Why Make Things When You Can Just Steal?!

Fraud AlertI was talking to my editor the other day, and she mentioned that she was sending out take-down notices to some websites that had “borrowed” some of our content from one of our sites. After all these years, I still find it shocking that people steal other’s content. I know that in a lot of cases, it is just a matter of naive people who think that everything on the internet is free. But it is also a lot of people who really do know better. With my non-business approach to the internet, it isn’t the legal side of things that bothers me. I just think it is rude.

But it is very much a concern that there are so many people out on the internet who think that the way to make money is to do it on the backs of others. The truth is that it’s really cheap to hire a writer. So why not just hire a writer? The websites that do this kind of thing really do have money. Somewhere they just figured out that it would be cheaper to steal, because most places are not as careful about protecting their content as the people I work for. For example, I generally have no idea if anyone is using my content because I don’t check.

Then, of course, are the spammers who make the internet decidedly worse in the name of what must be tiny margins. Conservatives present this meme that liberals are anti-business. That is not true, of course. In general, liberals are pro-business as we normally think of business. We might have a problem with very large businesses, in as much as they abuse their power. Above all, we would like to encourage good businesses that offer value to society. But certainly since the 1980s, the dominant idea in business is to make money anyway you legally can. And if that involves getting laws changed so that truly horrible practices are legal, so be it.

I ran into this same kind of thing this week. I got a letter from the Fictitious Business Name Renewal Center. It looked just like things that come from the state of California. And it informed me that my fictitious business name was expiring. And for $150, they would renew my name. It all looks above board and the address of the company is indeed in Sacramento. Still, it was a bit fishy. The amount of $150 is pretty high — a lot higher than what I paid in the first place. And fictitious business names are dealt with on the local level, not the state. So I contacted my local office and they were very much aware of this little scam.

I actually owe $40 for the renewal, and it isn’t due until next March. The Better Business Bureau has a complaint listed. This company apparently has an F rating. On the Sonoma County fictitious business name page, at the very top is the following:

→ → Consumer Scam Alert ← ←

And if you go to Google Maps, you will see that this company is in a suburban strip mall. In fact, it might just be a box at one of those mailbox places. All very shady and unpleasant. But I assume the company is legitimate enough that it actually does do what it claims — even if the service isn’t worth a third of what they are charging. Of course, our conservative friends would tell us it is worth exactly what people pay for it. (According to Sonoma County, some companies charge as much as $500 for this “service.”)

What bugs me about the whole thing is the idea of it. Rather than come up with a useful product or service, these people come up with a scam. According to Sonoma County, they will send me an actual renewal notice in about four months. So the Fictitious Business Name Renewal Center offers absolutely no value whatsoever. This may not meet the legal standard for fraud, but it is fraud by my standards — and by the standards of most people, I would think. These are not desperate people. The operation is sophisticated and highly calculated. It has been going on for years. And it is perfectly legal — like much else in the business world.

Christian Nationalists Running for President

Kentucky Clerk Kim DavisDo you ever worry that Sharia law is coming to the United States? If you are like most Americans, you don’t even know what Sharia law is — other than some Muslim equivalent to Levitical laws. Regardless, most people don’t worry about Sharia law because, well, there are very few Muslims in America. In fact, there aren’t many more Muslims than there are Hindus. Worrying about Sharia law is about as rational as worrying about Vishnu law. Of course, no one worries about Vishnu law or Buddha law or whatever. There’s really only one group that worries about Sharia law in the US: fundamentalist Christians.

Not surprisingly, it is a matter of projection. You know how it goes. Ever since Watergate, the Republicans have been obsessed with fake scandals involving Democrats because they just know the Democrats must be up to the same things they are. Or look at organized voter fraud. Every time an actual case comes up, it turns out to be Republicans. This is why Republicans know there is widespread voter fraud: because they’re doing it! And when it comes to worries about Sharia law, it comes from the Christian nationalists — because they want nothing so much as to force Biblical law onto our nation.

Case in point: Kim Davis. She’s the charming woman who refused to grant any marriage licenses because God’s law trumped the law she was paid to administer. Well, recently, the Associated Press got its hands on her office email (it is available by Kentucky law). And it shows a woman who is deeply delusional. For example, “I know it, but God is still alive and on the throne!!! He IS in control and knows exactly where I am!!” I still find this kind of thing odd. In the past, people thought that God actually helped them, say, win a war. Now, it doesn’t matter how low they sink, they still think God has their back.

But this is the kind of thing that really disturbs me, “September 1 will be the day to prepare for, if the Lord doesn’t return before then.” For one thing, it is such hubris. As if God really does circle around the trials of Kim Davis’ life. This is what Jesus has been waiting all these years for: someone like Kim Davis to step up and take a bold stance against secular marriages that most churches don’t respect. This is, in fact, my biggest complaint about American Christians: this unwarranted certainly that comes ultimately from them believing what others have told them. Does the Bible say that the soul enters the fetus at conception? No. It’s just something a preacher they trust says.

What’s terrifying is that Kim Davis is not just some freak. We have four men (Of course!) running for the Republican presidential nomination who are also Christian nationalists: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal. And most of the rest of them support the same policies, and would doubtless become Christian nationalists if they saw it as a way to win the Republican nomination. And it is certainly possible that one of these men could become president. Like I said: terrifying.

Morning Music: Altan Urag

Made in Altan UragMy boss has ripped us out of the American continent and transported us to Asia — specifically to Mongolia. And things change in a big way. I’m not that fond of throat singing, but today’s music really is different. This is Altan Urag — according to Wikipedia, they are a Mongolian folk rock band. What does that mean? Well, you’ll just have to listen because I am in no position to explain.

You might want to check out the song Blue Mark to get more of an idea of the throat singing in a very modern context. But I’ve chosen an instrumental piece, RaaKH II. Both are from their album, Made in Altan Urag. I’m better able to analyze western music. But even when I can’t analyze, I can still tell quality work. Anyway, this one has a beat and you can dance to it.

Anniversary Post: The Rumble in the Jungle

The Rumble in the JungleOn this day in 1974 was The Rumble in the Jungle. It was the iconic boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Everyone expected Foreman to destroy Ali. Foreman was stronger and arguably as fast. But Ali seems to have developed his rope-a-dope strategy while in the ring. Using it, he managed to wear down Foreman, who collapsed in the eighth round.

I remember standing in a bookstore reading the introduction of a book about Muhammad Ali. It was written by George Foreman. Foreman talked about the fight. He said if he knew what he knows now, he thinks that Ali still would have figured out a way to beat him — that Ali was just that great and intelligent a boxer. All I could think was that Foreman was one class act. And he might well be right. But clearly they were both among the greatest boxers of all time.

Most of what I know about The Rumble in the Jungle comes from the film When We Were Kings. It’s well worth checking out if you get a chance. Most of it is not directly about the fight. There was so much going on around the fight — especially music. And the politics are well on display with all of the paranoia of the villain Mobutu Sese Seko.