Further Muppet Resistance

by Kieran Healy on March 12, 2006

A while back I noted the “disquieting resemblance”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/01/02/separated-at-birth between the Emperor Gorg (of “Fraggle Rock”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009RQSSW/kieranhealysw-20/104-7889918-1956712) and L. Ron Hubbard (present whereabouts unknown). Now my sources have alerted me to “this clip”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sH42MMepT4&search=muppet from the short-lived “Muppets Tonight”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muppets_Tonight. The premise of the clip is a look back at “The Kermit Frog Club,” like the Mickey Mouse Club but with Kermit as the object of devotion and guest Cindy Crawford in the Annette Funicello role. (The MMC is outside the range of my pop culture: I have no idea what I’m talking about here.) Anyway, of interest are the muppet Frogsketeers, whose names are emblazoned on their shirts: along with Cindy, there’s Newt, Stu, and … L. Ron. Now that I look at the screenshot again, Newt’s crop of hair is also somewhat “evocative”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt_Gingrich.

I “mentioned”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/03/07/michael-moore-to-edit-economist/ a few days ago that Paddy Power had opened a book on the race to succeed Bill Emmott as editor of the _Economist_, and suggested that depending on liquidity, there was a fair amount of scope for manipulating the results. I’m sorry to report that my speculations were “bang on the mark”:http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8210-2076421,00.html.

bq. Paddy Power, the bookmaker, has been offering odds on the new editor, to replace the departing Bill Emmott. Several punters this week started to put large sums ranging up to £500 on Ed Carr, the business and financial editor, at 6-1. The bookie yesterday suspended all bets, after even more tried to open accounts. Any of them e-mails with “theeconomist” somewhere in the address? “We haven’t seen anything quite that unsubtle. They’re more intelligent at The Economist. Mind you, when we ran a book on the editor of The [Daily] Mirror . . .”

The Economist‘s journalists have always been quite keen on the “predictive”:http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3400241 “power”:http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5244000 of betting markets. Nice to see a few of them put their money where their mouth is. In other news on the race for the prize, I hear that “Clive Crook”:http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5244000 is now a hot contender, and “Chris Anderson”:http://www.thelongtail.com/about.html is climbing up that long tail. Not that you’re able to bet on either of them now, but still.

David Brooks has discovered Annette Lareau’s book Unequal Childhoods. Through the miracles of modern blogging those of you who missed the column can read it in the body of Laura’s post on it. If, like Laura, you’re unnerved in some way by Brooks’s interpretation, don’t let that put you off the book. He is right about several things, the main one being that the book is brilliant, and should be read by just about anyone interested in family life. If you’re a teacher of poor children it will help you understand what’s going on in the children’s lives; if you’re a teacher of wealthy children it’ll probably confirm what you already know. If, like me, you’re a parent, it’ll help you reflect on your own situation. I don’t do anything radically different because of reading the book, but there are several ways in which I treat my children somewhat differently; in particular giving them more unsupervised time, and being (even) less interventionist when they are at odds with each other which, as if by magic, is much less often.

So what does Brooks get right?

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Copyright Contraction

by John Holbo on March 12, 2006

I have a question for lawyers. Would it be possible simply to repeal copyright extension? Could Congress just repeal the Copyright Extension Act of 1998, for example, placing many works in the public domain with a stroke – and letting the mouse out of jail, etc.?

The main concern is that repeal would be a ‘taking’, under the 5th Amendment: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” This would make such a repeal prohibitively expensive. But would it be a taking? That’s what I’m asking. What are the precedents in this area? I’ll spare you my untutored, a priori thoughts about this question. But I would like to focus the question a bit more, if I may. The relevant bit from Article I is brief to a fault (or virtue, as you like): “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” I realize that giving people rights – especially rights they can sell – amounts to giving them a kind of property. But Congress can always legislate to provide benefits, ergo rights to benefits, that can later be repealed. Is copyright different? I am curious what precedent there is. One (very legally naive) argument against the ‘takings’ reading would be this: if copyright is regular old property, copyright extension – which deprives the public of its property – is a taking. The right to copy, which I am going to get in 20 years is already my property, just like a trust fund that will only starting paying out in 20 years is already my property. Since apparently taking this from the public isn’t a legal taking, copyright isn’t regular old property, and repealing copyright wouldn’t be a taking. I realize this is dubious.

I also realize the argument could be made that it would be imprudent of Congress to extend copyright, then turn around and contract it. Such inconsistent shenanigans would deprive copyright holders of confidence. But no one denies that Congress has the right to make some dumb laws. (The Copyright Extension Act of 1998, for example.) Let’s just discuss whether it would be strictly possible to contract copyright without compensation to holders.

Milosevic is dead. Hooray?*

by John Quiggin on March 12, 2006

Like John Howard, I won’t be shedding any tears over Slobodan Milosevic, whose death in prison, apparently from natural causes, has been announced.

An obvious question raised by his death is whether (and how) his trial on a variety of war crimes charges could have been accelerated. The fact that he will never be properly convicted is certainly unfortunate. Even if it would have had no short run impact on opinion among Serbian nationalists, it would have helped to set the historical record straight. Milosevic’s death increases the urgency of capturing his main instruments, Mladic and Karadzic, whose connection to the crimes of the Bosnian war is more immediate, and whose trial could drive home the evil of Milosevic’s policies.

Still, the long, and now abortive, trial in The Hague is better than the alternative on offer in Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein, whose wars cost millions of lives, is being tried, and may be executed, for a comparatively minor crime, but one which is politically convenient for the purposes of victors’ justice.

* An adaption of the headline of the Sydney Telegraph on the good news of 5 March 1953.