Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Local Paper Weighs in on Minutemen

My local rag (it's sounds like I'm claiming it, but really, I'm not), the Odessa American, released an editorial today weighing in on the Minutemen down in Arizona.

The grand paragons of journalistic truancy first discuss a Chicago Tribune article chronicling the exploits of one Minutemen group on their first night of "patrol." Apparently, a rumor flew that the Mara Salvatrucha 13 gang was planning to attack the Minutemen under the cover of a moonless night. What happened after that, the OA says, made the Minutemen look like "Keystone Kops."

The OA editors make assumptions that the Minutemen "high-tailed it out of there," despite the Chicago Tribune article making it apparent that the only definite place they "high-tailed it" to was a Minutemen command post.

They follow with a "discussion" about how dangerous it would be to have armed citizens patrolling our Texas borders. This also, despite repeated assertions by Minutmen directors that if conflict arises, they are not to engage. The OA, along with most other "media" outlets, are painting the Minutemen as yahoos and "neophyte warriors," in complete contradiction to the Minutemen's stated goals.

It's interesting to note, also, that the Odessa American considers the current problem of illegal immigrants on welfare as "dreamed up," and "paranoia."

Their main point, though, is that the Minutemen are unnecessary. They believe that the Border Patrol is adequately equipped, staffed, and trained to handle the flood of illegal immigration.

The OA's final two paragraphs:

"Illegal immigration should be addressed, but it should be left up to people who are trained and who know the terrain and, most importantly, the rights of those they might catch crossing illegally as well as everybody else who lives near the area. "

"The Minutemen’s statement has been made. Now, for the safety of all involved, they should go home and leave the delicate and complicated job of patrolling our borders to members of the Border Patrol, who actually know what they’re doing. "

I suppose, then, that the ever-so-enlightened editors of Odessa's daily don't like citizen enforcement of laws. They must know, although they do not mention, that the Minutemen are breaking no laws, nor are they seeking to actively detain illegal immigrants. Despite the media's assertions that the numbers reported by the Minutemen are unsubstantiated, it is obvious that present patrols will observe and report at least some illegal immigrants who would not otherwise have been caught.

But, I guess we should abandon any effort to make sure our laws are enforced. Illegal immigrants are costing this country approximately $60 Billion a year. Big whoop. Write it off, I guess.

Are you kidding me?

Does that mean we should discontinue all of the neighborhood watch organizations and "take back the streets" initiatives that have been so successful in reducing crime in this country?

According to the OA's half-witted knuckleheads, we should. We should leave such patrols to the police who "know what they're doing," instead of taking an active role to reduce crime.

Final Word: If you believe as the OA Editors do, you must not take steps to enforce the laws of your country, state, county, or city. If you do, despite the fact that you break no laws in doing so, you are a "Vigilante."

All you neighborhood watch programs out there? You're "Keystone Kops."

The real solution is that we find the vending machine from which the OA editors received their journalistic degrees and/or credentials, and shut it down.

Once and for all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Will Betamax Be Buried?

In 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America went to war with innovators, suing Sony over the sale of the video-tape-recording "Betamax" machine. This was due to the fact that the machines were capable of, and were being used to, illegally pirate copyrighted material.

The Supreme Court said that, because the videotape recorders were capable of substantial non-infringing uses (e.g., home-movies, recording televisions shows for later viewing, or "time shifting," etc.) the makers of those machines were not liable for copyright infringement.

Well, since then, the Betamax has gone the way of the dinosaur, but the continuing consumer demand for newer, better, faster, and more efficient ways to stock their video and music libraries has recently exploded. It began anew in 2001, when the 9th Circuit heard the Napster case, and muddied the waters significantly.

Still, with the Betamax ruling in full force, technology marches on. Armed with the Supreme Court's language, file-sharing megafirms re-vamped their formats to allow not only the sharing of music files, but also photos, texts, and video files. These re-workings significantly broadened the "substantial non-infringing uses" engaged in by users of the sites.

"Not good enough," say the Recording Industry Artists of America (among many others).

The Supreme Court will revisit the Betamax case when it issues an opinion in the case of MGM Studios v. Grokster.

My opinion:

While I believe the Supreme Court will, through its well-known artful torture of the English language, find in favor of the price-gougers over the file-stealers (in a lesser-of-evils dance); I certainly hope that they do not. Established precedent (Betamax) says that if a technology is capable of the promulgation of legal materials, the creators of that technology will not be held liable for those who use it illegally.

It's a wonderful thing, really. I don't condone the practice of indiscriminately downloading tens, hundreds, even thousands of copyrighted files without paying the owners. Still, I don't think the problem's going to go away. Despite the proliferation and popularity of the new pay-per-download sites (like the reconditioned Napster), I think people are simply tired of paying outrageous prices for music and movies, just so that J-Lo can have a new Escalade every other day.

It should have served notice on the music/movie-makers long ago. The market will dictate prices, and when you engage in serious price-fixing, the public isn't going to stand for it. This hole was not dug by devious computer nerds, hoping to cash-in on advertising revenue.

It was dug by money-hungry corporations who have no respect for those who give them their money.

I know, I know. If Grokster gets off the hook, the music and movie industry will simply go after grandma again. I'd rather see that happen, though, than a Supreme Court mandated stranglehold on the free exchange of ideas.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Home Improvement Idiocy

My wife's a big fan of those newdesign shows on TLC, HGTV, etc., and I must admit that I've grown a little addicted to them myself. Okay, so most of the time I'm watching to see people's reactions when some overzealous pseudo-designer turns their beloved family room into a 1960's love-den; but sometimes it's great fun!

Pseudo-designer: "Do you like what I've done with your space?"
Homeowner: "AAAAAAarrrrrrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh!!!"
Pseudo-designer: "I just knew you'd love it. Look, America, they're speechless!"

That brings me to my main point, though.

What's with all of the rooms in a house being referred to as "spaces" now? It's no longer a "living room," but a "living space." A bedroom is apparently a "sleeping space." A kitchen is, depending upon the layout, a "cooking" and/or "eating space." We won't go into what a bathroom is, but I've gotta tell you this is my biggest current TV pet-peeve. Really. I'm not kidding.

They're ROOMS, already. They started out as rooms, and no matter what you do to them, they'll still be rooms. Not "spaces." Never "spaces."

If I ever hire a designer to re-design a room in my home, and he/she comes in and says, "So, what are you looking for in this space?" So help me, I'm gonna punch them in the face. And have my oldest daughter kick them in the shins.

And throw them out on the street.

And film the whole thing.

As notice to the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Another Death Knell

This one announced by Sam Donaldson.

Yes, folks, broadcast news is either dead or dying, depending upon which overpaid mouthpiece you choose to believe.

Personally, I'm not so sure it's a bad thing. I haven't watched any news on television for some years now. (Although I must admit to an almost morbid fascination with the world's reactions to Pope John Paul II's then-declining health).

So, I suppose the question then is, where do we hold the funeral?

I vote for my blog. I promise, once reports of the death of broadcast news are substantiated, I'll deliver a stunning eulogy. I promise not to talk trash, really I do. It'll be sort of a pop-culture, transcribed media montage a la "Newsies, we hardly knew ye."

Okay, so there's another question. What do we do about it? Should we re-make broadcast news in our own (i.e., Bloggers) image? I don't think so. Could you imagine tens of thousands of people converging on the airwaves, each trying in vain to develop their own sufficiently serious that's-the-way-it-is style taglines?

I shudder at the mere thought of it.

I suppose all we can do is just wait and see.

In the meantime, Mr. Donaldson, I've got an opening for the position of "Contributor" to the Blaggle Universe. The pay really sucks, but hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Your Info Is Not Safe

Lexis-Nexis, a grand and wonderful information-gathering system that I made much use of during law-school, has been falling asleep on the job.

What's more valuable these days than information? Nothing, and that's why companies like Lexis (Reed-Elsevier) and Westlaw (Thompson West) are pulling in huge numbers every year.

Problem is, they're not protecting what they're gathering. Well, maybe Westlaw is, but Lexis certainly isn't. They recently announced that the personal information compiled or gathered on 310,000 people has been stolen over the last couple of months.

What does this mean to you? Well, Lexis-Nexis is an information clearing-house. From the article:

Seisint [a "unit" of Lexis-Nexis], based in Boca Raton, Florida, uses property records and other public
data to build profiles on millions of U.S. consumers, which it sells to
law-enforcement agencies and financial institutions. (Additional reporting by
Adam Pasick in London)

Scary, isn't it? When you read the linked article, hopefully you didn't skip over the part about "a rash of similar break-ins at other companies handling consumer data."

Check your credit reports every year, people.