B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s Tactics

Stack of Books
Stack of Books

Amazon.com continues its losing war against book publishers, especially in the PR battlefield. When authors as well known as Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip Roth, and Milan Kundera side against you, it might be time to start dialing back the rhetoric. 

Last spring, when Amazon began discouraging customers from buying books published by Hachette, the writers grumbled that they were pawns in the retailer’s contract negotiations over e-book prices. During the summer, they banded together and publicly protested Amazon’s actions.

Now, hundreds of other writers, including some of the world’s most distinguished, are joining the coalition. Few if any are published by Hachette. And they have goals far broader than freeing up the Hachette titles. They want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.

(click here to continue reading Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics – NYTimes.com.)

Rate this packaging
Rate this packaging

Why does it even matter to you, oh book consumer? For instance, since Jeff Bezos is clearly on the political right, or at best, Libertarian in his outlook, when he favors Paul Ryan’s book over an exposé of the Koch Brothers, we should pay attention. 

Sons of Wichita” by Daniel Schulman, a writer for Mother Jones magazine, came out in May. Amazon initially discounted the book, a well-received biography of the conservative Koch brothers, by 10 percent, according to a price-tracking service. Now it does not discount it at all. It takes as long as three weeks to ship.

“The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” by Representative Paul Ryan has no such constraints, an unusual position these days for a new Hachette book.

Amazon refused to take advance orders for “The Way Forward,” as it does with all new Hachette titles. But once the book was on sale, it was consistently discounted by about 25 percent. There is no shipping delay. Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than “Sons of Wichita.”

An Amazon spokesman declined to explain why “The Way Forward” was getting special treatment.

Not Barnes and Noble
Not Barnes and Noble

Book sellers have always made decisions about what books to stock, but Amazon was supposed to be the largest bookseller on the planet, where you can get any book you want. Seems as if Jeff Bezos’ company is starting to reflect his anti-tax, anti-small business, anti-regulation views.

As Ms. Ursula K. Le Guin puts it:

“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Ms. Le Guin wrote in an email. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

(click here to continue reading Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Books,Business

Tagged with , ,

Lightning Strikes Not Once But Twice – Explored

Lightning Strikes Not Once But Twice
Lightning Strikes Not Once But Twice

I took this photo on September 15, 2014, and processed it in my digital darkroom on September 26, 2014. Explored in Flickr on 9/27/14.

A Ford, I think. Sitting mostly under a shed near the Frostpocket Workshop for 30 years…

Written by Seth Anderson

September 27th, 2014 at 8:25 am

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Self Portrait – First day in Frostpocket – Explored

Self Portrait - First day in Frostpocket
Self Portrait – First day in Frostpocket

I took this photo on September 13, 2014, and processed it in my digital darkroom on September 26, 2014. Explored on Flickr 9/27/14.

Still relatively clean-cut, but starting to show signs of sleep loss (those little deer mouse might be cute, but they are loud at night). 

and the after-Frostpocket beard, right before I shaved:

Goodbye Frostpocket Beard
Goodbye Frostpocket Beard

 

click images to embiggen

Written by Seth Anderson

September 27th, 2014 at 8:12 am

Phil Repairing the Roof of the Workshop – Explored

Phil Repairing the Roof of the Workshop
Phil Repairing the Roof of the Workshop

I took this photo on September 12, 2014, and processed it in my digital darkroom on September 26, 2014.

That’s a pretty darn steep slope if you ask me.

Explored on Flickr, 9/27/14

click image to embiggen

Written by Seth Anderson

September 27th, 2014 at 8:07 am

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , , ,

Signaling Post-Snowden Era, New iPhone Slows Down N.S.A.

one comment

Cell phone-iphile
Cell phone-iphile

Remind me again why warrantless searching of personal information is a good thing again? Oh, right, TERROR, and that old shibboleth, kidnapping. Yeah, count me in the “Why not just get a warrant” camp…

The National Security Agency and the nation’s law enforcement agencies have a different concern: that the smartphone is the first of a post-Snowden generation of equipment that will disrupt their investigative abilities.

The phone encrypts emails, photos and contacts based on a complex mathematical algorithm that uses a code created by, and unique to, the phone’s user — and that Apple says it will not possess.

The result, the company is essentially saying, is that if Apple is sent a court order demanding that the contents of an iPhone 6 be provided to intelligence agencies or law enforcement, it will turn over gibberish, along with a note saying that to decode the phone’s emails, contacts and photos, investigators will have to break the code or get the code from the phone’s owner.

Breaking the code, according to an Apple technical guide, could take “more than 5 1/2 years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers.” (Computer security experts question that figure, because Apple does not fully realize how quickly the N.S.A. supercomputers can crack codes.)

Already the new phone has led to an eruption from the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey.

(click here to continue reading Signaling Post-Snowden Era, New iPhone Locks Out N.S.A. – NYTimes.com.)

If the NSA and related agencies hadn’t been so damn aggressive circumventing American law, perhaps Apple wouldn’t have had to taken this additional step.

Or as Vikas Bajaj writes:

Apple’s new privacy policy does nothing to prevent law enforcement from searching an iPhone or an iPad if they obtain a warrant from a court to do so. The company is merely saying that Apple will no longer be able to unlock those devices for investigators as it did previously. The police will still be free to hack into the devices, just as they are authorized to kick down the door to a house or use a blowtorch to open a safe that they have been given permission to search.

But that’s not good enough for Mr. Comey and others. They want Apple (and Google, which makes the Android mobile phone software) to do the hacking for them.

Furthermore, investigators can often get information stored on phones and tablets through other means. For example, they could get the calling history from wireless phone companies like AT&T; same with text messages. And companies like Google and Yahoo would have to turnover messages on their servers if presented with a search warrant. Lastly, law enforcement agencies could also access any photos and videos stored on the phone have been backed up to Apple’s iCloud servers from the company.

(click here to continue reading Using Scare Tactics to Fight Apple – NYTimes.com.)

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes

Plus there is the issue of a dysfunctional Congress, too mired in partisan bickering to actually update the laws for a modern age. Mostly on the Republican side, but not exclusively.

The move raises a critical issue, the intelligence officials say: Who decides what kind of data the government can access? Until now, those decisions have largely been a matter for Congress, which passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act in 1994, requiring telecommunications companies to build into their systems an ability to carry out a wiretap order if presented with one. But despite intense debate about whether the law should be expanded to cover email and other content, it has not been updated, and it does not cover content contained in a smartphone.

At Apple and Google, company executives say the United States government brought these changes on itself. The revelations by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden not only killed recent efforts to expand the law, but also made nations around the world suspicious that every piece of American hardware and software — from phones to servers made by Cisco Systems — have “back doors” for American intelligence and law enforcement.

Surviving in the global marketplace — especially in places like China, Brazil and Germany — depends on convincing consumers that their data is secure.
Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has emphasized that Apple’s core business is to sell devices to people. That distinguishes Apple from companies that make a profit from collecting and selling users’ personal data to advertisers, he has said.

and a bit of rationality:

Mr. Zdziarski (Jonathan Zdziarski, a security researcher who has taught forensics courses to law enforcement agencies on collecting data from iPhones) said that concerns about Apple’s new encryption to hinder law enforcement seemed overblown. He said there were still plenty of ways for the police to get customer data for investigations. In the example of a kidnapping victim, the police can still request information on call records and geolocation information from phone carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

“Eliminating the iPhone as one source I don’t think is going to wreck a lot of cases,” he said. “There is such a mountain of other evidence from call logs, email logs, iCloud, Gmail logs. They’re tapping the whole Internet.”

(click here to continue reading Signaling Post-Snowden Era, New iPhone Locks Out N.S.A. – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 27th, 2014 at 8:02 am

Posted in Apple,government

Tagged with , , ,

Here But Now Gone was uploaded to Flickr

Frostpocket

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/p7oUBB

I took Here But Now Gone on September 13, 2014 at 03:37PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on September 26, 2014 at 12:36AM

Written by eggplant

September 25th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

RIP, iPod Classic was uploaded to Flickr

Not only is my iPod Classic dead, but Apple has officially discontinued them. :(

Eulogy for the iPod classic

http://ift.tt/YBrIqJ

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/oTJvgs

I took RIP, iPod Classic on September 11, 2014 at 07:47PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on September 12, 2014 at 12:49AM

Written by eggplant

September 11th, 2014 at 5:53 pm

“If I See A Mule Run Away With The World” was uploaded to Flickr

“I’m just gonna tell him to go head on"

Phil takes a nap in Union Park, West Loop

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/oQgtiv

I took “If I See A Mule Run Away With The World” on September 05, 2014 at 03:03PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on September 08, 2014 at 12:18AM

Written by eggplant

September 7th, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Boogie Woogie Box Set

Boogie Woogie Box Set
Boogie Woogie Box Set

Horrible documentation (like, zero, in fact), but still, 200 jazz and blues tracks on 10 CDs for around $20 US is a pretty good deal if you are into such things (“original masters” btw) . Artists range from  Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Artie Shaw, Louis Jordan, Champion Jack Dupree, and all points in between.

amzn.to/1u5TGo5

I can’t say I’d want to listen to all 200 in sequence, but as part of a shuffled playlist? delightful.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

August 29th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone

Pour Over Coffee
Pour Over Coffee

I’ve been meaning to try this: I am a nap person anyway, typically for about 30 minutes in the late afternoon. And since I have some coffee in my thermos from this morning…

To understand a coffee nap, you have to understand how caffeine affects you. After it’s absorbed through your small intestine and passes into your bloodstream, it crosses into your brain. There, it fits into receptors that are normally filled by a similarly-shaped molecule, called adenosine.

Adenosine is a byproduct of brain activity, and when it accumulates at high enough levels, it plugs into these receptors and makes you feel tired. But with the caffeine blocking the receptors, it’s unable to do so. As Stephen R. Braun writes in Buzz: the Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine, it’s like “putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.”

 Now, caffeine doesn’t block every single adenosine receptor — it competes with adenosine for these spots, filling some, but not others.

But here’s the trick of the coffee nap: sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain. If you nap for longer than 15 or 20 minutes, your brain is more likely to enter deeper stages of sleep that take some time to recover from. But shorter naps generally don’t lead to this so-called “sleep inertia” — and it takes around 20 minutes for the caffeine to get through your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream anyway.

So if you nap for those 20 minutes, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. The caffeine will have less adenosine to compete with, and will thereby be even more effective in making you alert.

(click here to continue reading Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone – Vox.)

Ask me tomorrow (or better yet next week after I try coffee napping a few times) how well it works…

Full of Beans - Espresso
Full of Beans – Espresso

Round of Coffee
Round of Coffee

Jabez Burns and Sons - Coffee Roasters
Jabez Burns and Sons – Coffee Roasters

Daily Rounds
Daily Rounds

Seemed Easier Than Just Waiting Around
Seemed Easier Than Just Waiting Around

Colleen Drinks Coffee
Colleen Drinks Coffee

Written by Seth Anderson

August 28th, 2014 at 11:06 am

Posted in Food and Drink,science

Tagged with

Fracking rules to be unveiled for Illinois

Motion is Life
Motion is Life

Great, just great. I guess this is why the Koch Industry was so concerned about Chicago’s attempt to ban petcoke from being stored in the city.

Highly anticipated rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing in Illinois are to be unveiled Friday.

Once the rules go into effect, Illinois hopes to become the center of the next oil boom. Fracking, which involves injecting fluids and chemicals at high volumes to crack open shale rock and unleash oil and natural gas, could bring bring jobs to a struggling southern Illinois economy. Ilinois also is counting on tax revenue on extracted oil and gas to fatten state and county coffers.

A year ago a draft version of the proposed rules proved controversial, drawing about 30,000 comments, mostly from anti-fracking groups who sought to delay the law from taking effect.

Environmental groups claimed the proposed rules written by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had undermined key provisions of state law dealing with containment of fracking liquids, fines for drillers who violated rules, and emergency situations.

(click here to continue reading Fracking rules to be unveiled Friday – Chicago Tribune.)

and to jog your memory a bit, from last spring:

We’ve had enough petcoke surprises lately in Chicago. Fortunately, the Illinois Pollution Control Board prevented another one last week.

The first surprises were mountains of petcoke — or petroleum coke — that grew as tall as five stories last summer near the Calumet River. The petcoke was generated by an Indiana refinery, and it was transported for storage to Chicago. People who live in the area said the powdery, black dust swirled off the mounds and coated their homes, along with any meals they were barbecuing outside.

In December, Chicago drafted new regulations governing the storage of petcoke, which is a refinery byproduct. Then, on Jan. 13, Gov. Pat Quinn announced his own emergency administrative rules. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed the rules late on Jan. 16, and comments were due by Jan 21 at noon. Because the intervening Monday was a holiday, that left just one full business day for research and comments.

Many businesses that have nothing to do with petcoke found some surprises in the rules that they thought would hurt their operations. Some environmentalists, while pleased something was being done, thought the rules didn’t go far enough.

(click here to continue reading For petcoke solutions, look to how state handles fracking – Chicago Sun-Times.)

Let’s rape and pillage our state’s environment so that a few can make profits. Whoo hoo! Earthquakes as a bonus!

Written by Seth Anderson

August 28th, 2014 at 8:22 am

Parasites Practicing Mind Control -Toxoplasma

Ladybug Cow (aka Cowccinella Novemnotata), climbing the wall of the Talbott Hotel
Ladybug Cow (aka Cowccinella Novemnotata), climbing the wall of the Talbott Hotel under direction of Toxoplasma Gondii…

Wild, just wild. Fascinating stuff, and we are just discovering exactly how powerful these microorganisms actually are…

An unassuming single-celled organism called Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most successful parasites on Earth, infecting an estimated 11 percent of Americans and perhaps half of all people worldwide. It’s just as prevalent in many other species of mammals and birds. In a recent study in Ohio, scientists found the parasite in three-quarters of the white-tailed deer they studied.

One reason for Toxoplasma’s success is its ability to manipulate its hosts. The parasite can influence their behavior, so much so that hosts can put themselves at risk of death. Scientists first discovered this strange mind control in the 1990s, but it’s been hard to figure out how they manage it. Now a new study suggests that Toxoplasma can turn its host’s genes on and off — and it’s possible other parasites use this strategy, too.

Toxoplasma manipulates its hosts to complete its life cycle. Although it can infect any mammal or bird, it can reproduce only inside of a cat. The parasites produce cysts that get passed out of the cat with its feces; once in the soil, the cysts infect new hosts.

Toxoplasma returns to cats via their prey. But a host like a rat has evolved to avoid cats as much as possible, taking evasive action from the very moment it smells feline odor.

Experiments on rats and mice have shown that Toxoplasma alters their response to cat smells. Many infected rodents lose their natural fear of the scent. Some even seem to be attracted to it.

Manipulating the behavior of a host is a fairly common strategy among parasites, but it’s hard to fathom how they manage it.

(click here to continue reading Parasites Practicing Mind Control – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 28th, 2014 at 8:11 am

Posted in News-esque,science

Tagged with , ,

Not Expressed By Light Alone was uploaded to Flickr

West Loop sunset

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/oPUdv4

I took Not Expressed By Light Alone on January 11, 2012 at 05:54PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on August 20, 2014 at 06:47PM

Written by eggplant

August 20th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Northside Stranger’s Home – mural by William Walker was uploaded to Flickr

Cabrini Green. Mural apparently in danger of being lost.

http://ift.tt/1kH34OS…
In a neighborhood pulsing with bulldozers and construction crews, the small church with the giant mural has managed to stand untouched, on an island of concrete and brittle grass, looking as lonely and alluring as a lighthouse.

The mural is faded now, its reds and yellows battered by sun and snow, but it’s otherwise in good shape.

"Is there any graffiti on this piece?" said Pounds, who wears his gray hair in a short braided pigtail. "No. Thirty-five years, and no graffiti. That’s a real testament to the power of the piece."

But a for-sale sign recently went up on another of the church’s walls, the one that faces east toward the brand-new "eco-condos." If the mural’s lovers don’t act fast, Chicago is apt to gain a few more kitchens with granite countertops and lose a piece of art that Pounds believes is every bit as valuable as the Picasso sculpture in the Loop.

In 1972, an African-American artist named William Walker climbed some scaffolding and began to paint this 1901 church next door to Cabrini-Green.

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/oJM9Ce

I took Northside Stranger’s Home – mural by William Walker on June 15, 2009 at 03:54PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on August 15, 2014 at 04:46PM

Written by eggplant

August 15th, 2014 at 9:59 am

Cranky Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands Book Burning

Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

If you hadn’t heard, Craig Shirley has been making the rounds accusing historian Rick Perlstein of plagiarism. For the record, I purchased a copy of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan but haven’t started reading yet. Most non-partisan writers, and several partisan writers have disagreed: historians quite frequently paraphrase from their sources, it is how we are taught to write! Perlstein didn’t omit references, just made them available on-line instead of as footnotes or endnotes, nor did Perstein borrow more than a word or two at time. In other words, the accusation seems to be mostly without merit from where I slouch.

Mostly the accusations seem to stem from Perlstein’s lack of hero worship for Ronald Reagan, the so-called patron saint of the Republican Party1.

So if you are at all interested in history of American politics, you might want to purchase a copy of Mr. Perlstein’s book before the pitchfork brandishing hordes manage to storm the ramparts of Amazon.com’s warehouses and burn the books that dare present a nuanced portrait of anyone so holy as Ronald “Bombing Begins in Five Minutes” Reagan.

 

Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) - outtake
Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) – outtake

Some coverage that caught my eye includes:

Frank Rich reviews the book:

Next to the more apocalyptic spells of American history, the dismal span of 1973 to 1976 would seem a relative blip of national dyspepsia. A period that yielded the blandest of modern presidents, Gerald Ford — “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” as he circumspectly described himself — is not to be confused with cataclysmic eras like the Civil War, the Great Depression and the Vietnam ‘60s. The major mid-70s disruptions — the Watergate hearings and Richard Nixon’s abdication, Roe v. Wade, the frantic American evacuation of Saigon, stagflation, the dawn of the “energy crisis” (then a newly minted term) — were adulterated with a steady stream of manufactured crises and cheesy cultural phenomena. Americans suffered through the threat of killer bees, “Deep Throat,” the Symbionese Liberation Army, a national meat boycott, “The Exorcist,” Moonies and the punishing self-help racket est, to which a hustler named Werner Erhard (né Jack Rosenberg) attracted followers as diverse as the Yippie Jerry Rubin and the Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Even the hapless would-be presidential assassins of the Ford years, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, were B-list villains by our national standards of infamy.

“I must say to you that the state of our Union is not good,” our unelected president told the nation in January 1975. That was true enough. America’s largest city was going bankrupt. Urban crime was metastasizing. The C.I.A. was exposed as a snake pit of lethal illegality. The nostalgic canonization of the Kennedy presidency, the perfect antidote to the Nixon stench, was befouled by the revelation of Jack Kennedy’s mob-moll paramour. Yet the mood of the union was not so much volatile as defeated, whiny and riddled by self-doubt. As Americans slouched toward the Bicentennial celebrations of July 4, 1976, pundits were wondering whether the country even deserved to throw itself a birthday party. “Everyone wanted to be somewhere else,” Rick Perlstein writes in “The Invisible Bridge.”

It says much about Perlstein’s gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny. Perlstein knows how to sift through a culture’s detritus for the telling forgotten detail. Leave it to him to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ” Or to recall that the Republican Party tried to combat its dire post-Watergate poll numbers by producing “Republicans Are People Too!,” three fund-raising network television specials starring “everyday Republicans who want to tell why they have stuck with the G.O.P.” Competing against “M*A*S*H” in prime time, the second installment brought in $5,515. The third never ran.

(click here to continue reading ‘The Invisible Bridge,’ by Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jesse Walker from Reason Magazine:

Craig Shirley, the author of two books on Ronald Reagan, has sicced his lawyer on Rick Perlstein, whose ’70s history The Invisible Bridge was published by Simon & Schuster this week. Shirley’s attorney is demanding that the publisher pulp Perlstein’s book, pay $25 million in damages, and take out ads apologizing to Shirley in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, and Salon.

What provoked these demands? Basically, the 810 pages of The Invisible Bridge include some information that can also be found in Shirley’s book Reagan’s Revolution, and in some places Perlstein paraphrases Shirley. Shirley thinks this constitutes copyright infringement. If you’d like to read the bill of particulars, Dave Weigel has posted the attorney’s letters and Simon & Schuster’s response at Slate, and Shirley himself has posted a litany of alleged thefts on his website.

In the first item on the latter list, the two books do sound alike: Describing the red-light district in Kansas City, Perlstein echoes not just the info in Shirley’s text but Shirley’s words “festooned” and “smut peddlers.” After that, though, we essentially get a list of places where the two writers cited the same facts. Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don’t see a dollar’s worth of damages here, let alone 25 million

(click here to continue reading Copyright Absurdity: Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands $25 Million – Hit & Run : Reason.com.)

Dave Weigel from Slate:

This just isn’t what happens when Rick Perlstein releases a book. The first in his series, 2001’s Before the Storm, was praised by William F. Buckley. George Will called it “the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy”—in a largely positive review of Perlstein’s second book, Nixonland, which became a best-seller. What changed? This time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan.

Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan—Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God. Thirteen years ago, when Perlstein profiled Goldwater’s movement, there had been only one recent biography of the Arizonan. There will be at least half a dozen new Reagan books this year alone, everything from a deep dive into the 1986 Reykjavik summit to a collection of leadership tips. Perlstein is challenging an image of the 40th president that is built on many such books, celebrated at Republican county dinners, and quoted by everyone from Ted Cruz (in his arguments for conservative revival) to Joe Scarborough (in his argument that no one should listen to Cruz).

Yes, technically, The Invisible Bridge is a history of January 1973 to August 1976, and Reagan’s own presidential campaign does not start until Page 546 (of 810). But in Perlstein’s telling, Reagan was the essential figure who understood that Americans wanted to revise their history in real time. The Invisible Bridge starts with Operation Homecoming, the negotiated release of Vietnam POWs that was preceded by years of patriotic kitsch. Perlstein recreates the mood by quoting copiously from letters to the editor, from columnists, POW speeches and TV broadcasts. He recalls that it was future right-wing Rep. Bob Dornan who came up with yellow armbands as trinkets of POW solidarity, and recovers forgotten tidbits about them, like how “a Wimbledon champ said that one cured his tennis elbow.”

(click here to continue reading Rick Perlstein’s book on Reagan: The Invisible Bridge, reviewed..)

3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan
3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters:

Right-wing publicist and author Craig Shirley doesn’t like a new book about Ronald Reagan written by award-winning (and liberal) historian Rick Perlstein. So the conservative publicist has threatened to sue for $25 million in damages and has asked for all copies of the book to be “destroyed,” claiming that with Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Richard Nixon And The Rise of Ronald Reagan, Perlstein’s guilty of plagiarism for paraphrasing facts Shirley had previously reported in his own book about Reagan.

But of course, paraphrasing is not the basis for copyright infringement and that’s certainly not what constitutes plagiarism.

Meanwhile, for a best-selling author himself, Shirley seems to have little understanding of copyright law.

He seems to think that because he wrote a detailed book on a chapter of Reagan’s political life (his failed 1976 presidential campaign), every writer who subsequently treads that same ground must credit Shirley because he was there first. But that’s not how it works. “Any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement,” wrote attorney Elizabeth McNarama, responding on behalf of Perlstein and his publisher.

McNamara stressed:

Your client’s claim rests on the misguided notion that chroniclers of history, like Mr. Shirley, somehow acquire ownership and control over the facts and events they may uncover. This premise collides directly with the most basic principles of copyright law and is contrary to the very fundamentals of historical reporting.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering suggests Shirley’s plagiarism claim doesn’t represent a serious pursuit. Instead it’s a way for Shirley to draw attention to his own work and to make life difficult for an esteemed liberal writer chronicling a conservative icon.

(click here to continue reading Ann Coulter’s Publicist Launches “Offensive” Against Historian Rick Perlstein | Blog | Media Matters for America.)

Paul Krugman weighs in, speaking from personal experience:

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said. Um, what? Unless there’s a very close match, telling more or less the same story someone else has told before is perfectly ordinary — in fact, it would be distressing if history books didn’t correspond on some things.

(click here to continue reading Sliming Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Vote Reagan - Division Blue Line 1995
Vote Reagan – Division Blue Line 1995

David Dayen at Salon:

Simon & Schuster responded to the letters here, by arguing that “any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement.” In fact, it’s self-evident that facts should remain similar over the course of histories of the same time period. Perlstein believes he merely built upon the historical record that Shirley helped register in his work.  “He doesn’t like the way I do history,” Perlstein told Salon. “He thinks that if he digs up facts by the sweat of his brow that nobody else can use them. In fact, courts have used that exact phrase, ‘sweat of the brow,’ to say that there’s no copyright protection for such facts.”

In many cases, Simon & Schuster notes, Shirley alleges copyright infringement based on third-party quotes found in other sources. For example, Shirley claims that Perlstein stole a quote of Nancy Reagan’s from him without attribution, even though the quote appears differently in the two books. In Shirley’s, Nancy says “That’s what I like to hear”; in Perlstein’s, she says “Now that is the kind of talk I like to hear.” The quotes differ because Perlstein got it from a different book called “PR as in President” by Victor Gold, which is whom he cited in his source notes.

In another allegation, about a hotel manager threatening to throw out the Pennsylvania delegation at the 1976 GOP convention, Perlstein’s source is Time magazine, not Shirley (although he gives secondary attribution to Shirley anyway). Shirley even tries to claim copyright on a CBS News report of the number of delegates that Gerald Ford had attained near the end of the 1976 primaries.

A final claim of Shirley’s reveals too much. Shirley says Perlstein stole his line about Reagan watching the chaotic last night of the 1976 convention on television, “dissolved in laughter” (which is cited). But Shirley doesn’t add the line in “The Invisible Bridge” that comes afterward: “Then, he saw a televised image of himself on television watching it on television – that doesn’t look good – and his smile disappeared.” This additional insight, building on previous work and incorporating this cunning quality to Reagan, also came from a contemporaneous report in the Atlanta Daily World. As Dave Weigel writes, “In Shirley’s version of the story, Reagan was underrated once again; in Perlstein’s, he is underrated but calculating.”

So Shirley, who as a right-wing operative and professional Reagan biographer is naturally protective of Reagan’s legacy, and doesn’t want a book to rise to prominence that calls him into question for any reason, has basically thrown every allegation up against the wall to see if something sticks. He claims plagiarism over inconsequential, ordinary short phrases. He claims plagiarism over quotes that other people said. He claims plagiarism on passages where Perlstein specifically attributes Shirley’s book.

(click here to continue reading The right’s “plagiarism” scam: How low it will stoop to protect Reagan’s legacy – Salon.com.)

and after the New York Times published a “he said, he said” article about the ginned-up controversy, the NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in, concluding:

My take: There’s a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.

Yes, the claim was “out there” but so are smears of all kinds as well as claims that the earth is flat and that climate change is unfounded. This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had.

And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn’t help much. It’s as if The Times is saying: “Here’s an accusation; here’s a denial; and, heck, we don’t really know. We’re staying out of it.” Readers frequently complain to me about this he said, she said false equivalency — and for good reason.

So I’m with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.

(click here to continue reading Was an Accusation of Plagiarism Really a Political Attack? – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. despite his oft-stated differences with the policies of the current bunch of Tea-Bagger jokers who chant Reagan’s name like it will ward off evil liberals, communists, and immigrants []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 13th, 2014 at 6:58 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with ,