Republicans are Wimps

Laura Ingraham on her radio show (from The Rachel Maddow Show):

I was going back on YouTube … and I was watching some of Reagan’s old debates from the 60s—late 60s, early 70s. There wasn’t a place he wouldn’t go to argue the conservative message and advocate for conservative principles. And he got a lot of grief for it, but he also—he won a lot of respect. And it seems to me that if we have Republicans out there, maybe coming up through the ranks, who are concerned about going on Rachel Maddow’s show or, you know, concerned that she’s gonna get the better of him or her in a sit-down, then we have real problems.

I couldn’t have said it any better: Republicans have real problems. They are wimps who surround themselves with like-minded people so they are never challenged.

I see this clearly today and I’ve been watching it happen over the last three decades. Republicans have systematically ghettoized themselves. It is sad to see conservatives I talk to who only get their news from conservative outlets like Fox News and right-wing radio: they are shocked that liberals even exist because their only experience of them is as straw-men seen through these media filters. What’s more, they are completely impotent against real arguments. Of course, this doesn’t cause them to abandon their beliefs; they simply don’t accept what are established facts.

It is really very tiring when you get to that point in all these arguments when you are asked to produce the proof, as though you should carry it in your pocket. They, of course, have accepted everything they’ve been told without a smidgen of proof. But if it goes against their prejudices, “There must be proof!” Occasionally, I do get through to these people. In time, I will provide them with newspaper articles and sometimes they actually read them. And then it is always the same, “You mean they’ve been lying to me?!”

Yes, deary: they’ve been lying to you.

And that’s how the Grand Old Party became the Simplistic New Party. And they have real problems, such as the fact that people like Ingraham think the party still has any relationship to Ronald Reagan—or even Bob Dole. Not that I’m saying that would be good, but it would be better.

The Man from San Sebastian

Like most people, I discovered DeVotchKa (apparently Russian for “girl”) in the delightful film Little Miss Sunshine. And I’ve heard a bit of their music since then and generally liked it all. Just today, I came upon a song from their most recent album 100 Lovers called The Man from San Sebastian. It is a wonderfully energetic song, produced in an almost wacky manner. The stark opening accordion somehow reminds me of the zither used throughout The Third Man.

I wish I could say that I knew what the song was about. There seem to be many clues in the video, but they mean little to me. At one point, a headline appears on the screen, “45.3 Kilos de Uranio Altamente Enriquecido”: 45.3 kg of Highly Enriched Uranium. That’s pretty specific, but still, the people in the photos? I’m not a modern man! I don’t know what’s going on now or recently. What’s more: I’m sure I’m not the only one who does not remember the man from San Sebastian.

My hunch is that the song itself is post-modern in the sense that it isn’t about anything. It is a song that pretends to be about revolution but is more about love but is really about nothing but word play. Here are the main lyrics:

It’s never too late to co-conspire commiserate
All it takes is a little bit of love and an awful lot of hate

Is it real? Does it exist?
I know it’s wrong, but who am I to resist?

All I want is one more time
Some of yours and some of mine

I don’t want to spoil the fun but am I the only one who sees what’s going on
Am I the only one who remembers the man from San Sebastian

It’s just a few more miles, I’ll make it smooth and worth your while
Don’t look so nervous man, we’re just here to lend a hand

According to the director of the video, Vincent Comparetto, the political photos are from people in the Basque Separatist Movement in Spain. He apparently did an interview with NPR, but you are best to check out the DeVotchKa—Making of Video video at Prometheus Productions (sorry, no direct link).

Copyright is for Wimps

CopyrightDean Baker wrote an excellent article about copyright that goes along with much of what I (as the creator of many copyrighted works) believe. I certainly don’t want to go back to the days of Cervantes when publishers alone were allowed copyright of authors’ works. But the truth is that today, with all the changes that have been made to the copyright laws, we are ending up with much the same thing. Baker takes on the common canard that welfare is social engineering while copyright enforcement is just protecting the free market:

The problem here is that copyright is social engineering. It is a government policy that redistributes money from the rest of us to the likes of Time-Warner, Disney, and Lady Gaga. The overwhelming majority of revenue raised through the copyright system goes to the entertainment corporations and a very small number of individuals. The vast majority of creative workers make little or nothing through the copyright system. [Tell me about it! -FM]

It is necessary to finance creative work, but copyright is an extremely inefficient tool for this purpose… It creates an enormous gap between the price and marginal cost of a product. Economists usually get upset when a tariff or other trade barrier raises the gap between price and marginal cost by 10-20 percent. In this case, items that would be free without a copyright monopoly, instead can be quite costly. This implies enormous economic losses.

In addition the enforcement of copyright is extremely expensive, especially in the Internet Age. The difficulties of enforcing this archaic system is the motive behind bills like SOPA, which would have imposed enormous costs on intermediaries to ensure that they were not being used to transfer unauthorized copies of copyrighted material.

Artistic freedom Voucher

In the article, Baker links to a paper he wrote about The Artistic Freedom Voucher. The basic idea is brilliant. Our current system (copyright law) supports creative activity by pushing money from the bottom to the top. The AFV would support creative activity in a much more direct way by allowing everyone to give $100 to their chosen artist. This would be done as a tax credit—in my mind at least, kind of like that question on Form 1040, “Would you like to give $3 toward elections?” or whatever it actually says. The program would be entirely voluntary. Taxpayers would not have to give and artists would not have to participate. If artists did participate, they would have to give up any copyright protection for some period of time (Baker suggests 5 years).

If everyone participated, this would support a half-million artists at an income of $40,000 per year. As Baker says, this is one possible alternative to copyright law. And one that would appeal to most artists who are not, like the Mothers of Invention, just in it for the money. The more important point is that there are lots of ways to support the arts. We don’t have to stick with copyright law and there is nothing “natural” about copyright law.

Protect Corporations (and Paul McCartney[1])

This is a very exciting idea to me, because I have long been a critic of copyright law. In the US, copyright is now a minimum of 95 years. This means the wonderful and rare “Lu-Brent’s” Exclusive Card Mysteries that I own is still under copyright even though it was published in 1933. Give me a break! It amazes me to think that the copyright on The Beatles’ Yesterday will outlive me! This is madness. And the government has only made it worse, extending copyright retroactively. This is not done for the benefit of artists and their heirs; it is done for the benefit of corporations. And it no only hurts art consumers, it hurts art creators.


[1] According to The Telegraph, McCartney is worth upwards of one billion dollars (a half billion pounds). Could this be why he really hasn’t done anything particularly good since my childhood? Let’s see, Shakespeare sucked after he was wealthy. Cervantes only got better throughout his life of poverty. I have three data points and the results are in: money destroys artists!

Update: It isn’t that I expected McCartney to do Yesterday and Penny Lane for the rest of his career. Quite the contrary. There are flashes of brilliance throughout his later career that make my observation all the more poignant. I still think that Here Today is the only listenable John Lennon tribute song, even if it does only barely transcends some of McCartney’s worst lyrical impulses.

A Little Meta

Host GatorHello boys and girls! After a day of trying, I’ve finally managed to get Frankly Curious transferred over to its new host. You see, the bad people over at Lunar Pages have clearly outgrown their infrastructure, and rather than investing in more are depending upon the fact that it is a total pain in the ass to move a website to a new server. Proof of this is that after all the work I’ve done, at this moment, individual articles are displaying with the Curiously Clever logo. But regardless of the trouble, I could not continue on with Lunar Pages. It seemed that every day the site was down for at least a couple of minutes and the night before last, it was down for almost a half hour. This resulted in my starting three problem tickets with tech support, billing, and sales. Not one of these have been answered.

So I’m taking a chance with Host Gator. They cost a tad more after the first year, but they have a 99.9% guarantee, which, if my calculations are right, means that if they are down for more than 45 minutes during a month, I get the month free. At that rate, I never would have paid Lunar Pages.