Let’s talk a bit about the War on Drugs

September 25, 2013 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 529

There’s been a lot of discussion of health care around here recently, and not nearly as much about the War on Drugs. That’s a shame. It’s at least as colossal and destructive a failure as health care, and it won’t change in any meaningful way without a massive public outcry. Make no mistake, though: We can end the War on Drugs, and end the catastrophic damage it is doing to our country and our society, in a virtual instant. All we have to do is legalize, regulate, and tax all drugs. 

Now don’t stop reading. I already know what you’re thinking, and I’m not a pot enthusiast or a user of illegal drugs. Honestly. I’m one of the rare few for whom “Just Say No” did the trick. In fact, I was a staunch opponent of legalization until a single presentation, made by a police officer, changed my mind. Stick with me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll see if I can win you over too.

For starters, you have to accept a few basic facts: Continue Reading

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Sometimes I get to feel like I work with super heroes.

March 2, 2012 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Personal, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 470

So a high school principal in Tennessee, Dorothy Bond, was using the PA system to preach about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. She was holding assemblies to tell her students that gay people “weren’t on God’s path” and were “going to hell.” She promised 60-day suspensions for any students guilty of same-sex PDAs. She also told female students that if they got preganant their lives would be over, and that they would end up “jobless, homeless, and living off the government.”

So then the ACLU found out, and we sent the school district a letter. Three hours later, Dorothy Bond was unemployed.

Dan Savage says: “The ACLU means business, and they will fuck you up.”

What a way to end the week. I’ll be walking on air all the way home.

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Jonathan Coulton, Internet censorship, and creativity as industry

January 24, 2012 In The News, Politics / Religion, Writing Comments (0) 319

I was blacked out last Wednesday [well, I wasn’t — my web site was] in web solidarity against internet censorship, so my three readers had to go elsewhere for their information on house centipedes [seriously, it drives like 90% of my search engine traffic]. You already know about SOPA and PIPA and why they must be stopped, so I won’t bore you by restating. How incredible to watch last Wednesday as public awareness skyrocketed, prompting cosponsors to drop off and kill a bill in what was essentially a few hours. I work in public interest and let me tell you, things don’t work that way most of the time. It was definitely one of those “Uh-oh, you woke up the Internet” moments.

As an author, and one who hopes to one day make writing my sole source of income, I have a vested interest in copyright law. I believe in copyright, and I recognize that the whole idea of a creative industry is reliant on intellectual property law. More than being illegal, I view piracy as morally wrong – at least, when it’s an artist trying to earn a living from whom you are pirating. However, to put large corporations in charge of deciding what is or is not a violation of copyright is just totally ludicrous.

Corporations cannot be trusted with IP decisions. Has everyone forgotten when Disney tried to trademark “Seal Team Six,” the name of a Navy Seal division? Marvel and DC Comics co-own a trademark on the term “Superhero.” Whole industries have sprung up around buying photo copyrights and suing unknowing bloggers. Corporations have no belief in education, parody, satire, critique, or any other fair use. Their only interest is in protecting their valuable property.

As much as I care about copyright, and the right of the artist to compensation, I also believe in maintaining an open forum for discussion and a free exchange of ideas. As an author, I recognize that readers are going to share my work around – whether lending books, or even in some cases reproducing them. Hell, I don’t just recognize it, I hope for it. Not only because it potentially creates more fans to purchase my products, but because I believe in a world where people can share things like art and music with friends, without having to treat that act as a financial transaction.

Which brings us to Jonathan Coulton, and his thoughts on both the SOPA/PIPA issue and the US Government’s ensuing shut-down of Megaupload. Coulton [whose work on Portal alone was enough to make me a fan] points out that, really, the business model we’re defending has been around a relatively short time, and there is no God-given right to make money from making art:

It so happens that technological and societal blahbity bloos have conspired to create a situation where selling songs about monkeys and robots is a viable business, but for most of human history people have NOT paid for art. I don’t want this to happen again, and I would be very sad if this came to pass, but it’s not up to me to decide.
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This is pretty on-the-nose, frankly. As sad as I would be to see my dreams of writing for a living go up in smoke [really, really sad – so keep that in mind before you pull the new Lady Gaga track down off Frostwire], it’s the nature of the business and the era we are all living through and shaping. I want to make a living doing what I love, but I don’t want it enough to justify a law that hamstrings free expression and the free exchange of ideas. Sony and Disney and Comcast might think their dollars are worth more than our collective minds. I just don’t happen to agree.

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