A Mexican flag in America!

I’ve mentioned, quite a few times, on this blog that causing offence should not be a reason to limit someone’s speech. Just because someone takes offence at something doesn’t mean that it is offensive. That is quite clearly illustrated by a particularly bigoted woman in California.

Tressy Capps was so offended by a house flying a Mexican flag in the United States of America that she actually stopped her car, went up to the house and told them off. She called it disrespectful and that if the house wanted to fly the Mexican flag then they should move to Mexico! I hope for her sake that she never travels to New York because that’s where the headquarters of the United Nations is and there are 192 foreign flags flying proudly. Continue reading

New tools for privacy

On-line surveillance, whether by companies, criminals or governments, is a worrying reality of our present time. A recent survey showed that feelings around government surveillance are quite mixed, though I’d say too much in favour. The same survey’s results on privacy (generally not related to government surveillance) seem more heartening but show large disparities between different countries.

In this context of widespread surveillance, I think it is important to have some idea of tools that can help protect oneself while on-line. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a new tool, Privacy Badger, which aims to help protect against third parties tracking your browsing across multiple sites. This should help protect against “canvas fingerprinting” which records your information about your computer (and in Slate) and settings which may allow it to be identified on different sites. Continue reading

What about demographic representation?

South African politics can be amusing and it can also be surprising what upsets people. The new big controversy has been a cartoon published by Eye Witness News which has been condemned as racist. Even more ridiculous, the ANC actually claims the cartoon undermines the democratic process. Sure, it’s going to upset some people but it’s hardly undermining democracy. Continue reading

Some good news

About a month ago, I wrote about the case of Cornealious Michael Anderson III, a man who was convicted but never sent to jail. He managed to turn his life around and start a family but was re-arrested 13 years later and was going to have to serve that time. I am pleased to say that, a few days ago, he was released from prison and given credit for his entire sentence.

“You’re a good man, and you’re a changed man, and that makes a huge difference in my decision today…. You’re not the man you were fourteen years ago,” said Brown. “I believe that continuing to [incarcerate you] serves no purpose” — here there were gasps and tears from the Anderson family — “I think it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. I think it would unnecessarily punish an obviously rehabilitated man.”

What is the point of the justice system?

This story is totally ridiculous. The entire point of a justice system should be to reform criminals so that they can return to society. Now I’ve heard of story where a man, due to an error, was not sent to jail. In the meantime though, he hasn’t been out committing crimes. He started a family, started businesses, made no attempt to hide and has essentially been a model citizen. When he was going to be released, they realised he wasn’t in jail and arrested him. Now they want him to server his 13 year sentence. More details available from the Riverfront Times here and here. That is totally pointless! It’s pure retributive “justice” that seeks only to punish. It’s ethically indefensible and serves absolutely no practical purpose.

There is a Change.org petition for his release.

Those are not valid defences

I’m rather fond of Japan. It’s a beautiful country with so many unique features, including its cuisine, architecture, writing, language and culture. Next month, I will even be heading to Japan to interview for a PhD position. However, that doesn’t mean I agree with all aspects of Japanese culture, nor does it excuse them from poorly-argued defences such as have recently been offered to the world in regards to the annual Taiji dolphin hunt.

The controversy was reignited this year by a tweet sent by the US ambassador to Japan. CNN covers the story here and includes some defences offered by the Japanese. There is also an interview with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where he responds to the outcry. The interview seems to cover other topics as well and a relevant excerpt can be seen here, although I am not sure where the full interview is. The points I address come from both CNN articles and a short News24 piece. Continue reading

Spying leftovers

Sorry for the sparse posting. I’ve been spending time with family and friends over the Christmas/New Year’s period. I was away for New Year’s with some of my family and am currently away again, staying with a friend. I will be home later this week and should then be able to start posting regularly again.

Over the past few months, I took note of a number of stories regarding how the US and UK were spying on essentially everyone. Many of them have already been posted (see here, here, here and here) but I still have a couple more that were not always focussed on the spying themselves or which were particularly interesting in light of the NSA’s actions. I’m posting all of them together here. Continue reading