Quicklinks: Dissapointing world

Sometimes I just find the world incredibly disappointing. A Norwegian woman went to the police in Dubai to report being raped and instead found herself arrested for extramarital sex! She was later pardoned by the Sheik but the very fact that that can even happen is ridiculous. It’s not the 17th century but you could be forgiven for thinking so.

Then I hear the UK wants internet service providers to block porn by default. Naturally this is “for the children.” Of course I highly doubt there’s any evidence that it will improve children’s lives or that he’s taken into account the uncertainty that lurks in these situations. There better be very strong evidence to enact such a thing because the government has no business telling people what they can and can’t look at. This system should be opt-in only, unless maybe in the UK every single household and person has kids.

As if privacy weren’t muddied enough it seems retailers think it’s good to stomp all over it so they can track people and recognise celebrities. No. You shouldn’t be tracking people. Their defence is that it’s the same as what’s done on-line. That may be but that doesn’t mean it’s right. In this case they’re just copying a bad example.

This last one is not as bad as the others but a difference in what I think we are meant to achieve through justice system. Nazi hunters are putting up posters looking for information to convict those involved in the holocaust. The problem is that was 70 years ago and the people involved even older. Of course if your idea of justice is just to punish people then it makes sense to convict them. A more constructive form of justice would seek to rehabilitate and prevent recurrence of past events. The chances these people are going to repeat their crimes is infinitesimal so convicting them will serve no purpose.

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Balancing privacy and security

DNA as seen during gel electrophoresis (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

South Africa has a serious problem with crime and DNA profiling offers a real chance to do something about it by providing accurate and reliable evidence. There is currently a push to bring in a legal framework to deal with this issue and, as I’ve stated previously, I support the DNA Bill and signed the petition. However, it’s important not to lose sight that these advances come at a trade-off between security and privacy. The DNA Project itself has noted opinions on both side of the spectrum; from a piece from the US that suggests a mandatory DNA database would be ideal to a comment from someone who refused to sign the petition because arrestees are innocent until proven guilty. I think the South African DNA Bill has done a good job of trying to balance privacy and security but I do want to warn against the dangers of sacrificing privacy for security. Continue reading

Was Varsity Newspaper’s article racist?

UCT's dating poll (source: News24)

UCT’s dating poll (source: News24)

It seems a graph in UCT’s student newspaper, Varsity Newspaper, has caused quite a bit of a stir after publishing a pie chart with the title, “UCT votes on most attractive race.” (Story on News24 and iol.)

With South Africa’s extreme sensitivity to racial issues it didn’t take long for people to start denouncing the paper. According to News24:

Some Twitter users, including human rights activist Zackie Achmat, voiced their disapproval. @ZackieAchmat referred to the chart as “racist nonsense”. Another user, @ednake89 tweeted “this is the kind of bullshit UCT’s Varsity newspaper publishes”.

Continue reading

Western laws constricting free speech

There is one aspect of the US that I particularly admire and that is their protection of free speech due to the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Unfortunately that protection is not always available to people in other Western countries, with the UK having a number of high-profile incidents where citizens have been arrested for things that they’ve said. Continue reading

Updates and Quick Links

I do have plans for a proper post soon but I was hoping to receive an email in connection with it. In the meantime here are a few little things to keep you occupied.

In August I described the violence in Burma that left 90 people dead and forced a further 100 000 from their homes. A few days ago I noticed the country was back in the news with another 22 000, mostly Muslims, displaced in fresh violence. Continue reading

The barbarity of religion

It is sad that so many people in the world grant religions a cloak of respectability which they just do not deserve. Whatever good they may provide through charity work or support systems is no doubt completely overshadowed by the harm they do in impeding education, preventing equal rights, stifling free expression and acts of cruelty to both humans and other animals.

The supposed good religions do through charity is vastly overestimated and in any case counteracted by their tax-exempt status in many parts of the world. The Council for Secular Humanism has a report containing an analysis of the charity of religions in the United States. Continue reading

Drug scourge

Building on my previous post regarding drugs I wrote a letter to the newspaper which was published this week. This post by Thomas Kleppestø shares some similar points and some new ones and may also be of interest to readers. The following is the letter I wrote which was published in the Southern Suburbs Tatler on 5 July 2012. Continue reading