Et Cetera (April - December 2002)
December 14, 2002
A friend of mine is a recent convert to Harry Potter and directed me to a quiz that would identify my place in the J. K. Rowling's universe. It didn't turn out to be at all what I expected, but, for anyone who might be curious -
What this means is that I resemble Professor Flitwick (I'll have to look up which class he teaches), am the sort of person who keeps cats as pets (well, maybe, if I kept any pet at all) and fit in best as a student in Ravenclaw House. The friend in question was classified as Professor Snape of Slytheryn House, so it looks like I'll be seeing less of her in the future. . . .
Update: I was quickly informed that Professor Flitwick teaches Charms and is the head of Ravenclaw. He is also said to be a "gentle soul", which isn't, I suspect, the way that I am most often described by my Muggle acquaintances.
June 21, 2002
When I was young and yearning to be cosmopolitan, I made a sincere effort to become a soccer fan. My father scoffed that soccer was slightly duller than mowing the yard, but I refused to heed his warning and devoted many hours to watching matches on television, trying at the same time to absorb information about the game’s history, players and fine points.
As a would-be fan, I failed. If I were given tickets to the World Cup final today, I’d scalp them on eBay. Still, I am aware that the world contains hundreds of millions, or maybe billions, of soccer enthusiasts, and I don’t resent their enthusiasm. Many of them, by contrast, resent my - and Americans’ in general - lack of enthusiasm. Jonathan V. Last’s “The Ritual Attack of the Soccer Scolds” quotes many of the scolds’ more fatuous slurs against people who don’t understand that “football” is the universe’s most exciting, most athletic, most all-around virtuous sport. Their game may have a worldwide following, but that is no satisfaction to them unless the United States falls in line, too.
This year the U.S. team’s underdog World Cup victories gave the soccer-philes hope. Our boys made it all the way to the quarter-finals after being rated as unlikely to get past the first round. Soccer received more news coverage on this continent in a couple of weeks than it normally does in as many years. Surely Americans, having been exposed to the sport, will at last comprehend its beauty and abandon their parochial bent toward baseball, basketball and “American” football.
Without much sense of daring, I predict not. Americans’ indifference to “the world’s favorite sport” is not a mere corollary of never having seen much of it. It stems from differences in national character. In fact, it is this divergence in sporting tastes that convinces me that “national character” is not just a metaphor or myth but a real phenomenon with real-world consequences.
Let’s start with the elements that make soccer appealing to so many people in so many lands. It has, I believe, two great strengths as a spectator sport.
First, it is the most transparent of major sports. With scarcely any explanation, a neophyte can figure out what is happening on the field and can appreciate the fine points of the contest: not as thoroughly as a committed, long-time devotée but far better than a first-time observer of baseball or football. Basketball is less obscure to the uninitiated but does have it fiddly foul rules, as well as, these days, different numbers of points for baskets from different spots on the court. To enjoy any of our country’s three national pastimes demands the familiarity that comes only from seeing it repeatedly. It is only our (limiting “our” here mostly to males) immersion in sports from an early age that renders us unaware of how steep the learning curve is.
Second, a soccer match is not intense. Each team will get a shot on goal every five or ten minutes, surging up and down the field in the interval. Crucial action is foreshadowed by the sides’ movement. There are no long bombs or home runs that can happen suddenly and be missed by the inattentive, nor is there the constant scoring pace of basketball. Hence, watching soccer is more relaxing and sociable than watching the “American” sports.
These characteristics make soccer attractive to people who view sports as an amusement rather than a way of life, in much the same way that musical comedy appeals more than opera to a non-musical nation. Americans’ tastes in sports are sharply different. We like complicated games that demand steady attention and in which every play is potentially important. This one may be the touchdown pass, the 70-yard punt return, the home run, the fast break or the three-point shot from mid-court.
Throughout its development, each of the indigenous American sports has added new rules, increased the specialization of playing positions and become more cerebral. When I was a lad, baseball teams had starters and relief pitchers. Now the latter come in three or four different flavors. There is a Major League niche for the man who comes in every couple of games to throw three or four pitches to a left-handed batter, then departs. Football play books resemble treatises on military tactics.
American sports fans also love statistics. Without ever seeing a player in action, they can rate his abilities on the basis of infinitely detailed quantification. Soccer fans have neither the desire nor the means to reduce action to such an array of numbers.
No accident of familiarity can account for Americans’ distinctive preferences in sports. Baseball, football and basketball don’t dominate because the television networks give them the most air time. ESPN could broadcast 12 hours of soccer a day every day of the week, and the only effect would be to eliminate its audience. The only rational explanation for the Big Three is that they appeal to aspects of the American character.
What aspects? Americans are affluent and have considerable leisure time, but they loathe being idle. Watching a complex game that demands concentration lends a simulacrum of mental activity to one’s pastimes. Poring over history and statistics likewise helps ward off the suspicion that sports waste time. A feedback loop emerges. If sports don’t waste time, then fans are justified in spending more time on sports, and, as their expertise sharpens, the feeling of idleness is further reduced. The point is finally reached where being able to present a knowledgeable critique of the Cubs’ pitching rotation is practically a virtue in itself.
Introducing soccer to that mentalité is truly Quixotic. Transparency will be scorned as simplicity, the absence of intensity as boredom. Every soccer match that shows up on the sports channels gains the sport a few more naysayers, who find in the alleged popularity of this dull contest another reason to doubt the taste and intellect of foreigners.
Americans are not, needless to say, all alike. There are tens of millions on whom sporting events barely register, partly because they find the Big Three unfathomable. Their attitude toward sports resembles that of the soccer-watching world, and, if they are ever going to pick up any sport at all, it will be one that they can see in the company of friends without having to digest a manual first. Should some clever fellow break soccer matches into 30-minute segments and broadcast them between soap operas, he might discover a huge latent audience. But the game will never go anywhere in the U.S. so long as its advocates try to nag dedicated sports fans into submission.
June 10, 2002
The controversy over Michael Bellesiles' Arming America has received vast attention. While embarrassing to the historical profession, for the book received laudatory reviews from professional scholars and was awarded the Bancroft Prize, the episode has in a way vindicated its standards, for the same professionals have proven willing to expose the suspect foundations of a thesis that most of the critics would very much like to believe in.
Nevertheless, this exposure did not come until after a legion of ideologically motivated amateurs had hammered for months at Professor Bellesiles' evidence. Suppose that there had been no such uproar. Would the professor's peers have done their job and purged scholarship of work that was at best sloppy and at worst fraudulent? An article in the June issue of The New Criterion, "Radical History" by Harvey Klehr and John E. Haynes (authors of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America), suggests a pessimistic answer.
Klehr and Haynes' target is a far better established and more prominent historian than Professor Bellisiles: Paul Buhle, professor of American Civilization at Brown University. Professor Buhle is co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the American Left, a widely praised reference work published by the Oxford University Press (1990; 2nd ed., 1998). Unlike the history of firearms ownership in early America, the American Left is an area in which many scholars are interested. Far more must have actually used this volume than ever turned the pages of Arming America. Therefore, one might expect that any dubious assertions or outright fabrications would have swiftly come to light, at least if the historical establishment is as vigilant and open-minded as its admirers would like us to believe in the wake of l'affaire Bellesiles.
According to "Radical History", however, the encyclopedia contains not only a number of sins of omission, obscuring the connections between the American communism and the Soviet Union, but one unsubstantiated fiction. An entry signed by Professor Buhle, dealing with the American Communist Party's "secret work" (a euphemism for espionage), states, "Little was said within the Left or outside it concerning the largest incident of illegal activity: the shipment of arms and war materials to the new state of Israel." We are further informed that, "among those Americans wounded or killed in battles protecting Israeli gains from Arabs, Communists played a prominent role".
Messrs. Klehr and Haynes can discover no evidence to support, and much to contradict, this claim that American communists deserve a share of the credit for the birth of Israel. When they asked Professor Buhle directly, he "responded that it was based on oral history interviews but he could remember only the name of one of the interviewees and was not sure if that was the correct one. We obtained a copy of the interview from the Tamiment Library at New York University. It contained no support for the Encyclopedia’s assertion. Additional inquiries to Professor Buhle requesting the documentary basis for the published claim in the Encyclopedia produced no specific sources."
The authors might have added, but charitably do not, that basing statements as sweeping and important as those in the Encyclopedia on unsupported oral testimony calls for disclaimers and qualifications. On this showing, Professor Buhle's scholarly delinquency is at least as serious, and his motivation at least as ideological, as Professor Bellesiles'. Yet, in the four years since the Encyclopedia's second edition, in which the article on "secret work" appeared, no one before Messrs. Klehr and Haynes seems to have questioned its accuracy. Perhaps scholarly self-policing still leaves something to be desired.
May 29, 2002
Disregarding the discrepancy between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, today is the 549th anniversary of the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, the day when the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages came to a simultaneous end.
The immediate consequences of the city's fall were largely symbolic. The capital of a petty Balkan state, it was a minor factor in the Mediterranean political and economic world. Within its seven-mile circumference of walls, there were abundant open fields, and cattle grazed in the deserted squares. Even its status in the sphere of religion had fallen into doubt. Since the Union of Florence, the state church had been nominally reconciled with the Church of Rome, and virtually all of the Orthodox communion had repudiated its Patriarch's leadership.
Yet the ruler of this insignificant place was the direct heir to Augustus Caesar and presided over the last fragment of the largest, longest-lived empire that the world had yet known. Though he and his realm were all but forgotten by contemporaries - fewer than a thousand foreign volunteers answered the plea to defend New Rome from the infidel host - what that realm had been has not been forgotten yet.
And back when that realm was at its height, when an Augustus or Trajan or Constantine or Justinian or Basil Bulgar-Slayer swept his gaze arrogantly across the fallen ranks of his foemen, did they ever glimpse in oneiric vision the Emperor Constantine XI Palaeologos, ascending the capital's vast, doomed walls to survey the multitude of enemies poised to mount the final assault? Hear him pledge to his people to die defending them against their enslavers? See him, when the battle was irretrievably lost, strip off his imperial regalia and charge, sword in hand, into the midst of the Turkish army?
Constantine and his city met their fate bravely and memorably, thanks not to any special qualities of their own but to the traditions that had shaped them. In some era to come, which I pray will be as far from us as the last Constantine was from the first, the United States of America will come to an end. Under what circumstances, warlike or peaceful, we cannot know, but we can know that how creditably our descendants encounter their fate will depend in no small measure on the principles and traditions that we leave behind for their inspiration and guidance.
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On a lighter note, Christianity Today has unearthed a hymn, composed by John and Charles Wesley and published in 1780, that is about as insensitive to multicultural imperatives as it could be. No congregation (certainly no peacenik-riddled Methodist congregation) would sing it today, but one does feel a certain temptation. (Thanks to Midwest Conservative Journal for calling my attention to this song.)
The smoke of the infernal cave,
Which half the Christian world o'erspread
Disperse, Thou heavenly Light, and save
The souls by that Impostor led,
That Arab-chief, as Satan bold,
Who quite destroyed Thy Asian fold.
O might the blood of sprinkling cry
For those who spurn the sprinkled blood!
Assert Thy glorious Deity,
Stretch out Thine arm, Thou Triune God.
The Unitarian fiend expel,
And chase his doctrine back to hell.
May 27, 2002
The inspiration for Memorial Day was, ironically, Confederate Memorial Day, whose celebration throughout the defeated South deeply impressed General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Union veterans' organization, the Grand Army of the Republic.
Memorializing the Confederacy is now the depth of political incorrectitude. In my not-so-distant childhood, the Civil War was described as a complex and tragic conflict. Today, in a breathtaking feat of historical simplification, it has become a forthright contest of good versus evil, a war waged purely for the abolition of slavery. To an increasing extent, any expression of not merely sympathy for, but even neutrality toward, the Confederacy is assumed to spring from racist, pro-slavery motives.
At the risk of being reviled as a racist slavocrat (for the record, some of my ancestors owned slaves and enlisted in the Confederate Army; others fought for the Union), I should like to note that the now-common view of the war is profoundly anti-historical. It tacitly assumes that the outcome of the struggle - Southern defeat and the abolition of slavery - and its aftermath - the reunited nation's rise to the position of a Great Power - were clearly foreseeable in 1861. In fact, based on what was known then, the case for allowing the Southern states go their own way was a strong one. Horace Greeley, whose New York Tribune had for years campaigned vehemently against slavery, urged the federal government to "let the erring sisters depart in peace".
The rationale behind Greeley's opinion was that continued union with the slaveholding states ineluctably implicated the whole nation in the protection of slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act required free states to cooperate in the pursuit of runaway slaves. The Dred Scott decision made it impossible to prevent slave owners from bringing their chattels onto free soil. Other cases working their way toward the Supreme Court would have expanded the owners' rights further. With the slave states out of the Union, all of those setbacks to the anti-slavery cause would have quickly vanished. The Fugitive Slave Act would have been rendered effectively inoperative (and would probably have been repealed in short order), moving the safe haven for escaped slaves south from the Canadian border to Mason-Dixon Line. In the territories (to almost all of which the North would have fallen heir), disputes over slavery would have been resolved automatically in favor of freedom. The withdrawal of citizens of secessionist states from the judiciary would have ended the threat of a new Dred Scott.
President Lincoln, however, while anti-slavery in his personal sentiments, was far less interested in hampering "the peculiar institution" than in preserving an undivided Union. He declared as much himself on many occasions. If he had succeeded in crushing secession quickly, the most likely sequel would have been compromise on the lines of the Crittendon Resolutions, under which slavery would have been constitutionally guaranteed in those states and territories where it then existed. It was only unexpectedly vigorous Confederate resistance that changed the terms of the conflict and impelled Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. In a very real sense, Robert E. Lee is the father of the Thirteenth Amendment.
If one looks at circumstances in 1861 from the Southern point of view, whether the region continued as part of, or separated itself from, the Union had no predictable impact on the perpetuation of slavery. Secessionist firebrands played up Lincoln's opposition to slaveholding, but they knew perfectly well that he couldn't and wouldn't do anything about it. The rational case for secession was that, with the disappearance of external threats to American independence, the federal government no longer served a useful purpose but instead compelled the minority South to coordinate its policies with those of a region of increasingly divergent economic interests and demographic makeup. The case against secession was that the South's position wasn't bad enough to justify a risky resort to arms. Men took one side or the other without much regard to their sentiments on slavery and race. Alexander Stephens, the Confederate Vice President, whose notorious "cornerstone speech" was a hymn to thoroughgoing racism, attended the Georgia Convention as a unionist and accepted secession only after being outvoted.
We are never told what might have been, but speculation is sometimes useful. We know how the Civil War ended historically. At an immense cost of blood and treasure, slavery was abolished, though the slaves and their descendants did not begin to gain full liberty and legal equality until almost a century later. Suppose, though, that the federal authorities had followed Horace Greeley's advice. Here are, I think, the probable (albeit far from certain) results:
First, slavery would have ended in the South by the close of the 19th Century. It did not last longer than that anywhere in the civilized world, and the Southern states would not have been exempt from the economic, social and political forces that were undermining it. Already at the time of the War, as Eugene Genovese has documented in his book A Consuming Fire, Southerners' theoretical support of slavery was tempered by considerable guilt about how the institution operated in practice. That ambivalance, coupled with the inevitable decline of the economic profitability of slavery, would alone have been enough to lead to a form of emancipation. New York State, where widespread slaveholding collided with Christian conscience and economic marginality, leading to gradual abolition, offers an instructive precedent.
Second, institutionalized racism would have gained far less purchase in either section of the divided country. Without the influence of post-War Southern bitterness, fueled by defeat and Reconstruction, it is scarcely credible that Northern states like Kansas would have enforced segregation in their schools or public life. Meanwhile, uncoerced emanicipation in the South would have left behind little motive for Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. The exact shape of racial relations is highly uncertain, but it could hardly have been worse than what really existed in the United States during the first half of the 20th Century.
Third, the economic development of the North would have been at least as vigorous as in reality, probably, thanks to avoidance of the War's immense destruction, more so. That the South would have been more prosperous goes without saying. At some point, it would have shifted from an agricultural to an industrial economy, a shift that would have been facilitated by a stronger economic base and weaker social impediments to change.
Secession did not have to lead to disaster. There were honorable men and honorable principles on both sides of the conflict. When we turn our forebears and their motives into politicized caricatures, we denigrate all of them and impoverish our own understanding.
May 22, 2002
The evening of the 21st was too optimistic a projection for my return to the Internet world. My hiking buddy and I were lured by the prospect of fresh snow to make our way up to Glacier Vista when we should have been driving back to the lowlands. I suppose, though, that the blogosphere survived my extra day's absence. My thanks to the handful of you who browsed this site in the interim.
In lieu of the proscribed snapshots, I wanted to mention the least happy memory that I carried away from this year's vacation. This is the third straight year that I have visited Paradise Inn on Mount Rainier during the opening weekend of its season. In 2000 and 2001, the place was, if not packed, at least comfortably replete with guests. This year, it was empty. When we walked up Glacier Vista last year, a score of other visitors were doing the same; this year, we saw no one except a small group returning from a morning mountain climb. Similarly, we dined almost alone this year on the Inn's wonderful cuisine; before, there were long lines to get into the dining hall. Hardly anyone was around in the evening to listen to the pianist in the lobby, rendering show tunes on the instrument that Harry Truman played while visiting half a century ago.
It was pretty obvious that 9/11 made the difference. Snow fanciers from the East and the Midwest and Japan and Europe, all abundant in past years, had stayed home, a monetary loss to the Inn (run by private enterprise despite its location in a national park) and a psychic loss to its absent patrons.
Government spokesmen keep telling us that we shouldn't let the war disrupt our lives, that reacting with fear grants an undeserved victory to the enemy's terrorist tactics. Yet the government's own "homeland security" measures make it hard for many people to put aside their natural apprehension about becoming victims of terrorism.
While I was up in the mountains, the Transportation Safety Administration decided against allowing pilots to carry firearms, stating that armed sky marshals would do a better job of protecting planes against hijackers. No doubt. Spiderman would do a better job, too. But neither Spiderman nor sky marshals are available. Marshals currently ride with less than one flight in a hundred, and simple arithmetic suggests that a force of over 50,000 would be needed to provide 100 percent coverage. Something like 500 have been recruited and trained so far.
The one in a hundred chance of a sky marshal on board won't deter terrorists. Universally armed pilots would make deterrence real - and provide protection if deterrence failed. They would both reassure the passengers who at present are not flying to destinations like Mount Rainier and make it possible to eliminate some of the preposterous precautions that now add an annoyance factor to every flight. (At SeaTac, some bureaucrat - this is a federal operation now, remember - had the bright idea of requiring fliers to show their frequent flyer cards before they could get into the "elite" security lines, even where their status was printed on the boarding pass. Think of how that decree would have thwarted Mohammed Atta!)
Of course, from the point of view of my own self-interest, narrowly conceived, the government's punishment of Paradise Inn for the sins of Osama bin-Laden is an excellent thing. I like empty slopes and no wait for dinner. So perhaps Norm Mineta and his Keystone Kops are just looking out for me. Gee, thanks, guys. I'm sorry to sound so ungrateful.
May 16, 2002
Hard as it is to believe, there are places, even in America, to which the Internet does not extend its reach. For the next few days, I will be in one of those places (about 5,000 feet up the slope of Mount Rainier) and therefore won't be posting updates to Stromata. Much worse, I'll be without the companionship of Instapundit, Blithering Idiot, The Edge of England's Sword and other denizens of the Webiverse. I expect to return to the modern world sometime in the evening of the 21st and hereby reiterate my pledge not to post any vacation snapshots.
April 19, 2002
Chris Newman, translator of the essay by Oriana Fallaci that is the subject to the item immediately below today posted this announcement on his Web site:
I have decided to remove my translations from the website, as I have learned that Corriere and Rizzoli (the company who has the rights to Ms. Fallaci's book) have demanded that other translations of Anger and Pride be taken down. They have not contacted me yet, but I have no wish to violate whatever rights Ms. Fallaci gave them. I urge anyone who has read my translations to watch for and purchase the authorized English edition of the book when it comes out, as I am now confident it will. You should do this for a number of reasons: The book is a vastly expanded version of the original article with much additional moving and interesting material. Also, the authorized version, presumably translated with Ms. Fallaci's supervision, will no doubt correct whatever errors or misreadings exist in my translation. Finally, if you believe you have received something of value from Ms. Fallaci's writing, it is only moral to pay something in return. Though she did not accept any compensation for the original article, it is likely that she will be receiving royalties from the book.
The news that Miss Fallaci donated her essay free of charge to Corriere della Sera makes one feel someone less sympathetic with the paper's energetic attempts, however well-founded in law, to suppress amateur translations, which deprived it of no appreciable revenue and undoubtedly served as excellent advertising for the forthcoming English version of the book. On the other hand, Mr. Newman's statements confirm the ineptitude of the agents hired to carry out the suppression. If Corriere's management is seriously worried about every lira, it can save a bundle by paying its Yank lawyers no more than the real value of their services!
April 9, 2002
Some small segment of the Webiverse may have noticed that Stromata was unreachable for the past five days. The story behind that absence offers, I think, a glimmer of insight into the impact of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on innocent bystanders in copyright disputes and on the current state of the American legal profession.
On April 4th, early in the afternoon, I logged onto Stromata's host, Tripod, to look up a point about my account - and discovered that my account didn't exist any more. Checking my e-mail, I found a message from Tripod, informing me that it had received a complaint of copyright infringement and therefore was compelled, under the provisions of the DMCA, to block access to my site. I could restore service by filing a "counter-notification". Instructions on how to do that were less than precise and the process was not speedy (definitely slower than "Internet time"), but I succeeded in working my way through it and can publish again.
I'm confident that nothing posted here comes within half a parsec of exceeding fair use of copyrighted material and that no copyright holder has legitimate grounds for complaint. I also used to be pretty sure that a legitimate complainant would get in touch with me - my postal and e-mail addresses are on the site's home page - before going to the trouble of submitting a DMCA notification. The "Pearl Harbor" nature of the strike was good evidence, it seemed, that its purpose was harassment rather than the protection of interests in intellectual property. I speculated that I might have become the target of a pro-Islamofascist cybercell that had confused me with Instapundit.
But the rational inferences from the data were wrong. The complaint was legitimate. It had merely been handled in a manner that made it look like harassment.
Late last September Oriana Fallaci, Italy's best known living woman of letters, broke a decade-long public silence by publishing an article entitled "La Rabbia e L'Orgoglio" ("Anger and Pride") in the newspaper Corriere della Sera. The piece, later expanded into a book, was a passionate defense of the then-nascent American war effort. It attracted much notice, owing to both the writer's fame and her reputation as a left-of-center intellectual. Several weeks later, an English translation appeared on a Web site, and I placed a link to it on my File 911 page.
At some point Corriere della Sera became aware of the translation and, probably looking toward marketing an authorized rendition in the United States, hired a prominent New York law firm to deal with the infringement of its rights. In the course of their efforts, the lawyers found my site, whose innocent link to the unauthorized translation could be construed as abetting the infringement.
So the prominent lawyers, ignoring the postal and e-mail addresses displayed on the site's home page, immediately fired off a notice of infringement to Tripod. That brought the DMCA's enforcement mechanism into play.
The central principle is that the host of a Web site is immune to liability for damages for copyright violation if and only if, upon receiving notice of a claimed infringement, it promptly disables access to the disputed material. The owner of the site can get access restored by filing a counter-notification. This system looks symmetrical but isn't. The host's primary desire is to avoid liability to the purported copyright holder. It risks losing its immunity if it either reacts tardily to a notification of infringement or accepts a counter-notification that is in any respect defective. Hence, it has strong incentives to disable access quickly, without any inquiry into the bona fides of the claim, and to restore it slowly, after scrutinizing every syllable of the response. Tripod, weighing an unknown exposure to damages against my $4.95 a month, did the sensible thing and shut down my site.
The complainant's attorneys could have gotten the offending link removed more swiftly (it took a week for their letter, mailed to the CEO of Tripod's parent company [rather than e-mailed to its copyright department, as Tripod's posted policy encourages complainants to do], to reach the right person in the organization), at less cost and with less risk of creating ill will (a pertinent consideration in this case, for reasons that will become clear) had they simply e-mailed me at the beginning. As it was, they never bothered even to inform me of the problem.
Meanwhile, having chosen the worst of all routes to eliminating a link on a personal Web site that rarely gets as many as 500 page views a day, these legal eagles failed to stop the infringement. The translation is still on the Web. The site host is well-known, easily reached and unlikely to disregard a DMCA notification, so one evidently hasn't been sent. How peculiar.
A possible explanation of this peculiarity is that the keen-eyed investigators don't actually know where on the Web the translation is. The notification that they filed with Tripod says that my offending link was to a site called "Blogsport". There really is such a site. It consists of a dozen guys exchanging messages about soccer - written in Indonesian! If our super sleuths are searching there for an English translation of an Italian article, their slowness in finding it is comprehensible.
Finally, the oddest fact of all: The law firm that has so distinguished itself in this endeavor happens to be my employer's outside ERISA counsel. I'm frequently asked to review documents that they prepare. The last time that we put the ERISA job up for bids (as we do every few years), I was consulted about whether to stick with their predecessor. The next time that I'm asked to look at their work product, I shall be very alert to issues of quality control. The Clouseauish behavior that is amusing (in retrospect only) when it happens to my Web site wouldn't be nearly so funny if it affected my pension plan.
Update, April 11, 2002: The allegedly infringing translation remains undisturbed, as do other sites' links to it. One of the linking sites has approximately 100 times Stromata's daily traffic. These latter day Dupins sure know how to sniff out the most important malefactors!
Update, April 14, 2002: The site where the translation appears still has it and has added a translation of a very good piece by Miss Fallaci on European antisemitism. I won't be rash enough to provide a link, but it can be found on Instapundit.
Udate, April 17, 2002: Now OpinionJournal's "Best of the Web", which has a hundred times Instapundit's traffic and ten thousand times mine has a link to the "illegal" Fallaci site! Meanwhile, I understand that a New York City law firm is interviewing Indonesian translators.
April 7, 2002
Isaac Asimov, fine writer though he was, occasionally propounded very silly ideas. The second silliest thing that he ever wrote was a column in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction praising Daylight Saving Time. Since sleeping past dawn is wasteful, the Good Doctor reasoned, the government ought to be responsible for seeing that people get up earlier in summer. Unhappily, backward sorts object to having bureaucrats set their hours, but that reactionary obstruction can be neatly circumvented by fiddling with the clock.
Reading that piece solidified my inchoate dislike of DST, and I can never set my clocks ahead, as I must today, without resentment. Human beings can adjust when they are active without orders from the authorities. They did so for thousands of years before anybody thought of Daylight Saving Time. They can also handle timekeeping. As Lawrence W. Reed points out in "Problem Time", private initiative, unaided (in fact, impeded) by government, successfully standardized the North American time zones, thus solving more serious problems than any addressed by DST. Government interference to make us into earlier risers amounts to little more than theft of an hour.
All right - not theft. The government gives the hour back in October, making the transaction more like a forced loan. Maybe I could tolerate that, if only the loan paid interest. Time is money, after all. If Uncle Sam, for his own purposes, extracts an hour from me in April, could he not at least let me, seven months later, turn the clock by by 62 minutes? That seems only equitable.
P.S. For those who were wondering, the first silliest thing that Isaac Asimov ever wrote was a column condemning Imperial units of measure on the ground that learning the techniques necessary to do arithmetic with inches and feet stunted children's minds.
* * * *
During my enforced hiatus from updating Stromata, I've had time for more blog parlor games.
I Am A: Neutral Good Human Ranger Bard
Neutral Good characters believe in the power of good above all else. They will work to make the world a better place, and will do whatever is necessary to bring that about, whether it goes for or against whatever is considered 'normal'.
Humans are the 'average' race. They have the shortest life spans, and because of this, they tend to avoid the racial prejudices that other races are known for. They are also very curious and tend to live 'for the moment'.
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.
Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.
Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)
[Warning: This test crashes Netscape 4.78 and earlier browsers.]
These results are not at all what I anticipated, proving that the D&D portion of the multiverse is significantly different from the one that we inhabit.