A Mini-Rant on Presidents

A mini rant on what “the President” actually means, since so many people seem to have forgotten.

No one “serves” the President – you only “serve” monarchs or dictators.

The presidency is an office, not a person, and “loyalty” (if any) is only due to that office, not to a specific person.

The President is not the highest power in the land – the people are. All government authority in this country derives from the people. (“We the people…”)

The President is not even the highest authority in government – he is explicitly answerable to Congress (through the process of impeachment), and no amount of crying “executive privilege” is going to change this fact.

The President isn’t really meant to be a leader, he’s meant to be an administrator – his duty is to faithfully execute the laws that Congress passes with the money Congress grants. In this way, the President kind of serves Congress (which itself serves the people) – and not the other way around. (And this is how it should be – unless you personally enjoy dictatorships.)

The President is only really a “leader” of his own party, and only has “authority” that his party grants him, through their control (or lack thereof) of Congress.

If you want to think of it as a business (which it is not, but for the sake of argument we’ll make the comparison), the President is the CEO, Congress is the Board of Directors, and the people are the shareholders. A CEO may be “in charge” of the company, but he’s answerable to the board, and needs the board’s approval for major decisions. And if a CEO does things that decrease the value of the company and hurt the shareholders, he – along with the board of directors, if they went along with it – is going to rightfully find himself in very hot water with some very angry shareholders.

Oh, and the President absolutely cannot pardon himself. That is the logic of a 5 year old.

How Copyright Has Gone Copywrong

Yep, that’s right – I’m talking about copyright again. Specifically, I’m following up on my previous post, Copyright & Fan Creations.

In that post, I talked about how all fan art is copyright infringement – whether you sell it or not is irrelevant; as soon as you draw it, it infringes on copyright. Now it’s just a matter of how much damages you are liable for.

In ye olden times, copyright infringement was strictly a civil matter, up to the copyright holder to decide to sue – just like it is up to individuals in, say, a contract dispute to decide whether or not to sue. The state doesn’t typically get involved in civil matters (that’s why it’s called civil).

But now it does. Copyright infringement, though still nominally a civil matter, is being treated, prosecuted, and sentenced like a felony – right up there with robbing a bank or murder.

This is insane.

On top of that, copyright is extremely broad, and the only “exceptions” to the law (fair use) are actually just defenses, not actual exceptions – meaning they only come into play once you end up in court (and they are by no means guaranteed).

This is so heavily skewed that it’s a miracle anyone can produce anything new anymore without someone making a claim that it infringes (often just by resembling) another intellectual “property.” (In point of fact, this actually does happen quite a lot.)

This partly explains the resurgence of old, nostalgia-driven media lately – old comics made and re-made into movies, old franchises re-made, or even board games made into movies – because the copyright on these things are already well established, and companies don’t have to go through the potential trouble of investing in new properties, only to find out at the end that someone else has a copyright on something similar.

Keep in mind that I make my living from copyright & intellectual propery – so I’m not advocating for the total abolishing of copyright. What I’m calling for is some restraint, some sanity in copyright law.

For something that was intended to foster and encourage creative works & reward creators for doing so, it is now much too heavily skewed towards protecting existing creations.

Eventually, this is going to come back around and start biting the hands of those who advocated for stronger copyright laws.

Copyright is painted with such a broad brush, and it lasts for such a long time, that it is now having the opposite effect than what was intended – or what is necessary.

Creativity still happens, of course, but the rewards & incentives copyright was intended to give simply no longer exist (or are outweighed by the risks of infringement). Copyright is stuck 100 years ago, even while copyright enforcement is using cutting edge technology.

This is terrible, and it needs to change.

Copyright is important, don’t get me wrong, but we need to stop treating it as though it is some fundamental, inalienable right which must be protected at all costs. Copyright law needs to strike a reasonable balance between protection and re-use, one that encourages and rewards creation, without discouraging new creation for fear of potential infringement. And perhaps most importantly, it needs to set some clear guidelines on what is and is not permissible vis-a-vi re-use and fair use, instead of just saying “well, we’ll know it when we see it… in court.”

These sorts of changes will go a long way towards bringing copyright into the 21st century, helping it make sense again, and put a stop to the utter madness that is the state of copyright law and enforcement today.

Unsubscribe me NOW, Damnit!

If there’s one thing that really annoys me, it’s crappy methods of unsubscribing from email newsletters and mailing lists that end with “it may take up to 10 days to process your request.”
If there’s one thing that really annoys me, it’s crappy methods of unsubscribing from email newsletters and the like. You’ve probably seen it before – you get some email from a company you’ve bought something from in the past, or maybe a website’s newsletter that you signed up for. It’s not spam, but you decide that you don’t really want these sorts of emails anymore, so you click the “Unsubscribe” link down at the bottom.

And then you’re greeted with something like this (emphasis mine):

Thanks for unsubscribing.
It may take up to 10 days to process your request.

Ten days? TEN DAYS?!? Seriously?

While the exact number of days may vary, the point is that you aren’t unsubscribed yet, even though you clicked the link to unsubscribe.

What’s worse is that sometimes the company or website will send you another email during that processing period!

Personally, whenever I see something like this it tends to send me into a sort of rage, where I vow never to do business with this company/organization/website ever again. Because really, saying that it’s going to take days (however many it may be) to do what should be instantaneous is just a giant middle finger to whomever is on the receiving end of the original email.

I could understand delays in processing an unsubscribe request back in the dark ages of the Internet – maybe even as recently as 5 years ago – when email mailing lists were cultivated manually, but honestly in this day and age there is absolutely no excuse for not automatically honoring an unsubscribe request immediately after a link is clicked.

I have to imagine that all of these “unsubscribe processing delay” messages come from old or home-grown email systems, because all the modern email marketing systems I know of will honor unsubscribe requests immediately.

When someone clicks an “unsubscribe” link (and I’m talking about a true “unsubscribe me from everything” link, not just a “stop receiving offers” or “stop sending me the monthly newsletter” type links), that person’s email address should be immediately marked as “DO NOT CONTACT” and no more bulk-type emails should ever be sent to that person’s address until they do something to opt-in to receiving them again.

In other words, when I click the “unsubscribe” link in your email, I expect you to unsubscribe me NOW, not 3 or 5 or 10 days later. Immediate unsubscribing may not be legally required (e.g., by the CAN SPAM Act), but I’d like to think it is morally required – it’s just common courtesy.

 

Dear TSA: An Idea for Full-Body Scanners

An open letter to the TSA: wouldn’t it be nice to just replace all the security nonsense with one quick & easy full-body scan?
RE: Full Body Scanners

Dear TSA:

I can’t help but notice that you’ve somehow got it into your head that we need full-body scanners now at every US airport. Well, I have a suggestion for you while you’re at it: instead of adding full-body scanners on top of everything else you’ve got to delay me while trying to get to my plane, why don’t you replace all the x-ray machines and other nonsense with just the one single (and hopefully, quick!) full-body scanner?

Think about it: you wouldn’t have to ask people to take off their shoes, unpack laptops from their bags, empty spare change from their pockets, remove belts, take of scarves, and so forth. Just the one scanner could scan EVERYTHING on the person. Just a few seconds, and BAM! you’re done. How nice would that be?

Of course, this idea hinges on the full-body scanner actually being useful for scanning people. If, on the other hand, it is just a huge, expensive, time-wasting machine to check for explosives in people’s underwear, then I have to tell you, respectfully, that this is a complete waste of time, money, and effort. So just knock it off already.

But if it works, and if you could replace all the other nonsense at security checkpoints in airports with one quick, fast, non-invasive scan, then by all means, go ahead!

Just a thought – but one I hope you guys take seriously!

Dear TSA: Stop Keeping Secrets

An open letter to the TSA asking them to stop being so secretive – because it’s not helping anybody.
Dear TSA:

It’s time and past time for you guys to stop “declining to say” when asked anything about the insane so-called “security” procedures or tools you’ve put into place.

I know most of your top brass are probably still in the mentality of the cold war, but trust me guys – it doesn’t matter whether you keep the design of your x-ray machines or body scanners or neutron detectors or whatever secret, or whether you put up huge billboards of their internal schematics in Afghanistan.

I’m not being facetious here either – it really doesn’t matter. If the security systems you have put in place are truly well-designed and well-thought-out, then they will work regardless of whether their internal workings is common knowledge or not.

And, since we are still (the last time I checked) a free country (as we like to proclaim ever more loudly, while at the same time we become less and less free), your default reply should ALWAYS be to be totally up-front about security and to provide any details that anyone asks about the internal workings of things.

If you were SERIOUS about security – real security, not just “pretend” security that only serves to “cover your ass” in case something bad happens – you’d welcome the feedback and massive talent pool that being in the public eye could give.

Just a thought, from a concerned citizen.