2009 - %3, August

If It Looks Like A Duck, Music Industry Edition

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 11:36 AM EDT

Joel Tenenbaum has been ordered to pay $675,000, or $22,500 per song, for downloading and sharing a few dozen songs on Kazaa. That sounds unfair because it is. It's also incredibly stupid. The Recording Industry Association of America's litigation strategy can only work for so long. Soon, electronic storage capacity will be so great that you will be able to fit every song ever recorded onto a single flash memory drive. You'll be able to hand your friends every song ever over lunch in the school cafeteria. That kind of piracy won't be legal, but it won't be traceable, either.

The music industry's big problem is that its business model relies on selling copies of something that can be copied for free. If you could duplicate Lexuses in the comfort of your own home for free, Lexuses would be a lot harder to sell, too.

Journalism has a similar problem. The marginal cost of reproducing a newspaper article on the internet is zero. Command-C, Command-V. But you don't see the New York Times suing grad students who are printing out its articles or copying and pasting them into Word documents. And you definitely don't see the Times convincing juries to fine people hundreds of thousands of dollars for sharing its articles with their friends.

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Scary Photo of the Day

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 11:22 AM EDT

"It’s big and tall. It is also nestled into the mountains and revetted. There seems to be a power transmission line running in (or out of it). It is several clicks from an obvious water source." It's also in Burma. Jeffrey Lewis has the details.

The USS SuperAwesome

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 10:56 AM EDT

Via Yglesias, an Alex Massie post about the Royal Navy's awesome ship names:

I mean, the new Type 45 Detroyers, HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless have proper naval names as do the submarines Trafalgar, Ambush, Audacious. The new carriers being built - the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales - take us a little too far in the American direction, (even if there have been seven previous ships names Prince of Wales) and they’re not quite as good as previous carriers such as Implacabale, Indefatigable, Furious, Colossus, Vengeance and, perhaps best of all, Vindictive.

Yglesias points to Star Trek's starships for examples of good ship names. I think we should go even further. If you're hunting for some ship names that will really make Al Qaeda respect our authoritah, look no further than the Galactic Empire. Well-known Joe Lieberman lookalike Emperor Palpatine had an Accuser, an Agonizer, and (according to the "extended" Star Wars universe) an Eviscerator. Now these are some ship names.

(Yglesias also says "Basically no starships seem to be named after committee chairman or undistinguished former presidents." But presumably, in the enlightened future society that is the Federation, starship-building is removed from the realm of earmarks and appropriations bills and fully and fairly competed. Political patronage is less important to the process, and I'm almost certain that Star Trek contractors that are asked to extend starships by 12 feet don't end up making modifications that ruin the ships' structural integrity and make them unusable.)

UPDATE: The Economist has pwnd me with some truly awesome ship names. USS Batman, anyone?

Are the Birthers Helping Obama?

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 10:22 AM EDT

As Dan noticed yesterday, Chuck Norris, who makes apple pie look un-American, is wondering why Barack Obama won't just release his original birth certificate (as opposed to a "certification of live birth," which is good enough for pretty much all of the rest of us). I was talking about this with some friends last night, and we covered all the obvious reasons: it won't convince anyone who isn't already convinced (reasonable people are), it won't actually make the "controversy" go away, and the White House has nothing to gain from engaging the birthers.

But maybe there's something else going on here, too. By not releasing the certificate and making the birthers even madder, the administration is probably benefiting politically. Reasonable people think the birthers are crazy. By keeping the media spotlight on them, the administration can continue to brand the Republicans as a party of marginalized nutjobs. E.J. Dionne concern-trolled this yesterday:

[The Republican] party is being defined by extremist voices who have faced little push-back from its leaders.

The extremists include the "birthers" who, against all evidence, insist that Obama was not born in the United States and thus ineligible to be president. These guys are so out there that party leaders and commentators have started to disown them.

[...]

But to take advantage of the opportunities that might come their way, Republicans will have to make themselves an acceptable alternative. They have not done this yet. Facing down extremism and breaking out of the party's regional enclave would be good places to start.

If the White House thinks the birther movement is hurting the Republican party, they might refrain from doing anything that could cause the GOP to totally marginalize the group—like releasing the original certificate.

Health Care: The Key To A GOP Comeback?

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 8:19 AM EDT

With polls showing the Republicans on the rebound, and with conservatives driving to win state governorships this fall and cut Democratic majorities in Congress in next year’s midterm elections, the stakes of the health care fight just got higher. If Obama can’t win a little something in the health insurance battle, he’ll be portrayed as a flop by the GOP in the midst of an election season. But if he wins even a token victory, right-wing attack dogs can pick apart the details of the final plan—or simply paint him as a socialist with a secret plan to "kill Granny” by rationing health care. Tuesday’s Washington Times lays out the opportunity for Republicans:
 

Cute Animal in Danger: Jaguarundi

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 7:40 AM EDT

This week's endangered animal is the somewhat strange-looking jaguarundi. The jaguarundi is a bit of an in-betweener: it's not as big as a jaguar or mountain lion, but it's larger than most housecats. Jaguarundi also look different than most cats, on account of their small rounded ears, closely set eyes, and uniform color. The "otter-like" cats are most closely related to cougars and cheetahs, though scientists are still unsure of exactly how the it evolved since cheetahs are native to Africa.

Jaguarundi reportedly move in a "weasel-like" manner and unlike many cats, seem to enjoy getting into water. They are reportedly strong swimmers and go to the water at midday to drink, but also in the evening when they are hunting or fishing. They weigh only about 13 to 15 pounds, but because of their lifestyle, are larger and more muscular than a housecat of a similar weight.

The jaguarundi live mostly in the thorny brush of Texas's Rio Grande Valley, as well as in Mexico. Although the jaguarundi has been on the endangered species list since 1976, there has never been a conservation plan for them. The lack of any conservation plan, in addition to habitat destruction by human development, is likely why seeing a jaguarundi is now a rare and exciting event, even in Texas.

However, there is some good news: in February of this year, the Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the jaguarundi would be one of 23 endangered species from the Southwest to recieve a five-year review. The conservation group WildEarth also recently filed a suit against Interior secretary Ken Salazar to develop a recovery plan for the animal. In addition, the jaguarundi continues to survive in Mexico, and populations have been spotted as far south as South America.

 

Follow Jen Phillips on Twitter.

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Eco-News for Tuesday, August 4

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 7:01 AM EDT

News stories from our blogs, and other environmental sites, you might have missed from yesterday.

Follow the Money: Clean energy firms are spending five times as much money on lobbyists.

Good Enough, Smart Enough: Are you smart enough to join the Army? 'Cause they need officers like, yesterday. [Gawker]

But Are Unicorns Liberals? Weird art of Obama with unicorns and political fauna.

Health Hell: What does the public really think about their health insurance?

Peruvian Punctuality: Just weeks after civilians were killed protesting Peru's relationship with Big Oil, Big Oil sends bulldozers into the rainforest in hopes of drilling soon. [MongaBay]

HBO's Ageism: HBO says most of the good actresses are 35 and younger. MoJo calls BS.

Silent Spring: A new report shows pollution is increasing cancer rates in wildlife. [ENN]

Green Islam: Islamic scholars meet to discuss how religion and climate change intersect. [Living on Earth]

Birds of a Feather: Students are flocking to sustainability degrees. [USA Today]

Just Vote Yes: Kevin Drum finds more bipartisan consensus on healthcare.

Flipper Flop: Japanese design plastic prosthetic flippers for an injured sea turtle. [National Geographic]

 

 

Need To Read: August 4, 2009

Tue Aug. 4, 2009 6:59 AM EDT

Some web content you should be checking out today:

Like most bloggers, I also use twitter. I mostly use it to send out links to interesting web content like the stuff above. You can follow me, of course. David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, is also on twitter. So is my colleague Daniel Schulman. Follow them, too!

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 4, 2009

Tue Aug. 4, 2009 6:55 AM EDT

U.S. Army Cadet Bernard Wheeler, right, and U.S. Army Pvt. Daniel Shirer, both students with the U.S. Army Airborne School, board a C-130 aircraft for their first parachute jump with combat equipment on Fort Benning, Ga., July 21, 2009. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

Who's the Boss?

| Tue Aug. 4, 2009 1:29 AM EDT

David Corn thinks Barack Obama needs to get angrier.  That's probably not going to happen.  But will he settle for Timothy Geithner?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration's faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation, according to people familiar with the meeting.

....Friday's roughly hourlong meeting was described as unusual, not only because of Mr. Geithner's repeated use of obscenities, but because of the aggressive posture he took with officials from federal agencies generally considered independent of the White House. Mr. Geithner reminded attendees that the administration and Congress set policy, not the regulatory agencies.

Apparently Geithner is pissed off at all the Fed, SEC, and FDIC folks who keep badmouthing his regulatory reforms to Congress.  "Administration officials say they aren't worried about the overhaul's prospects," the Journal reports, and I imagine they do say that.  But I'll bet they don't believe it.