Jerry Falwell Makes John McCain Grovel

The Council for National Policy is a secret organization of Christian leaders in America, including Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and other Republican toadies, that meets several times a year to inform the Republican Party of what it’s policies are to be.

If you were really a Christian and you really believed that you were serving God’s will and you really believed that God was on your side and that Jesus heard your prayers, you would not belong to this organization because this organization is secret. It hides. It sneaks around concealing it’s activities from the general public. It doesn’t even welcome Republicans it considers to be too moderate. It doesn’t allow anyone who they think might not be on their side to attend their meetings and write about them.

Their excuse? The left-liberal media will not report “justly” on their overwhelming virtue and purity. Right. Hmmm. Could it be that the real purpose of the secrecy is to obtain a disproportionate influence on Republican party politics by forming a pressure group within the larger body of membership, like a cabal, or a clique. By throwing their unified support to certain “approved” candidates, they short-circuit democracy and manipulate the party. It’s the kind of selfish, immoral action that has characterized the so-called Christian right in America since George Bush came looking for support.

According to the New York Times, the Council is not very happy with the current crop of Republican candidates because these broad-minded tolerant compassionate people, including John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, are too liberal for their taste.

How do they define liberal? They don’t believe in prayer? They allow their teenaged children to date un-chaperoned? They don’t believe in a young earth and intelligent design? They attend lingerie parties? No. It seems they might actually be against tax breaks for rich people. It seems they might actually countenance the idea of giving partial citizenship to illegal immigrants who have been in the country for many years, and education and health care to their children. Seems they might not be up for another round of invasions and bombings to address the threat of Islamic jihad. To these Christian jihadists, who have declared war on compassion and tolerance and reason, these men are enemies of the faith.

I’m puzzled as to why John McCain doesn’t just tell them to go to hell. Would he really lose the Republican nomination if he did? Maybe. But he would probably gain wide support in the general election. Either way, it appears McCain has sold out to them, and therefore, lost the respect of a lot of journalists who used to admire his non-partisan uncompromising personal integrity.

Festering Corporate Monopolies: DRM

This may sound a little strange but… the simplest, most telling fact about the piracy issue is this: there is no reason why content providers have to issue their “valuable” content on CDs or DVDs. They have always been absolutely free to issue their content on any proprietary media that would prevent their valuable content from being copied.

A proprietary format would simply require a patented algorithm to implement encryption and a hardware device to unencrypt it and play the media.  Simple solution.  It is remarkably easily technically feasible.

But they didn’t. Why not? Because they knew the consumer would never buy it in large enough numbers to guarantee big, fat profits. And they knew that smaller, independent record labels and unsigned artists would be more than happy to issue their stuff on CDs and DVDs and they wouldn’t be able to skim off their customary share of the profits.

[2011-07: this is a profoundly important fact that cannot be underestimated: the media companies have always been free to issue their products on any format they wish to, including formats that have built in protections against copying and piracy. They are under no obligation to issue their products on DVD’s or CD’s. None at all! If they do not like the physical characteristics of these mediums, they should go elsewhere.]

Instead, what they are trying to do, is hijack the mediums.

If you were a smart person and you worked at the highest levels of a corporation in the music or film industry and you understood something about what was coming down the pipe in terms of the internet and user empowerment, and you cared deeply about preserving your own profitability… and you were somewhat ruthless… you would do what the industry has done.

For you would have realized that there was an enormous, gaping hole in the system, and that it had to be plugged quickly before it became transparent to everyone what was happening.

The hole is not in the system of copyright protections. It is in the system that gives you a cooperative monopoly (with the other big 4 music companies) over musical entertainment in the entire world. You have an incestuous relationship with TV and radio to ensure that the artists you have chosen to promote receive wide exposure, and that their music is played on the radio. (Sony recently paid out over $100 million to settle an action by New York State on this issue.) The system ensures that only artists you control will receive the kind of exposure that creates a “superstar”. Only the artists you control will appear on Letterman and Leno and Oprah and in movies and on radio play-lists.

As long as it cost tens of thousands of dollars, this system worked in favor of the big players, because very few people could afford to make a professional recording and print vinyl records.

But with new technologies, this control has dissipated, and suddenly almost anybody can make a good digital recording and make their music available on CD’s or through down-loading. This means a talented artist might be able to simply ignore the establishment, if he or she doesn’t like the unfair conditions imposed upon artists by industry contracts.

To sustain their control over the market, the music industry has to close this gap.

You must first create the illusion that your concern is about copyright, and about preserving your rights over the valuable original content your company insists it “created”. You must above all else perpetuate the illusion that your artists and your movies and your content are the best there is to offer and the only stuff that people really want. You validate a person’s entertainment choices. You give yourself awards, schedule your performers on Letterman and Leno, get your stars on the cover of magazines. You lobby foreign governments demanding that they empower their populations to see “Ishtar” and “Gigli”.

You must try– in the face of the unremitting ridiculousness of your position– to insist that your really do want to make sure that artists get paid for their work. In spite of the fact that almost none of your current artists under contract will stand up and say he or she believes you.

But you know, deep in your musty little heart, that most of this is an illusion you have created to convince people that your artists are important and talented, and to assure the average consumer that he or she can’t be like your artists.

And you know that if the marketplace was actually free to choose it’s own “successes” from the thousands and thousands of artists our there, that yours might not be among the best or most desired or most original or interesting.  Even worse, geographical areas might develop a base of fans for local artists who can survive on their earnings from this base, instead of having to depend on multi-national media corporations.  Imagine a Duluth radio station playing, primarily, artists from the Duluth region, or Minnesota, instead of artists from New York or Los Angeles?

So you must find a way to ensure that these other artists do not slip through your filters, your stranglehold on media, into a position wherein they could make money performing music without you being able to skim off the largest chunk of their incomes.

You must prevent them from being able to sell their music directly to the public, without you.

And you discovered, to your horror, that, given a choice between your own copy-protected, restricted, controlled, homogenized product, and unprotected, unrestricted, un-homogenized works by new, independent artists, the public is drawn to the free and the original. You realize that if the industry issued it’s product on media that prevented individuals from copying, that everyone would simply migrate to media that did allow copying. Because there are lots of artists who are willing to make that trade-off and you don’t own them all.

And so you realized that you had to prevent such media from existing, by persuading the government to violate the essence of capitalism and free enterprise by imposing a design upon the manufacturers of the hardware used to create and play back video and audio.

If you continue to issue your product on protected disks while other artists are free to issue their own work on non-protected disks– your days of lavish hotels and extravagant junkets are over.

So you must– you absolutely MUST– force the media outlets, now including Windows itself, and all hardware to incorporate a system of DRM — “digital rights management”–, which has the function of allowing you to hijack the media. In essence, you are taking over the media itself, the disk itself, the player itself, the computer itself… controlling them, without even having to pay a penny for it, other than the cost of lobbying.

This is like requiring every car to be able to use ethanol. This is a program that would be of great interest to corn growers. All they need to do is lobby the right politicians. After a few years, no one will wonder if ethanol is actually any good or not. It won’t matter. And if someone builds a better car that will run on hydrogen– it doesn’t matter: it will also have to be able to use ethanol.

You have pulled off one of the biggest cases of fraud in the history of corporate malfeasance. Congratulations. Nobody even seems to know yet, what you have done.

The Supposed Alleged Possible Canadian Terror Plot: Entrapment

And there it is, near the bottom, almost as an aside:

He was paid.
He was paid more than $300,000.

That’s near the bottom of the article linked to in the left column, which describes, with great earnestness, the authentic, real, god-awful truth about Islamic terrorists operating in Toronto: that they really mean it, that they are serious, that they are a real threat.

Frontline and the CBC, which collaborated on the report, have a lot of credibility. Unlike Fox, or even CBS or NBC or ABC, they tend to take a more measured and less sensationalistic approach to stories about terrorist cells operating in North America. (Though even CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently ran a rather odd piece on how terrorists are using the internet to train young jihadists.) But there it is, a long, detailed, well-researched program (and website), detailing how the 17 young men were seriously plotting to storm the Parliament buildings, take MPs hostage, and behead them one by one until Canada withdrew it’s armed forces from Afghanistan.

And then, way down the page, there is that one little, embarrassing detail: the informant, Mubin Shaikh, whose revelations to CSIS (the Canadian Security Service) led to the arrests, was paid more than $300,000 for the information.

When the trial is held, Mubin Shaikh will be the star witness. Undoubtedly, he will have to reveal the fact that he was a paid informant to the court. Then the court will have to decide whether $300,000 is an incentive to exaggerate or distort his information. They should also decide whether $300,000 is an incentive for someone to incite. They should also consider the question of “entrapment”.

The question is, would Mr. Shaikh have been paid if he had not provided the RCMP with suspects?

No, he would not.

It is possible that CSIS has additional proof. We won’t know until the trial, of course. It is possible that the additional proof wouldn’t mean much if it wasn’t put into “context” by $300,000 worth of testimony. It is possible, if not likely– I say it is likely– that the additional evidence CSIS will offer will have been produced as a result of the activities and encouragement of Mubin Shaikh.

The question that should be asked is, would these young men have committed a crime if they had never met Mubin Shaikh?

Perhaps you believe that the police are willing to pay large sums of money to informants if their information clears suspects of suspicion. Perhaps you live in Disneyland.

Mubin Shaikh was paid an initial $68,000 U.S. So, suppose he reported back to CSIS that nothing was up. No reason to be concerned. There’s a couple of hot-heads, but they are just shooting off their mouths. They are kids who, not unreasonably, are against the war on Iraq because they believe it is motivated by the U.S. desire to control oil supplies and support Zionism. They believe the U.S. invaded Iraq. Oh yeah… Well, they believe the U.S. lied about weapons of mass destruction so they could invade Iraq to steal its oil. Okay– it it illegal to believe that? It is if you are an Arab living in North America or Europe.

Do you suppose Shaikh had any reason to believe he would receive an additional $300,000 if he continued to report that there was no serious terrorist plot?

I suspect that among the 17 youths that were arrested, were a small number of relatively serious-minded extremists, who genuinely hated decadent western culture, and dreamed of seeking revenge for the perceived humiliation of the Moslem world at the hands of the Israelis and Americans. (Shaikh is not going to propose the ridiculous to CSIS.) But I suspect that for every ten youths like that, maybe one or two ever actually end up doing something. Of that number, a smaller percentage acquire the means and determination to actually do something effective.

I wonder if the infamous 3 tons of ammonia nitrate will turn out to have been Shaikh’s suggestion.

Apparently, the RCMP ended up “providing” the (fake) material.

Stunningly– I say– the RCMP provided them with fake ammonia nitrate, in order to provide evidence for the crime they allege.

There are several American cases that sound alarmingly similar: a paid informant infiltrates a local youth group, encourages the boys to talk “jihad”, then reports on their conversations to Homeland Security and they sweep them up. In most of those cases, there is no evidence that any of the suspects ever took any steps to actually commit any terrorist acts. In some cases, there was bravado and bragging and macho posturing. The victims of this scam are threatened with years in prison for very serious charges, but then agree to plead guilty to a relatively minor charge, and then the government holds a parade and awards medals to everyone.  The plea, the result of bullying, becomes the proof that there really was a threat.

The boys went up north and took training… from Mr. Shaikh. They used paintball guns and pellet guns and, Mr. Shaikh claims, some live ammunition.

Why does this all look so pathetic?

Why is it so offensive to me that reporter Linden McIntyre of the CBC seemed to spend an inordinate proportion of his report on Mr. Shaikh’s civic-mindedness, and his concern for the Moslem community, and his own spiritual journey from misspent youth to respected leader of the Moslem community in Toronto… before telling us about the $300,000?

Mr. McIntyre knows a good story and how to package it.  A real journalist is more skeptical than he is.

If Mr. Shaikh really was a man of integrity, why would he even have accepted the money, knowing, as he must have, that a reasonable person would question how much honesty $300,000 can buy?

Frontline (PBS) on the Canadian Terror Plot Informant

Imagine, if you will, an Arab power that “takes possession” of a number of American citizens, declares them enemy combatants, and locks them away in solitary confinement in a horrible prison somewhere.  Suppose the U.S. protests, and demands their release.  Suppose this Arab state says, “these men are terrorists”.  And then the U.S. says, they are not.  We can prove they are not.  And the Arab state says, you can make those arguments at the trials.  Right now, the world is too dangerous for us to release these men.  What if they invade our country after we release them?  And the U.S. says, okay, when are the trials?  And the Arab state says, never.

Imagine the outrage.  How dare they?

I wonder how many people just assume that the government would never do such a thing — buy evidence. They couldn’t get away with it, could they? They can and they do, on a surprisingly regular basis. Sometimes our judges slap them down for it, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, like the rest of us, they seem to believe that a higher good is served by abridging the most precious rights we have in a democracy.

America Shoots Down a Passenger Jet: Medals for Everyone!

On July 3, 1988, the United States shot down an Iranian jetliner killing 290 innocent passengers.  A missile was fired from the Vincennes, a U.S. navy destroyer patrolling the gulf.  Sea of Lies – What Really Happened?

The Americans have maintained that this was all a very innocent mistake, or, more likely, the result of provocative, confusing actions by Iranians. I can’t see how a reasonable person would accept that explanation, when the U.S. government itself acknowledged that it had lied about several critical elements of the story, including the alleged location of the Vincennes when it fired the missile: it was inside Iranian territorial waters.

What you had was some trigger-happy ugly American captain, William Rogers, who thought it would be just splendiferous to shoot down something, anything, please! There were other Americans involved, including the captain of an aircraft carrier who made it clear that he thought Rogers was being willfully reckless and provocative and stupid.

Rogers was never punished. By golly, they gave him and his crew a medal. I’m not kidding.

Now, if you were a reasonable person, and not emotionally vested in America the Great and George Bush the magnificent, wouldn’t you think, well, the Arabs might have a reason to be suspicious of our intentions in the Middle East.

Add to that a couple of other pertinent facts.. Egypt is not a democracy. They are America’s friend, however, and more than happy to torture people for George Bush. Jordan is not a democracy. Libya is not a democracy. Saudi Arabia is not a democracy.

The Palestinian Authority was elected fair and square, but America won’t talk to their leaders because— well, they elected the wrong leaders.

It is very hard to explain why, if America wants to bring democracy to the middle east, it doesn’t urge Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Libya to hold fair elections. Are fair elections too much to ask? About simply taking a mild step or two towards democracy by, say, not locking up and torturing your political opponents?

We know why.

We know the real reason why.

And that’s why we know the real reason why America is now trapped in Iraq. It was never about freedom or democracy or Saddam. Never.

But — let’s be fair– I’m not sure that Bush knows it was never about democracy.

But Dick Cheney knows.

James Driskell: Wrongful Conviction

I used to be amazed at the remorseless accuracy and precision of “science”. Thanks to the application of clear, consistent, and unambiguous standards and practices, the conclusion of a “scientific” inquiry into the essential facts of a particular issue could only result in the truth.

And then there are the police.

James Driskell was convicted in 1993 for the murder of his best friend, Perry Harder. I quote:

The RCMP said three hair samples found in Driskell’s van were Harder’s, and that evidence convicted him. Later test results from Forensic Science Services in the U.K. found none of the hairs belonged to Harder.

Three hairs? One can easily imagine the solemn testimony of the scientist who conducted the analysis. Science is truth. Science is certain. Science is never wrong. We found these tiny hairs in James Driskell’s van. How could they have gotten there if he hadn’t murdered Perry Harder?

Is someone going to be charged with obstructing justice? Perjury? Incompetence?

Probably not. Because the authorities will extend to those police officers and lab staff the kind of compassionate understanding that they wish we would not extend to criminals.

Just out of curiosity, I wonder how many of the police officers involved in some of these wrongful convictions still support the death penalty?

Copyright: Subsidizing Obsolescence

The world has changed. Get over it. I think people still immersed in the old business models see their infrastructure crumbling but can’t see how the new possibilities might be even better– as Apple clearly did with the iPod.

I hope Viacom has their wish: Youtube will delete all their videos– that’s their policy if they receive a complaint. Then Viacom will pay millions of dollars to show clips in ads on regular TV. Duh!

The “principle” of copyright is indeed in trouble. The trouble is that people don’t really understand the original purpose of copyright. The trouble is also that people have this illusion that Walt Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, for example, is “original” (Disney stole it or bought it, along with “The Lion King” Pinochio, Aladdin, and most of everything else they produce). Most rock’n’roll is derived from long established models of chord progressions and riffs. Art steals from landscapes or objects (Warhol’s Campbell Soup can is only the most obvious example). Ever see a TV episode in which one major character seems to have forgotten another major character’s birthday? Lucy? Mr. Ed? Gilligan? Edith? Maude? Homer?

The sad truth is that most of the current big corporations fighting for stricter copyright enforcement could not themselves have been profitable without outright theft. (Exactly how many “reality” tv shows are there, by the way? Hey, I got an idea: we get a bunch of people on a show, have them do something, then kick one of them off every episode!…)

We have simply entered an era in which definitions of “original” and “copy” and “collage” and “edited” and “found” are rapidly changing. We’ll survive. We’ve never had as much money to spend on diversions as we do now, and the money is madly flowing in all directions. The groaning and creaking we are hearing is the sound of decrepit old business models struggling to re-orient themselves to the new realities. The nimbler minds at Google, and Apple, and YouTube, and Myspace, etc. have already found their way. The older models are not only inefficient — they’re boring.

It would be very, very bad policy for the government to try to artificially prop up those old monsters, the way some governments and unions used to try to require stokers on diesel trains. The DMCA was a clumsy attempt to do just that and I hope it dies slowly, the death of a thousand YouTubes.

Billy Graham’s Limousine

It has always disturbed me that Billy Graham has body guards and travels in a limousine. Billy Graham used to defend this practice by pointing out that you don’t get to meet the President of the United States in a Volkswagen bus.

So, firstly, who said you had to meet the President of the United States? Graham would respond that he is a better evangelist because people see him with the most dishonest President of the United States in history and think, by golly, I think I might want to share that man’s faith.

Graham obviously believes that his celebrity status makes him a better missionary. It is amazing to me that it hasn’t entered his head that his celebrity status might be exactly the thing Satan most wants him to have.

Have you taken a good, close look at Billy Graham’s Limo driver?

Secondly, it’s a lie. Having a limousine really doesn’t factor into anyone’s considerations for who might meet with the President. War heroes, scientists, great writers and musicians– none of them seem to feel a need to acquire a limo so they would be more likely to meet the President.

They count on public admiration of what they actually do.