Fruit of the Earth



"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

John 15:5





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For weekly updates in current affairs and insight, you might wish to check out the Xtos bulletin board. Philosophy, ethics, faith, science, and other important stuff often missed by the mainstream media.

Dmitry has been freed. The Russian programmer who was arrested for writing a program that could "possibly" be used for purposes contrary to the american notion of copyright, spent five months in a US prison. The DMCA legislation adopted by that nation, was well received by monopolistic multi-national corporations who claim it represents the "American Way".

Under pressure from the American motion picture lobby, 18 year old Norwegian, Jon Johansen, was indicted for writing software so that he could watch his DVDs on his Linux computer. One would think that since he bought the DVDs, he also has the right to do what he wants with them -- if he uses them as frisbees, feeds them to his dog, or watches them on his favorite computer, that should be his own business. Not so, says big brother. Read more.

In around the time that bureaucrats in high places were excercising monopolistic rights in war and business, underdog Apple Computer introduced that company's new consumer operating system to the masses. Timed weeks ahead of rival XP, Apple's release of OSX 10.1 is itself a hard thrust into a world increasingly dominated by the folks from Redmond. Tiring of the hype, chain rattling, and the smell of decaying competitors, I decided to have a peek at what this low-key new arrival had to offer.

On Sunday, October 7, 2001, in a message presumably recorded prior to US and UK military machines launched million dollar missiles into the tents of Afghanistan, Bush nemesis bin Laden, pronounces the state of war in defence of Islam against the infidels of the west. In my own attempt to understand this behaviour, I found a certain text in the Koran regarding battle against "those who disbelieve ... And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state. And bring them into the Garden which He hath made known to them" (Surah XLVII 4-6, Pickthall). No wonder so many Muslims are quite willing to die for their cause. If it can be construed to be in the defense of Islam (submission to God) then the outlook seems superior to much of life on this planet.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 people around the world were stunned as hijacked commercial aircraft suicided into the twin pillars of capitalist pride, New York's World Trade Center, and into that bastion of military prowess, the Pentagon. Much of the politiking that followed, comes under the category of knee-jerk reaction. Following in the lead of his father before him, Bush jr. saw his popularity soar with each brash and proud public pronouncement of war that followed. It seems that few pondered the irony of it having been his father in a previous office who had financed the freedom fighters in the middle east back when the enemy was communism. The seed that had been sown came to full tenure and this time they were deemed terrorists, they had turned their sights on the U.S..

The incident drew some interesting remarks from political activist, Jerry Falwell. Rather than simply dismissing these comments as a crass political move, I am struck by the similarities between this statement and the those made on the other side. What is it the terrorists have been saying all along? Are they not also expressing moral outrage at the US and its many offences? They commit these acts of outrage in the name of God (Arabic: Allah). Let's get off of our camels for a second, and put our own outrage on the back burner for a moment. God, any Muslim will confess, is the God of Abraham and of the prophets. Falwell makes a similar claim.

The tenor of Falwell's statement seems rare, even out of place, in our modern democratic political environment. Expressing such unpopular thoughts was also characteristic of the Biblical character, Jeremiah. The opponents of his day, too, thought that they had God all figured out and were confident that Jeremiah was just a little out of touch. But, as that story turned out, Jeremiah's opponents were then silenced by the sword of Nebuchadnezzar. The unpopular prophet had warned them with certain precision that this would happen, years before it actually took place. Read those sections of the Bible and see if you don't agree that such an analogy might fit, in an arcane sort of way. Those that would criticize, better come to know what he knows, before they reach their respective conclusions.

Interestingly, these recent innovations in terrorism are being used in the 'land of the free' as an excuse to erode those liberties. The argument assumes that in order to increase vigilence and security, freedoms must be curtailed -- this is not necessarily the tradeoff, says security expert, Bruce Schneier, in a well-reasoned article on the topic.

In the summer of 2001 the FBI arrested Russian computer programmer, Dmitry Sklyarov as he was visiting the USA to participate in a computer software conference. The crime that he was thrown into prison for: he wrote a program that allowed people who owned e-books, to save them in other formats. Under the US version of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the DMCA, writing such software becomes an illegal act. In the Dmitry case, his software was allowing users to choose their book reader software rather than forcing the user to be corraled into the single provider paradigm. See this discussion of the DMCA and Dmitry.

Emboldened by new copyright laws of the ilk of the DMCA, publishers of music and books alike are looking to cash in on easy money. The impact on libraries is substantial, according to the Association of American Publishers. The Washington Post outlines some of the trends in this article. Will we see the centuries old institution of the public library, shut down like Napster? The pressure is on, according to this article on CNET.

Yet another controversial sequence of bills is currently in process being passed by State governments. This, known as UCITA is apparently well on its way to being adopted by every State in the Union. The ramifications on the philanthropic software developer, are catastrophic, according to Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). For his discussion on the impact of this legislation, follow this link

Other treaties with questionable portend: the Hague

Required by treaty to do their own DMCA, Canada has seemingly approached the subject more cautiously than the crass political engine to the south. Their request for comment on the issue here.

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