Archive for September, 2006

The 2008 Republican National Convention

Living, as I do, in Saint Paul (or St. Paul, but, given that it’s the RNC convention, never Ste. Paul) Minnesota, I’m a little ambivalent about the 2008 Republican National Convention being held here… and it’s not just because I’m a liberal. :)

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Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 28th, 2006 | No Comments »

T.E. Lawrence’s The Mint

Book collecting is a strange hobby, and bibliophiles are an admittedly strange lot. That said, there’s something very, very surreal happening at the moment…

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Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on September 25th, 2006 | No Comments »

Imperialism in the Inbox

An Illinois court recently awarded twelve million dollars in damages to an email marketing firm called e360 Insight. The defendant? Spamhaus. It seems Insight’s ability to conduct their business was hampered by being listed in the Spamhaus DNSBL, rendering them unable to fill people’s inboxes with stuff they didn’t want.

At first, it seems a horribly complicated case – e360 Insight says they fully comply with “CAN-SPAM”, which was and is one of the most useless pieces of legislation ever passed in this country. Note the last three words, though – in this country. Spamhaus is based out of England, and asserts that Insight’s missives violate the law there.

Too, it must be remembered that Spamhaus doesn’t actually block any email – they provide a tool for others to block email with. One can see how this would lead to liability on their part – except that blocking email isn’t illegal. There is no law anywhere that says that a system administrator has to accept mail – or any other traffic – from anyone or anywhere he or she doesn’t wish to. It’s extraordinarily common to block internet traffic from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Koreas, and a number of other countries. Thousands of webmasters block all address space belonging to Cyveillance, and you don’t see them throwing a hissy-fit that their businesss is being hampered, do you?

The third point to keep in mind is that by imposing ridiculous penalties against an English organization well outside it’s jurisdiction, the United States once again is trying to impose it’s rule of law on the internet, and still ignoring the rights of other countries to do things in a manner different from us. It’s our way on the information superhighway, as far as America is concerned.

It’s not the way it should be, but nothing much seems to be being done about it.

You might also want to see this post about the latest developments, and how to fight back against the goons at e360 Insight.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 17th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

Once More With Feeling

Via the New York Times, an acerbic interview of sorts with disgraced former editor of The New Republic, Lee Siegel. In it, he attacks anonymity, and the blogosphere itself:

There are other people who appear anonymously on Web sites; they do battle with their detractors. Anonymity is a universal convention of the blogosphere, and the wicked expedience is that you can speak without consequences… Everyone seems to be fleeing from the responsibilities that come from being who you are. I think that is why the blogosphere is thriving. It allows people to develop a fantasy self.

He also agrees that expressing one’s opinions is “intellectually lame”.

judge ideas on their own merit, not who they come from

I have long been a proponent of anonymity and pseudonymity. Rather than fleeing the responsibilities of “being who you are”, I think they help to promote discourse, because they restrict the ability of the intellectually limited to stoop to ad hominem attacks. In a day and age where vast amounts of personal information are just waiting to be collated, browsed, and used or misused as anyone sees fit, the ability to restrict discourse to relevant matters by eliminating irrelevant matters does far more good than any “credibility” that writing under one’s real name does. I’ve argued before that we should judge ideas on their own merit, not on who they come from; do a fair-housing advocate’s ideas have less merit because he lives in a quarter-million dollar home in a tony suburb? Of course not.

At least the immature Mr. Siegel and I almost agree on one thing;

[T]hose who practice incessant character assassination, which represents a good portion of the blogosphere, they vent out of the pain of being unacknowledged.

I agree there’s plenty of character assassination to go around, but it seems to be the acknowledged who make the most use of it; there are any number of respected critics, commentators, and pundits whose careers have consisted largely of being slime merchants. Of course, given Mr. Siegel’s politics, I expect he defines character assassination more by who the subject is, rather than what’s being said. Call Hillary Clinton an ice queen, and you’re being astute, over there in la-la land. Call Anne Coulter an ice queen, and you’re not just practicing character assassination, but being a mysoginist, to boot. Hey, it makes perfect sense if you drink enough kool-aid…

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on September 16th, 2006 | No Comments »

DIY Nuclear Weapons, Anyone?

I have seen a weapon made with material you could get from Home Depot

From Dick Destiny comes the astounding new benchmark in over-the-top homeland security rhetoric, courtesy of Connecticut Representative Chris Shays (R-Obviously) and the Christian Science Monitor.

It’s kind of a shame, actually, because a lot of Shays’ other thoughts are good ones, but he rather loses credibility with the whole “the only thing you need is enriched uranium” caveat to his doom-and-gloom pronouncement.

Hey, Representative? I believe there will be a nationwide collapse of the energy sector. In fact, I believe electrical power is going to become completely free. The only thing you need is a perpetual motion machine and a way around the law of conservation of energy, after all.

I wonder if anyone has asked Home Depot for an official comment on their newfound status as the DIY nuclear weapon superstore?

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on September 16th, 2006 | No Comments »