Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Take Action

John Edwards on Green Living

“No Impact Man”:http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/2007/08/interview-with-.html has put together a questionnaire for U.S. presidential hopefuls and John Edwards is the first to have answered. It’s a pretty straight and informed dialogue- I hope other candidates respond.

If you’re not familiar with <em>No Impact Man</em>, then his is a blog worth keeping track of. In his words:<blockquote>No Impact Man is my experiment with researching, developing and adopting a way of life for me and my little family—one wife, one toddler, one dog—to live in the heart of New York City while causing no net environmental impact. To do this, we will decrease the things we do that hurt the earth—make trash, cause carbon dioxide emissions, for example—and increase the things we do that help the earth—clean up the banks of the Hudson River, give money to charity, rescue sea birds, say.</blockquote>

This guy isn’t a nut- he’s doing this for the right reasons. To demonstrate that it can be done. To remove the cynicism and the inertia from the process of reducing our impact on the planet. This guy is the real deal and is an inspiration.

Letter to the FCC on Net Neutrality

The “FCC has solicited comments from the public”:http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2007/db0417/FCC-07-31A1.txt on Net Neutrality. This was my letter:

The growth of the Internet has been during the most productive one-third of my life and the threat to Network Neutrality threatens much of what has fueled my professional, social and personal life.

I have been building small web sites- as a hobby at first and but now growing in to more. The ability to create tiered services on the Internet- an Internet that is increasingly controlled by very few powerful players- would be devastating to small web presences such as mine.

There is a lack of competition in the market. This, coupled with a lack of network neutrality protections, would turn the Internet in to a place where the status quo is maintained and only those new players that play by the old rules (or pay) could survive.

This is further complicated by the fact that the Internet service providers are themselves competitors in the web services space. Thus, they get to control the ‘pipes’ for their competition. This is a frightening landscape in which smaller players have little hope.

You can tell your story to the FCC as well at [Save the Internet]

Geek Activism Questionnaire for Presidential Candidates

I am putting together a questionnaire of issues important to the geek hacktivists for each of the candidates for next years US Presidential Election. Most of the web sites of these candidates do not come close to addressing the issues that are important to us today and will affect society in general tomorrow. Issues of privacy, copyright and fair use, net neutrality, the DMCA, the PATRIOT act will obviously come up, but what are the questions that you would want to put to the people who may have the power to change the rules of the digital game?

One of the central ideas in my “95 Theses”:www.scienceaddiction.com/2006/07/23/95-theses-of-geek-activism/ was of making the political establishment aware of our issues and of making it clear to the non-technical folks how these issues will affect them in the future.

As of now, these are the kinds of things I am thinking about:
* Their stand on the DMCA.
* Their stand on the future of the PATRIOT act.
* On Net Neutrality.
* On free speech rights on the Internet.
* On Copyright, fair use and the value of the public domain.
* Open source voting.
* Maybe video games, regulation and other _save our children_ initiatives that take out innocents in the cross-fire (while keeping “our children” just as unsafe).

I have many other ideas bouncing around and need to present them in a better form, but let me know in the comments what you think.

An Open Letter to Barack Obama from an Indian American

*UPDATE*: _Mr. Barack Obama released an “official statement today”:http://www.safo2008.com/2007/06/senator-barack-obamas-response-to-safo.html (6/18/07). The words “the memo’s caustic tone, and its focus on contributions by Indian-Americans to the Clinton campaign, was potentially hurtful, and as such, unacceptable,” were especially important for me to be able to support him in the future. My letter of two days ago follows:_

Dear Mr. Obama,
The “recently disclosed memo”:http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dc/2007/06/team_obama_rips_clintons_in_op.html from your campaign that faulted Sen. Clinton for associating with Indian Americans is depressing. As an Indian American, and one that has supported you since the beginning of your Senate campaign, your painting of Indian Americans as the new foreign boogeyman has me leaning away from your campaign. (Let me make it clear that I am referring to Americans of Indian origin). Read the rest of this entry »

Habeas Corpus and Other Quaint Ideas From the Past

While I admit that there may be some geeky fashions and some fashion geeks, here at Science Addiction I try to stay away from fashion. But this one is different.

See, back in the 20th century- and in fact, much earlier- there used to be a quaint concept called Habeas Corpus that was quite in vogue. Now, along with the dot-com boom (renamed as Web2.0) and the Y2K crisis (renamed as Daylight Savings bug), this idea from the past is making a come back!

It’s all Greek to me, you say. Well, it’s Latin, young Geek. Habeas Corpus, literally translated as you have the body.

In the legal system, in many countries around the world including the United States, it means that a person detained by the government has the right to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The United States Constitution specifically states that it shall not be suspended, unless there is a rebellion or invasion and the public safety requires it.
Read the rest of this entry »

Take Action: AOL, Privacy and the Database of Intentions

AOL's Data Leak: Were You Exposed?

“AOL has put our privacy at risk by publicly disclosing the recent search history”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/16/AR2006081601751.html of 650,000 users. This wrong in so many different ways- and yes, your search queries say a lot about you, including your identity. The “New York Times discovered just who AOL Searcher #4417749″:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/09/technology/09aol.html?ex=1312776000&en=f6f61949c6da4d38&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss was just using their search strings. Read the rest of this entry »

95 Theses of Geek Activism

Geek activism has not taken off yet, but it should. With the gamers recognizing the need for a louder voice, EFF gaining momentum and Linux taking on the mainstream on the one hand and recent severe losses in privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property rights on the other, now seems to be the best time to rally around the cause.

Geeks are not known to be political or highly vocal (outside of our own circles)- this must change if we want things to improve. So here is my list of things people of all shapes, sizes and sides of the debate need to know. Some of these are obvious, others may not be meant for you. But hopefully, some of these will inspire you to do the right thing and others will help you frame the next discussion, debate or argument you have on these topics. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Reduce Junk Mail

While junk email is harder to deal with, the much older problems of junk mail are slightly more within our control in the US. While the steps below will not reduce your junk mail load to zero, it will make a difference. It has for me and the “Federal Trade Commission recommends them”:http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/prescreen.htm as well.

* If you receive tons of unsolicited credit card offers in the post, the trouble is that the credit reporting agencies have sold your information to whoever would pay. The government has had them set up a “web site to opt out”:https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ of all such offers forever (or opt-in, if you have lost your mind). The strange thing is that the agencies actually “commissioned a study [pdf]“:https://www.optoutprescreen.com/UnsolicitedCreditOffers2004.pdf – for the benefit of the FTC and consumers, I suppose- that demonstrates that the unsolicited offers are actually _beneficial to consumers_ and more importantly, _beneficial to corporations_. If you are skeptical of giving your information to that web site- and you should be- know this: the “FTC recommends it”:http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/prescreen.htm and make sure the URL says ‘optoutscreen.com’ and has ‘https://&#8217; preceding it instead of a regular ‘http://&#8217;.
* The rest of the junk mail is trickier. While it is impossible to stop it all, you can make a dent. Among the direct mail marketing companies, some of them have chosen to self-regulate themselves; probably in fear of government intervention. The have formed the Direct Marketing Association and allow you to opt out of all direct post _that is sent by their members_. This is clearly not all junk mail, but a significant amount. So, you can “go to the DMA web site”:http://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist and get yourself off the list. Except, there is a catch. You have to do it by post, if you want to do it for free. If you want to do it online, _they charge you $5_. Outrageous, but at least it is possible to do it at all.
Enjoy! [thanks to Get Rich Slowly]

Outrage

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

- William Pitt, House of Commons, 11/18/1783

The NSA wiretapping story is close to becoming forgotten (read: Valerie Plame), or worse, old news (read: Bolton) or worse still, political (read: everything else). I can deal with forgotten- this article should help- but if this story is slipping into either of the other two categories, we are in trouble. Read the rest of this entry »

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