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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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11/09/2002

No Smile, Big Gun it is dawning on the Independent - save Mr. Fisk of course - that there is really very little the world can do with America except line up behind her.

The UN Resolution was an inch or two short of what the Bushies originally wanted; but it was a complete victory for the US in the sense no one opposed the intent of the resolution.

The Americans are already on the ground in Iraq, north and south, and they are quite capable of taking out Saddam's regime if he is nuts enough to oppose serious inspections.

The world - including the 400,000 in Florence - will have to get used to that sort of power combined with that sort of resolve. Tony Blair recognized it early - get with the program and you have some influence, oppose it and you will be left on the sidelines.


11/08/2002

Notes on the Death of Intellectual Property Open with caution A long time ago, for my sins, I practiced intellectual property law. Copyright mainly.

At the time it struck me that the premise of intellectual property was largely metaphorical. Oddly, a book is not actually like a shovel. I can read it and you can read it and the book itself is undiminished. A book is not like an egg which, once eaten, is done. But, no matter, copying books is hard and so long as that was true there was not much danger of a massive destruction of their copyrights.

I quit law just before the digital revolution got throughly underway. Now books, music, software can all be copied with a mouseclick.

Never fear, they are licenced. Clever lawyers invented shrink wrap licences to protect non-traditional products. Pop the wrapping and you agree to the terms.

Which made sense for a little while. But the metaphor was stretched a little further than the shrinkwrap would bear.

The article cited talks about a shrink wrapped licence inside a book!

There comes a point where the law really is an ass and when that point is reached people begin to snicker.


"I just returned a digital camera because it had a hardware shrinkwrap license," another reader writes. "They said that anyone in my household could use it but I couldn't lend it to anyone else. There were many other silly things also, like I agree not to try to return it to the company but I could try my luck at the place I purchased it. One interesting thing, if I purchased it as a gift, I could give it to the person and the warranty would still be valid. How nice of them."

http://www.infoworld.com/articles/op/xml/02/10/28/021028opgripe.xml

It is at this point that the snickers turn to giggles and the whole metaphor implodes to the hoots of a judge's laughter. It only takes one laughing judge.


Oscar Martens To the Cellar on Broadway for the launch of Oscar Martin's collection of short stories, The Girl with the Full Figure is your Daughter. Good crowd for a short story launch. The book is full of carefully observed characters and a gritty sort of reality.

Oscar has kept his day job working as a deckhand aboard a tug but he seemed very comfortable as the author of the hour.

Had a delightful chat with Sally Harding who is an agent with Contemorary Management. I don't envy her the job as, on the mention of her job, everybody trots out their book pitch. Lord forgive me I did.

On my way out I noticed that in the pub above the Cellar there was a launch for a new beer. All thirty something guys looking rather shiny with the effects of prolonged sampling. Beer was $5.00 at Oscar's launch.

Breaching China's Firewall Paul Baranowski has assembled a global challenge to the censorship system run by the Chinese government. Peekabooty is a first rate attempt to bust through the state security apparatus and should be supported.

But why only China?

Saudi Arabia, home of Islamofascism, blocks a host of unIslamic sites. A complete description of the system can be found at here.

There are many other countries which are agressively curtailing internet access.

The great promise of the internet is the destruction of the ability of any government to control what its citizen read or see. Peekabooty can help.

Election? It is a measure of the disarray of the other federal parties that the Prime Minister could call an election and be virtually certain of winning. Of course that would not actually solve the problem of the Long Goodbye; but it would be a useful distraction.

The other alternative for Chretien facing a bumptious caucus is to simply have the Commons take a very extended Christmas recess. For the moment there is nothing terribly pressing on the Liberals' agenda and sending the caucus home for a few months would calm the Ottawa waters at very little political cost. After all, does anyone really notice when Parliament is not sitting?

Chretien's folly The Globe and Mail would like to see the back of the Prime Minister. So would a great number of his backbenchers, the party itself and Paul Martin Jr.

The only people who would like to see Chretien hang on to the bitter end are the otherwise irrelevant Alliance and Tory parties. the longer Jean stays the longer Harper has to try to invent an alternative to the Liberal hegemony. And the longer the Liberal party is at war, the more time the poor, befuddled, PCs have to drag themselves into the 20th, if not quite the 21st, century.

Canada's politics are becalmed at the moment. There are no galvanizing issues and virtually no sense of direction.

In many ways that is exactly how the vast majority of the electorate likes it. While nothing grand will be accomplished, nothing suicidal, ill-considered or plain foolish will either.

11/06/2002

CNN.com - GOP wins control of Senate, keeps House This is so close it squeaks The slight shift to the GOP in a few states gives Bush just enough support to walk tall internationally; but this was a victory at the margins.

The Left Dumbs DownWhen Rhetoric Replaces Sense I have been working on other projects and trying to kill a cold so not blogging for a few days.

American mid-term elections are read as everything from plebiscites to sideshows but the GOP's picking up seats in the House and Senate suggest that Bush is seen as relatively superior to the assorted voices of the Democratic Party.

Kristof's article suggests part of the reason. On Left and Right the rhetoric and invective have disconnected from any sense of the real world. Bush and Hillary certainly have their faults - but neither of them is evil incarnate.

Part of the problem is the desire on the part of television producers and pundits to create the appearance of conflict, the more visceral the better. Part of it is the willingness of people at the margins to believe that Vince Foster or Paul Wellstone were killed by shadow governments bent on pushing the interests of big oil (or whichever bad guy de jour comes to mind.)

I'd argue, however, that the reason the rhetoric has gone so far beyond any sort of reason is that the underlying commitment to civil society upon which the American and any other democracy must rely, has been badly eroded.

I can think of two reasons for this erosion: the ongoing culture wars between religious and secular American fundamentalists and the growing realization that the American hyper-power is no longer constrained by traditional balance of power politics.

The religious right and the virtue rats have spent two decades decrying the secular left and the libertarians. The battle is ongoing and, as the closeness of the mid-term elections suggests, neither side has gained much traction. Which encourages both sides to ratchet up their accusations.

Culture war is not about reasoned argument: it is about claiming bad faith, hidden agendas and duplicity. Each side believes the other capable of the very worst - up to and including full scale war for petty, partisan, political purpose. Increasingly, each side sees the other as heretical rather than simply wrong. And each side sees itself as the righteous defender of the American purpose. So long as both sides can get airtime by making outlandish claims about the actions and motives of the other they will keep doing it. Because both sides are perfectly convinced that, compared to the other, they have the Truth.

The second reason is that the stakes have immeasurably increased. America's power is increasing geometrically. TRW has a handy little laser which can shoot artillery shells out of the air. A remote controlled plane fired a missile and knocked off a key Al Qaeda operative. While the rest of the world cuts defense spending, the American military's budget increases and, critically, it does so without any apparent strain on the American economy.

Effectively the debates in America are now debates which effect the future of the world. Some Americans recognize this, others do not. But at the margins, the politically frenzied on right and left are acutely aware that who runs America matters far beyond her borders.

When you combine power with zealotry the best you can hope for is overblown rhetoric. The worst is the possibility that W's successor is the acceptable public face of one radical faction or another.

For the moment the overthrow of reason by passion seems simply aberrant. There remains adult supervision where it matters in all three branches of government; the dilemma for the next few years is how to ensure adults rather than children remain in charge.