STOP INTERNET CENSORSHIP!!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (a rock in a cave, deep underground, beyond the realm of even the mole people), you might have heard about two new bills being muscled through congress, as fast as the big entertainment industry corporations can muster, in the name of fighting piracy. The U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). These are bills aimed to curb online piracy, however they do so not by targeting actual pirates, but rather by targeting avenues by which a potential pirate might operate. These bills also give the government the ability to shut down sites based on criteria that the Entertainment industry will define.

These bills will effectively allow the government to censor the internet, and will put this loaded gun squarely in the hands of the big entertainment industry execs, giving them the ability the pull the trigger at will at whoever they want, whether it is justified or not. What gets me even more is the that these kinds of bills, that violate the very constitutional rights of all American citizens, are difficult for me to agree with even when they are used to stop terrorism, and save lives. And yet here we are, having our right violated simply to line the entertainment industries pockets! It’s absolutely disgusting.

And to cap it all off, none of these bills will actually prevent piracy. The vast majority of the cases that these bills will end up be used for will be to squash competition, freedom of speech and expression, and to bring ridiculous lawsuits against innocent Americans and their families. These bills will do nothing more than allow the Government to censor the internet, stifling our freedoms, and will just give Big Entertainment industries more ways to control the media and line their pockets. And that, my friends is not right. We need to fight these bills with everything we’ve got.

Please visit AmericanCensorship.org  to learn more, and fight these bills. They are wrong, they target the wrong people, they give the government unconstitutional rights, and they are flat out un-American. Fight them. Tooth and Nail, Fang and Claw. We can beat them.

Go to this site.

http://americancensorship.org/

Do it. Do it now.

Stop American Censorship

You’ll thank me for it later.

Trust me.

PhyreBlade

Contrary to what the evidence might suggest…

You know, one of the things I find amazing about the current administration is how flexible their definition of events and scenarios are. And how they see whatever they want to see, and declare whatever they see fit, ratified by presidential decree. Even when it is obvious as the light of day that the truth is actually contradictory to the presidents view of things.

Like the President declaring “Mission Accomplished” without having achieved any of the stated mission goals. Or that the national outrage about the war in Iraq is little more than the opinions of a focus group. Or even that global warming is a natural phenomenon. Or that you can win a war with terrorists using conventional warfare. Or that you can introduce national stability into a country torn by civil war using the aforementioned conventional warfare. I could go on, but I think the picture is abundantly clear.

But then again I’ve never governed a country. But when former presidents of said country begin to speak out against the current administrations actions then, well, hey there has to be some merit to it right? Apparently not.

Former president Jimmy Carter, in a recent interview, called out the president on the issue of prisoner torture and the violation of human rights, in regard to:

… secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of “harsh interrogation techniques.” These include “head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures,” – [CNN Politics]

The Prez’s response?:

Responding to the newspaper report Friday, Bush defended the techniques used, saying, “This government does not torture people.” – [CNN Politics]

The white house response?:

After reading a transcript of Carter’s remarks, a senior White House official said, “Our position is clear. We don’t torture.” – [CNN Politics]

Well OK then. I am by no means an authority in torture, however slapping a person upside the head until they sing like a bird, sounds like torture to me. I mean, it ain’t exactly the same as a swedish massage now is it? But if the President and White house officials say it’s not torture, well then I stand corrected!

But if I slap my next door neighbor cross-eyed while attempting to find out what he did with the lawn mower I lent him last year, I better not hear any lip about it from the peanut gallery. And I’ll sue whoever calls the police…

The Southwest Airlines morality police…

You know it never ceases to amaze me how seem to think that immorality can be controlled by censorship. Censorship breeds ignorance. Nothing more. And if one day those who have been shielded from the  vices of life should come face to face with it,  do you think that their ignorance will provide them with the mental tools to deal with it correctly? I If were to hazard a guess, I’d say… no.

Americans are really quick to claim to our “individual freedoms”. However too often it seems like everybody thinks that the term “Individual Freedoms” extend no further than their own person. On an almost daily basis I see people trying to enforce their view of morality upon others, and in the process,  trample underfoot the very values they claim to hold dear, restricting what others can and cannot say, write or, for that matter, wear:

 23-year-old woman who boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona says she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was considered too skimpy.

“You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane,” she quoted the employee as saying.

The employee felt the outfit “revealed too much” but was placated after Ebbert made adjustments that included covering her stomach, Mainz said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this raises so many issues in my head that it’s almost mind boggling.  Like who determines what is considered too revealing? Too revealing for who? Is there wording in the airline contract that prohibits skimpy clothing? Did this employee have any legal right to even say anything to a passenger about this? Was this employee speaking for the company or was the employee using the airline to back up their own individual moral code?

Now these are all very important moral and legal questions. But what is not so obvious are the underlying assumptions that go into a statement like “This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane.” Are we to assume that family values prohibits the exposure of ones midriff on a plane? And whose values might those be?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the parents of said hypothetical “family” be able to explain to the youth of that family the right and wrong with any given attire? What I am asking, in a kind of round about way, is this: Why do people feel the need to shift the responsibility of parenting to everyone else but the parents? Why did this lady have to endure the humiliation she did?

Notwithstanding that fact that a persons dress code is not an accurate indicator of their morals, I believe that any responsible parent should have taught thier children what is considered appropriate clothing in that particular household, and so this should not have been an issue.

And I mean no offense, but it is only those parents who have not taught their kids what is right and wrong, and how to tell the difference, or who are afraid to openly discuss these topics when they come up (say, while buckling in for a short plane ride) that will have problems with this. And that will be because they are not parenting properly, not because of how someone is or isn’t dressed.

Others should not have to bear the burden of parents who don’t really understand what being a parent means. It is not easy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But no parent should have the right to impinge on anothers’ freedoms just to make the job easier. The end result will be ignorant children, living in a confusing world, without the tools to make the right decisions when faced with crises.

Airline tells woman her outfit won’t fly – [Yahoo/AP]

What kind of kids are we raising?

I think that America, as a culture, we have started down a long slippery slope towards self imprisonment. We are stripping away from ourselves the very freedoms we hold dear. I see it every day. Even in some of the most innocuous things:

On the playground of a northern Colorado Springs elementary school, tag is not “it.”

The touch-and-run game and any other form of chasing was banned this year at Discovery Canyon Campus’ elementary school by administrators who say it fuels schoolyard disputes.

“It causes a lot of conflict on the playground,” said Assistant Principal Cindy Fesgen. In the first days of school, before tag was banned, she said students would complain to her about being chased or harassed.

Fesgen said she would hear: “Well, I don’t want to be chased, but he won’t stop chasing me, or she won’t stop chasing me.” – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Is this what we want our kids to do? How do we expect our kids to learn anything about people and life, if every time they run into a problem we ban it wholesale? How are they going to learn how to deal with each other? Learn how to handle people and their idiosyncracies? When will they understand that not everything is going to go our way, and that not everything is under our control?

And even worse, how do we teach those kids what they can and cannot do? How do we teach kids that you cannot harass someone just because? Banning tag isn’t going to teach that. All this teaches them is if you don’t like it, get it banned. No tolerance, no patience, no  understanding. Nothing else will be learned by this action. The playground will have one less game, and the children will have one less avenue  to learn about others and themselves.

 Nationally, several schools have done away with tag and other games because of the accidents and arguments they can lead to. It’s a trend that has rankled some parents and childhood experts who say games such as tag contribute to children’s social and physical development. – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Apparently, even childhood experts can see the flaw in this way of thinking. And yet we have schools, communities, cities, states and even federal legislation that allow exactly the same thing to happen on a national level. What’s the betting that this is all fueled by the same mentality? People don’t seem to be able to see the big picture. It may sound like an unlikely slippery slope, but at the rate we are going, sooner or later, we will legislate ourselves out of our own personal freedoms.

Believe it or not. Your choice. But I have seen enough insanity to tell me that it’s possible. I can only hope we either come to our senses, or I’m not around when we finally lock ourselves in and throw away the key…

Springs elementary gives tag a timeout – [Colorado Springs Gazette]

Here Come the Fashion Police. Literally.

Every time I see a law that is centered around the way a person dresses, I cringe. I cringe because, almost every law that gets passed in relation to clothing seems to be based on someones personal conviction of what they believe to be “decent”. Here’s a typical example:

Baggy trousers that hang way below the belt and expose what the wearer has on underneath could soon be banned in the southern US city of Atlanta, a city council spokesman said Friday.

“Many youngsters are walking around with their pants way, way below their waists, and you can see everything. Some people call it a fad or a fashion statement but it is simple indecency,” Dexter Chambers, the communications director at Atlanta City Council, told AFP by phone.

And by everything, you mean what exactly?

The trend of wearing oversized trousers that fall down and expose one’s smalls derives from the US prison system.

“It started in prison, where, as I understand it, belts are taken away from inmates. But it evolved into a situation where it was used by prisoners to let others know they were ‘available,’ and it still has that sexual connotation,” Chambers said. – [Yahoo/AFP]

And this is the basis of your objections? Why do people like to look at things and then infer a meaning from it without any logical frame of reference to do so? Even if wearing your pants low around your hips in prison might mean you are sexually available, that does not mean it means the same thing out here. How can you make that kind of leap?

Is he trying to say that all of the youth running around with low slung pants are basically advertising thier sexual availability? I’m no expert, but I seriously doubt that. Why does the idea of it being a fashion fad seem so unreasonable? They are quick to deny that any similar laws are aimed at exposed bra straps and athletic bras, but what exactly is the difference? They might as well.

Who decides what the dress code of the street is supposed to be? Why is it that you can have women walking around in thong bikinis, and men in naught but a pair of speedos, and that is considered “decent” but a fully clothed man whose only fashion faux pas is that his pants are so low that his underwear is showing is an abomination?

These things make no sense. The law should not be used to enforce any indidivuals personal moral code. If the teachers don’t like it, then the schools needs to implement and enforce a dress code. The law should be used to enforce serious public safety issues. Not social dress code.

US city planning ban on low-slung baggy pants – [Yahoo/AFP]

Telecommunications and censorship…

If you are a regular at this here blog, you probably already know my opinion of censorship in general. To me, it makes no sense. Especially here in America. We, as a country, claim to value our personal freedoms, and as a result, pretty much any possible position on any given issue can be heard, especially if you have your ear to the right part of the ground.

So it seems paradoxical to me to see any large telecommunications companies like AT&T engaged in censorship:

While AT&T claimed to be just as outraged as we were over their censoring of Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush lyrics during their Lollapallooza stream, they might not be being all that honest. They claim that it was a one-time mistake made by an outsourced company. Really? According to Wired’s Listening Post, concerts streamed on the Blue Room by The Flaming Lips and the John Butler Trio have also been censored for political reasons. If true, this action coupled with past allegations aimed at AT&T suggests an unnerving pro-Bush political agenda from one of America’s biggest telecoms. – [Gizmodo]

This is, as the article stated, a somewhat “unnerving” discovery. While they are not a news agency and are therefore not required to be “fair and objective”, companies with far reaching influence, like the major telecoms, that have political agendas that can affect their users would be avoided like the plague by most freedom loving Americans.

As privately owned entities, they certainly have a right to their opinion. But they should be careful not to allow their opinions to infringe upon the rights of their customers. Of course that is just my opinion. But I daresay a lot of consumers would agree with me…

AT&T May Have Censored Bands’ Political Speech in the Past – [Gizmodo]

Constitutional violation solves nothing…

Today I came across an article about a California judge who appears to be able to recognize when an unconstitutional law is being passed, and has the foresight to veto them. This is an unusual development from The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, where local police, activists and Lawmakers seem to have an impressive track record of passing unreasonably draconian, even unconstitutional laws in the name of “The Public Interest”:

A federal judge ruled on Monday a California law to label violent video games and bar their sale to minors was unconstitutional, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to say he would appeal the ruling.

Of course you will.

California passed a law in 2005 regulating video games with strong support from Schwarzenegger, the former star of many violent action films. Legislators argued violent video games could bring psychological harm and spark aggressive behavior in minors.

Can anyone say “Anecdotal Evidence”?

The Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association promptly sued to block the law, arguing their games were protected under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Uh Huh. “Free speech”? That’s your reason? It would probably be mine, but the ESA and VSDA? Yeah… I don’t think so. Now cash flow… That I’d buy…

Judge Ronald Whyte, who had previously granted a preliminary injunction against the law, issued a permanent order that also cited conclusions from judges facing similar laws in other states.

“At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children,” he wrote in his decision. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.” – [Reuters]

Thank you. Sanity at last. Now I’m not saying the law didn’t have any value to it. The part where developers are required to label them is just common sense. We need to know what kind of content is in the games we give to our kids. But banning them? Who are they kidding? So it’s OK to let my kids watch “Saw” on video, but heaven forbid they play “ManHunt“? Come on!

OK Look. I understand that as a parent, you may be willing to do anything and everything in your power to keep your kids safe. And I agree. Anyone who doesn’t feel this way can’t really be called a parent. The problem arises when you decide that it is OK to violate the rights of others in order to achieve this.

That is a double standard don’t you think? Nobody should violate your (and, by extension, your childrens’) rights, but it’s OK to violate others? Sounds like a double standard to me. If you, as a parent, decide raise your kids on video games, you also have to take the responsibility of talking to them about what exactly they are looking at. The same applies to movies, and even music.

It seems like some parents will bend over backwards to get a movie, album, video game, etc. Off the shelves. The outrage is always fierce and unrelenting. But here’s my question. Why can’t you just talk to your kids about these things? When they leave the house they see these things everywhere. Our culture is permeated with them. We, as adults, have become so desensitized that sometimes we don’t even see it, but it is there.

If your kids don’t learn, early on, about what they are see everyday, and what is right and what is wrong, then how do you expect them to tell the difference? Banning games won’t help you one whit. Denying them TV, radios, computers and video games for the entire tenure of your custody of them won’t save you either. Unless you live in a very, very, isolated community. Instead I see people embark on epic but fruitless crusades against violence in the media, gun control, school practices, regulation, etc. As I have stated in a previous post, I think these are little more than very poor crutches.

The gang member running around with the gun in their waistband was/is someones kid. Just like yours. What kind of lessons do you think he/she learned growing up? Do you think they would be in the gang if they learned from childhood that doing so could easily reduce your life expectancy by 50%? Do you think they would even pick up a gun if they thought there were other, better solutions? It’s hardly the gun we should be worried about. It’s the fact that the kid doesn’t know any better. Why is that?

What they need is education and guidance. And as parents we need to give it to them. No one else can, will, or even should do it for you. Do whatever it takes. And I don’t mean waste time protesting about pointless things. Work less hours, and spend more time with your kids. Engage in more group activities. Have one parent actually stay at home. It doesn’t matter who. Move into a smaller house/apt/condo to make ends meet if you have to. You may physically have less, but I believe the quality of your kids lives will be richer. It’s not always possible, but I submit that they are worthwhile sacrifices.

This is what I believe it means to be a parent. If you really want to protect your kids, I think this is the best place to start. It is no good to provide all of our kids materialistic needs if you fail to teach them about morals, ethics, good bad, right wrong, the light, the dark, all the gray areas in between, and about life in general. I honestly believe this is where we are failing as a country.

Forget about the TV, radio, music, video games, etc. Play with your kids. Talk to your kids. Teach them something positive. That way when you let them loose, you will hopefully be able to worry less about whatever it is they encounter on the street. Yeah. I sound like a bad public service announcement. But there it is.

Judge blocks California’s violent video game law – [Reuters]

China’s gentler, kinder side…

China has banned crude birth control advertising slogans for it’s national one child per family policy:

China has banned crude and insensitive slogans promoting the country’s ‘one-child’ family planning policy, such as “Raise fewer babies but more piggies,” which have stoked anger in rural areas, state media said Sunday.

China’s 28-year-old family planning policy limits most urban couples to just one child and allows some families in the countryside to have a second child if their first is a girl.

Critics say that has led to forced abortions and sterilizations and a dangerously imbalanced sex ratio due to the traditional preference for male heirs, which has prompted countless families to abort female fetuses in hopes of getting boys. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now the real reason I posted this was not because of the slogans, but because of the interesting detail that it seems that many Chinese families are aborting female fetuses in order to get boys.

It seems to me that, after a few generations of aborting female fetuses, your overall population production ability would drop dramatically. Which could be a good thing to begin with, but could turn bad really, really, quickly.

And it would suck to try and find a wife if you are a guy, because your selection would be slim to none. I really hope the Chinese what they are doing…

China bans crude birth control slogans – [Yahoo/AP]

Yet another excuse to V-parent…

Technology is great, but is not the answer to everything. Especially not parenting. So I am always skeptical when I see things like this:

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation Thursday asking the Federal Communications Commission to oversee the development of a super V-chip that could screen content on everything from cell phones to the Internet.

“It’s an uphill battle for parents trying to protect their kids from viewing inappropriate programming,” Pryor said. “I believe there is a whole new generation of technology that can provide an additional layer of help for these parents.”

A third bill that aims to regulate violent content much the same as indecent speech is expected to be introduced soon. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has plans to introduce the anti-violence bill, but it was unclear when. – [Reuters]

OK. For me, the biggest issue here is not what is or is not showing on the radio, TV, internet or other electronic media. It is the fact that we seem to keep coming up with new ways to “help” parents control what their kids watch, when the truth of the matter is that, unless you keep your kids locked in an RF shielded concrete bunker with no electricity, and no communication lines in or out, they will be exposed to things that you may not want them to be.

All of these things, rating systems, censorship, content screening are, at best, crutches for what I feel the real problem is. Americans don’t know how to parent any more. When I was growing up, I saw all kinds of violence (of both the real-life and gratuitous movie variety), bad language, sexually explicit movies, etc. And yet I do not swear like a sailor, drink, smoke, do drugs, have 25 kids by 7 different women, and (to my knowledge) have not stabbed, shot, run over or otherwise maimed or killed anyone lately.

And I believe I know why. Because my parents taught me not to. It is that simple. When I was growing up, I learned, by example, observation and numerous conversations, what constituted good and bad behavior, what was right, what was wrong and why. Now I’m not saying that either I or my parents were/are perfect. Far from it. We were all flawed, as humans beings often are. In fact as I grew older and learned to think for myself, I found I disagreed with many of the things they taught me. But at least they taught me the basics.

Nowadays parenting seems to be a constant struggle between working long hours to make enough money to feed the kids, and either parking them in front of a computer, video game, or TV, so you can get at a measly few hours of sleep before going back to work, or handing them off to someone else to take care of them while you are gone. We are no longer parenting our kids, we are simply housing them until they are of age. The average American doesn’t spend enough time with their kids. Not enough transfer of knowledge occurs, and as a result they don’t properly learn the lessons of right and wrong.

But an even more disturbing trend is that, even when there is sufficient time to engage the children, they often learn the wrong lessons. I come across a video on YouTube the other day showing a father video taping himself insulting someone, with some rather salty language, in front of his kids. Now I recognize that everyones parenting style is different, but I can assure you that if we all adopt the “anything goes” approach in the parenting of our kids, and pay no regard to how we behave around them, then what they see on the TV will be the least of our problems as a nation. We cannot teach our kids tolerance, patience, kindness, generosity, love or any of the values we claim to hold dear, if we do not practice these values ourselves.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. School massacres, snipers, gang violence, kids killing kids, these things do not occur in a vacuum. It is the culture that we have created that is breeding these kids. And as much as I hate to say it, it is not the fault of the media. It is our society that is at fault. And the sooner we recognize that and stop wasting energy on trying to control the inconsequential byproducts of our warped society, like violence in the media, and focus on ourselves and our issues, the sooner we will properly be able to figure out, as a nation, how to handle this growing crises.

IMHO, these silly “V-chips” are yet another useless weapon in an endless battle that we will never win, because we have failed to properly identify our enemy: Ourselves.

It’s super V-chip to the rescue of kids – [Reuters]

China Regulates Reincarnation…

The following is an excerpt from a rather unusual article:

Tibetan living Buddhas are no longer allowed to be reincarnated without permission from the atheist Chinese government, state media reported Friday.

The new rules are “an important move to institutionalise the management of reincarnation of living Buddhas,” the Xinhua news agency said.

According to the regulations, which take effect on September 1, all reincarnation applications must be submitted to religious affairs officials for approval, Xinhua said.

China is ruled by the Communist Party, which, despite being officially atheist, maintains strict controls over Tibetan Buddhism and all other religions.

Now I know China is probably one of the most highly regulated countries in the world, but isn’t this going a little too far? And obviously they are willing to go to great lengths in order to maintain control. The second half of the article is probably the best evidence of exactly how far they are willing to go to keep it.

Living Buddhas are an important element in Tibetan Buddhism, forming a clergy of influential religious figures who are believed to be continuously reincarnated to take up their positions anew.

Often there is more than one candidate competing to be recognised as the actual reincarnation, and the authority to decide who is the true claimant carries significant power.

This is especially true in the case of the Panchen Lama, the second-most influential figure in Tibetan Buddhism behind the Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities detained the Dalai Lama’s choice as the Panchen Lama in 1995 when the boy was six years old, and he has not been seen in public since.

The Chinese government’s choice as the Panchen Lama has meanwhile been paraded around the country in recent years to promote China’s rule over his homeland. – [Yahoo/AFP]

When an atheist state decides to sequester religious icons, and elect their own, you know they are seriously hell bent on control by any means necessary. And China knows how to do it better than anyone. Government regulation at it’s finest…

China tells Tibet’s living Buddhas to apply for reincarnation- [Yahoo/AFP]