Category: Politics

Go, Ken, Go! -- Part 5: Settlement!

For my previous coverage, check out the Ken Penders tag. In particular, the first post has a relevant disclaimer that (1) I tend to side with creators over publishers generally and (2) I corresponded with Ken Penders in the 1990's and he was a nice guy.

Anyhow, looks like I'm a bit behind on this, but last week brought the biggest news yet: per TSSZ News, Archie and Penders have settled and the suit has been dismissed.

What I predicted in Parts 3 and 4 still holds: we'll learn some of the terms of the settlement in the coming months (we already know Ken is moving forward with The Lara-Su Chronicles so I think we can safely say he has the rights to publish original comics with Lara-Su in them); some will stay confidential. Penders v Sega and EA is still ongoing, though this puts him in a better position as it establishes that he does have standing to sue for infringement, even if it still has to be established that Dark Brotherhood infringes his copyrights.

I think it's also safe to say that Ken would be happy for Archie to continue using his characters and reprinting his stories -- so long as they pay him his share for that use. And that if, say, the echidnas stay lost in that warp ring, that's Archie's decision not to pay Penders, not Penders's decision not to let Archie pay him.

But I think there's something much bigger coming.

Penders wasn't the only guy freelancing for Archie's Mamaroneck office in the mid-1990's. And he wasn't the only guy doing it without signing a contract first.

There are potentially dozens of other Sonic alums who have been watching this case and waiting to see if they've got a shot at winning their rights back, too. Scott Shaw has already filed for copyrights on his Sonic work. He won't be the last.

Archie v Penders is over. But this is only the beginning.


Update 2015-09-24: And Penders v Sega is over too; it was dismissed in 2014. I discuss it more in Part 6.

As for Scott Shaw and other creators seeking to reclaim their copyrights in the same way that Penders did, I haven't heard any news on that front, though I suspect we won't; given how the Penders case turned out, Archie is unlikely to file any more lawsuits, and I suspect that if other creators raise similar challenges Archie will settle with them quietly without getting the courts involved. It is possible that this has already happened, though it's likely that we'll never know.

Gumbel Interview

The Today Show, 1990. Discussion of Zappa's influence in Czechoslovakia before, during, and after the fall of communism, his contribution to Jacques Cousteau's Outrage at Valdez, and his interest in politics combined with his distaste for major and third parties alike.

Image Goes DRM-Free

Yesterday Image Comics announced that it's going to start selling digital comics from its own site, independent of third-party distributors, in standard formats and DRM-free.

There are a lot of reasons for Image to pursue a DRM-free option. Chief is that DRM doesn't fucking work and anyone who wants to get the latest issue of The Walking Dead illegally can get it whether Comixology's version has DRM or not. Second is that this rampant piracy of The Walking Dead has somehow failed to prevent it from being a sprawling multimedia bestseller.

But I think what really precipitated this decision isn't The Walking Dead at all -- it's Saga.

More specifically, Saga #12 and its asinine, albeit temporary, ban from the iOS version of Comixology.

I wrote about the story back in April. Gist is this: Saga #12 was an arguably-slightly-dirtier comic in an inarguably-already-pretty-dirty series; Comixology decided not to sell it in the iOS version of their app out of a reasonable but, it turns out, false presumption that it would run afoul of Apple's vague, capricious, and arbitrary content guidelines.

In a nutshell, it was an object lesson in the one thing DRM actually is good for: locking publishers into a single distributor who may not always have their best interests at heart.

You know, for those who needed an object lesson because they were too busy scratching their balls to notice how this exact thing caused a problem for the music industry and then later for the book industry.

But hey, it may have taken Image awhile, but this still puts them way the fuck ahead of all the other major publishers, and they absolutely deserve praise and encouragement for doing the right thing. And they deserve your business for it.

Only problem is, it's still early days and the Digital Comics section is looking a little sparse. I'll plan on coming back with links when my favorite Image books are available -- those'd be the aforementioned Walking Dead and Saga, plus Chew and Prophet, off the top of my head.

This is good news, and I hope and expect it will be just the first step in the comics industry realizing what the music industry already has and the book industry is starting to: that standards-compliant, DRM-free formats aren't just better for consumers, they're better for publishers, too.

Two More Victories

If you want a good rundown of US v Windsor and Hollingsworth v Perry, you could do a lot worse than A home run but not a grand slam for gay-marriage advocates: In Plain English by Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog.

Meanwhile, Ken White of Popehat -- who has previously described gay marriage opponents as "dinosaurs snarling at the asteroid" -- gives us a fun Then 'n' Now contrasting June 26, 2013 Antonin Scalia's insistence that DOMA is not intended to discriminate against gay people with June 26, 2003 Antonin Scalia's citation of DOMA as an example of legislation that Americans feel "protect[s] themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive," once again reminding us that the major difference between Antonin Scalia, a clown, and a professional wrestler is that nobody put any talent or creative energy into designing the silly outfit Scalia wears to work.

On the long road toward our gay brothers and sisters receiving the same legal and social status as my recently-married ass, this is just one more step -- but it's a big one.

My immense gratitude and thanks to Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy for choosing the right side of history, whose arc, I'm told, is long but bends toward justice.

And to all my LGBT friends and family, tonight I raise my beer in your honor. Even those of you who prefer martinis.

The Zappas on Video Games

The benefits of being a pack rat:

Sharkey posted this on his blog in...according to the date stamp, November of 2002.

I remembered it a couple days ago and I thought, you know what? I bet I don't even have to dig through old hard drives to find it. I bet my obsessive process of backing up data and copying it over from old computer to new has survived two new computers, four different Linux distributions, and I don't even know how the hell many hard drives. (I am, after all, the guy who corrupted his hard drive when he installed Windows 98 and recovered the data in 2008.)

Anyhow, I was right. Sitting right here on my current computer, after all those moves.

(And then I get to thinking, "Wait...I've only gotten two new computers in the last decade?" But then I remember no, there's also the Mac Mini I used to have hooked up to my TV and now use as a backup server, the Win7 desktop I currently have hooked up to my TV, my laptop, my phone, my tablet, and assorted old towers that have managed to pile up in my office and get used occasionally for various purposes. Plus my wife's desktop and two laptops.)

You know, just the other day my coworkers were talking about Hoarders, and I commented that the nice thing about being a digital packrat is that the data I've been holding on to for decades doesn't take up a hell of a lot of space. My comic collection, on the other hand...

Anyhow, not the point. The point is, here's Innerview: The Zappas on Video Games, by Merl H Reagle, JoyStik, January 1983. Scanned by, and from the personal collection of, Scott Sharkey, and preserved through over a decade's worth of computer migrations by packrat Thaddeus R R Boyd.

Innerview, Page 1Innerview, Page 2

Interesting, but not altogether surprising, that games were already being scapegoated by politicians and the media for juvenile delinquency as far back as 1983.

I also love the story of Frank recording the noise in an airport arcade and then listening to it on the plane. I think he also tells the story in The Real Frank Zappa Book -- that or I've been misremembering where I read it for the past decade.

(Christ. An interview from 30 years ago which I've been copying from hard drive to hard drive for one-third of that time...)

Props to Perry

There's a lot I don't like about Rick Perry -- about his state, its legislature, his party.

But as I noted a few weeks back, that legislature just passed a landmark E-Mail privacy bill.

And last week, Perry signed it.

Obviously, in the intervening weeks there have been some stark reminders about why government snooping on E-Mail should be reined in. And I'm sure that informed Perry's decision.

But the bottom line is, he did the right thing. At this moment in time, the governor of Texas has a better record on E-Mail privacy than the President of the United States.

There are moments -- they're rare, but there are moments, like this one -- where I see the Republican Party live up to its promise. Where it demonstrates that it can defend individual liberties from runaway government. That I think, y'know, maybe they've got something here. Maybe they can be a force for good.

And then I see a photo like this one
Pat Robertson and Donald Trump
and I'm like, "Oh, right. Republicans."

But what the hell -- Jonathan Strickland, the guy who sponsored this bill and, I assume, the son of Hank Hill's boss, is 29 years old. He'll be around long after those two assholes are dead. If guys like him and Derek Khanna represent the future of the Republican Party, then it's a future where I could maybe someday see myself aligning more with the Republicans than the Democrats.

They're really gonna have to do something about that whole anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-poor people, anti-science thing first, though.


(And I really should be careful about that "Republicans I'd consider voting for" label. I voted for McCain in 2004 and look how that turned out.)

(I also voted for Jan Brewer in 2006. Though in my defense, I was misled into believing I was voting for Janet Napolitano.)

(Come to think of it, the "Democrats I'd consider voting for" list hasn't gone so well for me either.)


Photo courtesy of Talking Points Memo, as linked by Mark Evanier.

Newsroom

I never got around to watching West Wing, but I know Aaron Sorkin's work well enough to say yup, Newsroom sure is an Aaron Sorkin show.

It's a show where snappy patter gives way to self-congratulatory political bombast; it's probably the most sanctimonious liberal wankfest you'll find on TV now that Olbermann's gone. And I say that as a liberal, a guy who generally likes Olbermann, and for that matter somebody who's been enjoying The Newsroom. Mostly.

But man it does get pretty over-the-top.

And that's when I like to picture Jeff Daniels with frozen snot caked to his face and his piss-soaked pants stuck to Jim Carrey. It helps to deflate the hot air a bit.

The show's also written around not one but two (and, spoiler alert, three by the end of the first season) annoying damn will-they-won't-they office romances: one between the two principals, and another between a couple who bear at least a passing resemblance to Jim and Pam on The Office.

And when I say "at least a passing resemblance", I mean the Jim Halpert character is named "Jim Harper".

He's not as fun as Halpert, though. He's more of a joyless workaholic who nevertheless is more appealing than Not-Pam's current boyfriend. While Not-Pam is less charming than Pam, makes poorer life decisions, and is frankly a little dumb in a way the show repeatedly plays for laughs. In short, the whole thing reeks of the network demanding that the writers stick some romantic tension in between all the political monologues, and the writers put about as much effort into it as changing "Halpert" to "Harper" would suggest. ("So, 'Poochie' okay with everybody?")

In their defense, they know it. There's a whole episode devoted to how the show-within-a-show has to cover Casey Anthony because it's getting clobbered in the ratings by focusing on shit that's actually important instead. The message is pretty clear: look, sometimes you have to put crowd-pleasing bullshit on your show to get people to watch the important parts. And I have faith that the writers are smart enough and have a strong enough grasp of irony that the connection is intentional.

James Clapper and Other Disgraces

So I mentioned last night that asking the question, "Is Snowden a hero or a traitor?" completely misses the fucking point.

Here now to completely miss the fucking point are The New Yorker's John Cassidy ("hero") and Jeffrey Toobin ("traitor").

I guess we should applaud The New Yorker for showing its journalistic integrity by presenting both sides of the not-actually-the-fucking-story.

Look. I don't give a goddamn if Edward Snowden raped a bear in his meth lab while canceling Firefly. First of all, he'd still be less of an asshole than Dick Cheney, and second, if you think it's okay for the government to spy on your phone and Internet habits, you should probably come up with a better reason than "Well, I'm for it because that bear rapist is against it!"

Now, I happen to believe, based on the limited information we have at the moment, that Snowden did the right thing, and also that Snowden has gigantic balls. But I don't believe he's the most important person in this story. I don't think he's even in the top fifty.

Someone who is in the top fifty is James Clapper, perjuring fuck and Director of National Intelligence, who recently testified before Congress that the government is totally not collecting surveillance information on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. Here, go watch John Oliver kill it on his first episode as fill-in host of The Daily Show (and be sure to stick around for the Moment of Zen where 2006 Joe Biden explains how this sort of thing is totally not okay when a Republican does it).

Fred Kaplan at Slate advocates firing Clapper, because, among other reasons, he has proven himself totally incapable of discussing this subject in an intellectually honest fashion or any other kind of honest fashion.

Among other reasons, here's Clapper's inept fucking explanation for why his lie was actually true:

Rambling on in his rationalization to Mitchell, he focused on Wyden’s use of the word “collect,” as in “Did the NSA collect any type of data ... on millions of Americans?” Clapper told Mitchell that he envisioned a vast library of books containing vast amounts of data on every American. “To me,” he said, “collection of U.S. persons’ data would mean taking the book off the shelf and opening it up and reading it.”

Jesus Christ. Between this asshole and Petraeus, I'm beginning to worry that our entire intelligence apparatus is made up of people who can't even come up with a convincing lie if they're given months of warning and an entire team of speechwriters.

Hey Clapper -- this is my comic book collection.

Image: My comic book collection.

I haven't read most of those books in years. Does that mean they're no longer part of my collection? Or does reading them once count? Does that mean the comics I bought last week and haven't gotten around to reading aren't part of my collection yet? Is this some kind of quantum physics shit where my collection is altered by the act of observing it?

What about garbage collection? Does it only count as collecting my garbage if the sanitation workers break open the bags and root through 'em? Because I've never seen them do that, and yet the city keeps charging me a garbage collection fee anyway.

You get the point. He's claiming his lie is not actually a lie because he was using a definition of a word that he just completely made up. Like how I had sex with Natalie Portman. It's not a lie because when I say "had sex" I actually mean "sat on the couch" and by "with Natalie Portman" I mean "and played Nintendo".

Man, I have had so much sex with Natalie Portman.

I don't know if I'm even as bothered by his lying -- hell, that's his job, I'd expect nothing less -- as the sheer fucking laziness of his lying. It's downright goddamned insulting. It lacks even the sublime, recursive absurdity of "That depends on what your definition of is is." It's just worthless. And so is Clapper.

I don't really think throwing him out on his ass is going to change things. Throwing the Republicans out of the White House sure as hell didn't.

But what the hell, they still deserved to be thrown out, and so does he.

Firing Clapper certainly wouldn't guarantee we'd have an honest national discussion about the nature of our government's various spying programs.

But not firing Clapper will guarantee that we won't.

The Real Questions

I was going to write a post about Edward Snowden.

But then I realized: that's bullshit.

Because this isn't about Edward Snowden.

I just read a great piece by Matt Taibbi titled As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point. He argues, persuasively, that focusing on Manning is what the government wants. It wants the story to be about a person instead of about the information he disclosed.

The NSA story isn't about Snowden, any more than the military leaks are about Manning or Assange. "Hero or traitor?" is a bullshit question.

There are real questions we should be asking. Here are a few courtesy of Bruce Schneier:

We need details on the full extent of the FBI's spying capabilities. We don't know what information it routinely collects on American citizens, what extra information it collects on those on various watch lists, and what legal justifications it invokes for its actions. We don't know its plans for future data collection. We don't know what scandals and illegal actions -- either past or present -- are currently being covered up.

We also need information about what data the NSA gathers, either domestically or internationally. We don't know how much it collects surreptitiously, and how much it relies on arrangements with various companies. We don't know how much it uses password cracking to get at encrypted data, and how much it exploits existing system vulnerabilities. We don't know whether it deliberately inserts backdoors into systems it wants to monitor, either with or without the permission of the communications-system vendors.

And we need details about the sorts of analysis the organizations perform. We don't know what they quickly cull at the point of collection, and what they store for later analysis -- and how long they store it. We don't know what sort of database profiling they do, how extensive their CCTV and surveillance-drone analysis is, how much they perform behavioral analysis, or how extensively they trace friends of people on their watch lists.

All that said: I can't resist linking the petition for Obama to debate Snowden. Obviously it's not going to happen, but if it gets 100,000 signatures, the White House will have to issue an official response.

And presumably up the signature requirement for an official response to 150,000 for next time.