this n that

Hey, I certainly read and reference enough of his articles to pitch in. How about y’all? Greenwald’s Blog news yearly fundraiser. By being funded by his readers, he is more directly accountable to us, rather than sinking into the corporate media whoredom that affects so many other reporters. I much prefer this model of crowdfunding (which a number of progressive politicians have also been making use of since 2008 — a very healthy development, in my mind).

Pretty cool news about the Empire State Building: A Green Landmark

A Walled Wide Web for Nervous Autocrats. This actually addresses a question I thought of years ago, back in the mid-80’s (you know, before the Berlin wall came down, before glasnost, before the Soviet Union dissolved back into Russia and other constituent countries) and fighting with Windows/DOS before giving up and moving onto Unix: how on earth were other countries dealing with this stuff? First of all was the whole language translation thing, and second of all, why would our enemies want to use our stuff? Heck, before the mid nineties cleared out, I’d jumped on the Linux bandwagon to get away from the Microsoft hegemony. Seems like I was right 🙂

At the end of 2010, the “open-source” software movement, whose activists tend to be fringe academics and ponytailed computer geeks, found an unusual ally: the Russian government. Vladimir Putin signed a 20-page executive order requiring all public institutions in Russia to replace proprietary software, developed by companies like Microsoft and Adobe, with free open-source alternatives by 2015.

The move will save billions of dollars in licensing fees, but Mr. Putin’s motives are not strictly economic. In all likelihood, his real fear is that Russia’s growing dependence on proprietary software, especially programs sold by foreign vendors, has immense implications for the country’s national security. Free open-source software, by its nature, is unlikely to feature secret back doors that lead directly to Langley, Va.

Yes, yes, and yes. Remember during Clinton’s presidency how there was that “back door” notion floated about as well? Another reason I ditched Windows (well that, and I’d been working on unix systems for a decade by that point).

Good points here: Your most dangerous possession? Your smartphone. It’s another reason I’ve held off from getting a phone with a data plan. Dammit, I’m online nearly 18/24 on a normal day at work and at home. I don’t need to carry around another portal to the Internet with me…

This is interesting: Cyberspace When You’re Dead. I haven’t worked out how I feel about this. I keep components of my online identities strictly separate. Would I want them merged after? Disappear? Die in one and sort of mysteriously fade away (but articles, etc) left behind? I have no clue. But I’ve had stuff re-surface after even decades: nothing you post online ever really goes away. Remember that.

I liked this: Open letter to a teenage misfit. No particular reason. Well yeah, I was a misfit too. Still am, just hide it better 🙂

Obama’s DOJ Continues Battle Against Same-Sex Marriage and DOJ Files DOMA Defense in First Circuit Cases

DOMA has very real and dire consequences for legally married same-sex couples. On its basis, the federal government denies us the 1,138 federal protections and benefits it extends to all other married couples. Consequently, a March 2009 study from UCLA found, same-sex partners are more likely to be poor than our heterosexual counterparts — in large part because of our lack of access to supposedly universal safety nets, such as a spouse’s health insurance coverage and Social Security survivor benefits.

Opposing the DOJ in this fight is Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the Boston-based legal rights organization that made history in 2003 by winning same-sex couples the right to marry in Massachusetts. The case GLAD filed last year, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, specifically challenges Section 3 of DOMA—the section that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman for all federal purposes—on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional.

Good recap. But excellent point here:

In short, DOMA interrupted the status quo by inserting a first-ever federal definition of marriage in federal law. Prior to its passage in 1996, Congress has never ever interfered with the states when it came to how they wanted to treat marriage: who was eligible for it, how old they had to be, the couple’s racial makeup—nada. All up to the states. But 1996 rolls around, Hawaii looks like it’s dangerously close to legalizing same-sex marriage and BOOM, all of a sudden Congress gets very interested in defining who can get married and how and when—and insists that their definition apply to all the states regardless of the wishes of the states themselves.

DOMA’s passage in 1996 marked a moment of bona fide regime change—and for all the wrong reasons. The smart money says it cannot withstand GLAD’s challenge in 2011—for all the right ones.

Yeah. Extending marriage beyond race didn’t trip a “defense of marriage” act — it took same sex marriage to do that — and for no discernable reason. There’s no reason states shouldn’t extend marriage rights as they see fit — as they have done since the inception of this country — without federal interference.

Tucson Tea Party Founder Blames Giffords For Getting Shot: ‘The Real Case Is That She Had No Security’.

“It’s political gamesmanship. The real case is that she [Giffords] had no security whatsoever at this event. So if she lived under a constant fear of being targeted, if she lived under this constant fear of this rhetoric and hatred that was seething, why would she attend an event in full view of the public with no security whatsoever?” he said. “For all the stuff they accuse her [Palin] of, that gun poster has not done a tenth of the damage to the political discourse as what we’re hearing right now.”

Shorter Trent Humphries: If she didn’t have adequate security set up, then she deserved to get shot. How’s your bullet proof vest, Humphries? You wearing one everywhere you go? Jesus.

Another example of the sort of thing that should be a nobrainer, but instead has to be explicitly legislated: Should E-Mail and Letters Have Equal Legal Protection?

Over the weekend, we reported that the government had ordered Twitter to turn over private information about users associated with WikiLeaks.

The order was fairly routine, and Twitter and other Internet companies have so far refused to talk more about it. But, as we wrote in Monday’s paper, the high-profile nature of the court order brought to light an issue that cyberlaw experts have been discussing for years: the ways in which the law lags fast-changing technology.

The question boils down to this: Should personal information that people store online, like e-mail messages, photos and location updates, be treated the same as telephone calls or paper documents stored in a person’s home?

Honestly? This should be an absolute nobrainer. It should be understood that personal data does indeed have the same status as phone calls and documents at home. Data on your laptop at home are nothing more than said documents. Data stored offline? Just like your voice going out over the ether on the phoneline. It’s still your property, under protection by the fourth amendment. But we’ll still have to do the explicit legislative song and dance… (More good background info here: ECPA Reform: Why Now?.)

Perhaps: Why Does Inequality Make the Rich Feel Poorer? I still find it very difficult to dredge up much sympathy for these people.

The Geography of Gun Deaths. You must read the whole thing for all the information, but the highest correlation with gun deaths? Is having voted for McCain. And the lowest? Having graduated from college. (See following graphic.) Obviously these are not causal factors — merely correlations. And there’s likely broader underlying reasons for those particular ones. Very interesting.

Why Won’t Copyright Holders Run Studies On The Actual Impact Of Piracy?

O’Leary, correctly, points out that there are lot of factors involved and it would be nice to have more data to look at the actual impact. But what really struck me is that line about how publishers simply aren’t willing to collect the data and study the actual impact of unauthorized copies. I’m trying to figure out why this is. There are so many copyright holders who whine and complain about the impact of unauthorized copies, that you would think they would be all over the idea of working with some researchers to figure out the actual impact (good or bad), so that they can respond accordingly.

I’ve wondered this, too. There just doesn’t seem to be any data, and you’d think they’d look at it. I know I have read through pirated material and more often than not gone ahead and purchased what I did like (and purchased later stuff by authors that I did enjoy after that). I think that pirated material is often used as sampling for the real thing — movies on DVD’s are much better quality than on piratebay.com, but expensive enough to want to check it out first. Books in e-formats are all well and good, but nothing like a real book to hold and read a story or material you know you appreciate. You guys get to listen to songs on the radio — for free — before deciding whether or not to purchase the CD — you get to listen to samples online before purchasing directly from the artist, as well.

Local Blogger Probed By Feds

A local blogger who was critical of Rep. Billy Long during last year’s congressional campaign has been interviewed by the FBI about his encounters with the congressman.

Clay Bowler, who lives in Christian County, says he was shocked to find an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation at his doorstep. Accompanying the agent was Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott.

The agent asked Bowler if he was a threat to Long, a notion Bowler finds laughable

Lovely. Just lovely. I’ll let you know if anyone comes a-knockin’ on my door…

Clay Shirky on Wikipedia’s 10th Anniversary

A common complaint about Wikipedia during its first decade is that it is “not authoritative,” as if authority was a thing which Encyclopedia Britannica had and Wikipedia doesn’t. This view, though, hides the awful truth — authority is a social characteristic, not a brute fact. Authoritativeness adheres to persons or institutions who, we jointly agree, have enough of a process for getting things right that we trust them. This bit of epistemological appraisal seems awfully abstract, but it can show up in some pretty concrete cases.

Nothing like crowdsourcing. Although you still have to be somewhat careful of certain sections in Wikipedia. For example, don’t trust too much of the source material on Classical studies. It doesn’t seem to reflect the latest few decades of research. The same can probably be said for other areas in which the main experts are not necessarily going to be online to contribute and correct the information. But give it another decade :).

O’Connor v. Donaldson and Involuntary Confinement

To follow up on Greenwald’s response to William Galston’s call to make more people subject to involuntary civil confinement, it’s worth discussing the case in which the Supreme Court held that the state cannot “constitutionally confine…a nondangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by himself or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends.” The underlying facts of O’Connor v. Donaldson are disturbing, and should (to put it mildly) give pause to those who would use the Tuscon shooting to expand the state’s powers of civil confinement.

Indeed, indeed, and indeed. In fact, I just was looking through this article: Major Misdiagnosis! where it states that a 1989 study showed “that whereas hearing patients had remained in psychiatric hospitals for an average of 148 days, the hearing impaired patients’ average stay was 19.5 years.” Involuntary committment is a kneejerk ableist response that does nothing for the affected people. Better access to health care and better identification of peoples’ actual needs will be far more productive, both for the individual and for society at large. But ableist people would rather shut their eyes and hope the problem goes away by not addressing it at all or hiding away individuals who simply don’t “fit.”

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