Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Associated Press: “It’s Okay If WE Do It.”

I saw this article (from the AP on ESPN) today, about a push to bring the to bring a version of cricket called Twenty20 to the US. According to the article:

A Twenty20 game is a shortened version of cricket, completed in about 3½ hours to bring it closer to the length of other sports played in the United States.

Emphasis added. I wanted more information, so I went to the Wikipedia page on Twenty20 cricket, where I saw this sentence:

A Twenty20 game is completed in about three and half hours, with each innings lasting around 75 minutes, thus bringing the game closer to the timespan of other popular team sports.

Emphasis added. If you’re me, you’ll notice immediately the parallel structure of the sentences, and the fact that a thesaurus appeared to be used to change the words in the last clause (without actually changing the meaning). I cannot fathom that these are NOT copied from each other. The question is which came first.

This could have been an enthusiastic Wikipedia editor, so I checked the history page of the article, which tracks every change. It turns out that Wikipedia had it first. Here is a link to the 10 July 2009 version of the article.

Let me repeat, to be clear: Wikipedia Had It First. Which means an AP writer or editor cribbed directly from Wikipedia, changed some words, and put it in the article.

In and of itself, that is not the problem. Wikipedia is, in fact, fine with this.

The problem is copyright licenses. According to the copyright license that Wikipedia uses, if you use or re-purpose content from a Wikipedia article, the new work must have a “compatible license”.  In this case, that means the article must…

  1. Attribute Wikipedia as the source.
  2. Have a “share-alike” provision in the license which allows others to copy and re-purpose the entire adapted work as they see fit.

That means the entire AP article should, by rights, be open to re-use. However, the AP violates Wikipedia’s license – the restrictive AP copyright license is NOT compatible with Wikipedia’s open “share-alike” license. So, the AP, as far as I can reasonably tell, is violating Wikipedia’s copyright by not attributing and not having a compatible license.

Of course, in a vacuum, this is an isolated incident. But, in the real world, this flies in the face of the AP’sclaims against Shepherd Fairey, the artist who created the iconic “Obama HOPE” poster. Details of this case, in bullet form:

  • Mr. Fairey used a photo (found on Google image search) to inspire the look of the painting.
  • Nobody (Fairey included) knew the the owner of source photo of the iconic painting at first. It was thought to be a Reutrers photo for a time.
  • Someone tracked down the original, Fairey said, “yup, that one”, and the AP claimed ownership.
  • Incidentally, the photographer claims to be the owner of the photo as well, and that the AP doesn’t own it.
  • The AP claims that they deserve to “get permission”, and that the poster is a copyright violation.
  • Fairey’s lawyer and the AP’s lawyer started talking.
  • According to Fairey at a talk at the New York Public Library in March (which I attended), he was happy to pay the original usage rights he should have paid, but he did not know the identity of the owner.
  • According to Fairey, the AP had some demands (take with grain of salt, but the guy seemed like a straight shooter).
    • Demand 1: usage rights for the value of the photo after Mr. Fairey’s painting made it valuable. (Prior to that, it had one of the lowest usage rights for that type of image, which alone is anything but iconic.)
    • Demand 2: Damages.
    • Demand 3 (Possibly): A piece of the profits (since it was their photo that led to the poster).
  • Fairey claims the use of the photo was clearly within the bounds of “fair use”.
  • Fairey sued for declamatory judgement against the AP’s copyright claim on his poster.

Here’s an article on the Fairey matter.

So… The AP can crib other people’s work without following the rules, but a guy can’t use a photo in what is widely considered to be a CLEAR case of fair use? Well done, AP.

Yup… I got all that from an article on cricket in the US.


Filed under: Culture, Politics, Tech, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Gingrich: “Gays and Secular Fascists”

This is precisely why Newt Gingrich is a reprehensible politician and will never elevate himself to the statesman status he clearly covets.

He actually called people who believe in EQUAL RIGHTS fascists. There was a time when liberals used to throw that word around with reckless abandon. But at least they understood the meaning. A fascist wants to impose government power upon the powerless, to strengthen the nation AT THE EXPENSE of its citizens, typically, the military-industrial complex.

There was a time when conservatives used a slightly more accurate epithet to describe people who believed in equality: communist.

Were this any other Republican, I’d be less up-in-arms. But Newt Gingrich isn’t just any Republican. In 1971, he received a PhD in “Modern European History” from Tulane, an excellent school. And, in 1971, you can bet everyone understood the political continuum, and where different ideas and values fit. And an American exceptionalist such as Gingrich would understand precisely where America, liberals in America, and conservatives in America, fit on that continuum.

Here goes:

Fascism is all the way over there on the far right. Communism is all the way over there, on the far left. From the right, we have plutocracy, monarchy, and oligarchy. From the right (typo) left are socialism and other collectivist views. And in the middle are republicanism (small “r”) and democracy (small “d”). American conservatives tend towards the former, and American liberals tend toward the latter.

NB: anarchy, being technically the absence of formal government, is not included on this. Libertarianism is a flavor of the impetus toward small “d” democracy.

Some would argue that the continuum is curved, to make something of a “U” or a circle, demonstrating that fascism and communism are, in their implementations, closer to each other than their ideals tell us they are. This is because on one extreme is the sovereignty of a single individual, who is in essence the country, and on the other is sovereignty of the collective national. In the middle is where sovereignty of the individual has its highest place.

So Gingrich knows better. He’s a historian who knows precisely how these ideologies fit on the spectrum, and precisely where those who want government to let them have individual rights actually belong: in the middle. He also is a politician, and knows precisely how his words would be understood.

What does this say about this type of Republican? They are using specific words to code for the fact that they, the moralist Christians (who tend to religious oligarchy) are the oppressed faction by those who want individual rights.

Victim language.

They also use rights language, like “small government”, to imply they want government out of their hair.

You cannot simultaneously want government out of your hair and expect it to enforce ANY moral value (Christian or otherwise). American government is not meant to protect the rights of the empowered against the powerless. It is meant to do the opposite.

You’re powerful, Mr. Gingrich, and playing victim is not only intellectually dishonest, it’s also dangerous. Because America has ACTUAL victims who need ACTUAL help. And when you enable the mindless cronies who DON’T understand history (such as O’Reilly) to practice that victimhood, you are enabling a whole slate boys who cried wolf. Hurting the powerless.

This is not a petty argument. And it’s not about whether gay marriage is right or wrong. It’s about abusing power to keep it, and abusing language to twist reality. White married heterosexual men are the most powerful people in this country. Clinging to power by pretending to be a victim is reprehensible. Someone ought to speak for the ACTUAL victims (though I myself am not one) and say this to you, Mr. Gingrich: You practice the most vile kind of un-Americanism that exists. You know you are lying to keep power, and yet you do it anyway.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Commentary: Team of Rivals

Doris Kearns Goodwin is zeitgeist right now. The very notion of a “team of rivals” is hot stuff.

But what is best to enable policy? And is Obama actively looking for a team of rivals, or not? AND, most importantly, in the contemporary media era, where many of these supposed rivals are themselves limelight-seekers, how can a President Obama manage the situation?

First: Enabling the Best Policy

Good mangers want the best people in the right positions that enable a smooth flow of work and information. In fact, with all the talk of Bush running the country like a CEO, I wonder if Obama is going to out-CEO him. It looks like it. The best CEOs lay out a vision, get the best possible people to enable the vision, and  With McCain over here, Clinton there, and rumors of Hagel and Lugar flying around, there appears to be no qualified person considered off-limits. By eliminating the “ideology litmus test”, Obama is opening the door for more people.

Chances are, no “heckuva job, Brownie”s this time around.

Second: An ACTUAL Team of Rivals?

Maybe. In his 60 Minutes interview, he implied that he is, he read the book, and sees division as a major problem in this country. I don’t know if this is possible. There is a careful line between creative dissonance and just dissonance, between constructive chaos and simply chaos. Without clear lines of control, and the power to assert authority, and Obama White House could look inept.

The Rahm Emanuel appointment as Chief of Staff is something of a relief, in this matter. Emanuel is an enforcer, by most accounts, and can help manage big egos…

Third: Managing Egos

President-elect Obama’s ego is well-managed by his poise, cool thoughtfulness, warm family narrative, and obvious intellectual abilities. In other words, so far, he wears the robes of power, and they do not wear him (see Bush, George W). This is important: including McCain, Clinton, and various “rivals” (who themselves have and had clear presidential aspriations) in the administration means finding ways to check their personal self-aggrandizement against the success of policy-making and peace-making.

McCain seems the most willing to play the role of constructive thorn, local expert, and general statesman. Clinton has two things that work against her, politically and polciy-wise: 1) Bill Clinton cares a LOT about his legacy; and 2) Hillary Clinton wants to be President someday. Playing second-chair to Obama may be difficult for her/them. Not because of personal character flaws, per se, but because the Clintons know how to use the media to serve their agenda (which is sometimes a personal one, and sometimes a public one). The key here, then, is to make sure the Clinton agenda is brought in line with the Obama agenda. Or, more accurately, that the Clinton agenda is not in conflict with the Obama agenda.

In typical times, this would not be easy. The 2008 Financial Tornado provides an opportunity for a future President Obama to ask EVERYONE to subordinate personal agendas for the greater good. When he was saying this to the DNC in 2004, it sounded, to steal his phrase, “like happy talk.” During his nomination acceptance speech in 2008, it sounded like the talk of someone earnestly trying to recall, and recapture, a time when great people strode the earth with positive purpose. But as 2009 approaches, it’s looking more and more like “the only option.”

This is good, not only for him, but for all of us. We ALL must subordinate our personal good for the greater good. There is an inherent Kennedy-esque equality that Obama has called for. Selfishness and greed wounded us, and this helps “We, the people” to be willing to sign up for his cause of service. Being a a “media whore” looks worse today than it did a year ago, because the limelight now asks for seriousness, and for results. Sarah Palin’s name being increasingly used as a punchline is evidence of this fact.

In the end, the Team of Rivals works as long as there is a cause to fight for together. And that is President Obama’s greatest challenge – to keep us called to causes of greater good, and make us believe the cause is worth fighting for. The moment things get too easy, too black-and-white, and we get too complacent, that is the moment when the team of rivals is no longer helpful.

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On the Financial Crisis, II – the Bailout

I think this says a lot. Thomas Jefferson’s hypocrisy aside (the man was a serial debtor, and the opposite of a “common man”), there is value in looking at government’s complicity in this. Connect that to this:

And now we have a funny money party. Simply put, yay.

Here’s the thing, if there is a thing at all: the POINT of government is not to protect the economic system first. It is to protect the people first. Economic well-being of the people happens to be a part of that, but not the only part. The Federal Reserve system is good for the people as long as the robber barons are held in check. The moment we start financing the wealthy is the moment that the system falls apart.

And Paulson wants more cash? To the tune of $700 billion? What have you done for me lately, Henry?

I’ve said this several times, and I’ll say it again: trickle-down economics is a spectacular failure. Giving money to the rich, whether they be rich corporations or wealthy individuals, is equivalent to mortgaging the future for temporary instant benefit.

The point of representative government is to protect the powerless from the powerful, no matter what. Government is the intermediary that says, “I don’t care who you are or think you are, you are equal in my eyes.”

Why is it, then, that someone who represents one of the most polarizing aspects of the wealth-creation industry, can simply demand from Congress $700 billion dollars, no strings attached? Meanwhile, my poor homeless neighbors have to fill out cumbersome government paperwork to get food stamps?

This is absurdity at its best. The Depression is coming, and it will come at the hands of the wealthy attempting to maintain centers of wealth rather than making sure the wealth pays for something better. Like schools, universal healthcare, solving the homeless problem, more police, protecting the environment… For starters.

UPDATE (15:10 EDT)

Says Paulson: “I hate the fact that we have to do it, but it’s better than the alternative.”

I disagree. The alternative – financial firms collapsing under their own egotist weight, is not a bad thing. If you want a free market, with unfettered access to profits, you deserve the consequences of the greed. We do not have to do it.

Plus, Mr. Paulson, here’s the alternative: Since THE PEOPLE are buying out these companies, we should own them. Each American – men, women, and children – is footing approximately $2300 of the bill, we should each be given 23 shares valued at $100 apiece of the government holding company which owns the companies affected by the crisis. Let’s call the government holding company “Baily Hank” (named for Paulson, and with an eye to government naming conventions). Now for a few rules:

  1. Instituting “Baily Hank” means restoring reasonable bankruptcy rules for individuals, and making corporate bankruptcy harder to declare.
  2. Baily Hank will operate like a special mutual fund, owned by the people.
  3. The amount of bailout funds received versus market value is equivalent to the number of seats on the Board of every company THE PEOPLE have. This percentage will then stay constant. For instance, if a company is valued $1 billion, and received $750 million from Baily Hank, then 3/4ths of the seats are controlled by we, the people of the United States.
  4. Companies under Baily Hank must pay out dividends to its shareholders, us.
  5. A company under Baily Hank can buy itself out of the government holding company, but only for equal or more REAL value than it received to be “saved” by Baily Hank. So, if Baily Hank gave $400 million in 2008 dollars to the company, that company’s board must pay that amount or more (in 2008 dollars) to us, the people of the United States.
  6. Certain special rules apply to any company receiving funds out of Baily Hank, like CEO pay rules mentioned in my previous post.
Alternatively, Baily Hank can be a special high-interest loan (prime + 10%). If the companies really want to be bailed out, they need to pay it back. I prefer the above plan better, though. I may be missing some important rules, though. Thoughts?

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

On the Financial Crisis

Privitize the profits, socialize the losses.

I couldn’t say it better myself. Companies which want de-regulation want nothing to impair them from profit. And then when they are failing or faltering, they expect the American people to swoop in and save them. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG are all examples of this. More disheartening is the simple fact that if the government regulated the mortgage and financial markets in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Lesson: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Corporations should pay taxes to cover the outlay that we pay for the impropriety of an entire industry. If only a candidate called for stricter corporate taxation rules.

On golden parachutes: lots of talk here, and I agree. I have a couple simple solutions.

  1. No C_O can have a contractually-negotiated severance package beyond that which is offered to an entry-level non-exempt employees with three or more years of service.
  2. All C_O salaries should be performance-based, like recently-injured baseball players. $100K annually, plus risers based on independent evaluations by immediate reports, actual company performance, and a microscopic percentage of profits, let’s say 0.00001%, no greater than $4 million dollars.
I think the last one doesn’t work well as written, but the first one is a simple rule that does. In any case, more thoughts from another blogger.

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Empire in Decline: Waning SCOTUS Influence

Interesting article using data (!) to show that the influence of the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) is waning, and quickly.

Among the reasons – foreign and international tribunals are more sophisticated, they are quoting each other, and the US decisions are less in keeping with foreign beliefs. However, there is a strong anti-foreign influence (I call it “the Pat Buchanan effect”). From the piece:

The adamant opposition of some Supreme Court justices to the citation of foreign law in their own opinions also plays a role, some foreign judges say.

“Most justices of the United States Supreme Court do not cite foreign case law in their judgments,” Aharon Barak, then the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, wrote in the Harvard Law Review in 2002. “They fail to make use of an important source of inspiration, one that enriches legal thinking, makes law more creative, and strengthens the democratic ties and foundations of different legal systems.”

Partly as a consequence, Chief Justice Barak wrote, the United States Supreme Court “is losing the central role it once had among courts in modern democracies.”

So what our staunchest ally‘s Chief Justice is saying is this: xenophobia is ruining American jurisprudential influence over the world. 

Thinking historically, the US Supreme Court is the oldest Consitutional court in the world, making its influence significant. That means we have been giving our ideas away. Moreover, we have always taken ideas in from other countries and adopted and adapted them. Fast forward to today, and Justices Roberts and Alito have said, unequivocally, that they oppose using foreign court opinions to influence their thinking.


A good idea is a good idea no matter where it came from. A thoughtful perspective is thoughtful no matter what language it was said in. Imagine if our Founders (who the forementioned Justices claim to be reading the intent of) refused to take ideas from the French, or English, or the Native Americans. We would have no law. No common law. No civil law. No Constitutional law. Heck, the very concept of habeas corpus, written into our Constitution, is a principle articulated in another document – the Magna Carta – and articulated through over 500 years of British jurisprudence until the exalted Founders were born.

So I call bullshit on not sharing. It’s selfish, stupid, and a sure sign of the end of American superiority. If we’re so afraid that borrowing other ideas dilutes American ones, then “these colors DO run”, to turn a phrase around. The whole point of the American Constitutional design is that the power of ideas weighs more strongly than blood, creed, or nationality. The American dream that I learned about was the one where merit matters, not citizenship.

Ask a good professor, inventor, or economist if sharing ideas is good. They will all say yes. American innovation is borne out of synthesis. It is borne from something being greater than the sum of its parts. It is borne out of the fundamental kindergarten idea – sharing is good. Why? It also reflects an American idea, that participation is good, and necessary. Americans, particularly our supposed intellectual leaders, need to participate in the worldwide marketplace of ideas, lest WE become the 21st century version of the old world our Founders extricated themselves from: slow, plodding, and selfish.

To my mind, this thinking is indicative of an empire into decline. The moment an non-expansionist empire (which we are) thinks itself so superior that it does not need to even consider the points of views of outsiders, the decay is well under way. If that superiority is borne out of xenophobia, then the empire is already afraid that it can no longer sustain itself.

Luckily, there are ways to forestall the decay, intellectually speaking.  Share. And share some more. Foreigners who meet Americans always find them to be among the most hospitable people they’ve ever met. That is because we like to share. But sharing is a two way street – we need to take as good as we give.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Who Said That?

I need not add to the above post. Well played, Gripe.

Also, regarding the mortgage crisis, Nader proves prescient:

More commentary later… :)

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David Brooks on Sarah Palin

From Monday’s New York Times, David Brooks (emphasis added):

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

Both of the italicized points are important. Note that she indeed took on “a corrupt establishment” to institute a MORE corrupt establishment, with worse governance. Note also that Brooks is laying the groundwork for his inevitable endorsement of McCain – McCain’s experience matters more than Obama’s vision, and Biden and Palin don’t matter as much. You heard it here first.

Either way in the same article, I think Brooks is wrong here:

The feminists declare that she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t hew to their rigid categories. People who’ve never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany.

As a feminist, I think she’s not good for women, not that she’s not a real woman. Gov. Palin is bad for women because she doesn’t show the best of humanity, but the worst – the aforementioned excessive decisiveness, not to mention a sense of entitlement, not to mention the way she condescends to anyone who is critical of her opinions, not to mention the bad policies and lack of compassion. Note also that I’ve been to Wal-mart, but never to Tuscanny. Shame on you, Mr. Brooks, for playing this game. Moreover…

Look at the condescension and snobbery oozing from elite quarters, her backers say. Look at the endless string of vicious, one-sided attacks in the news media. This is what elites produce. This is why regular people need to take control.

The condescension is indeed “oozing”, but from the Republicans, towards those who ask people to sacrifice to make their country stronger. The attacks are anything but one-sided. See my previous post on the matter. The media has let the McCain camp call Palin independent when she is not, and let her make ad homenim attacks on Obama.

Luckily, Mr. Brooks backs off from this attack, if only because of his personal view of the last eight years:

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

Which is why I believe Obama is better, even than McCain – he takes on complex issues complexly, thoughtfully. He is of average people and has proved to be among the best of us, with high ideals for people around him and his country.

Filed under: Culture, media, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Palin: What Bush doctrine?

Note: If you don’t know what the Bush doctrine is, you’ve been living in the tundra trying to build a bridge to nowhere. Alaska jokes aside, foreign policy matters for the Executive Branch, and being aware of the most important American foreign policy shift in the last 60 years is a little important. From the ABC interview, enough reason not to vote for McCain:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Ermmm… This is downright scary. There was a time when Americans respected leaders we could look up to. Now we want them to be average peers. I thought we celebrated the exceptional.

Sarah Palin had ample time to prepare for the interview, which itself was fully managed by the campaign, and lives in, as she says, a state where you can see Russia.

Matt Gonzalez (Green Party) is a more serious VP candidate than Palin. Hilary Clinton would have been, too. If the rule was that McCain needed to get a woman to steal some of the Hilary vote, McCain should have selected Christie Todd Whitman. Then, the question would be whether liberals (and New Jersey) would go to McCain. He would be seen as a maverick by picking a true moderate. And Obama couldn’t simply set up camp in the middle ground and let the Hilary supporters come to him. Instead McCain antagonized half the country, and made the “maverick” moniker a joke.

Oh… The Bush doctrine is the idea of pre-emptive strikes against potential threats. It overturns over 100 years of no war except to defend allies or to respond to attacks. It was used to start the Iraq War.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Liberal Media Indeed

Wow… Good article I just saw. I took classes in college about this, and I’ve referred in tha past to media “framing”. This is the best data gathering I’ve seen yet:

This has been an ongoing gripe of mine. Nice to see actual data to back it up. If only a news station would pick it up and report on it. Side note: On the Media is a great NPR program that discusses media biases. You, very meta.

ALSO: More on my ongoing campaign to get elected to US presidency in 2020/2024 later. If anyone has policy questions, I’d gladly answer.

Filed under: Culture, media, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Things On My Mind



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Idealink by vijtable is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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