Hollywood vs. Obama

The huge groundswell of opposition to SOPA and PIPA is having some interesting ripple effects. Barack Obama announced he would veto these bills if they came to his desk, and now it seems that Hollywood is pissed off over this.

In the words of one unnamed studio chief, “God knows how much money we’ve given to Obama and the Democrats and yet they’re not supporting our interests”. Other unnamed Hollywood bigwigs speak darkly of turning off the campaign-donations tap in this presidential cycle.

From a certain deeply cynical perspective the moguls’ outrage is sort of understandable. How dare Obama curry favor with Silicon Valley and the Wikipedians when he should have stayed bought? It’s not as though Obama actually cares about the “civil liberties” those damned anti-copyright anarchists are screaming about – anyone suffering from that delusion has forgotten that he signed the NDAA. So forget “principle”; from the moguls’ point of view this is a pure betrayal of the basest kind.

Meanwhile, we can almost hear the psephological wheels clicking at Obama campaign headquarters. With his approval rating underwater and the economy showing no sign of climbing out of the shitter before November, The Won’s odds presently look pretty poor even against the sorriest specimen in the Republican-candidate clown show. Obama needs the “youth vote” desperately; his strategists must figure they can sacrifice Hollywood’s money to shore it up and still come out ahead.

All this puts me in mind of a famous if apocryphal line by Henry Kissinger about the Iraq-Iran war back in the 1980s. I want to see both sides lose! The more damage Obama does the Hollywood moguls, and vice-versa, the happier I’ll be.

264 thoughts on “Hollywood vs. Obama

  1. If Obama and whatever his debt to the youth vote is manage to kill SOPA/PIPA, or at least put them off by a few years, that’ll be one thing I’m grateful to him for. Heaven knows that most of the current Republican candidates would sign it in a heartbeat—not even necessarily out of philosophical agreement with its effect, though there might be some of that, but because they’re not savvy enough to really understand what it would do, and even with ten thousand techie types screaming it at you the voice of the campaign donor sitting next to you tends to be rather louder.

  2. I’ve yet to see anyone tackle the fundamental problem of “piracy” – I hate that word – let’s reclaim its definition and call it what it is; copyright infringement.

    Copyright infringement isn’t the problem at all, in my opinion. It’s a _symptom_ of the underlying problem, which is that the customers (and again I’ll use “customers” because I equally despise the word “consumers”) of content produced by Hollywood etc, are largely WILLING to pay for such content, but for possibly a large proportion of customers – let me call them the potential customers, the content is not being delivered in the manner that these potential customers wish to receive it in.

    And the manner that these potential customers wish to receive content in? Quite possibly content supplied in forms which are free from restrictions on when, where, and how that content is to be enjoyed. “I can’t play this DRM-restricted stream on this device” , “I can’t transfer this bought song from this media to this other media to play on this other device” , “Why do I need to pay money AGAIN for the same item just so I can play it on this more convenient (for me) device?”.

    So “potential customers” then look at alternate distribution methods which DO supply desired content, and in a form which allows the “potential customer” to enjoy said content more conveniently for them. This alternatively available content is also extremely convenient to obtain, by way of P2P and other networks over the internet. The “potential customers” now become “pirates”.

    So basically, this whole nonsense about “piracy” is something which has been created by the greedy Hollywood moguls in the first place, and rather than Hollywood move and evolve with the times, they try to buy off laws like SOPA. Thankfully, though, it seems the general populace is finally beginning to wake up to what’s going on.

  3. Obama could try telling the moguls the same thing he told the gun-grabbers. “I’m on your side, but I have to work under the radar to get your preferred policies in place. You’ve seen the fuss those stupid bitter clingers can kick up. I’ll have to pretend not to be on your side, but after the election we’ll quietly slip son-of-SOPA into place as a rider on some other bill. Or maybe we can gin up a crisis that will let us push it through as an emergency measure.”

    OTOH, this didn’t work very well for the gun-grabbers. But on the gripping hand, what other strategy could the gun-grabbers have tried that would have been more effective?

  4. “How dare Obama curry favor with Silicon Valley and the Wikipedians when he should have stayed bought?”

    You suggest in this post that you prefer politicians that stay bought, ie, never listen to their voters. Is that another reason why you hate the Democrats. They fact that sometimes seem to do what their voters want and do not stay bought like the Republicans?

    From the other side of the pond (any pond), this years line up of the Republicans looks like they opened the asylum (read the parody The Lafayette Deception from Andy Updegrove to see how we look at this).

    We desperately hope it is just us not understanding USA politics. The alternative would be to bad to even contemplate.

  5. Why is it such a bitter pill to swallow that someone you disagree with occasionally gets something right?
    Are you so set in your belief that Obama is evil that anything non-evil that he does is a nuisance because you might have to re-evaluate your position?

  6. A centralized name system will always wind up subject to state power.

    The correct solution is not politics, but to identify entities using Zooko’s triangle, in which the globally unique name of a website is the hash of a rule that identifies public keys valid for that site. This means that globally unique urls will not be humanly memorable. This is less of a problem that it seems, for, for the most part, they are not humanly memorable anyway. User interfaces, of necessity, are already starting to approximate Zooko’s triangle.

    Thus, for example, pidgin maps non memorable user names to petnames.

  7. “You suggest in this post that you prefer politicians that stay bought, ie, never listen to their voters.”

    Reading comprehension FAIL

  8. @Wlad
    “Reading comprehension FAIL”

    I have no problem to admit that my reading comprehension might have failed in this case.

    This is a complex text, with shifts between quotes and author opinions, subtle reasoning, sarcasm, parody, irony all in a few paragraphs. I find the opposition between policies for SOPA/PIPA and NDAA especially difficult to disentangle.

    Also, favorably quoting Kissinger who has done more harm to the world than quite a number of much more infamous political thugs, puts me on the wrong foot. Especially as Kissinger was supporting a war in this quote that killed very many people (including a lot of children) and also strengthened both the regimes of Sadam Hussein and Khomeiny. A war that was also at the root of the later invasion and complete destruction of Iraq by US troops.

    Then attacking the current president of the USA for blocking global Internet censorship does give me the impression expressed in my earlier comment.

  9. Why don’t you root for the SOPA to be approved?
    That would piss lots of people, and probably people would start thinking why they need to babysit the government laws proposals on stupid matters.

  10. >Then attacking the current president of the USA for blocking global Internet censorship

    Like he said – reading comprehension fail.

  11. @esr
    “Like he said – reading comprehension fail.”

    So my initial, unspoken and unwritten, hunch that you simple looked for an excuse to attack Obama for doing the right thing was correct.

  12. +1 to Jay for “Not even the community organizer in chief is perfectly wrong” :)

  13. The only threat I see to Obama being re-elected in 2012 was Ron Paul … not because I agree with his policies (I’m too anarchistic for that), but because he will actually address the issues, look at them with a critical eye, and not just parrot the “demagogue party” platform. As prime examples, here are clips from the latest debates where he explains his stances on racism or foreign policy. My inner anarchist gleefully cackles at the thought of Obama having to explain his support of all the things he campaigned against last cycle… except it looks as if Paul has about a 1% chance of winning (and even that is considering the most un-democratic “rules lawyer” approach possible: seeking to “steal” the election via unbound delegates and victories in caucus states).

    I just wish there was a way to arouse the public’s attention year round, not merely on singleton issues that pose a clear and undeniable danger.

  14. It is, as usual, all about the money. What’s at stake here is Hollywood’s giant piles of cash vs. the piles of cash held by Google, Facebook, etc. While it’s somewhat amusing to see the titans fighting each other like this, in no case should you imagine that the result is any more democratic or libertarian because Google seems to have won this round. If Reddit went black but the Internet titans stayed out of it, does anyone imagine that Washington would have paid the least attention?

  15. Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Hollywood vs. Obama

  16. >So my initial, unspoken and unwritten, hunch that you simple looked for an excuse to attack Obama for doing the right thing was correct.

    No, you still don’t get it.

  17. “Why is it such a bitter pill to swallow that someone you disagree with occasionally gets something right?”

    Whaaat? He quoted Kissinger…

  18. >Why don’t you root for the SOPA to be approved?
    >That would piss lots of people, and probably people would start thinking why they need to babysit
    >the government laws proposals on stupid matters.

    The problem with this line of thinking is people are inherently lazy, and babysitting the government is a full time job, in addition to all the other things one must do. But further, the most common reaction to a bad law in this country appears to be more bad laws, which does nothing to solve the actual problem.

  19. The Republicans somehow managing to lose the presidential election in the current political/economic atmosphere would be unprecedented. Yet the slapstick show of candidates and the interminable tap dance of voters awkwardly groping about for someone other than Romney to run–they KNOW they shouldn’t run Romney and don’t want to run Romney, yet are going to run Romney anyway–has me wondering if they just might manage to blow it.

    Makes me wonder about the medium-term viability of the Republican Party if this hideous charisma vacuum continues much longer.

  20. Mash: Yeah. As a conservative, I’m lukewarm about Romney, but none of the other candidates are electable, in my opinion.

    This election is the Republicans’ to lose. I hope they don’t manage to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

  21. @Winter

    You may not be familiar with a quotation from Simon Cameron “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”

  22. @ Mash

    Actually, I don’t think it would be all that unprecedented. It seems to me that the current political atmosphere has been around for at least as long as W. Bush and likely as long as Clinton, this atmosphere of “anyone except X” where “X” is the current incumbent. The mindset of evaluating your political opponents as nothing but a simpering buffoon seems to cause people to underestimate the fact that roughly half the population still likes/voted for the guy. Which means even if they do suck, you still can’t just put anyone up against them. Combine this with the fact that these days, most of the people you would want have absolutely no interest in being a politician and I seriously suspect we will see another 4 years of Obama, followed by 8 years of a Republican and then another 8 years of Democrat until either A) the climate of “idiot politics” goes away or B) people get sick of it and elect a “real” third party, where “real” is defined as not a rose by another name.

  23. @tmoney -

    … or B) people get sick of it and elect a “real” third party, where “real” is defined as not a rose by another name.

    A question – if winning elections is all about the money, and the two major parties in the USA seem to have captured the majority of the fund-raising mechanism (with the possible exception of things like Ron Paul’s “Money Bombs”), then how does a third-party or other independent candidate get enough $$$ to get a sufficiently loud signal with a generous signal-to-noise ratio? (borrowing terminology from the previous discussion)

  24. @esr
    “No, you still don’t get it.”

    That, I do get.

    Looking at the current political debate here and in the primaries, I am fully aware that I do not “get” USA politics.

  25. Jay, you’re not a conservative. You don’t want to keep the world like it was in the past. You’re not opposed to things because they’ve never been done before.

    The only conservative political movement around at the moment is the greens.

  26. @Christopher Smith
    “You may not be familiar with a quotation from Simon Cameron “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.””

    I did understand the reference to that quote, thank you anyway. The problems are located elsewhere.

  27. A question – if winning elections is all about the money, and the two major parties in the USA seem to have captured the majority of the fund-raising mechanism (with the possible exception of things like Ron Paul’s “Money Bombs”), then how does a third-party or other independent candidate get enough $$$ to get a sufficiently loud signal with a generous signal-to-noise ratio? (borrowing terminology from the previous discussion)

    I’ll float a straw proposal: instant runoff or Condorcet voting in all elections.

    Shoot it down; build it up; point out the weaknesses. It’s time I took another sample of what people think about it.

  28. Oh, FFS. Hollywood contributed around 9 million to Obama last cycle as a whole. That includes “moguls,” and it also includes every random technician, bit player, writer, editor, and makeup artist who contributed more than $200. He raised 750 million total. If every mogul in Hollywood decided not to contribute this cycle, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

    “Hollywood money” is not a big deal; it’s a memetic tool that conservatives use to influence people. It’s a fundraising point.

  29. Even if we assume that number is accurate, I highly doubt it accounts for free endorsements, publicity, etc.

    Money is not the only thing of value.

  30. >“Hollywood money” is not a big deal

    You may be right – $9 million is less than I’d have guessed. But before I dismiss it as “not a big deal”, I’d like to know the relative size of that slice. How many other interest groups throw more than that in the pot?

  31. “Barack Obama announced he would veto these bills if they came to his desk,”

    Because unlike other politicians, he never lies. Why believe him? His expression of intent could be for the rubes while those in the know are confidant he would approve of the bills.

  32. @Paul – It’s a straw proposal all right… one that won’t do any good. I would be willing to bet that the majority of people here would support an alternative voting system to the “winner take all” system we have now. I sure do. A debate on which one would actually work best would be very interesting.

    Here are the problems:

    1. Most voters simply won’t understand these systems. Therefore, they will be susceptible to any claims that such a system would allow the lunatic fringe to hijack the vote, it’s “unAmerican”, it causes cancer or whatever other scare tactics could be contrived. Yes, I know voters in many other countries can manage to figure this stuff out and actually use it. It’s not that I don’t think most Americans are _that_ stupid, but I do think very few of them would care enough to try to understand. Plus a lot of us are stupid.

    2. The prospect of alternative voting systems will never get to the point where public opinion matters in the first place, because 99% of our politicians are from the Big Duopoly Party that stands to gain nothing and lose everything from even talking about changing the system.

    @Bryant – Hollywood’s strongest means of support for Obama is not money. It’s their use of the very mimetic tools you mentioned. Almost everything coming out of Hollywood is saturated with support for Obama and his kind of thinking, both overtly and subtle, and often even unconsciously. Similarly, the media contain pervasive mockery and derision towards conservatives and conservative values, again much of it subtle.

    Of course, Hollywood might turn against the man, but they would never turn against any principle the man stands for, but I still think it could be a huge thing. If late-night comedians and sit-coms started with the subtle barbs, I think Obama could easily be Dan Quayled. There are so many rich vein of mockery and derision to be explored. Hollywood doesn’t need to give the man money to effect huge swings in opinion… they cut out the middle-man by doing exactly what most of the money is used for.

  33. I’ll float a straw proposal: instant runoff or Condorcet voting in all elections.

    Good idea, but it doesn’t answer the question. The only people who can change the rules are politicians elected under the current rules. How do you get someone elected who is committed to changing the rules?

    There is an answer:

    Start small. Create your (third) political party committed to winning. That means you run candidates in as many places as you can, but you concentrate all your efforts on the places where you can win and only those places.

    That means that if you run a candidate for a big office (President, Governor, whatever) then you do so solely as a publicity stunt to get you treated as credible for your candidates for offices that you can win – which are things like city councilman, small-town mayor. Once you have a few people with experience in those offices, then you run them for state houses, or city mayors, or junior state-wide office (attorney general, secretary of state).

    You’ll notice that the Republicans don’t really try to win the Mayor of Chicago, or a long list of safe democrat House and Senate seats; the Democrats don’t seriously contest the Utah seats in the United States Senate. So pick somewhere that your ideals will be popular and work out from there.

    Get people who live where your party won’t be popular to give money and travel as volunteers to places where you are.

    Concentrate on safe Democrat or safe Republican seats; then when you get to second places, you can run campaigns aimed at the minority party locally saying that only your party can beat the “D” or “R” whom they hate. If you’re libertarians, then go for strongly republican areas and get the local Democrats to vote for you – concentrate on your social liberalism when appealing to them, while pushing your economic positions in the TV ads and at the majority republican electorate.

    If you concentrate on the same areas for a while, and keep pushing out the message that *here* (e.g. at one point in the 90s the Libertarians were doing quite well in Colorado) is different from the rest of the USA – it might be R vs D in the other 49 states, but it’s R vs Lib here, then you can get people to filter the national media through that message. Your big advantage is that you can raise resources (money and people) in all 50 states but you only spend them in one or two; the other parties raise in 50 states but spend in 45, so you only need to raise 2-3% of what the big parties raise nationally to match them locally.

    Keep that up for 20 years and you might start getting big wins in a state or two – by which I mean a Governor, or a Senator, or the majority of the Congressional delegation.

    The best a third party is likely to achieve under this strategy – and it would be a life’s work, after 40-50 years – would be perhaps 40 seats in the House and perhaps 6-8 Senators. And you’d be stuck; you wouldn’t get any more than that under this approach; your advantage that you can concentrate resources raised in 50 states into 5 dissipates when you try to go beyond that, and you can’t surpass either big party in resources.

    However, you can probably sit at that level for a long time – you’ll have dug deep roots into a few states – and sooner or later one of the big parties will come to you with an offer where they will change the system in exchange for you supporting them on everything else. You need to have your constitutional amendments ready when they make you the offer. And you need to be prepared to deal with the media accusing you of letting the country down when you take more than five minutes to decide who to elect as Speaker when neither the Ds nor Rs have a majority.

  34. I agree with the general gist of comments here regarding the copyright-based business models, but I think most of you are not thinking it far enough.

    So the problem is that it is a wrong business model to try to sell something non-scarce, and the solution is to bundle it with something scarce like services? WRONG. Someone will hack it, decouple the non-scarce from the scarce, distribute it for free, the essential services can also be supplied for free by volunteers (see Linux self-help fora, IRC etc.).

    Look, we tried this already. People thought selling a boxed set of SuSE Linux with 10 hours of support included is a good idea. I actually bought it back then. This market pretty much collapsed. Now they don’t sell user-supporting services coupled with Linux or Android. They sell hardware, they sell phone calls, internet access, yes, services, but these services are not extras coupled with the software but essential products in themselves.

    So the long-term answer is much more simple: selling non-scarce things is going to be stop being a for-profit business in any form whatsoever.

    Take music. There will be no profits. There will be no music industry. And most musicians will not be able to make a living out of it. It will stop being a viable business model and a way to make a living altogether. Sure, some musicians will make a living out of fundraisings, advertisements and live performances, but it no longer will be a reliable way to make a living.

    Is it wrong – how? The profit motive is great for a lot of things and not so great for a lot of other things. Some things – like sex – are best given for free. Take away the commercial motive and what you get is a lot better music. Sure, musicians will often have to work a day job and thus have less energy to invest in making music. This will reduce quantity – so what? As for quality, I think that will counterweighted by that then they won’t invest their energy into making plastic crap but genuinely good stuff, stuff they themselves would want to listen to, stuf they want to remembered for. When money gets out of the picture, artists often discover they have better tastes than formerly thought.

    Why do we have to limit our imagination to the way these things are being done now? Record sales, movie sales etc. did not exist 150 years ago, why should they exist in 50 years from now? Time for some innovation.

    Perhaps art will be one of those things like friendship or sex, something we consider normal to give for free and trying to make money off it we will see as something equivalent of prostitution.

    Or for example why must music be a one-way thing between artist and audience, how about it becoming a more participatory thing: musicians becoming music teachers for people who want to play music themselves?

    The kind of movie industry where $100M budget equals “good” will be gone now. Perhaps it will be replaced by live stage plays that involve the audience in participating in a one-off improvised common happening in some way we now don’t yet now.

    When I was a high school student we read, analysed and memorized poems. 100 years ago in my country if you wanted to graduate from a good high school you had to learn to WRITE poems – because cobbling together some pentameters is not that hard, a learnable skill. 100 years ago people saw art as something everyday people were doing, an educated man had to learn to write poetry, play the piano etc. Perhaps it was wrong that art turned into passive entertainment, into something you just watch and not do, and it will be undone now.

    Perhaps art will become more of a skill than an entertainment again, something you enjoy doing, not just watching.

    People just forget how things were before. Music meant you have a composer, a conductor and the musicians. Later on it got compressed into the concept of a band, and a performances sold canned as a record. Perhaps now it gets decoupled again, and composers and conductors will teach and direct happy bands of amateur musicians.

    Or the movie. In the original commedia del’arte theatre, a role was for life, the actor “lived” d the role and there was no fixed script, they improvised. Now we take the actor, the script and the setting, record it, can it up, and call it a movie. It wasn’t always so and it does not have to stay so.

    We have plenty of innovation regarding genres of music or movies, but hardly any innovation in delivering them, the 100 years old concept of the music recording as a product, the concept of the movie film recording as a product, despite underlying technological changes, is pretty much the same since Citizen Kane. This smells like a racket. Time to end it.

  35. @Winter,

    I highly doubt that ESR thinks politicians should stay bought. But he can certainly (and I do) believe that the media moguls would [i]expect[/i] politicians to do that. That’s the way I read it, as expressing [i]their[/i] outrage over it.

  36. I’m happy that democracy has prevailed over the rich for a change. It disgusts me to no utter end, with the jobless situation, deficits, unfair trade, healthcare and other serious issues, we are putting all which MATTERS aside to have to deal with this legislation. Legislation which NO ONE wanted in the first place. A POWER GRAB for CASH.

    And it seems that most of the people who sponsored this legislation were in-fact, REPUBLICANS!
    Conservative Republicans who believe in FREEDOM and EQUALITY for all!

    Typically, we do not live in a democracy. We live in a country which is ruled by a system similar to an auction most of the time with the rich wielding all the power and forcing their will upon millions of Americans.

    I hope all who sponsored this legislation should be voted out of office as a lesson to those in the future.
    Frankly, whether they be democrat or republican, I (truly *** believe) we should vote all incumbents out of office
    for several reasons. Their inability to balance the budget for instance. Their ignoring the will of the people in several
    key points going across the last few years.

    Good work! That goes to everybody involved in this battle. My utter respect goes to all of you, no matter what your
    political beliefs are.

    Charlie

  37. @Bryant:

    > “Hollywood money” is not a big deal;

    Perhaps not. But the influence seems overwhelming. See the number of ex-**AA lawyers in the “justice” department, for example.

    @Winter:

    The above — Obama’s being in bed with the copyright industry — is why this turnaround is surprising.

    @ConceptJunkie:

    The prospect of alternative voting systems will never get to the point where public opinion matters in the first place, because 99% of our politicians are from the Big Duopoly Party that stands to gain nothing and lose everything from even talking about changing the system.

    All you have to do is show the entrenched interests the innumerable examples of how third party candidates have historically mucked things up by throwing the election to the side that is farthest away philosophically from the third party candidate, and how this wonderful new voting system can effectively remove the effects of a small minority third party candidate. Never, ever mention that this same mechanism might someday allow a third party to grow and supplant one of the other two.

  38. All: “It’s not about the money! It’s about the influence!”

    Yeah, yeah, change the goalposts. Eric’s post (and the Big Hollywood propaganda he links to) is about money. It’s a bugaboo. Look: even if you think the influence is such a big deal, you should ask yourself why your news sources are presenting Hollywood money as a big deal if it isn’t one. When an opinion source I agree with presents something in a slanted way, I’m pissed off even if I agree with the basic premise.

    I did read some articles about Obama appointing a fifth RIAA-related lawyer to the Justice Department. I dug into that a bit. Turns out that a bunch of his attorneys came from Jenner & Block, who represented the record labels in their lawsuit against Grokster. They also represented the American Library Association when the ALA challenged federal requirements to install censorship software on library computers with Internet access. They represented the ACLU in Reno vs. ACLU, challenging the Communications Decency Act. They’ve been lead counsel in a bunch of video gaming lawsuits, defending video game companies from accusations that video games lead to violence. They represented ABC when the Islamic charity Global Relief Foundation sued ABC for libel related to accusations of terrorist ties.

    I feel better about some of those lawsuits than I do about others. It’s a pretty wide range.

    OpenSecrets has a breakdown of 2008 contributions by sector. Hollywood is part of Communications/Electronics. There’s a breakdown of top industries here. Hollywood’s #11 overall.

  39. This is an election year. Obama is simply protecting his party’s interests. Hollywood can go mope all they want, they waited too long to get this bill through and they’re quite stupid for not realizing that. Usually controversial election-year bills get squashed earlier than this. The difference here is that most of congress is too old and too internet stupid to have initially realized just how much their constituencies disliked this bill. And vice-versa, most of their constituencies needed the major websites they used to take drastic action to make them aware of what congress was doing. Yesterday was near perfect timing for generating awareness to kill a bill. That it was done on a Wednesday after a holiday weekend was also ingenious, everyone would be at work with need of google and wikipedia, and social media sites.

    What’s surprising is that Obama made an announcement that he would veto it. He likely didn’t need to do this as the situation had changed enough that the bills will likely now die a quiet death. He was trying to get in front of something that was (IMHO) already stopped, and annoyed some supporters in the process.

    I disagree that Hollywood’s support is only about the money. With the media in this country so centralized in a few company’s hands, there’s more power to affect an election in Hollywood’s corner than simple donation numbers would have you believe.

  40. @Shenpen

    Most musicians in the USA support themselves by performing. Even the moderately popular bands make more money from concerts and t-shirts than royalties. The contracts are structured so that they get an advance on royalties up front and then royalties after the recording has earned out; paid for production, promotion, and manufacturing. Musicians need a forensic accountant shake money out of the record labels.

    Are you certain that the education you spoke of wasn’t limited to the upper middle class?

    It is a pity that few people sing in bars these days in the USA.

  41. Instant runoff voting won’t make any fundamental change. San Francisco and Oakland had irv elections in 2011, and the results were not significantly different than first-past-the-post or separate runoffs would have been. (Oakland got a different winner, but the faces and policies offered were the same.)

    A third party is unlikely, as the incumbent two parties really do reflect the political preferences of most of the voting population on the largest issues. If something new becomes a major issue, the parties will take sides, and absorb the energy from the movement. On smaller issues, politicians don’t need to respond to the voters, because the voters are (rationally) ignorant.

  42. @Shenpen
    @BobW
    “Musicians need a forensic accountant shake money out of the record labels.”

    Remember that the box office crashing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was losing money according to the accountants of Warner Bros
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100708/02510310122.shtml

    Very, very few musicians make money on CD sales. They make money on the performances. They need the CD’s and labels to get radio/tv airtime. That is how they get the gigs. But on the whole, they only lose money on CD’s.

    The whole SOPA/PIPA charade is to protect the position of the intermediates against both the artists and the consumers. The prime targets of anti-piracy actions are outfits that try to sell music online legally, but circumventing the labels. I expect that SOPA is needed to go after Jamendo cs.

  43. @Anthony, that’s dependent on the correlation of a particular issue to the existing polarisation of politics.

    If you get an issue where both “liberals” (social democrats and left-liberals) and “conservatives” (right-liberals and conservatives) are split, then a third party that adopts one side of that issue may be able to break through. Of course, it would attract support only from people who regard that issue as more important than economics.

  44. >It is a pity that few people sing in bars these days in the USA.

    I could, but it would be a good way to empty it quick.

  45. Winter Says:
    > You suggest in this post that you prefer politicians that stay bought, ie, never listen to their voters.

    Let me offer you a more substantial response Winter. What you are seeing is the absolute core problem with democracy. This is not a matter of listening to voters, it is a matter of listening disproportionately to one group of voters due to one’s financial entanglement with them. In most other professional settings, if you have some sort of authority or legal control over the consequences to someone who you are financially entangled with, you are required to recuse yourself. A judge who’s wife is on the board of directors of a company that is being sued, can’t judge that case, for example. If the mayor’s brother-in-law applies for a building permit, he should probably step aside for that decision.

    In essence, the deal is “we give you money to get elected, and you do what we want.” It is much more subtle and complicated than that, but it is kind of like a soft form of bribery. I’m not by any means saying that Obama is especially guilty of this, it is the nature of a democratic system. Normally it is hidden under a blanket of pretense (money, we are told, only buys “access”), but here they are sufficiently pissed that they accidentally lifted the covers a little bit.

    The solution to this problem of democracy was brilliantly conceived by a bunch of patrician slave holders 200 years ago — namely a government of entangled competing interests with strictly limited and enumerated powers granted to each. The US Constitution is explicitly not democratic, in fact the founding fathers of our nation were pretty strong opponents of democracy. Democracy was a dirty word. Unfortunately over the following 200 years, this principle was worn away until as today “democracy” far from being a dirty word has become the apotheosis of political organization.

    Though, I should say in fairness, that “democracy” has come to be one of those words that can be molded to mean whatever you want it to mean.

    > From the other side of the pond (any pond), this years line up of the Republicans looks like they opened the asylum

    That is funny. From the perspective of most Americans who have a clue what is actually going on with our country, this years’ line up of Republicans look like an insipid bunch of spineless weenies. And to be honest, I don’t think American’s care all that much what Europeans think about their politics, given the utter implosion of the Project Europe.

  46. Oh, just as a follow up on the current crop of Rep Candidates, I think some clarification is useful:

    Ron Paul is certainly an exception, I admire him in many ways. But he is deeply wrong on foreign policy, and he would certainly loose to Obama, badly. And for many Americans these two facts totally disqualify him.

    Romney is a really interesting case too. I find it interesting to see how libertarians have reacted to his “Romneycare” health program in MA. I certainly think it is not a good thing, but there is a really deep philosophical point that can be made there that has powerful consequences, namely the separation of powers between the states and the federal government. How it is better to push these things to the state than have a one size fits all solution. That is, after all one of the core geniuses of our constitution. However, it seems our electorate is not sophisticated enough to understand this amazingly powerful point, and even our libertarian advocates loose the opportunity to talk about this crucial thing in their blood lust for the softy-softy Romney.

    I also find myself running to his defense when I hear all this crap about vulture capitalist. Besides the fact that it is just plain not true, it also misses another crucial point, namely that vultures occupy a very important role in the biosphere.

  47. > The correct solution is not politics, but to identify entities using Zooko’s triangle, in which the globally unique name of a website is the hash of a rule that identifies public keys valid for that site. This means that globally unique urls will not be humanly memorable. This is less of a problem that it seems, for, for the most part, they are not humanly memorable anyway. User interfaces, of necessity, are already starting to approximate Zooko’s triangle.

    Wrong. The p2p domain name system Namecoin solved that problem.

    In any case, the major issue with the DNS system is mainly having to do with the centralization of registration.

  48. “Start small. Create your (third) political party committed to winning. That means you run candidates in as many places as you can, but you concentrate all your efforts on the places where you can win and only those places.

    “That means that if you run a candidate for a big office (President, Governor, whatever) then you do so solely as a publicity stunt to get you treated as credible for your candidates for offices that you can win – which are things like city councilman, small-town mayor. Once you have a few people with experience in those offices, then you run them for state houses, or city mayors, or junior state-wide office (attorney general, secretary of state).”

    Nice idea. However, something like this was done once before, when Farmer-Labor was a major power in Minnesota. The end result was that the Democrats met them halfway and merged with them. To this day, Minnesota has a DFL party rather than a pure Democratic party, but it has no real influence apart from the Democrats.

    The reality is that the two major parties are very good at shifting their ideological ground and running candidates who can pick up votes in that middle battleground where 3rd parties might play. Once you started getting serious traction in a couple of states, one of the big guys would co-opt you, and they’d offer you a lot less than a Constitutional amendment when they did it. If you refused, they’d run their own candidates who echoed your positions in areas on which they were willing to compromise.

  49. >From the perspective of most Americans who have a clue what is actually going on with our country, this years’ line up of Republicans look like an insipid bunch of spineless weenies.

    Well put, Jessica.

  50. Oooh, there’s bipartisan agreement for ya.

    The New York state model for third parties is kind of interesting. Philosophically it makes me sad that the minor parties don’t increase the number of candidates, but it certainly does provide minor parties with more influence.

  51. “The New York state model for third parties is kind of interesting. Philosophically it makes me sad that the minor parties don’t increase the number of candidates, but it certainly does provide minor parties with more influence.”

    It only provides jobs for third party hacks. New York state politics has been riddled with bossism for well over a century, and shows no sign of changing. No third party is going to change that.

  52. I notice that, according to the table that Alex K. linked to, TV&Entertainment and Internet are neck and neck at $9 million a piece. Maybe we just outbid Hollywood?

  53. @Bryant:

    > I did read some articles about Obama appointing a fifth RIAA-related lawyer to the Justice Department.

    Once there’s a pattern, it’s easy to notice, even if a related pattern is simply lots of cronies from the same law firm (who, btw, all _did_ do some work for the RIAA).

    In any case, the worst lawyer was probably the first. I’ve turned down job offers before for ethical reasons even when I was out of work (e.g. optimizing predictive calling algorithms), so I feel qualified to state that I wouldn’t have worked on any file-sharing cases for the RIAA if I were a lawyer. And I don’t think that a lawyer who was in charge of, not one or two, but apparently dozens of RIAA cases is a reasonable choice for the justice department. This opinion of mine was further cemented when the justice department weighed in on the Tenenbaum case, and stymied information requests about ACTA. But, of course, YMMV.

  54. SOPA/PIPA are stupid. So are the selfish people who rationalise cheating artists and other productive people out of their sale price.

  55. Yeah, we human beings are really good at pattern recognition. So good that we do it whether it’s there or not. When you decided a fifth RIAA-related lawyer was a problem, did you look and see how many lawyers at that level the Justice Department employs? Did you take the time to break down the cases all of them have argued to see if the RIAA-related cases are statistically relevant? Or… does it just seem like a pattern?

    Correlation doesn’t equal causation. Bush’s Justice Department likewise rejected requests to make ACTA public. I think Washington, institutionally and across parties, reflexively chooses secrecy over transparency. Jumping up and down and yelling about one President obscures the bigger problem. They’re all in bed with the copyright industry.

  56. > So forget “principle”

    > The Won’s odds presently look pretty poor even against the sorriest specimen in the Republican-candidate clown show.

    I don’t know if you rate Romney as “sorry”, but he seems to be trying to make Obama look like the embodiment of principle in comparison (which takes some serious doing) .

    (Btw. I’m writing this in Finland, where the first round of presidential elections will take place on Sunday. The contrast to the length and cost of the campaigns in the US is sort of impressive (never mind that an openly gay male Green party candidate looks likely to make it into the runoff here). The campaigning proper has lasted for about two months and even the most expensive campaign of the eight candidates is probably going to come in under two million euros, and most are going to cost a lot less than one million. TV ads are minimal. The candidate who’s currently second in the polls wasn’t going to have any at all, but now his campaign is trying to fund one at the last minute. I just saw a news report that the candidates in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall elections are likely going to spend over a hundred million dollars. I’m assuming that’s a total sum for all of them.)

  57. >SOPA/PIPA are stupid. So are the selfish people who rationalise cheating artists and other productive people out of their sale price.

    I agree. I’ve ranted in public before rejecting the apparently widesspread theory that the stupidity and nastiness of the RIAA/MPAA somehow justifies theft of music and movies. Because sure, that’ll help the artists. Not.

  58. > When you decided a fifth RIAA-related lawyer was a problem, did you look and see how many lawyers at that level the Justice Department employs?

    I didn’t notice the fifth. The first two, right after Obama got into office, was all that was necessary. Did you notice at what level the first one (the one who directed the harrassment of, in some cases, completely innocent bystanders) was hired?

  59. @Bryant:

    > They’re all in bed with the copyright industry.

    That I will agree with. But note that Obama, in theory, had the ability to _not_ be in this bed. More grassroots money, enthusiasm, and momentum than any president has had in a very long time, and he utterly wasted it with crap like this.

  60. @Roger Phillips:

    > SOPA/PIPA are stupid. So are the selfish people who rationalise cheating artists and other productive people out of their sale price.

    Absolutely. But the selfish people who realize that they can hook a generation on Lady and the Tramp, then take it off the market and bring it back when that generation has all grown up and become nostalgic, and charge 10x as much, and then lather/rinse/repeat with the next generation — those people aren’t stupid. They’re just shamelessly taking advantage of the rules they’ve bought that says copyright is now infinite, not just for 14 years…

  61. Obama has a long history of not “staying bought.” He didn’t (as far as I know) do anything in return for Mark Rezko. I think his M.O. is to allow people to believe they’ve “bought him” and then just do what seems like the best political move later. You could almost say he’s incorruptible that way. Or, equivalently, that he has no sense of loyalty. He’ll accept a favor and then just … not do any favor in return.

    You’ll notice how pretty much everyone who elected Obama is disappointed at the way he turned out? Liberals think he’s too weak and conciliatory with the Republicans. Civil-liberties types are horrified. Moderates who thought he’d be economically not-too-left are disillusioned. The gays think he failed them. The point is, he had a lot of interest groups supporting him because he ran a good campaign, and he isn’t tied to any of them firmly enough to keep protecting their interests over the long term. If you think “Obama’s got to protect my interests because I’m an X, and he needs money and votes from us X’s,” you’re bound to be disappointed.

    (Exceptions: there are interests so entrenched that *all* politicians need to protect them. Farmers, for instance. Obama’s not exempt from the normal laws of politics.)

  62. @ Richard

    I’m sorry, I didn’t read to the bottom of the thread. After I read your plan about propagating a successful third party, I got anxious.
    Your plan seems reasonable save for a few details, and I’m not suggesting I have a better idea. First, creating a solid political base in a few states by spending out of state money advertising to states that are sympathetic to your philosophical positions is fine and such an action has precedent. However, the philosophical positions of the existing parties have oscillated into drastically different positions before. Between the elections of JFK and Reagan, many veteran voters I have spoken to have abandoned one political party for the other, which they have become convinced are now allied with their own philosophical positions and political interests.
    For many the allegiance with the democrats ended when Jimmy Carter served his term. Long story sort, it may be more difficult to create a third party with clout than it is to alter an existing party. Most people don’t even consider the issues. If I could put an R on ten democrats, I could find ten republicans to vote for them.

  63. @Shenpen: I like your idea.

    I’ve often worried that making art for profit may be becoming impossible. I really think people trying to argue that they can get rich off of tip jars and speaking engagements are straining at the facts. Good writers — writers I admire — are often in terrible financial trouble. The less famous working stiffs don’t stand a chance. But maybe that doesn’t have to mean the end of art.

    One of my pet axes to grind is that it would be a better world if almost everyone played a musical instrument for fun. That’s how I was raised — learning the piano wasn’t to help me win competitions or put on my college app, it was so we could gather round the piano and play and listen and sing. I still think that one of the ingredients in a happy home is a piano. But I’ve come to realize that’s a minority position. Maybe in my lifetime the pendulum will swing back in the other direction and making art will be a normal part of life as a human being.

  64. Wrong. The p2p domain name system Namecoin solved that problem.

    As is pointed out in the wikipedlo article linked to. Props to James for managing not to say anything racist in a post to a thread mentioning Obama, though.

    this years’ line up of Republicans look like an insipid bunch of spineless weenies.

    Clinton didn’t face a lot of opposition in his second run either, ISTR. Dole, eh.

  65. Obama got, and is getting lots of money from the computer industry. Back in his first campaign, I read that he’d done something very clever– instead of limiting himself to the usual big money donors to the Democratic party, he looked at were the money was– Silicon Valley. He got an excellent computer infrastructure for his campaign as well as money.

    No matter what he did in regards to SOPA/PIPA, campaign contributors were going to be yelling at him.

    As for supporters being disappointed, isn’t that the way of the world? IIRC, the religious right got a lot less than they wanted from GWB.

  66. I agree. I’ve ranted in public before rejecting the apparently widesspread theory that the stupidity and nastiness of the RIAA/MPAA somehow justifies theft of music and movies. Because sure, that’ll help the artists. Not.

    Here’s the problem: How are you going to stop people from stealing these things? We’re seeing SOPA, DMCA, DRM schemes, etc. because nothing else works against piracy, and these things at least appear to have made some headway. Back in the day when you had to buy pirated movies from a skeevy fellow selling crappy VHS tapes with photocopied dust jackets, piracy was difficult, risky, and could easily be cracked down upon. But now it’s so easily done, at relatively low volumes anyway, by individuals that there’s no practical way of stopping it short of imposing police-state controls on all internet communications. It would also be helpful if general-purpose computers were banned outright; or at least heavily taxed and strictly licensed.

  67. The GOP is so full of crooks and crazies that the only appealing candidates they can field, full stop, are spineless weenies like Romney.

  68. And your description excludes the Democratic party how, Jeff? Note that the one fronting the MPAA arguing for SOPA is Chris “Friend of Angelo” Dodd.

  69. As for any sympathy for institutional copyright owners, I have none. First of all, we’ve seen the kind of abuse that the RIAA as well as trolls like Righthaven engage in. The current law provides all too many opportunities for institutional copyright holders to abuse those they accuse of infringement. Some years ago, I aided a woman who was being shook down by a consortium of sewing machine manufacturers because she bought – not distributed, bought – a copy of allegedly illicit embroidery software off someone on eBay. They had sued the seller of the software and gotten his list of customers and were demanding $500 from each of them.

    I’ve dealt with the scum like that consortium – formed because the sewing machine manufacturers were too cowardly to act in their own name – and the RIAA.

    I have no sympathy for those who whine about their obsolete business models and falsely blame “piracy” for the fact that their business models are obsolete.

  70. >I agree. I’ve ranted in public before rejecting the apparently widesspread theory that the stupidity and nastiness of the RIAA/MPAA somehow justifies theft of music and movies. Because sure, that’ll help the artists. Not.

    It is my opinion that pirating help people, rather than harm them. So when people pirate hollywood movies, all they’re doing is helping the hated RIAA/MPAA.

  71. @Jeremy:
    > He likely didn’t need to do this as the situation had changed enough that the bills will likely now die a quiet death.

    I don’t think so. According to this…

    http://judiciary.house.gov/news/01172012.html

    …markup is supposed to resume in February. Even if it appears to be “shelved” at some point, that just means the Congresscritters will wait a while and then try to slip it in as an amendment to something else. I don’t expect this to go away unless a stake is driven through its heart. Repeatedly. With natural 20′s on *all* of the die rolls.

    @SPQR:
    > I have no sympathy for those who whine about their obsolete business models and falsely blame “piracy” for the fact that their business models are obsolete.

    Very well said.

  72. >Here’s the problem: How are you going to stop people from stealing these things? We’re seeing SOPA, DMCA, DRM schemes, etc. because
    >nothing else works against piracy, and these things at least appear to have made some headway.

    You compete on price and convenience. It really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Apple did well with the iTunes store because it was competitive with pirating for the casual pirate. Most people are actually honest people and would do the right things given the opportunity, and to be honest, except for the people you will never convert any way, most people are happy to pay for a product they enjoy. What happened though, was that Napster and its spawn brought about a new world of music, free was nice, but not essential, what really hooked the people was any song they could want, just that song and as fast as their computer could download it. And until the music industry finally got on board with that (a la iTunes and Amazon), the only way for consumers to get that service was to pirate. iTunes and Amazon compete with piracy by providing a value. Downloading a song you want from the file sharing services isn’t difficult, but it does have its costs in terms of time, quality and isolation. Time because not every song is hosted by a fast source, quality should be self explanatory if you ever spent more than 20 minutes on a file sharing service and isolation in the fact that you don’t get suggested song, alternatives and links elsewhere.To a lot of people, that extra little bit of convenience and quality is worth a mere $1.

    You can’t stop pirates from pirating, they will always do that, and someone will always justify themselves claiming that you want too much for your product. What you can do, is spend all of your money and resources into making a product that people will pay for, and writing the rest of it off as the cost of doing business.

  73. And your description excludes the Democratic party how, Jeff?

    Oh, it’s well-known that both political parties are severely compromised and that the whole American system is fucked up beyond repair. But the few politicians left who have any regard for the Constitution and human rights tend overwhelmingly to have D’s after their name. Ron Paul is one of the rare, rare exceptions.

    Chris Dodd was my senator. This career move for him is disappointing, but not really alarming.

    Winter,

    Also, favorably quoting Kissinger who has done more harm to the world than quite a number of much more infamous political thugs, puts me on the wrong foot.

    Eric has quoted people he dislikes — such as Martin Heidegger and Steve Ballmer — in the past, if he feels their words have a certain poignant resonance. He draws a line between the words and the person which you, apparently, do not.

    Eric is pretty much hackerdom’s version of Ron Swanson. No surprise his writing is a bit inscrutable to you.

  74. Charlie Ebert Says: And it seems that most of the people who sponsored this legislation were in-fact, REPUBLICANS!

    Wrong. The sponsor of SOPA (HR 3261) is Lamar Smith (R-TN). There were 31 co-sponsors, of whom 16 are Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), present chair of the DNC.

    So it was half-and-half. Or was: two Republicans have withdrawn as co-sponsors, but only one Democrat, so now it is 14 Republicans and 15 Democrats.

    See

    H.R.3261 Cosponsors
    at THOMAS (the Library of Congress legislative website).

    Meanwhile, Darrell Issa (R-CA) is leading the opposition to SOPA in the House.

    Republicans don’t look good on this issue, but they don’t look any worse than the Democrats.

  75. Adrian Smith Says:
    “Props to James for managing not to say anything racist in a post to a thread mentioning Obama, though.”

    It being horribly racist to observe that everyone holds Obama to a lower intellectual standard than they would hold a white politician. Apparently the lower your expectations of Obama’s ability to perform counter stereotypically, the less racist you are, confirming my frequent observation that “racist” merely means low status.

    As proof of this, me making comments about the self conscious behavior of whites will be deemed “racist” – and was deemed racist, even though it does not directly say anything about Obama, merely about politically correct treatment of Obama.

  76. They’re just shamelessly taking advantage of the rules they’ve bought that says copyright is now infinite, not just for 14 years…

    I’m trying to point out unethical behaviour, not score a point for the film industry. I think sending millions to politicians for special treatment is unethical too. I think it’s probably destined to turn into another idiotic culture war instead of a compromise that is reasonable for all stakeholders.

    It’s amazing to me that some people (I’m not saying you’re one of them) are coming out in support of Megaupload (hilariously named “The Mega Conspiracy” in the indictment). The indictment makes it pretty clear that they were not making a good faith effort to prevent copyright infringement. I’ve used Megaupload for legitimate uploads, and this is obviously heavy-handed, but if the indictment can be substantiated then the company itself had it coming.

  77. Jeff Read writes: But the few politicians left who have any regard for the Constitution and human rights tend overwhelmingly to have D’s after their name.

    Yep, and hobbits are real.

  78. Slightly off topic, but PZ Myers reports that there is another proposed bill in the works to prop up an outmoded business model:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/01/elsevier_evil.php

    > Along with SOPA and PIPA, our government is contemplating another acronym with deplorable consequences for the free dissemination of information: RWA, the Research Works Act. This is a bill to, it says, “ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector”, where the important phrase is “private sector” — its purpose is to guarantee that for-profit corporations retain control over the publication of scientific information.

    So the media companies aren’t the only ones.

  79. Better late than never.

    FROM STEPHEN GREEN’S DEBATE DRUNKBLOGGING:
    6:11PM A SOPA question!
    6:12PM Newt: “You’re asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood.” I think Newt has been reading Instapundit.
    6:12PM The GOP, by and large, is so RIGHT about SOPA — and techies will still give and vote overwhelmingly to Democrats who love SOPA. Why?
    6:14PM Every single candidate on this stage hates SOPA. Damnit, techies, what’s wrong with you?
    6:14PM Excuse me. Rick Santorum only mostly hates SOPA. And the techies will latch on to that as they write their checks to Obama 2012.

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/drunkblogging-tonights-gop-debate-2/
    via:
    http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/135664/

  80. SPQR Says:
    > Yep, and hobbits are real.

    Hey, enough of the personal attacks against Barnie Frank.

  81. “Eric is pretty much hackerdom’s version of Ron Swanson. No surprise his writing is a bit inscrutable to you.”

    And the Ron Raymond tumblr is born in 3..2…1… :)

  82. @Roger Phillips:

    I’m trying to point out unethical behaviour, not score a point for the film industry.

    Sure. I’m just pointing out that downloading something that you can’t buy at any price (because Disney made a strategic decision to make it scarce) is probably a gateway drug.

    I think sending millions to politicians for special treatment is unethical too. I think it’s probably destined to turn into another idiotic culture war instead of a compromise that is reasonable for all stakeholders.

    I think (though I might be overly optimistic) we’ll get to a reasonable compromise, but it will take longer than it should.

    It’s amazing to me that some people (I’m not saying you’re one of them)

    I’m not. My wife thinks I’m nuts because I make her keep all the CDs we rip. Color me paranoid.

    are coming out in support of Megaupload (hilariously named “The Mega Conspiracy” in the indictment)…. if the indictment can be substantiated then the company itself had it coming.

    Megaupload is a drug dealer. The customers are worried. But it’s not at all black and white — Disney is also a drug dealer, just not a very reliable one.

  83. @Sarah: I don’t believe that Obama has any plans for public office beyond a year from now. Why should he? He will have a generous pension, Secret Service protection forever, access to many other government resources, and he’ll be able to start a foundation funded by whatever people still love him, and do whatever the hell he wants for the rest of his life.

    Once you get elected to the Presidency, you never need to get elected again. So why NOT lie through your teeth and screw over all your supporters?

    Oh, and Ron Paul’s foreign policy is Just Fine(tm) to me. Stop funding foreign countries, bring the troops home, and let people protect themselves. Ain’t our job, and we’re broke besides.

  84. Patrick Maupin: “But the selfish people who realize that they can hook a generation on Lady and the Tramp, then take it off the market and bring it back when that generation has all grown up and become nostalgic, and charge 10x …”

    Yes.

    1. Copyright now extends to 75 years past the life of the author or 95 years total for a corporate work for hire.
    2. All works are now automatically Copyrighted. They don’t even need a Copyright notice.

    Thus, someone will always, always own a part of your brain, the part that responds to “Lady and the Tramp” or “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” or “Catch 22″. Until the day you die. And manipulate you at will. It almost puts Copyright in the category of “ought to be civilly disobeyed”.

  85. The future of any creative endeavor is going to be direct sales to interested customers, and a lot of work trying to find those customers.

  86. @Jessica
    “What you are seeing is the absolute core problem with democracy. This is not a matter of listening to voters, it is a matter of listening disproportionately to one group of voters due to one’s financial entanglement with them. In most other professional settings, if you have some sort of authority or legal control over the consequences to someone who you are financially entangled with, you are required to recuse yourself.”

    I see this as a problem of power and income inequality. Power corrupts, irrespective of the political organisation.

    If you look at the transparancy (corruption) list (http://transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi) you see that most of the “clean” countries have very flat power and income distributions. People are less corrupt because they have less power to sell favors and there are less extremely rich parties to tempt them. Democracy is simply an effective way to flatten power and income distributions.

    @Jeff Read
    “He draws a line between the words and the person which you, apparently, do not.”

    Would I be commenting here if I would not draw that line?
    On topic, if I quoted Stalin or Mao talking sarcasticly about mass murder, would that not contaminate my other words?

    Btw, my personal opinion is that all three forms of “IP” are censorship. Furthermore, I do not believe that you should have monopolies for non-exclusive goods nor information.

    Example:
    There is a story in the bible about the protagonist (JC) taking fish and bread and copying it thousands of times to distribute them to the masses, without paying the original owner for each and every copy.

    According to the logic of the MPAA/RIAA, this is stealing. JC is a pirate, thief, and criminal. He should have paid the original owner for every copy IN FULL.

  87. > Here’s the problem: How are you going to stop people from stealing these things?

    Here’s a hint: it isn’t “stealing”, it is copying. Unauthorized downloading of content is fundamentally different from boosting a car. Both are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same.

    > It would also be helpful if general-purpose computers were banned outright; or at least heavily taxed and strictly licensed.

    Really? Excellent. I can hardly wait.

  88. There is a story in the bible about the protagonist (JC) taking fish and bread and copying it thousands of times to distribute them to the masses, without paying the original owner for each and every copy.

    This is a bad analogy. JC is replacing the function of the fisherman perfectly by producing new fish, making the fisherman redundant. Pirates simply copy information without replacing the function of actually creating the information in the first instance. So society protects the livelihoods of people who do create information. Also, this choice of example is pure sophistry; pirates can live without free DVDs and music. If you don’t like the MPAA/RIAA, support artists who sell direct to the customer instead of making excuses to cheat others.

  89. @Roger Phillips
    “JC is replacing the function of the fisherman perfectly by producing new fish, making the fisherman redundant. ”

    Not as I remember. JC took the fish and bread and copied (reproduced) them. The fisherman and baker were still needed to “seed” the miracle. It is exactly the same non-exclusive sharing of copied goods.

    @Roger Phillips
    “If you don’t like the MPAA/RIAA, support artists who sell direct to the customer instead of making excuses to cheat others.”

    You are using a devious rhetorical strategy direct out of the books of the *AA. Why do you accuse me of breaking the law when I criticize it?

    And how does the *AA support artists? This is more like the old robber barons building castles along rivers and roads and to levy a toll charge on the pretext of “protecting them against robber barons”.

  90. Winter Says:
    > If you look at the transparency (corruption) list (http://transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi) you see that most of the “clean” countries have very flat power and income distributions.

    Singapore and Hong Kong, both of them severely unequal, neither of them exactly democratic are near the top of the list for honesty and fair dealing.

    In the middle east, most of the monarchies, though their scores are poor, still score a lot better than the republics. The cleanest Arab middle eastern country is Qatar, an absolute monarchy.

    In subsaharan Africa the only country that scores well is Botswana, which is, like, Singapore, nominally democratic, but is in fact notoriously run by DeBeers with a helping hand from the native monarchy. Botswana theoretically has a black army with black officers, but when things go pear shaped, as in the recent invasion by Zimbabwe to steal the diamonds, somehow it turns out that an army with white officers sorts Botswana out.

  91. @James A Donald
    Note that I talked about “very flat power and income distributions”, and not about Democracy.

    You have to look at the real power distribution, not the formal one. Still, top ten contains only a single non-democratic country, Singapure.

    In some countries, Social Pressure can do more good than any court could. Calling Botswana only “nominally democratic” is a stretch. There is more reason to say the USA is run by Goldman Sacks and other banks. If you say they are not completely independent in practice, that holds for more countries, eg, Afghanistan and Iraq. The USA could force Sweden to go after the Pirate Bay and Assange. The Netherlands were forced to withdraw legalization of weed by the USA and France. Spain introduced SOPA years ago on command of the USA.

    My point is simply that if no-one has the discretionary power to give out grand favors, then there will not be grand corruption. If this discretionary power exists, you get corruption under any political system.

  92. > With his approval rating underwater

    “President Obama’s overall approval rating now stands at 47 percent”

    link

    > economy showing no sign of climbing out of the shitter before November

    “Initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level in nearly four years, another sign of improvement in the long-suffering labor market.”

    “you’re close to the job market being back to normal”

    link

  93. On topic, if I quoted Stalin or Mao talking sarcasticly about mass murder, would that not contaminate my other words?

    If I had a penny for every time someone quoted Stalin’s quip: “one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic”. They weren’t lumped in with the Stalinists. Quite the contrary in most cases.

  94. @Jeff Read
    Stalin’s quip: “one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic”.

    Our host was not pointing out the cynism of Kissinger (or I missed that part too)

  95. >SOPA/PIPA are stupid. So are the selfish people who rationalise cheating artists and other productive people out of their sale price.

    You have to prove that I would have ever purchased said artwork in the first place to demonstrate that I’ve cheated said artist out of a sale. You also have to demonstrate that said artist receives anything living wage or better from the sales of their recorded media. If 99.9% of my purchase price goes to the copyright holder rather than the artist, and it is of a genre that I would never normally pay for (due to price/style/etc…) Where is the theft?

    I realize how that might sound like rationalization, but it’s not. Let’s look at it another way.

    Let’s suppose that the artist in question has no major contract with a record company. So in this scenario we have another artist who is no different than U2 or the Beatles or Elvis, they’ve got a similar amount of original work completed over their career, they’ve performed just as often if not moreso, but they have no major contract and no one to put their songs on the radio or similar discovery medium.

    Let us suppose that I find that artists music online first in a torrent and I like it a lot. Would I have ever purchased a recording of that artist? This is highly unlikely. Even though I like the music and even if they’ve put together multiple albums, there is no music-store distribution. I would simply have never known that artist existed. What is the net effect on the artist in this scenario? It is extremely likely to be VERY positive as they’ve just gained a new fan who would likely purchase their T-shirts and albums rather than download them. The moment of discovery of what we like is a powerful sedative on the penny pincher inside all of us. As self-respecting intelligent beings we are far more likely to spend money on an artist we discovered on our own than those the radio pushes at us.

    So, back to the original topic. How can the same act be both piracy on big business and a valid and even desired means of distribution for the sole proprietor? The reason is because the copyright holders have successfully painted themselves as representing artists. They don’t represent artists, they represent distribution. They know that open sharing on the internet is the death of their industry and they’ve been playing a game attempting regulatory capture for decades now.

    “Piracy” has *NEVER* been about pricing or theft from artists. Piracy ONLY exists where availability is restricted. This is true even for the ancient days of high-seas piracy. The reason it was profitable to use force to steal from other ships at sea was because the availability of goods was NIL (by comparison) back in those days, and whatever they stole could be sold for a high price. The music industry sought to control sound but new (I say new, but we’re talking mid 1990s now) technology has released it into the common bitstream of the world. The more these media industries attempt to restrict and limit their customers fair use, the more piracy will exist.

  96. Winter,

    I often see it being quoted in a cynical spirit, for example, explaining why the deaths of isolated 25-year-old women get such tremendous news coverage when the mass deaths in war-torn places like Darfur do not. The quoter usually agrees with the cynicism of the statement, if not Stalin’s murderous pragmatism in acting on it.

    I suspect the same is true for Eric. As I mentioned, he is our version of Ron Swanson, replete with moustache. He approaches politics from a perspective that all government and politics is a sordid and corrupt business, and is best observed with the same cynical and perhaps somewhat amused detachment that Kissinger had for Iraq and Iran. Probably difficult perspective for someone from a more functional democracy like the Netherlands to emotionally grasp, but it’s still a stretch to suggest on the basis of that statement that Eric supports or advocates the actions of Kissinger. It becomes more of a stretch when, after a bit of googling, you see staunch liberals whipping out the same Kissinger quote to describe Israel and Libya.

    By the way, I just got through the part of Time Enough for Love that deals with “reform politicians” and “business politicians”, and how business (i.e., bought) politicians are much more reliable because they remain loyal to whoever feeds them.

    Wouldn’t surprise me at this point to see libertarians wishing Obama would stay bought. Then they could predict and account for his actions.

  97. Btw SOPA would have allowed SCO to wipe Linux completely from the net. ATT could have done the same with BSD.

    In both cases the bank accounts of those involved would have been blocked.

    The same for YouTube.

  98. Winter Says:
    > I see this as a problem of power and income inequality. Power corrupts, irrespective of the political organisation.

    That is true. Power over others comes basically in two forms: attraction or force. I have power over your retirement savings either by offering you a compelling convincing package, or by forcing your employer, under threat of fines and criminal action, to take the money from you before you even see it. Both are a form of power, only the government has the latter kind of power (though occasionally the government delegates that power to others.)

    Both forms of power corrupt, I agree. However the former has an important counterbalance. It is called “go to hell.” Government is only counterbalanced by the very slow and blunt instrument of elections, and elections themselves are subject to deep regulatory capture.

    I am reminded of the joke of two guys being chased by a man eating tiger:

    Guy 1: You’ll never outrun that tiger!!!
    Guy 2: I don’t have to outrun the tiger, I just have to outrun you.

    I believe that would be a fair summary of how politics works for productive people in the United States.

  99. >President Obama’s overall approval rating now stands at 47 percent”

    Not according to Gallup when I made the observation. Perhaps your pollster is Democratic?

    >“you’re close to the job market being back to normal”

    That’s a bad joke. Now go look at estimates for the number of “discouraged” workers.

  100. Jessica Boxer Says:
    > Both forms of power corrupt,

    This is a typo, I meant to say “both forms of power are corrupting…”

  101. > What you are seeing is the absolute core problem with democracy. This is not a matter of listening to voters, it is a matter of listening disproportionately to one group of voters due to one’s financial entanglement with them.

    The absolute core problem with democracy is that special interests are served at all. This is a flaw whether you serve a huge popular constituency or a small one with oodles of cash. Legislating based upon the requests of groups promotes and exaggerates situations in which groups rather than individuals possess rights.
    This spat between Hollywood and E-commerce is a perfect illustration. When “Change the laws for us!” Is a business strategy, who can be said to have “inalienable” rights. On the flip side, sopa attacks international web architecture, one of the few things congress actually has the right to legislate on, and the popular web sites leaned on the bill and crushed it. Does this sound like we live in a society of laws or mob rule?

  102. Vaspasian: “The absolute core problem with democracy is that special interests are served at all.”

    Yep, our constitutional representative democracy sucks bad … except for every other form of government ever tried.

  103. Democracy worked when the franchise was restricted to property owning adult males, and when the population had high moral standards. Visitors to America frequently remarked that while democracy worked for Americans, Americans being virtuous and self reliant, it would not work for the corrupt and degenerate mob they had back in their home countries.

    Well today the white population is substantially fatherless, the other populations generally worse, those on some form of government benefit substantially outnumber those paying taxes, and the government is buying up huge numbers of low IQ voters from the third world and importing them.

    We used to at least get Mexicans who wanted to work, but increasingly, these days we get the Mexican underclass, the ones that normal Mexicans do not want, people who lived on their votes in Mexico, and proceed to do the same in the USA, because we used to get Mexicans imported by farmers to pick strawberries, but we now get Mexicans imported by politicians to vote left.

    Now the voters are a corrupt and degenerate mob that votes for the highest bidder, resulting in insolvency and socialism.

  104. It’s true that Constitutional representative democracy is awesome. We are a long way from home on that. Looking closely at the constitution reveals that our electoral process, in which the president chooses his own running mate is unconstitutional. Most laws regarding firearms are unconstitutional. Ignoring the actions of movie producers who aid and comfort our enemies is unconstitutional. Delegation of congressional power to mint currency to a private bank is unconstitutional. Congress passing laws that do not involve interstate trade is almost always unconstitutional. The list of illegal precedents set by all branches of government is a long one and these precedents are killing us.
    Of course, we got here by serving special interests. It’s trite but our form of government has an Achilles heel and its already been punctured.

  105. ESR,

    ESR,

    I can’t believe my eyes – have you just used the term “theft of music and movies” ?

    I thought you got it… I thought you are familiar with stuff like Michele Boldrin’s Against Intellectual Monopoly or Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property.

    OK let’s begin with the basics – do we agree that property rights are normally a special kind of “default contract”? I.e. that human behavior should normally be regulated by mutual agreements. However, the fact that despite of not contracting with everybody in the world not to steal my wallet it is still wrong form them to do this is a kind of “default contract”, which comes from the fact that wallets are scarce. Information is not scarce, therefore it does not deserve such a special protection: it should merely be regulated by contract: a musician can contract with a customer not to upload the recording to a torrent site, and can enforce it, but if it is broken there are no good reasons to sue a third person who acquired it and re-torrented it, because that person did not agree to a contract and given information not being scarce, it does not require protection by a “default contract” i.e. property rights. This is in short the ethical argument against IP.

    Putting it simpler the concept of property ownership does not mean one is entitled to sales nor that any kind of deprivation from potential sales is a breach of rights. What a property owner is entitled to is not to have costs enforced upon him i.e. a loss of physical, non-scarce inventory or some other kind of cost.

    Plain simply because we all must be free to decide what costs we take and costs we don’t – but we are not free to decide what sales we will have, that is for the customers to decide.

    Hence property rights must mean cost protection and not sales protection in any form.

    Therefore, pirating music is not theft but competition (not an imposed cost but a loss of potential sales).

    I really thought you already understood all this…

  106. >I thought you got it… I thought you are familiar with stuff like Michele Boldrin’s Against Intellectual Monopoly or Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property.

    I know the arguments on both sides. I’ll post on this topic sometime.

  107. @Winter,

    “My point is simply that if no-one has the discretionary power to give out grand favors, then there will not be grand corruption. If this discretionary power exists, you get corruption under any political system.”

    You are getting surprisingly libertarian here, are you sure it was your intent? :-) Basically what you said is that the problem is there is political power for sale and not that there are buyers for it. This is a very libertarian idea – restrict the potential supply of political power (i.e. limit political power by a restrictive constitution or some similar means) instead of trying to worry about whether rich people buy it by money or non-rich people by votes or it gets bought / influenced by some other kind of interest group by a different and more complicated way.

  108. > Not according to Gallup when I made the observation. Perhaps your pollster is Democratic?

    I wouldn’t know. Gallup has a nice summary page for presidential approval:

    link

    Barack Obama’s Term Average 50%
    Barack Obama’s High Point: 69%
    Barack Obama’s Low Point: 38%

    An average of 50% approval with a current of 47% does not sound like “underwater” to me. It’s basically a random distribution, America as a single entity has no strong feeling about Obama one way or the other.

    > Now go look at estimates for the number of “discouraged” workers.

    I’m not an economist and wouldn’t know how to interpret in-depth unemployment numbers. But I do read the major news outlets regularly and they disagree with you. My impression is that the economy has been weakly growing for the past year with speed gradually increasing around the Christmas shopping season.

    link

    “Home sales rose nationally in December, marking the third consecutive month that the market has shown improvement.”

    So, while I generally agree with you that the economy is not very healthy, that’s a far cry from “with the economy showing no sign of climbing out of the shitter before November”. We are doing OK and if the unemployment rate only improves a couple percent I predict the economy will become a non-issue for the election.

  109. @ESR – OK. But if I got the hint right you nevertheless mostly support IP laws, what kind of IP laws would you support instead of the current and proposed ones, that protect IP with minimal restriction of other’s freedoms and / or presumably creates a distributed set of incentives on the level of customers and some kind of a decentralized evolving IP protection system, as I suppose it is something of this sort what you would support? What is your SOPA alternative?

  110. Winter:@January 20th, 2012 at 5:09 am: And how does the *AA support artists?

    *AA members pay billions of $ in royalties and advances to artists. It is very arguable that *AA companies keep a disproportionate share of gross revenue, but that they pay a lot of it on is not disputable. This revenue comes from legal sales of CDs, DVDs, theater tickets, download fees, and fees for cablecast or broadcast.

    When art is copied by “pirates”, these sale mechanisms are evaded, and there is no revenue to *AA companies and no payment to artists.

    (Some may argue that copying a work that is exclusively owned by a *AA company does not impact artists, because no revenue for that product would go to artists. This is like sayiing that it does not affect producers to steal goods from dealers, because the producers have already been paid for the stolen goods. But if dealers get no revenue from what they have in stock, they have no incentive – or means – to buy more from producers.)

    ——
    Jeff Read @January 20th, 2012 at 11:37 am: By the way, I just got through the part of Time Enough for Love that deals with “reform politicians” and “business politicians”, and how business (i.e., bought) politicians are much more reliable because they remain loyal to whoever feeds them.

    It’s more complex than that. You want to read RAH’s politics book, Take Back Your Country. He notes at one point that he had never seen a professional politician go back on an explicit promise, whereas “reformers” did it regularly. A professional politician, the guy who runs the Umpteenth Ward from the back room of McGinty’s Tap, has to keep his word. If he doesn’t keep it, he has nothing. He’ll never promise something he can’t or won’t deliver.

  111. Vaspasian @January 20th, 2012 at 1:58 pm: … our electoral process, in which the president chooses his own running mate is unconstitutional.

    Say WHAT???

    There is nothing in the Constitution about how political parties choose candidates for President or Vice President. A Presidential candidate does not choose the VP candidate, he just recommends a choice to the national party convention. Since the convention will have a majority of his supporters, that recommendation will always be followed.

    Where does the Constitution come into it?

    Indeed, the Constitution says nothing about candidates, except the age and citizenship requirements, and that the electors from a state may not vote for P and VP candidates who are both from that state.

  112. @Jessica,

    >Power over others comes basically in two forms: attraction or force.

    I perfectly agree. However there is something that needs to be clarified. Attraction – persuasion, influence, marketing, advertisements, manipulation, seduction – can often be both practically and morally questionable and “not OK”. Any argument that is based on “everything voluntarily agreed is morally acceptable” is unacceptably abstract-theoretical as far as practical problems and common-sense moral sentiments go. This should not be an argument.

    There is a reason why the most popular religious myth of the Western civilization defines the absolute evil i.e. “the devil” not as an aggressive attacker but as a smooth, sly seducer / manipulator. Such myths are formed by actual experiences of people getting very screwed by manipulation, and the lessons carried by them should not be ignored.

    The good argument should rather be that putting wholesale collective force against a limited-scale private inividual manipulation / seduction is like trying to play sniper with an artillery battery – likely to result in way, way too much collateral damage and generally the solution is worse than the problem, especially that if you let the battery loose it is going to fire on other targets too. This is a good argument for putting up with unrestricted manipulation / seduction / questionable kinds of attraction. Denying that the original problem exists is the wrong one.

  113. Here’s Fox News, which I would expect to be biased strongly against Obama if anything:

    link

    “Fewer layoffs, lower inflation give economy a lift”

    “The economy is off to a fast start in 2012.”

  114. @Rich

    “Some may argue that copying a work that is exclusively owned by a *AA company does not impact artists, because no revenue for that product would go to artists.”

    So you define a property right as an entitlement to a revenue instead of an entitlement not to suffer a cost? Why? Given that everybody is free to choose their costs but not their revenues I find this a questionable position.

  115. @ Peter Donis, January 19th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    >I don’t think so. According to this…

    >http://judiciary.house.gov/news/01172012.html

    >…markup is supposed to resume in February. Even if it appears to be “shelved” at some point, that just means the Congresscritters will wait a while and then try to slip it in as an amendment to something else. I don’t expect this to go away unless a stake is driven through its heart. Repeatedly. With natural 20?s on *all* of the die rolls.

    Except: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46072484/ns/technology_and_science-security/

    Sometimes I’m right, not always, but sometimes. It’s an election year. It doesn’t matter what is scheduled, the whole focus of elected officials turns towards not upsetting their constituents with something that can be used against them come election time.

    Now I agree that the issue isn’t gone. We’ve had nearly a century of the music/media distribution industries trying to regulate out technology. This issue existed during the player-piano era FFS, so it’s not going away soon. However, these bills will likely die.

  116. Constitution of the United States of America, Article 2 Section1:
    In every case, after the choice of president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be Vice President.

    This is a little different than a President and running mate campaigning together. The first presidents had vice presidents who they ran against and there is no amendment that states this should no longer be the case. Now I don’t tend to think that this is a particularly harmful contortion but legally our current executive branch should consist of Obama as president and Mc Cain as vice president.

  117. The constitution does not stipulate anything about political parties or choosing running mates because Addams and others were horrified of the potential consequences of establishing political parties. Consequences like special interest lobbying and foot ball style politics.

  118. @Jeremy:
    > It’s an election year. It doesn’t matter what is scheduled, the whole focus of elected officials turns towards not upsetting their constituents with something that can be used against them come election time.

    Good point, election-year politics does change things somewhat in the short term. But as you say, the issue isn’t gone. It may just be the 2013 Congress instead of the 2012 one that tries to slip something into an unrelated bill.

  119. > Democracy worked when the franchise was restricted to property owning adult males, and when the population had high moral standards.

    I would say that you are correct on this point. Property owners have more vested interest in taxes of all kinds than do people who do not own anything. If you do not have anything invested in the country, in what way should others value your input?

    > Now the voters are a corrupt and degenerate mob that votes for the highest bidder, resulting in insolvency and socialism.

    Intentionally vulgar and incendiary but also basically true. This is generally what happens at the end of a republics life cycle. When the masses learn that they can vote for goodies, the treasury always runs out.

    I should point out that although democracy doesn’t work very well with an uneducated populace, people who do assimilate and maintain jobs are generally paragons of workmanship and social value and their children are as American as apple pie.

  120. @ Ian Argent

    You’re right, amendment 12 and subsequently section 3 of the 20th amendment do restructure the election process of the president and vice president. However, unless I’m reading it wrong, these changes stipulate a separate election for president and vice president, which again seems a little different than our current process of having one election for both as teams of two.

  121. > seems a little different than our current process of having one election for both as teams of two.

    It’s a procedural matter for the popular vote. The electorate still votes independently for pres and vice-pres; it’s just informed by the popular.

  122. Well that’s just sneaky as hell! Still, that does satisfy the letter of the law… I stand corrected.

  123. Shenpen,

    There isn’t an alternative to SOPA, not from the perspective of the MAFIAA.

    I oppose copyright laws on consequentialist grounds: no matter how wrong you think unlicensed copying is, you won’t be able to prevent means of easily, casually, and almost undetectably doing it from arising without resorting to the use of intrustive surveillance or enforcement and/or the restriction or outright banning of general-purpose computing devices from the hands of ordinary users. The more advanced our methods of communication become, the more tolerable a world where piracy is rampant becomes compared to a world where anti-piracy measures are successful, because more advanced communication technology requires ever more aggressive measures to put a stop to piracy using the technology.

    The RIAA and MPAA know this full well, but are on the opposite side of the issue from me: they would rather burn the world than see a day when copying becomes easy and affordable. If martial law is what it takes to stop piracy, they will petition Congress for martial law. What I think they’d rather have is carte blance to be a law in themselves, capable of setting arbitrary EULA restrictions and convicting and punishing suspected violators without that whole pesky due process bit. The media industries have a lot of money, they have influence over the thoughts of the American public, and they produce America’s chief exports in an era when all the manufacturing has gone overseas. We will have to choose a side — either freedom with rampant piracy, or strong IP protection but drastically curtailed personal freedom — and those of us who choose freedom have a long hard fight on our hands.

  124. The “next big distribution channel” already exists. Why do you think the MPAA and RIAA keep trying to choke off the internet. Fortunately, they got a late start, so there is a chance to keep ahead of their lawyers.

  125. >Power over others comes basically in two forms: attraction or force.

    David Friedman discussed three ways of interacting with others: coercion, trade, and “love” (which he expanded to mean “shared values”, such as open source). In his essay and chapter of Machinery of Freedom titled “Love Is Not Enough”.

    I have thought more about it, and redefining “power” to mean all means of getting your goals accomplished, have come up with five types of power: 1) coercion or physical force or its threat, 2)fraud or trickery, 3) economic or trade, 4) shared goals and other voluntary action, and 5) personal power also known as doing it yourself. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, both ethical and practical.

    The first and second are used by government.
    The first is also used by violent criminals.
    The second is also used by religion and con artists.

  126. For those of you interested in the copyright discussion, The Coming War On General Computation is great reading.

    Tl; dr summary: the *IAA battles are nearly won but unfortunately are only the initial skirmish. Soon, as every other hardware device is integrated with, or subsumed by, computers, the entire corporate world will realize they want to DRM your ass (possibly literally).

  127. One sketchy point about the economy– I was at Arisia for the fun of it (not with my business), and it’s the first time in a while that I’ve been in a dealer’s room that looked as though it had a more or less normal amount of business happening. This is very sketchy in a bunch of ways, but at least the place didn’t look desolate.

  128. Vaspasian, jsk: the President and Vice President are voted on separately by the Electoral College. However, the same electors vote in each election. When the voters choose the electors, they are, in practice, directing both sets of electoral votes. That is because electors pledged to vote for Presidential candidate A are essentially certain to vote for A’s designated running mate B.

    (One of the rare exceptions was in 1836, when the Virginia electors voted for Van Buren for President, but abstained from voting for Van Buren’s running mate, Richard M. Johnson. This had the interesting consequence of leaving Johnson with exactly half the electoral votes – one short of a majority. Johnson was elected Vice President by vote of the Senate, the only time that procedure has ever been used.)

  129. @Jeff this is one thing I agree completely with you, which is a bit surprising. One thing, maybe this is wrong: I think letting things get worse could help getting things better faster. You fight and all you acheive is delays, which means the pain felt by the general public increases slowly, which delays the inevitable reaction, and it could even mean people get used to it. I think this whole anti-piracy thing ought to be left to become monstrously and obviously unjust, as fast as possible, in order to achieve a popular outrage that sweeps it away. But I can be wrong, there have been many cases in word history when this didn’t work. Maybe I am just too optimistic, I base it on my belief that the people in general can tolerate fascism for something they feel really important, but nobody really feels anti-piracy is important enough for it, that most folks think this is at some level a little, frivolous matter that does not really deserve a major breach of liberties. That is just sort of an innocent fun game between some corporations and pirates where it does not really matter much to them who wins, and the when the game stops being innocent and say a thousand middle-class white teens from well-respectable families get dragged into prison for sharing some movie there will be a huge popular uproar. I could also expect the uproar begins in Europe or Australia / NZ, extraditing “enablers of piracy”, which already happened, is something people find really hard to stomach, and then the cancellation of extradition treaties might trigger an uproar in the American public. This is what I think, but I am not at all sure about it.

  130. Apple v authors

    So, to paraphrase: By using this software, you agree that anything you make with it is in part ours. But if it can say that and have legal force, can’t it say anything? Isn’t this the equivalent of a car dealer trying to bind you to additional terms by sticking a contract in the glove compartment? By driving this car, you agree to get all your oil changes from Honda of Cupertino?

    Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.

    http://venomousporridge.com/post/16126436616/ibooks-author-eula-audacity

  131. I don’t know what conventional publishing houses pay the authors, but I’m pretty sure it’s nowhere close to 70% of the cover price. The deal Apple’s offering is the first one I’ve seen that would make it worth my time to write a book I’ve talked to O’Reilly about in the past. If I’d gone with O’Reilly, the chief economic benefit I’d get from the book would be to use it as a calling-card when looking for consulting gigs.

  132. “Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents…”

    Microsoft is already there. I use a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 *Non-Commercial*. Presumably, if I should use Word to write The Great American Novel, I’ll have to hand over the royalties to Gates & Co.

  133. Wait? Apple is offering 70% of the cut to authors? Thats simply huge.

  134. @SPQR:
    “Evidently, some liberal bloggers think that the Republicans are more responsive to grass roots protests than Democrats.”

    They are. The Dem politicians get their toast buttered by large and very powerful interests that are disconnected from the populace. They tend to live in states that make voting fraud easy (such as illinois and cali) and they generally are responsible for large portions of taking coalitions. They are also (this is the important part) extremely unlikely to suffer a primary challenger that will get any funding or support.

    The republicans live in fear of being primaried from the grass roots. Compare Lieberman’s experience with Bob Bennet’s Lieberman was primaried by the grass roots and immediately used his power base to win the election anyway. The republican even dropped out of the race, so Lieberman could win. Bob Bennet was removed by the grass roots and no one paid any attention to him after that.

  135. Furthermore: The republicans know that the media in general will be harder on them, so any misstep is magnified and thus they are more afraid of making big legislative mistakes that anger their base.

  136. Sorry about the duplicate link above; I hadn’t realized someone had already mentioned it.
    ———-

    Shawn Yarbrough: “you’re close to the job market being back to normal”

    Unemployment as of December was 8.5%, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most macroeconomists think the “natural” unemployment rate of the US economy is 5.0% to 5.5%. So the unemployment rate is somewhere between
    (8.5 – 5)/5 = 70%
    and
    (8.5 – 5.5)/5.5 = 55%
    higher than normal.

    It is indeed actually worse than that, due to people leaving the labor force, as someone suggested above in mentioning discouraged workers. In other words, if you’ve given up looking for employment, you’re not officially in the labor force, so are not technically counted as “unemployed.” The BLS tracks the size of the labor force, which has shrunk in the last few years. If it were larger, the officially-measured unemployment rate would be larger.

  137. Republicans can be replaced by Tea Partiers; Democrats have nobody on their left and no strong antiestablishment wing. So I’m not surprised Republicans are more responsive to protests.

  138. >It is indeed actually worse than that, due to people leaving the labor force, as someone suggested above in mentioning discouraged workers.

    That was me. The “discouraged workers” figure has rocketed upwards in the last few years, and there is no explanation for that conducive to optimism. If the BLS is playing political football with the numbers, unemployment could have been as high as 15.2% in December. If they’re not, huge numbers of people have concluded the economy has no place for them, which is worse news in the long term.

  139. Its probably old news with this crowd but I just watched the last republican debate and Rick Santorum seemed rabidly aggressive. This killed Bachmann early on. That and her campaign being based on opposition to inoculations and homosexuals. Really Michele? Those are the relevant issues?
    Call me a cynic but at this point I’m betting on Romney or more probably Obama. Here’s my break down. Santorum looks like a jerk, Newt is ugly and Paul is ancient. Romney looks best in a suit and his voice has a soothing quality to it. Obama looks better in a suit and his voice…
    Maybe we should all get ahead of the curve: Hang Obama posters in our homes and start thanking him for the food we are about to enjoy. Its like pascal’s wager. If Obama looses we loose nothing. If he wins, we loose everything.

  140. >Santorum looks like a jerk, Newt is ugly and Paul is ancient.

    Santorum is every left-liberal’s negative stereotypes about conservatives made flesh – angry, stupid, sexually puritanical, religiously insane, learning nothing and forgetting nothing. Ron Paul is (much as it hurts to say this about a libertarian) a gibbering loon on foreign policy, with a disturbing streak of antisemitism and racist bigotry in his past. Romney is the Stepford candidate, all glossy finish with a vacuum at its core.

    Yes, Newt Gingrich is ugly. But worse than Obama he certainly isn’t.

  141. Apple is offering 70% of the cut to authors? Thats simply huge.

    Yeah, it’s the same deal as selling apps on the App Store. I’m expecting to see a rush of technical books on the iPad pretty soon, and on a wider variety of subjects than we see now from the O’Reillys and Addison-Wesleys of the world.

  142. a gibbering loon on foreign policy,

    Eric, that’s the most disappointing thing I’ve ever heard you say. The fact is, we can’t afford world domination anymore. If we elect Ron Paul, we may be able to wind it down without a Soviet-style collapse. If Obama or any of his Republican clones get the next turn at the Big Chair, we’re fucked.

  143. a disturbing streak of antisemitism and racist bigotry in his past.

    Oh, for crying out loud. A racist who wants to release all the black men who are in jail because of the War on (some) Drugs? An “anti-semite” who voted AGAINST condemning Israel for blowing up Saddam’s nuclear plant, and who wants to let Israel quit being a vassal of the USA?

    Show me anything that the man EVER said himself that supports that claim. Yeah, I know about the newsletters, and I know that they went out under his name while he was running the only ob/gyn practice in his county, and didn’t have the time to read every word of every issue.

  144. >Eric, that’s the most disappointing thing I’ve ever heard you say.

    Get used to disappointment, then. Ron Paul has refused to disavow the 9/11 “truthers”, fer cripessake! His ideas about foreign policy are straight out of the left-wing’s fever swamps.

    There was a sane libertarian in the race – Gary Johnson. He was blacked out by the media. Of course.

  145. > Ron Paul has refused to disavow the 9/11 “truthers”, fer cripessake!

    He’s stated many times on the record that he doesn’t subscribe to the “inside job” conspiracy theories. What else do you want him to do?

    >His ideas about foreign policy are straight out of the left-wing’s fever swamps.

    George Washington was a leftist? Really? Does the phrase “peace, commerce, and friendly relations with all nations, entangling alliances with none” ring any bells?

  146. There was a sane libertarian in the race – Gary Johnson.

    Governor Johnson endorsed Ron Paul in the last election cycle. Just FYI.

  147. Here, have a bit of perspective on just how “sane” our foreign policy is today. Figures are about three years out of date, but US spending has continued to increase:

    http://imgur.com/rSDuZ

  148. > Yes, Newt Gingrich is ugly. But worse than Obama he certainly isn’t.

    I didn’t mean to imply that he was. As the lesser of two evils, he is almost microscopic by comparison. The man seems brilliant and if given the chance he may just have what it takes to make radical and beneficial changes to our current policies, i.e. turning around.
    I just shudder when I think about his face in freeze frame surrounded by stock footage clouds and accompanied by sinister music. I don’t know that he has any defense against that sort of attack.
    I wish political elections could proceed without TV and radio. We wouldn’t elect Thomas Jefferson today if he had twice Obama’s campaign funding.

    > Romney is the Stepford candidate, all glossy finish with a vacuum at its core.

    I’ve seen nothing that would lead me to disagree with you. However, it might be preferable to have a polished sociopath rather than a gregarious and benevolent Marxist. As the lesser of two evils, I can only say that I already know Obama is a goat. Romney might be a yugo.

  149. The fact is, we can’t afford world domination anymore. If we elect Ron Paul, we may be able to wind it down without a Soviet-style collapse.

    A rather ridiculous sentiment. As expensive as our defense spending is, dropping it in large amounts would leave a vacuum in the world that would not be filled by Utopian forces. And its not our defense spending that is increasing in unsustainable amounts.

  150. The choice this time around is pro- or anti-war. I’m supporting Ron Paul, because I like having a clear conscience.

  151. > dropping it in large amounts would leave a vacuum in the world that would not be filled by Utopian forces.

    Don’t kid yourself, it’s going to end. The question is whether it ends in an orderly or chaotic manner.

  152. As ESR quoted some time in the past, if something cannot continue indefinitely, it will eventually stop. I don’t think the issue is actually our ‘world domination’, though—as noted, that’s not the piece of our budget that’s bankrupting us. Even the much-hyped Iraq war is relatively trivial compared to the recent round of bailouts and the projected expenditures for middle-class entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, etc.). There was a highly illuminating graph I saw once but couldn’t find again of budget deficits over time—decent surplus in 1999-ish, jump to similar deficit with (I assume) the Bush tax cuts, approximately double that with Iraq war starting, then steadily decreasing deficit until 2008, when it jumped quite hugely with the first bailout, and 2009, when it jumped fit to double or so that of 2008. It’s really not the defense (or offense) spending we have to worry about.

  153. @ESR: Let’s say, for the purposes of argument, that Ron Paul’s prejudices tend towards disliking blacks and Jews. Have you ever seen him vote that way?

  154. >@ESR: Let’s say, for the purposes of argument, that Ron Paul’s prejudices tend towards disliking blacks and Jews. Have you ever seen him vote that way?

    No. But I’m not familiar enough with his voting record for that to reassure me as much as you probably want it to.

  155. >It’s really not the defense (or offense) spending we have to worry about.

    That is true. One of the blog post ideas I have queued up is on exactly how unserious and dishonest it is for lefties to present cutting defense spending as the solution to our structural deficit problem. It’s unserious because we could zero the Pentagon’s budget tomorrow and it wouldn’t change the major deficit-drivers one iota; it’s dishonest because it’s intended to direct attention away from entitlement programs that lefties consider sacred.

  156. ESR sez:

    “One of the blog post ideas I have queued up is on exactly how unserious and dishonest it is for lefties to present cutting defense spending as the solution to our structural deficit problem. It’s unserious because we could zero the Pentagon’s budget tomorrow and it wouldn’t change the major deficit-drivers one iota; it’s dishonest because it’s intended to direct attention away from entitlement programs that lefties consider sacred.”

    Exactly right. In fact, you could zero every government expenditure except for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, unemployment and interest on the national debt–and that means everything, from Defense to Justice to Homeland Security to Congressional salaries to the White House’s electric bill and the guy that sweeps the floors in the Oval Office–and you would still be running a net deficit. It is mathematically impossible to balance the budget without addressing entitlements.

    At the same time, with regard to defense spending, we have to recognize that a large portion of what we spend–anywhere from a third to half of it–is for one purpose: to preserve our access to foreign oil. Let that tap be turned off, or even partly shut to any great extent, and our already-shaky economy goes into an immediate nose-dive into the crapper. Any reduction in defense spending must go hand-in-hand with a real energy policy. No, enviroweenies, I’m not talking windmills, solar cells, and electric cars. I’m talking nukes. Lots and lots of nukes, preferably of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) design. But now I’m getting outside the scope of a single comment…:-)

  157. esr Says:
    > Ron Paul has refused to disavow the 9/11 “truthers”, fer cripessake! His ideas about foreign policy are straight out of the left-wing’s fever swamps.

    I also disagree with Ron Paul’s policy – but he differs from the left in that whereas the left wants the US to lose, Paul wants the US to avoid foreign entanglements.

    Ron Paul supports the peace of Westphalia. On that I disagree with him. Muslim states have never agreed to it, so it is foolish to attempt to follow Westaphalian rules in dealing with Muslim states. But he supports a world of genuinely independent states as endorsed by the Peace of Westphalia, whereas the left – and the state department – does not.

  158. Ron Paul has never had to plan ahead as far as being president, because he simply doesn’t have the public support. So I think his foreign policy and potential racism/anti-semitism is beside the point. He’s a protest candidate.

    If I were a more earnest and innocent sort, I would support him enthusiastically to get the message out that libertarians exist. But I think most of America already knows that libertarians exist, and doesn’t like us. At this point, being a booster for free markets and limited government is boring and depressing — boring because it’s stating the obvious, and depressing because people aren’t going to believe us.

    The way I see it, if we want to avoid long-term economic stagnation, we have some real problems to solve (rising cost and inefficiency of health care; terrible education system, which is related to poor job preparation and unemployment and the credential bubble) and we can expect the government to be no help at all. There *are* people working on those problems, and I am as well, but I have no idea if it’s going to be enough. (Energy is also one of those problems where progress is probably going to have to happen despite government; very much agreed that nuclear would be helpful; also better energy storage: http://lightsailenergy.com/.)

    I suppose it may be a serious question which politicians are least destructive; it might be vaguely better to vote Republican than Democrat. But I’m getting sick of paying attention to all those unhelpful pains in the neck. If the President is the “leading term” in what happens to the US, then our outlook is pretty grim.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never understood why we go to war so much, and I vaguely wish we didn’t, but I recognize that my opinion comes from almost total ignorance. I think peace would be better, but I’ve never been confident enough of that to make a public stink about it. Very much agreed that defense spending is a drop in the bucket, budget-wise, compared to entitlements.

  159. ESR, I love yah man, but you are wrong on every count here about Paul.

    1) He has disavowed the truthers.

    2) His foreign policy is just what Jefferson and Washington recommended, hell he even quotes Washington when he gives rationalization for his policy.

    3) He as never ever voted in a racist manner, and has saved the lived of blacks in his district. You are buying into the accusations of racism, shame on you… I thought you realized that those accusations are almost always smears nowdays.

  160. 4) His Israel policy is almost word for word what Israel’s president has endorsed.

  161. > “the left wants the US to lose”

    This is dishonest, and self-defeating. The lefties do not want to lose. They want to win, but they think their most effective weapon is foreign aid and Hollywood.

    Now, I do not think Hollywood is as effective as the left seems to think. But it is certainly more efficient than the way the US military has been used in the recent years.

    The way I understand it, ESR and many others here want the US military to strike everyone that hits them so hard they don’t want to hit back. *I don’t think this is possible*, at least not in the present political environment. Looking at history, the only times this kind of “stick” foreign policy has worked are the ones that end in full occupation or outright genocide. The US strictly lacks the manpower to occupy the Muslim world, and the other option is pretty much politically impossible. Thus, the only possible outcome of escalating the conflict is more conflict — it certainly cannot cause us to win it.

    The best case study of this is imho the 2006 Israel-Lebanese conflict. The reasons the Hezbollah started that little war are entirely domestic — Hezbollah was rapidly losing support in Lebanon, with the population generally preferring to embrace economic growth and westernization in favor of the mullahs. Thus, Hezbollah takes action that forces Israel to respond. The response took the form of border skirmishing and a bombing campaign. The bombing campaign had essentially zero effect on the Hezbollah, but did cause widespread economic destruction. The border skirmishing lead the Lebanese to believe that the Hezbollah was the only real army protecting their borders from the Israeli. This, combined with the Iranian oil dollars the Hezbollah spread around to fund the reconstruction, lead to the re-radicalization of the Lebanese youth and secured Hezbollah support for at least the next decade.

    The bombing campaign was pretty close to the single worst possibly strategy Israel could adopt — not responding at all would have been better. The traditional Israeli tactic of targeted assassinations against key Hezbollah figures would have been vastly better.

    I believe that the same is true for 9/11. The actions the USA took after it were strategically worse than not acting at all. There are alternatives that would have been even better than that — but very likely, none of them would have included an invasion, a bombing campaign or even economic sanctions.

  162. >But I think most of America already knows that libertarians exist, and doesn’t like us.

    Psephological surveys tell a different story: 22% of the American electorate has libertarian issue stances, which is actually a larger percentage than the 14% or so who self-identify as (left-)liberals.

    What’s actually going on is that Americans think libertarians are no-hopers because they’ve been systematically conned about where the actual political center in the U.S. is – they think most other Americans are much more left-statist than they actually are. Thank the dominant media culture and Hollywood for that. The actual political center in the U.S. is about where Sarah Palin lives.

    The situation is not helped by the fact that libertarians are, in general, even less competent at propaganda than conservatives are. Which is going some.

  163. @esr:

    “Psephological surveys tell a different story: 22% of the American electorate has libertarian issue stances, which is actually a larger percentage than the 14% or so who self-identify as (left-)liberals.”

    This is mostly due to certain cognitive biases. Most leftists think they are moderates when you ask them what they are.

  164. >Most leftists think they are moderates when you ask them what they are.

    I just wrote “[Americans] think most other Americans are much more left-statist than they actually are.”

  165. Apple’s 70% royalty offer is the same sort of deal offered by Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, etc to self/small publishers for a few years now. “You do most of the work, including writing, editing, copy-editing, layout, cover design, publicity, etc, and we will handle electronic distribution and payment processing. You get 70% and we get 30%” and its STILL a better deal than you get in traditional big publishing even with the extra work.

    There is a reason why more and more midlist authors are bringing out their out of print back list titles themselves and starting to bring out new works themselves that way. If you sell an ebook for 4.99$ and make 70% on it after less than 1500 copies you have already beaten the typical 5K$ advance a midlist paperback project brings in these days. A lot of new authors are skipping traditional publishing houses completely and making a decent income self publishing.

    If you are interested in the area I recommend looking up the blogs of Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Rusch, Michael Stackpole, and Joe Konrath for starters. They have been talking about the sea change in the publishing world for the last few years now and even they admit the advice they gave a year ago isn’t the advice they gave a few months ago, isn’t the advice they would give now.

  166. @Sarah:
    But it becomes almost impossible to police that. You get folks like Bush or Santorum, that end up using the conservative culture as cover for fiscal leftism.

  167. Well, that’s why I’m pessimistic about politics — of course it’s hard to make politicians voluntarily accept less power.

  168. “Lots and lots of nukes, preferably of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) design.”

    We certainly need more nuclear plants, but ease up on the new designs. The present light water plants have plenty of problems, but, after half a century, we pretty much know what they are. We can design around them. We don’t have enough experience with the newer designs to say that they are better. Liquid Sodium or Fluoride are DANGEROUS. By all means, build pilot plants and test them out…but keep building conventional plants until you’re sure you’ve worked the bugs out.

    There have been entirely too many articles in Popular Mechanics about how some new reactor design is going to save the nuclear industry. Magazine articles do not generate any electricity.

  169. Regarding Ron Paul — as I have said, broadly speaking I am an admirer of the man. I agree with him about 80% of the time. However, here are two basic, plain, undeniable facts.

    1. He is not only wrong, but profoundly and dangerously wrong about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    2. He cannot get elected in the general election, he will get totally destroyed. And almost anyone if better than Obama.

    Every election cycle is putatively pivotal. But this one is different. Iran will get a nuclear weapon if we don’t stop them and that will undoubtedly lead to lots and lots of nuclear weapons in the middle east, a place full of escatalogically nutty America haters. If Iran gets the bomb, there will be no turning back. Further I predict such a device will be set off in an Israeli or possibly an American city within ten years of that event.

    Secondly, our economy is literally at the point of collapse. Ron Paul’s ideas might fix it, but a vote for Ron Paul in the primary is effectively a vote for Obama, because he simply can’t win. Not enough Americans give a shit about the abuse of the Fed, and lots of them think he is nuts about the bomb.

    So perhaps a vote for Ron Paul allows one to have a clear conscious, and the truth is that your vote doesn’t really matter at all, so that might be OK. But the truth is that if Ron Paul was the Rep Candidate we are in for four more years of Obama, unconstrained by need for reelection, and consequently unleashing the full measure of his insane socialist notions on the last vestiges of America.

    Consequently, he ain’t getting my vote. In truth what matters more than if Mitt or Newt or Rick is at the top, is that the lower level elections allow them the legislative support to get things done. Not only by winning the senate and keeping the house, but also by scaring the bejesus out of the moderates to discourage them from the filibuster except as a last resort.

  170. >1. He is not only wrong, but profoundly and dangerously wrong about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    This is symptomatic of a larger derangement in Ron Paul’s thinking. He is exactly like a leftist in one crucially important way; he is so wedded to a narrative in which the exercise of American power overseas is evil that he must be willfully blind to threats which can only be met with such power.

    Libertarians in general have a problem here. It traces back to the compromise at the founding of the LP under which the left-wing/SDS types involved in that founding swallowed “right-wing” economic doctrine in exchange for control of the foreign-policy plank.

  171. I like Ron Paul, but I know he doesn’t have a chance in Hell of getting elected. However, I very much like his candidacy this election cycle, because he’s running around gleefully poking holes in everyone else—they’re all going on about the deficit issue and how it has to be studied and carefully dealt with and so forth, and he’s out there running ads saying “Hey! Let’s get rid of six government departments! Look, no more deficit!” He’s a serious enough candidate that he gets those views into the open and puts the other candidates in the position of having to argue against them, rather than simply take it as read that they’re ridiculous; that’s a very valuable role.

  172. Oh, btw, regarding ebooks, I recently had to learn a new technology. I bought an ebook on the subject and worked my way through. I really hated it. Reading the ebook was a total pain for that type of work. Specifically the inability to physically flick through the pages, do a quick scan for that code example, get a mind picture of the page that helps find what you are looking for which you can’t do on an ebook because resizing constantly reorganizes the page. Search compensated a little, but it wasn’t nearly as functional.

    I’ve read novels on ebook format, and it was fine. But learn a technology books really suck in ebook format (IMHO.)

  173. Tom Dickson-Hunt Says:
    >He’s a serious enough candidate that he gets those views into the open and puts the other candidates in the position of having to argue against them, rather than simply take it as read that they’re ridiculous; that’s a very valuable role.

    I 100% agree. When else in recent American history did anyone give a hoot about what the fed was doing?

  174. > The situation is not helped by the fact that libertarians are, in general, even less competent at propaganda than conservatives are.

    I think libertarians are getting better at it in subtle ways, and their ideas are reaching many more demographics than they did in the 80′s and 90′s. I’m thinking along the lines of pop-culture folks like John Stossel and the South Park duo. The latter recently dominated the Tony Awards with their “Book of Mormon”. They also won the Drama League award for Best Musical – not exactly a tectonic shift in the monoculture, that, but considering the deep crimson turf such battles are fought on, it might be that the far left’s death grip on the arts is beginning to weaken.

  175. “He is exactly like a leftist in one crucially important way; he is so wedded to a narrative in which the exercise of American power overseas is evil that he must be willfully blind to threats which can only be met with such power.”

    So now non-interventionism is exclusively a leftist idea? Was the SDS around in 1776?

  176. But would force be desirable? As I understand it, Pakistan already has nukes and the political influence of the imams in that country is powerful. Thus far they have not used their nuclear power on any of the billions of heathens that surround them. It’s possible that Iran would rest on its laurels and use the bombs for political leverage just like everyone else who has them.
    If we were to use force on them, it seems like we should kill as many as we can, destroy their infrastructure and logistical lines and do terrible blasphemous things to their carcasses as a matter of course. There will be nothing left to be threatening if half of them are dead and the other half are shaking the mess out of their pants. I just don’t see the US doing anything like that. We haven’t done anything like it since WWII and if we’re not going to fight to win, why fight at all?

  177. It really doesn’t matter if you believe we should be interventionist or not. We are too broke to be interventionists, and without a Ron Paul type candidate that wants to massive cut everything, we won’t be able to do interventionism in the future.

  178. >So now non-interventionism is exclusively a leftist idea? Was the SDS around in 1776?

    No, but non-interventionism barely survived into the 1800s as U.S. doctrine either. Nor could it have. To find out why, oh historically ignorant one, go find out why the Marines sing about “the shores of Tripoli”. Hint: imperialism was not involved.

  179. Ok, still confused on that Tripoli thing.
    Why didn’t the US just keep paying protection money to the pirates? It’s not obvious to me.

  180. >We are too broke to be interventionists

    That’s not true. The U.S. spends a smaller fraction of GDP on the military than most countries, and even so has a navy equaling the fleets of the next thirteen largest naval powers combined. We can afford to be interventionists, and should be when the alternative is – say – an Iranian or Pakistani terror nuke going off in a U.S. city.

    You’ve apparently fallen prey to the myth that defense spending is at the core of our deficit problem. It isn’t. It’s not even really a significant factor. I guess I need to write that post.

  181. The question for Ron Paul is, “When it becomes obvious that you won’t get the Republican nomination, will you drop out and willingly support the party’s candidate, whoever he is?”

    He could go on to do great damage as this campaign’s version of Ralph Nader.

  182. >Why didn’t the US just keep paying protection money to the pirates?

    Because when you pay money to people for being pirates, you get more pirates. It’s exactly the same failure mode as welfare programs – when you tell people you’ll pay for their poverty and self-degradation, what you get is more poverty and self-degradation.

  183. ” To find out why, oh historically ignorant one, go find out why the Marines sing about “the shores of Tripoli”. ”

    methinks you are confusing non-interventionism with pacifism (and/or suicidalism and/or isolationism). the barbary wars were wars of self-defense. more to the point, that non-interventionism stopped being state policy does not imply that the only subscribers to it that remained were leftists.

    i don’t argue that lefties aren’t drawn to ron paul because non-interventionism is compatible with their “blame america first” world-view. i do however think it is incorrect to say that libertarians agree with non-interventionism because they were infiltrated by hippies.

  184. “You’ve apparently fallen prey to the myth that defense spending is at the core of our deficit problem. It isn’t. It’s not even really a significant factor. I guess I need to write that post.”

    I agree that it isn’t at the core, other things are bigger, but, it is still significant. You vastly underestimate the size of the deficit. 1.5T dollars is roughly half of the entire tax revenue of the US federal government.

  185. >i do however think it is incorrect to say that libertarians agree with non-interventionism because they were infiltrated by hippies.

    That would be an oversimplification, I agree. The reason the SDS types were able to put a left-wing stamp on the original LP foreign-policy platform was because their prescriptions were just superficially similar enough to the original Jeffersonian isolationism. There was a substratum of non-Left idealism there.

    For exactly the same reason, libertarians have been easily confused and manipulated into deeply self-destructive foreign-policy stances ever since. Isolationism didn’t fly even in 1803; it is even less viable today because travel and the exertion of force at a distance are so much easier. But we tend to pine for it, and still fool ourselves into thinking it’s viable.

  186. “Isolationism didn’t fly even in 1803; it is even less viable today because travel and the exertion of force at a distance are so much easier.”

    No argument there. Moreover in re: Ron Paul, for a non-interventionist to consider war with Iran to be pre-emptive he or she would have to be ignorant of the news since, say, the Beirut barracks bombing in ’83.

  187. ESR wrote “the U.S. spends a smaller fraction of GDP on the military than most countries.”

    Not according to https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2034rank.html

    I realize that there are various difficulties in counting. (E.g., how to account for military pensions, and various ambiguities in GDP itself.) As far as I know, though, they’re not large enough to move the USA down below the middle of the factbook’s list.

    Also, as long as I’m questioning factoids presented here, I don’t think pre-Enlightenment necessarily means 99% subsistence farming. E.g., figures from http://www.tulane.edu/~august/H303/handouts/Population.htm (originally from a 1958 book on ancient population) give Rome alone having ca. 1% of the imperial population ca. 300AD.

    That’s not to say that military spending is what’s bankrupting the USA, or that the average pre-Enlightenment life had much to recommend it compared to modern life, just that some facts you presented to support those conclusions seem questionable.

  188. >I realize that there are various difficulties in counting.

    Yes. I deliberately glossed over an important one before. Many countries with a lower fraction of GDP spent on defense manage that only because they’re sheltered by the Pax Americana. This artificially depresses their defense spending not only below what is required to protect their out-of-country interests (their trade networks) but in many cases below what they would have to spend to maintain their borders in a world without U.S. military hegemony. This is notoriously true in Europe, for example – it has been bleakly observed among military planners that if today’s Turkish army decided to reconstruct the Ottoman Empire, nothing could stop them short of the English Channel.

    Now, a lot of people have the reflex that we ought to make the damn Europeans pay for their own damn defense. I agree – but in thinking about the “right” fraction of GDP to spend on the problem, and the extent to which the U.S.’s share is “too high” it’s helpful to remember what all the parties involved are actually buying. And don’t be too quick to assume the U.S. is paying too much before you take a hard look at the underlying geopolitics and economics, either. Sigh…I suppose that’s another post.

    >Rome alone having ca. 1% of the imperial population ca. 300AD.

    That figure may be true. But you picked a particularly unfortunate example for your skeptical case, there. One of the reasons the Western Roman Empire collapsed before the Eastern (about 150 years past your point in time) is differing levels of urbanization – the West had fewer cities (fewer economic engines) and Rome was disproportionately large among them. Thus, Roman population figures tell you less than you’d think.

    You would have done better to point at Byzantium – or better yet one of several relatively large cities that weren’t Imperial capitals, such as Antioch or Alexandria. The Eastern Empire, building on a deeper-rooted tradition of the Hellenic polis, had a larger fraction of urbanites.

  189. I was actually wondering, do we *actually* spend too much on the military? So I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation.

    People implicitly put a dollar value on life all the time. It’s reflected in how much we spend on worker safety and health care, for instance. It’s about seven million dollars. A reasonable gauge of whether we’re “spending too much on the military” is whether the amount we spend on the military, divided by the expected number of American lives it saves every year, is more or less than 7 million.

    The 2012 military budget, according to Wikipedia, is about 1.030 trillion, taking the more conservative estimate. That becomes “worth it” if you think that at least 150,000 Americans would be killed in a year if the US military abruptly ceased to spend any money that year. The thing is, that’s not completely unthinkable. That’s about the number of people who’d be killed if one atomic bomb was set off over a major city. If we suddenly laid off every US servicemember, we might in fact get nuked. So, even though the military is expensive, I think we’re probably paying “what it’s worth,” according to the market’s gauge of how much it’s worth spending on human life.

    That doesn’t mean that the military never wastes money or makes bad decisions, and it doesn’t take into account any moral objections to contemporary wars. I take some of those moral objections seriously. But I think it’s simply not true that we’re spending too much on the military. I think we’re probably getting more lives saved per dollar of military spending than per dollar of medical spending.

  190. @ Sarah

    That is a seriously cool argument. I’m going to have to steal it in case I need it for later.

  191. @Sarah, thats a bad way of doing it. What matters is the marginal effect not the effect of shutting it down completely.

    “But I think it’s simply not true that we’re spending too much on the military. I think we’re probably getting more lives saved per dollar of military spending than per dollar of medical spending.”

    NO NO NO!

    Your analysis is terrible. The question should be, what does saving 1 more (less) life via the military cost vs saving 1 more (less) life in another way.

  192. @Doc Merlin:
    I was thinking about the marginal *year* of military spending because that’s the easiest thing to estimate. The marginal dollar (or the marginal life) would be more useful, but would actually take work to model. I’ll have to think about that some more. Basically, doing it my way is a linear approximation to doing it right; the more negative the second derivative of the benefit of military spending, the more I’ve overestimated the value of the military. (It might, for instance, be true that a minimalist military is *much* better than nothing, but additional military spending adds little additional safety.)

  193. Still things get more complicated. What about the comparative benefits of R&D VS standing or engaged forces? Certainly there is a great need for both but a larger standing military makes it more difficult to retool when new innovations come to light. Similarly a smaller standing military offers less force to swiftly combat a foe.

  194. @Sarah:

    “It might, for instance, be true that a minimalist military is *much* better than nothing, but additional military spending adds little additional safety.”

    This is the model that I believe the Paul crowd believes. Furthermore they believe that foreign military spending, bases overseas isn’t very helpful, compared to R&D, troop strength, etc.

  195. The USA has been the ballast in the European boat since 1945. The NATO countries haven’t had a tribal war since then. One wonders what would happen if we did withdraw our troops.

    Before anyone claims that Europe is now too interconnected to go to war, remember that in 1914 Germany and France were each other’s biggest trading partners. You can’t go too far wrong betting on the stupidity of the political animal.

  196. @BobW:
    Imo, Europe needs to grow up, they can’t grow up and come into the modern world with us acting as their nanny.

  197. Everyone thinks that wars, at least big wars, are suddenly a thing of the past, just because the US has been so dominating for the last twenty years and before that the MAD issue kept major symmetric conflicts from happening. I look at it and can’t help but think it will end badly. Applicable in another context, if something cannot continue indefinitely it will eventually stop; both the US’ role as universal defender and the current European societal organization fall under that designation. And when it ends it will most likely, commensurate with the wonderful record humans have with these things, come about in fire and blood. I’m also rather dubious about the idea that either no one will ever use nukes in war or that will always be a war-ender. If the nuclear-power Europeans go to war again, it’s going to be ugly.

  198. >I look at it and can’t help but think it will end badly.

    Indeed. I sometimes wish that everyone who craves for the U.S.’s role as hegemon of the West to end should get the consequences they’re asking for, good and hard. Then I remember that I’d have to live with the fire and blood, too, and lie down until the feeling passes.

  199. # Doc Merlin @January 22nd, 2012 at 9:58 am: The republicans live in fear of being primaried from the grass roots. Compare Lieberman’s experience with Bob Bennet’s Lieberman was primaried by the grass roots and immediately used his power base to win the election anyway. The republican even dropped out of the race, so Lieberman could win. Bob Bennet was removed by the grass roots and no one paid any attention to him after that.

    There are many counter-examples: notably Alaska in 2010, where the “Tea Party” defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary, but she won the general election as a write-in candidate.

    It would be interesting to compile a list of successful primary challenges to incumbent Senators over the last 50 years. Unfortunately, my main reference is packed away. There haven’t been many in either party. The defeat of Bennett was remarkable because it was unusual.

    One hears that there will be a challenge to Lugar in Indiana this year. Otherwise… crickets.

  200. Gee, didn’t we hear this same line of warmongering bullshit just before we blew a trillion dollars on the Iraq war and found none of the promised “weapons of mass destruction”?

    Eric, I used to believe you were a libertarian. Thank you for correcting that misapprehension.

  201. Many countries with a lower fraction of GDP spent on defense manage that only because they’re sheltered by the Pax Americana. This artificially depresses their defense spending not only below what is required to protect their out-of-country interests (their trade networks) but in many cases below what they would have to spend to maintain their borders in a world without U.S. military hegemony.

    This is an argument for them to pay for their own defense needs, not an argument for the American taxpayer to keep going deeper in the hole.

  202. >This is an argument for them to pay for their own defense needs, not an argument for the American taxpayer to keep going deeper in the hole.

    Granted, but try telling them that. And for as long as they aren’t paying, if the US stops paying then fire and blood.

  203. >Eric, I used to believe you were a libertarian. Thank you for correcting that misapprehension.

    I used to believe you weren’t a drooling idiot. Thank you for correcting that misapprehension.

    See how this game works? You disappoint me. A little.

  204. And claiming that the “weapons of mass destruction” were the sole casus belli for the Iraq war only reinforces that the misapprehension needed correcting.

  205. Truthfully, I think libertarianism is at its core isolationist. I am very uncomfortable with the US military being used for commercial purposes outside of securing the free movement of goods. At libertarianism’s core is the idea that one should mind ones own business, and certainly not initiate violence against others. However, it is also true that at libertarian’s core is the idea that defending oneself is not only legitimate but necessary. Defending oneself is often pre-emptive.

    For example, if someone pulls a knife on my and demands all my money, I don’t have to wait for him to stab me before I kick him in the nuts.

    If someone is threatening to harm me, and has shown both the propensity and the willingness to do so, and an initial attack would be devastating, then a pre-emptive action seems completely in line with the core of libertarian values.

    But it is certainly a slippery slope.

  206. > Gee, didn’t we hear this same line of warmongering bullshit just before we blew a trillion dollars on the Iraq war and found none of the promised “weapons of mass destruction”?

    Sure we did. At least 500 chemical weapons.

    Yours,
    Tom

  207. Eric, a libertarian warmonger is a contradiction in terms. You’ve made it very clear which one you are in this thread.

  208. I think libertarianism is at its core isolationist.

    That is 100% BULLSHIT. North Korea is isolationist. Libertarians are non-interventionists. Calling a Libertarian an isolationist because we don’t want to go find dragons to slay abroad is like calling your neighbors hermits if they don’t come over and fire-bomb your house.

  209. I should get the consequences they’re asking for, good and hard.

    The consequences YOU are asking for are unfolding around us as we speak. This country is well on the way to total financial collapse, and the government is getting bolder and bolder in its routine violations of our civil liberties.

  210. Some Guy Says:
    > That is 100% BULLSHIT. North Korea is isolationist. Libertarians are non-interventionists.

    Your hostility notwithstanding, I agree and accept your proposed word change.

  211. > Eric, I used to believe you were a libertarian. Thank you for correcting that misapprehension.

    This is funny because, given what Eric has written here about U.S. history of intervention and adventurism, I wouldn’t come to a conclusion that he either was or wasn’t a “libertarian.” I might, however, come to the conclusion that he isn’t actually an anarchist – or, at least, not the sort of anarchist that he is sometimes painted to be. Many Minarchists subscribe to the same rational, reproducible formula when it comes to the projection of force, I think there is even a well-reasoned Anarchist argument for organized military action against a potentially irrational actor (such as Iran or North Korea), as long as the anarchist is a pragmatic sort of person.

    Ron Paul and his acolytes are strange birds. Their ability for deduction seems mostly healthy, but their datum tends to be very spotty, corrupted or non-existent. Laissez-faire with Iranian theocrats doesn’t make anyone in the West safe or free. Only fools or people completely ignorant of history would think so. Even Jefferson, given the choice, would see the threat inherent in a nuclear Iran.

  212. Ron Paul has a naive understanding of the World. A US retreat, of the kind that Ron Paul wishes for in his isolationist republic, would not only be catastrophic to the US, but also so destabilizing to the world -> That is of course until a new Pax emerges that replaces Pax Americana.

    The old happy republic that the Ron Pauls and other libertatrians in this country yearn for happened at a time when Pax Britanicca kept the world in order. If the US retreats to this happy republic who does it pass the reigns of power to ? Will it be anywhere near as smooth as the transition from Pax Britannica to Pax Americana.

  213. I consider myself a peaceful person. So sometimes I wish I lived in a peaceful country. Might wind up moving abroad one of these years. I don’t get along well with bellicose types.

  214. @esr

    This is notoriously true in Europe, for example – it has been bleakly observed among military planners that if today’s Turkish army decided to reconstruct the Ottoman Empire, nothing could stop them short of the English Channel.

    The Turkish army has enough troubles at home, and can in fact barely keep the piece within Turkey proper. In this day and age of asymmetrical wars and conflicts, this kind of military analysis is outdated even though the point about military spending is well taken. On paper, the Turkish army might probably be stronger than the French and might be able to sweep through all that territory easily. Grabbing territory might be easy if you have a strong army. Holding on to the gains that result from it, and imposing some kind of peace that follows is a whole another matter and this in my opinion is where the US has often done a very good job especially right after WWII and where Turkey to this day cannot do even within its territory proper. I think we are in a post-wars and post-empires age. This, though, is far from being the reason why Europeans have not been spending on defense. The reason is their great society programs.

    But even if europe were to spend on defense, they will still not be able to defend themselves imo even in classical “army vs army” confrontations. The conflicts within europe itself are so strong they will simply never agree on an enemy or a shared set of objectives in any confrontation that may develop either on european soil or in the larger sphere around them. Nothing demonstrated that more than Yugoslavia’s breakup. Europe as a “people” or as the “United States of Europe” (as the eurocrats want it to be) is about as laughable as the idea of a “soviet people” . Both entities and peoples are/were created by the same kind of socialist/communist beauracrats. Both, rightfully deserve/deserved their place in the garbage bins of history and in the long list of tried-and-failed leftist experiments.

  215. >I think there is even a well-reasoned Anarchist argument for organized military action against a potentially irrational actor (such as Iran or North Korea), as long as the anarchist is a pragmatic sort of person.

    That would be me. See Libertarian Realism. Sometimes, as much as we might wish it otherwise, government power is the only self-defense weapon we have to hand. People who think this recognition of reality makes us “warmongers” are not merely wrong, they’re unserious – living in ideological fantasyland.

    The cause of freedom is not served by living in ideological fantasyland.

  216. >Will it be anywhere near as smooth as the transition from Pax Britannica to Pax Americana.

    Unlikely. There is no rising power with the right kind of political and ethical tradition to shape a less violent world order than the Pax Americana/Pax Britannica, with the only possible exception of India – and like the Pax Americana, a future Pax Indica would be be benign precisely to the extent it was an extension of the Pax Britannica.

    Of the non-Anglosphere possibilities, the Brazilians might be the least bad. The Japanese have an appalling record to live down, and most of the other possibilities (Pax Sinica, anyone?) might well be even worse.

  217. The Japanese have an appalling record to live down,

    They’re too old. They might be able to do it with robots, but all the development work is going towards the wrong kinds.

  218. Tuna-Fish Says:
    > Hezbollah takes action that forces Israel to respond. The response took the form of border skirmishing and a bombing campaign. The bombing campaign had essentially zero effect on the Hezbollah, but did cause widespread economic destruction. The border skirmishing lead the Lebanese to believe that the Hezbollah was the only real army protecting their borders from the Israeli.

    Experiment demonstrates that if you kill enough people, the remainder lose their enthusiasm for those fighting an asymmetric war – that had Israel killed enough innocent people, Hezbollah, not Israel, would have become violently unpopular.

    If you google Fallujah massacre, most of what comes up, perhaps all of what comes up, refers to an incident where the US killed a few Fallujans, resulting in enthusiastic support for Al Quaeda within Fallujah. Subsequently the US killed quite a lot of Fallujans, with the result that people in Fallujah and the vicinity got mighty hostile to Al Qaeda.

    No one feels terribly guilty about what we did to Fallujah. Fallujan levels of destruction are effective and politically feasible. When the US killed a few people in Fallujah, the US was blamed, lots of people made a big fuss, and everyone felt really bad about. When the US killed a lot of people, Al Qaeda was blamed. No one made a fuss, no one felt very bad out, because victory has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan.

  219. esr:

    > with the only possible exception of India

    India will be lucky if it keeps the piece within its own territory and stays together as a country let alone keep the piece in the world. In my opinion india has the same problem as the soviet union. It is not a nation state (Neither is pakistan for that matter). It is an artificial entity that has no basis in history as a unified country. It’s of course a favorite of communists and eurocrats for that exact same reason that it is another soviet-like people.

    From an ethical standpoint India does not have what it takes either. Neither the vedic, nor the chinese civilizations/traditions are equal to the monotheistic civilization one when it comes to the ethical foundation at the very core of the civilization.

    I don’t share your optimism on India at all. I hope I am wrong.

  220. >They might be able to do it with robots

    Right – I forgot that the Japanese are circling the demographic drain. There won’t be any Pax Japanica; there may not even be a Japan for much longer, unless some Nipponese equivalent of Hutterites arises.

  221. This is a silly discussion. Countries do not spend much on defense because the USA will outspend any country that tries to become strong enough to defend itself against the USA. Just as the UK outspend first France (19th) and then Germany (20th) at sea in a crippling arms race.

    Spending a lot against other enemies is useful neither. The USA will interfere in local wars too. Say, if Germany would build up an army strong enough to beat back Russia and Turkey, the result would be a new arms race in Europe and a lot of interference from the USA to contain Germany. The UK is allowed to arm because they buy heavy USA weapon systems (for which they do not get the keys) and also because their army acts as a USA subsidiary.

    The only safe route to get out of the USA threat is to get your own nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Hence the nuclear arms race (North Korea and Iran) and the sudden popularity of space exploration (Brazil, India, China).

  222. @Winter:

    Countries “at peace” do not spend much on defense (other than the Chinese and (previously) the Soviets) because in general the US either protects them, or protects several of their neighbors (for example all of NATO). If you’re Norway why SHOULD you spend any more than you need to defend your borders? The US is more than happy to pick up the tab, and we do it mostly to keep the f’ing europeans from having one of their bi-generational set-tos that screws up trade for a generation.

    When was the last time Germany invaded France?

    Do you REALLY think this was because they learned their lesson? You might be young enough to find out if Romney or Gingrinch is elected. If Obama gets re-elected it will probably happen in a decade.

    And yeah, we’ll outspend almost any country because we’re bigger in population than most (3rd) and we’ve got a f’ing HUGE economy (1st by a LONG shot, unless you count “the Eurozone” then you’d have to agregate the EZs military spending). We’re not even in the top 10 in terms of GDP spending, and MUCH of our military spending is on stuff that most other countries just can’t do (satellites, international force projection AND the sort of humanitarian relief that most european countries wouldn’t even dream of).

    Other than Canada and Russia what other industrialized nation has such huge borders on TWO oceans? This doubles the size of the navy you have to have just to defend your boarders. I guess France and Spain could count having both the Atlantic and the Med, but really?

    No.

    Oh, and as one who’s spent time inside the defense industry (and feels dirtied by it, but how else can a middle aged geek get to a war zone) a LOT of what goes on in that 4.2% of GDP are “jobs programs”. It’s a way of keeping folks with Masters and PH.Ds busy.

    @Sarah: There aren’t any peaceful, industrialized countries, other than *maybe* Australia, and them mostly because they’re too far away and too f’ing big to invade (Australia is only marginally smaller than the US Mainland, and has a population about that of California. Here you can buy a “station” as big as some eastern states and still have nothing to brag about.)

    @Uma: One the Turkish Army gives up it’s goal of keeping Turkey relatively secular and goes over to the dark side, then they won’t have anywhere NEAR as much trouble at home, and all the incentive in hte next world for taking a road trip to Poitiers again. This time I don’t think the Franks will have the backbone, nor the spears to stop them.

  223. The US is more than happy to pick up the tab,

    Its citizens seem to bitch about it interminably all over the place, though. You’d think they could put their money where their mouths are and elect Ron Paul, but ohnoes! LaissezFaire! ChamberlainMunichHitlerTwelfthImam! Eleventy11!!!

    I’m surprised you don’t get sore, patting yourself on the back like that.

  224. > One the Turkish Army gives up it’s goal of keeping Turkey relatively secular and goes over to the dark side, then they won’t have anywhere NEAR as much trouble at home, and all the incentive in hte next world for taking a road trip to Poitiers again. This time I don’t think the Franks will have the backbone, nor the spears to stop them.

    You are wrong. I was obviously referring to the kurdish problem and insurgency. It has nothing to do with the army being secular vs not. It’s been raging on for decades.
    As for “who saved europe” from the ottomans last time. It wasn’t the French. It was the Polish. The muslims tried to take over europe twice and failed. The failure has been primarily due to other Muslims (inter-Muslim wars) which relieved the pressures dramatically on the europeans and diverted most of the resources away from the European fronts.

  225. @Winter

    And your objection to all this is what? If the USA withdrew all our troops from Europe and the place returned to its historical snakepit barely more peaceful than the Balkans, how would that be better?

    You keep poking at US militarism, but what would actually work better? I’d love to hear it. I lived six years on your side of the Atlantic during my childhood. I don’t want to see Europe either crumple and die or go up in flames.

  226. Adrian Smith Says:
    > Its citizens seem to bitch about it interminably all over the place, though. You’d think they could put their money where their mouths are and elect Ron Paul,

    Hold on, that isn’t fair. Just because one supports action to deal with the existential threat of escatalogical wackos with the bomb doesn’t mean you are in bed with the whole crazy military enterprise of the United States, and support every carrier deployment, or bullet fired. My problem with Paul is not that he is non interventionist, it is that he seems unable to recognize that non interventionist doesn’t mean never interventionist.

    I don’t want a camel in my tent any more than the next person, but slippery slope is what the government does, and, unless you want no government you have to recognize that and deal with it as best you can.

  227. @Jessica

    Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, I don’t think that Iran with the bomb is an existential threat. A danger worth countering, yes, but we still have over a thousand retargetable ICBMs. Iran with the bomb goes to the head of the list of suspects in the event of a bomb smuggled into the USA going off.

    We invaded Iraq because Saddam wouldn’t stop making trouble for his neighbors, including us. He was corrupting the UN on a breathtaking scale in the oil-as-bribes program. We took too long to deal with him and it got expensive. For years I advocated an agricultural assistance program for Iraq. 20 ton practice bombs filled with cow manure delivered from 50,000 feet to each of the “Presidential Sites”. Repeatedly.

    911 was not the start of a war of conquest. It was a classic barbarian raid. OBL and Al Qaeda counted coup on the USA. This was an attempt to raise their prestige in the Arab world. Saddam was trying it with the resources of a nation state. Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons for much the same reason.

    The classic counters to barbarian raids are humiliation and punitive expeditions. Saddam and OBL are dead, The Taliban and Al Qaeda are hunted rats. We should have started earlier with the humiliation. We’ve got a bunch of old Native Americans who’d love to consult on lethal practical jokes that would tickle Arabs in just the right places.

  228. > Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, I don’t think that Iran with the bomb is an existential threat. A danger worth countering, yes, but we still have over a thousand retargetable ICBMs.

    I think the problem is one of scale and recursion in a global nuclear theater. Up until recently, the key irony of nukes enhancing a nation state’s global influence was the widespread belief that the state in question was not crazy enough to use them. Now that the PRNK freaks have them (via Pakistan), that equation is changing, but I think there is still some belief that – as evil and stupendously weird as the NK cultists are – they are not escatalogical. A fascist theocracy equipped with nuclear weapons is not the sort of thing that we can afford to ignore or abide, especially in desperate global economic times when history tells us that sanity yields to panic and war. Even if Iran or one of its terror puppets doesn’t unleash nuclear Hell on a western city, the threat of unleashing it is enough to perhaps rebuild the caliphate via intimidation alone. That new global arrangement could have any of a number of effects on American lives, but virtually none of them are good.

    >The classic counters to barbarian raids are humiliation and punitive expeditions.

    Ron Paul (and those who buy into his strict isolationism) seem to lump in Iran and her Middle Eastern clients with OBL and his barbarian horde. Whether OBL thought 911 was truly an asymmetrical military strike or merely counting coup is irrelevant to the question of Iran, because the Iranian theocrats explicitly seek conquest and hegemony. We can’t afford to ignore them or appease them, because the Iranian version of “Dr. Strangelove” starring the Republican Guard wouldn’t be remotely as funny.

  229. We have enough ICBMs to nuke Persia and Pakistan until they glow and then make the rubble bounce. We can deter them long enough for their internal contradictions plus our cultural weapons of mass destruction to disable them.

    The Chinese government knows that a radioactive Pyongyang would be a bigger problem for them than for us. It’s not the radiation, it’s the refugees.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not destroy Japan. The damage they did did not make Japan surrender. It was the symbol plus the promise of more.

    Iraq was an object lesson for the post Cold War era; Don’t poke Uncle Sam.

  230. We have “enough” ICBMs to nuke the whole damn planet, several times over. The question of a nuclear Iran has never been, “Can we win a nuclear war with Iran.” Ever since the Pandora box was opened, the question has been, “Can anyone actually ‘win’ a nuclear war.”

    The sane answer is ‘no’, so the sane answer has always been, “Let’s not let crazy people have nuclear bombs.” It’s worked out so far, because the players in the game have been mostly sane (even if demonstrably evil, like the Soviets or the Chinese).

    But here’s the sincere question to those who believe that Iran will merely play the same game that the Soviets did during the Cold War: what if you are wrong? What if the Iranians study our actions (as they no doubt did in their recent naval actions in the Strait of Hormuz) and decide that, yes, they or their clients could get away with bombing a populous western or Israeli city without being nuked until they “glow and then make the rubble bounce”? What if the Persian chess player thinks that Western civilization has been suitably Obama’ed, Ron Paul’ed and truther’ed that they can get away with it by claiming innocence while watching our economies and polities burn? Depending on who is in charge, they might not even be wrong. I can easily see a “truther” movement rise from the ashes of a nuclear strike. One of the West’s greatest and most self-destructive attributes is their ability to find the plank in their own eyes.

    Either way, the condition of the free world after such an event as a nuclear attack against a major allied city would be much worse, and the chain reaction could possibly end in an extinction event. This is a major line where the realists and the fabulists among the libertarians (and, in esr’s case, among the anarchists) is drawn. It’s an awful situation for Minarchists, since a Ron Paul would otherwise be an attractive candidate, but frankly Paul was born a generation too soon and has been corrupted by the turmoil of the 60′s. He is too much of a post-modernist to help us solve the problem.

  231. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, I don’t think that Iran with the bomb is an existential threat.

    It’s an existential threat to the era of being able to intimidate them at low cost levels, though. That’s most likely what they want the capacity for, despite all the bedwetting about giving them to terrorists (!) or smuggling one into an American city. But no! National suicide is plausible! TwelfthImam! Fascism! Munich!

    Pakistan’s nukes I could lose sleep over.

    Hold on, that isn’t fair.

    Totally not referring to any of your arguments, Jessica.

  232. > Pakistan’s nukes I could lose sleep over.

    Pakistan is playing a regional game with India and China. For various cultural/historical/deme reasons, I’m not so worried about them. For similar reasons, I am concerned about Iran(Persia). A recursive nuclear standoff of Iran and Israel is a very troubling prospect.

    I’m having a bit of trouble understanding how thoughtful, historically knowledgeable people don’t find it alarming, given the virgin territory that retro-medieval nuclear societies represent. I think part of it is the culteral splash damage wrought by post-modernists like DeMan, Derrida, Fukuyama, etc. The sad fact is that “doomsayers” will always labor against unbridled optimists, because (as the odious race-baiter James A. Donald repeated above) victory has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan. A belligerent stance against Iran isn’t something that anyone relishes – it would be much easier and less expensive to accept Ron Paul’s sunny view of isolationism. But the cost of the optimists being wrong far outweighs the cost of the pessimists being wrong.

  233. “Pakistan is playing a regional game with India and China. ”

    No they are also in a global game with the US. They are the country that is probably best at playing both sides against the middle.

  234. Sometimes countries go nuts, mainly when they are ruled by meglomaniacs.

    Consider France under Napoleon. Consider Paraguay under López.

    “At the end of the war and with Paraguay suffering severe shortages of weapons and supplies, López reacted with draconian attempts to keep order, ordering troops to kill any combatant, including officers, who talked of surrender.[36] As a result, paranoia prevailed in the army, and soldiers fought to the bitter end.[36] Paraguay suffered massive casualties, losing perhaps the majority of its population.”

    Emphasis mine. Consider Japan under Tojo, Germany under Hitler, Russia under Stalin, China under Mao, and Cambodia under Pol Pot.

    I think Iran with nukes is a big risk.

    Yours,
    Tom

  235. I’m pretty sure my former country leader Napoleon would have been more cautious before agressing Spain(for example), if nukes had been a direct threat to its very own existence.

    Sacrifying one’s whole community is rather common in politics. But sacrifying itself with no hope of win? Even a madman would think twice. Nuke(or more accurately submarine-launched nuke) is a guarantee of destruction of whoever. Whoever.

    Of course, subtle sabotages of the Iranian nuclear program like stuxnet or targetted killings of researchers are things I won’t complain about. The less people who know how to build nukes, the better. But Pakistan already has the bomb, and is probably less reliable than Iran(as their state is not that strong; therefore, the terrorist threat is higher).

    There’s always a danger, but attacking preemptively has drawbacks, too. For example, you cannot be sure you destroyed the whole nuclear installations unless you control everything in Iran. Which means full-scale invasion, against a country 2.5 more populated than Irak, who has more allies, and better military equipment. Which probably means a globale middle-east war following quickly. I’m not sure that option is wiser that Iran having the bomb, frankly. Not that the later is wise, we’re comparing evils, there.

  236. @Grantham & Tom DeGisi

    I think Iran can be deterred.

    I don’t think the USA intends to invade Iran. I think that there’s no way we could win at anything like the cost of invading Iraq, and everyone complains about Iraq, with good reason. Invading Iraq was like invading a giant maximum security prison chock full of weapons and hostages. Everybody was too worried about WMDs to lock down the conventional weapons. Then Paul Bremmer put the Iraqi army on the street with no jobs and no money.

    Iran is more nearly a nation-state. It might be harder to play factions off against each other as we did in Iraq. The terrain is much more varied. It’s a nightmare all over. The only advantage is that their surrender might stick.

    What Iran cannot do is destroy the USA. Building nukes is one thing. Delivery is another. If they managed to nuke an American city we most certainly would make their rubble bounce. I think the current administration would be more likely to overreact.

    If Iran were to threaten the USA we would activate all the Cold War protocols for preserving civilian authority in case of an attack.

    Even retro-medieval theocrats might hesitate at the prospect of all their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren being incinerated. Certainly their military people would.

    I’m not so certain about Pakistan. Is anybody really in charge there?

  237. Don’t forget that this is international, not just the US. My media efforts on behalf of Wikipedia (and I did the NPR interview as well, considering San Francisco was asleep at the time) played as hard as I could on UK fears of weird US laws affecting us directly. Picture a hundred Richard O’Dwyers.

  238. @BobW

    It’s possible, but we should be doing a lot more than we are to foster dissent and revolution in Iran than we are, and sanctions alone won’t do it. There are many factions and fractures in Persian culture, and I personally we need to exploit them all as much as we can, rather than start an expensive (in terms of both blood and treasure) shooting war. Covert ops are by their nature “covert”, so it’s impossible to know how much work the C.I.A. and Pentagon are accomplishing there, but it obviously is not enough. They are getting closer. The fact that a Pakistani interloper like AQK hasn’t smuggled them component technologies yet is actually one of the reasons I’m less worried about Pakistan than I am Iran. Even the Pakistanis fear a nuclear Iran.

    The point is that we have a popular libertarian running for president who is completely dedicated to isolationism, and would do even less than what we are doing now to oppose Iranian nuclear and imperial ambitions. This is a very dangerously stupid plank on an otherwise reasonable platform. It’s a core plank for Paul and his followers, though. It’s not an issue that he’s going to “come around” on eventually. Paul is as invested in the narrative of Evil American Empire as a Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky type of buffoon is. This is worrisome for libertarians like me who believe that one of the few useful functions of government is to defend the borders from the barbarians and tyrants. The postmodern insistence that Iran is simply a secular-rational actor wearing a cloak of theocracy is the most dangerously popular myth currently circulating the West, in my opinion. This is a country in which the inmates are truly running the asylum. The fact that the inmates also happen to be devilishly clever chess players only makes them more dangerous.

  239. “…we should be doing a lot more than we are to foster dissent and revolution in Iran than we are, and sanctions alone won’t do it. There are many factions and fractures in Persian culture, and I personally we need to exploit them all as much as we can…”

    I disagree. The course advocated above is really dangerous, and won’t stop the Iranian nuclear program. There’s a general feeling in Iran that their country is really much more important than the rest of the world feels, and a nuclear-armed Iran would capture more respect from other countries. The result of this is, no matter which government is in power, so long as it isn’t a puppet government like the Shah’s, the nuclear program will go on. All efforts to stop it must concentrate on that program alone. It’s unlikely that any combination of sanctions directed against the Iranian nation as a whole will succeed. It will increase the Iranians’ determination to see the program through.

  240. > It’s unlikely that any combination of sanctions directed against the Iranian nation as a whole will succeed. It will increase the Iranians’ determination to see the program through

    I think I specifically said sanctions won’t do it, so maybe we are in agreement three. What we need is aggressive psi-ops, infiltration, shadow war and underground supply chains for revolutionary elements. They should already be spawning their own Gorbachevs at this phase, but they aren’t. Ignoring them will not work, because they have designs on empire that span beyond their immediate region. If that sounds familiar, it should (Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito, etc). But they add their own dangerous note with their doomsday religion. We haven’t seen escatalogical loons with nuke capacity until very recently, and the flippant attitude of treating them as “another U.S.S.R” is the most dangerous course of all. They need to be defeated as quickly as possible, in order to avoid the worst case scenario. We can’t afford to dick around with them for fifty years. They are far more likely to blow something up than the Russians were.

  241. > Iran is more nearly a nation-state. It might be harder to play factions off against each other as we did in Iraq.

    That is not the case at all. Iran is in fact less of a nation state than Iraq. The Persians barely make up 50% of the population. Three different language groups/families are spoken.

    What Iran has is a far more nationalistic population than Iraq, especially among the Persian element of the country.

    > It’s unlikely that any combination of sanctions directed against the Iranian nation as a whole will succeed. It will increase the Iranians’ determination to see the program through.

    Iran already has the capability to go nuclear. What sanctions do is make the price for them going nuclear extremely high. And that is only a first step. The choice should be very clear: go nuclear and become every bit as isolated as N. Korea with total economic collapse, or give up their nuclear program and their aggressive policies (e.g. threats to close international waterways).

    Iran’s geopolitical situation is very similar to that of china. They are universally disliked by every one of their neighbors. They have several separatist movements within the country with varying degrees of intensity (Azeris, Balushis, Arabs, Kurds) in addition to being surrounded by all these neighbors that dislike them.

  242. I’m having a bit of trouble understanding how thoughtful, historically knowledgeable people don’t find it alarming, given the virgin territory that retro-medieval nuclear societies represent.

    Well, the easy way out of that would be to dismiss them as neither thoughtful nor historically knowledgeable. And if it’s as unprecedented as you imply (“virgin territory”), historical knowledge may not be all that useful. You say “the Iranian theocrats explicitly seek conquest and hegemony” – can you point out where? Not aware of anyone they’ve attacked except the Iraqis, who started it. I’m not familiar with your use of “recursive”, either. “Retro-medieval” needs unpacking, too. They were modernising under the Shah but have now gone into reverse? Not the overall impression I’ve had, though I suppose there are some things you could point to. It sounds like a fairly multifaceted place, with various interest groups jockeying for influence, but some people are contented with terms like “fascist theocracy” because it’s obvious what you have to do with those. Hitler! Munich11!

    FWIW it looks like “we” are probably going to either hit them or provoking them into hitting someone. Could certainly take the developed economies to some interesting places. Glad you’re prepared for the consequences. I’m all right out to next year, anyway.

  243. > Well, the easy way out of that would be to dismiss them as neither thoughtful nor historically knowledgeable.

    Sometimes knowledge of current events is also hard to come by.

    > Not aware of anyone they’ve attacked except the Iraqis, who started it.

    The Israelis, via Hezbollah, for one. The Syrian people, via the Syrian government, for another. Iran has designs on Bahrain, and can be relied upon to stir up Shia revolutionaries all over the Muslim world. They are very active in Yemen. Note: actually deadly Shia revolutionaries, not keyboard conquerors. Arabs, who know their local history, fear both Turks and Persians.

    Yours,
    Tom

  244. Sometimes knowledge of current events is also hard to come by.

    And partial when it is, and its interpretation fraught.

    The Israelis, via Hezbollah, for one. The Syrian people, via the Syrian government, for another.

    This “via” thing is not the meaning of “attacked” I’m most used to, I’m afraid.

    They are very active in Yemen.

    I’m told Israel is quite “active” in the Kurdish areas of Iran, too. That’s legitimate, of course.

  245. “What Iran has is a far more nationalistic population than Iraq, especially among the Persian element of the country.”

    Perhaps I didn’t make my point as clearly as would have liked. There’s no use trying to change the Iranian government (as far as the nuclear program is concerned). No matter what form the Iranian government takes, the nuclear program will go on. The Iranians will endure all sorts of sanctions; the nuclear program will go on. You have to physically disrupt the program itself if you want to stop or delay it.

  246. > This “via” thing is not the meaning of “attacked” I’m most used to, I’m afraid.

    And yet an attack such as these started World War I.

    Yours,
    Tom

  247. And yet an attack such as these started World War I.

    Triggered it, sure, but they were all raring to go there. Would have happened somehow.

  248. Good article in today’s New York Times Magazine section on Iran, the bomb, Israel, etc.

  249. @uma

    Iran is more nearly a nation-state. It might be harder to play factions off against each other as we did in Iraq.

    That is not the case at all. Iran is in fact less of a nation state than Iraq. The Persians barely make up 50% of the population. Three different language groups/families are spoken.

    What Iran has is a far more nationalistic population than Iraq, especially among the Persian element of the country.

    Perhaps we don’t use the same definition of nation-state. The USA is a nation built from members of multiple tribes who share membership in the American super tribe. Whatever our ethnic identities most of us will rally around the flag. Is that not what you are describing in Iran?

    I do understand that in most of the world tribe and nation are the same thing or at least aspire to be. That is why there are now Czech and Slovak republics where there once was Czechloslovakia.

  250. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-january-18-2012/ko-computer?xrs=synd_facebook

    Stewart on SOPA. I’m especially charmed by the series of congresscritters explaining that they’re not nerds, followed by approximately, ” ‘Nerds?’ Why not experts?”

    Something that’s relatively close to the post: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-57369739-281/how-republican-opposition-derailed-sopa-and-protect-ip/

    The premise gets kicked around in the comments. I’m inclined that that since SOPA/PIPA is a relatively new issue, the politics are especially complex because the partisan magnetic fields haven’t had enough time to get the iron filings neatly aligned.

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