Thursday, September 04, 2003

The recording industry wants to crack down on online copying of music, on the theory that sales will go back up. It's not working:

[Phil] Leigh, an independent digital media industry analyst, said the "fear factor" caused usage of file-sharing programs to drop about 22 percent in the seven weeks after the RIAA announced its plans to sue individuals. Yet Leigh noted industry sales reports show the drop in CD sales accelerated during the same period.

And furthermore:

sales of top 10 selling albums, which generate the bulk of profits for record labels, have dropped from 60 million units in 2000 to 34 million units last year

What ever could the problem be? That the actions of the industry is alienating the public? That the albums that they're most heavily promoting are just plain lousy?

Of course not. The problem has to be that they aren't cracking down enough:

U.S. recording industry officials said Tuesday the latest market data justifies their escalating battle against online file sharers.

Hey, if it works for Dubya and his tax cuts...

via Slashdot...

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

As my muse seems to be awfully slow in coming back from labor day weekend, a quick thought for the day:

If you're really worried about the threat that Muslim religious fanatics pose to Western civilization, wouldn't the smart move be to develop alternative energy sources and defund the bastards?

After waking up: What brings this thought on is the conclusion of Robert Baer's new book, "Sleeping with the Devil", on the various ways in which the US government has funded Muslim fundamentalist loons, in Saudi Arabia (where they pervade the government) and elsewhere.

But he winds up by saying instead that we ought to support strongmen or send in the military to take over the Saudi oilfields directly:

Counterintuitive as it may seem, Syria offers one way out of the mess. Twenty years ago, Syria was Saudi Arabia: not in the vast sums of money (it's not a major oil producer), not in the ruling kleptocracy, but as the epicenter of Islamic terrorism. When I first set foot in Damascus in 1980, I estimated that Hafiz al-Asad would have maybe three or four years before he went under. The Muslim Brothers owned the street. The mosque schools were teaching jihad, just as the Saudi madrasahs do today. The mosque public address systems blared out a message of hate and revenge, just as they do in Saudi Arabia today. Lebanon next door was an arms bazaar: You name it, someone had it. Asad had seized power in a military coup in 1970. What goes around comes around, I figured; the guy's goint to get strung up on a light pole in downtown Damascus like a lot of other Syrians. Instead, he died in his sleep at age seventy, wasted by disease but ruler to the end.

We've already been over why: the ruthless assault on the Sunni stronghold at Hama, the way Asad took control of the mosque schools and killed dissent when it wouldn't shut up, his total control of the armed forces, and so on. Pretty, it wasn't. "Democracy" it certainly isn't. But Hafiz al-Asad forced a rule of law on the Syrian people, the same rule of law the Al Sa'ud have refused to force on the Saudis, most notably themselves. When Asad handed the country over to his son, it was as stable a dictatorship as any in the Middle East.


This is right to the extent that violent suppression of the fundamentalists probably serves our interests better than actually paying them to do what we think is our dirty work, as we did for years in Afghanistan and elsewhere, never thinking that they might not stay there forever. (They think they're doing their own dirty work, and getting infidel suckers to pay for it; imagine Lenin buying rope. But I digress).

And then, he notes the Pentagon endorsement of Chalabi. But moral considerations (and Dubya's rhetoric) aside, Chalabi is oddly cast as that sort of strongman; he's a convicted embezzler whose life experience is boardroom shenanigans and diplomatic palaver, not hard physical brutality. A Chalabi regime would be the kind of corrupt, fatally weak tyranny that breeds fundamentalists, and then bows to their overthrow, like another head of state we installed in a coup, the Shah of Iran. If this is really the kind of policy we want, there used to be a guy there who was much better at it: Rumbo's old pal, Saddam Hussein...

But consider: the reason that Muslim terrorists from Arabia are more threatening than the even wilder savagery that goes on in central Africa is that they are better funded, and the funding, as Baer says over and over, is ultimately oil money. If we found a way, over a decade or three, to run our economy on something else, the money would, over time, drain away. Which might be better for everybody, even the Arabs, than propping up the current oil economy by force..

(FWIW, the excerpt I quoted is on page 207; the comment on Chalabi is on page 212).

Correction: I initially misstated Baer's view of Chalabi. So much for blogging while groggy...

Sunday, August 31, 2003

"Through the goddam looking glass we've gone" says Atrios, touting this detailed, but anonymously sourced account of how a top-level al Qaeda terrorist, under interrogation, told a story of the Saudis deliberately using al Qaeda to steer fundamentalist action outside their borders, and jointly funding the Taliban, along with Pakistan, to keep the fundies busy. If so, it would appear that our so-called allies in the War on Terror had more to do with it than the Iraqi sideshow, where victory is now strangling us.

Remember, folks, you read it here first...