Downloading The Doctor Who Easter Special


The Doctor Who Easter Special, Planet of the Dead has aired and those helpful fans in Great Britain already have copies of it on line. I will have it downloaded shortly. This has me wondering why the producers of such shows don’t do more to attempt to receive revenue from viewers.

I have no idea when this year’s Doctor Who specials will make it on American television. If I could just go to my pay for view on cable and watch for $5 or $10 I would do so, especially as this is the first time a Doctor Who show was filmed in full high definition. I don’t have any such option. Instead I’m downloading a DivX copy which, based upon past experience, will be DVD quality. It is even likely that if I wait a few more hours a 1080p version will be available for download.

Not only are  a wide variety of videos easily available for download, but there are multiple gadgets sold whose primary function is to facilitate watching downloaded shows on large screen television. Sure my Western Digital HD Media Player can also be used to show my own photos and videos, but there would be no real market for the product if not for DivX video downloads.

If shows like this were available, it is inevitable that many would still download them rather than purchase them, but if the producers don’t make an attempt to sell the material they leave no alternative for those who want to watch. At least in some cases there are reasonable alternatives. Last week my wife picked up season two of Friday Night Lights for about $21. I could have downloaded it instead, but I was certainly willing to pay for the DVD set when offered for such a reasonable price. Friday Night Lights offers one more incentive to purchasing the DVD set. The deleted scenes are often quite significant. I believe they are available on line, but it is simpler to have both the episode and deleted scenes on one DVD set.

Update: A review of Planet of the Dead has been posted here.

Defying The Vatican


I had thought that diplomatic disputes with the Vatican were more something out of The Tudors than the modern world. To the Vatican Caroline Kennedy might as well be Anne Boleyn. Her prospects of being appointed ambassador to the Vatican are not doing any better than her previously considered appointment to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. The Telegraph reports that the Vatican has blocked a possible appointment as ambassador due to her support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

Not being an expert in such diplomatic matters, this raises a number of questions in my mind. I’m aware of cases of diplomats being recalled because of alleged infractions such as espionage. Is it common for nations to block ambassadors who do not share their beliefs? The Vatican might not like it, but support for both abortion and embryonic stem cell research is the position of the Obama administration and both are legal in this country. What if the Vatican were to also demand an ambassador who believes in creationism instead of evolution?

What of other areas where countries disagree with the views of appointed ambassadors? Do Muslim nations object to non-Muslim ambassadors from the west?  Should we go along if one were to insist that we only appoint an ambassador who opposes the existence of Israel?

During the cold war it would have been ludicrous for Communist nations to reject western ambassadors who did not support Communism. Imagine if the Chinese had refused overtures from Richard Nixon to begin diplomatic relations because Nixon and his potential ambassadors were not Maoists.

My suspicion is that this is primarily an issue for the Vatican and not for most other countries. I wonder how they handle ambassadors from other countries. Do they scrutinize the religious beliefs of ambassadors from Muslim countries? What did they do with ambassadors from Communist countries which officially supported atheism and opposed any free expression of religion?

There are many practical considerations and the Obama administration might find it necessary to find an ambassador who is acceptable to them both for diplomatic reasons and out of concern for domestic politics. My gut feeling (which I understand should not necessarily be followed by those actually in power) would be to continue to stand for principle and appoint ambassadors who share our values of respecting a woman’s right to control her own body and support for scientific progress, even if the Vatican opposes our values.

While I understand that there might be reasons for compromise, personally I see no more reason why we should appoint an ambassador to the Vatican who opposes our values than we should be forced to appoint an ambassador to a middle east Muslim country who opposes the existence of Israel or to a socialist country who supports free market principles. Shouldn’t the purpose of an ambassador be to represent our views and keep open lines of communication, not to echo the views of the host nation?

Goldman Sachs Tries To Shut Down Blog

Goldman Sachs is trying to shut down a blog which has been critical of the company. The Telegraph reports:

The bank has instructed Wall Street law firm Chadbourne & Parke to pursue blogger Mike Morgan, warning him in a recent cease-and-desist letter that he may face legal action if he does not close down his website.

Florida-based Mr Morgan began a blog entitled “Facts about Goldman Sachs” – the web address for which is – just a few weeks ago.

In that time Mr Morgan, a registered investment adviser, has added a number of posts to the site, including one entitled “Does Goldman Sachs run the world?”. However, many of the posts relate to other Wall Street firms and issues.

According to Chadbourne & Parke’s letter, dated April 8, the bank is rattled because the site “violates several of Goldman Sachs’ intellectual property rights” and also “implies a relationship” with the bank itself.

While I don’t know if this has been there all along or is a reaction to the legal threats, the site does currently say right at the top in bold red type: “This site is NOT affiliated with Goldman Sachs, nor has this site been approved by Goldman Sachs.”  Morgan has a post about the legal action which contains a copy of a letter from the company. He responds:

Needless to say, we will most likely fight this one in court with Goldman Sachs and now we will expedite adding relevant content to this website. We have followed all of the legal requirements to own and maintain the website under the address we have selected. If you have any media contact you want to forward this to, be my guest. It’s just another example of how a bully like Goldman Sachs tries to throw their weight around and this is a clear violation of our Constitutional Rights.

I can’t help but believe that such legal action will only bring far more publicity to the site and the arguments contained there.

Destruction of the D.C. Voucher System

I supported the Democrats in recent elections because of the many unacceptable policies of the Republicans, including their foreign policy which both got us involved in a foolish war and undermined our national security, their efforts to undermine civil liberties and checks and balances on government power, and their support for the agenda of the religious right. I voted Democratic knowing that this included a fair amount of baggage I wouldn’t like. There may be an example of this described in an editorial in The Washington Post:

EDUCATION SECRETARY Arne Duncan has decided not to admit any new students to the D.C. voucher program, which allows low-income children to attend private schools. The abrupt decision — made a week after 200 families had been told that their children were being awarded scholarships for the coming fall — comes despite a new study showing some initial good results for students in the program and before the Senate has had a chance to hold promised hearings. For all the talk about putting children first, it’s clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way…

That, after all, is what this program is about: giving poor families the choice that others, with higher salaries and more resources, take for granted. It’s a choice President Obama made when he enrolled his two children in the elite Sidwell Friends School. It’s a choice Mr. Duncan had when, after looking at the D.C. schools, he ended up buying a house in Arlington, where good schools are assumed. And it’s a choice taken away this week from LaTasha Bennett, a single mother who had planned to start her daughter in the same private school that her son attends and where he is excelling. Her desperation is heartbreaking as she talks about her daughter not getting the same opportunities her son has and of the hardship of having to shuttle between two schools.

It’s clear, though, from how the destruction of the program is being orchestrated, that issues such as parents’ needs, student performance and program effectiveness don’t matter next to the political demands of teachers’ unions. Congressional Democrats who receive ample campaign contributions from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers laid the trap with budget language that placed the program on the block. And now comes Mr. Duncan with the sword.

I am certainly no expert on the voucher system in Washington, D.C. but the impression I’ve had has been that it has been a success. Just as I opposed the Republicans when they placed ideology over reality, I am far more concerned with what works than with Democratic ideology or pleasing constituency groups. This may be an unfortunate downside of our two party system with neither party entirely doing what is right.

A New Popularity for Socialism (Thanks To The GOP)

On Thursday Rasmussen came out with a poll showing that “Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.” It is difficult to say much about this poll as it does not define the terms. Confusing matters even more, last December a survey showed that 70% of Americans prefer a free-market economy.

I see these surveys as largely being a test of reaction to words such as capitalism and socialism as opposed to having much meaning with regards to what type of economic system Americans really prefer. There may be some meaning to the fact that there is not a more negative view of socialism.

While Obama is no socialist the right has repeatedly been making such claims. This was a common attack during the presidential campaign. The right received further fuel for such bogus attacks from the bail out plans (putting aside the fact that this began during Bush’s term).

I’ve often mocked the attacks on Obama for being a socialist because the attacks are so blatantly untrue. This turned out even worse than expected for the right. With the policies of the right being so unpopular and with Obama’s tremendous popularity, many Americans see any label attacked to Obama as favorable. Claiming that Obama is a socialist wound up making socialism a more favorable-sounding word as opposed to tarnishing Obama’s reputation.

As an opponent of socialism I have mixed feelings on this poll. Socialism, like Republican economic policies, is based upon placing ideology over reality and leads to disaster. Socialism is a word which deserves a low popularity, and should not be competitive with capitalism in such polls. On the other hand, after seeing the McCarthyist tactics of the right there is a certain satisfaction in seeing false attacks on Obama as being a socialist backfire so badly against them. Perhaps this will dissuade conservatives from making such untrue claims.

Update: The New York Times front page at present has an item from The Opininator which summarizes blog reaction on this poll in a prominent position. I note that some bloggers interpreted the poll in a similar manner. For example, Steve Benen wrote:

In terms of interpreting these results, the numbers certainly aren’t what I expected, and it’s hard to know why respondents answered as they did. Perhaps “capitalism” lost some of its appeal when our economy collapsed. Maybe a lot of people heard the media connect Obama and “socialism,” and since they like the president, they figure socialism can’t be that bad. In a similar vein, if right-wing blowhards like Limbaugh keep screaming that socialism is manifestly evil, there may be some who assume the economic model must have merit.

Mark Thompson wrote:

When you falsely complain that every single thing your opponents try to do is socialism and absurdly hold your bloviating, unpopular selves up as bastions of capitalism, you probably shouldn’t be surprised when people start thinking socialism doesn’t look so bad, and capitalism doesn’t look so good.  So suggests, in part, Chris Good.  Let the record reflect that I predicted this, in full, on November 5, 2008.   Heckuva job guys, heckuva job.

Mark is correct that connecting capitalism with Republican polices doesn’t do it any favors. As I’ve previously quoted libertarian Will Wilkinson as writing, “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.”