samedi 29 août 2009

M. Mandelson on "intellectual property": #fail

Rejuvenated no doubt by his summer holidays with his billionaire bosses, M. Mandelson returns to his duties determined to save the cultural industries from the depredations of illegal downloaders. His simplistic article argues "that taking something for nothing is wrong," with no consideration of the changed reality of the public interest when that "something" has in fact a marginal cost of distribution that approaches zero.
If he informed himself elsewhere than the decks of media moguls' yachts, he might find that the public interest actually lay in shortening copyright terms, and restricting the grant of (often ludicrous) patents. Duke University law professor James Boyle's book The Public Domain outlines the case for a radical reform of intellectual property law from its present corporate hegemony. It's a free download licensed under Creative Commons, yet its publisher, Yale University Press expects to sell more physical copies of the book as a result. Go figure, M. Mandelson.
Naturally M. Murdoch's lackeys didn't see fit to publish my comment to this effect alongside the article.

jeudi 27 août 2009

English anarchists at forefront of battle against climate change

How to change the climate, WAG-style.
Get drunk.
Shout at the cops.
Accuse everyone around you of counter-revolutionary compromise.
Go home.
Well done chaps!

Racism in Europe: Polish shame

I'm afraid it's my dismal experience of many eastern Europeans (and Italians) that they are capable of a kind of crude racism that you might have found in Britain in the 'seventies, but which, hopefully, thankfully, as we become less parochial, is dying out.
I was reminded of this a couple of months ago on a Midland train between Sheffield and London, when the Polish tealady served me (white) nicely enough, but was frankly rude to a black lady at the next seat, making all kinds of problems about her change. The tealady's evident distaste for the position she had found herself in--serving a murzyn--was evident in her sneering manner, made all the cruder for her somewhat basic command of English. It was ugly.
More ugliness, this, from Microsoft Poland.
And an orthogonal, but valuable perspective (from UK football fans).
But what to do? One could google. An excellent page; but the measures described rely on having a minority culture to interact with. Hence the eastern/southern european hideousness, derived from their lifelong inhabitation of monoethnic cultures. Take a lot to break that; better get started.

Update 3/09/09: Another example of the phenomenon with illuminating discussion.

jeudi 13 août 2009

French curiously absent from European medical associations

Looking round the European medical scene, I find the RCGP is affiliated to UEMO who curiously lack the French. There is also the CPME, again, without the French.

What is going on? The French are usually keen citizens of the European ideal. Very strange, and worth further investigation.

Update 17 August 2009: CPME functionary Irene Klepinine kindly forwarded a 22 July 2008 letter sent by the CPME executive to its members. It appears a number of issues led to the resignation of the French, Italian and Spanish delegations, but at heart this was a Romance/Anglophone split, the Latins accusing the CPME of lack of commitment to the multilingualism at the heart of the European ideal, which "should not be perceived as a cost or a constraint." Though plainly it is. Ho hum!

Reading between the lines, the "rump" of 27 countries who remain are those who are either anglophone (UK, Ireland, Malta), seem to have no difficulty acquiring English (Netherlands, Germany, Sweden) or the new eastern European states (Lithuania, Latvia) who, looking for a standard for a working language, (obviously) gravitate to English rather than French.

English is a dreadful language in many respects: I have recoiled in horror from even its simplest grammar. I'm certainly glad I learned it at my doting parents' knees and not in some sultry classroom where the sound of the bluebottle dotting the walls competes in monotony with the incorrectly stressed rhythm and fudged consonants of modern Latins, and the teacher tediously outlining a long list of exceptions to some rule or other. It could be taught much better of course. At base: the Romance idea that you can legislate for language, impose a grammar, rather than considering it a description of what actually is, and just get on with it. Poor things.

Anyway, along the way I have the answer to the question that started this train of enquiry, which is that it seems to be the Conseil National de l’Ordre des Médecins Français which forms the homologue to the RCGP in France.