I don't know what says "change" better to a geek than this:
A little spat that John McCain is having with YouTube has gotten a bit of press lately. Basically, he's not happy because YouTube has been taking his videos down whenever they get a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice from a copyright holder. Apparently, this has happened to McCain fairly often, possibly because his campaign has gotten into the habit of using other people's material without their permission.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an internet service provider (like YouTube) is only immune from copyright infringement suits if they promptly take down material upon receipt of a violation notice, and leave that material down for at least ten days following the receipt of a properly notarized counter-claim. McCain doesn't like that, and his people have reacted by proposing that YouTube should recognize how special they are, and give them special treatment.
YouTube replied by politely telling McCain that it's not their fault that the law is crappy. They're right, of course. Laws are not passed by internet service providers; they're passed by the United States Congress, which McCain has been a member of for a long time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed in 1998, and was passed unanimously by the senate.
That's right. McCain is asking YouTube to exempt him from the provisions of a law that he voted for. But it gets better. He didn't just vote for the DMCA. He actually went on the record in the Senate as supporting the bill:
Why - and when - do bridges fail? How and why does veterinary usage of some medications pose a risk to humans? How important is it to be absolutely certain that global warming is causing an increase in hurricane strength before taking action on the issue? How important is space exploration? How much money should we spend on science education? Do we need to re-examine the way the federal government handles its many science research agencies?
All of those questions - and many, many others that involve science - have the potential to shape the future of the United States for better or worse. The President of the United States makes decisions (either directly from the Oval Office or through appointments) on how to address all of those questions. Science policy may not get as much attention as foreign policy or the domestic agenda, but it's at least as important a part of the President's job.
That's why I was thrilled to learn that there's a serious effort underway to push for a Presidential debate that will focus on issues of science and technology. The ScienceDebate2008 initiative was mentioned by Physicist Lawrence Krauss in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday, and formally launched today.
You'll be hearing more about this over the coming days and weeks, as more details are worked out and more people sign on to the effort. For now, go on over to the website, read the statement, and sign on yourself.
I can't begin to thank the people who have donated to the DonorsChoose campaign enough. As of today - four days into the campaign - we've raised $1045. That's more than was contributed during all of last year's 15-day campaign. That's absolutely fantastic.
As of now, all four of the projects that I picked have been fully funded, but we haven't hit the goal yet. (Either someone donated to one of the projects through this campaign without receiving credit, or someone donated to one of the projects independently of the campaign.) At this point, we're still about $550 short of my goal for the campaign, so I've added a few more proposals. I'm doing something a little different with these, though.
When I picked my original proposals, I focused entirely on science education. I'm a scientist, I write about science (at least on occasion), I write at Scienceblogs.com, and I firmly believe that it's critical for children to receive a good foundation in science. Given all of that, it seemed appropriate that I ask you to help fund projects that have some tangible science component.
The more time I spend browsing through just the Bronx proposals on the DonorsChoose website, the more I think that focusing this funding drive on science was the wrong decision. Science is good. Science is important. Science is critical. But it's not the only critical part of education. Focusing entirely on science is like giving kids nothing but citrus fruit. It's exactly what you need to do if their biggest problem is a vitamin C deficiency. But it's not the best solution if they're starving to death.
There are teachers - not to mention entire schools - that lack some of the most basic essentials needed for education. And when I say basic, I mean basic. I'm not even talking about things that are a basic part of any reasonable concept of a 21st century education. In many of these cases, we're talking about things that are a basic part of a reasonable 19th century education.
I've added a number of additional proposals to my drive. Some of them are still Bronx-based, but I'm no longer exclusively using that as a criteria, either. Leaving poor children behind is not a problem that's restricted to New York City. It's a national disgrace. The common elements behind this set of proposals are that the schools that submitted them are all rated by Donors Choose as having poverty levels of 85% or higher, and the proposals themselves request less than $400. Oh, and these proposals are all for things that these teachers should not, should not, should not have to beg for. These teachers are asking for the kinds of things that most people take for granted.
Even after restricting myself to proposals come from very poor areas, request little money, and are intended to provide things that teachers should already have, I still had a hard time narrowing down the list of proposals. There are just so many to choose from. I've picked a few, and if you folks are kind and generous enough to step up to the gap where our pitiful excuse for a government has gone unforgivably AWOL, I'll find and add more. Take a look at the things these teachers need:
Several Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled a revolutionary plan today that would radically change the way we are paying for the war in Iraq. Their shocking plan has been strongly condemned by Republicans around the country, and the Democratic leadership has responded - in classic fashion - by hiding under their desks and praying for it to go away. Their radical solution? We should do what we did during World War II and Vietnam, and add a surtax to the normal income tax to cover the (financial) costs.
Republicans were quick to attack the very concept of not making our children and grandchildren pay - with interest - for this war. Apparently, the concept of paying now for the war that we are fighting now is defeatest and an attempt to play politics with the troops. House Minority Leader John Boehner had this to say: