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March 30, 2005
Trivia, only not. I agree with Billmon that there’s an ironic appropriateness to the National Press Club’s idea that the optimal panel for a Big Think session on the relationship of (sober, serious, highminded) journalism to (wild, irresponsible) blogging consists of male escort “Jeff Gannon” and Wonkette author Ana Marie Cox. Nonetheless, I also sympathize with Sean-Paul Kelley’s wacky notion that a panel discussing the “Gannon”/Guckert affair really ought to include one of the bloggers who helped break the story, like for instance the indefatigable (and very media-sharp) John Aravosis. Check out Sean-Paul’s post and consider phoning Julie Shue or Rick Dunham at the The National Press Club, (202) 662-7500 or (202) 662-7501, and expressing your own opinion on the matter.

Why do you suppose the crazy right wing is running so much of the country now? Because they do this stuff, trivial stuff, little stuff, to defend their people and push through their agenda, every time the opportunity arises.

[03:27 PM : 8 comments]

The schnozz of the fisherman. How strange to see the phrase “the Pope’s nose” used to refer to the actual Pope’s actual nose.

[12:48 PM : 12 comments]

What copyright is. Responding to a Washington Post editorial about MGM v. Grokster, Matthew Yglesias makes the necessary point:
[T]he editorial suggests a kind of balancing test that will allow us to “protect both innovation and intellectual property.” This is mistaken. Protecting intellectual property is not a proper goal of intellectual property law. Rather, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Promoting innovation is the only legitimate goal of intellectual property law. What needs to be balanced here is the promotion of musical innovation versus the promotion of innovation in the fields of data storage, duplication, transfer, and access. Much P2P transfer is legitimate. Blocking that is a cost. Much infringing P2P transfer has no adverse impact on the financial health of copyright owners. Blocking that is also a cost. Blocking the deployment and development of new technologies is a third cost. What we need to weigh against all these costs is not that record companies will need to forgo some profits they might otherwise have made, but the risk that if Grokster is not shut down we will actually see less new music recorded in the future than we otherwise might. I don’t actually find it plausible that the continued availability of P2P software will have any adverse impact on the production of new music (basically, you’d have a situation where artists have a smaller chance of reaping windfall profits but a larger chance of securing a relatively large audience for their output). But even if it does some adverse impact on this, that adverse impact needs to be weighed against the stifling effect on new technology and the smaller resulting audience for music everywhere.

The idea that intellectual property law should have the protection of intellectual property as its purpose rather than as the means used toward the end of overall social betterment is a serious error that the content industry has been remarkably successful at inducing in American society. Needless to say, one way in which this has come about is that we all get the vast majority of our information about the world from subsidiaries of the content industry itself.

It can’t be said often enough. Copyright isn’t a “right” in the sense of the “rights of Man.” Copyright is a bargain. The object is to foster a society in which innovation is encouraged and rewarded. It isn’t to create a source of perpetual rents for an owner class.

[11:50 AM : 57 comments]

March 27, 2005
March 10, 2005
Dear Sir or Madam, won’t you read our book. All the other cool kids are doing it, so I guess it’s time to post the table of contents of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens: First Annual Collection, edited by Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, forthcoming from Tor Books in hardcover and trade paperback this coming May. Help this fledgling annual get off the ground: pre-order a copy now.

Kelly Link, “The Faery Handbag”
S. M. Stirling, “Blood Wolf”
Lynette Aspey, “Sleeping Dragons”
Garth Nix, “Endings”
David Gerrold, “Dancer in the Dark”
Adam Stemple, “A Piece of Flesh”
Delia Sherman, “CATNYP”
Rudyard Kipling, “They”
Theodora Goss, “The Wings of Meister Wilhelm”
Leah Bobet, “Displaced Persons”
Bradley Denton, “Sergeant Chip”

All of these stories first appeared in 2004, save for the Kipling, first published in 1904. We intend to run a 100-year-old “golden oldie” in each annual volume.

[09:13 PM : 93 comments]

March 08, 2005
Dept. of What Were They Thinking. The mere idea that someone thought this was an effective anti-drug message is enough to make me want to seek out and “do” many a drug. <Facepalm>, as the LJ kids say.

Maybe it’s just me. But I suspect not.

[07:09 PM : 62 comments]

March 07, 2005
Delicate sensibilities. Give me one good reason CNN won’t show this ad. (Torrent file here.) (Via BoingBoing. More context here.)

[08:17 PM : 61 comments]

Full text blogging. Tom Watson on national observances:
The most striking image in the tragic death of Italian security agent Nicola Calipari, killed by U.S. troops on the road to the airport with freed hostage/journalist Giuliana Sgrena, is simple and striking: national mourning. Americans avoid it. Our leaders avoid it. Our trained seal national media avoids it. Have you paused to watch a national prayer service for our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two bloody years? No, because it hasn’t happened. Do you recall that national day of mourning for the 1,500 killed in the Iraq incursion? No, because President Bush has never named one. Yeah, we have local stories about "our heroes" killed in Fallujah, Baghdad, and Mosul—local funerals, local ceremonies of grief, local newspaper stories about the high school athlete or the volunteer fireman who went to war and never came home. Nothing national. Nothing American. All of Italy is mourning Calipari’s death. His body is lying in state at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome, where visitors have been paying their respects, and a state funeral was planned for Monday. President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said he would award Calipari, a married father of two, the gold medal of valor for his heroism. In war zones, horrendous mistakes among jittery, scared, and heavily-armed troops will always lead to mistaken death and injury. It is part of the cost of war that our society has decided to accept, following the path laid out by our national leadership. What we don’t have to accept is the national silence that greets the dead from an administration that doesn’t want photographs taken of the coffins arriving Stateside. Why don’t we mourn as a nation? The reason is simple and shocking and damning: because our leaders don’t care.
And Anna Feruglio dal Dan on Calipari’s funeral, today:
One thing that Nicola Calipari got was a state funeral.

When his coffin came back there was the President of the Republic, who kept his raised hands on the coffin for the full two minutes the silence rang out, the Prime Minister, the Speakers of the two Houses, the Chiefs of the Police and the Military Intelligence, all in their neat blue coats and uniforms, and the director of the Communist daily Giuliana Sgrena writes for, with his editors and journalists, and Sgrena’s partner, with their parkas and drooping mustaches. Six men in different uniforms—Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, Carabinieri and Finance Guard—took the coffin, wrapped in an unpleasantly shiny Italian flag, and carried it a bit crookedly away. The honor picket was the police honor picket, and didn’t move in perfect synch.

There is something deeply comforting in realizing that one lives in a country whose soldiers can’t properly march in lockstep. Where funerals are rare enough that the protocol is a bit uncertain.

Yesterday morning the coffin was brought to what the Romans call “the Typewriter”—the huge white marble monument to the Unknown Soldier built in 1921 for the dead of the Great War. The writing on the Vittoriano says Patriae Unitati on one side, and Civium Libertati on the other. For the unity of the nation and the freedom of its citizens.

People started coming under a chilly drizzle. Some were carrying Italian flags, some were carrying the rainbow flag of peace, some of them were carrying flowers, lots of them were carrying umbrellas. They started filing in front of the body lain in state, some of them crossing themselves, some of them crying, some of them shouting thank you, some of them raising a clenched fist. The room was supposed to close at sunfall but the people kept coming and so it was left open through the night. When the body was taken away for the funeral something like 100,000 of them had passed.

10,000 showed up for the funeral. Lots of them had Il Manifesto under one arm. The Communist daily’s special edition had a photograph of Calipari, the secret agent, with a small smile and somebody’s hand on the shoulder, and the headline said simply: With you. The blond widow sat through it with her head occasionally falling, occasionally nodding, never leaving her daughter’s hand or the head of the Military Intelligence chief. Sgrena’s brother was sitting in the second row, weeping.

Italians are weepy people, it’s well known. Calipari’s direct superior spoke from the pulpit, and though he didn’t weep it was a close thing. He said “He was a man. A good man, an honest man, a loyal man, an intelligent man, a prudent man, a determined man.” Sgrena’s partner, who had said “As soon as I met him I knew he would bring her back home to me,” and the stern militants from the Manifesto wept quietly. Berlusconi sniffled.

His brother the priest did not cry. He thanked people: people who had not left them alone, people who had written to the family from abroad, people who had lost a loved one in Kosovo or Afghanistan or Nassirya, to comfort them.

Then he said quietly: there is probably nobody here who does not wish for a world without war, death, strife. But a better world can only be built if we accept the necessity of giving ourselves in gift. Only people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others can change the world.

In his quiet way, and in a way he certainly did not wish, Nicola Calipari left a legacy. He had policemen and old Communists weeping together. People looked across the aisle and had to admit that there were others with the same grief, who had the same respect for the dead man. Everybody for a moment grudgingly acknowledged that across the ideological divide there were decent, even good human beings.

Not a small thing to achieve with one’s life, all in all. Not enough to comfort people who grieve, but not a bad way to change the world for somebody who had spent his life unassumingly serving his country.

What Nicola Calipari got was a state funeral, and a chance for his death to matter. It is not the least shame of this war that so many American dead were denied this chance.

UPDATE: Jeanne D’Arc reports on Edward Luttwak’s contribution to international understanding.

[07:33 PM : 39 comments]

March 04, 2005
More on the FEC. Yeah, I know, be still your beating hearts. Metafilter commenter Waldo Jacquith addresses the “FEC is going to be forced by McCain-Feingold to regulate political blogging” story: “This is all based on a silly scare-mongering article in News.com.com.com based on an interview with a guy who believes that the FEC should cease to exist, that campaign finance laws are wrong, and that money has no effect on politics at all.” Elsewhere, Jacquith directs us to a write-up, by the NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, about Mr. Smith:
Brad Smith, a law professor at Capital University Law School, has devoted his career to denouncing the FEC and the laws it is entrusted to enforce in precisely those strident terms. He believes that virtually the entire body of the nationís campaign finance law is fundamentally flawed and unworkable—“indeed, unconstitutional.” He has forcefully advocated deregulation of the system.
I have mixed feelings myself about the constitutionality of some of McCain-Feingold, but it seems increasingly clear that Smith’s “warnings” are, as Electrolite commenter shinypenny put it, a variety of FUD.

Further reading: Chris Bowers of MyDD. A cranky but interesting post from The Iron Mouth (read the comments as well). The reliably excellent Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged. And the rest of Jacquith’s long post on the subject, with particular attention to McConnell vs. FEC and how Bradley Smith has every reason to try playing the liberal blogosphere for suckers.

UPDATE: See also the extremely well-informed Mark “The Decembrist” Schmitt (thanks, Linkmeister). Also see this ton more of useful background from The Iron Mouth. Meanwhile, John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, makes it clear that he and his Democratic colleagues, all supporters of campaign finance reform, unambiguously oppose the sort of interference with political blogs being proposed by Bradley Smith. (Thanks to Julia for pointing out that last.)

[04:53 PM : 3 comments]

The great FEC scare. This interview with FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith, warning that political bloggers may soon be subject to draconian regulation as a consequence of McCain-Feingold, has been linked to from all over the blogosphere.

I’m frankly not sure how seriously to take it, because in all honesty I don’t entirely trust any “news” story bylined by the guy who made up the “Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet” story (and, later, boasted about having done so). A basic technique of the modern Right is to enlist the libertarian impulses of decent people in the service of policies that actually serve to consolidate power in fewer and fewer hands, and lots of libertarians have shown themselves to be entirely user-friendly in this regard. Not being an expert on the intricacies of campaign law, I’m not entirely sure all this alarm about Imminent Regulation Of Weblogs (film at 11) isn’t just a con designed to undermine support for any limitations on the latitude of the ultra-rich.

Assuming the story is legit, though, Nathan Newman, as he so frequently does, talks sense.

The FEC is making noises to limit the speech of blogs in the name of campaign finance reform. Josh worries that this “would mean the end of what this site and so many others on the right and left do.”

Only if we follow the rules. I won’t. Free speech is worth fighting for and the best way to do it is to refuse to be silent. There are a lot of bloggers out there and that’s a lot of people to throw in jail if they all pledge to defy the rules.

I think most campaign finance rules restricting contributions are worthless and lead to idiotic proposals like this one. This is a good place for the insanity to stop. The more bloggers who pledge to defy the FEC, the less likely they are to move forward.

I’ll take that pledge.

[08:09 AM : 19 comments]

March 02, 2005
Help us help you. Like every other blog that runs ads brokered by Blogads.com, we’d be much obliged if our readers would take their annual survey. Doing so helps Henry Copeland and his crew refine their pitch to potential advertisers, thus ultimately leading (by the frictionless operation of the all-knowing market) to more ads, more Nielsen Hayden blogalicious goodness, and the ultimate merging of humanity with the Overmind. Don’t be the holdout.

Also, for question #16, please answer “Electrolite & Making Light” (with the ampersand) since we’re a package deal and that’s how we’re listed in the system. Much obliged.

[01:48 PM : 1 comments]

March 01, 2005
New heights of prestige for the Nebula Award. Via World O’Crap, meet pundit Vox Day:
The mental pollution of feminism extends well beyond the question of great thinkers. Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics, so they either write romance novels in space about strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are, or stick to fantasy where they can make things up without getting hammered by critics holding triple Ph.D.s in molecular engineering, astrophysics and Chaucer.
More Vox Day, from a blog post headlined “The merits of anti-semitism”:
I’d never understood how the medieval kings found it so easy to get the common people to hate the Jews in their midst. But if those medieval Jewish leaders were anything like the idiots running the ADL, the ACLU and the Council of Jews, one can see where the idea of persecuting them would have held some appeal.
(Some background on Vox Day.)

Interestingly (in light of his remarks about Jews), Day is actually a “Christian libertarian” novelist named Theodore Beale.

Interestingly (in light of his remarks on female science fiction writers), what Day writes is science fiction.

Interestingly, the Science Fiction Writers of America, “not constrained by conventions and formulas…as open as the speculating human mind”, has rewarded Mr. Beale by making him one of the seven jurors for this year’s Nebula Award.

(More on the entertaining and prolific “Day”/Beale here and here.) (Props also to, uh, “Alameida”.)

[02:39 PM : 491 comments]