Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paging Andrew Sullivan!

As you dear readers must know, I happen to like Andrew Sullivan, as I link to him on my very blog site. (see: "links") R.J. Escrow wrote a post about Andrew Sullivan on Huffington Post - Alan Dershowitz, Christopher Hitchens, and him with Bill Bennett and Ann Coulter. He went on to say this about Andrew Sullivan et. al.: The more the Muslim countries hate and fear us, the less likely they are to accept democratic initiatives from us. That means that thoughtless conservative Muslim-bashers like Ann Coulter, Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan aren't just spreading bigotry when they seek to inflame tensions between the West and ordinary Muslims - they're harming our national security. "Thoughtless conservative Muslim bashers." Does R.J. Escrow actually read Andrew Sullivan? Does he actually read Christopher Hitchens, or Alan Dershowitz's writing? I will agree Ann Coulter is flat out hysterical and is a thoughtless conservative Muslim-basher. As I stated previously, Ann Coulter actually stated, and I quote: "Perhaps we could put aside our national, ongoing, post-9/11 Muslim butt-kissing contest and get on with the business at hand: Bombing Syria back to the stone age." But to equate Andrew Sullivan, Alan Dershowitz, and Christopher Hitchens with such filth is to say that criticism of the Muslim world and a vigorous support for free speech somehow means a person is a "thoughtless conservative Muslim basher." Gee, isn't that as bad as the GOP equating any dissent as unpatriotic? So let's collectively examine some of the writings of the three writers I contend make very spirited and thoughtful contributions to the world and he claims are "Muslim bashers." Andrew Sullivan
The people of Eastern Europe may have a better grasp on the value of freedom than their fellows in the West or even in America, where so many of us take it for granted. Here's a perceptive piece from the Czech Republic on some of the fast disappearing illusions of many of us Westerners:

"The purple elephant in the middle of this crossfire is the contemporary notion — or, more accurately, the Western one — that the values of most Islamic societies have modernized along with the rest of the world. The unraveling of the Iron Curtain revealed former enemies who, despite cultural differences, retained essentially the same values: a passion for freedom, mutual respect and at least a capacity to coexist with dissimilar viewpoints.

But the unexpected commonality between those nations could not have been brought into sharper focus than by the rise of global Islamic fundamentalism.

The West has naively greeted this scorpion with its Cold War handshake, believing that the virtues of peace and democracy appear self-evident; as if good intentions, by definition, will be good enough. But even the mainstream Islamic mindset has proven inscrutable to the West in a way that communism was mythologized to be but never truly was.

To many Islamic nations, freedom is not a tonic, but a toxin; it's regarded not just as something that permits a challenge to faith, but is a challenge to faith by itself."

And there are some fundamentalists in America who feel the same way.

Andrew Sullivan is also a vigorous defender of human rights against torture.

Yesterday, James Taranto took yet another dig at my early attitude to reports of "poor treatment" of terrorist captives. In January 2002 and for a while thereafter, I somewhat summarily dismissed reports of mistreatment of detainees as probably enemy propaganda and certainly not something that should worry us too much:

  • These terrorists are not soldiers. They are beneath such an honorific. They are not even criminals. In that respect, Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's contempt for the whines of those complaining about poor treatment is fully justified.

I'm not proud of those sentences, but they rested on a basic level of trust that of course enemy combatants might be treated roughly, but would not be subject to systematic abuse, torture or beatings. This was the American military. This was the Bush administration, people I trusted. I had no idea - and perhaps I should be held responsible for my naivete - that memos were being written allowing for torture and abuse to occur under the legal cover of a president's wartime authority. Abu Ghraib had not yet been exposed. The hundreds of incidents of abuse, the dozens of prisoners who died while in captivity, the smaller number who have indeed been confirmed as tortured to death: these facts I did not then know. But after Abu Ghraib, I obviously changed my tune. If that could happen, I worried about what else could have occurred. I read the record. I explored the evidence. I came to a different conclusion. The facts available to me changed; and so I changed my mind. Why is that open process to be mocked? When you blog half a million words a year, and you do so for five years, and you use the blog form as a way to think out loud, the notion that your views will remain identical throughout strikes me as preposterous. When the facts available to me change, I change my mind. But then I guess I'm not James Taranto.

Oh right...this really represents someone who, according to R.J. Escrow, is a "conservative Muslim basher." Next on his supposed list of conservative Muslim bashers...Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens

The incredible thing about the ongoing Kristallnacht against Denmark (and in some places, against the embassies and citizens of any Scandinavian or even European Union nation) is that it has resulted in, not opprobrium for the religion that perpetrates and excuses it, but increased respectability! A small democratic country with an open society, a system of confessional pluralism, and a free press has been subjected to a fantastic, incredible, organized campaign of lies and hatred and violence, extending to one of the gravest imaginable breaches of international law and civility: the violation of diplomatic immunity. And nobody in authority can be found to state the obvious and the necessary—that we stand with the Danes against this defamation and blackmail and sabotage. Instead, all compassion and concern is apparently to be expended upon those who lit the powder trail, and who yell and scream for joy as the embassies of democracies are put to the torch in the capital cities of miserable, fly-blown dictatorships. Let's be sure we haven't hurt the vandals' feelings.

You wish to say that it was instead a small newspaper in Copenhagen that lit the trail? What abject masochism and nonsense. It was the arrogant Danish mullahs who patiently hawked those cartoons around the world (yes, don't worry, they are allowed to exhibit them as much as they like) until they finally provoked a vicious response against the economy and society of their host country. For good measure, they included a cartoon that had never been published in Denmark or anywhere else. It showed the Prophet Mohammed as a pig, and may or may not have been sent to a Danish mullah by an anonymous ill-wisher. The hypocrisy here is shameful, nauseating, unpardonable. The original proscription against any portrayal of the prophet—not that this appears to be absolute—was superficially praiseworthy because it was intended as a safeguard against idolatry and the worship of images. But now see how this principle is negated. A rumor of a cartoon in a faraway country is enough to turn the very name Mohammed into a fetish-object and an excuse for barbaric conduct. As I write this, the death toll is well over 30 and—guess what?—a mullah in Pakistan has offered $1 million and a car as a bribe for the murder of "the cartoonist." This incitement will go unpunished and most probably unrebuked.

Could things become any more sordid and cynical? By all means. In a mindless attempt at a tu quoque, various Islamist groups and regimes have dug deep into their sense of wit and irony and proposed a trade-off. You make fun of "our" prophet and we will deny "your" Holocaust. Even if there were any equivalence, and Jewish mobs were now engaged in trashing Muslim shops and embassies, it would feel degrading even to engage with such a low and cheap stunt. I suppose that one should be grateful that the Shoah is only to be denied rather than, as in some Islamist propaganda, enthusiastically affirmed and set out as a model for emulation. But only a moral cretin thinks that anti-Semitism is a threat only to Jews. The memory of the Third Reich is very vivid in Europe precisely because a racist German regime also succeeded in slaughtering millions of non-Jews, including countless Germans, under the demented pretext of extirpating a nonexistent Jewish conspiracy. As it happens, I am one of the few people to have publicly defended David Irving's right to publish, and I think it outrageous that he is in prison in Austria for expressing his opinions. But my attachment to free speech is at least absolute and consistent. Those who incite murder and arson, or who silkily justify it, are incapable of rising above the childish glee that culminates in the assertion that two wrongs make a right.

Wow, all he does is pretty much state facts, there! If Hitch is supposedly "Muslim bashing" by writing this, then I guess any critique of Islam is "Muslim bashing"? And he doesn't selectively decide to believe in freedom of speech. Hitchens is a defender of civil liberties, and he is also against hate speech laws that restrict anti-semitic comments. Furthermore, he joined a suit against the government over wiretapping.

In short, he is a civil libertarian that does not like being told what he can and cannot say (barring incitements to violence, defamation, and lies), and what can and cannot be said about Islam. Does that make him a "Muslim basher"? I think not. Go read his writings yourself, and you decide.

Alan Dershowitz

Before I even get into Dersh, I want to state that Dersh famously said to Alan Keyes, and I quote:

I accuse you of BIGOTRY, and I defend your right to that bigotry, but I do not defend your right to impose the bigotry on others.

This has consistentlyl been Dersh's viewpoint. So it is with a skeptical eye that we shall review Escrow's so-called "proof" that Dersh is a "Muslim hater." Here is what R.J. Escrow had to say about Dersh et. al.:

Dershowitz joins self-righteous gambling addict Bill Bennett in lecturing the US press because they haven't printed the offending cartoons (following in the tracks of fellow Muslim loathers Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan).

So he is mad that the press is being lectured to print the cartoons? That makes him a Muslim hater? Surely you can do better.

Dershowitz can't wait to torture them - hence his self-imposed exile from civilized company. After all, that's not what civilized nations do. (Gandhi's experience with beatings and torture might have prompted his response when asked during a trip to England what he thought of "Western civilization": He said, "I think it would be a good idea.")

Okay, excuse me, but Dersh NEVER said he advocated torture. In his own article on HuffPost, titled "Dershowitz Opposes Torture," Dersh stated, and I quote:

I am against torture as a normative matter, and I would like to see its use minimized. I believe that at least moderate forms of nonlethal torture are in fact being used by the United States and some of its allies today. I think that if we ever confronted an actual case of imminent mass terrorism that could be prevented by the infliction of torture, we would use torture (even lethal torture) and the public would favor its use….

I pose the issue as follows. If torture is, in fact, being used and/or would, in fact, be used in an actual ticking bomb terrorist case, would it be normatively better or worse to have such torture regulated by some kind of warrant, with accountability, recordkeeping, standards and limitations? This is an important debate, and a one from the old, abstract Benthamite debate over whether torture can ever be justified. It is not so much about the substantive issue of torture as it is about accountability, visibility, and candor in a democracy that is confronting a choice of evils.

Dersh went on, later in the article to state, and I quote:

My proposal for a torture warrant is certainly controversial and there are good arguments on the other side. That issue should be debated on the merits, but no honest person can accuse me of supporting torture. Yet the accusation persists among those determined to distort my position.

Seems very clear to me. Oh yeah, what a horrible Muslim hater! *rolls eyes*

Escrow went on to say that somehow these writers only focus on the negative aspects of Islam, and never the positive.

So let's have some fun with numbers. If 30,000 Muslims have rioted (probably a high number, but if you've got a more accurate one let's hear it), that's 0.000023% of all Muslims, or one Muslim out of every 43,000 worldwide. The frequency of reported rapes in the US suggests that an American is one hundred times more likely to be a rapist than a Muslim is to be a cartoon rioter.

Okay, um, Escrow, hun, firstly, that appears to be an awfully small number. I have seen thousands and thousands of Muslims rioting across the world. Imans have called for the death of the cartoonists, and it was famously stated "there can be no overreaction." The Iranian president denied the Holocaust, and I have yet to see ONE Muslim of prominance, other than Irshad Manji, say there was an affirmative right to criticize Islam. (which, um, there is!) The best I have seen by the "moderate" Muslims are statements against violence, but also saying it was blasphemy to publish the cartoons to begin with. Salman Rushdie is still in hiding, and Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh are still dead. This does not even address people like Deeyah, who have death threats when they speak out against the religion. Is it "Muslim hate" to be pointing this out? I mean, Sully, Hitch, and Hersh are also the first to criticize extremism in religions across the board. I have read extensive statements against the way the Christian right conduct themselves in America.

THAT SAID! Andrew Sullivan is the first one to post about moderate Islam. In fact, I learned about the protests against violence in Britain from...you guessed it...Andrew Sullivan.

But he's a Muslim hater, right?

R.J. Escrow hates free thought, and free expression. He is a hater of the truth. Yes, indeed it is Escrow who is the real hater of the bunch.

Monday, February 27, 2006


As I have previously stated, I support the right to publish the Danish cartoons. Please come support the Danes and Freedom of Expression. There will be a rally in NYC held outside the Danish consulate at One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 885 Second Avenue, on FRIDAY, MARCH 3RD, FROM 12:00 PM TO 1:00 PM. Come show your support for the nobel cause. This is what freedom is all about.


George Clooney recently came out and stated that he relishes being on covers of magazines, where he is branded a "traitor" to the country, because of his views on the Iraq War, and the movies Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck. Both are critical of the forces that seek to impose censorship, and Syriana in particular is critical of the way in which big oil intersects with politics. I personally did not like the movie Syriana (as it was hard to follow and could have used a tighter script), but this definitely goes back to what I said before: he is covering topics that simply are not adequately covered in the media. His fictional films have become more real than reality. I wonder what that says about the current state of journalism, a profession too spineless to publish the Danish cartoons, too spineless to stand up for slain Muslim journalists, and too spineless to actually show what Bush is doing domestically and abroad. (except if a birdshot is used)

The REAL credible threat!

State Senator Robert Hagan (D-Ohio) says he will introduce legislation to ban Republican couples from adopting children. According to Hagan, "credible research'' shows that adopted children raised in GOP households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities." Hagan agrees there is no scientific evidence backing his claims about Republican parents -- just, as Hagan notes, there is none backing State Representative Ron Hood's (R) bill banning gay parents from adopting. Hood claims children purportedly suffer from emotional "harm" when they are adopted by gay couples. Hagen admits he created his proposal to mock Hood's proposed ban on gay adoption in a way that people would see the "blatantly discriminatory and extremely divisive" nature of the bill. The GOP House leadership does not support Hood's proposal. ----- THIS IS GREAT STUFF! I completely agree with it. Gay people adopting is not the problem society faces - rather, it's hatriots adopting and procreating. THAT is the real threat! I give a hearty "YOU GO, BOY!" to State Senator Robert Hagan. *slaps him five*

Mayor Ken Livingstone of London - SUSPENDED!

So much for freedom of speech. Mayor Ken Livingston was suspended after he called a reporter a Nazi. That's right. THAT WAS HIS OFFENSE! Evidently, there is a law in England that allows suspension of office if the individual brings the office in disrepute - the disrepute determined by local boards. How exactly does this help Jewish groups? I mean, all this does is reinforce a certain notion that there is a double standard for speech. Of course, it is different, in that Livingstone is a public official. Still, he broke no laws - why should he be suspended?!?! In response to this all, Livingston said he meant no offense against Jews as a whole, and refused to appologize. Good on him. He has no reason to appologize. It just seems shocking to think that a group of three can suspend a mayor who was democratically elected in such an undemocratic mayor. All over one little comment. So much for the "marketplace of ideas."

"Muslim Madonna" faces death threats.

Well, I wish I was surprised by this one. But alas, it is quite predictable. Deeyah, known as the "Muslim Madonna" has received death threats and now needs 24/7 security guards after she made her latest video. The video was a statement against the treatment of women in Islamic society. There is an image of a woman in a burka, who strips it off to reveal a bikini. You also see images of men and women with tape over their mouths, censored, who then pull the tape off their mouths and proclaim their right to free speech. Of course her death threats are predictable. God forbid a woman's right to self determination and celebration of her sexuality is allowed. The hideous abuse of women in Islamic society is very real. Please go to Deeyah's website, and show her your love.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Good Luck Saying Good Night!

I saw the movie Good Night and Good Luck months ago, right after it debuted in theaters. Actually, I saw the movie with a contributor to this blog, longdistancedancer. But anyway, my reaction to the movie at the time was that it was good...but too short. I didn't feel the movie showed the effects of censorship or McCarthyism in their full effects well enough, before Edward R. Murrow came in and "saved the day." Still a worthy movie, and definitely worth seeing for a peek at American journalism before it became...loud. Steve Young, on Huffington Post, has a good point when he writes that the Academy Awards would do well to honor this film in some way. The biggest problem facing America today is not prejudice against gays (which I would argue Brokeback Mountain does nothing to stop), but rather, the loudness and bias of the media. The media in fact is what contributes to biases and prejudices. Young hits the nail on the head with how the famed lines of Army Counsell Joseph Welch proclaimed to McCarthy ("Have you no sense of decency, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?") would be received by the media: "An anti-American, communist kiss-up lawyer telling an elected official of our great country about who's decent? He wouldn't know decent if decent hit him in the face. He's a lawyer, folks. Worse, he's a card-carrying member of the ACLU." "Word out of Washington is that it was Welch's wife who actually suggested him to represent Communists. Next up, Dick Morris tells us why Hillary Clinton may be behind Welch's obviously coerced speech." "If you wanted to reduce communism, you could abort all communists represented by Joseph Welsh, we could wipe out most of communism. It would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do but the communist rate would go down." This is precisely why I simply do not watch TV news channels, and prefer to get my news from good old fashioned newspapers, as well as the newfangled internet. (or as Bush would say, internets)

Thousands rally in London against terror and extremism

In a positive sign, thousands of Muslims rallied in Central London yesterday against terror and extremism. Of course, this received basically no press, beyond a mention on Andrew Sullivan and of course that mention above in Pickled Politics. We need to highlight the good works of good Muslims, and the media should not be covering things like this:

"The Progress of Science and the Useful Arts"

As I stated before, I think the current state of copyright law is flat out absymal. The laws as they exist only serve to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few major corporations that own the most copyrights. Well, I happen to have found a great policy paper which agrees with all I have to say. Read it. Then try and argue the Sonny Bono Copyright Act (extending copyright terms to 95 years!!) is a good thing. Think about this as you read about a new lawsuit against Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code) and Random House Publishing. The authors of a book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail are suing for plagiarism and copyright infringement. However, the underlying "plagiarism" was of an idea based off historical events. If this constitutes "plagiarism," then the fact/idea distinction of copyright law is lost. Suddenly, films and books off historical events are in jeopardy. The copyright law needs serious revision. We cannot let corporations own our history. They certainly already own our culture.

FACTS about the Danish Cartoons.

Lots of LIES are spread about the Danish cartoons, so how about some FACTS? Go to the Free Expression Policy Project for a concise breakdown on the arguments about the Danish cartoons. MEANWHILE, some Danish men will be staging a play about the whole Danish cartoon debate. They are going to make a parody, based on "Clash of the Civilizations." I say, you go boys! More speech rather than less is the answer, as is never backing down to those who threaten violence in the face of speech.

Obscenity schmegenity!

After I wrote this post on The Truth Will Set You Free, qrswave stated, and I quote: Did I already say that porn should be illegal? It should, though I'll not go into why. Since for most people, the reasons are obvious. Only lawyers and pornographers need legal arguments. This caused of course a firestorm of posts from every side on her blog, which you will easily be able to read here and here. Most of the comments centered on the so-called degradation of women in the porn industry. The basic gist was that porn should be illegal because it hurts consumers, but mostly because it hurts the women who make the porn. This got me thinking. How much are women really hurt in the production of porn? Catherine MacKinnon famously wrote about the violence against women "inherent" in the making of pornography. (as if it was a self evident point) Indeed, that was JC's point on The Truth Will Set You Free. I have immediate problems when people make such overarching statements. Facts are needed to back up these statements. So...let's look at the facts. Is pornography harmful to women? The biggest name that Catherine MacKinnon and folks bring out to support their so-called "self evident" truth about the brutality inherent in porn is Linda Lovelace. She famously deep throated Harry Reems in the movie Deep Throat. Later in life, after Linda Lovelace's career was in the toilet, she stated (without supplying proof) that her husband forced her to do movies at gun point, and "every time people see Deep Throat, they are watching me getting raped." Hustler Magazine, in March 2001, famously named Linda Lovelace "asshole of the month." If you read the profanity-laden article, you will see absolute truths in there. All the facts point to a woman who did whatever she could to make a buck. At first she made a buck off porn, then off disavowing porn. Then she made a buck from porn again, later in life. The other so-called "proof" of the violence against women "inherent" in the porn industry is the Traci Lords story. She brought tons of fake ids and forged her identity in order to star in porn films as an underage. When it was revealed she in fact was under 18, her porn company was under indictment for making child porn. The case was eventually thrown out, and Traci Lords then claimed she was "drugged" to make porn in order to break into "mainstream" work. Industry insiders Ron Jeremey and Ginger Lynn say they never saw any such proof of drugs. So this means you choose to believe a habitual liar (who forged her identity to star in porn flicks), or a plethora of witnesses on the sets. Whatever. Some "proof" that all women are raped in pornography! So let's look at the actual proof. Let's look at interviews of real women in the porn industry. How many of them were coerced into pornography? Wendy McElroy did a study on pornography and in her interviews, she found no women who were in porn against their will. That is right. NONE. But don't believe just her. There are plenty of other such studies done. There is a whole website of Feminists for Porn. On it you will see detailed facts and fallacies about the porn industry. One FACT is that no study has ever been commissioned that actually proves the PORN INDUSTRY is responsible for violence. NO STUDY. No study was EVER COMMISSIONED that shows porn causes rape or ANY increased violence against women, murder, suicide...ANY of it. NOT ONE STUDY! So where is this so-called "self-evident" FACT that society is so much worse off from porn? I never advocate violence against women. Rape, incest, bestiality, and child porn is flat out violence. But if someone is a consenting adult, then why CAN'T they consent to sex? The world that Catherine MacKinnon and company want to live in is one in which women are told they lack the capacity to say yes. This is one step removed from saying they lack the capacity to say NO. It is with an eye towards women's rights and equality that I say that banning pornography in the name of "women's rights" is in fact anti-woman. The real danger to society is not pornography, but flat out ignorance about sex, and what sex is. Abstinence only education teaches blatant LIES, and then when STDs go up (in part because kids are not using condoms due to the LIES they are told about condoms), the porn industry is blamed. Talk about ass backwards logic! In order to combat STDs, some amount of knowledge and maturity about what sex is and what safe sex entails is necessary. Banning porn, either due to a fear of the so-called horrible effect on consumers, or the so-called abuse of women runs counter to a very real societal need to have a frank and honest discussion about sex. After all, we are all human, and sex is what enables us to reproduce. Instead of lambasting sex and calling it evil, perhaps we should celebrate our innate humanity and innate sexuality.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What does it mean to be Israeli?

Below is an e-mail I wrote to my friend, qrswave, concerning what it means to be Jewish and/or Israeli. Hopefully it will shed some light on the horrible events going on across the world, and create a degree of cultural understanding. ------------ Israel right now is a secular Jewish state, though this secularism is a real point of contention. Religious Jews are having more kids than the secular Jews. In 20 years, Israel may be overtaken by religious Jews. That is a real bone of contention in Israel. In fact, many of these ultra religious folks move to the West Bank, and are totally militant. It's a problem. There's a movement from America of religious Jews to the occupied territories. Things to point out about Israel... - They allow gay civil unions (how many Muslim countries allow this? Hell, even America doesn't!) - http://israel.jcca.org/articles.htm?y=620051118152457 - article about the Jewish "secular believer" - http://www.jcpa.org/jl/hit07.htm - religion in Israel - http://www.jewfaq.org/israel.htm - What true Zionism means In fact, the Zionists sought to create a SECULAR Jewish state. Many wonder "how is this possible?" ANSWER: Judaism is more than a religion, it is a culture. Many non-Jews do not understand this. I know of no other religion that is as much a culture as Judaism is. That said, there are actually religious Jews, and they are NOT happy with the State of Israel, and some of them, including rabbis, are against the State of Israel in part because it represents a secular Jewish state, and they think this betrays Judaism itself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism_in_Israel -->Great wikipedia article on this phenomenon. Israelis from Eastern Europe mostly consider themselves secular. This is my background. There is a strong connection in my family to the CONCEPT of Judaism and the CULTURE of Judaism, as distinct from the religion. I grew up rarely going to temple, if at all. I grew up not celebrating the Sabbath. I grew up not fasting on Yom Kippur. I grew up completely secular. And yet, I always considered myself Jewish. I am currently agnostic (verging on atheism) and still consider myself Jewish. I have a friend who is a flat out atheist and considers himself Jewish. Somehow the culture of Judaism allows this. Actually, per capita, the Palestinians are less religious than in most places. Hamas, however, is flat out religious. More links, concerning the West Bank... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Bank - Great wikipedia article, summarizing both sides of the West Bank debate http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3219200,00.html - Poll of Israelis living in occupied territories - surprising results http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2005/p16ejoint.html - 62% of Israelis support dismantling settlements - even more than I thought! The democratic will of Israelis is to leave the West Bank. It is very clear. Israelis are not bad people. Israelis in fact do want peace, and all signs show this. This is why it is all the more distressing and outrageous to see such discrimination against Jews in the Middle East. The Israeli government does not represent what it means to be a Jew. -Miss R P.S.: Info on horrible antisemitism against Jews in the Middle East... http://atheism.about.com/b/a/002977.htm - fatwa issued against any Jew who buys or tries to buy land in Iraq http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2000-1/iran.htm - Antisemitism against Jews in Iran

Pressing away our freedom

It was revealed today that a CBS correspondent listened to the Pentagon, and killed a story concerning improvised explosive devices in Iraq. It is already known that the U.S. and Britain used depleted uranium when they bombed Iraq. I am not quite sure when "improvised explosive devices" are, but they sure don't sound like flowers and puppies! The story evidently was killed due to "security concerns." I am not exactly sure what security concerns they would be. It already is known that the place is being/was bombed to smitheerns...I am not sure what sort of "security concerns" there would be to show that yet another form of explosive is used in Iraq. The Pentagon Papers case was more closely related to potential national security concerns, and yet they were allowed by the Supreme Court. It appears that there is de facto censorship going on in this country, where the press simply listens to and accepts all that they are told when something is a "national security" concern. This is the same reason why the New York Times waited over a year to publish the story of the domestic wire tapping. “But out of the gobbledygook, comes a very clear thing: [unclear] you can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment; and the – the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the President wants to do even though it’s wrong, and the President can be wrong.” -- H.R. Haldeman to President Nixon, Monday, 14 June 1971, 3:09 p.m. meeting.

Double standards ahoy!

As you already know, I believe the Danish cartoons are protected political speech. That said, it is very difficult for a country to proclaim the Danish cartoons protected free speech if they ban other images/thoughts/ideas. In Austria, on February 20, famed Holocaust denier David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison. His crime? Denying the Holocaust. THAT was his crime. It seems to me that when the Muslim groups claim there is a double standard for speech in Europe, they do have a point. Yes, Hitler was from Austria. Yes, there is a very real fear of the Holocaust occurring again if deniers/liars such as Irving get to shout their hatred from the highest rooftop. But by denying his right to speak, it is certainly difficult to then claim it's okay to allow the cartoons. It seems many European countries are saying speech is free for some but not all. The solution should be more speech, not less speech. Exposing the stupidity and lies, in the long run, accomplishes a hell of a lot more than banning and punishing the speaker. Otherwise, what's left? What is hate speech, and what is legitimate political speech? The line is not so clear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Armaggeddon get you!

And so now, the propoganda is that Europeans were responsible for the bombing of an ancient mosque in Samarra, Iraq. This is quoted from Andrew Sullivan, who quotes from the paper: "Undoubtedly, it is a new plot which first of all can be considered as the continuation of the disrespectful move of the European newspapers’ that published cartoons of the Prophet of Islam ... Another issue that should also not be ignored is the fact that the occupier U.S. regime, which has turned Iraq’s security to insecurity with its 150,000 troops and military equipment, is the main element responsible for these criminal acts." "This is a political crime and its roots have to be traced in the intelligence organizations of the Iraqi occupiers and the Zionists." There is no doubt that this is a major deal. Immediately blaming Americans and Israelis for this...it only furthers the goal of certain people to have a clash of civilizations. For the record, it appears this was the result of some intra-Iraqi attack.

Political correctness run amok!

Alan Dershowitz just wrote an interesting post on Huffington Post. He basically stated that one of the reasons why Larry Summers, ex-president of Harvard University, was fired from his job, is due to his opinions on Israel. I do not attend Harvard University (and never have), so I cannot speak to what it is like to attend it. But I can speak to my alma mater, Cornell University. I did have one professor who insisted that Zionism was racism, and that all support of Israel must cease and desist. She was also a strong subscriber to the belief that the Western opinion of the Middle East has been wracked with so-called "orientalism." After Septmber 11, 2001 (I took this class in the Fall Semester), my professor proceeded to speak to America's fault in causing 9/11. And that's fine. I think there should be free expression, especially in the academic environment. I only happened to have had one class where the topic of Arab/Israeli relations was even mentioned, so I cannot speak to what the broad spectrum of professors think. But I can speak to a general attitude of campus leftists, which was, as Dershowitz maintained, very pro-Palestinian. A study was completed over a year ago, which showed the vast outnumbering of "conservative" professors on campus with "liberal" professors. There is a question as to whether this is because conservatives are simply less likely to be philosphers or english professors, or whether there is viewpoint discrimination on campuses. Given the "firing" of Larry Summers (well, he resigned, but he was certainly pressured to leave), it certainly has become clear that some amount of viewpoint discrimination is occurring on college campuses. (at least, at some colleges)

Copyright violation for images of fornication!

Google was recently found (in a district court) to have violated the Copyright rights of Perfect 10, a company that produces nude images of women. The violation of the copyright was found in the linking images of google. Let me demonstrate below:

You see the big arrow in the picture? It's pointing to the offending image in question. Well, not exactly. That's a Transformers image, and the images of Perfect 10 are naked women. But you get the general idea. (to get the transformers image, for edification, I typed in "cool" to the Google image search engine) It was already determined in Kelly v. Ariba Soft that thumb nail images of this sort are sufficiently transformative, so as to constitute fair use. (and not be infringing) With decisions like this recent one decided today, I fear for the already tenuous "fair use" law. This is a 9th circuit district court that is not following a 9th circuit opinion. Will Google's picture search technology be long for this world?

BOO Yahoo!

There has been much kerfuffle about Google, and very little said about Yahoo. I think this is because Google's motto is "don't be evil," however, Yahoo has certainly done a hell of a lot itself. Yahoo gave information to the Chinese government that sent three journalists to prison. These journalists were Shi Tao, Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun. They were three Chinese cyberdissidents whom Yahoo helped send to prison for terms of 10 years, 8 years and 4 years, respectively. Nicholas Kristoff, behind Times select, wrote an excellent OpEd on the subject, discussing the various media companies that operate in China. His critique is as follows: Yahoo sold its soul and is a national disgrace. It is still dissembling, and nobody should touch Yahoo until it provides financially for the families of the three men it helped lock up and establishes annual fellowships in their names to bring Web journalists to America on study programs. Microsoft has also been cowardly, but nothing like Yahoo. Microsoft responded to a Chinese request by recently shutting down the outspoken blog of Michael Anti (who now works for the New York Times Beijing bureau). Microsoft also censors sensitive words in the Chinese version of its blog-hosting software; the blogger Rebecca MacKinnon found that it rejected as "prohibited language" the title "I Love Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and Democracy." Cisco sells equipment to China that is used to maintain censorship controls, but as far as I can tell similar equipment is widely available, including from Chinese companies like Huawei. Cisco also enthusiastically peddles its equipment to the Chinese police. In short, Cisco in China is a bit sleazy but nothing like Yahoo. Google strikes me as innocent of wrongdoing. True, Google has offered a censored version of its Chinese search engine, which will turn out the kind of results that the Communist Party would like (and thus will not be slowed down by filters and other impediments that now make it unattractive to Chinese users). But Google also kept its unexpurgated (and thus frustratingly slow) Chinese-language search engine available, so in effect its decision gave Chinese Web users more choices rather than fewer. We are entering an interesting crossroads in the world of media law. What we can find on the internet is increasingly being constrained by multinational corporations and the world of intellectual property law. China is but a case study on what may end up happening.

Expensive swearing

Evidently, a teen in England was charged 80 pounds for public swearing. He said the words "fuck" and that was enough to get a Scotland Yard man to charge the man with a penalty. We have entered a time when individuals, who are not on broadcast TV, can be fined for saying mere words. (at least in England) Words are just words. It is society that determines some are "naughty" or "evil." George Carlin famously had a court case, FCC v. Pacifica, in which the seven dirty words were held to violate broadcast TV standards. I hope this case remains limited to mass media...certainly, we are not well off if we have to watch every word we say in public, lest Big Brother step in.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Control of U.S. Ports handed over to...UNITED ARAB EMIRATES?!?!

This is not necessarily related to media/intellectual property/free speech/civil rights law. But it is important nonetheless. Evidently, in two weeks the control of our ports will be taken over by a company based in the United Arab Emirates. When I read this, I had to do a double take. Of all the stupid, cockamaney, out of this world things that I have read over the years, this seems to be up there with the stupidest of them. As you may or may not know, only 5% of cargo is checked by U.S. Customs when it comes into our ports. The rest of the cargo - 95% of it - is checked by whatever company controls our ports. Currently, the company is British. The company is set to be taken over by one based out of the United Arab Emirates - a country that is known to be one of the biggest supporters of the Taliban. Just think about that one for a second. Meanwhile, Condoleeza Rice said, with respect to this program, it was “the considered opinion of the U.S. government that this can go forward.” Of course the ports are located in all the centers with large Jewish populations. That should go without saying. CONSIDERED OPINION?!?!?! This has to be one of the most outrageous things I have read in years. Then again, I wonder if there's really a big difference between a company based out of the United Arab Emirates checking the cargo, or Halliburton. When you really consider that, it's pretty sobering.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The HEAVY hand of FREE markets

Speaking at an international forum devoted to Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization, German Gref said 223 factories involved in piracy had been shut down in Russia recently. He said a total of 35,000 enterprises had undergone checks as part of the campaign against intellectual property rights violations in Russia, which hopes to join the global trade body at the end of 2006.
223 factories! Closed, so that a few copyright holders can exploit to the max the natural desire for humans to share their culture. The local economy is sacrificed so that corporate profits can swell beyond their current abominable size.
Violations of intellectual property rights in Russia have been one of the chief concerns of the country's negotiators in WTO talks, particularly of the United States. [surprise, surprise] According to U.S. experts, losses from copyright piracy in Russia amounted to $1.7 billion in 2005 and have exceeded $6.5 billion in the past five years. [all icing] Experts have said virtually all films, music, software and books are counterfeited in Russia and that pirated products account for 67-85% of all copyright material . . . ordinary people [continue] to buy widely available less expensive counterfeit audio, video cassettes, and CDs.
Sure, why should they pay more? So that corporate copyright holders can add to their already overflowing coffers?
[A]lmost a million counterfeit items, worth $4.3 million, had been confiscated in Russia in 2005.
What will they do with $4.3 million worth of assets? This is other people's property. Copyright holders didn't pay for supplies or labor. They own nothing but a legal fiction. Yet, the government confiscates tangible property in the name of these so-called "rights."
[A]pproximately 3,000 criminal cases, involving about 1,500 people, had been opened in Russia on charges of copyright violations and 78 people had been convicted.
How much does it cost to enforce these draconian laws and prosecute these so-called criminals? Who pays the price? The unwilling people, of course - the same people who must pay a premium to buy copyright products, and royalties for the privilege of producing them. So much for spreading freedom and democracy. The west replaced the iron fist of communism with the heavy hand of "free" markets.

Censorship on the march!

And so it seems that a gay pride parade in Moscow was cancelled out of fear of violence after the chief Muslim cleric in the region invoked violence if there would be such a parade. In other news, a Muslim cleric offered $1 million for the killing of the cartoonists responsible for the Danish cartoons. What does this say for the future, if being out and proud or critical of the Muslim faith can result in one's death? How does society have a discourse? A Pakistan foreign minister stated, in the same breath (concerning the cartoons): “This is an issue on which there can be no overreaction. Of course, we don’t approve of violence,” she added. Well, which is that? An advocacy of violence or not? Because to the outside eye it seems to be a wink-wink-nudge-nudge advocacy of violence. "We don't approve of violence - but there can't be an overreaction." Pretty contradictory statements. Of course there are crazies on every side, such as Pat Roberston and pretty much everything he utters. There are countless people on the right who preach hate as their reason d'etre. Ann Coulter recently advocated blowing Syria to smitheerns. "Perhaps we could put aside our national, ongoing, post-9/11 Muslim butt-kissing contest and get on with the business at hand: Bombing Syria back to the stone age." What is at the heart of this all? It seems that religious conflict is at the heart of most of the wars in the world today. "I hate you because you don't believe in the god I believe in." The Iranian president already stated: ""We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups and nations. It's a universal ideology that leads the world to justice. We don't shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world. We must prepare ourselves to rule the world and the only way to do that is to put forth views on the basis of the Expectation of the Return." I resent the idea that somehow in the future I or my children would have to wear a burka. I resent the idea that somehow a culture that I see as disrespecting women's rights (any culture that forces women into burkas or head scarves without correspondingly forcing it on men is not okay by me!) wants to spread this to America. So it makes me extremely disturbed when I see things like Italy firing its foreign minister over the Danish toons. What people forget is that the Danish toons were opinion, not fact. And then this opinion was proven correct by the rioting (still going on!) across the world. What is the difference between censoring those toons, and say, censoring images like this: When opinions can be censored, we start to edge into a world of thought police. The slippery slope has begun. There is no reason why somehow religion gets a free pass - especially when religion has taken on so many political manifestations.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Israelis launch THEIR OWN cartoon contest!

This news put a smile on my face: an Israeli group is launching a contest to come up with the most offensive and anti-semitic (anti-Jewish, not anti-Arab) images possible! How brilliant! This, to me, is the beauty of Judaism. It's a religion that is able to laugh at itself. Think Jackie Mason, Rodney Dangerfield, Woody Allen, Richard Lewis, Larry David, and Judy Cohen! (there needs to be more female comics) Judaism has a rich tradition of laughing at itself and poking fun at the religion. I say that is what the world needs more of - more humor! Personally, I found the below cartoon to be hysterical: I quite like (and agree) with the comment of someone on that site: "This is a fantastic idea: A people or religion that can laugh at itself is a confident, strong and self secure. It can show the Islamic world that humor and self deprecation is a healthy psychological exercise. The one who can face his demons can overcome his weaknesses" Ash, NJ Couldn't have said it better myself!

Patriot Act moves closer to renewal.

Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to reject the effort to block the renewing the Patriot Act. Sen. Russ Feingold started out as a lone dissenter to the Patriot Act, but he has started an avalanche. The question to me is...after all the nasty provisions of the Patriot Act has been revealed...why are so many Dems and liberal Repubs afraid to just come out swinging, against the blasted act? Why? I mean, the act has been revealed to have been abused and misused, and there's a dubious connection between the act and its purpose of stopping terrorism. In fact, the Patriot Act has been used to prosecute drug offenders! EFF wonderfully breaks down the Patriot Act, and it's not pretty. We live in a day and age when the Pentagon considers a gay "kiss in" to be a "credible threat." Where library records are obtained of ordinary Americans, and when the records do not show any connection to terrorism, they are not destroyed! Meanwhile, the 9/11 Commission reported at the end of 2005 that we are not any safer now than we were in 2001. My question is...isn't it up to the government to prove the case for the Patriot Act? Why has the Senate (excepting Russ Feingold) generally blindly voted for this act, without reading it? Doesn't this run counter to what a representative democracy is supposed to resemble?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

China collects music fees - SCREWS artists!

China, in contrast to America, makes no bones about what its copyright laws are used for. Evidently, China is going to crack down on independent music companies, insisting that only state-approved assocations can collect music use fees from entertainment venues and websites. Let's look at the impact of this. Musicians now cannot go to sites such as a Chinese version of Creative Commons and retain their copyright rights - in fact, this is saying there are no copyright rights unless the rights are held by a government sponsored company. Think about the absolute censorship possibilities here. Chinese government-affiliated companies will certainly not allow musicians who sing songs that are critical of the government to have copyright rights. This just shows yet another way in which copyright law can be and in fact is being used to censor artists.

Iran renames Danish pastries

And so now Danish pastries will be renamed "Rose of Muhammed." Not very different from our renaming french fries "freedom fries." Pathetic. It seems we have become a world of retarded tit for tat. At least this is quasi-amusing.


Okay, I might as well be out with it. I think the Danish cartoons were protected free speech. I see no reason why it's wrong to criticize a religion, or a religious figure. I see no reason why somehow religion gets a free pass whereas every other subject doesn't, especially when religion is so intrinsically linked to politics. So there you have my opinion. But I wonder now...if the Danish cartoons were so offensive...what about the images below? You be the judge of this. Which of these images do you feel are offensive enough to cause wars? NOTE: NONE of these cartoons/images in fact HAVE started wars or such a worldwide uproar. <- South Park//The Virgin Mary with blood squirting out her ass and onto a priest <- The Prophet Muhammed featured in 15th century Islamic Art at the Met <- The Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung//Brooklyn Museum <- Hitler having sex with Anne Frank//Iranian newspaper <- The famed Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed You be the judge. What is the most offensive thing on there? Because if the Danish cartoons can start riots around the world...what exactly does it say about the rest of these? What does it say about the future of free expression?

Freedom when it suits us.

Google's motto is "don't be evil," and yet they are collaborating with the Chinese government in their censorship of Google China. Google claims their reason for the collaboration is "some information is better than none." Is that true? Isn't a half truth probably more dangerous than nothing at all? And isn't it a weak government that needs to censor in such a heavy handed manner, as China does? Isn't the marketplace of ideas a signature of a strong government? In an ideal world, multinationals would marry social values with profits, critics say, not trip over each other to enter China on Beijing's terms."I have to tell you, when it comes to American Chamber of Commerce companies in China, human rights is simply not an issue," said the China head of one U.S. company, requesting anonymity. " … It's mostly about stock prices and profits. It's rather depressing." Some Representatives are looking to put restrictions on the ability for American companies to do business in China, which is currently a "Most Favored Nation" for trading purposes. However, until the Abramoff-riddled culture of extreme lobbyist contributions is curbed, it is unclear how easy it will be to pass such a bill. It seems the American motto is "{quasi} Freedom at home, and freedom abroad when it suits us." This motto is showcased when we look at the new Abu Ghraib photos that were recently uncensored, detaintees who are stuck in Guantanamo, Cindy Sheehan's arrest for wearing a shirt, amongst other events. How free are we when American companies and the government are willing participants in taking away freedom abroad? Does this impact on our freedoms are home? It sure seems that when the power players are so willing to sacrifice their values for the almighty dollar, including power players who pledge "not to be evil," then there is much to fear at home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

HATING hate crime!

Hate crime legislation rears its head again, in Northern Ireland. The question that needs answering, of course, is what exactly is accomplished by hate crime legislation? Let me boil down what it means to be guilty of a "hate crime." Say someone beats a black man. The underlying beating is a "battery," which, if convicted of such battery, will result in a certain amount of jail time. Hate crime laws ratchet up the amount of time that is spent behind bars for exactly the same crime committed without hate crime laws. The key difference is that hate crime laws say the motivation for the beating/killing/pick pocketing/what have you makes that particular crime worse on society. This brings to mind the question over what the purpose of laws are. Are they to criminalize thought, or to punish bias? Should we enact higher punishments for what are essentially thought crimes? After all, Bush, in one of his lucid moments, did note that murder itself is a hate crime. There is also the question of overpunishment. This will occur when the crime for battery + hate crime is so high, that there is very little difference between the punishment for battery + hate crime and murder. And so, hate crime laws could have the unintended effect of causing people to commit a murder where they would have merely beaten the person. Would Matthew Shephard have lived, had there been a hate crime law? The answer is not so clear. I have yet to see any statistics that prove hate crime laws are effective in deterring hate crime - just as I have yet to see any statistics that prove the death penalty deters murder. It seems clear to me that the only real way to combat hate crimes is to change the culture that perpetuates hate in the first place. This is a far more difficult task than enacting these hate crime laws, which seem to resemble rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titantic.

GREASE is no longer the word!

Royal Caribbean cruises is being sued by the copyright holder for the musical Grease for copyright infringement. Evidently, the cruise company has been putting on the musical on its cruise ships for years, without getting a license from the copyright holder. I thought this quote from the article was pretty telling: "His first thought, he said, was "Do we get paid for this?" His second: "Shouldn't I at least get some free pancakes?" Okay, that's what this is all about, isn't it? It's about getting something for nothing. The musical itself has been around for over thirty years. The original Copyright Act (in 1790) provided for a 14 year term limit of copyright, renewable once for 14 years. The term has since been extended to 95 years. But is there any real justification for this? I remember growing up as a kid, doing the "hand jive." I remember singing "Summer Nights" at bar and bat mitzvahs. The point is that the musical Grease is a part of our cultural dialogue. It has been more than thirty years since the musical was written (actually, probably about 35 years). Is there any need to have a copyright law that allows monopoly rights of our culture for 95 years? Furthermore, this lawsuit has very key implications. Namely, whether the jurisdiction of American courts over our copyright applies to the sea. There already is a WIPO treaty, but as far as I know, it does not extend to international waters. American intellectual property is actually a key concern in foreign countries that have become inundated with Hollywood. America likes to claim there is no UN and there is no international law when it suits them - but they're first to claim copyright and patent protection. Repressive patent laws are contributing to the high cost of AIDS medication - which contributes to the death of millions in SubSaharan Africa. Greed is often at the core of these suits. After all...everyone wants those free pancakes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Why is IP (intellectual property) law necessary?

IP law (intellectual property - copyright/patent/trademark) assumes that artists and inventors will not have an incentive to create unless they have a monopoly on their invention or creative work for a specific point of time. Is that true? Let's look at history... Shakespeare wrote his works without copyright protection. The Mona Lisa was painted without copyright protection. The Guttenberg printing press was invented without patent protection. According to those who claim there's no incentive to create such works...this all should have beeen impossible. Maybe human beings are not as purely profit driven as the economists say. After all, this blog is not being driven by profit motives. If IP law is only dubiously necessary to promote creative and scientific works...then it may be unconstitutional. Why is it so accepted that it is such a necessity? Thoughts/comments on IP law?

FALLOUT from the Danish cartoons

Until the message board, which will be located at cultureforall.com is up and running, I am going to write my thoughts, worries, and opinions, on various issues right here on this blog. My concern right now is that the famed Danish cartoons are going to cause a shift in the way that the internet is coded, and the laws are drafted. We already know that Google and other search engines have kow towed to the Chinese government. (though I actually got that link through Google, haha) We already know that Google and other search engines censor sites that deny the existence of the Holocaust from Europeans. The very code of the internet is constantly being changed to reflect the concerns of governments and individuals. And so...what will happen in light of the Danish cartoons? What will be censored? Geoffrey Stone chronicled what has happened during so-called "critical periods" in our history. We are in a critical period right now. Between the Patriot Act, the outside forces of the cartoons, and IP law, free speech is under attack. Some of the attacks will happen very subtly, as shown in the links being removed from Google. We may not know what is happening...but make no mistake about it...eternal vigilance is necessary. England recently had a vote on hate crime legislation (right before the blow up over the Danish cartoons), and the legislation was defeated by one vote. The bill probably would have passed had it been before the Commons right after the blow up re: the Danish toons. We are living in a day and age when our words are going to be subtly and not so subtly censored. Even assuming governments do not censor speech, self censorship is more rampant now than ever before. NY Press was recently honest when they said they did not republish the cartoons in question out of a very real fear for their own lives. (the entire editorial board quit in response) I will not go on about my opinion re: the toons. That is for another day. But the fall out from this massive story will have an enormous impact on media law. I predict that Google and other sites will censor religious speech from their search engines, at the bequest of governments. I also predict that URLs themselves will be blocked, and more hate crime legislation will be passed. Indeed, the future of the law is very much in flux. Report censorship when you see it. Contact EFF when you get a take-down notice. And contact me if you have any sort of miscellaneous questions or concerns.

The Mission Statement.

What is the purpose of this blog, and my eventual message board? Simple. I hope to create a dialogue between artists, lawyers, and interested persons in the field of copyright, trademark, free speech, and general civil rights law. After reading about the Free Expression Policy Policy Project, I realize the fundamental problem in the law today is that artists/speakers/individuals simply do not know what the law is or what their rights are. Most sites that currently exist do not create enough of a dialogue between interested parties and academics. This hopes to change all that. The basic problem I see is that the supposed law of "Fair Use" no longer exists. The summary of what "fair use" is is as follows: Although a copyright owner is granted five exclusive rights in his or her copyrighted work, the owner’s rights are limited by the doctrine of “fair use.” Fair use grants someone other than the copyright owner a limited privilege to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable manner, without the copyright owner’s consent. Under the Copyright Act, the use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research are generally not considered copyright infringement. Four factors are considered in determining whether use of a copyrighted work is a fair use or an infringement. These factors, which are discussed in detail below, include: • the purpose and character of the use; • the nature of the copyrighted work; • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and • the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. That is fair use in the copyright context. It seems so simple, and yet it has become misunderstood. Furthermore, artists/web designers/businesses get "take down" notices, and will often take down the offending works, merely out of fear of further litigation - even if the work in question falls under "fair use." So what then? Society loses out. Free speech loses out. Copyright/trademark/free speech issues are more important now than ever before. As we have seen with the Danish cartoons, the issue of free speech has become life or death, and can be a catalyst for rioting and even wars. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, according to Brandenburg v. Ohio, unless the speech in question is directed toward inciting imminent lawless action AND it’s likely to do so. This ruling is now under attack from reaction to the Danish cartoons. Furthermore, Cindy Sheehan was recently arrested for wearing a shirt during the State of the Union Address. Issues of free speech, in short, are more pertinant now than ever before. These issues are not easily understood, nor are they uncomplicated. Not enough people care about the First Amendment and less understand the fundamental tenets of copyright/trademark law. The law that once was devoted to "promoting the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries" (Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) has become anti-Progress. This blog and the eventual website it will accompany will track the laws that affect speech, enabling a useful discussion of what all of our rights are. After all, if you don't know your rights, you lose them.

This could be the start of something big.

I am going to use this blog to update people on events in the NYC area concerning IP/first amendment/general constitutional law. I also will update re: Culture For All's efforts in this field of law. We shall see how this little venture goes!