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Category Archives: Rant

No, Gun control is not the answer, but it must be part of it

So, there’s a national conversation going on in the aftermath of the horrendous events in Connecticut.  Like most everyone else, I’m sure, I’ve been trying to figure out in my head how this could have happened and what we need to do to about it. I’ve been participating in online debates here and there, which I’ve found has helped inform my opinion. So, I felt the need to try to get that opinion down in one place, which is why I’m writing this post.

First, I want to say that I’m thrilled this conversation is including gun control. (But I am absolutely horrified and saddened that 1) it’s necessary and 2) the death of so many people, especially children, recently is what’s prompted it).

The conversation about gun control has been needed for a long time. Since Columbine, there have been 61 school shootings in the US. In all other countries combined (most of which have stricter gun control laws), there have been 18. That doesn’t even take into account the other mass murders by shooting that have taken place in our country, like the movie theater shooting, the shooting of Gabby Giffords, or the multitude of workplace shootings.

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You cannot deny that we have a problem with gun violence in this country. Well, okay. You can, and people like the NRA sure do. The great Neil deGrasse Tyson  says, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” The same can be said about facts, and as shown above, the facts show there is a lot of gun violence in the US whether the NRA admits it or not.

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And, after every single one of these events, when anyone says, “Hey, maybe we ought to look at our current gun regulations…” (and they invariably do), people come out of the woodwork screaming “You want to take away my guns!” and “No, it’s too soon to talk about this.” and “2nd Amendment!!!!!!!!!!!1!” And, the talk about reforming gun laws (aka “gun control”) pretty much stops.

So, the fact that the conversation about gun control has continued pleases me. It seems like people aren’t going to let it go this time. At least I hope so, because all those “gun control = gun bans = you’re a Commie Socialist who wants to take away my guns and ignore my 2nd Amendment rights” folks are still singing their tired old song, rather loudly.

But, now, there’s also a new voice being added…some folks are saying that the cause of this shooting has more to do with the shooter’s mental health and his lack of care, so therefore, they argue, we should not worry about gun control.  Instead, lets focus on fixing the mental health care system.  And, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of this one, but not necessarily with the exclusivity of the stance.  But, I’ll get into that in a bit…

So, I guess I want to use this space to address these arguments. Here are my responses to the common ones I’m seeing:

1. Don’t politicize this tragedy:  A friend of mine said something rather poignantly in a Facebook status about this: “…about whether or not this should be made into a ‘political’ issue. To me this seems to reflect a deeper tragedy: the fact that ‘politics’ now means bureaucratic and rhetorical machinations rather than collectively finding solutions to our common problems and building a better ‘polis’. Gun violence is a collective concern: it IS political through and through. Whether the politicians and our current political environment are up to this type of real political problem is a different story.”

Because gun control has been a hot-button issue for so long, guns already are political. So, the fact that guns were the weapon used to commit this heinous act means that the event is also already “political.”

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2. It’s too soon to talk about this: It is not “too soon” to talk about guns and gun control. 20 dead children prove that it’s too late. It’s always “too soon,” and by the time its ok to talk about, there’s another horrific tragedy like this making it “too soon” to talk about again. The time to talk about it is now – right now – when this travesty is burned into our brains, while we still remember the looks on peoples faces, and while we deal with our own fears and pain, because more people are paying attention. Jon Stewart, as usual, says it best. (Sorry WordPress won’t let me embed Comedy Central videos.)

3. If someone wants to be violent and we make guns harder to get, he will just use a different weapon: Yes, if people want to be violent, they will be violent. But short of a bomb (which requires research, preparation, planning and forethought) a gun is the singular most effective way to kill volumes of people. We are not arming our soldiers with kitchen knives and broken beer bottles. We arm them with guns for a reason.

At this point, someone invariably mentions the incident in China that happened on the same day.

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The problem with this is the children in China were not killed. 20 children in the US ARE dead today because a gun was used. We may not be able to stop every single person from doing harm, but we can minimize the harm that person is able to inflict by making it harder for him to obtain such a deadly weapon. The only purpose of a gun is to kill. Period. And, it can kill more people than any other weapon except for maybe a bomb or a hijacked airplane…both of which are not nearly as accessible as guns.

As I said before, since Columbine, there have been 61 school shootings in the US. Now, how many school bombings in the US have there been? TWO. How many mass murders at schools with knives in the US? ZERO. Any knife attacks that occurred resulted in just a few people being afflicted, not mass murder. So, the simple fact of the matter is, the easy availability of guns plus their ability to produce a higher body count with less effort than, say, a knife makes them the weapon of choice for people who want to commit mass murder.

You lock your doors to make it harder for someone to break into your home. So, why is it any different to impede someone from committing mass murder by making it harder for him or her to obtain the weapons that are used the most and are most effective in mass murder?

4. Gun control won’t stop criminals from getting guns: The goal of realistic gun control is not to prevent, but to reduce violence. The issue of gun legislation has nothing to do with convincing criminals to follow laws. That doesn’t make any kind of sense at all.

Rather, the issue has to do with the availability of firearms, the type of firearms we choose to make available (legal) to non-military or non-police personnel (civilians), and the types of measures we use to make sure only responsible and qualified people are in possession of said weapons.

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Just dismissing the issue is not the answer. It’d be like saying “Boys will be boys” when every 2 minutes in the US someone is raped, and 99% of rapists are men. It’s cowardly and lazy to not even try to address the problem simply because one feels like the situation is hopeless.

I don’t understand this attitude of “Well, even though what we’ve got now isn’t working, we shouldn’t bother to find other solutions.” Making it hard for a mentally ill person to obtain a gun, perhaps by making it illegal to sell guns on Craigslist, for example, is a reasonable idea to explore. Further, these crimes seem to be impulse driven as well. So, slowing down the ability to act on that impulse makes sense to me.

I’m calling for a serious examination of the existing regulations and enforcements to see how we can improve this horrendous situation. Why are people so resistant to that logical idea? What will it hurt if we do that?

For example, why does your ordinary everyday average citizen need a semi-automatic? This argument has already been made by many people (here’s one recent example), so I don’t feel the need to go into it here. But, that’s just one example of a regulation we can improve.

Here’s another example: According to the Department of Justice, 40% of legal sales happen without a background check.

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That is an example of a current regulation that needs to be fixed. Fixing that is not going to mean you can’t buy guns at all. It’s not going to mean more regulation…it’s revising regulations that already exist.

Let’s have a national, civil conversation about *how* we can stop this gun violence, not if it exists (because it really, really does) or why it can or cannot be curtailed (because it has been in other countries). We have a problem, and the “We can’t stop it”/”psychos will always find a way to be psycho”/”criminals just use other weapons” arguments are not doing anything to address that problem.

5. Gun control is a slippery slope to a total ban / You want to take away my guns. / You’re infringing on my 2nd Amendment rights / You’re just a libtard who never owned a gun: Creating and reforming regulations is not a ban. I don’t want to take away your guns (unless they’re semi-automatic.) I don’t know how to make that any clearer or how to make you believe me.

For those that continue to insist otherwise, a Facebook Page posted something I think accurately describes my feelings here: “Gun ownership advocates who do not want to deal with the reality of gun violence, even on this tragic day, do not deserve a place at the table as we discuss how to combat this madness…you (and your convoluted views) are now irrelevant.”

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Yes, I am a liberal. But, I am also a registered gun owner with a conceal and carry permit, and I plan to stay that way. I happily submitted to a background check, and I will stick with my .44 and never purchase a semi-automatic, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable for every other gun owner to do the same things.

Remember, the first 3 words of the 2nd Amendment are, after all, “A well regulated”. The thing that gives us the right to have guns itself says there should be gun regulation! (Don’t even get me started on “militia”…)

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6. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It’s not that simplistic. There’s a psychological reason that guns are chosen for these attacks. (Hint: it has to do with perception of power.) Yes, a gun isn’t going to shoot itself; it requires a person to make it function, and it inflicts a deadlier force than almost any other weapon.  As I said before, the single purpose for which a gun was created is to kill. You can’t cut a steak with a gun. (Well, you could, but there wouldn’t be much left of the steak you could eat.)

The truth is, “Guns Kill People, AND People Kill People.” If the problem is really “people kill,” then the solution shouldn’t be “Here, people. Have this instrument that makes it super easy to kill. “People Kill People” will always be true as long as we create and nourish a culture where killing is an option.

7. If the teachers had been armed, this could have been stopped: Ignoring the fact that teachers are typically not trained in the use of hand guns, wear protective armor to school, or could have reacted quickly enough in such a chaotic scene while at the same time trying to hide and evacuation their children, sure someone maybe could have gotten off a shot at Adam Lanza. Okay. Scratch that. I don’t believe that for one second.  The key here is teachers are not trained like our soldiers to keep their cool in combat situations, and that’s exactly what this was.

So, are you really saying that we need to train our teachers to be combat ready? I highly doubt the Republicans in Congress, who a few days ago thought teachers were lazy union thugs who get paid too much, are really going to invest the money it would take to do that.

And, don’t forget, the very first person to be killed in this tragedy was a gun owner. A lot of good that did her, huh?

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8. This happened because we removed prayer from school. / … because the shooter was raised by an unwed mother. / … because God is punisheing us for homosexuality: I am not going to respond to these sick, twisted, disgusting, selfish, ridiculous, delusional claims. The people who seriously believe them are so irrational and closed-minded and ignorant that they won’t hear anything anyone has to say in response. Why bother? You can’t argue with crazy. Though, this meme did make me laugh about it.

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9. This isn’t a gun control issue. It’s a mental health issue. / Changing gun laws wouldn’t have stopped Adam Lanza.:

Okay, here we go. This is the big one. I do believe it’s both a gun control issue because, well, a semi-automatic gun was used (see my rant above) and a mental health issue.

With everything I’ve said about gun control, however, I do not believe it is THE answer. This is a complex problem that’s going to have a complex solution. I agree it is imperative that we reform the way mental illness is handled in this country, but gun control must be part of the overall solution.

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In one of the online debates, I was asked what specific regulations could have been used to stop Adam Lanza. I will be the first person to admit that, other than removing semi-automatic weapons from the general public’s hands, I do not know, and I never said I did. I am not an expert in gun laws. It’s possible there isn’t very many. But, it’s equally possible that there are. In this case, we don’t have many details yet, since it’s so recent. We know he used his mother’s guns to kill her at home, and then went to the school where she taught and did this evil. Did he live at home with her? Did she keep her guns out in the open or in a locked case? Maybe regulations that require all guns be kept in locked cases or background checks of all adults that live in the home where the guns are kept might have helped?

I know, I know.  I can hear the collective groans and sense the blood pressures rising from the pro-“don’t take my guns”-crowd at those suggestions, and I can see their “but he would have just broken into a locked case” counter arguments.  I’m not saying those two ideas will work. I don’t know. That’s why I’m throwing them out there. Until we take the time to entertain all possible solutions with an open mind, we’ll never know if they will or won’t work. There’s no harm in exploring all options, but instantly dismissing them and those who make them isn’t productive in any way.

Now, again, I agree whole-heartedly that we have a serious, serious problem in this country with the way the mentally ill are treated…or not. This blog post is a good start.  I’m also thrilled that people are having a discussion about this very important problem, as it’s been needed as well.

But, why do the conversations about reforming mental health care and gun laws have to be mutually exclusive? Why do we have to focus on only one?  It’s clear to me that both guns and mental illness played a role in this tragedy, so it makes perfect sense to me to address them both at the same time.

I think the best way to honor the memories of the Sandy Hook shooting victims is to engage in meaningful, respectful dialogue about ALL possible ways to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again.

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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Rant

 

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace

Today is the second annual Ada Lovelace Day. For more information about who Ada was and why she has her own day, please see Finding Ada.

To help promote and celebrate the first event last year, I pledged to blog about the achievements of women in technology and science, and I fulfilled that pledge. I’m doing the same thing this year…hence this post.

Obviously, if one reviews the inconsistent posts in both my personal and professional blogs, one will see that the issue of women working in technology is one of my personal passions.  So, I’d like to take the opportunity of this post to explain why that is.

First, I am a woman, and I work in technology.  But, it wasn’t until I enrolled in grad school a few years ago that it became a passion.  I took a class on “Gender & Computing” that really opened my eyes to the inequalities that exist for women with technology…and it’s not just for those who work in technology.  There are also plenty of negative stereotypes about women using and understanding technology, much less fixing it (which I used to do) and designing it (which I currently do).

I guess that’s a good thing that it took 13 years for me to become aware of the issues.   That says a lot about my employers.  While I’ve always been in the minority at my jobs, I’ve been extremely lucky to have mostly supportive bosses. I also have to admit that I benefit from the inherent privilege of being white and middle class.  That’s why it took reading about people who were not in my situation to open my eyes to ‘the problem’.

And, now as I write this post, I find myself struggling with how to define ‘that problem’.  It’s just so huge and complex, it’s hard to give it the right words.

For one, as I mentioned before, there are negative stereotypes about women’s ability to understand and use technology.  An easy way to see this demonstrated is to go to YouTube and do a search on “Women and technology”.  The results you’ll get will mostly be videos of women misusing or struggling to use technology.  However, if you do a search on “Men and technology”, you get no such results.  Now, misogynists might argue that the reason is that only women have problems using technology. But, because of my work on a helpdesk, I know that for a fact it is not true.  I took calls from many, many men who did not understand how to use computers.  This transfers to other kinds of technology…what images does the term “women drivers” conjure in your head, yet which gender has higher insurance rates because it’s more likely to be involved in crashes?

There are many studies out there that show the number of women entering technological fields, and the number of women staying in technological fields, continue to decrease.  And, there are many theories as to why. One is that women just don’t have the aptitude that men do when it comes to things like science and math.

And, as a result, women don’t deserve to make the same salary as men.

And, there are many, many, many more, but the one that irks me the most is the stereotype that ‘women just aren’t interested in technology’.

That notion is really just way too simplified and doesn’t look at the issue deeply enough.  Yes, there are fewer female computer programmers and mechanics.  And, a lot of girls in middle and high school will tell you that they don’t have a preference for those things.  But, the question we should be asking is WHY DON’T THEY? Where does this preference (or lack thereof) come from?

An interest in technology is not a given. Boys don’t come out of the womb ready to create a character in WoW and rebuild a Corvette engine.  What humans define as ‘interesting’ is shaped by society.  It’s called ‘social constructionism‘.

Every day we see and experience things that shape who we want to become.  Sometimes it is subtle, like the fact that on the boxes of toy construction kits, there are always only boys pictured playing with them.  Sometimes it is more harsh, like the caller who laughed at me when I told him I was the third-level helpdesk technician and not a secretary.  A young boy is much more likely to be asked to help his dad repair, while the girl is much more likely to be asked to help her mom cook.

That’s where these “preferences” come from.  They aren’t caused by X or Y chromosomes; they are caused by the beliefs and actions of the society we live in.

We can’t change the chromosomes, but we can change society.  Increasing the numbers of women who work in technology is just one way. There are many other ways, I’m sure.  But, lets start small, shall we?  How about we all first agree to  not blindly accept that ‘women just aren’t technical’?

That’s why I am passionate about this issue, and I invite you to join me.



 
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Posted by on March 24, 2010 in Rant

 

I am a feminist

And, no, I do NOT hate men. I believe in equality, plain and simple.  I take the dictionary definition of Feminism quite literally:

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests — feminist n or adjfeministic adj

And, the majority of feminists will tell you the same thing. Many times, the mere mention of feminism causes eye-rolling, dismissal of one’s beliefs, and even vitriol.  I have had to defend my identity as a feminist very frequently lately, and I’m tired of it.  So, I’m going to write about it here, and in the words of CNN, “leave it right there“. 🙂

Just like with the politics and religion, there are extremists, like Mary Daly and Andrea Dworkin.  So, the term ‘feminist’ has become bastardized.

This is NOT what a true feminist looks or acts like.

Contrary to popular belief, feminism is not a war against men at all. Rather, it is a war against what we see as the root cause of women’s oppression: patriarchal gender relations.  Men are not the only ones who promote and maintain patriarchal relations, and it would be unwise to assume that all feminists think that it is only men who benefit from patriarchy. There are many women out there who are anti-feminist.

There are two reasons that the term ‘feminist’ has become such a dirty word. 1) its been hijacked by a vocal and radical minority, like Daly and Dworkin, and 2) it is in the best interest of those who wish to keep the current patriarchal gender relations to squash any movement that threatens the status quo.

Most of Christians don’t like to be associated with folks like Fred Phelps.  Most Republicans don’t like to be identified with groups like the Aryan Nation. Most Democrats don’t like to be compared to the Earth Liberation Front.  Most pro-lifers would never, ever murder an abortion doctor, as Scott Roeder did.

And, in the same vein, most feminists do not believe or behave as the extremists do. So, all I ask is that you give me, and anyone else who identifies as a feminist, the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t assume that I hate men because I want to make the same salary as my male coworker, who has the exact same experience and education as me and is currently making 10% more than I do. Don’t assume that I’m a lesbian because I don’t find advertisements that reinforce gender stereotypes appealing. Don’t assume that I think women are better than men because I don’t think your sexist joke is funny. Don’t assume that I want women to get “special treatment” because I abhor and want to get rid of our rape culture.

I am a feminist, and I am more than a stereotype.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in Rant

 

The Double Standard of Breasts

Yes, the pun in the post title was intended 😉

Last week, via Twitter, I watched a breastfeeding controversy unfold.  My colleague, Amy, wrote a great blog post about it, so I’ll just direct you to her site for the background info on that.  As you can see from my comment there, I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiments.

When women go prancing around showing huge amounts of cleavage at the beach or in the bars, the DJ, and the many other misogynists that think the way he does, do not complain.  But, when they use the breast for what they were actually made for, (and when doing so, actually shows less skin than the bikini-or-club-going-clad women do) he gets offended.

So, basically, as long as the women are using their assets for purposes in which the man is going to benefit, it’s okay.  But, if anyone else gets any benefit out of it, it’s offensive!  That is such a double standard.

Today, I read about another breastfeeding controversy that reinforces this double standard in a blog that was posted on our local newspaper.  Here is that post: TMI for little girls?

I am floored that someone would actually comment that breastfeeding is “too sexual”.  I completely disagree. It has nothing to do with sex in any way! It has everything to do with providing nourishment for your child.  You might as well say that cooking is sexual, or grocery shopping is sexual, or working so you have money to put food on the table is sexual…but I digress.

The reason that the person didn’t like the breastfeeding babies was that it reminded them of sex, so that must mean that sex is bad.

It reminds me of a funny quote by Butch Hancock:

Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love.

But, if sex is bad and seeing boobs makes you think of sex, then why do we see boobs everywhere, all the time in the U.S.? Watch almost any movie, play almost any video game, peruse the ‘net and look at the ads (and I’m not even talking about legitimate porn), and you’re bound to see some serious cleavage if not all out boobage. Not as many people get up in arms when Brittany Spears is shown on the cover of a magazine wearing a very revealing top.  Yet, a women feeds her child and she’s ostracized.

I did a little perusing on the web before writing this post.  I found several stories about this breast feeding doll and read the comments.  The comments on the blog that I linked above are mostly pro. But, that is to be expected because I live in a pretty liberal, natural-childbirth-loving community.  I found many other stories in which the majority of the comments were against this doll.  The majority of them posted things like “It’s inappropriate” because the girls are too young to know about it.

Excuse me? There are dolls include plastic bottles, which the little girls use to feed the doll with.  Why is it inappropriate to feed a doll one way, the way that Nature or God intended, but not the other way?  Why is it appropriate to take children to the zoo and ooh and aaah over the little baby panda cub suckling its mother but it’s not appropriate for humans to do the same?

The answer to both of those questions is the double standard of breasts, which is a direct result of misogyny.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2009 in Rant

 

Don’t believe everything you read on the ‘net!!

Yeah, I know that sounds like an obvious statement and most intelligent people are going to take things they read on the ‘net and in email with a grain of salt.

But, that’s just not the case. People blindly forward emails without even doing a simple Google search or stopping by Snopes to verify whether or not the information is true. While you may not think that a simple act of forwarding an email without checking it out may be harmless, I have an example that proves otherwise.

My friend Tim Wood is a professor at a university in Missouri. In December, he began to get emails from random people praising him for a political essay he wrote. But, the problem is my friend didn’t write a political essay. After a little research, he discovered a conspiracy theorist’s essay that was attributed to “Tim Wood” that in essence compared President Barrack Obama to Hitler.

My friend Tim, however, saw nothing other than the name that connected him specifically to this essay, and figured it was no big deal. He knows there are several Tim Woods out there. But, recently, he was made aware of the fact that an email version of this essay is now being forwarded around the web, and this email now contains a specific reference to my friend, as it lists his university’s address, email, and telephone number!

He contacted me for help, and I did some digging, and I believe I found the source of how this thing got attributed to him specifically. There’s a website for something called the “American Independent Party”. Someone there re-posted the original essay, and I guess he/she decided to pretend to be an investigative journalist and tried to figure out who the Tim Wood that wrote the article was. I’m guessing the person Googled his name, and found my friend. Since the essay mentions that the writer is a professor of history and my friend is a professor of history and poli sci, the person at the AIP website made the rash assumption that my friend was the essay writer.

She/He never bothered to call my friend to verify this. No, he/she just re-posted the article and then at the bottom wrote “I wonder if this is the Tim Wood who wrote this” and listed my friend’s full contact information. That’s when my friend started to get the emails.

After a month or so, people started copying this essay from the AIP website and pasting in emails, which began to be forwarded around the web. Somewhere along the way, the line “I wonder if this is…” was lost and everyone began to take at face value that the contact information listed with the essay was fact.

So, now my friend has spent a lot of his time and energy fighting something that in no way did he bring on himself. This is the kind of thing that could ruin a professor’s career! Reputation is something that is invaluable for those in academia, and all those people who forwarded the email or reposted the essay on other websites with the contact information, and especially the idiot at the AIP site that posted my friend’s contact information, could have ruined an innocent man’s livelihood!

Luckily, this thing hasn’t gone viral yet, and the original article that was attributed to my friend has been removed. But, the email forwards are still happening.

This kind of blind faith in content found on the ‘net is downright dangerous. As the old adage says, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has gets its boots on.”

So, I am appealing to anyone and everyone that might happen upon this blog post. Please, please, please take a few seconds to reflect on whether or not the information you are about to post or forward is true and verifiable. Going to Snopes or doing a Google search to verify the content only takes a few minutes. If you cannot verify the information, then do not post or forward it.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2009 in Rant

 

Edgar Bronfman is a pompous A$$

About 3 weeks ago, I blogged about Warner Music Group (WMG) making people take down personal YouTube videos that contained songs performed by WMG artists.

This morning, while working out at the gym, I was reading one of my favorite magazines, Wired. I came across this essay: Why the Music Industry Hates Guitar Hero. Now, go read that and tell me if the WMG CEO Edgar Bronfman doesn’t come off as a pompous ass.

Basically, now that he sees the success that Guitar Hero and Rock Band is having, Bronfman is whining like a little kid. When the game makers first approached WMG about using it’s artists’ music, WMG should have made them pay more then, instead of letting them sign low-cost synchronization licenses. WMG didn’t have the foresight to predict that these games would be big money makers and now they’re acting like little babies because they didn’t ask for a bigger cut.

But, that’s pretty much what they’ve been doing since the advent of digital music. They weren’t smart enough to see the potential of digital media, so instead of being proactive and figuring out how to make money with the new media, they were reactive and went after P2Ps and college students. Bronfman even admitted that they made a mistake with that tactic, as can be seen in this quote. Though, he also seems to be declaring “war” on consumers, and I really fail to see the business value in that move. (Oh, and, I’m sorry, Mr. Bronfman, but war is never inadvertent! It is one of the most intentional acts humans do. You chose to start this war. And, now you are crying about it because things aren’t going your way.)

So, what are the consequences of Mr. Pompous Ass’s latest actions? MTV, the makers of Guitar Hero, one of the most popular and prolific games right now, are going to boycott any WMG artists. And, who does that ultimately hurt? The artists! Because of Bronfman’s greed, many artists are going to be facing a tougher time than they should be in this recession.

And, WMG doesn’t seem to be faring any better. WMG Stock hit an all time low on Tuesday of $1.58 and closed at $1.85 on Wednesday. This means the stock price is equal to what it costs to buy a single. “Not an album, a SINGLE. A 45.”

Bronfman and his ilk claim that they’re trying to fight “piracy” so they can protect their artist’s creative content. Bullshit. They are trying to improve their profits. Plain and simple.

Writer Ken Fisher said it best in January in his article, Privately, Hollywood admits DRM isn’t about Piracy:

DRM’s sole purpose is to maximize revenues by minimizing your rights and selling them back to you…There is simply no evidence whatsoever that DRM slows piracy. In fact, all of the evidence suggests the opposite, and arguments that DRM “keeps honest people honest” are frankly insulting. If they’re already honest, they don’t need DRM…It’s not piracy that’s the concern, it’s their ability to control how you use the content you purchase.

This is going to be a very interesting issue to watch, especially now, as the Pirate Bay trial is in session. I predict that the music industry, especially Mr. Bronfman and WMG, is in for a very bumpy ride because of their stubbornness.

The digital age is redefining and reinventing all sorts of information, including music. And, if the music industry wants to survive, it MUST change it’s business model. It needs to take a cue from Hollywood, who, when threatened by the advent of VCRs, got creative and figured out how to make money with it, rather than complaining that the new technology didn’t support their current operating practices.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2009 in Rant

 

It’s time to rethink copyright

My friend SuzieQ is an amazing hula-hooper. And, she recently got a fun, new LED hoop that looks soooo cool when she’s hooping in the dark. She lives in another state and wanted to share this with her friends who couldn’t be there in person (like me).

So, our friend Chris had her do some hooping in his basement in the dark while he recorded it, and he posted the videos to YouTube. Now, hooping is really just another form of dance. So, it’s really pertinent that there’s music playing, because that’s what guides the hooper’s movements.

Chris and SuzieQ made a couple of videos with some different music. Here’s one:

But, I can’t post a link to the other one, which they both say is even better. And, that’s because Warner Brothers Music Group is a bunch of assholes.

See, during the other video, Shakedown Street by the Grateful Dead was playing. And, shortly after Chris posted the video to YouTube, he got an email telling him that the song was copyrighted material and he couldn’t use it in his video.

WTF? This irks me in so many ways:

1) The song came from a CD that Chris bought. That gives Chris the right to play it whenever he wants and to let any of his friends hear it when he plays it. It so happens it was playing in the background when he filmed SuzieQ. What is the difference between Chris playing it for me when I’m physically in his basement and when I’m watching a recording of his basement on YouTube?

2) If you search YouTube for Shakedown Street, you will get a ton of hits. Why aren’t all of those people told to take theirs down? If you are going to enforce a rule, you need to enforce it uniformly.

3) What if I’m at a family party and I decide to video tape my niece saying something cute, but what if we have the radio on at the time and Shakedown Street happens to come on while I’m recording?

4) The Grateful Dead allowed fans to audio record their shows and freely share those recordings as long as no money was being made. So, there are millions of copies of live versions of Shakedown Street out there. If Chris had used one of those, he would have been able to keep his video up. But, since he used a version of the song that came from a studio album, he’s told to take it down. But, it’s the EXACT SAME SONG! No matter if it’s performed live or put together in a studio, it was still written and performed by the same people, has the same chords and lyrics. Again, if you’re going to enforce a rule, you need to enforce it uniformly.

The entertainment industry needs to seriously re-think this whole issue of Copyright and piracy in this new digital age. In 2004, Lawrence Lessig published “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity,” which is about this very issue. He’s a Stanford Law professor, so he knows a little something about it.

I really like the analogy he makes in that it’s like spraying DDT to kill a gnat. Yes, everyone recognizes that it is illegal to STEAL someone’s work for your own profit (think Vanilla Ice and Queen/David Bowie). But, honestly, how is Chris and SuzieQ playing Shakedown Street while she hoops going to hurt Warner Music Group? It’s not like people are going to watch that video and decide that they will never, ever buy another copy of that song.

If you’d like to read more on what Lessig has to say, he’s made his book available for free on the ‘net, using a creative commons license. You can find it here.

There’s another essay about this I like by Rick Garlikov here. The entertainment Industry is taking this “remake the Internet before it remakes us” stand by going after people like my friend Chris. But, would the entertainment industry being remade really be a bad thing? Garlikov points out that:

Today on the Internet there are thousands and thousands, if not millions, of sites where people have put up intellectual property for free just because they want people to be able to find and have it. While much of it is trash, there are many good sites that teach about everything from calculus and theoretical physics to practical medical information to the most mundane issues of carpet care and cooking. There was music, literature, and entertainment long before there were recording companies, publishers, and studios. I doubt that music, entertainment, research, and other intellectual, creative endeavors will disappear from the face of civilization even if we have to give up the kind of copyright laws we have now.

I agree. It’s time the current copyright laws, and this “war on piracy” are abolished. Get with the digital age, Warner Music Group, and get off our asses!

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2009 in Rant