Tuesday September 30
RIAA's Nazi Tactics Are Winning
Today's news indicates that P2P file sharing has dropped 45% since the RIAA started suing indiviuals a few months back. That is despite that fact that only 261 lawsuits were filed and that settlements accepted have been just a few thousand dollars each. Settling in With the RIAA [TechNews.com].
I think the lesson here is that the legal process can and often is used solely for purposes of intimidation. RIAA is not even covering its legal fees, and certainly not giving anything back to the artists who may lose royalties where songs are traded instead of bought. But from the user perspective, the randomness of being sued may overpower the relative anonimity of the Internet, where 261 folks out of the many millions utilizing P2P technology are surely just a drop in the ocean. It looks like alot of them are afraid of drowning!!
Monday September 29
Six World Championships
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher is about to accomplish what, for Formula One motor racing fans, was once -- and for many still is -- the unthinkable. By winning yesterday's U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Schumacher needs only one point in the season's last race at Suzuka in Japan to walk away with his 6th World Championship title (and fourth in a row). [BBCSport.com].
The legendary Juan Manuel Fangio won five championships in the 1950s. Passing Fangio will make Schumacher literally a legend in his own time. Herald Sun: Schu on Brink of History [30sep03].
Saturday September 27
Osama bin Terror
Martin Amis of The Guardian Unlimited wrote one week after the September 11 attacks on the United States that "It will be horribly difficult and painful for Americans to absorb the fact that they are hated, and hated intelligibly." He titled his essay -- fittingly for this category -- Fear and Loathing. So if loathing begets fear, fear begets hatred and hatred begets terror, what is the solution?
In the relatively more innocent days of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, The Beatles sang "All You Need Is Love." What is needed now is hard love, discipline and just a touch of compassion. But if the United States does not recognize that its is our own long support of dictators, repression and oligarchs over the decades that has led to despondency and terror, we will have made no progress at all.
Friday September 26
They're All Dying Young
Another personal favorite, Palmer combined R&B, rock and island reggae into a unique, classy style, with hits such as "Simply Irresistible." He was only 54, but lived hard. So I guess I need to look out for myself in six years or so. Ah, the anxiety of aging strikes close to home at moments like these.
The legal reasoning, if you can call it that, about the Do Not Call registry is really getting out of hand. Late yesterday another federal court, this time in Denver, held that the FTC's actions were invalid and blocked the list from going into effect. [msnbc.com]. The Denver court based its judgment on the First Amendment, concluding that "the FTC's do-not-call registry does not materially advance its interest in protecting privacy or curbing abusive telemarketing practices."
Beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life on this planet.
Thursday September 25
This Time They Really Mean It
In an update to yesterday's post about the FTC's Do Not Call registry, this afternoon the House of Representative voted 412-8 to give the FTC express power to run the list, something Judge Lee Roy West of Oklahoma said they "clearly" had not done before. According to bill sponor Rep. Billy Tauzin, "We should probably call the bill the 'This Time We Really Mean It Act' to cure any myopia in the judicial branch." Hear, hear!
Wednesday September 24
Do Not Call the Courts
Everyone was a little bit calmer when the Federal Trade Commission launched its national "Do Not Call" registry to foil telemarketers last August. While it's certainly not a panacea, it is a step in the right direction. Now, a 74-year old semi-retired federal judge in Oklahoma, goosed by the Direct Marketing Association, has held the FTC's actions invalid, just days before the registry was to go into operation. Fool.com: Dinner, Interrupted.
It's this kind of muddled logic that gives we lawyers such a bad reputation. Congress appropriated money to fund the FTC list and the agency has long had broad powers over both "deceptive" trade practices and "abusive" telephone solicitations. Yet the court held that the FTC did not have the power to ban unauthorized telephone solicitations because the Federal Communications Commission rejected that option more than 10 years ago, saying that because Congress in 1991 gave the FCC power to make a do-not-call list, the FTC could not do so. Nonetheless, it never addressed whether unauthorized calls can be declared "abusive" or whether the FTC's general powers to engage in consumer protection regulation were sufficient -- without regard to specific legislation on telephone solicitation -- to support its actions. Read the opinion yourself and see.
The court's analysis is legal hair splitting at its worst, a pure charade. As the FTC said in response, "Congress passed the Do Not Call Implementation Act, which authorized the FTC to collect fees from sellers and telemarketers to 'implement and enforce the provisions relating to the do-not-call registry.' . . . This decision is clearly incorrect. We will seek every recourse to give American consumers a choice to stop unwanted telemarketing calls."
That's right. Telemarketing is a intrusive, costly and annoying, and the government has a right to stop it. The government here has decided to do so, with specific Congressional approval and funding. Judge Lee Roy West, a good old boy from Ada, Oklahomo who assumed "senior" status a decade ago, should find better things to do with his time. Clarity of thought is not a virtue of the feeble-minded elderly. Maybe we should all call Judge West's house during dinner?
Tuesday September 23
Tim Goodman, TV critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, says that ABC (owned by Disney & Co.) is a "desperate and clueless network" for continuing the "8 Simple Rules" sitcom starring the late John Ritter. One Simple Rule: Don't Support ABC's Cruelty. Goodman writes that
Well and truly correct. But the current episodes are in the can and one can hardly blame ABC for trying to salvage their leading show. I suspect the new scripts will more likely be almost a tribute to Ritter, and a reminder of the fragility of life, than a maudlin effort to reap returns from his sudden passing. At least one can hope.
Sunday September 21
The Giants' 24-21 overtime win over the Washington Redskins this afternoon (which I attended) was more than just "A Kick in the Teeth," as the Washington Post headlines this morning. It showed the Redskin devotees for the whining, myopic fanatics they truly are. Complaining about penalties when each Giant touchdown drive was "pure," not aided by the schlock roughing-the-passer (2) and pass interference and defensive holding (4) calls the refs threw the Skins' way. Forgetting that the Skins -- benefitting from those same calls -- gave up two golden red zone opportunities in the first quarter, set up by some brilliant kick returns, to come away only with 3 points. For instance, Post columnist Tom Boswell writes:
"Grotesque" only if you ignore that the Giants made three length-of-the field drives (74, 80 and 57 yards) beginning about 8 minutes into the game, burned the Skins premiere CB Champ Bailey on a superb TD to Amani Toomer, and played with confidence in all aspects of their offense. The game was over at halftime; the Skins did not so much "storm" back as manage a lucky 2-point conversion coupled with some more referee interference on wacko false start penalities and the like. As NFL.com notes, "They rallied only because the Giants started returning the favor, committing 11 of their 15 penalties after halftime."
Read it and weep, Redskins faithful. A short glimpse of glory at 2-0 is followed by a hard dose of reality. The end of the season started at FedEx Field today.
Saturday September 20
Let It Be ... Naked
Apple Corp. announced earlier this week that The Beatles will re-release their 1970 Let It Be album, this time stripped of the schamltzy orchestration added by producer Phil Spector after the band's break-up. [rollingstone.com]. Originally conceived as a "reality" album to be titled "Get Back," the project was eventually shelved when the guys (and Yoko) started getting on each others' nerves, big time. Paul McCartney says he has waited 30 years to do the album like the group wanted the music to sound.
Most Beatles fans hated Let It Be. Personally, I like it, but think that anything taking Phil Spector out of The Beatles has got to be a positive development. I mean, The Ronettes, The Crystals and the other early 60s girl groups on which Spector made his reputation may have needed his "Wall of Sound," but The Beatles didn't. If you wany Beatles with orchestration listen to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, it defines the genre. Nothing Spector did -- legend or not -- even comes close.
Thursday September 18
Lovely Little Isabel
Hurricane Isabel moved inland this evening. Despite dire predictions and massive closings, including the entire federal government in Washington, DC, once again this storm has proved that the weather wonks are Chicken Littles. A "catgeory 5" this ain't, that's for sure. A little wind -- 30 mph here in Northern Virginia -- and a bit of rain, but hardly anything to get worked up about. Of course, I am writing this on a battery-powered laptop, as the electricity is out. Just a wee touch of adventure in an otherwise very forgettable hurricane.
Tuesday September 16
On the Monday Night Football stage, Bill Parcells led the Dallas Cowboys to an overtime victory against the Giants, with whom Coach Parcells won 2 Superbowls. A wonderful (albeit very late) game, in which the young Cowboys easily could have given up. But they persevered and pulled a win out of what looked like sure defeat -- 11 seconds remaning and down by a field goal. As Mike Celizic observes for MSNBC:
Change the culture, change the mindset. Ah yes, the Tuna is a Magic Man!!
Monday September 15
I missed last night's premiere and the party Friday evening at The Palm across from my downtown office. And my wife sadly missed seeing George Clooney in the flesh. Yet HBO's new series about political lobbyists is probably as realistic as ER or Law and Order -- entertaining, but hardly close to the real world. HBO's 'K Street,' In Uncharted Territory [washingtonpost.com]. Still, it will be interesting to see James Carville and Mary Matalin playing themselves in a fictional setting. One could argue that's what they do for a living anyway!!
Another One Bites the Dust
John Ritter, television comedian and star of ABC's "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter," died last week from an undetected heart ailment that caused a massive tear in his aorta. [ABCNews.com]. Also star of the 1970s-era "Three's Company" a generation ago, Ritter had a talent for delivering hilarious lines with absolutely no affect and specialized in gender-related comedy. And his comeback last year was massive. More than 25 million people tuned in to the 2002 debut of 8 Simple Rules to see Ritter's return to TV comedy. It was ABC's largest audience in the time slot with a sitcom since the debut of Roseanne in Fall '88. The network, of course, cynically says that the current show -- the top sitcom in ABC's line-up -- may not be cancelled. Well, maybe "the show must go on," but Tuesday nights will not be the same, that's for sure.
Monday September 8
Goodnight to Werewolves
Singer Warren Zevon, a personal favorite, died Sunday in Los Angeles from terminal cancer. [EW.com]. Zevon was the most acerbic member of the singer-songwriter scene that emerged in Los Angeles in the early 1970s and included Jackson Browne, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt. He first gained fame with Ronstadt's cover versions of tunes like ''Hasten Down the Wind'' and ''Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,'' then found success on his own with the 1978 hit single ''Werewolves of London."
Zevon rocked and lived hard and fast for years -- with a morbid sense of irony that characterized songs such as "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" -- then sobered up, pulled himself together and mellowed into middle age. When he gave up alcohol in the mid-'80s, Zevon said he did so to avoid drinking himself to death, something he characterized as a coward's way out. His song "Frank and Jessie James" is one I listen to every time I travel by airplane, for no particular reason, but it has become my own personal tradition over the past 20 years. And his "Lawyers, Guns and Money" graces this blog as the category title for my legal ramblings.
Warren, sleep well, my old friend.
Friday September 5
The American Society of Civil Engineers has given United States infrastructure -- roads, bridges, water systems, etc. -- a "D-" grade and warns we may be in for a chatastrophic failure. American Infrastructure Gets Poor Grade [ABCNews.com].
So let me get this straight. America is spending billions repairing and improving infrastructure in Iraq, that we spent untold billions destroying in the first place, and now our own stuff is crumbling. Someone needs to get their priorities straight. Listen up, President Bush!!
Wednesday September 3
Internationalizing the Iraqi Occupation
So having passed the landmark point at which U.S. military deaths in Iraq after the May 1 end of the war -- the "cessation of major hostilities" -- are more than during the war itself, the Bush Administration is now looking for international and United Nations assistance in the occupation. U.S. Wants Larger U.N. Role in Iraq [washingtonpost.com].
Car bombs, murdered clerics and busted up water systems are making Iraqis mad and Americans dead. It's the first sign of the United States retreat, and all because Bush never thought through what would happen after the war in Iraq was over. Repeat after me: "planning is good."
Tuesday September 2
The Internet has become a vital part of commerce and culture, yet it is still a free-for-all when it comes to facing computer meltdowns. As America's 156 million Internet users brace for the next round of what the New York Times today dubbed "digital vandalism," some outspoken cybersecurity experts say that it is time for the government to bolster a basic sense of stability in cyberspace that societies expect from their critical public resources. Digital Vandalism Spurs a Call for Oversight [NYTimes.com]. SoBig.F may have come and gone quickly, but I sense a change in the Internet industry's position on cybersecurity and government regulation.