13 Jan 2003 raph   » (Master)

Rule of law

I've come across quite a number of stories recently that struck me. A few days ago, I found a thread which I think binds them: the concept of "rule of law" seems very much under attack.

Dumpster diving: is it legal or not? The police in Portland felt perfectly justified in doing so, with the blessing of the Multnomah County DA's office. However, when the local weekly did the same back to the powers that be, they weren't happy.

The main issue here is whether the same law applies to those in power and those who aren't. As Anatole France observed, ideally "The Law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Ambiguity in the law is a big part of the problem here, and a good way to fight against it is to force the powers that be to pin down exactly where the line is drawn. That's the basis behind Dan Bernstein's Dear Ms. Tarzian campaign, and also my request for export review of the perl-RSA t-shirt.

Do the laws on assault apply to airport security agents, or just regular citizens? Penn didn't press charges, but his experience is a good role model nonetheless.

Can the phone companies get away corrupt and illegal business practices, or are they somehow above the relevant laws? If I had more free time, I would definitely read this book and verify some of its claims.

Incidentally, for those are into the "blogger vs traditional journalism" debate, I consider the mainstream media seriously negligent in not following up on Bruce Kushnick's work. I really hope the blog community takes hold of this, reads it, checks it, and gets the word out. If so, it would be an impressive demonstration of how we can delve into deep, complex, and important issues. The corporate-owned newspaper hegemony could use a little ass-kicking.

Myers Carpenter has a blog entry on his experience trying to get DSL and what he plans to do about it.

The Bush administration. Don't get me started. The problem here is too many examples to choose from. A particularly egregious example is the appointment of Hill and Pfotenhauer to the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, which will oversee the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act. These two can be counted on to completely thwart the spirit of the law, and probably the letter too. After all, who the hell will stop them?

ICANN is out of control. Again, a big part of the problem is that ICANN's rulers have consistently refused to be bound by their original bylaws, and have conveniently changed them to be less accountable to the public. I swear, if I collected all seven dragonballs, I'd bring back Jon Postel.


I like Safari. I also think they did the right thing choosing KHTML over Gecko. Size does matter, you know.

Of course, if they had wanted a really fast browser engine, they should have picked Gzilla (dillo) :) . But of course, the goals are quite different. They're trying to support the rich Web standards of today, including CSS, DOM, and JavaScript, where Gzilla is really only for displaying HTML.

I think this move is also really good for standards. Web developers are used to just testing on Explorer and maybe Netscape. With the inevitable popularity of Safari, it will make more sense to just make standards-compliant web pages instead.

I was going to try to tie this in to the "rule of law" thread above, but will leave it as an exercise for the reader.


The whole family will be at the Jan 18th peace march. I know a lot of my friends will be going too. Maybe we can get together. Probably cell phones are the best way to coordinate, so email me for my number. It's likely, though, that the crowds will make logistics difficult. Oh well, that's a good problem to have.


I met with Henri Poole on Friday, and Peter Deutsch on Tuesday. Both times, we had deep, far-ranging, stimulating conversations.

Henri is interested in implementing the web services version of the trust metric for Affero. (see Bram's diary entry and links for more background). This could be fun and exciting. If so, we'll probably make Advogato an early client.


I love reading stories to Alan and Max, and have lately become somewhat taken by the idea of recording audiotexts and releasing them under a Creative Commons license. So far, I've just been playing around, but you might be interested in listening to what I've recorded anyway.

In particular, a few days ago I read the prologue of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It's a good story, and of course the whole "free Internet distribution isn't bad for sales" meme is a brilliant marketing ploy.

If 10 other people each record a chapter, it's a distributed audiobook. That would be kinda fun.

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