Monday, July 31, 2006

The Hunting of the President

I finally got to see the movie The Hunting of the President. I had read the book a few years ago, and forgot some of it, so it was just riveting to be reminded of the horrors of the "Arkansas Project" and the total complicity of the mainstream media, especially CNN in trying to pump up the Whitewater non-story and an adulterous blowjob into an impeachable offense.

I had forgotten about the horrible expriences that Susan McDougal had to go through for refusing to lie for evil Ken Starr and his evil crew. When McDougal refused to cut a deal with them, and went to jail instead, they made sure to make her experience as miserable as possible.

McDougal talks about it in this interview at Buzzflash.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bush keeps pushing the authoritarian envelope

Yahoo News:
According to the draft, the military would be allowed to detain all "enemy combatants" until hostilities cease. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone "engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute."

Legal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al Qaeda.

"That's the big question ... the definition of who can be detained," said Martin Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown University who posted a copy of the bill to a Web blog.

Scott L. Silliman, a retired Air Force Judge Advocate, said the broad definition of enemy combatants is alarming because a U.S. citizen loosely suspected of terror ties would lose access to a civilian court — and all the rights that come with it. Administration officials have said they want to establish a secret court to try enemy combatants that factor in realities of the battlefield and would protect classified information.

The Administration is slowly inching its way towards a government that can detain any citizen at any time for any reason without the right to a fair trial. And all the people that support Bush are aiding and abetting his goal of an authoritarian state.

People like those recently mentioned by Paul Krugman
Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980’s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.)

Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina.

And what about the perceptions of those who get their news from sources that aren’t de facto branches of the Republican National Committee?

The climate of media intimidation that prevailed for several years after 9/11, which made news organizations very cautious about reporting facts that put the administration in a bad light, has abated. But it’s not entirely gone. Just a few months ago major news organizations were under fierce attack from the right over their supposed failure to report the “good news” from Iraq — and my sense is that this attack did lead to a temporary softening of news coverage, until the extent of the carnage became undeniable. And the conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, under which lies and truth get equal billing, continue to work in the administration’s favor.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that the Bush administration continues to be remarkably successful at rewriting history. For example, Mr. Bush has repeatedly suggested that the United States had to invade Iraq because Saddam wouldn’t let U.N. inspectors in. His most recent statement to that effect was only a few weeks ago. And he gets away with it. If there have been reports by major news organizations pointing out that that’s not at all what happened, I’ve missed them.

It’s all very Orwellian, of course. But when Orwell wrote of “a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past,” he was thinking of totalitarian states. Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?

And meanwhile, Chris Matthews lavishly praises crazy fascist crackpot Ann Coulter.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The New Yorker on Wikipedia

There's a good article about Wikipedia in this week's New Yorker. Favorite part:
Wikipedia has become a regulatory thicket, complete with an elaborate hierarchy of users and policies about policies. Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda B. Viegas, two researchers at I.B.M. who have studied the site using computerized visual models called "history flows," found that the talk pages and "meta pages" - those dealing with coordination and administration - have experienced the greatest growth. Whereas articles once made up about eighty-five per cent of the site's content, as of last October they represented seventy per cent. As Wattenberg put it, "People are talking about governance, not working on content." Wales is ambivalent about the rules and procedures but believes that they are necessary. "Things work well when a group of people know each other, and things break down when it's a bunch of random people interacting," he told me.

For all its protocol, Wikipedia's bureaucracy doesn't necessarily favor truth. In March, 2005, William Connolley, a climate modeller at the British Antarctic Survey, in Cambridge, was briefly a victim of an edit war over the entry on global warming, to which he had contributed. After a particularly nasty confrontation with a skeptic, who had repeatedly watered down language pertaining to the greenhouse effect, the case went int arbitration. "User William M. Connolley strongly pushes his POV with systematic removal of any POV which does not match his own," his accuser charged in a written deposition. "His views on climate science ar singular and narrow." A decision from the arbitration committee was three months in coming, after which Connolley was placed on a humiliating one-revert-a-day parole. The punishment was later revoked, and Connolley is now an admin, with two thousand pages on his watchlist - a feature that enables users to compile a list of entries and to be notified when changes are made to them. He says that Wikipedia’s entry on global warming may be the best page on the subject anywhere on the Web. Nevertheless, Wales admits that in this case the system failed. It can still seem as though the user who spends the most time on the site - who yells the loudest - wins

Connolley believes that Wikipedia "gives no privilege to those who know what they're talking about," a view that is echoed by many academics and former contributors, including Larry Sanger, who argues that too many Wikipedians are fundamentally suspicious of experts and unjustly confident of their own opinions. He left Wikipedia in March, 2002, after Wales ran out of money to support the site during the dot-com bust. Sanger concluded that he had become a symbol of authority in an anti-authoritarian community. "Wikipedia has gone from a nearly perfect anarchy to an anarchy with gang rule," he told me. (Sanger is now the director of collaborative projects at the online foundation Digital Universe, where he is helping to develop a Web-based encyclopedia, a hybrid between a wiki and a traditional reference work. He promises that it will have "the lowest error rate in history.") Even Eric Raymond, the open-source pioneer whose work inspired Wales, argues that "'disaster' is not too strong a word" for Wikipedia. In his view, the site is "infested with moonbats." (Think hobgoblins of little minds, varsity division.) He has found his corrections to entries on science fiction dismantled by users who evidently felt that he was trespassing on their terrain. "The more you look at what some of the Wikipedia contributors have done, the better Britannica looks," Raymond said. He believes that the open-source model is simply inapplicable to an encyclopedia. For software, there is an objective standard: either it works or it doesn't. There is no such test for truth.

The territoriality of Wikipedians is a huge problem. And to be an insider, you have to have lots of time on your hands to participate in Wikipedia editing.

Of course territoriality isn't limited to Wikipedia. It pops up all the time in human groupings. There's a seemingly desperate need to distinguish insiders from outsiders. This even happens, absurdly on Internet discussion boards where your identity can be completely hidden and the rewards of being an insider are almost nil - it's not like a country club where you get access to the best golf times and tennis courts and business networking through your insider status.

The best part of observing group dynamics on Internet discussions is that the insider/outsider games are played in black and white print, and you can easily watch and analyze it, and track it through time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shakespeare exhibit

The Yale Center for British Art currently has an exhibition of paintings and documents associated with William Shakespeare and his times. It's a good show, and the museum is free, so it's well worth the trip to New Haven.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Warriors! Come out to play-ay!

The Warriors Subway Scavenger Hunt

Teams can sign up in groups of nine delegates. All participants are requested to be in full "colors", just as gang members are in the film. Cyrus will be there to kick off the rally and give your team instructions. The team that arrives at the screening location first with all aspects of the scavenger hunt completed wins.

Grand Prize: Nine leather "Warriors" vests, and an August 3rd brunch with the cast and crew of The Warriors!

Carnival of the Liberals

I made it into Carnival of the Liberals #17

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I emailed this article to Steven Pinker

Dismissing ‘Sexist Opinions’ About Women’s Place in Science is about Ben A. Barres, a female-to-male transsexual who has experienced the science world from both sides now, and has some strong opinions about the claim, made by Lawrence Summers, heartily supported by Steven Pinker, that discrimination against women is less important than evolutionarily-endowed female incompetence and female disinterest in math and science.

I don't expect to get a response from Pinker, but I imagine his response will be that Barres was a man trapped in a woman's body all along and that's why he is good at math and science.

Of course Barres doesn't make his claims based purely on his personal experience.

Interesting excerpt from the article:
Q. Why do some people attribute differences in professional achievement to innate ability?

A. One of the reasons is the belief by highly successful people that they are successful because of their own innate abilities. I think as a professor at Stanford I am lucky to be here. But I think Larry Summers thinks he is successful because of his innate inner stuff.

Q. What about the idea that men and women differ in ways that give men an advantage in science?

A. People are still arguing over whether there are cognitive differences between men and women. If they exist, it’s not clear they are innate, and if they are innate, it’s not clear they are relevant. They are subtle, and they may even benefit women.

But when you tell people about the studies documenting bias, if they are prejudiced, they just discount the evidence.

Q. How does this bias manifest itself?

A. It is very much harder for women to be successful, to get jobs, to get grants, especially big grants. And then, and this is a huge part of the problem, they don’t get the resources they need to be successful. Right now, what’s fundamentally missing and absolutely vital is that women get better child care support. This is such an obvious no-brainer. If you just do this with a small amount of resources, you could explode the number of women scientists.

And Elizabeth Spelke debated Pinker on the issue a year ago, and smited evolutionary psychology just-so stories about female incompetence with the mighty power of data.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I love David Brock

David Brock does such good work with his Media Matters for America organization. But don't overlook his excellent autobiography Blinded by the Right - The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative.

When he was a conservative, Brock wrote a book called The Real Anita Hill which smeared Anita Hill and portrayed her as "a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty." When Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson's book Strange Justice came out in response to the Brock book, Brock and conservative friends went to work:
...Ricky (Silberman, vice chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision and close friend of Clarence Thomas) and I sprang into action to discredit the Mayer and Abramson book. At mid-morning, we met at the Capitol Hill offices of Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, the most powerful right-wing lobby behind the Thomas nomination... Rick was joined by Barbara Ledeen, a neo-conservative operative who was the executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, the antifeminist group Ricky had formed, in part with Scaife money, from Women for Judge Thomas...

Like the Hiss-Chambers case, the Thomas-Hill case lent itself to endless hairsplitting over the true meaning of obscure factoids. I knew the ins and outs of the case better than anyone, and I knew how to twist and turn them to our advantage. I had done this previously, in my book, in the service of a sincerely held belief. Now, I wasn't sure why I was doing it. I was just doing it. As Barbara Ledeen took notes on a legal pad, I played the role I was expected to play. Donning my defense lawyer hat, I dissected the Mayer and Abramson excerpt, methodically turning back each new damaging allegation they raised and patching up the sizable holes they had shot in Thomas's defense.

The three of us then collaborated on a radio script for Rush Limbaugh's show at noon... We would use Rush to crush Mayer and Abramson, defend Justice Thomas, and protect Republican prospects in the impending election that would bring Newt Gingrich to power. We faxed off the script. Tuning in to his show, I listened as Limbaugh read from the fax virtually verbatim. The war was on! Hearing Rush blast those feminazis gave me a jolt of adrenaline. I was back on message. Forget that hysterical Ricky Silberman, I told myself. I'd show her, too, by going out and proving that Mayer and Abramson were frauds and liars. Consumed by a kind of mania, as if my entire worldview and indeed my self-conception depended on the outcome, I was now on a mission to sink Strange Justice.

Working harder than I ever had, I set about re-reporting the book for a review for the Spectator... My work on the Spectator review inevitably caused me to reinterview sources I had relied on in writing my book. One of them was Armstrong Williams, who had been on Thomas's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff at the time Anita Hill also worked for him in the early 1980s... In my book, I relied heavily on Williams's recollections to discredit the testimony of Hill and another ex-employee of Thomas's, Angela Wright, who also claimed that Thomas had behaved inappropriately toward her. Williams had supplied me with a particularly evocative anecdote that I used to show Thomas - in contrast to Anita Hill's portrait - as prudish in sexual matters. According to Williams, Thomas had once compelled him to dispose of a copy of Playboy Williams had been toting, telling his aide the magazine was "trash." I had interviewed Williams in his Dupont Circle office and on the telephone several times, and we had kept in touch since the book's publication, though we hadn't spoken at any length since I had come out as gay in the Washington Post eight months before. Williams invited me to discuss Strange Justice over dinner at a Tex-Mex place on the Hill, then asked me back to his apartment for a drink.

Sitting on an overstuffed sofa not far from me, Williams had something else besides Strange Justice on his mind. As he began to pepper me with graphic questions about whether I was dominant or submissive in bed, I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat, looked away, and tried to change the subject. Williams, who was unmarried, countered with increasingly lewd banter until I quickly brought the conversation to a close, thanked him for his time, got up, and walked out. Was Williams baiting me like an antigay bigot? Was he coming on to me? I had no way of knowing for sure, but either way, I had to conclude that he was a poor character witness for Clarence Thomas... I grew agitated as I glimpsed some uncomfortable truths about who these conservatives really were, and what they really represented...

The biggest problem raised by the Strange Justice authors for the Thomas camp was the testimony of yet another woman, Kaye Savage, who had not been heard from during the first round of hearings. Savage made the claim... that she had seen Playboy pinups papered along the walls of Thomas's apartment in the early 1980s, when she and Thomas had been friends and Anita Hill was working for Thomas...

...Mark (Paoletta) phoned me back. He said he had posed my question about how to discredit Savage to (Clarence) Thomas, who knew I was at work on a review of the Mayer and Abramson book. Mark told me that Thomas had, in fact, some derogatory information on his former friend Savage; he passed it along to Mark so that Mark could give it to me. Quoting Thomas directly, Mark told me of unverified, embarrassing personal information about Savage that Thomas claimed had been raised against her in a sealed court record of a divorce and child custody battle more than a decade ago. Thomas also told Mark where Savage worked after Mark related that I was eager to hunt her down as soon as possible. Surely skirting the bounds of judicial propriety to intimidate and smear yet another witness against him, Thomas was playing dirty, and so was I.

...I grilled Savage, a mild-mannered, middle-aged African American civil servant, with the menacing threat of a personal exposure hanging in the background. I then told her that she could either cooperate with me and give me what I needed to discredit Strange Justice, or I would have to discredit her as a witness by disclosing whatever personal information I had about her, just as I had blackened the reputation of all the other women who had come forward with damaging information about Thomas. In the face of this threat, Savage refused to recant her accusations. I continued to press for anything I could get her to say to blunt the impact of her accusation. We agreed that Savage would give me a written statement in which she would say the Strange Justice authors had distorted and sensationalized her quotes. When I got back to my office at the Spectator, Savage faxed me a statement, but it was too weak to be of any use: the Strange Justice account would still stand. I called Savage at her office and insisted on some changes that would allow me to cast at least some doubt on the way Mayer and Abramson had quoted her. After a struggle on the phone in which I renewed my threats, Savage made some handwritten changes to the document and faxed it to me again... I knew Savage had given me enought to work with so that I could use the statement in my review to make it appear as though she had recanted the story, which in fact she had not.

...I next set out to blow away the Mayer and Abramson story that Thomas had been a frequent customer of an X-rated video store near Dupont Circle, called Graffiti, where in the early 1980s he was alleged to have rented X-rated videos of the type that Hill claimed he had discussed with her in graphic terms. In the hearings, Thomas had pointedly refused to answer questions about his personal use of pornography other than to categorically deny that he had ever talked about porn with Hill. The Graffitti story was another theretofore unknown piece of evidence for Hill's case, and it was a powerful counterpoint to the prudish image of Thomas presented by supporters like Armstrong Williams and repeated by me in The Real Anita Hill. Now that Mark had opened up a channel directly to Thomas, I asked him to find out for me whether Thomas had owned the video equipment needed to view movies at home in the early 1980s. Such equipment was not then as commonly used as it was in the mid-1990s, and I figured if I could assert in the review that Thomas had no way of watching the movies, the matter would be settled definitively.

Mark came back with a straightforward answer: Thomas not only had the video equipment in his apartment, but he also habitually rented pornographic movies from Graffiti during the years that Anita Hill worked for him, just as Mayer and Abramson reported. Here was the proof that the Senate investigators and reporters had been searching for during the hearings. Mark, of course, was still a true believer in Thomas's innocence. He couldn't see the porn rentals as at all significant. To Mark, Hill was still a liar despite suggestions to the contrary. But I had some distance from Thomas and I was troubled by the damaging report. It made Hill's entire story much more plausible. I can still remember exactly where I was sitting when Mark let me in on what had to have been one of the most closely guarded secrets within the Thomas camp, a secret, no doubt, that had been kept for three years among Thomas's most trusted advisers.

It was at this moment that Brock finally admitted to himself just how low he had fallen to be part of the hard-right crowd:
...I was no better than the Arkansas Project brigade after all. The strange lies were mine. All the attacks, the hateful rhetoric, the dark alliances and strange conspiracies, an eye for an eye, nuts and sluts, defending Pinochet, throwing grenades, carpet-bombing the White House, Bob Bork, Bob Tyrrell, Bob Dornan, Bob Bartley, Bob Barr - it all led right here: I lost my soul.
Brock has been working on getting his soul back ever since, and running Media Matters is part of that project.

This is important stuff. But one of the most memorable parts of the book has to be this portrait of Laura Ingraham:
I hadn't known of Laura's antigay past at Dartmouth, where along with her then-boyfriend Dinesh D'Souza, she had participated in the infamous outing of gay students, who were branded "sodomites," until I cringed as I read about her Dartmouth Review exploits in a 1995 profile in Vanity Fair. To make matters worse, I was quoted in the piece saying that Laura was unreservedly accepting of homosexuality, which in my presence she always had seemed to be. On more than one occasion, I had taken her barhopping along the gay strip in Washington, where she seemed to have a blast. Inevitably though, as we drownded ourselves in more and more alcohol, the evening would take a ghastly turn. One night, after downing several cocktails and snorting an unidentifiable white powder an acquaintance had given me - which turned out to be the cat tranquilizer Ketamine - I was sick in the bathroom for several hours trying to get my bearings as Laura, in a drunken stupor, crawled through the packed two-story dance club on her hands and knees looking for me. Her purse had been locked in my car trunk, causing her to call a friend in the wee hours of the morning to rescue her. In the meantime, she had managed to leave me a series of violent messages, threatening to "break every window in my house" if I didn't return the keys immediately.

David Brock is a regular guest (usually Wednesdays) on the Al Franken Show.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How did I become a Republican?

I don't know what's going on. I've gotten two voicemails from some New York congressman saying that he wants to recognize me as some kind of Republican pioneer - I ignored them figuring it must have been a mistake. Then I just got a Grassroots Survey from Dennis Hastert commissioned by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

I've checked my financial records and don't see any signs of identity theft where somebody donated money to the Republicans in my name. I certainly never deliberately gave Republicans money. Is this some rightwinger's joke? Did somebody donate in my name with their own money as a prank?

Oh well, I'll fill out the survey and send it back. Although I imagine my answers are going to skew the results.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sale at K-Mart

Bob, my pal and clinic defense partner loved this joke so much, you can hear both sides complaining about it in this video clip.

Friday, July 14, 2006

My husband sucks, but he can't help it - nature made him that way

What is it with women who write for the NYTimes? Poor Daphne Merkin can't find a daddy, Maureen Dowd blames feminism for dating woes - although claims she herself has a great social life - then Amy Sutherland writes an article about what a jerk her husband Scott is When she objected to some stuff he did "he'd drive faster instead of slower; shave less frequently, not more; and leave his reeking bike garb on the bedroom floor longer than ever." In other words, no bitch was going to tell Scott what to do.

Sutherland's answer to her husband's deep-seated hostility and aggression was to try to train him to behave reasonably and with consideration using animal-training techniques.

Sutherland didn't come out and say her husband couldn't be expected to treat her wishes with consideration due to the fact, detected by evolutionary psychologists, that men are just like that, but she used the language of evolutionary psychology, explaining that:
The exotic animal known as Scott is a loner, but an alpha male. So hierarchy matters, but being in a group doesn't so much

Maybe Judith Warner noticed that Sutherland's article has been the Times's first or second most-emailed article for about two weeks now, and wanted a piece of that action, which is why she wrote an article confessing that her husband treats her with contempt:
On Sunday night, though, as I read The Times’s laid-back-boys-on-campus piece — while simultaneously giving a bath, putting away laundry and writing a week’s worth of columns in my head — the colorful image of sarong-clad men and women suddenly lodged itself inside my mind. It seemed to have some kind of great significance; column potential. So I raced to share it with Max, who was having a little lie-down on the couch, having done some very tiring driving earlier in the day.

As I began to talk, his fingers reflexively felt for the TV remote, trying — and I really don’t think this was conscious — to turn me either down or off. When this proved fruitless, he resorted to words: “interesting,” first, then “work on that” and, finally (TV volume rising now) “Sounds great — get to it!”

Warner's husband wants to make sure she knows that no matter how big a hoity-toity famous writer for the NYTimes she is, he's more interested in watching TV than hearing about her work. No bitch is going to take up HIS TV time.

Warner doesn't claim that scientists have found a biological reason for why her husband is such a creep, but she expects they WILL find it soon:
The pattern of selective male laziness and female frenzy that begins among young men and women in college persists long after graduation. Someday soon, I am sure, an evolutionary biologist will teach us how all this is hard-wired — and why it is worthwhile.
Of course Warner immediately assumes that the cause is biological, not social. Notice that Warner doesn't attribute her husband's attitude to their relationship. No, it turns out that her husband, as a man, is naturally "lazy" while she, being female, is of course in a female frenzy. This is not about Judith and Max, it's about the supposed essential natures of men and women, and Judith's and Max's personalities happen to be a perfect match for these alleged universal male/female traits.

Both Warner and Sutherland seem to believe that their marriages are just swell. They sound like awful relationships to me, even though Sutherland, at least, tries to present alpha Scott as having traits that make up for his incredible screw-you attitude. After all, he does do an hysterical rendition of a northern Vermont accent. How many men even know there is a "northern Vermont accent?" That's gotta outweigh all kinds of obnoxious, risky, selfish behavior.

When organizations like The National Marriage Project wring their hands and search for reasons for why women are increasingly uninterested in marriage, they have no further to look than the NYTimes. If intelligent, accomplished women are fed shit by their husbands and call it chocolate eclairs, what the hell's the point? Who needs to spend time with someone in your off hours who responds to your request to pick up stinking clothes by picking them up LESS, as alpha Scott does; or who makes no secret of the fact that he'd rather watch TV than listen to his accomplished wife talk about her interesting ideas, as lazy Max does? And I'm sure that the Judith/Max household can afford Tivo, so there's NO excuse for that behavior.

Judith, Amy, please: sooner or later, even evolutionary psychology will no longer be sufficient to keep you from realizing that the person who swore in public to love and honor you now treats you like a buzzing gnat or insubordinate household help. Sooner or later your resentment and self-respect are going to assert themselves and you'll be forced to admit that you and he aren't really gender archetypes acting in a script authored by natural selection after all. Someday, maybe, even your power to get back at your husband by portraying him as a jerk to an audience of millions will not suffice.

Permanent link

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Plame & Wilson sue Cheney

Ex-C.I.A. Officer Sues Cheney and Others Over Leak

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby of participating in a ''whispering campaign'' to reveal Plame's CIA identity and punish Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.
The lawsuit accuses Cheney, Libby, Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials or political operatives of putting the Wilsons and their children's lives at risk by exposing Plame.

OH Yeeeeahhh! It's Watergate time for the Bush crime syndicate!

Expect the Bush Admin to attack the judiciary more than ever now.


My dealings with the Copyright Office to date:


submitted via the Copyright Office's web form 7/6/2006:

Why doesn't the Copyright Office ask for proof of authorization for derivative works? Someone registered a derivative copyright on my play, TAM LIN, without my authorization and then used it as the basis for a very expensive lawsuit against me for violating this unauthorized copyright when I produced the original work.

I noticed that the derivative work copyright registration form doesn't even ask for the name of the author of the original work, much less proof of authorization.

Why doesn't the Copyright Office do a better job of protecting authors of original work from unauthorized derivative work copyright registration?

Nancy McClernan

From: Copyright Information []
Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 8:53 AM
To: nancy@
Subject: Re: derivative copyright

Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. The owner is generally the author or someone who has obtained rights from the author. Anyone interested in a work who does not know the owner of copyright may search the records of the Copyright Office. Or, the Office will conduct a search at a fee of $75* per hour. For further information, request Circular 22, "How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work."

Among its other functions, the Copyright Office serves as an office of record, a place where claims to copyright are registered when the claimant has complied with the requirements of the copyright law.
We are glad to furnish information about the provisions of the copyright law and the procedures for making registration, to explain the operations and practices of the Copyright Office, and to report of facts found in the public records of the Office.
However, the Regulations of the Copyright Office (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 37, chapter II) prohibit employees from giving specific legal advice on the rights of persons, whether in connection with particular uses of copyrighted works, cases of alleged domestic or foreign copyright infringement, contracts between authors and publishers, or other matters of a similar nature.

Many requests for assistance require professional legal advice, frequently that of a copyright attorney. Your local bar association may be able to recommend a copyright attorney.

**************IMPORTANT NOTE**************
As of July 1, 2006, most filing fees are $45 per application.
For other fees, please see:

Copyright Office
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave SE
Washington DC 20559
(202) 707-3000


From: Nancy
Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 3:05 PM
To: 'Copyright Information'
Subject: RE: derivative copyright

You did not answer my question. I wasn't asking for legal advice, or for an explanation of copyright laws.

I thought my question was pretty easy to understand, but maybe not, so let me rephrase.

WHY doesn't the Copyright Office's derivative work copyright registration form ASK for proof of authorization?

Please answer that question, or explain why you can't answer that question.

That has nothing to do with legal advice and everything to do with the practices of the Copyright Office.

I've already BEEN through courts, and forced, at GREAT EXPENSE, the registrant of the unauthorized copyright to cancel his ill-gotten registration. The case was Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions tried on April 24 - 26, 2006 by Judge Lawrence Kaplan in the US Southern District Court in Manhattan and my attorney sent you all the materials needed to support the cancellation. Why hasn't the cancellation of registration PA-1-254-494 gone through yet? I still see it listed in your database.

But the point is I never should have had to do it. Every single copyright owner can find themselves in the same position as I - if they are lucky enough to afford the court costs - because of the failure of the US Copyright Office to protect their rights.

The Copyright Office's statement: "Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work." is absolutely meaningless because the Copyright Office does exactly NOTHING to enforce it. There should be mechanisms to prevent the easy defrauding of the Copyright Office, and penalties for those who do defraud the Copyright Office.

The current situation is intolerable and has got to stop.

So please answer the question about the failure of the current derivative copyright registration form to demand proof of authorization of the owner of the original copyright.

Nancy McClernan

Monday, July 10, 2006


I blogged a couple of weeks ago that An Inconvenient Truth was the 7th-highest grossing documentary of all time. Well it recently surpassed Madonna to become number 4.

Here are the current rankings:

1 Fahrenheit 9/11 $119,194,771
2 March of the Penguins $77,437,223
3 Bowling for Columbine $21,576,018
4 An Inconvenient Truth $15,039,000

The #1 grossing documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 is going to be tough to beat, but Bowling for Columbine better watch its back. Michael Moore take note.

Why would a feminist wear high heels?

The typical stick-heeled high heeled shoes that the fashion industry insists that women wear are pointless and idiotic. I could maybe see wearing them if your partner has some kind of sexual kink involving such shoes - and then only if you're pretty sure you won't be walking around much in them - but other than that, what's the point?

In her annoying, typically light-weight review of Katha Pollitt's latest book Virginity or Death! Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette, complains that mean old Katha is too strident because she expresses distate for such shoes. Cox says:
But there’s a world of difference between choosing to wear heels that require foot-soaking and choosing to cut your toe to fit your shoe.

But the difference is degree, not kind.

Other then some kind of iron-clad traditionalist aesthetic that causes you to be utterly incapable of shaking the idea that mincing around on your tip-toes is the pinnacle of beauty, or being a slave to the fashion industry, what possible reason is there for any woman, much less any feminist to wear stick-heeled tippy tap shoes for walking around in? It makes NO SENSE AT ALL.

So Pollitt objects to high heels and Cox calls her strident. Anybody who doubts Cox's fundamental anti-feminist position should think about that for a moment. "Strident" is an absolute cliche of anti-feminist rhetoric. And to use it in reference to a reasonable and relatively low-keyed writer like Pollitt (who once suggested I tone down my rhetoric when I cc'd her on an email) is simply Cox's way of upholding the grand anti-feminist tradition of characterizing ALL feminists as "strident."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Einhorn's nonsense

I see that Edward Einhorn has written his own piece about the case of Einhorn v Mergatroyd Productions, and predictably, it's full of bullshit.

To begin with the first paragraph:

Recently, I was involved in a drawn out and highly publicized dispute between myself and Mergatroyd Productions over my direction of a stage play entitled Tam Lin. The dispute centered around the concept of a director's copyright. Mergatroyd had fired me the day before the opening of the play and then used, I contended, the blocking and choreography I had created for the play without paying me for my work. Judge Kaplan's final decision avoided the question of copyright, awarding me money for the implied contract we had instead—that I would be paid, and that Mergatroyd Productions would be able to use my work. This made the copyright question moot.

The judge actually agreed with Mergatroyd Productions. We never said we wouldn't pay Edward Einhorn - we told him, both in person and via email that we would pay him. The issue was that Edward Einhorn wanted the full $1000 that we originally offered. But since we had to fire him for the good of our show, and since he then tried to sabotage the production through an email to the cast and crew, we felt he didn't deserve the full amount.

And JUDGE KAPLAN AGREED WITH US - awarding Einhorn $800 - LESS than what Einhorn demanded. Actually he tried to extort $2000 out of us, by serving us a cease and desist letter from David Einhorn, his brother. Eight hundred dollars was very close to what we were prepared to pay Einhorn, had he deigned to negotiate with us instead of pulling his bullshit copyright scheme, in the words of Judge Kaplan "aided and abetted by" his brother. So this incredibly expensive lawsuit was really over a couple of hundred dollars, David Einhorn's lack of professional ethics, and Edward Einhorn's gigantic ego.

And of course the argument for a director's copyright is flawed from start to finish. I'm currently working on an article about the Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions lawsuit, complete with transcripts from the trial for the Dramatists Guild's newsletter. Then I'll be posting an expanded version here, with additional gory details like the Village Voice's article about the trouble that playwright Richard Foreman had with Edward Einhorn (scroll down to "Disobeying the Foreman.") In private correspondence, Foreman told me that he always thought Einhorn made a mess of his (Forman's) plays, which is why he told Einhorn on a Manhattan street corner one day that he'd prefer that Einhorn never direct his plays again. Unfortunately, I didn't know about Foreman's experience with Einhorn until after we hired Einhorn, and Einhorn proceeded to make a mess of my play.

Einhorn agreed to cancel his ill-gotten derivative copyright on my play TAM LIN, although I see that it's still listed in the Copyright Office's database. I recently wrote to the Copyright Office asking them why they are so lackidaisical about confirming whether or not an author of an original work has authorized a derivative work. I will report their response (or non-response if it comes to that) here.

It was on the basis of his fraudulent derivative copyright registration that Einhorn sued me for producing my own work. If the Copyright Office had been doing its job, Einhorn would never have been allowed to register his bullshit "blocking and choreography" script.

Einhorn admitted on the stand that the copyright registration was a scheme he and his brother devised to extort money from Mergatroyd Productions (wait until you read the transcript.) But the Copyright Office's weakness will be there for unscrupulous attorneys like David Einhorn to exploit until people speak up.

More once the article is complete...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hang on Stevens

A message to the liberal-moderate members of the Supreme Court via the Al Franken Show blog.

Performed by Mike Ruekberg and 2 Tickets 2 Paradise, with lyrics by Ben Wikler.

Now if only I can get a copy of the Paul Krugman theme song.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Has This Country Gone Completely Insane?

The rightwingers must be chortling for joy over this incident:

"You can’t be in here protesting," officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.

"Well, I’m not protesting, I’m having a cup of coffee," I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists.

Flipping his badge open, he said, "No, not with that shirt. You’re protesting and you have to go."

Beginning to get his drift, I said firmly, "Not before I finish my coffee."

He insisted that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one more approach to reason. "Hey, listen. I’m a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I’m sitting here not talking to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I’m not protesting and you can’t kick me out."

"You’ll either go or we’ll arrest you," Adkins threatened.

"Well, you’ll just have to arrest me," I said, wondering what strange land I was now living in.

You know the rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility’s security office past people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights, searched, and written up.

via Ann Bartow at Sivacracy

Monday, July 03, 2006

NEWSFLASH: Ann Coulter has no ethics

Wolcott links to a NYPost article pointing out that Ann Coulter is a massive plagiarist. Wolcott takes Jonathan Alter and others to task for appearing on TV with Coulter and he's so right:
Confronted with a serial plagiarist, commentators often attempt a jackknife dive into the murky motives of the offender, trying to untangle the nagging compulsions that made the copycat risk his or her career by taking a heaping helping of other people's work. (Thomas Mallon's Stolen Words is probably the definitive book on the psychodynamics of plagiarism.) In Coulter's case, no dive is necessary, no onion-peeling of motives required. She is so devoid of character and psychology that any investigation would be superfluous. She's swiping other people's work not because she's trying to slip something past us but because she's sloppy, lazy, and arrogant. She just doesn't give a fuck. She's learned that the rules of journalism and public discourse don't apply to her, having cheerfully violated them so many times before only to be rewarded with the cover of Time, countless cable-news appearances, and bestselling success.

Who are the twisted freaks in the media who keep promoting Coulter's career? She IS a freakshow. Al Franken finally wised up and stopped appearing with her because she's just a bag of bluster and hate, with virtually no substance. And WHO are the creatures who like her? It's scary to think that they're out there running loose, disguised as human beings.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Is the NYTimes on an anti-feminist crusade?

Smirkette Cox (left) would like to replace Smurfette Dowd as the lone female in the New York Times Op Ed hive colony.

It seems like you can't read the NYTimes anymore without discovering yet another article attacking feminists. Whether it's the shameless Smurfette Maureen Dowd pushing anti-feminist stereotypes, to David Brooks giving women typically idiotic advice like have children young and start your career at 40, to the relentless promotion of evolutionary psychology aimed at keeping women in their proper place through "science" from John Tierney and Daphne Merkin, the Times appears to be a serious feminist hater.

From Pandagon comes news of yet another attack on feminism, in the guise of a book review by the smirking Ana Marie Cox, formerly known as Wonkette. She should be called Smirkette now. It's utterly appalling that they would give a review of Katha Pollitt's latest book, Virginity or Death! to a second-rate gossip columnist like Cox.

I'm convinced that Cox is trying to position herself as a replacement for Dowd in the "woman columnist" slot in the Times' Op-Ed section by becoming a clone of Dowd - shallow, obsessed with being popular with the kewl kidz, and a feminist basher while freely enjoying the fruits of the hard work of feminists. Of course Cox has always been shallow and obsessed with popularity, so it's a cinch for her to fill Dowd's pointy-toed, 4-inch heel tippy tap shoes.

It's significant that Cox would bash Katha Pollitt - Pollitt should be the replacement for Dowd in the "woman columnist" slot. She's a better thinker AND writer than either Cox or Dowd, and if the Times insists on limiting female op-ed voices to a single representative, it should pick someone who isn't an embarassment to womankind.

Life is...

Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
-- Horace Walpole

And a farce by the Marquis de Sade for those who think and feel.