June 30, 2006


French Whine

AFP File Photo

...Over the last few years France has become a country that seems to be either vehemently loved or vehemently hated by certain demographics of Americans for various reasons. A new French law seems to be evidence that perhaps criticism of their government is merited on a few more levels.
...French legislators just approved what has become known as the “iTunes Law,” which will force Apple to make their iPod and iTunes music compatible with their competitors’ music players and online music services.
...Market analysts think that this might cause Apple to pull out of the French online music business altogether, and quite frankly, who could blame them? Apple officials have called the bill “state-sponsored piracy” since the final “compromise” insisted that all companies share their technical data with anyone who wants to compete against them. One reason that it became a “compromise” is because a loophole was left in the bill that might allow companies to bypass the rules on sharing data if they happen to partner with musicians and record labels.
...One of the biggest ways for companies—big or small—to not only survive but also prosper is for them to offer unique products. If those products are desirable, they’ll become popular and ensure that the employees of that business will get a steady paycheck. It also means that other companies will have to compete against that company if they want to survive and prosper in that same field. It’s quite sad to see that the French government is so opposed to competition that they’re willing to pass laws dictating how something as recreational as music buying is done.
...This story reminds me a bit of Yamaha’s instrument division from the mid-1990s. If I can remember correctly, Yamaha Drums designed their kick drum hoops to be compatible with only Yamaha kick drum pedals. If you wanted to use a kick drum pedal from competitors like Tama or Drum Workshop, you were out of luck unless you were willing to carve out a notch on the Yamaha kick drum hoop.
...At the time, some drummers suggested that such a move by Yamaha was “unfair.” If we look at the situation without using emotion we can see that there wasn’t anything either “fair” or “unfair” about it. The consumer was given three simple choices: (1) Use a Yamaha pedal if you want to use a Yamaha kick drum, (2) sand the wood down until it was compatible with your Tama or Drum Workshop pedal, or (3) don’t buy anything from Yamaha whatsoever. The choice was up to the drummer.
...Sadly the French government doesn’t view things that way. They’re more interested in applying anti-competition legislation to a field of technology that might only get better due to competition. In an effort to apply fairness, they’re risking not only technological stagnation, but also the possibility of Apple pulling out of a country with millions of music fans.
...That is, of course, if France doesn’t pass a law making it illegal for Apple to leave.
Source: Yahoo! News

June 28, 2006


Discern, Baby, Discern

...Yesterday’s Senate vote on the proposed flag burning amendment was 66-34, which was one vote short of the needed 67 votes (two-thirds of the Senate) that would have sent the bill to the states for ratification.
...Being a big fan of free speech, I’m quite happy knowing that this form of speech is still protected. Even though many of us think that the Supreme Court ended the debate in the 1989 case Texas v. Johnson, in which the justices held that convictions for flag desecration are inconsistent with the First Amendment, the argument will no doubt continue. This most recent bill is evidence of that.
...With that said, I’m also one of the first people to suggest that those who resort to burning a flag to show their disgust with the government usually do so because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to form a cohesive, informed, and intelligent debate via words—be they oral or in the written word. The flag is, after all, a symbol; if your protesting abilities can’t extend beyond fire, why should those of us who can form cohesive thoughts take you seriously?
...The limited intellectual faculties of flag burners aren’t necessarily my primary concerns for this post, however, as we’ve come to see that this most recent round of First Amendment debate has helped to illustrate our society’s contradictory ideas of what “free speech” might be.
...Before I continue, it should be noted that I’m not going to suggest that yelling, “Fire!” in a crowded theater should be protected; dozens of people might end up injured—if not killed—in such a case.
...What I am suggesting is that we have a few matters that show how some segments of the populace view certain things as “speech,” while other segments don’t agree whatsoever. It’s essentially more evidence that Americans—as a whole—are willing to view similar things in a different light so long as their own interests are at stake.
...Considering how many of us hold particular ideologies, we can see a few things develop in this argument that should make us think about our contradictions:
  • Many of those who are in favor of banning flag burning are the first to say that campaign-finance reform is a bad idea, since money is “speech.” Many who support the McCain-Feingold legislation are the first to call flag burning “speech.” Perhaps I’m wacky, because I see both fire and money as speech.
  • Many of those who support banning Confederate flags from sight—no matter if they’re flown, on T-shirts, bumper stickers, notebooks, etc.—are opposed to banning the burning of the American flag, since the argument is twofold: (1) It’s free speech, and (2) a flag is just a symbol. I’m of the firm belief that (1) it’s free speech if you choose to burn your American flag or fly your Confederate flag, and (2) a flag is, indeed, a symbol.
  • Similarly, differing ideologies view the burnings of American flags and rainbow flags (viewed by some as a hate crime) differently. Correct me if I’m wrong, but burning either flag is done so out of hatred for what that particular flag symbolizes. Therefore, we should either say that both are hate crimes or both are free speech. True, I’m an open critic of how the laws regarding “hate crimes” have been applied (only recently, a white NYU student was chased by a group of black assailants who, according to witnesses, were yelling, “Get the white boy!”; the NYU student ran into traffic, was struck by a car, died in the hospital, but police said that the incident wasn’t a hate crime), but that becomes a separate debate altogether.
...It should be known that while I’m willing to support a person’s right to burn a flag—any flag—it should be noted that I’m completely and unequivocally opposed to the acts of trespassing, theft, and vandalism that have often accompanied the burnings. Even in Texas v. Johnson, Gregory Johnson burned a stolen American flag—he didn’t even have the balls to buy his own. Likewise, in many of the reported cases of rainbow flag burnings, we see a recurring pattern: The flags don’t belong to those doing the burning.
...Idealistically I would love to see a world where we all got along and no one would have a reason to burn any flags. That’s not reality, however, and so we need to attempt to view things a bit more pragmatically and maturely. Does that mean that we can’t have a few ideals? Absolutely not, because a few ideals give us goals for which we can strive.
...In this case, the ideal would be that we, as a whole country, come to realize that we’re taking similar instances and calling them different things simply because it fits our agenda. No matter the issue at hand—be it burning flags, campaign contributions, or hate crimes—we’re seeing the same thing but viewing it differently.

June 20, 2006



...A few weeks ago I was discussing the concept of responsibility with a colleague and we ended up in a conversation over how it’s interesting to see how certain segments of our populace will on one hand berate fast food chains and tobacco companies for offering unhealthy substances to consumers, ultimately blaming the corporation in question and removing responsibility from the consumer, but will simultaneously look to that same corporation for guidance in making healthy choices.
...McDonald’s offers unhealthy burgers and fries, but instead of saying, “Educate yourselves,” they cry, “What’s McDonald’s going to do to look out for me?” Instead of saying, “Put out that cancer stick,” they ask, “What is the tobacco company going to do about my smoking habit?” Why on earth would they look for solutions from the companies that they hate most?
...We concluded that it’s simply a continuation of the ongoing growth of what might best be called “passing the responsibility.” Now we can add MySpace to that list.
...The popular Internet networking site for teens and twenty-somethings is now the target of a $30 million lawsuit by a family whose 14-year-old daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted after going on a date with a 19-year-old man. The 14-year-old posted information about herself on MySpace, the 19-year-old allegedly took notice of her, began an e-mail and phone relationship with her, then picked her up at school one day, took in a movie and dinner, and later sexually assaulted her.
...Whose fault was it? Well, obviously it must have been MySpace. After all, corporations are supposed to watch out for us.
...The suit against MySpace says that the site doesn’t do enough to prevent things like this from happening, calling their security measures for children “utterly ineffective.” It’s easy for children—as well as everyone else—to lie about their age on the Internet, and MySpace isn’t any different. Their chief security officer said that they take “aggressive measures” to protect members and concluded in a written statement, “We encourage everyone on the Internet to engage in smart web practices and have open family dialogue about how to apply offline lessons in the online world.” That no doubt pissed off a few more anti-responsibility folks.
...I’ll be honest and say that it’s my opinion that 90 percent of MySpace users are the perfect example of what’s wrong in America. Is that the fault of MySpace? No. These people would have been obsessed with acting stupid, promoting their favorite cheap beer, dressing like whores and rap stars, and driving pimped-out Mitsubishis regardless of whether or not MySpace ever existed. MySpace simply provided the outlet to promote the stupidity on a larger scale; the people would have existed anyway.
...As for “protecting” their children, I cringe just knowing that there are parents who would sooner have a bunch of Website administrators look out for their kids as opposed to them. What exactly do they consider as being in the job description of parents?
...In this case, if the 14-year-old girl was willing to lie to get an account, was willing to go out for the evening with a guy five years older than her, and that the mom had absolutely no idea that her daughter was e-mailing and calling a 19-year-old, then there are things in this family that need to be dealt with more than a lawsuit against a Website.
...After reading the initial story, I scrolled down the page because this particular site allows for comments on the stories. It’s always fun to see what the public at large thinks. Most of them seemed to be echoing my sentiments, but a few stuck out like sore thumbs.
...One gentleman explained, “No parent can monitor their kids’ Internet usage and MySpace takes advantage of this.” One mother remarked that this suit “is a message to MySpace and other similar sites to buckle down on things.” She concluded by saying, “Sometimes the only way to change things is to hit someone’s pocketbook.” A second mom quipped, “Perhaps legal action like this suit will convince them that they must accept responsibility for how their business is used.” A third mom was angry because MySpace administrators wouldn’t delete her 12-year-old daughter’s account—even though she could have easily done it herself.
...Maybe we can sue parents who haven’t yet accepted the responsibility that comes with having kids.

June 03, 2006


Muchos Hipocresia

...Keeping with the topic of fattening food from my last post, I came across a brief story that mixes in the issue of immigration and speaking English while ordering a heaping serving of dead cow.
...The editorial staff at the Philadelphia Inquirer is offended at the management of Geno’s Steaks—the other cheese-steak joint in Philly, aside from Pat’s—because Geno’s is taking food orders in English only. It looks as if the Inquirer staff wants the fine folks at Geno’s to learn Spanish in order to become a more diverse cheese-steak establishment.
...In their editorial on the matter, they attempt to make Joe Vento, Geno’s owner, look like a hypocrite because his grandparents were from Italy and spoke limited English. Unfortunately, in an apparent effort to look chic among the politically correct cliques, the Inquirer seems to brush aside Vento’s grandparents’ lack of whining about their language barrier—instead the folks from the old country took the initiative to learn the language of their new home.
...The paper concludes by calling Vento’s policy “boneheaded” and suggests that it might put Geno’s out of business. For some reason I seriously doubt that Geno’s is going to go belly-up because they don’t take a few orders in a language that their employees might not even understand.
...What’s most interesting is to see that for a newspaper which is so supportive of others catering to non-English speaking people, I can’t seem to find a Spanish edition of the Inquirer. What’s this? They don’t accommodate Spanish-speaking customers?
...I’m not sure which is more applicable here: “Do as I say and not as I do”; or “When in Rome, make sure that the Romans change their ways to make you happy.”

June 02, 2006


No Soup for You

...My blog posts are going to be few and far between over the next four weeks as I’m taking two rather time-consuming graduate classes. My last two days have been spent completing four assignments and I’ll be spending Saturday doing research at the university library.
...Even so, during my lunch break I came across a story detailing the Food and Drug Administration’s continuing effort to ensure that Americans don’t have to be responsible for their own actions, nor do they have to really even think for themselves.
...Such a philosophy has been standard for so-called consumer advocates for years. They routinely blame restaurants for obesity by somehow coming to the conclusion that people are brain-dead zombies that shovel fat- and cholesterol-laden food into their mouths because restaurant advertisements tell them to.
...Keeping with that notion, the FDA has issued a report that encourages restaurants to move the emphasis of their advertising to lower-calorie dishes. They also want restaurants to bundle fruits and vegetables with meals, whether the customer wants it or not, and they’re calling for restaurants to serve smaller portion sizes. (Am I the only one to realize that customers can just order two or three small servings to compensate for one big serving?)
...Taking a rather arrogant view of the situation, Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest explained that restaurant patrons are clueless and need to have others look out for us. “If companies don’t tell them, people have no way of knowing how many calories they are being served at restaurants. And chances are they are being served a lot more than they realize,” she said.
...No offense, Ms. Wootan, but not all of us who dine out are as ignorant as you seem to think. We’re well aware of what we’re putting in our mouths and how big the portions are. We don’t need condescending people like you to explain it to us.
...Restaurant patrons who are so empty-headed that they know absolutely nothing about what they’re eating would have to have been born and raised in the wilderness, cut off from all civilization and basic discussion on healthy eating. For the rest of us who frequent these eateries, we know what we’re eating and how much of it.
...If people choose to eat crap, it should be their choice. If they want to eat a deep-fried bacon quadruple-cheeseburger covered in gravy and served up with biscuits and French fries, they have every right to do so. If, however, they want to have a chef salad with raspberry vinaigrette and a glass of spring water, they have a right to do that, too. Shouldn’t the term “freedom of choice” be applicable to more things than just abortion?
...If we’re not going to allow people to make their own decisions when it comes to what they eat, we might as well go all the way and ensure that everyone eats properly, no matter what. Each restaurant should be assigned a bureaucrat from the FDA to monitor the food orders from each and every patron, making sure that we’re eating what we should be eating. The government official will choose our entrée, our beverage, and whether or not we’re allowed to have dessert.
...Welcome to America. May I take your order?
Source: MSNBC