Seattle will spend $500,000 to settle a lawsuit it lost with phonebook companies over its sensible opt-out program for residents.
Beginning in May 2011, Seattle began allowing residents to opt out of unwanted phonebook deliveries. The program was so popular, the city reports that more than 2 million pounds of paper are saved annually as a result. The phonebook companies sued the city and lost, but won on appeal. The city has chosen not to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The phonebook companies alleged in their complaint that the phonebook ordinance, 'denies [their] rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.'(free speech and due process). If not for the legal concept of 'corporate personhood', the phonebook companies wouldn't be able to sue Seattle to assert Constitutional rights originally written only for people.
Rather than ask the question, 'are the phonebook companies people?'and 'do they have the right to free speech?'the courts have focused largely on whether the content in the phonebooks (advertisements and phone listings) represent free speech which can't be regulated or commercial speech, which can be.
The companies claim, 'The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits government from -- enforcing the desire of citizens to avoid communications [and] from prying into citizens' preferences regarding communications they seek to avoid.'
Corporate Personhood to Cost Seattle $500,000 to Settle Phone Book Lawsuit
(Image: Seattle Phone Book Spam, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from edkohler's photostream)
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a creaking, 1986-vintage US anti-hacking law. It makes it a felony to "exceed authorized access" on a computer you don't own, and some federal prosecutors (including Carmen Ortiz, who prosecuted Aaron Swartz) claim that this means that any time you violate the terms of service on website, that you commit a felony and can be imprisoned.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published detailed, user-friendly documentation for the CFAA, including the relevant case-law. It's a must-read for anyone who cares about justice in the 21st century. We click through dozens of impossible terms-of-service every day, and if violating them is a felony, we'll all vulnerable to threats of a long sentence.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, is an amendment made in 1986 to the Counterfeit Access Device and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 and essentially states that, whoever intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication shall be punished under the Act. In 1996 the CFAA was, again, broadened by an amendment that replaced the term “federal interest computer” with the term “protected computer.”18 U.S.C. § 1030. While the CFAA is primarily a criminal law intended to reduce the instances of malicious interferences with computer systems and to address federal computer offenses, an amendment in 1994 allows civil actions to brought under the statute, as well.
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)
"Striking it Richer," a paper by Emmanuel Saez (an economist at UC Berkeley) looks at the way that the dividends of the slow US "economic recovery" have been distributed. Saez finds that 121% of the economic gains since 2009 have been captured by the richest 1% of Americans -- in other words, despite economic growth, the poorest 99% of Americans actually got poorer through the "recovery."
This confirms a pattern that Matt Stoller highlighted: that income inequality increased more under Obama than under Bush. And the new Saez paper also describes how it came about. In short form, income to the top 1% is significantly influenced by capital gains. Remember, the tax reporting is not clean here: rising equity and bond markets help all those private equity and hedge fund professionals, who are able to get capital gains treatment for what ought to be labor income. But the paper also stresses that the lower orders were hit hard in the aftermath of the global financial crisis than in the dot-bomb era, which also saw a big drop in capital gains. That isn’t as hard to understand. The collapse of the dot-com mania didn’t impair the real economy overmuch because it was not fueled in a meaningful way by borrowings. By contrast, the housing bubble, and more important (in terms of damage to the financial system) the much housing exposure created synthetically by CDOs that consisted entirely or mainly of credit default swaps was highly geared, hence when it collapsed, it took credit providers down with it.
Yes, Virginia, the Rich Continue to Get Richer: the Top 1% Got 121% of Income Gains Since 2009 [Yves Smith/Naked Capitalism]
France is on the verge of killing its ill-starred HADOPI system, whereby people who are accused of multiple acts of copyright infringement are disconnected from the Internet, along with everyone in their homes. After two years, HADOPI has spent a fortune and has nothing to show for it. HADOPI was enacted thanks to enormous pressure from American entertainment companies and the US Trade Representative, and was the first of the "three strikes" rules to make it into law (New Zealand and the UK also both capitulated to Pax America shortly after).
But the new president Hollande is determined to continue to have France play the role of crash-test dummy for America's failed copyright policy. As a condition of dismantling HADOPI, his government has proposed enacting the worst provisions of SOPA, the US copyright proposal that America roundly rejected last year. Under SOPA.fr, the French government will make intermediaries (payment processors, search engines, web hosts) liable for infringement, with broad surveillance and censorship powers.
French Hadopi Scheme Gutted; Other Bad Ideas To Be Introduced Instead
I'm in LA for the Pirate Cinema tour this weekend, and my publisher's rep is taking me around to local stores to sign their stock between the public events. Today we found ourselves in a mall in Glendale, which featured pureed cupcake beverages and signs warning chihuahua owners about escalators. America! Heck yeah!
(Thanks to all the Happy Mutants who came out to Pasadena today -- hey, west LA, I'm at Mysterious Galaxy in Rendondo Beach tomorrow at 1430h!)
26 major American companies paid more to their CEOs than they paid in taxes in 2011, including Citigroup, Abbott Labs, and AT&T. This from a study published by the Institute for Policy Studies entitled Executive Excess 2012: The CEO Hands in Uncle Sam's Pocket. They note that this figure has climbed since last year. Reuters's Nanette Byrnes reports:
Among companies topping the institute's list:
* Citigroup, the financial services giant, with a tax refund of $144 million based on prior losses, paid CEO Vikram Pandit $14.9 million in 2011, despite an advisory vote against it by 55 percent of shareholders.
* Telecoms group AT&T paid CEO Randall Stephenson $18.7 million, but was entitled to a $420 million tax refund thanks to billions in tax savings from recent rules accelerating depreciation of assets.
* Drugmaker Abbott Laboratories paid CEO Miles White $19 million, while garnering a $586 million refund. Abbott has 64 subsidiaries in 16 countries considered by authorities to be tax havens, the institute said.
Companies paid CEOs more than they paid in taxes
Izhevsk, the town in Russia where the Kalashnikov rifle is made, is booming. The town is exporting Kalashnikovs by the boatload to the USA, where gun collectors are snapping them up. It's likely the case that more Americans will by killed by other Americans wielding Kalashnikov than were ever killed by Russians with the Soviet-era gun. Andrew E. Kramer has more in the NYT:
“I bought a Saiga because it was made in Russia, right beside its big brothers, the AKs,” Josh Laura, a garage door installer and former Marine in Maryville, Tenn., said in a telephone interview. “No rifle in the world has been as reliable as this one.”
Selling rifles to Americans and other civilians is fundamental to the efforts to save Izhmash, which has made Kalashnikovs since soon after their invention in 1947 but is now struggling.
Demand for new military guns in the Kalashnikov family has evaporated. Simple, durable and relatively cheap to manufacture, about 100 million have been produced over the decades, or about one for every 70 people on earth. Inventories are overflowing, used AK weapons have flooded the market, and cheap Chinese knockoffs are stealing many of the customers that remain.
Importing Russia’s Top Gun
(via Beyond the Beyond)
(Image: AK 47 Kalashnikov Vector Image, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from vectorportal's photostream)
Princeton's alumni magazine has an excellent profile of Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research. Massey studies patterns of US migration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico. His research is the only rigorous census of Mexican-American illegal immigration flows, and its conclusions are that the US perception of Mexican migration is completely backwards, and that the major immigration problems are the result of bad policy, not changes in volume:
The MMP’s reports are freely available to anyone through its website, http://mmp.opr.princeton.edu. But statistics can be sterile things. Get Massey going, and one gets an earful about the true state of affairs along the border. To wit:
* We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants. The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s. The massive influx many have written about never happened.
* Net illegal migration has stopped almost completely.
* Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.
* There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.
* And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.
Mull over that last point for a minute. If Congress had done nothing to secure the border over the last two decades — if it had just left the border alone — there might be as many as 2 million fewer Mexicans living in the United States today, Massey believes.
(via Wil Wheaton)
(Image: Illegal Immigration, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from qwrrty's photostream)
In case there was any doubt in your mind, the alleged $1T cost to America from cyberwar and the $250B cost to America from "cyber-theft of Intellectual property" are both total bullshit. Pro Publica breaks it down.
One of the figures Alexander attributed to Symantec — the $250 billion in annual losses from intellectual property theft — was indeed mentioned in a Symantec report, but it is not a Symantec number and its source remains a mystery.
McAfee’s trillion-dollar estimate is questioned even by the three independent researchers from Purdue University whom McAfee credits with analyzing the raw data from which the estimate was derived. "I was really kind of appalled when the number came out in news reports, the trillion dollars, because that was just way, way large," said Eugene Spafford, a computer science professor at Purdue.
Spafford was a key contributor to McAfee’s 2009 report, "Unsecured Economies: Protecting Vital Information" (PDF). The trillion-dollar estimate was first published in a news release that McAfee issued to announce the report; the number does not appear in the report itself. A McAfee spokesman told ProPublica the estimate was an extrapolation by the company, based on data from the report. McAfee executives have mentioned the trillion-dollar figure on a number of occasions, and in 2011 McAfee published it once more in a new report, "Underground Economies: Intellectual Capital and Sensitive Corporate Data Now the Latest Cybercrime Currency" (PDF).
In addition to the three Purdue researchers who were the report’s key contributors, 17 other researchers and experts were listed as contributors to the original 2009 report, though at least some of them were only interviewed by the Purdue researchers. Among them was Ross Anderson, a security engineering professor at University of Cambridge, who told ProPublica that he did not know about the $1 trillion estimate before it was announced. "I would have objected at the time had I known about it," he said. "The intellectual quality of this ($1 trillion number) is below abysmal."
Does Cybercrime Really Cost $1 Trillion?
Hey, hooray, senators are finally legally allowed to mention the fact that the NSA has been breaking the law
and spying on Americans! Freedom!
John Carlos Frey investigates the deliberate cruelty of the US Border Patrol agents who work on the US-Mexican border. A humanitarian relief group called No More Deaths used hidden cameras to record smiling Border Patrol agents destroying water-caches left in areas where migrants have died of exposure. A former senior agent who left after witnessing horrific acts of torture and cruelty describes the way that Border Patrol agents delight in sadistic brutalizing of captured migrants. These accounts have been corroborated by the Red Cross and Doctors of the World.
My grandparents -- Red Army deserters -- deliberately destroyed their papers after WWII in order to become "displaced people" so that they could make their way from a camp in Azerbaijan to the DP boats in Hamburg. I don't see any difference between that sort of "illegal" migration and the sort that the US BP is currently fighting. Back then, the US, UK and Canada used very similar rhetoric about the way that migrants would take badly needed jobs, bring criminality, and fail to assimilate. But as Elie Weisel said, "there is no such thing as an illegal human being."
In his nine years working the border near Tucson, Ariz., and earning the rank of senior agent, Cruz says he frequently saw agents physically abusing detainees and denying food and water to those who were in obvious need. He also saw “individuals being crammed into cells twice beyond the posted capacity. Standing room only. I mean, you couldn’t even lie down on the floor.” This was done, he says, even when empty cells were available nearby. In 2003, he began warning his supervisors of this pattern of abuse. When his spoken complaints didn’t elicit a response, he began to write letters. “I started at the unit level,” Cruz says. “I went to the sector chief, office of inspector general — via phone calls and faxes of those memorandums. Went on to the commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection, who’s over the U.S. Border Patrol Agency. And then felt the need to move on to Congress.” Cruz left the force in 2007 without ever hearing a response.
Cruelty on the border
In the Boston Globe, Beth Teitell discusses Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open their Doors, an accessible, illustrated text that summarizes the research of four archaeologists and anthropologists who did a long, deep study of 32 middle-class LA families, and who report that nearly everything that these families had striven for -- material possessions, good jobs, extracurricular enrichment for their kids -- made them wholly miserable.
The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars.
Managing the volume of possessions is such a crushing problem in many homes that it elevates levels of stress hormones for mothers.
Even families who invested in outdoor décor and improvements were too busy to go outside and enjoy their new decks.
Most families rely heavily on convenience foods even though all those frozen stir-frys and pot stickers saved them only about 11 minutes per meal.
A refrigerator door cluttered with magnets, calendars, family photos, phone numbers, and sports schedules generally indicates the rest of the home will be in a similarly chaotic state.
The scientists working with UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families studied the dual-income families the same way they would animal subjects. They videotaped the activities of family members, tracked their moves with position-locating devices, and documented their homes, yards, and activities with thousands of photographs. They even took saliva samples to measure stress hormones.
Boxed in, wanting out
(via Making Light)
At $2,000 a pop, the costumes supplied by Ralph Lauren to America's Olympic athletes are not cheap. But apparently, Mr Lauren and co still couldn't afford to pay American workers to sew them -- they were made in China. From the BBC:
The classic navy blue blazers, white trousers and skirts, and red-accented ties and berets may have a distinctly American look, but the label inside reads "Made in China", ABC News revealed.
"I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them. And start all over again," the Los Angeles Times quoted [Sen Harry Reid D-NV] as saying.
"I hope they wear nothing but a singlet that says 'USA' on it painted by hand. We have people in America working in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs," he concluded.
Also: Ralph Lauren once threatened to sue us for making fun of their cack-handed photoshopping.
London 2012: US Ralph Lauren uniform made in China
(Image: thumbnail of a photo that is widely credited to AP, but which may be a Ralph Lauren publicity photo)
The CyberQ Wifi is a WiFi controlled barbecue monitor, thermostat and meat thermometer. It measures the temperature in your meat and adjusts the flame on your BBQ to ensure a through-and-through cooking without burning.
CyberQ Wifi is our most advanced control to date. It has a built in Wifi web server to allow remote access from your mobile device or PC. This control has one pit probe and 3 food probes that come standard with the control. Probes, fans and adaptors are compatible with our other controls.
(via Red Ferret)