pseudomonas: Angry dragon destroys with flame! (flame)
Racism has a bad image, and quite right too. It's not that it's been eliminated, but that its social acceptability is such that even the BNP pays lip service to Not Being Racist. The very existence of the phrase "I'm not racist but…" is testament to how widely everyone, even massive racists realise that racism is probably not the ideal policy to cling to in life.

But. It seems to me1 that the lines of acceptable discrimination have been drawn such that it just so happens there's no problem at all with discriminating based on place of birth. The UK does it, just about every other country does it; the idea that it's legitimate to say "if you were born here (and/or if your parents were) you are One Of Us and you have these rights and entitlements and may come and go freely, otherwise you are a Foreigner and Not Our Problem" is fully normalised in mainstream political thought.2 We happily abridge the freedoms of myriads of people because they weren't born here. This cannot be right.

I can see absolutely no principled reason for this that wouldn't also amount to an extremely racist justification. I can see many pragmatic reasons for allowing this state of affairs to continue; but working backwards from pragmatic reasoning to a principle is exactly as bad as saying "our economy would collapse without slavery, therefore let us posit that the group we are enslaving are subhuman" (if you think that's too extreme then I would argue that this is merely the most graphic and most recent example of the injustices perpetrated by the mindset).

In the short term I would prefer we accept the cognitive dissonance of saying "this policy is immoral but we will stick to it for pragmatic reasons except in cases where people absolutely require refuge" than maintain the current pretence that there is anything morally acceptable about it. In the longer term, we should work towards (minimally) fully open borders and citizenship on demand for residents of any state3. I would argue that there are pragmatic advantages to that situation too - in particular in terms of increasing economic parity between regions. But even if there were no such advantages we should pursue this goal anyway, on purely principled grounds, just as abolitionists believed in their cause regardless of its undoubted economic impact.

[I considered giving here lots of examples of how the implementations of immigration controls are evil in practice, but actually the point I'm trying to make is that the very concept is evil in principle]

1Yes, I know I'm not anything like the first person to realise this.

2I don't even know of a word or short phrase that means "discriminating against someone based on their place of birth"; there's a lot of pernicious nitpicking by people who hold to this that "oh, it's not really racism because 'people from X' aren't a race", and yeah, OK, it's not exactly racism, but it's ALSO BAD so your argument is crap. [ETA: [twitter.com profile] abigailb suggests "Nativism" which is pretty close, but I would like a word describing the phenomenon of discrimination, not its political application, so as to be able to say e.g. "Nativism is a political doctrine based on _____". ETA2: "Xenophobia" is pretty damn close and well known, so maybe we should leave it at that for now. ]


3I have no major problem with the existence of national governments - just as Leicestershire and Lincolnshire have different local governments but there is no suggestion that people born in one shouldn't be permitted to travel, reside, or work in the other.

Vegetating.

Nov. 7th, 2014 02:03 pm
pseudomonas: (eyebrow)
Copied from a rantlet I made in a comment elsenet, agreeing with the proposition that the "tomatoes aren't really vegetables" is just silly

I get really* cross about the fruit/veg thing

a) Clearly (to my eyes) the botanic definition of a fruit is only tangentially relevant to the culinary definition. We can do this. We have polysemy, we have shades of meaning. It's OK.

b) Even if the botanic definition were useful, why would "fruit" not then be a subset of "vegetable" (which would presumably be defined as something like "all edible plant (or plant-and-fungal) matter")?

c) Even if fruit were not a subset of vegetables, why on earth would you assume that fruit and vegetables have got to be disjoint? Just a miserably narrow gastronomic outlook?

d) Why do people always go on about tomatoes, and not cucumbers, mange-tout, pumpkins, courgettes, aubergines, rhubarb, and so forth?


* for a small value of "really"
pseudomonas: (Default)
O2, in common with just about all mobile companies, has blocking. Unlike most, they helpfully provide a URL checker http://urlchecker.o2.co.uk/ where anyone can check if a URL is blocked. update: that page has been taken down "to ensure it's fit for purpose and provides transparent info to [O2's] customers".

There are three levels of blocking:

Open Access - what people who've asked for "no filtering at all" see.
Default Safety - what people who've signed up without expressing preferences see.
Parental Control - what people who've actively asked for a child-friendly device see.

Now, O2's Parental Control is a funny old thing. It allows http://www.mcdonalds.com but blocks http://www.childline.org. To be honest, it blocks most of the internet apart from a tiny number of mostly corporate sites. It allows amazon.co.uk but blocks amazon.com. We may never know why - this is all done by their unspecified third-party partner (rumour has it that this is probably Symantec).

Wikipedia seems to be an interesting case - it's allowed, but certain pages are blacklisted. This is all done very shoddily, if the URL checker is to be believed. So https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penis is blocked but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penises is allowed, even though they both go to the same damn page1 Also, they block Penis but fail to block Clitoris2

The choice of which pages to block on Wikipedia is interesting. A bit of playing around revealed that there wasn't much consistency; it looked like, rather than applying a classifier to every page, someone had made a list of a few pages with titles that seemed dodgy to them, and had called it a day. This seemed an ideal opportunity to find out what the spirit was behind the blocking, especially since they kindly tell us what the category of nastiness is.

Wikipedia has a nice list of the 5000 most visited pages. I ran them through the checker3 and made a list of the aberrations, sorted by category. Pages in more than one category will appear twice; if they're blocked in one and not in the other, they're still blocked to the user.

cut for longish table )

Notice that their "lifestyles" category has only three items within the top 5000 Wikipedia pages4. What these have in common is left as an exercise for the reader. Whether that falls foul of the Equality Act 2010 is left as an exercise for the reader who knows about English law.

Notice also that for instance the list does not include the following top-5000 pages: Asexuality, Celebrity_sex_tape, Child_pornography, Homosexuality, Human_sexuality, List_of_female_porn_stars, List_of_Masters_of_Sex_episodes, List_of_pornographic_actresses_by_decade, Masters_of_Sex, Pansexuality, Pornhub, Pornographic_film_actor, Pornographic_film, Pornography, Revenge_porn, Same-sex_marriage, Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States, Sex, Unsimulated_sex, YouPorn ... and that's just in the top 5000 out of 4 million. Anyone who thinks the filter is effective is going to be very disappointed. And those are just some of the sex-related pages - they make no attempt to block pages about war, death, torture, or other potentially distressing subjects. Again, speculation about the mindset behind this is left to the reader.

This all reflects very badly on O2; but I think we should assume that the other ISPs are every bit as incompetent, until they present us with evidence to the contrary.

If anyone would like to help me with a similar but more extensive project for TalkTalk, BT or Sky, has a line with one of those ISPs, a willingness to give me SSH access to something at your end (probably helps with that bit if you're a wee bit tech-y), and a preparedness to turn the dreaded filters on for a bit, please let me know in the comments.

I've been ranting about this at more length at [twitter.com profile] pseudomonas

.


1 Note as an aside that the URL checker claims to be able to tell the difference between the two httpS URLs. This is very worrying if it's true, but my suspicion is that it's not and the URL checker is just shoddily written and assuming they're plain http.
2 Perhaps because they had problems finding it.
3 Actually, I misinterpreted how the URL checker dealt with encoding and ones with brackets, punctuation, apostrophes, and diacritics got skipped. Sorry.
4 Since you asked and to save you a click or two, "Bisexual" isn't in the top-5000 list of pages, but that Wikipedia page is indeed classified as "lifestyle".
pseudomonas: Bacterial conjugation (sex)
What is it with politicians (or possibly civil servants) and the Internet? Hot on the heels of the craziness of the proposed surveillance of web, email, and social media, comes the perennial "let's make the Internet child-safe" proposal.

http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2012/april/automatic-porn-censorship-legislation-proposed/

Yet another idea that neatly combines illiberal with unworkable. At least one might hope the "unworkable" element should hopefully do the job of making sure it doesn't get beyond a draft (though ISTR that didn't deter Australia from trying something similar), but still. *headdesk*

Should this draft be unfortunate enough not to be strangled at this stage, expect endless wrangling over who decides what porn is, shock as people realise that educational, political, and scientific materials have been included, confusion as the powers that be discover HTTPS decades after the rest of the Internet, and bewilderment as people point out that this has been tried lots of times and it Never Bloody Works.

ETA: apparently the proposal is a Lords Private Member's Bill, so a near-zero chance of actually getting anywhere. But still, I remain surprised at what some people think would be a good idea.

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