From The Editor
Bill Girdner
Story Date:   
The Long Unraveling


     The post-war order came at an extraordinary cost. A cataclysmic event for humanity, millions killed, whole cities bombed into oblivion.
     My father, a soldier in Europe, and my mother, a citizen of Paris, survived that cataclysm. And in his photos of Paris during the time after the war, you can see the explosion of life, the sheer joy of being alive.
     I was born in that time.
     A common news analysis of Britain's EU exit is that it exhibits an unraveling of the long entente that followed that period of liberation. There is something in that, but I think the unraveling started quite a while back.
     The nativist parties have been growing in Europe for years now, moving from the fringe toward the mainstream. Their raison-d'etre is to push against internationalism and indeed against immigration.
     So take Denmark, a country I came to know well through many friends and visits. The Danes are long past the internationalism and solidarity integral to the concept of a European Union — but they are dependent on trade.
     When I was there a couple decades ago, their doggedly, determinedly liberal outlook made it seem as though the cultural revolution of the 1960s in the U.S. had become permanently engrained into their society.
     But their nation took in a large number of refugees in the wake of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. And over the years, from what I saw and heard, a big segment of population ultimately had enough of the foreign culture they had invited into their country.
     And so the Danish People's Party grew and grew to become a political kingmaker.
     You saw that post-compassion sentiment in the Danish reaction to the current wave of refugees out of Syria and Iraq. The nation turned a cold shoulder, arresting those who tried to march through the Danish land. Sweden then put up a gate in the middle of the main bridge from Denmark to Sweden and began checking passports.
     Denmark loves statistics, and they are easily accessible in the Danish libraries and through the government. When I spent a summer learning some Danish and studying the culture, I was struck by how closely the various numerical measures of society matched up between England and the Nordic countries.
     So it is not so surprising that after another Middle East war, the English too were done with the concept of welcoming the weary, the poor, the tempest-tossed. While their fears may be baseless, as many have argued, in all likelihood they put the 'leave' vote over the top.
     Because the other main factor cited by politicians and pundits alike -- resentment of far-away, meddling bureaucrats in Brussels -- has been there since the EU was born.
     I remember being in the Gare de Lyon in Paris with my mom who was by then a petite, older French woman who always dressed carefully, including a hat, when she went out in public. I loved the French for treating her so well.
     One of the clerks in the train station joked with her that he really did not want to put her connection through "Mastricht," saying the name with a vehement inflection. He was alluding to the 1992 Mastricht Treaty that established the EU and its currency.
     The bureaucratic French, with the concept of central, regal power deep in their DNA, ratified the controversial treaty but just barely.
     By an equally slim margin, the independent Danes rejected it. They approved it on a second vote only after the "four Danish exceptions" were included, having to do with keeping the Danish krone as their currency, and control of their own defense policy, home affairs and citizenship.
     So there has long been skepticism in the European nations about the cession of sovereignty to far-away bureaucrats. But there was largely a consensus that the loss in political power was worth the gain in the economy.
     So there stood the status quo, more or less, with a simmering resentment against Brussels but the ship EU holding together. Then along came Greece, in a sense the Achilles heel of the enterprise.
     The near bankruptcy of the Greek government ended up demonstrating the harshness of the EU central banks as debt collectors, and brought an ill-informed resentment from the Germans. But that too sort of settled down, at the expense of Greece's throttled economy.
     Then, in their remarkable compassion, the Greeks opened the gates of Europe to a flood of refugees and immigrants, at one point 5,000 per day. And in the end, those numbers and images, combined with enduring skepticism over the central bureaucracy, I would suggest, put the British vote over the top.
     What the future holds is not clear, possibly some regression towards a primarily economic union. But the world's troubles runneth over these days, and the desire to build a moat around the castle is unlikely to abate.
     After the British vote, a family member texted me -- and our family is the embodiment of the post-war order -- "Frexit next."
     

 
Coyote Speaks
Robert Kahn
Story Date:   
Taurus Butted Out

     Everyone feels entitled to an opinion about music, whether they know anything about it or not.
     Other things like that are God, immigration, and other people's behavior.
     Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion about music.
     But no one should be allowed to take millions of dollars from one band and give the money to another band, when everyone involved — except the hit band — appears to be musically illiterate.
     As a musician, I was glad to see the jury decide this week that Led Zeppelin did not steal "Stairway to Heaven" from the rock band Spirit.
     There is nothing copyrightable in Spirit's song "Taurus" that can be stolen.
     Spirit's entire song is a 400-year-old musical cliché: a chromatically descending bass line under a static chord.
     Sebastian Bach used it. Mozart used it. Beethoven used it. The Beatles used it in the intro to "Michelle." Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart used it in "My Funny Valentine."
     Led Zeppelin used the cliché as the intro to a nice little song from which they have received — if you can believe The New York Times — $562 million in royalties.
     Wow! I'd like some of that action. But I have no right to it. Neither does Spirit, or their late songwriter, or anyone else.
     This "copyright" case never should have gone to trial.
     It was a money grab, pure and awful.
     Don't believe me?
     Play "Taurus" and "Stairway to Heaven" one after the other, as Spirit's attorney did for the jury. Then play "Michelle" and "My Funny Valentine," as Spirit's attorney did not do.
     Hear any similarities there?
     When I studied musical arranging at the Berklee School of Music 40 years ago, Berklee had an upper-division arranging course called "Line Clichés." It taught musical clichés that work.
     For instance, if you are writing a film score, and nothing is happening on screen, you can write a chromatically descending line under a static chord. Or you could ascend chromatically, if something is about to happen.
     If someone — God help her — should be sentenced to listen to soft rock radio for eight hours a day, she would hear this musical cliché so many times she would pay money to make it go away.
     Spirit's "song" is not a song at all: It's a musical cliché.
     Led Zeppelin used the cliché as an intro to a nice little song, with a tune and words and everthang.
     Is Led Zeppelin's song worth half a billion dollars?
     Beats me.
     But that's not the point.
     The point is that Led Zeppelin wrote a song.
     Spirit just recycled a musical cliché.
     Half of the rock and roll songs ever written in the history of the world are in the keys of E, A, D or G — because those are easy guitar keys.
     So what's next? The Rolling Stones suing half the world for every rock song ever written in the key of E?
     Robert Johnson would roll over in his grave, at the crossroads.
     Now, if you want to hear a musical genius, listen to Charlie Parker, and his two dozen tunes based the chord changes of George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm."

 
From The Courts
Milt Policzer
Story Date:   
Bad Words

     Have you ever been enormously excited by the opening part of a sentence only to be severely disappointed by the end of the sentence?
     Prepare to be briefly excited by this half sentence from a ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit called NAAMJP v. Lynch:
     "In response to these points, NAAMJP spews a slew of bad words to describe Rule 701, including...."
     This has got to be good, right?
     Here's the payoff:
     "... including discriminatory, monopolistic, balkanizing, and unconstitutional."
     Really?
     Those are your idea of bad words?
     If I were those words, I'd sue for defamation. (Hey, if corporations can sue, why not words?)
     The teasing sentence, by the way, isn't the only odd thing about this ruling. It seems, according to the court, that the federal district court in Maryland "encourages other jurisdictions to adopt liberal licensing standards" by making it hard to get licensed in Maryland.
     It seems that the Maryland federal court won't license lawyers from states that won't license Maryland. Take that, non-liberal admission states!
     Some of you may be wondering why other state federal courts would care about whom the Maryland federal court allowed to practice.
     Continue to wonder.
     Now wonder about this: the Maryland court also won't license out-of-state lawyers who have offices in Maryland. This "ensures effective local supervision of the conduct of attorneys."
     Do you get the feeling these rules were written on Opposite Day? How can you possibly supervise someone if they insist on being around?
     I'm pretty sure if I were a lawyer in Virginia with an office in Maryland, I'd be using some real bad words.
     The ruling of the appeals court, in case you're wondering about that too, upheld the principle that courts can do whatever the heck they want.
     So if you want to practice federal law in Maryland, either move your main office there or get the heck out.
     Love it or leave it (and thus be able to work there either way).

     Bait and switch. Is there a message when there isn't a message?
     I know that's one of the great philosophical questions, but I have a concrete example for you. Consider this image from a bus ad:

     Seem innocuous?
     Maybe it is, but it's an ad for one of those clinics that seems to be reaching out to pregnant women thinking about abortions and then does everything it can to prevent abortions.
     This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view, but it's kind of hard to deny its sneakiness. It's the morality police deciding that honesty isn't part of their morality.
     Be that as it may, does it really matter whether the ad is for a pro-abortion or anti-abortion clinic. Either way, it stands for something political or moral even if the position is a surprise.
     Or does it?
     I bring this up because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last week ruled in a case called Women's Health Link v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation that this particular ad can't be refused by a bus company for taking a political or moral stand since it doesn't say that it does.
     "We know that Health Link is pro-life," the court said, but since the ad didn't say it, it was "innocuous" and banning it was discriminatory.
     Deception is constitutionally protected.