Category Archives: Law

Sunday Spam: toast and vegemite

This week, I feel the need to emphasise that linking does not imply uncritical endorsement!

Philip Roth and Wikipedia

There’s only one problem with this: Roth’s open letter is at best the (justifiably) aggrieved and confused ramblings of a man ignorantly discussing what he does not understand or remember, and at worst a deliberately malicious act inspired by nothing more than a misguided desire to flip us the Vs and maybe get paid by the New Yorker on the way.

In Response to Amanda Palmer

Is it noble to volunteer for a cash-rich for-profit enterprise? And what about when taking the gig means that you’re taking food from the mouths of people whose day job it is to play these kinds of high-pressure, high-profile concerts and ensure that the audience won’t be let down?

Is it noble to devalue the role of musicians by suggesting that their years of training and their tens of thousands of hours of practice is worth little more than a beer and a high-five?

Headspace withdraws support for RU OK? Day

In a statement released this afternoon, the organisation said it was uncomfortable about the support RU OK? Day was receiving from Gloria Jean’s because of the coffee chain’s $30,000 donation to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

Girls gone Wilder

Rose Wilder Lane’s life story is arguably way more interesting than that of her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Owen Jones: William Hague is wrong… we must own up to our brutal colonial past

As India became increasingly crucial to British prosperity, millions of Indians died completely unnecessary deaths. Over a decade ago, Mike Davis wrote a seminal book entitled Late Victorian Holocausts: the title is far from hyperbole. As a result of laissez-faire economic policies ruthlessly enforced by Britain, between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation needlessly. Millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain even as famine raged. When relief camps were set up, the inhabitants were barely fed and nearly all died.

Philosophy gender war erupts after call for larger role for women

It began with a private email last month from one established male philosopher to four others: Proceed with a Berlin-based conference that features 14 male speakers and no women, the writer said, and I will essentially launch a campaign to take you down professionally.

How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything

Or as my friend and sci-fi novelist Robin Sloan put it to me, “I maintain that this is Google’s core asset. In 50 years, Google will be the self-driving car company (powered by this deep map of the world) and, oh, P.S. they still have a search engine somewhere.”

Legal myths about the Assange extradition

Whenever the Julian Assange extradition comes up in the news, many of his supporters make various confident assertions about legal aspects of the case.

Some Assange supporters will maintain these contentions regardless of the law and the evidence – they are like “zombie facts” which stagger on even when shot down; but for anyone genuinely interested in getting at the truth, this quick post sets out five common misconceptions and some links to the relevant commentary and material.

The Joke’s on You

[Jon] Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert, in particular, have assumed the role of secular saints whose nightly shtick restores sanity to a world gone mad.

But their sanctification is not evidence of a world gone mad so much as an audience gone to lard morally, ignorant of the comic impulse’s more radical virtues. Over the past decade, political humor has proliferated not as a daring form of social commentary, but a reliable profit source. Our high-tech jesters serve as smirking adjuncts to the dysfunctional institutions of modern media and politics, from which all their routines derive. Their net effect is almost entirely therapeutic: they congratulate viewers for their fine habits of thought and feeling while remaining careful never to question the corrupt precepts of the status quo too vigorously.

Pawns in the War on Drugs

Informants are the foot soldiers in the government’s war on drugs. By some estimates, up to eighty per cent of all drug cases in America involve them, often in active roles like Hoffman’s. For police departments facing budget woes, untrained C.I.s provide an inexpensive way to outsource the work of undercover officers. “The system makes it cheap and easy to use informants, as opposed to other, less risky but more cumbersome approaches,” says Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a leading expert on informants. “There are fewer procedures in place and fewer institutional checks on their use.” Often, deploying informants involves no paperwork and no institutional oversight, let alone lawyers, judges, or public scrutiny; their use is necessarily shrouded in secrecy.

Sunday Spam: apple and cinnamon risotto

Apple and cinnamon risotto is one of Matthew Evans’s recipes in The Weekend Cook. I have some quibbles with that book, mostly that if anyone tries to romance me with the things listed under “romantic weekend” their expectations will be dashed, but this sounded ambitiously tasty.

In other news, I’m enjoying the Instaright Firefox add-on, which adds an address bar button and a right-click menu item for sending a link to Instapaper. Still liking Instapaper just fine except that it will only ever send 20 articles to one’s Kindle, and one day I managed to queue up close to 40 articles.

It would be kind of cool if Instapaper let me put out Sunday Spam as an instapaper. (I believe the ability to instapaper things to other people is an often requested feature.)

The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy

Linked in several places, this is an article about selective reductions (ie, aborting one fetus in a multiple pregnancy) from twins to singleton pregnancies. I’m not really sure why I was so interested in this—I’ve read several articles on reductions over the years and they’re all pretty similar—but I was. Perhaps it’s just that I definitely share the public fascination with twins described in the article.

Jenny is an asshole, and so, of course, am I

Infertility blogger Julie of A Little Pregnant shares her thoughts on Two-Minus-One: again nothing ground-breaking, but I enjoy Julie’s blog so have a link.

Jailhouse phone calls reveal why domestic violence victims recant

Phone calls between alleged perpetrators of domestic violence and their victims (which were known by the parties involved to be being recorded) show that the typical strategy for getting the victim to recant is getting their sympathy for one’s terrible situation facing trial and jail (rather than, at least in these cases, of threats of more violence).

Are software patents the “scaffolding of the tech industry”?

Counter-arguments to pro-software-patent positions, largely stressing that these particular pro-patent positions are concerned with the ability of the first inventor to profit from their invention, rather than with encouraging innovation in general.

Top 10 Things Breastfeeding Advocates Should Stop Saying

From earlier this year, includes “formula is poison” and “Moms who use formula don’t love/value their babies as much as moms who breastfeed”. I know people who have been hurt badly by statements this strong, in one case seriously considering giving up all plans for future children because of a failed (and mourned) breastfeeding relationship with her first child.

HPV: The STD of a New Generation

I’m pleased to have found Amanda Hess’s current online home again. Here she is on the interesting status of HPV: the STI that so very many people have, with attendant interesting interpretations by everyone from vaccine manufacturers to social conservatives.

What if Publishers are right about eBook prices?

Arguing that there’s a strong case that ebook prices will go to $0, and that this would not be a public good. Interesting, undoubtedly highly arguable. (Does not answer the question about why digital music prices haven’t and thereby make the required distinction between the two arguments.)

You Do Something with Your Hair?: Gender and Presentation in Stillwater

Gender presentation in Saint’s Row 2 is pretty unrestricted, and the game has gone out of its way to avoid using pronouns to refer to your character.

Crashing the Tea Party

David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, argue that their research shows that the Tea Party brand is getting toxic in the US, together with some data showing how closely Tea Party affiliation/identification corresponds with Republican Party membership and belief in a less strong church-state separation. Perhaps not a very exciting article for people who follow US politics more closely than I do.

11 Percent

11 percent of housing in the US is unoccupied, s.e. smith writes. In addition to the good of housing people, wouldn’t fixing this housing up stimulate demand in construction?

Sunday Spam: scrambled eggs and pesto

I have Instapaper now! Which means I read more stuff. Which means that every so often I will share things with you. On Sundays, sometimes.

This week is biased towards American stuff, because Instapaper’s Browse page tends towards longer stuff from The New Yorker, The Atlantic and so on.

On the Overton window : Thoughts from Kansas

This is one post in a series of discussions among skeptics about whether they should apply skepticism to evaluating their own outreach (see Skepticism means caring about evidence for the main thrust of that). This is an interesting side-note, which is that the Overton window, which is often cited casually by at least some of my activist friends, is not actually a very rigorous or reliable phenomena. (The idea of the Overton window is that the existence of radical voices helps establish a moderate version of the radical’s position by including that radical position in the window of visible opinion.)

Domestic aviation and a carbon price

Robert Merkel sketches out some sums suggesting that on various models, pricing carbon and other climate effects into Australian domestic air travel still makes flying cheaper than high speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne.

Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

Don Peck in The Atlantic on the growing gap between the upper-middle (or “professional middle”) and upper-class of Americans (the top 15% or so) and the rest of the middle-class, particularly the non-college educated. Has some interesting observations on gender too, namely that while service and caring jobs are growing in number and manufacturing and construction shrinking, men are not making the switch to the growing fields.

The Youth Unemployment Bomb

More typical Instapaper Browse fodder, this time from Business Week. Revolutions, unrest, and un(der)employed, highly educated, young adults.

Open Source Report: Is Defective by Design getting any traction at all?

An older link I was sent earlier this year as part of a discussion about geeks wanting to make sure their activism makes sense to people who aren’t already converts. It’s criticising the Free Software Foundation’s Defective By Design campaign.

The Attempt to Understand Puerperal Fever in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries: The Influence of Inflammation Theory

I dug this up after a discussion about the process of discovering that puerperal fever could be greatly reduced by birth attendants washing their hands before attending. This is an overview of the eighteenth and nineteenth century theorising about what caused puerperal fever, namely a tension between inflammation theory (a theory that blood was pooling in some part of the body, setting off a general inflammation chain-reaction and requiring blood-letting) and putrid theory, that the body had been poisoned by some external matter and the fever was either the result of this poison or an attempt to throw it off (this theory regarded bloodletting as harmful and focussed on protecting the post-partum woman from breathing fresh air, in many cases).

The interesting thing here, not directly addressed in this link, is that the sheer disgustingness of dissecting corpses and not washing your hands before attending a childbirth is only obvious to us because of germ theory. In fact, regular hand-washing as etiquette is really an artefact of that (see also Karl Schroeder on science-informed etiquette this week). Sometimes the puerperal fever sequence is portrayed as if man-midwives must have been actively callous or hateful to not be washing their hands: in fact, it’s (more?) that they entirely lacked any theoretical framework for believing that what you touched half an hour ago had any serious impact on what you were touching now.

Was Aaron Swartz Stealing? I haven’t been following closely, so this was a good overview from a point of view a little closer to my own perspective on copyright than US governments.

I was pleased to come across this, again via Browse, because previously I’d only read the indictment text.

linux.conf.au 2011: lightning talk take homes

As usual some rather important things went on in the lightning talks.

Rusty Russell got irritated at Geoff Huston’s “IPocalypse” keynote (which argued that the last minute no-options-left switch to IPv6 runs the risk of IPv6 being outcompeted by a closed solution) and he got coding. The result is a CCAN module (so, C code) to support simultaneous IPv4 and IPv6 connections, thus not penalising either. He’ll fix the dependency’s licence shortly. It might not work perfectly yet.

Donna Benjamin is trying to raise $7500 to get The National Library of Australia to digitise The Dawn, Louisa Lawson’s journal for women from the nineteenth century.

In intellectual property news (specifically, anti-stronger IP news) Kim Weatherall wants us to worry about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which Australia will likely ratify, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, which it would be really great to oppose, the impending result of the Federal Court appeal in the iiNet case, which iiNet may lose, and even if they don’t there will probably be legislative “three strikes” discussion about copyright violation.