Harm of a DNA Database?

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 18th, 2009

I was recently thinking of reasons for objecting to blanket collection of DNA beyond just violation of “natural” rights. But a second good reason has just arrived: the possibility of forging DNA samples from samples in the database. This is news to me!

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person. The Times

So being on a database makes it easier to be framed for crimes. Nice.

AC1

Irrelevant footnote: The national health service causes TERROR??? (source: fox news – yeah right…)

Recent Criticisms in Politics

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 17th, 2009

I noticed two news stories that really “grind my gears”. Firstly, the case where MEP Daniel Hannan called for the abolition of the British National Health Service. The government’s health secretary commented:

“I would almost feel… it is unpatriotic because he is talking in foreign media and not representing, in my view, the views of the vast majority of British people and actually, I think giving an unfair impression of the National Health Service himself, a British representative on foreign media.” Andy Burnham

Now, I find it odd that he presumes that politicians may not to talk to journalists that are from beyond the UK and also that politicians may not disagree with public opinion. And to voice disagreement with public opinion is “unpatriotic”? Very worrying signs… (hello, thought police…) Perhaps it would be better for Andy Burnham to stick to the topic of discussion without resorting to name calling.

A second case concerns David Miliband and his comments on Joe Slovo, a South African anti-apartheid activist. When asked if violence (or “terrorism” in the parlance of our time) could be justified in some circumstances:

Presenter Matthew Parris asked Mr Miliband: “Are there circumstances in which violent reaction, terrorism, is the right response?”

Mr Miliband said: “That’s such a hard question, ‘right’ has to be judged in two ways doesn’t it? Whether it’s justifiable and whether it’s effective.

“I think I’m right in saying that one of the ways in which the ANC tried to square the circle between being a movement of political change and a movement which used violence, was to target installations rather than people.

“The most famous ANC military attack was on the Sasol oil refinery in 1980. That was perceived to be remarkable blow at the heart of the South African regime.

“But I think the answer has to be yes – there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective – but it is never effective on its own.”

He went on: “The importance for me is that the South African example proved something remarkable: the apartheid regime looked like a regime that would last forever, and it was blown down.” BBC

He has come under fire from various sources, including William Hague, for apparently condoning terrorism generally. This is an instance of the slippery slope argument (and an appeal to consequences). But “violence is necessary in some circumstances” is as true as any other statement I care to think of. History of all peoples and places are full of illustrations that this is the case. To claim otherwise requires a total lack of the historical sense and gross double standards.

For example, Churchill planned civilian and military suicide attacks in case of invasion of the UK (Their finest hour, Winston Churchill, p149). Another case is the firebombing of Dresden and the use of atomic weapons against mainly civilian targets. Also the French resistance to Nazi occupation using sabotage and assassination. Attacks are called “terrorists” by one side and “martyr”, “liberation” or “freedom” fighters by the other. Chomsky and others questioned if states are capable of terrorism? Or even is there an agreed definition of terrorism? No, often there is not, because this would implicate many military operations/actions as state terror. (And “operation” is another case of “words as weapons” – implying they are competently and justifiably applied.)

Anti Citizen One

Speed Limit

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 14th, 2009

“Ubi non accusator, ibi non judex.” (Where there is no police, there is no speed limit.) [Roman Law, trans. Petr Beckmann (1971)

Pirate Party UK

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 13th, 2009

I am glad to see that a UK pirate party has been launched. Their core policies:

  • Reform copyright and patent law.
  • End excessive surveillance
  • Ensure freedom of speech and real freedom to enjoy and participate in shared culture.

Although I worry that their focus on one issue leaves their actions on all other issues rather ambiguous, I think their influence on the other parties will be beneficial. They will start adopting similar policies when threatened with losing support.

Their use of the word “pirate” is also interesting. The media corperations have attempted to portray people who do not respect copyright as pirates – being a BAD THING ™. To name your party as your old name of reproach and turn it into a label of honour is very interesting. Comparisons might be drawn with the label “gay” or even my sign off name “Anti Citizen One”.

I am very interested in copyright law and again will plug Lessig’s book Free Culture. In a few lines: creation of cultural works depends on reuse of existing culture and without some rights to reuse, culture is dead – at least for people who don’t have a deal with a large company with an extensive legal department to protect you.

Anti Citizen One

Babylon 5 Part 12

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 10th, 2009

Wow another year as slipped by since I previously posted on the philosophically aware TV series Babylon 5. I am determined to finish the series of articles, that I envisaged when this blog was started. Previously I had discussed the Manichaean good vs. evil theme transitioning into a conflict between order and chaos. Order (represented by the Vorlons) emphasised being and identity (“Who are you?” “Why are you here?”) while their anti-thesis (the Shadows) sought for becoming through chaos and conflict (“What do you want?”). I intend to explore some possible answers to the questions which are used repeatedly and are probably a reference to the method of Platonic dialogues.

“Who am I? What am I doing here? and Where am I going? Those had to be the very first questions we began asking when we became sentient, and we’re still asking them.” JMS

Why are you here?

Answers to this teleological question might by categorised into appeals to objective standards or relative/personal valuations.

Turhan: Why are you here, in this place, in that uniform? Was it your choice or were you pressed into service?
Sheridan: It was my choice.

Delenn: I come to serve [the Truth].
[later]
Delenn: I was meant to be here.

The objective standard is in this case the “truth” or whatever “meant” her to be there. Sheridan’s answer perhaps comes an underlying existential answer of personal choice or interpretation. The third alternative is to not make any choice at all:

Turhan: It has occurred to me recently that I have never chosen anything. I was born into a role that was prepared for me. I did everything I was asked to do because it never occurred to me to choose otherwise.

Included in the more esoteric answers are:

Kosh: We have always been here.

This idea underminds the possibility that one can be somewhere other than “here”, possibly referring to apparent reality. I am reminded of Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

5.621 The world and life are one.
5.63 I am my world. (The microcosm.)

Or to transcend the immediate problem of that question, it might be possible to take refuge in companionship or in language itself (“How charming it is that there are words and tones; are not words and tones rain bows and seeming bridges ‘twixt the eternally separated?” Nietzsche)

[Loren mentions he has spent approximately one million years at the bottom of a pit.]
Sheridan: Why are you still here?
Lorien: I am waiting
Sheridan: For what?
Lorien: Someone to talk to. You’re the first one to make it this far.

I quite like that one. 🙂

And to take a strict mechanistic view of the situation, which while almost certainly true, is rather unsatisfactory in terms of ethics. But humans seem to seek after meaning beyond the the blunt response:

Sheridan: Why am I here?
Lorien: You were born.

And we still keep coming back to the question “why are you here?”

Man has gradually be come a visionary animal, who has to fulfil one more condition of existence than the other animals : man must from time to time believe that he knows why he exists; his species cannot flourish without periodically confiding in life ! Without the belief in reason in life !
Joyful Wisdom, Nietzsche

Pressing on.. Anti-Citizen One

Interpreting an Enigma

Posted by Anti Citizen One on August 7th, 2009

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
Umberto Eco