Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Aaronsw Is Not My Hero

Seems everyone is lionizing Aaron Swartz. Aaron is someone I was acquainted with peripherally through mutual friends at One Laptop. He was, and remains, my friend on Facebook. I have to say aaronsw is not my hero.

If I thought it was justified to take all the documents in JSTOR I would have done when I was the sysadmin for the company that wrote the first interface to it. I don’t and I didn’t. I never even looked at a single document and I had root on everything.

Same is true for the American Mathematical Society and about a million of their documents I worked on the public interface for back in the 80’s. Never looked at a one.

Aaron was very charismatic, brilliant, and had a lot of good ideas. But he also according to what has come out, acted incredibly stupidly in the whole scenario with JSTOR and MIT. They kept blocking him and he kept coming back. Hello, clue?

But maybe he thought of this as civil disobedience and in some sense meant to get caught. If so I think he totally wimped out rather than doing the six months they offered him or going to trial and potentially taking a draconian sentence.

Not to say I think he was treated fairly. Given that JSTOR and MIT saw no reason to prosecute (or that’s the official story at MIT now anyway), and that there is apparently no evidence that documents were ever exfiltrated off-site or published if I was the prosecutor I would have exercised discretion and taken a pass on this one. No harm, no foul.

It worries me that Aaron is being made out to be a hero who deserves to be be emulated. He wasn’t, and he doesn’t.

Aaron Swartz (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2014 Henry Edward Hardy

12 February, 2014 Posted by | Aaron Swartz, aaronsw, archives, censorship, media, MIT, news, OLPC, politics, scanlyze, suicide | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowledge is power, and absolute knowledge is absolute power

Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order […] and the like.

William O. Douglas, Points of Rebellion , 1970

Each person knows something they don’t want other people to know about. That they will give almost anything to conceal.

Be they a saint, be they a libertine or someone who lives a very public life, still there will be something.

It might not be a secret sin. It might be a memory of a lost love. Or knowledge of a crime for which the wrong person went to jail. Or a family issue of incest or abuse. Or any of a long litany of small horribles.

This is the danger represented by the US Other Government Agencies (and there are a lot, not just the familiar three letter ones). By compiling transactional and source data a profile can be built for a person by which their secrets can be revealed. Even the fear that this *might* happen will be a a strong motivator for most.

The data being gathered by these agencies and their civilian counterparts like Choicepoint, Palantir, Berico, ManTech, Stratfor, Booz Allen, Equifax, and Lockheed Martin when made available through a single conspectus view, means that essentially there are no secrets. At least no assurance of secrecy.

A democracy, or any political system but a tyranny, cannot survive the existence of an elite which arrogates to itself the power to know everything about everyone all the time, and the means to keep that knowledge secret from everyone else.

Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy

22 October, 2013 Posted by | capitalism, censorship, Central Intelligence Agency, ChoicePoint, CIA, commander-in-chief, covert operations, Equifax, knowledge, media, politics, power, privacy, quotations, scanlyze, surveillance, William O. Douglas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Computerized Internet Censorship is Morally Wrong

This is taken from a response I made on a mailing list discussing technical means of implementing “filtering”, or computerized censorship, of children’s access to the internet in a school environment.

I’m a bit disturbed when I hear people using the euphemism “filtering” for automated, computerized censorship. I understand there may be legislative or political mandates. However, we should never talk about this as though it is a good or desirable or acceptable thing.

I realize this may be seen as off topic from the merely technical discussion of how to implement computerized censorship, but when we calmly discuss technicalities of something which is obviously wrong without questioning it, then the discussion needs to be aired.

“Filtering” is what you do to the water in a fish tank. “Censorship” is when a state or quasi-state agency proscribes and limits access to certain classes of written material.

Here are a few tests we should apply to any such proposed system.

Does it allow access to information about “Romeo and Juliet”? (Underage sex, gang-oriented violence, suicide, murder)

Does it allow access to “Huckleberry Finn” (Slavery, frequent use of the word “nigger”)

Does it allow access to “The Catcher in the Rye” (Use of “fuck”, blasphemy, drinking, smoking, lying, promiscuity, implied pederasty)

Does it allow access to “Heather has Two Mommies” (Lesbianism)

Does it allow access to “Our Bodies, Ourselves” (Information about human health, sex and sexuality)

Does it allow access to “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Genocide, strategic bombing, sex)

Does it allow access to “Of Mice and Men” (Retardation, sex, rape, murder)

Does it allow access to “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Sexual roles, patriarchy, racism, and theocracy)

Does it allow access to “The Kite Runner” (Homosexuality, rape)

Does it allow access to “His Dark Materials” (Anti-state, anti-catholic, magic and witchcraft)

Does it allow access to “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (Alchemy, murder, debauchery)

Does it allow access to “1984” (Torture, illicit sex, anti-state and anti-party politics)

Does it allow access to “Canterbury Tales” (Promiscuity, anti-clericalism)

Does it allow access to “The Decameron” (Anti-state, anti-Catholic and general ribaldry, such as the Third Day, Tenth Story, “How to put the Devil in Hell”)

And in terms of websites particularly,

RateMyTeachers.com

Peacefire.org

Facebook

Myspace

Orkut

Google

YouTube

Sites which criticize the ruling party or government.

Sites which criticize or parody the predominant religion.

Blogs, in general

And classes of internet services such as

Usenet

FSP

Peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as Bittorrent, EMule, Gnutella

In general, censorship is bad and morally wrong; and automated, computerized censorship especially so; and we should never refer to it by a purpose-made and innocuous-sounding term like “filtering” or treat it as though it is morally or pedagogically acceptable.

What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.

–Sigmund Freud, 1933

See: Filtering / Censorship

Copyright © 2009 Henry Edward Hardy

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27 April, 2009 Posted by | books, censorship, culture, education, file-sharing, filtering, literature, scanlyze | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does politics belong in the classroom?

Prof. Stanley Fish has been discussing on his nytimes blog whether or how freely political opinions should be expressed by a teacher in the college or university classroom.

His initial blog entry is, Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus and the followup to which I have responded is, George W. Bush and Melville’s Ahab: Discuss!

Fish’s first post was a long response to Evan Coyne Maloney’s Indoctrinate U.

The basic thrust of Fish’s post seems to be that,

Academics often bridle at the picture of their activities presented by Maloney and other conservative critics, and accuse them of grossly caricaturing and exaggerating what goes on in the classroom. Maybe so, but so long as there are those who confuse advocacy with teaching, and so long as faculty colleagues and university administrators look the other way, the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary. In 1915, the American Association of University Professors warned that if we didn’t clean up our own shop, external constituencies, with motives more political than educational, would step in and do it for us. Now they’re doing it in the movies and it’s our own fault.

Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus

My response follows:

I would not entirely agree with the thesis that politics has no place in the Academy.

As teachers, can we not state that, for instance, “Torture is antithetical to every basic principle of the American democratic system”? Or contrariwise, “Corporal punishment has been a feature of the American system of justice since its inception, and even killing a prisoner who has been condemned to death after due process is held to be judicially and legally acceptable under federal and most state jurisdictions today”?

Can we not say, “The evidence for global warming is regarded as conclusive by an overwhelming international consensus of scientists” as well as, “Solar incident radiation is the principle contributing factor to global warming in accordance with Boltzmann’s Law and the primary factor mediating this is the albedo of the earth, and any radiative forcing from CO2 in the atmosphere is negligible by comparison”?

Is it not precisely so that such opinions can be voiced without fear of retribution that we have tenured positions in the academic structure? If one prevailing political, scientific, or social view is defined culturally as “objective” and no other views are permitted to be advanced or advocated by a teacher in a classroom setting, then where is the great “marketplace of ideas” of which the classroom is a preeminent exemplar? As the Supreme Court held in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, (385 U.S. 589, 605-606 [1967], supreme.justia.com/us/385/589/case.html ):

‘Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. “The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.” Shelton v. Tucker, supra, at 487. The classroom is peculiarly the “marketplace of ideas.” The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth “out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection.”‘

Thank you for your interesting post and enjoyable and weighty blog, Prof. Fish.

See also: The Universities Under Attack …

I would further note that after 1915 the political “cleaning up” of leftist radicals such as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman took the unpleasant form of the Palmer Raids in 1919, indeed an interesting and fraught comparison to draw with our present political situation.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 October, 2007 Posted by | 1915, 1919, 1967, Alexander Berkman, anarchism, anarchy, censorship, classroom, education, Emma Goldman, Evan Coyne Maloney, free market of ideas, freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, Indoctrinate U, Keyishian v. Board of Regents, law, marketplace of ideas, movie, movies, New York Times, objectivity, Palmer Raids, political correctness, politics, radicals, repression, Shelton v. Tucker, Stanley Fish | 2 Comments

Second day of protests at UF over tazing of Andrew Meyer; suspended officers named

Students at the University of Florida have carried out a second day of protest actions over the shocking and detention of Andrew Meyer, a student who tried to ask controversial questions of US Senator John Kerry. The actions included marching, speeches, chalking sidewalks, and a mass submission of more than 50 official complaints over the police conduct. UF taser protest, day 2

The Gainesville Sun has some information about the two officers suspended over the unjustified assault on Meyer, who was at the microphone questioning US Senator John Kerry when the police grabbed him, dragged him to the back of the auditorium, and apparently handcuffed him, then shocked him with a stun gun.

More than 50 students filed complaints with UF Police over their handling of the situation.

Police did not release the complaints Thursday, saying they could become the subject of an internal investigation. No decision on starting an internal investigation will be made until after FDLE’s independent review is completed, said UPD spokesman Capt. Jeff Holcomb.

The law enforcement agency did provide the personnel files of Sgt. Eddie King and Officer Nicole Mallo, the two officers placed on leave with pay.

King, 45, was hired at the police department in 1994 and had previously worked at the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center. He was promoted in 2000. He had attended Florida A&M. A recent review called him an “effective, fair-minded, competent supervisor” who did a good job of maintaining calm in “trying” situations.

King had been reprimanded or disciplined in the past for issues including failing to report for duty for an overtime assignment and being involved in the 2003 arrest of a person for carrying a concealed firearm when it was lawful under the circumstances to have the weapon, according to his personnel file. King also received a four-day suspension after an undisclosed romantic relationship with an employee led to a workplace confrontation with another employee, according to his file.

Mallo, 30, graduated from the University of Florida and was hired by UPD in 2004. She had been commended this year for her work in traffic enforcement with more than 100 citations, four arrests for driving under the influence and more than 200 bicycle stops. She also was listed as an instructor with the agency’s Rape Aggression Defense program.

Mallo had been reprimanded after a traffic stop in 2006 when she accelerated her vehicle to 74 mph and “unnecessarily placed yourself and other motorists in danger,” according to reports. She also was cited for a traffic crash and using profanity when talking to a motorist, according to reports.

Both King and Mallo were commended after a 2004 incident when they diffused a situation with a student at a residence hall who was wielding a knife. Different investigations and reviews are under way into the Tasering and arrest of a University of Florida student earlier this week.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation into the use of force by UF Police, which is expected to be completed within 90 days.

Next week a panel of UF faculty and students will start a review of police policies. No timeline has been set for their review.
FDLE reviews Taser incident

UF police’s aggressive acts inexcusable
Keeping the Tasers holstered
University of Florida Taser incident (wikipedia)
Updated video: UF student Tasered at Kerry forum
An impromptu test of integrity
Shock and awe: censoring citizens with 5,000 volts

See also: Man tasered, arrested for asking good questions of Sen. John Kerry

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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22 September, 2007 Posted by | Andrew Meyer, bro, censorship, don't taze me, Eddie King, Florida, free speech, media, news, Nicole Mallo, police, police brutality, protest, repression, scanlyze, taser, Thomas A Swift Electric Rifle, torture, United States, University of Florida, US, USA | 1 Comment