I think smacking Ann Coulter because of plagiarism is almost the same as getting rid of Al Capone because of tax evasion. It rather misses the point, and it takes her way, way too seriously.
Better: let's all ignore her, the way we would ignore any other clown or annoying child. Commenting on Coulter wastes air. Figuring out what she plagiarised wastes time. Paying any attention to her at all wastes brain cells, and has the unwelcome side-effect of making her seem worth the trouble.
Bruce Schneier links to the Annual Report of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. It's possibly more relevant to Americans than Canadians, as almost everything the Commissioner points to in Canadian law, and more, exists in U.S. law. And our government uses the same rationales as theirs:
The fundamental human right of privacy in Canada is under assault as never before. Unless the Government of Canada is quickly dissuaded from its present course by Parliamentary action and public insistence, we are on a path that may well lead to the permanent loss not only of privacy rights that we take for granted but also of important elements of freedom as we now know it.
We face this risk because of the implications, both individual and cumulative, of a series of initiatives that the Government has mounted or is actively moving toward. These initiatives are set against the backdrop of September 11, and anti-terrorism is their purported rationale. But the aspects that present the greatest threat to privacy either have nothing at all to do with anti-terrorism, or they present no credible promise of effectively enhancing security.
The Government is, quite simply, using September 11 as an excuse for new collections and uses of personal information about all of us Canadians that cannot be justified by the requirements of anti-terrorism and that, indeed, have no place in a free and democratic society.
It's good stuff. And, as Schneier also highlighted, it contains this great passage:
Imagine, then, how we will feel if it becomes routine for bureaucrats, police officers and other agents of the state to paw through all the details of our lives: where and when we travel, and with whom; who are the friends and acquaintances with whom we have telephone conversations or e-mail correspondence; what we are interested in reading or researching; where we like to go and what we like to do.
A popular response is: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."
By that reasoning, of course, we shouldn't mind if the police were free to come into our homes at any time just to look around, if all our telephone conversations were monitored, if all our mail were read, if all the protections developed over centuries were swept away. It's only a difference of degree from the intrusions already being implemented or considered.
The truth is that we all do have something to hide, not because it's criminal or even shameful, but simply because it's private. We carefully calibrate what we reveal about ourselves to others. Most of us are only willing to have a few things known about us by a stranger, more by an acquaintance, and the most by a very close friend or a romantic partner. The right not to be known against our will - indeed, the right to be anonymous except when we choose to identify ourselves - is at the very core of human dignity, autonomy and freedom.
If we allow the state to sweep away the normal walls of privacy that protect the details of our lives, we will consign ourselves psychologically to living in a fishbowl. Even if we suffered no other specific harm as a result, that alone would profoundly change how we feel. Anyone who has lived in a totalitarian society can attest that what often felt most oppressive was precisely the lack of privacy.
Not that I'm drawing any meaning from it, but today is the birthday of a famous entertainer who realized early on that he could make a fortune through bamboozlement. Tomorrow is the birthday of a famous person with a nearly-identical philosophy. P.T. Barnum was born 5 July 1810, and G.W. Bush was born 6 July 1946.
I love meaningless coincidences, don't you?
I marched yesterday in the Evanston, Ill., Independence Day Parade, as a member of the Rotary Club of Evanston. The weather could not have been better.
And if you're wondering how I became a patriotic, life-long Democrat, here's my mom to show you:
I bought a great pair of shoes on a trip to London in January 2001, but they're just a teensy bit too small for me. Unable to admit defeat, I've held on to them since then, but my feet just would not get any smaller. Now they can be yours through the magic of eBay.
By traditional measurement, the United States is 230 years old today. Also today, the Freedom of Information Act turns 40, a fact President Carter discusses in his op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post:
[T]his anniversary will not be a day of celebration for the right to information in our country. Our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy. Obstructionist policies and deficient practices have ensured that many important public documents and official actions remain hidden from our view.
Let's review: throughout history, government transparency has always correlated with freedom. People keep secrets out of fear that harm will come to them otherwise. More secrets means more fear. So to figure out why people keep secrets it helps to figure out what they're afraid of.
The people who run our government are afraid, rightfully so, that if their actions were generally known they would lose power. So they keep more and more secrets, protecting their incompetence, mendacity, theft, and corruption. But secrets begat more secrets, until it takes significant resources just to keep the secrets. And it permeates the culture.
Stalin didn't fear the Germans. He feared his own people. Same with Mao, the junta in Myannmar, Pinochet, Franco, Nixon, and all the other oppressive governments throughout history. Because when the people find out their governments are lying to them and stealing from them, when they really understand this, they get angry.
Fewer than 931 days and 4 hours remain in the Bush administration.
I had planned to go for a quick bike ride this morning, but that doesn't look like a lot of fun at the moment:
But yesterday Anne and I went for a hike through the Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods, Ill., which was a lot of fun:
I am especially glad that I could single-handedly feed thousands of starving mosquitos.
Anyway, we chose Ryerson after reading Ted Villaire's 60 Hikes within 60 Miles, which Anne picked up earlier in the week. We recommend the book to anyone who (a) lives in or near Chicago and (b) likes hiking.
The book lists the hikes in alphabetical order, so Ryerson is #50. While hiking, we resolved to do the other 59 hikes (even the few we've already done) in two years. That should be fun.
But not, I think, today, as it will probably rain throughout the morning.
I'm selling my old receiver because Anne's is better.
From CNet's review:
"The extra set of front-panel-mounted inputs (S-Video, composite video, audio, and digital audio) might come in handy if you use a game console or video camera. If you're really serious about video quality, the RX-V620 has you covered, with two sets of component video connectors and five sets of audio and S-Video/composite video inputs. We counted four stereo inputs, including a phono jack. The digital tally reached five assignable inputs (four optical and one coaxial) and one optical output. The 5.1-channel input for a DVD-Audio/Super Audio CD (SACD) player rounds out the audio connections."
On this day in 1941, the universe changed: NBC broadcast the world's first television commercial, heralding the end of the existing civilization.