2011-04-24

The Prescience Of John Wyndham

Whenever I read John Wyndham, I'm struck by how prescient his thoughts are. Here he is talking about what we'd now call disruptive technologies:
The discoverer and inventor are the bane of business. A little sand in the works is comparatively a mere nothing - you just replace the damaged parts, and go on. But the appearance of a new process, a new substance, when you are all organized and tickling nicely, is the very devil. Sometimes it is worse than that - it just cannot be allowed to occur. Too much is at stake. If you can't use legal methods, you must try others.
This is from The Day Of The Triffids, which I'm reading at the moment. There are lots of other comments and asides throughout his books that are astonishingly far-sighted.

2011-04-17

Bradley Manning

The other day we were having dinner, and I asserted that Bradley Manning was being tortured. Scepticism was evident in some quarters. One problem is that we don't know for sure how he's being treated. The Guardian reports that on Monday 11th April 2011:
[Juan] Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said: "I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr Manning."
There's been a letter published by US legal scholars including Bruce Ackerman (Yale Law School) and Yochai Benkler (Harvard Law School) which states:
For nine months, Manning has been confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day. During his one remaining hour, he can walk in circles in another room, with no other prisoners present. He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question “Are you OK?” verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again “Are you OK?” every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.
You may dispute that it's torture, but it's surely mistreatment.

Google's Webmaster Tools

Call me a late adopter, but I thought I'd give Google's Webmaster Tools a go. I pointed it at MtrHub and it found a bug. It found that even if you'd set a meter to be public, you still couldn't see individual reads without being logged in. It found it because if a user needs to be authorized, MtrHub returns an HTTP 401, which Webmaster Tools rightly complains about. Another advantage of using HTTP response codes conscientiously.

2011-04-11

UK-US Extradition Treaty

We were discussing the UK-US extradition treaty, and how it's unfair because it's not reciprocal. Then the question came up of the standard of proof that's required to extradite someone from the UK to the US. I claimed it was very low, but had no evidence to back it up. The evidence I will now brandish is from an article in the Guardian, where it says that to extradite a UK citizen to face trial in the US:
no prima facie evidence has to be produced
Turning to Wikipedia for more detail on prima facie:
Most legal proceedings require a prima facie case to exist, following which proceedings may then commence
The whole thing is an unjust mess. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives made much of its unfairness while in opposition. Now you're in power, sort it out!

2011-04-02

Paperless Billing: WCC Responds

I recently asked Wiltshire County Council:
Hi, I've just received my council tax bill, and I wondered if there was a paperless billing option? Eg. the bill could be emailed out, and the accompanying booklet could be online.
Here's their reply:
RE: Online council tax billing and booklets

Currently Wiltshire Council does not have the facility for paperless billing. This is something that we are looking to develop in time.
With regard to the accompanying booklet, an electronic version is available online by following the link below.

http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/counciltaxhousingandbenefits/counciltax/ctaxhowisitspent.htm

I trust this answers your questions below.
It was a prompt and friendly reply, and I'm glad they're looking into it. I'll let you know if they've switched to paperless next year...