South Dakota 1 Bigoted Idiots… probably far, far, more

In South Dakota Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill which would have required students to use the bathroom that matched their chromosomes.

Despite the fact the bill would have gone against federal law it still managed to make its way to the point he had to veto it. I’m more than pleased he did but, once again, confounded by the fact it even went that far.



Disney Wants Employees to Help Pay Copyright Lobbyists

Copyright is something  which I care about so I’m not opposed, in principle, to the idea of Disney wanting to protect their intellectual property.

I find it strange they’d ask their employees to pitch in.

I find it even more strange, and also disconcerting, that lobby groups wield so much power in American politics. It’s almost like there’s corruption and collusion at work.

Water Privilege: 10 Million Without Water in New Delhi

There’s a lot of talk about privilege today. Everyone’s situation is different and it wouldn’t help someone with their finger chopped off to hear about someone who had their whole hand chopped off. I’m not here to say “you don’t know how good you have it” I’m here to look at why 10 million people in New Delhi have no water.

India’s caste system is extremely complex and has been ingrained for longer than the word “privilege” has existed. Although the names of the various castes have changed through time there is still a clear stratification in the culture. It’s true that there are tens of millions of citizens which do not fit any particular caste but as India’s population exceeds 1.3 billion the vast majority of its citizens still operate within this system.

If you include imaginary beings, there are six main castes (this is a workable over-simplification). In order of privilege they are Gods, Brahmin (priests and academics), Kshatryia (soldiers), Vaishya (skilled workers), Sudra (unskilled workers), and Dalits (cleaners).

To give you some idea about the lack of regard for the lowest caste, the Dalits or untouchables a special law was drafted and enacted specifying the things you were not allowed to do to this caste. Although almost completely ignored, this law was enacted for the purposes of making it extra clear that you couldn’t do such things as beat, rob, kill, and threaten people of this caste because, you know, they were actually real people.

Strangely there were people even lower than this who were not covered. Goodness only knows how, in a practical sense, they were viewed.

The Atrocities act was amended in late 2015. It’s too early to see what effect it has.

Anyway, the purpose of bringing up the Atrocities Act was to highlight why the government introduced a quota or reservation system. This system applies to various government controlled aspects of life in India such as civil employment and education. It is safe to say that the reservation system is not universally popular. Gandhi himself was opposed to allowing specific levels of representation for Dalits and is a reviled figure amongst a significant proportion of the caste.

So, why’s their no water in New Delhi? Well, there’s a group called the Jats that live in that area. They are not the lowest caste but they feel that they should have more representation and concessions under the reservation system than they were afforded. So, to show their displeasure they destroyed a water plant, which in turn contaminated a water source to the point where downstream water plants couldn’t collect water either and basically shut down access to a basic human right.

Are the Jats wrong to be angry? I have no idea. I don’t pretend to know their situation. You’ll have to decide for yourself what level of privilege is acceptable and what level is grounds for this type of thing.



What Ben Franklin Didn’t Say About Encryption


“Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.”

-Benjamin Frankin on phone encryption

At least that’s the popular misquote used when discussing how much “The State” should be allowed to know about what we citizens are up to.

The actual quote (which is a version of a different piece of his own writing) is:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The presence of the qualifiers little and temporary are pretty important omissions. Crucially, these words  leave room for sacrificing liberty for lasting security and/or for big change while at the same time requiring us to identify essential liberties.

The current lightning rod for this issue is the court ordering of Apple to “unlock” the San Bernadino jihadists’ phones.  Apple, although it could equally have been Google or any other company, is reluctant to comply even going so far as to draft an open letter about the situation.

A common refrain for supporting the rights of law enforcement to look at phone details is that it shouldn’t be a problem, unless you have something to hide. I’m inclined to agree with the position, in principle. The problem is deciding whether something is empirically bad or just an opinion of those doing the looking. Where I live it’s not a big problem, but under other regimes it certainly would be.

A second concern is that a backdoor to encryption could also be used by hackers. I know these nefarious characters are one of the favourite bogeymen for those who want to promote encryption, but, no matter what way you dress it up, a security backdoor does make something less secure.

So, back to the quote. Does the ability to get into jihadists’ phones and maybe save lives from other terror attacks qualify as a lot of permanent safety and is having safe information on your phone an essential liberty?

The decision’s about to be made one way or another. Worryingly, it won’t be made by people as free to make purely reasoned proclamations as Ben Franklin.

UPDATE: Google is supporting Apple’s stance according to CEO Sundar Pichai’s twitter.