Second Helpings - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Second Helpings
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GORE THINK
Re: Gene Healy’s Cruelty to Smokers:

Regarding the ludicrous article, “Cruelty to Smokers,” this diatribe is
just more proof that the Cato Institute = tobacco people.
Dave Johnson

SECONDS
Re: The Washington Prowler’s Tokyo Hillary:

An interesting detail that most have overlooked turns out to be one of those revealing “little things”: Senator Hillary ate the soldiers’ food during her visit. President Bush served food to the troops.
Thomas E. Stuart
Kapa’au, Hawaii

You write: “If Clinton was aware of her … unpopularity, she didn’t seem to care. Almost immediately after landing in Iraq, she began bad-mouthing the Bush administration to the military personnel she met….

But I see Hillary Clinton making great strides in her relationship with the military. Though she and her entourage reportedly cut into the chow line, forcing many to wait an hour or longer for their Thanksgiving meal, I have yet to see a report of Hillary demanding that military personnel act as waiters or busboys. This is great progress for Lady Hillary, and should be noted by the Prowler.
Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

STILL SOROS
Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder’s The Sorry Tale of George Soros:

The article by Mason & Felder on George Soros was shocking to read.

An American, I have lived the past three years in Budapest, Hungary and I am proud to have been a witness to Soros’s engagement in the development of democratic values in Hungary and in neighboring emerging democratic countries. George Soros is a classical liberal (some might rather say, libertarian) and a strong advocate of open societies in the mode of his mentor, Sir Karl Popper. His position on the estate tax could be taken from the pages of any of the classical liberal economists. George Soros has been willing to put his money where his mouth is and support the development of open societies in a variety ways, but chiefly through education, for example, in founding Central European University, promoting debate societies for young people, or sponsoring programs to educate and train member of the Roma minority.

Sadly, I have also been witness to a real and virulent anti-Semitism which has constantly had George Soros and his values as a central public target. In Hungary, as well as in other central European states, the political rhetoric of the nationalist right has come to focus its attacks on a nexus of persons and ideas, in which Soros, classical liberalism, and open societies are central and barely disguised terms of anti-Jewish rhetoric. In fact, in the past election cycles, the extreme right has come to both target liberalism rather than socialism, and identify explicitly or tacitly liberalism with Jews. Even more alarming, the mainstream right — led in Hungary by ex-Prime Minister Victor Orban, a former Soros scholarship recipient — has either tolerated or joined in such rhetoric.

George Soros is at the frontline, a frequent target of virulent anti-Semitic verbal attacks and physical threats. That his own opinion on issues like estate taxes or the current policy of the government of Israel should differ from that of Messrs. Mason and Felder should — in our own open society — be the basis of deep discussion and reasoned debate. It is a shame that instead a consequential reading of Mason & Felder leads to no other surmise than that they would have rather had Soros and his family perish in the Holocaust than survive. Here, on the democratic frontier, I must say, thank God that George Soros has survived and thrived.
Daniel Wolf
Budapest, Hungary

Jackie Mason used to be very funny. He is much less funny today. I thing his bashing of George Soros has gone over the line. Apparently, Mr. Soros’s passing as a non-Jew helped him survive the Holocaust so what exactly is the point in raising the issue. I hope Mr. Mason has invested well so that he will have more than enough money to pass on to his heirs that in the past would have been subject to the estate tax. I say that because if the failure of his last production is any indication, it appears he won’t be earning much money in the future from his comedic talents. No more Ed Sullivan Shows around to showcase your funny Jewish routines that made many Jews laugh uncontrollably through their unconfortableness. Oh I forgot, he was band from his show by Mr. Sullivan who didn’t like his giving him the finger in front of millions of people. Though you denied making the “gesture,” those of us who saw it knew what it meant. Mr. Mason is a real classless guy. And his being a Rabbi does not complement that calling. No one is perfect, but Mr. Mason is really one to criticize another person, particularly one with the accomplishments of Mr. Soros..
Jim Margolis

NEWBIE OR NOT NEWBIE
Re: William Tucker’s Oldies v. Newbies:

William Tucker’s perspective in “Oldies v. Newbies” is right on! What is truly frustrating, however, is that liberals tend to be the worst “rent seekers” and justify their use of government to preserve their privileged position by invoking all of the traditional bogeymen of the left. The hue and cry of the liberals is predictable: “We must protect our environment by preserving open space.” “We must protect the rural nature of our community.” “Farms form the backbone of our community.” “We will loose the essence of our culture if more subdivisions are built.” Hogwash. It all comes down to greed. It is that simple.
Rob Kampfner

There is a flip side to Mr. Tucker’s article. It is that in many cases those who came before created a land that suited them well. Then, a bunch of new folks moved in and decided that it was not to their liking. Rather than accepting the fact and moving on, they chose to stay and create their own little narrow world much to the unhappiness of those who came before. Case in point: The state of Oregon. There was a time when Oregon was a conservative Republican state. Our elected officials were, for the most part, honorable and served the voters well through enlightened management and reasonable laws. Then came the carpetbaggers, especially those from California who fled their sorry state for the fields of Oregon. Disclaimer: I’m a native-born Oregonian and I thoroughly resent those who want to make the state in their image.

The late governor Tom McCall hit a nerve when he stated, “Come to Oregon to visit but don’t stay here.” Amen! Nationally Americans resent the attempts to turn the U.S. into a mirror image of Mexico. I feel the same about Oregon and California. We once had bumper stickers: “Don’t Californicate Oregon.” Sadly, that is what has happened.

Time after time wealthy Californians have come up here loaded with cash from the sale of their overpriced former homes. They have gobbled up a good share of the most desirable land which has left the natives, comparatively poorer, to scrap for the left over real estate. The new laws, fresh from Sacramento via the envirowackos, have done away with our three main income sources — timber, fishing and farming. We were once a self-supporting state with many good paying jobs. Now we lead the nation in unemployment. Heck, we can’t even salvage burnt-over timber. BTW, one of the worst mayors Portland has ever suffered under is from New York City. Gag. If you don’t like what you see here, please move on.
Al Martin
Depoe Bay, Oregon

I live in an area in which this phenomenon is evident everywhere. A letter to the editor in today’s paper complained about the necessity for the city to spend millions to handle stormwater created by “development.” Ten-to-one the writer is someone who has moved to Bloomington within the past 20 years and purchased a new home. As someone who was born here, I am totally annoyed with the “I’ve got mine; to hell with you” attitude, transparently cloaked in terms of concern for the environment, which results in the (unaffordable for the average citizen) estate-size lots Mr. Tucker mentioned, and the vociferous and extremely well-organized opposition to construction of an interstate highway in the area (much needed to obtain and retain jobs for those not on a government payroll). As a postscript re the proposed smoking ban for D.C, the local city council has already passed a no-smoking ordinance for all Bloomington businesses.
Jenny Woodward
Bloomington, Indiana

Don’t forget the other glaring oldie vs. newbie in the “dual pay scale” unions have which pays newer workers at a different (lower) pay scale than older ones.
Bruce Peek

THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED
Re: Judd Bourgeois’s letter, Theodora Blanchfield’s reply, and Sean Fama’s letter (all under “Property Records”) in Reader Mail’s Something Old and Theodora Blanchfield’s Stinging the Fans:

A response to your reply:

How very clever of you to poke fun at my name! Did you just learn its meaning in your Western Philosophy 101 class last week, and felt the need to show off how cultured you are? Thanks also for deriding my interest as overzealous. If the limit of your debate skills is to demean me for even trying, then I fear for the future of the academy. I only spent about 10 minutes on the letter (although I’ll spend another 30 on this one! 30 minutes I’ll never get back! Horrors!), and I’m not surprised you didn’t recognize the 3rd and 4th paragraphs; they were cribbed directly from the RIAA Web site that you didn’t bother to look at.

I really appreciated the cop-out about a “throwaway line.” I see that roughly as, “Well, okay, you got me, but I didn’t really mean that part of it, so you shouldn’t point out the flaws in it.” They’re your words; I merely quoted them. And for a “throwaway line,” you went to an awful lot of trouble to make sure that anyone (like me) who did a double-take at your falsehood got the chance to read it again, when you said “yes, I really just said that.” I wasn’t even the only reader to point out your mistake! Why not insult Mr. Fama as well? While you didn’t explicitly state that the RIAA lacked standing to sue, you obviously tried to imply it (yes, Mr. Fama saw it that way too), so let’s avoid the Clintonesque side-stepping. I’m also not sure how I made your point. If your point is that the RIAA shouldn’t sue, fine, but don’t try to say that they don’t have the right to sue.

It wasn’t the only error in your article, just the most egregious. Paid legal music services may be “expensive” to an undergraduate who thinks she shouldn’t have to pay for anything, but for working stiffs, $0.99 per song from iTunes is a pretty good deal, and I have yet to meet any Mac/iPod owners who find the service “cumbersome.” MusicMatch and Launch are available for PC owners, and the industry is slowly realizing that it has to embrace digital media. And do the record labels even need to CARE if they alienate fans with their legal tactics? Labels hold a monopoly on creative content. Whether you listen to 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake or Toby Keith, only their labels can legally distribute their music, and I just don’t see a lot of fans boycotting their favorite artists to stand up for the right to steal.

My particular interest in intellectual property rights is driven by selfishness: I hold 2 patents, although I’ll admit they aren’t especially valuable. I’ve also written commercial software that I later saw pirated on the Internet. While I’m not the litigious sort, I don’t relish the idea of putting my property in the public domain just because people like you don’t feel like paying for it. If you keep up with entertainment business news, you know that music sales are way down over the past couple of years. Whether this is due to piracy or a lousy product is a matter for debate. I think it’s a bit of both, but piracy has clearly hurt the industry, and to fault them for merely attempting to enforce their rights is completely misguided.

Finally, where is the discussion of the fundamentally flawed DMCA; or RIAA v. SBC, the case currently in federal court in San Francisco that may finally restrain the “fishing expedition” flood of subpoenas being issued by RIAA lawyers? What about the antitrust issues posed by the merger of big labels, or the extension of copyright expirations to kowtow to companies like Disney? Shouldn’t this really be a policy argument, rather than a one-sided slam of an organization that is just looking out for its members?
Judd Bourgeois
Las Vegas, Nevada

Two battles are entailed in the music industry specifically and in the economy as a whole.

The first for the RIAA is one of battling a disruptive technology, peer to peer file sharing. It is disruptive to RIAA members in that it collapses the supply chain. The ox that is to be gored are the likes of Sony and MCA. Like any other incumbent with large capital investments, the presence of file sharing is a clear threat. However the track record in other industries is clear, once a disruptive technology takes a foot hold and facilitates better customer perceptions there is no rational business defense other than adoption. That means slim and trim and customer focused.

The second point is not so clear but just as pervasive, the usurpation of physical property rights by nonphysical property. A classic example is being waged in the IT industry today. No rational business owner would willingly implant software that would impair the use of multi thousand dollar server hardware. But this was a core component of UTICA and its ultimate downfall. The RIAA again faces a parallel, no rational stereo owner will willingly spend money for a product that will not work or would potentially damage the unit. The outcome of the legal standing of physical property vs. virtual property is uncertain, but I am betting on the hardware. The precedents are grounded legally and the track record of the virtual property camp so far has been clearly anticonsumer and lacks legal depth.

MCA and Sony deserve the profits of their investment. However to stay in business they have to adapt:

1) RIAA has to develop or adopt some pay per track internet based scheme. They are passing up billions in revenue by sticking their heads in the sand.

2) The RIAA members will have to collapse their business practices. Gone is the day of the power lunch.

3) The industry has to understand that unless they are developing a good product they will have no profits.

4) The days of Apple record blockbusters are hard to achieve. Music tastes today are highly fragmented. The demographics of the GenXers are less than the Boomers. Fewer teens means fewer sales.

RIAA would strengthen its case if it would show signs of working in the new
reality that is business today.
John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

I find it increasingly humorous to read mail from people that obviously have a computer upon which to conduct research and write with such conviction and get it totally wrong.

Such was the case in reading Sean Fama’s reader mail concerning property rights and copying technology. First, he incorrectly states of the facts in the majority 5-4 decision written by Judge Stevens in Sony Corp. of America vs. Universal City Studios, Inc. 464 U.S. 417 (1984). Then he proceeds to become another in my collection of “crystal ballers” that have the amazing ability to see the future.

First, Mr. Fama’s paragraph that establishes both criteria:

Contrary to what Ms. Blanchfield says, it is not “perfectly legal” to videotape movies on television if they are for noncommercial reasons. The Supreme Court in Sony v. Universal Studios (1984) stated that one can only record TV programs to “time-shift” — that is, to record, watch later, then to erase — not for archival use, though that, of course, widely goes on anyway. This has almost certainly gouged potential VHS/DVD sales — how many more would they have sold if not for VCRs recording off of TV? DVDs may be bringing in a lot of money right now, but how long will that last once people download DVDs online, just as they’re doing with CDs now? This is why the film industry is becoming active against online piracy (some movie trailers have been made on the subject) — it sees the danger that Ms. Blanchfield does not.

Sorry Mr. Fama. That IS NOT what the Supreme Court decided. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court rejected the respondents (Universal and Disney’s) argument about copyright infringement on ALL GROUNDS. Here is the key paragraph in the decision:

[4] An explanation of our rejection of respondents’ unprecedented attempt to impose copyright liability upon the distributors of copying equipment requires a quite detailed recitation of the findings of the District Court. In summary, those findings reveal that the average member of the public uses a VTR principally to record a program he cannot view as it is being televised and then to watch it once at a later time. This practice, known as “time-shifting,” enlarges the television viewing audience. For that reason, a significant amount of television programming may be used in this manner without objection from the owners of the copyrights on the programs. For the same reason, even the two respondents in this case, who do assert objections to time-shifting in this litigation, were unable to prove that the practice has impaired the commercial value of their copyrights or has created any likelihood of future harm. Given these findings, there is no basis in the Copyright Act upon which respondents can hold petitioners liable for distributing VTR’s to the general public. The Court of Appeals’ holding that respondents are entitled to enjoin the distribution of VTR’s, to collect royalties on the sale of such equipment, or to obtain other relief, if affirmed, would enlarge the scope of respondents’ statutory monopolies to encompass control over an article of commerce that is not the subject of copyright protection. Such an expansion of the copyright privilege is beyond the limits of the grants authorized by Congress.

Now, I could give Mr. Fama the benefit of the doubt and allude to the proposition that he read the decision of the District Court which was detailed in the Supreme Court decision and overturned in which the District Court does somewhat suggest non-time shifting could be a copyright infringement. But in the District and Appeals decisions, they were discussing the commercial value of such taping and not the archival for private use. Making copies and then distributing or showing them for commercial purposes was and still is against the law.

But all benevolence I had for Mr. Fama’s incorrect reading of the decision was taken back when he whipped out his crystal ball to tell the future of the “damage” done by the new technology. This is an old argument that goes as far back as tape recorders, copy machines, VCR’s and now digital media and computers. Individuals have always had the right to make a tape, copy a newspaper article, or record a movie and use it later, give it to someone to listen to, read or view. There is no difference really in the swapping of CD’s in practice. I can make several copies of any CD I own and give them to anyone I choose. What real difference, other than technological, is Internet swapping?

But Mr. Fama really gets comical when he delves into his ignorance of VHS/DVD sales and rentals. Especially “how many more would they have sold if not for VCRs recording off of TV?” Probably none, Mr. Fama, since the entire reason for the lawsuit by the studios was under the incorrect perception of exactly your sentiments. Instead, if you’d use your computer and look up levels of sales and rentals of tapes and DVD’s, you’d find the studios were short-sighted as much as record companies when the cassette recorder came out. Their sales skyrocketed once they realized that instead of worrying about people recording off of TV they’d just put the programs out themselves. Especially since the time of this decision, 1984, the VHS sales and rental market was in it’s infancy if non-existent in most cities. According to your theory, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and thousands of smaller outlets and millions of large retail outlets wouldn’t be busting at the seams with VHS tapes and DVD’s for sale/rent.

Today, VHS/DVD sales/rentals actually make studios money when they put duds on the screen. Have you ever noticed, Mr. Fama (I doubt), how a panned movie that did so-so at the box office ends up being big on the list of rentals? People might not care to plop down $8 a piece, plus snacks, to see a film they heard wasn’t very good, but are more than willing to pay $4.00 for a five-night rental and watch it with the entire family (I wonder if Mr. Fama thinks that if I loan my rental to my neighbor for a night before I return it is a crime also). In many cases the sales and rentals create the revenue needed for a studio to recoup their production and distribution costs.

Another simple point Mr. Fama misses is that these sales and rentals are today even higher for the big blockbusters that make hundreds of millions at the box office first. Just look up the figures for Spider-man, LOTR, Matrix, or Harry Potter. A whole new generation watched the first Star Wars movies on VHS, much to George Lucas’ delight! Shows just how way off and ridiculous the studios were in 1984 now doesn’t it?
Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

FEELINGS
Re: Stuart Buchalter’s letter in Reader Mail’s Headliners:

I feel I have found a kindred spirit in Mr. Buchalter. I could have spent days mulling the “Gay Marriage” question and not have come up with as clear and succinct an exposition of my feelings on the matter and the reason why it should be opposed unconditionally. Bravo!
Wylie Merritt
Norman, Oklahoma

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