Creative Destruction

January 2, 2008

Zero Income

Filed under: Free Speech,Popular Culture — Off Colfax @ 4:42 am

This is well past the point of absurdity.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

Now, Brutus and I have disagreed about the subject of the RIAA many a time on these pages. His points are from the view of a copyright holder, which is very well and good for him. Unfortunately for him, however, the RIAA happens to hold and defend many of the exact same views. Therefore, he often sees my assault on the RIAA to be an assault on his own views.

Nothing could be further from my intent. Brutus is not overcharging his customers for senseless drivel. (Parody can be so similar to the truth these days.) Brutus is not preventing his customers from using the limited rights to music that they have purchased derived via the infamous “Betamax” decision. Brutus is not mandating that a higher percentage of profits from music sales go to the RIAA, under the category of Publishing Royalties, than to the musicians and artists themselves.

This has gone to the point where you can no longer even consider a reductio ad absurdum fallacy, for things have already gone beyond where pure absurdity is commonplace. The demonization of individuals who rip a legally purchased CD simply to place it onto their legally purchased MP3 player is what has placed them beyond the absurd.

There is only one legal response to this strategy:


Zero. None. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. Rei. Nol. Ling. And many other words that mean the same as ‘0’.

If you enjoy a specific song by a specific artist, download the inevitable free promotional MP3 from their website and/or MySpace page. If you enjoy a specifc artist, go to their concert and buy their gear. But do not buy the album.

As the above chart supplied by David Byrne and shows, only 1% goes to the artist from a given CD purchase. You can personally hand them a quarter on the street and they will make more money from your personal appreciation than they would via your purchase. Naturally, that would be insulting coming from a personal exchange. It would be demeaning. We give homeless people more spare change than that. So at least offer to buy them a beer.

But do it for them, and not for a record company that will turn around and try to make it illegal to move your own legally purchased recording from a physical format to a digital format.

Of course, there’s always Trent Reznor’s advice:

Game on.

October 19, 2007

Gonna Buy Me A Hammer

Filed under: Free Speech — Off Colfax @ 2:06 am

Being a responsible newspaper, we must note that this is a misdemeanor, a crime, a completely inappropriate way of handling a business dispute.


Heh. Indeed.

[Turn Signal: The Indeed of all Heh’s]

June 11, 2007

About the Word “Fuck”

Filed under: Content-lite,Free Speech — Brutus @ 11:18 pm

Slate has a brief article about the word “fuck,” among other expletives. The launching point is a longer article in the NY Times about a court ruling that the bars the FCC from fining radio and television stations that broadcast obscene language.

It’s clear to anyone who goes out in public that we Americans have become a bunch of rude fuckers. In office suites, classrooms, sports arenas, public transportation, restaurants, and the floor of Congress, the use of profanity is so matter of fact one wonders why we even bother to pretend that such language is off limits to children. Indeed, as both articles indicate, expletives have lost their power to offend over time, enough that relaxed standards of decorum allow anyone to use foul language in most any situation with impunity. (Don’t try that at your next job interview, though.)

Personally, I’m a product of the same cultural environment as the rest of America, so there is nary a word that raises my hackles anymore, even when clearly spoken with intent to offend. The same is probably true (of me, at least) of so-called fighting words, such as insultingone’s mother or family. But on the street, it’s not at all uncommon to see people up in each other’s faces over the slightest provocation.

The funny thing to me about the court’s ruling in favor 0f free speech (obscene speech that has lost its sting — especially when blurted out the way “darn” or “shoot” use to be) is that it runs so contrary to the motives of the current governing class. (Ban it, and pretend it doesn’t exist.) It’s clearly an idea (relax, man) whose time has come in practice if not quite yet in manners. And how proud must the author of the Slate article to put her research, writing, and journalistic skills to work on such an engaging subject. The whole business is in fact so banal, why even bother?

December 7, 2006

Realpolitik in the Blogosphere (and Why Liberalism Always Loses)

Filed under: Blogosphere,Feminist Issues,Free Speech — Gled @ 6:08 am

Continuing my practice of relegating to my own unread blog the sordid details of my recent flame war with some of the feminists on Alas, while bringing to a (slightly) greater readership any points which arise that have a wider relevance. In this case, a discussion which started with Tuomas (All quotes from the same thread):

One point here in Amp’s defense (I can’t believe I’m saying that…) is that [Alas] occupies a very precarious position in the blogosphere. Unambigiously feminist man who thinks radical feminism has a lot to offer who nevertheless seeks to incorporate even anti-feminists and right-wingers somewhat to the discussion.

It’s a bold experiment, but I think it is impossible due to the natural religious mentality of many feminists — he has to step in someones toes and can not be fair about it while maintaining “Alas” as he would like it to be.

I replied:

I don’t accept your defence, Tuomas. I don’t see anything in his definition of feminism that requires him to behave so as to be accepted by other feminists, or to let them piss all over him.


You speak of consistency (and you are technically perfectly correct) I’m speaking of realpolitik in the blogosphere.

This is why liberalism always looses, at least in the short term1, and why feminism (which is in reality is illiberal) is currently winning. Liberalism rejects realpolitik in favour of genuinely retaining the moral high-ground and loses. Realpolitik falsely claims the high-ground, and wins.


And even if it did, that doesn’t absolve him from responsibility for allowing them to use his blog as a platform to piss on other people.


Agreed, which is why I think it is doomed to failure.

It’s already failed2. Notice that my pingbacks got deleted, I don’t know whether this was Amp or Marcella, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s his blog, and his responsibility. And of course, it’s his right to do that on his own blog. Nobody questions that. But consider the implications of doing so:(Update) The thread was derailed by means of repeated personal attacks upon a dissenting voice, and to bring it back on track, the victim of the attacks AKA the dissenting voice AKA me, was silenced3:

Here then, is how to derail a thread on Alas, if you’re a feminist. Make a post abusing some present or past member. They don’t even have to be part of the thread. If they are, and you can goad them into responding, or if just one person makes just one post in their defense, then multiple feminists pile in, with off-topic post after off-topic post after off-topic post (seventeen so far6), attacking that person, and making generalised attacks on “men”, “antifeminists” and “MRAs”. And the victim gets the blame.

This is precisely the kind of “bullying” Amp said he doesn’t want on Alas.

And it works.

And it will always work. They will always be able to do this, at any time, to any dissenting voice, and the victim will always be blamed, always be silenced, because that’s the only way Amp can realpolitically end the derailment. After the dissenting voice has been silenced, the derailers stop.

1It’s questionable whether it wins in the long term. Certainly the liberal democracies (including the USA, still, just about) have thrived, but only by behaving illiberally toward the rest of the world.

2Richard, though, has unwittingly started a new experiment, which I will do my best to help him make suceed.

3Whoever it was, graciously left one pingback. Thanks for that, One trackback to my posts on my own blog appeared, but really, of the hundreds of people who will read that thread, how many are going to follow it? Next to none. The falsehoods about me remain in full view on a prestigious blog with a huge readership, and all I can do is squeak, squeak, in reply.

Edited to add: the comments, true and false, are also the “evidence” that prove my complete innocence. For this reason, I have asked that they not be deleted, for the time being.

November 14, 2006

Painting Football Teams, Writing Harry Potter, And Property Rights

Filed under: Free Speech — Ampersand @ 10:42 am

"The Kick," by Daniel A. Moore

Via Beat The Press, I learn that the University of Alabama is suing artist Daniel A. Moore for using the colors red and white. From the New York Times:

Mr. Moore’s paintings, reproduced in prints and on merchandise, violated the university’s trademark rights, the suit said. It asked a federal judge to forbid him to, among other things, use the university’s “famous crimson and white color scheme.”

The University isn’t suing Moore because it doesn’t like how he paints their football team. The University is suing because Moore’s paintings are available on merchandise (calendars, coffee mugs, etc.), and the University — which has its own football-related calendars and mugs to sell — is hoping to wipe out a competitor.

I think this is censorship, both in the technical sense of the government (through the court system) shutting people up, and in the broader sense of unfair duress being used to shut people up. U of A football games are public events, and an important part of local culture; as an artist, Moore has every right to paint about football games. The U of Alabama owns their team franchise, but they don’t own Mr. Moore’s mind, or Mr. Moore’s paintbrush; if they want to protect themselves from the horror of artists painting what they see, they should stop allowing the public to view their games.


October 24, 2006

Suit to Strike Pointless Law

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech,Political Correctness — Brutus @ 11:22 am

The Salt Lake Tribune picked up an Associated Press report that “, and other plaintiffs backed by the American Civil Liberties Union are suing over the 1998 Child Online Protection Act.” This is one of many laws that rely on “community standards” to determine when a particular behavior, especially those associated with unpopular though protected free speech, crosses the line and becomes criminal. Such a nebulous definition has always been a recipe for highly selective enforcement, and the AP reports that the Child Online Protection Act has yet to be enforced. However, it gave politicians at the time it was passed the opportunity to line up behind the intention to “protect the children” and enact a pointless law that in fact doesn’t protect anyone from anything.

The chill in the air the Child Online Protection Act creates, however, reminds me of recent brouhahas over an expletive let slip on air, a dramatized rape or sex scene broadcast on network TV (always in poor taste), and the flash of a boob during the Super Bowl halftime show. Those instances resulted in damaged or lost careers and hefty fines for the broadcasters, which also protects no one but does create an atmosphere of low-grade hysteria in public electronic forums. One wonders what sort of world the FCC lives in, where foul language, sex, crime, war, and/or various other atrocities aren’t already replete in the information environment. If we wish to protect children from that reality (itself a suspect motivation), it’s foolhardy to try to choke it off at the source rather than filter it out in the home.

The Child Online Protection Act deserves to be struck down or repealed. I for one hope that some common sense is applied to the issue and that fair-minded thinking prevails.

September 28, 2006

Banned Books Week

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech — Brutus @ 1:32 pm

Although it’s almost over already, I thought I should point out that this week is Banned Books Week.


Things like this require our attention from time to time. Browsing the challenged books and authors lists, I was a bit surprised to find the Harry Potter books and J.K. Rowling listed. Some folks have too much time on their hands if they can’t find better targets (though I consider the entire notion of banning books or authors antithetical to a free society).

One of the questions I regularly field from my students is “Why do I need to know/study this?” It occurs to me that without a robust body of knowledge at one’s disposal, it becomes difficult to understand why fending off the recently House-approved bill to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects is such a necessary action. Sooner or later, though, leaders of our increasingly fascist government are going to realize that they no longer need to restrict our free speech by taking aim at provocative or noncanonical ideas. We’ve already decided we don’t care enough to pay attention to their trespasses on our rights, and in our ignorance, we mostly don’t have anything to say anyway.

September 21, 2006


Filed under: Blogosphere,Blogroll,Free Speech,Political Correctness — Tuomas @ 3:42 pm

Ilkka at Sixteen Volts has apparently quitted blogging, and took down all his previous posts. There was a scandal/investigation about some of his postings and sexism in them. I hope this was his own genuine choice. I couldn’t find the article, it was linked in Sixteen Volts, which is now defunct [found via Steve Sailer -Tuomas]. He will focus on his teaching career, which hopefully won’t suffer from the fallout.

In the online world and the blogosphere, it is just too easy to forget the real world and the people in it, especially for an introvert such as me. The whole thing just seemed to gradually escalate until I got this sudden wakeup call. Even for the times when I was right and did present many good ideas and observations, what good did there ever come out of it? When I add everything up, my online writing really did not make the world a better place, as a whole.


I am deeply humiliated and ashamed by this experience, and at least I understand my place in the whole world much better. This will therefore be enough of the virtual world for me. I will now sign off permanently, thanking everybody for bearing with me, and once more apologizing for everyone who I have hurt or insulted in my thoughtlessness. When I go out next time, I will be looking at the whole world in a very different way.

He was sometimes an insightful blogger, a prolific linker, and a good writer. His flaw was an increasing nasty undercurrent and commitment to schadenfreude, which sometimes overshadowed the points he presented, and tended to cultivate comments that were far more genuinely sexist and nasty than his own provocative points.

Ilkka always seemed to me a generous, critical and intellectually honest person who perhaps got caught in little too many flaming arguments.

[update: Of course, it is entirely possible that this is just until things calm down. Hard to know]

[update 2: Considering the credible threat to Dr. Kokkarinen’s career and reputation, I am even more convinced that this is an apology under the barrel of a gun. It appears that Canada’s commitment to Free Speech has given away to political correctness, and I urge you to give him support, no matter what you may think of his opinions]

[Update 3 : Never mind update 2. Tough call.]

[Update 4 : I removed 16 Volts from the blogroll, as it is now basically a tombstone]

July 20, 2006

On Hate Crime Statutes

Filed under: Free Speech,Politics — Ampersand @ 5:12 pm

On a post at “Alas,” Plunky writes in comments:

I ain’t a lawyer, but I don’t think we should have laws about hate crimes. It is the act of the crime that is reprehensible, not whether the crime occurred because of prejudice, stupidity, whatever. Judges and juries have been weighing the motives of criminals for a long time, and they should be able to keep doing it without legislation that makes some _thoughts_ more criminal than others.

Essentially, I think hate crime laws are a violation of the First Amendment. They take something that is not criminal: hating a certain minority/class/etc and then using that to compound criminal sentencing. It is not illegal to hate women. It is illegal to rape women. If a person is on trial for raping a woman, it should not matter that he hated all women. He should be punished for the one illegal act, not his legal thoughts.

I think Plunky’s analysis is mistaken, because it ignores that many “hate crimes” are crimes not just against an individual, but also against an entire community. If I build a small campfire and roast some hot dogs on Woody Allen’s lawn because I’m hungry, that should be recognized as a different crime from burning a cross on Woody’s lawn because I want to tell all the area Jews that they might be assaulted or killed if they don’t move out.

I agree with David at Orcinus:

Bias-crime laws no more create “thought crimes” than do any other laws consigning greater punishments for crimes committed under certain species of mens rea (or the mental state of the perpetrator), including anti-terrorism laws. Differences in intent and motive can make the difference between first-degree murder and manslaughter. Enhanced punishments are especially warranted when crimes are believed to cause greater harm — and hate crimes quantifiably do so. These are standard features of criminal law, and no more create “thought crimes” than do laws providing the death penalty for first-degree murder.

More to the point (and as I also argue at length in Death on the Fourth of July), hate-crimes laws are not about taking away anyone’s freedoms — rather, they are about ensuring freedoms for millions of Americans.

As I point out in the book, hate crimes have the fully intended effect of driving away and deterring the presence of any kind of hated minority — racial, religious, or sexual. They are essentially acts of terrorism directed at entire communities of people, and they are message crimes: “Keep out.”

Amanda once suggested that we should start using the term “domestic terrorism” rather than “hate crime,” because that better explains why it is that these crimes should be punishable. I think she’s right.

June 28, 2006

On The Firing of Ward Churchill

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech — Ampersand @ 12:44 pm

This week, the Chancellor of the University of Colorado officially announced his intention to fire Ward Churchill. That doesn’t mean that Churchill has been fired, yet – there’s still an appeals process to go through, plus Churchill has announced that he’ll sue the University.

Joanne Belknap, a women’s studies professor at U of Colorado, summed up the Churchill case well:

…A seemingly white male, who’s benefited immeasurably through co-opting an American Indian identity, is providing rich fodder for the right and the racists (often one in the same) to damn, discredit and/or dismantle ethnic studies programs, not just at CU, but across the country.[…]

In this case, in daring the media and university to come after him, Churchill apparently didn’t care that when they revealed his co-opted identity and sloppy (even unethical) research methods, that it was ethnic studies programs that would take the real hit. Of course, Churchill may be taking a few hits as well, but he seems to enjoy his “I’m-a-bad-boy-leader-of-the-oppressed-world” identity. The real tragedy is that Ward Churchill has done an incalculable amount of harm to ethnic studies programs in order to promote himself.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Churchill is a dishonest scholar. Among his many academic dishonesties, what I somehow find particularly galling is his habit of citing claims to essays he wrote under different names, thus giving the false impression that his claims were supported by independent authority.

It’s true, of course, that Churchill only got in trouble for his academic dishonesty because of his unpopular political opinions. That’s disturbing to me, because it could create a chilling effect on unpopular speech. And it’s also true that few or none of the right-wingers calling for Churchill to be fired for his dishonest scholarship, called on the AEI to fire John Lott (Lott did finally leave AEI two months ago, but it’s unclear if he quit or was fired).

Yet despite all that, the kind of academic cons Churchill committed should be legitimate cause for firing, just as the AEI should have fired Lott years ago. Fighting to protect the job of a dishonest and lousy scholar is not the way to defend either leftism or free speech. Besides, Churchill does more to harm than to help progressive causes, as Professor Belknap argued. Facts and evidence, by and large, support left-wing views; dishonest scholars like Churchill don’t help the cause, they muddy the waters.

If we want to stand for the academic freedom of lefty professors, let’s start with some professors who deserve a defense, like David Graeber and Joseph Massad (see also here).

And while we’re at it, we should also object to the appalling case of adjunct professor Thomas Klocek, who was fired for his pro-Israel views.

May 9, 2006

A Case Where Christians Should Be Allowed To Practice Anti-Gay Discrimination

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech — Ampersand @ 2:33 am

From :

In suburban Washington, D.C., Bono Film and Video has an announced policy of refusing to duplicate material that owner Tim Bono regards as contrary to his Christian values. Now the Arlington County (Va.) Human Rights Commission has held a public hearing and investigated Bono on charges that he discriminated against Lilli Vincenz by refusing to duplicate her Gay Pride videos.

I don’t usually agree with free-market libertarians, but in this case I think they’re right: the business owner should be free to discriminate based on content. If Tim Bono doesn’t have the right to turn down this business, then it follows that similar businesses have no right to turn down xeroxing flyers advertising the KKK – or anti-gay videos produced by Conservative Christians, for that matter. (In both cases, the person turned down could claim to have been discriminated against on the basis of religion).

I don’t think that Bono should be free to discriminate against a customer’s identity; if Virginia wants to force Bono to accept gay customers (or black customers, or Jewish customers, or transgendered customers, etc), then that’s okay by me. (I remain convinced that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dale vs. Boy Scouts was wrong). But although the line between discriminating against who customers are and discriminating against what a particular customer’s job says is blurry, it’s still a line worth maintaining. In this case, the government should defer to the free speech rights of bigots to be bigots.

(On the other hand, just as Mr. Bono has a right to follow the mistaken, bigoted dictates of his conscience, queer and queer-positive customers have the right to follow the dictates of their consciences and refuse to bring any business whatsoever to Mr. Bono. I don’t think such boycotts – from either side – are great forms of political activism; but Mr. Bono started it, and if his business suffers I’ll have no sympathy.)

Dale Carpenter, a same-sex marriage advocate I respect a lot, brings up a tougher case:

May 3, 2006

Pro-Choice Vandalism Strikes Another Pro-Life Display

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech — Robert @ 3:20 pm

Following the vandalism last month of a pro-life display at Northern Kentucky University, pro-choice activists destroyed another pro-life display, this time at Princeton University.

Pro-life group Princeton Pro-Life had erected a display of 347 flags, with each flag representing a student who might have been in the Princeton class of 2010, had they not been aborted. The display was torn down and vandalized; pro-choice activists cut up 30 coat hangers and spread them on the ground, and added sarcastic pro-choice messages to the display's signage.

Campus police are investigating the incident, but Princeton Pro-Life expressed skepticism about the investigation, saying that they believed investigating the vandalism was low on the priority list.

Via Protein Wisdom.

May 1, 2006

Senator McCain: “Clean Government” More Important than First Amendment Rights

Filed under: Free Speech,Politics — Robert @ 7:03 pm

Arizona Senator and Presidential hopeful John McCain, appearing on the Don Imus show, said that "I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."

McCain's assertion reminds me, yet again, exactly why the Arizona Republican cannot be trusted with the presidency, or indeed, with any high office. I don't have any input into who the people of Arizona send to the Senate, but I have my own voice when it comes to the presidency, and I will never vote for a candidate who displays such disregard for the values of free political speech that our country is predicated upon.

Via Protein Wisdom.

April 23, 2006

Abu Ghraib and “What Are We becoming?!”

Filed under: Ethics,Free Speech,Human Rights,International Politics — Adam Gurri @ 3:20 pm

From Amp's recent link farm, I mosied over to this post.

This paragraph could have been downloaded from any given right wing blog over the last three years. Of course Abu Ghraib was bad (if we are allowing that it happened, and isn't just some kind of fiction), but Saddam Hussein/Iran/Hu Jintao/Soviet Russia was much, much worse, so quit yer bitching.

(…)China, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are all dictatorships whose governments employ or employed various degrees of tyrannical means, including torture, in order to remain in power. They are not, however, considered role models for compliance with international human rights. No one points to China as a model for emulation in respect for human dignity.

(…)The United States, however, IS a model for human rights emulation. When states and governments look at the international system for a set of appropriate behaviors, they look first at the United States, then at the advanced European democracies and Japan. The United States is deeply identified with the international human rights regime that it took pains to construct in the post-war years and has maintained, with more or less success, since then. Thus, when the United States engages in torture, extra-legal detention, and murder of prisoners, it matters. A lot. In fact, it matters a lot more than what happens in Tehran or Pyongyang. If the United States can ignore human rights practice in dealing with those it declares its enemies, then any country can.

This is why the US deserves the criticism it receives on this point. We have the right to expect better from the United States, and, indeed, if we value human rights then we NEED to expect better from the United States. If the US doesn't take human rights law seriously, then no one will.

I find much to agree with in this post, except for what passes as an example of government-sanctioned human rights violations.

I understand criticism of the higher ups who allowed Abu Ghraib to happen in the first place.  But talking about it as though it were either sanctioned by our government, or even interrogational in nature, is I think unsupported by the evidence.

This wasn't about disciplined, overbearing officers beating information out of their prisoners.  This was a pack of uncontrolled young officers throwing a depraved party at their prisoners' expense.

What is more, they were exposed for what they did, and held accountable.  Not only are they no longer a part of our military, they are serving jailtime.

If anything, Abu Ghraib is a good example of what differentiates us from those regimes which we are often compared with.  Like them, we are human, and humans are capable of cruelty for their own selfish reasons.  Unlike them, when this cruelty is brought to the light of day, it is expected that the perpetrators will pay for what they have done, and their actions will be condemned.

As for things like Guantanamo Bay, or "extra-legal detention", there's a lot of conflicting evidence circulating around, and unlike Abu Ghraib, we don't have something as solid as a photograph to demonstrate one way or the other.  All we have are a pack of interest groups, be they political critics, or the military trying to cover for itself, either way, I haven't seen too much to inspire confidence in any particular diagnosis of the situation.

But there are plenty of critics making their arguments in prominent public places none the less, and that in it of itself puts pressure on our politicians and seperates us by yet another degree from the tyrannical regimes of the world. 

April 14, 2006

Stifling of Dissent at Northern Kentucky University

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech — Robert @ 3:49 pm

"Any violence perpetrated against that silly display was minor compared to how I felt when I saw it."

So says the literature professor who apparently led nine female students in tearing down a university-sanctioned display put up by a campus pro-life activist group. She continued "Some of my students felt the same way, just outraged." Outraged? That other people dared to have a pro-life viewpoint? And that they further dared to actually express it?

Apparently, the free speech rights of other people don't count for anything, if they make you feel angry or outraged. (Note the contradiction, as well – the display is "silly" when its importance to other people is being deprecated to minimize the offense, but it's an "outrage" when it comes to her feelings.)

This is classic. MY feelings are so important that they trump other people's rights. YOUR feelings are so insignificant that I can ignore you. This is the moral calculus possessed by a five-year old.

The symbolism of crosses – each of which represented an aborted fetus – being thrown into the garbage can by female students speaks for itself.

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

(Adam – we could use a "First Amendment" category.) 

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