aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Alabama, Day 5
The most damning argument against capital punishment as a deterrent is that states with the death penalty generally have higher rates of murder than states without the death penalty. In 2003, for example, the murder rate in the 12 states without the death penalty was 4.1 for every 100,000 people. In the 38 states with the death penalty, the murder rate was 5.91 - 44 percent higher.
Even among death penalty states, those that carry out executions the most tend to have the highest murder rates.
The death penalty is most popular in the South, accounting for more than 80 percent of all executions in the nation. Yet Southern states also have the highest murder rates, according to the FBI. In fact, in 2003, the South was the only region above the national average - with a murder rate that was about 50 percent higher than the Northeast, where the death penalty is least popular.
I so very much admire them for their principled thorough well-reasoned series; and for taking the time to make their case over 5 days. Bravo!
A new oral tradition
As a young man studying documentary earlier in the media age, I noted with regret the loss of the oral tradition. Lately I’ve been seeing its revival and imagining even more so. I’m seeing it in the decline of newspapers and the rise of blogs. And generally I like it.
The oral tradition is less technically accurate, but it is more whole and, I think, equally legitimate. When a reporter - whether the Times or the local student paper - quotes our words, they choose the context those words are placed in. That context imparts meaning. Often the wrong meaning.
When we tell our stories, we choose the context. With that choice the meaning can be more honest and more complete. Certainly it’s more authentic.
Just last night I discussed Alex Ross’s New Yorker article, The Record Effect: How technology has transformed the sound of music. In it Ross describes how music once was appreciated for the variations that came from live and more impromptu performance. Now, with recordings heard over and over, what we want and reward in a live setting is the precise technical replication of that recording.
Let’s apply those notions to information. Once the stories handed down to us by those who had gone before, those who were actually there, were told with their individual idiom and emphasis. That’s how we got our rich histories. Now those tales may be more technically accurate, but are they still just as rich?
I like to believe that our broadening access to communications technologies means much of our individual rich authenticity can be captured, saved and shared. And if that means a loss of technical accuracy, I’m not convinced that’s a loss of anything worth saving.
This little riff is brought on by the spat between bloggers and the White House on just exactly what was said at a press briefing. It made me consider my words to my friend last night and here again today - is the loss of technical accuracy really not such a big loss? Do I really believe that?
I’m comforted some by the presence of video. But video can be manipulated and interpreted too.
So for now I’ll stand by my wish for a new emergence of that old oral tradition. And enjoy its honest inaccuracies along with those presented each day by both the “objective” press and the “balanced” press.
A righteous rant
Mike Evangelist, former Director of Product Marketing for Apple’s ‘Pro’ applications department:
[W]ith every day that passes it becomes more and more obvious that the greedy bastards who run these media companies prefer to treat me (and all their customers) like criminals. They continually expect us to pay more for less, and even then they are not satisfied. They want to pretend to ‘sell’ us their product, but they don’t want us to actually have it. Well I’ve had enough.
From this day forward I will never spend a another dime on content that I can’t use the way I please. If I can’t copy it to my hard drive and play it using the devices I want, when and where I want, I won’t be buying it. Period.
They can all take their DRM, and their broadcast flags, and their rootkits, and their Compact Discs that aren’t really compact discs and shove them up their bottom-lines.
Emphasis his. I’m right there with him.
Lessig on Google Print
Writing in Wired, he calls it “the great est gift to knowledge since, well, Google:”
Google wants to index content. Never in the history of copyright law would anyone have thought that you needed permission from a publisher to index a book’s content. Imagine if a library needed consent to create a card catalog. But Google indexes by “copying.” And since 1909, US copyright law has given copyright holders the exclusive right to control copies of their works. “Bingo!” say the content owners.
But the Congress that altered the copyright statutes in 1909 didn’t have Google Print in mind. By copy, Congress meant the sort of act that would be in competition with the incentives that copyright law was (fittingly) meant to establish for authors. Nothing in what Google wants to do affects those incentives to creativity.
It is for this reason that many appropriately believe that Google’s indexing of these copyrighted works is plainly fair use - meaning exempted from the control of copyright. But to reach that conclusion with confidence would require expensive litigation with an uncertain outcome.
Thus the decision that will impact the Internet. A rich and rational (and publicly traded) company may be tempted to compromise - to pay for the “right” that it and others should get for free, just to avoid the insane cost of defending that right. Such a company is driven to do what’s best for its shareholders. But if Google gives in, the loss to the Internet will be far more than the amount it will pay publishers. It will be a bad compromise for everyone working to make the Internet more useful - and for everyone who will ultimately use it.
They eat their own
WroldNet Daily reports on the holiday controversy:
A Catholic advocacy group has launched a national boycott against Wal-Mart, claiming the world’s No. 1 retailer has in effect “banned” Christmas, while promoting other seasonal holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
But Wal-Mart tells WorldNetDaily it has “absolutely not” banned Christmas, but is just “trying to serve all our customers for the holiday season.”
According to the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the controversy was sparked when a woman recently complained to Wal-Mart that the store was replacing its “Merry Christmas” greeting with “Happy Holidays.”
The League says the woman received an e-mail response from a customer-service representative, reading exactly as follows:
Walmart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than “christmas” which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with “christmas” red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world.
World O’Crap, which led me to this gem, asks:
[H]ow many of you believe that a Wal-Mart customer service rep actually sent such an email? I’ll count hands.
Okay, so none of you. (While I do like the idea of Wal-Mart trying to drive religious-nut whiners crazy by telling them that their “sacred holiday” is based pn hallucinogenic mushrooms, the fact that the name of mushrooms was misspelled seems to indicate that the email was written by an attention-seeking crank with poor research skills. The fact that “Wal-Mart” was misspelled appears to clinch it.)
Read the whole thing. Her conclusion: “I think this year’s War on Christmas is shaping up as the best one ever!”
I’ve imagined Automated Driving - ”it’s closer than you think” - now comes word of assisted parking:
XM isn’t just content to tell you where to go, what the traffic will be like, and how much the weather will suck when you get there, (oh yeah, and they play some music too) no, they’re going to tell you where to park now with their concept system that tracks the percentage of open spots on a lot and beams the info to your XM equipped car. They’ve teamed up with Nu-Metrics and InfoGation to figure this out, and the idea sounds well and good, but not only will you need to install this yet to be developed technology in your car, but there won’t be any data until parking lots start installing all of the equipment they’ll require to track open spaces.
Oh well, one day…