China DNS Server

Reporters Without Borders released a report Friday on Internet censorship in China, warning that this situation is getting worse:
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the latest Chinese effort to gag the Internet by means of directives to portals that have discussion groups. As a result of the directives, many news groups have closed since 23 February and filtering of online messages has been stepped up.
The report also highlights the rather disturbing decision of VeriSign to assign China a dedicated root DNS server.
I’m not an expert on Internet architecture, but I think Reporters Without Borders is quite correct to be concerned about this decision. According to root-servers.org, there are currently only 13 root servers globally; VeriSign appears to be planning to add one new server in Korea as well as the China server, which would “sit at the top of the DNS hierarchy in China, handling all .com and .net requests, and pointing top-level domain lookups to their respective servers” according to Computer Business Review Online.
This certainly sounds like it would at a minimum make Internet censorship a lot easier in China (by allowing the Chinese authorities to simply block a site at their root server, rather than having to do so across many lower-level servers). And when you look at the organizations currently running the existing root servers ( VeriSign itself, NASA Ames Research Center, University of Maryland, the Internet Software Consortium, etc.) it is rather jarring to picture adding “Chinese Ministry of Information Industry” to that list. (Yes, the U.S. military already runs a couple, but a) they built it to begin with, and b) Yes, damnit, I’m far more comfortable with our military than I am with China’s “Ministry of Information Industry”.)
Anyone else know more about the architecture involved here, or the previous steps China has taken towards controlling the Internet? Chime in, please…
Update: Here is the official VeriSign press release on the decision. The announcement seems to imply that VeriSign itself would maintain control over the server, stating “The DNS Internet constellation site operated and managed by VeriSign, will contain an authoritative master list of all top-level and country-specific domain names and will provide the first line for resolution services required by Chinese users.”
So does that mean the Chinese government will have no ability to mess with the server? Hard to say. The specific agreement was apparently “a Memorandum of Understanding” signed by the Ministry of Information Industry. One would assume that this agreement would shed significant light on the “who has control” question. Are such documents a matter of public record? And if not, why not?

Andrew and David

I’m not one of those who regularly heap scorn on Andrew Sullivan for his various failings; I actually think he’s a good writer and an consistently entertaining blogger.
But I can’t help noting that Andrew’s intellectual flexibility seems to continually bring him nothing but heartache. Let’s face it: the man has got a serious jones for abusive relationships.
First and most famously, he’s a gay man in the Catholic Church. If that isn’t asking to be kicked around, I don’t know what is.
And now, Andrew is shocked — shocked! — to learn that George W. Bush is, in fact, a social conservative who doesn’t approve of gay marriage.
Andrew, not to be harsh, but, er, what was your first clue?
Honestly, some men just seem to have a masochistic streak in them — looking for that special relationship to which they can devote their heart and get a few good beatings in return.
So I have to ask: look past the physical appearances, and tell me: could they be separated at birth?

Continue reading “Andrew and David”

Bear Hygiene

This is not acceptable, even with St. Patricks Day approaching.
I assure you all, I will be having words with the bear union about this shameful mistreatment of one of my fellow brothers. Will somebody please wash that bear!

Where Animals Go To…

The National Zoo in Washington is facing troubled times, and the director has resigned:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Zoo’s director resigned on Wednesday, hours after an expert panel criticized the park’s handling of animals, including the deaths of two red pandas, a zebra and an elephant.
“It’s time for me to move on at the end of this year,” zoo director Lucy Spelman said at a news conference. “I have become a lightning rod for too much attention.”

Ms. Spelman added that her departure will allow her more time to pursue her true passion: taxidermy.

Defending Marriage From… Marriage

My fundamental problem with “marriage” as an institution of the government is that in my ideal state (i.e., a truly secular one), marriage would be a religious concept, with the state only blessing “civil unions”. So essentially, if it were up to me, I’d rewrite all our laws to refer only to civil unions — which could be between any two people, regardless of gender — and then various religious denominations could do whatever they damn well please about blessing this or that particular permutation as acceptable or not for their faithful.
That, of course, ain’t going to happen. But while we’re all getting overexcited about Bush’s statements today, it’s important to remember that a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage ain’t going to happen either.
Let’s all remember our civics class, kids: amending the constitution requires the proposed amendment to pass both houses of Congress with a 2/3 majority, and to then be approved by 3/4 of the states.
With Republicans lacking a 2/3 majority in either house of Congress, what are the chances that the Democrats are actually going to allow such a measure to pass in an election year? About the same that George and Dick are actually shacking up together on the side: i.e., nil.
Furthermore, it isn’t even clear that Bush is actually proposing to ban gay marriage, contrary to most news coverage today.
So my counsel is: chill. This is political gamesmanship for the election; nothing more, nothing less.
With that said, however, a legal question did occur to me. Let’s say that an amendment did pass that said something explicit like “Marriage is defined as the union between one man and one woman.” Isn’t it still possible that some future Supreme Court could hold that this new amendment is trumped by the old 14th Amendment, which guarantees “equal protection of the laws” to all persons?
How would such a conflict be resolved, or would it simply be up to the particular sitting Court to choose as it will? To be extra-special sure that no such liberal activist Court ever took such a stance, would the safe bet be to include language in the new amendment explicitly stating that the 14th Amendment didn’t apply in this case? (And wouldn’t that just cause lots of fun politicially…)

Obey Slate Law!

Hmmm. Methinks those Slate characters are getting just a wee bit carried away. Note the pointer at the bottom of Richard Thompson Ford’s piece on the SF marriage scandals (emphasis mine):

Related in Slate
Read Dahlia Lithwick’s anaylsis of what exactly an attorney general can do to rein in an state official in conflict with slate law.

Update: Slate promptly fixed the typo after I emailed them about it, so it’s gone now…and I even got a personal “thanks” from Ms. Lithwick, who I’ve been known to blog-crush on from time to time. Happy day!

Random Walk: The Musical

From the useless but amusing category, the first ten tracks that popped up after I loaded my entire MP3 collection and hit shuffle:
Madonna – Music
Moby – Barracuda
U2 – The Three Sunrises
Ace of Base – Don’t Turn Around
Indigo Girls – Love’s Recovery
U2 – In a Little While
Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark – If You Leave
Moby – I Like to Score
Laurie Anderson – Sharkey’s Day
Eagles – Take it To The Limit
Frickin’ Windows Media sucks at shuffle, and so managed to get two songs each from two individual artists, which is pretty statistically unlikely, but all in all not a horribly misrepresentative sample…

Run Ralph, Run!

Okay, the more I think about Nader getting in the race, the more sense it actually makes to me. Yes, you read that right.
The first thing to understand is that Nader deciding to be in the race today is a very different thing than Nader deciding to still be in the race in November. Just because he gets in doesn’t mean he will stay in — and in fact, that is quite possibly the entire point.
At a minimum, Nader now gets to exert serious leverage against the Democratic establishment, because since he’s in, he now has the ability to give the Dems something they want: him out of the race. That gives him power to affect the Democratic agenda, and bring his pet issues closer to center stage in their platform. Having played chicken with Nader in 2000 and lost, Democratic leaders have to assume that he’s at least as crazy this year as he was then, and that he’s perfectly willing to kamakize the Democratic candidate once again if he doesn’t get his way. Say what you will about his 2000 run, but the man now has credibility.
So by getting in now, he guarantees himself influence over the Democrats, and leaves himself in complete control of his own destiny, with two perfectly adequate choices. If he gets enough of what he wants in the Democratic platform, he bows out of the race and clears the field for the Democratic nominee — allowing himself to be respected for both achieving some part of his progressive agenda and for doing his part to try to get Bush out of office.
And if he doesn’t get sufficient concessions — well then, it’s kamakaze time again. He can rightfully say that he was willing to leave the race if the Democrats had simply returned to the progressive principles they have abandoned — and Ralph now claims as his exclusive property — and sleep well at night knowing that he is a Man of Principle.
Once you go through the logic, it becomes rather hard to understand why Nader would even consider not running, actually…
PS – Citizen Smash is currently holding the fort as link-gatherer of blogosphere commentary on Nader’s entry

Nader and the Greens

Here’s an odd passage from Eric Boehlert’s Salon piece on Nader’s candidacy:
Even some of Nader’s closest progressive allies have their doubts. “I love and appreciate him, but I definitely want to get Bush out of office, so I won’t vote for him, which would be a first for me,” says Medea Benjamin, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate from California in 2000. She says it’s good that Nader is not running as a Green Party candidate, because it will allow someone else within the organization to gain national attention as a presidential candidate.
So let me get this straight… Ms. Benjamin disapproves of Ralph’s candidacy because it may hurt the chances of getting Bush out of office, but she is happy that the Greens will run another person as a national candidate in 2004? So there will be two leftist candidates on the national stage drawing votes from the Democrats?
This wasn’t all direct quotes, so there’s the possibility of misinterpretation here of course, but geez, if that’s not the case, and this is the left’s brain trust vision of election 2004, we kinda might as well not bother having one…

All Ralph, All the Time

Well, I’ll withhold my full thoughts on Ralph Nader jumping in the race until I can review his official announcement today, but we can at least start with his campaign website, which can be accurately summarized as lame.
No weblog. No forums. No chat rooms. In fact, not a trace of interactivity or real dialogue with the people Nader surely will claim to be giving voice to. (Oh, I’m sorry: he has a feedback form. My bad.)
It’s all so very pre-Dean; so very 2003.
(Hey Ralph, I hear Joe Trippi is looking for work… give him a call! )
Jeff, please call your office; you can take it from here…

Lair on Liberation

Lair on link whoring:
“NZ Bear went from being a highly observant and astute individual blogging to nothing more than an emcee for his link-engines, a mechanic enslaved by the prison of his own design. He broke free from it. I nearly shit myself with glee, but I made it to the bathroom in time.”
It wasn’t quite a prison… I have this nice big comfy desk chair, and coffee and beer, and… nevermind.
Thanks Lair. For the kind words, er, not for the extra ‘sharing’.

The Reason that Dare Not Speak Its Name

And the #1 reason to hope Kerry does, in fact, become the Democratic nominee:
To ensure that Mickey continues in his current agitatedly inspired state of frustrated indignation. You can just picture him gnawing on a pencil somewhere everytime Kerry takes a state or morbidly intones “Bring…it…on!” — or worse, does both simultaneously.
I lack faith that Kaus could sustain the kind of gleefully meanspirited commentary he’s treated us to for the last few weeks were Edwards to somehow end up with the nomination. Because Edwards is, you know, nice.
Unless, of course, we could convince Edwards to simultaneously attack welfare reform and declare his love for the Chrysler 300’s tail lights… it’s a valid Plan B to fall back on, I suppose…

Back to Basics

OK folks, a little announcement. I’ve decided to return to my roots, so to speak, and try to focus more of my blogging energies on, well, blogging. Writing. Thinking. Yammering away and sharing my allegedly creative energies with y’all through my own little corner of the blogosphere here at TTLB.
The !Eco will stay, and I’ll continue to maintain it, as I think I’d be lynched if I tried to shut it down. But I’m putting the !NBS, and pretty much everything else, on indefinite hiatus. The Showcase has run its course, I think, and quite frankly, it just hasn’t been much fun lately. It turned into more work than pleasure, and to be blunt, this is a hobby, and I’m in it for the fun.
As a reminder to myself of this refound purpose, I’ve hacked the Ecosystem to restrict my own inbound links — and ranking — to be based only on the links I get to the TTLB front page and individual posts. No longer will inbound links to the Ecosystem, the Showcase, the Alliances pages, or any of the other nonsense around here count towards my ranking. This is hardly perfect, of course; I’m sure plenty of people link to my front page because of the Ecosystem and don’t care one whit for my purple prose. But hey, it’s a symbolic gesture, so take it for what it’s worth.
As a result, I’ve dropped down (less than I had expected, actually) to #36: a Playful Primate. I kind of like it down here. Maybe someday I’ll make it back up to Mortal Human status, or, heaven forbid, ascend once more to the celestial temple of the Higher Beings. But this time around, if it happens, it will be for my writing, not my gadgets.
Life is still busy, so I promise no miraculous return to the long-past days (of unemployment) when I posted every day, many times a day. But I’ll try to pick up the pace a bit. I hope you’ll stick around to see it.
Regards…
-NZB

Charge it!

NPR reports that the Michigan Democratic Party has found a new way to raise campaign funds: offering their own credit card:
Michigan’s Democratic Party will ask caucus goers Saturday to apply for “affinity” credit cards as a way to raise campaign money. The party will receive $45 for each person who signs up for the special card, plus 1 percent of the value of purchases made on it. Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio reports.
Of course, since it’s a Democratic party card, no matter how much you charge, the bill gets sent to somebody else.

Shades of Evil

Sasha Volokh has taken some heat for denying the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a morally evil event. Despite taking heavy fire from folks like Meryl, he’s sticking to his guns:
Alas, I still don’t buy the moral uniqueness. To repeat my point from below: the Holocaust is evil because killing six million Jews is six million murders, and committing six million murders is highly, highly evil. Really evil. But not more evil than killing six million other innocents. (As I’ve mentioned below, the Holocaust also has lots of characteristics that make it especially grisly, especially memorable, especially important as a cautionary tale, especially relevant in a world of ethnic warfare, etc.; but you can be all those things without having extra evil.)
It’s hard to argue uniqueness of the Holocaust, but I certainly disagree with Sasha that there wasn’t “extra evil” involved in the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews as a people. I can think of two ways in particular:
1) The Nazis planned to not only destroy all individual Jews, but in so doing, destroy Jewish culture and society itself. Had they succeeded, it would have represented a loss to humanity above and beyond that of the individual human lives ended. The complete destruction of Jewish heritage, food, music, art, and custom (or that of any other ethnic or cultural group) is surely a crime in and of itself to be added to the moral evil of the actual murders.
2) From a more scientific viewpoint, if you agree that Jews contstitute an actual ethnic group with particular genetic characteristics (a slippery concept at best, but one I believe can be generally accepted as roughly true), then there is an additional evil involved in trying to wipe them out. It is generally accepted that diversity in humanity’s genetic stock is a good thing in and of itself: more diversity leaves a population better able to resist disease, changes in the environment or other specific challenges. Any reduction in that diversity, therefore — by, say, wiping an entire ethnic group out — is an actual negative to the species as a whole. Hence: extra evil.
PS – Yes, rumors of my demise have been mildly exaggerated. All is well (knock wood), but no, I’m not bringing back the Showcase or catching up on Ecosystem business quite yet…