Friday, December 30, 2011

SOPA: 20 Reasons Why It's a Really Bad Idea

"20 Ways SOPA Can Affect The Internet"
Info Carnivore (December 30, 2011)

"The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is now before the American Congress, waiting to be passed or not. With online piracy at an all time high, the US feels that it’s become almost impossible to manage traffic across borders. While the Congress ponders over this, the internet population is concerned as to how SOPA will affect the internet...."

The Lemming ranted about SOPA on Wednesday. Normally, there wouldn't be another post about the same topic for - maybe a week or more. In this case, the Lemming thinks a little repetition won't hurt.

SOPA may be well-intentioned, but the Lemming thinks that Congress should stop, take a deep breath, tear the thing up, and start over.

The Info Carnivore post is mostly a 20-point list about SOPA. It's not good news. Here's a sample:

Forget About Online Business, Freedom of Speech

"...1. Death Penalty For Online Businesses: SOPA authorizes sites that are reported for copyright infringement to be cut off from their domain name. ISPs can force advertisers and payment processors to suspend their services to the site...."

That "death penalty" phrase is a bit over-stated. The Lemming has heard or read nothing to indicate that business owners would actually be executed under SOPA provisions. Still, as a metaphor for driving a company out of business, it's appropriate.

"...6. Free Speech Rights Will Be Censored: Online businesses, user-generated content sites and social media sites will try to play it safe and start heavily censoring user content. This can stifle users’ free speech rights, making the internet a risky place to say anything at all...."

"It can't happen here?" The Lemming remembers McCarthyism and political correctness. Moving on.

'Who Needs a Trial?'

"...2. Sites Blocked And Sued For User Content: Sites which host copyright content uploaded by users can be blacklisted and blocked via ISPs, search engines and payment processors. This can be done without the benefit of a court hearing...."

Let's look at #2 again. Sites that host content uploaded by users can be driven offline. Maybe that doesn't sound so bad: SOPA is against pirates, right? Here's the problem: "...This can be done without the benefit of a court hearing...."

Let's look at a hypothetical situation. You wake up some morning, go online, and try to find something on CNET's It's not there any more. Google reports that there's no such site. A few weeks, maybe months or years, later, you find out why. Somebody told the SOPA enforcers that something on was illegal. So the site was taken off the Internet.

Why bother with a trial?

Is that being alarmist? Maybe. But governments, governmental agencies, and officials have been known to do odd things.

The Info Carnivore post discusses what we can expect from SOPA:
  1. Death Penalty For Online Businesses
  2. Sites Blocked And Sued For User Content
  3. Copyright Holders Can Sue Sites
  4. Social Media Held Accountable
  5. Small Tech Companies To Suffer
  6. Free Speech Rights Will Be Censored
  7. Downloading Free Content Will Become Risky
  8. Legitimate Business Will Be Held Liable
  9. Open Source Sites May Shut Down
  10. DNS System Will Be Undermined
  11. Internet Speeds May Slow Down
  12. Downgrade Attacks Will Increase
  13. Use Of Illegal Web Proxies Will Increase
  14. Emergency Proxy Servers May Be Made Illegal
  15. Streaming Sites Will Be Penalized
  16. Online Album Sites Will Shut Down
  17. Browsers Will Be Penalized
  18. ISPs Will Infringe On Privacy
  19. Legitimate Links Can Be Deleted
  20. Browser Ability To Generate Fair Links Will Be Impacted
Pirated intellectual property is a real issue, one that should be addressed. But SOPA doesn't look like a solution.

Whether SOPA is an ill-considered effort to show how busy Congressional incumbents are, or an effort to grab control of what commoners may say or see on the Internet: SOPA looks like a really bad idea. For everybody except whoever winds up running it.

A tip of the Lemming's hat to danielsnyder1, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Related posts:
News and views:

New Year's Eve Celebration, and How to Survive It

"New Year's Eve Survival Guide"
Karlie Pouliot, (December 29, 2011)

"New Year's Eve is not only one of the biggest nights of the year – but it can also be one of the most expensive if you're not careful. Believe me, my husband and I have made our share of pricey mistakes in the past. Just a few years ago, we were ringing in the New Year with friends in New York City, and had plenty of “backup” cash at the beginning of the night, but that quickly changed after we got overly excited and ordered a few too many bottles of champagne.

"You know how it goes when everyone is feeling all festive. The drinks are flowing and so is the money.

"Mistake No. 1: Ordering a bottle of champagne without looking at the price on the menu...."

The article is a pretty good common-sense guide for folks who go out on the town on New Year's Eve. Some of the advice is economic: like the 'champagne' anecdote. Which reminds the Lemming of the old saying: "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

Moving on.

The next item was about economics and pedicabs: "a tricycle (usually propelled by pedalling); used in the Orient for transporting passengers for hire." (Princeton's WordNet) It's a sort of next-generation rickshaw, and apparently it isn't 'demeaning' to earn a living with one these days. And that's another topic.

The rest is a sort of Q and A, done in collaboration with New York Magazine's nightlife editor, Vanita Salisbury. It gives advice on champagne, taxis, designated drivers, more champagne, wine, still more champagne, bars, dinner, hors d'oeuvres, and why you should carry lots of cash.

Drink - WATER?!

There's also, mercifully, this paragraph:

"...Remember to drink water. This serves three purposes: 1. You consume less booze, thereby spending less cash 2. You stay hydrated 3. You'll temper the massive hangover that will inevitably come the next day. You can find some tips for dealing with hangovers here...."

With respect to the long-standing tradition of getting bombed, boozed, buzzed, inebriated, loaded, looped, muddled, plastered, potted, sloppy, smashed, tanked, three sheets to the wind, and sincerely under the influence, on the night of December 31: the Lemming suggests that waking up with hairy eyeballs and a furry tongue may not be worth it.

There's the 'never touch the stuff' approach. And that old standby: know your limit, and stay under it. Designated drivers are a good idea, too. Nothing takes the shine off a celebration quite like ending up in a morgue.

The Lemming on New Year's Eve

On most New Year's Eves, the Lemming joins the noisy throng in New York City's Times Square, and watches the big Waterford crystal ball go down. Virtually joins the throng that is: via television.

It's a great deal less expensive, much less chilly, and probably as much fun as actually being there. For the Lemming. Quite a few folks seem to prefer being there, physically.

Apart from a virtual trip to the Big Apple, the Lemming may call up some recorded entertainment, sit back, and remember the will be that was. That would make a great title for a book: and did, back in 1987. And that's another topic.

Remembering the will be that was.

Related posts:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SOPA, Censorship, the Twits in Washington, and a Ranting Lemming

Will you sleep more soundly tonight, knowing that the American Congress is protecting you from big, bad pirates? And those dastardly delinquents who wantonly post photos of kittens online?

The Lemming won't.

Beware: Congress is in Session

"No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session."
(Gideon J. Tucker in Final Accounting in the Estate of A. B. (1866))

Particularly with a presidential election coming up in 2012, quite a few incumbents are wondering if this is the year when their constituents get fed up: or whether their party will hang onto whatever they grabbed in the last election.

With everyone from the top chair-warmers to the least-senior member of the House hellbent on either getting their own butts replanted in Congress, or helping their party reelect someone else - there's likely to be some weird legislation proposed, to show how hard the folks in Congress are working.

Like SOPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act. Beloved by record labels, movie studios and TV networks.

SOPA, Censorship, and Congress

It's not that the Lemming doesn't like Congress. For what it's worth, the Lemming is fairly confident that quite a few members of Congress stay sober for days at a time, and really believe that they're doing something constructive with other people's money.

SOPA is (probably) intended to protect the intellectual property rights of MGM, Warner Music Group, and CBS.

So far, that's not a problem for the Lemming. Who knows? Content providers at the other end of the influence spectrum might benefit: at least as a side effect.

Copyright, and other intellectual property rights, are important to the Lemming. But so is freedom of speech.

Let's look at what our betters in Washington are up to:

From Talkies to File Sharing Sites

Back in the 'Good Old Days,' someone wanting to see a motion picture had to go to a theater and pay for a ticket. The theater owner, distribution company, and movie studio brass all got a piece of the action. Truck drivers, concession clerks, and yes-men got a few cents on the dollar, too, in their paychecks. Then big, bad television came along.

As movie moguls adjusted to broadcast television: cable came along, and once again 'civilization was threatened' by something new. Somehow, we survived.

Then the Internet descended on entrenched corporate bigwigs.

Information Age technology and social structures have made it possible for folks to share enormous amounts of information: quickly; efficiently; inexpensively; and without the permission of America's traditional information gatekeepers. (See "What is an Information Gatekeeper?," Another War-on-Terror Blog (August 14, 2009))

The Lemming likes the Information Age: particularly since the Lemming isn't quite on the same page, ideologically or otherwise, with America's 'better sort.' And that's almost another topic.

Protecting Hollywood From Movie Lovers

The dark side of Information Age technology is that almost anyone can, with very little specialized equipment or training, copy anything that's 'digitized:'
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Software
  • Photographs
  • Music
  • The inside of a bubble gum wrapper
  • Anything
Some of that information is, or should be, protected by copyright, trademark, or other existing intellectual property rights laws.

As a result, folks who once paid for a ticket to see a movie, or sat through a minute of commercials for every two minutes of programming, can now - legally or not - download pretty much the same movie for next to no cost.

Here's how SOPA is supposed to work, to protect MGM and other copyright holders:
  1. Force ISPs to block access to Domain Name System servers to infringing foreign sites
  2. Force search providers to make such sites that have been flagged as infringing undiscoverable
  3. Force payments processors to shut down the ability for infringing sites to make money
  4. Force Internet advertisers to cease doing business with an infringing site
  5. Prevent its service from providing advertisements to or relating to the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order or a portion of such site specified in the order
    (Source: ReadWriteWeb)
Okay: SOPA will give us a Federal bureaucracy with the power to stamp out file-sharing sites, keep Google from showing us websites that the folks in Washington don't think we should know about, and keep money flowing into a few corporate offices?

Who could possibly find a problem with that?

Protected From the Wicked, Wicked Web?

It's been quite a few years, since the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority joined forced to 'save the children' from the wicked, wicked Web. The Lemming isn't making that up, by the way. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 9, 2008))

The point of that reminiscence is that, when old-school folks see something new coming: quite a few try to get 'the government' to protect them from folks who have kept up with the times. It's understandable, maybe: but that doesn't make it right.

Intellectual Property Rights, Censorship, and the Lemming

About once a month, the Lemming has a guest post on another blog: but apart from that, what the Lemming posts or publishes is either a sort of micro-review, like most of this blog, or original content with the occasional cited quotation.

The Lemming is a 'content provider,' so intellectual property rights are important to the Lemming. Some effort goes into writing a post, or making a picture: and the Lemming thinks it's reasonable that whoever created the organized information should be rewarded. Or at least acknowledged. That's why the Lemming puts links to wherever the text or pictures in micro-reviews came from.

Then there's the 'I stole it fair and square' school of thought, whose adherents seem peeved when someone objects to publication-without-credit. Or payment.

Maybe the Lemming's old-fashioned after all: but it seems that acknowledging authorship or other creative credit isn't unreasonable.

What seems to be worrying folks about SOPA is censorship.

That's not, the Lemming hopes, what SOPA's supporters want.

But the Lemming remembers the 'good old days' when 'dirty' movies and shows were "banned in Boston." And there were odd views in 'nice' television, about pregnancy, and double beds.

A few decades later, and we had 'thought police' on campus, and legal sanctions against "hate speech."1 All of which isn't censorship: just ask the folks doing the censoring, and they'll re-educate you.

The End of Civilization?

Even if SOPA passes, and America gets 'protected' from photos of kittens and bunny rabbits, and pirated movies: life will go on. The Lemming thinks that, given the value Americans and others put on showing photos of their rabbits, sounding off on Congressional shenanigans, and passing jokes along - after a few more election cycles, and maybe the equivalent of the Army-McCarthy Hearings, a new set of Congressional twits will undo some of the damage.

The Lemming also thinks that we'd all be better off - with the possible exception of a few old-school studios and networks - if SOPA doesn't pass.

A few quotes from news and views, the usual links to related posts, and the Lemming's done.

GoDaddy, Boycott, and SOPA

"Reddit Users to Target Supporters of SOPA in Congress After Successful Boycott of GoDaddy"
Tech, Forbes, (December 28, 2011)

"When revealed that it was a supporter of the internet censorship legislation bills SOPA/PIPA, Reddit users and a few big names in the internet business including Wikipedia decided to boycott the web-hosting company.

"They threatened to pull their domains, stop using GoDaddy, and get their friends and associates to do the same.

"Within a couple days, GoDaddy had reversed its position despite the fact that it had helped write SOPA and was exempt from its rules and regulations. The boycott had been a wild success, forcing the company's hand much quicker than anyone had anticipated...."

Somehow, the GoDaddy connection with SOPA has captured old-school journalists' attention. Understandably, perhaps, considering the GoDaddy's sexy commercials. Imagine! Using attractive women to market something!

The Lemming uses some of GoDaddy's online services: but not because of their commercials. The Lemming went through the usual 'due diligence' process, and found that GoDaddy had a very favorable benefit/risk/cost ratio.

Moving on.

Beware the Foreign Pirates?

"Online piracy a hot issue for Congress in January"
Mike Snider, USA TODAY (December 28, 2011)

"A hot issue awaits Congress when it returns in January: online piracy.

"Both houses have bills to combat copyright infringement of movies, music and other intellectual property on rogue, non-U.S.-based websites.

"Powerful interests are facing off over the proposals: Content creators, led by Hollywood and the music industry, are pushing for the most stringent measures. Opposing them are tech and electronics giants.

"Sixteen tech companies, including Google, PayPal and Twitter, took out newspaper ads this month charging that the bills would 'give the U.S. government the power to censor the Web using techniques similar to those used by China.'..."

Okay, the Lemming acknowledges that USA Today cites some of SOPA's downside. But - "online piracy;" "rogue, non-U.S.-based websites;" "Content creators, led by Hollywood and the music industry;" "tech and electronics giants?"

Sorry, but the last that the Lemming heard, the real "content creators" still don't get paid all that much when a studio condescends to use what they've created. Yes, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have done pretty well. But most screenwriters, musicians, actors, and all the rest of the folks who actually create what the studio's marketing department sells?

Intellectual property rights are important: but so, in the Lemming's opinion, is the notion of rewarding the flunky with the ideas: not just the guy in the corner office.

SOPA: There's More than GoDaddy Going On Here

"On Eve of Net Boycott, Dump GoDaddy Exodus Begins"
Perry Chiaramonte, (December 28, 2011)

"It's a boycott of viral proportions., one of the largest domain registrars on the Internet, stands to potentially lose thousands of customers on Thursday, Dec. 29, after the company gave and then repealed its support for a controversial bill before Congress that many fear could heavily restrict the web.

"On the eve of what has been dubbed 'Dump Go Daddy Day,' -- pronounced "imager," it's one of the largest image hosting sites in the world, responsible for an astonishing 28 terabytes of bandwidth and nearly 200 million page views today alone -- has already changed its registry entries, foreshadowing the potential negative effect of a boycott set to begin Thursday morning.

" originally supported the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) -- which opponents say will hinder free speech and infringe on first amendment rights -- but quickly recanted its position when the call of a boycott circulated.

" 'The outcry kind of forced our hand,' imgur founder and owner Alan Schaaf told 'I'm against the SOPA act and imgur as a company is against it. We just feel it is terrible that would support this legislation.'

"SOPA would make websites responsible for illegal copyright content uploaded by any user, making it difficult if not impossible for companies like Imgur, YouTube, and Facebook to operate...."

Taking a deep breath and counting to 10: the Lemming repeats what was previously reported. GoDaddy originally supported SOPA. Then, as the online equivalent of an angry mob with pitchforks and torches approached the gates, decided to be sensible.

That's one of the things the Lemming likes about the Internet today: even if all three broadcast networks and The New York Times decide that The Masses shouldn't know about something: Americans can still find out.

We're not limited to what a relatively small number of people, mostly in the New England states, think we should know.

With something like SOPA 'protecting' us? Maybe not.

Related posts:
News and views:

1 Laws against slander and libel were already on the books. What "hate speech" regulation did was allow criticism of the dominant culture's beliefs to be defined as 'hateful.' As a marketing ploy, labeling criticism as "hate" was an effective way to mask censorship.

New York City, Stray Cats, Shag, and Sense

"Architects Design Homes for NYC's Stray Cats"
Carolina Worrell, ENR New York, via Architectural Record (December 27, 2011)

"Area architects may not have had to claw their way in but they recently put their design and engineering skills to the test on an animal-rescue mission to design warm, weatherproof, portable and safe shelters for New York City's stray cats. The designers volunteered their time and resources to design and build the shelters for the second annual Architects for Animals competition, part of the non-profit Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals.

"There are more than 10,000 stray cats in New York City, says Co Adaptive Architecture, a Brooklyn-based design firm that supports socially and environmentally beneficial work for non-profit organizations...."

At that point, the Lemming didn't know what to expect. Architects have been known to do bizarre things when let off the leash. Add heady buzzwords like "environmentally beneficial" and "non-profit," and there's no telling what could happen.

Back to the article.

"...Co Adaptive teamed with architect Kathryn Walton, founder of the non-profit The American Street Cat, Inc., to win this year's competition with a shelter that includes a data-monitoring device. The shelter, which is constructed of recycled and donated materials, is equipped with a pressure sensor, LED light, and a radio transmitter that lights up when occupied and sends information to a base station that posts the weight of the cat and the duration of its stay on the web in real time.

" 'Since one base station can support hundreds of shelters within a one-mile radius, multiple shelters located within multiple cat colonies can provide useful data for caretakers and certified trap-neuter-return (TNR) workers,' Co Adaptive says. The firm hopes that the shelter will ultimately be used 'to expedite efforts to minimize the overpopulation problem.'..."

Okay: collecting data, and managing the city's stray cat population in what seems to be a humane way, makes sense. So far, so good.

Some of the architects lived down to the Lemming's expectations. There's 'The Shag,' that looks like a refugee from a '70s pet store. The Lemming suspects that the architect may have hoped that a pet supply company would take notice: nothing wrong with that, by itself, but probably not the most efficient way to deal with New York City's stray cats.

(from Architectural Record, used w/o permission)
"A design by RMJM - Photo by Dana Edelson"

Some of the other entries looked nice, and might have been easier to mass-produce than they seem to be. But the Lemming thinks those designs were more an exercise in aesthetics and economics. Nothing wrong with that: but didn't stray cats come up in the discussion, somewhere?

Still. Some of the entries looked pretty good.

(from Architectural Record, used w/o permission)
"A design by Gage Clemenceau - Photo by Dana Edelson"

Then there's the "Cat SH3elter," by H3 Hardy. It's not what most folks might want in their living room, but a design that involves mailing tubes should be 'environmentally beneficial.' Recycling and all that.

Not a bad idea. Not bad at all. In the Lemming's opinion.

(from Architectural Record, used w/o permission)
"The shelter designed by H3 Hardy was given to CSM Foundation. Here, a stray cat uses the outdoor shelter. Photo by Dana Edelson"

Almost-related posts:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hoarding is Not the Name of an American President

It's the day after Christmas, the season when comic strips to 'last year's Christmas tree' gags, some folks tidy up the house in preparation for a New Year's Eve party, and a few add another layer to a growing layer of debris in their home.

Hoarding, not to be confused with Warren G. Harding, is no joke. It's also a perennial favorite topic for folks who make documentaries. Here's what got the Lemming started with this post:

It's Not the Mice, It's Not the Poop: It's the Hantavirus

"Hoarding: Deadly Mice Dangers"
HowStuffWorks Videos "Compulsive Hoarders Videos," The Learning Channel
video (2:02)

The playlist has three more videos:
  • Hoarding: Hoarding Denial
  • Hoarding: No Space for a Shower
  • Hoarding: Stacks Up to the Ceiling
Letting so much clutter collect isn't a good idea.

Hoarding is Not Collecting

Mayo Clinic staff,


"Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets often in unsanitary conditions.

"Hoarding, also called compulsive hoarding and compulsive hoarding syndrome, may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But many people who hoard don't have other OCD-related symptoms.

"People who hoard often don't see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people who hoard understand their compulsions and live safer, more enjoyable lives."

There's more at the website, starting with "Symptoms," and "Causes" (basically, 'we don't know'). Later, there's a long 'to do' list under "Preparing for your appointment." The bottom line is that hoarding is a problem: and a person can do something about it.

By the way, the Lemming was glad to see that said, "hoarding is not collecting," and described the differences. The Lemming is a bit of a packrat collector. Despite what some disciples of Martha Stewart may believe, obsessively throwing out anything more than a year old isn't necessarily a sign of good taste.

And that's another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:More:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lemming Tracks: That's Not Santa

I'm not Santa Clause: but there's a reason for my not trimming my beard until after Christmas.

"My Christmas Beard"

ApatheticLemmingMinn, YouTube (December 25, 2011)
video, 1:37

Allegedly-related posts:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Disapproving Rabbits, the Next Generation: Dougal

"Dougal "
Disapproving Rabbits (December 19, 2011)

"Here's an update on Dougal: he's getting more used to us, though his first instinct is still to bolt into his cardboard box. He's coming out more often, mostly to run laps (as seen in the video below)...."

The Lemming wondered how long the folks who bring us Disapproving Rabbits would remain rabbitless. They lost Cinnamon, that ancient and leporine bulwark of disapproval, back in June.

Here's their account of how Dougal entered their lives. Part of it, anyway:

Disapproving Rabbits (December 9, 2011)

"We were heading out of town on a long drive, talking about Christmas, when Sharon said that she was ready to get another rabbit. She missed the scampering sounds, the chewing, and "that good rabbit smell." I agreed. We'd been putting it off because our schedules had been full of work and travel, but now, oddly, things were calming down in December.

"About a minute later I got a message from my friend Laurie, who volunteers at the Humane Society. They had a rabbit, she wrote, that she thought would be perfect for us. We were about five miles away at the time. So we made a detour.

"He was a big boy: about a year old and seven pounds. Super skittish when we got him into the familiarization room, but Laurie told us that he was a stray who was adopted and then returned, but once he calmed down...."

There's quite a bit more text than usual in that Disapproving Rabbits post: understandably, since it was a narrative of Dougal's integration into a new household. The Lemming enjoyed reading about Dougal, acclimatization, and getting photos of a skittish rabbit. But then, the Lemming has a soft spot for tales that end with "'s good to have a rabbit in the house."

Somewhat-related posts:

Gingerbread, Fruitcake, and Eggnog Nightmare #2

Christmas is just around the corner. This is the time of year when
  • Stores are awash in a sea of red and green decorations and seasonal merchandise
  • Otherwise-sensible folks
    • Max out their credit cards
    • Get to all the family gatherings
      • Or go nuts, trying
    • Forget their dessicated-tofu-and-lichee-nuts diet
      • And scarf down good old fashioned
        • Christmas cookies
        • Apple cider
        • Pecan pie
        • Hot chocolate
        • Chicken and dumplings
        • Eggnog
        • More Christmas cookies
        • Fruitcake
        • Lutefisk
        • More eggnog
There's nothing wrong, in the Lemming's opinion, with colorful store decorations, special holiday food, or seeing relatives. Holidays are supposed to be special.

On the other hand, shoveling high-octane food on top of an already-quivering pile of stress: that may not be quite such a good idea. Which brings the Lemming to this year's holiday picture. You met them last year: now Wayne and Wanda are back, with another vision from the wonderful world of holiday excess:

Allegedly-related posts:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ohio City Dusting Off 1978 Restoration Plan

"City looks at updating 33-year-old architecture plan"
David DeWitt, The Athens NEWS (December 18, 2011)

"In 1978, the city of Athens [Ohio] adopted a plan outlining revitalization guidelines meant to maintain the historical integrity of the buildings uptown and encourage restoration.

"It's been known as the 'Zarney plan,' named after the principle citizen who put it together, Kim Zarney. Now, City Planner Paul Logue is working on an update.

" 'I've been working with an intern, Jia Li - a recent (Ohio University) grad in urban planning - to update this plan,' he said Friday. 'Jia spent a great deal of time stitching together photos of the buildings in the downtown district as they look now and then we will compare them as they exist now to how they looked in the Zarney plan images and also compare what's been done to what was recommended in that plan.'..."

The idea, apparently, is to have at least part of downtown Athens, Ohio, look something like the way it did a century ago: and still be practical as an early-21st-century downtown street.

It's not just nostalgia, though. The Zarney plan seems to have acknowledged that folks are going to have to live in - and look at - the 'restored' area:

"...'Every effort should be made to preserve the inherently lively and varied forms present within this block,' the plan states about the area between Union Street and Carpenter Street...."

"...the goal of the committee was to increase public awareness and appreciation of the architectural history of the uptown area. And that's what the goal of updating the plan is as well...."

The Lemming remembers the days when folks were getting fed up with Modern developments. Maybe you've seen pictures of them: lots of concrete, lots of glass, vast stretches of not much of anything. Some of those buildings might have looked better if someone had decided to leave the scaffolding in place. And that's another topic.

Back to Athens, Ohio.

The Zarney plan's restoration program was supposed to focus on architectural design of buildings.

"...'The majority of the buildings in (uptown) Athens were built around the turn-of-the-century,' he [Community Design, Incorporated, chair John M. Jones] wrote in April 1978. 'The theme for our improvement design calls for restoring these buildings back to their original architectural design.'

"He wrote that the goal of the committee was to increase public awareness and appreciation of the architectural history of the uptown area. And that's what the goal of updating the plan is as well...."

Sounds like a good idea. Most folks probably won't become sophisticated connoisseurs of early-20th-century architecture. But the Lemming figures that most folks can tell the difference between 'lets make a fast buck' buildings and well-designed ones. And would rather live in a place that doesn't seem intended to bore the senses.

Somewhat-related posts:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Higgs Boson, 'God Particle,' and Getting a Grip

"LHC: Higgs boson 'may have been glimpsed' "
Paul Rincon, Science & Environment, BBC News (December 13, 2011)

"The most coveted prize in particle physics - the Higgs boson - may have been glimpsed, say researchers reporting at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva.

"The particle is purported to be the means by which everything in the Universe obtains its mass.

"Scientists say that two experiments at the LHC see hints of the Higgs at the same mass, fuelling huge excitement.

"But the LHC does not yet have enough data to claim a discovery.

"Finding the Higgs would be one of the biggest scientific advances of the last 60 years. It is crucial for allowing us to make sense of the Universe, but has never been observed by experiments.

"This basic building block of the Universe is a significant missing component of the Standard Model - the 'instruction booklet' that describes how particles and forces interact...."

What? No Doomsday Scenario?

After last year's silly news about CERN's Large Hadron Collider, this BBC article was a welcome relief: for the Lemming, at least. No claims of divine sabotage, or warnings about Earth getting swallowed by CERN's technological terror.

The BBC even let readers know what a "five-sigma level of certainty" means. It has nothing to do with Doctor Who, by the way: "Statistics of a 'discovery'"
  • "Particle physics has an accepted definition for a 'discovery': a five-sigma level of certainty
  • "The number of standard deviations, or sigmas, is a measure of how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance rather than a real effect
  • "Similarly, tossing a coin and getting a number of heads in a row may just be chance, rather than a sign of a 'loaded' coin
  • "The 'three sigma' level represents about the same likelihood of tossing more than eight heads in a row
  • "Five sigma, on the other hand, would correspond to tossing more than 20 in a row
  • "Unlikely results can occur if several experiments are being carried out at once - equivalent to several people flipping coins at the same time
  • "With independent confirmation by other experiments, five-sigma findings become accepted discoveries"
Kudos, BBC.

Happily, a few news outlets on this side of the Atlantic got around to finding out what scientists said about a 'science story.' Real scientists: some of whom had actually worked on the project, or at least knew about that sort of research.

Physics on Talk Radio

"Physicists Find 'Hints' of Elusive Higgs Boson"
NPR (December 16, 2011)

"Two teams of scientists at CERN say they may have glimpsed the long-sought Higgs boson while studying particle collisions. Physicist Joe Incandela discusses how the teams are closing in on data that may prove the theoretical particle, considered a building block for the universe, exists.

"This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Scientists have been searching for decades for a subatomic particle called the Higgs Boson. You've heard about it. It's been in the news, and you know, in theory, it explains why and how objects have mass.

"But for more than 40 years, after it was first posited, the Higgs Boson remains elusive. This week, two teams of researchers studying trillions of proton-proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider say they've made progress in the hunt for the Higgs. In fact, CERN's director general, Rolf Heuer, said that while the evidence was not definitive, two teams of scientists have narrowed down the Higgs' hiding spot...."

The NPR transcript isn't as exciting as a UFO attack on an American missile base, secret earthquake weapons, or Princess Di and the lizard people. The Lemming thought it was worth reading.

But then, the Lemming thinks articles with " really comes down to statistics,..." "...that whole 500 GEV range,..." and "...statistically significant..." are interesting. Your experience may vary.

It's the Lemming's considered opinion, though, that you may find the NPR transcript more interesting than watching paint dry. Or, not.

Physics, Higgs Boson, 'God Particle,' and Getting a Grip

"What Should 'God Particle' Be Renamed? Physicists Weigh In"
Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience, via (December 15, 2011)

"Physicists love the Higgs boson, but they hate the God particle.

"The elusive Higgs particle, which scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator announced Tuesday, Dec. 13, that they are closing in on, is popularly known as the 'God particle.'

"The moniker, beloved by the press, is almost universally despised by experts who study particle physics.

" 'I detest the name "God particle," ' Vivek Sharma, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego, and the leader of the Higgs search at LHC's CMS experiment, wrote in an email. 'I am not particularly religious, but I find the term an "in your face" affront to those who [are]. I do experimental physics not GOD.'..."

"...'It's an awful name,' Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City College of New York, told LiveScience. 'It does not convey the particle's true role, that it is the last missing piece of the Standard Model, and that it gives mass to the other particles.'..."

It's nice to read, now and then, about scientists who realize that they're studying science: in an article written by someone who realizes that science isn't religion. It's also nice to read about folks who realize that science isn't Satanic, and apparently are willing to live on the same planet with religious people.

It's also refreshing to read 'science' news, written by a reporter who understands a little about science. And who has an editor willing to let science reporting hit the press, without something extra to spice it up.

Like Michio Kaku said: "God particle" "...does not convey the particle's true role, that it is the last missing piece of the Standard Model...." That, in the Lemming's opinion, is science. And decidedly interesting science, to boot. We've come quite a long way in the last century, toward learning about new levels of complexity in the universe's machinery.

Slightly-related posts:
More posts about the Large Hadron Collider:
Posts about the silly side:
Science and the Lemming, in another blog:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

King County Scam Email: The Lemming Got One, Too

"King County warns of email scam" (December 16, 2011)

"King County is warning residents of an apparent email scam.

"The email is in regards to property tax payments, and is a false confirmation that a payment was received. According to the county, these emails have even been sent to people in other states and countries. The county says these emails have not been sent by the county, and that none of the county's systems have been compromised.

" 'It appears that someone copied our standard payment confirmation email and altered the header in the email so that it appears to be from King County,' said County Chief Information Officer Bill Kehoe. 'These messages did not come from King County, and the recipients have not made any payments with us.'..."

The Lemming lives more than a thousand miles east of King County's Seattle, Washington, and got one of those ersatz emails on Thursday, December 15. How the scammer got the Lemming's personal email is anyone's guess.

A few minutes' searching told the Lemming that the email was probably the result of someone spoofing, and that the Lemming should delete the email.

And, of course, not open the attachment. Seriously: Folks still open attachments arriving in odd emails from folks they don't know? Come to think about it, there's probably someone starting to use email every day - and reminders never hurt.

Moving on

"Apparent Email Scam" in the News

"King County warns of apparent email scam"
King County Executive News (December 15, 2011)

"County's e-commerce system secure, investigators looking into outside source of bogus emails

"King County is warning of an apparent email scam. The county has received calls from people and businesses within and outside of King County, including individuals from other states and countries, who have reported receiving false confirmation of an online property tax payment made through the King County e-commerce system. These emails were not sent by King County, and the county's e-commerce system has not been compromised.

" 'It appears that someone copied our standard payment confirmation email and altered the header in the email so that it appears to be from King County,' said County Chief Information Officer Bill Kehoe. 'These messages did not come from King County, and the recipients have not made any payments with us.'..."

Which is pretty much what the Lemming found on the King County website.

Why did the Lemming take time to put this post together?

For one thing, that ersatz email was different from the spam that occasionally gets past the Lemming's filters. It wasn't the obviously-bogus message from a 'law firm:' about a rich relative who doesn't exist, worded in a way that suggests the message was composed by a Croatian primary school dropout, using a Slovenian-English dictionary written by a well-intentioned Bengali.

For another, the Lemming is still a little puzzled about being included in a scam that seems otherwise restricted to the Seattle, Washington, area. Not that the Lemming's likely to spend more time, trying to find out.

Besides, it's Sunday afternoon: and the Lemming's taking a few hours off. Which sometimes results in the Lemming committing another post. And that's another topic.

Slightly-related posts:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Christmas With the Lemming

Holidays, Christmas in particular, seem to bring out a special quality in celebrities:And, of course, there were all those Bing Crosby Christmas television specials.

Christmas is also the season when studios crank out 'holiday films:' With Christmas a little over a week away, the Lemming decided to take the evening off, look at that tree in the living room, and see what's on television this time around.

The Lemming and Christmas Past:

Sic Transit Gloria Oddly - Oddly Enough Blog, That is

"Nine things I'll miss most about this blog"
Robert Basler, Oddly Enough Blog, Reuters blog (December 5, 2011)
"News, but not the serious kind"

"Let's get the sad news out of the way first.

"After an exhilarating five-year run, this blog is ending its run here. Websites change, and take new directions.

"The slightly better news is that we have a couple of weeks until my final post, so let's have fun...."

That phrase, "let's have some fun," pretty much sums up Robert Basler's Oddly Enough blog. A tip of the Lemming's hat to Mr. Basler, for drawing our attention to bizarre fashion, British royalty, and assorted weirdness. It's the Lemming's opinion that folks need to lighten up from time to time, unhitch that tight collar, and laugh a little.

Basler's Oddly Enough has helped us do just that.


But why, oh, why would Reuters consign Oddly Enough to the dustbin of history?! Particularly now, on the very heels of the calamitous news that Cinnamon the rabbit shuffled off this mortal coil. Well, nearly. Disapproving Rabbits' Cinnamon became one with Nineveh and Troy in June. ("Sic Transit Gloria Bunny - Cinnamon, of Disapproving Rabbits" (June 22, 2011)) That "mortal coil," by the way, has nothing to do with a busted electric motor. It's from Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and that's another topic.

Back to Mr. Basler and Oddly Enough:

"...I've enjoyed everything about creating and writing Oddly Enough. My advice is, if somebody offers to pay you to be a sarcastic smartass, take the job. Especially if it includes dental insurance.

"Some of the things I will miss most…

"9. The Photos: The Reuters photo file is a grand candy store. It has been a treat to look through it daily, searching for goofy gems in a sea of serious images. I'm sure it's fair to say many of the shots in my blog don't get used anyplace else. Indeed, it was the richness of our photo archive that inspired the blog's fabled Goofy Face Museum and Doughnut Shop, which will be a runaway success if it ever opens...."

It is the Lemming's sincere hope that Reuters has the good sense to keep the old Oddly Enough blog posts online - and at their original URLs. Some online content, like weather forecasts and halftime scores for last week's game, may not be worth keeping around. Basler's Goofy Face Museum and Doughnut Shop? That collection of oddball expressions should have entertainment value, as long as folks know what "spam," "Ronald," and "Outback Steakhouse," mean.

Maybe even longer.

The Lemming's opined on the annoying habit some website owners have, of shuffling, reorganizing, or removing, content. The Lemming suspects clueless supervisors, caffeinated interns, and sophomores with all the answers, are involved: and that's yet another topic.

Robert Basler's Oddly Enough blog has wandered into the silly side of serious news on occasion:
What the Lemming may miss most, though, are Mr. Basler's wonderfully weird posts about the bizarre world of fashion:
Those posts, and the photos that went with them, taught the Lemming that fashion models earn their occasionally-extravagant pay. At least, the Lemming hopes that models were adequately compensated for allowing themselves to be photographed in those outfits.

Then there were posts like the one micro-reviewed in "Is Your Fitness Instructor a Zombie?"

You'll find more of the Lemming's take on world of fashion, by clicking the "fashion link in this blog's Label Cloud.

Here's the rest of Mr. Basler's countdown of things he'll miss:

"...8. The Animals: Readers know I have a soft spot for animals. I have supported animal rescue in this blog, and....

"...7. The Words: This is a blog for lovers of our language. I have tried my best to revive neglected words such as haberdasher and scalawag and floozy. If you heard someone shout 'Huzzah!' in Starbucks...

"...6. Lamar: I didn't see it coming when I created this recurring character representing the incompetence in all of us. ... When the blog goes away Lamar will be relocated to a secret place by the Federal Witless Protection Program....

"...5. The Duchess: A blogger's best friend, without a doubt. When I want to pander for page views, I turn to Catherine...

"...4. Those wacky Republicans: Where do I begin? With....

"...3. The Truth: I'm allowed to invent fun stuff in this blog, but as a journalist I know the truth is much stranger than anything I can imagine....

"...2. The Commenters: I value all my readers, but especially those who have contributed so much to the comments section. We've received an astonishing 46,000 reader comments in five years....

"...1. And the number one thing I'll miss about this blog is… Wait. It's here somewhere. Nobody leaves this room!..."

Finally, about #4, "Those wacky Republicans," the Lemming is nowhere near 'intelligent' or 'sophisticated' to believe that Republicans are doo-doo heads and Democrats possess knowledge and wisdom beyond human understanding. Or that Democrats are daft and Republicans reasonable. Life's seldom that simple. Mr. Basler apparently has spent his life in North America's dominant coastal culture, and is imbued with that culture's perceptions and assumptions.

And those fashion photos are hilariously bizarre.
Update (December 16, 2011)
Mr. Basler's last Oddly Enough post:
Related posts:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Top 10 Blog Design Mistakes

"Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes"
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox (October 17, 2005)

"Blogs are a form of website. The thousands of normal website usability guidelines therefore apply to them, as do this year's top ten design mistakes. But weblogs are also a special genre of website; they have unique characteristics and thus distinct usability problems.

"One of a weblog's great benefits is that it essentially frees you from 'Web design.' You write a paragraph, click a button, and it's posted on the Internet. No need for visual design, page design, interaction design, information architecture, or any programming or server maintenance...."

Yes, the Lemming noticed: That page is more than six years old. Back then, we had wood-burning computers: so you might think there's no point in following that link.

Quite a bit has changed since Google launched its Google Personalized Homepage and Correlate. On the other hand, the Lemming thinks folks are still plagued by the usability issues listed on Nielsen's page:
  1. No Author Biographies
  2. No Author Photo
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles
  4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
  5. Classic Hits are Buried
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
  8. Mixing Topics
  9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
"Weblog Usability..." tells what each point means, and why it's important. If you're willing to overlook slightly-archaic words, like "weblog," the Lemming think you might find a useful reminder on that Alertbox page. Or, not.

Obviously, the Lemming doesn't follow all of Mr. Nielsen's advice: and that's another topic.

There's also a link to Jakob Nielsen's "Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design," which the Lemming also thinks is worth a look.

Allegedly-related posts:

Monday, December 12, 2011

The 'Christmas Planet:' Kepler-22b

"Potentially Earth-Like Planet Has Right Temperature for Life"
ScienceNow, Wired Science (December 5, 2011)

"For the first time, astronomers have found a planet smack in the middle of the habitable zone of its sunlike star, where temperatures are good for life. 'If this planet has a surface, it would have a very nice temperature of some 70° Fahrenheit [21°C],' says William Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center here, who is the principal investigator of NASA's Kepler space telescope. '[It's] another milestone on the journey of discovering Earth's twin,' adds Ames director Simon 'Pete' Worden.

"Unfortunately, the true nature of the planet, named Kepler-22b, remains unknown. It is 2.4 times the size of Earth, but its mass, and hence its composition, has not yet been determined. 'There's a good chance it could be rocky,' Borucki says, although he adds that the planet would probably contain huge amounts of compressed ice, too. It might even have a global ocean. 'We have no planets like this in our own solar system.'

"Kepler-22b is 600 light-years away. Every 290 days, it orbits a star that is just a bit smaller and cooler than our own sun. The Kepler telescope, launched in 2009 to scan the skies for Earth-like worlds, found the planet because it sees the orbit edge on. That means that every 290 days, the world transits the surface of the star, blocking out a minute fraction of its light.

"Borucki likes to call the new discovery the Christmas planet. 'It's a great gift,' he said...."

This is exciting news for the Lemming. Astronomers have spotted planets that are close to the right distance from their star before; and have spotted planets that are only a few times as massive as Earth. Kepler-22b is roughly the same size as Earth, and at roughly the 'right' distance from its parent star: so it's possible that there is life there.

Or, not. We don't know what Kepler-22b's mass is, which will tell researchers how dense it is. And we don't know what sort of light gets bounced off Kepler-22b. If the expolanet's density is in the neighborhood of 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter, like Earth, and reflects a lot of bluish-white light, like Earth: it's still not a 'twin' of Earth. But it would be awfully close.

By the way, that 5.5 grams/cubic centimeter means that Earth is 5.5 times as dense as water. About. Water's density is 1 gram per cubic centimeter at 39.2°F. Boiling water (at sea level) is 0.95865 gram per cubic centimeter, and that's another topic. (USGS)

Only 600 Light Years: That's Close

Depending on what you're looking at, 600 light years is a huge distance, or practically next door. It's the distance light travels in 600 years: so the light that the Kepler observatory picked up started out around the time when the first golf balls were made. That's about 3,527,175,200,000,000 miles. Give or take a few hundred million.

Compared to the distance the Lemming travels, going to the nearest grocery, that's a long way away.

Backing off a little, and looking back at Earth's neighborhood, Kepler 22-b is practically next door. On the scale of this picture, the "S" in "Sun" is well over 1,200 light years across: twice the distance to Kepler-22b.

(from Department of Physics, University of Oregon, used w/o permission)

Life, the Universe, and All That

That Wired Science article doesn't have the sort of entertainment value that "Star Wars" or "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn" offer. For something in a 'science news' online publication, that's not the point.

What fascinates the Lemming about Kepler 22-b, and the rapidly growing list of known exoplanets, is the knowledge that the collection of planets, moons, and assorted debris, circling our star isn't quite unique.

We still don't know whether there are many - or any - other orderly systems like ours, with planets circling in neatly nested circles. And we're probably a long way from knowing whether there's life somewhere other than on Earth.

As for traveling to planets circling other stars: That's another topic.

Related posts:
More in this blog:
'Star Trek,' no; easy, no; possible, yes:

Friday, December 9, 2011

And, Now, For Something Completely Different: A Cat and Five Tiny Rabbits

"When Thanksgiving centerpieces go wrong"
Meg, Cute Overload (November 29, 2011)

(from Animal Blog, via Ant at AQFL, via Cute Overload, used w/o permission)

There's some text, and a slightly larger photo, at Cute Overload.


Other 'cute' posts:

Lèse Majesté, and Staggering Into the 21st Century

The Lemming posted "Lemming Tracks: 'Sexual Harassment' in the Information Age" about an hour ago. That was about an apparently-daft decision to slap a nine-year-old with a three-day suspension from school. For saying his teacher is "cute." What the kid did was, maybe, inappropriate. Maybe it warranted a three-day suspension.

But "sexual harassment?" Disco is dead, the '80s are long gone, and it's time to get a grip. In the Lemming's opinion, of course. Some folks never left Woodstock, and that's another topic.

Three Day Suspension, Two and a Half Year Prison Sentence, and a Lifetime of Memories

I'm not sure that throwing an adult in prison for insulting a king is 'more serious' than teaching a nine-year-old that people in authority are hypersensitive nitwits. Mr. Gordon's two and a half year prison sentence will last longer: but the nine-year-old will probably remember his experience for the rest of his life.

Anyway, here's what the Lemming saw in yesterday's news:

Don't Dis the King

"American Sentenced to Prison for Insulting Thai Monarchy"
Associated Press, via (December 8, 2011)

"A court in Thailand sentenced a U.S. citizen to two and a half years in prison Thursday for defaming the country's royal family by translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the king and posting them online.

"The verdict is the latest so-called lese majeste punishment handed down in the Southeast Asian kingdom, which has come under increasing pressure at home and abroad to reform harsh legislation that critics say is an affront to freedom of expression.

"The 55-year-old Thai-born American, Joe Gordon, stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out at a Bangkok criminal court...."

"Lese majeste" isn't something you hear every day. Not in 21st-century America, at least. A Wikipedia article says it's French (lèse majesté), that came from the in-house brand of Latin the French used for legal stuff. It means "injured majesty," more or less.

Essentially, offending the king was treason in the 'good old days:' which the Lemming doesn't miss all that much.

Joe Gordon, Thailand, Family and Names

"Joe Gordon" sounds like an old-fashioned, solidly Anglo 'American' name. It's possible that Mr. Gordon did what many other Americans did, to make life easier for themselves: changed his name to something the locals could pronounce and remember easily. Let's face it: most Americans are going to remember "Joe Gordon" more easily than they would something like เจ้าพระยาบดินทรเดชา. Or even กอร์ดอนโจ.

Whether or not someone decides to take an 'American' name is up to the individual: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar got along fine with his distinctly un-British name. Although the Lemming's noticed that it's reduced to "Chandra" fairly often. The Lemming opined about names and America in another blog:Moving on.

Two and a Half Years: A Light Sentence?

Apparently, the Thai judge is letting Mr. Gordon off easy. Which was awfully nice, considering what a dastardly deed the American had done: dissing the king, and all:

"...Judge Tawan Rodcharoen said the punishment, initially set at five years, was reduced because Gordon pleaded guilty in October.

"The sentence was relatively light compared to other recent cases. In November, 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages deemed offensive to the crown.

"Gordon posted links to the banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej several years ago while living in Colorado, and his case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.

"Speaking after the verdict, Gordon said, 'I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.'...
(Associated Press, via

The Lemming could rant about American arrogance, cultural imperialism, and the general ickiness of Yankee warmonger white racist male dominated authoritarian oppressors. But why bother? The Lemming doesn't have a position in American academia to maintain, and isn't trying to be considered 'intelligent' by America's 'better' sort.

Besides, the Lemming thinks that quite a few folks in America are tired of the post-disco 'establishment' in America. And that's yet another topic.

'There Oughtta be a Law?'

"...Thailand's lese majeste laws are the harshest in the world. They mandate that people found guilty of defaming the monarchy -- including the king, the queen and the heir to the throne -- face three to 15 years behind bars. The nation's 2007 Computer Crimes Act also contains provisions that have enabled prosecutors to increase lese majeste sentences.

"The U.S. Embassy's consul general, Elizabeth Pratt, told reporters in Bangkok after the ruling that Washington considered Gordon's punishment 'severe because he has been sentenced for his right to freedom of expression.'..."

The Lemming remembers the trailing edge of McCarthyism, endured political correctness, and doesn't think highly of what either ideological storm did to America. Freedom of expression is precious: even when the other guy says something you don't like. Sometimes, especially when the other guy doesn't agree. And that's yet more topics, that the Lemming's gone on about in this and other blogs.

Goodbye, 18th Century - - Hello, Information Age

Bottom line? The Lemming thinks that America has done well, in part because folks here don't get thrown in prison for criticizing Congress or the President. Not usually, anyway.

The American Revolution (the one in 1776) was an early step in working out ways to run a country without worrying about what some irritable nincompoop with a crown wanted to hear.

A remarkable number of countries discovered that criticizing incompetence, corruption, and unearned privilege didn't bring civilization to its knees. Some countries, like Thailand, don't seem to have read the memo yet.

Yet again more topics.

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