Stealing whiskey vs. stealing art

Here is a fascinating history of international copyright law, occasioned by recent attempts to bolster it even more in light of the new techological “sharing” possibilities. Back in the 19th century, copyright used to extend only within a particular country. That meant that America, Canada, and England used to pirate each other’s authors, printing their work and giving them no royalties. That eventually changed, due to the crusading, among others, of Mark Twain, who would travel to these other nations and ask why someone who stole his bottle of whiskey would get imprisoned but nothing happens to someone who steals his writings.

The article alluded to some people who resist these laws even today, maintaining that copyright restricts education, people’s access, and whatnot. I certainly understand why people download music illegally. But I can’t see how that can be justified in any kind of moral argument. Attempts to say that stealing music or other created products are anything but violations of the commandment seem to be just casuistry (in the sense I explained a few days ago in a comment) so as not to think of oneself as a sinner. Isn’t Twain’s analogy valid? Can any of you think of a moral justification for taking an artist’s property without paying for it?

Burning just ethanol

In my travels in Oklahoma, I came across a gas station that sold an 85% ethanol fuel for just over $2 per gallon. Does anybody know anything about this? Can any car burn that, or does a car have to be specially adapted to burn that stuff? (Not that I approve of using food for fuel, but still. . . .)

Going nuclear?

This article surveys our energy problems and the global food and starvation crisis caused to a major extent by the biofuel fiasco. The solution the article lifts up is nuclear energy! It does not pollute the air like other fuels. It is pretty much inexhaustible. And yet, people fear it irrationally. A nuclear power plant does NOT set off an atom bomb. It’s not like on the Simpsons, generating three eyed fish and irradiating the community. The radiation can be managed pretty easily.

Do you buy that argument, that environmentalists, in blocking the building of new nuclear energy plants, are harming the environment?

Or can another case be made against nuclear energy, that it violates the basic building block of matter in a profoundly unnatural and so immoral way?

At any rate, when the left ridicules President Bush, pro-lifers, creationists, and social conservatives in general for being “anti-science”–whether their stances are valid or not– can we include anti-nuclear activists in that group?

Mysterious lights over Arizona and Florida

Strange lights flew in formation over Phoenix, Arizona, and St. Augustine, Florida. (Something similar happened in Phoenix in 1997.) These were widely seen and photographed. Here is a story about the Arizona sightings: Unexplained lights spotted above Valley; what were they? Here is a story on the Florida sightings. (The anchors say the lights may be wedding lights, I guess something like balloons.)

Here is a video of what people were seeing in Arizona, so you can see them for yourself:

What do you make of these? (I welcome opinions both serious and humorous.)

UPDATE: We have a confession.


Have you seen the website Wikileaks? People from all over the world can post documents that governments, businesses, and the like do not want public. A bunch of embarrassing documents about the Scientology religion have been posted. Scientology, Inc., has sued, as is their wont, but the court upheld what the site is doing.

The site is a “wiki,” which means its readers put it together. Anyone can post any document on the site, without identification and fear of reprisal. It exists in many different languages, and its biggest use seems to be from people in small countries living under corrupt and oppressive regimes posting documents that expose the evils they live under.

Wikileaks is a remarkable example of the freedom of information that the internet makes possible. Is this a good thing, or is its damage to private and confidential communication that institutions arguably need sometimes too harmful?

HT: Nathan Martin

After the internet

We may be going from the web to the grid. New technology to be launched this summer may lead to the internet, which still relies on phone-company type switches, becoming obsolete. The new “grid” will eventually run 10,000 times faster than broadband, making possible near-instantaneous downloads, holographic images, and who knows what else. At least according to this.