Tuesday, October 31, 2006


David Cameron and the Tories argue that the different rights that we get once we turn 18/21, such as getting a driver's license, being able to drink alcohol, being able to vote, should be contingent on the accomplishment of a national service program (read: NSTP/ROTC). The basic point that they're trying to make is that these rights shouldn't be linked to an arbitrary age requirement but rather to some proof that there's a sense of social responsibility inherent in the young person in question. Then again, doing such a thing removes the whole unalienability of those rights in the first place. Could be quite an interesting debate.

Steven E. Landsburg explains how exactly the existence of Internet Pornography prevents the people most likely to commit rape to go out in the streets and rape someone. It essentially boils down to "Net access reduces rape because Net access makes it easy to find porn."

This would be especially useful in debates such as the one regarding fictional child pornography, or actually pornography in general.

Another thing the article explains is how violent movies reduce the incidents of violent crime.

Juan Cole talks about the idea being talked about in the US Congress about partitioning Iraq to three separate regions of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites. One side is arguing that such a move would be "balkanizing" the region. The other side is saying that that's exactly what Iraq needs, considering that the Balkans are pretty stable right now. Either way, the article sheds some light on an old debate.

Gary Kamiya argues that the US should apologize to the Iraqis. His basic point is, "When we smashed into their country, we in effect became their temporary guardians. We were responsible for their well-being. We needed to raise them, take care of them, until they could take care of themselves. And we failed them. This is a deeply shameful feeling."

Then again, is a US apology really what Iraq needs right now, or is it just going to make things worse? Such an apology undoubtedly will accomplish one thing - alleviate the shame that's supposed to be in every American regarding Iraq. But what else would an apology do? Maybe embolden the fundamentalists. Maybe discredit the US as an international mediator. In any case, this is a pretty interesting debate in the long line of "compensation debates".

Bill O'Reilly vs. David Letterman

Most of the time (in fact almost 99% of the time), David Letterman isn't funny. His jokes are tired and forced, and his band leader is more annoying than Jar Jar Binks. Sometimes however, sometimes, he gets a guest over and THIS happens:

One thing you can say about Letterman, he doesn't just babysit the guests, especially when he has guests like Bill O'Reilly.

Watch the two clips. Watch how both sides debate with each other. From the start you can see O'Reilly trying to beat around the bush and avoid the issue of Iraq and the Bush Administration as best as he can. Each and every time though, Letterman forces him back onto the course. Then, a few ad hominems from both sides get thrown around, rinse and repeat.

What I find interesting about the interview is how Letterman tries to frame the Iraq issue initially in a way that's accomodating to O'Reilly's perspective - that is that the US basically pulled a 'Batman', they invaded Iraq because they wanted to stop something horrible that was already happening to them. Later on during the interview, he shifts from this perspective when he calls Bill O'Reilly on the original reasons for invading Iraq, which was the WMDs. He shifts back later on in the interview.

Other than that, (and other than that time O'Reilly takes a slight advantage when he pulls the 9/11 card) he argues the case pretty well. Take into consideration the fact that Letterman doesn't probably have a comprehensive knowledge about the history of the problem with Iraq, and it goes beyond just 'pretty well'.

He was right when he said that O'Reilly "puts artificial facts into his head". A lot of what O'Reilly said during the interview can very well be considered false matter. Is the status quo in Iraq right now really not that much different from the status quo in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime? No. Saddam killed around 300,000 people. The US Occupation in Iraq has so far killed at least 650,000. That's hardly a tie. Before the war, Iraqis (at least according to the IHT article I read way back then) were able to start their own Internet Coffee Shops. I doubt they have the same liberty now. Iraq under Saddam may have been horrible, but at least it wasn't as horrible as it is now, and at least it was stable.

More importantly and much more offensive (at least for me) was the comment O'Reilly said in the latter half of the interview - that "the intent was noble". As if that excuses everything that the Republicans have done wrong in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Even worse, he seems to think it's perfectly fine that this rationalization harks back to Western Imperialism and the 'White Man's Burden', as if there's nothing wrong with it.

What a lot of people (particularly the Americans apparently) keep on forgetting however is that US & UK intelligence wasn't wrong only once. It was completely wrong in TWO occasions. First it was wrong with its claim of WMDs in Iraq. Second it was wrong wit h its non-claim of WMDs in North Korea. George Bush and Tony Blair dropped the ball in the biggest crisis to hit the international community since World War 2. And so far, no one's taking them completely to task with that. If they actually had their intelligence right, the world wouldn't be where it is right now, back in the Cold War.

In any case, galing lang, how Letterman completely owns O'Reilly, and all O'Reilly could do was hide himself behind a pillow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The Diary of a Sex Slave - a four part series by SFgate.com about global sex trafficking.

Charity is Selfish - the economic case against philanthropy - Slate economist Tim Harford argues that charity isn't all that altruistic.

The War on Water - How the shortage in water, privatization, and the World Bank contribute to the poverty in Bolivia.

Non-Resident Mayors - Bong Austero of the Manila Standard talks about the problem with mayors who don't reside in the towns they're governing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Further discussions on intellectual property and copyright law.

As you will read, the discussion on intellectual property and copyright law goes way beyond mp3s and AIDS cocktails.

Can fashion be copyrighted? - the Wall Street Journal talks about the infamous practice of producing knockoffs.

New Era of the Recipe Burglar
- the magazine Food and Wine deals with the latest trend of copyrighting recipes.

For a time, people were also discussing plagiarism in the context of Architectural Design. One famous case is the one against David Childs for his design of the Freedom Tower.

Considering all of this, I'm starting to think that the entertainment industry's obssession with DRM (digital rights management, you should know this) has made the idea of intellectual property trendy. Which wouldn't be that bad, until you realize that it has come to the point where people are already copyrighting phrases (read: Donald Trump).