Monday, November 30, 2009

Meep is Murder

Sorry. Had to do it. Mr Murray (Thomas of that ilk) will now put me in detention, I'm sure.

You'd have thought that Salem would have been doing something to cast down its reputation for intolerance and basic stupidity. But no. Land of the Free and all that.

A Thought During Yesterday's Sermon

Which I was too busy to write up yesterday afternoon or evening ...

Which is more morally or socially important? The rule of law or true justice in each and every case.

Laws are going to be unjust in edge cases - hence very limited "strict liability" and, until recently, it only applying to minor offences. And the right to trial by a jury of your peers, also now diminished. However the lack of law, or the lack of any attempt to enforce a body of laws, is likely to lead to manifest injustice in many more cases.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Habituation

I caught myself typing my Google search into the browser URL box. The worrying thing is that Virgin's DNS thief would catch the error* and return a relevant Yahoo search box.

* - Yes, and I am anal enough to have just tested it ...

Why "Utley"? Anybody?

My Contempt Overflows

el Beeb pointed me to this article, and I thought, "Who?" Never heard of the buggers. So I went and had a wee look at their website. Oh dear. Oh dearie, dearie, dear.

Not since TerryWatch have we found an individual more worthy of our contempt. Not Broon, or Broone, or even not-el-Presidente Tony - ladies and gentlemen - may I give you the "Scumbag of the Year", Mr Andrew J (Jackass?) Crossley. A man under investigation by the Solicitors (sic) Regulation Authority and reported to the Law Society. Probably shortly to appear in Private Eye ('cause it'll be cold day in Dis before the two previous organisations finger one of their own.)

Anyway, evidence? I give you this.

Introduce fixed fines of £750.00 minimum
Introduce statutory damages of £750.00 as a minimum for each act of copyright infringement (such provision exists presently in the United States);

My, this has worked so well in the USA, hasn't it? Statutory damages completely disproportionate to the "offence" - i.e. the "civil tort". Cost of a download (so the lost revenue per 'share', assuming that there is anybody apart from the solicitor's investigator who has actually downloaded the file) call it £0.50 to £10.

ISPs to provide names of internet account holders
Make all Internet Service Providers produce, on request of a copyright owner or licensee, the identities of the account holders of the internet connection used for illegal file sharing of their copyrighted material. The cost of producing such information would be met by the copyright owner requesting it;

I see the problem - "the identities of the account holders of the internet connection used for illegal file sharing of their copyrighted material." There's an 'alleged' missing from that tripe. Or, you could say, 'accused'. Or, as we have seen, an accurate version would be 'completely innocent of the charges of".


Strict liability for internet account holders
Make the account holder of the internet connection strictly liable for infringements where their connection was used for illegal file sharing

Another fucking great idea from the pontificator of dumb. The victims of a putative offence (malware) become strictly liable for the actions of the criminal? Anyway, does "strict liability" exist as a concept within English civil, as opposed to criminal which even if 'guilty' does not involve the people he is after.

Simplify the court process
Streamline, simplify and speed up the court process of a copyright owner applying for the identities of the account holders from ISPs (this is presently a complex and time-consuming procedure)

Can't actually argue with this. Of course, I would suggest that the process is simplified by having the judge issuing the warrant examine the evidence provided by the accusers well, for evidence, as opposed to mere supposition.

Standardise letters of claim and court documents
Secure approval and consensus for standard-form letters, documents and claims making the process of notification and prosecution of an identified infringement clear and easy to understand, with the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.

Yes. Okay. Now for our nursery school class in the use of word-processor templates ... And, I would note this threatening bollocks - his business model is all about avoiding getting to "guilt is proven" - he wants people to be forced by the cost model into falsely admitting guilt.

I would note that the fact that this cretin is chasing people who are alleged to have copied porn bears not upon my disregard in any way.

Ed notes: My client wishes it to be known that he considers the use of peer-to-peer file sharing an utter obscenity and anybody with such software loaded should be condemned to a life term using an Amstrad CPC 464. After all, that's what alt.binary was invented for!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Discussing the Iraq Inquiry

"Well, if you start selecting Sir Humphrey for political reliability rather than sheer devious mendacity ..."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Fail. A Spectacular Fail.

H/t to "The Register".

A couple of bunches of Swiss interfering busybodies seem to think that the Geneva Conventions and Protocols and the Hague Conventions (basically, war crimes stuff) should be enforced in computer games.

Games!

Now, aside from the concern that they should be bothering with enforcing international humanitarian law on people who will bomb crowded market places, decapitate people on video, rape women as "ethnic cleansing" etc etc - and keep a careful watch on the armies of the Western democracies to ensure that we do keep to our professed high standards (as we know, the answer to this is 'not always'), what part of 'game' do they fail to understand.

Next they will be expecting people to run out of bullets at non-dramatic moments in movies, people to fall when hit, and the general bansturbation of all forms of 'artistic licence'.

Sorry, that is just so pathetic that I have had to stop work to rant!

Oh, and the grown-up equivalents of these games that we use for training? Yes, they go give you minus points (and / or a severe bollocking) for shooting civilians.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Climate Change & 'Hackers' - Wow!

Oh, I've been pretty much without internet all weekend and dependant on the newspapers for information. And I got up rather late today, so didn't read the blogs until after work. And there was nothing obvious on the BBC*,.

That'll teach me.

Just go here or here (which you'll have already read anyway, yes?) and ignore me.

This is probably the biggest story both in real-world international impact (unless Obama has nuked Russia and I simply haven't noticed being too busy working) and, assuming the hacking innuendo is true, information security terms ever.

* Yes, okay, there is a "UK climate unit's e-mails hacked " story - not a "hacked emails may show all global warming is complete bollocks" story. And the top environmental stories in presentation are from the classic BBC mould:

  • East Antarctica 'is losing ice'
  • State leaders boost to Copenhagen
  • Carbon credit: Are children's futures going up in smoke?
&
  • Earth Watch: Korean model for Obama as Copenhagen looms
As well as the complete non-story "Giraffes use 'supercharged' heart". Err, "duh"!


iPhone Worm

Live on T-Mobile apparently and only affects (because it isn't an Apple approved application) "jailbroken" iPhones.

Register report here, as found by the good guys at XS4ALL, who did so much great work on the Toxbot botnet.

Now, it would take somebody even more evilly cynical than me to suggest that a meticulous and comprehensive code analysis will show up a Cupertino, CA copyright attribution. :D

Update: BBC News report now up, crediting F-Secure.
A second worm to hit the iPhone has been unearthed by security company F-Secure.

F-Secure, on the other hand, merely claim to have received a sample of the malware and, themselves, credit the nice Mr McIntyre at, guess who, XS4ALL. Well done, BBC, especially for your totally unsubstantiated claim that changing your iPhone wallpaper to a photo of Rick Astley is "harmless". Have you never heard of PTSD?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Correlation or Causation?

I have just noticed, apropos of (actually not, deleting it through what is either cowardice or good sense) posting on a regularly frequented message board, that I seem to get more right-wing the further down that glass of whisky I get.

Is it because right wingery appeals to simpler minds? (In which case, please explain Ritchie Murphy) In vino (okay, in ordi) veritas?

I'd note that the libertarian / authoritarian axis appears to be alcohol insoluble.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I know this is a scam

Apart from just engaging me in dialogue and social engineering from there, does anybody know what the hook in this is (okay, it claims to be female so it might be sex but ...)

from Elena
to inoa**owk@yahoo.com (Ed notes: Not me, honest)
date 15 November 2009 19:03
subject Hi

Hi,

My name is Elena, I'm 32 year and I writing you from Russian province. I working in local bibliotheca and I permitted to use computer afterwards work if possible. Our position is very difficult and I decided to write you this desperate letter.

I have daughter Anghelina, she has 8 years old, her father abandoned us and we inhabit with my mother.

Due to serious crisis recently my mother lost job (market where she was used to work has been closed) and our situation became horrible.

Gas and electricity cost a lot in our city and we unable use it to heat our home anymore.

Wintertime is coming and weather becom colder every day. We are disturbed and we can not suppose what to do.

Only possible way for us to heating our home is to use transferable wood-firing oven which give heat with burning wood (fire). We have plenty wood in our administrative district and this oven will heatin our home complete all winter with minimal price.

The trouble is that we cannot purchase this oven in our market because it cost 8120 rouble (equivalent of 191 Euro) and we cannot collect too much money.

May be you have any old transportable wood-firing oven and if you finished to use it, we will be very glad if you could gift it for us and organize transportation of this oven to our address (170 km from Moscow). That oven may be different and weight 100-150kg.

I hope to hear from you back.

Elena, my daughter and my mother.
Russie
Now, if I had a wood burning stove (she wants a stove not an oven), it would be in my library. And if anybody knows where you can get a decent wood-burning stove for €191, would they please tell Mrs S-E 'cause we're after one? For the library. Don't send us one, especially to Moscow. An internet purchasing link would be fine.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Well done, Amelia

One of the latest, and the youngest, MEPs. Amelia Andersdotter, from the Swedish Pirate Party.

I rather have had no Lisbon ratification kept you out, though. Not personal.

The Tories and Europe

One of my favourite bloggers nearly gets the point:

Under the terms of the 1972 Act it has always been clear that it was the duty of a United Kingdom court, when delivering final judgment, to override any rule of national law found to be in conflict with any directly enforceable rule of Community law. [...]
- Lord Bridge of Harwich, R v Secretary of State for Transport ex parte Factortame Ltd [1991] 1 AC 603, 658

&

By way of postscript, I remember asking my European Law professor whether there was any way of overturning the decision, or otherwise reasserting the sovereignty of Westminster. "Oh, yes", he replied breezily. "All you have to do is repeal the 1972 European Communities Act".

Whereas what the Cameroids are proposing is, according to Mr Dale (who ought to be reasonably up to speed on these things:

If we win the next election, we will amend the European Communities Act 1972 to prohibit, by law, the transfer of power to the EU without a referendum.


s2(1) and s2(2) are the guilty barstewards. And, yes, these would have to be amended, or the Act itself could be repealed. Both would do the trick - the latter doing rather more than putting the obstacle of referenda in place of further transfers of power. But there is nothing stopping the next parliament amending the 1972 law?

The blogosphere raving about there being no further treaties (Lisbon being self-amending) is correct but irrelevant - Cameroonian is not saying "prohibit, by law, any further EU treaties without a referendum", is he? Read it. Okay, then remember he is a politician and read it very carefully and look for the loopholes, I'll grant you. "The transfer of power to the EU" - whether this comes via a new treaty, an amendment to Lisbon, or an EU Directive - any transfer of power. We are going to be sick and fed up of referenda before long (even if they lump them into biannual batches).

Oh, and M. Lellouche? UK influence in Europe will last as long as we are net contributors to the EU budget. Threaten the money sump each French farmer is personally granted? Well, we'd need to find a politician with a spine and as Dan Hannan has just resigned from his front bench position, we're going to have a problem with that (found one, but he'll never be PM either) but it would get us direct attention in the corridors (same word in French as in English) of power.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Transexual Jesus

From my not-particularly-lofty height?

If this helps one LGBTGB-whatever person with their religious turmoil, then great. I mean, we habitually present Jesus as being white ...

Jesus drank water from the Samaritan woman at the well, ate with tax-collectors, was associated (if not actually married) to a known prostitute. Ritual impurity to the Jews - just as much as eating prawn cocktail. Cast the first stone, as he may well have said himself.

I would remind people that the Zion Baptist Church are, at least, consistent in their bigotry. If not particularly Christian.

Edited to add - Jesus was an outcast. Despised, tormented and eventually martyred. Who would he be likely to side with? The comfortable in their ignorance, the modern Pharisees, even, or the marginalised and oppressed. I still wouldn't want to go and see the play. Nothing to do with the subject matter but "written and performed by (the) playwright" is rarely an attraction.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Idiots Today

Tim has already had a go at the more egregious bits of this but I want to stick my poniard in (I would have said 'stiletto' but despite today's diversity-friendly posting I still can't walk in them):

Remember, the biggest reason for our current pension crisis is that the future rewards of pensioners have been spent by the City today.

No, no, no. The biggest reason for our current pension crisis is s19 of the Finance (No.2) Act 1997. Ritchie clearly doesn't realise anything about deltas and compound interest (with pension savings of, say 40 years, you have time for significant compounding). The pension funds were in crisis before the big stock market falls. But we have time for compound ignorance:
November 2nd, 2009 at 13:50 | #8

Amazing isn’t it carol that a small tax change can apparently have brought down the whole system

And utterly wrong, of course

The reality is that the pensions of the wealthy still get far, far too much tax subsidy

Richard

Apart from failing to realise that "spent by the City today" is not the same as "far, far too much tax subsidy", hasn't he realised that it isn't actually the pensions of the wealthy that are important (there aren't enough of them - and most of their savings is likely to be tied up in mostly-CGT-free occupational shareholdings), it applies to everybody who has a personal pension (and, anyway, it's not been true since the Finance Act 2004 - unless you are in the public sector - and pretty much everybody with a defined benefits pension is, your we-don't-steal-from-this-bit-yet pension fund is limited - £3600 per year maximum tax relief, a contributions limit and a fund total limit - the latter aimed to provide a maximum pension of £75,000 per year - nice money but not 'wealthy' - tax beyond that is at 25 to 55% on the lump and then you have income tax on the disbursement).

A Dubious Link

A correspondent posted about the Ugandan "Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009" (text is not currently available at the official site) and I think, initial revulsion aside, it is worth having a look at, if only to convince ourselves that government by Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson and Lord Mandelson is not the worst of all possible worlds.

Now, after we've all (the libertarians at least, and, of any other readers, those with a world view in the latter half of the 20th Century even if still a bit progress-disadvantaged) gone "ugh", let's consider that homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda (s145 of their Penal Code Act) and work on from that point.

Without yet expressing views on the wrongness or utter wrongness of state interference in the private lives of consenting adults, let's be snarky first.
  • Despite the heavy religious sponsorship, this is a clergy-unfriendly bill. Not only is the friendly man or woman in the dog collar considered to be of sufficient power over you for them to fall in to s3(1)(d) "Aggravated Homosexuality" - and therefore going to get offed rather than mere rotting in prison for the rest of their days but under s14, they can get 3 years banged up for not snitching on you to the Poof-Finder General. Sacrament of Confession, anybody?
  • This is not a well written bill - consider the text of s9 - there seems to be missing a (c), as well as the punishment schedule.
  • I like s13(1)(b): "funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities" - like interior decoration or fashion design?
  • s13(2) shows that Ugandan politicians are just as bad as British ones for "little people's law"!
  • s15 really worries me - the only offence here that is reserved for the High Court is one with the mandatory death penalty - even life imprisonment can be tried by Magistrates? Yuck.
  • Any government requiring a "Minister of Ethics and Integrity" is clearly headed down the (Nothing to do with the)People's (Un)Democratic etc, etc
Okay, so that's the pedantry out of the way. What about the basic points?

  • The hideous illiberality of condemning not just consensual sexual acts between adults but even the belief that such should not be illegal is mind-numbing. It reads like a nu-Labour Criminal Justice Bill.
  • The fig leaf offered by the supporters that this bill is necessary to protect juvenile men from gay predators is just that. Implementing s3(1)(a) with an amendment to the law on rape to allow that crime to encompass acts on males, either legally incapable of consent or unconsenting, would be entirely reasonable (accepting that age of consent is, to a large extent, culturally bound and therefore the West needs to be careful demanding that our, piss-poor, example should be followed.)
  • The Ugandan Constitution does have "objectives" covering human rights, and Article 21(2) would probably apply (is homosexuality a 'belief' - however the Bill also bans non-homosexuals from promoting homosexual rights which certainly is, hence the Bill is unconstitutional under Article 2(2).)
  • I would just state my generic opposition to the death penalty (and judicial maiming etc), regardless of the offence, as I don't trust anybody's courts to get it right all of the time and even if you win your appeal, you don't have much come-back!
We do need to remember that the modern world isn't, really. That bigotry and its (probably illegal under this Bill) bed-fellow, religious fundamentalism - yes, with limited exceptions such as the death penalty, this Bill is supported by so-called Christians from the Church of Uganda (aka Anglican Communion), Orthodox, Pentecostal, & Seventh Day Adventist Churches, as well as the usual "why aren't we surprised" homophobic suspects from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council - are endemic in large areas of the world.

Is "Scientific" Always Better Than "Political"?

Now, as a (non-fundamentalist) Libertarian, I believe that, in general, recreational drugs should be commercially available, with the same sorts of quality control imposed on them as on the quite-dangerous but no real fun ibuprofen and paracetamol that fills my medicine cabinet. And with, possibly, a strengthening of our existing laws on use of dangerous equipment, particularly motor vehicles, while (ab)using aforesaid. And, thus, removing much of the harm to society (largely through criminal supply and crime committed to fund the habit).

So, I should believe that Prof David Nutt was right and Alan Johnson was wrong (both in the reclassification of cannabis, although that took place under his unlamented predecessor, and in the sacking of Nutt)? Well, much as Prof Nutt's science is probably correct and a Nu-Labour Minister (any) is probably hideously and authoritarianly statist in their utter wrongness, no, not necessarily.

Cannabis is, and remains, an illegal drug. The classification of the drug within that system is driven partly by scientific concerns (seriousness of the impact of the drug and of its harm) but also by political concerns (harm to society, policing and sentencing policy). The latter clearly involves electoral political issues - it is perfectly reasonable to have one party slavishly following the drugs = evil line (inconsistencies with alcohol and tobacco policy slowly being eradicated thanks, or not, to the BMA and govt-funded 'pressure groups'), one taking a libertarian line (about the only liberal thing about the Liberal Democrats), and one completely at sea between its traditional roots and the 1960s/70s dope smoking past of its current front-benchers. And it isn't unreasonable on the "experts advise, ministers decide" principle to require that advice to ministers is private.

EXCEPT ...

The current government are both eager to publish and rely on any 'scientific' advice, however flawed (see informed commentary on the Poppy Project's 'Big Brothel' report here and here) whenever it matches their 'political' objectives but they also published the actual Advisory Committee report! That they, politically, disagreed with. So what we have here is a politician being surprised that a scientist has stood by their researched and published opinion, rather than changed their mind to the politician's whim. So yes, Nutt right, Johnson wrong. Pandering to the popular prejudice. But because of hypocrisy and "policy based evidence making"* - not some mystical right for science to over-ride politics, so it need not always be that way.

Edited to clarify - so Johnson isn't wrong to weigh the scientific advice and discard it in favour of political concerns - he is wrong for sacking an independent advisor for continuing to stick by a published-by-the-government report. Nutt isn't (necessarily - I certainly don't have the knowledge or the access to data to dispute the committee's findings) right about cannabis or ecstasy, he is right for stating the prevailing view of the committee in the report and for sticking by it when the politicians decided other considerations were more important.

* - This is an older term than you might think, given its rapid re-adoption for this subject. However it was invented to describe nu-Labour.
 
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