Thursday, January 29, 2009

Will Naked Apes Take Over the World?

"Unless we can colonize other planets on a massive scale and spread the load, or seriously check our population increase in some way, we shall, in the not-too-far-distant future, have to remove all other forms of life from the earth."*

That was written in 1967!

Author Desmond Morris apparently thought we were pretty close to a population crisis, but I was baffled by his estimation of what will happen in another 222 years:

"In 260 years' time, if the rate of increase stays steady - which is unlikely - there will be a seething mass of 400,000 million naked apes crowding the face of the earth."

We now have almost 7 billion. I don't know, is the rate if increase staying steady? I think it's growing exponentially! We might be there soon...

*Morris, Desmond "The Naked Ape Trilogy: The Naked Ape, The Human Zoo and Intimate Behaviour" (Random House, UK: 1994) p.162

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Does Abortion Make you Gag?

Since Obama reversed the "Global Gag Rule" yesterday, family planning groups that offer abortion and/or abortion-related services will have access to funding again, a decision lauded by many as a wise no-brainer.

The rule began with Reagan, who presumably wanted to endorse a certain image of family -one that would never consider abortion for their own family or any other, even if it saved a mother's life. So he brought in the ban. Clinton banned the ban. He didn't like it. He thought perhaps women should have a choice for themselves. But Bush was a fan of the ban. He was against stem cell research. He was against many things that could have helped science and health care be more progressive. He wasn't going to condone or make it possible in any way for women to have the choice of abortion, not on his watch!

But now, on the anniversary of the Wade vs Roe decision, Obama has lifted the oppression that has been placed upon many women and girls around the world.

Pro-choice activists are ecstatic.
Religious fanatics are horrified.
Many are probably relieved.
Others won't be able to sleep.
Yet others "would rather not talk about it"

Let me ask you this: Whether or not you were going to make one decision or another about your unborn child, whether they were in their first trimester or a few minutes old, wouldn't you want to know all your options?


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Intellectual Property on the Internet: Making AdSense of Google Geeks

I'm trying to do some research on how Google AdSense works. It's the program that organizes the Internet according to key words and click ads. Obviously, Google is a web giant concerned with maintaining ethical practices. So it has it's own policies regarding types of websites their ads can be linked to, and one of those requirements is that the sites it is hosted on isn't infringing on any copyrights.

I was thinking that maybe if I were a bit more Internet savvy, I could make a bit of pocket change while helping out Internet users all over the world! But I would have to make sure to comply by Google's policies, which I read painstakingly.

So where do I start?

First, I was stuck at what constitutes "fair use" in terms of using parts of copyrighted material as say, you would do when quoting an author in a review you write about them on the Internet. If I was hosting an ad for Google, could it be on a page that has a Felix the Cat cartoon on it? Hmm, what if I drew the cartoon of Felix the Cat? Would I have to cite original animator Otto Messmer? I guess I should make sure, I thought. After all, I wouldn't want to sign up with Google AdSense and then end up having my account with them brutally suspended for unwittingly tramping all over someone's licenced material. I'm not even sure how I get other sites to host the ads, nevermind sort out which ones were infringers, but here I am. I'm paranoid about plaigarism.

There are different ways to infringe on someone's licenced material, but the largest factor the courts usually consider is whether your "use" of the material has an effect on the market ie. are you providing an accessible copy of a Rembrandt painting, and as a result, does it diminish the value of the original? Are you making money off of it? If you were, I think you would be conclusively infringing on whoever owns that painting.

But in clarifying the distinction between copyright infringement and fair use, I got a real kick out of the examples used by, an organization about online intellectual property rights. Note the references to Startrek:

"Only material that originated with the author can support a copyright. Items from the public domain which appear in a work, as well as work borrowed from others, cannot be the subject of an infringement claim. Also, certain stock material might not be copyrightable, such as footage that indicates a location like the standard shots of San Francisco in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Also exempted are stock characters like the noisy punk rocker who gets the Vulcan death grip in Star Trek IV."

It goes on to explain how licensed material has to be in a fixed form of expression, so that:
"if I perform a Klingon death wail in a local park, my performance is not copyrightable. However, if I film the performance, then the film is copyrightable."

Watch Startrek much?

With the ever-increasing need to classify ever-increasing amounts of information on the internet, I think it's going to be an increasing challenge/opportunity to maximize information use without violating creative property.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Barack and the Middle East: Will We See a Change?

Some would suggest that the US has always been Israeli-biased. This article criticizes Barack Obama for remaining silent regarding Israel's recent bombardment of Gaza that started December 27th. But should we be surprised that the not-even-yet President hasn't been very vocal about his condemnations of Israel? Is it weird to see him hanging out with Ehud?

Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Infitada states: "It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament."

Sure. Easy for you to say. You're right though. Someone should say something. Preferably someone who has a plan to do something about it. But you try walking into a gang fight and say "Hey, this just doesn't feel right" and see how easily you walk out. Now try to imagine you're soon to be President of the US and you do that. See what I mean? It takes a very careful Politician not to derail the trajectory of their campaign before they even take parliament. As Barack's spokesperson said: "There is only one president at a time." And anyways, when President's have condemned leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (for his Anti-Semetic remarks) in the past, what has that done? Could you really call that a "change"? Last time I checked, Iran still isn't a pro-Israeli nation.

It just doesn't seem to be the best idea for Barack to sever ties with Israel before he even takes office. Or worse, get too entangled internally. Why should he further alienate America from itself or others? The US supplies Israel with it's weapons. What does it think they are going to do with them?? Perhaps this is more of a weapons proliferation issue in general that US foreign policy should examine more in-depth? Barack will get his chance to initiate that starting January 20th, 2009.

Hopefully, we'll see some major changes when Barack Obama actually takes the stage but until then, I don't think we can blame him for being so tight-lipped. I would hope what Obama has to say to all those Palestinian refugees screaming "Let my people go!" would be a responsive "Yes we can!" I would hope Obama would think of his daughters in the place of all the innocent Israeli OR Palestinian children being rocketed to death, even if he doesn't say so. The fact that he's keeping good diplomatic ties with Israel doesn't seem a bad political move* but maybe it is just too early to see him playing hop-scotch with Palestinian orphans. Or, (and here's a novel thought) he might have other priorities.

As this month's Times Person of the Year interview suggests, Obama has a long laundry list of to do's. Although, the top three main things that keep Obama awake at night are:
1/Nuclear Proliferation
2/The Economy
3/The Environment
(not necessarily in that order)

Should the list be amended? Do you think the Middle-Eastern struggle, which has been going on for as long as I can remember, should be this President's particular responsibility to solve?

*What if toppling the Hamas government is the only way to end rocket fire between the two nations? And at what cost?

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