29 November 2010

Post-Holiday Stuffed Turkey Link Sausages

So I took the weekend off from the sausage factory... that just gave the spices a chance to blend.

  • What a shame — the cofounders of the Pirate Bay lost their appeal and must now suffer the ignominy of being labelled "criminals." Worse, the Swedish appeals court increased their fine by almost a third. Schade. Also from Sweden, the difficult question of determining the tax basis for counterfeit goods (and, presumably, services).
  • Paul Krugman presents an immodest proposal for Ireland that isn't quite direct enough. The problem is a simple one: Investors no longer accept that investment has real risk — only variability of positive return, usually measured as Β as relative to the overall "inherently positive" return on "the market." In short, by having money to invest, investors believe that they are entitled to have even more money. If this sounds a great deal like the inherited nobility of Europe a few centuries past, it should... especially once one coordinates it with the attack on estate taxation (which does not have the "danger" of breaking up estates in land).
  • WikiLeaks. Again — this time, primarily diplomatic cables (Graudiad). Aside from demonstrating that convenience overruled security in the military and the State Department (again), there's not much surprising there. Arabs expressing distrust of Persia and asking sub rosa for outside help, of the "let's you and him fight" variety? Only a couple thousand years of precedents there. Diplomats spying on purported allies? Only a couple thousand years of precedents there. Contradictory gossip misclassified as causing discernable, serious damage to national security if disclosed? Only a few hundred years of precedents there. The UN as a hotbed of espionage and deceit? Only sixty years of precedents there. And so on.

    The surprise would have been if the WikiLeaks cables did not disclose this pattern of behavior... because that would have indicated that diplomats, functionaries, and such had learned not to put their semi-deep secrets in writing (these cables reached only the Secret classification).

  • Penguin plans up-to-date Arabic-language editions of European classics. This should be interesting, indeed... especially once someone at Pearson realizes that the Arabic countries are generally not members of the Berne Convention... and would present its own cultural Tower of Babel, along with the illusion of conquering a linguistic one.
  • Storytelling is what makes us human.
  • The Supreme Court issued its post-holiday orders list earlier this morning, and it included action and inaction in intellectual property cases of concern to authors. The obvious one was the denial of certiorari (refusal to hear) the teenage pirate's appeal in Harper v. Maverick Recording Co., which was accompanied by an interesting dissent from denial by Justice Alito that discloses yet another aspect of the bad writing underlying the Copyright Act. Justice Alito quite properly points out that two sections of the Act written in the 1970s don't anticipate the problems created by the lack of a physical good bearing a copyright notice... although even he does not acknowledge that anyone who was aware of concert bootleg recordings could have anticipated this very problem.

    More subtly, the Court agreed to hear Microsoft's appeal in a patent case (Microsoft v. i4i lp) that concerns a technical question in patent law: What is the standard of proof to invalidate a patent as a defense to an accusation of infringement? This may be of interest to authors because of its side effects, and in particular the effects of the patent in question — which concerns a language for formatting electronic documents, and whether Microsoft's widely used .doc format (among others) infringes the patent bought by "patent troll" i4i... and, in particular, what Microsoft would have to prove to invalidate that patent. This will — as usual in patent decisions from the Supreme Court — be a highly technical matter with strong civil procedure elements. And, as usual, I have an opinion on it... for later.

  • Professor Madison exposes one of the problems with commercialization and assimilation of "traditional knowledge": who "owns" yoga in the first place? Of course, this is only the second question that needs to be asked; the first question, as implied in Professor Madison's piece, is "What are we really talking about, anyway?" Perhaps a Western literary example might make things clearer. Consider the tale of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). Leaving aside the dubious ownership of this by "christianity" (there are various Semitic, and indeed pre-christian European and Chinese, tales along the same lines), what exactly is the tale at issue, and how does it relate to faith? Is it merely a prefigurement of the post-Freudian concept of "unconditional love for one's children"? Does the cross-cultural assimilation of yoga matter to this inquiry?