Commentary on news and culture from a left wing perspective.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

My comments, along with those from bloggers around the world, are included on a forum regarding What's next for the G21?

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Vice magazine supposedly offers something new--a hip, is-it-ironic version of far-right political incorrectness, which leaves me with one question--has anyone ever heard of Italian fascism? Can't Americans come up with anything new?

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Alan Dershowitz caught plagarizing in his new book. Now it is Harvard University's responsibility to take disciplinary action, and for John Wiley and Sons to pull the book. Harvard President Lawrence Summers can be reached lawrence_summers@harvard.edu if you want to encourage him to take action.

Friday, September 26, 2003

One more to file in the ever expanding "how twisted is that??" file.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

We're number one!!!
"Also, as early as next month the (film) industry will begin promoting a "stealing is bad" message in schools, teaming up with Junior Achievement on an hourlong class for fifth through ninth graders on the history of copyright law and the evils of online file sharing. The effort includes games like Starving Artist, in which students pretend to be musicians whose work is downloaded free from the Internet, and a crossword puzzle called Surfing for Trouble."

Yep, that's from the Times, not the Onion. Time to expel Junior Achievement from Public Schools. What kind of school, public or private, would spend valuable hours having the industry shove its crap into young minds? Will the history of copyrighting include the nineteenth century, when Americans simply reprinted British novels and 'borrowed' their technology?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Excellent article on the prospects for a renewed labor movement by Dan Clawson.

Monday, September 22, 2003

The Iraqi governing council, picked by the US, is sounding positively French in urging a rapid end to the occupation. And they are planning to appeal to the right chord among Americans--their wallets.
European powers like France are using the Euro to push around poor countries and make them conform to financial measures they don't live up to themselves. Can you imagine? Would any great power on this side of the atlantic ever try to do such a thing with its currency?
"one Iraqi businessman warned that the economic reforms would "destroy the role of the Iraqi industrialist". " the Guardian offers more details on the economic 'reform' of Iraq.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Now how twisted is this headline?
In Afghanistan, they're demolishing houses (with people inside!) to make room for housing for government officials.

Meanwhile, Iraq is 'opening up' its economy. I'm not sure what the Iraqis are expecting from this. The international economy has long been glutted with state-owned industries being sold off that no one wants.

Finally, the Times runs an apologia for Israel's plans to execute or expel Arafat. Regardless of the feeble case made here, its fairly well-known that this was Sharon's plan since being elected. There is an interesting elision between the introduction to this article and the article itself. The introduction (on the 'international' web page ) says:"The call to remove Yasir Arafat from power has broad support in Israel, but has met opposition internationally. Another big Palestinian attack could change that." Apparently meaning that another big Palestinian attack would bolster international support for this policy. Highly unlikely, possibly excluding the Bush administration. Despite the best Israeli efforts, a conflict in which roughly three times as many Palestinians have died than Israelis is not widely seen exclusively in terms of 'Israel under siege.'
The article itself says: "Israeli moves against Mr. Arafat do not appear imminent. But another big Palestinian attack could change that." This is much more plausible. We would add that the Sharon government knows well how to provoke such an attack, having done so many times. A major Hamas person will be assassinated, the assassination will be avenged...

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Although there are many competitors, it's difficult to imagine a US trade struggle more ignoble and hypocritcal than efforts to globally enforce US copyright laws. During the nineteenth century, not only did American entrepreneurs freely reuse technological innovations produced elsewhere; American printers also published works by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen etc with no profits flowing to either the authors or their original publishers.

Friday, September 19, 2003

The Times takes Timesspeak to amusing new heights:

"The record industry argues that sharing songs online is just like stealing a CD from a record store. But to many Americans, file sharing seems more like taping a song off a radio. The truth, copyright experts say, may lie somewhere between."

How exactly can the 'truth' of an ethical question be ascertained?Anyway, would've been helpful if they'd mentioned the vicious campaign against taping the record industry conducted in the seventies.

full article.

You often see figures like this one thrown around by the New York Times in the music-downloading debate: "One analyst estimates that file sharing costs $700 million a year in lost sales."

Now, when I was growing up, A LOT of people used to borrow each others 'records' (like cds, kids) and 'tape' (comparable to downloading) them,or tape them off the radio, which in the good old days of FM, was easy (hour long blocs of music with no commercials). We'll never have any exact numbers. Does anyone try to subtract those numbers (which have undoubtedly dwindled) from the 'sales losses' due to downloading? And do these 'analysts' simply presume that anyone who downloads a song was actually planning to otherwise purchase the music?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Interesting article from Asia Times on life in contemporary Baghdad.
My response to Thomas Friedman's column today:

Thomas Friedman's claim that France is our 'enemy' is a sad indication of how prickly many Americans are in the face of any serious criticism. Before the war, France argued that giving the weapons inspectors a little more time might avoid war. They were absolutely correct. During the war, there was tremendous unease at the precedent a rapid victory in the context of a unilateral, 'pre-emptive' war might create. After the war, France has shown a surprising willingness to work with the US, even with the US remaining in control of armed forces in Iraq. To Friedman, these are the policies of an enemy. To many in the world, this is the sort of diplomatic stance of compromise that has been sorely missing from US conduct lately.

Steven Sherman

Here, I'll mention how insane it is that Friedman, who loves to posture as some sort of internationalist voice of reason, has joined the freedom fries idiots who believe France is at war with the US.

And let's also note that despite his belief that the US reconstructing Iraq whole hog (a US administration, lets not forget, deeply shaped by Christian fundamentalists) represents the best hope for Arab liberal modernists, in fact the US has done absolutely nothing to strengthen the hand of the two most prominent indigeneous streams of such thought--the secular wing of Palestinian nationalism and the Iranian democracy movement.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Right wing pseudo-movements have long been a part of US politics. Now apparently they are trying to catch up with the anti-globalization movement. I suspect one of these days, the villagers described in this report as stuck in the middle will mobilize themselves. the question is for whom.
The WTO talks fail to produce an accord. "No deal is better than a bad deal" commented a delegate from Kenya. The main reason they failed is that the rich countries could not work out a way to deliver real concessions on agriculture to the 'group of 21' poorer countries, which probably constitute the most confrontational diplomatic stance taken by the poorer countries since the New International Economic Order movement of the seventies.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

There's really a lot going on at the WTO talks (rich nations vs. poor ones, the US vs. everyone, India-China-Brazil vs. the North) that the narrative of corporate globalizers vs. the world doesn't capture well.
This is the second time in about ten days that the Times has mysteriously revised their headline on their website to something more pessimistic regarding the US effort to strongarm the UN security council into okaying its occupation of Iraq.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Boycott the RIAA. Seriously. Although tearing down the copyright wall is a long and slow effort, the lawsuits aimed at kids are just too twisted to stand by and watch. Buy used cds, get the music off artist's websites, download it, but lets stop feeding the parasites.
Although you have to read it closely, this New York Times article appears to be saying that the Pentagon is showing The Battle of Algiers to its people to initiate a debate about the validity of using torture in Iraq. On the other hand, the Times has previously reported that many of the tactics the US admits to using in Guatanomo, Afghanistan, etc come awfully close to legal definitions of torture.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Is the anti-war movement regaining its footing?

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The quixotic battle to maintain the copyright regime in the context of the internet grows ever sillier--now file sharing is pinned to the always popular child pornography threat:

"As a guy in the record industry and as a parent, I am shocked that these services are being used to lure children to stuff that is really ugly," said Andrew Lack, the chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment.

Others ask whether raising this issue is more than a little cynical from an industry that heavily promotes music with sexual and violent themes.

full story.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

US regime change in Palestine gets un-changed. Which is next: Iraq or Afghanistan? By the way, notice the burial in this article of yet another Israel use of a bomb that wounds children to assassinate someone they don't like--which, by the way, is totally illegal under international law and might qualify as 'terrorism' in many places.
Howard French's Why Japan Sucks series seems to have been followed by Richard Bernstein's Why Europe Sucks at the Times.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

France and Germany did the right thing by rejecting the US' resolution to the UN to approve of US domination of Iraq while opening the way for more countries to send troops. Let the US stew in the mess it has made if it wants so badly to control Iraq.
I found this editorial by Adam Cohen in the New York Times interesting not so much because of its trashing of the Melville classic (and anti-work icon) Bartleby the Scrivener but because of this description of the Iraq dilemma: "The mess in Iraq presents two seemingly unacceptable possibilities: staying and having our soldiers killed daily, or leaving and ushering in chaos." No mention at all of the option of turning control of the situation over to the UN, and thereby creating conditions in which other countries would send troops. Ironically, this is the option the New York Times editorial board endorsed a couple of weeks ago. That they printed Cohen's comments as an editorial gives you some sense of the depth of seriousness with which they floated that idea.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Standardized tests, 'flawed' or no, have no meaningful relationship to learning.
In the mainstream media, it is all the rage to complain about the out-of-control peer consumer culture of teen girls, but it is still unimaginable to consider that perhaps thrusting children into hordes of same-age peers eager to judge is a less than ideal way to 'educate' them.

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