Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What laws effecting media / libraries to expect

Ars has a decent roundup of laws that congress will be taking up next year effecting technology.

Network neutrality is one of the biggest since SBC announced that they would hinder the performance of competing VOIP services over their lines. The network neutrality law would prevent such practices. It is likely to pass since cable is moving into voice and telcos are moving into video; there will be less lobbying to stop it.

Patent reform is touched on and the problems Research in Motion is having. The US patent system is severly broken on several fronts. Patents are granted for obvious improvements. Patents are granted when prior art is already on the market. The ability to get injunctions preventing the sale of products that contain parts that are in dispute often drives small companies out of business.

The current system favors the practice of large companies with huge stables of patents to hagel with other companies that have a patent they may infiringe in exchange for allowing them to infringe. There are already law firms that buy up patents from failed IPOs so they can sue people later. Ideally software should not be patented, by its very nature most innovations are obvious or incorporate prior art. Patent terms sould be shortened to a maximum of 15 years and a minimum of 2 years, and terms should be applied in a case by case basis.

Science education is also touched on. The US is doing a horrible job educating kids in science and education in general. With No Child Left Behind teachers are required to teach to a test which obviously means that if successful than the children will be able to pass the test. However, this is a bad way to teach critical thinking and real world problem solving techniques which are vital to science education. The funding of schools is antiquarian to say the least but as Gov. Rendell (PA) found out people are all for lowering property tax but raising funds for schools in another way is hard to do.

The hard truth is that people may love their children but part of that love is to see their children do well even if they have to drag your child's education down to do it. For some the education of their child takes a back seat to the culture wars and a misguided attempt to increase faith in America. The proponents of such psuedo-science undermine the very nature of scientific inquiry by suggesting that since evolution is "only" a theory any holes in it discount it totally and instead of filling the holes through tests and inquiry just pull the "God did it" card.
I wonder when they'll get around to dismissing gravity since it is "only" a theory, after all, the "God did it" card would explain why scientists can't find gravitons. Most of scientific education is theory there are very few laws.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Meme: victory in Iraq

The current president of the United States made his second of four planned speeches to try and bring up his poll numbers and those for support of the war. The problem he is facing is that making speeches won't bring "victory" in Iraq but redefining what victory is will. When the war first began an idea of what victory would look like was clear in a "squint your eyes as you look at the haze rising off the tarmac" kind of way. Kill or capture Saddam, remove the weapons of mass destruction and Iraq would quickly become a beacon of democracy in the Arab world.

The problem is we've captured Saddam but there were no WMD and Iraq with it's corruption, ethnic tension, and crime is serving more as an example of what not to do than anything else. The thinking going in and why Neo-Cons were so sure Iraq was the key to the Middle East is that Iraq is a secular society with large oil reserves so it should have quickly become a secular democracy as soon as the murderous dictator was removed. The reality besides the daily bombings is that what progress is being made towards democracy is taking Iraq closer to the Iranians and towards a civil war. The steady drumbeat rising against the war has less to do with these "inside baseball" issues and more to do with the fact that it has been two years and over 2000 Americans have died.

The Bush administration has been successful in the past by setting up a false dichotemy of either pulling the troops out right now and conceding defeat or staying the course which will lead to eventual victory. The problems with the dichotemy is that it misses the nuance inherent in an ancient society and modern warfare. The real options that have been expressed are to start drawing down troops six months from now and base them close by outside the country in order to pressure the Iraqi forces to step up and for civil society to stabilize, this is favored by Murtha and Pelosi. Set a flexible timeline with milestones for the Iraqis to meet militarily and politically with an eye to full withdrawal anywhere from late next year to the start of 2007, which is where most of the other Democrats are at. Have milestones with no timeline tentative or otherwise which is where most of the Republican party is at. Stay until total victory is acheived, which is the president's position.

What is total victory? That is a question that isn't really asked but the answer to the hypothetical question has clearly changed. Victory has gone from a Jefforsonian democracy with close ties to the US and Isreal to a military capable of fighting local resistence. The meaning of victory is critical to paraphrase Sun Tzu "you have to know what victory will look like in order to know how to reach it." The problem is not just semantic but also demographic. With so many redeployments it is only a matter of time - around the midterm elections - that large portions of the forces will be on their 3rd or 4th tour. It could be alleviated with a draft but that would be political suicide. The whole Jeffersonian democracy thing takes time, even in America it was only after a civil war and the civil rights movement that we have come close to a true democracy. The military preparedness is easier to predict and control.

In the end it comes down to a choice for the current president does he shoot for the history books and the enduring legacy by ignoring his national agenda and focusing exclusively on Iraq in order to steer it through the minefield of corruption and civil unrest towards that beacon. The downside is that his base will likely turn against him for the financial strain it will put onto the deficit and the much sought after fruits of an ownership society (personal retirement vs. social security, personal healthcare vs. medicare/medicaid etc.) left to rot on the vine. In that scenario the Republican majority in the House and Senate would most assuredly be lost and the whole endeavor may be for nought since the effort would stretch into another president's term or terms.

The other victory vision is a successful redefinition to military preparedness and a quick exit around the time of the next election. This has a higher likelihood of getting Republican incumbents elected and plausible deniability is afforded by placing the onous on the military leadership for the "decision." This also gives the current president the opportunity to push for the ownership society as a lasting legacy. The downside is that it is hardly a play for the history books since the war is most likely to be the lead item in his biography unless his ownership society has as lasting an influence as the New Deal. It can also go pretty poorly if al Qaeda either attacks anywhere shortly after we leave or boasts of kicking us out. It can also backfire if civil war breaks out but from a real politik standpoint most Americans who are his base could be convinced it could not be helped. I can see the talking points about Guy Fawkes and King Louis XVI. This would be a convenient retelling of history similar to the stories about the Nazi Werewolf which the right wing ran with.

I was not and am not a supporter of the war partly because I know quite a few people who went over there and came back in flag draped coffins. That is not the only reason I did not and do not support the war, however. The fact that the motivations given to the American people were baseless is one but if I could see through them before we even moved troops into the area then the people who are suddenly shocked at being lied to are guilty themselves of willful deception or ignorance of the facts.

The main reason I was against the war is something that is bearing out right now, Americans have too short an attention span for a sustained war measured in decades. Iraq was not the center of terror before the invasion but it is now and the once metaphysical war Bin Ladin had against the West punctuated at times by attacks killing a few hundred or a few thousand at a time is now a daily ritual. By going into Iraq to force Middle East transformation we put ourselves in a position to lose more than we can reasonably gain. We set up a situation where if Iraq does not become a secular democracy then we have lost the war of idealogy. We must not just win militarily but also idealogically. Al Qaeda and similar groups do not need to defeat us militarily as long as they create disruptions or can spread their message. In short "victory" necessarily means the Jeffersonian thing but in national political terms that isn't going to happen since it would take so long. The only real guaranteed winners are going to be Iran because they will gain influence in Iraq and through out the Middle East since they are the agent of stability for the Iraqi government and al Qaeda who is using the war as a recruiting tool through out the Middle East and Europe.

As for Bush's speech Juan Cole tears him a new one, pointing out all the little half-truths and mistatements of fact. So while Bush, who started the war is looking for a way to gracefully exit, I someone who opposed it from the start am arguing we have to stay quagmire or no.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Anarchist organization and authoritarianism

Part of being an anarchist is examining power structures and speaking out against authoritarianism. This post makes the argument that anarchists (particularly White males) do not want to hear, that an established open structure is preferable to structurelessness. She points to the rant on attempting to debunk the idea of creating structures in collectives and affinity groups as proposed in "The Tyranny of Structurelessness." The basic argument boils down to anyone who would use the essay by a 1970's feminist socialist to criticize the behavior of their small ad hoc groups is not an anarchist.

The question is asked in the Infoshop piece why would people (women presumably) read this essay instead of talking about their problems with the group. The answer is actually pretty obvious, the people that are marginalized by society as a whole and subsequently by their anarchist comrades need a way to press the discussion. The problems with anarchist groups is pretty obvious but rarely discussed in fear of being called authoritarian.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A gay man, self-defense and a tough cookie

Lucas Dawson was cleared of manslaughter charges brought by Philadelphia D.A. Lynne "One Tough Cookie" Abraham for stabbing his assailant in a gay bashing incident. You can read the links for the details suffice it to say that he didn't have a choice and tried to flee at first. The thing that makes this so interesting is that Abraham who tries to foster a reputation for being tough on crime brought charges in the first place.

The argument for charging him centered mainly on the fact that he is 21 and the attackers were under 18 including Gerald Knight Jr. who was 17. The officers involved said he used excessive force in trying to defend himself from youths who followed him for nearly as he fled from their taunts half a block and began punching and kicking him once they got him on the ground.

This new found concern for the use of appropriate force would have been appreciated in the cases of the videotaped beating of carjacker Thomas Jones and Officer Christopher DiPasquale who had a long record of brutality complaints and shot an unarmed teenage motorist twice (once in the head). In the Jones case there were no charges brought against the half dozen officers who held Jones down and beat him with batons while being videotaped. DiPasquale lost his badge not by anything the D.A. did but through a routine investigation by I.A.

She is in no risk of losing her job as she won re-election quite handily this month. The Republicans don't bother to put up a real candidate since this is a highly Democratic town and the Democrats will not support a challenger since she is so popular and what poltical organization is going to throw out a sure bet. I just wish she would do a little "soft cookie" once and a while.

OS X a no go on $100 laptop

While I am a big fan of OS X I am on the fence whether Red Hat Linux would be a better fit for the project to bring a $100 laptop to the developing world. The developers are looking for a totally open source laptop so that they will be "tinkerable" while I am sure they have good intentions they may also have too much invested in an idealogy of Free Software and not best software.

Reading the FAQ and other information they have big plans for making all the software open source in order to allow students to get into rewriting the code but is this meeting the need of the user or the developer? While Linux is great (I'm dual booting OS X and Yellow Dog Linux) there are some issues with ease of use. They are addressing the user space quirks but the question needs to be asked is this the best soultion for the problem since there are still outstanding issues.

Ideally they could have used Apple's and yes, even Microsoft's help in refining the Linux distro that would be installed. Instead they are going to use Red Hat Linux which is a solid choice (the basis of Yello Dog Linux) but not the most user friendly environment. They could have made all changes to the sytem to make it more accessible open source under the GPL, which could be used by other Linux distros.

To cut through all the crap and get to the heart of the matter all of the technology companies currently involved or considering involvement are looking at long term growth trends. Third world countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia will not be Third Worlders forever. Just the continuous search of capital for inexpensive labor pools to insource will raise the standard of living. China and India are likely to become economic superpowers in the near term and Africa and Latin America are ripe for growth. People want to develop brand loyalty early not just Apple or Microsoft but Red Hat as well.

While open source is great and promotes the freedom to alter your tools fundamentally to meet your needs if there is a proprietary tool that meets one's needs it should be considered. OS X is mostly open source, the only closed source parts of the OS are the Finder, Aqua, Core Graphics/Audio, and some of the apps like iTunes. If the user wishes to change OS X to a strictly open source piece of software they can strip it down to Darwin and install another window manager and recompile Linux apps for it. Frankly, it is the best of the proprietary and open source worlds.

I can understand people wanting to be evangelistic about open source especially when the possibility of nearly doubling market share overnight is in sight but somebody should "please think of the children." The prospective buyers should be given the choice of operating systems from anyone willing to provide them and lifetime service agreements. No one should be able to provide "free" software and then charge for support, neither Apple nor Red Hat. If Microsoft wants to offer a version of Windows let them do it but users should be able to replace the operating system at any time. Since the machines are so small and do not have large hard drives Flash memory is the ideal solution to the cost, size, speed and upgrability of the sytem.

If they want to use a totally open source system why are they using proprietary chips from AMD and not the open source chips on the market? If the idea is to have people tinker with the laptops why limit the tinkering to the software? Why are they using Red Hat Linux and not Ubuntu Linux? Ubuntu is built on the non-profit model and does not charge for support.

There is still some discussion around it going on.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The MPAA is killing my TiVo

Caesar at arsTechnica takes a look at the latest attempt by the MPAA to kill fair use. Basically, if the "Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005" passes the whole point of a TiVo, recording video to watch at a later time or transfer to another TV in the house will be severly limited.

If you've listened to Jack Valenti and other MPAA representatives this is just a small step to the eventual goal. Presented with the hypothetical of a father videorecording his child's first steps who steps in front of a TV which is playing a protected movie Jack opted for the the recording to go black. The rationale is if you allow this type of fair use then eventually video pirates will twist it to their advantage.

Considering that Hollywood is putting out more and more life wasting movies I might just opt out of the whole thing.

David Cole puts John Yoo on the rack over torture

For those who aren't that into politics the name John Yoo will likely be followed by the question, 'whose he.' In many ways he is the architect of the Abu Ghraib, GTMO, extraordinary strategy in the war on terror. He has a new book, The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11, making the case for why torture is a good thing when America does it. I've seen him in interviews most recently on Frontline.

He is an originalist but that doesn't seem to square with his views for a strong executive branch. David Cole, a Georgetown law professor and author of a competing view Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism, takes up the case against Yoo's originalism and his legal opinnion on torture in The New York Review of Books. The article can be read in its entirety on TomDispatch toward the bottom of the page.

While in my personal opinnion Yoo's legal reasoning is contradictory and baseless in cited precident, when he bothers to quote it, his book gives insight into the White House's thinking. Won't buy it but may pick it up at the library along with David Cole's book.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Opening up

I'm excited by OpenDocument, I know it has been around for years. It was developed by Sun, Microsoft, IBM and Corel to be an XML based standard for office suites. It hasn't caught on in huge numbers because most people use MS Office even though there are 3 revisions to the .doc standard that are incompatible with each other.

It is picking up steam with support from Massachussets. Mexico, Peru, Brazil, China, Japan, the EU and other states are considering it. I like it because it can prevent vendor lock in and promotes document portability and retrievability. Retrieval of old Office documents can be a chore after you've made a few upgrades in versions.

While Microsoft's new Office format MS XML Schema has some potential I think they would do better to look into adding OpenDocument support. The same goes for Apple's iWork suite. The ISO is received the OpenDocument schema for consideration as an international standard. If it gets approved there will be very little standing in the way of international bodies supporting it wholeheartedly. Unlike America there is little interest in using the current de facto standard of .doc for much longer, especially when MS XML will soon replace it and render it obsolete and may be altered to be less backwards compatible in the future.

Microsoft is hoping to stonewall governments into sticking with MS Office by not supporting the standard. The switch would mean that Microsoft would have to compete in an area they thought they won with Office 97.

The worst part about it from their point of view is that they could not just create a new document standard with a few bells and whistles that was incompatible with the competition. They could implement various schemas on the underlying OpenDocument XML structure to add various bells and whistles. The problem there is the same that Apple would have there is no guarantee that others won't figure out a way to get the same look and feel.

Sun sees ODF the same way as HTML a standard that can allow users to communicate despite thier choice in browser (if all pages are written to W3C specs). Microsoft is seeing only the lose of control and missing the fact that most people who use Windows will continue to use Microsoft products like Office because of preconceptions that it is better. If the governments make the change and MS is not there for it those preconceptions will be significantly challenged. Especially with the radical layout changes that Office going to go through when it hits Windows Vista. While interesting in concept and kinda cool in motion it may be a steep learning curve for casual users. OpenOffice, StarOffice, KOffice and NeoOffice all look relatively like standard Office.

Microsoft is taking a large gamble that people won't try out a low cost or free office suite instead of sticking with a $300 suite that doesn't work with government documents. Apple is missing a huge opportunity to be totally compatible with these government documents without relying on MS.

For librarians the implications are obvious, a standard XML document format will make digital libraries a lot easier to manage in the future.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

OpenDocuments closed minds

Slashdot has a posting pointing to Fox News retraction of an earlier report by James Pendergast, executive director of Americans for Technology Leadership. An earlier article on Slashdot pointed out that one of the founding members of his organization made his position look suspiciously like shilling for Microsoft.

The argument in essence is over whether Massachussetts is right to make all documents it produces available in an open source document format and PDF. If they do they would be the first state government to use OpenDocument for things like unemployment forms and anything else that is shared electronically between agencies.

The reason why it is a good idea is the reason Microsoft is so oppossed to it. OpenDocument is an open standard that anyone can use in a similiar way as PDF, you can find many apps besides Acrobat that will open PDFs. While some apps will open Word documents they do not display it properly in many cases and the new document formats Microsoft is creating for the next Office are proprietary XML. The planned change will require that all old Office documents, spreadsheets etc. be converted to the new format which may change at any time.

Office is not great at backwards compatibility when moving to a new or different version of Office (Mac to PC) reformatting often has to take place. The new Office will also require a much faster PC than most governments have so updating the office suite means updating the office PCs as well. Let's not forget that while Windows PCs dominate most of the government market there are still Mac, Linux and Sun systems out there.

Microsoft had and has a chance to use OpenDocument it is an open standard that is set forth by committee. If a Microsoft programmer sees a way to do things better in OpenDocument they are free to submit their modifications for all to use. Microsoft is also free to use OpenDocument along with their new Office document specs. They don't even have to pay a liscensing fee. The real concern is that given the ability to move to another office suite without losing their past work people may choose to do so. That choice takes away a big roadblock for most people thinking of switching from Windows.

Frankly, I think all state governments and commonwealths should move to OpenOffice or the OpenDocument format, I'm looking at you Pennsylvania. It would save taxpayers a lot of money in licensing fees and could spur competition in the office suite world which has grown stagnant.

For the curious OpenOffice runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X (in X11). NeoOffice is a native port of OpenOffice for OSX users who don't want to delve into the Unix goodness that lies at the core of the Mac. There are a number of other products that use the OpenDocument format but these are free and easy to install.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fair Use and the IP Rental Model

Fair use is on the way out as the licensing of rights gains industry acceptance. This has huge implications for libraries, information professionals and the general public. This can also put the kibosh on projects like Google Print and Google Scholar. But first some background.

In the old days, back in the early 90's when dinosaurs roamed the earth, if you bought a CD you owned the CD and were entitled to fair use privileges. You could sell it, trade it, re-record it for personal use, play it at parties or destroy it. Most people didn't partake in the last freedom of fair use but used CD stores, clubs and personal music players can still be found. They exist only at the pleasure of media companies, however.

With the Digital millennium Copyright Act, which President Clinton signed into law while America was focused on "The Dress", media companies can license media content in a similar fashion as computer companies. They could also use Digital Rights Management systems (DRMs) to protect the content from being copied. That's how CSS and Macrovision could be put on DVDs that would not work unless the user had the licensed decoder. Fortunately for anyone who has a ton of DVDs and likes the option of looking at them on her Linux boxen there shortly appeared DeCSS which effectively broke the encryption algorithm.

That's not going to happen as quickly with the next wave of media devices. Windows Vista will use HDCP for content protection which has raised some concerns. The realistic concern is that people may be drawn into purchasing a Blu-Ray Disc movie and find that it is no better than a regular DVD. This is because of the way protection is implemented. Typically the rule is if you can see it you can capture it but HDCP allows for a protected stream on top of the other mechanisms such as encryption. In essence you need a trusted player and a trusted display. Depending how things shake out when the spec is finalized people who've just bought a HD monitor may be getting screwed shortly.

Windows, Macs and any of the other operating system producers who wish to pony up the cash will be fine but Linux will likely need some enterprising user to crack the protection. HDCP needs to be commercially licensed and while Linux has many distros it doesn't have a central company to make such deals. It'll be every distro for itself. There is the added cultural problem that KDE ran into how are you going to distribute a free operating system with closed code. Even without the source are the distros going to include a HDCP tax? If they include it at all I'd say yes.

Buying a BD-disc or a HD-DVD disc and not being able to play it properly is a future problem that won't hit home till next Spring CD protection has already been a problem. Some bands have taken the unusual step of telling fans how to circumvent copy-protection. The technical details of how to bypass the copy protection on most Sony discs is to just hold down shift when you put the CD in the Windows PC so it doesn't auto-load. For Macs and Linux you don't have to do anything since the copy protection only works on Windows. This is an improved version of the protection that crashed PCs when it was included in Celine Dion's CDs in 2002.

At this point one might ask how this effects libraries or Google. Well if one were to look here or here, they might get a clue. The key is that from the media companies view playing a CD in a computer is not a right it is a privilege that can be taken away when it interferes with their profitability. The thinking boils down to the belief that sluggish sales are a sign that piracy is running rampant. Piracy is a problem but most people aren't buying CDs or DVDs to share with their closest million friends. Most of the people who rip CDs are transferring them to their iPods, iRivers or some other digital music player. The fact that some CD players will not play some of the DRM schemes out there is only worse.

This impact libraries in the event a patron checks out media that is DRM protected and they do not have the means to play it. Libraries could carry devices for loan but that can be expensive or have large placards telling patrons to get a new media player. The problem is that most people would not see the DRM sticker unless told where to look and wouldn't understand what it meant regardless. after all, the exploit to bypass Sony's DRM does nothing to stop Macrovision. Should telling people how to bypass copyright protection be part of the job of a librarian? As much as the ALA would say the opposite is true, within reason there are reasons to think that circumventing copyright isn't all that bad.

Opening the can of worms that is intellectual property rights, they are by definition limited so that there is a fair use right. Copy right has expanded to the point where fair use is an endangered species. Since in the digital world everything is a copy and despite giving you a copy I can still keep my copy rules like the DMCA were established to limit the spread of the copies. A case can be made that this is proper but preventing me from copying a CD I bought so that I can listen to it in my car on my iPod is a little over the top. It only works because of the licensing of content instead of the purchase. The switch happened so rapidly people didn't even see it. When you buy a CD now you are merely buying a license to play it in locations and on devices considered acceptable by the copyright owners.

I find this kind of ridiculous myself, the legal exception made for copying for educational purposes or personal use can slowly be eroded by the prohibitions on technologies to circumvent DRM. If you have an old recording that is no longer available and you wish to preserve it you are in a bit of a gray area depending on the number of copies made and in what format the original and copies are in.

This is similar to something Google found out the hard way. Despite the fact that Google Print allows authors to opt out the Authors Guild thinks they are not going far enough. Google Print they fear, will allow ne'er do wells to avoid buying the book and instead read a brief excerpt of their work online. The Authors Guild should lose the case but that is not guarantee that they will. This raises the specter of litigation facing any library that co-operates in this project or any other project like it to make their collections available to patrons who can not physically come into the library. Even a librarian that would ensure that circumvention of DRM was not allowed could be at risk. The Authors Guild has more money than many of the already struggling major metropolitan libraries. There are also publishers and other content companies who see digital media as a means to reestablish control over content.

Authors Guild v. Google has the potential to be another universal Studios v. Sony Corporation let's hope that Google stays in the fight and prevails.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Banning Baldwin and Woolf

Every year for one week the American Library Association has Banned Book week from late September into October. In conjunction with the posters and essays on the importance of intellectual freedom they publish a list of books that were banned from schools or are frequently challenged. It's probably going to be a longer list than usual this year. All because of a failed political stunt by Alabama State Rep. Gerald Allen.

He came into the national scene in 2004 by supporting a gay marriage ban in Alabama. He tried to follow that up with a bill that I can only believe was intended for buzz it would create. The bill would have prevented public money being used to buy materials that portrayed being gay as an acceptable lifestyle. It was pretty poorly worded and would have had the effect of not only banning books like the The Color Purple (not a bad book to have in a collection by the way) but also The Fire Next Time because James Baldwin was gay.

Alabama leads
the country in challenges to books but it is not just the Bible belt or the former Confederate south that wants to dictate what books are appropriate to read. There are plenty of challenges leveled at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn every year by African Americans in the north who object to the use of the word nigger and the depiction of the escaped slave Jim. Book banning has become organize with the American Family Association and others making local fights national.

There seems to be a new tinge to the idea of book banning and challenges. Outright bans are not asked for as much since that makes the groups look extreme but moving the books behind desks are done in order to have the same effect. Political organizations and publications make lists of books that they consider to be dangerous, such as Human Events List of the 10 Most Harmful Books. I looked through the list and some books you could make a case for being harmful such as Mein Kempf but Sexuality in the Human Male was a survey of what men were doing sexually and Kinsey did not make the logical leaps that Hernstein and Murray made in The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.

He also did not ignore uncomfortable facts in order to make his argument such as Murray in his latest Human Accomplishment which suggests that most advances were made by White European Christians. This is controdicted by the historical fact that agriculture began in Mesopotamia (Iraq), large ship building, telescopes, gunpowder and advanced metallurgy were invented in China, Muslims created astronomical charts, modern hospitals, sanitation and modern navigation. I could go on in this tangent; but it is odd that Human Events calls this books necessary Fall reading for conservatives when it is filled with inaccuracies but chides Kinsey for a possible interpretation that others have made of his work that children having sex may be beneficial.

I have seen an attmpt by people on the left to come up with their own list of harmful books such as The Bible, The Koran, and The Fountainhead. The case can be made that these books drove on fanatics just like the list that Human Events put out but as Eye Weekly points out they are not in and of themselves harmful. The books on both lists and those that are frequently challenged are merely meme delivery systems. The power of any idea is how it reacts in your own mind when it comes into contact with the other ideas that you have. For some people reading Mein Kempf inspired them to seek out genocide of an entire people, for others in a different time it can be used to raise compassion and try to bring about equality. The same can be said of the Bible or the Koran.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gay men on loan at the library

A library in the Netherlands will be loaning people out 45 minutes at a time to further understanding. The loanees in question are gay men, lesbians, gypsies, muslims, asylum seekers and a poor peson on government assitance. I think this is a wondeful idea that should be spread to other places around the world, even here in Philadelphia. It is hard to hate somebody when you see them as a human being.

Some have pointed out that sex is likely the biggest motivator for checking someone out but gay Turkish men can touch lives in many ways. Nobody should be surprised at the possible video date quality of the meetings. It is unlikely a neo-nazi skinhead would sit across from a gay man or a muslim for 45 minutes. No matter how it turns out most of the encounters will likely be preaching to the choir but sonetimes they are the ones who need the most preaching. They do not recognize their own prejudice because they are too busy pointing it out in others.

Despite its potential flaws at least it is an attempt at dialogue unlike Gerald Allen's prescription for Alabama. I say bring on the young Turks.