
But more importantly their vast numbers don’t get counted in the total occupation force...we have 130,000 active-duty U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and then we have 100,000 contractors. Most Americans don’t know that. So that effectively doubles the occupation force through the use of the private sector.
AfterWords is repeated today at 6 & 9 PM Eastern. Watch it.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) has a hissy fit
Yesterday, DavidNYC at DailyKos pointed to a congressional snit fit by Republican Rep. Tom Price of Roswell, GA.
Price offered what he later described as “a benign amendment on fiscal responsibility” to the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007. That benign amendment would have eliminated a provision allowing localities to use other federal funds to meet a local match requirement, a substantial hardship for Katrina victims in southern Mississippi.
Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor shot back:
“Mr. Price, I wish you would have the decency if you are going to do that to the people of South Mississippi, that maybe you ought to come visit South Mississippi, and see what has happened before you hold them to a standard that you would never hold your own people to, and that you failed to hold the Bush administration to.”
Those words offended Price’s southern sensibilities and he successfully called for the parliamentarian to have the remarks stricken from the record. Watch the whole sorry scene:
The story has a happy ending for Taylor. In addition to having his speaking rights restored, the Price amendment went down 333-98 - a majority of Republicans voted against it - and his hometown paper editorialized, “Taylor has enhanced his stature in South Mississippi - and beyond. We take pride in his passion, even if a certain gentleman from Georgia does not.”
Free Software, Free Culture
A friend who was at the Annual Associate Member Meeting of the Free Software Foundation was over for dinner last night to tell us all about it. The friend’s primary interest is GPLv3 and the grandfather clause. But he correctly assumed that I’d be most interested in a talk by Mako Hill on defining Free Culture.
My friend explains that there is a definition of free software: it is software that can be freely used, freely copied, freely modified and freely distributed. There had been no similar definition of Free Culture.
Last year Mako announced a project “to bring together artists, content creators, and others who care about freedom to come up with a clear set of goals around which a social movement for essential freedoms around culture might be based.”
In his Free Software Foundation talk he described how, like the Free Software definition, their result has four freedoms:
- The freedom to use and perform the work
- The freedom to study the work and apply the information
- The freedom to redistribute copies
- The freedom to distribute derivative works.
For more visit freedomdefinied.org.