write your own regulations
Thursday, October 4 2007
Today's $222,000 jury verdict against Jammie Thomas for sharing twenty four songs over Kazaa was a sobering reminder that our justice system often dispenses something other than justice. Even accepting the music industry's claim that the 24 songs were "stolen," it hardly seems like a grand heist. Twenty four songs amounts to two CDs, or maybe $30. A shoplifter stealing $30 from a store is not taking a $220,000 risk in doing so. To most Americans, $220,000 is real money, a debt that will completely alter a life's financial trajectory. It's may not be the death penalty, but it does remind me of the medieval justice where a peasant risked death if caught stealing an apple from the knight's orchard. That such a judgment can be handed down for such a minor infraction gives an indication of the obscene power the recording music industry wields in our country, and the obscene uses they're willing to make of it. It should come as no surprise that when an industry is allowed to write the regulations that affect it, they will be grossly unfair for everyone else. The only hope is that the internet is quickly making the recording industry's contribution to the economy irrelevant, starving them of the money that their power is based on. (Witness the recent end-run pulled by Radiohead and the DIY production and distribution by such bands as Midlake.)
It's important to note, by the way, that Jammie Thomas was not caught "downloading files." Downloading files is actually legal, and it's the method the RIAA employs to catch people. If you are downloading files, you might only be doing it to obtain a 30 second clip for some fair-use application, or you might be working for the RIAA trying to ascertain whether a file available on a file sharing network is of music belonging to a copyright holder who employs you. The crime that put Jammie Thomas in the RIAA's crosshairs was sharing files, that is, making them available for download (although, confusingly, the only shared files focused upon were the files that the RIAA claimed had come via downloading). This important distinction doesn't seem to get much play in the media, partly (I suspect) because much of the media is owned by corporate parents of other companies that distribute music, and it's in the interest of these people to create a cloud of legal uncertainty around the downloading of files. Welcome to the wonderful world of American corporatism, Mussolini's preferred name for fascism.
While I'm on the subject of industries writing their own regulations, is anyone surprised that the private army known as Blackwater has abused their legally-protected lack of oversight in Iraq? I've heard friends say things like, "If I knew I could get away with it, I'd kill that motherfucker!" Well, in Iraq, Blackwater employees knew they could get away with anything they wanted to do. Indeed, as far as I know, the only consequences for Blackwater have come in instances of mob justice carried out in places like Fallujah. As with all mob justice, it's entirely possible that those employees who were killed, burned, and then hung from a bridge were nice guys, but if you're a pissed-off Iraqi who knows that Blackwater thugs routinely get away with murder, I can empathize with your desire to kill and humiliate those guys at every available opportunity.
When I originally installed my urinal system back in May, I collected my urine in five gallon buckets full of sawdust. But the sawdust from the '06-'07 woodcutting season eventually ran out and I was forced to use leaves as a cellulose source instead. Either way, the cellulose supplied much-needed carbon for the microbes fermenting the urine and making it palatable for plants. So far I've buried over fifty gallons of my own urine in and around the front yard garden.
My recent woodcutting jihad has yielded 30 gallons of fresh sawdust and an additional ten gallons of sawdust heavily contaminated with bark and wood chips. I've saved the purer stuff for urine recycling and applied the cruder stuff directly to the garden. I have a feeling that all that urine I've added has made it a bit nitrogen-logged, something scrap cellulose can ameliorate.
There are probably a number of readers who would like an update on my urinal system after over four months of continual use (yes, that's how I would characterize its use). Since installation, I haven't pissed standing up in any of the house's toilets, and they're proving decidedly cleaner with decidedly less toilet-scrubbing. As for my PVC-based flushless urinals, they're still relatively odor-free, though the motor/corn oil in the traps has thinned out and no longer provides the odor-defeating membrane it once did. Now I depend mostly on a plastic cap that I keep in the urinal when I'm not actually using it. Eventually I'll flush them out, scrub them down, and put in some fresh new mineral oil.
My woodcutting jihad finally ended today when I cut up the last of the wood in the garage, leaving it devoid of firewood for the first time since 2003. With the wood gone, I swept up the sawdust, bark, and grime and made the garage tidy, partly as a clean psychological break from the bad old days of storing firewood there. As for the new woodshed, it has an impressive amount of wood in it, but it's only about a third full.
This evening I went to cook up those mushrooms I'd bought at the Garlic Festival, but I couldn't find them anywhere. They'd completely vanished from the universe. I completely ransacked the refrigerator, yelling at no one in particular as my hunt remained fruitless. In the end I had to cook up a more conventional sort of mushroom. They ended up in a sort of delicious chili that was ready at 9:45pm, just as Gretchen was coming home from her prison teaching gig.
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