Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's a right?

But they understood that “libertatum” is the word that matters. Back then, “human rights” were rights of humans, of individuals — and restraints upon the king: They’re the rights that matter: limitations upon kingly power. Eight centuries later, we have entirely inverted the principle: “Rights” are now gifts that a benign king graciously showers upon his subjects — the right to “free” health care, to affordable housing, the “right of access to a free placement service” (to quote the European Constitution’s “rights” for workers).

Two concepts and one word. Always a dangerous situation.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sharkchild's Kickstarter

Looks like another volume or two of weird tales is in the works. Awesome!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

What different social networking sites are for

Poor Google+. I'm on Orkut, I might as well open up a G+ account.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

This sounds oddly familiar

On one hand, we have the US:

For one thing, Awlaki was never charged or indicted for anything in the U.S. — he was simply executed without any charges (the Obama administration, after trying to kill him, reportedly “considered” charging him with crimes at one point but never did) – and thus, there was nothing to which he could “turn himself” in even if he wanted to.

. . . .

The way the process normally works, as Reuters described it, is that targeted Americans are selected “by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions”; moreover, “there is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel” nor “any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Which sounds a bit like the famed Star Chamber

The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing.

And what happened to the Star Chamber, one might ask?

Over time it evolved into a political weapon, a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Hacking and risk creation

Perhaps I'm a bit dumb, but didn't Facebook create the risk by building a bad system, and this dude showed the world that they had a bad system?

Mr Mangham's defence lawyer Tom Ventham had said his client was an ethical hacker who had a "high moral stance" and Yahoo had "rewarded" him for pointing out its vulnerabilities previously.

. . . .

Passing sentence, Judge Alistair McCreath told Mangham his actions were not harmless and had "real consequences and very serious potential consequences" for Facebook.

"You and others who are tempted to act as you did really must understand how serious this is," he said.

"The creation of that risk, the extent of that risk and the cost of putting it right mean at the end of it all I'm afraid a prison sentence is inevitable."

Yeah, I understand the consequences. Facebook writes crap code that lets the world access their data. Some guy points this out to them that they have a problem on their hands. Said guy gets prosecuted for pointing out that the emperor is without clothing.

A translation to a non-technological realm might be: Jimbo Motor Company makes a car that has a minor tendency to blow up when you're on the highway. A mechanic decides to check the car out and finds the problem. When he reports the problem, he goes to jail, because it could hurt sales of the car. Now I agree that it's not a fair comparison. But it's not so untrue either.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

RWA, the mutant cousin of SOPA

But there is another threat also making its way through the US Congress — less publicised but also hugely important.

That threat is the Research Works Act (RWA), by which scholarly publishers like Elsevier (with its 36% profits as a proportion of revenue) hope to claw back total ownership of federally funded research. The way academic research works is an absolute scandal to start with, but the behaviour of publishers now — charging both authors and readers, and trying to get laws passed supporting their outdated and corrupt business model — is absolutely disgraceful.

The government pays a zillion for the research, and then the journal that charges the government to publishes it wants to make it illegal not to charge other people to read it. Sounds legit.

Also worth reading is the article "Academic publishers have become the enemies of science" that is linked to by ReProg.

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Monday, February 06, 2012

A petition

We petition the Obama administration to:

Rescind the HHS Dept. Mandate Requiring Catholic Employers to Provide Contraceptives/Abortifacients to Their Employees

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

What censorship looks like in the West

Recently it has come to our attention that our primary website is filtered by Vodafone in the UK, by 3 ( in the UK, by O2 in the UK, and by T-Mobile in the UK and the USA. It used to be the case that we only saw filtering and censorship events in places like Egypt, Syria, or Iran and now we're going to explore what those attacks look like in the context of the UK and the USA.

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Quote of the week

And it's just Sunday!

P.S. - Sanity tip: Whenever one of your lawsuits is against the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, maybe you should say to yourself: "You know, I wonder if I'm way off the deep end here?"

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Not mementi mori

I try not to be shocked by what to me are glaring errors of usage in print, soothing myself with the reflection that times have changed, no one studies the classical languages any more, and you can't tie the present to the millstone of the past.

I try to be shocked and bemused, it gives me something to do. Suffice to say, the plural of "memento mori" isn't "mementi mori" because you can't do that to Latin words.


Units of beauty

Thanks to Mr. Rich, who taught me that the "Helen" is the internationally accepted unit of beauty:

Helen of Troy (from the Iliad) is widely known as "the face that launched a thousand ships". Thus, 1 milliHelen is the amount of beauty needed to launch a single ship.

Like the tesla, dealing in milli-units is probably more common in day to day tasks.


Euphemism and evil

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

A differen't way to spell it

I have found some people on the interwebs spelling different as "differen't". Fascinating. I guess at some point, you just start putting "'"s between ns and ts. I was quite nonplussed by the discovery as you can imagine.


The Little Thing

Thank you to Mr. Jester for finding this article.

Viable babies were born. Gosnell killed them by plunging scissors into their spinal cords. He taught his staff to do the same.

This is a remarkable moment in American life: A man is killing actual living, gurgling, bouncing babies on an industrial scale – and it barely makes the papers.

But, you know, if you speak up about this, you might be a terrorist . . . better to just stay quiet.

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