Musings of a college conservative

Friendly Fire Trial Dropped

The court martial of the two US pilots who accidentally bombed a canadian platoon in Afghanistan has been dismissed. This is an emotionally charged issue, but I believe the right choice was made. The pilots thought they were receiving hostile surface to air fire and proceeded to bomb what they thought was the enemy position. The pilots blamed the mistake on the "fog of war," a concept first stated by 19th Century military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz. War is a confusing place where everything goes wrong, and the consequences of incorrect action are death to you and your closest friends. Under these circumstances, we can easily see how mistakes are made. In the case of Afghanistan, the country was riddled with surface-to-air missiles that we gve to the Mujahedeen that are a clear threat to any aircraft. Beyond this threat, the pilots also outline several other mitigating factors:

"The pilots said they were never told the Canadians would be conducting live-ammunition exercises that night. Defense attorneys suggested Air Force-issued amphetamines, which were routine issued to help aviators stay awake during long missions, had clouded the pilots' judgment. They also blamed a military communications breakdown "

This accident was on the tail end of a 10-hour mission. I can't stand to be in a plane for 10 hours, much less piloting it and conducting activities in hostile teritory. Is it really any wonder that they got a little jumpy when people who, as far as they knew, weren't supposed to be there started firing. Friendly fire deaths are always a tragedy, and should be minized as much as possible. However, we simply cannot go around punishing honest mistakes like these. The consequences would be dreadful. Imagine if every soldier now hesitated to fire because it might be possible they were shooting at an ally. More often than not, they would only be helping the enemy. In a warzone, things get confusing. Let's not tie the hands of those who are putting thier lives on the line.

French and Italian Leaders use Immunity to escape prosecution

Whereas we are willing to impeach a president over lying, the Continentals make their leaders untouchable by lawsuit while in office. The most recent incarnation of this principle is Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy. Parliament just passed a law giving the top five members of government immunity from prosecution during their term. This is meant to stall the seven year process charging corruption and bribing by Berlusconi. Odd how it coincides with his presidency of the EU.

If this sounds familiar, it is probably because the right honorable President de La France, Jacques Chriac, also has immunity while in office, and is also awaiting trial on several charges of corruption. While he was mayor of Paris, Monsieur Chirac made many "questionable" deals involving the current majority party (RPR) which he founded.

It came as no surprise when I learned that France and Italy are considered the most corrupt and the most corrupting of industrialized nations. To quote, "graft affects every corner of life, from sport to politics. So endemic is it, they argue, that it simply represents the French way of doing business.." And we thought we had "good ol' boys" networks.

It seems that God created sex to tempt American politicians, and money to tempt Europeans.

Lemonade Anyone?

At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote. - Emo Philips

Well, at least the police didn't shut me down like this poor six year old entrepreneur.

Enforcing Copyright Laws

Apparently, Senator Orin Hatch is willing to allow the recording industry to physically destroy the computers of people caught illegally downloading material. I certainly think that is a bit drastic, but I am not sure how I feel about pirating media.

Obviously, it is illegal. We are taking material that is copyrighted and we are not paying for it. Being a child of the information age, I have a radical idea that information ought to be free. I still have not reconcilled this with how authors would make a living, but it seems to me that even in such a society, people would still want to buy books to own a physical copy. Likewise, and perhaps even less vexing, if songs become public domain consumers would still want to go to concerts to see the music performed live. Artists would still have a way to make a living.

Assuming the laws do not change to meet the realities of this new era, do we have a de facto obligation to obey the law - even if we consider it unjust? I do not necessarily think so, we all violate laws every single day (speeding, to name just one instance). In fact, it seems that a lot of laws ought to be on the books just in case something bad or extreme happens; i.e. it is ok to break these laws at your own peril, but if something bad does happen, it should be known that you were clearly in the wrong. For example, seat belt laws. You should not be forced to wear a seatbelt. If, however, you are in an accident and you are not wearing a seatbelt, you should not be able to sue for damages due to the fact that you flew through the windshield.

Let's bring this back to copyright infringement. Should people who download one or two songs from their favorite artists and who have a playlist of 1,000 songs be punished. No, the drain on money from the government for each individual prosecution does not even begin to cover the damage inflicted on the recording companies. However, if someone has one million songs, and is selling access to their library for downloads, that might be a good case to punish.

As for the legality of downloading, I do not see a real difference between pirating songs from peer-to-peer and taping songs from the radio. In both cases you are making a recording of a song that passes freely over the airwaves. Excepting obscure bands who might not be played on the radio, but who would profit from the greater publicity of filesharing. To further illustrate this similarity, I have a friend who hooked up his radio to his computer and ripped songs straight from FM radio. Would this make him a target for prosecution? Why would the medium of recording make a difference?

This new technology has made it possible for the market to react to an overpriced product. Consumers are expected to pay close to $20 for a cd that likely has only one or two good songs, and no liner notes with items of interest such as lyrics. This is far too much money, and so people are willing to make investments elsewhere. The price is so high that people are willing to invest time into searching and are willing to settle for an inferior quality of product. I have no doubt that if cds were made more affordable, people would be more willing to buy them. These artists are overpaid anyways, there are not many people who would disagree with that.

As is to be expected, new technology is forcing our laws, culture, and social norms to be reevaluated. The information revolution is still creating corpses, but it is all part of the beautiful destructive creation that is capitalism. Oligarchies are being challenged, inflated prices confronted.

Should we destroy the computers of people who want to hear the theme song from Gummy Bears beacuse it reminds them of their childhood? No, and the fruits of pirating will be a better product offered. God bless the free market.

What a Fox

I guess it is subliminal, but this must be why I like Fox News so much.

Good Christian Ethics

The Bishop of Pheonix was arrested over the weekend for fleeing the scene of a fatal hit and run accident. Bishop O'Brien also allowed priests that he knew had been accused of sexual misconduct to work with minors, and he would sometimes pass these priests off to other parishes without alerting their supervisors. Sounds like good christian living to me.

As far as I remember it, the parable of the good Samaritan involves finding an already beaten man, and then helping him. I suppose if it is you who does the beating, then there is no obligation to help the man. O'Brien could have at least said the Last Rites.

This type of behaviour is unfortunately indicative of the state of the Catholic Church right now. Frank Keating, the ex-governor of Oaklahoma and devout Catholic, appointed to head the investigation of the sex abuse scandals gets shouted down for coming out and telling the truth. Keating said that it was shameful for the Church hierarchy to act with such secrecy, and reiterated that his committee must be transparent. Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony, head of America's largest archdiocese referred to Keating's remarks as "the last straw."

Why is Cardinal Mahony so defensive against these accusations of obfuscation? Because he is not willing to answer a survey about the number of priests involved in sexual misconduct, nor will he release subpoenaed documents pertaining to the prosecution of several former and current priests.

When the Jayson Blair story broke, it was the New York Times, Blair's own paper, that did the most thorough accounting of his fabrications. They did so to save what little respect and prestige they could. They wanted everyone to know they had the integrity to own to their mistakes. The Catholic Church, faced with decades of sexual molestation, refuses to take a similar action. Instead they try to keep things behind closed doors, exactly the type of activity that got them in trouble in the first place. The only attempt made at cleaning up thier image and rooting out justice is sabotaged by high-ranking officials like Mahony. Keating's panel was a half-hearted attempt by an embarrassed Chruch. Not because they meant it, but because they had to do something. Now that Iraq and other news has eclipsed their scandal, the committee is being undermined from within.

Behaviour like Mahony and O'Brien cannot be tolerated if the Church is to retain any dignity. Beyond that, if they are to have any claim of moral superiority, any claim to bring people to "the Way, the Truth and the Life," then must stop acting as if we live in Medieval Europe. These officials are not above the law, although by their actions they should be above reproach. It is not acceptable to kill someone in an accident and flee, or to molest little children entrusted to them as representatives of God.

In order for the Church to continue the good work that it has done, it must confess its sins. And not just in a booth, behind a curtain, to other priests - but in public, in front of cameras, to the whole world.

Left-Wing Conspiracy Theories

I didn't know they existed, but the Lefties have a bunch of conspiracy theories all their own. In true form, none of the liberal theories make any sense at all. Especially compared to the quite credible right wing theories, like Vince Foster, or the Clinton Body Count. Thanks to Right Wing News for the link.

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