Reason #201 For NOT Using Facebook …

January 19, 2011

According to Big Brother Watch:

The Telegraph reports that Facebook has now made it easier for third party application developers to request a user’s contact information in return for using an application. According to Facebook’s Developer Blog, the new feature rolled out early on Saturday morning. It is ‘now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible’. But the Telegraph and others have missed an important update to this story. Also according to the Facebook’s Developer Blog on Monday, Facebook ‘will be temporarily disabling this feature until those changes are ready’ based on ‘use feedback’. One wonders if users were outraged with the possibility of third parties gaining access to even more personal information. Whatever the case, it is important for all of us who use Facebook to check our privacy settings and think twice before using third party applications.

Or just bail, before it is too late!


Shaw’s Negative Billing Option

January 8, 2011

Some years ago, there was a loud outcry about what was called negative billing. A company (bank, telecom, etc) would set you up for a free-for-a-time service (usually without consulting you) and then make you go through hoops to cancel what would then become an automatic payment onwards into the future once the “free” period was over. Book clubs and record clubs (remember those?) were the classic negative billers: you were sent the months’ selection at full price UNLESS you took some action.

After the kerfuffle here with Rogers and others, negative billing was made illegal, I believe. But Shaw (and maybe others) gets around the law in a clever way: Once you are a subscriber, Shaw allows you to ADD services with a couple of mouse clicks on-line; but you cannot CANCEL services in the same way. Oh, no. To cancel a service you must use Shaw’s telephone lines, successfully navigate through a directory tree, and then listen to a long period of Muzak before finally getting through to a service agent who will then log the cancellation.

I guess this meets the letter of the law, but it sure feels like negative billing to me!

The Spare — Wong Fu Productions

January 7, 2011

Wonderful modern story-telling, from Japan.


Liberals and “Human Rights”

January 7, 2011

One of my many problems with liberals is that modern-day liberals have become firmly attached to the idea of “identity politics” — that the gays, blacks, women, natives, spiritualists, etc. should somehow be separately equal — which is merely a deeply abased form of “human rights.”  In fact, I strongly suspect that every self-described liberal in North America and Europe would include some sort of agreement with the importance of the concept of “human rights” in their own description of “liberal.” This would be considered by most to be a defining characteristic of liberalism in comparison to, say, conservativism.

The National Interest has an interesting review by John Gray of Samuel Moyn’s The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History in which Gray demonstrates that the entire history of “human rights” began no earlier than the 1970s. He traces the actual birth of the concept to the publication in 1981 of John Rawl’s A Theory of Justice. He carefully and concisely links the modern “human rights” movement to both utopianism and the modern nation state. These “human rights” exist only in the context of the nation state; they are “universal” only in the sense that every nation state should be held accountable to them and be responsible for their protection. There is no “liberal” scenario that would allow for these “human rights” to exist outside the jurisdiction of nation state(s).

As an anti-statist anarchist myself, I have always rejected the concept of “human rights” based on a dissected population (whites, blacks, rich, women, LGBT, left-handed, etc, etc etc.) It is a defining characteristic in my definition of being a non-liberal.   However, this is a fascinating history of a theory and well worth reading.

Laundry Then and Now

January 5, 2011

Today is laundry day in our household.  My wife — a self-described laundry Nazi — loves to split the pile of cloths and linens into a much larger variety of “types” than the simple whites, coloureds, reds that my mother taught me.  Thinking of this got me musing about how drastically this particular household function has changed in the last 70-odd years.

Time was that the laundry represented a full day of  hard physical labour, one that most housewives faced each week with dread.  Today, that has all changed, at least in the westernized world.  With automatic machines and efficient driers, each load takes perhaps just four or five minutes of effort to load, unload and fold.  Five or six wash and dry loads can be completed with less physical effort than a single wash load (not including wringing and drying) meant to my grandmother.

In my research on the retail and social changes on Commercial Drive in the middle of the last century, one of the key factors of modernization that emerges in the 1930s and 1940s is the evolution of many hardware stores into appliance retailers; and, prior to the introduction of TV in the 1950s, it was the steady improvement in laundry technology that drove this process.

As an aside, it is worth mentioning that virtually all domestic technology engineers in the 1920s to 1950s were men, men who would have had little or no first-hand knowledge of the drudgery of household laundry.  I assume that the power of persuasion by their female partners played a significant role in these improvements.


Political Correctness = Literary Pornography

January 4, 2011

A new edition of Mark Twain’s  “Huckleberry Finn” will be published next month in which all references to “nigger” and “injun” are to be replaced with “slave”.  Hard to believe that political correctness can go so far.

I wonder what the reaction would be if we re-published “Advise and Consent” and changed all references to “Republicans” with “idiots.”

What Wage Disparity?

January 3, 2011

For all us wage slaves and fixed-income folks out there, it must make us feel good that by 2:30pm THIS afternoon — the first working day of the year — the top CEOs will already have earned the same salary as it will take us until December 31st to earn.

Canada’s best-paid chief executives earned 155 times the average income earner during the darkest days of the recession, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said in a report Monday.  Declaring that those 100 chief executives were “recession proof,” the think tank said they earned an average of $6.6 million in 2009 compared with $42,988 for the average Canadian.  That means by 2:30 p.m. Monday, the first working day of the year, those CEOs will have earned the full year’s wage of the average Canadian …

“Even that extraordinary number understates the real story,” Mackenzie wrote. “Thanks to a change in corporate reporting introduced in 2008, we only have a conservative statistical estimate of the stock options that make up about one third of CEOs’ 2009 pay. The public will never know how much these CEOs actually got paid in 2009.  As well, “These CEOs are sitting on $1.3 billion of stock options they haven’t yet cashed in. That’s about $2 in future income for every $1 they declared in 2009.”

Ain’t capitalism grand!