Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Godwin's Law

I hadn't heard of Godwin's Law before reading today's xkcd strip, and while the law specifies on-line discussions, a follow-on point attributed to Godwin got me thinking. First, the law:
As an on-line discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that overuse of the Nazi/Hitler comparison should be avoided, as it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.

I'm going to make another leap and say that the same logic applies to Neville Chamberlain comparisons. And I know I'm a bit late on this one, but, even after the public disaster, I don't think Elizabeth May gets that. Yes, she was sorry the day before, but, ooo, ooo! They did it too!

I'm sorry, if she couldn't do without the glass-houses comment, at least reiterate that it was a mistake. And I did laugh at the CBC radio news bit that played Layton's "I would never..." followed by his very own - deeply disgusted, I might add - Chamberlain reference in parliament a few years ago. So, no, I'm not claiming that no one should've pointed out this double standard. I just get this... smugness from the Green party site that seems to miss the point.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Conservatives propose to extend voting period

Two thoughts come to mind: 1) Has the government determined that a significant portion of the people who aren't voting cite polling booth hours when asked why they don't? And 2) Have they considered how this will change the polling booth security environment?

On the first point, I believe government employees are guaranteed a break to vote if their shift spans the polling booth hours. Can anyone confirm this? Or shed light on any private-sector policies?

On the second point, the longer they have to ensure the integrity of those ballot boxes, the greater their vulnerability.

Finally, if the answer to the first question is no, then the government could be wasting a lot of money, in areas related to the second question and beyond.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The U.S. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

Sharon Terry, president of the Genetic Alliance:
The American public can now access genetic tests, feel safe about their genetic information not being misused and participate in research that involves genetic information.

This is certainly a step down that path, but there are still many to go: there are many uses for genetic information beyond screening related to employment and insurance. And the bigger problem is collecting, using and retaining these data properly.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NASA ponders death

A NASA document on crew health shows how the agency is pondering some of the ethical questions raised by deep space exploration. I was again reminded of Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land as I read that sex would be dealt with separately: the book opens with, oddly enough, a look at a manned mission to Mars and the associated, seemingly-thorough screening process to select the crew. The mission ends in tragedy because of... you guessed it: sex.

I'm not suggesting that NASA will overlook this - the article suggests that sex will be considered under the category of behavioural issues. This is just one of those top-of-the-head posts.