What’s worse is these assholes think this is justified.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the argument from fundamentalist right-wingers that killing abortion doctors is justified because it saves unborn babies. And yet those unborn babies’ lives — many of which aren’t even viable yet, or would be stillborn, or a danger to the mother’s life — are more valuable to these hypocrites than the lives of women who would die should they attempt to give birth to the baby naturally, or would be forced to seek a back-alley abortion illegally. Never mind what they think about sending your country’s kids off to go kill hundreds of thousands of brown people. These people are not pro-life. They are pro-fetus, then after it is born and baptized, the sprog is on its own.

Sadly, another example of this hypocrisy just happened in Kansas. Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor who’s saved countless women’s lives and provided a safe way for women to exercise control over their bodies in the face of years of harassment, vandalism, protests and assaults, was gunned down while ushering at his church’s service. He is remembered as being a good, kind man, and is obviously God-fearing, and yet in an effort to save more blastocysts, he was cut down for performing life-saving and completely legal medical procedures.

I want to make this perfectly clear — this is another untempered act of terrorism in a long line of such acts, fomented by the ragemongers on television and radio whipping the radical zealot remainder of the Republican base into a frenzy ever since the political landscape shifted out from under them. If you are to refer to this act, please, from now on, call it terrorism, because that’s what it is — a political assassination meant to strike terror into people who hold a particular viewpoint. The right wing may have coined the phrase “war on terror/ism” but that shouldn’t insulate them from being accused of using the same tactics to further their own political ends.

And yet, this hypocrisy is drilled into religious folks as though it was internally consistent with the religious teachings of Christians’ most holy book, despite ample evidence the Bible really considers babies to be non-persons until they reach one month old — that’s one month *after birth*. No, being anti-abortion is not a Christian value, it is a conservative value, despite religion and conservatism having a huge overlap in the Venn diagram — remember, conservatism feeds off of religious folks as much as they can manage, because they are ordinarily a credulous and “earthy” folk.

Case in point, Ronald Reagan’s son is peddling free copies of a book ostensibly written by Reagan (yeah, prove it) entitled Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation. PZ Myers suggests we should all order a copy to deprive them of some money, and while I’m tempted to do so, frankly I wouldn’t want to have the carbon used to create that copy of the book on my conscience. It could be the most brilliant and insightful book in the world on the conservative ideas about abortion, but it would still be wrong-headed and evil just by virtue of arguing that a blastocyst’s life is worth more than a doctor’s or a mother’s.

I know a few of you readers really do feel strongly that abortion is wrong. What I’d really like to know is, have you ever faced the decision yourself? And if you were forced to decide to abort despite your own moral misgivings, would you prefer to have the ability to do it safely in a medical environment, or would you prefer to use a coathanger? Also, why should your moral qualms about it affect anyone else’s decision? I know people who have had abortions and frankly, they felt horrible about it, and still bear the emotional scars from it, even though the decision was the right one for both the baby that might have ended up being another burden on the adoption system, and the mother who may not even have survived the endeavour. Abortion rights are women’s rights, and if you legislate a woman’s uterus then you are anti-women’s-rights, period.

I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I’m sick and tired of seeing people shove their moral values down everyone’s throats when the decision is already a very personal and grave one, with devastating consequences outside of hellfire and brimstone and other such imaginary punishment from an imaginary god. It’s not like we pro-choice folks go out and abort after accidentally getting impregnated after a wild weekend of debaucherous orgies. That’s why it’s pro-choice not pro-death, not just because we’d prefer not to have some stupid framing war over the issue, but because the mother, whose life the pregnancy and motherhood would affect the most, has the most right to decide what is best for her, and her potential offspring’s, life.

There’s nothing particularly sacred about life, being that it’s nothing more than a runaway chain reaction. But what makes it sacred is the personal emotional bond formed between parents and their children, a bond that’s formed before the baby is even born, and which is broken to devastating emotional consequence when an abortion is had. What these conservative and religious folks don’t seem to get is that if any particular life is sacred, then ALL life is sacred — from the tiniest single-celled organism to the majestic trees and beautiful flowers up to the most complex multicellular creatures like we humans, and that means every single one of us humans, not just the ones that happen to follow your particular religion.

Put the lime in the tequilla and drink it all up

We’re having Mark and Sara over for barbecue and Stephanie Zvan’s Perfect Margaritas. We’re cheating by using bottled lime juice, but it’s 100% pure lime juice not some crazy chemical extract. Hopefully it won’t lose too much from it. I fully intend to update this post as the day goes on and our liquor stock drains. Fingers crossed!

Update: It was drizzly and gross out, so we turned our planned cooking into oven-food. The margaritas were unquestionably great, though we still have half a pitcher, and I’m pretty headachey now. Power went out briefly while showing Shawn of the Dead, which in turn led to drinking another margarita poured over lots of ice instead of blended. This turned the margaritas from deceptively tasty to definitely harsh enough booze to make your eyes cross involuntarily after a sip. Word of warning. We had no orange juice on hand, though there was some orange-strawberry-banana juice, and I didn’t feel brave enough to mix our already mixed fare.

I just got up from a nap, taken to keep my headache from turning into a migraine as it was threatening to make me part with all that tasty food we’d had today. Thankfully I was not forced to do so, though I suspect I’m not going to be able to eat anything til sometime tomorrow afternoon. Depending on how we feel tomorrow, I may get a bit more experimental with the remainder of that pitcher.

How to increase profit margins in the most asshat-ish way possible

DuWayne said it best in the comments on this thread:

Holy shit what fucking fun it is north of the border.

Yeah, no kidding bro. Canada’s latest foray into copyright just pegged my rage meter yet again. This time, they’re telling the blind, dyslexic, and otherwise disabled to fuck off and suffer when it comes to enjoying copyrighted works in an accessible manner, that otherwise would be protected if it weren’t for the attempted scuttling of this treaty.

The main aim of the treaty is to allow the cross-border import and export of digital copies of books and other copyrighted works in formats that are accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other reading disabilities, using special devices that present text as refreshable braille, computer generated text to speech, or large type. These works, which are expensive to make, are typically created under national exceptions to copyright law that are specifically written to benefit persons with disabilities…

And which luminary human rights paragons are leading the charge against such a law, one of the first ever to protect copyright end-users over copyright-owners? Never fear, fellow Canucks, we’re right up there arm in arm with not only the Vatican (because what religion really cares about blind people anyway? Even Jesus spat on them!), but also with the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and naturally the USA with Obama’s PURPORTEDLY ultra-far-left-wing administration. That’s right, all the really absurdly rich countries, including that one country that is literally made of a city built to support one gigantic fucking palace. Never mind that they’re all ganging up to beat up on blind people in order to protect their revenue streams from said blind people, who, without these otherwise exempted copies of the works, wouldn’t have any kind of access to the works, since YOU’RE NOT PROVIDING THEM WITH ACCESSIBLE VERSIONS TO BEGIN WITH!!

Don’t worry, Doctorow. Not all of Canada is upset with you. Some of us do not actually suffer from rectal-cranial inversion. The problem is, we just don’t have any say in the matter, because we are copyright end-users, not holders, and we don’t have any kind of money with which to lobby the government. Another example of the Golden Rule at work: they what gots the gold makes the rules.

Blood of the lamb, motherfucker.

You all need to read this ASAP. Not just read, but buy. This comic is amazing. It’s all online for free, but I swear to you that I will buy it to have as a coffee table book. Because oh my fucking Christ, is it brilliant. Go read Jesus Christ – In the Name of the Gun right now.

Nothing says ass-kicking like Jesus fighting a werewolf Hitler alongside a time-travelling Ernest Hemmingway. It’s sacrelicious!

And this is page 15 of like 90!!

That's right, he's running up the urine stream of a Nazi and delivering a Guile-sized Flash Kick. And this is just page 15 of like 90!!

Atheists’ Creeds

I sort of like the idea of a defined creed to which one must adhere if they are to lead a just and noble life. However, I have a bit of a problem with this one, in that it’s a direct ripoff of the Ten Commandments. It’s cute and all, but invites religious people to claim that it’s impossible for us atheists to have morality without God, and see, look, we’re even using God’s laws save for number 1 and 2 which we heathens have corrupted!

Really, since the Fifteen Ten Commandments comprise but ten of the 613 mitzvot of Jewish tradition, and those are likewise revamps of Hammurabi’s Code of Laws, why can’t we likewise take the kernel of truth codified in these commandments and distill them down to their essence?

For instance, the core of every one of the commandments, the one Jesus (if he existed) said all the other commandments hung upon — well, this, and “God’s the Only God For Me, And Better Be for You Too” — is “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Every one of those commandments that matters, is predicated on treating others respectfully and in a manner befitting our species’ specialization as a social animal. In other words, we evolved to be social creatures, and if we act with disregard to the rest of our species, we are doing ourselves as much harm as we’re doing others. That we codified laws and a system of punishment (imaginary spiritual punishment or otherwise) tells me that the need for these behaviours is so great that then, as like today, we needed laws to enforce adherence to them, even when most people were content to adhere to them without the laws being delineated as such ahead of time. Basically, we needed a way to ensure everyone was playing by the then undefined rules, so we defined them, and said “if you break these rules, you’ll suffer these consequences”.

And I would contend that, because life is short, and it is all that matters (being that there is no afterlife, no big reward or punishment, no game over screen with continue option, and no high score list), not only should you treat one another as well as possible, but you should also do your utmost to enjoy the time you have on this mortal coil. It’s practically a truism to say that you should live life to the fullest, so much so that it seems trite — this is because we all know and understand this fact intrinsically.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll realize that I just boiled down the commandments to the following:

  1. Be excellent to each other.
  2. Party on dudes.

Now those are laws I can get behind.

billandted460

Go big or go home!

Idiots go for the big insults right off the bat, comparing people to fascists or communists before even getting their arguments out of the starting gate. DuWayne Brayton takes it upon himself to provide some examples of his newest addendum to Godwin’s Law, which I’ve dubbed Brayton’s Corollary, and so you should all use it from now on. If you don’t, I’ll hunt you down and… I dunno, kill all your protesters and squelch your freedom of speech? I am after all Jason Chavez.

For those of you not in the know, Godwin’s Law is that as controversial Usenet posts grow in length (nowadays comment threads on blogs or forums apply equally), the likelihood of a comparison to Hitler or Nazis by opposing parties approaches 1. It’s well known that violating this law basically ends the conversation in forfeit by the transgressor. That’s not to say that the transgressor realizes this fact, though. Brayton’s Corollary postulates that the law need not only cover Hitler — there are dozens of other comparisons that are both unfair and inevitable in conversation with asshats like the anti-vaccination crowd, Creationists, fraudulent nonsense-peddlers like psychics, or (*gasp*) Republicans.

Computers, DVRs to be outlawed in Canada

The copyright row is heating up, after the Conference Board of Canada nearly wholly plagiarized the recommendations of the International Intellectual Property Association (IIPA) with regard to what Canada should do about infringement of copyrighted materials. Ignoring every recommendation of the report commissioned for this study, written by Law Professor Jeremy DeBeer, the IIPA — err, sorry, the CBC — instead recommended several restrictive actions. Please note that in this quote, “closely approximate[d]” means “copy and pasted verbatim”.

It also acknowledged “that some of the cited paragraphs closely approximate the wording of a source document.”

The report’s recommendations closely mirrored those advocated by the property alliance.

Both suggested:

* Protecting measures aimed at preventing unauthorized copying.
* Outlawing devices that enable such copying.
* Providing strong civil and criminal penalties for violations.
* Carefully defining exceptions to the rules.

Think for just a moment how much technology would be outlawed if everything capable of making a digital copy of an already digital format (CDs are not analog, remember). Beyond that, there’s always the analog “hole” — if you can play it, you can then record it being played via voice recording devices. Just because the digital format is locked, doesn’t mean the contents are at all protectable — if you can decode it to listen to it, you can also record it afterward.

Here’s an itemized list of every exception necessary to these rules:

  1. fair use.

That’s the exception used right now by every single “pirate”, bought and paid for by the levy applied to every single blank media bought in Canada (regardless of the legal arguments made on Wikipedia, that levy either insulates against copyright violation charges or it’s unconstitutional — you pick). By fair use, as long as you’re not making money off someone else’s work without the person getting a cut, you are within your rights to do so — whether via iPod, computer, DVR, satellite radio recording devices, blank CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, reel-to-reel or a vinyl record generator. The reality of copyright today is that the vast majority of people trade music and movies around to one another, buy what they like, and don’t buy everything they’ve sampled. GOOD movies make more money today than they ever had, with the industries making record-breaking profits annually, and likewise with GOOD music. If you have the right to inspect the entire product before making the decision to purchase it, then you have the ability to filter out the crap and only purchase those movies and music that are worth your money. No longer can the industries shovel onto consumers horrible tripe and still expect to make a profit.

Make no mistake, those are the stakes — it’s not about the industries being cheesed off that all sorts of people are hearing or watching stuff without paying, because that’s always happened from day one; it’s all about protecting the industries’ rights to rip you off by selling you crap that you wouldn’t pay for otherwise.

Some Canadian news

Here’s quick round-up of a few news tidbits salient to us Canucks.

Former PM Brian Mulroney might be lying about his having represented Karlheinz Schreiber’s business interests in a trip he made to China in October 1993. The scandal is that he took three hundred grand from Schreiber to lobby for a project to have German-made tanks built in Canada; Mulroney says he was paid $225,000 to peddle Schreiber’s tanks internationally. Beyond that, due to a tax loophole, Mulroney was taxed on only half of $225,000 for his back taxes which were voluntarily filed in 2000. That halving-back-taxes process was discontinued only last year. No matter which way you slice it, Mulroney is in for a shitstorm — either he used his influence to peddle wares of a very dubious military nature to the Chinese, or he took money to have tanks built in Canada and mis-declared his taxes, and either way he used a loophole to pay for only half what he should have, a loophole I certainly wasn’t aware of personally until reading about this. I’m of the opinion that everyone should pay taxes equally according to their means if you expect to reap the benefits of public education, roads, doctors, emergency services and military protection. If you’re making about ten years’ worth of the average Canadian’s salary just for making one measly lobbying trip, then you have the means to pay your damn taxes.

In Calgary police are holding an internal inquiry about a fatal shooting wherein a drunk man man with a sawed-off shotgun held a neighbor hostage for several hours over an alleged theft of a whammy bar. Like, for a guitar. Dude’s obviously unstable, and he has an illegally modified weapon that’ll do a fuckload of damage if he even points it moderately close to being in the right direction; far as I’m concerned, winging or tasing this guy isn’t an option. Good on them. Shameful loss of human life, but it’s better than the dead one being a guy who may not have even stolen a guitar part.

A pair of Canadians will be making a rendezvous in space, at the International Space Station, marking the first time in history two Canucks are in space simultaneously. No, I’m afraid Bob and Doug McKenzie will not get to finally “take off”, it’s actually going to be Bob Thirsk and Julie Payette. And they’re going to celebrate with, no joke, a picnic consisting of “smoked salmon pate, salmon jerky, maple butter, maple leaf cookies, bison pemmican, beef jerky and maple syrup.” There is so much awesome in this news bite I don’t even know where to begin. So I won’t.

More good news: the city of Vancouver has gone fully open-source, open standards! This is a huge win for people who consider this movement more than viable and important for individuals’ access to the data produced by government, but being vital to the continued prosperity of the computer industry as a whole. One councillor tried to water the bill down, and voted against a number of parts of the bill, but the bill passed in its entirety. Said Andrea Reimer, city councillor and proposer of the motion, regarding the members of the public in witness of this meeting:

“The only sort of negative [comment] was ‘Can’t you go further? Can’t you do more?’”

She added that some felt open-source software should be favoured, rather than just be put on equal footing with proprietary software.

“But I think the city would want to know how it works first before it jumps into that.”

That’s pretty well the only problem I’d have, too, is that if you’re going to respect open standards, you have to consider open source software first, because Microsoft’s track record with open standards of embrace-extend-extinguish is well documented. Being that Microsoft’s pretty well the only competition when it comes to office suites, and the “open formats” law affects mostly office documents, it’s only logical to consider Microsoft as being hostile to the goals in the proposal and so they should be looked at last, not equally.

And finally, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled on Monday that Radio Canada’s “Bye Bye” comedy program which aired on New Year’s Eve was wrong in airing a sketch suggesting that Obama’s skin color would make him easier to assassinate, and suggesting that blacks all look alike and that you should hide your purses. Yet they claim they’re not racist. Fuckers. Radio Canada is due to apply for a license for renewal in 2011, and stuff like this doesn’t slide off.

And that’s everything in my feed readers that pertains to Canada and interested me directly. Jason Thibeault, news aggregator extraordinaire.

Awesome SSH tricks

Greg Laden’s having problems with his ScienceBlogs site‘s commenting (those problems being that Movable Type sucks), so he’s started posting stuff on his old WordPress site. Stuff like this great Linux Journal video, showing you how to spawn a GUI-based program on a remote server over SSH.

I pointed out on that post’s comments, if you’re going to tunnel into the box, you’re better off to SSH in, then spawn VNC Viewer and redirect its output to your local machine. However, after I did so, I realized I’d made a tiny mistake about this — my reasoning behind this was that VNC’s compression is vastly superior to the compression afforded by using -C on the SSH command line. If you do spawn a full VNC session, you’re actually running the video through two layers of compression — one, from VNC Viewer to the VNC Server, and one from the local computer’s X server to the remote’s, to pick up the VNC Viewer output. This is more a logic flaw on my part than an actual issue, and in this way you can get a full VNC connection encrypted over SSH, so the technique is not without its merits.

This site also shows you how to forward a port over SSH. It’s tailored for RPM-based distributions, and slightly incorrect about the SSH command line to use, but still. Even tells you how to do it using PuTTY on Windows!

Here’s the magic:

sudo ssh -N -T -L 5901:192.168.1.100:6000 [email protected] &

If you try without the username@ip at the end, as shown on the site I just linked, SSH will just spit up a syntax text and quit.

You’ll need to be root or sudo this, as it’ll first ask for local privileges, and you’ll need an SSH-enabled account on the remote box. This command will connect your local port 6000 to the remote computer’s 5901 (VNC display 1), over SSH, and keeps the command running as a daemon in the background (the &). You can then use VNC Viewer from your local computer, to your own computer’s port 6000, and you’ll see the remote screen, tunneled through SSH and thus encrypted.

If you connect a bunch of these ports at startup, you can create a “bouncebox” of sorts if you want a single point-of-access for multiple servers. Try this with port 80 on each remote server and a different local port for each connection, and you can create a whole web of bounces on your internal network so you just need one NATted computer to give to your client / open to the net, and a whole slew of open ports on it will grant access to myriad things. This way you can also run iptables on that bouncebox and meter out who gets access to what from one centralized location.

Something like this was used at one of my previous jobs to grant access to servers in a super-secure data centre. I wasn’t one of the privileged few allowed access to this — I was but a mere LAN monkey at the time. I’ve since upgraded my skillset significantly after having moved on from the company, spurred on by a need to prove I’m as capable and clever as any one of their Linux guys. I’m getting there. And, it’s all self-taught, every shred of that computer knowledge that I use daily to bring home the bacon. Was going to be an English teacher, you see, until I realized computers are easier to deal with than people.

False to fact and false to reason

Herein Keith Olbermann vivisects everything Cheney and his little whirlwind tour stands for. This deserves to be watched more than once. Or on a constant loop, if you’re a Dick.

Update: and here’s the real reason Cheney’s sticking his bulbous head into every camera’s view — he’s actively shopping around his memoirs so as to cash out on what has been easily the most detrimental US administration to humankind, ever.