The Obama Nation and Others

Celebrate the New World Order


And so it begins.

Never in my life can I remember a presidential inauguration with such fanfare and international rating.

Sure, here in the US we’re all excited, but I had the very good fortune to be in Europe when the swearing-in took place. I say fortunate because I was positioned to see this historic time from the viewpoint of a much older and more refined culture.

Amsterdam is the kind of place where you can meet new people to talk about old times; people you have never seen before and probably never will again, yet there is a connection.Feelings replace thoughts; the Zen of the City’s canals and rhythm of American culture’s long entangled roots, overwhelm and seduce.The USA grew from Dutch seeds.Their template was the launch point of our laws and many of our values.True we have grown apart over the last 300 years.In more ways than the Dutch realize (see below).But the bond is still there.

And it was in these bars that I watched as the proletariat raised glasses to America’s new leader as if he was their own.I was invited to sit with strangers and drink till wee hours. For the first time in eight years it was cool to be an American traveling abroad.Those of you who’ve toured during the Bush administration I’m sure know what I’m writing about.For so long there was a sense of shame but now, with Obama, I felt that for once, at least in the eyes of our father’s culture, we had finally done something right.

Now, none of this of course means that Obama will be a great president.That is something he has yet to prove; the hope we’re all high on will not last but a year if we don’t see progress.But like the Europeans, I want America to win again, to lead again; to be in sync with our grandfathers across the pond.

But enough romance—



Will The Dutch SXSW Be The End

Of Holland’s Music Scene?

Thousands huddle in now smoke-free clubs of a small city outside of Amsterdam called Groningen to see their favorite European groups, while outside bone-chilling temperatures force shelter to be a high priority.I loved it.Eurosonic and Noorderslagare the SXSW of the Netherlands and offered great acts that we know almost nothing about in the US.My favorite was Alain Clark and his hit “Father and Friend”, He, like, many hope to cross over and place a footprint on Yankee soil, but due to new Dutch laws may never get the chance.

Recently the Dutch Consumer’s Union won a victory in court and as a result, a new law has been passed that allows illegal P2P sharing of music.You still can’t steal anything else, like an apple off a grocery cart, or an idle bicycle, but music in the form of a digital file is fair game for those who don’t receive enough Government dole to afford music.

Record companies are outraged as are artists, and the debate rages on in Holland: is giving into public ignorance about the value of copyrights true social progress? In my view it’s a disaster.

It’s one thing to a turn the other cheek about a law, like, for instance, J-walking in New York, or copying of music for personal use, both of which are not prosecuted for the sake of practicality, but to legalize them would be another mater entirely.Legalization creates a judicial foundation and in this case one that will polarize Holland’s music community against the rest of the EU, other Berne Convention countries and mostly, the US.

So what?So the US and the UK and most of Europe will think the Dutch are weird—what else is new?I’ll tell you.

While France, the UK, most of Europe and the US have all moved in one direction in regard to copyright law–that is, a more conservative direction and one that has inspired ISPs and labels to work together–Holland is giving a carte blanche license for its citizens to steal music.I have not read the actual law but the way it was explained to me is this: you can legally download music from a site like Limewire, but to upload it is still illegal.

Of course, this creates the conundrum; for every downloader there must, by definition, be an uploader. So someone is always breaking the law in this transaction, but now the penalties and standard of justice for the person on the receiving end has taken a real hit.

The Dutch Consumers Union is very proud of this achievement. Their job is to protect the consumer’s rights. Their position on file sharing is that it seems wrong to punish someone who doesn’t know that he is committing an illegal act. So, in this case ignorance of the law is not no excuse. (Sorry for the double negative,.)

When pressed to respond to why a person, in this day and age, doesn’t KNOW that he is breaking the law with downloading, the Union’s response is rather flaccid and akin to, “many sites look legitimate.”

I won’t waste bandwidth deconstructing this logic, I think many of you can see that it’s ridiculous, but now, in Holland, it’s the law. So in addition to being a safe haven for junkies, Holland may also be taking a copyright position directly behind third-world countries like Iran and China.

How will this affect their music scene?Well, I admit that I’m speculating here, but it seems to me that ISPs, who have seen the light and recently begun co-operating with the RIAA and other agencies to prevent illegal P2P, will soon be fully aligned with content companies.In fact they have already begun to see the music companies as their clients and future allies (but probably never friends).Once they are aligned with the content industry I see little chance of the US/UK/Euro world doing business with a country that has laws that are flagrantly and diametrically disrespectful to ours.And of course if history repeats itself (and it tends to) we tend to embargo such countries as a demonstration of our dissatisfaction.

This could well mean that Dutch bands will not be allowed to tour or distribute in the US/UK.How sad would that be? And the real bitch of it is that the Dutch Government has just gotten the approval to distribute millions of Euros, earmarked for bands to help stimulate growth in the local music markets.

So with one hand they are enabling new bands and artists only to create legislation that will imprison them forever in Holland with the other.How tragic, how–how-you say– European.

Moses Avalon

4 responses to “AMSTERDAM UP!”

  1. Hi Mo,

    Some thoughts concerning Obama:
    Americans should realize that the real accomplishment is theirs. What Obama will be capable of doing is still to be seen.
    But the fact that he got elected is already an achievement in the pocket for the US society.
    The immune system of America responded when things were going into the wrong direction.
    That’s the real good news.You as a nation are alive and kicking.
    Good news for the world, too. The strongest boy on the block should be sane.

    It’s fun to see literally the whole US Obamized. I like the guy, don’t get me wrong. But nobody can fulfill expectations set so high. What is encouraging is that he’s got the whole thing in his veins. He was made for his current job. At least it looks like that.

    Best wishes from oveseas!

  2. Glenn Romano says:

    RE: Obama Nation and Others. Not to be cynical, but I read where we are still making air strikes into Pakistan (good). So I looked elsewhere for change. I even looked into my pocket and came up with 27 cents. I am disappointed. I need to see more change. (sorry for the pun).

  3. Tyrone Toiwnsend says:

    I had the pleasure to be in Europe in November of 2007 and the was a palable disdain and even disgust for Bush by most Europeans in the conversations that touched on Politics. Almost a year earlier I spoke with an Australian National in Atlanta, Georgia who was dismayed at the re-eledtion of Bush to a second term based on his first term perforamnce. Secondarily, I think you have but to look at the performance of President Obama in his first days of office and it is clear he is already a positive change from the previous administration. In days he has lived up to some of his most daunting promises, including bringing the rule of law and ethics back to the Oval Office. He has also made it law that the culture of torture and secrecy of the past administration are over. It is obvious to me he is already a better president and leader than his predecessor, and I personally believe the best is yet to come.

  4. kelley Love says:

    Hi Moses- always enjoy your articles- comments on president Obama don’t seem particularly relevant here. So the Dutch passed a law making it illegal to upload not download. Couldnt’ any semi-savvy person think of ways to circumvent this? Wouldn’t it be better to ‘watermark’ each CD master, just as SESAC does for some TV and film composers, thus making each illegal copy/download/upload detectable?
    Kelley Love

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