Alice Cooper: Too hot for Tampere

Paul Cashmere writing for reports on a rather icy welcome received by Alice Cooper. Apparently, the act is not welcomed in Tampere, Finland, as he is barred from performing at Tampere Areena Oy per a statement issued by the managing director, Harri Wiherkoski, which states in part “Artists who express suspicious values from Christianity’s point of view cannot be allowed to perform at the venue.”

Not to be outdone, Alice Cooper management has invited fans of the act to come to Helsinki which, it would seem, is outside of Finland’s version of the Bible Belt. Quoting from the article:

In response, Alice Cooper management said “We hope fans from Tampere denied access to these ‘suspicious values’ can come to Helsinki and make their own judgment. What’s really ‘suspicious’ to us is the act of judging something that one has never seen, heard or, otherwise, experienced. There’s nothing like an open mind and, clearly, Mr. Wiherkoski has nothing like one.”

Some rather harsh words for Mr. Wiherkoski. But it is my firm belief that he deserves them. If Alice Cooper was booked at a church, I could see the logic behind the restrictions on “suspicious values.” Culturally literate people know what Alice Cooper is about, and can see far above and beyond attempts to unjustly paint the concert as a thinly-veiled demon worship session. Unfortunately, it seems cultural literacy is lacking in Tampere. Based on what I’ve read, I think when I go to Finland, that’s a city I’d rather avoid.

How does one prove lesbianism?

The Daily Mail reports on probably one of the most bizarre deportation hearings I’ve ever read about.

An anonymous woman referred to in court only as “A” has been threatened with extradition because of a dispute over her sexual identity. In essence, the Home Office (a UK government agency which oversees immigration, the rough equivalent of the US ICE) does not believe the woman is really a lesbian.

The complicating issues are that A appears to have become a lesbian while imprisoned on drug charges, and she faces persecution in Jamaica as a lesbian if deported.

A quote from the article:

Overturning that ruling today, Lord Justice Goldring said: ‘A has now been in a series of exclusively lesbian sexual relationships over some four years. That is, on its face, cogent evidence that she is a lesbian, or predominantly a lesbian, by sexual identity.

‘What might have begun as sexual experimentation with lesbianism could have ended with it being her sole or predominant sexual orientation. That does not appear to have been adequately considered or, at least, explained by the tribunal’.

Goldring goes on to order a fresh consideration of A’s case by another tribunal.

My take on the whole thing:

First, I think it’s ridiculously invasive and rather silly to expect someone to attempt to prove, in court, a matter as sensitive and private as sexual preference. I further consider the fact that A’s deportation to Jamaica carries the consequences it does rather tragic.

Second, how can four years of exclusively lesbian relationships not be enough to establish that maybe, just maybe, A is now exclusively batting for the other team? If not, what does the Home Office expect? I would certainly hope that the Home Office comes to their senses about this.

Third, whatever happened in prison happened, and once one has completed the sentence assessed by the courts, one is still a human being. If the responsibility of the rest of society to someone like A to treat her like a human being ended upon her conviction of whatever crime, then there really is no sense in handing out anything but life sentences without possibility of parole (“throw away the key”) or the death penalty. The fact that A has been released says she has been sanctioned enough for her crimes.

Even if A wasn’t a lesbian before, she should probably be considered one now, and to just ship her back to Jamaica is at best negligent and at worst downright reckless and a flagrant violation of the standards by which decent people live. I’m not saying necessarily that she should be allowed to stay in the UK; maybe another country will let her live there.

The comments, not surprisingly, blast the Home Office and mostly say “ship her back already.” To which I respond: I’m so glad I don’t live in the UK.

The end of blogging as we know it in the UK?

In perhaps the most daft attack on blogging as free speech, the High Court in London (UK) has ruled bloggers have no right to anonymity, as reported by Yahoo! News UK.

The basis of the ruling comes under the assertion that “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.” I am horrified at the implication made here, as many things one does that would nominally qualify as public activities, one would still expect some degree of anonymity.

Granted, the case here involves a public official and is far from an ideal test case. But it’s a chilling effect, and sadly, I would expect no better from certain US courts. (This is par for the course in e.g. China and maybe even Iran under the current administration there.)

There are and will always be peer-to-peer anonymity-friendly networks like Freenet, though the chilling effect is still present because moving content such as a blog-like journal to such a network reduces the audience substantially. However, it is my stance now, and has been for some time, that true free speech comes only with anonymity, in light of the fact that most censorship comes “after the fact.” Thomas Paine originally published the pamphlet “Common Sense” anonymously during the American Revolution–and for good reason (as shown in this Wikipedia illustration).

Today, Paine would probably write a blog, and/or post to an online Web-based forum. In much the same way that “crimes of the high seas” has been re-interpreted to include air travel, freedom of the press and freedom of speech include publishing via the Internet and similar electronic media.

In summary, the authoring of a pamphlet such as Paine’s is no more a public activity than writing a blog accessible via the Internet, and the latter is in fact the modern day equivalent of the former. I think it is unfortunate that the High Court in London has found nearly the exact opposite to be true.

What was Tweetdeck thinking?

A recent Techcrunch article absolutely stunned me. The developers of Tweetdeck are doing something I find absolutely disgraceful: charging services to appear in their proprietary Twitter client, to the tune of $50,000 or so.

Charging for ad banner space is one thing. What Tweetdeck is doing is exactly a reason I use primarily free software (free as in freedom, as defined by the FSF and Richard Stallman): it is nothing short of an overt exploitation of the power a programmer has over the users. I would go as far as to say it is an implicit violation of the trust users (people like you) place in the people writing the software the users plan to use.

Worse, this is far, far more insidious than a breach of trust committed by a programmer writing a virus, worm, or trojan masquerading as a legitimate application. This is the programmer– or the programmer’s boss– playing deity here, deciding what services are included with a program on a basis most arbitrary to the users.

At the very least, I think honest developers adopting such a scheme should tell their users who paid to be included, and about how much. Ideally, they would make a full disclosure of those who did not meet the criteria for inclusion.

Just so we’re clear, in the case of Tweetdeck,  I’m not holding my breath.

Prank or crime? Impersonating Joba

A New York Post story which came to my attention via @emoltzen on Twitter is particularly disturbing on more than one level.

It is less than honest to claim to be someone or something you’re not. While I am no real fan of laws which rely heavily on intent (the reasoning behind this I will save for another entry), this is one rare case where the concept may do some good. I don’t think the accused in this story really set out to convince the entire town he was in fact Joba Chaimberlain and exploiting it.

If the bagel shop chose to give this man a free bagel based on resemblance alone, that’s really on them. I think it’s a gross miscarriage of justice to prosecute someone for theft for what is in all honesty, the shop’s error. This is, after all, about a bagel.

I am also disturbed about “disorderly conduct” being tacked on to the list of charges. I don’t see exactly how that comes into play unless the accused really was being disorderly, something not really indicated in the article. This is a disturbing trend, the dartboard approach to criminal justice: throw a bunch of charges at the accused, and hope some of them stick.

I hope for a “not guilty” verdict, and maybe the bagel shop employees finding a way to fine-tune their B.S. detectors. And, if necessary, I’ll write a list of signs that someone who claims to be me isn’t the genuine article. For now, I’ll just say that I rarely eat bagels.