YouTube’s Broken Copyright System

CopyrightThis is a very good video from a guy who does game reviews on YouTube. Now I don’t care about games, but this video is about the truly fucked up system where people who make videos are guilty until proven innocent. All someone has to do is say, “Hey! He’s using my copyrighted material!” And the video gets blocked. The situation is completely unacceptable. And it’s interesting because if three videos get blocked in this way, YouTube takes the channel down. But there appears to be no three strikes rule for the copyright holders. They can just throw out spurious claims, have them overruled, and nothing bad ever happens to them.

As you probably know, I am very unhappy with our copyright system. It is screwed up and I say that as someone who is nominally protected by copyright. Here are a few of the articles I’ve written on the subject:

Copyright: Forever Less One Day
Our Failed Copyright System In Not MLK’s Fault
Defining GDP Up
Vague Patent Trolling
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Copyright Reform
Winners Always Win
Corporations are Rarely Creators
Copyright is for Wimps
Andrew Keen’s Big Bait and Switch

But check out this video because it is important stuff. And he’s giving the profits from it to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Nancy Kulp and the Conservative Dick

Nancy KulpYou probably know Nancy Kulp as the actress who played Miss Hathaway on the The Beverly Hillbillies. Later in life, she became very involved with the Democratic Party in her home state of Pennsylvania. This led to her running for a House seat in 1984. It was an overwhelmingly Republican district, so she was never going to win it. But you know, that’s part of being a good soldier for the party: run an unwinnable campaign, because you never know, your opponent my die a week before the election. (It happens!) So she ran and lost. No big deal.

Kulp’s co-star in the series, Buddy Ebsen was very conservative. During the run of the show, Kulp and Ebsen had many fierce political arguments. I suspect it went something like this. Ebsen would say, “We ought to ship all those Irish back to Ireland!” And then Kulp would say, “You’re and idiot!” Regardless, after the show was canceled in 1971, I suspect that they didn’t talk much. But in the 1984, Ebsen inserted himself into the campaign.

He went so far as to make a radio ad for Kulp’s opponent, Bud Shuster. On the ad, Ebsen said, “Hey Nancy, I love you dearly but you’re too liberal for me—I’ve got to go with Bud Shuster.” This is strange given that Ebsen not only didn’t live in that district, he didn’t even live in the state of Pennsylvania. So he couldn’t “go” with Bud Shuster regardless. He was just being a dick in a race that Shuster was going to win as long as he didn’t die. And it is 29 years later and he’s still alive!

But it makes me wonder. Are conservatives proud of being total dicks or do they just not know any better?

Odds and Ends Vol 2

Odds and EndsWell, here we are with another collection of odds and ends. Rather than just do the old stuff, I’ve thrown in a few things from today and yesterday. I begin and end with some discussion of revolution. Perhaps it is because when you get right down to it, I’m not much of an ideologue, but I don’t dig on revolution. Unless there is just no other way forward, incremental change is best. Violence is almost never the answer. And in America at this time it is most definitely not the answer. Those who think that we are on the verge of tyranny (and that includes people on the left) are crazy. I am all for doing battle, but only in the metaphorical sense of that word. We need to fight with ideas and community, not knives and guns. And if that makes me sound like a new age hippy, so be it.

  1. The very great Chris Hedges thinks that the time has come, Let’s Get This Class War Started. He quotes Aristotle as saying that there are two possible ways forward for an oligarchic state. Either those in power repress the masses or the messes revolt. He says we have the first and it is time to do the second. I would put it a bit differently. I think that the masses are repressed, but not so much in the way they once were. We have a system that fools the masses into thinking that they are free. So they keep voting into power different members of the oligarchy. This is doubly constricting because if the masses ever decide that they will simply vote in people who do what is best for the 99%, the oligarchs will just go to Plan B: direct repression. I’m assuming here that Hedges is talking about a peaceful revolt. He’s seen too much war to want to start one. I’m ready for a peaceful revolt. But it will take a long time, because most Americans have been thoroughly indoctrinated into The American Lie of equality of opportunity and all that jazz. That’s no more true than Santa Claus or Thor, but people hold onto it and it is hard to get them to give it up. But we have two whole generations now who have lots of evidence to counter The American Lie. There may be hope—even in my lifetime.
  2. This is from Raw Story (via Digby). Pope Francis continues his charm offensive on my heart. And it is working:
    The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.

    And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason, Jesus said to them, “You have taken away the key of knowledge.” The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with [their?] many requirements.

    The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens. Ideology chases away the people. It creates distances between people and it distances the Church from the people. But it is a serious illness, this Christian ideology. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?

    He might as well have said, “If your Christian faith is easy, you are doing it wrong.”

  3. Two important points from Dean Baker. First, Problems With Signing Up for Obamacare Was a State Choice. It appears the reason the exchanges are so screwed up is that the administration wasn’t expecting that 34 states would decide to spite the federal government and their own people by choosing not to set up their own exchanges. As a result, the administration did not initially allocate enough resources to properly do the over-large exchanges.

    Second, Europe and Canada have a tentative trade agreement that eventually will expand the UK economy by 0.08%. Remember this when people talk up a US-Europe deal. These deals do very little good for our country. But they very much increase enforcement of copyrights and other rents that help the rich and hurt the poor. So unless you own a bunch of stock in Disney, don’t buy the rhetoric.

  4. Alec MacGillis wrote a good article, Obama Beat the Hostage-Takers. Now He Has to Fight the Fiscal Scolds. It’s about the Peterson brigade, best represented by Simpson-Bowles. They are continuing their full-court press to balance the federal budget. But it does miss the most important element about these people. They don’t care about the deficits. They want to cut entitlements. They are also keen on raising taxes, but mostly on the poor and middle classes. And in a practical sense, their plans will always decrease taxes on the rich. This is because their plans always start with cutting the marginal tax rates. This is paid for by closing loopholes. But as we all know, new loopholes are created as quickly as old ones are plugged. So for a year or so after the Simpson-Bowles plan was adopted, the rich would probably pay higher taxes. And for the decades after that, they would pay less in taxes. So MacGillis is right: Obama needs to fight the fiscal scolds. But they are worthy opponents in the sense that they are a bunch of liars that want to hurt the poor and help the rich.
  5. There is a narrative about the Heritage Foundation that goes like this: in the past, they were a real think tank; sure, they were conservative but they did real work; now they are just a bunch of hacks that do nothing but create propaganda for the conservative movement. There is perhaps a little to this narrative. The Heritage Foundation did, after all, put together what we now call Obamacare. And once Obama was in office and he decided to use their policy recommendation, they dropped it like a socialist potato. But as Jason Stahl wrote in Salon, The Heritage Foundation Has Always Been Full of Hacks. He provides an excellent history of the group. It was specifically designed to push conservative ideas—just as it does to this day:
    In the spring of 1971, [Heritage founders] Feulner and Weyrich were working with their bosses on supersonic transport legislation. Both men and the officials they represented favored continued federal funding for the plane but lost the final Senate vote by a slim margin. After the vote the men received an [American Enterprise Institute (AEI)] study on the issue. Weyrich confronted AEI president William Baroody Sr about the tardiness, to which Baroody supposedly replied, “We didn’t want to try to affect the outcome of the vote.” Feulner argues in the official Heritage institutional history, “It was at that moment that Paul and I decided that conservatives needed an independent research institute designed to influence the policy debate as it was occurring in Congress—before decisions were made.”

    What I find especially interesting here is the policy that started all this: supersonic transport. Socialism is just fine with conservatives as long as it benefits the wealthy!

  6. This is a very famous photo from the weekend before the government shutdown ended:
    Man Waving Confederate Flag in Front of White House

    I’m very taken with the two flags together. The one flag is for the US Marine Corps. I’m not sure what the message is supposed to be. “This time the Marines will support our treason”? And then there are the signs that the people are holding, “Impeach Obama.” Fair enough. That’s working inside our political system. But the confederate flag is a symbol of treason, pure and simple. See, for example: NASCAR Culture and Sport. And: No More Confederate General Bases! I have zero tolerance for the confederate flag. As I wrote before, “Germans manage to show their pride without waving Nazi flags around.” And I don’t think that’s hyperbolic in the least.

That’s all for now. Slowly I’m getting the backlog out. The problem is that good things just keep coming in!

EU Needs Shake Up, but Without Fascists

Gideon RachmanGideon Rachman is a good guy. He’s a smart guy too. And knowledgeable! But man oh man, does he not understand the Tea Party. And sadly, he’s not too clear on what the European Union needs either. Yesterday in the Financial Times, he wrote, Watch Out for the Rise of a European Tea Party. (It is behind a pay wall.) He is fearful that because of the way the European Union is set up, a crazy party from a small state could gum up the works like Ted Cruz just managed to do in the United States.

You have to understand: Rachman is a conservative in the old sense of the word. He doesn’t like the chaos of revolution. He prefers that the technocrats take care of things because they know what they’re doing. And I am much in agreement with him about these things. The problem comes in with the question of who is thought to be an expert. It is too often determined not by skill and knowledge but by affinity to the interests of the ruling elite.

We have seen this in the European Center Bank, which has long acted as though the only possible policies they could pursue are those preferred by Germany. So in my opinion, the European Union could use a little shaking up. As it is, the whole thing is little more than a plutocracy, with all the establishment types on pins and needles over the thought that the people might do something rash like vote for governments who are really looking out for their interests. I wrote about one example of this last month, Disingenuous Technocrats.

One of the towering figures in the EU is Olli Rehn. He’s one of the oh so Serious People—a technocrat who will make all of Europe take that bitter economic medicine that it needs. He is perhaps the loudest voice for economic austerity. Yet when the new French government decided to balance its budget with tax increases instead of spending cuts, Rehn wasn’t happy. They weren’t balancing the budget the right way! The question is who defines the right way to balance a budget and in Rehn’s case, it is the German bankers. I know of no reason to choose spending cuts over tax increases other than that spending cuts hurt the poor and tax increases hurt the rich.

But it’s in talking about the Tea Party that Rachman goes most astray. Like most outsiders, he mistakes the Tea Party for its rhetoric. As I discussed earlier today, the base of the Tea Party movement is racism. But this isn’t typical poor people’s xenophobia that comes out of fear for their jobs. The Tea Party is made up of fairly wealthy (upper middle class) people. And it is funded by billionaires. So members of the movement may claim to be against elitists, but that’s just because in the conservative world, an elitist is a liberal college professor, not a conservative billionaire who inherited all of his money.

Rachman is right about the movement being anti-immigration. There are two elements to this. First, it is cultural. They see America as a white man’s country and they don’t want that changed. But even more important, they are concerned that immigrants will vote and thus the white Tea Party supporters will lose power. So the movement is an elitist reaction to the barbarian hoards at the gate. This is distinct from what is going on in Europe.

I also don’t see these small parties in Europe causing the problems that the Tea Party does in the United States. The party only has power here because the conservative movement is terrified of them. Given the parliamentary system, I don’t see how such an intransigent party could ever cobble together a majority. If it did happen, it would mean that all the technocrats that Rachman trusts had failed miserably at their jobs. Hopefully, a gradual liberalizing of the European Union will take place with more Francois Hollandes, less Angela Merkels, and no Gabor Vonas.

Fighting Fire with Fire

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According to a CNN, a survey of the nation’s teachers indicates that “nearly three-fourths of the nation’s teachers say they personally would not bring a firearm to their school if allowed, but most educators believe armed guards would improve campus safety.”

If we truly want to keep our children safer while they’re at school, metal detectors and armed security personnel are not the panacea. Our country needs to pull it’s paranoid head out of it’s red, white and blue ass and prove that lives are more important than guns. We wouldn’t need to look to the government for gun reform if people who own guns would treat that “right” as a serious responsibility. It isn’t up to the schools or the government to raise children who are less likely to become violent. It’s up to parents and guardians to show kids what being responsible and respectful mean. Empathy and compassion are learned at home, not in our Lord of the Flies school system.

Our society is failing to address the underlying causes of gun violence — ignorance, poverty, and inadequate mental health care. Forget the Christian Right and their bullshit family values. Stop listening to the inflammatory rhetoric of the fearmongers. We are losing the sense of trust and community that a society needs to flourish.

A better future is something we should all be working toward together if for no other reason than a united and sincere desire to be decent human beings.

Bugs Bunny Does Franz Liszt!

Google Doodle: First Parachute Jump

I have a good young friend who is way into skydiving. That’s right, one of my friends is a crazy person. And I cannot image ever jumping out of an airplane myself unless it is absolutely, positively necessary. That makes me want to never go up in a plane again. Regardless, I was very excited last night to see that Google had created another doodle, this one in celebration of 216th anniversary of the first recorded parachute jump by Andre-Jacques Garnerin. He jumped from a height of 1,000 meters. That’s interesting, because my understanding is that skydivers are now supposed to open their chutes at that altitude. I’m sure that Garnerin wasn’t skydiving himself, and so he too opened his chute at the same height. I think that’s just a coincidence. The doodle is a little game, so click on over and check it out! (And, yes, I know that I am perhaps too fond of Google Doodles.)

Franz LisztThe great journalist who covered the Russian Revolution, John Reed was born in 1887. He died soon after in 1920. It would have been interesting to see how he would have reacted to how badly the revolution went after the death of Lenin. When I was kid, I was very impressed that a local grammar school was named after him—after an avowed communist who fled the country! But I was being silly. “John Reed” is a common name and apparently, the school was named after some local developer. Oh well.

The great actor Derek Jacobi is 75 today. He is best known for playing the title character in I, Claudius. I know him better as the title character in the Cadfael television movies (I own them all). He is always wonderful. But when I think of him, my mind immediately goes to his fantastic performance of Chorus in Henry V. Now I could write a rather long article about how brilliantly Kenneth Branagh includes the character into the movie. But you can see it in this opening scene. Effectively, Chorus is explaining how the players will do their best to present a whole war on the tiny stage. It’s the sort of thing that could easily have been removed from the film. But I am so glad the Chorus stayed, because it is the best part of the play. Also notice that this two minute scene is a single take. “Who prologue-like, your humble patience pray; gently to hear, kindly to judge our play”:

Other birthdays: actor Sarah Bernhardt (1844); comedian Curly Howard (1903); actor Joan Fontaine (96); poet Doris Lessing (94); Timothy Leary (1920); author Ann Rule (78); “Squeaky” Fromme is 65, so she won’t be trying to assassinate any more presidents; comedy writer Bob Odenkirk (51); and the great film director Spike Jonze (44).

Look, there were a lot of great birthdays today. The day, however, belongs to the great Romantic composer Franz Liszt who was born on this day in 1811. As you probably know, I’m not a great fan of this period. But the great Romantic composers are still great. And Liszt is wonderful and playful. He is also engaging and often challenging. But let us enjoy one of his very fun compositions, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. First done by humans:

Second done by a rabbit:

Happy birthday Franz Liszt!

Why the Tea Party Loves Rand Paul

Rand PaulLast night I read a bit of Parker and Barreto’s Change They Can’t Believe In. It looks at the Tea Party movement from a political science standpoint. It is a dense book and I’ve only read a small amount of it. But the base conclusion is that what makes the Tea Party movement distinct is a shared racial animosity—specifically toward President Obama. This isn’t to say that all Tea Party members are racist. But what distinguishes the group from a conservative who does not associate himself with it is racism.

This conclusion is freeing. I’ve long felt that the base of Republican appeal was racism. A very large percentage of those who vote Republican do so not because of the policies that politicians talk about, but rather because it is understood they favor policies that will do the “right” thing, “Screw the darkies!” And look at who is in the Tea Party. Mostly it is older white people who directly benefit from the two most costly government programs: Social Security and Medicare. So clearly they aren’t for small government except in the sense that they define it as ending programs for the poor, who they see as our darker skinned neighbors.

The conclusion also explains something that has long bothered me. Why is Rand Paul a star of the Tea Party? After all, he’s an isolationist who wants to gut the military. Most people in the Tea Party are freakishly pro-military. They want a strong military, a strong dollar, and a strong rendition of “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag” at all sporting events! But again: that’s true of all conservatives. So in that regard, Rand Paul is outside the mainstream of conservatism, including the Tea Party. So why is he a Tea Party favorite?

Two words: states’ rights. According to himself, Rand Paul doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He also claims that he thinks racism is a terrible business strategy. But he thinks that people ought to be allowed to discriminate against different races in their businesses. And he thinks that the federal government should have very little power. The power should be yielded to the states. From a racists’ perspective, it doesn’t matter what Rand Paul actually believes, although they surely think he too is a racist, but just can’t come right out and say it because of all the political correctness around. His belief in “states’ rights” means that Mississippi can go back to the good old days when it was almost impossible for blacks to vote.

Now I know that Paul would say he is against that. But there are lots of ways that a state can stop a group of people from voting without passing a law that says “blacks can’t vote.” We saw this in the past with poll taxes and “literacy” tests. And we are seeing it today with voter ID laws. But the senator doesn’t see a problem with these laws. At best, this represents willful ignorance.

So the Tea Party movement is distinct and should be called something like the “racist conservative party.” And Rand Paul is at least an apologist for racism. So he may be an apostate of the conservative movement in many ways. But in the one way that matters, Rand Paul is right in line with the Tea Party movement.

Afterword

Even when I considered myself a libertarian, I didn’t understand the “states’ rights” people. What does it matter if the federal government doesn’t oppress you if the state government does? And if you look at history, the states are far more likely to behave badly than the federal government. Libertarians often claim, “Well, you can move to a different state!” And that’s libertarianism all over: if you are wealthy you’ll be fine. There’s nothing like a political movement that is dedicated to afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable. Good job guys!

Consumer Reports Supports Exchanges

Consumer ReportsSunday, John Hayward over at Breitbart wrote, Consumer Reports Recommends Staying Away From ObamaCare for at Least a Month. Of course, that isn’t what he’s really talking about. This is the usual conservative media echo chamber crap that any problem with Obamacare means it is a failure; and any success with Obamacare will simply not be reported.

After lambasting the exchanges—which liberals complain about too, in one of many stunning examples of a lack of equivalence—Hayward gets on to to his main point. “The problem, as we’ve been discussing here at The Conversation lately, is that if the young chumps wait a month or longer to get fleeced by their sky-high ObamaCare premiums, the whole rotten scheme will collapse into a death spiral that begins devouring insurance companies.” The point about sky-high premiums is exactly the opposite of what’s going on. It is true that young and healthy people will pay a bit more for their insurance. This isn’t “sky-high.” And regardless, this is just the same thing that goes on with Social Security. Young people pay into it and get nothing back right away. Those young people will eventually get old and be able to afford health insurance. It’s a good deal.

But then Hayward claims that liberals want Obamacare to be destroyed. It is all part of our cunning plan to get a single payer system. Well, the cat is out of the bag! I didn’t think the conservatives would figure out what we were doing: first implement a terrible conservative approach to healthcare reform; make sure it fails, which isn’t hard because it is a conservative policy; and then the people will just be clambering for yet another government attempt at healthcare reform. Like most cunning plans, it absolutely wouldn’t work. That’s why it took a conservative to figure it out!

Most of those who do research don’t like it when people in the conservative media echo chamber quote their work. The thing is that most researchers try to be honest. And when a conservative latches on to some work, they do it only for propaganda’s sake. So Consumer Reports was none too happy with Breitbart and others who misused their research. It’s really quite simple: they were talking about the exchanges, not Obamacare itself. But it’s more than even that:

Consistent with our mission to inform and protect consumers, particularly in this complicated health care market, our advice remains the same: the best place to buy coverage on your own is through the Health Insurance Marketplace in your state. That guarantees you will get comprehensive coverage, and it’s the only way you can lower the cost of your premiums and possibly even your deductibles and copayments.

There is a big difference between Consumer Reports and conservatives like John Hayward: CR wants to help people make the best use of the tools available; Hayward wants to harm people so that he can push his ideological agenda. That also happens to be the difference between liberals and conservatives. Modern liberals really aren’t very ideological. Conservatives are nothing but.

From the No Shit Sherlock Files

potMarijuanna is safer than alcohol.

It’s true. There are actual, scientific reasons why you can get a doctor’s prescription for marijuana but not bourbon.

That so many people are more deeply disturbed by someone smoking marijuana than they are by children accidentally shooting themselves is truly baffling.

Dan Riffle is a former assistant prosecutor and the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, the primary financial backer of the 2012 campaign to regulate marijuana in Colorado. From his CNN Opinion piece today:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death. In a typical year, there are roughly 25,000 alcohol-induced deaths in the United States, most from long-term consequences like liver disease and some from acute alcohol poisoning brought on by binge drinking.

Marijuana, on the other hand, does not cause overdose deaths and comes with far fewer long-term health consequences. A 2009 Canadian study determined the annual health-related costs associated with alcohol are more than eight times greater per user than with marijuana. And, according to the Institute of Medicine, people who use marijuana are far less likely to become dependent than those who drink alcohol.

Even if you don’t drink, alcohol can kill you. Federal agencies report that 40% of violent crimes in the U.S. are linked to alcohol use, whereas those same agencies report that marijuana users usually do not commit violent crimes. Alcohol plays a role in a third of all emergency room visits. As a prosecuting attorney, I often had police confess to me how much they loathed arresting drunks, given how often the situation escalated to violence. I never fielded similar complaints about marijuana consumers.

I would rather see college kids toking up once in a while rather than indulge in the binge-drinking that is far too prevalent.

On a Lighter Note

Calvin & Hobbes7 Things You Might Not Know About Calvin and Hobbes

Watterson to Spielberg and Lucas: Thanks, but no thanks.
[Good news!]

Calvin and Hobbes…and Robotman?
[Robotman was actually very funny.]

The Complete Collection isn’t quite complete.
[Are you serious? I paid a lot of money for the complete collection! Now I am displeased.]

Watterson did license. A little.
[Who hasn’t?]

Urine trouble.
[South Carolina isn’t all bad.]

Spaceman Spiff was originally the whole idea.
[Not staying that course was a good call.]

The last Calvin strip wasn’t Watterson’s swan song.
[Bill’s a charitable guy.]

Last but not least interesting: An original Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip sold for $203,150.