This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



July 2008

More IP Nonsense

Give me candidates that will reliably fight this kind of crap, and I’ll gladly jump ship from any of our current batch (in both parties) that seem to actually like this kind of thing.

Senators Announce New Intellectual Property Enforcement Bill
(Richard Esguerra, EFF, 29 Jul 2008)

Last week, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced S. 3325, the “Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008,” a bill that proposes a number of alarming changes to copyright law. The bill is the Senate’s gift to big content owners, creating new and powerful tools — many of which will be paid for by your tax dollars — for the entertainment industry to go after infringers. But it doesn’t offer a lick of protection for legitimate innovators and technology users that may be buried by the copyright juggernaut.

One of the bill’s most disturbing changes would give the Attorney General new powers to sue individuals on behalf of rightsholders like the MPAA and the RIAA. Bill proponents claim that these new powers, which would allow the AG to bring “milder” civil as well as criminal actions, are necessary because some offenses don’t rise to the level of criminal conduct. This justification just doesn’t make sense. If it’s a low-level offense, why should our top cops pursue it? Traditionally, those types of offenses can and will be pursued by the parties who believe they have actually been harmed, namely the copyright owners. The real “problem” may be that some so-called “offenses” can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for any crime. This new provision would allow the AG to sidestep that high burden of proof — a burden that gives the average citizen an important measure of protection from the overwhelming power of the government.

There’s more: another provision creates new categories of infringement at the border, suggesting that individuals need the permission of copyright holders to bring copies of music or movies with them overseas, or even through the United States. If the bill is passed, something as simple as taking your iPod to Mexico could be considered an infringement of the copyright owners’ distribution right. The bill also proposes to lengthen the list of items that can be impounded as part of a civil copyright infringement suit, while broadening the list of articles that can be seized and destroyed by the government. (Meanwhile, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being negotiated in secret by a number of countries, pairing this unprecedented public threat with a potentially catastrophic secret one.)

McCain is Ahead! NOT

There has been a lot of attention today to one new poll showing McCain ahead nationally among “likely voters”.

First of all, my usual caution, looking at national polls for a presidential election is just plain silly, and does NOT really tell you much of anything useful about the state of the race. We do NOT have a national election, we have 50 separate state elections (plus DC). So you are better off looking at something that breaks things down by state. I of course prefer my own analysis but there are a bunch of places out there that do this using a variety of different methodologies. If you actually care to understand what is going on, you need to look at the state by state breakdowns and pretty much ignore the national polling.

Having said that, if you MUST look at national polling, look at something that does a trendline over many polls, so that you don’t get distracted by random noise or outliers. The best one out there (I think) is the one at First, you clearly see just how noisy the poll data is. Second, you see that this one result is a clear outlier.

Now, could additional polls start coming in any day now to reinforce the numbers in this new poll and thus indicate the beginning of a shift in McCain’s direction? Quite possibly. But the point is that with just the one poll, with a large number of other polls continuing to give Obama a big lead, it is way too early to be saying anything of the sort. In fact, the trend at the moment is still a widening of Obama’s lead.

Although, as I mentioned here and here and here there are some hints that some states may be starting to move in McCain’s direction again after a long period of time where it seemed absolutely every update was good news for Obama.

BY-NC-SA is Here Now

I’ve had a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license sticker on AbulWiki since I started it, but I never got around to putting one on my main site. I just did. You’ll see it in my footer now if you scroll down. So, if you really had a hankering to reuse any of my content, but just weren’t sure on how to go about doing it in the way I would prefer, you now know. (Of course, I still stand by my position that all intellectual property, including licenses of this sort, are inherently obsolete in the digital age, and really more represent the preference of the author which a well meaning and polite person should abide by out of the goodness of their heart, rather than something that can or should be legally enforced, but that is a whole other debate.)

Stupid IE

OK, after a long time of just ignoring it, I went back to try to finally fix the CSS for this website on IE. A number of months ago, I thought I had done so, but there were still some issues with it, and while it worked on IE 6, it broke on IE 7. And at some point I accidentally reverted to an older version that didn’t work in IE 6 either. So this site has basically been broken in IE for quite some time.

I spent a couple of hours on it tonight, and I think I finally have things working nicely, not just in Safari and Firefox, which have always worked pretty nicely, but also on IE 7. I no longer have a copy anywhere of IE 6 to see if it manages to do the right thing as well though. If anybody is running IE 6, please let me know if things look all messed up. Although, if it isn’t working, then perhaps it will stay that way. :-)

I did have to kill the Google Ad in IE to make it come out right, but I dare say I doubt anybody will mind that.

While I was at it, I also made the one character change in the CSS file to make the minimum width of the center column match the size I’m now using for images instead of the older smaller size.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Nothing is Off the Record

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Some Random Yammering
  • Immigrating Ivan
  • Security Theater
  • Drunken Wall Street
  • Online Comments
  • Oil, Banks and Cars
  • Obama’s European Vacation
  • McCain’s Pitiful Week
  • Polls Polls Polls
  • An Unlikely Scenario
  • McCain and Bush
  • Is it Close?

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Moved AbulWiki

So, I just (well, over the course of the weekend) moved AbulWiki off of my iMac at home, where it was connected to the Internet over a slow DSL connection and my local Airport network, where it would become slow and sometimes unresponsive whenever I was actually doing anything with my computer… to a new location at an actual hosting company. We’ll see how it goes in the new location. With luck it will be a little bit faster and more reliable at the new location. We shall see though. Ya never know.

Electoral College: McCain strengthens in South Carolina

Looks like things continue to move in McCain’s direction. Today’s batch of polls includes a new one in South Carolina which when you plug it into my five poll average increases McCain’s lead to over 5%, taking the state from “Leaning McCain” to “Weak McCain”, thus taking it out of my swing state category.

Still too early to see if Obama hit his high water mark, but at least for the last couple of days, things have been heading in that direction.

New Summary:

McCain Best Case – McCain 281, Obama 257
Obama Best Case – Obama 381, McCain 157

If everybody gets their leans (and Obama gets DC) – Obama 306, McCain 232

More on Transitions

In my earlier post on the topic I said “Normally this happens once one is actually elected. Not before one is even officially the nominee.” BZZZZZ. Wrong.

What is true, is that in the cases where the transition hasn’t started until after the election, they have always been rushed and the start of the new administration has been rocky. A variety of presidents, including Reagan and W himself have started transitions very early. Clinton and Carter apparently started to, but then changed their minds, and their transitions were a bit rocky.

More here, from a guy that tries to turn the story around by criticizing McCain for NOT having started his transition already:

McCain’s Presidential Transition Gaffe
(Paul C. Light, Huffington Post, 25 Jul 2008)

The question is not why Obama made the decision, but why Sen. John McCain has not. Instead attacking the Obama campaign for “dancing in the end zone,” McCain should have appointed his own planning team long ago.

Obama has plenty of historical precedent to draw upon. On the Republican side of the aisle, Ronald Reagan began his 1980 planning effort in early spring under a senior confidant. The planning produced the fastest transition to governing in modern history, which translated directly into Reagan’s victories on budget and tax cuts only six months into the term.

George W. Bush also began his planning early, which produced a remarkably disciplined transition that laid set the stage for another round of tax cuts. It is hard to imagine how the transition could have succeeded without it. Given the Florida impasse, it is hard to imagine how the Bush transition could have succeeded without the pre-election planning.

On the Democratic side, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also began their planning early, but waffled when it came time to use the plans. Under intense pressure from their campaign staffs who rightly complained about a lack of consultation, both decided to start planning again all over again the morning after the election.

Seperate States

A good article followed by good discussion on one of the topics I find fascinating… the theoretical right (or absence there of) of states to leave the United States. For the record, I was quite convinced by Jefferson Davis’ arguments in his memoirs that despite the loss in the war, and subsequent post-war SCOTUS opinions, the South probably SHOULD have been able to leave peacefully.

Now, the question of if the South’s reasons for leaving were legitimate, or if it would have been proper for the North to let them leave, recognize their independence as a separate and sovereign country, but then immediately declare war on the new country for purposes of making it submit and ending slavery and perhaps reincorporating it later… that’s a completely different question. That’s probably the way I think it should have played out. But that isn’t what happened, so it is a sort of moot point.

Anyway, good discussion in the article (and attached comments) for those interested:

Secession, Ignorance, and Stupidity
(Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy, 24 Jul 2008)

I don’t think that belief in a right of secession by itself demonstrates ignorance about either law or American history. The Constitution is famously silent on the issue of secession. It doesn’t explicitly guarantee states a right to secede, but also doesn’t explicitly forbid secession. Interestingly, the Articles of Confederation explicitly stated that the union is “perpetual” (which seems to foreclose secession), but the Constitution which superseded the Articles does not include any such language. This silence has led to ongoing debate over the constitutional status of secession. Prior to the Civil War, many respected scholars and political leaders claimed that secession was permitted by the Constitution. Many were apologists for slavery, but by no means all. For example, political leaders from several northern free states asserted that they had a right to secede at the 1814 Hartford Convention. In light of this history and the ambiguity of the constitutional text, I don’t think that belief in a right to secession is at all unreasonable, much less a sign of obvious ignorance or stupidity.


It was reported yesterday that Obama is already assembling a transition team. Normally this happens once one is actually elected. Not before one is even officially the nominee. Now, yes, I buy the notion that it is a complicated process, and previous transitions could sometimes have benefited from a early start.

But it is still more than three months before the election, and almost six months before the inauguration… I talked about this on the podcast a couple weeks back. He needs to not get cocky.

Sure, the state by state polls have him with a nice healthy lead right now in the electoral college. And McCain has been screwing up left and right. Currently things look very good for Obama.

But… you can’t be taking it for granted… or you will start making stupid mistakes thinking you have room for error. And for that matter just LOOKING like you think you have already won (as some people are interpreting parts of the overseas trip) can have negative consequences too.

Yes, there is a lead. But the public is fickle, and things can change quickly. And we have more than three months left. Obama needs to not start believing his own hype here.