March 31, 2005

Butterflies are Free -- Even in L.A.

Greetings. I've lived in L.A. my entire life, and this is a new one on me. The combination of the (so far) second wettest rain season on record here (since records began back in the 1800s) and suddenly quite warm weather, has triggered a veritable explosion in butterfly populations all over the area.

It seemed to start a couple of days ago, and today there are orange butterflies in view pretty much everwhere you look, sometimes hundreds or more at a time. There must be billions of them. It's truly impressive.

We know that the heavy rains can be anything but a good omen for Los Angeles. Outside of the immediate damage, the massive growth of wild vegetation could yield a terrible fire season later this year after everything dries out in the summer heat.

But for now, the splashes of butterfly colors streaking through the sky in their multitudes are a welcome sight, and very special indeed.


Posted by Lauren at 03:20 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

March 27, 2005

Announcing EEPI - Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative

Greetings. I'm pleased to announce "EEPI" ( ), a new initiative aimed at fostering cooperation in the areas of electronic entertainment and its many associated issues, problems, and impacts.

I've teamed with 30+ year recording industry veteran Thane Tierney in this effort to find cooperative solutions to technical, legal, policy, and other issues relating to the vast and growing range of electronic technologies that are crucial to the entertainment industry, but that also impact other industries, interest groups, individuals, and society in major ways.

There are many interested parties, including record labels, film studios, the RIAA, the MPAA, artists, consumers, intellectual freedom advocates, broadcasters, manufacturers, legislators, regulators, and a multitude of others.

The issues cover an enormous gamut from DVDs, CDs, and piracy issues to multimedia cell phones, from digital video recorders to Internet file sharing/P2P, from digital TV and the "broadcast flag" to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and "fair use" controversies.

By working together, rather than fighting each other, perhaps we can all find some broadly acceptable paths that will be of benefit to everyone.

For more information, please see the EEPI Web site at:

A moderated public discussion list and an EEPI announcement list are now available at the site.

Public participation is cordially invited. Thank you very much.


Posted by Lauren at 09:26 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

March 20, 2005

In Schiavo Case, Bush and Congress Show How Low They Can Go

Greetings. As if there was ever any doubt, Congress is giving us all a dramatic lesson in arrogance par excellence. Be injecting themselves into the tragedy of brain-dead Terri Schiavo, they have demonstrated that their political posturing knows no bounds.

While sympathy for Terri's parents and other blood relatives is appropriate, and though it is understandable that they don't wish to let her go -- particularly considering the tenets of their Roman Catholic beliefs -- their insistence that her mindless body be kept alive has become grotesque.

No dispensations are available for Congress, especially for the right-wing, "right to life"-pandering Senators and Representatives who are pushing through special legislation to try transfer the case to federal courts, after practically innumerable prior courts have ruled that the poor woman should be allowed to die.

We've come to expect such shameful shenanigans from many in the GOP. But in this case, most Democrats, shaking in their boots at the prospect of upsetting religious fanatics, have shown all the spine of jellyfishes when it comes to this egregious violation of personal and even states' rights.

And what of President Bush? He's ready to come flying back to Washington (at taxpayers' expense of course -- even though he could easily handle this without leaving his Crawford digs) to sign this abomination of intrusive legislation with public fanfare for the maximal political impact.

Of course, this isn't the last step. The new law itself may well be declared to be unconstitutional. Federal courts may find that the rulings of the state courts were completely appropriate, and that Terri should be allowed to die after all.

And then what will Congress and the President do? They've already shown that they care more about prolonging the life of one brain-dead body than the lives of our troops still being killed in Iraq. And is this the same President Bush who is pushing for reductions in Veteran health benefits, and the slashing of Medicaid? How many lives would those actions ultimately snuff out?

But there's actually a solution for Bush even if all the future court rulings regarding Terri go against the President and Congress. He can simply order that Terri be subjected to "rendition" and be spirited off to some country where her body can be force-fed forever, regardless of what U.S. courts have to say.

After all, it's the same technique he uses to arrange for torture that isn't legal in the U.S. -- and keeping Terri alive at this point is torture, to her dignity, to privacy, and to common decency.


Posted by Lauren at 12:05 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

March 03, 2005

Chuck E. Cheese: Pizza, Salad, and Taser

Greetings. Here's yet another example of cops who just love their Tasers. At a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Colorado, police tased a man in front of his children when his was supposedly uncooperative after being accused of not paying at the salad bar.

As you might imagine, this caused quite a reaction among the other patrons and children at the supposedly family-friendly establishment.

This is but another in a seemingly endless series of inappropriate Taser incidents (some involving children being tased). At least in this case, unlike some others, the victim didn't die.

The basic problem is that the presence of the Taser has encouraged police to use the potentially dangerous weapon in situations where they easily could have managed without the use of any weapons at all. Yes, the Taser is usually less lethal than a gun. But then again, we'd like to assume that nobody would be shot to death as an accused buffet thief.

The Taser has become a convenient "shortcut" for cops to inappropriately use in a wide variety of situations, where the results are sometimes both tragic and unnecessary. Combined with the ways in which some of these devices can also be used as convenient torture instruments (with care, they won't even leave marks), it's time for broad legislation controlling their use.

Tasers can kill. They are weapons, not toys.


Posted by Lauren at 09:35 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein