September 22, 2005

Robert Novak: Bush's political problems are a 'communications failure'

Robert Novak recently attended a traditionally pro-GOP conference, and wrote a column about his experience. In it, he describes a gathering of Republicans "bashing" the President and his administration on a wide range of topics. Uncomfortable with this, he spoke up, to be argued down. He notes that "When [a financier who regularly attends these events] thanked me for my comments and said he shared my sentiments, I asked why he did not express them publicly at a session. He replied that he did not feel able to articulate what he felt. Critics of the president who are vocal and supporters who are reticent comprise a massive communications failure."

Reading the article, however, we find only two examples of where Mr. Novak spoke up. The first comes when he addresses a panel on stem cell research, which he is shocked to find consists

"solely of scientists hostile to the Bush administration's position. In the absence of any disagreement, I took the floor to suggest there are scientists and bioethicists with dissenting views and that it was not productive to demean opposing views as based on "religious dogma." The response was peeved criticism of my intervention and certainly no support."
The second contribution Mr. Novak tells us about is where
as a member of the second panel consisting of journalists, I felt constrained to argue against implications that Hurricane Katrina should cause the president to rediscover race and poverty. My comments again generated more criticism from the audience and obvious exasperation by Charlie Rose.
So. Based on these two contributions, others felt they should thank Mr. Novak for voicing concerns that they felt they could not articulate. Furthermore, Mr. Novak's main concern here is that the disconnect between 'critics who are vocal' within a stronghold of the president's party and 'supporters who are reticent' in the same environs - note that he tells us there were strong no-quote rules in effect, which prevent him from giving us names or quoting anyone other than himself, so the reticence on the part of the supporters can't be for fear of being identified by anyone except their own party comrades. This, in effect, ignores the main issue, as far as I'm concerned, at least.

Mr. Novak, has it ever occurred to you that perhaps, just perhaps, the reason even some of your own are angrily overriding you in a private retreat is because your president and his administration are just wrong?

Just throwing that one out there, sport.

I note that you don't seem to be concerned about the actual state of affairs. You seem to be concerned that the President and the Administration are losing effective control of their message and their ability to mobilize and maintain party unity. That's the first (and only, really) thing you're offering concerns about in this article.

You call yourself a journalist? Go get a job writing for the Republican Party Newsletter if that's what you're going to cover.

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Cory Doctorow misses the point. Again.

Yet more of the same. This saddens me, really - it's an example of dogma overriding someone's ability to read and comprehend, much less argue. But Mr. Doctorow is at it again, this time over the Google Print lawsuit and resulting controversy. More after the jump. Mr. Sanfilippo, on the pro-Author's Guild Side, says regarding the BoingBoing coverage:
I don't think you're telling the whole story here. I'm the Tony Sanfilippo quoted in the AP story and who also appears in Google Print's FAQ here.

I have fully embraced Google Print for publishers, even wrote a study delivered at BEA and AAUP about using the Long Tail and Google Print to find new markets for scholarship, but this is entirely different.

Google Print for Libraries has two pretty major flaws. One being giving a digital copy of all of our works to the participating libraries where they will then most likely be used in e-course reserves without any compensation to ether author or publisher. University Libraries have an awful track record at compensating for e-course reserves and post our content frequently without any restrictions or security.

The second being Google will be profiting (through GoogleAds) on this content again without compensating the authors or publishers. Fair use should exclude commercial use. Even Creative Commons licenses (which I grant to my flikr account) gives you that option.

If we expect the production of good scholarship to be a viable, it has to be paid for somehow. I work hard to keep the price of our books as low as possible because I understand accessibility is directly related to cost, but until someone is willing to completely sponsor our work, we must protect our ability to break even.

Okay. I'm not sure I agree with all that, but okay. At the bottom of the post, Cory Doctorow retorts:

1. "University Libraries have an awful track record at compensating for e-course reserves and post our content frequently without any restrictions or security."

Universities already have a broad exemption to copyright under fair use doctrine. That they compensate authors at ALL for photocopying and web-posting excerpts from copyrighted represents a good-faith compromise, not a failure. And as to "restrictions" -- damned right universities don't use DRM!

2. "The second being Google will be profiting (through GoogleAds) on this content again without compensating the authors or publishers.

Fair use should exclude commercial use. Even Creative Commons licenses (which I grant to my flikr account) gives you that option."

Fair use does NOT require noncommercial use! 2Live Crew's Pretty Woman knockoff was a top-ten commercially released single that was still a fair use of the Johnny Cash Roy Orbison lick.

CC licenses may allow restriction of commercial use, but CC licenses are subordinate to fair use itself (as is stated in the second clause of every CC license). There's nothing in a CC license or the publication of a book that prevents commercial re-use per se (I'm sure that Tony's press's commercial books are themselves filled with fair use quotations).

3. "If we expect the production of good scholarship to be a viable, it has to be paid for somehow."

For starters, Google Print won't take a penny away from a publisher: what publishers are complaining about is that Google's figured out a way to make money from books and isn't proposing to cut them in for a share, but they're treating this new money that Google's making as though it comes out of their end.

As to supporting scholarship, how about our state-supported University system, then? Oh, and the new sales generated by Google Print? Both of these go a long way to supporting scholarship without requiring that universities be denied access to searachble indices of their own bought-and-paid-for collections.

4. "Google Print for Libraries has two pretty major flaws. One being giving a digital copy of all of our works to the participating libraries where they will then most likely be used in e-course reserves without any compensation to ether author or publisher."

If you support scholarship, how can you reject giving UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES searchable digital indices to their own collections because some of them might use them in a way that undermines your bottom line?

My problem with Mr. Doctorow's knee-jerk rejection of Mr. Sanfilippo's arguments boils down to one point. Mr. Sanfilippo nowhere said that he objected to universities posting *excerpts* under fair use. He said that Universities have a terrible track record at compensating authors for posting and photocopying their *content*. Which can be (and probably should be, although I won't put words in his mouth) read as 'content in its entirety.' The use of the phrase 'e-course reserves' indicates that 'excerpts' is not accurate. 'Reserves' are typically used for students to read materials in their entirety at the library. Excerpts are sometimes reserved, but typically full articles or book chapters are reserved. At that point, calling it a 'fair use excerpt' is stretching credibility; you're not 'citing' the work, and you're not offering it in support of your own scholarship. You're utilizing the work as a whole.

Mr. Doctorow's point would then have to be interpreted as 'the use of a work in a school library for the purpose of learning is fair use.' A logical conclusion of that would be that school libraries would not pay for books. This is demonstrably not true. The entire purpose of the reserve system in libraries is to conserve scarce resources - namely, the works on reserve - so that the students who need them the most (those to whom they have been assigned as reading) can be guaranteed that they will be available in the library and that no other patron has signed them out. This is because the library cannot simply make as many copies of the work as it would need to give them to every student to whom they have been assigned. Ergo, fair use, even as the libraries interpret it, does not mean that the library can duplicate these works as required. In fact, it usually doesn't even mean that the library can duplicate these works for use within the library, because I distinctly recall having to wait for others in the reserve room to finish with the reading before I could sign it out from the desk!

The problem with Google Print making complete copies of those works available to libraries is not that they are making 'indices' available. Mr. Sanfilippo may have a point; if, in fact, there are libraries that do have a bad track record at compensating publishers for reserve readings posted electronically, then making Google Print archives available to those libraries will, in fact, be offering them goods that they do not have presently (assuming that the archives include scans of books that they don't currently have in their collection, I am not sure of that). While deciding whether that is a violation is not my place, I think that would, in fact, be a concern.

"As to supporting scholarship, how about our state-supported University system, then?" Um, what about it? That's not the only source of scholarship. Authors are also scholars, Mr. Doctorow. At least, some of them are. Not all of them are privileged enough to be associated with a university with a large private endowment, or with a university supported by the state - and by the way, those latter are certainly not able to support independent research nearly as well as the better-funded in the former category. So I'm not entirely sure what the heck that throwaway comment has to do with anything.

Posted by jbz at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

I hate coming to the party late.

...but why didn't anyone tell me about Electric Six earlier? Jeez.

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September 20, 2005

Postfix, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and a Dell PowerEdge 2650

We run our mailman server on a Dell PowerEdge 2650. A while back, we migrated to a new distro (RHEL4) and hence a new mailserver and mailman version. We were using the postfix which shipped with RHEL4 - postfix-2.1.5-4.2 - and began having problems. Messages sent to the lists were not arriving. Not all of them, but a significant portion. So the game begins.

Upon investigation, we found that in all cases, the messages were showing up in mailman's list archives, indicating that they had been received by postfix on the list server, passed to mailman, processed by mailman, and added to the list archives in a timely fashion. So the hangup was somewhere either in mailman's outbound message processing or afterwards.

Looking in mailman's queue, we found that it was running and contained only seven or eight messages. Nope.

Moving along, we checked postfix on the list server. Whoa. Nine thousand messages. Using

showed us all of them. Although a couple of thousand of them were in various states which indicated 'normal' deferral, such as 'Connection timed out' or 'Host not found' or 'Mailbox full', several thousand had the following error message:
status=deferred (delivery temporarily suspended: unknown mail transport error)

Um. WTF?

Checked the process table. Postfix had multiple smtp agents running. Tailed the logs, and things were happening...but as we watched, messages flew by, deferring with that same error. We reloaded postfix, and confirmed that it reloaded its configuration - but no difference, same behavior. Okay, so postfix was functional, as far as it could tell us, but something was definitely wrong. Corrupt files? Perhaps.

We stopped postfix and had it run a check. It helpfully found the five or six known corrupt message files that it had already quarantined, announced that all of its permissions were correct, and returned. We started it back up. This time, mail began to flow properly. Looking in the mailqueue, however, many of the messages were still marked as deferred with that error. We manually flushed the queue (postqueue -f) and, watching the logs, saw them flood back into active status. A few minutes later, our list mail folders filled with backlogged list mail.

A few hours later, it happened again.

Then a couple of hours later, again.

I investigated further. Looking in the logs, I found the moment the first message came back as deferred. A few seconds prior to this, I found a warning:

postfix/qmgr 9083: warning: premature end-of-input on private/smtp socket while reading input attribute name

Going back to the prior incidents, I found similar but not identical errors a few seconds prior to them as well. In one case, I found a panic:myfree error warning of corrupt or unallocated memory. In each incident, however, what apparently happened was that one of the smtp agents had crashed and the qmgr (queue manager) had caught wind of that fact. The process ID number given in the warning message by the qmgr (9083 in the example above) was the proc number of the agent that had died, so by backtracking in the logs I could figure out which message ID the agent in question had been handling when it stopped reporting.

The problem was that when I restarted postfix, I found that in every case, those same messages that were in process during the crashes seemed to go out just fine. So it wasn't a case of a malformed or corrupt message, which is what had always been the cause of such behavior in my experience with postfix up to this point.

At this point, I had a problem. Well, two problems, potentially three. Problem one: an unknown factor was causing the intermittent but frequent crash of smtp agents on my lists machine. This by itself was merely annoying, given that postfix's master process was properly figuring this out, reporting it, and spawning new agents. However, it was rendered critical by problem two: Postfix, for unknown reasons of its own, upon discovering the crash of one of these agents, would start marking large numbers of messages in the queue as 'undeliverable.' Potential problem three: As far as I could tell, there wasn't any attempt later on to revisit those messages marked as such.

I'm not going to even try to address why postfix was behaving that way. Suffice to say it pissed me off immensely.

I attempted the almighty Google search. I found a couple of hits on the errors messages I was receiving. The answers, from the Postfix coxers themselves, seemed to fall into two categories. One: this kind of problem could be introduced when using mail scanner or routing scripts that directly touched the mail queue. Okay, not me; I'm using mailman but only in a manner prescribed, i.e. postfix delivers to mailman and mailman uses postfix's available tools to inject messages back into the queue. Two: Memory or hard drive troubles on the server. Okay, fair enough, I'll check.

Ran full hard drive checks. Nothing. Just for giggles, took the system drive of the server out of mirror mode, ran it on each of the mirrors individually. Showed the problem both times. Put it back into (PERC hardware) mirror. I consider that to come as close as I can to eliminating hard drive corruption as a cause. To be safe, I disabled swap on the machine in case there was a problem with the swapfile, and ran it on physical RAM. Nope, problem still showed up. Okay. Problem isn't in swap disk.

What about RAM? Downed the server, and ram memtest86+. Note that this program doesn't really like PowerEdge 2650s - it shows a constant error on one address in high RAM which I suspect is used by the ServerWorks management hardware. Other than that...nothing, really. Decided to be safe. Ordered new DIMMs from Dell. Installed. Nope. Same problem. I consider that, again, to essentially rule out the 'bad RAM' problem.

Finally, I was forced to do what I didn't want to do. I upgraded postfix past the official Red Hat release, to 2.2.5.

It's been 12 hours, and it hasn't crashed an agent once, nor marked any of the mail as temporarily suspended.

I'm a little annoyed about this, and here's why.

First of all, the postfix crew were adamant that this wasn't postfix's fault. I understand their bias, but, um, heh. I'll let that one go. I wasn't using the 'current' version anyway.

What really pisses me off: Why the hell did postfix 'handle' a crashed smtp agent like that anyway? How am I to know it won't *still* do that? Please don't tell me to go read the code. I'm an op. I'm not a software engineer. If the only way I can be reasonably sure your software will work the way it should is to read the code, because testing a prior version has resulted in behavior I can't explain and this behavior hasn't been addressed in docs, then there's a problem. Back to the point: Why does a crashed smtp agent result in messages in the queue being flagged as undeliverable? The entire reason for there being a watchdog process and multiple smtp agents (well, one reason) is so that one agent dying shouldn't be able to tank mail delivery as a whole.

Anyway, just another day as an Op.

Posted by jbz at 1:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

Here Endeth the Nannywidget

So Darthwagen, despite being the car of my dreams and my willing partner in automotive crime, has suffered these past ten months we've been together. He has suffered from the automotive equivalent of the V-chip, placed there for some inexplicable reason by his makers.

But precision tool and gentle hand hath wrought his freedom from the restriction on his hydraulic sinews, and here, here is the evil scab:


...and it shall darken our shifting no more.

No more.

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September 11, 2005


The truth. This is why Turd Blossom - er, excuse me, Karl Rove - has a job. His principal is entirely fucking disconnected from the reality of life in this country. Unfortunately, KR's job isn't to fix that, but to make it someone else's fault.
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September 9, 2005

From Bad To Worse

The Adminstration and their cronies in Congress gear up to deflect any blame by setting up 'investigations' of their own offices and appointees that they themselves control, using bodies which are to have no oversight or legal power to make changes as well as being controlled by the incumbent party. The first cursory checks of the political hacks whose incompetence has already killed unknown numbers of Americans on the Gulf Coast and cost us an unknown amount of time and resources are showing that - surprise - they not only couldn't do the jobs they were in, but lied about their experience, apparently habitually. When the head of FEMA had only one emergency services-relevant item on his resume - "overseeing the emergency services division" of Edmond, Oklahoma from 1975-1978, it would behoove him to make sure that that was accurate. But no. According to the head of PR for the city of Edmond, he was in fact an 'assistant to the city manager' and that from 1977 to 1980. What did he do? According to the city manager at the time, "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

When asked about this difference, FEMAs office of public affairs insisted that in fact while Mike Brown began as an intern, he became an 'assistant city manager' and (note this carefully) - the staffer in the office insists that "according to Mike Brown, a large portion of the points raised by TIME are very inaccurate."

Ooooh, that's interesting.

In other words, the professional flack whose job is to defend her boss has just said that not only is there some truth to the issues TIME has raised, but she's said something that directly contradicts the words of the city officials who employed Mike Brown at the time. Furthermore, and this is the most interesting to me, the professional PR shield said "according to Mike Brown." She explicitly sourced the rebuttal to the man himself. She didn't place the organization or anyone else's reputation behind it. She placed the weight of the veracity of that rebuttal squarely on the man's shoulders - so if, in fact, he has been stuffing his screamsheet, it's alllll his bad when the chickens come home to roost.

What that is, if you're not a bureaucrat, is a glaring sign that your organization is starting to disassociate itself from its head in the expectation that bad shit is going to happen to said head.

Now the question is to what degree the White House, the dumb-shit actor responsible for placing this idiot there in the first place, is going to spend political capital shoring him up - or whether they're going to simply burn him to save their own guilty-as-sin skins. "Oh, he *lied* to us. We thought he was competent!"

"But you didn't bother checking with his prior employers?"


This will be interesting.

Update: Looks like they're going to burn him. Now we just have to make sure they can't avoid their own culpability.

Posted by jbz at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 7, 2005

Impeach George Bush. Bring down the officials who failed us.

Read this now. As in, right now. It's the story of one of those 'hotel guests' from New Orleans. It is an eyewitness testimony to the fact that the people of New Orleans were able and willing to self-rescue - and the official organs of government stood in their way. The Federal Government didn't respond, leaving the local government (with its myriad and longstanding problems of social justice) to perform as it would - which seems to include lying, cheating, stealing, and firing weapons at Americans trying to leave New Orleans because they were on foot and not 'properly' in cars like good, prosperous folk.

The account tells of the basic decency of Americans, be they from Louisiana or Texas. It tells of essential cooperation once the basic safety of self and dependents was reasonably secure. It speaks of a descent into chaos that was at the very least abetted by the containment policies of local and federal officials - policies which look discriminatory in the best light, and damnably racist under any sort of examination, with a healthy dose of sheer stupidity and panic thrown in.

This is what happens when the idea of 'small government' is appropriated by the practitioners of incompetent government in an attempt to carry out larcenous government.

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September 6, 2005

I hate myself for the suspicions...

...but given the degree to which the Administration propaganda-and-misdirection machine is being cranked up, the timing of this just seems really, really, really, really convenient.

I draw hope from the fact that it doesn't show up on Google News' front page at all, an hour after posting.

Posted by jbz at 8:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 3, 2005

Mayor Ray Nagin Calls It

There is a transcript of an interview with Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans, available online. It is heartbreaking. I have not commented on the New Orleans situation here because, frankly, I don't have any expertise or any insight, and other than donating funds I have been trying to just keep myself in check. I understand that given the material on this blog, any attempt I make to comment on the Federal Government's failure to serve and protect the people of New Orleans will come across as just more ranting.

But you should read the transcript. This is a man on the spot, who is calling it.

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September 1, 2005

Eyes on the Prize to return to PBS

As NPR briefly noted, Eyes on the Prize has received funding from the Ford Foundation and private sources to sponsor a new PBS airing of the series. This means, as far as I can tell (because I'm not in the loop) that monies will be made available to license the works contained within Eyes for a public television showing as well as for educational use. This is a direct 'next step' from the previously mentioned report on clearing the rights that the Ford Foundation had sponsored.

In addition to clearing rights, this money can/will be used to edit the documentary to remove any segments for which rights cannot be re-cleared, so as to permit its display.

Note that this is explicitly not the clearing of rights for a home video release of Eyes, at least separate from PBS. However, I do not have information on whether or not PBS will be able to offer media of the series as broadcast once the airing has occurred. As I get more information, I'll post it.

Many thanks to the Ford Foundation for their support over the years for Henry's work! Thanks as well to all private donors for their support.

As far as I am aware (although I haven't read the grant), no money from this grant will be paid to Blackside or its owners as compensation for re-airing the series (none was requested). Although some money may be used for editing the series to comply with licensing, that will be on a 'cost' basis.

As people will probably immediately ask about home video licensing - well, I don't know. I should point out that at least half a million dollars of this total, if not substantially more, will be going just to clear the rights for educational use and airing rights on PBS. Clearing rights for perpetual home use (to sell a home video release) would likely be more. So, to the several folks that have written emails ranging from questioning to scathing about why the series isn't available, there's your yardstick. As Henry's family has been trying to raise funds to license the series for a private release, you now have some indication of the amount of money we're talking about. Please bear in mind, again, that Blackside the company does not exist other than as a legal entity; furthermore, it has no income, or assets it can sell other than the rights to its works which it still holds. That's not a solution, really, unless those rights can be 'mortgaged' for the funds to release the series - which has not been possible to date.

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