Category Archives: News

Internet access *is* a Human Right

English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color i...
Emblem of the United Nations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thus sayeth the UN after a resolution was passed unanimously by their Human Rights Council.

This is a Good Thing, as the resolution declared that the right to be able to get online and express oneself freely was a right of every person on the planet. Wonderful, and something I wholeheartedly agree with.

However…

a) How could China, with it’s famous “Great Firewall“, sign this with a straight face? While Chinese people can access the internet, they do not get access to the same level of information as people in the West. They also certainly cannot express themselves freely as many recent news stories have demonstrated, with people being arrested for even drawing attention to certain topics let along going into detail about them.

b) France has a “three strikes and you’re cut off” policy for those accused of (note: not necessarily “found guilty of”) downloading copyrighted material. The UK has been looking at similar plans as have other countries. This resolution is going to knock that kind of legislation for six, surely? It’s worth pointing out that neither France nor the UK are current members of the United Nations Human Right Council, so did not sign the resolution.

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Stop SOPA

At midnight tonight, a WordPress plugin will kick in which “blacks out” this blog (and my travel blog). I know I only get a few hits a day (around 50-100, usually), but it’s my small way to take part in the STOP SOPA Wednesday.

For those who don’t know, SOPA (and also PIPA) are motions to be put through the US legal system in a bid to allow large copyright holders power to close down websites simply because they don’t like them. OK, it’s a little more complex than that but that’s what it boils down to. SOPA has, in fact, already been shelved as a result of public outcry but PIPA is still alive and threatening horrific levels of censorship.

Essentially what these laws will do is allow a copyright holder (read “rich media company”) to force any website to be taken offline if it claims said site infringes on its copyright. Forget about any discussion over “fair use”, similar content which isn’t actually copied, mistakes and the like – it’s “guilty until proven innocent, which you won’t be because the people putting in the complaint have more money than you”.

Notice, that I said “site”. Remember the case a couple of years back with a baby dancing to a Michael Jackson track on YouTube? Jackson’s record company attempted to sue the baby’s parents for breach of copyright as they dared to put a dodgy recording of part of a song by dead weirdo onto a publicly accessible website. Obviously, this would cost them a fortune in lost revenue. Tossers.

Under SOPA, the media company could force YouTube offline. An extreme and unlikely example, but under the wording of the legislation completely possible. The host is liable for the content uploaded by its members. Even if those members number potentially in their billions.

The methods used to remove sites from the internet is also flawed and involves messing about with the internet’s central servers – something which has had industry experts who actually know what they the hell they’re on about (therefore obviously not politicians, lawyers or record company execs) up in arms.

I’m glad SOPA has been shelved, but I fear it will return. Right now we have to ensure that PIPA is also put down. Although obviously focussed on the US, this will affect anyone using the internet if it goes through. It could also lead to similar legislation being put in place in other countries.

Many sites, far bigger than this little bunch of rants and reviews, are also blacking out for 24 hours. Reddit, WordPress.org, TwitPic and Wikipedia are amongst them. Imagine an internet without them – and many other sites who are not participating. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Blogger.

Frankly it beggars belief. Yet the ignorance and stupidity of the media companies trying to push this madness through does not.

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Spreading the love

The following post comes verbatim from Hyperham and Andy’s “Family v2.1” blog. I’m posting it as part of the point of it is to spread the names of certain hate-filled individuals who have taken it upon themselves to harass a young girl for daring to report her school for displaying a religious banner – against the rules laid down in the US. These so-called Christians (whatever happened to “forgiveness”) have been quite happy to post their names detailing what they’d like to do to her before someone pointed out how stupid that was and they’ve removes a lot of the posts from Twitter and facebook.

The joy of the internet – and a point I made to some of my classes this very week – is that what you put up there is up there forever. Even if you take it off, someone else could have grabbed a copy, even someone like Google who archive many web pages.

I gather many of the hate-filled individuals are finding themselves directly related to these comments right at the top of a Google search. I hope this remains the case when they go seeking work.

Anyway – the post:

In addition to being a multiracial family, we are also a multi-faith family. Baby was christened in a Lutheran ceremony, but still says goodnight to the household gods before bed. We (Monkey and I) are both very open and accepting of others’ faiths (or lack of), and so this works for us. It works so well that when I am presented with people not like us (eg, nutters), it is a bit of a shock.

In Cranston, Rhode Island, a 16 year old atheist took exception to the wall hanging in her school which had a prayer. Now, anyone with an 8th grade understanding of civics knows why this is unconstitutional, and it was eventually taken down. However, some ‘Christians’ of the school and community took offense, and decided to ruin her life. Here is the link to most of the screengrabs before the little cowards went private. Below, in plain text, are the words that these feral little monsters used in describing 16 year old Jessica Ahlquist and the case. (And of course, all spelling, punctuation, and syntax mistakes are theirs, not mine).

Jenn Gould: I hope people start complaining about this one particular person and how ugly they are, maybe they can get them removed.

Matt Starchild: May that little, evil, atheist teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!

Donna Higgins: Well, I want the immediate removal of all atheist from the school, how about that?

Amanda Aldridge: she just destroyed a piece of cranston west’s history. hope you’re happy #stupidbitch

@MichaelRebl_ (Michael Martin Jr): to the girl who had the prayer taken off at cranston west – why the fuck does it matter? its basically history. just don’t look at it. #bitch

Elijah Kilbane: If this banner comes down, hell I hope the school burns down with it!

Wes Wyatt: I HOPE SOMEDAY YOU, WILL NEED GOD IN YOUR LIFE.

@Margaret538: U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!

@Crotchsnot (Mike Oxbig): How does it feel to be the most hated person in RI right now? Your a puke and disgrace to the human race.

Destiny Marcello: This girl must be so unloved to get negative attention from everyone. Yeah everyone talks about you because you’re psycho @Ry_Simoneau: “But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it! hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some shit thrown at her.

@Ry_Simoneau (Ryan A Simoneau): But for real somebody should jump this girl I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly

Joseph Vezina: I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus (this tweet was also promoted by @REK Rachel Knight)

Sydney Magner: Honestly I think the juniors are most mad about the banner thing because all of us actually know the psycho bitch. literally that girl is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha

Taylor Crocker: shes not human shes garbage (to jessica) youre wrong the state had no choice like i hope you go to hell i honestly do youre a shitty person omg she almost as bad as blacks everyone is going to beat you up now prob gods going to fuck your ass with that banner scumbag

@xxx_carys (C. Morgan): When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust on all the atheists

@Gab_Zacccaria (Gabriella Zaccaria): I think everyone should just fight this girl

@zachthedogg: Fuck Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face

Caleb McDevitt: definelty laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else? im sabotaging her site on fb lets just say its going to be nuts you need in on dat dawg?

Alyssa Pingitore: Jessica Ahlquist may have won her case, but she is going straight to hell. #Godoveranything

AJ St.Angelo: Let’s all jump the girl who did that banner #fuckthatho lol what a little bitch I wanna snuff her lol I wanna stick that bitch lol brb ima go drown that atheist in holy water We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgoingtohell and Satan is gonna rape her.

Dante Smith: hail Mary full of grace jessica is gonna get punched in the face

@zombiecamera: your home address posted online i cant wait to hear about you getting curb stomped you fucking worthless cunt

Eric Rosa: wen the atheist dies, they believe they will become a tree. so we shld chop her down, turn her into paper then PRINT THE BIBLE ON HER. nail her to a cross

Gabriella Cimarelli: yeah well she’s definitely got it coming to her

Alexandra Vachon: if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the shit out of her idk how she got away with not being beat up yet this girl honestly needs to be punched in the face #justsaying whoever the bitch is that is continuing to fight for the school prayer at west to come down deserves to be punched in the mouth #tobadim18

Chris Lawton: i’ve decided that i’m going to eat her family

Kam Sadiq: LMAO everyone’s harassing her, but then again whose she gonna report it too? West? Lmao the administrators probably hate her haha

(Editor’s note: If you have any screengrabs, please feel free to put them on dropbox, flickr, etc, and send me a link, and I’ll add them on this wall of shame.)

So, to Kam Sadiq, Chris Lawton, Alexandra Vachon, Gabriella Cimarelli, Eric Rosa, Dante Smith, AJ St.Angelo, Alyssa Pingitore, Caleb McDevitt, Gabriella Zaccaria, Carys Morgan, Taylor Crocker, Sydney Magner, Joseph Vezina, Ryan A Simoneau, Destiny Marcello, Mike Oxbig, Wes Wyatt, Elijah Kilbane, Michael Martin Jr, Amanda Aldridge, Donna Higgins, Matt Starchild, and Jenn Gould:

For those of you who hate Jessica because her belief system is different that yours – I’m unsure if your priest/pastor/vicar/rabbi/holyman/etc ever filled you in on what Jesus said about those with different beliefs, but he was actually fine with different faiths. So, while you think you may be standing up for Christianity, you are actually a blight on the very concept of love and acceptance. Frankly, if losing a 50 year old banner (while ignoring the 250 year old document that forbids it in the first place) somehow ruins your faith, might I suggest your faith is pretty damned weak.

And for those of you who hate that your school has lost part of its charm from a banner coming down – based on your massive spelling mistakes, I would recommend you spend a little more time in your wonderful institution learning English and the 1st Amendment, and less tweeting and facebooking. In either case, your parents obviously failed spectacularly in raising you to be decent human beings, so now the Internet will have to take over. Your names and words will be indexed on search engines, and the next time a job recruiter or admissions officer from your dream college Googles you, they will find your hatred and vitriol. They will see exactly how much of a feral animal you are, and they will (God willing) run in the other direction. Because society didn’t teach you to be a decent human being, the rest of us will show you that your actions have consequences.

And a special slow clap for the parents of these creatures: I’m not sure where you were when your kids were raising themselves “Lord of the Flies” style, but WELL DONE on raising your little sociopaths. Truly. Fantastic job.

Our son may grow up and decide to become Protestant, the faith I was raised in. He may decide to follow the path of his father’s ancestors. He may become pagan. He may become an atheist. As long as he doesn’t use his belief system as an excuse to bully, belittle, threaten, or harm another person, have at it.

Until then, we’ll always have Google.

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Asian Raspberry Pi


English: Extract from Raspberry Pi board at Tr...
Raspberry Pi - almost actual size. Image via Wikipedia

For those not aware, Raspberry Pi is an initiative to supply incredibly low-cost, tiny little computers for school children to use. They retail at $25 for a standalone model and $35 for one with a network port soldered on. They’re also being distributed by a non-profit charity. A wonderful idea and I’ll be buying one once they go into full production.

Even better – from a pride point of view – is that it’s a British company doing this. The aim was to make it as British as possible including the manufacture. Sadly, this hasn’t been possible.

To keep the price point low, the actual building of the board has had to be done in the Far East. Partly this is down to manufacturing costs and availability of plants wherein the work could be done. What really stinks, though, is that even the closest British plants in price ended up being non-viable due to a ridiculous policy on import duty.

You see, if you have something like this manufactured abroad and imported in then the finished product incurs zero tax. However, if you import in the individual components these themselves do attract duty. Hence importing the bits to have the system built in the UK is more expensive than paying a factory in China (or wherever) to build them and then just shipping in the finished products.

And we wonder why we have no sizeable electronics industry in this country any more.

Full marks to the Raspberry Pi people for their openness and honesty. Minus several million to the idiots at the Inland Revenue for a somewhat inexplicable policy.

[BBC article which prompted this post]

UPDATE: Someone’s started a government-targeted e-petition regarding the issue.

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The Scottish Question

Welcome to Scotland
Soon to be accompanied by border guards and customs if Salmond has his way

I originally wrote the following as a comment on this BBC News article regarding the current tiff between Holyrood and Westminster over a referendum for Scottish Independence. Unfortunately, the BBC don’t make it clear there’s a (fairly short) limit on the number of words/characters in comments so I thought I’d shove it up here instead.

I’m English born of Scots and Welsh parents. I grew up predominantly in England (Newcastle and Bradford) with a short stint in Scotland and now live and work in Glasgow where I reckon I’ll be settling for the very long term.

I also dislike the Tories and the current UK government. However, I dislike Salmond and his hyperbolic rhetoric even more. I find myself amazed to say this but I fully support Westminster – and the Conservatives – on this matter.

While part of me does see a future for 16/17 year olds getting the vote in general elections they – as yet – cannot. As such they should not vote in any referendum. The simple reason for Salmond wanting them to do so is that they are, at that age, very reactionary and nationalistic. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your country but I can’t accept that this would allow them to help make an informed choice in such a vote. It would, however, help Salmond’s cause.

I also seriously doubt the maths which “prove” that Scotland could survive financial independence. I am prepared to be corrected, but have these figures been published and confirmed by an independent body?

By all means have the referendum, but Salmond must be prepared to do it within the existing rules. He can’t go making his own up until/unless they win – and even then, they have stated, it will only be taken as an advisory vote as to the opinion of the country. Not, as people seem to be thinking, the immediate departure of Scotland from the UK.

We are a United Kingdom. Our strength comes from that unity. Much as there is rivalry amongst the countries and separate national identities we’ve worked wonders as a nation combined. I also agree with other viewpoints that the departure of Scotland from the UK shouldn’t be a decision for Scotland alone. It would affect the other three nations every bit as much and they should have a say – based on the results of the referendum – as well.

It has the potential to be a hugely historic move. But would it be a good one? I wholeheartedly doubt it.

 

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