aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Call me paranoid
I just don’t believe this is true:
Although some senior intelligence and law enforcement officials said they began to recognize the mutating threat at the time of the train bombings in Madrid in March 2004, the London bombings have reinforced the lesson that, by all accounts, the centrally controlled Al Qaeda of 9/11 is no more.
I think it’s the old 9/11 Al Qaeda and the “terrorist threat that keeps changing.” Let’s just hope I’m wrong.
Eliot Cohen on Q&A
Johns Hopkins University Strategic Studies Program Director Eliot Cohen is on Q&A right now discussing his Washington Post OpEd, A Hawk Questions Himself as His Son Goes to War. (The program will be repeated at 6 a.m. tomorrow or you can watch it on the web.)
Brian Lamb is walking him piece by piece through his article, asking him to elaborate on each. I am picking this answer somewhat at random, before finishing the program, which is very, very good:
It seems pretty clear to me that we messed up quite badly in the first year, the 18 months in Iraq.
But beyond the normal range of errors that one expects in war. And one of the responses I’ve gotten, they’ve said, well, people always make mistakes in war, which is true. But you have to have some sort of reasonable standards for what’s a reasonable amount of error and mistakes.
As I talk about in the article, one of the things I have found particularly offensive is just the—you know, initially at any rate, a complete denial that we had made any mistakes or that there were things happening that we hadn’t foreseen, or there was even denial that we faced an insurgency.
There was for way, way too long this absurd notion that, well, there’s only 5,000 bad guys out there that are bitter enders and they’re just the remnants of the regime. It’s clearly something else.
And the thing that—I mean, I’m angered as a father who is about to send his son off to war, but the—if you will, the pundit in me, or the commentator in public affairs is also angry about that because it got in the way of making good judgment.
So I think—I’m not looking for a mea culpa, but I’m looking for something, say, much more detailed I think than we got out of the president at Fort Bragg. A much more detailed accounting of where this is going to be, I think we have to be quite honest about how long this is likely to go on. This is going to be a very long process, how costly it might be.
And I think I would also—and this comes into the category of seriousness, I would like to see a call for some sort of sacrifice. Not a draft. A draft is not workable. But I wish I saw more senior administration officials out there trying to persuade young people to enlist.
I wish we had a tax increase to help pay for this. Even if, you know, you could construct and economic theory that says you don’t need a tax increase to pay for this, some sort of sense that when you go to war you’re asking people to give.
His experience, as a father reflecting only because his son is going off to war, underscores the legitimacy of the point being made by Operation Yellow Elephant.
Regular readers know I’m no fan of copyright as practiced today. So it won’t surprise you to learn I don’t like the patent practice (copyright on steroids) much either, most particularly as manifested in the software patent.
Today Randall Stross writing in the Times looks at how Microsoft is going about achieving its goal of 3,000 patents. He includes this background:
All software published in the United States is protected by strong copyright and trademark protection. Microsoft Excel, for example, cannot be copied, nor can its association with Microsoft be removed. But a patent goes well beyond this. It protects even the underlying concepts from being used by others - for 20 years.
As recently as the 1970’s, software developers relied solely upon copyrights and trademarks to protect their work. This turned out rather well for Microsoft. Had Dan Bricklin, the creator of VisiCalc, the spreadsheet that gave people a reason to buy a personal computer, obtained a patent covering the program in 1979, Microsoft would not have been able to bring out Excel until 1999. Nor would Word or PowerPoint have appeared if the companies that had brought out predecessors obtained patent protection for their programs.
The legal environment changed not because of new legislation, but by accident. One important ruling here and another there, and without anyone fully realizing it, a new intellectual-property reality had evolved by the end of the 1980’s. Now software could enjoy the extraordinary protection of a patent, protection so powerful that Thomas Jefferson believed that it should be granted in only a few select cases.
So where did Microsoft get the number 3,000?
“We realized we were underpatenting,” Mr. Smith [the company’s senior vice president and general counsel] explained. The company had seen studies showing that other information technology companies filed about two patents for every $1 million spent on research and development. If Microsoft was spending $6 billion to $7.5 billion annually on its R&D, it would need to file at least 3,000 applications to keep up with the Joneses.
That sounds perfectly innocuous. The really interesting comparisons, though, are found not among software companies, but between software companies and pharmaceutical companies. Pharma is lucky to land a single patent after placing a multihundred-million-dollar bet and waiting patiently 10 years for it to play out. Mark H. Webbink, the deputy general counsel of Red Hat, a Linux and open-source distributor, said it was ridiculous for a software company to grab identical protection for work entailing relatively minuscule investment and trivial claims. He said of current software patents, “To give 20 years of protection does not help innovation.”
If Congress passed legislation that strengthened and expanded copyright protection to include design elements as well as software’s source code, formalizing the way the courts interpreted the law in the 1970’s, we could bring an end to software patents and this short, unhappy blip in our patent system’s time line.
Somehow that scares me too.
Wolcott on Arianna and Judith
I had my doubts about the Huffington Post at the start. A friend in NY was more optimistic, noting the promise of its celebrity lineup posting sans editor. Good point.
If leaks from a certain newspaper HQ in Times Square are reaching flood stage, it means that years of resentment and frustration over Judith Miller’s untouchable diva status and inside gamesmanship are producing major payback. Arianna suggests that the united front being presented by editor Bill Keller and publisher Arthur Sulzberger may crack under the force of further revelations. Yes, indeed, “a lot hinges on how much of what Judy knows Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger also know.”
A lot more hinges on what she knows that they don’t.