Marco Pierre White on Intellectual Property

Marco Pierre White

This via Salon’s “The man who made Gordon Ramsay cry” — and let’s face it, making Gordon Ramsay cry is a great place to start.

Alex Koppelman asks:

…. Do you think a chef’s recipes should be protected as intellectual property?

White replies:

You can’t reinvent the wheel. Everyone takes from everybody. How many people are serving foie gras on their menu? How many? How many people do a soupe de poisson? Go to France — a pigeon en croute de sel, a loup de mer en croute de sel. We live in a world of refinement, not invention. It’s the greatest compliment he can be given, this guy. If someone takes one of your dishes and does it, it’s flattery. For you to get pissed off because he didn’t acknowledge you is ego. It’s all too political really, isn’t it? I mean, we’re fucking chefs.

I think he brings up an interesting issue — refinement versus invention. Of course, though, the brouhaha he refers to treads close to invention. Ferràn Adrià, Heston Blumenthal, and Wylie Dufresne come very close to inventing with food. On the other hand, what they’re doing is so creative that they don’t need lots of protection, and don’t seek it. If you make foam, we know who you’re stealing from. Ditto for putting a laser on a vanilla bean or a cyber-egg. And if one doesn’t want people to steal one’s recipes, one doesn’t publish a cookbook, after all.

White touches on a favorite aphorism of mine that I’m sure someone else independently invented: plagiarism is the most sincere form of imitation.

Photo deep-linked from Salon, by Drew Gardner/eyevine/Zuma Press

TSA on PBJ: No way

United States congressman Tim Ryan is interested in bringing attention to the meager allotment the U.S. food stamp program provides. This program, for those who don’t know, provides what amounts to scrip which can be used for qualified food purchases to persons who meet a certain needs test. The average food stamp recipient receives $21.00 per week in benefits, and the allotment hasn’t been changed in eleven years. Representative Ryan decided to see what it was like to live with this amount as his food budget for a week.
Naturally, he blogged about it, too. Why am I bringing this up? Well, like many politicians, Ryan travels frequently by air. You guessed it: the TSA felt that the jars of peanut butter and of jelly that the congressman was traveling with were a little on the dangerous side. They were confiscated. This left him with nothing but cornmeal to live on for two days. As Ryan put it, “Too crazy to be made up“.

Cutty Sark Burns

CuttySark.jpgThe Cutty Sark, perhaps the last sailing clipper, has burned in Greenwich. It was undergoing a £25M restoration. Details from the BBC as well as CNN.
Photo courtesy yours truly. I visited it last summer. I’m going to pour myself a strong drink.

75% of Britons Want to Know

The European Commission has done an “E-Communications Household Survey,” and found that overwhelmingly, “UK internet users want to be informed of data losses:”

Most UK residents want to be informed if their personal data is lost or stolen after a corporate security breach, the latest E-Communications Household Survey from the European Commission (EC) has revealed.

Eighty-four percent of UK respondents said they would want to receive information of a breach resulting in data losses. Three-quarters of this group wanted to be informed in any circumstance, while a further nine percent only wanted to be made aware if the lost or stolen data put them at risk of financial damages.

Across Europe, it’s 64%. Someone should do a survey here, and let the folks at US PIRG know the results. As Dissent covers in “Breach notification proposals in Congress,” the main bills, S.495 and S.1178 would both include ‘sweep under the rug’ provisions. If the public in the US wants to know about mistakes at anything like the rate that people in the EU would like to know, then these bills are seriously off-target in their particulars.

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

I’ve been encountering some really silly software lately. I was trying to visit the homeland stupidity blog, with Safari and the most-excellent pithhelmet, and I get this message:

We’re sorry, but we could not fulfill your request for /2007/04/21/astroglide-data-breach-exposes-customer-information/ on this server.

An invalid request was received from your browser. This may be caused by a malfunctioning proxy server or browser privacy software.

Your technical support key is: 4051-a119-45b3-5e30

You can use this key to fix this problem yourself.

If you are unable to fix the problem yourself, please contact badbots at and be sure to provide the technical support key shown above.

This is broken. I’m trying to read. My request is well-formed HTTP. Bloggers like readers, right? If you’re an attacker and trying to blog spam in some way, this doesn’t help. You’ll add a referrer header. Blocking some URLs that come in without an HTTP referrer header might help a little, but all this does is lose you readers.

I don’t know who’s to blame for this really ill-considered software, but it blocks me from visiting URLs I’ve bookmarked at a couple of blogs. Oh well. You’ve lost me as a reader. So, homeland stupidity, no link for you. Not knowing the difference between reading and writing means you don’t me as a reader for your blog.

Shock Horror! Ashcroft Am Not Devil Incarnate!

Bizarro World

In 27 B Stroke 6 Threat Level, Kevin Poulsen writes, “News from Bizzaro World: Ashcroft Opposed Taps.”

Kevin, your reality tunnel is showing. There are many things that Ashcroft was (I apologize for using the past tense), starting with prig and prude. I’m not particularly a fan of his, but the Venn diagram of what he valued and what I value looks more like the Mastercard logo than the Hooters logo, and I don’t think that this is an ipso facto surrealism.

Back in 1998 as a Senator, Ashcroft was a supporter of Goodlatte’s SAFE (Security And Freedom through Encryption) Act, not to be confused with the 2003 “Security and Freedom Ensured” act, which was an attempted limitation of the PATRIOT Act. When that SAFE Act was destroyed in the House, he with Patrick Leahy and Conrad Burns introduced the E-PRIVACY (Encryption Promotes the Rights of Individuals in the Virtual Arena Using Computers) bill. Despite the fact that there was no “Y” in their acronym (perhaps it was a silent “Y’all”), it’s a pity it never was passed. The EFF gave a good news/bad news assessment with the good news being:

EFF is pleased to say that the E-PRIVACY Act is the most thoughtful piece of encryption legislation to date. Introduced by Senators John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and Conrad Burns (R-MT), the new bill sharply varies from proposals favored by the Clinton Administration and law enforcement/national security agencies by easing export controls on mass market encryption products, limiting government access to decryption keys, and prohibiting the government from requiring key recovery mechanisms.

The bad news was that it created a new crime of using encryption as part of a criminal act. I’m not in favor of that, but we got that part, and we never got the good news.

After E-PRIVACY never went anywhere, there was the 1999 PROTECT Act, and you can find Ashcroft saying it doesn’t go far enough fast enough.

Despite many quirks, such as being bothered by bare breasts, he favored bearing arms and clothing communications. His successor as AG, Alberto “Schultzie” Gonzales, often seems to be to be the incarnation of the cynical adage, “be careful what you ask for.” Take a look through the EFF archives from ’98, and feel a bit wistful. Read Dahllia Lithwick in Slate, and feel moreso. Ashcroft was a complex person with whom many of us had disagreements, not an inhabitant of Bizarro World.

On Illegal Wiretaps

What, indeed, was the nature of the “program” before Goldsmith, Comey and Ashcroft — those notorious civil libertarian extremists — called a halt to it, and threatened to resign if the President continued to break the law? And what was the nature and breadth of its legal justification? I am hardly alone in realizing that these are the most important questions arising from the recent Comey testimony. It’s the question of the night, all over the Web. (When will the mainstream press catch on? And more importantly, as I asked in my last post — When will the Congress insist on comprehensive and public hearings, both on this and on the legal support for the Administration’s torture practices?)

Marty Leberman continues to have the best analysis of the NSA’s wiretap program. Go read “What Was “The Program” Before Goldsmith and Comey?” In “Putting the Pieces Together” he also explains how the criminal wiretaps led to the appointment of Gonzales to clean the DOJ of libertarians like Ashcroft.

893 Million, and Whadda Ya Get?

♫Another DHS network, and we’re not sharing yet.♫

So reports Haft of the Spear, in “You’ll Share and You’ll Like It!

The Homeland Security and Justice departments have spent $893 million on information-sharing networks in the last two years but still do not have effective networks in place, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

Admittedly, there are more problems in sharing intelligence data than there are in sharing breach data. The fear of change runs deep, as does our unwillingness to give up control of the little bits of data we can see. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so painful.

The War on Cash?

cross-of-gold.jpgThere’s a war on cash? Who knew? Dave Birch uses the phrase in “More from the war on cash” without a whole lot of surprise. Here he’s quoting a McKinsey study. (Unsurprisingly, you need to login to read it.)

I liked this gem:

Cash needs to be priced appropriately. The fact is that, today, the pricing of cash is not in line with its costs. Consumers and merchants in most countries do not pay the real cost of cash, and so merchants and consumers have no reason to reduce their use of cash. One problem is that there is no clear ownership of cash. Another is that governments often position cash as a public good — to be offered free by banks — thereby inhibiting an economic debate on cash versus other instruments.

That’s a problem now, is it? While I agree that cash having government backing creates a barrier to entry, cash is also a highly evolved product, and the risks are assigned reasonably efficiently. This is in stark contrast to some newer payment methods, like credit cards, which may be “efficient,” but carry surprising side effects, like “Buy Gas, Get Busted for Pedophilia.”

Having the government provide a means for a reasonable functioning economy, and removing the costs of worrying about the gold content of a coin, or the solvency of DavidBucks adds huge efficiencies. There’s quite a few things that I’d take the government out of before I took them out of coining currency. (Know thy customer regulations, for example.)

To put it another way:

…we believe that the right to coin money and issue money is a function of government. We believe it. We believe it is a part of sovereignty and can no more with safety be delegated to private individuals than can the power to make penal statutes or levy laws for taxation.

Photo: Cross of gold, courtesy of Ewtn Religious

[Updated: Clarified that the quote was McKinsey, not David Birch.]