Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Her therapist says she has difficulties with men who are presidents

How did this happen?

Sometime in the Nineties

MARTIN: Janet?

JANET: Who is this?

MARTIN: Janet, it's Martin.

JANET: Oh, Martin. Hello, Martin. I haven't heard from you for quite some time.

MARTIN: Now, Janet, don't be that way. You know how busy I am.

JANET: Well... well, I've been busy too, you know. It wasn't like I was sitting around waiting for you to call.

MARTIN: Yes, I saw you on TV. You were very impressive.

JANET: Thank you.

MARTIN: And not a little bit sexy, too. Growrr!

JANET: (giggles) Oh, Martin!

MARTIN: And have you done something with your hair?

JANET: I washed it, could you tell? You're so perceptive.

MARTIN: As a consummate actor, I have to notice things about people. Like whether or not they're using drugs.

JANET: Drugs? I'm not using drugs.

MARTIN: Speaking of drugs, Jan... Charlie is in trouble again.

JANET: Oh, dear. What is it now?

MARTIN: I'm not clear on the details, but I'm betting there are drugs and prostitutes involved.

JANET: And stolen cars. And underaged girls. I've got the case here in front of me.

MARTIN: Look, if it would help, we could teargas the whorehouse he goes to, or burn it down or something. It's OK to burn down bad places, isn't it?

JANET: Well, now that's an interesting idea.

MARTIN: Oh. (long pause) So how much trouble is he in?

JANET: Trouble? He's not in any trouble.

MARTIN: But... Janet... I mean... he's broken the law.

JANET: Mister, in this country... I am the law.

MARTIN: So... you can fix it?

JANET: I could fix it.

MARTIN: See, as an actor, I'm observing your interesting choice of words there. You could fix it.

JANET: That's right. Could.

MARTIN: Whereas a more usual usage would be to say you will fix it.

JANET: One day, Martin, I will ask you for a favour. A big tall favour.

MARTIN: Sure, doll, whatever you say, don't go all Colonel Kurtz on me.

JANET: Say it, Martin. Say "I owe you a big tall favour."

MARTIN: Hey, Janet, it's not that I'm ---

JANET: Emilio says he may recover some memories.

MARTIN: Why, that treacherous little ---

JANET: He really wants to be in another Disney film. And you know how good I am with recovered memories, Martin.

MARTIN: (defeated) I owe you a big tall favour, Janet.

JANET: Thank you, Martin. You'll be hearing from me.

Some time in 2002

RECORDED VOICE: Hello, this is activist actor Martin Sheen. I'm out doing something important for society ---

JANET: Martin, it's Janet. Pick up.

MARTIN: Janet? Hey, babe, it's been a long time.

JANET: It has indeed, Martin. I haven't heard from you since the election.

MARTIN: Well, you know, I've been busy with West Wing. And Charlie's really got his life straightened out. You know who really helped him? Archie Bunker. Do you believe that?

JANET: That's great, Martin. I'm glad to hear it.

MARTIN: Yeah, it's all good. So what are you, uh, doing these days?

JANET: I work at 7-11, what the hell do you think?

MARTIN: Well, I'm all in favour of seniors' rights to work, you know that.

JANET: Martin, I'm running for governor of Florida.

MARTIN: No kidding? Well, good for you, good for you. Isn't the real president's brother governor of Florida?

JANET: Yes, and I'm certain that I can unseat him.

MARTIN: Hey, Jan... I'm not a politician, I just play one on TV, but don't you think you should start smaller?

JANET: What do you mean?

MARTIN: Well, is Jesse Ventura running again in Minnesota? 'cause I'll tell you, you just headbutt him during a debate, and he'll lose it completely. Hulk Hogan used that trick all the time.

JANET: I'm running for governor of Florida, Martin. And you're going to help me.

MARTIN: I've got my checkbook in my hand, Janet. Just tell me who to make it out to.

JANET: You're going to campaign with me, Martin.

MARTIN: Uhm, Janet? I'm not really the president.

JANET: You think I don't know that? There's a real ex-president who owes me, owes me big. I did everything but lick the goddam stains off her dress.

MARTIN: Whoah, too much information, Janet, too much information.

JANET: So when can I expect you?

MARTIN: Oh, Jan, you know I'd love to help out, but I have air force bases to protest at. I'm Mister Protest Guy... always have been, can't help it, it's in my blood.

JANET: There's a lot of blood in a prostitute, Martin. A lot of blood.

MARTIN: (defeated) Just fax me the appearance schedule.

JANET: Oh, and Martin? You're going to touch me. In public.


JANET: A big tall favour, Martin.

Clinton Staffers Trashed The White House

According to the GAO, Clinton staffers did about 20 grand in damage to the White House, confirming charges of vandalism that were repeated and denied shortly after the last election. You can read about it here.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an outraged Happy Fun Pundit spokesman (we'll call him "Dan") was heard to say, "You call THOSE pranks? Putting pictures of Bush in reams of paper, cutting phone cords, and removing keys from keyboards? Bloody amateurs."

"Dan" suggested that had Happy Fun Pundit been in charge of the White House, the pranks would have been much better. Of course, the United States would also have collapsed in ruins, but that's a side issue. Some of the pranks suggested by "Dan":

  • Packing a picture of Janet Reno signed, "Love, Janet" and a pair of men's brief's with a "JR" monogram on them into Bill's suitcase, just to confuse Hillary when she snoops through it.

  • Re-wiring the red hotline phone to the local Dominos so that instead of averting nuclear war, a large pepperoni with anchovies is delivered to the White House.

  • Installing a hidden speaker and receiver in the ceiling of the presidential bedroom, and then transmitting whispers late at night saying, "George, this is Ike. Ari Fleischer is plotting against you."

  • Replacing the official stationary with some that, if held up to the light, shows a faint watermarked image of Uncle Sam giving you the finger.

  • Replacing the nude statues with nude likenesses of Helen Thomas from UPI

  • 'Accidentally' leaving behind a partial tape recording that has Clinton's voice saying, "My god, if the Bush Administration ever finds out about this, the Democrats are finished!". Just for fun, leave clues pointing towards the government of Luxembourg.

So, next time you're thinking of trashing the White House, remember to call in the pros.

Monday, June 10, 2002

More on the Digital Media Bill From Hell

Happy Fun Pundit is doing its bit to help people realize just how awful the new "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act" bill really is. For the record, the bill is S. 2048. It was formally introduced by Fritz Hollings (Democrat, Sony), Ted Stevens (Republican, Disney), Daniel Inouye, John Breaux, Bill Nelson, and Diane Feinstein. Full text of the bill is here.

Just What Is This Bill?
Let's see if I can describe the 'big picture' without resorting to expletives. This concept behind this bill is that every piece of intellectual property in digital form will be encrypted and stamped with its own copyright information. All devices that can read or display that information must have a device that decrypts the file based on the limitations of the copyright. The 'chain' of distribution will stay encrypted right to the display device.

For example, if you have an HDTV today, the signal is decoded usually in a set-top box, and then a high-quality analog signal is fed into your TV. Of course, that signal can also be fed into a video recorder or digital recorder, allowing you to make copies of it. The goal of this bill is to keep the data encrypted throughout the entire process, until it's finally decoded inside the TV itself. Theoretically, the only way you could then make a copy of it would be to set up a camcorder or something and record right off the screen.

No word yet on when Congress is planning on making it illegal to actually use this material - after all, you could read a copywritten poem and then repeat it to someone. Can't have that.

What's So Bad About It?
Good question. Glad you asked. For starters, the bill makes illegal the interstate transport of any "Digital Media Device" which does not have a special copy protection chip in it. What's a Digital Media Device? From the bill:

3) DIGITAL MEDIA DEVICE. -- The term "digital media device" means any hardware or software that --

(A) reproduces copyrighted works in digital form;
(B) converts copyrighted works in digital form into a form whereby the images and sounds are visible or audible; or

(C) retrieves or accesses copyrighted works in digital form and transfers or makes available for transfer such works to hardware or software described in subparagraph (B).

That's pretty much anything that works with digital data in any form. Your palm pilot, Mp3 player, digital television, projector, set-top box, and even individual memory sticks and PCMCIA memory cards. It also means software, and note that almost anything sent across the internet is 'interstate commerce', which means that if you write a utility to display a copy protected image, it had better have security code in it that the government approves of, or you'll be doing time.

Note that one nasty little side-effect of this law will be to make all existing computer hardware and software obsolete for using new digital content. Got an HDTV system with a projector? Tough noogies. That projector doesn't have the approved copyright chip in it, and therefore will not be allowed to receive the new digital data stream. And you can't even get around that with a decoder box, because devices are not allowed to read copywritten digital data and reproduce it without security controls.

The bill also makes it illegal to modify either the security code in a product, or to remove the copyright information in the original content. It also requires that all public computer networks transmit all copyright information along with the content.

This has already had a chilling effect on progress in encryption research. A Princeton computing science professor has had to withdraw a paper that revealed how to crack SDMI, for fear that he would come under legal action by the recording industry. I'm not sure how people are even supposed to do research to test the effectiveness of the various security schemes, as the research itself would appear to be illegal under this bill if it involves actual attempts to crack the encryption.

The net effect of all of this will be to obsolete billions of dollars in equipment, to raise the price and increase the size of every digital product in the marketplace, and to force a standard on us that will no doubt be obsolete and cracked before it's even released. The bill makes provision for 'updating' the standard, but when the government uses its big hammer to force one technology on everyone, the cost of updates will be horrendous.

How would you like to buy a new MP3 player, have the security algorithm in it be hacked by someone, and then be forced to have to 'upgrade' in order to get the content you thought you could get when you bought the thing? This will have a chilling effect on innovation in the digital world.

What about my Fair Use Rights?
What, you thought you had fair use rights? Clearly, you haven't got the kind of insight that years in Congress and a number of large checks from the entertainment industry can give you. 'Fair Use' is protected in this bill in name only, and even then only for over-the-air broadcasts. This is the section that addresses fair use:

(1) LIMITATION ON THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS. -- In achieving the goal of promoting as many lawful uses of copyrighted works as possible, while preventing as much infringement as possible, the encoding rules shall take into account the limitations on the exclusive rights of copyright owners, including the fair use doctrine.

(2) PERSONAL USE COPIES. -- No person may apply a security measure that uses a standard security technology to prevent a lawful recipient from making a personal copy for lawful use in the home of programming at the time it is lawfully performed, on an over-the-air broadcast, premium or non-premium cable channel, or premium or non-premium satellite channel, by a television broadcast station (as defined in section 122 (j)(5)(A) of title 17, United States Code), a cable system (as defined in section 111(f) of such title), or a satellite carrier (as defined in section 119(d)(6) of such title).

That sounds reasonable, but how does the bill allow for a 'personal copy', if the content isn't allowed to be converted to unprotected analog? Time to throw out your VCR. I guess the vision here is that you'll buy a digital recorder which will allow you to store something and watch it when you want. But what about archives? Or music? Can't make a cassette tape for your car - I guess you'll have to buy a new digital car player if you want to listen to that new CD you bought.

You'll also note that the only 'personal use copies' mentioned in the bill are copies of broadcast material. It says nothing about personal use copies of other digital content like music and movies.

The problem with trying to encode a device to incorporate 'fair use' is that fair use itself is a sliding standard. For example, using exerpts from songs, books, and movies is legal for certain purposes, and illegal for others. There is no way a simplistic chip that can fit in a memory stick can make that determination. For that matter, there's no way to know what 'fair use' for a digital work created 20 years from now would be.

There's also no provision for a copyright to expire in this bill, so if the copyright expires on a piece of digital content you have, you still won't be able to copy it or do anything else with it that the original copyright holders don't approve of.

The end result is that 'fair use' will be decided by - the people selling you the product. They'll set up the algorithm to allow one digital copy, or to allow transfer to another machine that has a matching owner ID, or something like that. If you have a legal use for the content you purchased that does not match the vision of the content provider, you're just out of luck. And the content providers have an incentive to restrict your fair use rights as much as possible.

Will It Stop Piracy?
Oh, man, my aching sides. Sorry, I was too busy laughing to answer there for a minute. The short answer: No, of course not. All it takes is one person somewhere to strip the encryption out of a digital song or movie and put the unprotected version on the net, and before you can blink it'll be all over the place. And since this technology will put limitations on 'fair use' that do not belong there, the result will be to force legitimate owners into the black market of unprotected material simply to be able to do the things they have a right to do under the law.

This bill shows the kind of insight into the modern computing world that would be exhibited by your average trained circus monkey. No one I know who actually works in the field thinks that this will do much of anything to stop the type of copying done on peer-to-peer networks like Gnutella or Kazaa. The people that use those networks are smart enough to get around this, and the illegality of hacking the encryption clearly won't stop them, since it's not stopping them now.

What Can I Do?
I recommend Tequila shots. Lots of them. But if you want a more practical idea, I'd suggest writing the people involved in this mess and telling them how unlikely you are to ever vote for them or anyone who looks like them, ever again. You could also go to this web site: Help Stop the CBDTPA and take some of the steps mentioned there.