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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
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for December 2007

 


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A Moody Evening

We spent yesterday evening at the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights on Galveston Island. On some level, it was fun... pure kitsch, but fun.

Here are my pictures of it. As you can tell, I really haven't learned how to take pics outdoors at night with the 20D, but you'll get the idea. If you're viewing from a dialup, please advance the viewer manually; pressing Start and letting it go as a slideshow is advised only if you're on broadband.

Steve
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RIAA Goes Completely Crazy

You knew it was bound to happen:

It's the last IT Blogwatch of 2007: in which the Recording Industry Association of America is loved by precisely nobody (not even the artists it claims to represent). Not to mention a 50 ft. Hungarian bird...

Marc Fisher reports:

In an unusual case ... the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further ... [the RIAA] maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer ... Whether customers may copy their CDs onto their computers -- an act at the very heart of the digital revolution -- has a murky legal foundation, the RIAA argues. [more]

     ...

(Bolds original.)

IT Blogwatch follows up with quotes from a half dozen other tech industry observers who are almost unanimous (with one dissent) that the RIAA is cutting its own throat by announcing that it will sue its customers for an activity that is, by general agreement, legal under current copyright law.

There's something fundamental the RIAA appears not to understand: music exists independent of medium. The CD that contains the music is not the music. And the purveyors of music through media other than those shiny discs in pretty jewel boxes are moving away from draconian requirements on use after purchase. DRM-free music is now available from a couple of major vendors, and Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins notes a couple of examples of evidence that the RIAA itself may be on its way down:

EMI to Cut RIAA Funding
In late November, EMI, in an attempt to figure out ways to save money so that they could return their company to profitability, announced that they’d be “substantially cutting their funding to industry’s trade bodies.”

Music Group Going Belly Up
A couple days after EMI announced their disappointing financial results for the year, Warner Music Group announced that they made less than half the amount of money that Radiohead did for the year. The cause? A significant portion of the proceeds from artist creativity went directly to suing the customers by way of contributions to the RIAA. A couple days before the disappointing financial results were announced, WMG CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. finally came to the realization that it was a mistake to go to war with the consumers, and publicly said so.

(Hopkins offers another example you may find entertaining.)

Look: I can understand suing someone who is regularly, unapologetically stealing from you. But RIAA's suing of people who legally purchased a CD, just because they ripped a track to place it on their .mp3 player for personal use, is an act that shows all the business acumen of, um, well, of someone who sues his or her best customers. It is folly. Bonkers. Full-blown batshit crazy.

Regular readers know that I have stopped purchasing audio CDs except as gifts, in response to the potential legal complications (ahem) ensuing from even the most legally legitimate uses of that CD. Expect me to eliminate the "gifts" exception this year: do not ask me for a new audio CD as a gift. Forget it.

As to my own collection... I guess I need to say explicitly that I have never illegally downloaded any music... I declare it effectively complete. I've collected music recordings for four solid decades. The vast majority of those recordings were acquired by purchase in stores, often enough at new full price. In my last few years of collecting recordings, I switched to buying used CDs because of the cost (did you notice that brand-label CDs are among the few products that never went down in price after their introduction in the early 1980s, despite the development of new manufacturing technologies that would have made that easy?), but if I recall correctly, the RIAA and its army of lawyers is going after the used CD market as well.

Enough! If I have any spare money this year after paying for my medical insurance (yes, it went up again), enough to spend on musical entertainment, I'll save up a few CDs' worth and buy a concert ticket instead. At least they can't sue you for remembering a live performance...

(Oh no... I hope I haven't given the RIAA an idea..)


If the pictures from last night's Moody Gardens Festival of Lights turn out OK, I may be back to blog later in the day, but in case I am not, a very Happy New Year to all of you... 2008 is bound to be better than 2007 has been.

Steve
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Dems Look Good In Harris County

The Houston Chronicle's political reporter Alan Bernstein:

The final list of Democratic candidates for the March 4 primary, to be published late Wednesday, will show two or more contenders running against each other for Harris County judgeships that no Democrat has won since 1990.

And for the first time in almost as long, every Republican judge on the county ballot will have a Democratic opponent.

     ...

It's about damned time!

Bernstein examines a lot of reasons why Democrats have a chance at benches in Harris County in 2008, and asserts that it has more to do with changing demographics, party allegiance, the presidential year and straight-ticket voting, etc. than with judicial philosophy. He is probably right.

But it is the local GOP that started the partisan polarization of judicial races in approximately the early 1980s (as best I can remember). They ran commercials and print ads showing the assembled GOP candidates for judicial offices, ads which said, in essence, if you value your life and want to be tough on crime, vote for all the GOP judges. What can I say: it worked. Fear often does. And fear is what the GOP has to offer. Lately, it is about all the GOP has to offer.

In my independent youth, I split my ticket. I voted mostly for Democratic candidates for executive and legislative offices, but in judicial races (judges are elected in Texas), I read about candidates' qualifications and experience, and attempted to vote for the candidate I thought would be the best judge, regardless of party. I did the same with elected law enforcement officers, figuring that there should not be a Democratic or Republican way of enforcing the law. (I've certainly been wrong about that!) But that GOP campaign commercial changed my approach: after that, the burden of proof was on any GOP candidate to show that s/he was superbly well qualified. It takes only one side to render an election partisan. The GOP made its choice; I reacted.

This time, there are so many Democrats running that most judicial races have a primary contest. That is no bad thing. I've met enough local Democratic lawyers who have run for judgeships in the past to know that we have an abundance of well qualified candidates. Let people choose among them in the primary.

Thus I urge you, with no reservation whatsoever... do not vote for GOP judicial candidates. Vote for Democrats. (Vote for Greens or even Libertarians if you must; there are usually a couple of each running for judgeships.) But it's time to turn out the local GOP judiciary that has had a partisan headlock on our county for at least two decades. If we reach some reasonable party parity in the local judiciary, justice will be well-served.


Afterthought: I have often said that however frustrated I become with the Democratic Party superstructure at the national level, the local Democrats here, even when they run for nominally nonpartisan offices, are almost invariably the superior candidates from a liberal and/or progressive perspective. (E.g., local Dems are almost always, with very few exceptions, environmentally greener than the Green candidates I've spoken with... more knowledgeable about, and actively involved with, urban environmental issues.) This post is an example of the mental partitioning I must do just about every election. In local matters, I am unequivocally and unapologetically a Democrat. In national matters, I vote Democratic with a resigned grimace that never visited my face when I voted Democratic 16 or 20 years ago. It wasn't always this way, and I'd like to restore the respectability the national party once displayed in most of its actions.

Steve
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Offensive Headline From Washington Post

Here's the lede from the AP article:

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa could make or break a Democratic candidate on Thursday. The question is, who?

Reasonable enough, isn't it? The notion is well supported by history. Now here's the WaPo headline on that article:

Iowa Could Make or Break Democrats

One could make a reasonable argument that the Democrats are already broken... sometimes I make that argument myself... but this headline makes a false statement not supported by the article below it. I cannot believe this is accidental. Fuck you very much, WaPo.

Steve
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Cell Phone Ads

A few years back, William Shatner produced and starred in a series called TekWar, a largely uninspired and uninspiring future fiction effort. The only thing I really remember about it is a scene early in the first episode, in which people driving a vehicle somewhere in the SF Bay area (?) pass through "billboards" across the road, visible but not solid. Even in 1994, Shatner and others understood that someday, every aspect of our visual and aural space will be saturated with ads of one sort or another.

The latest target is cell phones. The concept is at least a decade old, but apparently implementation is now approaching. ABC News examines the targeting opportunities (how I detest being viewed primarily as an "opportunity" or, Dog forbid, a "target") and privacy concerns that delay widespread application of technologies that, in essence, already exist. At least two kinds of privacy issues emerge: cell phones can be used to determine where you are (you really didn't think the regulations were about locating you when you make a 911 call, did you?) and what you may buy from nearby stores. It's a very location-dependent, time-sensitive sort of data mining.

The first time I am interrupted by my cell phone delivering an ad, I'll... well, actually, that happened many years ago, when Sprint (no longer my carrier) texted me with an ad for some service they offered. So let me put it this way: the first time I start receiving two or more ads a month, I'll turn off the phone when I am not using it. And I'll simply empty my voicemail box unheard. I subscribe to cell phone service for my convenience. If the service becomes inconvenient, I'll modify my usage of it.

And if it becomes too inconvenient, I'll fucking drop my subscription.

There is a way a carrier can avoid losing me as a customer while nonetheless serving ads to my phone: give me unlimited full-featured wireless phone service for free. There is precedent, after all... broadcast TV works that way to this day. If I am to be interrupted with 10 minutes or so of ads a day, I want to be paid for it, in service if not in money. Otherwise, forget it. I lived for many years before I had a cell phone; if necessary, I can do that again. Fuck 'em if they abuse my good nature.

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Many Unhappy Returns Edition

The @#$% privatized USPS even tells you when to pack up your unwanted Solstice presents to be mailed back. "OK, children, it's Box Up Time..."



Steve
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Friday Sack Blogging

OK, so I'm posting this on Thursday, because I doubt I'll be staying up late tonight. Catherine's cat Lotus (an Egyptian Mau) is featured because I'm still having trouble getting good pics of Stella's girls with the 20D. Lotus, while not in any way a selfish cat (often quite the contrary), is nonetheless quite sure which sack of presents is hers:



I'm facing a dilemma. These shots really do look better when the JPEG compression is not as severe as it is in this post (40, I believe, and I at least can really see the degradation), but even with that compression, the file size is over 40k bytes. How many of you among my regular readers do NOT have broadband? How many of you have come to consider the site "slow to load" as I've increased the number and size (and sometimes reduced the compression) of the photos recently? I aim to please...

... most of the time. Political blogging, which I have not done for most of this week, will resume when I feel physically well enough to face the crap again, probably early next week.


(Off topic: I have noticed that the concern trolls are out on some of our sites' comment threads, demanding commentary on Bhutto's assassination. Honestly, I think analysis by bloggers other than regional experts is probably premature at this time, and news organizations do basic reporting better than we possibly can. Chill, folks.)

Steve
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Just Point-And-Shoot Me

Sigh. I just UPSed my Canon A95, the point-and-shoot camera, to Canon, presumably to have the CCD reattached (or whatever they do to it). It's not quite like sending the kid off to college for the first time, but I already miss the thing. If the problem is what I think it is, Canon will pay for everything including shipping.

After Christmas dinner at Kim Son, Stella headed to a movie with a friend; Catherine and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to take pictures along the bayou with our Canon 40D (hers) and 20D (mine). She was kind enough to teach me the basics of manual mode. Of course I'd read the books, but her push-this-button turn-this-dial know-how (which she does typically without thinking about it) helped me considerably. I can now take outdoor pictures competently (well, sort of) in manual mode. As I discovered last night, that ability doesn't automatically transfer to indoor photography, especially with flash. As Yoda said to Luke, we have much to learn, but contrary to what he said, I have plenty of time.

Stella had the one-day virus (or whatever) yesterday. Catherine has it today. I presume I'm next. Meanwhile, here are some pics taken with the 20D to entertain you.


Stella and Catherine after the Christmas feast at Kim Son (wow, great headdress, Catherine)...



They don't call Houston the Bayou City for nothing...



I understand why skyscrapers and airplanes make people nervous, but the shot below was dramatic enough that I decided to post it anyway.



Somewhere, over the rainbow, is the dandelion fountain...



Steve
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Oscar Peterson 1925-2007

Peterson died two days ago. He was one of the all-time great jazz pianists. From his NYT obituary:

     ...

Mr. Peterson was one of the greatest virtuosos in jazz, with a technique that was always meticulous and ornate and sometimes overwhelming. But rather than expand the boundaries of jazz, he used his gifts in the service of moderation and reliability and in gratifying his devoted audiences, whether playing in a trio or solo. His technical accomplishments were always evident, almost transparently so. Even at his peak, there was very little tension in his playing.

One of the most prolific major stars in jazz history, he amassed an enormous discography. From the 1950s until his death, he released sometimes four or five albums a year, toured Europe and Japan frequently, and became a big draw at jazz festivals.

     ...

I just barely missed hearing him live in Seattle a few years ago; he appeared with his trio at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley a few days after I left. At Jazz Alley, I heard Stanley Jordan instead (no complaints there!), but I regret never having heard Peterson live. Peterson was in some ways the heir of Art Tatum's tradition, and he acknowledged Tatum as an early influence, along with Teddy Wilson, Nat "King" Cole and others. But Peterson was his own man: an inventive improviser in a mainstream style, and a flawless technician unsurpassed by anyone I can think of.

Sometime today I'll drag out some recordings, starting with a rare and delightful encounter between Peterson and Stan Getz. We are fortunate, as the NYT mentions, that Peterson appears to have loved to record, and to tour, so many people were and will be exposed to his musical art. And he performed quite late into his life, notwithstanding some impairment from a stroke he suffered.

R.I.P. and farewell, Oscar Peterson.

Steve
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Truly Tasteless Season's Greetings

 
MERRY
CRISP
MOUSE!
 

... or whatever you say to each other in your Winter Solstice tradition. As I remarked the other day on Bryan's thread,

Here’s hoping that after you celebrate Solstice
You won’t need a bandage, a splint or a polstice.

We're celebrating with family and friends right here in Houston. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your holidays be all the colors of the rainbow.


(For the record, no mice were harmed in the making of this post. Indeed, it's been a long, long time since I've deliberately harmed any mice, and I'm pretty sure the same is true of Stella. You may get a different answer from Samantha and Tabitha, though.)

Steve
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The Sun Has Set - UPDATED

... on my Canon A95 point-and-shoot camera. This is one of the last few shots it yielded, taken tonight near the post office where my PO box lives. Now, almost everything works except the resulting images: all are a strange purple color, crossed with horizontal white lines. Sometimes, even while setting up for a shot, the display shows flickering random white lines reminiscent of a faulty 1950s television. This has happened a few times before, but now it is consistent. Here's that last shot, a shaky 12x zoom:



The A95 would reach its three-year anniversary in January. Whether to have it repaired... if that is even possible... is a subject for legitimate debate. Sentiment aside, there are much, much better point-and-shoot cameras available today, for slightly less money than what I paid for the A95. Searching the web reveals that not everyone is happy with the image produced by the A95, and as much as I've enjoyed using it, I have to count myself among its detractors in that department. Of course, I must remind myself that I'm comparing it to newer cameras: Canon, among others, yields better images in its more recent models.

Of course this puts a new perspective on learning the new used 20D. My skills with it are sorely limited. My skills are decent on the A95 point-and-shoot, but it no longer works. Repair? replace? ignore point-and-shoot and push myself to get better on the 20D, which of course cannot be carried with me in my pocket? I welcome your (polite) comments.


UPDATE: This appears to be Canon's problem, and they seem to be dealing with it responsibly. I hate to learn that others are having similar problems, but if my misery-loves-company attitude results in a fixed camera, I can't be too unhappy about it. I'll let you know what happens.

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Need a mattress? Good... got a mattress. Now... um... need a massage?



I was wandering my neighborhood, taking pictures of signs. The owner of Mattress & More, wearing an expensive suit, got out of his relatively new sports car and began haranguing me... Why was I there? Easy: it's my neighborhood; I've lived here for 13 years. What was I doing on his property? Ah... I wasn't on his property; I had both feet firmly planted on the city sidewalk. You are "violating my property rights," he said angrily. Well, no, I'm taking pictures from public property of objects displayed in public with the intent that they be seen. I offered to wait while he called the police, so they could explain to me (read: explain to him) what my rights were; he made no move to do so. The exchange went on in that manner. I refused to budge, but was unfailingly polite to the man. I told him I was his neighbor, introduced myself by name, and extended a hand... which he refused to shake.

This fellow had all the trappings, the look, of a "successful" retail businessman. But I have to wonder: if going onto his store property constitutes "violating" his property rights, how does he ever have a customer? This is also the first time I've ever had a small business owner turn down free publicity. It's not as if I were taking pictures of some copyrighted object, or of his person, or of his customers... it was his sign.

I cannot tell you not to trade with this fellow. All I can say is that if you decide to do so, I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did.

At Catherine's advice, next time, I'll carry a copy of the Photographer's Bill of Rights with me on my walk.

Steve
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What Mentality?

USA Today OnPolitics:

Rice: 'Ludicrous' to say administration has 'bunker mentality'

At the State Department this morning, Secretary Condoleezza Rice was asked about Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's assertion in Foreign Affairs magazine that the Bush administration's foreign policy has been characterized by an "arrogant bunker mentality" and go-it-alone approach.

The Associated Press is writing that Rice "denounced" Huckabee's comments.

     ...

Heh. I love the sound of GOPers squabbling in the morning. I have just one question...

Archie or Edith? (Surely Archie...)

Steve
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Friday Wise Old Cat Blogging

Tabitha veritably exudes wisdom...



Steve
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America, America

This flag in my neighborhood struck me as distressingly symbolic of our nation's condition...



Steve
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ChriFSMas Is Almost Here

Thanks to ellroon, who actually posted a serious article about religion writer Stephen Bates (not me) along with this picture. Ramen!










Steve
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Selected Links To Recent Posts

 
Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to.

20D-Railed - UPDATED

Steve
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Ten Senators Support Rule Of Law

Steve
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My Sincere Apologies

Steve
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Show Your Blog Space

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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Reid Explains Himself

Steve
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Kudos To New Jersey

Steve
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War On Terror Needs War On Error

Steve
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Holy Leg!

Steve
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Friday Unfamiliar Camera Blogging

Steve
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Wanda Adams Wins District D

Steve
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The Fandom Of Opera

Steve
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Search Engine Privacy

Steve
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Arctic Ocean Getting Warm Fast

Steve
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Headline Of The Day

Steve
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Old Doggerel. No New Tricks.

Steve
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Oh, Good First Amendment Violating Grief - UPDATED

Steve
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Spiders On Mars

Steve
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Nutjob-In-Chief Harangues Iran

Steve
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Not News To Some Of Us

Steve
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Tuesday Bonus Cat Blogging

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Book Cover Edition

Steve
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Friday Open Road Blogging

Steve
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Digby On Supreme Court Gitmo Case

Steve
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Vegetable Orchestra

Steve
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Cronkite: U.S. Must Leave Iraq

Steve
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Biden To Bush: Invade Iran, Get Impeached

Steve
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Keith-O Reads Tom-TO On Bill-O

Steve
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HPD To Use Unmanned Spy Planes

Steve
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Iran Stopped Nuke Work In 2003 - UPDATED

Steve
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A HUAC On The Head

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Village Edition

Steve
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