Sunday, January 28, 2007

Here's How the Other Half Lives, Mr. Arar

I don't normally get too personal with this blog, but today the Maher Arar story hit me in a way that was very close to home. There's something about this story that just seems to bring out the worst -- and the best -- in people. Glenn Greenwald, the blogosphere's best legal writer, did an absolutely bang-up job talking about the issue. I did some banging while talking about the issue with my family today, too, but the banging in question was more like my head exploding...repeatedly.

It went a little something like this:

I made the mistake of going over to a family gathering today and got in a huge argument with almost the entire rest of my family. Before the argument started, they were all talking about how, while it was good that Maher Arar had gotten some compensation, he'd gotten way too much compensation, and maybe a million dollars would have been fair, but ten and a half was way too much, and it's all just a bullshit political stunt of Harper's (agreed*, but it was one he managed to finesse quite well -- he got off easy). Someone raised the point that he'd gotten as much compensation as he had, they thought, precisely because he's a Syrian-born Muslim Canadian, and thereby requiring "special treatment."

I made the mistake of saying that I thought Maher Arar didn't get nearly as much compensation as he should have, on the grounds that the Canadian government lied to the US government -- the RCMP head in charge of the case perjured himself, either accidentally or on purpose while testifying against Arar and resigned in disgrace), whereupon Arar was kidnapped by US authorities (against his wishes and without the knowledge of the Canadian government, who thought he was going to be returned to Canada), and you know the rest.

The reason I think Arar got very little in the way of compensation is because as near as I can tell, "terrorist" is the new "pedophile." Go down for a rap like that, and your life might as well be over. (Incidentally, I happen to know someone who was actually framed on a pedophile rap by a parent with mental problems, and the list of things he just can't do is unreal.) So I don't think the comparison is really all that out of line. As far as I can tell, the RCMP, CSIS, DFAIT, and DHS basically ended Arar's career for him. I figure very few people would want to hire him for the job for which he's been trained now. The corporate rationale would probably be that he's "too controversial" to "fit" with the organisation. The down-deep rationale, in our profoundly closetedly bigoted society, is that half of everyone either won't remember that he was completely cleared (so he's, as my mom said, "that terrorist guy"), or else they won't care. My mom even said that he basically deserves what he got because "he must have done something to justify being on a watch list in the first place," and "he was in the US, and acting suspicious."

Aside: Money Talks, Bullshit (and Stephen Harper) Walks: I think that another economic rationale for paying him a hefty compensation is that they not only owe him for lost wages as a result of their screw-up, but they owe him for lost wages at the end of his career. Also, if they have, as I suspect, managed to end his career as a computer programmer, they owe him a reasonable sum based on a rational projection of his future income. This data is reasonably easy to derive; I could probably do a creditable job of it using and Google, in about a half-hour. (I'd need some time to crunch numbers since I'm dyscalculic.) Further, that's not even taking into account punitive damages (which ought, in this case, to be genuinely punitive, I think) or the dollar value (whatever that might be) of pain and suffering inflicted. The family's economic argument was that a person can (according to them) live entirely comfortably for the rest of their lives (even with three children) on a million dollars, so giving him a million dollars, so that he would live comfortably for the rest of his life, would have been fair. Or right, or something. (I would dispute the million dollar figure, since Arar is 34, and he has an awful lot of expected lifespan in front of him. Good god, Maher Arar is more or less my age. Jesus Murphy.) Nevertheless, that was their idea, and they were sticking to it.

(Mom: "Oh, he's laughing all the way to the bank." Me: "They threw him in a hole in the ground and tortured him for a year! Tell you what... If someone offered you a deal where they said, hey, we'll give you ten-point-five million dollars, but you have to let us fly you halfway around the world, throw you in a hole in the ground, and beat you bloody with electrical cables every day for a year, would you take it? I don't think so!")

The family's feelings were that because he is a Muslim and not Canadian-born, therefore he must obviously be a "suspicious person." Because he's obviously a "suspicious person," then it's basically okay that he was kidnapped to Syria and tortured, or if not basically okay, then not a major issue, and besides which, it was the Liberals' (as in the Liberal Party, for my American readers -- they're not, themselves, especially liberal) fault anyway.

My mom's major beef was also that because his case made it through the courts fairly quickly, it must be because he's getting "special treatment" because he's a minority. My mom was particularly adamant that he should have had to "wait his turn in the court system" and that it was a "crime" that other cases have been pending for a long time while his was resolved fairly quickly. The level of (wilful?) ignorance this reveals about the workings of the court system, and about legal cases in general, is mind-boggling.

She mentioned one particular case where a woman was accidentally killed in a drive-by shooting, and said it had been going on for 13 years now, and why did Maher Arar get "special treatment" to have his case resolved so fast? Interestingly enough, when I asked her about specific details of the case, she couldn't really tell me, but obviously it was really, really important. I asked if the RCMP had shot the woman and if it was an international incident, but she didn't see the difference between an official mistake and a garden-variety homicide.

Not only that, but in hindsight, I realise that there are all sorts of reasons why cases get held up. Maybe the discovery process was taking a long time. Maybe someone's been studiously avoiding the process server. Maybe a key witness has refused to testify. Maybe the police bungled the initial investigation. Maybe forensic re-evaluations have needed to be done. Maybe one or other of the parties filed a motion to postpone, for one reason or other. MMaybe there's a huge backlog of cases in that court jurisdiction for the particular court that has authority in those particular cases. Who knows?

Eventually, and through a long and complex process known as Conservative Argumentation Tactic #2 (when the liberal refutes your points, change the subject and/or move the goalposts), the conversation disintegrated into my entire family telling me that white people are the only group left that are discriminated against, and my dad saying that as a "White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant Male**, I would have a harder time getting a job than a black man," and my sister saying that only black people are really racist anymore, and the existence of the Million Man March proves it. But of course, she's not racist, right, and none of my family is racist, right? (Mom: "Some of my best friends are black. I work in a black woman's pocket for three months every year!")

I mentioned a couple of studies that were done, first the one where an identical resume was shopped around (5000 times!!), with a "black" name and a "white" name, and the resume with the "white" name got more call-backs, and the second one where white ex-convicts got more job offers than black men with no criminal records, and my sister said, "Yeah, well, I'd have to see that study." (As if my sister, who is a vocational/technical-college dropout with no social sciences background could really evaluate the validity and rigour of a study, phft!)

Then she called me an asshole for having an argument with people at my grandfather's birthday party, which probably wasn't smart, but I hate to see my family basically making racial slurs at people, and the whole rest of it. I can't help it. I was raised in a racist, conservative place, and blatant, in-your-face white supremacism (albeit couched in the nicest possible terms; it's not like my family would ever join a militia or a neo-Nazi group) drives me nuts.

Assholery: Who brought up the goddam subject in the first place, and started saying bonehead stupid thing piled on bonehead stupid thing? Yeah, if I were an easier-going sort of a person, and/or I hadn't had a couple drinks, I probably would have kept my mouth firmly shut and gone for a walk or something. Judgement error, and yes, assholery offenses on my part against domestic tranquility, but ferchrissakes, don't try to tell me white privilege doesn't exist. Especially when you're outright claiming that there's something special about being white in the first place. Why be a white supremacist (even a gentle suburban white supremacist) if there's nothing in it for you?

Aside: I Get Something Out of It, But I Try Not To Put Anything Into It: Even I realise that white privilege more than likely benefits me. I actually spend quite a bit of time thinking (and maybe even being grateful) for both white and having inherited class privilege. (I keep trying to figure out whether being white trumps being disabled, or whether being behaviourally middle-class trumps being white, in terms of where someone might sit in the power hierarchy, but the only answer I can come up with is "it depends on the situation, I guess.") I'm already dealing with enough problems, being a somewhat unusually intelligent female with a disability; I don't really want to know what it would be like to have to add racism to that, as well. If that makes me a bigot, I guess I'm a bigot. My apologies. I also say "inherited class privilege" because I grew up in an upper-middle-class type environment (albeit first-generation middle class, which is a different experience than coming from a family that has been middle-class longer), and so, despite having an actual income level that puts me economically into the proletariat (and there's an argument to be made that even though I work in "the professions," I have no managerial authority and thus am "working class" that way, too; I tend to support that hypothesis, for various reasons including the odious "work-for-hire"), I can adequately pass for a middle-class professional such that people frequently confuse me with one. (I even used to refer to myself as "a potsmoking punk posing as professional.") So there is that. I'm not unaware that this dynamic isn't fraught, but I'm working on it.

So there it is. Mr. Arar, when they ruined your life, they started a chain of events that basically will cause my entire family not to speak to me for weeks. Isn't collateral damage a beautiful thing? All of us who've been in the situation, great or small, can get together some September 11th one of these years (and I'll buy you a Coke), and we can all bitch about how nineteen guys -- that we never even met! -- driving airplanes in a foreign country still managed to fuck us over anyhow.


* Do read the link under there. Mike in Ottawa writes a memory-refreshing post about how, before the Commission of Inquiry released its findings, and before Harper was forced to behave like civilised folks because of his minority government (back when he was still the Canadian Reform AAlliance Party [yes!] Official Opposition), he and his people were convinced that Maher Arar was a terrorist, and were pissing themselves that the US would think they were "weak on national security" and so on. (You realise, Mr. Harper, that digital archives indisputably exist, and it is possible for you to be called on your words years later even if they didn't get captured on videotape, and not just by people who have pricey Lexis-Nexis subscriptions, right?)

** You could hear the capital letters. I'm not making this up.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

That's a Hell of a Deal!


If you got a deal whereby someone said to you, "How'd you like to make $10.5 million dollars? All you have to do is let us kidnap you out of an airport, fly you halfway around the world, turn you over to some sadistic despotic prison guards, and have you thrown in a hole the size of a grave and then hauled out on a regular basis so you can be beaten bloody. We'll give you one million and fifty thousand dollars a month for ten months if you let us. Sounds good, huh? Piece of cake, right?"

That's pretty much what Stephen Harper just did to Maher Arar. I hate to even say this, because it shouldn't be necessary to stroke someone's ego for doing the goddam right thing, but at least Stephen Harper had the minimal levels of decency (and shoe soles getting toasted from the judicious application of flame) to issue a public apology and offer compensation. (Rumour has that Arar's settlement package will also include a sum to cover his not-inconsiderable legal expenses.)

This is all well and good, since the RCMP (as well as CSIS and DFAIT) definitely fucked up by providing the US authorities with erroneous information, and so it's good that the RCMP Commissioner resigned in disgrace over the issue, especially as it seems he either deliberately or accidentally lied during his testimony.

Arar was originally asking for $400M in compensation, which doesn't actually seem so unreasonable to me. After all, when your home country's state security apparatus lies about you to another country, which means you get "kidnapped by persons in the employ of U.S. agencies acting under color of authority," flown to the Middle East and thrown in a hole in the ground and beaten bloody with electrical cables, and nobody even knows where you are for the longest time, I'd say you deserve a pretty big apology and enough compensation so you never have to worry about a damned thing ever again.

Even still, as he says in an interview (Andrew Sullivan has it, but I don't have a link), "They ruined my life." No shit. Ten and a half million dollars: Syrian-born Canadian-citizen computer programmers from Ottawa are a glut on the market these days, I guess.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Credo: It's Not About "Choice," It's About Rights

Today is "Blogging for Choice" day. Abortion has been legal in Canada formally since 1988(and covered by publicly-funded healthcare in all provinces except PEI), although it was originally decriminalised in 1976. The debate here, thank goodness, isn't really ongoing. Nevertheless, there are enough people out there who would like to see the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decision (the suit brought by what, in modern parlance, would be a "MRA") overturned, that I think it's worth posting about. This should have been a nonissue right from the get-go. That the "debate" dragged on here for over a decade is kind of disgraceful.

I Believe Because it is Not Absurd:

I believe in life after birth and before death.

I believe no one should be made to feel any way other than how they want to feel because they deliberately got rid of a tiny clump of cells, no more or no less than their own body may have (perhaps as much as 50% of the time).

I believe that no one has the right to determine what I, as a conscious, thinking adult, do with my own body against my will.

I believe that people who don't want abortions shouldn't have them.

I believe that people who don't want abortions should keep their ideology off my biology.

I believe that sex serves lots of important functions outside of procreation. If it didn't, nobody would have bothered before they figured out where babies came from.

I believe that natalism is like gender roles: bullshit.

I believe in abortion on demand, without apology.

I believe that "safe, legal, and rare" and similar sentiments pander to the mushy middle, who are easily swayed and don't pay attention to facts.

I believe I'd rather have science than religion swaying public policymakers; observations are easier to deal with than fuzzy-wuzzy "feelings" and "gut instincts."

I believe I may be the only actual baby-hating feminist harridan in the world, but I also believe I am profoundly grateful to all those people who came before me, who fought for women's rights, and what Amanda Marcotte calls "sexual justice," which means I have the freedom to be the only actual baby-hating feminist harridan in the world, instead of yet another desperately unhappy trapped housewife with too many unwanted kids and too few options.

I believe I'll have another Coke.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Vast Malarial Microclimate

I'm not much interested in pediatrics, per se, since my days of being a pediatric textbook case are long behind me, and I hope never to have to be involved with the stuff again, but a blogger called Neonatal Doc has a thought-provoking post up called Malaria that discusses an interesting resource allocation problem. Neonatal Doc notes in passing that the money used in keeping one extremely premature (26 weeks' gestation) baby alive, if reallocated differently, could prevent countless deaths in Africa from malaria, by providing insecticide-laced mosquito nets and medical treatment for infected people.

A lot of ND's commenters seem to miss the point -- he's not arguing that the money should be diverted, or even that it will be, he's just noting in passing that in this case, where you stand often (as always) depends on where you sit.

I quite liked the article, and the comments were informative, although rather tangential and oftentimes missing ND's point entirely. However, I can't completely give ND a pass (and I left a comment at his blog about this) for the first half of the very first sentence in his post, which was: Malaria is one of those diseases that has practically no significance in America, to which my response is simultaneously

...right now... and

There was a malaria outbreak in Bytown (Ottawa) in 1832 amongst workers on the Rideau Canal. This outbreak was apparently partially from a strain of infected mosquitoes that came with British engineers from the tropics, and partially from a native strain. According to this Encarta article, the last major North American outbreak of malaria occurred in the 1880s. Improved sanitation, swamp drainage, and the increasing use of pesticides put paid to it.

However...I've been watching what has been happening with insect-borne and emerging diseases in this area. Due to climate change, the ranges of various insects are moving northward. Species that once couldn't survive the cold winters here are now thriving. Combine that with ubiquitous and fast overseas travel from around the world, and is it really so farfetched to think that we could begin to see malaria in this area somewhere soon? Already there has been a localised outbreak in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Yes, it could happen here, probably in much the same manner as SARS. I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on tv), and I'm not an epidemiologist (even a barefoot one), but I think it's probably safe to assume that the native strain of malaria is eradicated, and I wouldn't want to speculate on the chances of reintroducing or re-evolving a plasmodium parasite that can live in our native mosquitoes (I think that's more The Reveres' line of work), but I also don't think it's completely unrealistic to think we might see a reappearance of malaria in North American temperate zones in our lifetimes, either.

Unfortunately, there are so many other pressing problems that it's unlikely we'll see some kind of plan put in place to deal with the contingency if and when it arises.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Spocktacular Musical Interlude

To continue with this blog's previous recent themes, may I present the following song parody, to the tune of "Kickin' the Gong Around" (lyrics only here):

Kickin' the Blogs Around

Down in Disneytown
All the flacks were sitting around
Some were high, and some KSFO
There were millions to be had
But someone said "It's bad,"
And there was good old Spocko

He was sweating and afraid
But a big noise he had made
He was broke and didn't have clout
He taped that awful sound
And then he stood his ground
Now hear all the bloggers shout:

Where is Minnie?
Bad old Minnie?
Has she been here
Kickin' the blogs around?

If you don't know Minnie
Her purse isn't skinny
And she gets her pleasure
From kickin' the blogs around...

Just tell her old Spocko
Was here and had to go
And as he departed
And got restarted
There was Minnie
Kickin' the blogs around...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Spocko Update

I've just posted my first entry at Spocko's Brain; please go check it out. Spocko would like you all to know he's having a little trouble getting the advertiser list out to everyone.

Also, if PayPal can get its shit together, there is now a donation button in the sidebar for Spocko's legal defence fund.

The list of advertisers (and it is quite a long list) is here, for those of you who might be looking for it.

Just Tell Her Klezmer Joe Was Here and Had to Go

As I mentioned in my last entry, I've been doing a lot of thinking about (and listening to) swing music lately, and prodding at the connections between klezmer and swing, as well as throwing in some odd bits about animated cartoons and whatever else.

A Minor Technical Note: I spent most of my teenage years as a fairly serious musician, if by "serious" you count rehearsing about an hour and a quarter, five days a week, learning to conservatory Gr. VIII theory, and learning how to write and arrange music. That said, I'm primarily a vocalist, not an instrumental musician, so some of the finer points of instrumental techniques (including modalities that incorporate chord change sequences) don't mean a whole lot to me, or at least not what they would mean to an instrumentalist, so I'm not going to get into a technical discussion of modalities and chord progressions -- for more information on that stuff, see the technical introduction to the Compleat Klezmer. This is also not meant to be a comprehensive musicological overview, more of an introductory-level glance at the topic.

Two Coincidences: In their history book-cum-sheet music collection The Compleat Klezmer, musicians and klezmer historians Henry Sapoznik and Pete Sokolow write about the confusion between some forms of jazz and klezmer
The circumstantial similarities which bind klezmer and jazz can be seen most clearly in the music and society of black New Orleans. In both cases, it was a brass band with a strong clarinet presence that characterized the style.

Sapoznik then goes on to mention similar socioeconomic factors which created an initial similarity between klezmer and jazz, while insisting that there was no structural overlap between early New Orleans jazz and klezmer. From a modern perspective, it's hard to distinguish between klezmer and jazz, because a certain blurring of the lines has occurred since the early 20th Century. The most common synonym for "klezmer" in the modern lexicon is "Yiddish swing," which is kind of a misnomer (most properly, "Yiddish swing" was a sub-genre of swing and not technically klezmer at all), an ironic turn of nomenclature, since the roots of the klezmer tradition go back in Europe to the middle 1600s. Compared to klezmer, jazz was a Johnny-Come-Lately, and the two genres didn't meet all that much.

By the 1930s and 1940s, though, that had changed. Many of the most notable swing composers (like Harold Arlen) and bandleaders like Benny Goodman) were themselves Jewish, and many of them had grown up in what Sapoznik calls the "second-generation klezmer" tradition in the United States. One of the most famous vocal swing pieces ever, "Bei Mir Bist Du Shayn" was recorded by the Andrews Sisters and became an overnight runaway hit. (No Yiddish-language song would ever chart so high again, although bandleader Ziggy Ellman took the klezmer piece "Der Shtiler Bulgar (The Quiet Bulgar)" and remade it into the swing standard "And The Angels Sing.") Besides the Andrews Sisters and Benny Goodman, another swing artist who (possibly coincidentally) promoted klezmer influences into the genre was Cab Calloway.

A Few Too Few Words on Cab Calloway: In all ways, Cab Calloway was an unusual performer for his time. He was a classically-trained musician (unfortunately born too early for the inauguration of the orchestral "blind audition"*) raised in Baltimore by two professional parents (his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher). (Also unusually, his older sister Blanche, who allegedly got Calloway into show business, was the first black female bandleader of an all-male band. She later formed an all-female big band.) In his discography, you can see a staggering number of "sides" showing a range of musical styles and varieties. A number of the tunes he performed were composed by Jewish composers, including some (like "A Bee Gezint" that were in Yiddish), and an interesting novelty piece called "Who's Yehoodi?" (sometimes spelled "Who's Yehudi?" or misnomered as "Who's Your Hootie?"). A "soundie" version starring bandleader Kay Keyser is here. (The latter is an interesting sonic pun, being as the title translates two ways -- "Yehudi" is both a Yiddish man's name and the Hebrew word for "Jewish" in the masculine grammatical gender, so the song title could be interpreted as asking "Who's Jewish?" Answer: The composers of the piece.)

Beyond finding Jewish-themed pieces in Calloway's repertoire, it's important to remember that Calloway "broke the broadcast colour barrier" thanks to two Austrian Jewish immigrants, Max and Dave Fleischer, who highlighted Calloway's music (as well as music by other notable black artists of the time) in their animated cartoons, most prominently his versions of "Saint James Infirmary Blues" in "Snow White" and "Minnie the Moocher" in the cartoon of the same name.

Musically speaking, several commentators, including Calloway's grandson, C. Brooks Calloway, have remarked on Calloway using "cantorial wailing" in his pieces, which apparently got him into a bit of trouble with one record label. From Heptunes' writeup on a version of "Minnie the Moocher" recorded 12/18/33, the page compiler remarks, "This version remained unreleased for many years because Cab wailed in the style of a Jewish cantor, which offended some people at the recording studio. Cab almost certainly did it because he liked the sound, and not in an effort to mock people."

Outgrowth and Outcome This combination of influence and influences suffused klezmer styles into mainstream popular music of the late 1940s, which even the "whitening process" to which early R&B and rock songs couldn't really eradicate.** Interestingly, traditional klezmer underwent a revival in the 1970s and 1980s, only somewhat later than British artists discovered (and remade) R&B (which was then reimported into North America). R&B was the lineal descendant of swing, which resulted in the genres currently being further apart than they had been in a generation, with no signs of a reconvergence.


* Blind auditions were a technique developed to help combat the bias towards white males in classical orchestral music. Once classical musicians began having their professional auditions hidden from the judges by a curtain, so that they were judged on the merits of their playing alone, the numbers of women and minorities in professional classical orchestras went up significantly.

** I am referring, of course, to the common phenomenon of a black artist releasing a single and almost immediately, a headlining white artist (such as Pat Boone) would record and release a cover version, oftentimes nearly identical down to the instrumentation, for consumption on (re)segregated radio. A later pioneer in integrating rock and roll was the late Alan Freed.


See Sapoznik, Henry, and Sokolow, Pete. "The Compleat Klezmer." Cedarhurst, NY: Tara Publications, 1987.


Supplemental Listening List

Kickin' The Gong Around, Cab Calloway (composed by Harold Arlen)
The Reefer Man, Cab Calloway
A strange video with the Andrews Sisters' recording of "Bei Mir Bist Du Shayn" as the soundtrack (put it on in the background and don't bother watching the visual, and ignore the sample glitch in the middle).
A March of Time feature short with Benny Goodman, Art Tatum, and Duke Ellington (the other great black jazz/swing musician who broke colour boundaries around the same time as Calloway).

Saturday, January 06, 2007

This Blog is Not All Spocko, All The Time

For what it's worth, I'm vaguely working on a post about Cab and Blanche Calloway, klezmorim, edgy Jewish composers of the 1930s and 1940s, "Yiddish swing," and animated cartoons. I just need to do a little more research and dig out my book on the history of klezmer. However, I don't yet have that done, so here's one more post with some information about Spocko's case. I gather that there's an official "blogswarm" going on, and I wouldn't want to miss out.

I know Spocko from becoming one of his "19 readers" and a semi-regular commenter over at his now-defunct (though, I hear tell, soon-to-be resurrected) blog. We've exchanged a lot of long e-mails and talked about each other's projects. It turns out we're in similar, although not identical, lines of work, and we've been able to bounce ideas off each other's heads quite often. It's not every day you get to have your own personal Vulcan to talk to, after all. That's a resource worth having. Not only that, but he's a really nice guy, as well. Near as I can figure, too, he actually gives a damn about helping companies keep their brand reputations, which is mostly what Spocko's motivations are about. Scurrilously capitalist of him, isn't it?

Bits and Pieces From the Tubes

Paul Lukasiak has mirrored the audio clips here.

Mike Stark has a call-to-arms post up about why and how to do this blogswarm, which appears at Calling All Wingnuts and DailyKos.

Scottish blogger Christopher Dallman of Deacon Barry retells the story of Spocko as a modern fairy tale here.

The Peninsula Press Club (serving the Bay Area) picks up the story: ABC Radio Silences Web site of KSFO Critic

And here's a Corrente post with audio clips, and info about Disney as "anti-Communist witch-hunter" in the comments...

And finally, here's the relevant statute from the US Copyright Office:
§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use38

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Stay tuned for more updates. I think it's only going to get hotter from here on in.

Video Killed The Radio Star

Here is a video some of the backup crew for Spocko have put together. You can find out more at Online BlogIntegrity.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Spocko Legal Defence Fund

Spocko's legal defence fund is now live! Also, I've just posted my first entry at Spocko's Brain; please go check it out. Spocko would like you all to know he's having a little trouble getting the advertiser list out to everyone.

Spocko's United Reserves Against Killing of Journalists and Liberals

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The More You Tighten Your Grip...

The More Spocko Will Slip Through Your Fingers!

Well, I promised I'd have something up on L'Affaire Spocko just as soon as I could. That wasn't actually as soon as Spocko had sent me anything, because I've been sick as hell with this nasty stomach bug for the last two days. I'm currently sitting here shivering and shaking and feeling like the Tazmanian Devil is dancing the hoochie-koochie in the pit of my stomach, but dammit, I have a deadline I have to meet, so I'm grinding away at the keyboard.

Anyhow, since I now have a long post from Spocko, which has also appeared in a featured diary on DailyKos, I'm going to put it up, possibly annotated and so on.

And now, for our Really Big Shew, here's Spocko!
ABC Radio Lawyer tells Spocko to Shut Up
[In my last entry, I called it a low-power "bunker buster nuke" version of a SLAPP suit. -- ?!]

Three days before Christmas I got a Cease and Desist letter from ABC Radio regarding my use of audio clips from KSFO radio hosts Melanie Morgan and Lee Rogers on my blog, Spocko’s Brain.

KSFO is a Disney affiliate whose radio hosts broadcast violent rhetoric directed toward journalists, liberals, Democrats, Arabs and Muslims all over the SF Bay Area and to the world via the Internet. I commented about the content of these host’s broadcasts on my blog and informed KSFO’s advertisers about what they were supporting by letting them listen to the exact audio quotes from the hosts.

Why the C&L Letter Now?

In mid-December I got confirmation that a major national advertiser, VISA, pulled their ads from the Melanie Morgan and Lee Rogers show, based on listening to audio clips I provided them. I also think that FedEx, AT&T and Kaiser are considering pulling their ads. Visa isn’t the first advertiser who has left KSFO, multiple advertisers have left the station, especially from the Brian Sussman show. In July of this year when KSFO lost MasterCard as an advertiser someone from KSFO "outed" me on a counter-blog (which I won’t link to) [The counter-blog is called Spocko's Vendetta. No link, because I'll be damned if I'm going to send those mofos any traffic. Don't click on wingnuts! --?!]. This same person has also threatened me with local and federal criminal action for using the audio (which I clearly used under the fair use portion of copyright law). And because they have suggested violence toward me (in addition to talking about suing me "for everything I have”) I have chosen to remain anonymous. [You can't check this because Spocko's blog is now down, but I will personally vouch for having seen the violent and inflammatory comments made by that person, and in fact, corrected them at length on the legal definition of "defamation," which they were apparently too arrogant or lazy (or both) to look up. -- ?!]

As Thers has said, 95 percent of blog fights don’t mean anything [It's the 5% that do that you have to watch out for. --?!], but I think this one does since KSFO is using the full weight and force of an ABC/Disney lawyer and copyright law against a private citizen blogger. I dared to use the audio content in question for nonprofit educational purposes (I don’t even have ads on my blog!), and thus under the protection of the Fair Use Doctrine set forth in Section 107 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.§107.

It’s about Money not Ideology

Talk Radio is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is also a regulated industry because the public gave the broadcast airwaves to radio stations. There are rules. First there are FCC rules with fines of $325,000 for obscene and indecent speech, thanks to the Christian Right. Interestingly, the radio union (which KSFO hosts hate so much) worked very hard to stop those fines from being directed to individual radio hosts. So the corporation will bear the burden of any fines. Next, there are guidelines at the local station level, the network level and the parent company level. So even if the inciting of violence and hate speech is ignored by the FCC, the continued violent rhetoric has been, and continues to be, approved at the station level (KSFO) the group level (KGO-KSFO) the company level (ABC Radio) and the parent company level (Disney). They are ALL aware of this speech, and because they have not acted in a meaningful way, they all are giving approval for it to continue.

No Management Action

When Keith Olbermann and Media Matters ran Melanie Morgan’s comments [In no small part, I think, because of the yeoman's work our Spocko has done in publicising Morgan et al and their speech habits. -- ?!] about "putting the bull’s-eye on" Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, management did nothing. Morgan did a jokey non-apology where she never even mentioned she used the term bull’s-eye.

I’m guessing Lee Rogers may have gotten a memo telling him to stop talking about burning people alive, torturing them and blowing their brains out, because on November 30th, he defiantly said to management and advertisers, "Nobody is gonna tell me what to talk about or not talk about or in what fashion on this radio program. It ain't gonna happen!"

ABC/Disney acted only when they lost revenue. Then they went after ME with a cease and desist letter.

Why me? I’m not the one saying journalists should be hanged, thieves should be tortured and killed, people should be burned alive, stomped to death or have their testicles cut off. I’m not the one saying that millions of Muslims should be killed on the presumption that they are extremists or just because they live in Indonesia. I’m not the one who says that lying is as natural as breathing to Egyptians and Arabs or demanding that a caller “Say Allah is a Whore” to prove he is not an Islamist. I’m simply documenting this speech and providing it to the people who are paying KSFO hosts on commercially supported broadcast radio.

They have Lawyers, Guns and Money. I’ve got a 5th tier blog and no money
[Technically, this is not true. Right now, Spocko has no blog and no money. But what he does have is space on a tenth-tier blog, and, more importantly, a tidal wave of publicity, and if he doesn't get a PayPal account so we can all start putting up links to it so we can contribute to his legal defense fund, he's going to get yelled at. -- ?!]

Because I and some other listeners hit right-wing talk radio in the pocket book, they are acting like wounded animals and brought out the big guns, Corporate Lawyers. Am I scared? Hell yes. They can easily squish me like a bug and tie me up in legal battles for the rest of my natural life (and Vulcans live a long time), not to mention that unlike KSFO radio hosts, I’m not getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and generating millions of revenue for a multibillion-dollar parent company. If I pursue this further I expect the next step is a “CyberSLAPP" suit.

I don’t want to consider the possibility of Morgan’s good friend Michelle Malkin deciding to publish my address and real name so that her minions can send me death threats or “white powder” in the mail. Chad Castagana, was charged with mailing more than a dozen threatening letters containing white powder to liberals. He got the idea from someone that journalists, liberals and democrats were the enemy and deserved to die. [Just like the rest of the right-wing eliminationist crowd. Incidentally, I mentioned to Spocko that he should be talking to David Neiwert of Orcinus, who has made a career out of documenting right-wing eliminationist rhetoric. As rhetoric is a subject near and dear to my heart, I'm quite a big fan, and I thought they were a natural fit. -- ?!]

Brian Sussman proudly poses with his handgun in KSFO publicity shots and says that he thinks that everyone should have the right to have a machine gun. Maybe I’m over reacting, why would they attack me? I’m not famous, I’m not an elected official, I tried very hard to be accurate about what THEY said BY USING THEIR OWN WORDS.

I tried to help companies protect their brands from being tainted with the violent rhetoric and anti-any-religion-but-right-wing-christianism speech. I wanted to help the VPs of marketing avoid being associated with Lee Roger’s “testicle talk” or Sussman talking about cutting off a finger and a penis of an Iraqi in his imaginary torture sessions.

It’s about Brands: All the Blessings, None of the Taint

I have found out that KSFO is sold to advertisers as "a Disney affiliate" with all the associated family-friendly connotations. [If you ever needed a clearer demonstration of the difference between the rhetorical terms "connotation" and "denotation" and why things like framing matter, you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to find it. -- ?!] So KSFO is getting all the benefit of the Disney name as well as the massive infrastructure of ad sales at the national level. Clearly ABC Radio doesn’t want KSFO hosts’ horrific comments to actually reach advertisers. Advertisers are kept in the dark so KSFO can benefit from the Disney brand glow (ABC Radio News creditability glow?).

Advertisers should be able to decide if they want to keep supporting this show based on complete information. We already know that management at ABC and Disney support these hosts, which means that the ABC/Disney Radio brand now apparently includes support for violent hate speech toward Muslims, democrats and liberals.

But instead of directing the hosts to refrain from violent rhetoric and hate speech, they go after the weakest person with the fewest resources. It’s cheaper and easier.

Bottom line: ABC/Disney is supporting and profiting from this violent speech, they should at least also accept any negative connotations or financial impact it might have to their image.

What can you do?

1) As El Gato Negro suggested, let’s distribute the audio clips of violent rhetoric and hate speech to multiple locations on the Internet so that the ABC/Disney lawyers will have to find and send cease and desist letters to ISPs with stronger policies than the nice people at 1&1.

2) Crank this up around the blogosphere, if you have a blog please post about this.

3) Let’s see if anyone in the mainstream media cares. Sadly they have a hard time writing about people who want them dead. I would think that at least the PUBLISHERS and MANAGEMENT at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Associate Press would want to at least defend their own journalists and photojournalists. To date only the LA Times has called Morgan out for accusing them of photojournalist misconduct..

Some members of the press HAVE covered this. When Joe Conason at Salon did a story about Morgan and KSFO [in which Spocko was mentioned -- ?!] he got called a hack by Morgan. When Todd Milbourn of the Sacramento Bee did a story about Move America Forward he got called a liar by Morgan.

4) Donate to groups who would defend bloggers, journalists and others that Morgan, Rogers and Sussman attack. Specifically I’m recommending you donate money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation [which has, incidentally, provided Spocko with some legal advice, so all the more reason to donate -- ?!], the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Media Matters.

You can also support the journalists who are doing their jobs and are threatened with death from talk radio hosts.

5) Write the advertisers of KSFO. I have a list of SOME of the advertisers who advertise on KSFO. Drop me a line at spockosemail @ and I’ll send you a link to an updated list.

As always, be polite, let them know what they are supporting and how it is impacting their brand in your eyes. They often times have their own stated values that they want to maintain, you may want to ask if their corporate values align with what is being said on KSFO (often times the hosts are the VOICE of their brand in the Bay Area, so it’s not just the fact that their ad is run right after some violent hate speech, but that the person who is reading their copy is the person who is spewing the violent rhetoric.)

I’m open to other ideas too.

I’d like to thank everyone who has written letters to advertisers, especially PTcruiser, BP and Zeno. Thanks to Interrobang and Blog-Integrity folks for the forum, and special thanks to El Gato Negro.


There you have it, folks.

I'd just like to reiterate to Internationale readers that if you do send nastygrams to any of the offending companies (and some of them are very offensive), be polite and professional. Thank you.

Update #1, 9:15 PM: In the comments thread at Eschaton, Ellroon posted a link to this entry, and also notes that Juan Cole has picked it up too!!

Update #2, 3:27 AM: A quick Google Blog search tells me that Zeno Ferox at Halfway There is running with this, as are Ripley at The Zen Cabin, the excellent Phila at Bouphonia, Little Rock AR radio personality Clyde Clifford at Beaker Street Blog, Duckman GR at The Duck Stream, David Austin TX at The Supreme Irony of Life, kelley b at Singularity, the incomparable Avedon at The Sideshow (Spocko is truly international), thehim at Blog Reload, has gotten mentioned in passing at Phillybits, Pete McGowan at CoolAqua, Cernig at News Hog, and many, many more. The item has also been has been submitted to Digg, and of course there's the original blog posting by the inimitable El Gato Negro at Online BlogIntegrity.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stay Tuned!

Welcome to my new readers from Disney! I assume, based on the search terms you're using, you're checking to see whether you really did manage to take my buddy Spocko off the tubes. Well, congratulations, you did...and you didn't. Haven't you ever heard the old (and it is fairly old) saw (apparently by John Gilmore) about how "the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it"?

For those of you who are just tuning in to this sordid saga, Disney and KSFO have convinced Spocko's domain host to take down Spocko's blog, which was formerly located at Disney et al had originally sent Spocko a cease-and-desist letter, and I guess Spocko's hosting company didn't bother to check whether the allegedly-infringing material was gone or not before wiping his site. (Since they're also the company that hosts my mainstream professional site, the one I use when I'm not being a DFH blogger, I suspect they're going to get a nastygram in the mail from me, castigating them for being a bunch of lily-livered cowards.)

Now, we all know that Disney and friends haven't got a legal leg to stand on; timeshifting and reproduction of broadcast materials for education and critical purposes are protected speech in both Spocko's jurisdiction and mine, so I'm assuming that this cease-and-desist letter nonsense was basically the low-power "bunker buster nuke" version of a SLAPP suit.

In any case, Spocko is dead: Long live Spocko! I have invited Spocko to guest-post here, so I'm hoping he'll send me something to post. Stay tuned for fresh updates!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Class and the Spoon Death Spiral

Note: Before you read this essay, if you haven't already (and why not?!), you should go and read Christine Miserandino's brilliant essay "The Spoon Theory." (To summarise for readers too lazy -- or spoon-free -- to clicky the linky, Miserandino uses "spoons" as a unit of energy measurement. A person with a disability or chronic illness that limits physical activity only has so many "spoons" in their metaphorical "drawer," and everything they do uses a spoon. Once the spoons are gone, so is that person's physical capacity for the time being. Some of us don't have energy reserves the same way the temporarily able-bodied do.)

One of the biggest problems with being Not An Able-Bodied Person is that managing a disability is more or less a part-time job. Maybe even a full-time job. It's actually a lot like a consulting job. The hours are erratic -- you might be working very hard to manage your disability for several days at a stretch, and then have a couple weeks of fairly good days; the payoffs can vary, and you never know what might be coming up next. Some days, just managing a physical disability takes more spoons than other days.

I'm going to be slightly perverse here and state the obvious: That is a problem. Many of us already have full- or part-time jobs, relationships, families, household obligations, and maybe even social lives and hobbies. (*gasp*) My experience is of always feeling pressed for time. There are so many things I feel I should do in a day, and there's never enough time, or enough energy to do them in. Added to that persistent feeling (aggravated no doubt by my equally perverse ambition) is the objective observation that it takes me measurably longer to do many, many things, compared to an able-bodied person. I have confirmation of this objective observation: I recently applied for a disability pension in the jolly old Province of Ontario (aka the Beneficent State), and my panel of doctors and experts and qualified medical personnel repeat the damning charge over and over again. Physically, I'm just slower than average. (We will leave speculation on the state of my cognition to the trolls, thanks.)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that sucks.

It's especially bad when combined with my income level. Amazingly enough, she said, as though armed with a Flit gun full of irony, having money actually helps mitigate some of the effects of having a phyisical impairment and just not having the spoons to do things.

Where I notice it the most, at least for me, is in my physical surroundings. Lately, I've been working so much that I've basically worked myself into a physical crash. I haven't been sleeping right, I haven't been eating right, and I haven't been taking enough care of my environment. Consequently, there's a mountain of dirty dishes accumulated in the kitchen, my bedroom looks like the result of an explosion in a building housing both a laundromat and a library*, my office is just scary, and the space behind the toilet is growing a carpet of cat hair. (My cat enjoys making the U-shaped circuit between the toilet, the bathtub, the bathroom cabinet, and the back wall of the house. Don't ask.) I'm scared to even look at some of the stuff in the fridge, because I'm terribly allergic to mould.

Now, if I were richer, I wouldn't have so much of a problem with what you might call "physical plant issues." First of all, I could probably afford some better drugs to help me sleep. Secondly, I would be able to either pay to have people prepare food for me (at a restaurant or for take-out/delivery), or I would be able to buy more ready-made convenience foods (what few of them I can eat) that provide adequate nutrition with minimal energy expenditure. (I realise that living on tins of stew, President's Choice frozen dinners, boxed meat, and stir-fry in a bag isn't an optimal diet, but it beats what I had for dinner the other night.) I'd also, and this is a big one, be able to hire someone to come in and help me keep up with the cleaning. I'd probably still have to do most of the tidying (that is to say, restoration of articles to their rightful storage spaces), but the floors would get mopped, the carpet vacuumed, and the toilet scrubbed far more often than I can manage it myself.

Being able to do that would raise my quality of life significantly.

Even at my soon-to-be improved rate of pay and average hours of work, implementing the strategies listed above would still be a huge financial burden. I can probably do some of it, but most of it is still out of reach. So where I'm at right now is what you might call the Spoon Death Spiral: I've had no spoons to speak of for the last week or so. Therefore, the dishes have piled up, there are books and clothes all over the floor, and the house needs a really good scrubbing. Unfortunately, in order to do that, I need to have spoons. However, even assuming I get sufficient spoons to do all that (and it seems like I never do have enough spoons to finish everything completely), doing it would probably leave me so spoonless that I wouldn't be able to maintain the order I've (artificially) imposed on my (hyperentropic) existence...and the dishes would pile up, the floor would go unswept, and I'd still be living on microwaved prefabricated perogies and dried fruit.

I'm not just throwing out wild surmises, here -- I've lived through this, over and over again. Yes, when I'm having a good period, I do try to keep up with stuff by doing a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but that doesn't help me a lot when I am trying to cope with fatigue that has me sleeping 18h a day one day and none the next, or a four-day vascular headache. And even if I do have the spoons when I'm only feeling slightly crummy, I'm as predictably human as you, and I'd much rather spend those spoons reading than doing dishes and scrubbing toilets. I'm not going to lie; I'm just not capable of being a Responsible Adult™ (New! Self-Martyring Model!) all the time. I like my fun just as much as anyone else. If you find someone who thinks that washing dishes and scrubbing toilets is actually fun, can you send them to my house?

The only bit of abstract wisdom I can add here is that contrary to that old saw, usually trotted out by smug conservatives of one stripe or another, actually, there are lots of problems you can solve (or, if not solve, at least diminish to a great degree) by throwing money at them.


* Blame the cat for his delightful tactic of systematically pulling books off my bookcases in the morning so I'll hear it and get up to feed him.