Archive for May 31, 2006
In what is otherwise a very good article, Ben Stein comes up with this:
On the Democratic and Republican-in-Name-Only side, we have the idea of “windfall profits taxes” on energy companies. These would presumably mandate a desirable level of corporate profits in one sector on which we depend. (And how long do you think it would apply to only one industry?) If profits exceeded that level, they would be taxed.
As far as I can tell, there is no plan to give a rebate to the companies if their profits have fallen below that desired level.
In other words, the plan is to send this message to energy-company investors, including retirees and pension funds: “Yes, we are in a situation of oil and gas shortage. Yes, we want you to risk billions of dollars exploring for and producing and refining oil and processing gas. But if you succeed for any reason, and even if no price-fixing is found, we will punish you for it.”
Not at all.
The US Government’s own site states that we gave $2.4 billion in tax breaks and financial incentives to oil and gas companies in 1999, $1 billion in natural gas production. (For some reason, I’m having a hard time finding out just how many breaks we’re giving during the Bush administration. Fancy that. We’ll just throw in the cost of the Iraqi war and be done with it.) If you’d like higher numbers, here are Greenpeace’s for 1995, and they estimate between $15.7 to $35.2 billion, depending on whether or not you want to count defense.
In this, we the taxpayers are the investors. We’re providing the seed capital, and we can kiss it good-bye if the companies we give breaks to hit a dry hole. And we should be compensated if the oil companies succeed.
We refer you to this look inside Hollingsworth Oilco for more information.
Kung Fu Monkey: Lions Led by Donkeys: best Memorial Day post I’ve read in a while. Feel free to use as a litmus test as to whether someone really supports the troops.
Via Making Light: Absolute Write is gone: Go read and go help.
Japanese roboticist Doctor Masahiro Mori is not exactly a household name– but, for the speculative fiction community at least, he could prove to be an important one. The reason why can be summed up in a simple, strangely elegant phrase that translates into English as “the uncanny valley”.
Though originally intended to provide an insight into human psychological reaction to robotic design, the concept expressed by this phrase is equally applicable to interactions with nearly any nonhuman entity. Stated simply, the idea is that if one were to plot emotional response against similarity to human appearance and movement, the curve is not a sure, steady upward trend. Instead, there is a peak shortly before one reaches a completely human “look” . . . but then a deep chasm plunges below neutrality into a strongly negative response before rebounding to a second peak where resemblance to humanity is complete.
This chasm– the uncanny valley of Doctor Mori’s thesis– represents the point at which a person observing the creature or object in question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough off-kilter to seem eerie or disquieting. The first peak, moreover, is where that same individual would see something that is human enough to arouse some empathy, yet at the same time is clearly enough not human to avoid the sense of wrongness.
(Via Heidi MacDonald.)
Can Democrats in Congress to figure out a way to force a vote on demanding all the records relating to Lay’s participation in Cheney’s Energy Task Force?
I’d bet good money they can, or somebody else could.
Throwing caution to the wind, as we’ve already noted the power of Mark’s weblog, but the point should still be made.
There have been busts like this at other cons but if the accounts e-mailed to me are accurate, this one was scary in its scope and seriousness — enough to perhaps finally end the selling of pirated videos at conventions.
For those of you who don’t get to cons: There’s a thriving industry out there in video piracy…people who mass-produce videotapes and DVDs of copyrighted material in which they do not hold any copyright. Sometimes, it’s a matter of just replicating commercial video releases and selling them cheaper…or selling copies of tapes and DVDs that are now out of print. There are also those who have pirated copies of new movies not yet available on video but more often lately, the bootleggers are producing videos of old TV shows or movies taped off the air or transferred from 16mm prints. While they sometimes find and offer very rare material, the fact remains that the material is still stolen.
I’ve had a few conversations at cons with folks who traffic in this area and have been amazed at the rationales for theft. Sometimes, the defense is just that they’re not making a lot of money off these videos… which may be true but, you know, stealing small is still stealing. Sometimes, one hears the notion that it’s not ignoble to rip off Time-Warner or Disney because, let’s face it, those companies make skillions and perhaps are not always 100% honest in their pursuit of profits. Above and beyond the obvious flaw in that argument is the fact that the video pirates rarely spare the small producer or filmmaker… and that even a Disney bootleg cheats “little guys” like writers and voice actors who don’t receive their contracted residuals.
The most frequent alibi is that the sellers aren’t really doing it for the money…or at least, doing it just for the money. They’re doing it as a public service since the folks who own the material in question are selfishly or thoughtlessly withholding it from the public. This is another way of saying the rights holders haven’t gotten around yet to issuing the show or movie on home video but still, it almost sounds like a valid point. Doesn’t change the fact that we’re talking here about copyright violations but it sounds good….
I guess in a very small way, I feel sorry for some of the guys who got busted yesterday. They all seem to think they’re creating product, not filching someone else’s — or if they’re stealing, they’re stealing from someone else’s bootlegs. Some of them have even put a lot of work into their editing and art direction and take great pride in their handiwork. But I don’t feel sorry enough to not think they should have known this was going to happen…and that it’s about time it was stopped.
I quote all this to point out that Mark’s argument would be a lot stronger to me if he hadn’t been putting “Today’s Video Link” on his weblog since March– like this one that he put up the day after his post from the Howdy Doody show. Or this one from the Batman tv show. Or this Abbott and Costello routine. Or this from the At Last, the 1948 Show. Or even this, redistributed without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.
Every argument Mark uses against the hawkers of videos at cons can also be made about the online files he links to. And he’s making money from it as well.
Understand: I like and respect Mark. And I happen to agree that retailers should know better than to violate copyright (I’m looking at you, Midtown Comics) and that Mark’s usage is certainly closer to fair use than what was seized by the RIAA. But I also think that when desired material is known to exist– like the JLA and Global Frequency pilots, the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie, and the original version of Aladdin with the uncensored lyrics– and not made available except via dodgy methods, then this will happen.
And I also reiterate one of my old economic rules: a black market only pops up when the market notes a major imbalance in either price vs. perceived cost, or availability.
I’m positive this is a publicity stunt for M:i:III… Tom Cruise has even great clout than I suspected.
I’m not sure, but I think I’ve figured Joe Lieberman out.
His first instincts nowadays is to defend the President, no matter what he says or does. And most people take this as a betrayal of party, of high-order obeisance. But I realized that he’s laboring under an entirely different delusion.
He actually thinks he’s the Vice President.
Like many people in this country, he believes deep down that the Gore/Lieberman ticket really won in 2000– a position that seems to be borne out by the ballots, if not the Supreme Court. And he thinks that the first duty that a Vice President has is to defend the President in all areas, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing. Okay, so he’s not quite made the linkage that Bush is considered President– again, not an uncommon opinion in the world.
So rather than be infuriated by him, we should take a certain degree of pity on the poor soul. Of course, that still doesn’t mean that someone with such a passing familiarity with the way things are on the ground now should be kept in office… which is why I’m so happy to see Ned Lamont gaining traction.