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Comments

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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

Thanks to you and to Jane Q. Public for indulging my curiosity. You've given me a lot to think about and the the states' rights position (or whatever it's called) seems a lot less like a caricature to me now. I share your view that policy problems should be addressed at the appropriate level. Anyway, I've taken in about as much as I'm going to right now about a better distribution of powers in the US. Still, I'd like to make a couple of small points on things you bring up, from my perspective in International Affairs.

First off, I don't know what you'd call having "willingly given a power back" in politics. Almost everything is contentious and comes as a response to a claim; power doesn't shift out of apathy. All the same, here's an example that seems to fit the bill: devolution in the UK of government powers to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Also, any revocation of war powers, such as temporary income taxes in 19th century America.

That point aside, I'm not willing to grant that power tends to accumulate in a few central hands. Not exactly. Instead, looking around the globe today, I'd say that the most powerful states like the US have achieved their positions through the establishment of large bureaucracies and standing national militaries. They're successful partially because they're centralised and those states that aren't, can't compete.

You don't have to look far for other patterns, however. There are territories in today's world without any functioning government, such as Somalia and Western Sahara, and many more with weak central administration. There are also sources of power, such as transnational corporations, that are more diffuse than sovereign states are. What's more, taking a historical view, in the past, for example in the Feudal period of Europe, many kings were dominated by the nobility and could muster only very weak central control. Finally, back in the modern world, keep in mind that despite the success of sovereign states during the 20th century, because of the collapse of a few empires there are more than twice as many countries now as there were in 1900.

My conclusion is that power doesn't always stick at the top, but gathers in different ways in different situations.

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

Talking about details, you assign all of the agency to the US federal government in one form or another. We see the same pattern of centralised power. What surprises me in your account, what's different from the way I'd understood things before, is that the national government could have seized power, however slowly, without the participation of other parts of society.

For example, it seems to me that American states compete with each other through the central government. They vie for access to federal funds, thereby strengthening central authority. Maybe that's a effect rather than a cause, but it raises a question in my mind whether US states with more autonomy would do something other than replay the same drama.

I'd also like to make a point about the will of the people and how most of this happened with the consent of the governed, but fatigue and hunger keeps me for formulating it.

But beyond the details I still feel a question goes begging: why states? As long as you're going to speak for the devolution of the powers of the US government, why devolve them to the states? Are North and South Dakota so different that they can't govern together (maybe they are, I don't know)? Are the farm lands capable of standing on their own without federal subsidy? What's so right about the political unit of a US state?

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

I can only argue that when we were more of a loose federation of states, our economy was more robust and our place on the world stage that much more prominent.

That's a surprising idea. What general period are you thinking about? Before the American Civil War? Before the FDR administration? Intuitively, I would've said American wealth and power grew compared with other countries throughout the second half of the 20th century. Anyway, wealth and security are always basic preconditions for government, but they're not the reason for wanting to loosen the bolts on the US republic.

This brings me back to my struggle to understand the values behind the devolutionary impulse. You talk about a 'robust' economy, which I hear as growth instead of wealth, and in your previous post you describe diversity that fosters political evolution. I hope you don't feel I'm trying to pin you down or nit pick, especially when exchanging ideas informally on the internet, and anyway, contradictions are creative motors. But at the same time as you hold up the potential for progress, you refer back to earlier periods in American history as models for the future. So is one of the core values here a government framework that allows continual change? Whereas, you see the US institutionalising in a way that doesn't allow further political innovation?

...the only historical examples we have are from our own past...

I came into the exchange with an understanding of a dynamic process of great power ascendancy that involves bureaucratic centralisation. Crudely: wealth and military power work sometimes in concert and sometimes in competition to preserve countries and allow them to flourish. This kind of framework stimulates me to think of many ill-fitting examples in the past and present.

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

This is very interesting and it's helping me understand US devolutionists (or states' rights advocates or whatever you call them) better, and the history of America. Why do you believe that what's emerged isn't just the result of two and quarter centuries of that dynamic of individual State experiments playing out? I guess the answer to that has something to do with the income tax and the direct election of US Senators.

I also wonder how it would work internationally. Centralised sovereign states dominate the international economic and military landscape, and have for some time. Wouldn't an ecology of loosely federated states, in some form of moderated competition, have trouble representing its concerted interests on the world stage, undermining America's wealth and security?

I don't mean to bombard you with questions. This is an opportunity to pose questions about this position I've had for a while. Although I'm studying International Affairs now (with a smattering of Political Science and Sociology) I'm weak on history and on theories of government. That's just by the way, to let you know where I'm coming from.

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

Ok, you've successfully identified a state that doesn't use a proportional voting system. You're one up on me there, dude. Now, do you have any view on whether one system is better at reflecting public attitudes than the other, or if that's the point of a democracy?

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

Big picture, what's the virtue in the USA governing itself more through states instead of the Federal government? I've read the historical point below (the US started that way), and some tenuous predictions about how this would somehow improve the incentive structure for representatives, but what's the big argument? Is it a progressive libertarian programme starting at the top of the government food chain? Do units the size of a US state (between 600k and 37M) govern themselves better? Is it local chauvinism? Or is there no argument on principle and is it just a particular argument about specific US governance failures? Why favour states over federal government?

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Why? (390 comments)

There are other ways to participate, maybe more effective ways. For example, you can give money. You can protest. You can write policy suggestions. You can even write laws and try to find a representative to sponsor them. Or get hired by the bureaucracy. Most importantly, you can run for office yourself. Most of these are more difficult than voting but I bet you they have a greater effect on policy.

There's no exhaustive list of how you can participate in government. Voting is a small part of real participation. And no kidding, idealism aside, one vote really doesn't mean a heck of lot.

more than 2 years ago
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WRT to the next major election where I live:

AmElder Re:If you don't vote... (390 comments)

What a great claim. Do you know any research that backs that up? I'm sure someone has tried to compare representativeness in Europe (maybe UK and Denmark) to that in the US? My experience in the UK was that party representation didn't track terribly well to popular support, with the Labour party maintaining large parliamentary majorities for many years with less than a majority of the popular vote, but I don't know the technicalities.

Although, to get really good data on this you'd have to do a huge longitudinal comparative study of multiple issue areas and policy solutions over a long period of time. It might be hard to get funding for that kind of research. After all, who really wants to know the answers?

Anyway, I bet you what has more effect on well policy reflects public opinion, rather than any particular form of government, is public participation.

more than 2 years ago
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Mathematically Pattern-Free Music

AmElder Re:Ascent-descent patterns do repeat (234 comments)

This is my experience too, especially on first hearing. Toward the beginning of the piece I recognise some roughly similar rising motifs spanning the keyboard. The human brain is better at finding patterns than Scott Rickard credits.

Similarly, music isn't only about internal repetitions. There are also patterns that we recognise because we're used to listen for them by experience, theory, and tradition. For example, I hear a tonal resolve between about 8:38 to about 8:48 and another even more striking one between 8:53 and 9:05. There's also a nice one right before the end of the piece.

By the way, everyone should appreciate the difficulty of playing a piece like this, without the aids of meter, harmony, or any awareness on the part of the composer of the limitations of human hands. It takes real skill and focus and Michael Linville does an excellent job.

more than 2 years ago
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Wikileaks Suspends Publishing Of Cables Due To "Financial Blockade"

AmElder No one can operate at the level without allies (316 comments)

Wikileaks has taken on the two most powerful kinds of organisations in the world, the pillars of the international political system and the global marketplace. It directly damaged the interests of the government of the world most powerful sovereign state (still the USA) and made noises about hurting corporate financial institutions. That's a tall order for any organisation.

Wikileaks put itself in a particularly hard spot because it hasn't played well with others. It took an 'our way or the highway' approach to disclosure. It also released information that no one was asking for, so it didn't make allies with its disclosures. Moreover, it didn't support or enable calls for specific kinds of disclosure from existing organisation. Now it's isolated and atrophying because no one can operate at that level without allies for long.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

Ok, sorry for suggesting it. I guess just like with politics, it's too easy to fall into an unfair mistrust online as well.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

That's a good point that good international negotiators understand the US process. This is why European trade partners have been disturbed by the lack of democratic ratification and by US statements about the non-binding nature of the agreement. They didn't start the process on the understanding that the US would treat the final document as a voluntary standard instead of a commitment. Europeans plan to treat it as a binding international treaty if signed and aren't best pleased with the idea of an asymmetric partnership through ACTA. And this supports the points I made (again, we agree) about the international position. The executive agreement undermines both the purpose of ACTA as a new standard and the efforts to oppose it.

It occurs to me that ACTA changed a lot over the years and the final text excluded a lot of the language the US wanted in (and the same is true for other parties as well). So to engage in rampant speculation, another possibility is that the USTR (who I put in the drivers seat on this) is trying to give itself room to expand the new standard later. Doing that through ACTA would be difficult, because the document is designed to be hard to change. Therefore, the US may want to leave itself a way out.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

Even as this story falls off the front page, I want to quickly come back at you, because I like your perspective. I haven't been following the public statements from the White House about ACTA. I should look for that.

Let's set aside the constitutionality of an ACTA signed and executed on the sole authority of the president, because I think we agree on that. In real political terms, I don't think that the current illegitimate or half-way legitimate status of the agreement/treaty as it stands is good for the interests of either opponents or those in favour of ACTA.

One important purpose of ACTA seems to be to promote a new set of international standards for the enforcement of intellectual property law. That purpose is undermined if the US seems to be uncommitted to it. Similarly, if ACTA is supposed to provide a more favourable, more exclusive venue for development of international IP law than WIPO and the WTO, another apparent goal of the process, the US doesn't advance that objective by undermining the treaty's domestic legitimacy. ACTA as some sort of variation of a sole executive agreement isn't good for ACTA partisans. When you're looking for international agreement, you don't want to be splitting legal hairs.

The current status of ACTA in the US isn't good for ACTA opponents either. For one thing, ACTA is at least superficially in effect, or will be, so the main goal of opponents seems to have failed. Even if the ACTA signing were to be declared unconstitutional in America, however, there remains the question of international legitimacy. The fact of the USA having signed ACTA puts the state under an international obligation to abide by it. That obligation has unpredictable effects and cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant imposition on a sovereign country. It can affect other US interests. It complicates opposition to the treaty through rhetoric and legal argument inside the US. That's not quite as strongly put as I'd like, but I can't spend a lot of time on it.

I suppose it's possible that the administration is playing some very deep political game. It could be trying to undermine the international IP regime, but I don't believe it is, at least not without instituting a modified replacement, which is what I think ACTA is supposed to be. It could be trying to leave the status of ACTA uncertain so that the TPP can eventually supersede it as the standard for international IP enforcement. That strikes me as superficially more likely, but still a bit paranoid.

I agree that the administration is overstepping its constitutional authority. The questions that come up after that are interesting. Why is it doing that? What does that choice reveal about the interests of the ACTA partisans in the US? Who is that choice good for? I think it's basically bad for everybody. I think it's a political and legal bad call. The best would have been if ACTA had gotten its day in the sun and been rejected. However even if it had been accepted by the legislature, that would have been a better situation than the one we find ourselves in.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

I'm being trolled, aren't I? What you've latched on to is the minor point of my comment. You can leave it out if you prefer. The upshot of what I was saying is that added steps in the ratification/signing process are good for opponents of ACTA.

Obviously, it's only possible to guess at other people's motivations, which ultimately remain a black box. However, I don't think that the specific self-interested motive you assign to Ron Wyden explains his behaviour convincingly. These points are in no particular order.

First off, Senator Wyden has a record of opposing and complicating the ACTA process. If he were hoping to receive money from lobbyists who want ACTA to come into effect, I think that either he would already be in their pay by now, or he would have realised that the lobbyists have decided to focus their campaign money influence buying on other senators who more broadly share their outlook.

I think lobbyists focus their campaign money influence buying on senators and candidates who more broadly share their outlook. Ron Wyden is one of fifty and is not carrying the day with his demands that ACTA be subject to senate approval. He's just not going to get paid for opposing the interests of the people he hopes will pay him off.

Then again, the way you worded your comment falls into a simple logical fallacy of confusing the part with the whole. Wyden's letter doesn't represent a broad consensus among senators that ACTA should be subject to senate approval. Its just him. There's not much evidence, therefore, of the senate as a whole being 'mad' over this issue.

Also, some of Senator Wyden's previous letters to the USTR about ACTA come during an election year, last year, when Wyden's seat was in question. That would have been the time to pander to the lobby that supports ACTA, if at any time, but Wyden didn't.

That's a selection of a few of the reasons why I think the idea that "he just wants his reward" from entertainment industry lobbyists and others doesn't stand up to even cursory scrutiny.

I think my explanation's better for a few reasons, but I'm not committed to it, and I don't think it's the only explanation. As far is it goes (a single sentence, proposing that Senator Wyden cares about the content of ACTA) I think it's correct. As I say, Wyden has a bit of a track record on this and has gone on record before about being concerned about ACTA provisions.

Of course, Senator Wyden comes from a state with an important computer industry, which has generally opposed ACTA. This has to be left in general terms because I don't know the details of the Oregon computer industry's stance on ACTA, but I would guess that if he's in the pay of anyone, it's the side that opposes ACTA. Furthermore, I imagine that position will play better in his district.

Finally, and not least, I think that the Senator from Oregon is using a point of order as a means of expressing concerns about the content of the proposed agreement because that's a senate pattern. That's how congress in general uses rules of procedure, as a way of slowing, or stopping legislation, for example, that congresspeople oppose. It's safer politically to bring up a point of order because then a lawmaker doesn't have to give away his or her rhetorical hand and the congressperson can possibly prevent the passage of something without having to oppose it. That's common, and I think that's what's going on here.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

I'll continue agreeing, then. The European Union, for one (or for 25) has called ACTA a treaty, so if the US treats it as non-binding (as it legally should be, at the moment, under US law) and doesn't follow the agreement, or a state undertakes a policy that diverges from the text of ACTA, everyone may end up in an arbitration process, and domestic law has no standing there. So there's a risk to the US in taking this route.

I have a little bit of a problem with people attributing blame for this to the president under any administration. I think the initiative comes from other places, perhaps from the USTR, but probably directly from industry lobbyists. I'm sorry I'm not plugged in enough to know exactly who got ACTA on the table in the first place, (the Japanese premier announced it, but he certainly didn't come up with the idea) but I think it's probably presented to the US president without dissenting opinions. Obviously it's his responsibility, but attributing it to his policy priorities is probably misguided.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

Presumably he wouldn't bring up the procedural objection if he didn't care about the content. A vote in two chambers of congress would give opponents of the treaty (or agreement or whatever you want to call it) at least two more opportunities to oppose it in public. Congress is more responsive to public mood than the executive branch. I think it was an ambassador who signed the treaty in Japan over last weekend. That's an event that much harder to make a stink about than a vote in the legislature.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

Exactly, thank you for putting it so succinctly. ACTA was badly named. It is not what it pretends to be. This seems to be a common understanding among people who've studied the treaty. Another good article in the American University Washington College of Law series, this one written by Margot E. Kaminski, say that:

"ACTA is primarily a copyright treaty, masquerading as a treaty that addresses dangerous medicines and defective imports."

The reasons that software professionals and free/open-stuff advocates have opposed the treaty has nothing to do with trade law, and everything to do with the criminal penalties for IP violations and the changing relationship between ISPs and their customer.

more than 2 years ago
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U.S. Senator Wyden Raises Constitutional Questions About ACTA

AmElder Re:I actually agree with the Democrat here (239 comments)

I disagree, ACTA is not, at heart, a trade agreement at all. It's a law enforcement treaty focusing on intellectual property. It aims to harmonise the enforcement measure with regard to intellectual property across the signatories. There's evidence for this in every portion of ACTA, but you just have to look at the headings for the two substantive chapters:

  • Chapter II: Legal Framework for Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Chapter III: Enforcement Practices

This doesn't diminish your point or Senator Wyden's. To quote an excellent article by Sean Flynn, ACTA would affect:

"evidentiary standards required for property seizures and criminal prosecution. It would affect state common law, where many trade secret obligations reside. And primarily it would affect the evolution of federal law, including the large federal statutory enactments on patents, copyrights and trademarks."

The president doesn't have any enumerated (or un-enumerated) powers that cover this territory, indeed, the power to regulate intellectual property, I understand, is an enumerated power of congress (Article I, sec 8 of the constitution). Therefore the agreement should be submitted to congress by the president and more specifically by the USTR under his authority.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You View the Wall Street Protests?

AmElder Re:What is the goal? (1799 comments)

It's true they lack a goal or objective and that's because they're a genuine, burgeoning social movement, not something else. When many people step out on the street together, they're not all going to be there for a single, shared reason, at least not at first.

Social movements are all about three things:

  • making collective claims in public over a period of time
  • using a set of social movement strategies
  • and demonstrating worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment.

The movements in the Muslim world earlier this year didn't all start with the demands that they ended up with. They took to the streets because they were upset and wanted to shout. That's what going on with the Occupy Whatever protesters too. Most basically, these public performances "assert popular sovereignty." They're democratic (small 'd'!), about the popular voice, showing that there is one and letting it speak.

The fact that these protests aren't motivated by a single voice or interest group encourages me, frankly. It means at the moment there are no shadowy figures behind the scenes pulling strings. There's a lot to shout about in the US at the moment. Me, I'm furious about the bank bailout, the budget crisis, political showboating, wasted war funds, executive bonuses, high unemployment, etc. If I'm anywhere near a protest, maybe I'll jump in and shout, too. If it turns into something I don't like, I'll bow out, or go someplace else the shout.

The list and other observation I've mentioned are all adapted from the writing of the academic Charles Tilly, who wrote the book on social movements.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Which License For School Products?

AmElder Re:The handbook comes later (56 comments)

Good points! I agree with everything you wrote.

Unfortunately, in the USA (haven't found info on the UK), the law as it stands makes the default situation exactly the opposite: the school owns the copyright on most lesson plans and other IP, as other people have described in other replies. It's crazy.

Also, I don't think anyone has suggested a good existing licensing solution that does what you're describing. A shame. Maybe the guy who posted the question will write a good license, with the school's legal council. Or maybe we'll have to live with the occasional injustice of a distance between the law and the expected behaviour until legislatures get around to solving the problem. In the US, there are proposals to change the 1976 copyright law to include an exemption for teachers.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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Humble Bundle publisher's game resold on Mac Store

AmElder AmElder writes  |  more than 3 years ago

AmElder (1385909) writes "There are two ways to buy a game about a violent rabbit on Apple's Mac store," according to an article on kotaku. "You could pay the game's creators $10 or you could buy [...] what Lugaru's developers claim is an outright rip-off — their game, their source code, being sold by someone else."

According to destructoid, the copy-cat developer "played off the issue because, according to him, the GPL license allows [them] to just repackage the whole thing to sell it for their own profit. Which they can't, as Wolfire clearly and unambiguously stated upon the release of the source code: 'Please note that the game data is not under the GPL, and forbids commercial redistribution.'""

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