April 18th, 2012


Civilization without Civility: The Least Loved American

We had an interesting discussion in class over the treatment of Jared Loughner. The issue came up as a case study in forced drugging. Despite the brutality of his attack on Gabrielle Giffords and her entourage, it is difficult to not sympathize with his plight at the hands of "medical" practitioners. In an attempt to rescue him from a regime of unhealthy chemicals, his attorneys forced him to withdraw from drugs to which he had become addicted. The withdrawal symptoms were sufficiently degrading to warrant reinstatement of the pharmaceutical regime by a federal judge.

During our discussion of the topic one of our students suggested that the affair could be used as a litmus test to determine where an individual stands on the political spectrum. Conservatives might typically favor forced drugging for one reason or another. Anyone who is naive to charlatan practice might simply kowtow to the idea that drugging Loughner is a positive action. A conservative naif might see it as a way to prepare Loughner for trial and eventual execution. A liberal naif might think that Loughner is "irrational" and that drugging him is the humane thing to do.

People who are in-the-know with respect to charlatan practice have different reasons for their positions. An informed conservative might favor forced drugging because he holds stock in pharmaceutical manufacturing enterprises. Promoting the use of dangerous chemicals suits his personal financial and punitive ambitions. The informed liberal, on the other hand, might question the judgment of the attending physicians. Does a temper tantrum really warrant an evaluation of being a danger? Is this another case of doping up a prisoner for the convenience of the jailers?

The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law points out that this case exists in a gray area in the interpretation of law and practice. They point out that forced treatment before a verdict has been rendered detracts from the rights of the accused. In this case prison administration proceeded to drug the prisoner without due process. A judge was consulted only after Loughner's attorneys appealed the action.

What are your feelings on the way that this least-loved American has been treated by the law enforcement machinery?

It's raining bonuses!

Although their country is practically bankrupt and there's a huge hole in the budget, the Greek politicians keep being very generous these days. At least in words. After all, elections are coming and it's time for the nice promises and big gifts to rain again. Clientelism, it seems, something that's become such an inherent feature of the Greek society (and also one of the main reasons for the Greek "mega-drama"), is still very alive and well.

Take the "independent" prime-minister Papademos. He cannot promise his compatriots anything else but more sacrifices and pain: more job cuts, salary cuts and pension slashes - that's what he warned about from the tribune of the parliament last week, and then rammed it through the throats of his compatriots. All of this is possible only for a politician who doesn't expect to be re-elected in May. He's a done deal so he can afford to do it. But the political parties are singing a very different tune. And in the process they're doing their best to halt Papademos's efforts.

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Home of the enslaved.

(no subject)

The Calyx Institute has been getting a lot of press the past couple days. They have a new proposal for how the business of mobile phone and internet service providing should work: customer first, privacy paramount. CNet has a writeup here, and the basic business model is to encrypt all communications to the fullest extent and encrypt all ISP-local static storage (i.e. email accounts) so not even the ISP can access it, only the customer.

This will make everything more secure for the customer, obviously, but is also a part of several other practices within the ISP. Most major ISPs, such as AT&T and Verizon, pretty much automatically roll over for any government inquiry, regardless of how trivial, and have explicit backdoors built in to their networks for unfettered government access. Calyx plans to "challenge government surveillance demands of dubious legality or constitutionality". Spurious stuff, basically, not to mention requests that aren't accompanied by a court order. In addition, the practice of encrypting all ISP storage would make them literally unable to comply with such orders, as stipulated under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

Essentially, "Calyx will use all legal and technical means available to protect the privacy and integrity of user data" founder Nick Merrill says.

Given how much first and fifth amendment rights have been eroded under previous and current administrations, I see this as a positive reaction against repeated government encroachment. The Calyx proposals are legal now, but will the likes of the FBI and NSA stand for it without a fight?