The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox

The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox
Apr 11 2015

ON April 9, 1865 — Palm Sunday — Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. Robert E. Lee negotiated their famous “Gentlemen’s Agreement” of surrender. In the ensuing celebration, a relieved Grant told his men, “The war is over.”

But Grant soon discovered he was wrong. Not only did fighting continue in pockets for weeks, but in other ways the United States extended the war for more than five years after Appomattox. Using its war powers to create freedom and civil rights in the South, the federal government fought against a white Southern insurgency that relied on murder and intimidation to undo the gains of the war.

And yet the “Appomattox myth” persisted, and continues today. By severing the war’s conflict from the Reconstruction that followed, it drains meaning from the Civil War and turns it into a family feud, a fight that ended with regional reconciliation. It also fosters a national amnesia about what wars are and how they end, a lacuna that has undermined American postwar efforts ever since.

Appomattox, like the Civil War more broadly, retains its hold on the American imagination. More than 330,000 people visited the site in 2013. In Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” as in many other popular portrayals, the meeting between Lee and Grant suggests that, in the words of one United States general at the surrender, “We are all Americans.”

Although those words were allegedly spoken by Ely Parker, a Tonawanda Seneca Indian, and although hundreds of thousands of African-Americans fought for the nation, the “we” in the Appomattox myth all too often is limited to white Americans. In fanciful stories of Grant’s returning a ceremonial sword to Lee, or of the United States Army’s saluting its defeated foes at the laying-down-of-arms ceremony, white Americans fashioned a story of prodigal sons returning for a happy family portrait.

Grant himself recognized that he had celebrated the war’s end far too soon. Even as he met Lee, Grant rejected the rebel general’s plea for “peace” and insisted that only politicians, not officers, could end the war. Then Grant skipped the fabled laying-down-of-arms ceremony to plan the Army’s occupation of the South.

To enforce its might over a largely rural population, the Army marched across the South after Appomattox, occupying more than 750 towns and proclaiming emancipation by military order. This little-known occupation by tens of thousands of federal troops remade the South in ways that Washington proclamations alone could not.

And yet as late as 1869, President Grant’s attorney general argued that some rebel states remained in the “grasp of war.” When white Georgia politicians expelled every black member of the State Legislature and began a murderous campaign of intimidation, Congress and Grant extended military rule there until 1871.

Meanwhile, Southern soldiers continued to fight as insurgents, terrorizing blacks across the region. One congressman estimated that 50,000 African-Americans were murdered by white Southerners in the first quarter-century after emancipation. “It is a fatal mistake, nay a wicked misery to talk of peace or the institutions of peace,” a federal attorney wrote almost two years after Appomattox. “We are in the very vortex of war.”


Re: The Internet’s Clearly Not Ready to Stream Big TV Events

[Note:  This comment comes from a reader of Dave Farber’s IP List.  DLH]

From: DV Henkel-Wallace <>
Subject: Re: The Internet’s Clearly Not Ready to Stream Big TV Events
Date: April 12, 2015 at 10:36:07 PDT
To: David Farber <>
Cc: Dewayne Hendricks <>

A shame this article missed the boat.  It even undermines its own conclusion by pointing out that realtime one-to-many events *can* work just fine.

The real problem is that the internet has evolved into a hierarchical centralized network, so nodes at the edge are disadvantaged with respect to the big nodes at the middle.  It was the edge-originated Slingbox transmissions that failed.

Amusingly, the Sling box only exists at all because of the screwed up and restrictive business models of the centralized media companies.  But even if those old-fashioned companies somehow came to their senses, the current architecture of the net still relegates the edge to mere “consumer endpoints” and inhibits the growth of Meercat/Periscope/Skype et al.

The Internet’s Clearly Not Ready to Stream Big TV Events
Apr 7 2015

As encryption spreads, U.S. grapples with clash between privacy, security

As encryption spreads, U.S. grapples with clash between privacy, security
By Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman
Apr 10 2015

For months, federal law enforcement agencies and industry have been deadlocked on a highly contentious issue: Should tech companies be obliged to guarantee government access to encrypted data on smartphones and other digital devices, and is that even possible without compromising the security of law-abiding customers?

Recently, the head of the National Security Agency provided a rare hint of what some U.S. officials think might be a technical solution. Why not, suggested Adm. Michael S. Rogers, require technology companies to create a digital key that could open any smartphone or other locked device to obtain text messages or photos, but divide the key into pieces so that no one person or agency alone could decide to use it?

“I don’t want a back door,” Rogers, the director of the nation’s top electronic spy agency, said during a speech at Princeton University, using a tech industry term for covert measures to bypass device security. “I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.”

Law enforcement and intelligence officials have been warning that the growing use of encryption could seriously hinder criminal and national security investigations. But the White House, which is preparing a report for President Obama on the issue, is still weighing a range of options, including whether authorities have other ways to get the data they need rather than compelling companies through regulatory or legislative action.

The task is not easy. Those taking part in the debate have polarized views, with advocates of default commercial encryption finding little common ground with government officials who see increasing peril as the technology becomes widespread on mobile phones and on text messaging apps.

Apple catalyzed the public debate in September when it announced that one of the world’s most popular smartphones would come equipped with a unique digital key that can be used only by its owner. Even if presented with a warrant, Apple could no longer unlock an iPhone that runs its latest operating system.

Hailed as a victory for consumer privacy and security, the development dismayed law enforcement officials, who said it threatens what they describe as a ­centuries-old social compact in which the government, with a warrant based on probable cause, may seize evidence relevant to criminal investigations.

“What we’re concerned about is the technology risks” bringing the country to a point where the smartphone owner alone, who may be a criminal or terrorist, has control of the data, Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Bitkower said at a recent panel on encryption hosted by the nonprofit Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee. That, he said, has not been the “standard American principle for the last couple of hundred years.”

Tech industry officials and privacy advocates take a different view. “I don’t believe that law enforcement has an absolute right to gain access to every way in which two people may choose to communicate,” said Marc Zwillinger, an attorney working for tech companies on encryption-related matters and a former Justice Department official. “And I don’t think our Founding Fathers would think so, either. The fact that the Constitution offers a process for obtaining a search warrant where there is probable cause is not support for the notion that it should be illegal to make an unbreakable lock. These are two distinct concepts.”

The increasing use of encrypted storage extends well beyond the iPhone or the similar option that Google offers — though not by default — on new versions of its Android operating system. Windows and Apple offer simple settings to encrypt the contents of personal computers, and several cloud storage companies encrypt the data they host with keys known only to their customers.

The Obama administration says it is not seeking to weaken the security tools themselves. “There’s no scenario in which we don’t want really strong encryption,” President Obama said in an interview with the online tech news outlet Re/Code in February. “I lean probably further in the direction of strong encryption than some do inside of law enforcement. But I am sympathetic to law enforcement, because I know the kind of pressure they’re under to keep us safe. And it’s not as black and white as it’s sometimes portrayed.”

Until Rogers’s remarks, U.S. officials had declined to say how they believed they could guarantee government access to a locked device without introducing security flaws that others could also find.


Publishers fight to block third-party revival of “abandoned” game servers

Publishers fight to block third-party revival of “abandoned” game servers
ESA sees proposed DMCA exemption as encouraging piracy, limiting copyright.
By Kyle Orland
Apr 10 2015

A major game industry trade group is fighting back against a proposed DMCA exemption that seeks to give gamers the right to modify games with abandoned online servers in order to restore online gameplay and functionality. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), with supportfrom the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America, argues that the proposed exemption would amount to “enabling—and indeed encouraging—the play of pirated games and the unlawful reproduction and distribution of infringing content.”

The argument centers on a proposed exemption to the DMCA’s DRM circumvention rules for games whose publishers have abandoned the online servers that represented the only official way to access online gameplay or authentication services. Last November, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) formally requested that users of such games be legally allowed to modify software and hardware to get around those dormant authentication server checks or to restore online gameplay through third-party servers.

In a 71-page brief, though, the ESA says that these kinds of workarounds can’t be separated out from the wider piracy-prevention functions that the DMCA protects against. To add third-party server support to a console game, for instance, the ESA argues that a user has to first get around access controls built into the software and the hardware itself to modify the code. “Consequently, the proposed exemption would, in effect, eviscerate virtually all forms of access protection used to prevent video game piracy.”

“Hacking video game access controls facilitates piracy and therefore undermines the core anti-piracy purposes of [the DMCA],” the ESA writes. “Hacking the video game access controls requires, by definition, hacking of the video game console or similar device in order to play the hacked video game. Once the access controls for the video game console are hacked, regardless of the purported purpose or intent of the hacker, any content, including pirated games, can be played on a video game console.”

For single-player games, the ESA says, “a user almost never needs to conduct ongoing video game authentication checks” with a server to maintain access to the game. Even for multiplayer games, though, the ESA notes that online services offered by game publishers go beyond what the EFF argues are “core” multiplayer gameplay functions. Microsoft and Sony, for instance, charge annual fees for services like leaderboards, downloadable content, chat, and achievements through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, separately from the purchase of the game.

“Contrary to the proponents’ claims that they should be able to ‘play games that they have already paid for,’ circumvention would enable users to avoid paying for a variety of online services, including network-based multiplayer gameplay, and get a better deal than they bargained for… users generally are not entitled to access online services (including multiplayer gameplay) as a result of purchasing a game,” the ESA says.


Infamous “podcasting patent” knocked out

Infamous “podcasting patent” knocked out
EFF warns that Personal Audio LLC is seeking more patents on podcasting.
By Joe Mullin
Apr 10 2015

A year and a half after the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a crowd-funded challenge to a patent being used to threaten podcasters, the patent has been invalidated.

In late 2013, after small podcasters started getting threat letters from Personal Audio LLC, EFF filed what’s called an “inter partes review,” or IPR, which allows anyone to challenge a patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The order issued today by the USPTO lays to rest the idea that Personal Audio or its founder, Jim Logan, are owed any money by podcasters because of US Patent No. 8,112,504, which describes a “system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence.”

The ‘504 patent has a priority date of 1996, but as EFF showed during its challenge to the patent office, that’s hardly the beginning of “episodic content” on the Internet. EFF relied on two key examples of earlier technology to beat the patent: one was CNN’s “Internet Newsroom,” which patent office judges found fulfilled the key claims of having “(1) episodes; (2) an updated compilation file; and (3) a ‘predetermined URL’ for the compilation file.”

Personal Audio lawyers tried to save themselves from that one by arguing that the stories on CNN are “not different episodes,” though, because “the [CNN] news segments are neither a series nor are they a program.”

The other key piece of “prior art” was radio broadcasts by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which were distributed online.

Podcasts online

The EFF has taken up various tactics to fight against “patent trolls,” but its fight against the Personal Audio patent was the first time it crowd-funded a patent challenge. The non-profit asked the public to help it raise $30,000 to file the inter partes review. The campaign touched a nerve, and in short order the EFF collected more than $80,000.

Personal Audio gave up on getting royalties from podcasters in 2014 after a lawsuit against comedian Adam Carolla almost went to trial. Carolla, who has one of the most popular podcasts, rallied his listeners after he was sued by

Personal Audio and spoke out against “patent trolls” in Congress. He raised more than $500,000 from his fans, but ultimately settled with the company. Personal Audio backed off of podcasters, not because it recognized the limits of its patent, but rather because they were too poor to be worth suing.

However, the company pushed ahead against television studios, believing that its content covered “episodic content” that included online video. It took its case against CBS to trial and won $1.3 million.

“We’re glad the Patent Office recognized what we all knew: ‘podcasting’ had been around for many years and this company does not own it,” said EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer.

Another EFF attorney who worked on the podcasting patent, Vera Ranieri, pointed out that even though there’s “a lot to celebrate here,” Personal Audio is still seeking podcasting-related patents. “We will continue to fight for podcasters, and we hope the Patent Office does not give them any more weapons to shake down small podcasters,” she said.

The history of Personal Audio dates to the late 1990s, when Jim Logan created a company seeking to create a kind of proto-iPod digital music player. But his company flopped. Years later, Logan turned to lawsuits to collect money from those investments. He sued companies over both the “episodic content” patent, as well as a separate patent, which Logan and his lawyers said covered playlists, that wrung verdicts or settlements from Samsung and Apple.

Unlike many non-practicing patent owners, which are sometimes derided as “patent trolls,” Logan didn’t hide from his patent campaign. He spoke publicly about his company’s history and his reason for pursuing patent royalties, giving interviews to National Public Radio and the CBC and doing a Q&A on Slashdot.

His product concept was “a handheld MP3 player that could download off the Internet some kind of personalized audio experience,” Logan told the CBC last year. “We designed that, we prototyped it, we went to investors trying to raise money to produce the product, and we were not successful.”

Feeding 7 billion

Feeding 7 billion
How food impacts communities around the world
By Matt Petronzio & Michael Hanson
Apr 12 2015

Food connects us, and at the same time helps shape our identity.

That’s the narrative Seattle-based photographer Michael Hanson tries to show in his ongoing series, Feeding 7 Billion. He documents food’s scarcity and abundance, the communities and rituals that surround it, and how it affects our planet.

For two months in 2010, Hanson traveled around the United States with his brother and friend in a short school bus that ran on vegetable oil, collecting stories and photos of America’s urban farming and local food movement. He saw the foundations of communities built on local farms. He saw teenage mothers in Detroit spend part of the school day on a working farm. And he witnessed New Orleans’ resilient Versailles community create makeshift backyard farms in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Since then, Hanson’s photography has grown to include more international stories of food: tea field workers in Sumatra, Indonesia; salt ponds in Maras, Peru; daily rationing in certain parts of Cuba; and women selling their last chickens at a Chichicastenango, Guatemala market in order to support their families.

“Where our food comes from was an obvious mission,” Hanson tells Mashable. “Food hits on multiple fronts. It defines our community. Food signals changes in tradition, history, geography. You can find out a lot about a country or culture by eating its food.”

Documenting where food comes from helps shine a light on world hunger and climate change — the haves vs. the have-nots, thriving landscapes vs. withering resources.

Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. The latest statistics show that approximately 805 million people do not have access to enough food to lead healthy, active lives. In the developing world, one in six children is underweight and 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry. And if female farmers had the same access to resources as male farmers, it could eliminate hunger for up to 150 million people.

A comprehensive 2014 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that climate change is beginning to drag down crop yields and poses a large threat to food security in the coming decades. Hunger and malnutrition could increase by up to 20% by 2050 as a result of climate change, according to the World Food Programme, as the world population skyrockets to an estimated 9.6 billion, driven largely by rapid rates of population growth in areas where food security is already a challenge, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.


A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks

A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks
Apr 11 2015

It is a peculiar, but unmistakable, phenomenon: As Barack Obama’s presidency heads into its twilight, the rage of the Republican establishment toward him is growing louder, angrier and more destructive.

Republican lawmakers in Washington and around the country have been focused on blocking Mr. Obama’s agenda and denigrating him personally since the day he took office in 2009. But even against that backdrop, and even by the dismal standards of political discourse today, the tone of the current attacks is disturbing. So is their evident intent — to undermine not just Mr. Obama’s policies, but his very legitimacy as president.

It is a line of attack that echoes Republicans’ earlier questioning of Mr. Obama’s American citizenship. Those attacks were blatantly racist in their message — reminding people that Mr. Obama was black, suggesting he was African, and planting the equally false idea that he was secretly Muslim. The current offensive is slightly more subtle, but it is impossible to dismiss the notion that race plays a role in it.

Perhaps the most outrageous example of the attack on the president’s legitimacy was a letter signed by 47 Republican senators to the leadership of Iran saying Mr. Obama had no authority to conclude negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Try to imagine the outrage from Republicans if a similar group of Democrats had written to the Kremlin in 1986 telling Mikhail Gorbachev that President Ronald Reagan did not have the authority to negotiate a nuclear arms deal at the Reykjavik summit meeting that winter.

There is no functional difference between that example and the Iran talks, except that the congressional Republican caucus does not like Mr. Obama and wants to deny him any policy victory.

On April 3, Colbert King, a Washington Post columnist summarized a series of actions by Republicans attacking the president’s authority in areas that most Americans thought had been settled by the Civil War. Arizona legislators, for example, have been working on a bill that “prohibits this state or any of its political subdivisions from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with an executive order issued by the president of the United States that has not been affirmed by a vote of Congress and signed into law as prescribed by the United States Constitution.”

The bill sounds an awful lot like John C. Calhoun’s secessionist screed of 1828, the South Carolina Exposition and Protest. Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic wrote that it was just “one of a series of kooky measures aimed at declaring our independence from federal gun laws, from the Affordable Care Act, from the Environmental Protection Agency, from the Department of Justice, from Barack Obama.”

Republicans defend this sort of action by accusing Mr. Obama of acting like a king and citing executive actions he has taken — on immigration and pollution among other things. That’s nonsense. The same Republicans had no objection when President George W. Bush used his executive authority to authorize the torture of terrorism suspects and tap the phones of American citizens. It is not executive orders the Republicans object to; it is Mr. Obama’s policies, and Mr. Obama.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who declared war on the new president in 2009 as minority leader and used the filibuster to paralyze the Senate, essentially told foreign governments to ignore the carbon-emission goals Mr. Obama was trying to set by international agreement. Because climate-change deniers in Congress and in some states oppose the effort, setting those goals is pointless, Mr. McConnell pronounced last month.

If this insurrection is driven by something other than a blend of ideological extremism and personal animosity, it is not clear what that might be. But it is ugly, it deepens mistrust of government and it harms the office of the president, not just Mr. Obama.