2003 May 23

(entry last updated: 2003-05-23 17:28:01)

Man! Even with all this rain, hay fever is blowing me away this year. Surpisingly, it’s not so much that my nose is running as it’s the feeling that my head is stuffed with cotton. I’m afraid that, given how addled I feel, just about everything that I’ve been doing these past couple of days has suffered. I’m hoping that the side effects of antihistamines won’t lead to a net decrease in my functionality, but we’ll just have to see.

  • Larry points out that the governor of Colorado has vetoed their super-DMCA. Bill Hobbs adds the observation that the Tennessee one is going to be sent back to committee for redrafting.

  • Offtopic: Apparently, one has to go overseas to get this sort of thing covered: Bush ‘is on brink of catastrophe’ [pdf]

    The most senior Republican authority on foreign relations in Congress has warned President Bush that the United States is on the brink of catastrophe in Iraq.

    Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Washington was in danger of creating “an incubator for terrorist cells and activity” unless it increased the scope and cost of its reconstruction efforts. He said that more troops, billions more dollars and a longer commitment were needed if the US were not to throw away the peace.

    Echoing his Washington Post editorial of the day before: A Victory at Risk [pdf]

  • Reuters says that ISPs reel from P2P bandwidth hogs

    Now ISPs say that as much as 60 percent of data traffic zipping around their networks is in the form of large music, movies and software files. For a large ISP, experts say, the bandwidth costs needed to accommodate the traffic could run into the millions, if not tens of millions of dollars per year.

    … And yet it’s the popularity of sharing music, film and game files with other computer users that is drawing many customers to high-speed broadband Internet services in the first place.

    A variety of ISPs including Europe’s third largest, Tiscali, even promote their broadband services on peer-to-peer networks to woo people with slower connections.

    You can’t have it both ways. And, frankly, I’m not sure why my Red Hat Network account (used to keep my Red Hat Systems up2date <G>) is something that ISPs should be worried about, either.

  • Bill Gates’ testimony (Microsoft.com copy) to the Senate Commerce Committee during their hearing on spam; and Larry Lessig’s thoughts in response.

  • American Idol gets a look: Fox Mulls How to Exploit the Mojo of ‘American Idol’ [pdf]:

    But the show’s reliance on a brand of pop music some find stale could turn off younger music fans. The finale on Wednesday included songs made popular by Olivia Newton-John, Neil Sedaka and Lionel Richie, not a roster of singers with large followings among younger music fans.

    “There is already a contingent of young viewers who are very anti the show,” said Brian Graden, the president of entertainment at MTV. “But it’s not a significant factor at this point. So far it’s cool to watch as long as you say up front that it’s cheesy. That protects you.”

    Craig Marks, the editor of Blender, a music magazine, said he personally loved the show, but added: “The music on the show is hollow; it’s essentially awful. People who enjoy the show would never buy the records. It’s just very wholesome. It has no edge whatsoever. It’s edge-free music.”

    …And Mr. Levy pointed out that as much as some music fans want to eradicate what he called the “teen pop trend,” as personified in stars like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, the genre seems to be hitting what he called “a second wave.” The proof, he said, was the hit album now out from Hilary Duff, the teenage star of the Lizzie McGuire series on the Disney Channel, and the success of “Thankful,” the album by Kelly Clarkson, who won the first “Idol,” which reached No. 1 its first week in release.

    “Even if the teenage boy who loves the show now thinks it gets old soon, he has a little sister who’s ready to decide it’s cute,” Mr. Levy said.

  • Slate’s American Idol writeup is far nastier: Inside the American Idol Studio

    On the surface, these what-are-you-really-like questions seemed only natural: After all, American Idol purports to offer a sped-up, interactive look inside the star-making process. But really, those questions were irrelevant. American Idol eliminates the element of mystery from stardom, with its message that a star is not a special person with secret passions but a piece of equipment that can be melted down and reconfigured whenever the powers that be think of a new way to sell soft drinks. Take a look at American Idol’s credit sequence, which features a quicksilver cyborg—transformed from male to female and back again by animated force fields that slice through its body—making a glorious, pointless march across an imaginary America.

  • The NYTimes offers up a look at the making of a pop band: Fashion Tip in Rap for Brooklyn Girls [pdf]. If you don’t get the joke/song title, you’re going to have to look it up yourself! <G>

  • Eric Boehlert of Salon discusses the upcoming FCC vote, and works to document the degree to which it appears that overwhelming public opposition to further deregulation is being ignored: Last stop before the media monopoly

    Powell countered critics who complained the FCC process was not open enough by noting that the commission had received a record number of public comments regarding the ownership issue and that most of them were filed by private individuals. Usually of interest only to broadcasters and a handful of D.C. communications attorneys, the comment period for media ownership has attracted nearly 20,000 filings. “That’s a landslide in terms of comments,” says Belendiuk.

    Powell agrees. “This record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age you don’t need a 19th century whistle-stop tour to hear from America,” said the chairman earlier this year, essentially dismissing the hearings organized by the Democratic commissioners as dog-and-pony road shows.

    What Powell does not mention, though, is what people are saying in their FCC filings. “The statistics on public comments are just off the charts,” says Robert McChesney, coauthor of “Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media.” “More people want Osama bin Laden up on Mt. Rushmore than want the media companies to consolidate.”

    Neverthless, follow Mary Hodder’s advice at the close of this excellently referenced post on the subject and send something to the FCC.

  • James De Long posts a provocative piece at TCS: Moral and Economic Clarity

    …So it is time for the downloaders to respond and end the free lunch. Most iTunes users agree, and have recoiled in dismay at the crackers. (It helps that the target is Apple, beloved by techies, not just the demonized record industry, of course.)

    This leaves two groups of resisters. The first consists of the morally obtuse, who, while they will undoubtedly think of some new rationale to justify piracy, are responding either to the simple principle, “if it’s there, steal it,” or to the vandalistic itch to destroy for the sheer hell of it.

    The second group of resisters is more complex, more ideological, and more important, especially because it is not clear that Steve Jobs of Apple knows that it exists. Many members of the academic and tech communities are opposed to the idea of property rights in the creations of the intellect. They assert not only a right but a duty to make all systems for enforcing intellectual property rights untenable, and regard breaking protections as a public service.

    OK – rhetorical tricks to deconstruct (via Stephen Downes Logical Fallacies Index (a possibly better-maintained mirror), for more resources, try here, especially Labossiere’s list):

    1. The false segregation of the despised constituencies into two categories – False Dilemma, plus the Undistributed Middle

    2. The narrow definition of those categories so that they can be easily debunked – The Straw Man

    3. The association of the “intelligencia” with the despised category(ies). (partly Ad Hominem, partly Appeal to Popularity)

    4. The false association of copyright with property rights

    5. With that association developed, bring in communism so that the opponents can be mated to the failures of the Soviet Union (again Popularity, Ad Hominem, plus an implied Appeal to Consequences, plus probably more)

      Were these abstractionists running the show, the impact on the creative community would be similar to the description of the Soviet Union in the 1920s provided by novelist Alan Furst in Dark Star, as “[A] kind of dream world, a mythical country where idealistic intellectual[s] . . . actually ran things, quite literally a country of the mind. Theories failed, peasants died, the land itself dried up in despair. Still they worked twenty hours a day and swore they had the answer.”

    6. Eventually, as a continuation of the contra-intelligencia/”know nothing” effort, assert that ideology is essentially destructive (at least, that’s what I think this paragraph is supposed to mean):

      Apple and the other music services, and, ultimately, providers of Internet distribution of movies, books, and other information, must cope with both these oppositions. It will not be easy because they tend to merge, with vandalistic impulses often hiding behind ideology. [sic]

    7. Finally, always fall back on the assertion that the market is, by definition, your friend – Appeal to Popularity, Complex Cause:

      In fact, consumers should want to pay for creative work. It is through prices and markets that they can send signals that something is valued and that more of it should be produced. And all non-market forms of financing – taxes, subsidies, pooled funds – depend on committees of bureaucrats for their allocation, the antithesis of consumer sovereignty. It is markets that make consumer preferences effective by providing financing for what consumers want. Those who insist on making content free are simply spoiling the system for everyone, and the “information should be free” crowd is actually the enemy, not the friend, of consumers. The content producers should reiterate this incessantly.

    Mr. De Long is pretty good at this – he certainly got my blood boiling. But it is possible to see how he does it, and how he can be challenged.

  • CNet posts a Reuters wire report on KaZaA’s progress: Kazaa nears download record

  • And RealNetworks’ deal with Playboy is paralleled with the past development of cable TV: RealNetworks gets steamy with Playboy