McGregor’s Miscellany (2017-02-09)

No News Is Good News (for some)

The motivation for this post is to link to James Cambias’ blog post, “Where’s My Flying Journalist?”

(Don’t let my bitter cynicism dissuade you. Cambias’ much more temperate article is very good and important and worth a read so, even if you read me at all, go read him first.)

This really resonates with me after a long time searching for something that didn’t tell me about the latest car crash or Hollywood divorce but instead, gee, I dunno, the latest city council resolution or international “trade” treaty deal. And especially after everyone of every political stripe was handed a load of nonsense from all sources regarding US politics for the past couple of years.

The multimedia multinationals can make money from all kinds of things so don’t need “news” for that (though that is certainly an objective orders of magnitude more important than actual journalism). I suspect what they want to do, when not tying in to their other money-making properties, is misinform any who persist in continuing to try to educate themselves and to corral everyone into easily manipulated social media bubbles/echo chambers, many of which generate nothing but venom towards a government intended to be of, by, and for the people. A free press whose objective is genuinely to inform the public, on the one hand, and to convey its true mood, on the other, is vitally important to a healthy democracy. But a healthy democracy makes it harder for corporations to do what they want to do, which is to pile up money and power without limitation. Corporations are plutocratic oligarchies and, like Midas, would like to transmute all things into their form of gold. Free presses and essentially any other form of government, especially democratic ones, are necessarily hindrances to them.

(There’s a saying that one shouldn’t blame on malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity. So maybe the people running news organizations are stupid and, as Cambias points out, can’t come up with ideas a science fiction author can come up with after moments of casual reflection. I’m not sure that’s an “adequate” explanation, though.)

New Musical Birthday

On a happier, um, note, I’d also like to wish John Williams a belated happy birthday. File 770 reminded me he turned 85 yesterday.

Old Musical Birthday

Also, it’s been bugging me that the Elvis songs in the last Miscellany, great as they are, were kind of down, especially for a birthday (which put me more in mind of his death). To remedy that, I’ll call on uptempo Elvis himself, plus another of my favorites, The Cramps.

Elvis – “Little Sister”

The Cramps – “Heartbreak Hotel” (a very different interpretation)

Edit: Well, now I’m depressed all over again. Weird synchronicity. Speaking of memorials of deaths, I was taken by a sneaking feeling and, indeed, it was almost this day eight years ago that Lux Interior (the Cramps’ singer) started jamming with Elvis (February 4th, 2009). So this one’s for Lux as well as Elvis!


6 thoughts on “McGregor’s Miscellany (2017-02-09)

  1. I’d forgotten about that but looked it up and he’s had it awhile now, with little noticeable change that I was able to find. And while every individual can surprise you for good or ill, I’d actually regard it more as a symptom of the problem than a solution. Amazon is a multi-billion dollar entity pushing DRMed ebooks and famous for horrible working conditions and now has a newspaper. But a positive change is always possible and I’d certainly welcome it. Thanks for reminding me of it and I’ll try to keep it in mind going forward.


  2. I worked at Amazon for three years. Its working conditions are fine. Where people get confused is when they try to compare the working conditions of software engineers at places like Google with the working conditions of Amazon’s warehouse workers. But if you compare programmers with programmers, Amazon is about the same as everyone else, and if you compare warehouse workers with warehouse workers, Amazon is much better than average.

    For example, there was a big fuss over Amazon not having air conditioning in its warehouses. In point of fact, no one else had air conditioning in their warehouses either (except for perishables), but Amazon went ahead and installed it in response to the bad press.

    One can argue the business case for DRM either way, but it’s hardly a moral issue. Unless you think it’s immoral for writers to be paid for their work at all.


  3. Interesting inside take on Amazon. Thanks for that. I haven’t done any research on it – just repeating what I’ve picked up from the same news we’re complaining about. 😉

    As far as DRM, it is a moral issue, but the other way around. It’s immoral to treat customers as criminals and immoral to sell them essentially broken goods. The only people it hurts directly are decent ordinary readers and it helps no one; not even Amazon (unless maybe by product lock-in), not even the authors. It certainly doesn’t present any problems to pirates. Baen set the standard there and I think it was Tor who followed them, at least in part. There are other examples, I think (maybe Weightless sells DRM-free stuff?) and it’d be very nice if everyone operated that way but, as long as Amazon does otherwise, everyone else combined can’t really tip the scales.


  4. Oh but it isn’t Amazon who insists on DRM. The big publishers refused to allow electronic publication at all without it. When a publisher like doesn’t want to use DRM, Amazon is happy to forgo it. But without DRM, there wouldn’t be much more than self-published and out-of-copyright books on the Kindle.


    • (I’ve just been typing in the general reply box when maybe I should click the specific “reply” button before I do.)

      That may technically be so but I’m not sure I agree on which is the tail and which is the dog. If Amazon took a stand against DRM and refused to sell books that had it, I’m pretty sure the publishers would decide it wasn’t all that important after all. But I do agree that, if enough publishers took the same stand, Amazon would also reach the same conclusion. They sure haven’t had the battle royal over that they had over how much money they wanted to make (the pricing model). As is, I’m afraid Tor and Baen are remaining minor exceptions who could, at any moment, decide to return to the crowd.

      But this is a little far afield. It would be nice to see the Washington Post return to its early 70s heyday. We’ll see.


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