Category Archives: politics & law

More file-sharing madness…

I just got back from the ResNet conference at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. Yes, that’s right: Big Rapids, not Grand Rapids. Apparently, they jumped the gun when they found Big Rapids and ended up finding even bigger rapids.

During these four days of good ol’ Midwestern fun (if I never see Ranch dressing again, it will be too soon), residential networking/computing groups from colleges and universities all over the country (and a couple world-wide) come to learn from each other, have a little fun and network (no pun intended). Last year’s hot topic was bandwidth and was a pre-cursor to this year’s hot topic: file-sharing and copyright law.
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File-sharing: missing the big picture?

File-sharing is still a hot topic in the news. On one hand, most of the media out there is still touting file-sharing as “piracy” and “theft.” Both the complaining parties (mostly the RIAA and the MPAA) and self-proclaimed file-sharers are arguing that file-sharing continues simply because people can get away with it. Record companies are attributing the drop in CD sales over the past two years to file-sharing, not to the drop in CD production overall (fewer titles) and very real recession from which the country is suffering (which has spanned the past two years while file-sharing has been around since 1998).

At Stanford, the Daily publishes articles and editorials regularly on file-sharing and University policy, often causing many headaches for the administration and legal counsel. There is much argument over Stanford’s, not to mention any University’s responsbilities and policies as an ISP and under Title II of the DMCA.

However, most of this media coverage is missing the big picture– nobody should be talking about whether file-sharing is illegal when it comes to copyrighted material. It’s illegal. End of story. What the discussion, the argument, the media coverage should really be about is whether it should be illegal and what millions of people continuing to share digital music and video files says about the future of file-sharing, copyright and the entertainment industry.
Continue reading File-sharing: missing the big picture?

Trouble in Paradise

So, when I was enjoying free cocktails and beautiful sun in Kauai, the nation went to war. It’s very strange– Hawaii can be on a completely different terror alert than the rest of the country. Hey, it’s the island way.

So, the war had already been going on for over 24 hours when I returned to the mainland and now that I’m done clearing things off of my TiVo, I’ve got CNN going on in the background all day long. (BTW, why is Wolf Blitzer allowed on the air?) I have to admit: I still don’t see the point of this war. Bush keeps calling it the war to free the Iraqi people and yes, Saddam is a very, very bad man, but when did the Iraqi people ever ask us to free them? Are we getting Iraqis pounding down the door seeking political asylum?
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My friend came over on Saturday and we started chatting, more like arguing, about the war on Iraq and the situation with North Korea. He’s been following everything closely and thought that I was crazy to not support the war on Iraq and to be concerned more with the situation with North Korea. His point was that Iraq poses a direct threat and that North Korea does not. He says that Iraq clearly has weapons of mass destruction and Saddam is willing to use them, as he already has against us and his neighboring countries. Kim Jong Il, on the other hand, only wants money and knows that if he were to launch any attack, it would be suicide. I argued that I just don’t buy the whole issue Bush has with Iraq– I think it’s a product of the Bush administration’s strange obsession with Iraq and Bush’s hope to get reelected. Kim, on the other hand, may want money, but he is a completely unknown variable with the way that country has been closed off for so many years and I don’t put it past him to launch an attack just to prove a point. I mean, who lets hundreds of thousands of his people starve to death in the spirit of self-reliance and military strength? It’s that stubborn Korean pride that I know so well and there are no limits to it. We argued back and forth until the Stanford-Cal men’s basketball game came on, at which point all discussion ceased, rightly so.

So then, last night, I watched a bit of “Real Time with Bill Maher” and the same issues came up, of course. Bill pointed out that while Saddam does have weapons and is not following UN sanctions, North Korea is clearly getting ready for something by taking out fuel rods, testing missiles and tailing American spy planes. He considered that a direct threat, not Saddam’s behavior for the past twelve years. He said that it was time the US stopped waiting for the international community to do something and step up– that any use of nuclear weapons is an attack against the United States, as many presidents have said before and that the only way to prevent a nuclear war is to follow a policy of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. Damn skippy.

Priorities, Priorties

Well, the whole world is all messed up and I can’t help blaming Bush for it. Everyday, we get closer to going to war with Iraq and I just don’t understand why. So, they say Saddam’s stockpiling weapons again and when we told him to stop, he didn’t. No, shit, really? Yes, he’s technically in violation of Gulf War treaties, but are we really surprised? I mean, just because we whooped his ass over ten years ago (damn, has it really been that long?) doesn’t mean he’s not going to try some stupid crap again. He’s Saddam. That’s what he does. You can’t be an evil dictator without doing stuff like this.

The price of gas is skyrocketing now and people, as usual, are claiming that this war is really about oil in the end. We want to “stop terror,” but other countries aren’t joining in because of economic ties, i.e., they need oil. Maybe that’s the case, maybe it isn’t. It’s probably more about the Bush administration’s strange obsession with Iraq, Bush’s attempt to emulate his father and hopefully unlike his father, time the war on Iraq just right so it’ll carry him through to a second term. As for oil though, last time I checked the US has enough oil resources domestically to meet its needs, but environmentalists and the like won’t let us drill for it, forcing us to go to OPEC. Oddly enough, while this is certainly a simplistic way to look at it, the same people who won’t let us drill don’t want us to go to war. Well, what the hell are we supposed to do then? Yes, we should probably trash all our gas-guzzling cars and all get little electric vehicles (well, I won’t until Lexus makes an electric luxury sedan with over 200 HP under the hood), saving the environment and reduing the burning of fossil fuels, but the reality is that there are a lot of freakin’ things that need oil and gas and that’s not going to change overnight, so what do we do in the meantime?

But the real thing that is scaring the crap out of me is the situation with North Korea. Why is no one taking this as seriously as they should? Yes, we could whoop their ass if they ever tried anything, but it only takes one nuclear bomb to kill a whole lot of people and mess up those who didn’t die from the explosion and their children for decades. There is some strange irony to the fact that the first uses of the a-bomb ended World War II, resulting in Korea being released from Japanese colonial rule. Of course, the post-war division of the country by the Allies also resulted in the Korean War, the political division of the country into two separate states, and the development of a very isolationist, very closed, very scary Communist North Korean state. Ah, history.

Incidentally, I went to the dentist a few weeks ago and he acted like I might be personally responsible for the situation with North Korea. He’s got his hands in my mouth, light focused on my face, and the conversation is pretty much like this:

  • Dentist: “What is your ethnicity again?”
  • Me: “I’m Korean.”
  • D: “Right… that’s what I thought. What do you think about this whole thing? Its very scary.”
  • M: “Yeah, it is. I think they’re just after aid, money.”
  • D: “Mm… so you think it’s just blackmail?”
  • M: “Yeah.”
  • D: “You’re parents imigrated here? When was that?”
  • M: “1973.”
  • D: “Oh, so you were born here.”
  • M: “Yup.”
  • D: “Right… right…”

I don’t think he was really looking to call INS or anything, but weird, definitely weird. Of course, no day is complete unless somebody’s asked about the immigration history of your family while inside your mouth.

So, as we start the mad goose chase to catch Saddam again (what happened to our search for Osama Bin Laden? can we only focus on one Middle Eastern villain at a time?), North Korean jets tail American spy planes and the North Koreans start missile testing. Is this what Bush calls setting priorities?

The code word is “Bahamas”

So, it looks like Bush is going finagle the current situation with Iraq into a full-scale war. Gephardt has already formed a presidential exploratory committee to try for a presidential bid– do you think Bush will be able to time the war just in time for his reelection campaign? His father may have gotten us through the Persian Gulf War, but it wasn’t enough to get him reelected for a second term. Is GW trying to succeed where his father failed?

Whatever his plans, they say bad things come in threes and I don’t know what the third thing will be, but the second is definitely the escalating situation in North Korea (we can’t call it a “crisis”– Powell said so). Somewhere in the haze of Christmas turkey with kimchee and New Year’s wine, North Korea decided to give the proverbial finger to the UN and reopen their nuclear facilities. “Energy” they say is the reason for doing it–the US apparently didn’t follow through on a promise of energy resources–but last time I checked, I don’t think you need to develop bomb-grade plutonium just so your lights stay on. Even China and Russia aren’t doing much to help the situation. They’re like, “Oh, damn, yeah, those North Koreans are a little crazy. I mean, we’re Communists, but they’re Communists.” Not everyone realizes that North Korea doesn’t subscribe to the happy go lucky, free market economy version of Maoist Communism China does. They take it back old skool–Stalin would have been proud.

Who knows what will happen in North Korea? Powell refuses to call it a crisis and the newly elected South Korean president seems to realize that his country is on the top of the North Koreans’ list of “Things to Blow Up” and is trying to come to a diplomatic compromise. And this isn’t World War II and the North Koreans are not nearly as organized as the Germans or the Japanese, but if we end up going to war with North Korea, I’m sure there will be some type of yellow peril hysteria. Yes, it may not be like the 1940’s with the Japanese, but especially after 9/11, we all know Americans aren’t afraid of a little racial profiling. And they’re going to have to come up with a new name because we already know what “internment camp” means. Between you and me, if I call you suddenly and say “I’m going to the Bahamas,” you know something’s up.

Those crazy Republicans

Ah, the Republicans have done it again. It’s so sad, but Trent Lott’s throwaway comment during his speech at Strom Thurman’s birthday celebration may just get him ousted from not only his seat as Senate Majority Leader, but his seat in the Senate in general.

Here’s the main problem: they televised this crap. If the old white guys running the Senate were going to get together and reminisce about those good ol’ segregationist days, they really should have done it behind closed doors. I’m sure much worse things are said everyday behind the closed doors of exclusive country clubs and high powered corporations, but not on national cable television for chrissake. What are these guys, amateurs?

And the hole is only getting deeper. Lott is desperately apologizing, going on BET and telling everyone how hey, he’s not racist since he has African American people and other minorities on his staff. Whoah, Trent, let me sign you up for the NAACP Image Award. News flash: if you’re trying to prove that you’re not a racist, don’t start enumerating how many minorities you know, or employ or whatever. If you keep track of shit like that, then you racist, playa.

It’s kind of strange to think that all this is going on over some comments at a birthday party. Of course, we also impeached a president over a stained dress (who keeps that kind of stuff?) and some nasty episodes with a cigar.

Should Lott lose his seat as Senate Majority Leader? Probably, if he lacks the sensitivity and clarity to see how his comments could be construed as offensive and racist. Doesn’t somebody read his freakin’ speeches before he gives them? Plus, he’s just making the GOP look bad (or worse than usual) and if they want to do some damage control, there needs to be some real consequence to his actions.

Should he lose his seat at Senator of Mississippi? That’s for the people of Mississippi to decide. Of course, as Lott said himself, his state voted for Thurmond in 1948 and they’re proud of it.