Friday, June 27, 2008

Either You're With U.S. Or Against U.S. - New Canadian Copyright Laws


Grouping of copyright and Supporting PaperworkCopyright Symbol and Supporting Paperwork Printed copyright symbols over registered copyright forms, document frames
GH Wise ©2007

Did you ever wonder why Canada introduced a new Copyright Bill recently even though in the past the public disapproval of a similar bill caused it to be squashed? Well there is a very good article on Canada.com that purports the United States has a hand in getting the maple leaf nation to quickly pass a controversial copyright law.

Michael Geist (the very same Michael Geist that started a Facebook group petitioning against the original changes to the Copyright legislation) argues:

The public campaign was obvious. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins
was outspoken on the copyright issue, characterizing Canadian copyright law as
the weakest in the G7 (despite the World Economic Forum ranking it ahead of the
U.S.).

The U.S. Trade Representatives Office (USTR) made Canada a fixture on
its Special 301 Watch list, an annual compilation of countries that the U.S.
believes have sub-standard intellectual property laws. The full list contains
nearly 50 countries accounting for 4.4 billion people, or approximately 70 per
cent of the world's population.

Most prominently, last year U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John
Cornyn, along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, escalated the
rhetoric on Canadian movie piracy, leading to legislative reform that took just
three weeks to complete.

The United States seems to really find Canada's copyright laws attrocious. Does the United States need Canada's agreement to provide justification in the international community? Personally, I think it is just that. They have been pressuring Canada to pass harsher laws through 'blackmail politics.' Geist states:

U.S. officials upped the ante at the Security and Prosperity Partnership
meeting in Montebello, Que., last summer. Canadian officials arrived ready to
talk about a series of economic concerns, but were quickly rebuffed by their
U.S. counterparts, who indicated that progress on other issues would depend upon
action on the copyright file.


The U.S. makes Canada out to be the 'bad-guy' in the copyright world, but it seems they just want Canada to become American. They want Canada to be a mirror reflection of America. The thing is, Canada shouldn't be bullied into instituting a bill that the public has already helped squash. I fear that the U.S. is becoming a state where rights are becoming the exception and not the norm.

Now, I do not just blame the U.S. for Bill C-61 because essentially the Canadian government buckled to U.S. pressure. I blame the government as well, because they have become like a kid who gives in to peer pressure to try marajauna, etc. Canadians should be able to stand up for what they feel is the right thing to do, and before this American pressure, Canadians said that they were fine with the way copyright law was practiced north of Canada-US border.

The Canadian government should be able to stand up for itself, and at least state that they will negotiate about the copyright laws. If you think about it, the United States needs Canada's co-operation with the tough copyright laws so that their closest North American 'buddy' is not against them (which looks bad in the international community). Israel, one of the United State's best 'buddies,' is considering relaxed copyright laws, but I bet that the Americans will not question that plan. They would never jeopardize their relationship with their Middle-Eastern best-buddy. They would rather pressure their closest neighbour, a neighbour that they have shared a peaceful border with for many many years.

(Check out the facebook group against Bill C-61)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dusting Off The Keyboard & Thoughts On Stress

Sorry all for my lack of posting. I have been extremely busy with... well, life! I had to stand at my friends wedding (Congratulations to the both of them, I hope they have a happy life together and the best of luck to them). I have been also trying to study for finals, and write several papers (the life of a student is an arduous one).

All of this brings me to a point I want to make about stress. Stress seems to be the most counterproductive reaction humans have to situations. For instance, we have the fight-or-flight response where our body protects itself from dangerous situations. But, stress seems to be an oddity. When we are under stress, it causes us to have a lowered immune system, our reaction times are 'off,' we are more clumsy, and our thought patterns are disrupted. All this leads to a very irritable person who is going to be rather useless when it comes to being productive.

What is the most interesting part of being stressed is that it comes from us thinking that we are unable to 'get something done,' 'meet people's expectations,' 'nervous about writing a test,' etc. All these moments when we need to be at our peak mental and physical condition is when our body hijacks our functionality.

For me, I used to be a very stressed person. When I was younger I would be so stressed that I thought I was going to get an ulcer in my stomach. I wouldn't be able to eat before tests, or when I played basketball because I would be VERY stressed. However, (I don't know when it happened but) at some point in time I just snapped out of it. I wouldn't get stressed about tests, because I thought to myself "what's the point," it just impairs my ability to accomplish what I think I won't. I thought about the logic behind it, and realized that stress is counterproductive in every way. There is no up side to being stressed, it is definitely the most negative response that humans can have to a situation. For instance, I had to read a speech at the wedding and I wasn't nervous at all. If I had to read the exact same speech in my earlier state of mind, I would have most definitely have been stressed and unable to get the words out (Plus, I enjoyed the wedding a lot more because I wasn't stressed and worried about problems).

That's my little spiel on 'stress,' so I hope that it helps some of you out there. Being stressed is never going to help anything. So if you find yourself stressed, just think about how it is adding to the problem rather than helping.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Turkish War on Terror Emphasizes Lack of Rights

Flag of Turkey


In a free society one would expect to be able to hold their own personal opinion (even if it goes against the government) and be able to voice this opinion to whoever will listen. In Turkey this simple concept is illegal and seems to have sparked controversy. Bulent Ersoy, a very popular transsexual singer in Turkey, has been charged with trying to turn the public against the military.

It was in February that she made comments that the Turkish war against the separatist PKK group was not worth the deaths of so many Turkish soldiers. If convicted Ersoy faces up to four years in jail. Hakkan Ozgur, one of the officials that submitted a complaint against Ersoy, explains why she was charged:
"The Turkish military is fighting a war on terror," "I believe making propaganda against this is illegal. It creates doubts in people over whether to go to the military. It sows doubt in the minds of those whose children are already serving."

I find his comments preposterous. Bulent Ersoy's opinion that too many people are dying in a war shouldbe perfectly legal. She has the ability to voice this opinion to a wide audience, and why not use it? Bono, of the band U2, uses his star-status to voice his opinions. the Dixie Chicks have used their popularity to voice opinions against the War in Iraq, and they haven't been charged. I do realize that Turkey is a much different society than North America, but I think these basic rights should be common throughout the world.

I also balk at Ozgur's use of the excuse that Turkey is "fighting a war on terror." It seems that this is a common way to avoid criticism for denying simple rights for people (maybe he is taking some cues from George W. Bush). If someone is doing something that a government doesn't want them to do, it seems the 'war-on-terror-card' gets played. According to BBC, to persuade people from questioning governmental actions in Turkey they cite Article 318 of the penal code - dissuading people from military service. It is also a crime to insult the Turkish nation and its institutions. Personally, I think this is little more than oppression. The ability to question your government seems to me to be very essential to making sure that things are done properly which benefits all.

I applaud Ersoy in her courage to voice an opinion, and question the practices of her government that she finds questionable. Although, her trial can have two effects: It will either create fear to question the government because a high profile person such as Ersoy was charged, or the fact that a high profile person such as Ersoy questioned the government will influence others to do the same. I hope that the second effect takes hold in Turkey. The people have a right (or should have a right) to point out something wrong with the government, military, etc. if they wish. I feel like sending a copy of Voltaire's works to the Turkish government. The voice of the people should be taken into fully consideration when running a country because it should be about the people, for the people.

Source

(cross-posted on The Largest Minority)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tragic Death of Journalist Has Potential to Bring Humanity Back to Gaza

Photographers


Fadel Shana, a photographic journalist for Reuters, was killed by an Israeli tank shell on April 16th, 2008. He died while reporting in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli forces have stated that they could not discern whether he was a journalist or not. In a recent Reuters article, Shana was said to be:

filming from a tripod in full view of two tanks for several
minutes when one of the tanks fired a shell that exploded above them, showering
them with metal darts known as flechettes. Both wore body armor that carried
"Press" markings, as did the car which they had been driving in the area for
about half an hour. They were about 1.5 km (a mile) from the tanks. Shana's
camera captured the fatal shell being fired.
Not only was Shana killed, but eight adolescents aged 12 to 20 were killed. It is a blaring attrocity, but doesn't seem to be the only case where Israel has fired first and asked questions later. In a botched airstirke, Israeli forces killed 6 people. It just seems to be a recurring theme in Palestinian territory: Israel forces respond to Palestinian activity with a quick military response, and sometimes that response is fatal.


What is peculiar about this incident is the fact that the tank fired into a group of people, where two men were journalists (and might I add, clearly journalists and not hostiles). The Israeli military forces have been known to discourage press coverage inside the Gaza Strip, so could this be their way of sending a warning to other journalists who want to cover the conflict? Or is this just a simple case of a trigger-finger-happy officer? Either way, it is an attrocity and should be investigated to the fullest extent. Will the investigation (if one actually takes place) actually give us an answer into the brutal death of Shana and eight others? Probably not, but I am hoping for the best result.


A spokesperson for Ehud Olmert, Mark Regev, commented on the deadly firing of the shell by stating:

"We have expressed regret and the army is conducting an investigation. It's a
tragedy," "There was no identification that he was a journalist. Had it been
clear he was a journalist, the shell would not have been fired."

This is a rather interesting comment. Apparently, by the statement he makes above, if a person is not recognized as a journalist in the Gaza Strip the military is free to fire on them. Does that make any sense to you? It sure doesn't strike me as very humane. Regev's statement leads me to believe that Israel does not regard the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as being worth very much. If they are willing to fire tank shells into a group of people that, according to the Reuter's article, weren't doing anything suspicious, I wonder what else they are 'willing' to do?


I am very sorry for the loss of the Shana family, and condolences to the families of those Palestinian adolescents killed that day as well. What I hope comes from these tragic deaths is a change in the way Israel treats people in the Gaza Strip, and hopefully they will actually stop and think before they act. When it comes to people's lives, I think that is at least due.


Source

(I am cross-posting this blog article from The Largest Minority, where I am guest blogging.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Little Bit of Culture

I thought I'd inject a little bit of culture into this blog. I know it's been mainly politics, and me posting about stuff that I find questionable (and end up ranting), but I have a friend that I went to University with who is a published author/writer for a very interesting web-magazine.

His name is Jacob McArthur Mooney and you can check out his book here.

The web-magazine he writes for is called Thieves Jargon, and you can check it out here.

If you want to read a little bit more about Jacob, check out this interview.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Day of Great Debate is Dead. Or Is It?

I have noticed that debates that form on blogs, news web pages, and forums (for the most part) are not really 'good' discussions. Most of the time people response to articles with pejoratives or 'one-word' replies. For instance on an article that deals with something such as radical Islam (which seems to take on the characteristics of a powder-keg in debates) replies and discussion usually ends up turning into derogatory slurs and anger-driven comments.

When I began to notice this aspect of most conversations that formulate on the internet, I soon became disparaged from contributing. Not that I didn't want to, but because of the sheer lack of 'give and take' between commenters. What I mean is the exchange of ideas and points of view between replies to an article so that a debate or intellectual discussion is created. The end result of such discussions being the enlightment of people from their own specific pov's on other people's points of view.

While in this gloomy state of mind, and thinking that I would never find another internet debate that wasn't full of "OMG that sucks!," "cool," and "I'm right, you're wrong, because I said so," I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Two or three days ago I visited Crooked Timber, one of my favourite blogs to visit regularly, and contributed to a very interesting post called "To Justify Something Is To Diminish It?" I posted my point of view, and at the time there were some very good replies (I was very impressed by the intellectual discussion that was forming) could there be hope yet for a 'good' debate?

The answer was yes! When I checked out the article today, there were 257 comments. When I posted there were only about 10 or so, and as I read the newer posts the debate did not get worse, it got better. So I would just like to say thank you to all the people that have contributed to the comments section of that posting. You have revived my faith in obtaining good discussion on the internet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Ancient Art of Reading A Book: A Ludicrous Notion, I know


There is a very good article at TheAtlantic.com called 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?'.

It deals with the notion that the Internet and the ability to access so much knowledge on the Internet has changed the way we process information and essentially 'read.' It states that people are more likely to skim-read through page long articles, and jump from web page to web page.

I totally agree with this assertion, but I do believe certain Internet mediums are worse than others. What I mean by this is that the way the content is presented to us has a drastic impact on the way we absorb the information. For instance, if you are reading a web page that has upwards of 20 000 lines of text, it is going to seem never ending to read and assimilate. If you have the same document in a pdf format, where it is broken up into pages that resemble book pages, it will be easier to read and absorb.

I think it has all to do with the human mind. If our mind knows that there is a foreseeable end to something, we are more motivated to finish a page and move on to the next. This gives the impressive of accomplishment, and this occurs from page to page, until you reach the end of the document or book you are reading. On a web page however, the endless stringing of lines of text can cause the illusion of a never ending quest to get to the end. I am sure lots of people look at the scroll bar on the side of the screen and are in awe of how small the scroll tab is on pages with an enormous amount of content.

I think pdf files and similar files types are what we should push for. They provide book-esque readability and break up monolithic texts into manageable quantities.

It is interesting that our push for more digital texts, and the emergence of the Internet has caused paper documents to be viewed as less important. However, the layout and concept of the 'book' as we know it, is the most innovative and pleasing medium which we have at our disposal.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update: On Me!

Hey all,

I have been given the awesome opportunity to be a guest blogger for The Largest Minority (TLM), and for the next 2 1/2 weeks or so, most of my attention will be diverted to posting there.

I will be posting some articles here, but not as frequently as I have been. Hope you all take a visit over to TLM to read my posts and the great posts by evmonk, John Geraghty, and Manila Ryce.

Happy Blogging to everyone. I leave you with a Beatles song:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Supply and Demand: When the Suppliers DEMAND More Than What is Warranted

It's the production of ethanol? It's the low supply? It's the war? Some or all of these reasons (or excuses) have been used to surmise why oil prices have increased dramatically in recent times.

In a recent Reuters.com article, Mohammed al-Hamli, the United Arab Emirates(UAE) energy minister, stated that the high oil prices are at ridiculous levels. The minister also said that the United Arab Emirates has spare oil reserves and enough production to help out with the supposed oil shortage.

The article goes on to state:

On Friday, U.S. crude jumped $10.75 to a record close of $138.54 a barrel, capping a two-day surge of more than $16 and stunning analysts who saw little fundamental reason for the spike.

"If you look at prices moving by $10 a day, that doesn't make sense," Hamli said.

"That's crazy."

It is fairly interesting that oil prices jumped so much while analysts saw "little fundamental reason" for the drastic increase. There also seems to be a problem when a government minister describes oil prices as "crazy." Since, as al-Hamli states, there is really no shortage of oil, why is the price of oil so high? One can only assume that it is being inflated by fears or suppliers. Although fear of a oil shortage seems to be plausible, the concept of suppliers artificially boosting their own market seems a lot more realistic, and like insider trading. Yet, there are no governmental agencies really playing hardball with these suppliers.

The oil prices affect the whole world economy, and since prices on the simplest commodities are skyrocketing, the international community should be pressuring for a 'oil-price-break.' Personally, I think oil supplies should be governed by different rules than regular commodities. Since virtually every country uses oil, and there is very few ways to get around using it to power cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, etc., prices should be regulated to an internationally decided level.

We need to start learning how to work together, rather than make the most money. Oil companies and suppliers seem to be only after one thing, and that is making the most money. So it is fairly easy to see that since the prices are increasing without any logical reason, it is only reasonable to look towards the suppliers to find out the problem. If oil supplies were ruled by an international committee, like the UN, I am sure that everyone would get their fair share. The only problem with that idea is that some countries like it the way it is, because they have more oil than others or are making exorbitant amounts of money.

If no one questions the source of the oil then there will be no change. As long as the big oil companies become richer, they will not worry about anything else.

(A good article on the paradoxical increases in oil prices in Europe can be read here)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Department Store Discrimination: The Sears Incident


Today I want to talk about discrimination, and in particular age discrimination (and no, this is not an article about John McCain). Recently, my girlfriend and I visited a Sears department store in our local mall. We were casually browsing, and looking around at various items when we noticed a woman, that worked in the store, was giving out coupons. There were numerous people shopping around the store, but we were the only twenty-year-olds. She passed out the coupons to three people in front of us, and then as she came closer to us veered off to give out another coupon to an older lady.

At first we didn't think anything of it, as we thought maybe she might have missed us, so we kept browsing. When we were ready to leave the store, we ran into the Sears employee again. This time she came face to face with us, and said "excuse me," and brushed passed us without even so much as stopping. My girlfriend and I were stunned. We thought to ourselves, "there is no way she missed us this time, that was age discrimination!"

This kind of discrimination has occurred to us before. We were at the mall once before looking around a jewelery store at rings, because my girlfriend was interested in a birthstone-ring. While we were there, the lady working there eyed us like we were going to steal something, and never even asked if we needed help. When we finally asked her, she seemed annoyed that we were interrupting her day or something.

We are both in our twenties and we both are customers that shop at the mall often. There is no reason why we should be discriminated against. We were both quite appalled at the Sears incident and the jewelery store poor customer service. We are both mature students, and the fact that someone thought we were not worthy to receive a coupon is a 'slap in the face.' We spend money just like everyone else, and our service should be worth as much as the next person's.

I just wonder how many other people in our age group did not receive coupons that day in Sears? For all the Sears employee knew, we could have been millionaires. People should think before they judge, especially when it comes to picking and choosing who gets good customer service. One thing I will say, is that this incident has put a black mark on the Sears 'brand' for me. It is hard to say if it was just that one employee being discriminating, but that's all it takes to tarnish a name brand.

Have you ever been targeted by age discrimination? I'd love to hear your stories, just leave a comment.




(Sears logo courtesy of www.gougereport.com )

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Lies Were True: Initial Reasons for Iraq Invasion Were False

Just a quick update about recent news regarding the supposed "facts" which led to the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush administration.

In a McClatchy Washington Bureau story, called Senate committee: Bush knew Iraq claims weren't true, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the initial invasion of Iraq finds that there was no intelligence to support President Bush and Vice-President Cheney's assertions that Sudam Hussein was collaborating with Al-Qaeda or had nuclear weapons/weapons of mass destruction.

Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, D- W. Va. states in the story:

"Before taking the country to war, this administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced. Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence."

It is interesting, although not all that surprising, that the Bush administration did not give the whole truth surrounding the Iraqi invasion. They detain prisoners without trial and hold them in secret prisons (such as the one mentioned in The Largest Minority). Their aims in Iraq seem to more than benevolent in nature. Most people had a sense that there was no factual basis behind the invasion of Iraq, but now it is proof.

Some people on the McClatchy webpage have commented that it will change nothing because the people involved are too high to reach, and there are frankly just too many people involved, but that is thinking on a small scale (or narrow minded thinking). If you look at the bigger picture for instance, the fact that people will be more questioning of the goals of their government when they go to war, I think this report is very influential. People need to take heed from the evidence brought forth, and learn from the past.

Knowledge is power, and with power comes great responsibility (yes, I know that sounds like a hybrid of Sir Francis Bacon and Spiderman). People need to use the knowledge that has been giving them and put it to good use. It is not logical to just shrug this off and say, "oh well! That's the government for you." For a change to take place, people need to be cognizant of what is happening around them and look for ways to improve their situations.

(If you want to check out the report by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, it is available here)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Michigan Primary is Secondary: Biases, and Liberty Come First

I just read the CNN Political Ticker for May 31, 2008, which deals with the Michigan primary. The particular issues the article pertains to are two-fold:
  1. The Primary was scheduled ahead of the campaign season
  2. The ballots that people voted on did not contain Barack Obama's name

The decision was made by the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee, yesterday, that the delegates would be given a half-vote and split between Clinton and Obama, giving Hilary a slight lead (69 pledges-Clinton, 59 pledges-Obama).

Now although this particular article would be a great jump-off point for me to delve into the ups and downs of the Democratic Presidential Candidate Campaign, but I have decided to take a unexpected "left turn" so to speak and talk about something that caught my eye when I finished reading the article.

Near the bottom of the article is a section to post comments. Although the comment section is now closed on the article, there was one comment that was posted. It reads as follows:

"I'm a Clinton supporter and NOT happy with this decision. Hillary should have gotten ALL of Michigan's delegates with ALL the votes! Truth be told, she was the only one that had her name on the ballot in that state! Obama conveniently did not put his name on the ballot, therefore he should get NO DELEGATES from that state! Looks like the DNC is obviously biased in favour of Obama. Pelosi and Dean…we hate you!"

That comment was posted by a semi-anonymous Clinton supporter named John. I found his comment to be of far more interest than the debacle surrounding the Michigan primary because it shows us how people can become so enveloped in a particular cause/belief that they do not see anything else.

What I am talking about is John's comment that "Hillary should have gotten ALL of Michigan's delegates with ALL the votes! Truth be told, she was the only one that had her name on the ballot in that state!" Her name was the only one on the ballot: true. What I do not agree with is the statement that she should have received all the votes. Now, I am an Obama supporter because I believe that he is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton, but that is not why I disagree with John's comment. The truth of the matter is that I agree in fairness and liberty. These two elements were not shown in the Michigan primary.

First of all, Obama's name was not even mentioned on the ballot, so even if people wanted to vote for him they couldn't. Most people do not question authority, such as the government, and so the only choice was the one they voted for, which was Hillary. I am sure that if the tables were turned, and her name had been left off, that John would be upset over that fact and be calling for a split-vote.

People, such as John state that the "DNC is biased toward Obama," but are they really? If the same thing happened to Hillary, I am pretty sure the same scenario would play out. When people are so enthralled with a particular belief or cause they cannot see anything else. For instance, have you ever watched the Discovery channel? Sometimes they have a program that comes on about different microrganisms that live in our homes. There are particular mites that live in our bedsheets and I remember after watching that, I thought I could feel something crawling on me when I got in bed.

What I am trying to say is that, when people start assessing situations (such as the Michigan primary fiasco) they cannot but help to think that: "The DNC is against Hillary." The same thing happens for Obama supporters as well. People become trapped in a particular mindset and find it hard to look at situations from different perspectives.

Now this is not to say that I think the world is perfect, and that there aren't people out there that want to try and influence the way people think (and even vote) because there definitely are. For instance, news media sometimes only portray one side of a story to create drama, or focus on the more controversial side of a story. But, sometimes people become "conspiracy seekers" who will only think that the world is out to get them/their candidate in this circumstance.

When people realize their biases, they can then DO something about them. Only then can there be a change in the way they think, and the way they view the world.

"To know the true reality of yourself, you must be aware not only of your conscious thoughts, but also of your unconscious prejudices, bias and habits" -Anonymous