January 5th, 2005

(no subject)




Hope in the face of conflict, overwhelming odds, and almost universal distain
Alexis de Tocqueville
Albert Einstein
Howard Zinn
Naom Chomsky
20th century bogymen

American Sociology
Miscellaneous quotes
More Quotes
Central America history
My quotes


A person who finds a topic very confusing will often suspend judgment and keep right on believing in whatever he hopes is true. Over time, his questions lose urgency, and though not resolved, cease to become bothersome. Trust in a system will also help sustain a person through confusion until he reaches the point of no longer caring whether an answer is reasonable or not, or indeed, whether an answer even exists.
--Chapter 12 By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri

"When adults first become conscious of something new, they usually either attack or try to escape from it... Attack includes such mild forms as ridicule, and escape includes merely putting out of mind."
-- William I.B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation, 1957

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity (clamness) opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
--Albert Einstein

No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of his age and country, and however powerful a man may be, it is hard for him to make his contemporaries share feelings and ideas which run counter to the general run of their hopes and desires.
--Alexis de Tocqueville

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.
-- Bertrand Russell

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.
--Alexis de Tocqueville

"In our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either."
--Mark Twain

Political repression in America…is American as apple pie
--American Inquisition: The Era of McCarthyism, Tape 9: Joe McCarthy and the Loss of China. Ellen Schrecker

"The lust for money may be distasteful, the desire for power ignoble, but neither will drive its devotees to the criminal excess of an idea on the march. Whether the idea is the triumph of the working class or of a master race, ideology leads to the graveyard." Corey Robin in the London Review of Books quoted here http://hnn.us/articles/24482.html

Hope in the face of conflict, overwhelming odds, and almost universal distain

About hope in the face of conflict, overwhelming odds, and almost universal distain, quotes:


journalist I. F. Stone once wrote,
"The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing - for the sheer fun and joy of it-to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it."

--Excerpt from the book:
The Middle Mind Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves by Curtis White


Los Angeles Times:
The Idea That Brought Slavery to Its Knees

"...The reverberations from what happened on this spot, on the late afternoon of May 22, 1787, eventually caught the attention of millions of people around the world, including the first and greatest student of what today we call civil society. The result of the series of events begun that afternoon in London, wrote Alexis de Tocqueville decades later, was "absolutely without precedent…. If you pore over the histories of all peoples, I doubt that you will find anything more extraordinary." The building that once stood at 2 George Yard was a bookstore and printing shop. The proprietor was James Phillips, publisher and printer for Britain's small community of Quakers. On that May afternoon, after the pressmen and typesetters had gone home for the day, 12 men filed through his doors. They formed themselves into a committee with what seemed to their fellow Londoners a hopelessly idealistic and impractical aim: ending first the slave trade and then slavery itself in the most powerful empire on Earth."


Zinn recently said:

"My hope is that whatever you do to make a good life for yourself -- whether you become a teacher, or social worker, or business person, or lawyer, or poet, or scientist -- you will devote part of your life to making this a better world for your children, for all children. My hope is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out the national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this earth."

--From Against Discouragement


The struggle for justice should never be abandoned on the ground that it is hopeless, because of the apparent overwhelming power of those in the world who have the guns and the money and who seem invincible in their determination to hold on to their power. That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, and patience—whether by blacks in Alabama and South Africa; peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vietnam; or workers and intellectuals in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. No cold calculation of the balance of power should deter people who are persuaded that their cause is just.

--From Declarations of Independence Chapter 11: The Ultimate Power page 279


“As Adam Hochschild points out, from the time the English Quakers first took on the issue of slavery, three quarters of a century passed before it was abolished it in Europe and America. Few if any working on the issue at the beginning lived to see its conclusion, when what had once seemed impossible suddenly began to look, in retrospect, inevitable.”

“The African writer Laurens Van Der Post once said that no great new leaders were emerging because it was time for us to cease to be followers.”

--From the Excellent Article:
TomDispatch:Rebecca Solnit on hope in dark times

Alexis de Tocqueville

I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.

The Americans, in their intercourse with strangers, appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise...They unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising
themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes.

It seems, at first sight, as if all the minds of the Americans were formed upon one model, so accurately do they correspond in their manner of judging. A stranger does, indeed, sometimes meet with Americans who dissent from these rigorous formularies; with men who deplore the defects of the laws, the mutability and the ignorance of democracy; who even go so far as to observe the evil tendencies which impair the national character, and to point out such remedies as it might be possible to apply; but no one is there to hear these things besides yourself, and you, to whom these secret reflections are confided, are a stranger and a bird of passage. They are very ready to communicate truths which are useless to you, but they continue to hold a different language in public.

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through.

An American cannot converse, but he can discuss, and his talk falls into a dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting...

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?

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Biography of Alexis de Tocqueville

Download Tocqueville's three books for free:

Democracy in America — Volume 1
Democracy in America — Volume 2
American Institutions and Their Influence

Albert Einstein

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
--Albert Einstein

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
--Albert Einstein (From Comments on Chomsky's web blog)

''I MADE ONE great mistake in my life,'' Albert Einstein admitted, ''when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made...''
--Albert Einstein Hiroshima: A Mistake and A Crime


Zinn quotes Kissinger in his first chapter, on page 9:

""History is the memory of states," wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen's policies. From his standpoint, the "peace" that Europe had before the French Revolution was "restored" by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere, except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation -- a world not restored but disintegrated."


"Cuba has probably been the target of more international terrorism than the rest of the world combined and, therefore, in the American ideological system it is regarded as the source of international terrorism, exactly as Orwell would have predicted."
---Source: Talk titled "American Foreign Policy" Naom Chomsky at Harvard University (http://www.chomsky.info/talks/19850319.htm), March 19, 1985

"No less insidious is the cry for 'revolution,' at a time when not even the germs of new institutions exist, let alone the moral and political consciousness that could lead to a basic modification of social life. If there will be a 'revolution' in America today, it will no doubt be a move towards some variety of fascism. We must guard against the kind of revolutionary rhetoric that would have had Karl Marx burn down the British Museum because it was merely part of a repressive society. It would be criminal to overlook the serious flaws and inadequacies in our institutions, or to fail to utilize the substantial degree of freedom that most of us enjoy, within the framework of these flawed institutions, to modify them or even replace them by a better social order. One who pays some attention to history will not be surprised if those who cry most loudly that we must smash and destroy are later found among the administrators of some new system of repression."
--Source: American Power and the New Mandarins, 1969 Naom Chomsky

Wikiquote on Chomsky

Wikipedia on Chomsky

20th century bogymen

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."---Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Fascist Dictator of Italy

"Why of course the people don't want war ... But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."
--Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II

In a memorable insight,
Rebecca Solnit has suggested that the successes of social movements should often be measured not by their accomplishments, but by the disasters they prevent:

"What the larger movements have achieved is largely one of careers undestroyed, ideas uncensored, violence and intimidation uncommitted, injustices unperpetrated, rivers unpoisoned and undammed, bombs undropped, radiation unleaked, poisons unsprayed, wildernesses unviolated, countryside undeveloped, resources unextracted, species unexterminated."

The Iraqi resistance, one of the least expected and most powerful social movements of recent times, can lay claim to few positive results. In two years of excruciating (if escalating) fighting, the insurgents have seen their country progressively reduced to an ungovernable jungle of violence, disease, and hunger. But maybe, as Solnit suggests, their real achievement lies in what didn't happen. Despite the deepest desires of the Bush administration, to this day Iran remains uninvaded -- the horrors of devolving Iraq have, so far, prevented the unleashing of the plagues of war on its neighbor
--Tom Dispatch: The Ironies of Conquest

American Sociology

As Ed the Sock said last night, politicians are just a reflection of society. We don't want unpleasant truths, and demand to be lied to so as to feel better, and then complain when things don't work out perfectly. George Carlin also blames the American people for the problems with politicians, as they all come from American schools, churches, families, exposed to the same media and then voted on by their peers. Society creates the hated politician, who then pretends to be liked to sell you a product, just like cat food or laundry detergent. (http://www.thecommentary.ca/archives/20040701.html Where is the George Carlin quote?)

"What should one write to ruin an adversary? The best thing is to prove that he is not one of us -- the stranger, alien, foreigner. To this end we create the category of the true family. We here, you and I, the authorities, are a true family. We live in unity, among our own kind. We have the same roof over our heads, we sit at the same table, we know how to get along with each other, how to help each other out. Unfortunately, we are not alone."
--Ryszard Kapuscinski in Shah of Shahs

“…in Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent "white man's burden." And in the United States, empire does not even exist; "we" are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy, and justice worldwide.”
--The Editors, "After the attacks…the war on terrorism", Monthly Review, 53, 6, Nov., 2001. P 7

"Explanation is not a justification for murder, criticism is not equivalent to treason, and offering a historical analysis of evil is not the same thing as consorting with evil."
--Eric Foner rejecting the arguments that "Trying to understand the 9/11 terrorists grievances is treasonous"

“When we are reduced to insisting that our depravity isn't as bad as the other guy's, we have fallen deep into a pit of moral equivalence that reveals what we have lost."
--Their Humiliation, and Ours The U.S. was forced to see itself as the world does — and it was painful to behold
Time magazine Monday, May. 17, 2004

"Perhaps the most significant moral characteristic of a nation is its hypocrisy."
--Reinhold Niebuhr

"ALL empires die of indigestion," said Napoleon. They do. They bite off more than they can chew, swallow territories their colonial systems can't digest, and die. --The empire that is dead The Herald (Glasgow) August 1, 1996

Kerry will change his views to fit the facts; Bush will change the facts to fit his views
--Hillary Clinton in the 2004 race.

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism...Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.
--Emma Goldman.

"The loud little handful will shout for war. The pulpit will warily and cautiously protest at first…The great mass of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes, and will try to make out why there should be a war, and they will say earnestly and indignantly: ‘It is unjust and dishonorable and there is no need for war.' Then the few will shout even louder…Before long you will see a curious thing: anti-war speakers will be stoned from the platform, and free speech will be strangled by hordes of furious men who still agree with the speakers but dare not admit it...Next, statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
--Mark Twain

"...people believe that "imperialism" won out for military reasons. Osborne shows convincingly that commerce won out instead. America...seen as an "economic imperialist nation."
--The Christian Century book review of Annexation Hawaii

Tens of millions of Americans, who neither know nor understand [their own country’s bloody historical struggle for the material benefits they all enjoy today], march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason.
–-Alteration of a quote by Isaac Asimov

43% of Americans have not read a book in the last year.
-- According to the National Endowment for the Arts on the 2002 US Census Bureau statistics http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2004-07-08-reading-study_x.htm

More American teenagers can name three of the Three Stooges than can name the three branches of government (59% to 41%)
-- http://www.constitutioncenter.org/CitizenAction/CivicResearchResults/NCCTeens'Poll.shtml

The greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government.
---Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pentagon briefers told President Johnson that the true U.S. goals in Vietnam were, “70% to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat; 20% to keep South Vietnam (and adjacent territories) from Chinese hands; 10% to permit the people of Vietnam a better, freer way of life.”
-- Robert Freeman: Is Iraq Another Vietnam? Actually, It May Become Worse

My kind of loyalty is loyalty to one's country and not to one's institutions or officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing to watch over. Its institutions and clothing can wear out and become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags, that is a loyalty of unreason.' This is important because in the present discussion boundaries have been set, lines have been drawn. Those who go outside those boundaries and criticize official policy are called unpatriotic and disloyal. When they accuse dissenters of that they have forgotten the meaning of loyalty and patriotism. Patriotism does not mean support for your government. It means, as Mark Twain said, support for your country. --Howard Zinn, from the Artists in a Time of War CD


“Walter Lippmann painstakingly demonstrated why no individual, however intelligent, educated, and motivated, was capable of becoming an expert, let alone being an "insider," on all the important issues of the day.
-- Ignorance of the world has deep historical and cultural roots in the US

The media makes politics out to be "liberal" vs. "conservative" when in fact the real model is Corporate America vs. Everyone Else.

The media do not necessarily tell your what to think, but they tell you what to think about, and how to think about it.
--The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism Robert McChesney

It is often noted that democracy requires journalism; what is less frequently emphasized is that journalism requires democracy. Unless there is strong political culture there will be little demand for excellent journalism.
--The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism Robert McChesney

A politician stands a far greater chance to become the object of news media scrutiny if she or he is rumored to have not paid 10 parking tickets or if they failed to pay a bar bill than if they used their power to quietly funnel billions of public dollars to powerful special interests.
--The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism Robert McChesney

A five year study of investigative journalism on TV news completed in 2002 determined that investigative journalism has all but disappeared on the nation’s commercial airwaves.
--The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism Robert McChesney

In view of the fact that legitimate sources tend to be restricted to political and economic elites, this bias sometimes makes journalists appear to be stenographers to those in power; i.e. exactly what one would expect in an authoritarian society with little or no formal press freedom.
--The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism Robert McChesney

This focus on government malfeasance and neglect of corporate misdeeds plays directly into the hands of those who wished to give more power and privileges to corporations, and undermine the ability of government to regulate in the public interest. As Ed Baker observes, professional practices, along with libel laws, “favor exposing governmental rather than private (corporate) wrongdoing”
--The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism Robert McChesney

If the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped steadily for twenty years it would be front page and leading broadcast news day after day until the government took action. That 32 million of our population have their housing, food, and clothing “index” drop steadily for more than 30 years is worth only an occasional feature story about an individual or statistical fragments in the back pages of our most influential news organizations.
--Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly

Miscellaneous quotes

"Tact is for people who aren't witty enough to be sarcastic."

The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit.
-- Somerset Maugham

"It used to be believed that every event in the world-the opening of a morning glory...was due to direct microintervention by the Deity. The flower was unable to open by itself.God had to say “Hey, flower, open.” [Today]...because we know something about phototropism and plant hormones, we can understand the opening of the morning glory independent of divine mícrointervention...As we learn more and more about the universe, there seems less and less for God to do."
--Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science by Carl Sagan, page 334-335

"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis"
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A man in life has many disciples, but it is always Judas who writes the biography."
--Oscar Wilde

"In our time, political speech and writing is largely the defense of the indefensible."
--George Orwell

“Those looking for ideology in the White House should consider this: for the men who rule our world, rules are for other people. The powerful feed ideology to the masses like fast food while they dine on that most rarefied delicacy: impunity.”
--Guardian: It's Greed, Not Ideology, that Rules the White House By Naomi Klein

Anastasio Somoza
Anastasio Somoza Debayle, brutal
American puppet dictator
of Nicaragua.

The history of the US in Central America

What we see in Central America today would not be much different if Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union did not exist
--US Ambassador to Panama Ambler Moss, 1980

The US became staunchly anti-revolutionary after its own revolution

The United States has countered [Central American] revolutions with its military power. Washington's recent policy, this book argues, is historically consistent for two reasons: first, for more than a century (if not since 1790), North Americans have been staunchly antirevolutionary; and second, U.S. power has been the dominant power outside (and often inside) force shaping the societies against with Central Americans have rebelled.
Washington officials have opposed radical change not because of pressure from public opinion. Throughout the twentieth century, the overwhelming number of North Americans could not have identified each of the five Central American nations on a map, let alone ticked off the region's sins that called for an application of U.S. force.

The United States consistently feared and fought such change because it was a status quo power. It wanted stability, benefited from the ongoing system, and was therefore content to work with the military oligarchy complex that ruled most of Central America from the 1820ss to the 1980s. The world's leading revolutionary nation in the eighteenth century became the leading protector of the status quo in the twentieth century. Such protection was defensible when it meant protecting the more equitable societies of Western Europe and Japan, but became questionable when it meant bolstering poverty and inequality in Central America.

--Page 12, 13, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (The footnote states: This is argued in Eldon Kenworthy, “Reagan Rediscovers Monroe”, democracy 2 (July 1982): 80-90

US president’s racism and lust for empire

Thomas Jefferson…interest in Latin America was extraordinary (he once remarked that young empire-builders should first study Spanish)

Thomas Jefferson…concern about expanding U.S. power even led him in the 1780s to decide that it would be better if the Spanish held on to their territory “till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain if from them piece by piece”…His [belief in] Manifest Destiny…was shared by most of the other Founders, including Jefferson’s great political rival, Alexander Hamilton.

--Page 19 Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America

Theodore Roosevelt…the famed Rough Rider, who fought publicly…in Cuba during the 1898 war…called Latin Americans “Dagoes” because they were incapable of either governing themselves or—most important in Roosevelt’s hierarchy of values—maintaining order.
--Page 34 Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America

The US intervenes in Central America to bestow the blessings of stability myth

That the United States intervened in Central America simply to stop revolutions and bestow the blessings of stability tells too little too simply. The motive for Washington’s policy in Central America was not to stop upheavals, but to promote U.S. interests. In El Salvador, for example, North Americans—both in the business and the diplomatic community—continually encouraged a revolutionary faction between 1906 and 1913 because they knew the faction was more pro-United States (and anti-European capital) than the actual, legitimate government. Interests and imperial rivalry, not morality and consistency, drove U.S. policies.
--Page 39 Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America

The 1907 Central American Court

The 1907 Washington conference spun a web of agreements that were to make Central Americans more interdependent and—as the North American Progressives theorists of the time believed—more peaceful and cooperative. The meetings established a Central American Court of Justice…Future disputes were to go not to the battlefield, but the Court. The Central American Court quickly became the global symbol for the Progressives’ growing faith in legal arbitration for the settlement of disputes. One North American proudly wrote, “To the powers of Europe, to the great powers of the world who struggled with partial success…to establish a court of arbitral justice, the young republics of Central America may recall the scriptural phrase, ‘A little child shall led them.’” Retired steel billionaire Andrew Carnegie happily gave $100,000 for a building to house the Court.

It turned out to be one of Carnegie’s few bad investments. Within nine years the institution was hollow because twice—in 1912 and 1916—the United states refused to recognize Court decisions that went against its interests in Nicaragua. The North Americans destroyed the Court they had helped to create, and in doing so vividly demonstrated how the Progressive faith in legal remedies was worthless when the dominant power in the area paced its own national interest over international legal institutions.

--Page 41-42 Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America

My quotes

The stark difference between two of the three boogeymen of the twentieth century, Moa and Stalin and the United States is that we don't kill our own populations, we just kill everyone else's. From


What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy? - Mahatma Gandhi

I think the U.S. government enjoys playing with the stomachs of humanity.-- A Nicaraguan Mother

It takes relatively few people and little support to disrupt the internal peace and economic stability of a small country.-- William Casey, CIA Director (From War Against the Poor: Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2288&C=2189)

“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United
States of America. They don't care” Nelson Mandela just before the invasion of Iraq, Columbia Broadcasting System 2003.

* "Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or "disappeared", at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame." Amnesty International, 1996

More Quotes

Hundreds more liberal quotes:
Third World Traveler Quotations page

Tens of thousands of Famous Quotes and Quotations at the site BrainyQuote

Hundreds of Quotes about US


Economist Article: Gap between the rich and poor continues to widen

Meritocracy in America

Ever higher society, ever harder to ascend

Whatever happened to the belief that any American could get to the top?

The United States likes to think of itself as the very embodiment of meritocracy: a country where people are judged on their individual abilities rather than their family connections. The original colonies were settled by refugees from a Europe in which the restrictions on social mobility were woven into the fabric of the state, and the American revolution was partly a revolt against feudalism. From the outset, Americans believed that equality of opportunity gave them an edge over the Old World, freeing them from debilitating snobberies and at the same time enabling everyone to benefit from the abilities of the entire population. They still do.
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BlackCommentator.com: Debt Slavery: What The Bankruptcy Bill Could Do To You

(no subject)


Copyright laws


The Economist: Killing creativity; Copyright law

The Economist:Protecting copyright in a digital age: A radical rethink

Two new recent copyright bills

40 to 60 million Americans terrorists and criminals

The Economist: Some famous songs are losing their copyright protection

Killing creativity; Copyright law
The Economist April 17, 2004

IMAGINE that drug companies were so successful at lobbying governments that they won an extension of their patents from 20 years, as they are today, to 100 years; and that the scope of those rights was extended so that future medical discoveries were in effect blocked. The ensuing public outcry would almost certainly result in the law being rewritten in favor of scientific advancement.

Yet this is actually happening (and with little public scrutiny) in a different area of intellectual property: copyright law. As more and more forms of content go digital, the owners of that content are becoming more possessive and turning increasingly to the law for help. The result is a "permission culture", argues Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School and a leading authority on internet law, where creators increasingly need legal approval for their works, not a "free culture" where creativity is presumptively allowed, as was the case in the past.

Copyright was originally designed to restrict publishers from exerting too much control over information; today it constrains individuals from creating new works. This is because, in America at least, the duration of copyrights has increased (from 28 years in the 19th century to as much as 95 years today), and their scope has widened (to include all works, not just the minority that used to be registered). It now also applies to almost all media, not just printed matter, and to derivative works. Such broad application was never intended, nor existed, in the past.

Although Mr Lessig's analysis sticks to America, the problem he identifies is increasingly a global one. As the internet and computing technology allow more efficient ways to create, share and transform content, large media companies are lobbying for laws and filing law suits to preserve their businesses. Recent suits by the Recording Industry Association of America for millions of dollars lost thanks to music piracy are but one example. Instead of adapting to the internet, media companies are using the law to change the very features of the internet that make it so successful. Mr Lessig is no cyber-utopian promoting piracy or an end of copyright. Instead, he argues for a more reasonable balance, by redefining copyright law closer to the function that it served in the past. "A society that defends the ideals of free culture must preserve precisely the opportunity for new creativity to threaten the old," he writes.

The author himself is a partisan. Seeing the deficiencies in copyright law, he co-founded an organisation in 2001 called Creative Commons to allow content-creators to license their works in ways that are open rather than restrictive. (Fittingly, "Free Culture" is available free online for non-commercial use under this system; within days of its release, the book was reproduced in numerous formats, including audio recordings.) Mr Lessig took his arguments all the way to America's Supreme Court in October 2002. He lost, and the book in many respects is a reply to the majority of the bench who ruled against him. Free culture in Mr Lessig's view is akin to free markets—it does not mean a lack of regulation; it is just a vital platform for progress. Indeed, last year The Economist argued in favour of a return to the 28-year maximum copyright term as a decent starting point for reform. Among the solutions that Mr Lessig proposes—unconvincingly, alas—are copyright marking, registration and renewal, as was done in former times. His final suggestion: "fire lots of lawyers". Ultimately, "Free Culture" is about neither law nor technology, the author's areas of expertise. It is about power. Specifically, it concerns the way in which financial and political power are used by corporations to preserve the status quo and to further their own commercial interests. This may be to the detriment of something more socially valuable: a loss of creativity that can never be measured.

Protecting copyright in a digital age: A radical rethink
The Economist January 25, 2003

CRITICS have derided a 1998 extension of American copyrights as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" because it stopped early images of the Disney company's mascot from entering the public domain. But such laws, they argue, are no joke. Extending and strengthening copyrights, they claim, will help a handful of big corporations crush creativity in the digital age. On the contrary, say Hollywood studios and big record companies. Without stronger copyright protection, a wave of piracy will destroy their industries, depriving consumers everywhere of a broad choice of movies, music and books.

Last week America's Supreme Court weighed into what is rapidly becoming a nasty worldwide battle about the scope and enforcement of copyrights, by rejecting a challenge to the 1998 law on constitutional grounds. But even as it upheld the law, the court expressed misgivings. Blistering dissents from two justices dismissed the 20-year extension of copyright as unwarranted, and even the majority's opinion hinted that Congress's decision may have been "unwise". The court's ambivalence is understandable. The growing quarrel over copyright is just one of the many difficult issues thrown up by the spread of the internet and related technologies. But of all these issues, the copyright battle is becoming one of the most urgent, and bitterly fought, because it could yet determine the future character of cyberspace itself. Both sides have a point. Digital piracy does indeed threaten to overwhelm so-called "content" industries. As the power and reach of the internet continue to grow, the illicit trading of perfect copies may well devastate the music, movie and publishing industries. The content industries want to protect themselves with anti-copying technology, backed by stronger laws. So far, they have been at loggerheads with technology firms about how to implement such schemes. But a deal between Hollywood and Silicon Valley is likely eventually. Critics are right to fear that, when such a deal is struck, it will be in the interests of big firms, not the public.

A grand new bargain

The alternative is to return to the original purpose of copyright, something no national legislature has yet been willing to do. Copyright was originally the grant of a temporary government-supported monopoly on copying a work, not a property right. Its sole purpose was to encourage the circulation of ideas by giving creators and publishers a short-term incentive to disseminate their work. Over the past 50 years, as a result of heavy lobbying by content industries, copyright has grown to such ludicrous proportions that it now often inhibits rather than promotes the circulation of ideas, leaving thousands of old movies, records and books languishing behind a legal barrier. Starting from scratch today, no rational, disinterested lawmaker would agree to copyrights that extend to 70 years after an author's death, now the norm in the developed world. Digital technologies are not only making it easier to copy all sorts of works, but also sharply reducing the costs of creating or distributing them, and so also reducing the required incentives. The flood of free content on the internet has shown that most creators do not need incentives that stretch across generations. To reward those who can attract a paying audience, and the firms that support them, much shorter copyrights would be enough.

The 14-year term of the original 18th-century British and American copyright laws, renewable once, might be a good place to start. However, to provide any incentive at all, more limited copyrights would have to be enforceable, and in the digital age this would mean giving content industries much of the legal backing which they are seeking for copy-protection technologies. Many cyber activists would loathe this idea. But if copyright is to continue to work at all, it is necessary. And in exchange for a vast expansion of the public domain, such a concession would clearly be in the interests of consumers.

Two new recent copyright bills

Public Access to Science Act (PASA) (HR 2613)

"It is wrong when a breast cancer patient cannot access federally funded research data paid for by her hard-earned taxes. It is wrong when the family whose child has a rare disease must pay again for research data their tax dollars already paid for," Sabo said. The Minneapolis Congressman went on to say, "Common sense dictates we provide the most cutting-edge research to all who may benefit from it - especially when they’ve already paid for it with their tax dollars, and my legislation will do just that." --
Congressman Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN) website

On June 26, 2003 Rep. Martin Sabo, a Minnesota Democrat with 25 years in the House, formally introduced H.R. 2613, the Public Access to Science Act (PASA).

PASA is the boldest and most direct legislative proposal ever submitted on behalf of open access. US Copyright law already holds that "government works" are not subject to copyright. PASA extends this exemption to works that are "substantially funded" by the federal government. The preamble to the bill estimates that the federal government spends $45 billion a year on scientific and medical research. If all works "substantially" based on this funding were in the public domain, taxpayers would get a significantly higher return on their investment in research. These works might be published in conventional, priced journals, but anyone who wanted to extend their reach and impact beyond the small set of paying subscribers would be free to do so. All this literature would suddenly be much more useful.

Sabo aides have told the press that the word "substantially" was not defined in the bill so that the many federal agencies that fund research could define it in their own ways. Hence, one agency could say that any publication based 25% or more on its grant must be in the public domain, while other agencies could set the threshold at 50% or 75%... --Open Access Newsletter

Sabo's bill poses a direct challenge to large commercial publishers. Under the established system, most scientific journals own the copyrights to research papers they publish. Authors traditionally assign copyright to the publisher, which means that they cannot freely distribute their works or allow open access to them. --Scientific Research: The Publication Dilemma

Latest Major Action: 9/4/2003 Referred to House subcommittee. (The bill died in subcommitee)

Public Domain Enhancement Act (HR 2601)

In a well-reasoned dissent in the Supreme Court Eldred case, Justice Breyer hit the problem right on the head. He found that only 2 percent of works between 55 and 75 years old retain commercial value. Yet under the law that was upheld by a majority of the Supreme Court, these abandoned works will not enter the public domain for many years. This prevents commercial entities and the public from building upon, cultivating and preserving abandoned works. The Public Domain Enhancement Act...will return abandoned American copyrights to the public domain. The minimal burden that this bill places on copyright owners is well worth the enormous societal benefits this legislation will have. This bill will breathe life into the 98% of older works identified by Justice Breyer; those long-forgotten stories, songs, pictures and movies that are no longer published, read, heard, or seen. It is time to give these treasures back to the public.
--Statement Of Congresswoman Lofgren Upon Introduction Of The Public Domain Enhancement Act

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) in late June introduced the Public Domain Enhancement Act (HR 2601). It would require copyright owners who wish to avail themselves of the additional 20 years of copyright protection codified in the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act to register and pay a $1 fee 50 years following the publication of the work and every ten years thereafter.

The plan would work on two fronts: if copyright owners do not pay the fee, the work enters the public domain, meaning that libraries and others would be free to make the work available in digital editions. If the copyright owner does pay the fee, the information is on file in a database, thus making the now cumbersome and often costly permissions process more easily managed.

Latest Major Action: 9/4/2003 Referred to House subcommittee. (The bill died in subcommitee)

This bill was opposed by the Motion Picture Association of America (Technews.com April 14, 2004)

40 to 60 million Americans terrorists and criminals

The "war of prohibition" reflected in a congressional proposal to intensify criminal copyright infringement punishments for file-sharing declares "40 to 60 million Americans terrorists and criminals under the definition of the law" and promises to create a generation that believes "the rule of law is just unjust law" in general, the leading intellectual light of the copyright libertarians said last week. "I deeply believe in the rule of law, and there is nothing more terrifying to me than a world where our kids believe the law is to be ignored," Stanford Law Prof. Lawrence Lessig told a U. of Santa Clara audience. "I am a strong believer in intellectual property... I think it should be strongly protected -- once the right regime for that protection has been struck."

He was promoting his new book, Free Culture: Creativity and Its Enemies, in a presentation recorded by sponsor Commonwealth Club for public radio broadcast nationally. Lessig devised the Public Domain Enhancement Act (HR-2601) introduced by Reps. Lofgren (D-Cal.) and Doolittle (R-Cal.)

Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig's web blog

Not-so-golden oldies
Jan 6th 2005

Some famous songs are losing their copyright protection

“EVERY three months from the beginning of 2008,” says Cliff Richard, who was once Britain's answer to Elvis Presley, “I will lose a song.” The reason is that in most European countries copyright protection on sound recordings lasts for 50 years, and (now) Sir Cliff recorded his first hit single, “Move It”, in 1958. This month, early recordings by Elvis himself started to enter Europe's public domain. Over the next few decades a torrent of the most popular tracks from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many other artists will become public property in Europe—to the pleasure of fans and the consternation of the music industry.

One of the big four music firms estimates that about 100m “deep catalogue” (ie, old) albums now sold in Europe each year will have entered the public domain by the end of 2010. Assuming a current wholesale price of $10, that could jeopardise $1 billion of revenues, or about 3% of annual recorded music sales. And that estimate accounts only for songs up to the end of the 1950s. Far more will be at risk as music from the 1960s and 1970s moves out of copyright.

Even once much of the back catalogue has entered the public domain, the big music firms can carry on selling it on CD. They will even benefit from not having to pay anything to the artist or to his estate. They will in many cases still own copyright on the original cover art. But they will face new competition from a host of providers of CDs who may undercut them. And on the internet, public domain music is likely to be free, as much of the copyrighted stuff already is on peer-to-peer networks.

Music executives want the European Commission to protect them from such unwelcome competition by extending the copyright term. Artists have rallied to the cause: U2, Status Quo and Charles Aznavour all want the 50-year limit increased. Many more acts will sign a petition this spring. Sir Cliff has spent hours complaining to the commission that composers of songs get copyright for 70 years after their death: more than performers.

The music industry also points out that America gives artists almost twice as much copyright protection as Europe. America has repeatedly lengthened copyright terms, with the latest reprieve, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, giving performers protection for 95 years after publication.

Many people believe that America has gone too far in protecting copyright at the expense of the public good, including, it seems, the commission, which said last year that it saw no need to lift its own 50-year limit. Its deadline for proposals on copyright law has slipped from this year to 2006. But governments are likely to weigh in on the issue. France, Italy and Portugal have indicated that they support an extension of the term, and Britain is likely to stick up for its own music major, EMI.

Although artists and their estates want longer copyright, the big music firms would benefit from it the most, especially in the next couple of decades, says Stephen King, chairman of the Association of United Recording Artists and manager of the Libertines. Back in the 1950s, he says, performers got only one-tenth of the share of royalties that they do now. For years, artists have, with good reason, accused big record labels of ripping them off. Now they have wised up about making deals. The best guarantee of financial security—safer than clinging on to copyright—is hiring a good lawyer early on.