February 12, 2013

The Bluenose II in court

Filed under: Cancon, History, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:14

The descendents of the designer of the original Bluenose are in court to demand the “copyright, and the moral rights in the copyright work” of the vessel which probably should be called the “Bluenose III“:

The Bluenose sank to the bottom in 1946; the replica Bluenose II was built in 1963, and then rebuilt in recent years and launched from the Lunenburg wharf this past September amid much fanfare and, as the province’s accountants could tell you, serious cost overruns.

No matter. This was a gala affair. Only Joan Roué and her father, Lawrence J. Roué — grandson of William J. Roué — were not among the smiling guests and proceeded to file suit against the province, the boat designers and boat builders in October, alleging that despite “the province owning the vessel … Joan and Lawrence Roué allege that they are respectively entitled to the copyright, and the moral rights in the copyright work” associated with the latest incarnation of the famous schooner.

To which the province responded — and I am paraphrasing here — “are you people kidding me?” while contending in court filings that William J. Roué’s storied original design perhaps wasn’t all that original to begin with, and, even if it were a singular masterpiece, that he had already been paid for it decades ago.

I posted about the “new” Bluenose II last year, explaining why I think they should have incremented the number in the vessel’s official name:

Wooden sailing ships are subject to far more wear and tear than modern vessels: they’re like the old tale of the farmer’s axe (even though everything’s been replaced over time, it’s still the same axe). This means that heritage sailing ships need lots of careful maintenance throughout their lives, and major re-builds at long intervals. In the case of Nova Scotia’s iconic Bluenose II, however, it’s sometimes more than a “rebuild” […] So, just to sum up: she’s being built to a different design (even though outward appearance is much the same), using different materials. In what way can you call her the same ship? The point made in the article, that the masts and sails were some of the “originals” being re-used is odd: those are among the parts that need replacing more often. And the mahogany and walnut saved from the last boat are almost certainly decorative elements, not structural ones.

Calvin Coolidge — The Great Refrainer

Filed under: Books, History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:37

Amity Shlaes has written a new biography on President Calvin Coolidge, reviewed here by Gene Healy:

If there was ever a time when the president could simply preside, it has long passed. As early as the Eisenhower era, political scientist Clinton Rossiter observed that the public had come to see the federal chief executive as “a combination of scoutmaster, Delphic oracle, hero of the silver screen, and father of the multitudes.” Under the pressure of public demands, the office had accrued a host of responsibilities over and above its constitutional ones: “World Leader,” “Protector of the Peace,” “Chief Legislator,” “Manager of Prosperity,” “Voice of the People,” and more.

To that daunting portfolio add “Feeler-in-Chief,” a term coined in all earnestness by The New York Times‘s Maureen Dowd in 2010 while lashing out at Barack Obama for being insufficiently emotive about the BP oil spill. Obama, she wrote, had “resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it.”

Poor MoDo would have kicked the cat in sheer frustration if confronted by the implacable, inscrutable Calvin Coolidge, whose reaction to the job’s more unreasonable demands was a Bartleby-like “I prefer not to.”

[. . .]

Here was “a rare kind of hero: a minimalist president,” Shlaes argues. And though history remembers “Silent Cal” mostly for his reticence and frequent napping, Shlaes reminds us that “inaction betrays strength.” In politics, it’s often easier to “do something,” however unwise, than it is to hold firm: “Coolidge is our great refrainer.”

Alas, after Coolidge‘s elegant introduction, the sledding gets much tougher. Long stretches of this 456-page tome read like an info-dump from Shlaes’s clearly formidable research files. Like the hardscrabble farmers of Plymouth Notch, you need to set your jaw grimly and persevere through a long winter of sentences that should have been left on the cutting room floor, like: “Coolidge met with [Budget Director Herbert] Lord six times and reduced a tariff on paintbrush handles by half, his second cut that year, the other a reduction in duty on live bob quail.” Shlaes should have followed the example of her famously taciturn subject, who in his 1915 opening address as president of the Massachusetts Senate delivered a crisp little homily of 44 words, ending in “above all things, be brief.”

Still, the level of detail she provides inspires reflection on the vast gulf between today’s GOP and the grand party of old. Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge cut taxes and shrank spending. They were pro-peace and anti-wiretapping. They embraced “normalcy” instead of stoking fear. And — go figure — they were also popular. Today’s Republicans could profit from studying their example.

The State of the Union address is the political version of the NFL’s Pro Bowl

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:05

Jim Geraghty explains:

If you said to me, “let’s end the NFL Pro Bowl,” I’d probably disagree. Because while I haven’t watched a Pro Bowl in its entirety in decades, I’d hate to see a tradition end. But as any football fan will acknowledge, the Pro Bowl is a quasi-necessary event that is executed in a fundamentally flawed fashion. For starters, it occurs at the end of the season, instead of at the halfway point of the season like in other sports. This is because of players’ legitimate fear of injury in a game that has only pride on the line; as a result, everybody plays at about half-speed. Selected players decline to go, so you get the second, third, and sometimes fourth-best players at each position. The NFL moved it to the week before the Super Bowl, to make it less of an afterthought to the season, but now the players on teams in the Super Bowl skip the game.

My friends, the president’s State of the Union Address is our national pro bowl — a simulation of the art of persuasion and politics featuring all the big stars, played at about half speed, with no real consequence.

[. . .]

You’ll recall Matt Welch’s discovery from last year about just how interchangeable the rhetoric is:

    Starting with John F. Kennedy’s address to a joint session of Congress in 1961, you could take one sentence from each SOTU since, in chronological order, and cobble together a speech that will likely resemble much of what you’ll hear tonight. So that’s precisely what I’ve done.

Every president uses the event as just another speech, and avoids anything resembling a hard-nosed assessment of where they’ve made progress and where they need to improve their performance. What’s fascinating is the ritual news articles about drafts of the speech and previews, as if you or I couldn’t predict a half dozen points and themes. This is why we have State of the Union drinking games — because people can often predict the precise phrases, never mind the topics or arguments.

Rules for the masses, but not for the bureaucratic elite

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Europe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

The European Union’s rules on gender equality appear to apply to everything in the EU except the EU’s own bureaucracy:

Part of the aggrandised myth EU institutions like to propagate about themselves is that they are pioneers in promoting tolerance, gender equality, and diversity in the workplace. Read the promotional literature and you will find effusive descriptions of liberal workplace revolutions and the achievements of Soviet-style five-year plans. Yet, like the Soviet Union, there is an embarrassing mismatch between the trumpeted idealism and the reality.

Since its creation in 1967, DG Employment (Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission) has nominally been responsible for fair employment conditions in the European Union. Rising levels of workplace equality in member states (for which DG Employment take an undue amount of credit) are woefully incongruous with the situation of EU civil servants. Women occupy 19 per cent of senior management positions; compare this with the often decried 35.9 per cent of women in the top levels of the UK civil service.

Yet it is figures like the UK civil service’s that prompt EU proposals on affirmative action. One set of proposals has recently been discussed in the European parliament, for example, which if passed will introduce gratuitous and complicated legislation across the continent. That bureaucracy breeds bureaucracy is unsurprising, but it is hard to take seriously calls for equality from an institution endemically opposed to the concept.

The only European agency where women in management positions outnumber men is in the Institute for Gender Equality (the administration is 95 per cent female). Incontrovertibly, out of all the agencies, this is the one with the strongest prerogative for tackling equality in its workforce. But the message is clear: shout about equality to the world and create a dummy institute to anyone holding a mirror up to the EU bureaucracy itself. So far, the commission is on its fifth ‘action programme’ to tackle inequality within its institutions, taking the same form as every one that has come before it; vague guidelines forgotten until lobby group pressure becomes too annoying.

Palestine as a useful symbol, but Palestinians as inconvenient “guests”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:28

Strategy Page on the paradoxical Arab view of Palestine as worth fighting for, but actual living Palestinians as less-than-welcome pests (or worse):

While most Arabs will admit they hate Israel, they will also deny that this has anything to do with anti-Semitism and has everything to do with the Palestinians. This is not true, as Arabs have long demonstrated a hostility towards the Jews, something which is part of their religion. It’s in their scriptures, the stories of how Jews refused to support Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Long held grudges are popular in this part of the world.

Meanwhile, there are many more recent reasons for Arabs to dislike the Palestinians. When the state of Israel was established in 1947 there began a series of bad decisions by Arab governments that are setting records for failure. Although the UN tried to broker the creation of Israel, Arab nations misjudged their own power and told Arabs in Israel to flee their homes, so that the Arab armies could come in and kill all the Jews. When that didn’t work, the Arabs refused to absorb the 600,000 Arab refugees, and continues to treat (actually, mistreat) them as refugees. At the same time, the Arabs expelled 600,000 Jews who had been living among them for centuries. Most of these Jews went to Israel and become Israelis, and prospered.

Thus began decades of hostility between Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. The Palestinians that fled to Lebanon proceeded to trigger a 15 year long civil war (1975-90) that devastated the country and left in place a Shia militia in the south (Hezbollah) that prevents the country from being truly united. The Palestinians that fled to Jordan eventually (1970) staged an uprising against the king, and were defeated and largely expelled. The Palestinians that went to Kuwait welcomed the Iraqi invasion of 1990 because Saddam Hussein had always been very loud about wanting to destroy Israel. When Arab and Western troops tossed Saddam out of Kuwait five months later, the Palestinians were forced to flee the vengeance of the Kuwaitis. The Palestinians that went to Iraq also had to flee in 2003, because they had helped Saddam terrorize the Shia and Kurdish majority and were, well, you know the story.

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