Archive for September, 2008

the EESA and Lessig’s “corruption”

September 30, 2008

Lawrence Lessig has made clear what he means by “corruption” in the political process. That is, corruption not as outright bribery but corruption marked by the “amplification” of money within the political process. The recent rebuke of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act certainly was an extraordinary display of citizen action (not, as some Republicans might have you believe, a partisan blunder by Pelosi) but what’s almost as interesting to note are the underlying statistics of this historic vote:

Interests who wanted this bill to become law gave an average of:

$231,877 to each legislator voting Yes
$150,982 to each legislator voting No

Coincidence or corruption?

Thanks to Jim for the email.

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Main Street recovery

September 26, 2008

Though American democrats settled on mediocrity by choosing Obama, they could temper that choice by spreading this (authored by the candidate they, IMO, should have chosen).

preparing for a dog-eat-dog world

September 26, 2008

Pittsburgh Public Schools get set to implement a policy granting students a minimum grade of 50% for “assignments, tests, and other work.”

Ideally, grades would not be given to students at all. Grades don’t offer any constructive feedback and only risk distracting students from the purpose of education. The purpose of education is to inspire a love for learning and promote self-awareness. This is key to how caring individuals and a good society come about. One might suspect however, that Judy Leonardi doesn’t see it that way:

“I don’t think [the policy] sets kids up properly for college, for competition in life”

While competition has its proper place in school (e.g. on the basketball court), the broad arena of “life” is certainly where it should not be encouraged. While we certainly have inherited a lot from the animal world, our competitive jungle is largely our creation – a creation we (unlike the beasts) have the capacity to maniuplate, for better or for worse, however we desire. Of course, for the time being some compromise may have to be made with some colleges (e.g. entrance requirements giving high priority to GPA), but it’s the responsiblity of K-12 education not to kow-tow to higher education and instead work cooperatively for change.

some love for Love

September 22, 2008

If the general quality of mainstream GNU/Linux and Free Software articles weren’t so poor, I’d likely be more critical of James Love’s take on the matter. He correctly calls the system “GNU/Linux” early on but later drops the “GNU”, potentially confusing readers by stating:

Linux isn’t a program, but rather a collection of thousands of programs that work together, each maintained by different communities.

Well, Linux *is* just a program. Specifically, a monolithic operating system kernel. The other “thousands of programs” are fundamentally important GNU Project programs (that kick-started the entire movement) and other independent projects. But to Love’s credit, his article is considerably better than what one typically sees regarding “Linux”. He touches on the social implications of Free Software and ends with a bang:

Because of the stakes, people should increasingly be thinking of free software as a social movement. It is not only about a small number of programmers and engineers. It is about everyone who cares about the future of knowledge ecosystems.

Could not agree more.

hate runs shallow

September 11, 2008

This entire article on FOSS advocacy and Apple is a worthwhile read. In it, Bruce Byfield included some thoughts on hating Microsoft:

Microsoft is the company that everybody loves to hate. These days, you don’t even need to be a geek to express your hate. Tell an anti-Microsoft joke in the average business or college crowd, and you are guaranteed a laugh. Tell a joke against Apple, though, and surprised silence will struggle with strained smiles in your audience.

While Microsoft certainly deserves the critical eye it often receives, when it comes to “hate”, this is my take:

If you desire a better society, use a free system. If you simply hate Microsoft, use Mac OS.