29 June 2010

Preoccupied Sausages

Lots of remora and personal duty today — so much that there won't even be a World Cup update later (I'm writing this in a waiting room, and missing major portions of both matches).

  • Arrests of an alleged Soviet Russian spy ring are leading to entirely predictable results, whether we're actually concerned with the Soviets, the Russians, or indeed anybody else. The Russian foreign ministry is denying knowledge of the ring, claiming that the criminal complaint reflect continued animus by some elements of the US government against better relations between the US and Russia. That such animus exists (and has some, if insufficient, justification) can't really be refuted. There is sufficient detail in the complaints themselves, though, to indicate that whether such "dark forces" originated the counterespionage effort or not, they found something. It's highly probable that the intelligence services did their devious best to give (and maintain) plausible deniability for the diplomats, so one should not assume that the diplomats protesting against the indictment are being any more disingenuous than diplomats routinely tend to be. Even in this day of signals intelligence, tradecraft matters... if only to focus one's signals intelligence efforts (and verify/validate what one obtains that way).
  • Notorious "author-stealing" agent Andrew Wylie is attempting to defy the new "industry standard" of demanding e-book rights from authors as a condition of print publication by stopping all negotiations involving e-rights with print publishers. What this really reflects is a curious artifact of antitrust law in the US:

    Authors are not employees, and therefore may not collectively bargain, without running afoul of the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts. Conversely, due to the evisceration of enforcement concepts based on size and market position starting with the Reagan administration, the publishers (effectively) can, because "conscious parallelism" among a limited monopsony market no longer (effectively) violates antitrust law.

    Thus, in the long run, I expect that the industry is going to deal with Wylie (and his clients) by calling his bluff; and, sadly, it is only a bluff, based on contemporary accounting memes as they apply to the publishing activities of publicly held media conglomerates. Wylie represents a number of prominent authors that publishers would love to keep their grubby little mitts on, but there are more where they came from... and, in the crazy world of publishing accounting, it's starting to make more sense to cut off authors than to negotiate with them.

  • Orwell's diary of seventy years ago today includes a wonderful explanation of what is wrong with the Western press:

    [T]he “freedom” of the press really means that it depends on vested interests and largely (through its advertisements) on the luxury trades. Newspapers which would resist direct treachery can’t take a strong line about cutting down luxuries when they live by advertising chocolates and silk stockings.

    That this is a better situation than overt government and/or religious censorship, or direct capture by vested interests (usually those who own the luxury trades!), does not make it good enough.