Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Limiting emissions

Grophenhagen Conference - Prostitutes Offer Free Climate Summit Sex

"Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards saying 'Be sustainable - don't buy sex' to city hotels warning summit guests not to patronize Danish sex workers during the upcoming conference. Now, the prostitutes have struck back, offering free sex to anyone who produces one of the warnings."

Um really? What exactly is sustainable about not buying sex? Certainly one could sustain the non-purchase of anything indefinitely - but this warning actually implied that buying sex is unsustainable. Well yes, if you run out of money, it is. But in environmental terms, buying sex is a fuckload more sustainable than traveling around the world for a fucking climate conference.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Update: Judge affirms $675k verdict in RIAA music piracy case by Jaikumar Vijayan

Today, musicians and the music-listening public need the recording industry the same way fish need bicycles. The recording industry was socially beneficial back when music had to be stored on big physical doodads that had to be shipped on trucks, displayed in stores, then marketed (then heavily, then more heavily) to stand out from the competition. Today, all of that is bunk. Superfluous. A drain on societal resources. There is no societal justification for the existence of the recording industry - why, so I can learn about the latest album from Smiley Syrup? The only recording of hers I would want to know about I can discover without the help of the recording industry, simply by googling her name along with the words "sex tape".

In fact, the continued existence of the recording industry is not only completely unnecessary, it is actually pernicious. Beyond committing the metaphorical equivalent of chopping kids' hands off for stealing gum - not to mention completely shafting artists in their division of revenues - the recording industry tends to lower our collective cultural product to the level of the lowest common denominator: look at the artists (and I use that word lightly) the industry promotes, which crowd out of the public consciousness artists with talent (but which may require more than an iota of thoughtful attention to appreciate). An undeniably better system would provide public financing for artists, just enough to allow those with great talent (or just a pretty face and a decent voice) to get their recordings out via the internet, where they can then make boatloads from live shows - which is where recording artists make the majority of their money from anyway.

On a legal level, one must be truly deluded to be oblivious to the true nature of law: a non-violent (at least overtly) means for the powerful to exert control over society. Now I wrote that in a way that may evince my disgust at this reality, but the same could be written to produce the opposite effect, like the conservative Thomas Macaulay formulation here: "What are laws but the expressions of the opinion of some class which has power over the rest of the community? By what was the world ever governed but by the opinion of some person or persons? By what else can it ever be governed?"

OK Tom, got your point, but the problem is that the ideals that define our society and give us meaning do not include "let's be governed by a powerful class of persons" - in fact, our ideals are sharply antithetical to such a vulgar basis for the law. Instead, our ideals demand that the laws that govern us emanate from us, collectively; again, sovereignty of the people is the opposite of sovereignty of some people. As the collective "we" is clearly not the provenance of the copyright "laws" that were used to hand down this preposterous judgment, the judgment is illegitimate in a fundamental sense.

Oh yeah and the recording industry might not have lost a dime even if that kid shared those songs with 50 million people. Those songs were bits of information, not manufactured goods. If I stole a manufactured good from a store, that's one less manufactured good that can be sold; but if I download a song, I haven't reduced the total stock of that song by anything - stores will have just as many copies of Jason Timberlake's latest album after I download it and put it on every computer and electronic device of mine. To actually prove damages in a justice system worth the name, the recording industry would have to prove that all downloaders of those songs would have bought the songs if it were not for the defendant sharing them for free. I don't know if my point needs any more elaboration, but I sure as fuck wouldn't buy a Jason Timberlake album.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Proof of intelligent life on the planet

Frontline: The Women's Kingdom - In China, how free can a woman be? by Xiaoli Zhou

Here's one of the world's matriarchies that didn't get wiped out by a barbarian patriarchal society: "'Why would you want the marriage license to handcuff yourself?' a blunt-spoken Mosuo woman named Cha Cuo asks Zhou. For Mosuo women, it is not an idle question. In their matriarchal society, they do not marry. They practice what they call 'walking marriage' in which a woman may invite a man into her hut to spend a 'sweet night,' but he must leave by daybreak. If a pregnancy results from this union, the child will be raised by the woman and her family."

While men are widely considered to be more "unfaithful" than women, and so people think that monogamy favors women because they are more naturally monogamous, this is totally wrong. Women have adapted to the imposition of monogamy, which on a biological level is just a way for men to monopolize a woman for breeding purposes. Biologically speaking, while eggs are precious, even the best sperm is cheap. Therefore, sexual monogamy only makes biological sense for men because they have an acute evolutionary interest in monopolizing their partner's sexuality, and makes no biological sense for women who can get just as much (purely biological) reproductive benefit from a "faithful" man as from an "unfaithful" man. Monogamy evolved to benefit men by giving them social sanction to dominate female sexuality - this is clear by looking around the world and seeing that women are disproportionately and more harshly punished for breaking the monogamy taboo...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Straw man and a cowardly lion

Why Kennedy Said No to Vietnam Combat Troops by William Pfaff

One of the straw men arguments Obama beat up on in his recent speech at West Point was that "Afghanistan is another Vietnam". Well of course it isn't. For one, Vietnam has much better weather. Obama pointed out that unlike in Vietnam, 1) in Afghanistan the U.S. has a coalition of 40-odd countries involved (I'm at pains to understand the relevance of this to a determination of the wisdom of carrying on this war - it seems rather like contrasting the two countries' weather patterns), 2) the insurgency is unpopular (sure, if by "unpopular" you mean that only 44% of Afghans have no sympathy for the various insurgent groups, while 22% have "a lot of" and 34% have "a little" sympathy; but then, so too is Karzai's government unpopular), and 3) the U.S. was attacked from (notice the preposition usage here: "from" rather than "by") Afghanistan (partially, yes; but the U.S. was just as much if not more attacked from Florida and Germany - besides: so fucking what? A political bombing was carried out in the U.S. in the 70s by a bunch of Chilean thugs, and no one suggested bombing Chile).

Three much more apposite points of similarity between the wars against Vietnam and Afghanistan are: 1) a domestic insurgency fighting to take back their homeland from yet another foreign occupier; 2) the U.S. propping up a corrupt government; 3) the U.S. government invoking a domino effect theory to justify the war.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

He may be a murderer, but at least he's hypocritical

New chapter in U.S.-India relations by Teresa Albano

Here is a real knee-slapper from Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh: "There are other things more important than GDP growth, Singh said - 'respect for human rights and multi-cultural rights. There are several dimensions of human freedom that aren't shown in GDP.'"

Singh, banking on the ignorance of his audience (good bet, by the way), tried to evade the obvious fact that any accurate comparison between India and China would be invidious in China's favor, by trumpeting India's wholly undeserved reputation for respecting "human rights" and "multi-cultural rights" and implying that China does not follow India's example.

Yeah, Manmohan, you are right. China does not follow India's example on human rights because China doesn't wage three simultaneous dirty wars against its own population in Kashmir, the Northeast, and the so-called "Red Corridor", resulting in thousands of deaths by violence every year. Not to mention the frequent pogroms in India led or collaborated in by government officials, against Muslims or Christians or Sikhs or potentially any non-right-wing-Hindu group. Maybe Manhoman should ask the 1-2 thousand Gujarati Muslims who in 2002 were... oh wait, they're dead, no one can ask them anything! Good thing there are 150,000 refugees of the pogrom, who could be asked to testify to the Indian state's respect for multi-cultural and human rights.

And that is only counting deaths by overt, fascist gang or military violence (aided by lovely laws that allow Indian state thugs to kill those merely suspected of "criminal" activity). Millions of people starve to death every year in "Shining" India (oh boy, do skeletons shimmer!)... though surely India's "respect" for human and multicultural rights is a great consolation to the starving dead and dying.

Unlike in China, where the disrespectful Chinese government forces its people - first by not killing them with bullets and bombs, and then by ensuring that they have food to eat - to face indignity over the course of a long life. The bastards! You tell 'em, Manhoman!