Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blog #21 “The key to the soul . . .”

The fight for the presidency on the Democratic side of the fence has noticeably heated up in the past few days, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton quick to point out real and/or imagined faults of the other. That is quite alright, after all the prize is the most coveted political prize on the planet. However, notice that there is no such in-fighting on the Republican side of the fence. Aside from the fact that the Republican candidates seem to like ganging up on Mitt Romney, whose ads have attacked each of them, otherwise there hasn’t been a peep out of the bunch. I think part of the reason is because in the minds of most voters the Republican race is irrelevant, only the media seems to be taking much of an interest in the G.O.P. lineup and it is probably doing it primarily to display an aura of fairness.

But it seems to us the majority of voters could care less who comes out on top in the Bush/Cheney party. The B/C legacy leaves a sour taste in the minds not only of Democrats, but many independents, and even a Republican or two here and there. So let Hillary and Obama have their little squabbles so long as neither damages the other’s character. After all, that will be the job of Republicans, whose party has been exposed for what it really is, a party which talks an economically conservative line but which in reality is a wildly spending fraud, one which has brought our nation as close to bankruptcy as we’ve ever been in my lifetime. Not even World War II was so damaging to the nation’s economy because Roosevelt's Democratic party used rationing and other tools which showed fiscal responsibility. As a result of it's fiscal irresponsibility Republicans will have nothing constructive to run on except more of the same, which leaves little for them to run on except the attempted character defamation of the eventual Democratic nominee.

Down the stretch after one or the other of the candidates is anointed, the ranks will close behind the winner. After all, no rational person can question the urgency of the Democrats winning back the presidency and working full time to undo the damage eight years of Republican rule will have done to our country. Anything short of complete change will surely mark the undoing of the American way of life as we know it, and we’ll be lucky indeed if the winner of the current Democratic skirmishes is able to undo the damage this Republican administration has inflicted upon us during its eight year span. And further let us hope and pray that our collective memory extends far enough down the line to make sure nothing like these past eight years happens again in the forseeable future. For no matter how weak an incumbent Democratic administration might be, its tenure will never cause the damage a typical Republican administration will. That’s because at heart Democrats are in the mold of F.D.R. and in their hearts they believe in a strong, innovative, and efficient federal government, while the Republican mantra is “the less federal government the better” and so accordingly they fill the bureaucracy with incompetents, fools and the occasional looter.
– • –
Blog Runner is a listing of news and blogs concerning technology and which is available daily in the NYTime’s Technology section. Tuesday it briefly had an item about a forthcoming Star Trek movie, which will be a prequel to the original Captain Kirk series. Although I was really impressed with the trailer, I didn’t save the URL, and when I went back Wednesday to find and retrieve the URL for this week’s blog the item had disappeared. Highly annoyed, I said to myself “what the hell?” and I googled “Star Trek preview 2008” and what do you know? There were about twelve links to the film trailer, including a YouTube version of it, but right up top was the official link, which has excellent quality and which we happily reprint here. Highlight it and paste into your browser’s window:

The trailer is very impressive, so much so that several people with only a modest interest in Star Trek, and one person who claimed to hate any mention of S.T. whatsoever, all said they were impressed enough with the trailer to want to see the movie. The trailer labels the movie as “Under Construction” and announces it for “Christmas 2008.” And speaking of Star Trek, I finally got to view “Star Trek – Nemesis,” which turns out to be the final episode in the Next Generati0n series. Since I have watched Next Generation from its very beginning, it was interesting seeing the cast after some major years down the pike. Nemesis is indeed a fine movie, as good or better than any of the Star Trek movies that preceded it. And it continued the tradition set by previous Star Trek movies, the characteristic which distinguishes the movie series from the television series – which is that at the end of each movie the star ship Enterprise is more or less destroyed.

And fans of the Next Generation will not want to miss the article in today’s (Sat., Jan. 26, 08) edition of the N.Y. Times called “To Boldly Go Where Shakespeare Calls,” a warm account of Patrick Stewart’s return to the Shakespearean stage after all of those Hollywood years of boldly going where no Shakespearean actor had ever gone before.
– • –
Tuesday afternoon when I heard a CNN report that actor Heath Ledger had been found dead in his bedroom I immediatedly surfed to the NYTimes online, and sure enough, there was the story on the front page. No longer must we wait overnight for the next day’s newspaper. There you have the secret of the attraction of online newspapers, the insertion of news is about as instantaneous at we could wish, equalling if not beating radio and television. Although I have never seen the young man in a film, I was struck with his youth. And the more I have read about his talent and the relationships with those he worked with, the sadder seems the loss. The young man was obviously extremely talented, but he also had the good sense of being careful of the kinds of roles he played in, and so was careful not to overexpose himself. Our world seems a little more empty t0day.
– • –
Of course the immediacy of the online newspapers carries with it a price, there is the temptation to go overboard in whatever direction the paper or tv channel tends to lean. However seasoned news sources like the NY Times and the Washington Post do not suffer from this malady except in the minds of those would will only accept their news slanted to their own politically palatable tastes. The Fox Television news channel has had the benefit of greater viewership in the recent past because of the bending of it’s news coverage to suit the tastes of it’s conservative owner and the audience he covets. However, probably because television audiences are getting wise to the realities of the day, the readership pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction. People who have gone along with the concept of a fractured federal government in every area except national defense have been recently treated to a taste of the reality that government neglect really represents, thanks to the civilian mismanagement of the war in Iraq, the non reaction of the federal government to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and our spiraling out of control health care situation, not to mention the current home mortgage situation.

Let us take a look at one small part of the problem. I’m talking about outrageously overpriced prescription drugs. People who can buy their prescription drugs in Canada or Mexico, or else order them online from Canadian pharmacies, do it because drugs bought this way are often half the price of their US bought counterparts. And the same is true with virtually every other country in the world. Why is this so? The drug companies will tell you that we in the U.S.A. are paying a premium so as to fund their research and development of new drugs, so that they can be tested and brought into the system. However what they don’t tell us is how much more we are being asked to pay than the rest of the world, nor do they tell us how much of that money we’re paying goes towards lining the pockets of their investors.

Republicans will proudly tell you how they will avoid using the strength of government to damp down situations like these outlandish drug prices, and they faithfully promise to seek “free enterprise” solutions. However make that read “for profit” solutions, and keep in mind “for profit” is no solution to the problem, the current high costs of our prescription drugs is the direct result of our present “for profit” system. America’s patient population is being required to finance the American prescription drug industry’s research and development program, while at the same time we line the pockets of drug company investors.

It is disgraceful to see the precious resources of the elderly, many of whom literally depend on prescription drugs in order to stay alive, having to finance the drug industry’s research and development program while they attempt to stay well. The only real solution, should we finally care to do something about the problem, is to have a giant entity like the federal government bargain with said drug companies to bring those drug costs down to the levels the rest of the world pays. This is why Canada, Mexico, and other countries in the world get their drugs at a fraction of what we Americans pay for them, their governments represent their people and bargain with the drug companies. Virtually every country in the world does this, except for the United States. And to continue this neglect will result in these incredibly high drug prices remaining with us until Americans vote in a truly consumer friendly federal government, one dedicated to bringing down the price of drugs, and restricting drug company’s stockholders from garnering huge profits on America’s elderly and ill population.

Illness, catastrophic or otherwise, is not something the free enterprise system should be making a profit on in the first place. As Michael Moore’s excellent film “Sicko” pointed out, the only way the so-called health insurance companies can make a profit is to charge their subscribers for protection from illness, and then when their subscribers are ill, deny them services. With hospital costs being what they are these days there is no other way for the health insurance companies to bring their stockholders profit. Allowing companies to profit from the illness and misfortune of others causes us to lose our sense of community, our very sense of humanity.

Naysayers will scream bloody murder, shout terms like socialized medicine, or even worse, communism, but that’s rubbish. It doesn’t take one on the political left to note the inherent unfairness of the present system. Every family in the country lives in constant fear of a family member getting ill and requiring hospital care, which situation will lead even those families with health insurance to certain bankruptsy sooner rather than later. The American family needs relief from this anxiety. We need a national health insurance program which at the very least is the equivalent of that which is enjoyed by members of our Congress.

The drug and insurance industries will scream bloody murder, Harry and Louise will regenerate once again, purring their pretended reasonableness for “free enterprise” which translates into the greening of health care industry coffers, but if we want true change in this system, which may or may not offer the greatest health care in the world, but the health care it does offer does none of us any good if we can’t afford the treatment and drugs, then we will have to vote enough Republicans out of office and Democrats and Independents in office to make change really come about. Think about it, America. And those of you lucky enough to get to question these presidential hopefuls during the primary process, get them talking about their health care plans. Pin them down. Don’t give them any wiggle room. For real change only comes when enough people are fed up with the system to demand change with their ballots. And if the time is not now it likely will never be.
– • –
Two weeks ago we told you about former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s conversion to the Impeach Bush/Cheney way of thinking. As McGovern pointed out, the B/C presidency has committed far more impeachable offenses than Richard Nixon ever had, and with the instigation of Impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace. And Nixon’s transgressions were certainly much more serious than Bill Clinton’s had been, after all his only offense (besides being alive and breathing) seems to have been in seeking a bit of sexual stimulation away from the family hearth, and in so doing he followed in the footsteps of a long line of presidents before him, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy (to mention only a few). After Clinton’s transgressions became public knowledge the House Republicans launched Impeachment proceedings against him, which fortunately for the sanity of the country, failed in the Senate. For any of you who might be feeling that Mr. McGovern was a bit off base may we offer the following study.

WASHINGTON — A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat. "The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. Second only was Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews. "The cumulative effect of these false statements _ amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts _ was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

"Some journalists _ indeed, even some entire news organizations _ have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.
– • –
From our “they get what they deserved” department comes the news that the RIAA’s public website,, the URL for which we published last week in case any of you with festering guilty consciences and inflated bank accounts wanted to appease said conscience by making a contribution, has been attacked, and it’s contents denuded, by hackers.

We would never condone breaking the law, of course, though we will happily consider exceptions for any and all who will attack the RIAA website, the music industry’s (and we use the term industry advisedly) Rico modeled legal arm. The story of the RIAA site’s take over comes to us courtesy TorrentFreak at: Their coverage went on, “It started out on the social news website Reddit, where a link to a really slow SQL query was posted. While the Reddit users were trying to kill the RIAA server, someone allegedly decided to up the ante and wipe the site’s entire database. The comments on Reddit are only speculation so far. Based on the username, which was apparently “webReadOnly,” it might not have been setup correctly, or someone could have found another way to delete the content form the site.

“Another possibility is that the website has some sort of database flood protection that disables new connections, or perhaps the RIAA themselves removed the content temporarily. The latter seems unlikely, as a better solution would be to take it entirely offline to fix the bigger problem. While they could fix a small vulnerability like this in a matter of seconds, the chances are it’s not an isolated problem.

“As pointed out by Haywire, playing around with the urls a bit can return some funny results. It is pretty easy to make the RIAA link to The Pirate Bay for example. For now it sure does look like all the content has been wiped from the RIAA homepage. Let’s hope they have backups, or not.

“Update: After a few hours the RIAA restored the site. They seem to have fixed the vulnerability, but we saved some screenshots.” – TorrentFreak
– • –
Speaking of TorrentFreak, we would direct the RIAA’s rabid legal team’s attention to the following item also from the TF website. Paulo Coelho, the best-selling author of “The Alchemist,” is using BitTorrent and other filesharing networks as a way to promote his books. His publishers weren’t too keen on his giving away free copies of his books, so he’s taken matters into his own hands.

Coelho’s view is that letting people swap digital copies of his books for free increases sales. In a keynote speech at the Digital, Life, Design conference in Munich he talked about how uploading the Russian translation of “The Alchemist” made his sales in Russia go from around 1,000 per year to 100,000, then a million and more. He said: “In 2001, I sold 10,000 hard copies. And everyone was puzzled. We came from zero, from 1000, to 10,000. And then the next year we were over 100,000 . . . . I thought that this is fantastic. You give to the reader the possibility of reading your books and choosing whether to buy it or not . . . . So, I went to BitTorrent and I got all my pirate editions . . . . And I created a site called The Pirate Coelho.

He’s convinced — and rightly so — that letting people download free copies of his books actually helps sales. For him the problem is getting around copyright laws that require him to get the permission of his translators if he wants to share copies of his books in other languages.

So is Coelho just seeding torrents of his books? That’s just the beginning. He took it one step further and, as quoted above, set up a Wordpress blog, Pirate Coelho, where he posts links to free copies of his books on filesharing networks, FTP sites, and so on. He says it had a direct impact on sales: “Believe it or not, the sales of the book increased a lot thanks to the Pirate Coelho site . . . ” In his speech he talks about how the Internet is changing language and books, and how online “piracy” and BitTorrent have helped him not only be more widely read, but also sell more books! It’s a must watch. ____________________________________________________
– • –
In the past few weeks I have spent much of my time when not writing my blog putting together a collection of John Lennon’s songs (which I call a mix) and which by the time I had finished had filled three cd’s. I sent the cd’s to each of my sons and their family. Doing this really got my juices flowing to do radio once again. On March 20th I will be 82 years old. My life has been a series of doing things which, if they didn’t work out for one reason or another, found me shifting into an entirely different direction. But one of the really creative things I have done in my life was my radio diskjockey work. It began on KXYZ circa 1948, with the BarNone Ranch in the early morning, and the MailBag, an afternoon dj show. We played our own records in those days and during the morning shift for the fun of it I would put together mixes of songs which flowed one into the other without talk to interrupt them. And if it worked the mix made each indivdual song’s impact that much greater. Many years later at Houston’s Pacifica station, KPFT, I carried things to a new extreme, combining music, reading, and sounds into a late night surrealistic tapestry.

These are extraordinary times, technologically speaking. Gone is the hiss, the pops and degregation of analog recordings. Since music these days is primarily transmitted digitally, you can digitally reproduce a performance exactly without the slightest loss of quality. And so these days it is quite easy to put together a radio program which perfectly reproduces the music you use.

And so I have been having this strong urge to do Nightsong once again, only this time doing it in the form of a podcast. At the present time this is a long way from happening. I am searching for a program that will let me play and mix at least four tracks simultaneously, two of them a song and the other two sounds. I have explored Garageband, a program from Apple which among other things does allow you to create podcasts, but I haven’t yet discovered a way to create simultaneous sounds in that program. I have downloaded a trial version of Peak, a music editing program which I used to use back in the days when I was creating music, and which gives you a virtual mixer, but unfortunately it will only allow you to work with two stereo tracks at the time, not four. There is bound to be a program out there which will allow more than two track mixing, and I’ll continue to search for such a program.

One thing I want to create again, as I did in my KPFT Nightsong days, is a version of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” one in which the song is suddenly joined by sounds of Humpback whales. I can’t tell you exactly why this was effective, but it was. The two things went together like peanut butter and jelly. On another occasion I read Chief Seattles’ Oration to the sounds of the whales, why this was effective I also can’t explain, but again it was. I believe it worked because Chief Seattle’s timeless words were joined with the timeless earthy, eirie sounds of the whales, which made for a striking surreal image.

Another two turntable mix I want to recreate digitally is a version of The Gray Funnel Line by the Silly Sisters, with a second version playing as an echo track. This effect was spine tingling when I did it live on the air on KPFT in the 70’s. It takes a certain amount of nerve to attempt to do something like that live, if you’re the tiniest bit off you will never catch up. I pulled it off live back then, and the jazz fellow who followed my show went into shock when I pointed out that both turntables were in use on the air at the same time. Another thing I love to do is offer music in an environment of sounds.

I’ll let you know if l have any luck in the combining department. I have digital versions of many songs I would like to include, including my Nightsong theme song, Tama, from the electronic music album Tonto’s Expanding Headband. The tag line, which I spoke at the beginning of each program, used to go: “The key to the soul is found only in the mind. And the mind can be unlocked, and it’s secrets unveiled, only with symbols. Words . . . . Music . . . . Sounds . . . . Images.” To truly appreciate it you have to hear it recited against the background of that remarkable song, Tama. The combination is guaranteed to take you right to cloud #9.

It would be really fun and creative to bring Nightsong back to life as a recurring podcast. Plus it would guarantee to keep me out of mischief and give me something creative to do with whatever time I’ve got left. I’ll let you know what, if any, progress I’m able to make in getting the ability to run two disks at once. Wish me luck.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Blog #20: monkey driven robots, in your facebook

Imagine if you will, the brain waves of a monkey at Duke University in Georgia directing the movements of a robot in Kyoto, Japan halfway around the globe. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? The stuff of science fiction. And yet according to a story in the New York Times published on January 15 that is exactly what happened. The article written by Sandra Blakeslee, tells of a 12 pound, 32 inch monkey named Idoya who was taught to walk a treadmill, and while doing this and using only her brain waves, she made a 200 pound, 5 foot robot walk on a treadmill thousands of miles away in Kyoto, Japan. At one point her handler had her stop her own treadmill walking, but had her keep on sending the signals of walking to the robot. Everybody held their breaths, but cheers went up in both Durham, N.C. and in Kyoto, when the robot kept on walking. You can read this remarkable story here:
– • –
Michael Ottati's been a follower of the cult of Apple since 1991. So it's not suprising to see him among the faithful checking out the latest Apple gear. But what was unusual was that for the first time, Ottati, 52, brought his two sons, 9-year-old Anthony and 8-year-old Conner. This is not a case of father forcing his kids to follow their old man's pursuits. They're full on fans themselves. Anthony said he's got an iPod Nano, an iPod Shuffle and the family shares a Mac. He said he likes the designs of Apple, not only in its products but even its stores. On a recent trip to New York, he insisted they visit the Apple store. "They have a cool circular elevator and they have cool architecture," he said.

Father Ottati took advantage of free early registration for kids to bring them out. He said Apple's on to something with its melding of form and function, something even his kids can appreciate. And that's what brings the whole family out to Macworld. "Apple is one of the companies that is known for design. When you think of design, you think of BMW, Lexus and Apple," he said. It makes you think that if Apple can win converts at the age of 8 and 9 by emphasizing style and design, the company's future is pretty bright indeed.
– • –
For any of you who were unfortunate enough to miss Steve Jobs’ opening address at MacWorld on Tuesday morning you can see it in its entirety at:
And for a second take on Jobs’ presentation, catch Steve Wosniak, who co-founded Apple with Jobs from the Jobs’ family garage, give his take on the present state of the world of the Mac, who was interviewed as he stood on his Segue scooter outside the Moscone Center after the presentation:
– • –
And while Apple makes hardware and software to enrich our creativity and our experiences in this digital age, we certainly would not want to overlook Microsoft. However, seemingly as usual, Microsoft is taking an entirely different approach to that taken by Apple. From the UK's TImes Online comes word that the software behemoth from Redmond, Washington has applied for a patent capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical well being, and competence. The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

Technology allowing constant monitoring of workers was previously limited to pilots, firefighters and Nasa astronauts. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces. Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure,” the application states.

The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly.” Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.

The Information Commissioner, civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level.” Hugh Tomlinson, QC, an expert on data protection law at Matrix Chambers, told The Times: “This system involves intrusion into every single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy issues.”

Peter Skyte, a national officer for the union Unite, said: “This system takes the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level with a new level of invasiveness but in a very old-fashioned way because it monitors what is going in rather than the results.” The Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Imposing this level of intrusion on employees could only be justified in exceptional circumstances.” The US Patent Office confirmed last night that the application was published last month, 18 months after being filed. Patent lawyers said that it could be granted within a year.

Microsoft last night refused to comment on the application, but said: “We have over 7,000 patents worldwide and we are proud of the quality of these patents and the innovations they represent. As a general practice, we do not typically comment on pending patent applications because claims made in the application may be modified through the approval process.”
Wouldn’t you know it? Microsoft is working night and day to align itself with your boss. Birds of a feather, etc.
– • –
Are any of you out there feeling guilty about all that music you’ve been downloading for free thanks to p2p software like bit torrent? As we understand it the usual settlement to assuage guilt and avoid prosecution is $3,000, and if you have that amount to spare and want to purge yourself of all guilt the URL to go to and thereby avoid a court confrontation is this one:
– • –
And speaking of the ever obnoxious RIAA, according to Eric Bangeman in ars technica, A US District Court judge in Oregon has reaffirmed a magistrate's award of attorneys' fees and the dismissal of exonerated RIAA defendant Tanya Andersen's counterclaims against the RIAA without prejudice so that her class-action lawsuit against the record labels can move ahead. Andersen, a disabled single mother who resides in Oregon, was sued by the RIAA in February 2005 for distributing gangster rap over KaZaA using the handle "gotenkito." She denied all of the RIAA's allegations and filed the now-dismissed counterclaims in October of that year. After over two years of contentious filings and allegations of misconduct by the RIAA's investigators, Atlantic v. Andersen was dismissed with prejudice after the record labels decided to drop the case.

Andersen was awarded attorneys' fees by the magistrate overseeing the case in September of last year, a decision that was quickly appealed by the RIAA. In a ruling noticed this morning by copyright attorney Ray Beckerman, Judge James A. Redden agreed with the magistrate's findings, writing that "the court's order dismissing Andersen's claims without prejudice provide a sufficient 'judicial imprimatur' on the 'alteration of the legal relationship of the parties' to justify conferring prevailing party status on Andersen."

Andersen's malicious prosecution lawsuit accuses the RIAA of invasion of privacy, deceptive business practices, libel, slander, and a host of other misdeeds, saying that the RIAA has "engaged in a coordinated enterprise to pursue a scheme of threatening and intimidating litigation in an attempt to maintain its music distribution monopoly." Her complaint contains some very disturbing allegations, including one that the labels attempted to contact her then eight-year-old daughter under false pretenses without Andersen's permission.

Andersen is seeking class-action status for her lawsuit, which would allow anyone who was "sued or were threatened with suit by Defendants for file-sharing, downloading or other similar activities, who have not actually engaged in actual copyright infringement" to join the lawsuit. The RIAA has denied any wrongdoing and has moved for dismissal of the lawsuit.

– • –
There’s been a lot of online interest in FaceBook lately, especially after the 60 Minutes interview by Leslie Stahl with founder Mark Zuckerberg. However, according to Tom Hodgkinson writing in England’s The Guardian, “Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners.

“Facebook is a well-funded project,” Tomlinson points out, “
and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology. Like PayPal before it, it is a social experiment, an expression of a particular kind of neoconservative libertarianism. On Facebook, you can be free to be who you want to be, as long as you don't mind being bombarded by adverts for the world's biggest brands. As with PayPal, national boundaries are a thing of the past.”

Hodgkinson goes on the say, “I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business describes itself as "a social utility that connects you with the people around you.” But hang on. Why on God's earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub?

“And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn't it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.

“Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us, too. If I put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my favourite things, I can construct an artificial representation of who I am in order to get sex or approval. ("I like Facebook," said another friend. "I got a shag out of it.") It also encourages a disturbing competitivness around friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing and quantity is king. The more friends you have, the better you are. You are "popular,” in the sense much loved in American high schools. Witness the cover line on Dennis Publishing's new Facebook magazine: "How To Double Your Friends List."

“It seems, though, that I am very much alone in my hostility. At the time of writing Facebook claims 59 million active users, including 7 million in the UK, Facebook's third-biggest customer after the US and Canada. That's 59 million suckers, all of whom have volunteered their ID card information and consumer preferences to an American business they know nothing about. Right now, 2 million new people join each week. At the present rate of growth, Facebook will have more than 200 million active users by this time next year. And I would predict that, if anything, its rate of growth will accelerate over the coming months. As its spokesman Chris Hughes says: "It's embedded itself to an extent where it's hard to get rid of."

“Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook's current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.

“Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently called him "one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country.” He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken. He and his absurdly wealthy Silicon Valley mates have recently been labelled "The PayPal Mafia" by Fortune magazine, whose reporter also observed that Thiel has a uniformed butler and a $500,000 McLaren supercar. Thiel is also a chess master and intensely competitive. He has been known to sweep the chessmen off the table in a fury when losing. And he does not apologise for this hyper-competitveness, saying: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."

“But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford. He claimed that the "multiculture" led to a lessening of individual freedoms. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review - motto: Fiat Lux ("Let there be light"). Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself "way libertarian.”

“TheVanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. On the site, Thiel says: "Rod is one of our nation's leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than most executives have of their own businesses."

This little taster from their website will give you an idea of their vision for the world: "TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us." Their aim is to promote policies that will "reshape America and the globe.” TheVanguard describes its politics as "Reaganite/Thatcherite.” The chairman's message says: "Today we'll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined."

So, Thiel's politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short,” and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."

“Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

“Thiel's philosophical mentor is one RenĂ© Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel's intellectual soirees. What you don't hear about in Thiel's philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

“The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world's wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it's fair to say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: "You can't have a workers' revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu," he says.

“If life in the past was nasty, brutish and short, then in the future Thiel wants to make it much longer, and to this end he has also invested in a firm that is exploring life-extension technologies. He has pledged £3.5m to a Cambridge-based gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey, who is searching for the key to immortality. Thiel is also on the board of advisers of something called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. From its fantastical website, the following: "The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are several technologies ... heading in this direction ... Artificial Intelligence ... direct brain-computer interfaces ... genetic engineering ... different technologies which, if they reached a threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence."

“So by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world, which he also calls "nature,” and install a virtual world in its place, and it is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook. Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation, and Thiel is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies. Not someone I want to help get any richer.

“Futhermore, have you Facebook users ever actually read the privacy policy? It tells you that you don't have much privacy. Facebook pretends to be about freedom, but isn't it really more like an ideologically motivated virtual totalitarian regime with a population that will very soon exceed the UK's? Thiel and the rest have created their own country, a country of consumers.

“Now, you may, like Thiel and the other new masters of the cyberverse, find this social experiment tremendously exciting. Here at last is the Enlightenment state longed for since the Puritans of the 17th century sailed away to North America, a world where everyone is free to express themselves as they please, according to who is watching. National boundaries are a thing of the past and everyone cavorts together in freewheeling virtual space. Nature has been conquered through man's boundless ingenuity. Yes, and you may decide to send genius investor Thiel all your money, and certainly you'll be waiting impatiently for the public flotation of the unstoppable Facebook.

“Or you might reflect that you don't really want to be part of this heavily-funded programme to create an arid global virtual republic, where your own self and your relationships with your friends are converted into commodites on sale to giant global brands. You may decide that you don't want to be part of this takeover bid for the world.

“For my own part, I am going to retreat from the whole thing, remain as unplugged as possible, and spend the time I save by not going on Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books. Why would I want to waste my time on Facebook when I still haven't read Keats' Endymion? And when there are seeds to be sown in my own back yard? I don't want to retreat from nature, I want to reconnect with it. Damn air-conditioning! And if I want to connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology. It's free, it's easy and it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing information: it's called talking.”

Hodginson’s article answered the question as to why Republican and Libertarian Presidential candidate Ron Paul, scores 37% among Facebook members while polling only 6% in national polls. For Kara Swisher’s video interview with Thiel go:
– • –
I intended to follow the previous piece with my take on why you should support candidates for the presidency and congress who believe in the government helping its own citizens first, last and foremost, however I have been hit by a midweek bug which has left me pretty much out of things. I had my flu shot this year, and so if it is this year’s edition of the flu I should be over it soon. But it is difficult to make much of a case for any point of view when you rack with chest pains every time you cough, and all you really want to do it sit in your comfy chair with the foot rest up, and nod out. And if this week’s post seems a bit shorter than usual, well there you have the reason.
– • –
If you go down my posts and come across blank areas, these are the video embeds which have since disappeared. When YouTube began listing the code for embedding its videos onto your blogs or Myspace pages, I began copying and pasting them in because there’s nothing I like better than including a short video or two in these pages. However, suddenly they have disappeared, leaving only a blank space where they had been. When I discovered that last week’s embed didn’t make it on the page, I went back and pasted in the URL which will take you to the page if you copy and paste it in your browser. This video was a mydamnchannel video, and I thought maybe that because it wasn’t YouTube, maybe that was why it disappeared. But when I went further down my blogs past I discovered that all of my other videos which were YouTube had also disappeared. A day or two later they were all back, but not for long. As I checked them this morning, 1-18-08, they are again missing in action. I suppose I could go to a Google blogging support forum to find out what’s going on, but I feel too sick to bother at this point. If anybody out there knows what is going on please leave me a comment below. Meanwhile, bye for now. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Blog #19 Peace in the World, or the World in Pieces . . .

Lord Have Mercy, did you read what George McGovern, that old peace monger from the Nixon era, proposed. He must have paid a visit to the ghost of fabled monkey glands surgeon Dr. Brinkley for he seems to have grown a set of rejuvenated gonads. This usually quiet spoken minister’s son published an opinion piece in the Outlook section of the Washington Post the other day entitled “Why I Believe Bush-Cheney Must Go. Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse,” in which he respectfully suggested that Bush-Cheney have committed acts far more impeachable than Richard Nixon ever did, and asks why the current Democratic leadership is so opposed to beginning proceedings against them, noting how the Republicans put together proceedings against Bill Clinton during the waning years of his presidency for a lot less than the high crimes and misdemeanors which Bush-Cheney have committed. We could offer a few suggestions off the top of our head, high crimes like misleading the country about weapons of mass destruction, running the war on the cheap resulting in many casualties, the widespread torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in violation of Geneva Conventions, and the list goes merrily on.

Of course it will never happen. Unlike Republicans who seem to love investigations more than sex, and find lies and slander the spice of their lives (look at the harassing of Bill Clinton during both of his terms, and the lies bellowed by Swift Boat Liars for Democrats are uncomfortable spewing negative vibes. They would much rather get something positive done, but unfortunately their majority is too thin, and on most issues the Republicans have closed ranks. Still the positive thing about McGovern’s suggestion is the joining of both Bush and Cheney in the indictment, it would never do to have Bush impeached alone thereby leaving a fox like Cheney in charge of our national chicken coop. The other interesting possibility should we ever have the audacity to make it happen would be the person to whom the Presidency would be handed. As best we can remember from our high school Civics class the third in line is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a position presently held by Nancy Pelosi. Wouldn’t that sell one helluva lot of Alka Seltzers to those of a Republican persuasion?
– • –
As our revered leader embarked to the Middle East on his long overdue “so called” peace mission (perhaps “legacy” would be the more descriptive term), reverberations from the intrusion onto some of our Persian Gulf naval fleet by supposed Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels in the Strait of Hormuz were causing ominous threats to spew from said presidential orifice. Iran first dismissed U.S. concerns about the incident, saying it was a routine contact, and then denied doing anything. And lately even the Navy is questioning the authenticity of the bomb threats.

Of course our nation’s eyes are primarily focussed on the race to succeed His Supreme Irrelevancy, for in all honesty those who care about the comings and goings of our country’s last and greatest mistake are few and far between. And just because our Navy has an ongoing history of this kind of trumped up confrontation that is no excuse for Iran claiming this latest confrontation was faked. How many of you out there can remember the Tonkin Bay incident, the fictional naval encounter which Lyndon Johnson used as the excuse to officially interfere militarily in Vietnam, a permission which was later rescinded by the U. S. Congress after belatedly discovering the inherent falsity of the so-called encounter? But of course by then it was too late. Once you get in a war, you play hell getting out again unless one side or the other is vanquished completely.

Is the Iranian “incident” being used by that whitest of houses in a desperate attempt to call attention to our much ignored leader, giving him one last shot at garnering some positive scrutiny while pretending relevance as he attempts to exude strength and purpose? Or is this yet another nail in the coffin leading to a military conflict with Iran? With Tonkin Bay in mind what in the world could possibly make some of us think, “here we go again?” Keep your ears open and if the war drums continue maybe it’s time to seriously consider the McGovern alternative.
– • –
Last Tuesday brought New Hampshire voters to the polls. It was a very surprising day from start to finish. All afternoon CNN was broadcasting polls which showed Barack Obama running ten points ahead of Hilary Clinton in New Hampshire. And time and time again they replayed a video of Bill Clinton berating the news media for going soft on questioning Obama about his stance on the war. If you were for Hillary things looked really bleak. After all, the polls seemed to have been accurate in Iowa, so why wouldn’t they be accurate in New Hampshire? It was more than a little depressing as I tuned away from CNN at six to watch the Houston Rockets win their game 92-84 against the Washington Wizards, and that soon buoyed my spirits. At game’s end I turned back to CNN just in time to find out that John McCain had been declared the winner in the Republican contest, no great surprise there as that had been the prediction for days on end. But there was no winner as yet in the Democratic race, although Hillary was ahead with Obama running second. About an hour later the Associated Press was the first to declare Hillary the winner, then thirty or so minutes later CNN finally declared her the winner.

The media, in my case CNN, was near apoplectic trying to understand and explain to the rest of us the complete turn around from an afternoon of total Obama dominance to the stark reality check the late evening brought. How could this have happened? one pundit after another mused. I hate to tell them, but maybe they should have all shut up until the polls had closed, after which time they might have some real facts to pass along instead of the ego fed malarkey that passed in lieu of information. Because as we discover time and time again, much of the speculation before the fact is simply ungrounded fantasy. And obviously those highly inaccurate p0lls didn’t do a thing to shape the election in New Hampshire, for if voters there had been listening to CNN and probably the other news channels they would undoubtedly have turned the election in the direction the pundits were predicting, human nature being what it is dictates that most people want to vote for a winner.

It is for this reason that the courts have forbidden announcing election results until all of the polls have closed. The deciding case was from an election in Houston, Texas in the 1940’s. Former Harris County Judge Roy Hoffeinz owned tv station KTRK, channel 13, in Houston. He was very much the politician (He also built, with Harris County assistance, the Astrodome in Houston, the nation’s first domed stadium.) and all day during a local election in which he had an interest, his channel broadcast results from precincts favoring his point of view, and suppressed reporting precincts which didn’t support his position. All in hopes of swaying late voters to support the position he was trying to sell. The other side ended up winning in spite of Hoffeinz’s attempted manipulation, and they brought the case to the courts which ultimately ruled in the favor of the plaintiffs and ended by invoking the rule that prevails to this day, the rule preventing radio and tv stations from announcing any election results until all polling stations have closed. And so these days while the polls are still open all the media can report on are pre election polls and other iffy data, data which obviously can be wrong. And just how non useful this can be was proven last Tuesday as the people of New Hampshire voted.
– • –
And from the wire services comes this: It was such a girlish question, Marianne Pernold Young wasn't sure she should ask it. There she was, within touching distance of a very smart Hillary Rodham Clinton at a little New Hampshire coffee shop where a handful of other very smart women had spent an hour asking very smart questions about immigration and national security — and the only thing she could think to ask, the only thing she really wanted to know, was: How do you do it? So when the microphone came around one last time, she asked the question that helped to steady the listing campaign of the first woman with a real shot at the White House: "As a woman, I know it's hard to get out of the house and get ready. My question is very personal: How do you do it?"

For all the grilling by the news media, Clinton's response to that one girlish question was what the Clinton high command later would call a eureka moment, eliciting a glimpse of humanity from the famously self-controlled senator from New York. It was just one of several factors that led to her close victory, but it already has entered the realm of political legend.

In interviews later, Pernold Young said she admires Clinton and was delighted to have evoked a side of her that could "help her with future press conferences and rallies." But she couldn't help noticing that after the famous question was answered, Clinton "turned to the right and went right into political rhetoric again." Which she went on to explain is why she voted for Barack Obama.
– • –
Charles Gibson who hosted the Friday night debate sponsored by ABC News, Facebook and WMUR, a local tv outlet, for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates did a clever thing. The Republican hopefuls led off and as their debate ended Gibson urged the candidates who were on stage to greet their Democratic rivals who were coming onstage for their debate. There followed a convivial few moments of backslapping as these more or less bitter partisan enemies pretended affection for one another.
– • –
Apple’s chief honcho, Steven P. Jobs, can rest easy and sleep nightmare free these days, for according to a Reuters report quoting retiring Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, the software company that some see as a monopolistic force in the software industry will not try and put out an imitation iPhone, as it has with its iPod “busting” Zune.

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Microsoft will not launch a product that competes directly with Apple's iPhone, Chairman Bill Gates said in an interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "No, we won't do that. In the so-called smart phone business we will concentrate solely on software with our Windows Mobile program," Gates was quoted as saying in the interview published on Wednesday. "We have partnerships with a lot of device manufacturers from Samsung to Motorola and this variety brings us significantly more than if we would make our own mobile phone," he added.

According to Reuters, Apple's iPhone, which also plays music and lets users browse the internet, has been a big hit. Recent reports indicate that in only one quarter, the iPhone already owns 27% of the smart phone market, far ahead of the combined offerings Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Palm, and second only to the Blackberries of Research In Motion. And for a most incisive story on the birth and development of the iPhone, go here:
– • –
Shades of Abbie Hoffman, a movie called Steal This Film 2 produced by a group calling itself The League of Noble Peers, is already a huge success, with over 150,000 downloads in 4 days. But what is most intriguing, is that people are being very generous and the movie has raised over $5,000 in its first 4 days. When Steal This Film 1 was released the Nobles asked each down loader to donate $1 and most did just that. However, this time around the majority have donated $15 or more. Why is that, you might well ask? Well Torrent Freak says it could be the that down loaders have been motivated by a mystery gift that was offered if they donated $15 or more.

On his blog Jamie King, the producer of the film says, “Over 90% of people donating are deciding to go over the artificial $15 threshold we set. But I don’t think people literally ‘want that gift’; I think they want an excuse to be generous!” I guess we could label this tactic “radioheading.” It’s a shame that Radiohead, the band, elected to keep the figures that their fans voluntarily paid for downloading their latest album a secret. If the record companies could get a clear picture of the tactic’s effectiveness maybe they would try it themselves, since nothing else they are doing these days seems to be working worth a damn. However, on second thought I’m pretty sure they don’t have the faith in their customers to exercise such genuine trust. Obviously they feel more comfortable suing the lovers of their music.
– • –
Imagine buying a video recorder with this message accompanying it: “HACKERS, welcome! Here are detailed circuit diagrams of our products — modify them as you wish.” Most of us think of the word hack in terms of illegality, combining the web and the term hack convey thoughts of criminality to most of us. However that’s exactly what the manufacturers of a new device, the Neuros OSD want you to do. While most electronic gadget manufacturers tend to keep information about the innards of their products as secret as they can, Neuros Technology International, creator of the new afore mentioned video recorder, has decided to take matters in a different direction.

The company, based in Chicago, is providing full documentation of the hardware platform for its recorder, the Neuros OSD (stands for open source device), so that skilled users can customize or “hack” the device — and then pass along the improvements to others. The OSD is a versatile recorder. Using a memory card or a U.S.B. storage device, it saves copies of DVDs, VHS tapes and television programs from satellite receivers, cable boxes, TVs and any other device with standard video output. Because the OSD saves the recordings in the popular compressed video format MPEG-4 (pronounced EM-peg), the programs can be watched on a host of devices, including iPods and smart phones. The OSD is for sale at Fry’s, Micro Center, J&R Electronics and other locations for about $230.

The OSD not only has open hardware, but also has open software: it is based on the Linux operating system. Neuros Technology encourages hacking of the device; and has contests with cash rewards for new applications for the OSD. One winner, for instance, designed a program that lets people use it to watch YouTube on their televisions. The OSD’s capabilities will grow to suit changing times, said Joe Born, founder and chief executive of the company. “Digital video is a fast-moving space,” he said, “and many consumers don’t want to buy a new piece of hardware every time a media company comes out with a new way to watch its shows. The best way to address this problem was to make the product open source, allowing our smartest developers and users to modify it.”
– • –
In a blog called A VC, Musings of a VC in NYC, the author muses over a chart showing the usage of various media, which inspired him to begin studying the way his own teenagers were using the media. In doing so he came up an interesting observation. “When they walk into a DVD store, they rarely walk out with a movie. It’s almost always the first season of a TV show they’ve heard is good. They’ll go see a movie in the theater but don’t really enjoy watching movies at home or on their computers. They feel that TV shows are better written and more interesting. And the entertainment value is certainly more compelling. For roughly $40 they got something like 25 episodes of Brothers and Sisters. That's almost 17 hours of entertainment for $40. That's hard to beat. And they get the bonus of being able to start watching the show on TV once they've caught up. It makes me wonder where this is headed. I don’t know enough about the economics of TV shows versus films, but it may be that digital technology is changing the way the younger generation will consume filmed entertainment in some important ways. Something to think about. And maybe why the writers are striking.”

Reading that piece I couldn’t help agreeing with that man’s teenagers. I recently bought a DVD of the first 25 episodes of Mary Hartman-Mary Hartman (Sony Pictures, $18 from I found this a wonderful value. The 25 episodes are on three separate disks, and together they hold 564 commercial free minutes. It was wonderful getting a chance to see MH-2 once again, I had been curious to know if it would be as habit forming in 2008 as it had been when I first saw the series in 1976-77. And it probably won’t come to you as a surprise that I did find it to be every bit as addictive this time around, with the added bonus that the images appear sharp and clear on my lcd computer screen, not filled with the tv ghosts that marred the original broadcast image. The discs had a catalogue of other available Sony TV shows accompanying them, but none of the other shows appealed to me. My only regret is that Sony hasn’t made the next 25 episodes available. And the ones after that. To me MH-2 was truly one of a kind. Since receiving it I have seen the first 25 episodes two times through and am in the middle of my third go around. I’ll know more after I’ve seen a few more episodes, but after just watching episode one again, I think I have a clue as to the why of its addictive qualities.

I attribute MH-2's addictive qualities to the fact that it was the first television program to honestly portray a truly dysfunctional American family to a television audience of dysfunctional families. (Aren’t we all dysfunctional in one way or another?) Mary was sexually frustrated, husband Tom was impotent, at least as far as Mary was concerned, although he managed to get it up with Mae Olson from the plant before he began wallowing in guilt over it. Mary’s sister slept with a different boy each week. Her neighbor Loretta Haggars was a would-be country singer who turned the neighborhood murder of the Lombardy family of five and two goats and six chickens into a weird tear jerking country song, and then there was Mary’s grandpa Larkin, who liked to exhibit his god given endowments for the Fernwood female population to admire and in so doing earned himself the title Fernw0od Flasher. One of the most indelible characterizations was Dody Goodman’s portrayal of Martha Shumway as Mary’s mother, who lived constantly in a cloud of confusion always on the edge of fainting as she desperately tried comprehending the actions of her family, and for compensation she had long conversations with her plants.

The show was a parody of the real daytime soaps, the main difference being that instead of its character’s quirks being labeled in euphemisms, the show called a spade a spade. Norman Lear explained that Mary Hartman Mary Hartman appeared twice because everything it soap operas was repeated twice. Appearing five days a week and using close ups and other filming techniques characteristic of the real soaps, the program soon crept into the heart of its audience. The characters were very human and although quirky they were plainly lovable, who could not help but get caught up in such epic drama?

The writing staff consisted of Gail Parent, Ann Marcus, Jerry Adelman, and Daniel Gregory Browne, Marcus being also known for her work on the daytime soap Search for Tomorrow. The opening episode told of the mass murder of a neighborhood family, the Lombardy family, it soon turned out that Mary’s daughter Heather (didn’t you just know that Mary Hartman would have a daughter named Heather?) had seen the murderer of the Lombardy family, and would be followed by the him. It was also in that first episode that we learned that Mary’s grandpa Larkin had a fondness for going trouserless, opening his raincoat at strategic moments. Meantime the Psychiatric Social worker assigned by the courts to counsel grandpa Larkin proceeds to fall in love with him. Now I realize that such a plot line sounds a bit thin when stated so baldly, but if you stop and think about it most any plot line will sound thin when distilled into so few words. What made the show come alive for many of us was the skill of the actors, and the intimate way they were photographed.

As unique as MH2 was in it’s casting and structure, the way the show was presented to the world was equally one of a kind. The networks, or course, wouldn’t get anywhere near such a bundle of outspoken honesty, there was no cable back then, so as a result the show was sold in syndication to independent stations throughout the country. They were presented with five episodes a week. Fearful of its outspokenness some stations would not air the show until after the late evening news. However a few stations, since they had nothing else of such interest, would play the entire week’s episodes, one after the other, every night of the week.

The cast, and particularly Louise Lasser, were under a serious strain, having to rehearse the next day’s episode in the morning, and then tape that day’s episode in the afternoon. Every day, five days a week. As a result of the strain of the schedule Mary Hartman had a nationally televised nervous breakdown on The David Susskind Show at the end of the first season. Mary then opened the second season in a psychiatric ward, and she was delighted to be part of their selected Nielsen Ratings “family.” By its second season many Americans were thoroughly addicted to MH2, and this group included the author Gore Vidal, who was enamored with it enough that he appeared as himself in it’s later days. Among the actors who were propelled to greater heights were Dabney Coleman who played the somewhat devious mayor of Fernwood, and Martin Mull who played two characters on the program, one the wife beater Garth Gimble who committed suicide, and the other, his brother who was talk show host Barth Gimble. Mull also emceed the program’s summer replacement, a pseudo talk show called Fernwood 2Night (which very likely was the first instance of the number 2 being used as a substitute for the prefix to, a process common these days, especially on the web. p2p, etc.) When Louise Lasser exited the show by running off with her policeman boyfriend, the show continued for a time as Forever Fernwood, following the trials and tribulations of Mary's family and friends. The series finally ended in 1978, after only 26 weeks on the air, along with the talk show parody spin-off Fernwood 2-Night. A total of 130 half-hour episodes were produced.

As a postscript Mary Kay Place was nominated for a Grammy award on the strength of the album Tonite! At the Capri Lounge, Loretta Haggars on which she sang as her MH2 character. One of the songs Place wrote for the album, “Baby Boy,” climbed to the Top 60 on Billboard's Pop Charts, and #3 on the country charts, in 1976. Place also won an Emmy for her performance on the show. The show's writers realized Loretta Haggars' newfound fame made it harder to keep her character in Fernwood, so they devised a story line wherein the country and western star makes an anti-semitic, career-shattering remark on the Dinah Shore talk show.

According to the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Wikipedia page the series was again syndicated on local stations briefly in 1982, and enjoyed some short-lived air time on the television channel TV Land in 2002. Aside from the two-volume videocassette issued in the 1980s and bootlegged videos, the show has been difficult to find on any format. With the exception of the first 25 episodes which are available on DVD, many fans have been unable to watch most of the episodes from this series.

In the year 2000 many of the original cast appeared on a panel for a Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman retrospective at the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills, CA. The panel discussion was taped for the museum's archives. It is the wish of MH2 fans the world over, and most especially this one, that this discussion be either aired on the channel’s website (if it has one), or at the very least be issued on DVD. Also many of us plead for as many as possible of MH2’s other 105 episodes be issued on DVD. And a note to Sony: If some enterprising entity would put the entire series on blue-ray disks I know at least one person who would take the plunge and buy a player just to be able to watch the series in its entirety.
– • –
And here’s a tale of bureaucratic incompetence to brighten your day. Would you believe? The FBI routinely failed to pay telecom companies promptly for providing phone and internet lines to the FBI's impressive domestic surveillance architecture – resulting in at least one phone company cutting off a foreign intelligence wiretap until the FBI paid up. Damn, those greedy phone companies want to get paid for their wires.

Former FBI agent and now ACLU national security policy counsel Mike German directed his ire at the telecoms who happily played along with the government's warrant free spying and let the FBI illegally get customer records following requests to get surveillance today with false promises to pay with a court order tomorrow. "To put it bluntly it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when FBI says warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail," German said.
– • –
And finally, has begun enabling the embedding of its videos onto other websites, and so we tried in vain to offer you the video of Harry Shearer rendering his well known ode to the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, “Waterboarding U.S.A.” However, it didn't work, nothing appeared as we opened the page in view mode, and so like in old time in order to enable you to see it we are forced to reprint the URL. Enjoy.

Keep America number one indeed! May we invite you to join us again next week, same spot in your browser’s window, sporting our woefully misspelled web address, with its double t’s, double l’s, double e’s, and double d’s. When you put all together it will take you to: where we hope to meet you once again next week. We post on Saturdays. Bye bye!

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Blog #18 Trying to talk the RIAA to death, et al.

I made a few resolutions on this New Year. For one thing, I vowed that I would write more original material for this blog, and quote sources less. We’ll just have to see how well I manage that one, or whether I manage it at all. These next few paragraphs were written as we left 2007 and spiraled headlong into 2008. As we spiral we offer a few random thoughts and observations:
– • –
How did that Merle Travis song go? (You know, the one made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford on televisi0n in 1955?)

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the company store.

For those of us into folk music that song and it’s companion, “It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines” were like anthems. Merle Travis (who also wrote the country hit songs “So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed,” and “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette”), wrote and recorded his coal mining songs for an album called “Folk Songs of the Hills” in 1946. They were based on his own family's experience in the mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky as he was growing up. He wrote “Sixteen Tones” to call attention to the plight of the coal miners who lived in company owned houses, were forced to make their purchases through the company owned store, and thereby found themselves totally indentured to the company that owned both the mine and the store. When Tennessee Ernie Ford sang the song on his television show in the middle fifties Wikipedia notes that the song’s fatalistic tone contrasted vividly with the sugary pop ballads and the rock and roll just starting to dominate the charts in the mid 50’s, and the song struck a chord with audiences all across the country. We further note that the song and the feelings it evokes still ring true today, because in a very real sense we all owe our souls to the company store? Or to the bank? Or to the mortgage company? Or whatever?
– • –
Goodbye 2007, Hello 2008! In John Lenn0n’s Happy Christmas (War is Over!), you can hear Yoko Ono singing above the crowd, “A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any tears.” May we echo that hope. It is one helluvan important year, that’s for damn sure. For thing Numero Uno, it is a presidential election year. And if ever there was a year crying out for the importance of our vote, this is the one. You know the old saying, what goes around, comes around. Well, Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is Over If You Want It!) is just as appropriate today as it was when he first sang it during the Vietnam war.

As a people we never seem to learn, do we? We elect this “good-ole-boy” president thinking he’s going to be safe and not shake that booby trapped Tree of Peace, the shaking of which unleashes bombs which kill and maim our young soldiers. But then what does he do? He uses the tragedy of 9/11 to get us up to our ears in another bottomless, not winnable Vietnam style morass, only now instead of our fighting people of a different economic persuasion (communism), this time we are fighting people with another religion, or at least people from a radical wing of that religion. Lord help us! Bush in Iraq is threatening Muslims with a kind of twenty-first century Crusades. Didn’t he ever hear the phrase, “live and let live?” Where is John Lennon when we need him? A pox on you Mark David Chapman, may you live out your life in perpetual captivity, and your may you eternal soul, if you have one, rot in hell.
– • –
There was a breath of fresh air emanating from the Iowa caucuses Thursday evening. The good news for me was that the turnout for the Democratic caucuses was almost double from what it was four years ago, and the size of the Republican turnout was down. Hopefully this is the first sign of a Democratic sweep in November. It is far too early to speculate anything of the kind, of course, but we can dream, can’t we? Dreaming hasn’t been outlawed yet in our so-called free country, has it?
– • –
As we leave the old year and enter the new my own personal kudos go to the following. I salute Apple Computer for selling me the easiest to use, most user friendly computer I have ever owned. And that’s saying an awful lot, for I have owned Apple computers since December of 1990, when I got my first Macintosh Classic. Two color computers followed that first black and white all-in-one job, and in 1999 I bought one of the original CRT iMacs which purred away until two years ago. In 2002 I bought an Apple Cube, in point of fact, I bought one of the last Cubes Apple made. The Cube’s hard drive has gotten finicky in it’s old age (five years is old in a computer’s lifespan) and so as insurance against being without the internet on January 10, 2007 I got myself one of the new lcd iMacs, the kind that hides the computer’s guts behind the screen. Bless it’s heart, it promises to make the rest of my life interesting and creative. And even though I am not into cellphones or iPods, I admire Apple’s filling the nation’s needs and desires in those arenas. The pre-MacWorld rumor mill has Apple coming out with a new, super thin notebook which will use flash memory, and also reports that Apple’s high definition tv support will lean towards having a blu-ray player/burner in some of it’s higher end systems. Good for them, blu-ray has lots more room than the other, and sounds like it deserves to win that fight. And on the other side are lined the forces of mediocrity, Microsoft, Dreamworks, etc.

While I’m about it let me also toss a hearty salute to Google, the company whose search engine has finally made the web as useful as was originally promised by giving us a fair shot at finding whatever information we are seeking. Google is now extending a host of other free services to go along with its search engines, offering them to any of us who might want them. Services like gmail, blogging, photography, maps and directions, and a complete range of office programs, etc., all at absolutely no cost to the user.

Bill Gates might hate the word free being attached to the type of products which have made him the richest man on the planet, and Dan Lyons might use the voice of the Fake Steve Jobs to echo BG’s rants about freetards, but to those of us who aren’t rich, free is beautiful. Particularly when it is in in the form of a well constructed computer program. Take my blog for example. I write on a Mac because “it just works” and lets you go about your business in an intuitive way, without it’s technology constantly getting in your face. When I began thinking about starting a blog I copied a piece I had written in AppleWorks onto my computer’s clipboard and then went to Google, signed into their blog section, and with one click I pasted in what I had written and saved into the blog template Google had provided me with. At the bottom I clicked on the Publish button. And when I clicked on the View Blog button on the resulting screen, voilĂ ! There it was. Like magic. I swear to you that was all there was to it. A painless blog. Well, painless to write and publish, I don’t speculate on how painless it is to read. But the point is, you can do it too. It is every bit as easy as typing words on paper is. And for tips on using Google search more effectively check out:

YouTube is another Google adventure that lies there free to all for the giving and the taking. And while not seeming to be conscious of it YouTube is merrily documenting our age for future ages to see. It is notoriously easy for us to put our personal video creations online, but it also makes it equally easy for those of us who publish on the web to feature a YouTube video on our websites or blog, thereby making YouTube indeed a video program for everybody. I couldn’t believe it the first time I copied the data needed to embed a YouTube video to the clipboard and then pasted it onto my blog. And when I opened the blog, there stood the clip in all it’s glory, just as surely as if I had known what the hell I was doing.

The first clip I managed to put onto my blog was that delightful “Here Comes Another Bubble” by Richter Scales in blog #16. But to me the most impressive one was last week’s clip called Battle at Kruger, a small screen spectacle of life and near death photographed from the rooftop of a Land Rover type vehicle in Africa. A bounding pride of lions chase a thundering herd of water buffalo cutting a calf from the herd and running it into the river. There several lions begin chewing on the calf, but when a crocodile joins the party and tries to pull the calf further in the lions manage to pull the calf up on the shore. At which point the herd of buffalo returns, surrounds the lions, and after getting their nerve up, begin chasing away the lions one by one. You can’t help but cheer as the buffalos succeed in chasing away the lions, and especially when the calf frees itself from the remaining lions and seeks refuge in the herd. It’s indeed a video which has all of the elements of a true epic drama. If you haven’t yet had a chance to experience it drop down to blog#17 below and click on the arrow. I promise you as exciting an adventure as you’re likely to get from the small YouTube size screen.
– • –
As 2008 dawns I hereby offer my first curse of the New Year, a curse accompanied by wads of spitballs and swarms of creepy, crawly, biting insects. This curse is being directed at Cary Sherman and the rest of the legal scumbags of the RIAA, may their nightmares be filled with the screams of John Lennon’s Cold Turkey, and may their hopes and dreams be consumed by maggots. Do you know what those pitiful, unfunny, completely paranoid, don’t-have-a-clue clowns are saying now?

The column Blog Runner, published in the NY Times, had a special thread entitled The RIAA and Personal Use, and it includes 60 news stories and blogs. What brought it on was a legal document in a federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer. The industry is maintaining that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music onto his computer. The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally purchased CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings. Well, excuse me!

What an absurdity! Where have these sad retards been lo these many years? With their heads up their you-know-what’s, that’s where! In the early days of VHS, Sony legally established the public’s right to “time shift,” or in other words Sony established the right of a consumer who had rented or bought a movie to make a copy of said movie for his own use to watch at a later, more convenient time. And if you can legally do that with a movie you can sure as hell do it with a record album.

For one little minute think about what the RIAA is trying to tell us. If you cannot put your cd’s on your computer, you can’t play them on your iPod, or the other MP3 player of your choice without breaking the law. Is the RIAA going to march all iPod owners off to jail? Football stadiums aren’t going to be large enough to hold all of America’s musical lawbreakers under this bizarre line of reasoning. But that’s exactly what happens when you have a bunch of money grubbing Republicans in charge of the economy. They don’t give a damn about you and me. They totally dance to the tune of big business, and the bigger the business the more profane the dance. Keep that in mind as you enter the voting booth this election year. has a blow-by-blow summary of an on-air debate that was broadcast on National Public Radio between the Washington Post's Marc Fisher and Cary Sherman, representing the RIAA. Sherman claims Fisher weeded out too much from the brief filed by the RIAA, but he still won’t promise that ripping CDs is a legal right. And Sherman can talk himself red in the face but he will never convince me that the strategy of suing the nation’s college students who put Mp3 files on their computers is a healthy one for the music industry.

Here is an enemies list for your perusal. These are the music companies that financially support what many of us believe to be the RIAA’s criminal campaign of blackmail. They include Virgin Records America, inc. a California corporation; Capitol Records, Inc. a Delaware corporation; Arista Records LLC, a Delaware limited liability co.; Interscope Records a California general partnership; Warner Bros Records Inc. a Delaware corporation; and UMG Recordings, Inc. a Delaware corporation. These ladies and gentlemen, are the companies and organizations which deserve our deepest contempt. Like minded individuals will not only refuse to buy cd’s from these companies, but will also inform their local record purveyors why they aren’t buying the products manufactured by these cheap Rico lookalikes so that the message might travel to the offenders.

The Motley Fool investment web site echoes our sentiments, saying "Investors beware" of "Sony (NYSE: SNE), BMG, Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG), Vivendi Universal, and EMI.” In an article entitled "We're All Thieves to the RIAA", a Motley Fool columnist, referring to the RIAA's pronouncement in early December in Atlantic v. Howell, that the copies which Mr. Howell had copied from his cd's to mp3's in a 'shared files folder' on his computer were "unauthorized,” writer Alyce Lomax said, "a good sign of a dying industry that investors might want to avoid is when it would rather litigate than innovate, signaling a potential destroyer of value."

So far 2008 is bringing us several additional rays of sunlight and hope. As we previously noted here, every fall the RIAA’s team of legal scumbags greets the new academic term by sending out a raft of letters to universities and their students threatening them with legal action unless they go to a special website and “settle” with the RIAA. (Evidently the average cost of this litigation-free solution is $3000.) In a normal society this would easily be classified as blackmail, but in our society which seems to worship the Great God Capitalism over the God of Good Sense, this procedure is evidently looked upon as a legitimate, if failing, business strategy.

Well, according to a story by Adam Liptak in the N.Y.Times online, the RIAA got it’s first ever surprise in the state of Oregon. When it subpoenaed the University of Oregon this year to identify 17 students who had made available songs from Journey, the Cars, Dire Straits, Sting and Madonna on a file sharing network, for the first time a major University decided to fight back. Represented by the state’s attorney general, Hardy Myers, the university filed a blistering motion to quash the subpoena, accusing the industry of misleading the judge, violating student privacy laws and engaging in questionable investigative practices. Cary Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the industry had seen “a lot of crazy stuff” filed in response to its lawsuits and subpoenas. “But coming from the office of an attorney general of a state?” Mr. Sherman asked, incredulous. “We found it really surprising and disappointing.” Isn’t that a damned, crying shame? Crocodile tears anyone?

The story goes on to say, “The recording industry may not be selling as much music these days, but it has built a pretty impressive and innovative litigation subsidiary. In the past four years, record companies have sued tens of thousands of people for violating the copyright laws by sharing music on the Internet. The people it sues tend to settle, paying the industry a few thousand dollars rather than risking a potentially ruinous judgment by fighting in court. “People get pushed into settlements,” said Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group. “The Oregon attorney general is showing what a real fight among equals would look like.”

It must be catching, this new backbone that western universities suddenly seem to have grown. It would seem that the easy ride for the RIAA from universities may well be over. First the University of Oregon, now the University of Washington is refusing to be the RIAA's mailboy. The university says it won't forward letters demanding cash for alleged file sharing unless it can be assured the students were, indeed, illegally file sharing. The RIAA had provided the University with threatening letters and asked for them to be passed to users with certain ID codes; the university is worried this approach fails to cope with students who share internet connections.

Another ray of hope comes to us from the other side of the continent, from the great state of Maine. According to a p2pnet news story, two University of Maine law students of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic are taking up the fight for fellow students. “Hannah Ames and Lisa Chmelecki from the Cumberland clinic are now officially representing two Maine students. “Ames and Chmelecki are being guided by clinic director and U of M associate professor Deirdre Smith.” P2pnet added: “This could be the true beginning of the end for the RIAA in its attempts to bring students to heel, turning them into compliant consumers of corporate product under threat of legal persecution and severe financial penalties no student can afford.”

It added, “now if you think that these law students might not be up to the legal shenanigans that can go on the real world this is what Ray Beckerman; the lawyer behind Recording Industry vs The People, said to “An experienced practicing lawyer, I reviewed the brief prepared by student attorneys Hannah Ames and Lisa Chmelecki, under professor Smith’s supervision, and these young people did a bang-up job in exposing the fact that the RIAA has no case.”

If either of these approaches succeeds they might well snowball through other universities and it could signal some interesting times ahead. In the meantime David Pogue, the technology columnist of the NYTimes, was speaking to a group of 500 young people when he posed the question, “you want a record album but you don’t want to pay for it, so you download it online. How many think that is wrong?” David reported that only two hands out of the 500 went up. He concluded, “I don't pretend to know what the solution to the file-sharing issue is. (Although I'm increasingly convinced that copy protection isn't it.) I do know, though, that the TV, movie and record companies' problems have only just begun. Right now, the customers who can't even *see* why file sharing might be wrong are still young. But 10, 20, 30 years from now, that crowd will be *everybody*. What will happen then?”

Well, let’s look at the problem. In the glory days of the vinyl record album groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones used to give us incredible printed material stuffed into their 12” albums. Song lyrics, photo essays of the artists, even posters that could be put up on dorm walls. Then the media changed, first to cassettes, and then to compact disks. In so doing the size of the media dropped significantly, and gone were all of those extras which in some cases used to cost more to produce than the album itself but which added real value to the musical content. But the price of the albums didn’t drop. No sir ree! The price spiraled upwards from about $8 for a vinyl 12” lp to $16 to $18 for a cd. Music lovers had to put up with those inflated prices for several years. Then along came this computer technology which since the music encoded on the cd is in digital form, allowed the user to make an absolutely perfect duplication of the music on a separate disk. And blank recordable cd’s these days sell for pennies. And the next step in this evolution was the development of the bit torrent technology which allow people to access other people's folders for content they desire.

In this day and age how many people out there in the real world who truly love music are going to refuse to take advantage of this technological windfall? Damn few, I can tell you. The solution? Who the hell knows? But I agree with David Pogue, the solution is not adding DRM which restricts how the music you buy is used. And the solution is definitely not suing the lovers of music. That strategy is sick and futile, for you cannot change human nature with punishment, all you do is further alienate the lover of music.

If the record companies want to once again compete in this digital age they are going to have to offer us more bang for our buck. Give us true value as a reason for laying out our money. In the form of booklets? By putting the videos made to help sell the album onto a DVD containing the music? Or possibly something that no one has yet thought of. As John Lennon so aptly pointed out in his song “Watching the Wheels Go By,” “there are no problems, only solutions.” Get off your lazy asses, record industry, and start thinking and dreaming. Or else die peacefully alongside the dinosaurs.

And from Mashable, by Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins, “The end for the RIAA may be coming much sooner than we had previously imagined. News comes to us today that EMI is attempting to cut its funding to the “industry’s trade bodies,” which is code for RIAA. The unnamed source said that EMI was looking at ways to “substantially” reduce these payments. The RIAA and the lesser known but similar IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) receives funding primarily from EMI, Warner, Sony BMG and Universal. Estimates put the combined funding at an approximate $132.48 million a year. Sony and Universal haven’t been recently vocal about their feelings on the RIAA, but Time Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman recently confessed that, “We were wrong to go to war with consumers.” Bronfman also admitted that when his own children download music, he assures us that he punishes them, but said he prefers to keep their punishment in house rather than out in the courts. It’s a shame he allows his company to continue to fund the legal persecution of other people’s children.

Finally Jamie Thomas, the young mother of two from Minnesota who was recently ordered by a federal court to pay the recording industry $222,000 for offering 24 songs on her computer, doesn’t have enough money to fund an appeal and is looking for a new attorney to handle the appeal, according to her current attorney, Brian Toder. Although she has no money her appeal should be good for publicity so any 0f you would be Perry Masons out there should run, not amble, to her assistance.

And one more thing:

– • –
In one of my various incarnations I was a radio disc jockey, on KXYZ in Houston in the 1940’s and on Pacifica radio’s Houston affiliate KPFT when I returned to Houston from NYC in early 1970’s. I did two programs on KPFT, cohosting FolkSay with the late Joe Lomax, and then I created a program called NightSong, on which I put together mixes of many kinds of music, folk, rock, jazz, and otherwise, in a program I fashioned as surreal. I think NightSong was the most creative endeavor I have ever done, and to this day I still love putting mixes of music together, though these days for better or for worse it’s for my own amusement.

My blog #15 was called A Day in The Life, and celebrated the life and work of John Lennon. In fact the charcoal drawing of Lennon by Kristin Turberville that I put up to decorate that post seems to fit this blog so well that I’ve kept it up ever since. Lately for my own amusement I have been putting together a kind of super mix of John Lennon’s life in song and in doing so I have discovered much about Lennon.

For one thing most of us don’t think of John Lennon’s songs as political. Lennon might not have been as dedicated an activist as a singer like Pete Seeger, but he was extremely effective in what he did. In his most famous case, he wrote and performed a song to free John Sinclair, an activist poet, one time band manager, and leader of the White Panther party who was arrested in 1969 for giving two joints of marijuana to an undercover narcotics officer and was sentenced to 9 1/2 to 10 years in prison. His supporters considered his prosecution as political persecution and actively worked to free him.

On December 10, 1971 John Lennon and Yoko Ono headlined a Free John Sinclair Rally at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lennon performed his song John Sinclair, “Let him be, set him free, Let him be like you and me” in front of 15-20,000 people. Three days after the concert the Michigan Supreme Court released Sinclair after 29 months of capitivity, and later overturned his conviction. The event is considered one factor in the adoption of Ann Arbor’s famously lenient "five-dollar pot law" in the early 1970s. One can easily imagine the panic this display of Lennon’s amazing power must have sent through the pro-war secret government movement, the clandestine group which many of us hold responsible for our country’s many and various political assassinations, including those of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John and Bobby Kennedy. As you might remember from my own Lennon blog, #15, I include Lennon’s assassination in this group. More about Lennon will appear in future blogs.

– • –
And finally, here is a video for all of you who are parents of little girls.

Lesson: Real Beauty is within, not without. So don't think you can outdo your creator for all that does is the enrich the cosmetics industry. And there you have Little Eddy’s first post for the New Year. Hello 2008! May you bring us all Peace, Wealth and Happiness, in any order which might please you. And please, dear God, before the year is out please bring us a Democratic president.

The Real Little Eddy