Thursday, July 25, 2019

Schiff approved of H Res 246?

Congressman Schiff,

What were you all thinking when you overwhelmingly approved H Res 246?

For what other nation would you make it illegal to protest and boycott their human-rights abuses? Please, list for me the countries for which you would pass the same legislation. You would make it illegal to boycott Russia? Ukraine? France? Israel is no longer exceptional. The laws are the same for Israel as for any other nation.

Your vote to oppose efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement Targeting Israel is reprehensible. What would you do if you had been chased from your home at gunpoint and then other people moved in and the courts issued them a new deed to the property without the new owners paying a penny for your home? Seriously, what would you do if that happened to you? You would say that the nation whose military pushed you out of your home at gunpoint was perfectly justified in doing so? Don't shrug it off. Don't evade the question. Address it. What would you do if it were you?

What does the Israel lobby provide for you?

I'm appalled that the vote was 398 to 17. What were you all thinking? That making boycotting illegal is constitutional? That Russia's disruption of our election process is far more important than the treatment of the people of Gaza? This vote simply makes me shake my head and think "That Israel lobby, they're good."

You know the history of Israel. What other nation would you approve of being retaken after 18 centuries of diaspora? Seriously, which? Not only approving but abetting the takeover. Which nation? South Africa retaken by native Africans? England retaken by the peoples conquered in the Norman Invasion? The US retaken by Native Americans? You would oppose an uprising or armed incursion in any other nation, but you oppose any protesting of Israel having done the same thing.

If your reasoning is something like "God gave the land to Israel forever," consider that you and a large percentage of Jewish people admit that Torah and the history books were redacted and synthesized by the priests and scribes themselves before, during and after the Babylonian captivity. You're overlooking that Israel gave the land to Israel forever. Israel's claim to the land is based on an unwitnessed verbal agreement 4 millenia ago which was not written down until centuries later? Now there's a strong basis for a claim.

The answer to "what were you all thinking" is that you pander to the Jewish voters in your districts. The bloc of Jewish voters in your district is very strong, but they are also very wrong. Israel's exceptionalism faded about the time of the Six Day War. Their privileged status before then was earned by what they had endured in Europe. By 1967, however, the need for a Jewish homeland had diminished, as most Jews were successful and living safely outside of Israel. I know that, as a Congressman, you're obligated to faithfully represent the beliefs and wishes of your voters. But if your voters believe something wrong, it's your responsibility to educate them so that you can faithfully represent them and do the right thing, at the same time.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Zazzle, show designers a little respect

My email to Zazzle:

I've read through the highlights of the User Agreement changes and everything is acceptable.

One other issue I'd like you to address is deleting a designer's intellectual property when it doesn't conform to Zazzle's restrictions. An example is when a design can be brought into conformity by changing one word in the design and you delete the designer's intellectual property and refuse to allow the designer to make that change. That is an unacceptable policy. I understand that the designer agrees to that action when he signs the contract with Zazzle, but that concession should not be in the contract in the first place. At no time does a design, because it resides on Zazzle's servers, become the intellectual property of Zazzle. The designer retains ownership of that design as long as it is under copyright. If you were to allow me to park my car in your garage, the ownership of my car wouldn't transfer to you because the car is stored in your garage. And so, you couldn't dump my car in a landfill if you learn that it doesn't conform to the restrictions of your garage, because it's not your car to discard. If I learned from an email notification that you had dumped my car in a landfill and it was irretrievable or irreparably damaged, I could rightly take you to court and receive compensation from you for your destruction of my property. The same is true of intellectual property even though it resides on your servers only as ethereal binary code. You have no more right to discard the designer's intellectual property because it's stored on your servers than you would have to discard someone else's car stored in your garage.

You would, however, have the right to have the car towed at the owner's expense to a location where the owner could retrieve it. You could treat nonconforming intellectual property in the same way by simply changing the design's status from Public to Hidden. Such a simple action on Zazzle's part, I don't understand why it hasn't been Zazzle's policy all along. I'm sure your response would be that you don't want to allocate resources to following up on each nonconforming design to see that it has been corrected before being made public again, because there are probably thousands of nonconforming designs in the system at any given time. But is it true that it would require so much manpower to keep up with checking back on all of the flagged designs that it would represent a financial burden to the company? My impression is that you keep a bare-bones coding staff between major redesigns of the site. Glitches in the site can last for years, which indicates that you don't want to take resources from development in order just to correct some bad code. However, the percentage which Zazzle keeps of the selling price of each item is 90% for a great number of items sold; and when a seller increases his royalty percentage, Zazzle raises the selling price of the item. The site lists Zazzle's revenue as $50-100M and the number of employees as 100-500. I believe Zazzle can afford to have sufficient manpower to follow up on nonconforming items made public again. It's even possible that no employees would need specifically to follow up on those items; the items would simply be flagged again if they are made public again without being altered.

Fortunately I haven't had any items deleted for a while, but each time it happened my thinking was "Let me make the change! Deleting my intellectual property without recourse isn't within your rights!" With one item, I had the name "warhol" in the keywords for a product but the name didn't appear anywhere on the item itself or in the title or description. Still, the Warhol Foundation objected and you deleted my intellectual property. An unseen keyword, however, does not fall into the realm of copyright infringement, so the Warhol Foundation had no authority to object to it and it would not have stood up in court. A keyword? Which I could have easily replaced with an acceptable keyword. Your policy of deletion without recourse results, of course, from your desire to heavily insulate yourself from lawsuits. You accommodate copyright holders to an extreme degree in order to protect yourself legally, but it's at the expense of the designer. The typical designer doesn't have the resources to protect his intellectual property on your servers, so he is at the bottom of the food chain. But does your business primarily sell blank items? Of course not. The designs generate your revenue. Your substantial financial success derives specifically from the designers' intellectual properties. Without the designers your business model and net income would be significantly different. But you relegate the designers to the bottom of the food chain. Your unwillingness to allow the designer to make a change to an item reflects your hyperfocus on maximizing net income and, ultimately, laziness.

I periodically look for another POD retailer to migrate to, but none so far equal the control and flexibility of Zazzle's design tool. That superiority should be a good thing, but it results in a lack of respect for the designers and their intellectual properties, as well as website design flaws that are never corrected because Administration either doesn't know they're there or doesn't want to allocate resources to correct them.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Allow boycotting for Palestinian rights

Senator Feinstein:

Subject: Vote no on S.1

Even though the Palestinians and the Israelis have both lost the moral high ground in the conflict, please don't act as if Israel still has the high ground through its "birthright" by voting for S.1, the anti-BDS bill.

Israel was an identifiable Jewish nation from the Bronze Age to the 2nd century ce, but that identity was lost with the defeat of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 ce and the establishment of Aeolia Capitolina and the renaming of the Iudea province to Syria Palaestina. Eighteen centuries passed before Israel declared its independence in 1948, and in any other case a nation would not be allowed to reclaim its land after a span of eighteen centuries. Would Iran be allowed to reclaim Babylonia in Iraq after thirteen centuries? No other nation would be aided by the US in reclaiming its land after eighteen centuries.

The justification for reclaiming the land is that God covenanted with Moses, Abram, and Isaac that the land would be Israel's forever. Would unwitnessed verbal agreements made in the Bronze Age be honored with any other nation? It also should be considered that the scroll of the law which was found during Temple repairs during the reign of King Josiah in the seventh century bce - which was likely an early version of Deuteronomy and probably the first time that covenant had been written down - had probably been created by the scribes and priests themselves and later "found" and presented to the King and the people as the writings of Moses from six centuries earlier. A forgery. It's very possible that it was Israel who covenanted with Israel that the land would be Israel's forever.

Regarding birthright, it's probably the case that the reclaiming of Jerusalem by the Muslims under Saladin in 1187 marked the beginning of Muslim control over the land. That represents seven centuries of Muslim possession of the land prior to 1948. Eighteen centuries of loss and seven centuries of possession logically would give the Palestinians the birthright to the land.

You know all of this, I know. And I believe you intend to vote no on S.1. I feel it's important for you to know how at least one of your voters, and probably many others, view the Mid-East conflict.

Thanks very much for being a champion for us.

John Garvey