Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

July 13, 2005

Bus Company Sues Carpoolers

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:50 pm

Something here is seriously run amok:

[A] group of French cleaning ladies who organised a car-sharing scheme to get to work are being taken to court by a coach company which accuses them of “an act of unfair and parasitical competition”.

The women, who live in Moselle and work five days a week at EU offices in Luxembourg, are being taken to court by Transports Schiocchet Excursions, which runs a service along the route. It wants the women to be fined and their cars confiscated.

Two years ago a business tribunal threw out the company’s case. It is now pursuing the women in a higher court … .

“Using our cars is quicker and at least twice as cheap. And on the bus we didn’t have the right to eat or even to speak,” said Martine Bourguignon. Odette Friedmann added: “In the evening instead of coming to get us at 9.30pm the bus would arrive at 10.30pm. If you made any comment to the driver you’d get a mouthful of abuse.”

TSE is also suing the women’s employer, Onet-Luxembourg. “They’ve basically accused us of inciting the car-sharing scheme when we have nothing to do with the method of transport used by our staff,” said director Frédéric Sirerol.

See what happens when you try to be creative in the EU-Zone?

I’ve been told my several Europeans (a couple of Germans, a Breton, and a few Scandanavians) that Europeans place a much higher value on social conformity than Americans (except for the Breton, they consdiered this to be a good thing). But this is ridiculous. You don’t go to work the socially correct way, so you get sued for millions?


(Hat tips: John Chalmers via Eugene Volokh via Clayton Cramer.)

Three Very Weird “Studies”

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:30 pm

I’m sure these are going to come as news to a lot of people.

First, surprise for all you sad rich people out there:

When Money Does Buy Happiness

And, this is going to come as a surprise to the Psalmist, along with probably everybody else:

Death Less Painful for the Rich

The strange thing is, these articles appear to be (intended to be) completely serious!

But never fear, they may be wrong anyway, as we hear from the (thankfully!) inimitable Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

New study: 16% of studies contradicted by studies

Yeah, right. Remember the joke, “78.3% of all statistics are made up”? Well, this is just like that — only it’s not intended as a joke!

Kudos to Molly Ivins

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:32 pm

Gosh, I thought I’d never say that!

But, Molly Ivins is a liberal columnist in the mainstream media who has done something virtually no one in the mainstream media, virtually no columnist, and virtually no liberal ever does. She’s admitted a mistake — not just a trivial detail, like on the corrections page of a newspaper, but a really, substantial, factual mistake — and she corrected it in her column, where regular readers would see it, not on a buried corrections page.

She writes:

CROW EATEN HERE: This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. WRONG. Really, really wrong.

The only problem is figuring out by how large a factor I was wrong. I had been keeping an eye on civilian deaths in Iraq for a couple of months, waiting for the most conservative estimates to creep over 20,000, which I had fixed in my mind as the number of Iraqi civilians Saddam had killed.

The high-end estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths in this war is 100,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University study published in the British medical journal The Lancet last October, but I was sticking to the low-end, most conservative estimates because I didn’t want to be accused of exaggeration.

Ha! I could hardly have been more wrong, no matter how you count Saddam’s killing of civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, Hussein killed several hundred thousand of his fellow citizens. The massacre of the Kurdish Barzani tribe in 1983 killed at least 8,000; the infamous gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja killed 5,000 in 1988; and seized documents from Iraqi security organizations show 182,000 were murdered during the Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign against Kurds, also in 1988.

There have been estimates as high as 1 million civilians killed by Saddam, though most agree on the 300,000 to 400,000 range, making my comparison to 20,000 civilian dead in this war pathetically wrong.

I was certainly under no illusions regarding Saddam Hussein, whom I have opposed through human rights work for decades. My sincere apologies. It is unforgivable of me not have checked. I am so sorry.

Web Archive Sued for Archiving

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:23 pm

The Internet WayBack Machine (AKA the Internet Archive) attempts to archive virtually everything on the internet. Just as Google crawls the web from link to link to index the pages, the Internet Archive crawls the web to store the pages. Forever, presumably. This can be very useful, since very nice web pages often get taken down when authors graduate from school, change ISPs, or change jobs, or simply lose interest. I’ve found quite a few gems in the archive over the years.

Now, the Internet Archive is being sued. Apparently, a company called “Healthcare Advocates” sued a company called “Health Advocates” for trademark infringement. The defendant’s lawyers used the Internet WayBack Machine to search for web pages the plantiff had posted in the past, and used that information in the defense. So, the plaintiff sued the law firm — for using the information — and the Internet Archive, for providing it!

Now this is interesting on at least three levels. First, I’ve never heard of a plaintiff suing a denfendant’s lawyers for defending them. I’m not a lawyer, so maybe this happens all the time, but it sounds odd to me.

Second, there’s the copyright angle. It would seem clear that the Internet Archive had every right to download those pages in the first place — after all, that’s what web pages on a publically-accessible web server are for. And I can’t imagine one would ever be required to get rid of some information one acquired legally. Whenever you view a web page, your browser stores a copy in the “cache”; the Internet Archive just has a really huge cache from which nothing (presumably) is ever deleted.

And third, it seems hard to argue they shouldn’t make that cache available to the public, since everything there was available to the public in the first place.

I think it would be interesting to see what Ron Coleman has to say about this. He is the foremost expert on the internet and intellectual property law, and he has a blog here.

(Hat tip: Slashdot.)

UPDATE:

Ron Coleman weighs in here.

The Television Set Manufacturers’ Profit Act of 2005

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:25 pm

USA Today reports that television broadcasters “would agree to give up their analog channels and start broadcasting only in digital by 2009″ — and that Congress is about to pass legislation to this effect.

Putting aside the implied notion that Congress can’t pass legislation without the consent of broadcasters (which may in fact be true if enough voters watch TV and believe what they see on it), what this basically means is that on January 1, 2009, almost every TV in America will stop working. In other words, unless you are in one of the 2% or so households that already has a digital TV, then sometime between now and January 1, 2009 you will have to buy a new TV (or a converter box, perhaps with a new antenna) if you plan to watch TV after that date. There is one possible exception — cable companies may still provide analog signals. So if they do that (which not certain), and you don’t get cable already, you have until January 1, 2009, to sign up and start paying.

In other words, if you don’t pay the “TV tax” to the digital TV manufacturers, the era of free TV broadcasts is going to be over.

And even if you don’t watch TV, you might still pay — because Congress is considering subsidizing the purchase of converter boxes.

If you are not totally bored by this, go over to Slashdot and read the comments. Some of them are quite perceptive.

Minds in London Changed Back

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:51 am

Looks like I spoke too soon. I noted on July 7, the day of the terrorist attacks in London, that the BBC was actually calling the terrorist attacks “terrorism” and the perpetrators “terrorists.”

It turns out this lasted barely a day. On July 8, Gene at Harry’s Place (a blogger, what else?) noticed that the BBC web site had switched back to avoiding the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” — replacing them with words like “bombers,” “suspects,” and “bomb attack.” Not only that, but the BBC retroactively changed stories on its web site to edit out the word “terrorist.” Gene provides evidence from the Google cache:

And the article it links to:

The Google excerpt shows how the article originally appeared; the article excerpt is how it appeared a day later.

Gene post another example, and says there are more.

It seems to have taken the “mainstream media” at least three days to pick up on the change — articles reporting it appeared on July 11 in the Jerusalem Post, and on July 12 in the London Telegraph. The Jerusalem Post article stated:

Presumably hoping that no one would notice, the BBC subtly and retroactively altered its initial texts about the bombs on both its British and international Web sites. Unfortunately for the BBC, however, previous versions of its webpages remained easily accessible to all on Google, and enterprising British bloggers, long-fed up with the BBC’s bias, recorded the changes.

They even credited the bloggers!

“Harry’s Place” noted, for example, that on Thursday evening a BBC News webpage headlined “Bus man may have seen terrorist,” began “A bus passenger says he may have seen one of those responsible for the terrorist bomb attacks in London. Richard Jones, from Binfield, had got a bus just before it was blown up….”

But on Friday at 10:14 a.m. GMT, that webpage was suddenly changed. The headline now reads “Passenger believes he saw bomber,” and the text begins “A bus passenger says he may have seen one of those responsible for the bomb attacks in London. Richard Jones, from Binfield, had got a bus just before it was blown up…”

There are other examples of similar censorship occurring at the BBC. Stalin himself could hardly have done a better job of overseeing its award-winning Web site.

The Telegraph even got an official reaction:

A BBC spokesman said last night: “The word terrorist is not banned from the BBC.”

No, it’s not — they still leave the word in when quoting public officials who use it. But that’s not exactly the point. They were not accused of misquoting people; they were accused of refusing to describe terrorists as such.

Of course, they have no trouble reporting foreign reactions with alacrity. As the Jerusalem Post article noted:

In its round-up of world reactions, BBC online was also quick to highlight the views of conspiracy theorists. The very first article listed by the BBC started by quoting Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani saying Israel was behind the London attacks. It was followed by a commentary on Iranian state radio explicitly blaming the Mossad.

With its unprecedented worldwide news reach (its radio service alone, broadcasting in 43 languages, attracts over 150 million listeners), BBC coverage is important in formulating worldwide public opinion.

The article with that particular reaction is here.

Does this mean Israel is supposed to be grateful that the BBC did not label them as terrorists?

It seems that the only thing wrong with George Orwell’s 1984 is that it was a few years off in predicting when “newspeak” would come to London.

Postscript:
Harry of Harry’s House rounds up the coverage of all this and explains why it is not “partisan” to call a terrorist a terrorist. Terrorism has a specific, agreed-upon meaning in international law.

Also, thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

Why I blog under a pseudonym

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:55 am

… Is explained in this article — which is, by the way, also written under a pseudonym.

Health Care Blogging

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:04 am

Grand Rounds 42 is up at Shrinkette. It includes an account from an EMT at the London bombings.

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