The days of the peace officer are long gone, replaced by the militarized police warrior wearing uniforms making them indistinguishable from military personnel. Once something is defined as a “war” everyone becomes a “warrior.” Balko offers solutions ranging from ending the war on drugs, to halting mission creep so agencies such as the Department of Education and the FDA don’t have their own SWAT teams, to enacting transparency requirements so that all raids are reported and statistics kept, to community policing, and finally to one of the toughest solutions: changing police culture.
Police culture has gone from knocking on someone’s door to ask him to come to the station house, to knocking on a door to drag him to the station house, to a full SWAT raid on a home.
Two quotes from the HBO television series The Wire apply quite appropriately to this situation:
“This drug thing, this ain’t police work. Soldiering and police, they ain’t the same thing.”
“You call something a war and pretty soon everyone’s gonna’ be running around acting like warriors. They’re gonna’ be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs and racking up body counts. And when you’re at war you need an enemy. And pretty soon damn near everybody on every corner’s your enemy. And soon the neighborhood you’re supposed to be policing, that’s just occupied territory.”
Detective John J. Baeza, NYPD (ret.), posted review of Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop at Amazon.com, 2013-07-01
July 3, 2013
May 22, 2013
People tend to have strong opinions on fan fiction (well, people who know it exists, anyway). This development will polarize fan ficcers very quickly:
The Twitters are abuzz today about Amazon’s new “Kindle Worlds” program, in which people are allowed to write and then sell through Amazon their fan fiction for certain properties owned by Alloy Entertainment, including Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, with more licenses expected soon. I’ve had a quick look at the program on Amazon’s site, and I have a couple of immediate thoughts on it. Be aware that these thoughts are very preliminary, i.e., I reserve the right to have possibly contradictory thoughts about the program later, when I think (and read) about it more. Also note that these are my personal thoughts and do not reflect the positions or policies of SFWA, of which I am (still but not for much longer) president.
1. The main knock on fan fiction from the rights-holders point of view — i.e., people are using their characters and situations in ways that probably violate copyright — is apparently not at all a problem here, since Alloy Entertainment is on board for allowing people to write what they want (within specific guidelines — more on that in a bit). Since that’s the case, there’s probably a technical argument here about whether this is precisely “fan fiction” or if it’s actually media tie-in writing done with intentionally low bars to participation (the true answer, I suspect, is that it’s both). Either way, if Alloy Entertainment’s on board, everything’s on the level, so why not.
2. So, on one hand it offers people who write fan fiction a chance to get paid for their writing in a way that doesn’t make the rightsholders angry, which is nice for the fan ficcers. On the other hand, as a writer, there are a number of things about the deal Amazon/Alloy are offering that raise red flags for me.
[. . .]
4. This won’t spell the end of unauthorized fan fic, and I’m very sure of that. For one thing, the Kindle Worlds program says it won’t accept “pornography” which means all that slash out there will still be on the outside of the program; likewise crossover fan fic, so those “Vampire Diaries meet Dr Who” stories will be left out in the cold. And besides that, there will be people who a) have no interest in making money and/or b) don’t write well enough to be accepted into the Kindle Worlds program (there does seem that there will be some attempt at quality control, or at least, someone has to go through the stuff to make sure there’s nothing that’s contractually forbidden). So if this was an attempt to squash fan fic through other means, it’s doomed to failure. But I don’t suspect that’s the point.
This Amazon FanFic announcement means I can finally realize my dream – a vampire version of “50 Shades of Gray,” without the sex!
— John Kovalic (@muskrat_john) May 22, 2013
— Alyssa Harad (@alyssaharad) May 22, 2013
May 4, 2013
As you probably guessed, he’s against it:
David French, Senior Vice President of the National Retail Federation, the major industry group lobbying for the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” (more aptly named the “National Internet Tax Mandate”) recently commented that “…the law [governing Internet sales] today is a 20th-century interpretation of an 18th-century document…” Mr. French’s comments are typical of those wishing to expand government power beyond the limits established by the United States Constitution.
[. . .]
The National Internet Tax Mandate overturns the Supreme Court’s 1992 Quill v. North Dakota decision that states can only force businesses to collect sales tax if the business has a “physical presence” in the state. Quill represented a rare instance where the Supreme Court properly interpreted the Commerce Clause. Thanks to the Quill decision, the Internet has remained a tax-free zone, though some states require consumers to later pay taxes on products they purchased online. This freedom has helped turn the Internet into a thriving and dynamic sector of the economy, to the benefit of entrepreneurs and consumers.
Now that status is threatened by an alliance of big business and tax-hungry state governments seeking new powers to force out-of-state business to collect state sales taxes. Far from updating the Constitution to fit the needs of the 21st century, the National Internet Tax Mandate is a throwback to 18th century mercantilism.
The National Internet Tax Mandate will raise the costs of doing business over the Internet. Large, established Internet companies, such as Amazon, can absorb these costs, whereas their smaller competitors cannot. More importantly, the Mandate’s increased costs and regulations could prevent the creation and growth of the next Amazon.
April 27, 2013
Tim Worstall explains that the current efforts by various campaigners including Stephen Fry are not only a waste of time and effort, but betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how the EU is set up:
There are several points that could be made. One being that selling to Brits from Luxembourg is not tax dodging, it’s exactly what the EU intends the Single Market should be. A, umm, single market across 27 countries. A second might be that even if we start to whine about UK warehouses, tax is still not due here. Our double taxation treaty with Luxembourg means that such warehouses do not lead to tax being due. And that’s from 1968 or so when Wilson ruled: it’s also a standard part of all double taxation treaties and for good reason.
(For example, the metals trade uses warehouses in Rotterdam as the point at which a contract is concluded. The cut flowers business warehouses in a small village near Schipol. Should Holland get all the tax from the world’s metals and flower businesses? Or should everyone be taxed where they really are, not the warehouses?)
But there’s much worse than this. We’ve had the Margaret Hodges screeching that we’re talking about immoral, not illegal. The TJN and other fools similarly scream about how awful it is that people can do business without paying tax. And it is precisely all of this activism that leads these gentle booksellers to spend their year collecting signatures. To absolutely no avail whatsoever.
For in the year they are complaining about, last year, 2012, Amazon did not make a profit. A $39 million loss in fact according to their accounts. It’s simply not true that “tax dodging” by Amazon is leading to the crucifixtion of the independent book shop. That’s a lie that’s been foisted upon people by the obfuscations of the campaigners.
March 4, 2013
Pete Ashton explains how such an item appears on the Amazon.com website:
Nobody made, or approved, the design. This is the headfuck moment that most people can’t comprehend. There’s a completely understandable assumption that someone decided it would be a great idea to sell Keep Calm t-shirts with the word Rape on them and, because they exist (which they don’t, but let’s assume they do) that there’s a reasonable demand for them. This is because we’re used to there being a cost in producing a product like a t-shirt and an economic requirement to mass-produce them in huge numbers. If there’s a significant cost then a decision has to be made whether to spend it or not. We’re looking to blame whoever made that decision, or lament that it was even an option.
But, as we see above, there’s no cost involved. The shirts don’t exist. All that exists is a graphics file on a computer ready to be printed onto a shirt if an order comes through. Still, you might say, someone had to make that file, to type those words and click save. Not necessarily.
The t-shirts are created by an algorithm. The word “algorithm” is a little scary to some people because they don’t know what it means. It’s basically a process automated by a computer programme, sometimes simple, sometimes complex as hell. Amazon’s recommendations are powered by an algorithm. They look at what you’ve been browsing and buying, find patterns in that behaviour and show you things the algorithm thinks you might like to buy. Amazon’s algorithms are very complex and powerful, which is why they work. The algorithm that creates these t-shirts is not complex or powerful. This is how I expect it works.
1) Start a sentence with the words KEEP CALM AND.
2) Pick a word from this long list of verbs. Any word will do. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’re all fine.
3) Finish the sentence with one of the following: OFF, THEM, IT, A LOT or US.
4) Lay these words out in the classic Keep Calm style.
5) Create a mockup jpeg of a t-shirt.
6) Submit the design to Amazon using our boilerplate t-shirt description.
7) Go back to 1 and start again.
H/T to Cory Doctorow for the link.
February 6, 2013
Apparently Games Workshop owns the trademarked term “Space Marines”, so nobody else is supposed to use it:
For years, there have been stories about Games Workshop being trademark bullies and sending threats to people who use the term “space marine” in connection with games. But now that they’ve started publishing ebooks, Games Workshop has begun to assert a trademark on the generic, widely used, very old term “space marine” in connection with science fiction literature.
[. . .]
A few important notes:
* Amazon didn’t have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don’t apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.
* Games Workshop’s strategy is to make “space marine” less generic by launching high profile, bullying attacks on everyone who uses it, so that there will come a day when people hearing the phrase immediately conclude that it must be related to Games Workshop, because everyone know what colossal dicks they are whenever anyone else uses the phrase
* Trademarks only apply to commercial works. You can and should use “space marine” in your everyday speech, fanfic, tweets and so on. For one thing, it will undermine Games Workshop’s attempts to homestead our common language.
Update: John Scalzi clearly feels the claim lacks merit:
I am not a lawyer, so factor that in here. That said: Games Workshop, really? You know, a simple search on the term “space marines” over at Google Books shows a crapload of prior art for “space marines” in science fiction literature, from the 1936 Amazing Tales novelette “The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen, to Robert Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet, to the very recent use of the term in The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Reubens and So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch. There is no lack of evidence that the phrase “space marines” has been used rather promiscuously in science fiction literature up to this point.
To argue, as Games Workshop must, that the phrase “space marines” has a distinctive character in science fiction literature relating only to their product involves, shall we say, a certain studied ignorance of the field. Table top games? Possibly; I’m not an expert. Science fiction literature? You have got to be kidding. It’s pretty damn generic in this field, and was long before 1987, when Warhammer 40,000 was created in game form . Nor does it seem, as far as I know, that Games Workshop attempted to claim trademark on the phrase “space marine” before, despite a veritable plethora of Warhammer 40K tie-in literature using the phrase.
August 30, 2012
July 7, 2012
In Forbes, Tim Worstall explains the odd situation of Amazon trying to obtain patents to use defensively when (not if) they get sued for entering the smartphone market:
… Amazon isn’t searching out patents which would allow it to build phones to, say, the GSM or CDMA standards. For those patents, by virtue of being included in those standards, must be made available to all comers on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (RAND, or Europeans add “Fair” to the beginning to give FRAND). So any patent that is actually necessary to make a phone that interacts with the network is already available to them on exactly the same terms that Samsung, Apple, Nokia or anyone else pays for them.
No, what Amazon is looking for is just some bundle of patents, somewhere, that have something to do with mobile telephony. So that when (and sadly, it really is when, not if) they get sued by someone or other for breaching a patent then they’ve got some great big bundle of documents that they can wave back at them. Such patents can range from the possibly valid (slide to unlock perhaps) through to two that really irk me: Apple claiming a patent on a wedge shaped notebook and, unbelievably to me, on the layout of icons on the Galaxy Tablet in Europe.
I take this to be evidence that the technology patent system has simply got out of hand: that the system is entirely Fubar in fact. We need to recall what a patent is supposed to do: it is not that intellectual property is some God given right. Rather, we realise that given that ideas and technologies are public goods it is very difficult to make money out of having invented them. Thus we artificially create intellectual property in the form of patents and trademarks. But we are always walking a narrow line between encouraging invention by awarding such rights and discouraging derivative inventions by awarding rights that are too strong.
January 13, 2012
Plagiarism is a problem, but how do you react when someone takes your (erotic) fan fiction work without permission and packages and re-sells it?
After checking the author page for Maria Cruz, who that day had the top-selling erotica book in Amazon’s U.K. Kindle store, she counted 40 erotica ebook titles, including Sister Pretty Little Mouth, My Step Mom and Me, Wicked Desires Steamy Stories and Domenating [sic] Her, plus one called Dracula’s Amazing Adventure. Most erotica authors stay within the genre, so Sharazade was surprised Cruz had ventured into horror. Amazon lets customers click inside a book for a sample of text and Sharazade was impressed with how literate it was. She extracted a sentence fragment, googled it, and found that Cruz had copy and pasted the text from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Curious, Sharazade keyed in phrases from other Cruz ebooks and discovered that every book she checked was stolen.
[. . .]
It turns out Cruz isn’t the only self-published plagiarist. Amazon is rife with fake authors selling erotica ripped word-for-word from stories posted on Literotica, a popular and free erotic fiction site that according to Quantcast attracts more than 4.5 million users a month, as well as from other free online story troves. As recently as early January, Robin Scott had 31 books in the Kindle store, and a down-and-dirty textual analysis revealed that each one was plagiarized. Rachel M. Haven, a purveyor of incest, group sex, and cheating bride stories, was selling 11 pilfered tales from a variety of story sites. Eve Welliver had eight titles in the Kindle store copied from Literotica and elsewhere, and she had even thought to plagiarize some five-star reviews. Luke Ethan’s author page listed four works with titles like My Step Mom Loves Me and OMG My Step-Brother in Bisexual, and it doesn’t appear he wrote any of them. Maria Cruz had 19 ebooks and two paperbacks, all of which were created by other authors and republished without their consent, while her typo-addled alter ego Mariz Cruz was hawking Wicked Desire: Steamy bondage picture volume 1.
July 26, 2011
I just noticed that the latest L. Neil Smith novel is available, so I clicked the Amazon.com link to find out more about it. While vampire stuff is pretty far out of my normal fiction reading tastes, this one sounds interesting enough to add it to my list: Sweeter Than Wine. The review by Rex F. May captures my normal disdain for the genre rather well:
I don’t like vampire novels. I don’t even like vampire stories. Never did. They lack verisimilitude if vampires have to bite people frequently, and the people they bite turn into vampires, why aren’t we all vampires by now? And what’s the deal with sunlight? And the garlic and the wooden stake? That all sounds like superstition. So to me, vampires belong in the realm of fantasy, not in science fiction at all, and, for the most part, I don’t enjoy fantasy very much. Now, there are some exceptions I like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld vampires, because the story is humorous, like all his stuff. But most vampire stories are dead serious, with all kinds of gothic, fifteen-year-old-girl orientation Twilight is nothing new, just a continuation of the old pattern. Same old same old rape fantasies porn for teeny-boppers.
Since it makes little sense to order a single book from Amazon, due to shipping costs, I clicked the Recommendations list to see what else is new, interesting, or Amazon’s algorithms consider might be appealing to me. Of the fifteen offerings on the first page, twelve of them are by Steven Brust. As I recently started reading his Vlad Taltos series, that kinda makes sense, but 12/15ths?
Page two of the recommendations were also heavily weighted to match a recent purchase, but this time the recommendations included The Iliad, The Odessey, Plato’s Republic, and works by Saint Augustine, Aristophanes, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Epictetus. The seed book for that seems to have been Peloponnesian War by Thucidides.
Page three appears to be an attempt to patch between the first two pages — Xenophon and several SF books by David Weber, John Ringo, George R.R. Martin, David Drake, and Tom Kratman.
June 24, 2011
Just before lunch, the UPS guy dropped off a couple of books from my latest Amazon.ca order:
That’s The Declaration of Independents: How libertarian politics can fix what’s wrong with America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, and Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi. Now I’m just waiting for Rule 34 by Charles Stross to complete the order.
June 21, 2011
This link was sent to one of my various mailing lists. It’s an amusing little story about a very expensive book and how the price on eBay got so out of hand:
A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly — a classic work in developmental biology that we — and most other Drosophila developmental biologists — consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).
I sent a screen capture to the author — who was appropriate amused and intrigued. But I doubt even he would argue the book is worth THAT much.
At first I thought it was a joke — a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each be offered for well over a million dollars. And the two sellers seemed not only legit, but fairly big time (over 8,000 and 125,000 ratings in the last year respectively). The prices looked random — suggesting they were set by a computer. But how did they get so out of whack?
Amazingly, when I reloaded the page the next day, both priced had gone UP! Each was now nearly $2.8 million. And whereas previously the prices were $400,000 apart, they were now within $5,000 of each other. Now I was intrigued, and I started to follow the page incessantly. By the end of the day the higher priced copy had gone up again. This time to $3,536,675.57. And now a pattern was emerging.
March 30, 2011
In short, watch how author Jacqueline Howett responds to a review with (pretty mild) critical comments, then don’t do this:
Jacqueline Howett said…
You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don’t get. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks.
She then reposts three Amazon reviews in the comment thread.
In response to the many comments from Ms Howett:
I received the email on 2/7 asking that I download the a new copy of the book, which I did. I verified in my library software (Calibre) that this was the version I had and read. However her note above as well as the email mentioned formatting. At least when I talk about formatting I’m referring to issues of conversion from the source (a Word .doc file or whatever) into an eBook so the text flows correctly on the Kindle and so on. I say no issues I would attribute to formatting.
I have doubts that Ms. Howett being English is the reason for my reaction to her writing although I can’t discount it entirely. I can say that in the last year I’ve read and in many cases reviewed on this blog books by natives of England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and multiple European countries where English is not the primary language. Some have been full of country specific slang. In none of these cases has this been an issue for me. I do mention these things in the FYI section of my reviews because it is an issue for some people.
I’ll also point out that in the first two chapters alone I found in excess of twenty errors that ideally would have been caught in editing and proofing. Some were minor, but all have the potential of disrupting an enjoyable reading experience, depending on the specific reader and their sensitivity to such things.
Here are a couple sample sentences from the first two chapters that gave me pause and are representative of what I found difficult while reading.
“She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs.”
“Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance.”
I understand what both are probably saying. I do question the sentence construction.
However, I should point out that the review does say the story, which is the most important part of a book, is good. The effort of extracting the story through the errors and, at least to me, sometimes convoluted sounding language, made doing so much too difficult, IMO.
I would encourage anyone who thinks the story sounds interesting to sample the book. Read the first few chapters and decide for yourself.
Jacqueline Howett said…
My writing is just fine!
You did not download the fresh copy…. you did not. No way!
As to annoymous
Al was given the option of a free copy from smashwords the following day to download in any format he preffered.
Look AL, I’m not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine. You were told to download a new copy for format problems the very next day while they were free at Smashwords, so you could choose any format you wanted to read it in and if their were any spelling mistakes they were corrected. Simply remove this review as it is in error with you not downloading the fresh copy i insisted. Why review my book after being told to do this, and more annoying why have you never ever responded to any of my e-mails?
And please follow up now from e-mail.
This is not only discusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don’t fool me AL.
Who are you any way? Really who are you?
What do we know about you?
You never downloaded another copy you liar!
You never ever returned to me an e-mail
Besides if you want to throw crap at authors you should first ask their permission if they want it stuck up on the internet via e-mail. That debate is high among authors.
Your the target not me!
Now get this review off here!
And it gets much, much worse . . .
March 29, 2011
Tired of moving your music from machine to machine? Feel constricted in your choices? Amazon.com thinks they’ve got an offering you won’t turn down:
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced the launch of Amazon Cloud Drive (www.amazon.com/clouddrive), Amazon Cloud Player for Web (www.amazon.com/cloudplayer) and Amazon Cloud Player for Android (www.amazon.com/cloudplayerandroid). Together, these services enable customers to securely store music in the cloudand play it on any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac or PC, wherever they are. Customers can easily upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive and can save any new Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud Drive for free.
“We’re excited to take this leap forward in the digital experience,” said Bill Carr, vice president of Movies and Music at Amazon. “The launch of Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web and Cloud Player for Android eliminates the need for constant software updates as well as the use of thumb drives and cables to move and manage music.”
“Our customers have told us they don’t want to download music to their work computers or phones because they find it hard to move music around to different devices,” Carr said. “Now, whether at work, home, or on the go, customers can buy music from Amazon MP3, store it in the cloud and play it anywhere.”
Don’t get too excited, fellow Canadians: this is the .com company, not the .ca flavour. Since amazon.ca still can’t sell you MP3 tracks, I doubt that the Amazon Cloud will be available north of the border any time soon.
March 11, 2011
Like many of you, I’ve bought lots of books from Amazon over the years. Knowing a fair bit about my book-buying habits, their recommendations for books I might be interested in are usually pretty good. Today’s email rather missed the mark:
I’m not sure how that book relates in any way to the work of Fernand Braudel:
Fernand Braudel (24 August 1902 – 27 November 1985) was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects, each representing several decades of intense study: The Mediterranean (1923–49, then 1949–66), Civilization and Capitalism (1955–79), and the unfinished Identity of France (1970–85). His reputation stems in part from his writings, but even more from his success in making the Annales School the most important engine of historical research in France and much of the world after 1950. As the dominant leader of the Annales School of historiography in the 1950s and 1960s, he exerted enormous influence on historical writing in France and other countries.
Braudel has been considered one of the greatest of the modern historians who have emphasized the role of large-scale socioeconomic factors in the making and writing of history. He can also be considered as one of the precursors of World Systems Theory.
If you’ve browsed the history section, you’ll have seen them: