View 817 Monday, March 24, 2014
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. Period.
Barrack Obama, famously.
I have held off speculating on the fate of the Malaysian 777 for lack of reliable information. I have heard speculation after speculation. The most reasonable was that some kind of fire or explosion initiated pilot response: the fact that the autopilot was reprogrammed to 23,000 feet, the Boeing recommended altitude for fire suppression, and that the first course change was in the direction of the nearest 13,000 foot runway, made it so. But there were plenty of unanswered questions, and there still are.
Of course there was plenty of speculation: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/03/finally-plausible-scenario-happened-flight-370.html
I always thought this one more plausible: http://www.businessinsider.com/malaysia-plane-fire-2014-3
And apparently that is now the official view: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jy-II2Po8MYBIrCeW0St8gys69zw?docId=ac372cb0-2413-4e2e-a62d-bdc20ca47a6c We will probably never know.
The melodrama of Crimea continues. Obama seizes and freezes assets of Putin’s friends and advisors. This is an international sanction I was unaware of: I studied diplomatic history as part of my graduate studies in political science, but I don’t recall running across the practice of seizing assets belonging to individuals who happen to hold public office in foreign countries we want to “punish”, nor have I any idea of what law allows the President to do so. Perhaps he needed some funds to pay for the First Lady’s vacation in China? But I thought the American taxpayers were picking up that tab? I seem to be out of touch.
But the Russian annexation of the Crimea is pretty well accomplished, with the last Ukrainian holdouts being a small Coast Guard post where the officers are said to be arming themselves with clubs – a rolling pin, to be exact – in order to have the means for resistance if the Russians come into the base. Since any resistance would be symbolic, this seems as good a way as any to avoid bloodshed, presuming that the incoming Russians are aware of the gesture. Perhaps they will bring dough and ask the Ukrainian colonel for assistance in making cookies? It would be a good way to end a standoff that has no importance in the story.
And of course President Obama will reward China and Russia with increased control over the Internet by letting ICANN go to the UN – which means fall under the control of Russia and China. ICANN ain’t broke but President Obama will fix it. See http://www.npr.org/2014/03/19/291475122/u-s-pulls-out-of-icann-what-does-that-spell-for-internet-users
I have been in the middle of my taxes, which are complex, and last week wasn’t all that great in other ways. The remnants of winter aliment stalk Chaos Manor, and in a couple of hours I have to take Roberta out to get an eye exam that includes dilation so she can’t drive herself. My apologies for neglecting this site, but I am getting back to work. Friday Niven and I went up the hill – well, sort of. I wasn’t really up to going up the trail we normally use; the combination of steep and just rough and uneven was enough to overcome my balance. We took an alternate a road, and some blonde woman in a Mercedes told us this was a private road and we had to go away. Niven thought it would be fun to just keep going, but I wasn’t up to it. As to how private the road is, the No Parking signs are city signs: no warning that this is a private road and you will be towed etc. which is required actually. These are city no parking signs and that requires city law enforcement but the city police don’t enforce private no parking restrictions – or didn’t when I was in the Mayor’s office. There being no warning signs about this road being private property it might have been fun to just keep going, but I didn’t feel up to it, so we took some alternate routes so that we got the equivalent exercise that going up the hill would have given.
Wednesday night was soup and cinema night; we saw Quartet, which has the theme that getting old is not for sissies; all true. This British movie of a London stage play has Maggie Smith among others is about a very elegant retirement home for musicians and singers which is supported largely by an annual concert fund raiser. It’s full of geezer jokes. Amusing.
Drudge reported that he was including his estimated 2014 ACA tax in his coming estimated quarterly taxes due April 15. He calls it his Liberty Tax. This sparked a neat round of condemnations and snark about Drudge, with many commentators calling him a liar. Actually it’s a bit more complicated than that. The general law is that self employed must send in payments on estimates of their taxes due the following year, starting with a separate ES tax check enclosed with your current tax bill; and if you severely underestimated your taxes and sent too little for last year, there is a penalty that can be pretty stiff. This makes a writer’s taxes rather complicated since it’s not easy estimating how much money we’ll get: a few years ago I got a rather large payment for movie rights on a book I wrote thirty years ago. It was unexpected. What I was supposed to do was recalculate and make the last estimated tax payment much larger to reflect the new and unexpected income. I realized that just in time to avoid penalties but it wasn’t easy. Anyway Drudge included the IRS collected penalty on not having health care insurance because he doesn’t have any and doesn’t intend to have any, and he calls that a Liberty tax.
The whole incident is covered here: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/-drudge-report–author-caught-in-debate-over-obamacare-penalty-claims-230459058.html The point, it seems to me, isn’t whether Drudge is or is not subject to a penalty for not having health insurance, and thus subject to pre-payment of that penalty on his estimated taxes, but that the law is so complex that it is legitimate to discuss this as not yet settled. In this land of the free we don’t know how much we owe to the government nor when we must pay it. It comes with Hope and Change, I guess.
Anyway, I keep digging. I’ll get out of this yet.
http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-dmca-takedown-of-feynman-lectures.html illustrates some of the problems of modern copyright law. The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) has a committee which will send a spokesman to the Congressional hearings, and I have a couple of contacts in the Congress, but my problem is that I no longer understand just what changes we need in the copyright law. The DMCA is obviously flawed. The scribd case showed that quite well:
Scribd is a venture capital funded for profit corporation which purports to be a safe place for the unlimited free expression of ideas. To that end it allowed anyone to upload anything, and some uploaded the entire works of many writers including Isaac Asimov and many others, including me. They also included all the works of the late Poul Anderson and Jack Chalker, leaving their widows with considerable concern about their future income. Scribd was always cooperative: all you had to do was send them a DMCA takedown notice. One notice for each instance of each work. They wouldn’t respond to “The estate of Poul Anderson has not given ANYONE permission to electronically PUBLISH any work on ANY open site, so take down all of his stories.” And in fact when SFWA sent what amounted to a flawed (and therefore legally invalid) scribd hired EFF to send SFWA a threatening letter, which caused SFWA to respond by abolishing its copyright committee and abandoning member to their own devices. Scribd has since moderated their policies and does some self policing, but their business model still includes using other people’s work to draw a crowd so that they can display advertising to those who log on. And they are among the better behaved sites using that business model.
The whole story is told in a Chaos Manor Review article I did long ago http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com/open_archives/jep_column-326-a.php and for that matters some of it is here http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2view/view482.html
There is no end of stuff condemning me for being some kind of weasel for defending the rights of authors and their widows and orphans to control the use of their works, particularly in cases where profits are being made by making those works available for free. This is typical: http://www.teleread.com/copy-right/sci-fi-writer-jerry-pournelle-scribdcom-deserved-a-dmca-takedown/
Ah well. But the deeper I dig into copyright law as it exists – including some really complicated decisions by courts – the less I understand what can be done by Congress to fix it. What is needed is a thorough revision of the whole thing, and that is not going to happen with this Congress. What is needed is for writers to get their ducks in a row, and we don’t yet even know where our ducks are. I’d love to see some improvements, but I don’t hope for many.
It’s getting on for time to have lunch and get Roberta to the eye doctor. I haven’t time to comment on these but you might find them interesting.
How to Thwart Gunmen at 29,000 Feet.
Few remember how the various governmental bureaux of Western countries tried to criminalize and prosecute those who resisted hijackers prior to 9/11:
Have they changed much?
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.