Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Solstice

It was foolish to think that
somehow today would be different
Foolish to think that though
the dreams came from a
golden, hopeful today,
they would influence,
of all days, today,
winter solstice

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blades of Grass

Today, I found this on refrigerator that I will never see again:
Every blade of
grass has its
angel that bends
over it and whispers,
"Grow, grow."
-The Talmud


There are a great many thoughts I have concerning this, but they are both unwarranted and unwanted. Nonetheless, I feel the quotation expresses a certain sentimentality than I could otherwise.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snowmen for a Nuclear Winter

_____________________________________

Snowmen for a Nuclear Winter!

I made these with an old girlfriend, and were originally going to be Christmas gifts for my family. However, I tried to make them, oh, the day before, and thus sat unpainted or completed in my parent's basement for a year. I decided that, since my dear friend Susan had a birthday coming up, I'd not merely complete them, but completely change the dynamic - what were once sick and dying snowmen .. are now irradiated and damned snowmen! Although I didn't get the best quality of pictures (parents basement does not an ideal studio make), rest assured they are all capable of freely standing. Except for the poor one that got speared. More pictures beneath the cut.

annnnnd .. these are the rest of them:















Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Debate: Part 1 - Affirmative Opening

This is the debate thread I had to respond to for my final in a class this semester. My response is in the next post, the Negation Opening.
From Alex Gromak


The issue of online piracy, specifically illegally downloading music, is a topic that has been given a lot of attention in the past decade (Note, I will be focusing on the issue of downloading music, although this can be extended to all forms of digital media). Most of this discussion has been one side arguing that downloading music is not illegal, while the opposing side argues that it is. In actuality, downloading music online, commonly through p2p clients, is illegal. The question is: should it be? In this essay, I will show why the current laws that make downloading music illegal are flawed, and how the efforts to eliminate this issue are not effective. In doing so I will argue that we need a new, more accurate definition of Internet piracy and that the laws must be changed to better suit the issue at hand. Finally, I will demonstrate why organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who hunt down and prosecute illegal music downloaders, are not working, in any sense, to solve this problem; not to mention the possibility that their own efforts to find illegal downloaders may be illegal, and their results unethical.

To begin, let’s look at some ways in which the current laws that deem music downloading to be illegal are flawed. Roy Furchgott, in The International Herald Tribune, on September 4th of 2008 explains that in the United States, a case pitting Sony Corporation of America against Universal City Studios, known as “The Betamax case” allows people to record CDs to their iPods. Furchgott summed up the case’s outcome by saying, “essentially, the ruling said people could record copyrighted material for personal, noncommercial use.” First of all, “noncommercial use” makes it sound like as long as you are not selling what you copy from the CD, you can do whatever you want with it. Which would include sharing it online using p2p clients. This obviously is not the case, but it does sound like that would follow. In any case, Furchgott then makes an astute point; one that I completely agree with and believe is the strongest point against the nature of these laws: “Suppose you have a vinyl record and you want to hear it on your iPod. Does the recording have to come from your own album, or can you download a copy? […] After all, you have paid for the right to hear the song; does it matter where your specific copy comes from?” In this situation, if you download the song, the means by which you acquire the song is illegal. But you have already paid for the same exact song. Why does it matter how you acquire it if you have bought it? This moves the issue of legality solely to the means by which it was acquired, with no attention being made to whether or not it was purchased. This seems absurd. Why should it be legal to find and utilize the equipment to record a digital version from your own copy of the vinyl but illegal for you to simply download the same album that has already been digitalized? Either way, you have done the same two things: (1) you have bought the album, and (2) you have it digitally. Why should it matter how you manage to get the digital version, if you have already bought it? I argue that it doesn’t and that it shouldn’t.

You can imagine a similar dilemma with a collectible. Lets say I buy a limited edition collectible version of an album. I want to keep it sealed in the plastic since collectibles are always worth more if kept in mint condition. So I have legitimately bought this album. But how can I get the songs if I don’t open it? Why should it be illegal to download this album since I already bought it? Again, this goes back to the method of how it is acquired, it has nothing to do with theft, which is what this issue is supposed to be all about. If I were to ask: what is the main issue with online piracy? Presumably the answer would be something along the lines of: obtaining some digital media without paying for it. Essentially, online piracy equals online theft. But if I have bought the album, and I am legally allowed to copy it for personal use, how can I be stealing it by downloading it? Stealing implies I have not bought it, but I have bought it. This is a fundamental problem with the current definition of online piracy.

I will now show that the RIAA’s involvement in this issue is at times illegal, in some cases unethical, and is absolutely ineffective; therefore establishing that a new method of dealing with online piracy is needed. Before addressing the unlawful/unethical aspects, let us simply look at the common methods the RIAA use. According to Times Staff Writer Jay Cridlin, on March 19th 2007, the letters they send out to the accused music thieves threaten a lawsuit fining them at the cost of $750 per song. To avoid this, they are asked to settle for a sum of reportedly around $4,000. Their tactics have been regarded by critics as nothing but bullying. As Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, “That’s exactly the intent of it: 'Pay early, pay quickly and make this campaign easy for us, rather than fighting back.”
So where does all this money the RIAA is getting go? To the artists or record labels of the “stolen” songs? No. It goes into the RIAA’s funds for more downloader hunting. Since all the money accumulated by the RIAA goes right back into the RIAA’s pocket to enable them to hunt for more illegal downloaders, the only purpose this could be seeking to achieve is deterrence. If the goal were to give the money back to the deserving artists or record companies that are losing out from online piracy, the money the RIAA acquires should go back to them. But because it doesn’t, the RIAA’s goal must not be designed to reimburse those who are suffering from illegal music downloads, namely the artists and record companies. Therefore the RIAA’s actions serve merely as a deterrent against others downloading music illegally. As I will show later on, this deterrence is not working either, and thus, the efforts of the RIAA are a complete failure.

Now lets move on to address some ways the RIAA has acted unlawfully and unethically. Simon Hayes of The Australian, on November 7th 2006 said “Music and software industry lobby groups have been accused of touting ''absurd'' piracy figures in an effort to get tougher copyright laws and more police resources to enforce them.” On July 5th 2007, TECHWEB stated that the target of a music file-sharing lawsuit was fighting back, claiming that the investigation tactics used were illegal. “Court documents claim that the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit ‘agreed between themselves and understood that unlicensed and unlawful investigations would take place in order to provide evidence for this lawsuit, as well as thousands of others as part of a mass litigation campaign. On information and belief, the private investigations company hired by plaintiffs engaged in one or more overt acts of unlawful private investigation. Such actions constitute civil conspiracy under Texas common law.” Chris Ayres of The London Times, wrote on October 5th of 2007 about a specific lawsuit case dealing with illegally downloading music. He states, “A single mother from Minnesota was last night fined $222,000 - about five times her annual salary -for swapping music on the internet…The verdict means that Jammie Thomas, a 30-year-old Native American, will be ordered to pay $9,250 for each of the 24 songs…that she shared illegally. The fine will almost certainly go uncollected and is expected to drive Ms. Thomas, who has two children, into bankruptcy.” Ok, illegally downloading music is bad. Fine, but how can one justify putting this woman and her two children into bankruptcy as a result of it? What kind of life are these two young children going to have as a result of this? You may think this is an Appeal to Pity but in order for me to be committing such a fallacy, my argument must be founded solely on the appeal to your pity for the woman, and specifically, her two children. But I do not believe I am doing so. My argument lies in the fact that it is unjustifiable to cast a woman into bankruptcy for something as trivial as sharing music online. The impact it has on her and her children acts only to show the ridiculousness of what results from the current online piracy laws.

I will now show that the efforts of the RIAA have not even served as a deterrent for online music downloading and therefore certainly have not been effective in stopping it altogether. David George-Cosh, of The Globe and Mail in Canada reported on July 31st 2007 that the “fourth annual Digital Music Survey, which polled 1,700 people in the U.K., suggests that illegal music is more popular than ever before, with 43 per cent of respondents claiming that they are illegally downloading tracks, up from 36 per cent last year and from 40 per cent in 2005. This year, only 33 per cent said the risk of being prosecuted was enough of a deterrent to stop them from downloading unauthorized tracks, compared with 42 per cent in 2006. The findings also show that 18 per cent - nearly one in five respondents - said they planned on downloading more illegal music, up from 8 per cent in 2006.” Even the RIAA has admitted their efforts are not working. Chris Ayres of The Australian, said on October 5th 2007, “According to the RIAA, the number of households that have downloaded music with file-sharing software has risen from 6.9 million in April 2003 to 7.8 million in March [of 2007]…Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property at civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says ‘the RIAA’s legal campaign is having little effect.’”
On July 28th 2007, Fred Reed of The Washington Times compared the music industry’s campaign against illegal downloading to the war on drugs, calling it “a permanent and unwinnable struggle.” He then says, “The war isn’t working. It isn’t working partly because it is so very easy to download or copy digital material. And it isn’t working partly because the public doesn’t care. During Prohibition, illegal drinking was common and accepted, except by law enforcement. Today, countless respectable people smoke marijuana, and only cops care. And no one cares about music downloads except the RIAA. It is very nearly impossible to enforce a law without the support of the population.” He then asks, “thirty years from now will the RIAA still be suing people right and left in a desperate attempt to stop the unstoppable? It is probably not a good thing to have laws that are both unenforceable and widely ignored. The alternative is to come up with a way of managing copyright and royalties that recognizes reality.”

This is similar to what Barrie McKenna of The Globe and Mail in Canada said on August 28th 2007: “For years, the recording industry focused almost exclusively on trying to stamp out piracy by suppressing demand through lawsuits…The industry’s dilemma might be a lot more manageable today if it hadn’t been so late to embrace digital music as the innovation that it is, rather than a threat to be thwarted at every turn.”

I have now shown how the current laws dealing with downloading music are flawed in that they deal more with the method of acquiring music rather than the theft of music. I have also shown that the efforts put forth by the RIAA are not only at times illegal and unethical, but they just simply are not solving the problem. We need a new system; one that provides us with a new way of understanding and defining this issue that is a better and more accurate account of what we really mean by saying “online piracy” along with new laws to abide by this new definition.

My plan consists of redefining the term piracy so that it applies only to what we actually mean when we use the term as well as developing a new system for the digital media world to replace the RIAA. At the very least, I propose new laws to change the definition of piracy to read that downloading or copying (provided it is for personal use only) music, or any other kind of digital media, is to be considered “piracy” only if such media has not already been purchased by the downloader. The ultimate however, would be to legalize file sharing all together (as I will address below).

As for alternatives to the RIAA, more organizations like Creative Commons (a non-profit organization working to expand the range of digital media that is available for others to legally build upon and to share with other) need to be implemented and more organizations compelled to work with such companies in order to increase the legality of file sharing. Obviously legalizing file sharing all together will eliminate the unwinnable war the RIAA has tried to fight. This would also do away with a need for such an organization as the RIAA altogether. However the question remains, how will the artists get their compensation? Well, first of all, as I addressed above, their not getting it now since none of the proceeds the RIAA gets goes back to the artists, labels, or record companies. But besides that, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (the leading civil liberties group defending people’s rights in dealing with digital materials) has suggested, if we legalize file sharing, we could compensate the artists, labels, and record companies by implementing a surplus in internet service provider fees. Indeed, forcing these solutions is not only the best solution against such an unwinnable/unstoppable war, it is the only solution, unless we want to keep things the way they are.

The agent for implementing these changes will be the World Trade Organization. Funding will be minimal since the changes only involve creating new laws to replace the old ones defining Internet piracy and/or determining the legality of downloading altogether. These plans will clearly fix the problems since they all deal with definitional problems. The laws currently result in inconsistencies with what we mean when we correlate the term “stealing” with the word “piracy.” Therefore, changing the laws as I have described will result in the disappearance of such inconsistencies; problem solved. Also, if file sharing were to be legalized completely, then the problems being raised as a result of the RIAA would also disappear because such an organization would no longer be needed. Also, if the Internet service provider fees were increased to account for the compensation of the artists being “harmed” from downloaded music, this would dismiss the issue that the artists are loosing money from the legalization of downloading. Again, problem solved.

Even if only the new laws defining piracy are implemented, this will still result in advantages. By changing the way we define piracy as I have stated above, we can focus on what we are really concerned with when it comes to internet piracy: theft. Right now, the focus is simply: anything you download is illegal. Under my plan, downloading when you have already bought the content will not be illegal. This will allow the officials to focus on those who are truly stealing what they download. If we legalize file sharing all together, we obviously have much more freedom when it comes to what we have legal access to on the Internet. My plan also accommodates for compensating those who are losing money as a result of the way things are now. All in all, this plan fixes the problem the whole “file sharing is illegal” debacle at the root of its true causes.

My response to Affirmative Opening

The Debate: Part 2 - Negation Opening

My response.
It's easy to imagine that the methods of dealing with Internet piracy should come down to villains and heroes, evil umbrella corporations and those that fight them. But it doesn't work out so simply; it's easy to call the RIAA an evil company, failing and backwards in both their methods and operational philosophy. To simply say that the RIAA should be bypassed as a way of dealing with music piracy isn't going to be effective; although their process of hunting down and prosecuting individual downloaders is clearly not working, the RIAA must have a direct hand in any new methods implementing – the record producers trust them and, according to their website, www.riaa.com, 90% of all recorded American music is done through them. What must be done, instead, is a complete reworking of the functionality that the RIAA themselves have. As they represent the almost the entirety of the music industry legally, they simply can't be left out of any equation.

Instead of changing the terminology of laws – which is a dangerous idea that I will return to shortly – it would be better to provide incentive for consumers to not break laws. It's easy to say that because a law is difficult to enforce or police that it should be changed or renamed. However, the music industry – and the producers of IP, or intellectual property, the legal terminology for such things – deserves to have the integrity of their work preserved, just like a bread baker in a city.

Changing the laws so that they merely re-brand illegal downloading of music to something different is a poor idea. This is for two reasons;
1.The name that something or some person has, especially when it's a title, can have a powerful impact on a person. Take in example the words “freedom fighter” and “terrorist”. Although they technically mean the same thing, people will react dramatically differently to them when they encounter them – if a local citizen perceives a gun-toting young man as a freedom fighter, they are dramatically more likely to help them, as they have real gains to be made should the young man be successful. But what if they recognize them as a “terrorist”? This becomes much more gray, as the word “terrorist” implies the destruction of public, non-governmental structures and acts of violence, and most citizens would be far less likely to aid them. Unless, of course, they were scared for their lives, but we're speaking on motivations to make decisions freely.
2.It won't necessarily change anything. Changing the title of an action to disguise its criminality isn't going to make it have less of an impact on the music industry, or other individuals – like the artists themselves – that music theft can have. What will happen is that it will encourage more people to download illegally because, well, it doesn't sound like it's so bad – it's not piracy, after all. Currently, one of the focuses in the war on drugs is to create awareness among people that drugs are incredibly dangerous to take. So too with the anti-piracy campaign – it's trying to be demonstrated to the public that piracy does real damage and has real consequences. Rebranding piracy to something that makes it easier to handle on one's conscience is only going to make things worse.

I suggest instead that the shift on anti-piracy comes not from the consumers or the law, but instead from the producers of IP themselves. In order for the populace to stop downloading freely – which is something incredibly difficult to both track and police – they must be provided with not merely alternate, legal choices, but better alternate choices.

The example given of downloading a CD of an enclosed vinyl album after purchasing it is an interesting one, because this is exactly where the music industry should come in. The following is a series of proposals that, were they followed, would not only decrease piracy, but greatly increase profits.
1.Record companies ought to (and most of them do – services like iTunes demonstrate this) have the entirety of their music collection online and available, and given certain parameters, consumers should have free access to it.
2.When a customer purchases a CD or song, whether online or off, they should do so with a registration key of some sort – whether a username, unique ID or email address – and they should then be able to use this access to freely download another copy of the same song at any time, so long as the record company remains in business.
3.Record companies must work actively to develop products that are simply better than those that are pirated; Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney recently admitted to the website www.paidcontent.org that “piracy is a business model” and that “it exists to serve a need in the market”. This is the exact sort of acknowledgment needed by the IP industry as a whole, as it allows for solutions such as 3. to function. In providing lifetime downloading access to previously paid-for tracks, (something iTunes does currently) providing higher quality audio than those found on pirated sites (325kbps vs 128kbps – a dramatic difference in quality), offering full, digital sleeve notes, interviews with the bands, etc for the same price – then they will have a product that is categorically better than that of the pirated version.

Will consumers spend more money for a better product? Twentieth Century Fox thinks so; in China, DVD piracy is a rampant issue, and although most companies have been attempting to force the law to do their bidding, Fox had a better idea; produce a series of high-quality official DVDs, and sell them for about 2$. They aren't making nearly as much money as they would be if those people were buying the 10-15$ DVDs, but they're still turning a profit from it. Even though the discs are double the street value of the pirated version, they're still being purchased by the consumer – as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The primary difficulty with the suggestion that downloading copies of the same music after you've already purchased it should be legal – or rebranded alternatively – is that you're not downloading the same copy. If we're talking about analogue vinyl's, then, according to hydrogenaudio.org on July 15 2005, the bitrate – or audio quality – on a vinyl is around 650kbps, and that of a CD is 1378 kbps. Double the quality – how, if two things are exactly the same, can one of them be twice the quality of another?

You bought the vinyl, and the rights to that – you did not buy the 1378 kbps quality version that you got from the website, you did not purchase the rights to the CD cover art (which often accompany pirated music), and you did not purchase the rights to distribute it – which is probably what you're doing if you let your p2p client remain at default settings. When you purchased the vinyl, you had every right to use it for noncommercial use – but you didn't purchase the rights to every version of it every recorded. Although it's something of a slippery slope, I feel it should be considered: if you bought the rights to, say, Radiohead's “The Bends” (the single), should you receive rights to versions of it played live, old versions that didn't make the actual album? No, most people would correctly argue – and it's the same for what are perceived duplicates of the media on the internet.

The other massive difficulty with illegally downloading files that you may have already purchased is the method by which you're getting them – and yes, it does matter. Just because it was that drug dealer down the street that stole the television and sold it to you doesn't mean that you're not directly involved with the theft, and it's similar with music piracy. We'll even assume that you're not using a torrent site which are currently the fastest and most effective way to pirate music – but we won't assume this because they force the user to also upload their files (illegally). So we'll use the example of a standard p2p client, like Kazaa or Limewire, to preserve the relative legality of what we're doing. The trouble is .. if you load up any of these services, or go to their websites, then you're providing hits on their advertisements. Although you're not directly handing the pirates money, you're indirectly providing it for them – and by using their service, you're also endorsing their actions and those of everyone else using the service illegally, and are therefore becoming a part of it yourself.

How you get your music does matter, although it's a given that the methods by which you procure it should change. Again, if the record industries, instead of legal entities, presided over these events with profitability in mind and not the destruction of individuals, then this would not be nearly the problem that it is today. Providing money to a drug dealer for stolen goods, whether they are illegal or not, is still aiding and abetting theft – just like downloading a file that you might legally already own that was illegally produced is still, and should be still, considered illegal.

The Washington Times article cited suggests and directly states that, “...no one cares about music downloads except the RIAA” simply is not true. Although the band Metallica were perhaps overzealous in their charges and rabid in the pursuit of .. justice, they nonetheless publicly spoke out against Napster, an early p2p file-sharing application, at the 1997 MTV Music Video Awards, arguing that they were directly losing money because of the theft of their music online – demonstrating that, regardless of the actual impact that the downloading was having financially on them, they were still upset. Most people would argue that Metallica isn't exactly a “no one” in the music industry.

Although putting an additional service access fee onto the ever-rising cost of high-speed internet is an interesting solution, it isn't a fair one, although it's exactly what Jim Griffin and Warner Music are going to attempt to do (as pulled from www.portfolio.com). Why isn't it fair? Because not everyone will be using the service, or will want to have digital access to music. It also doesn't guarantee that the actual artists will receive the money any more than current contracts allow for. If this were an opt-in sort of tax that allowed you unlimited access to whatever music you wanted (provided your label had it online and the music you wanted was available and not something archaic and weird), then many people would simply choose to not opt-in and would continue pirating; why pay for a service that offers not only nothing better than the illegal market, but offers even less?

Again, the solution must come from the record companies themselves. Similar to how the only way to win the drug war is to convince people to not use narcotics of their own free will – instead of pouring billions of wasted dollars into South-American countries fruitlessly – the only way to win the war against piracy will be to convince consumers that it is in their best interest to actually pay for things. This means things like unlimited access to things you've already purchased, free updates and support for software, and extra features not available to pirated versions. Valve, the company behind the tremendously popular Half-Life series, already does this with games through a service called Steam. Steam is entirely free to download and use, and provides social networking and matchmaking for games. It also has the widest selection of digital games on the internet – and it sells a lot of them. If you ever move, or get a new computer, or have any number of things happen to your copy of a downloaded game, you can always simply re-download it. Irritating? Maybe. But not as much as having to either go to the store or deal with pirate sites to get a new copy if you don't want to pay for it again. They also offer patches, support, free multiplayer – and they're making money with it.

One of the other things that Valve does is force all of their games to communicate with the “home server” in order to be played – if you want to play the single-player version of Half-Life 2, you still must have an internet connection. Although frustrating on occasion, the otherwise convenience of the service more than makes up for it. This can happen with music and movies, too – with the ubiquity of wifi access, it will be a short few years before every music-capable device can access the internet at any time. Using services like these – called DRM, or Digital Rights Management – allows companies to track and secure their product at any given time.

Through a combination of non-intrusive DRM and high consumer viability, the IP industry can combat piracy by outright winning the war; because it's just so easy to download IP and so difficult to stop, alternate methods must be decided upon. Should they be new laws? Probably not – this is a problem that the free market is designed to handle, and it should be left in it's hands. Forcing it into the government – even if its a world-organization like the WTO – will simply slow things down and nobody will be happy. The laws won't be able to significantly change anything, people won't stop downloading things, and the record companies will continue to hemorrhage money because they spent money lobbying instead of focusing on upgrading their infrastructure – which is exactly how they've spent the last two decades, although the lobbying money has also been tied up with the RIAA.

The WTO is also a somewhat poor choice to implement changes like additional ISP charges; seeing as how these are currently handled on a national, regional-level, an international body of commerce isn't going to be able to affect much change on them – but the ISPs and record companies are specifically engineered to change and to adapt quickly.

Granted, increasing the use of Creative Commons licensing will go a good ways, and will help some people tremendously; since early 2008, www.boingboing.net has been hosting the serialized version of Joe Jutsko's The Deal under CC licensing. Although he has probably made more money as a result of this than he would have had he forced everyone to buy it, this isn't for everyone – some people, particularly those that have already served their time and spent decades developing their craft – already have a name out there, and just want to get paid. CC licensing is great for people that just want to develop a name for themselves, or believe in the cause that IP should be public – but there are those that just want to make money, and why shouldn't they? Forcing CC on them will greatly limit their potential income.

A final point of clarity: anything you download currently is not illegal. I can connect my iTunes PC music player to their store, and peruse millions of songs that are perfectly legal to download (provided I pay for them). They're very high quality, come with full record art, and the price is reasonable – and Apple and their iPods have sold tremendously well directly as a result for being so far ahead of the curve. Or I could go to the Zune Marketplace, where I can pay $14.99 for unlimited monthly downloads – although you lose access to the music if you stop paying, it's still a pretty damn good price for unlimited and legal music. This argument isn't so much one about getting fair access to things that have already been paid for, it's about justifying the illegality of something, morally and ethically – to ones self.

While legalizing file sharing entirely would provide for an interesting framework of new media developments, I'm not sure that this is at all an optimal idea – would companies like Microsoft really keep producing and updating Windows if nobody was paying for it? Would we have access to wonderful, modern pop music if there weren't billions of dollars to be made from it? I doubt it – consumers vote with their money, and allowing everything to essentially become free instead of addressing the issues would probably just make everything worse.

Carolyn's Response - Affirmative 2

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Debate: Part 3 - Affirmative 2

Affirmative 2
From Carolyn Dougherty

There is nothing simple and clear cut when it comes to regulating and policing internet piracy. Both sides of this argument agree that the current methods being used to hunt down and prosecute individuals who are downloading music illegally are flawed and ineffective. The difference in philosophies in this debate lies in why and for what purpose do the laws need to be changed, who will benefit from these changes, and how will these changes be monitored and enforced.

Daniel admits that the RIAA's current methods are "failing and backward", but he also argues that to take the RIAA out of the process because they represent "almost the entirety of the music industry", would be detrimental. But, as Alex stated, the money the RIAA is receiving from fines impugned on those who are caught downloading illegally is going into the RIAA's coffers, not to the artists as repayment for copyright royalties. The issue at hand here is not about artists not being paid for their intellectual property, the issue is about the legalities of copying and sharing such IP.

Daniel claims that the populace should be provided with better alternate choices for downloading IP, in and effort to stop them from downloading things at no charge. According to The Boston Globes Staff Writer Alex Beam, on November 18th 2008, the RIAA has sent out over 30,000 letters to individuals and families demanding payment for illegal downloading. These numbers indicate that there are a great number of people who are totally fine with the quality and avenues for downloading now. The problem does not lie in product availability or quality. The problem is two fold and as Alex pointed out, the issue lies in the definitional confines of internet piracy and the unlawful means used for tracking and prosecuting illegal downloader's.

Daniel asserts that changing the definitions of piracy is a poor idea; claiming that the name assigned to a person or act can have a powerful impact on a persons perceptions. Using the examples of "freedom fighter" and "terrorist" when speaking of a gun-toting individual and how the average citizen would react quite differently to that person depending on the label assigned is and ineffective extreme example. Illegal downloader's or "internet pirates" are not a physical threat, and the public in for the most part, does not reel from the stigma of being labeled as "pirates." In an article published July 28th 2007 by Fred Reed of the Washington Post, Reed claims that the labels are not working to deter illegal downloading largely because the public doesn't care, much like illegal drinking during prohibition. Today, countless people smoke marijuana, and it seems that on that front it is only law enforcement who cares, so too internet piracy. Re-defining piracy is not going to change the amount of downloading that is taking place, but it will serve to eliminate the unlawful witch hunts that are currently in place.

In the redefinition of the word "piracy", addressing the issue of "for what purpose" are people downloading is an important factor. In large part, the majority of the populace who are utilizing p2p file sharing is doing it for personal use, not for resale or monetary gain. As Alex pointed out earlier, copying music or intellectual property for personal use is not illegal. Therefore, how a person gains access to that property, in addition to their original purchase, should not be considered illegal. The availability to download on the computer, then burn to a CD or personal listening device is a perk that our current technology affords us as consumers. Staff writer Mark Fisher of the Washington Post, in an article printed on December 30, 2007, sites a case against Jeffery Howell of Scottsdale Arizona, in which Howell is being sued for loading more than 2,000 songs from his personal music collection to his PC. Lawyers are arguing and citing a series of court cases over the last few decades that that" found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording".

Implementing these definitional changes will have minimal financial demands and the as we are living in a global universe these days, the World Trade Organization is the ideal agent for implementing these changes in the laws. Daniel argues that the ISP's and the record companies are specifically engineered to change and adapt quickly, but as implementers of the change they are too close to the issue at hand. The advantages/disadvantages of the change give record companies a bias that cannot be overlooked, and a third party organization such at the WTO is ideal to monitor and oversee these changes worldwide. The RIAA has proven time and again that they are too close the issue to provide clear insight, as shown in their lawsuit against a disabled single mom, Tammy Anderson, who purportedly downloaded gangster rap songs to her home computer. Iain Thompson of the San Francisco Times reported ruling in an article on August 18, 2008, where Andersen's lawyers were awarded costs and interest by a US Federal Court, totally more than $100,000.

This argument that where our music comes from does matter, as Daniel asserts, is relative. There are many people who truly do not care, as long as they get the songs that they are looking for. Providing a means to download music and other IP's legally and without threat of prosecution is the basis of this argument, and in doing so also establishing a method for compensating the artists for their art.

Faris' response - Negation 2

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Debate: Part 4 - Negation 2

Negation 2
From Faris Sharif

In this essay, I will talk about two things: one, how downloading music is trying to be enforced around the world and, two, how the changing the name of piracy would not help anything. Carolyn said, "there is nothing simple and clear cut when it comes to regulating and policing internet piracy", as everybody knows everything in this world is not always going to be 100% effective, there will always be a flaw in the system and someone will find a way around it. Although the methods are somewhat "flawed and ineffective", they still are catching some individuals.

James stated a good point on if he bought a limited edition collectible version of an album, but wanted to keep it sealed to keep the value. Technically he did buy the album, but he hasn't opened it so he can't listen to it. Now, James believes that since he has already bought a copy of the album that it is okay to download it, wrong. You only bought the right to one copy of the album, and just because you bought the right to a copy of it does not mean that you can now go download it. That is unsound because the artist is selling you one copy of the album, not an unlimited amount. It is not a membership when you buy something of an artist; it is just that specific thing. You do not just buy one thing and get the similar thing.

In an attempt to stopping music piracy, on August 24 2007, from an article from Western Austrailia, Crime Stoppers is looking several teens to help stop music piracy. The teens will be awarded $1000 grant for their school. Not only is the RIAA helping to cut down music piracy, kids are too.

In an article published July 28th 2007 by Fred Reed of the Washington Post, Reed claims that the "labels are not working to deter illegal downloading largely because the public doesn't care, …", the reason why labels are not working so hard is because you have teenagers and adults thinking it is okay to download music for free. They do not know the real truth about illegal downloading and may not even know the punishment if caught. For example, A friend of mine was caught for music piracy was fined $15,000. He was a student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and was using a better version of Limewire that gives you with more access and better bit rate files of music and movies. My friend settled the lawsuit out of court for nearly $12,000. $12,000 is a lot of money these days and kids don't understand the consequences that they could face. I believe that we should have kids help spread the word just like Crime Stoppers is doing. This could be one way to help stop music piracy.

Now to Carolyn's comment on how the RIAA deals with the money from the fines, even though the money is being funded back to the RIAA, they are using to help find more pirates. Although they are not reimbursing the artists nor the record labels, they are still helping to cut pirates down. If they help cut the illegal downloader's than they will be forced to buy the album which then will the record labels and artists regain somewhat a profit.

An article in The Herald on July 15 2008, has broaden their efforts on stopping music piracy. According the The Herald, Scotland residents who download music will be recognized through a "filtering" technology. This will hopefully help prevent the use of file-sharing and help catch those who are downloading music illegally. They will begin sending letters to the biggest illegal downloader's in warning to tell them that they have been identified and will be watched.

These are just a few ways on how music piracy is trying to be abolished. Now I just want to expand on a few ideas that Daniel implemented about how James wanted to change the laws of illegal downloading. As Daniel stated "changing the title of an action to disguise its criminality isn't going to make it have less of an impact on the music industry, or other individuals … that music theft can have." Whether you change the name of something is not going to impact anymore than it already is. A funny analogy is rapper "Sean Combs", he changes his stage name every two years and people still know who he is. Whether you change the name of something does not mean it is going to help change it. Downloading music is illegal and it will stay illegal until they force a way to help make it legal.

In this essay, I have shown you a few ways the music industry, RIAA, and other organizations and governments are trying to stop music piracy. Although music piracy may go on, I believe that someday music pirates will be punished for their actions. Downloading music is illegal, and whether or not they get caught now or later, only time will tell before the government and RIAA cracks down on them. With the technology improving yearly, sometime in the future will all downloadable music be monitored. Overall, I believe that someday artists will get back to their old revenues on their CD's. Piracy is bad and I believe it needs to be reinforced. How would you like it if everyone stole everything you made. Just think about it.

Philip's response - Negation Rebuttal

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Debate: Part 5 - Negation Rebuttal

Negation Rebuttal
From Philip Pirkovic

We have seen a very heated debate take place over the last few days. Today I am going to explain what happened in the debate and tell you how and why the negative side (Daniel, Faris and I) have won. The issue at hand is the infamous question of whether piracy, in this case, downloading music, should remain illegal?

We all know piracy has been, and still is a big issue. To many people, piracy is illegally downloading music, movies, software and even books. The reason behind this is simply because people do not feel like wasting money on things that they can get for free. Being a rational consumer, this makes sense. People think yeah, it is illegal, but the chances of me getting caught and punished are slim to none. On the other hand, we have all of the artists and recording companies losing millions of dollars to this horrible thing called piracy.

One of the main arguments that Mister Gromak (who rambled on with a bunch of nonsense and made me waste eight minutes of my life that I will not be able to get back) brought up is the example of buying a CD, vinyl, or a collector item and not being able to download the songs even thought you have already bought the music. He argues that it should not matter how you get the music. James Gromak states, "Why should it be legal to find and utilize the equipment to record a digital version from your own copy of the vinyl but illegal for you to simply download the same album that has already been digitalized? Either way, you have done the same two things: (1) you have bought the album, and (2) you have it digitally. Why should it matter how you manage to get the digital version, if you have already bought it? I argue that it doesn't and that it shouldn't." Daniel comes back by saying that record companies should step in and take control. He offers a few steps, which I believe, will work. If the record companies provide a key code with the CD, which would allow people to download the songs from the CD if they provide the right code. Faris and Daniel also comment on how when you buy a CD, you buy that version of the CD. You are not allowed to download a higher quality version of the songs. My main man Faris stated that, "That is unsound because the artist is selling you one copy of the album, not an unlimited amount. It is not a membership when you buy something of an artist; it is just that specific thing. You do not just buy one thing and get the similar thing." Which is exactly right. Daniel, Faris and I have won this argument because Gromak and Carolyn provide a weak argument to this point. All they state is that you bought the CD, you have the right to download it. WRONG, it is still ILLEGAL! Negative 1…Affirmative 0

The next point that was brought up and discussed was the issue of changing the name of piracy. Mister Gromak stated that we should change the definition of piracy and make it legal. What is next Mister Gormak? Drugs? If you take one thing that is illegal and make it legal, people will push for more and more. Soon, because of your "great" idea, drugs will be legal. Is that what you want? Your buddy Carolyn also goes on to say that "Re-defining piracy is not going to change the amount of downloading that is taking place, but it will serve to eliminate the unlawful witch hunts that are currently in place." If we do what Mister Gromak has proposed, What will happen is that it will encourage more people to download illegally because, well, it doesn't sound like it's so bad. What Daniel proposed is to re-brand piracy. One of the reasons why people do not take it serious because people do not know how bad it really is. He gives the example of words "freedom fighter" and "terrorist". Although they technically mean the same thing, people will react dramatically differently to them when they encounter them". If we re-band piracy and make it the bad thing that it really is, people will stop it. It all relates back to image. People have this image that Piracy is not bad. A common thing that people think is that the rappers and other musicians have ALL the money in the world. They are so rich, that one little CD will not hurt them at all. In reality, it does. If we make piracy seem as bad as people think it is, then it will be decreased dramatically. Negative 2…Affirmative 0.

Another thing that Gromak and Carolyn both tried to do was get you to feel bad. They brought up a few cases where people were caught for pirating music and getting prosecuted. They tried to make you feel bad by saying she didn't make that much money, she had a few kids and so on. However, she did BREAK THE LAW. She knew before hand that there was a chance of being caught. It was a choice that she made and now her and her family have to live with the consequences. This is like saying that we should feel bad for drug dealers that get caught. This makes no sense. We cannot start letting people who break the law off the hook just because they have a family. Once again another weak argument from the affirmative side. Negative 3…Affirmative 0

The last point I am going to talk about was the point that Gromak debated heavily. Gromak ranted on and on about how the RIAA was unethical and illegal. Excuse me Mister Gromak, since when was hunting down someone that breaks that law unethical? I don't know where you learned your ethics are, but they are truly messed up. You go on to state that "So where does all this money the RIAA is getting go? To the artists or record labels of the "stolen" songs? No. It goes into the RIAA's funds for more downloader hunting." You say that the artist's should be reimbursed and the RIAA does not do that. You are correct there, the first right thing you have said this whole time. However, what you did not focus on is the impact the RIAA is having. My main man Faris could not have said it any better when he stated, "Although they are not reimbursing the artists nor the record labels, they are still helping to cut pirates down. If they help cut the illegal downloader's than they will be forced to buy the album which then will the record labels and artists regain somewhat a profit." What you have failed to see with your little eyes is that when the RIAA cracks down on, let me state this point to you one more time ILLEGAL piracy done by people, people will be less likely to download. Hence, making BUYING, not downloading, the only option to get legal music. Once again, another point for the negative. Negative 4…Affirmative 0

Another point that the great Gromak and Carolyn did not bring into play was all of the money loss due to piracy. According to TechWeb, Global music piracy robs the United States of $12.5 billion in economic output and more than 71,000 jobs annually, according to a new study in August 2007. U.S. workers lose $2.7 billion in earnings to music piracy. The recording industry loses about $5.33 billion, while retailers lose about $1.4 billion. According to Stephen E. Siwek, author and principal with Economists Inc., wrote "These direct losses then cascade through the rest of the U.S. economy and the losses of economic output, jobs, and employee earnings multiply," The United States loses more than 46,000 production-level jobs and nearly 25,000 retail jobs due to music piracy. The U.S. government and its citizens lose $422 million in tax revenue, according to TechWeb. That figure includes $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in corporate income and production taxes. Not once did I ever think that me downloading or pirating music online would have that type of long run effect. And I think that most people do not think that either. When you download illegally music, movies or software, think about all of the money that is forgone by taxes. This comes back to hurt us. The government loses this money in taxes because no purchases are made, just downloaded. We are not even talking about movies or software, just music. According to Kevin O'Brien from the May 2008 edition of The International Herald Tribune, Software piracy cost global businesses $47.8 billion in lost revenue last year, up 20 percent from 2006. We are talking about $47.8 billion dollars lost just due to software piracy. No movies, no music, no books, just software. I do not care how rich someone is, no one can afford to lose that much money. Especially in today's world, with how bad the economy has been. According to Mark Reynolds, a group manager of Microsoft stated that "It is generally believed that on average one in every four software programs currently in use is an illegal copy." Without anyone on the affirmative mentioning any of these things, the point goes to the negative. Negative 5…Affirmative 0

In conclusion, this debate was like I said a very heated debate. I think that Mister Gromak was basing all of his thoughts on emotion because he feels so strongly about the subject. In reality, we all know that piracy is illegal and it should remain illegal. There is nothing good coming out of piracy being legal, not one thing.

Kevin's response - Affirmative Rebuttal

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Debate: Part 6 - Affirmative Rebuttal

Affirmative Rebuttal
From Kevin McConnell

My rebuttal is solely directed at Philip's negative rebuttal. In this rebuttal I will focus on Philip's main arguments and state why they are flawed and consist of fallacies. Philip states the issue is "Wether piracy, in this case, should remain illegal?", this, in fact, is not the issue. Piracy will always be illegal, thats why it's piracy, the problem is distribution of media.

In Philip's first argument he states that buying a music CD then downloading a digital copy for yourself is wrong by saying "You bought one copy of the CD not an unlimited amount". For one thing this is a fallacy, the consumer has bought the album which is not piracy, but under current laws it is copyright infringement. I feel as long as the consumer bought the physical album they should be able to have a digital version of the same quality and format to complement their CD. In our day and age with MP3 sales on the rise and CD player sales are waning, a digital version is a good solution to curtail a majority of copyright infringement because consumers want CDs' for their cars and digital versions for their iPods. When you buy an album, you buy the songs on the album, this should be in any format. Artist shouldn't be able to charge for different versions of the same song. Daniel has a viable solution "If the record companies provide a key code with the CD, which would allow people to download the songs from the CD if they provide the right code". This is were Philip commits a fallacy, tu quoque, this is committed because Faris states "That is unsound because the artist is selling you one copy of the album, not an unlimited amount. It is not a membership when you buy something of an artist; it is just that specific thing. You do not just buy one thing and get the similar thing." The issue of downloading a digital version of an album and purchasing a physical copy of the album is still considered illegal, but with todays high-tech world the RIAA should reconsider the laws regarding this issue.

Philip brings up his next point of rebranding piracy and how it would not change how people view piracy. Rebranding piracy will change the public's view of copyright infringement as long it is not spun in a negative manner. If the public knew the laws regarding copying a CD for personal use the general consensus would be in favor of changing the laws. The image of internet pirates isn't very fitting with those who are caught, the RIAA focuses on family oriented, middle class citizens who pirated for personal use, in order to deter piracy. This enrages the public, the RIAA should focus on those who download and distribute digital media, this would deter piracy dramatically. Prosecuting the average family won't help the RIAA nor the artist image, the RIAA should go after the pirates who bring a camcorder into the movie theater or the peddlers on the street selling bootleg DVDs.

Philip's next point he brings up alleged an fallacy, the appeal to pity, however he continues of use the fallacies of generalization and bad analogy. Philip brings up an example of a women and her family was caught committing the act of piracy and was prosecuted, he said they should pay the price for breaking the law, I say who is this women where are his sources? Philip brought up a bad analogy of comparing this women to drug dealers by stating, "She knew before hand that there was a chance of being caught. It was a choice that she made and now her and her family have to live with the consequences. This is like saying that we should feel bad for drug dealers that get caught. This makes no sense." Philip, drug dealing is no way comparable to piracy or copyright infringement, you can't download a drug, copy, or share drugs over the internet.

Philip's next point regards my parter Mr.Gromak and his personal views on the RIAA and their ethics, Philip you state that Gromak's ethics are "truly messed up", this the well known fallacy of Ad Hominem, you are attacking the person, not the argument. I am not attacking you, I'm pointing out the flaws in your argument. Next you prove our point by stating that money the RIAA receives from court settlements does not going to the artist, but for "downloader hunting". Faris states "Although they are not reimbursing the artists nor the record labels, they are still helping to cut pirates down. If they help cut the illegal downloaders than they will be forced to buy the album which then will the record labels and artists regain somewhat a profit.", Faris, I'm sure that those who are prosecuted for pirating are not worrying that they have legally buy media, they now have more important issues. The artist's image is not improved, the loss is not regained, and piracy only alleviated by a fraction of a percentage.

I must admit Philip and his group's next point is correct, the revenue lost from piracy. The loss of revenue in United States alone is in the billions, but Philip fails to bring up the benefit of piracy to numerous companies. This companies are hardware manufactures and Operating System producers. This includes companies such as VoodooPC and Microsoft. According to Todd Hollenshead, CEO of iD Games states "There is hidden benefit of piracy... but for computer makers, not video game producers. There's a very real and admitted benefit to computer manufacturers -- but that doesn't mean that there also isn't a benefit for the video game makers themselves.", he follows with "Get PC makers to finance new games, pointing out that if they give out the games for free it will help drive more people to buy the next generation of high powered PCs that are needed to run the games. In that way, everyone can benefit.". Computer sales will increase if new hardware is required to run the programs. Computer manufactures are not the only ones to benefit from piracy, MP3 player manufactures such as Apple, sell more iPods to consumers who have pirated music in order to listen to songs with their device. Microsoft the manufacture and creator of the largest distributed operating system in the world, Windows, admits the company benefits from online piracy. The president of Microsoft Corporations' business division states " Our number one goal is that we want people to use our product. If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else, and that's because we understand that in the long run the fundamental asset is the install base of people who are using our products." If two of the largest companies in the computer industry benefit from piracy, their must be an angle that you guys are missing.

The problem is not piracy, but distribution of digital media, and it's blurred regulations regarding this new obstacle in technology. We must refocus on creating a solution to deter piracy, which will not come without compromise to consumers and artist.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Marx and the Bible

Annotation/research paper for my Bible/Apocrypha class. god is a closet Marxist!

What was supposed to be a dramatically shorter annotation that grew into something .. kind of silly. Was an interesting read, though. I forgot to email myself back the final two paragraphs when I finished it on campus, and will add those later.

Marx and the Bible, written by Jose Porfirio Miranda and translated by John Eagleson, attempts to make the argument that Exodus and the prophets are revelations of the "Transcendent God," whom is also known as the "Liberator of the Oppressed." To be more specific, Miranda argues, both in the introduction and throughout the 300 page, highly academic and densely-written work that Yahweh exists exclusively to deliver [his] people from oppression. As covered extensively in chapter 3, God's Intervention in History, Miranda argues highly effectively that the only instances that Yahweh appears and actually does anything is to free his people from oppression, and that His hand and the voice of the prophets appear only when Israel – or another group of people - is treating it's poor and downtrodden with injustice. Miranda's ultimate goal with this work is nothing short of a complete reworking of the economic and theological systems that have allowed for and even enabled the rise of capitalism. Although Miranda's arguments are often compelling, he does little to address alternate arguments (such as those in favor of a capitalistic system), instead keeping his argumentative focus specifically on the interpretation of the words found in the Bible, and those of various Papist documents. He also heavily employs a variety of dialectic methods, occasionally citing but more often than not assuming that the reader has read the works that he references. Although possibly acceptable to the theologian and scholar in general, it made for frustrated reading as I personally have not read anything that he cited. Marx and the Bible, published in 1974 under the Library of Congress denotation of BS 511.2.M5713, is thrown into an argument that, as I have learned in reading it, has been ongoing for sometime; is God a communist?

That actually isn't the argument that's going on, although interpretations of Yahweh as a Marxist – and Marx as a Yahwist – are found throughout the work. In the first chapter, Private Ownership Under Challenge, Miranda asserts that private ownership is a terrible crime, both to a non-religious society but particularly to any Judaeo-Christian group. This is primarily due to the inherent unfairness of labor/wage contracts; the only way that a worker would sell the only thing he can – his labor – for the low rates that the employer (or: the controller of the means of production) will pay is if he is either under duress ("No one could convince us that we are free to pay or not to pay what is charged for a loaf of bread. This is determined by entrepreneurs as a group. You pay it or you die of hunger. (p. 10)) or has no alternate choice in the system. Although several popes have argued that as long as the original capital was justly (we'll return to this shortly) acquired, then the wage/labor contract is inherently fair; however, Miranda asserts clearly that there is no way that one group of people, regardless of historicity, could have acquired so much of the capital of one (or more) groups of people without violence or spoliation. About this system, he says that
"There has never existed a socio-cultural system whose refined constrictive power was so capable of entrapping and hooking people on such deep and psychic levels as the capitalist system. Not only does it make them believe they are free, but it makes them consider inserting themselves into the system and assisting it to function as a life ideal. For the slaves of old there was at least the interior freedom of knowing they were slaves; at least in that little corner of their soul they were free. ... If by chance they should escape, they have no choice by to return; it is the only way they can survive. (pg. 22-23)
Although not speaking directly or necessarily about capitalism, Miranda also says just after that "Only intellectual blindness could lead one to assert that the working-class masses accept the wage system with true freedom, the wage system on which the Western socio-economic system as a whole is based." The author's feelings on capitalism and any wage-based system become pretty apparent, although he supports each argument with eloquence and heavy citation.

His other central point to the first chapter is the attempt to redefine what it means to be just; "Since at least the sixth century A.D., a bald fact has been systematically excluded from theological and moral consideration: "To give alms" in the Bible is called "to do justice." To give alms essentially reverts to giving materially to another person as an act of goodwill or religious virtue. Miranda takes great effort to explain that not only is this mandated by not merely the Bible but God himself, as the manifestation of God occurs only to free people from oppression – and the closest that a mortal can approach to God is through charity, fairness, and being just to the poor. The difficulty with this is that in order to be truly just, no man can be rich; Miranda states this multiple times throughout the book, and the following passage illustrates this in a most interesting way:
"Many have sinned for the sake of profit; he who hopes to be rich must be ruthless. A peg will
stick in the joint between two stones, and sin will wedge itself between selling and buying."
(Ecclus. 27:1-2)
Miranda also makes absolutely no distinction between "good" and "evil" rich men; to him, the trouble with individual ownership instead of communal has nothing to do with the individual, but the act itself. He says that, "Unless one person has lost, another cannot find," suggesting that in order for one man to profit in any tangible way, the other man whom he bargained with must have lost something in the deal - as otherwise, things like surpluses and profits cannot exist, and only through those two things can trade between groups arise. Because only through the exploitation of the working man can profits arise, Miranda also says on page 19 that
"...therefore alms giving is nothing more than a restitution of what has been stolen, and the Bible calls it justice."
I am inclined to agree with him.

Chapter 2, or The God of the Bible, tends to be a chapter with less focus on modern arguments and socialism as an in-depth look at the God of both the New and Old Testament. Instead of the careful and well-measured prose intermingled with papal edicts and modern literary analysis, the second chapter revolves around actual Biblical passages concerning the immaterial nature of Yahweh, and what it means to know Yahweh. On this, Miranda provides the reader with a series of passages from the Old Testament; "He defended the cause of the poor and the needy; is this not what it means to know me? It is Yahweh who speaks" (Jor. 22:16) and later, "I will not accept your offerings and sacred ceremonies; what I demand is that you do justice to the poor and needy." (Hos. 6:6)
He concludes that "The meaning of "to know Yahweh" is thus all the more clear, almost like a technical term: to have compassion for the needy and to do justice to them." (pg. 48)

Following comes God's Intervention in History, in which Miranda begins his linguistic analysis of much of the Bible with a focus on the Old Testament. This section of the book is particularly where a knowledge of ancient Greek and Hebrew would have been particularly useful, as Miranda references it liberally and, it would seem, with the assumption that the reader is familiar with both. Due to this, it's difficult to develop an opposing viewpoint; although what he writes makes a great deal of sense, having absolutely no point of reference makes it troubling to read as it requires a blind acceptance of his arguments – which should never be the case. He goes over one word with high emphasis; mišpat, which appears multiple times throughout his citations, and would seem to mean justice. But not justice in the traditional sense; justice, to modern western man, has little to do with what Miranda argues is the justness of God and righteousness, as modern man is likely swayed by the notion that to follow the law is to be just. Justice, in the original and Biblical sense, is rather to give alms to the poor and ensure that they are not poor. Miranda in chapter 4 will return to the notions of laws and justice.

The third chapter is also the section where Miranda begins to elaborate on exactly when and why God intervenes in the affairs of humans. According to and well-supported by Miranda is the thesis that God/Yahweh appears and manifests his power only in one situation: when his people are oppressing their own poor, or when other groups are oppressing his people. On page 78 he says,
"Yahweh's intervention in our history has only one purpose. Here (in Isaiah 42:5-7) it is explicit: "to serve the cause of justice"." and on the page preceding, "...Yahweh is the God who breaks into human history to liberate the oppressed."
It's an interesting theory, and try as I might I was hard pressed to refute it, aside from perhaps the story of Jonah – although to be fair, it was never explained exactly what the citizens of Nineveh. His careful analysis is also made clear with passages such as,
"Ezekiel uses phrases such as the following 78 times: "You shall know I am Yahweh when I do such a thing ..." For example, "They shall know I am Yahweh when I break their yokestraps and release them from the hand of their captors." (Ezek. 34:27)" (pg. 81)

"The only meaning of the law is to do justice, in the strictest, most social sense of the word." (pg. 146) In chapter four, or Law and Civilization, Miranda examines western law in the context of both modern times and the time immediately proceeding the death of Christ. He does this through a variety of methods, primarily relying on side-by-side examinations of Biblical passages. These very frequently come not so much from the Old Testament but from the various writings of the Apostle Paul, although the destruction versus the damnation of Soddom and Gomorrha are also looked at. Miranda sets out to make the argument that only through Christ and, in a paralell sense, Yahweh/God can true justice be found – as the slaying of the Christ could not have been just, yet it was by the laws of Israel that he was killed.
"You have broken with Christ if you look for justice in the law; you have fallen from grace." (Gal 5:4)
Miranda further explains and rationalizes the crucifixion of Christ in this way:
"Let me repeat: For us to be free from the law it was necessary that the law crucify Christ before our eyes; only in this way could we understand that justice does not come through the law. Therefore Paul says that he has nothing else to preach but Christ crucified (as in 1st Cor. 1:23)." (pg. 189)

As civilization is built directly on top of and is dependent upon laws – which, Miranda has established, are unjust – then civilization in general is equally as unjust. The only laws that should be followed and can offer any sort of justness are those directly handed down by Yahweh, as they were designed to protect the poor and the oppressed – the very thing that Israel was when Yahweh decided to initially intervene in their history. As to the laws, however,
"It's clear that for the prophets the law is important only because its content of justice. Thus, when they proclaim that Yahweh rejects Israel, the law as law does not serve them as a point of support subsistent on itself. The law as such has no substance for them." (pg. 167)
His evidence throughout the chapter is once again primarily examinations of Biblical passages, both through the Old Testament and the New, in addition to some linguistic analysis. Miranda also freely interjects ideas and sometimes opposing thoughts from other writers, but, as with previous chapters, he assumes that the reader is already familiar with them and thus, doesn't bother to quote them – rendering many of the passages incomprehensible.

Chapter 5, or Faith and Dialectics, attempts to pull all of the criteria concerning justice and the law that Miranda established in the four preceding chapters into the concepts laid out by Marx. It is here that Miranda's goal becomes apparent and is realized; by linking what he considers to be the absolute purpose of both Christ and Yahweh – to free Israel/the Gentiles from oppression – with his established idea that the modern economy and the wage contract system is inherently unfair, he creates an interesting paralell to Marxist concepts. It very often seems as though Miranda, and even Paul, are anarchists, as very often their complaints are not merely with the law but also with the state, which is founded atop civilization and the law. Neither provides much of an alternative aside from Christ, alms-giving and good works, unfortunately, each assuming that to know Christ is to be just. On page 204, Miranda writes:
"Paul is convinced not only that the law has failed in human history in its attempt to achieve justice, but also that justice will not be achieved in this world as long as the law exists."
"If justice comes by means of the law, then Christ died in vain." (Gal. 2:21)
Paul and Marx also come together in this chapter:
"Paul and Marx coincide in their intuition of the totality of evil: Sin and injustice form an all-comprehensive and all-pervasive organic structure. Paul called this totality "kosmos". Marx calls it capitalism. But if Marx does not recognize that capitalism is the consummation and deepening of the oppression which was inherent to human civilization since biblical times, then it is denying dialectics and attributing the birth of capitalism to exterior causes, exactly as metaphysics and mechanistic materialism would do it. Mao Tse Tung asks, "Why is it that the Chinese revolution can avoid a capitalist future and be directly linked with socialism without taking the old historical road of the Western countries, without passing through a period of bourgeois dictatorship?" And he can ask this precisely because the structuralization of injustice into total civilization already existed before capitalism." (pg. 250)
Although Miranda is particularly effective at dismantling well thought of concepts and entranched ideals, he lacks a real voice in suggesting alternatives to the status quo; although he might convince people that socialism really is the true path of Christ and a necessary way to enable a society to be just, he does little to address specifics of how this can be achieved. This may be, however, due to Miranda's propensity to employ the work of other people without directly quoting it – it's entirely possible that he's more than willing to lean back after the revolution and be pleased with whatever just .. happens. It makes for an ultimately unsatisfying work, and fails in the context of the larger debate; sure, there should be change. He effectively describes why, and even to an extent, how this might be accomplished. But he doesn't say what should happen after that - "Everything will be just" - is simply naïve.

Throughout Marx and the Bible, Miranda revisits a variety of themes, although his favorite – or perhaps the one he considers to be the most important aside – is the foundation of Greek philosophy. He accuses it of forcing a materialism, a fetishization of physical objects and of the displacement of man as a living, breathing being from the equation. He also argues that its foundations and those with which modern civilization/laws were built upon is inherently dependant upon maintaining the status quo – and, as he has demonstrated in a variety of ways throughout, the status quo is generally a poor state of living. In chapter 1, he writes:
"For the Bible is nothing like the "neutral arbitration" which the Greco-Roman tradition imposed on us, a so-called neutral arbitration whose unimpeded task is to preserve the status quo by overcoming with force whoever challenges it. For the Bible, law consists in finally achieving justice for the poor and oppressed of the world. Completely opposite to the defense of the status quo, the realization of justice not only subverts it, but it also demands that we abolish the state and the law. ... Anyone who believes that a total change of attitude is possible without a total change of the mental system does not know what a mental system is."
(pg. 22)
This is a theme that Miranda revisits often, and to great effect; he quotes Aristotle as saying, "Truth is incompatible with the condition of the slave."
This work is important because it addresses as aspect of the God of Abraham that is seldom addressed - what it means to know him, and to do his works. More than the contextual definitions that he has provided throughout, Marx and the Bible shows that almost the entirety of modern Christianity is not merely off-track, but outright wrong. Although opponents of organized religion are not rare and are never anything but outspoken, very seldomly do they approach the question of justness, fairness, and overall correctness of both the institution and civilization as a whole with the troubling accuracy and candor that Miranda presents his case with. Although the debate between socialism and capitalism has all but died off in all but academic circles in the United States, this work should still be read - if only so that the notion that God is a closet Marxist can become more widespread.
What is at stake in this argument is the prosperity of all people, and not merely the class of people capable of the production of material goods. Particularly considering that it is that same class of people that ensure that Christianity is the dominant, prevailing mindset in the United States in particular - that they are using a philosophy that is directly antithetical to their methodology of governance and economics is something that the people exploited by their system should and deserve to know. The people that are abused and manipulated not merely by the laws, the state, and the prevailing economic theories should know that they are being manipulated also through their faith. This work, or at least the ideas presented within it, should also be reviewed by those disenfranchised with oganized religion, as I found that Marx and the Bible provided me with more reason to accept not only Christ but Yahweh as divine and just than any other argument I've ever encountered. It's a shame that they're incompatible with thought processes too firmly entrenched; Marx and the Bible is an interesting took for conversion.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New McDonald's Sign:

New mcdonalds sign: 90210 taste. 48503 price.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Game Criticism

Presentation/speech I had to give for Public and Professional Writing. I didn't really follow the directions, provide visual cues, or even focus on the actual presentation of the thing: I delivered it straight-up as a speech read from my laptop, and ad-libbed two minutes when I realized it wasn't long enough. It's filled with lies and inaccuracies, but I got an A on it anyway.

According to metacritic.com, the new PC game Dead Space garnered a perfect score from six gaming institutions. This speaks directly to a problem that permeates the gaming criticism industry at large; the tendancy for a journalist to enjoy a product so much that they forget the function of their position. Gaming journalists are not employed to be fanboys, are not employed to write about the passion they find in a game, no, although these both are things they may do – however, the function of a gaming journalist is rather to analyze, criticize and demonstrate an understanding not only of the game but the game in the context into which it falls. No game is ever released in a vacuum, and all ideas presented within it are a culmination of those that came before; innovation is rare and is certainly to be celebrated, but the pillars that a new game is built upon must also be acknowledged, and often, many current journalists do not employ this. Gaming criticism and art criticism are terribly similar in many ways, and the tenets that bind both are the same; rigorous examination of theme, composition, flow, and the effect on the viewer are among the chief attributes. However, many gaming journalists fail in this regard, doing a disservice to the gaming industry at large, the readership, and most importantly, the consumer that must spend his hard-earned money on the games they review. By failing that most important aspect, the failure to effectively deliver a fair criticism of a game, they trick consumers into purchasing products that, had they been made more aware of faults found within, would have never purchased.

I humbly request a position at Eurogamer for the very reasons above; I have, over the last decade, learned the art of criticism, both by reading a great deal of it and writing a great deal of my own. I have selected Eurogamer above all other companies because I believe, both through your mission statement and the quality of the work found on your website, that it is the optimal place to provide hard gaming criticism. What I will bring to Eurogamer is just that; hard, effective criticism, driven always with the consumer and he forwarding of the gaming institution at the forefront of mind.

As I spoke about in my personal letter, addressed [date], I am currently writing for my university's newspaper, the Michigan Times. Although I am not a particular fan of the overwhelmingly right-leaning content found in the editorial section, I no less do my absolute best work at criticism for them at all times, and genuinely believe that I have made the Arts section of their newspaper a more informative, intelligent, and worthy place for consumers to help determine which pieces of media are worth paying money for. In the first issue of the newspaper, I wrote about the newest Metallica album, Death Magnetic, and although I found a very small handful of the tracks to be worthy of the legacy originally perpetuated by the band in the late 1980's, I found their newest attempt at metal – which, at this point, is really more hard rock than anything else – to be derivative of other bands writing music in the modern day, stale, and though a great deal of effort was put into it, uninspired. I received a small volume of negative feedback for this criticism from members of the community, and although I read them with the possibility that I had misjudged the album in mind, I found that, in the end, the standards that were determined to be used by the newspaper – artistic merit, ingenuity and a sense of forwarding the art – were higher than that small minority of readers. As an aside, I received more positive and intelligent feedback for my work on Death Magnetic than negative.

My focus in education has been in communication, although I do not have a communications degree – I will be attaining a Bachelor's Degree in the Arts – English shortly, and feel quite strongly that the key to effective communication is to have a clear understanding of the impact, effect and motivational shifts that using the proper phrase, tone, and prose structure can have on an audience, whether they be peers, readers, or superiors. I chose English with a specialization in writing because I feel that analysis and ideas can best be delivered by the written word, and as such, have placed great emphasis on bettering my prose. As such, I feel that my extensive writing background would bring an excellent vantage to your institution.

I have also recently begun an internship for the celebrity-news oriented website (Yes, Kathy, it worked) thecelebritycafe.com. Although I personally find the paparazii-style celebrity-mongering format of their site deplorable, I have no less contributed my best work to it. In that capacity, I seek to provide news about the media industry at large, and most recently wrote an article detailing the Supreme Court discussions regarding the usage of profanity on prime-time television. I have placed effort also into covering aspects of celebrity life that focus not on specific celebrities, such as their children and love lives, but the issues that affect them, such as wages, film box-office profits, and striking writers. Well, I would have covered that ideally, but I was not yet interning there when the writer's strike was occuring. My editor and boss – a man named Dominick, whom I know primarily as DSMinderino over an instant messaging program – has told me that he is quite pleased with my work, saying that it provides a hard news angle to their website to help put the celebrity gossip which permeates their website into a better context for their readers, and that it has garnered substantial praise from the community.

While I spend most of my time for the Celebrity Cafe covering news elements, I also write music reviews, providing in-depth analysis and examinations of theme, flow, content and outright enjoyability. My work in this context, while typically longer and I would argue more thought-provoking than many of the other, one hundred “I like it or I don't but don't have a reason why” reviews, has garnered further praise from my employer, and solicits more reactions from the readership of the website than many of the other reviews posted. I believe that this has occurred not due to any particular stylistic differences between myself and the other writers, but because my commitment to the Celebrity Cafe is different; although for some simply stating that they enjoyed an album is enough, my responsibility – my overrriding and completely encompassing responsibility – is to the consumer, and to providing them with the information that they need to determine if an artist is listening to.

Throughout my life, I have worked for a number of institutions whose business practice, ethics, codes of conducts and methodologies I disagreed with, both for moral and social reasons. However, I persevered, much as I do at the Celebrity Cafe, and was granted recognition through employee evaluations and employee of the month awards multiple times. This is because my responsibilities to myself are left at the door – when under employment, my absolute focus is not on doing what I personally enjoy, but doing what I am instructed to do in as timely and effective of a manner as possible. Sometimes, this is difficult; selling warranties on a product that you know cannot be fulfilled, providing accessories to items that are useless, and guaranteeing that returns are always painless and easy. Although I performed my functions well and stayed well ahead of quotas, I kept always the good of the consumer in mind, always asking questions of myself like, “Am I selling a product that is the easiest to sell, or am I selling the product that will most benefit the consumer?”

I always chose and ensured I was making the latter decision.

I, again, ask to become a staff writer at Eurogamer. My skillbase, knowledge of gaming, both in PC, console, and tabletop, is terribly high, and I have taken great effort and pride in my attempts in learning as much as I can about the industry. I would use this knowledge, combined with my analytical skills, honed through years of literary composition, to better not only the publication itself but but the consumers that read – and depend on – effective analysis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Though this isn't about anybody in particular, I liked how it came out and the wording of it. Missed an IM from someone last night, and sent..

===== me wrote=====
Sorry for missing you last night - hope to again maybe soon.

=====XXXXX wrote=====
you hope to miss me again?

====me wrote====
er, miswrote that; i hope to have another opportunity to speak with you, although wanting to miss you implies a certain desire to speak or be in contact with you; thus, in a sense, i do hope to miss you again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Internet Piracy and You

Copy/paste of the speech I have to give in about .. 21 minutes.

Position Speech: Piracy is Awesome

In an interview with portfolio.com – the web version of the business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio – Jim Griffin, a music industry veteran working with Warner Music said that it has become "purely voluntary to pay for music". With the rise of easily-replicated media, it's easy to see why – grabbing the new Bloc Party album is an easy affair, consisting of pointing your web browser to the correct site and waiting for thirty minutes. Given the ease with which consumers can illegally download not only music, but also movies, computer software and books, it's obvious that the producers of any sort of digital media need to employ new methods if they wish to remain in business and profitable.

Although it is currently illegal to download any sort of media in almost any capacity if you're not paying for it, consumers continue to do so. In an interview on informationweek.com, the IPI – the Institute for Policy Innovation, a group focused on monitoring and making recommendations for economic growth to businesses in the United States – claimed that "global music piracy robs the United States of $12.5 billion in economic output and more than 71,000 jobs annually." The only legal recourse at the moment for the recording industry is, at the moment, to sue people in civil courts, in varying quantities depending on what the RIAA – the Recording Industry of America – believes to be the financial damages that downloaders caused to the record company that owned the rights to the downloaded album. In 2003, the group took 261 file-swappers to court, according to news.cnet.com. Some of them were held liable for $150,000 in damages. Most accepted settlements, averaging from $2,000 per infraction to $12,000. Given that not just music, but piracy of all kinds has continued to grow in the five years since 2003, it is apparent that suing individuals and failing to adjust to the demands of a new, high-speed internet based market is simply not working for the producers of intellectual property.

The trouble with the statistic quoted above about $12.5 billion losses due to music piracy in 2007 is that it assumes that every instance of an illegally downloaded song, had it not been pirated, would have actually been paid for. Groups like the IPI and the RIAA are fond of citing the drop in CD sales that occurred during the early 2000's and late 1990's, arguing that the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing – the first major tool developed for illegally downloading music – was directly responsible for the decline in record sales. They fail entirely to acknowledge any number of other possible elements responsible for this, whether they're due to economic reasons, like people not having the money to buy five $20 albums each week, or reasons of taste, or any number of any things.

Their argument is symbolic of the systemic problem with the methods in which most of the media industry is employing to combat piracy; because it’s so easy to do and the chances of prosecution so rare, and the benefits of piracy greatly outweigh the benefits of purchasing items, consumers have little incentive to go about getting their music, movies and games in a legal manner.

In order for the music industry to return to profitability and to cut the losses incurred from illegal downloading, a series of measures must be taken. First and foremost, media must have a product that is better than what can be downloaded illegally, and there are a number of ways in which this can be done. DVDs can have online-exclusive content, accessible only by people that purchased the product in a store. Buying an album can guarantee rights to download it as long as the record company is in business, ensuring that the death of a computer hard drive or a scratch on a CD doesn't mean that you lose access to the album. Computer games have attained a modicum of success with this, granting people that purchased the game access to new, downloadable content and the ability to download digital copies of the game in the future.

Second, the producers of content must cease in the punishment of people that legitimately pay for said content. Since the inception of computer gaming, CD keys – a set of numbers and letters found typically in the instruction manual for a game – must be input before the game can be installed. The actual CD or DVD must also be in the computer, a so-called security feature that forces the consumer to buy a new disc if they lose their original copy or accidentally damage it. In the recently released PC game called Spore, users were initially allowed to install it three times – ever. That means that if you buy a new computer every two or three years, you wouldn’t be able to play it without buying another copy after a decade. When a consumer purchases an item, it should become his forever – forcing the people that legitimately pay for a product to combat those that would rather not pay is wrong-minded and counterproductive, as Spore quickly became one of the highest-downloaded games in thepiratebay.com history. Across the media spectrum, making personal backup copies of CDs, DVDs and games is not merely frowned upon, but a federal offense – even if it’s only for personal use! Not permitting consumers to have a backup copy of any form of media for personal use in the case of loss or damage to it is unnecessary, and permitting consumers to easily do this would greatly enhance the reason to actually pay for a product – instead of illegally downloading it.

Jim Griffin, working in tandem with Warner Music, has come up with a novel approach to the problem. Tack on a surcharge to an internet access bill, distribute the money made among record companies and media producers, and permit consumers to download all of the music they want. Although I don't believe that this is either a fair or ultimately effective path to take, I believe that they are taking the correct approach – it's innovative and it demonstrates that, at least to an extent, companies are beginning to accept the nature of the modern downloading internet. Disney, infamous for it's prosecution of infringements upon it's copyrighted image of Mickey Mouse, is also changing the way that it views the modern media world. As reported on paidcontent.org, Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney acknowledged that "piracy is a business model," and that "it exists to serve a need in the market." They plan to place some of their television content on the internet in a high-quality format, and package it with advertising. Although pirating the show would remove the ads, it would likely be much lower quality and a larger hassle to do – this is exactly the sort of behavior that television companies need to universally adopt if they wish to continue seeing high revenue from their products. According to the Wall Street Journal, Twentieth Century Fox plans to combat the rampant piracy of their DVDs in Chinese streets by introducing high-quality copies of DVDs for as little as 2$; although this is more expensive than pirated copies, Fox believes that the dramatic increase in quality will persuade consumers to buy official products instead of pirated ones.

Although these solutions and acknowledgments are only the first of a series of changes necessary to curb piracy, they demonstrate that companies are willing to do what it takes – especially since the prosecution of downloaders simply isn't cutting down the quantity of downloads. The primary idea that companies need to understand is that the people paying for their product aren't the criminals, and shouldn't be treated as such – I believe that when consumers feel that not only are they getting a better product for paying, but are also being rewarded for doing so then we will see a dramatic drop in piracy rates. Until then, well – there's always thepiratebay.com.