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The Crock Plot



The flotsam and jetsam that washed up in Lew's head.



Updated: 2017-08-06T12:12:18.287-07:00

 



Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda

2010-01-06T14:28:34.988-08:00

Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al QaedaBy Gretchen Peters, Thomas Dunne Books, May 2009 ISBN: 978-0312379278 Hardcover, 320 pages, $25.95(A shorter version of this review by Lewis Perdue appeared in Barron's Weekly.)Exit, Allah. Enter, the almighty dollar.According to Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda, by Gretchen Peters, most of the Taliban's religious fanatics have been replaced by organized gangs of big-time drug thugs whose primary goal is to protect their cut of the multi-billion-dollar Afghan heroin trade. Peters estimates that the Taliban get at least 70 percent of its funding from the heroin trade and that both Hezbollah and Al Qaeda also benefit from global dope.While Western media pundits wring their hands about the Afghanistan troop surge turning into another Iraq, Peters, who covered Pakistan and Afghanistan for Associated Press and ABC writes that:"The parallels are actually closer to Colombia. The Taliban and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by their Spanish acronym FARC, both got their start like modern-day Robin Hoods, protecting rural peasants from the excesses of a corrupt government. Strapped for cash and needing the support of local farmers, both groups began levying a tax on drug crops."Then, Peters explains, both FARC and the Taliban started providing protection for the drug lords, gradually taking control of the drug refineries and strong-arming farmers to meet drug production quotas. Severe punishment or death awaited those who failed or refused. Finally, FARC and the Taliban established themselves as alternate systems of a dictatorial government ruling by fear and violence.And like the FARC, which tried to maintain a virtuous, “people’s army” facade, the narcoterror leadership of today's Taliban uses jihad as a convenient public relations stunt to gloss over its greed and lust for power. Peters tell us that Helmand province – one of the key battle areas for the current U.S. military surge – produces more than half a billion dollars a year in opium. “If it were a separate country, it would be the world’s leading opium producer ….It’s also where links between the Taliban and opium trade are the strongest.” Small wonder then that fighting is fiercest there today. But all across Afghanistan, where there are drugs, the Taliban is there with protection: attacking NATO checkpoints so opium shipments can get through, planting mines around opium fields and rigging IEDs to take out soldiers who dare trespass on the poppies.But, Seeds of Terror makes it ironically clear that the Taliban could not have achieved its preeminent position in the illegal global drug trade without the blundering of every U.S. President beginning with President Jimmy Carter.Peters tells us that Jimmy Carter, in 1979, signed off on secret aid to Afghan guerillas fighting against the Soviets despite warnings that the groups were moving dope. President Reagan continued the policy of looking the other way.After the Russians left Afghanistan, President George H. W. Bush terminated most aid – hundreds of millions of dollars worth – to the guerillas and government. “Overnight, that left 135,000 armed Afghans and their families no way to support themselves,” Peters quotes a former CIA officer.When President Clinton took office in 1993, his administration eliminated what little financial support was still trickling toward Kabul.And while money began to flow with the second Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan, not only had the damage done turned the Taliban into a potent, well-financed adversary, but military errors to come also complicated military strategy that continue even as you turn on the evening news tonight.The military, Peters tells us “doesn’t do drugs.” That is, despite the fact that the Taliban insurgency runs on the lifeblood of opium, the military refused to support anti-drug operations. “One Green Beret complained that he had been ordered to disregard opium and heroin stashes when he came across them[...]



Ascent of a Tech Powerhouse How Israel became a world leader in innovation.

2010-01-06T12:20:12.729-08:00

IF YOUR COMPUTER HAS "INTEL INSIDE," then the Intel inside has "Israel inside." So does eBay. And thousands upon thousands of other highly innovative companies and technologies. This book, subtitled The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, shows how venomously anti-Israel neighbors, terrorism and almost constant war drove a tiny, poor, fledgling country to create a first-world economy with "the greatest concentration of innovation and entrepreneurship in the world." The numbers are staggering. "In addition to boasting the highest density of start-ups in the world (a total of 3,850, one for every 1,844 Israelis), more Israeli companies are listed on the Nasdaq exchange than all companies from the entire European continent," write Dan Senor and Saul Singer. At times, they point out, Israeli entrepreneurs have come to the rescue of the world's best-known companies. Take the episode that could have been titled, "How Israel saved Intel." Around the year 2000, computers -- especially laptops -- were hitting a performance wall limited by power consumption and the heat generated within the machines. Intel's team in Jerusalem suggested a way to operate a microprocessor at lower clock speeds, thus consuming less power and generating less heat, allowing laptops to run longer on a battery charge. Along the way, they built in a method that would let software run even faster. Intel headquarters in Silicon Valley tried to kill the project because executives were operating in an obsolete mindset where only faster (and hotter) processor speeds created better performance. But the Israelis persisted, leading in 2003 to the famed Centrino chip. The Israelis followed that with the Core Duo processor -- two microprocessors on one chip. Start-Up Nation vividly illustrates how Israel has developed a culture where authority not only can be challenged, but must be. Bluntly. No waffling. Instead of showing corporate deference or blind obedience to a superior, the average Israeli challenges questionable decisions and pushes alternative suggestions with real tenacity. Start-Up NationBy Dan Senor and Saul SingerTwelve (Hatchette Book Group)320 pages$26.99 That cultural trait comes, in large part, from the near-universal military service that throws the wealthy in with the poor, corporate executives in with assembly-line workers. In the IDF -- the Israel Defense Forces -- a CEO might very well report to one of his or her corporate underlings. Regardless of rank in the military or civilian world, it is the best idea that matters, not the status of the proponent. Another force behind Israeli success is Jewish immigrants. The authors quote Israeli venture capitalist Erel Margalit on their importance: "If you're an immigrant in a new place, and you're poor, or you were once rich and your family was stripped of its wealth -- then you have drive. You don't see what you've got to lose; you see what you could win." With immigrants from 70 countries speaking no common language, sharing little common culture other than the Torah and a tradition of persecution, military service, the authors argue, is at the forefront of both immigrant assimilation and overall technological success. Service in the Israel Defense Forces begins at age 18 and lasts for a minimum of two years. Business people often serve in the reserves well into their 40s, 50s and 60s. "So for combat soldiers, connections made in the army are constantly renewed through decades of reserve duty," says Start-up Nation. "...Not surprisingly, many business connections are made during the long hours of operations, guard duty and training." Although the authors do not draw the analogy, this is very much like Switzerland, where the business elite are connected by years of reserve military service. But Switzerland isn't known for innovation. It also is not a nation of immigrants, tolerates failure poorly, behaves with a reserve that is the antithesis of chutzpah, and lacks the "advantage" of being surrounded by rapacious enemies ready to incin[...]



COMCAST SCORES "OWN GOAL" -- CLUELESS ANTI-SPAM EFFORT KILLS CUSTOMER EMAILS

2008-11-14T17:18:04.129-08:00

UPDATE: This was originally posted on August 22. It bears repeating because Comcast has never fixed the issue. COMCAST FAILING TO DELIVER THE EMAILEmails sent by Comcast broadband customers are failing to reach their properly addressed recipients because the company has changed the settings on its outgoing mail servers without informing its users or most of its own customer support agents.Some Comcast customers have noticed a complete failure of all outgoing emails while others have found that some, but not all emails have gotten "lost in cyberspace."Figuring out how to adapt to Comcast's covert email reconfiguration may leave millions of average users stuck in a technical quandary. They're unlikely to find help with Comcast because four of the five support people I spoke with over a two-hour period last night had no clue about the issue.In brief: email uses two completely separate server systems to handle messages. One system (most often called a "POP" server) handles incoming mail. Outgoing mail is handled by another server called an SMTP server. This is why customers may find no problems receiving email, but later learn that important emails they have sent never arrive.Only the fifth Comcast person -- a tech support supervisor I demanded to speak with during my marathon phone session -- knew that the company had changed the outgoing mail from SMTP port 25 to port 587. He said this was designed as an anti-spam action.The support person wisely (for his own job) said nothing about why Comcast had not notified its customers about the change.Fixing the problem will require all Comcast users to reconfigure their email client software to use the correct port. The procedures will be different depending on whether they use Outlook, Thunderbird or other software. But the change is not as simple as changing the port once that is located. The software must be configured to provide the same password and user name that is used for incoming email.Businesses and individuals who have their own Internet domains (such as www.mybusinesssite.com) and receive their emails at that address (jane@ybusinesssite.com) will find the road even rockier. Many of those people have never set up the password and user name required to use Comcast's outgoing, SMTP server.Comcast customer service will be unlikely to help these people either. Four of the five agents I spoke with had no clue.Rather than deal with congenially clueless Comcast support people, the fastest and easiest way to solve the issue is to get a Gmail account from Google that provides an SMTP server.In their email software settings under SMTP server, users can enter: "smtp.gmail.com" and then enter their Gmail password and user names in the appropriate fields.In addition to the broadband hassles, my two-hour conversation raised significant issues with Comcast's ability to provide telephone service. My call was dropped twice. Plus the connection to the last tech was so scratchy and faint he had to repeat himself frequently.Over the past week, emails my wife and I have send from both our home and business broadband accounts have not been received. In addition, numerous emails sent to us by Comcast customes have not reached us. Many of these have been important and significant communications and their loss has had a significant effect.I am fortunate to have been the Chief Technology Officer of an Internet company and have many years of technical experience. This gives me a knowledge base and many tools with which to diagnose this problem. The average user who has been deluded into thinking Comcast is a reliable service provider will simply be baffled and assume that one more mysterious cybermonster has eaten their mail. This does, however, show that Comcast has done the impossible: made the U.S. Postal Service look really good.This irrational, irresponsible, financially punitive and completely avoidable disruption to the business and personal lives of Comcast customers shows that the company cannot and should not be trusted. [...]



Book Publishing Posts Here, Rest at Dvorak.Org

2008-11-01T11:51:51.221-07:00

This blog will be for writing, publishing and similar topics.

For the weird and absurd, please visit Dvorak Uncensored where my old friend and technical publishing maven John Dvorak has been foolish enough to put editing powers in my quirky hands.

John's blogging asylum includes many other quirky, opinionated and highly intelligent people who look closely at reality so you won't need to.



The NYTimes is a Freakin' Idiot!

2008-09-23T16:14:03.100-07:00

Hundreds and hundreds of peer-reviewed studies published in the world's top scientific and medical publications find that there is very, very little difference between wine, beer and spirits when consumed:in moderationwith food. IT'S THE ALCOHOL, STUPID!Wine's biggest advantage is the way it is consumed. There are probably some small, additional benefits to wine from its various organic compounds. But this NYTimes piece is simply a product of scientific ignorance ... and a lot of PR people from Welch's Grape Juice and your local NeoProhibitionist. You can find out the scientific facts here:The French Paradox And Beyond. September 23, 2008 Really? The Claim: Grape Juice Has the Same Benefits as Red Wine By ANAHAD O’CONNOR THE FACTS By now the cardiovascular benefits of a daily glass of wine are well known. But many teetotalers wonder whether they can reap the same rewards from wine’s unfermented sibling, or are they simply left out altogether. Grape juice may not provide much buzz, but you can still toast to good health when it comes to its ability to avert heart disease. Alcohol in moderation can relax blood vessels and increase levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. But the substances believed to provide much of red wine’s heart benefits — resveratrol and flavonoids — are also found in grape juice, especially the variety made from red and dark purple Concord grapes. Independent studies have found that like alcohol, grape juice can reduce the risk of blood clots and prevent LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from sticking to coronary arteries, among other cardiac benefits. One, conducted by scientists at the University of Wisconsin and published in the journal Circulation, looked at the effects of two servings of Concord grape juice a day in 15 people with coronary artery disease. After two weeks, the subjects had improved blood flow and reduced oxidation of LDL. Oxidized LDL can damage arteries. Other studies in humans and animals, including one last year in the journal Atherosclerosis, have shown that daily consumption may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But beware: some varieties of juice have sugar and artificial ingredients. THE BOTTOM LINE Studies suggest that some kinds of grape juice may provide the cardiac benefits of red wine. scitimes@nytimes.com[...]



Going veggie shrinks the brain

2008-09-16T11:14:06.267-07:00

Article from: (image)
September 12, 2008 07:45pm

SCIENTISTS have discovered that going veggie could be bad for your brain - with those on a meat-free diet six times more likely to suffer brain shrinkage.

Vegans and vegetarians — such as Heather Mills — are the most likely to be deficient because the best sources of the vitamin are meat, particularly liver, milk and fish.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anaemia and inflammation of the nervous system.

Yeast extracts are one of the few vegetarian foods which provide good levels of the vitamin.

The link was discovered by Oxford University scientists who used memory tests, physical checks and brain scans to examine 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87.

When the volunteers were retested five years later the medics found those with the lowest levels of vitamin B12 were also the most likely to have brain shrinkage. It confirms earlier research showing a link between brain atrophy and low levels of B12.

GO EASY ON THE BOOZE

Brain scans of more than 1,800 people found that people who downed 14 drinks or more a week had 1.6 per cent more brain shrinkage than teetotallers.

Women in their seventies were the most at risk.

Beer does less damage than wine according to a study in Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Researchers found that the hippocampus - the part of the brain that stores memories — was 10 per cent smaller in beer drinkers than those who stuck to wine.

And don’t inhale, cannabis has been shown to have the same brain-rotting effect.

EAT LESS

Being overweight or obese is linked to brain loss, Swedish researchers discovered.

Scans of around 300 women found that those with brain shrink had an average body mass index of 27

And for every one point increase in their BMI the loss rose by 13 to 16 per cent.

A BMI 25 to 30 is classed as overweight, above 30 is clinically obese. Calculate your BMI

Dr Deborah Gustafson of University Hospital in Göteborg says obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, which are both thought to contribute to brain drain.

She adds: “Obesity may also increase the secretion of cortisol, which could lead to atrophy.”

GET FISHY

The omega-3 oils found in fish reduce the risk of dementia and other mental disorders says Fernando Gómez-Pinilla of the University of California, Los Angeles.

He says they increase flexibility in synapses in the brain - the bits that transmit information - and boost memory and learning.



UK Publisher Buys Novel That Terrified Gutless Random House

2008-09-06T08:39:19.625-07:00

Random House's craven unwillingness to defend free expression is an immoral abomination, a mercenary flight from courage, a gutless lack of respect for authors, writing, and the free exchange of ideas.

But one British publisher, on the other hand, has a backbone, ethics and a commitment for writing. Read on:

From the Guardian: Controversial 'child bride of Muhammad' novel finds UK publisher

British independent publisher Gibson Square has bought Sherry Jones's controversial novel about the child bride of Muhammad, which was dropped by Random House US following warnings that it could incite acts of violence from radical Muslims. Jones's The Jewel of Medina was also pulled from bookshops in Serbia last month after pressure from an Islamic group.

Gibson Square, which has previously published provocative works including Alexander Litvinenko's Blowing up Russia and House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, paid what it described as a "compelling" advance to acquire The Jewel of Medina. It will publish it in October in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

"In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear," said Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja. "As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate. If a novel of quality and skill that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West, but have a genuine interest in, cannot be published here, it would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages. The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time."

Random House was told by security experts and academics that the novel, for which it paid a $100,000 advance, was potentially more incendiary than both Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses and the Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad. Random House said at the time that it decided not to publish the title "for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book". The publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988 saw attempts made on the lives of Rushdie's Italian and Norwegian publishers, while the Japanese translator of the book was killed.

Rynja said that as a small publisher, Gibson Square would be more capable of handling any controversy. "With a book that is controversial – and we've done a number – it is incredibly important that it is looked at from all sides. That is very difficult for a large publisher to do as they are looking at 200 titles a month so a controversial one is just one in the mix."

He said that he hoped that once people read the novel in its entirety there would be a "healthy discussion" about its content. "[Jones has] done very careful and detailed research for the novel – she's writing about this love story which even after 1,400 years we don't know much about."

Rynja struck the deal with Jones's agent Natasha Kern, who has also sold the novel to Editora Record in Brazil and is in discussions with small Danish publisher Trykkefrihedsselskabets Library (Free Speech Library).

Kern said that she and Jones decided on Gibson Square because they wanted a publisher who would commit to the novel and Jones's career, "as well as an editor and publisher who are passionate about bringing The Jewel of Medina to widest possible group of readers. We wanted to publish this book as quickly as possible so that all those who are interested can read the book and discover what a wonderful and inspiring love story Sherry has written."

Gibson Square also publishes John McCain, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Naomi Klein, Richard Dawkins and AN Wilson.




COMCAST REALLY F**KING UP!

2008-08-22T10:15:42.553-07:00

Turns out that, even with the SMTP port changes I mentioned, the Comcast SMTP server is STILL not delivering email.

Tech support says they have no clue and have issued a "trouble ticket" to see if Comcast's field people can hook up the jumper cables to their server.

Good luck .....



UPDATE - on Comcast Scores Own Goal

2008-08-22T09:47:58.792-07:00

Shortly after writing this, I found a list of Comcast exec emails here: http://consumerist.com/consumer/executive-customer-service/email-addresses-for-comcast-executives-320438.php

I emailed the very short list at the bottom of the posting ...

Within 15 minutes, the entire Comcast connection at home went dead. I'm posting this from my business connection.

These are the people I wrote to. I wonder which one decided to kill my entire connection as retribution?

david_cohen@comcast.com, ralph_roberts@comcast.com, marlene_dooner@comcast.com, payne_brown@comcast.com, kerry_knott@comcast.com, esl_corp@cable.comcast.com, john_schanz@cable.comcast.com, john_ridall@cable.comcast.com, brian_roberts@comcast.com, joe_waz@comcast.com, audit_committee_chairman@comcast.com, darcy_rudnay@comcast.com, corporate_communications@comcast.com, steve_burke@cable.comcast.com



COMCAST SCORES "OWN GOAL" -- CLUELESS ANTI-SPAM EFFORT KILLS CUSTOMER EMAILS

2008-08-22T07:56:20.559-07:00

Emails sent by Comcast broadband customers are failing to reach their properly addressed recipients because the company has changed the settings on its outgoing mail servers without informing its users or most of its own customer support agents.Some Comcast customers have noticed a complete failure of all outgoing emails while others have found that some, but not all emails have gotten "lost in cyberspace."Figuring out how to adapt to Comcast's covert email reconfiguration may leave millions of average users stuck in a technical quandary. They're unlikely to find help with Comcast because four of the five support people I spoke with over a two-hour period last night had no clue about the issue.In brief: email uses two completely separate server systems to handle messages. One system (most often called a "POP" server) handles incoming mail. Outgoing mail is handled by another server called an SMTP server. This is why customers may find no problems receiving email, but later learn that important emails they have sent never arrive.Only the fifth Comcast person -- a tech support supervisor I demanded to speak with during my marathon phone session -- knew that the company had changed the outgoing mail from SMTP port 25 to port 587. He said this was designed as an anti-spam action.The support person wisely (for his own job) said nothing about why Comcast had not notified its customers about the change.Fixing the problem will require all Comcast users to reconfigure their email client software to use the correct port. The procedures will be different depending on whether they use Outlook, Thunderbird or other software. But the change is not as simple as changing the port once that is located. The software must be configured to provide the same password and user name that is used for incoming email.Businesses and individuals who have their own Internet domains (such as www.mybusinesssite.com) and receive their emails at that address (jane@ybusinesssite.com) will find the road even rockier. Many of those people have never set up the password and user name required to use Comcast's outgoing, SMTP server.Comcast customer service will be unlikely to help these people either. Four of the five agents I spoke with had no clue.Rather than deal with congenially clueless Comcast support people, the fastest and easiest way to solve the issue is to get a Gmail account from Google that provides an SMTP server.In their email software settings under SMTP server, users can enter: "smtp.gmail.com" and then enter their Gmail password and user names in the appropriate fields.In addition to the broadband hassles, my two-hour conversation raised significant issues with Comcast's ability to provide telephone service. My call was dropped twice. Plus the connection to the last tech was so scratchy and faint he had to repeat himself frequently.Over the past week, emails my wife and I have send from both our home and business broadband accounts have not been received. In addition, numerous emails sent to us by Comcast customes have not reached us. Many of these have been important and significant communications and their loss has had a significant effect.I am fortunate to have been the Chief Technology Officer of an Internet company and have many years of technical experience. This gives me a knowledge base and many tools with which to diagnose this problem. The average user who has been deluded into thinking Comcast is a reliable service provider will simply be baffled and assume that one more mysterious cybermonster has eaten their mail. This does, however, show that Comcast has done the impossible: made the U.S. Postal Service look really good.This irrational, irresponsible, financially punitive and completely avoidable disruption to the business and personal lives of Comcast customers shows that the company [...]



Gutless Random House Caves In To HINT of Muslim Threats

2008-08-07T08:46:59.881-07:00

First Amendment not worth the hassle to world's largest publishing corporation.From publishing industry newsletter, Publisher's Lunch:More From Author of Cancelled Novel We've heard from Sherry Jones, author of THE JEWEL OF MEDINA, the novel cancelled by Ballantine covered in yesterday's Lunch.Jones tells us that "because of my termination agreement with Random House, I am prohibited from commenting on the circumstances surrounding that termination." But from her perspective, "Despite Random House's statement, I'm not aware of any warnings of possible terrorist attack from any other source than Denise Spellberg. I know that Shahed Amanullah's email had nothing to do with any of this, because I was the one who discovered it, and the resulting discussion, on the Husaini Youths website."Although I've been aware from the start that my books might offend some people, I've never been afraid of physical harm because of them. I wrote these books because I felt called to write them after researching A'isha for my own purposes. My passion for her story trumps the fear factor. I've expected controversy, yes, but never terrorism."Separately, Jones writes on her blog that "all I did was try to portray A'isha, Muhammad's child bride (believed by most historians to have married Muhammad at age nine and consummated the marriage at age 11) in the context of her times."As to Spellberg's charge that the novel is "soft porn," Jones replies: "There are no sex scenes in this book. The novel, whose bibliography includes 29 scholarly and religious books, is a work of serious historic fiction detailing the origins of Islam through the eyes of the Prophet Muhammad's youngest wife. It's a book about women's relationships and experiences at a time in history when a religion was being founded in the midst of conflict."Separately, agent Natasha Kern says that she will have news of foreign rights sales for the book to announce shortly.Random House supplied us with their full statement to the Wall Street Journal, and deputy publisher Tom Perry "underscore[s] that our decision was not based solely on the opinions of Ms. Spellberg."The publisher says that after distributing galleys of the book, they received "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."We felt an obligation to take these concerns very seriously. We consulted with security experts as well as with scholars of Islam, whom we asked to review the book and offer their assessments of potential reactions."We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel." As reported, both parties subsequently agreed to terminate the publishing agreement.[...]



Obama = Pepsi? McCain = Budweiser?

2008-12-11T20:06:09.224-08:00

Maybe?


(image) (image)







Maybe not.

(image) (image)




RIP: Patry Copyright Blog

2008-08-02T14:10:14.720-07:00

One of my favorite, daily, MUST-READ blogs, The Patry Copyright Blog, is dead.

This literate, calm, well-reasoned blog did more for actually understanding copyright than anything else on the web.

Patry started the blog when he was in private practice with a firm where my former patent lawyer worked.

But when Patry left private practice to join Google, many readers were incapable of accepting that this was HIS pesonal opinion rather than Google's. That was a hassle.

His other reason for ceasing the blog is the depressing state of copyright, having been distorted and perverted into an anti-competitive tool for corporate dinosaurs. Here's what he has to say about that.

The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing

This leads me to my final reason for closing the blog which is independent of the first reason: my fear that the blog was becoming too negative in tone. I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries.

I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others. But in my view, and that of my cherished brother Sir Hugh Laddie, we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage.

Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better.

Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like
Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

If you give a damn about copyright, you should read the whole post. And mourn not only the passing of Patry's blog, but his reasons for putting it to sleep.



The Big Sort: A Paradigm for Our Polarized Times?

2008-07-30T09:27:04.197-07:00

I read a book recently which seems to describe what Animal Liberation Front bombers have in common with the man who killed two people at a Unitarian Church in Tennessee.They're domestic terrorists rooted in the same phenomena that have destroyed political discourse and consensus in American politics. Those roots would be: The refusal of individuals to compromise their personal concepts of right and wrong in order to further the common good. Insular, intellectually segregated groups of people who create and self-confirm extreme beliefs and their entitlement to act on them regardless of the impact on others.Like many people, I have puzzled over the vicious, polemical extremes that dominate politics today. Discourse about differing opinions has been replaced by demonizing those who disagree. Both Left and Right, Democrats and Republicans resort to rants rather than persuasion.The lack of moderation, and the permission granted by political leaders for their followers to engage in scorched earth tactics, inevitably incites the mentally unstable to acts of violence.A newly published book, The Big Sort, sheds some light on why all this is happening now.According to the book, "In the 95th Congress (1977-1979), 40 percent of the 435 members were moderates," Bishop writes. "By the 108th Congress (2003-2005) this moderate bloc had be whittled down to 10 percent."Further, the book states that, "In 1976, less than a quarter of Americans lived in places where the presidential election was a landslide." The authors define "landslide" as winning by 20 percent or greater. "By 2004, nearly half of all voters lived in landslide counties."Nothing illustrates this schism better than the county-by-county maps of presidential voting from 1976 to 2004.Along with this, the book documents how, over the past three decades, Americans have chosen to segregate themselves in ways that avoid contact with people who might disagree with them politically.Now, the match that ignites all this gasoline:



Is Ronald McDonald a Poofter?

2008-12-11T20:06:09.359-08:00

(image)
Is the Big Mac a metaphor for sodomy? Is "supersize it" a code for something other than potatoes? Is a "Happy Meal" a sin? Something to be consumed only in the privacy of your own home?

The conservative American Family Association thinks there may be hidden meaning in the old Christmas carol urging you to "don ye now our gay apparel."

Make up your own mind. Surf here, if you dare. http://boycottmcdonalds.com/



Amazon.Com's melting down

2008-06-26T20:13:17.181-07:00

1. On around 10 a.m. on June 18, 2008, I placed an order (#104-7260042-2096242) with Amazon for a Motorola MOTOROKR 505 Bluetooth hands-free device to use with my mobile phone. This was a one-click order for two-day delivery on my Amazon Prime account.

2. At 11:27 a.m. on June 18, 2008, Amazon sent me an email confirming my purchase.

3. At 4:49 p.m. on on June 19, 2008 -- almost a day and a half after confirmation -- Amazon sent an email stating that my item was "displayed at an incorrect price" and that they had unliterally CANCELLED my order.

4. Ironically, I had ordered this same product (104-2001654-4645020) on June 4, tested it, found it suitable and thus bought another one. Or so I thought. The device is needed because a new California law which takes place June 1 requires that all phone usage while driving be hands free.

5. All of the responses from the online customer service are 'bot form messages. The phone numbers are as useless as Amazon's customer "service"!

After 45+ minutes on the phone with three different very nice but totally clueless and powerless customer "service" reps, they tell me that they can't or won't do anything at all.

These same reps tell me that there was nothing wrong with the price. It's that the product is out of stock?

WTF? Amazon can tell me when there is one or two copies of a book left and they take my order and a day and a half later cancel it?

So which story do I believe?

6. Offering a product and failing to follow through is a breach of contract and a violation of federal and state consumer laws.

7. I am one of Amazon's first Prime customers and spend upwards of $10,000 per year with them. THAT's going to change today.

8. This mess-up is legally a violation. In the middle of a recession, it's a slap in the face to a good consumer. Morally and ethically, it is simply wrong.

9. All this is a sign that Amazon is melting down. Their servers are crashing and their database can't track inventory. Plus, in the middle of a recession, they choose to screw one of their best customers? That's bad business. It costs Amazon FAR more money to acquire a new customer with my spending habits than it would have simply to do the right thing.

This company is headed downhill. I sold my Amazon stock this morning.



Guys, you can survive 'Sex and the City'

2008-12-11T20:06:09.902-08:00

(image) The TV show has WAY more information about aging sluts than guys ever wanted to know.

From the LA Times: "Man should not live by bread alone. Every once in a while, he should turn off The Game, ditch the remote, put on some clean clothes and embrace his feminine side."

Embracing my feminine side is too much like masturbation. I'd rather embrace my wife.

The rest of the story here.



Rupiah's From Heaven?

2008-06-02T07:55:33.203-07:00

I'm fortunate enough to have a couple of books that have been bestsellers in Indonesia, but the following illustrates that some folks will do anything for promotion. Hope it works for him.


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - If you're short of cash and don't mind running in tropical humidity and smog for a few bucks, read on.

An Indonesian businessman plans to throw 100 million rupiah (US $10,600) out of an airplane over the capital this Sunday as a publicity stunt to promote his new book.

"I want to create a rain of money in Jakarta," author and motivational speaker Tung Desem Waringin said. "It's a little bit crazy, but it's marketing."

Police spokesman Col. I Ketut Untung said authorities may not allow the plan to go forward because it could draw huge crowds and cause chaos.

Tens of millions of Indonesians live on less than US $1 a day and food and aid giveaways always draw large numbers.

The 42-year-old Tung said instead of opting for regular advertising for his book, he came up with an idea that "will make people happy."

(Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)



Airline Fossils Need to Die, NOW

2008-12-11T20:06:10.941-08:00

Article, San Francisco Chronicle today, predicts that at least two of the following might be in bankruptcy by the end of this year: United, Continental, American, Northwest, US Airways and Delta.I say don't wait. Like former racehorses with four broken legs, they all need to be administered the coup de grace to put them out of OUR misery. They're arrogant, sloppy, fat, nasty, stupid, obsolete creatures unfit for the current environment. This is where Darwin needs to work. Fast.Good riddance, and the sooner the better. Good bye to surly ticket counter drones, frowning flight attendants, supremely dumb incompetent marionettes in the executive suites who think that treating passengers like downer cattle is the way to make a profit. I say take the forklift to them all and dump them into the rendering pot.Article, San Francisco Chronicle today, "Virgin America stymied in its attempts to obtain additional routes."Yeah, the bureaucrat trolls at the U.S. Department of Transportation are sandbagging Virgin America's attempts to grow, awarding routes and airport gates to the likes of the aformentioned dinosaurs above.So there you have it, good airlines like Virgin America, Jet Blue and Southwest get screwed while keeping alive those who deserve to die.More than 15 years ago, I got fed up with the sleazy bastards at American and United. I cut up my frequent-flyer cards and cancelled my airport club cards and left them on the check-in counter. I have not flown either airline since then.I was the CEO of a company back then. I amended the company travel handbook to forbid reimbursement for traveling on those carriers.If American or United are the only way to get somewhere, I don't go there. The sooner they die, the faster the American public can escape the U.S. equivalent of Aeroflot and gain access to decent transportation.Sure, soaring fuel prices squeeze everybody. But when I fly Virgin America, Jet Blue and Southwest, I fly with people I can empathize with. Real people who treat passengers like other people and who offer a good experience and value for the price of the ticket.I wonder if Jack Kevorkian is available for freelance work?[...]



Oil, tobacco ... a lie is a lie is a lie.

2008-12-11T20:06:11.655-08:00

(image)
1994-Tobacco company executives testify before Congress that nicotine is NOT addictive.
(image)
2008-Oil company executives testify before Congress that they're NOT responsible for the high price of gasoline.

Uh-huh.



American Apartheid - No Negroes Allowed in Bookstores?

2008-05-21T07:57:01.801-07:00

This disturbing article appeared in the Guardian (U.K.) yesterday. I can find no words suitable for comment.Why I'm not allowed my book title It's called The Book of Negroes in Canada - but Americans won't buy that term May 20, 2008 7:00 AM Are we on the same page? ... Novelist Lawrence HillIt isn't unusual for British or Canadian books to change titles when entering the American market. It happened to JK Rowling - Harry Potter has no "philosopher's" stone in the USA; and to Alice Munro, whose fabulous collection of short stories went from Who Do You Think You Are? in Canada to The Beggar Maid in the USA. But I didn't think it would happen to me. When my novel, The Book of Negroes, came out last year with HarperCollins Canada, I was assured by my American publisher that the original title would be fine by them. However, several months later, I got a nervous email from my editor in New York. She mentioned that the book cover would soon be going to the printer and that the title had to change. "Negroes" would not fly, or be allowed to fly, in American bookstore. At first, I was irritated, but gradually I've come to make my peace with the new title, Someone Knows My Name. Perhaps the best way to examine the issue is to examine the evolution of the word "Negro" in America. I descend (on my father's side) from African-Americans. My own father, who was born in 1923, fled the United States with my white mother the day after they married in 1953. As my mother is fond of saying, at the time even federal government cafeterias were segregated. It was no place for an interracial couple to live. My parents, who became pioneers of the human rights movement in Canada, used the word Negro as a term of respect and pride. My American relatives all used it to describe themselves. I found it in the literature I began to consume as a teenager: one of the most famous poems by Langston Hughes, for example, is The Negro Speaks of Rivers. When my own father was appointed head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1973, the Toronto Globe and Mail's headline noted that a "Negro" had been appointed. The term was in vogue right into the 1970s. For a time, the word "Negro" took a back seat in popular language culture to newer terms, such as "Afro-American", "African-Canadian", "people of colour" (a term I have always disliked, for its pomposity) or just plain "black." In the last 20 or so years in urban America, we have witnessed more changes in racial terminology. For one thing, and regrettably in my view, many hip-hop artists have re-appropriated the word "nigger", tried to tame it, and use it so vocally and frequently as to strip it of its hateful origins. We are all products of our generation. Given that I was born in 1957 and taught to ball my fists against anybody using that N-word, I can't quite get my head around using it these days in any kind of peaceful or respectful manner. Just as the very word "nigger" has risen in popular usage over the last decade or two, however, the word "Negro" has become viscerally rude. In urban America, to call someone a Negro is to ask to for trouble. It suggests that the designated person has no authenticity, no backbone, no individuality, and is nothing more than an Uncle Tom to the white man. I used The Book of Negroes as the title for my novel, in Canada, because it derives from a historical document of the same name kept by British naval officers at the tail end of the American Revolutionary War. It documents the 3,000 blacks who had se[...]



Book Launch Reality

2008-05-19T18:24:49.097-07:00

By way of author/journalist Seth Mnookin's blog, herewith the reality check for authors.

It falls into the "sad but true" category and offers the best insight into the dysfunctional world of authors and book publishing.

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Dumb Calif Bureaucrats Criminalize Home Winemakers

2008-05-08T13:18:51.162-07:00

Yes, I know that "dumb bureaucrat" is redundant. But, just in the nick of time the California state government has arrived and they're here to save us from ourselves. Again.By declaring that competitions among home winemakers are illegal.This story from The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat (the only real newspaper in Sonoma County) says it all.Read it.Weep.Then let's ALL have a tasting of homemade wines at our homes. We need to set a date and then notify the bureaucrats. Let them come after ALL of us. Would make for some great YouTube Vids.Home wine ruling a shockOrganizers and others stunned that state ABC would say events like Harvest Fair are against the lawBy KEVIN MCCALLUMTHE PRESS DEMOCRATHome winemaking competitions abound in California.From the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in the heart of Wine Country to the massive California Exposition & State Fair in Sacramento, fairs around the state recognize the skills of thousands of amateur vintners.Numerous private winemaking clubs also hold regular contests so their members can see how their vintages stack up.But they all have one thing in common: They're all illegal.That's what state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officials have told an Illinois man who wants to hold a home winemaking competition in Santa Rosa this summer."We told them it's illegal," said Matthew Seck, chief of the trade enforcement division of the ABC.State law creates an exemption from California's alcohol licensing laws for home winemakers who produce up to 200 gallons a year -- but only if they are making it for their own consumption.The exemption was essentially California's way, after regulation of alcohol fell to the states following the repeal of Prohibition, of continuing the federal exemption for home winemaking.The problem is that the exemption is a very narrow one that does not allow people to share the wine they produce with others or remove it from the place where it was produced, Seck said.Word of the state's position spread quickly though the ranks of the passionate home winemaking community, particularly in California, where hobbyists have access to some of the best grapes in the world and craft wines in garages, basements and barns."It doesn't make sense to most people, but that's what the law is," Seck said.Seck declined to say what type of enforcement the agency might take against an amateur wine judging event. He said he was unaware such events take place at county and state fairs, and had never received a complaint against one.But when the ABC receives a complaint or becomes aware that laws are being broken, it has an obligation to act, he said.Threat of prosecutionIn an e-mail to the Santa Rosa event's organizer, Joel Sommer, ABC investigator David Wright was clear there could be consequences."If you decide to hold your event please be advised that it will be without Department consent or authorization and could result in criminal prosecution," Wright wrote.That got Sommer's attention.The resident of St. Libory, Ill., and a self-described "Web entrepreneur" operates a winemaking Web site called WinePress. He was shocked by the response and baffled given the proliferation of other such events across the state, including the state's own fair."I was just trying to do everything legally," he said.Sommer has held home winemaking competitions in Denver, Baltimore and St. Louis in recent years, and was looking forward to holding his first event in California. But the legal opinion threw his w[...]



Move over wunderkinds, there are 2X more boomers entrepreneurs!

2008-12-11T20:06:12.021-08:00

A new study confirms what all of us older entrepreneurs knew already: there are a lot more of us than 20-something wunderkinds. The following comes from the Kauffman Foundation:Challenging the perception of American technology entrepreneurs as 20-something wunderkinds launching businesses from college dorm rooms, a new study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and researchers at Duke and Harvard universities reveals most U.S.-born technology and engineering company founders are middle-aged, well-educated and hold degrees from a wide assortment of universities. In fact, twice as many U.S.-born tech entrepreneurs start ventures in their 50s as do those in their early 20s. Further, elite, highly ranked schools are over-represented in the ranks of these founders, and Ivy-League graduates achieve the greatest business success; however, 92 percent of U.S.-born founders graduate from other universities, according to the study, Education and Tech Entrepreneurship. The study analyzed U.S. engineering and tech companies founded from 1995-2005, representing the most current decade of data. "Because entrepreneurship is an indicator of economic vitality in regions and across the country, this study raises important policy questions about how to foster greater tech entrepreneurship to boost economic growth," said Robert Litan, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. "Probably the most compelling fact in the study is that advanced education is critical to the success of tech startups." U.S.-born engineering and tech company founders are overwhelmingly well-educated. While there are significant differences in the types of degrees these entrepreneurs obtain and the time they take to start a company after they graduate, the study reveals a direct correlation between a founder’s education and company performance. In 2005, the average sales revenue of all startups in the sample was around $5.7 million, employing an average of 42 workers. Startups established by founders with advanced Ivy-League degrees had higher average sales and employment – $6.7 million and 55 workers, respectively. The success of these groups contrasted sharply with startups established by founders with high school degrees with average revenues and employees at $2.2 million and 18 workers, respectively. Among other findings: The average and median age of U.S.-born founders was 39 when they started their companies. Only about 1 percent of U.S.-born founders of tech companies were teenagers. The vast majority (92 percent) of U.S.-born tech founders held bachelor’s degrees, 31 percent held master’s degrees, and 10 percent had completed PhDs. Nearly half of these degrees were in science-, technology-, engineering- and mathematics-related disciplines. One third was in business, accounting and finance. U.S.-born tech founders holding MBA degrees established companies more quickly (13 years) than others. Those with PhDs typically waited 21 years to become tech entrepreneurs. The top 10 universities from which U.S.-born tech founders received their highest degrees are Harvard, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, MIT, University of Texas, University of California-Berkeley, University of Missouri, Pennsylvania State University, University of Southern California and University of Virginia. Nearly half (45 percent) of the tech startups were established in the same state where U.S.-born tech founders received[...]



Meetings!

2008-12-11T20:06:12.250-08:00

(image) No comment needed.

This is from Seth Godin's often amusing, usually helpful and always interesting, blog