Archive for July 1, 2007

Google’s New Slogan: Welcome to the Seventh Level of Hell

July 1, 2007

While I’m in Righteous Anger mode….

You know how Google’s slogan was “Don’t Be Evil?”

In all honesty, they kind of got rid of it several years ago, especially in their dealings with the Chinese government.

However, this is a little beyond the pale.

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Women in Philosophy

July 1, 2007

Via Feminist Philosophers, a site I should pay more attention to, a new attempt to catalogue the existence of women in philosophy.

The Authoritarian Impulse, 21st Century Style

July 1, 2007

I’ve heard for some time that the UK has been overzealous with the surveillance, and despite the number of CCTV cameras that were around, I think I just wrote off most folks as being paranoid.

I’m sorry to say that I was wrong.

What drives the folks in the UK government to think these are good ideas? I’m not talking about Tony Blair or Gordon Brown or the rest of the ministers – I’m just going to assume they are insane from here on out. Insane, or maybe sociopaths. Instead, I’m talking about all the policy folks that have to participate in the planning of such a program. I’m talking about the folks who have to maintain the system and organize the logistics. I’m talking about the folks who have to serve the machinery, not the other way around.

While I suspect the real reasons are pretty complex, I’m annoyed enough right now to ask if they’re all soulless. Or, even worse, if the UK government/education system is so insane as to socialize people into thinking this is OK.

I’ll also add, though I wish I didn’t have to, the point that this will never create a good society. I’m a firm believer that the means determine the ends, and creating a police state and calling it a democracy does not make a democracy. I mean, seriously – does anyone buy that? (Don’t answer that; my blood pressure is already high enough for today.) Honestly, this is the sort of thinking (and I use the term loosely) that people use with their pets; I think it’s called ‘behavior modification’ or something – the idea being that pets receive positive or negative reinforcement based on their actions. It blows my mind that the UK government, or someone in a position of power, thinks that this is the best way to deal with human beings. I don’t even think it’s that great for pets – ask my partner.

An example from the article, chosen for its cultural value and ability to slay satire in a single blow:

On Monday, police in the county of Merseyside unveiled Britain’s most dramatic surveillance contrivance to date: a CCTV camera that flies. Propelled by helicopter-style rotors and directed either by remote control or pre-programmed flight plans, the nearly silent two-foot drone can be outfitted with thermal-powered cameras and loudspeakers. Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne explained the primary purpose of the device as “to support our anti-social taskforce in gathering all-important evidence to put offenders before the courts.”

I almost fell out of my chair when I read that. It reminds me of the James Cameron TV series Dark Angel that aired around the turn of the century. In it, the authorities used devices called ‘hoverdrones’ that flew around Seattle and observed people in realtime (and in one episode, they were outfitted with guns and used to assassinate paroled criminals). The above quote could have been pulled straight from the TV show; it’s that identical. The future is now, folks, and I’m a little hesitant to use the word ‘utopia’.

In the long run, of course, massive surveillance does not do a damn thing to solve the underlying problems that the surveillance is supposed to solve. They won’t solve crime, violent crime, or terrorism, simply because they do nothing to undermine or remove the desires or motivations people have to commit crimes in the first place.

On the other hand, if you believe that human nature is inherently flawed or evil, then you might be tempted to see this as your best bet, or even as necessary. I hold out more hope than that, and in my better moments I feel compassion for people whose view of the world is so dim.

Touch-screen MacBooks?

July 1, 2007

So sayeth this guy. Do I believe him?

I want to. Oh, I really, really want to. If this is true, I’m putting off buying a computer until the technology stabilizes, and then….oh, then, my sweet dear friends that all have MacBooks, then I will be The Shit.

The Big List of Bush F*ckups

July 1, 2007

I am so glad someone did this. I’ve been sort of looking for one for years.

…good lord, this thing is long. It’s going to take me days to get through it all.

Anyway, I post for your pleasure. Or pain. You know, whatever.

Birthdays

July 1, 2007

I don’t particularly like birthdays; ever since about the 8th grade they’ve always seemed artificial to me (caveat: I loved getting presents). Yeah, I was born on that day, but so what? It was random. Better to celebrate something that has meaning to me in the present. Note: This means that yes, birthdays can be meaningful and fun and all that jazz. It just feels that for lots of people (including my family), birthday celebrations are done because we’ve always done them and everyone else does them, not because they have intrinsic value on their own. I mean, it’s not like the need to celebrate making it one more year on earth is as pressing as it used to be…on the other hand, it’s not fully gone, either. Hm.

Incidentally, I tend to feel a similar way about all tradition: most of it happens because the previous generation did it, and they teach us to do it.

Frack that. That’s rarely a good reason to do anything. With lots of things, if you look closer, you find the real reason, which is usually something like “we fish here because the fish have always been here.” It’s sometimes coated with the authority and status of the local elders (be they clan elders or your parents…it’s a metaphor that carries), but it’s rarely done wholly without an understanding of the underlying benefits and consequences.

A friend of mine used to leave the morning of his birthday and get back some time after sunset. No one saw him the entire day, and he usually spent it thinking. I think he started this practice in his early teens, and I think he eventually gave it up. I think it’s a relatively good idea, to set aside a day to be alone and take stock of where you’re at. The downside is that it can be difficult to force yourself to do that…and that your family and friends tend to get annoyed when you disrupt tradition. However, I give him credit for one thing: he managed to reclaim the day for himself, instead of letting other people dictate how it was supposed to go.