aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
This is true to the librarians I know - and I know a good many. Not so the IT people I know:
An e-mail threat that prompted the evacuation of more than a dozen Brandeis University buildings on January 18 led to an unusual standoff in a public library in Newton, Mass., a few miles from the Brandeis campus.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents tried to seize 30 of the library’s computers without a warrant, saying someone had used the library’s Internet connection to send the threat to Brandeis. But the library director, Kathy Glick-Weil, told the agents they could not take the machines unless they got a warrant first. Newton’s mayor, David Cohen, backed Ms. Glick-Weil up.
After a brief standoff, FBI officials relented and sought a warrant from a judge. Meanwhile, Ms. Glick-Weil allowed an FBI computer-forensics examiner to work with information-technology specialists at the library to narrow down which computers might have been used to send the threatening message. They determined that three computers were implicated in the alleged crime.
Late that evening, the FBI received a warrant to cart away the three computers. According to Mayor Cohen, the warrant allows the FBI to view only the threatening e-mail message and the messages sent immediately before and after that message.
Two other points: the US Attorney said the FBI acted within its authority, and “talk-show hosts and newspaper columnists in Boston” called the warrant demand irresponsible.
Darned liberal media! I bet a Philly columnist would see it differently. But then evidently so did the public. The mayor said he “received many positive comments from people all over the country supporting his actions.”
From Andy Kessler’s sellout.com post on Google:
Look, there’s a wrong way to sell out-rappers pitching for Chrysler, anything Vegas-and a right way. Puff Daddy’s soundtrack for “Godzilla” could have been a disaster to his fans, but he chose to do a hip-hop remix of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” providing someone else to blame for the sellout. Or the Jimi Hendrix strategy. Story has it that, despite using Gibson guitars on his albums, he signed a deal with Fender Guitars for cash and as many Stratocasters as he needed, as long as he appeared exclusively in concert and photos with Fenders. He took the deal, and with his unlimited supply of Fenders, began smashing them at the end of every concert, for fans who never knew he sold out.
Google could have kept their cool and trusted image if they’d just worked with someone else in China, someone they could smash. Perhaps Eggroll.com - powered by Google. Someone else to blame for those unsearchable keywords. Users in the West may not desert them, but a billion soon-to-be-online Chinese will forever associate Google with lame and censored search results - tools of the state. That just dumb. And totally uncool.
Great point. I accepted Google’s turn to the dark side but I sure wouldn’t call it “cool.”
Via Om Malik.
Cory & StarForce
And the nominees are…
In a year when size counted for less than serious intent among voters, Oscar nominations were divvied up among small films with deep political and social themes, from gay romance to the abuse of government power to racial relations to the cycle of vengeance in the Middle East.
“Brokeback Mountain,” a love story of two cowboys set over three decades, received eight nominations, including best picture, continuing a run that has put it in lead position as the awards season unfolds.
And that Felicity Huffman is nominated for Transamerica (my guess is this category is a shoe-in for Reese Witherspoon for her portrayal of June Carter Cash, the fact that “Walk the Line” didn’t get a Best Picture nod doesn’t hurt her chances). I’m also happy about Capote and Good Night and Good Luck.
Property rights protect future profits?
In the 1890 article that launched privacy law in the U.S., Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis said:
The possibility of future profits is not a right of property which the law ordinarily recognizes. (in The Right To Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193 (1890)).
These authors were trying to persuade their readers of the existence of a general right in individuals to be let alone. They didn’t think this right to be let alone was a property right, because (in part) they didn’t believe that the concept of property was broad enough to cover privacy. For example, if true but private facts were published about a man, and that publication made his life difficult (or ruined him), Warren and Brandeis felt that property law wouldn’t necessarily protect him—because “the possibility of future profits is not a right of property which the law ordinarily recognizes.”
We now live in an era in which possessors of things they believe to be their “property” fervently believe that law protects their possibility of future profits.
Read on for her examples, Google Book Search and tiered Internet access. Yes, why is it our sympathies are with publishers and network builders and we fail to see a concomitant public right to reasonable and fair access to the fruits of our culture?
TiVo and Cisco
In my department at work there can be a question as to where I fit. I consider myself a media guy but my training and a big chunk of my experience was in television production; the place I think I belong and where I want to be is on the computer side.
I’m not plugged in to it now, but back in the day I noticed that the video people considered themselves video people but the computer people were much more fluid. My take was that the video people should get with the program because the computer people are taking over the world.
All of which is context for my take on the rumor that Cisco might by TiVo:
According to a source familiar with Cisco and TiVo, there’s a “potential for an interesting partnership” to emerge between the two companies. TiVo, the source said, has held discussions with many potential partners.
There’s no indication that Cisco is looking to buy TiVo, and details regarding a potential partnership are scant. But Cisco’s recent acquisitions do suggest how serious the company is about becoming a major presence in the living room, and TiVo carries weight as a well-known consumer DVR brand. At the same time, Cisco could help TiVo regain the distribution clout it lost when satellite TV provider DirecTV said it was walking away from a longtime partnership with TiVo.
Representatives from both Cisco and TiVo said they would not comment on rumors.
If I’m not a computer guy you’ve got to know I’m definitely not a networking guy, but I am crazy about this idea. The association of TiVo with networking rather than content is great. It’s the consumerization of networking!
Yes, they should buy Sling Media too and next up, how about an IP enabled stereo system? I don’t want to put holes in my wall for speaker wires…
Monday, January 30, 2006
The $1,000 popcorn maker
Michael BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ©’s academic freedom speech included a passing reference to “the thousand dollar popcorn makers that have now replaced $700 hammers as the symbols of waste and fraud in the Pentagon’s purchasing system.”
Here’s his source:
A retired Army Reserve officer complained to the Pentagon’s fraud hot line last year that the Defense Department had overpaid for kitchen appliances, paying $1,000 for popcorn makers and toasters and $5,500 for a deep-fat fryer that cost other government agencies $1,919.
Although he provided a four-page spreadsheet showing 135 cases of higher prices, the Defense Department dismissed his tip without checking with him. [...]
At issue is a multibillion-dollar Pentagon purchasing program that uses middlemen who set their own prices, instead of buying directly from manufacturers or going out for competitive bids.
Called the prime vendor program, it was the object of a Knight Ridder investigation that found that the Pentagon had paid prime vendors higher prices for 102 of 122 pieces of food equipment than the government did to contractors outside the system. For example, Knight Ridder found that the Pentagon had paid $20 apiece for ice cube trays that retail for less than a dollar.
60 Minutes reported last night on the development of a treatment for radiation sickness. The company developed the drug assuming a huge marked, based in part on meetings with the Pentagon and the fear of a nuclear attack on a major American city.
But when the Health & Human Services Department announced that it would buy the drug from whatever company had the best product, it made a commitment to purchase only 100,000 doses. Bob Marsella, the vice president of Hollis-Eden which developed an effective drug, Neumune, makes this important point:
“They’re supposed to create a market, not a starting point,” says Marsella. “If they were going to buy tanks for the military would they just buy one tank, or would they buy 100 tanks? And I think that the contractor would have a hard time spending all the money and research and not have a guarantee that they’re going to buy more than one tank.”
I was struck because the military analogy is such a good one. We know we have threats here, new threats from the new kind of war we’re waging. We hear scenarios of mass casualties from Bird Flu or nuclear attack or environmental catastrophe. But the military remains the only area where we are willing to commit the kind of money that any of these threats demand.
Pain & the police state II
Paey is serving a 25 year jail sentence for drug trafficking when no evidence was presented that he ever sold his pain medications to anyone and the doctor Paey says gave him undated prescriptions changed his story. Prosecutors say Paey couldn’t possibly have used the drugs himself. Pain experts disagree:
[Dr. Russell] Portnoy, among the most eminent pain specialists in the country, says that Paey’s behavior - wanting to ensure a steady stream of pain killers - is not unusual among patients in severe pain.
“It really sounds like society used a mallet to try to handle a problem that required a much more subtle approach,” says Portnoy. “If they had taken this man who had engaged in behaviors that were unacceptable and treated it as a medical issue, it seems like this patient would have had better pain control and a functional life instead of being in prison.”
Ironically, Richard Paey now gets all the drugs he needs. The state of Florida pays for a morphine pump which delivers a constant stream of medication directly to his spine, providing him with pain relief at doses more powerful than the drugs he was taking when he was arrested.
To contact Richard Paey or to learn more about his appeal, contact the Pain Relief Network.
Is it too much too ask that we err on the side of pain killers as medicinal relief from suffering rather than arresting sufferers as criminal narcotics traffickers?
[U]nder Florida law, the possession of just one bottle of illegally obtained painkillers - just 28 grams - is considered drug trafficking, which carries a higher penalty than trafficking in much larger amounts of cocaine.
The daddy state
Another excerpt from Michael BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ©’s excellent talk, Recent Attacks on Academic Freedom: What’s Going On:
What animates the radical right, in other words, is not so much a specific liberal belief about stem-cell research here or gay civil unions there; on an abstract level, it’s not about any specific liberal issues at all. Rather, it’s about the very existence of areas of political and intellectual independence that do not answer directly and favorably to the state. So, for example (and this is my final example, chosen especially for you librarians out there), when in April 2005 Alabama state representative Gerald Allen proposed a bill that would have prevented Alabama’s public libraries from buying books by gay authors or involving gay characters, he wasn’t actually acting as a conservative. Real “conservatives” don’t do that. He was behaving like a member of the radical right. Indeed, his original intent was to strip libraries of all such works, from Shakespeare to Alice Walker; and as he put it, “I don’t look at it as censorship. I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children.”
It used to be that conservatives objected to the coddling of the liberal mommy state; what their time in power has demonstrated - including, significantly, the reign of King George - is that the radical right wants a stern daddy state. Can those few real conservatives who are left take back their movement?
The video via Mediasite is available for another 25 days.
NSA data miners
Robert X. Cringely details what he thinks is most likely going on with the NSA and FISA from a guy who used to work for the NSA. I suggest you read the articulation - “they’re using social network analysis...to identify people of interest...[before applying] for a FISA warrant and start actually intercepting” - this is his conclusion:
So what we have the NSA doing is probably data mining, calling records in order to identify the people they want to order intercepts on. They are doing it without warrants because they like being sneaky, don’t think they could get past the FISA court a warrant for 100 million calling records, and because the FISA law from 1978 probably doesn’t distinguish between a pen-trap and an intercept.
If that’s really the case, this doesn’t sound quite as bad as we’ve feared. I feel better thinking that they are culling calling records rather than listening-in to my conversations. And it makes a lot more sense, from a pure technical capability standpoint.
So why couldn’t they just tell us? Why couldn’t they have simply amended the FISA law to take such activities into account? Because they like to be sneaky, tend to distrust even the people who pay them (that’s us), and because they for some reason think that the bad guys won’t figure this out for themselves.
For the record, I absolutely, positively, 100% completely want my government to do data mining. I don’t want 20th century law enforcement in a 21st century world. How it is regulated/administered/overseen (Cringely’s “tell us...amend the FISA law") is what matters to me.
Bonus quote, Jobs and Disney: “It’s the start of a grand amalgamation based around a combination of content, technology, and networking, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see it end as a single huge company five years from now with Jobs at the helm.”
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Barnes’ Bush volunteered to go to Viet Nam
DR: What about the president’s own service in the military?
FB: Well, he didn’t shirk. He joined the national guard. At one time, it’s reported--I don’t know whether--I have not myself personally confirmed this--that he volunteered for Vietnam and was turned down. He volunteered--
DR: Turned down?
FB: He was a flier. Well, he wasn’t in a unit that would get him over there or something. It’s been, it’s been widely reported--
DR: Fred, where’d that come from? I’ve never heard that before.
FB: Oh sure. What? That he’d--
DR: That he volunteered to go to Vietnam.
FB: He volunteered for Vietnam duty and didn’t get there. I don’t think I’m making this up.
DR: Can you cite me some evidence on that?
FB: I thought it was quite widely known.
DR: Never heard that one before.
FB: Really? Well, I’ve heard it many, many times.
Barnes is out flacking his the-president-has-no-warts-at-all book. Read John Dickerson’s review.
Back-door draft continues
Volunteers enlist and sign a contract thinking they know when they’ll be home. But some are compelled to stay for up to an additional 18 months:
The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called “stop-loss,” but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.
The policy applies to soldiers in units due to deploy for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Army said stop-loss is vital to maintain units that are cohesive and ready to fight. But some experts said it shows how badly the Army is stretched and could further complicate efforts to attract new recruits.
Logging IP addresses. So what?
Xeni points to Adam Fields explanation of why it matters that search engines log IP addresses. I’ve read it; if you’re interested you should too. It hasn’t changed my thinking about the Google subpoena.
I’m glad we’re now on to defining what “personally identifying information” is. Google and the other search engines claim that IP addresses are not personally identifiable information. I don’t have a problem with that. I understand that my IP address may have been with me for a good long while and I know that they can match it to the name and billing information on my ISP account. Still I say, so what?
I’m not claiming expertise in all of the areas that come together here. Rather, I’d like to identify with the average person using the Internet and get to what a reasonable expectation of privacy might be. The model I’ll look to for that comparison is the telephone and the comparison I’ll make is to the phone number. I’d like the same expectation of privacy using the Internet as I have using the telephone, and absent any contrary information I’ll assume that would suffice for the average Internet user.
When I call someone, the phone company logs that call. Is that “personally identifying information?” It is a darned good clue that narrows down the range of folks it possibly might be, but in and of itself and all by itself, it doesn’t identify me. The same goes for the IP address. I do acknowledge that the phone company doesn’t collect an equivalent to search terms, but it does collect significant information including incoming and outgoing calls, the length of those calls and, for cell phones, location information.
Now if our claim is that the vast majority of folks using the Internet think it is more anonymous than it actually turns out to be, and that this Google incident has brought attention to that, well swell. But what I see and hear from people all around me is a broad public misunderstanding, a belief that in fact the Google privacy invasion is much greater than it is.
It’s my belief that this kind of confusion gets in the way of our focus on, and building support for, the important privacy issues that are worth worrying about.
My design has been good to me, but as we approach the aTypical Joe one-year anniversary, I figure it’s a good time for a change. Today I will be experimenting with color. Tomorrow, who knows.
So, if things look a little odd as I find the right palette for the new me, please bear with me. I’m sure to settle on something soon. With any luck it will be good. Let’s hope I got the gay gene for color!
UPDATE: 5 hours later and I’m quitting for the day. Not precisely what I had in mind, but close. I’ll sit with it for a couple days, and welcome feedback from those of you who visit.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Let’s try Bible study in the public schools II, the argument
“Their proposal makes them modern-day pharisees,” State Senator Eric Johnson of Georgia, the Republican leader from Savannah, said in a statement. “This is election-year pandering using voters’ deepest beliefs as a tool.”
Saying he found “a little irony” in the fact that the Democratic sponsors had voted against a Republican proposal for a Bible course six years ago, Mr. Johnson added, “It should also be noted that the so-called Bible bill doesn’t use the Bible as the textbook, and would allow teachers with no belief at all in the Bible to teach the course.”
To the Right I say, of course we can’t require the teacher to be Christian or that they use the Bible. If we do, which denomination? Which Bible? I think most reasonable people will be pleased to have the Bible taught, and understand that it can’t be their Bible or their denomination.
To the Left I say - and most especially to my friends who reject this notion so flat-out - that the Bible has to be the most significant book ever written. (I’m game for teaching that other big important book, the Koran, too.) And I’m not big on denying the impact of Christianity on the world. To not teach it seems something of a distortion to me.
To all those who say it’s about separation of church and state, I say separation is fine and good; exclusion appears to be what we’re talking about. We’ve accepted case law rulings cascading down on us and, you may recall, I’m not all that fond of rolling over and accepting case law. (I’ve got a good First Amendment post in me; it’s coming.)
There is a political component to this (interesting to watch the Christian Right say the Left is playing politics with religion) but that’s not why I support it. I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I like and respect these people, and they like me. I believe the religious right is reachable. And given that I believe we are a closely divided not deeply divided country - on religion too - persuading just a few to vote our way is a winning strategy.
And when we win, I want to live with my Christian neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance.
BTW, Howard Dean supports it too, “I think teaching the Bible as literature is a good thing.”
Demand gay leaders support gay people around the world
Doug Ireland is exactly right:
Within the last weeks, there has been a spate of bad news from abroad. Consider: In the United Kingdom, a 28-year-old gay Iranian named Javad-whose full name is not used to protect him and his family in Iran-has been ordered to be deported back to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Last year, a video of Javad and his partner at a private gay party fell into the hands of the police. Fearful of being imprisoned, tortured, and executed for being gay-like so many other Iranian same-sexers-Javad fled to the U.K. last September, winding up in the town of Oakington, where he filed for asylum.
The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization-PGLO, the largest Iranian gay group with secretariats in several countries, including Turkey and Norway-reported last week: “After a few days, Javad was arrested and taken to Oakington’s police department in Cambridge, where he was threatened and told that if he couldn’t come up with satisfactory answers for their questions they will forcefully deport him, sending him back to Iran. In December the British government denied his refugee status. Under the law, Javad has the right to appeal this decision. Sadly, a few days ago, without taking into consideration his appeal over the ruling, he received papers stating that he must leave the country; therefore, Javad was deprived of any protection by the British government.” [...]
In India-the world’s second most populous country, with 1.1 billion people-homosexuality was accepted in cultural traditions for thousands of years, and the Hindu religion had venerated bisexual gods-including Samba (above eft), son of Krishna, who seduced both men and women. Male worshippers had ritual sex with male prostitutes in Hindu temples well into the 20th century.
But homosexuality was made illegal under British colonial rule in the 19th century, and that colonial anti-sodomy law remains on the books, five decades after India’s independence. (The British themselves decriminalized homosexuality in 1968.) Under Indian law, gay sex is bracketed with sex with animals and pedophilia as an “unnatural” offense, punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
READ ON. Nepal and Cameroon and Poland… he strongly condemns the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), and the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC) for doing nothing:
I’m angry at our Brokebrain gay leaders for not making international solidarity with persecuted gays abroad part of their agenda, and thus part of our national gay agenda. And doing so requires a helluva lot more than just issuing an occasional press release. It requires, yes, real activism, organizing and education. The next time you think of sending a check to HRC or NGLTF, tell them you’re sick at heart at their indifference to this gay suffering. Demand that they create an international desk, and assign at least one full-time staff person to monitor attacks on gay people in other countries and educate gay Americans about these threats to human freedom abroad.
Demand that these groups immediately take up the most urgent case-the ongoing and massive entrapment, persecution, torture, and execution of gays in the Islamic Republic of Iran, on which their silence has been deafening. Demand they give Iran full-throated attention, through demonstrations-like the ones European gay organizations have been holding repeatedly all across the continent-public forums, and their own publications. Demand they provide concrete and material help for the penniless gay Iranian refugees from torture who are living precariously from day to day, under constant threat of deportation back to certain persecution for how and whom they love.
Is it harassment to recruit “GLBT Friendly” gamers?
I think not.
In Newsweekly reports that the popular online multiplayer World of Warcraft game is apparently “using a policy meant to protect GLBT people as a way to discriminate against them.”
Sara Andrews received an e-mail from a game master citing her for “Harassment - Sexual Orientation.” Andrews had posted that she was recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild in a general chat channel within the game:
Gamer John Blatzheim, who heard of Andrews’ situation, e-mailed Blizzard to express his concern of a double standard that game masters would send her a warning that she could not use “GLBT” as an advertisement to express a safe place for gay gamers after an incident a few months ago where a plague occurred within the game and players yelled in general chat, “Don’t get the AIDS!”
“Many people are insulted just at the word ‘homosexual’ or any other word referring to sexual orientation,” Blizzard responded to Blatzheim in an e-mail. “Also to discriminate against other players, such as not allowing any heterosexuals into the guild simply because of their sexual orientation, could cause extreme offense to a large percentage of our players and should be avoided.”
Online games are incredibly, deeply moving social software that have hit on a perfect formula for getting players to devote themselves to play: make play into a set of social grooming negotiations. Big chunks of our brains are devoted to figuring out how to socialize with one another—it’s how our primate ancestors enabled the cooperation that turned them into evolutionary winners.
But real life has one gigantic advantage over gamelife. In real life, you can be a citizen with rights. In gamelife, you’re a customer with a license agreement. In real life, if a cop or a judge just makes up a nonsensical or capricious interpretation of the law, you can demand an appeal. In gamelife, you can cancel your contract, or suck it up.
In Newsweekly promises to follow-up. I’ll be following their follow-up.
Academic Freedom: A cornerstone of a free society
I just finished Michael BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ©’s 5,500 richly-linked word argument that “academic freedom is an aspect of procedural liberalism that is one of the cornerstones of a free society.” The 35 minute talk is entitled, Recent Attacks on Academic Freedom: What’s Going On. I am quoting a random passage, and urge you to read the whole thing:
[M]ost critics of universities don’t seem to distinguish between unconscious liberal bias and conscious, articulate liberal convictions. They take the language of “bias” from critiques of the so-called liberal media, where it is applied to outlets like the New York Times and CBS News that, in the view of some conservatives, lend a leftish slant to the news both deliberately and unwittingly. But the language of “bias” is not very well suited to the work of, say, a researcher who has spent decades investigating American drug policy or conflicts in the Middle East and who has come to conclusions that amount to more or less “liberal” critiques of current policies. Such conclusions are not “bias”; rather, they are legitimate, well-founded beliefs, and of course they should be presented-ideally, along with legitimate competing beliefs-in college classrooms. Now, notice that I said legitimate competing beliefs. We have no obligation to debate whether the Holocaust happened. And that’s not a hypothetical matter. Late last fall, the philosopher with whom I co-founded the Penn State chapter of the AAUP, Claire Katz, informed me of a graduate teaching assistant in philosophy who had just had a very strange encounter with a student. The course, which dealt with bioethics, had recently dealt with the vile history of experiments on unwitting and/or unwilling human subjects, from the Holocaust to Tuskegee, and the student wanted to know whether the “other side” would be presented as well. I hope you’re asking yourselves, what other side?-because, of course, to all reasonable and responsible researchers in the field, there is no “other side”; there is no pro-human experimentation position that needs to be introduced into classroom discussion to counteract possible liberal “bias.” We are not in the business of inviting pro-Nazi spokesmen for Joseph Mengele to our classrooms. But this is the language with which some of our students enter the classroom; it is the language of cable news and mass-media simulacra of “debate.” There is one side, and then there is the other side. That constitutes balance, and anything else is bias.
Now I’m going to watch the 1 hour video via Mediasite, available for the next 30 days, to see the Q&A that followed.
Is it defamation to call someone gay?
I think not.
Reading this raised the question again:
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has sued his former boss, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for accusing him of being homosexual.
Dr Mahathir repeated the allegation - first made when the two leaders became rivals in 1998 - last September.
“Imagine having a gay prime minister. Nobody would be safe,” he said.
The repugnance of the comment aside, the article sent me back to my post, Will Tom Sue?, which asked whether it would be a good idea for Tom Cruise to sue South Park over its Trapped in the Closet episode in which all of South Park asks Tom to “Please come out of the closet!” (clip)
Findlaw did a terrific piece on the question, which included this:
Imagine a white person in the Jim Crow South suing to counter rumors that he was hiding African-American ancestry, and the problem with such a claim becomes plain: The purpose of the claim is to restore the plaintiff to a prior, undeserved position of societal privilege, so he can avoid the maltreatment, racism—and if he is a racist himself, the shame—that he would otherwise suffer. The claim itself, then, rests on a malicious societal hierarchy.
The same is arguably true of a claim by a straight person that he has been falsely labeled as gay: Such a claim takes advantage of the courts so that one person can escape bias that others unfairly suffer.
It also caters to societal bias by saying, in effect, “Stop thinking less of me; I’m not really gay.” But imagine, again, the parallel claim: “Stop thinking less of me, I’m not really African-American.”
I hope Mr. Anwar can take down Dr. Mahathir, but not with a lawsuit alleging that being called gay is defamatory.
RELATED: For how allowing confusion about your heterosexual orientation might actually be a political act in support of equal rights for lesbian and gay people, see Gay Like Me.
Friday, January 27, 2006
The Vegan Menace
11Alive, WXIA TV, Atlanta:
The ACLU of Georgia released copies of government files on Wednesday that illustrate the extent to which the FBI, the DeKalb County Division of Homeland Security and other government agencies have gone to compile information on Georgians suspected of being threats simply for expressing controversial opinions.
Two documents relating to anti-war and anti-government protests, and a vegan rally, prove the agencies have been “spying” on Georgia residents unconstitutionally, the ACLU said. (Related: ACLU Complaint—PDF file)
For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.
An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.
“They told me if I didn’t give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested,” Childs said on Wednesday. [...]
[T]he files obtained by the ACLU include the DeKalb County Homeland Security report on the surveillance of Childs and the others. The detective wrote that he ordered Childs to give him the piece of paper on which she had written his license tag number, telling her that he did not want her or anyone else to have the tag number of his undercover vehicle.
The detective did not comment in his report about why his license tag number was already visible to the public.
The Hamas win
Fareed Zakaria wrote a very good book that I wish President Bush had read addressing this very question and he argued that the first thing you need in order to bring a state into the 21st century is not democracy, it’s civil law. Once you have a civilized society then you can have a democratic society. If you have an uncivilized society then it could vote for terrorism and that’s basically what happened here.
The contrary view - that acting as a democratic ruler will leaven the elected terrorist and this is all just a process they must go through - was voiced by Robert Kagan, senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on All Things Considered tonight, “I remain to be convinced of what the short-term risks actually are… I’m inclined to see it as a positive development.”
Let’s try Bible study in the public schools
In Dover may be over, but the problem’s not I wrote, “My reaction to the Dover decision is an increasingly firm belief that we should teach religion in the public schools.”
Today the Times tells of 2 Southern Democrats, one from right here in Georgia, who are promoting a Bible study class I’m inclined to support:
Democrats in both states have introduced bills authorizing school districts to teach courses modeled after a new textbook, “The Bible and Its Influence.” It was produced by the nonpartisan, ecumenical Bible Literacy Project and provides an assessment of the Bible’s impact on history, literature and art that is academic and detached, if largely laudatory.
The Democrats who introduced the bills said they hoped to compete with Republicans for conservative Christian voters. “Rather than sitting back on our heels and then being knocked in our face, we are going to respond in a thoughtful way,” said Kasim Reed, a Georgia state senator from Atlanta and one of the sponsors of the bill. “We are not going to give away the South anymore because we are unwilling to talk about our faith.”
I’m less inclined to like what they’re saying in Alabama, but I support them too:
In Alabama, a deeply religious state where Democrats support prayer in the schools and a Democratic candidate for governor recently introduced her campaign with the hymn “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” the Bible class bills reflect Democrats’ efforts to distance themselves from the national party.
“We have always had to somewhat defend ourselves from the national Democratic Party’s secular image, and this is part of that,” said Ken Guin, a representative from Carbon Hill, leader of the Democratic majority in the State House and a sponsor of the measure.
Arianna & Tim
I’m on Arianna’s side.
Privacy worth worrying about
When I say that there are real issues to be dealt with but that we are not addressing them in the way we are reacting to the Google situation, and that the problem I have with the reaction to the Google situation is that is misses an important opportunity to address them, here is an example of precisely the kind of issues I’m talking about.
I heard that since the mass market content industries have such tremendous influence on policy, that a significant extension of existing copyright laws (in the United States, at least) is likely in the near future.
I heard one person go so far as to call this a “totalitarian” intellectual property regime—a police state for content.
I heard that one possible benefit of this extension would be a general improvement of internet content distribution, and possibly greater freedom for creators to independently sell their work since they would have greater control over the flow of digital copies and be less reliant on infrastructure that today only big companies can provide.
I heard that another possible benefit of such control would be price discrimination—i.e. a graduated pricing scale for content varying according to the means of individual consumers, which could result in fairer prices. Basically, a graduated cultural consumption tax imposed by media conglomerates
I heard, however, that such a system would be possible only through a substantial invasion of users’ privacy: tracking users’ consumption patterns in other markets (right down to their local grocery store), pinpointing of users’ geographical location and analysis of their socioeconomic status.
I heard that this degree of control could be achieved only through persistent surveillance of the flow of content through codes and controls embedded in files, software and hardware.
I heard that such a wholesale compromise on privacy is all but inevitable—is in fact already happening.
I am absolutely, totally, 100% confident that these changes are coming and that, yes, they have an impact on privacy and that this is where the public needs to be engaged so that it can have some impact on shaping how this comes about.
I believe we have a real, if admittedly slight, chance to carve out some public benefits rather than merely market benefits.
The Google brouhaha is an opportunity for that engagement and that discussion. It has been squandered on affirming preconceptions rather than moving the discussion forward and that is a disservice to all of us that upsets me greatly.