22 July 2010

Recursively Linked Sausages

Today's link sausages are all, themselves, links: Between past and present; between individual and group; and so on. To slightly paraphrase Mark Twain, "the man who doesn't use his classical education has no advantage over the man who doesn't have one."

  • In the 1990s, "Serbia" (an odd, ahistorical concept if there ever was one, in this century or the last) reinvaded Kosovo, its own territory of mostly "ethnic Albanians" with an "ethnically Serbian" minority. (You may recall the invasion of Vietnam by the People's Republic of China in the late 1970s, supposedly to protect the "ethnically Chinese" population... and remember that the PRC was the greatest support of the Albanian government under protocommunist rule.) This led to all kinds of nastiness — UN intervention, discovery of mass graves and genocidal acts, Hilary Clinton's notorious claim of having been under gunfire — and eventually, in 2008, to a Kosovoan declaration of independence from Serbia. Serbia, of course, opposed the declaration of independence; so did the historical "pan-Slavic" nations, with one exception.

    A few hours ago, the International Court of Justice declaimed that the declaration of independence was "not unlawful" under customary international law.1 Unfortunately, this kind of ruling does not lead to final results; it only allows both further proceedings and further diplomacy... and if those efforts don't lead to final results, further bloodshed. Anyone remember Biafra?

  • In a development that would have been familiar to, if not necessarily approved by, Josef K., an Israeli judge overseeing a family-law dispute has ruled that Kafka's papers must, at least in part, be made public, and not kept private by the descendants of his best friend. As the Grauniad also properly points out, this also intersects with the reprehensible concept of a statist monopoly on Jewish heritage as asserted by ignorant self-interested cultural pirates in Israel. As should be apparent from that last phrase, I'm not a fan of anyone claiming another — and particularly not someone who is dead — as their own cultural property, and then wielding that claim like a sword against others (particularly if there's money involved, as there is here). This is precisely why even that egotistical moron Victor Hugo conceded that there had to be a limit to copyright terms. Frankly, both the two sisters and the State of Israel are acting just as badly as is the Leopoldmuseum on the opposite side of a corresponding question.
  • And now, the ever-publicity-seeking (and occasional-author-poaching) "power agent" Andrew Wylie is starting up an e-book imprint for works by his own authors. This isn't exactly a new thing; Richard Curtis has had his eReads imprint going on for some time,2 and the underlying theory exactly echoes that in Rosetta Books. On the other hand, publishers are (again) up in arms, loudly proclaiming their continuing rights... to something that it has been fairly definitively determined that they never had, and simultaneously claiming that their pathetic royalty rates for e-books are fair and just.

    And meanwhile, the Google Book Search litigation continues in the background, whether or not it ever settles. Of course, this will get even more sardonically amusing if/when any of those authors ever leave Wylie...

  1. This doesn't have a damned thing to do with the American declaration of independence, because in the 1770s there wasn't any "customary international law." The closest thing we had was two treatises by de Groot (usually Latinized as "Grotius") on the law of war and the law of the sea. These, however, were hardly definitive — and, in fact, generated vociferous opposition similar in tone and content to the Tea Party today from such self-interested idiots as Gentili, Bogerman, and Welwood — and were at least as polemical and proscriptive as they were descriptive. (The poor quality of the opposition, it must be said, does not mean that Grotius was necessarily right.) There's an alternate history/science fiction story waiting in there...
  2. Disclosure: I have acted as a consultant to Mr Curtis on unrelated matters.