access to books is important

“In Brazil the Redemption through Reading program has been created with the intention that prisoners will not only improve their literacy skills but so that “a person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world”.

— Alex Hundert

blurry overexposed book shelf

It’s bad enough that there is no longer any funding for librarians in Ontario’s public school system.

It seems to me that people in jail should have as much access to books as possible. While in jail, inmates occupied in reading may well be improving their minds, possibly improving their literacy, maybe even learning empathy. At minimum, they are occupied. I’m guessing inmates who read in jail are less likely to re-offend on release. Are Canadian jails and prisons intended to punish or rehabilitate?

Having read the following four articles by writer Alex Hundert, a political activist currently serving time, writing from jail:

No Books for Prisoners: An Open Letter to the MWDC

No Books for Prisoners Part 2

Abusive Authority Means Little Hope: No Books for Prisoners Part 3

No Books for Prisoners Part 4

as a lifetime reader and writer, I am appalled.

It seems nothing less than cruel and unusual punishment to deny prisoners access to reading material.

School children at least have other options.  Prisoners do not.


glossary

the cart = a library trolley carrying as many as 150 books which makes the rounds through the jail to deliver books to inmates

MDWC = Metro West Detention Centre aka “the West”

Uncomplicated: free speech, privacy and law

[In response to TechDirt: Reddit, Trolling, Doxxing, Free Speech & Anonymity: Whoo Boy, Is This Stuff Complicated I posted a comment; which I think this is important enough to repeat a slightly modified version here.]

Free speech is *only* legally protected from government censorship.

Individuals and corporations are legally allowed to censor speech in their own premises, forums, workplaces, homes, or anywhere else.

But what constitutes Free Speech?

The Crime?

The written description of what was posted online:

“…surreptitiously shot photos of others, usually women, usually focused on sexually objectifying the subjects of the shot.”

Photographing private individuals without their consent?
Then publishing the illicit photos on the internet?
I’m sorry, how is this free speech?
If you climb a tree and photograph your neighbor through their window, is that free speech too?

The article goes on to explain that the photographs were “often very young women.”
How young?
The comments mention the existence of a Reddit forum called /r/jailbait ?

And then there is the teacher posting photographs of students. When an authority figure abuses the power they have over over other people, it is an unconscionable breach of trust, possibly liable for criminal charges, certainly and most deservedly, to job loss. This is not free speech.

The Criminals

There have been emphatic arguments in the TechDirt comments about how important it is to protect the privacy of people who take such surrepetious photographs, and moderators who were aware of such content being published on the Internet without the subjects’ knowledge or permission.

You are concerned about the protection of the perpetrator’s anonymity.

Yet precious little thought has been given to the people whose anonymity has been stripped away through the publication of illicit photographs.  What about the victim’s anonymity?

The contention has been made that publishing such photographs is “free speech.”  Poppycock.

Photographs

Professional photographers only publish photographs of subjects when they have signed release forms, because otherwise they can be held legally liable. Even models that have been paid to pose must sign releases; if they don’t, the photographs are published at the photographer’s peril.

Because one’s image is part of the individual’s private domain.

Privacy

Although public figures may be “fair game” because they have put themselves in the public eye, private individuals are accorded legal protection of personal privacy.

The face, the likeness, the identifiability of individuals is protected. Any such invasion of the personal privacy of an individual must trump any arguments of free speech.

You can think what you want. You can say what you want. You can troll all the live long day. But taking surreptitious photographs of people and publishing them without express permission is a no-no.

If you post a photo of my daughter without her permission, or mine if she is a minor, you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble.  Because you will have invaded my daughter’s privacy.  You made this decision, you took these actions, and the logical consequence is that you answer for it.

There *should* be laws to address this creepy crap on Reddit. But maybe there aren’t. Or even if there are, the forces of law enforcement may not have a clue how to tackle a Reddit. Or maybe they *nudge*nudge*wink*wink simply don’t do a damn thing about it.

If the law does not answer, the best way to achieve social justice is to shine a light on injustice. If the law can’t or won’t deal with something this reprehensible, doxxing seems to be a perfectly acceptable, moral and ethical recourse.

And as the TechDirt article suggests, this wasn’t even doxxing, it was a case of media reporting.

logical consequences

Personal privacy is a natural right. We all need personal privacy. Our own space.

The creep perpetrators invaded that space.  They chose to commit bad acts.

People who are photographed secretly, and then had the photographs published, have chosen nothing. They have been victimized by the acts of the perpetrators.  Whether or not the law has defined this specific behaviour as assault, that is exactly what it is: an invasion of a human being’s personal space, and an assault on privacy.

What’s Wrong with ‘5 Simple Rules For Happiness’ ?

robins in a tree

A friend shared this list on Facebook, and at first it sounded right, but then it didn’t.

5 Simple Rules For Happiness

  1. Free your heart from hatred
  2. Free your mind from worries
  3. Live simply
  4. Give more
  5. Expect Less

I wish I could go along with it, but I can’t, really.

with the worlds greatest kid

Because, you see, I did all of these things so I could stay home to raise the world’s greatest kid. And I did (and it was worth it!) But in that short time when I wasn’t paying close attention to the world, or allowing myself to worry about the things I couldn’t change, the world has gone to hell.

Although a lot of people date the problems we face now to the fall of the Twin Towers, I think we were on this path long before. The Twin Towers simply offered an excuse to suspend the rights and liberties people used to have. I think that the real problem for the west began with what should have been a good thing: the fall of the Berlin Wall and everything that went with it. That seems to have freed up our supposedly democratic western governments to cease to even pretend to serve the the people.

    1. Free your heart from hatred ~ YES: this is unproductive
    2. Free your mind from worries ~ NO: if we bury our heads in the sand, we can’t correct the problems that should worry us
    3. Live simply ~ YES/NO not at the expense of living fully
    4. Give more ~ YES: to family, friends, society, those without ~ NO: to corporations
    5. Expect Less ~ WRONG!

If we expect less, we will get less.

We deserve *more*

including (but not limited to:

flowering shrub

  1. more clean air,
  2. more clean water,
  3. more responsible environmental stewardship,
  4. more government transparency, accountability and responsiveness,
  5. more protection of our civil rights,
  6. more accessible education,
  7. more inclusion,
  8. more understanding,
  9. more empathy,
  10. more privacy,
  11. more culture,
  12. more choice,
  13. more dignity,
  14. more respect
  15. more tolerance,
  16. more sharing,
  17. more kindness,
  18. more protection of society’s weakest members

If we all expect less, our government allows big corporations to continue to take more and more,

  • poisoning our environment,
  • tossing aside human rights, and
  • bankrupting our economy.

We need to insist on MORE, because our kids are worth it.

Kitchener Casseroles Protest

Double Standard: Bill C-11

“Bill C-11 contains an “enabler” provision which currently states, “It is an infringement of copyright for a person to provide, by means of the Internet or another digital network, a service that the person knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement if an actual infringement of copyright occurs by means of the Internet or another digital network as a result of the use of that service.”  — Russell McOrmond Is Bill C-11 related to SOPA/PIPA?

Pardon?

If it’s an infringement to provide a service the person knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement IF AN INFRINGEMENT OCCURS…

Wait: does that mean it isn’t an infringement if no one actually infringes?

brothers keeper

Hum.  It appears that Bill C-11 is straying pretty far afield for copyright law.  And sounds pretty dependent on what other people do.

from elbow to clenched fistIt is reasonable for me to be responsible for my own dog, because I have control of my own dog. If my dog bites the letter carrier, it is my responsibility.

But I would not be liable if someone else’s dog bit the letter carrier.

Or what about “the person knows or should have known” …. Well. We all make mistakes. Who can know what anyone else will do?

If rent out a building to a tenant who cooks up methamphetamine in the basement, or takes pot shots at passersby out the window… is this then my responsibility?  After all, it’s my building. It’s in a bad neighborhood so I should have known renting it out might make it possible for badguys to do bad things.

Think about it.

“…the person knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement…” If the design of the thing is to primarily enable bad things… why don’t we make laws like that for anything in the real world?

Guns

revolver in a caseMany perfectly respectable stores like Canadian Tire sell guns. In a pinch, you could use your handgun to drive a nail, but that isn’t what it was designed for. A gun is a weapon that is clearly designed to put holes in things. Quite often, guns are used to put holes in people. And guns can and are used in a commission of a crime far more serious than copyright infringement.

Yet no one is suggesting gun manufacturers be held responsible for crimes committed with the guns they made.

In the real world, this kind of preventative lawmaking is not the practice in Canada.

Drugs

a baggie of tea stands in for marijuana, on a pizza box, with matchbook. Recreational drug use has been illegal in Ontario throughout my life, yet there are whole stores devoted to selling the attendant paraphernalia. It is perfectly legal for “head shops” to sell hookahs and bongs openly on the main shopping street of law abiding cities like Waterloo. And these devices are most certainly designed to enable acts of illegal drug use.

Any tool can be used for good or ill, as Cory Doctorow recently pointed out with his suggestion that wheels should be outlawed since wheeled vehicles allow criminals to flee from the scene of the crime. A hammer is a wonderful tool for driving nails, and yet a simple hammer can double as an effective weapon since it is easy for anyone to wield.

In the real world, we don’t arrest people for thinking dangerous thoughts or manufacturing goods or creating a service that someone else might use to break laws. We don’t hold innocent people responsible for the crimes of others.

The legal standards for citizen protection must be the same both online and off. Yet Bill C-11 lowers standards for citizen protection in Canada.

And that’s wrong.


Image Credits
gun by Whizzer released under a creative commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5) License

All other images are my own, released under a Creative Commons Attribution license by laurelrusswurm

where are all the women?

What I want to know is, why aren’t more women involved in politics?

Or the sciences?  I just listened to my first “Free As in Freedom” podcast which turned out to be a conversation between two free software legal eagles @bkuhn and @Kaz discussing gender inequity. I was surprised to learn that Karen Sandler feels insecure about public speaking, since this amazing woman gave one of the most powerful free software talks I’ve been privileged to see, “Free Software on Medical Devices: Unchain My Heart”

gender equality

Marlo Thomas

What happened to the world I grew up in?

You know, the one I’m talking about, the one  that was ushering in gender equality?

As a teen I felt empowered by the classic Marlo Thomas television special “Free To Be, You and Me” My high school drama department class even mounted Free To Be You and Me as a show.

socialization

When I was a kid, my favorite team sport was soccer, and that turned out to be the sport my son wanted to participate in. He loved the game, and played for fun in the co-ed “house league” throughout his public school years.  But when he was in high school, the league began segregating the younger teams according to gender. I asked why, and was told it was to make sure that girls got to play as much as the boys.

That’s a shame.

I don’t think such a policy is particularly good for either boys or girls.  Some of the best soccer players my son played with were girls.  As a parent watching all the games, I always saw at the beginning of each season, there were always some boys and some girls who seemed a little uncomfortable playing together.  Boys wouldn’t pass to girls, for instance. And maybe some of the girls lacked the confidence to fight boy players for possession of the ball.  But by the end of every season, every year,  the boys and girls were working together. It was necessary if your team was going to have a shot at winning. And the one thing that the boys and girls had in common was the desire to win.

Segregating the teams by gender might make it easier for girls to play the game, but does them no favors for later. There are few career paths available to women that are devoid of men, outside of nunneries.   From my perspective, the most important thing to come out of co-ed soccer was an opportunity for boys and girls to work together and discover they are all people.

Maybe if we had more of that in the places where we socialize our kids, we would have more women in politics.

When it comes to online social networks, particularly the ones seeking to bring about social justice, there certainly seem to be at least as many women fighting for change than men.  Maybe more.  When you look at any political party, how many of the rank and file, the volunteers, the workers, are women? So why aren’t women more involved in making policy and governance?

Capital “F” feminism

Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett

I used to consider myself a feminist, until I became disillusioned when the feminist movement seemed to be less about gender equality and more about a power reversal to seize the power that men traditionally held.  So I stopped thinking of myself as a feminist, even though I think that everyone should have equal rights, regardless of gender, skin colour, sexual orientation, or planet of origin.

Every human should have equal rights, no matter what our differences.  Period. Does that make me a humanist? Human, anyway. But today I’m considering gender.  I realize now I was lucky to grow up in a large family where the girls and boys were treated pretty much equally, with a father who was very supportive of whatever any of us wanted to do or be.

Men and women are all people, we all make mistakes, and you can’t generalize about an entire gender.  Sometimes men behave badly, but women aren’t any more perfect than men.  Blaming everything that’s wrong in the world on one gender or the other doesn’t help. Blaming doesn’t generally fix anything.   Clearly some of the women who have become political leaders have been terrible, just like some male political leaders.  It’s even possible that women might screw up even worse that men when it comes to governing nations, maybe because of the way we have been socialized or simply because we lack experience.  I don’t know.

Cathy MacLellan, 2009 and 2011 Kitchener-Waterloo Green Party Candidate

As a woman, I’ve tended toward female medical professionals whenever a choice is possible.  The wonderful Toronto Women’s College Hospital came into existence to ensure women received proper medical treatment; but the female obstetrician who worked out of WCH was more paternalistic than any male doctor I’ve ever seen.  When I asked her questions – pregnancy was a new experience for me – she ordered me to stop reading and to just do as I was told.  So in my third trimester I switched to a male obstetrician (and this is unheard of) to make sure I would deliver my child across the street at Mount Sinai.

Men and women are different. 

Well, of course we are.  People are different.   We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We don’t always have the same goals, we often want different things.  There are some things men seem to do better as there are some things women seem to do better.  And it’s hard to know what gender differences are due to nature and which are due to nurture.  But a lot of those things are from the the way we socialize our children.

democracy

Democratic government is all well and good, but in order to be truly representative, a democratic government really should come close to reflecting the populace.  If you look at the Members of Parliament who are supposed to represent us at the federal level, that isn’t anywhere close to the case gender wise.  Although the Canadian population is slightly more than 50 percent female, the House of Commons is barely managing 25% women.  Well, 24.7 since the most recent Federal election.

What Canada actually has is a Conservative Party majority government. Yet only 17% of Conservative MPs are women. Lets look at the breakdown within each party:

Canadian Government gender breakdown of 307 federal seats in the House of Commons (one seat is vacant) at 25 January, 2012 ... Conservative Party of Canada has 83% - men with 138 seats (83.1325%) 17% - women with 28 seats (16.8674%) ... the Liberal Party of Canada has 82% - men with 28 seats (82.3529%) and 17% women with 6 seats (17.6470%) ... the Bloc Québécois has 75% men with 3 seats (75%) and 25% women with 1 seat (25%) ... the Green Party of Canada has 0% men with 0 seats (0%) and 100% women with 1 seat (100% ... ... the New Democratic Party of Canada has 61% men with 62 seats (60.7843%) and 39% women with 40 seats (39.2156%)

In total, Canada currently has 76 (or 24.7%) women sitting in the House of Commons.

    • 40 of them (or 13%) are from the NDP,
    • 28 of them (or 9%) are from the Conservative Party,
    • 6 of them (or 2%) are from the Liberal Party,
    • 1 of them (or 0.3%) is from the Bloc Québécois, and
    • 1 of them (or 0.3%) is from the Green Party.

So although the numbers are up for women in government, only 9% are in the majority party. And of the five national political parties represented in our government, only the Green Party has a woman leader.

Canada has only had one female Prime Minister, whose term ran for mere days as she was appointed and left holding the bag for Brian Mulroney’s misguided policies. Campbell would probably have done a better job than Mulroney had she got the position at the beginning rather than the end. (Admittedly, my cat could have done a better job than Brian Mulroney…)

Fairvote Canada's Anita Nickerson

Fairvote Canada‘s Anita Nickerson told me that Canada has “basically been at a “glass ceiling” of 20-22% women for the past 20 years.” What changed in the last Federal election was that the “Orange Crush” bumped up our gender numbers dramatically up from 22%. The NDP commitment to gender equality has led to policies that have resulted in more female candidates, and thus more women in our government. During the last provincial election I learned that the NDP will only run a male candidate if there are no women willing to take on the riding. Yet even with this policy, it is clear that the NDP has only managed 40%.

Personally, I wouldn’t vote for any candidate based on gender. You can have good or bad candidates. My goal in voting in any election is to vote for the person I believe will do the best job, so I would certainly never vote for a woman who did not inspire my confidence.

But still, it is a problem. If women aren’t represented in our democratic government, the laws made by that government are unlikely to be in our best interests. That is a problem.

This isn’t only a Canadian concern.

On Thursday I’m attending the screening of a documentary hosted by the Fairvote Canada Waterloo Chapter:

Menocracy

What: Documentary (see the trailer at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoLWSzq2v74 )
When: Thursday January 26, 7 PM
Where: Lyle S. Hallman School of Social Work Auditorium Room 301
(located behind Kitchener City Hall, across the street in the Laurier building)

Looking at the Senate for the Oh! Canada blog, I was struck by the much higher percentage of women serving on the Senate than in the House of Commons. Where we’re barely managing a quarter of our representatives in the House of Commons are women, the Senate boasts more like a third.  This is a problem.

Perhaps the film will shed some light on the disproportionate lack of women representing us in Parliament.


Image Credits

Marlo Thomas photographed by Alan Light and shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License

Happy Birthday Julian Assange

Today is Julian Assange’s birthday.

Assange thinks human beings have a right to privacy, but democratic governments owe their citizens transparency.

Julian Assange isn’t an ordinary guy, but an innovator. Not mired in preconceived notions, he is a prime architect of WikiLeaks, the first Stateless news organization. WikiLeaks was designed to anonymously accept, vet and publish information that the public should be privy to.

It appears that elements of the United States government prefer to operate without citizen oversight. Some decades past, US government leaks given to Woodward and Bernstein brought criminal behavior in the Nixon government out of the shadows and into the open. For this service to their government and their nation, Woodward and Bernstein were lionized.

Although Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks were well thought of for their efforts in support of freedom in repressive regimes, the U.S. government attitude changed abruptly with the release of the the “Collateral Murder” video where military personnel cavalierly used unarmed civilians for target practice. As far as I know, no attempt has been made to address this problem. The war criminals implicated in the video don’t even appear even to have been reprimanded.

Free Bradley Manning Sticker affixed to a window backed with venetian blinds

However, Bradley Manning, the young intelligence officer accused of being the WikiLeaks whistle blower, (the modern day equivalent of Bob Woodward’s “Deep Throat”) has been isolated, incarcerated, and held in conditions that suggest attempts to “break” if not “brainwash” the young man. It must be noted that Bradley Manning’s extreme loss of liberty has been effected even before he has been convicted of anything.

Wikileaks, and anyone associated with it, has also come under fire.

at New Media Days

Julian Assange, as “the face of WikiLeaks,” has drawn the lightning. Various powerful people have leveled threats against Mr. Assange, including Canada’s own Tom Flanagan, reputedly a friend and mentor of our sitting Prime Minister, who advocated assassinating Julian Assange on Canada’s national public broadcasting network, CBC Radio-Canada. The video of Flanagan’s crime (counselling to commit a crime is in itself a criminal offense in Canada) has been seen around the world. Yet in spite of citizen complaints, petitions and public pressure, no Canadian police force will even bring charges against this well connected Canadian.

Currently, Mr. Assange is being held in the United Kingdom under house arrest, with an electronic surveillance ankle bracelet and draconian terms of “bail.”

Ostensibly, this is because Mr. Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wish to question him. They had previously questioned him, and declined to bring charges. Many people believe the real agenda for Mr. Assange’s extradition is simply a sham to keep him “on tap” until the American government manages to find laws under which to charge him. Failing that, existing American laws, which currently allow protection to news media when publishing material that may have been obtained illegally by whistle blowers, may be changed.

So today, on his birthday, Julian Assange remains a prisoner.

House arrest may not be as bad as incarceration in an actual jail, but it is, nonetheless, a deprivation of liberty.

In spite of this, I hope Julian Assange can have a good 40th birthday, and take heart that many ordinary people around the world support the cause of freedom, and we do appreciate his efforts.

Graffiti on an apartment complex in Kitchener, Ontario, advocates freedom for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
Apartment Complex graffiti, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada


Image Credits

Julian AssangeThis photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Free Bradley Manning photo by Steve Rhodes released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No derivs License

Thanks to my brother, humor columnist, Larry Russwurm, for spotting and photographing the graffiti below in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and releasing the image under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright Isn’t a Human Right

human rights

“Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

This clause is often understood (erroneously) to refer to copyright, but it is not copyright. Rather, it refers to what is called:

Natural rights, also called inalienable rights, are considered to be self-evident and universal. They are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government. Legal rights, also called statutory rights, are bestowed by a particular government to the governed people and are relative to specific cultures and governments. They are enumerated or codified into legal statutes by a legislative body.

Natural and legal rights, Wikipedia

Moral rights pertain to intellectual work; a perpetual right to identify themselves as the author of their original work (that involves no copy, just the original). The author has natural dominion over the original work; and is free to lock it away, or share it, or sell it; but even if sold, the creator is forever the creator. The offense against the author’s moral right is plagiarism. This is what is recognized in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

Printer in 1568 by Jost Amman (public domain)

A right is a right no matter the locality and it lasts forever; a privilege like copyright only exists for the period of time set by the law of the land. Copyright is a state granted monopoly wherever it exists, but of course sovereign nations have different laws. That doesn’t change the fact that it exists only because it is imposed by statute.

American Copyright History
The framers of the American Constitution did recognize the natural human rights of creators, and secured these rights, but again, that was not copyright. After all, the 1787 Constitution certainly didn’t recognize the US Copyright privilege that was based upon itself and not enacted until two years later in 1790.

Copyright = Monopoly
Published works lie outside of an author’s human rights, so the state grants exclusive reproduction privilege — a monopoly — over the reproduction of published works. That is copyright.

The printing monopolies predating the Statute of Anne in England were privileges granted printers, and so are even less beneficial to creators than copyright, and so not the same thing at all.



Image Credits

Public domain image From Wikipedia Printer in 1568 by Jost Amman (1539–1591)

Thanks to Crosbie Fitch, as reference was made to: Mythologising Copyright, Printerlectual Poppetry and More than one Madison Confused by Copyright

Again, this article came from the comments on BuzzMachine.