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last 10 opinion posts

waterboarding. really? really?!   (opinion)

I know I'm a little late on this. But honestly, who cares? This is important. Let's follow the link trail. Even if you followed the issue but haven't seen these particular things, take a second.

Olbermann, pissed.It started with Mark Morford's column titled "Outrage Fatigue?". From there, we find ourselves watching Keith Olbermann talk about waterboarding in general, as well as its wider implications (transcript). This was the "holy shit" moment for me. I've heard the word waterboarding tossed around, and I kinda assumed it was a synonym for Chinese Water Torture, but when you watch the video and see the demonstration and listen to the description of it by someone who underwent it... that fired me up in a way I don't often get.

amateur security just makes it worse   (opinion)

Bruce Schneier just posted an article on his site which calls out many current counter-terrorist "strategies" as useless or downright harmful. It's worth a read, but it will make you angry at incompetence.

Even worse: after someone reports a "terrorist threat," the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment.
If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

neutrality or bust   (opinion)

There is a lot of confusion about what people are calling the "Net Neutrality" issue. This article, the cover story in the Boulder Weekly last week, is a must read for anyone who is even a little confused about what's really going on. It's basically war (fuck you, pay me) on the broadband consumer. It's written for the layperson and does a great job of laying all the facts out there.

Any discussion of network neutrality inevitably resorts to metaphors. Fast lanes and slow lanes. Toll booths. Book stores and endcaps. KFC and Pepsi vs. McDonald's and Coke. The phone system vs. the postal system. Electrical outlets that accept toasters as readily as computers, and so on. Of course, these metaphors have their limitations because there's really nothing like the Internet. So, it helps to understand something about how the Internet functions.

Boston, you are retarded.   (geekin, opinion, pic(s), random re me)

So if you haven't heard, Boston got its panties in a bunch over some LED signs that were part of a guerilla marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force (ATHF), which is one of the most bizarre (and amusing) shows on [adult swim]. Then [adult swim] goes and puts this shit up on their website, completely validating Boston's reaction. Unbelievable. Boston can kiss my fucking ass. THEY'RE LEDS. Good lord.

Tell them they suck for apologizing. I did:

I don't appreciate you validating the city of Boston's knee jerk retarded reaction to a harmless advertising campaign. I also don't appreciate you selling the advertising firm down the river so quickly. I realize you have a bunch of pussies in suits upstairs telling you what to do, but for $deity's sake, a disproportionate response to a bunch of LEDs doesn't require you to put on the kneepads and apologize profusely to a bunch of morans.
boston is run by morans

I don't trust you.   (opinion)

I recently got an email from MoveOn asking me whether I think they should support Nancy Pelosi's "100 hour plan".

After reading the article, I'm still left with that nagging "I don't trust you" feeling that I get whenever politicians speak. Her anti-lobbying proposals sound like a step in the right direction, but what isn't she saying? What are the loopholes she's left for herself? How eager will she be to enforce these rules when they hurt a Democrat?

She says "Pay as you go (no increasing the deficit)", but to do that, we raise taxes only on people with big annual incomes? Why not a flat tax? Rich people have time to find ways around paying taxes. It all unbalances itself eventually. Not all rich people are like Lois's dad in Family Guy. They can do good things with their money too. Forced charity is no charity at all.

I don't like Democrats. I don't like Republicans either. The reasons differ quite a bit, though... An example: Democrats want to force me to pay for other people's health care, while Republicans want to force me to pay to enable the killing of more Iraqi people, innocent or not. Neither is something that I approve of being forced to do, but one is clearly more moral (as moral as forceful redistribution of wealth can be). Which party gets the evangelical vote again? Explain that to me...

Brandalism: PsyOps for Ad execs   (opinion, quote)

People abuse you every day. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you're not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They're on tv making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are the advertisers and they are laughing at you. However, you are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with impunity. Any advert in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It's yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. You especially don't we them any courtesy. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don't even start asking for theirs.

assuming a ladder   (opinion, quote)

"We, as a country, are now in the grip of five kinds of politics that I want very briefly to discuss, if only to alarm you and depress you. I call them the politics of assuming a ladder; the politics of rent seeking, otherwise known as the war against Wal-Mart; the politics of learned dependency; the politics of speech rationing; and the politics of orchid building. Let me explain these in very short compass.

First, the politics of assuming a ladder. An old economics joke tells of an economist and a friend who are walking down a road and fall into a pit. The regular guy says, “We can’t get out.” And the economist replies, “Not to worry, we’ll just assume a ladder.” We have just had the last presidential election before the first of 77 million baby boomers begin to retire. They will put strains on a welfare state that, as currently configured, cannot endure. And so the entitlement advocates are assuming a ladder, assuming that something will happen to fix the problem.

  - George Will, Upholding the Idea of Liberty

yay mexico   (opinion)

from TFA: (more coverage)

Possessing marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime in Mexico if they are in small amounts for personal use under new reforms passed by Congress that quickly drew U.S. criticism.

The measure given final passage 53-26 by senators in a late night session on Thursday is aimed at letting police focus on their battle against major drug dealers, and President Vicente Fox is expected to sign it into law.
The legal changes will also decriminalize the possession of limited quantities of other drugs, including LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines and peyote -- a psychotropic cactus found in Mexico's northern deserts.

verizon phone lockdown illegal?   (geekin, opinion, random re me)

IANAL, but I just got a new phone and rather than paying Verizon to pull my old phone numbers off my lame LG VX6000, I transferred them over manually, culling the lame ducks in the process. So if I tell you I don't have your phone number anymore, you should laugh nervously. And then I read this article and thought perhaps what they did was illegal...?

If I don't want to have my data trapped in a proprietary format, I will avoid those proprietary applications. What is the sense of using the proprietary application and then asking for an open source tool to access the data?

You own your data, even when it's trapped in a proprietary application. There is a term in American law, conversion, for the act of refusing to give back property of others that has been entrusted to you for safekeeping. This is probably illegal wherever you live, too, and when proprietary vendors trap your data and refuse to let you get at it except through their application, they may be committing a crime.

You create nothing.   (opinion)

Dear Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (EEaTU),
  First of all, I would like to congratulate you on pulling off what Matthew Lesko (?DORK) couldn't—being taken seriously. There are several differences between EEaTU and ?DORK, though, and I think they are important differences.

hyperlinks subvert hierarchy yet again   (opinion, quote)

For nearly four years - steadily, seriously, and with the unsentimental rigor for which we love them - civil engineers have been studying the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, sifting the tragedy for its lessons. And it turns out that one of the lessons is: Disobey authority. In a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do.
We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as "the rainbow of doom" is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we'll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.
Question Authorities: Why it's smart to disobey officials in emergencies

the report these conclusions were drawn from (Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communication)

where I got the phrase "hyperlinks subvert hierarchy"

rock the what?   (opinion)

What I got from Rock the Vote this week:

Wednesday morning, President Bush will speak at Montgomery Blair High
School in Silver Spring! He's going to promote his agenda for privatizing
Social Security.

Join Rock the Vote as we make a showing for young people that we do not
want the debt, cuts and risk that come with privatization!

What I sent to Rock the Vote's intern listed in the Reply-To:

I appreciate what the organization you intern at is trying to do in getting young people more involved in politics, but I don't appreciate being pidgeonholed as not supporting Social Security privatization just because I happened to sign up for your mailing list. Rock the Vote is making the same mistake as AARP in the way they frame the discussion about changes to the current Social Security system, specifically:

WSJ: AARP's False Campaign against Reform

and less specifically: Problems and Criticisms

You should read those, if they're not blocked at your firewall because they disagree with you. It helps to read both sides of the argument.

feminony   (opinion, quote)

That’s the lesson of the last week in sports: Feminism is phony. Sports are showbiz. Good-looking women get endorsements. Women who look and act like men don’t. Women who succeed against men on their own turf get respect. Women who constantly whine about equality—yet need their own, separate, unequal league to succeed—don’t get respect.
 -Debbie Schlussel, Lesbian Basketball, Season 9 vs. the Indy Chick

guns and dope   (opinion, quote)

A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined,
but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a
status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them,
which would include their own government.
  -George Washington

I'll tolerate your hobbies if you'll tolerate mine. -Guns and Dope Party

We advocate:

  1. guns for those who want them, no guns forced on those who don't want them (pacfists, Quakers etc.)

  2. drugs for those who want them, no drugs forced on those who don't want them (Christian Scientists etc.)

  3. an end to Tsarism and a return to constitutional democracy

  4. equal rights for ostriches.

two "clowns"   (opinion)

In this month's issue of Reason, there were two particular letters to the editor that caught my attention. One for its ability to get to the point, and the other for being ignorant. Both letters were in response to Ayn Rand at 100. Let's go in order, shall we?

The first gives a nice summary of some key Objectivist ideas that I happen to agree with:

"... that man must choose his values and actions by reason; that the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor others to self; and that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force, or impose ideas on others by physical force."
This letter is interesting to me because it is succinct, powerful, and to the point.

inferior usefulness through apathetic complicity   (geekin, opinion, quote)

Governments, "as the true representatives of their country", should have an increased voice in the governance of the internet, Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said on Thursday. Also, "It must be shared based on need. We must allow newcomers to enter in the same way as the more established users" (this is a red herring argument[1]).

Even if most government/bureaucratic structures weren't hopelessly corrupt (*cough*OilForFood), needlessly self-perpetuating, and overly complex (*cough*USTaxCode), hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. Command and control power structures are streamlined, if not obsoleted by the internet (i.e. empowering the individual), which is why China tries to block content it doesn't want its citizens to see. I wonder if Ivy thinks the Chinese government is a "true representative [of its citizens]"...

[1] I know what John Galt would say; "The only proper propose of a government is to protect man's rights..." The internet and the services it provides and enables is available with very limited restrictions. Letting governments get involved would only pollute that environment and add more barriers to entry.

social (homeland) security?   (opinion, random re me)

Whether you love or hate The Washington Post (I personally don't read it enough to have a valid opinion), you've got to respect them for presenting both sides of the current Social Security debate, For and Against.

You'll notice I didn't call the current Administration's plan by its scare-tactic label, "privatization" or what its proponents use, "individual accounts" or alternately (not directly) part of a paradigm shift towards an "ownership-oriented society". I don't like bs marketing words when easy explanations will work just as well. This is funny too. I prefer the explanations here, by the Cato Institute

Robert Jackson and Ayn Rand   (opinion, quote)

One of the quotes that has stuck with me most since I read Atlas Shrugged [] is (somewhat paraphrased): "If we make everything illegal, then we can arrest whoever we want!" Atlas Shrugged came out in 1957, but before that, []: in 1940, Attorney General Robert Jackson (later Justice Jackson) warned federal prosecutors: "With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone." The great danger, said Jackson, is that "he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted."

"Everything illegal?!", you exclaim in disbelief, "why, that's preposterous!" Read on, brave soul...

quiet discomfort   (opinion, random re me)

I went to Chipotle for lunch. But starting this post out that way, with that title won't (at least not yet) lead to the obvious conclusion. I subscribed to The Sun recently (no, not The Baltimore Sun) and, by the way, I've been pleased with the content so far. To paraphrase a self-described "fatcat Republican" in the letters to the editor this month, even if I don't completely agree with the opinions as such, it's always a pleasure to read a well-written and intelligently presented point. Ah yes, on to my point; there is an article about welfare "reform" (pdf) in this month's issue.

digital media competition, ass   (geekin, opinion)

from a /. thread:

[We should] treat the race to scramble and descramble content as a kind of market competition that should be unfettered by the DMCA--or new FTC rules

This is the most intelligent thing I've heard anybody say about the copy protection controversy.

Back in the 70s and early 80s HBO was broadcast through the air like DirecTV. People used to build their own receivers using antennas made out of coffee cans (I know -- I had one). After HBO had harassed and threatened antenna owners for several years, the courts finally ruled that the company couldn't control what people did with the broadcast signal in their own homes. HBO's next move was to scramble the signal, which was easily defeated by those with access to spectrum analyzers but largely stymied the coffee-can community. The eventual solution was for HBO to join the cable world.

I always thought this was the sensible way to handle the controversy. Make companies do business in the real world, rather than letting them reshape [the world] to their needs [through legislation]. Lately our government has gone in the opposite direction, with legislators tailoring laws to suit the demands of their financial backers.

church + state = ethical economic system?   (opinion, quote)

"The irony of course is that rich countries force poor ones to open up their markets and liberalize their trade policies but don’t adhere to their own exhortations. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the $300 billion doled out in farm subsidies every year by the EU and the US. With so many third world inhabitants engaged in subsistence farming, the elimination of agricultural protectionism would do wonders for southern economies."

 -Nicholas Klassen, Islamic Economics

an intriGAYing argument   (opinion, quote)

"I believe that no religion should ever [expect] anyone [outside their religion] to believe anything. Therefore, if gay couples wish to join in a lifelong [legally recognized] union [with legal rights identical to heterosexual couples], that should be their right to do so. However, [labelling this union] "marriage" is not a defense of their inalienable rights [as a ctizen], but an attack on those people's beliefs that hold marriage to be a sacred God-given gift. To insist on the term "marriage" is to [provoke unnecessary conflict with] those who hold that homosexuality is immoral. We are supposed to be a tolerant society, so where is the tolerance to be found in those who wish to [impose] their will on Bible-believing Christians and Jews?"

 -by J, taken out of context (additions mine, obviously, as they change or add to the original stated idea)

most of the stuff in that original post and the comments is garbage, but the above statement is an intriguing assertion, just as intriguing as the libertarian argument that marriage be privatized, or shifted from a legal status to that of a contractual agreement.

the best compromises leave both sides feeling as though they got taken. so from the religious POV, an immoral union would now be legal. and from the gay POV, they would have equal rights (which i realize requires legal changes, thanks cb) but wouldn't be labelled the same as hetero couples. who makes out like a bandit?

chasing kerry   (link, opinion)
"Why does the press do such a lousy job of covering the campaign?"

I love it when I get to read something as clearly and honestly written as this by someone who has the all-too-uncommon ability these days to recognize the absurd contrasts and inconsistencies between "official" and "accepted" speech and reality. While dressed up as a viking.

If you like this article, you'll get a kick out of The Cluetrain Manifesto

napster's historical precedent   (opinion)

The film industry of Hollywood was built by fleeing pirates. Creators and directors migrated from the East Coast to California in the early twentieth century in part to escape controls that patents granted the inventor of filmmaking, Thomas Edison. These controls were exercised through a monopoly "trust," the Motion Pictures Patents Company, and were based on Thomas Edison's creative property--patents. Edison formed the MPPC to exercise the rights this creative property gave him, and the MPPC was serious about the control it demanded.

(this is an excerpt from Lawrence Lessig's free book, Free Culture)

most?!   (geekin, link, opinion, quote)

Breaking into a database is relatively easy because MOST DATABASE SERVERS ARE NOT PASSWORD PROTECTED, said Alfred Huger, director of engineering at anti-virus company Symantec.

Emphasis mine, obviously. That has got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. EVERY database server I've ever used or even heard anything about has been pasword protected. I have an extremely hard time believing Mr. Alfred Huger's statement. The reporter should have at least asked him to provide a source to back up that statement. If I ever found out that a company that I bought a product or service from had a database (such as a database of attendees to, say, a university) that wasn't password protected, I would probably sue them. That's just gross negligence.

price disparity   (opinion)

I went to BJ's and Subway over my lunch break today. I bought soda at both places. At BJ's, I got 24 12oz cans of soda for $6.29 but at Subway I got a 12oz fountain soda for about a dollar IIRC. That's almost 400% more than BJ's charged me. BJ's smaller profit margins look a whole lot better when you multiply it by their volume, but you can't really beat the quick bang for the buck (read: i get screwed) at Subway.

I'm going to assume that they both make a profit off of selling soda, or put another way, that they sell it for more than they pay for it. Subway depends on its soda profit much more than BJ's, though, as evidenced by the fact that when you fill up a card with the free sub stamps, they require you to buy a soda in order to get your free 6-incher. I don't see anything wrong with that, as a matter of fact, it's quite clever of them to do that. It made me break out in a strangely mis-cheevy-us grin when I read the fine print. I guess I like figuring out why companies do seemingly strange things.

I don't really have a point, I just think it's funny that when you can buy regular retail products on eBay for half price that mainstream businesses can still get away with charging so much for sugar water even though other mainstream businesses charge a small fraction of the cost for the same product.

message of 'Passion'   (link, opinion)
"A major message of this film is that power corrupts. The priests kept the people from reading Scripture and thus were able to control their interpretation of it. The Roman army held dictator power over the locals and treated the people like lowly animals — and criminals, even worse — and neither were at an advantage to stop the abuses."

rejection as a hobby   (link, opinion)
I'm going to include a huge quote from today's PA news post because it is awesome. I'm also going to paraphrase it a little bit for my own purposes.

the friday five (paranormal)   (friday five, opinion)

1. Are you superstitious?
I believe in karma to a certain extent, basically "what goes around comes around," but that's about it.

2. What extremes have you heard of someone going to in the name of superstition?
I've heard the obligatory stories about pro athletes not washing some article of clothing for a long time because they think it gives them good luck... I'm sure I could find some pretty crazy/stupid ones with google, too, but I don't actively try to perpetuate things that I don't see solid reasoning behind.

3. Believer or not, what's your favorite superstition?
(note: at this point i realized it's friday the 13th today...) I like the one about breaking a mirror giving you however many years of bad luck. So if you're really ugly, does that mean you'll have bad luck for your whole life? (cause you break mirrors when you look at them, haha) But what about that chick from The Shining? She still seems to be doing ok...

4. Do you believe in luck? If yes, do you have a lucky number/article of clothing/ritual?
Choices, chance, risk, they all play a big part in everything. My favorite (paraphrased) quote about luck is "Luck favors the prepared mind." I'm not going to post my lucky number because it's a secret and if everyone knew what it was, my advantage would go right out the window...

5. Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not?
astrology: the divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects
No, I don't. Even the dictionary is skeptical. I don't believe in anything that doesn't allow me to have a choice about things I do. Anything that an astrologist is correct about is just chance, common sense, or intuition and has some other influence and explanation, other than perhaps gravity ("You will stay firmly planted on the earth, unless you jump, or get on an airplane, or walk up some stairs, or take an elevator...").

Pieism: The One True Religion   (link, opinion)

The Ten Pie Commandments:
1. You shall love Pie and all its fillings.
2. You shall not steal thy neighbors Pie.
3. You shall not worship any other gods other than the almighty Pie Gods.
4. You shall not mutilate any Pie.
5. You shall not disrespect Pie.
6. You shall set aside 3 days a week in devotion to Pie
7. You shall eat a Pie at least once a month.
8. You shall spread the holy name of Pie.
9. You shall not dishonor Pie in any way, shape, or form.
10. You shall not bear false witness against any person who follows Pieism.

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