16 September 2009

Plop Plop Fizz Fizz

These sausages are virtually guaranteed to cause severe intellectual indigestion.

  • As if anyone needed further proof that mechanisms used to perpetuate upper-class privilege are even more dangerous in the hands of the nouveau bourgeosie, British libel law is being asserted against a rhetorical flight of fancy criticising extreme claims for chiropractic care — and it's harming science journalism. None of this is news to me, but it is news to many who haven't been paying attention. This is actually less about Simon Singh than about Rachel Ehrenfeld... but the article never makes that connection.

    Combine this with some of the side effects of the UK's Official Secrets Act, and one has greater respect for the foresight of the Founders in making the First Amendment as broadly worded as it is. Even our libel system is far from perfect, but that is at least as much a problem with courts being unwilling/unable to require specific acts and instead substitute money judgments for "damages." (Query: Now that the subject of Rachel Ehrenfeld's "libelous" book is dead, can his estate continue to pursue damages against her and her publisher... since one can't libel the dead?)

    Despite the First Amendment, our own intelligence agencies are far from blameless. Some of this, naturally, comes from the cynical (but not entirely unfounded) idea that we'd better do it to our own people before the Enemy does it. Some of this, naturally, comes from the inherent conflict between the blissful ignorance of the general population and the only-perfection-is-good-enough world of government skullduggery and "ungentlemanly activities." Most of the impetus to actually do something, though, can be traced back to the same motivations that underly the UK's libel system: Maintaining existing power structures, and most particularly the individuals currently in power. And if this tortured loop doesn't give you intellectual indigestion, just keep reading...

  • ... probably past this short item, which pitted fungus against Old World craftsmanship — and the fungus won.
  • Scalzi pwns entitled wannabe writers; so does the incomparable Duke of Los Angeles, Harlan Ellison (or, at least, he bloody well should be the Duke of Los Angeles, and the city would be better for it). OK, this one isn't intellectually indigestible — rather the opposite, as intellectual honesty is largely missing from the whole wannabe writer ethos. But putting a digestible sausage on this platter might just encourage you to read the others, which more than makes up for it.
  • On the piracy front, we've got both historical questions on the economic model of piracy (which politely ignore the class-warfare issues raised by who became nautical pirates... and, for that matter, who becomes an IP pirate today) and immediate piracy of Dan Brown's latest dreck. Arrrrrrgh! Meanwhile, in a related development that will actually drive more piracy down the road, UK children's publishers are cutting advances and acquisitions. Of course, some of this piracy will be by vanity presses... such as those run/enabled by Robert Fletcher, who was recently sued by the Florida Attorney General for fraud. Just remember that a man with a briefcase (or scanner) can steal more money (certainly per capita!) than any crew of a sailing ship!