Wednesday, March 26, 2003

It appears that people have a hard time understanding the immorality and illegality of stealing intellectual property. It's not just the Napster thing, either. There is a belief that artistic property belongs to those who view it, read it, or listen to it, and not to the person who created it.

If someone writes a poem or essay or story, and you publish it and pass it off as your own--either overtly or by implication--that is plagiarism. On the Web, if you include the author's name, a few lines, and a link, that is within the law. But if you leave off the author's name or include more than a few lines (or both), that is theft. It is a violation of the author's copyright, unless the author has sold you her rights, or has given you permission to publish the piece. Yet this is done all of the time. Just as people steal copyrighted art from the Web all of the time.

Taking someone's art or writing or music and publishing it without permission is no different from going to someone's house and stealing his stereo. The stereo doesn't belong to you. If you take it, you are a thief. Taking someone's intellectual property is also a crime.

Any time someone produces a piece of art, music, or writing, she automatically owns the copyright on it. It is not necessary to register the copyright with the government, or to put a copyright symbol on it. Registration allows you more rights if you go to court to protect your copyight, but simple ownership gives you the basic rights you need in a court of law.

I am amazed at how cavalier people are about commiting the crime of intellectual property theft. Some people even defend such theft because they do not think that artists, writers, and musicians deserve to own their own work. That means that the people who are complaining do not deserve to own their own cars, and--using their reasoning--I can go to their houses and steal their vehicles because "they belong to everyone."

And people wonder why their children have no moral values.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Women's History month will be over in another 10 days, and I think I can safely say that hardly anyone will notice. The rights that women have in the United States are so taken for granted that people may not realize the scary part: Most of them have been granted only in the last 30 years. The right to hold a job of one's choice, to receive equal pay, to have control over one's possesions, to have a child and not give up employment stature, to obtain a credit card, to be called to jury duty, to not be sexually abused in the workplace, to play organized competitive sports--these and many, many more rights came about because of the Second Wave of feminism.

Unfortunately, there are many in America who do not respect these rights. There is still a wage gap between men and women, and it has been growing again; no one in charge appears to be doing anything to enforce employment laws with regard to gender. Subtle discrimination against women is rampant, and violence against women is as bad as ever. Nevertheless, Women's History Month is a good time to take a look at how really bad things were only a few years ago.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

"Liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve ... Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements."

The above is a statement that is in direct contradiction to the president's prediction that an invasion of Iraq wil enable that country to achieve democracy. It is part of a document--recently revealed by the Los Angles Times--that casts considerable doubt on Iraq's having a democratic future, no matter what the United States does.

Who would say such a thing? The U.S. Department of State--that's who. The classified document bears the title, 'Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes," and that pretty much says it all. Objections to the invasion have been voiced by American military experts, the vast majority of American religious organizations, the vast majority of nations in the world, and millions and millions of individuals. But that doesn't appear to matter to the president.

Democracy or not, we already know that Halliburton is a victor: Its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, has already received the contract to "clean up" after the invasion, and to put out any oil field fires that may occur.

And one more thing: It is March of 2003, and Ken Lay still has not been indicted.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Sexually abused cadets aren't the only members of the U.S. Air Force to have been mistreated. For four decades, the Air Force chimpanzees--used for testing at a lab that violated federal animal welfare laws--lived lives of constant suffering. Long ago, Congress mandated that the chimpanzees be placed in the most humane facility possible, and they were immediately placed in one of the worst: The Coulston Foundation. Unfortunately, Congress did nothing to enforce its mandate. Now, after investigations, lawsuits, and a foreclosure, TCF has lost the chimpanzees. Even the FDA shunned the facility. Now, the 291 chimps are housed at the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, and they could use some donations.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Today on CNN, I saw a woman who had big stars and stripes on her wedding gown. At the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom said the Pledge of Allegiance, in addition to saying their wedding vows.

Not that tackiness at weddings is anything new--our culture is constantly bombarded by such horrors as unwearable bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen in hideously inappropriate attire, and cringe-worthy vows written by the beloveds. But this goes beyond tacky--this was clearly a We Love America moment. Kind of like those bumper stickers that advertise the drivers' personal religious beliefs.

"She wanted to show her support for the president," the news reporter said of the bride. At her wedding? It was a church wedding, a religious service, possibly a sacrament. Suddenly, in America, it is hard to discern the difference between religion and government. This danger has been creeping up on us for some time, and now it is here, fullblown, expressed shockingly by a woman who chose her marriage ceremony to promote the public "patriotism" that has become so popular since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

It isn't cute. It isn't touching. It's a sign of the times, and not a good one.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Yesterday was International Women's Day, and aren't you just tired of hearing about it?

Virtually ignored by the American media, IWD, which is commemorated by the United Nations, is celebrated each year to remind the world that women are struggling everywhere for many things: legal, social and economic equality; an end to systematic sexual abuse; decent education; suffrage; protection for children; and international peace.

In our own country, suffrage wasn't even granted until 1920, a mere 72 years ago, and some brave women were humiliated and physically tortured in the struggle to get the 19th Amendment passed.

It would be difficult to think of a society in which women are accorded equal treatment to men, though it some cultures--and most notably, the United States--great strides have been made in the promotion of gender equality. Women are not yet afforded equal treatment in the U.S., and there is still no Equal Rights Amendment, so there is plenty of work to be done.

International Women's Day--not important enough for the media to acknowledge, but media priority hasn't meant anything for a long time in this country.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

The recent White House Prayer Breakfast sounds like a fun event to have attended--if you weren't Roman Catholic. A bishop of the Episcopal Church has reported that many people at the breakfast mistook him for a Catholic priest because he was wearing his clerical collar. This misperception alone indicates a fundamental (pardon the pun) lack of knowledge about the nation's maintream religions. Worse, though, is the fact that the bishop then heard people wondering out loud whether "he knew Jesus" and whether "Catholics could be saved."

That's what this White House is all about--a gathering place for fundamentalists and evangelicals. The bishop, who was shocked by this blatant prejudice toward Catholics, described the attendees' attitudes toward war as "good versus evil," "right versus wrong"--no complexities whatsoever.

And we're worried about fundamentalist religions in other countries?

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Either/or thinking is the plague of those with under-developed brains. A recent example is: If you are opposed to the war, then you must be for Saddam Hussein. What a ridiculous notion. No one in her right mind is for Saddam Hussein. But this type of thinking has become the standard for a lot of Americans. The concept that there can be no more than two polarized views of any issue is the essence of the Christian right, and has become the intellectual standard of much of the nation. Critical thinking is fading fast, and the White House knows it only too well.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Remember the State of the Union address? The one with the well-crafted lie about Medicare and prescription drugs?

Yes, that one. Remember the announcement about the "huge" appropriation for helping people in Africa who have AIDS? It, too, appears to be another well-crafted lie. About a week ago, the Bush administration just happened to mention that it is considering a plan that would prohibit AIDS funding to foreign non-government organizations that do not separate their HIV/AIDS programs from family planning services that include abortion counseling or procedures. This information came from a State Department memo dated a few weeks after Bush's speech.

Since almost all of the AIDS-related organizations in Africa have integrated services, this means that they would either have to make drastic, harmful changes to their social service structures, or not receive any of the president's generosity. The changes they would have to make would not only cost them money, but would make it more difficult for women to receive services.