Monday, June 16, 2008

Politics, Copyright, and Corn

Various interesting things from the news:

Stephen Mansfield, who was both George W. Bush's and Tom DeLay's biographer, will be releasing a pro-Obama book this summer. Several sources think this book may help to win votes for Obama from evangelicals. What separates Obama from the others? Obama's faith is real, not the sham faith that so many Republicans wear like a dinner jacket in order to get elected.

The daily Gallup polls are showing a dead heat, but if you ask Americans who they think will win the election, Obama leads by 11 points; Obama's lead with independents is the breaking point here. Is McCain's Straight Talk Express about to be run off the road by the inevitability of Obama?

While were talking about Obama, his campaign has hired a chief of staff for his running-mate (whoever that might be): former Clinton adviser Patti Solis Doyle. Doyle was "fired" by Clinton in February and reportedly hasn't talked to her since; her hiring has led to widespread speculation that Clinton will, or will not, be Obama's VP. Not that this is much of a surprise. What it tells me is that Obama has chosen his VP, as you typically don't go hiring a chief of staff for someone who hasn't been named yet. Obama's campaign obviously has very good control over leaks and over press relations in general.

While we're on veeps, we should note that Bobby Jindal, one of the leading contenders to be McCain's strolling-mate (I don't think McCain's heart could take that many more months of running, so it'll have to be a stroll) has come out in support of intelligent design as a form of legitimate science. Now, I tried to read Conservapedia's article on "baraminology" a while back and just couldn't help but laugh at it. Sorry, dude, this is word jumble, not science.

Turning to the world of copyright, we have a couple of interesting stories. First, from England, we get the news that copyright terrorist Logistep, who ran around last year sending very threatening letters to people who it claimed owed them fines for copyright infringement, is all bark and no bite. My favorite little bit of this nonsense is that they even manage to accuse network printers of infringement. Despite many threatening letters, neither Logistep nor the parties they represent have actually sued anyone or otherwise attempted to enforce their threats.

In the same line, the RIAA recently got caught with its hand in the casehopper again, this time by refiling a case already dropped as a "John Doe" case, in order to get a different judge than the one that was about to dismiss it with prejudice. The RIAA's litigation tactics would make even the most determined wikilawyer blush.

And in related business, the AP has set the blogosphere on fire by filing DMCA takedowns against the Drudge Retort for quoting from and linking to AP content. It's interesting to compare how the old school media and the blogs are reporting on this. The New York Times ran the story under the headline "The Associated Press to set Guidelines for Using Its Articles in Blogs", and their clear editorial bent takes for granted that the AP has all the right in the world to set whatever rules it wants. Meanwhile, let's look at, say, TechCrunch's reaction: "Here’s Our New Policy On A.P. stories: They’re Banned". I assume that the AP monetizes their content; by quoting from and linking to AP content these blogs drive viewers to the AP, which should be exactly what the AP would want. But I imagine they think they can make more money by extortion, and let fair use be damned. I doubt that the folks at TechCrunch will mind if I quote them: "it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they [the AP] are trying to claw their way to a set of property rights that don’t exist today and that they are not legally entitled to."

Not entirely unrelatedly, the Times reports that the average teenager's iPod is home to 800 "illegal" tracks, or about half. The Times (another old media outlet) argues the side of old media by suggesting that the solution is to make "breaking copyright unappealing". Nevermind that there's no good way to do that, at least as of yet, that doesn't also piss people off.

Finally, here's one sure to hit in the stomach or the pocketbook, take your pick: all the extra water in the Midwest has driven the price of corn to an all-time high. Oh, and steel prices have doubled in the past six months, too. Of course, some of this can be attributed to the weak dollar, but not all of it.