[OT?] Re: Python and Politics, Was: Python vs .Net

Steve Holden sholden at holdenweb.com
Thu Jan 9 14:42:35 CET 2003

"Karsten W. Rohrbach" <karsten at rohrbach.de> wrote ...
> Peter Wu <peterwu at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Avery Andrews wrote:
> >
> >> How does this play out in places that don't recognize software
> >> patents, especially where the local government is not interested in
> >> promoting the dominance of M$?  'twould be odd for USA-ans to be
> >> looking to Latin America and China for the defense of freedom, but
> >> such is life ...
> >
> > No politics, please.
> Why? In a world where it becomes quite obvious, that property rights
> turn out to stand over human and individual rights, and these property
> rights are enforced with a big budget by industry interest groups and
> also by using military forces, software is not a no-politics zone anymore.
Agreed. It seems to me that American companies and American governments
*both* seem to adopt a "might is right" approach in their relations to
external parties (here I'm talking foreign policy for the US government and
customer relations for Microsoft).

Since the second World War it seems to me (and not just me, see for Example
Zinn's Excellent "A People's History of America") that the US government
increasingly sees its interests aligned with those of commercial
organisations. Mostly "the economy" is a shorthand for "the welfare of large
corporations", and what is good for corporations is *assumed* to be good for
consumers collectively.

We could argue forever about the *reasons* for this, but I'm certainly not
about to try and use c.l.py as the forum for doing so.

> Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound snappy, but that's how I see
> the course of action in international politics and industry cartels. And
> I don't want my kids to suffer from this negative evolution of law and
> order and humanity. There's more to life, than just working to be able
> to consume. Happyness is not derived from trade goods or intellectual
> property.
Hear, hear! When I look at individuals of great wealth I sometimes wonder
just what it is that drives them to keep accumulating more. I've heard some
"successful" people explain that money is "just a means of keeping score",
but this seems pretty feeble, as it begs the question of why the score has
to keep going up.

Given that money is supposed to be a "universal medium of exchange",
accumulating more than one could use in several hundred lifetimes would
appear, given the finite resources we all share on this ball of baked mud
called planet Earth, to deprive others. I particularly object to "American
dream" brainwashing, which would have people believe that "we can all
succeed if we work hard enough, so those who don't succeed are simply not
working hard enough".

> It goes well beyond the scope of software, but our momentary key
> technologies being powered by said software, reflect this evolution more
> and more.
The current situation is well summarised by the legal and lobbying efforts
the recording industry is indulging in to secure a redefinition of "fair
use" to "what we say you can do". We are getting close to having the
technology to enforce this by technical means, and the music industry
realises this. Microsoft's Palladium effort represents a further threat to
our freedoms in the area of software. It appears to threaten the user's
ability to determine which software components can be loaded onto a computer

In Microsoft's case, what I find difficult to understand is that the
management of a convicted monopolist can't see that such exclusionary
initiatives might well lead to further successful court actions against
them. Given the mild slap on the wrist resulting from the last case,
however, I suppose they feel that they have nothing to fear.

I think the most interesting current attempt to argue with Microsoft about
whether open source is "good" or "bad" (these terms, of course, imply value
judgements, and so the relevant values should always be inspected: I think
most readers should be pretty clear by now about my value scale as it
relates to this thread) is taking place in Peru. David Villanueva Nuñez, a
politician of great tact and diplomacy, is giving Microsoft a thrashing each
time they attempt to argue that proprietary software technologies are better
for the Government than  open source: see
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/25157.html. One might wish for
such effective representation in the US Congress and Senate.

> Intervention or not, design or misdesign, binding of resources or
> good collaboration - decisions often lie in our hands, not the hands of
> the government or fortune500 companies[1].
We can all make personal choices, but it's difficult to work around a
monopoly or a cartel who have decided "you should only do this our way",
particularly when they have the ear of government. Even now there are
stories about how digital rights management systems are stopping people from
including clips from media which would clearly have been accepted as fair
use under the copyright law of the twentieth century.

I don't see many politicians arguing against this, as in America it is seen
as protecting American corporations' rights to intellectual property.
Perhaps it's old-fashioned to believe in fair use? I can't imagine an
American court would have ruled as the Norwegian court did, that John Lech
Johansen was guilty of no offence in breaking the feeble encryption on DVD
though time might tell. The ruling is a smack in the face for the recording
industry, but by no means the end of their efforts.

And don't even get me started on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which
is about as clear an indication of the alignment of commercial and
legislative interests as any sane person is likely to need. Even the name is
dumb. Good for the publishers, though, eh?

> Because of the above, I clearly see this thread being on-topic.
I'm not sure I can agree here, given that comp.lang.python is for
discussions of the Python language, so I suppose I have to apologise to
those who only want to see technical threads in this group.

As always, technologies themselves are pretty much neutral (hence the gun
nuts' mantra of "guns don't kill people, people kill people": they never
seem to put "[often with guns]" at the end). What really counts is the uses
to which those technologies are put. Unfortunately, in present-day America
the individual technologist is ineffective in persuading government to
listen to other interpretations of technological possibility than those they
are fed by large corporations. Consequently, the corporations get to dictate
how we use our technologies. What price democracy now?

It's no accident that the most recent proposal to put "the [American]
economy" back on its feet includes removing taxation from stock dividends.
I've heard estimates that this will hand  over 40% of the benefit to the
richest 1% of the population, and yet nobody seems to consider raising the
threshold at which income taxes start to bite, which would have the
additional benefit of diminishing the taxpayer base and making adminstration
easier. Since that would mostly benefit the poor, however, it gets few
supporters: lobbyists and politicians tend to be wealthy and

> Regards,
> /k
> [1] Excuse my probably bad choice of words, I'm not a native english
>     speaker.
As a native English speaker myself I'd like to compliment you on your
language skills. I don't have enough mastery of any other language to say
much beyond "please", "thank you" and "could I have a beer?". I always try
to learn them in that order, though :-)

Steve Holden                                  http://www.holdenweb.com/
Python Web Programming                 http://pydish.holdenweb.com/pwp/
Bring your musical instrument to PyCon!    http://www.python.org/pycon/

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