log (2010/01/22 to 2010/01/28)

Under the majority's view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech.
-- Justice Stevens, dissenting

Of course that exact issue is unlikely to come up; corporations (probably?) have no particular interest in voting. It's not so much that there are lots of them: it's that some of them are extremely wealthy.

I am, of course, talking about the recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC, in which the SCOTUS has apparently ruled that since spending money to air political messages is speech, and corporations are persons, rules against corporations spending money to air political messages is forbidden by the Constitution's promise of free speech.

I have yet to read the decision, or to think hard enough about how the feelings of impending doom (or, in lighter moments, of the approach of an interesting sf-esque dystopia) that this decision produces in me square with my earlier expressed opinions about how campaign finance laws are just tools for incumbents to use to discourage challengers.

The decision is long, but I encourage people to read it anyway. I also recommend the coverage in scotusblog and on scotuswiki (where you will find links to the decision itself, and reams and reams of related documents and commentary).

Are we now in a race between the realization that corporations are not in fact persons, and the complete takeover of government by those corporations? Or did I just not get enough sleep last night?

(NPR mentions that in th' UK the laws allow corporations to donate to political campaigns, but only with the prior explicit permission of the stockholders, and with full disclosure of amounts and beneficiaries to those stockholders afterward. An inneresting thot.)

On another subject entirely, my cellular phone has begun behaving differently.

When I get a new text message (typically from a descendant telling me where they are, or where they are going to be in the near future), the phone used to beep softly, and put up a big (well, big in terms of the teeny cellular-phone screen) popup saying "New message received, read now?", with a convenient "Yes" button to push.

But now it beeps softly, and displays a little bitty envelope in one corner of the usual screen, and otherwise does nothing special. To see the message, I have to notice the envelope, and press "menu" and "messages" and "inbox" and "select" and "view".

I don't remember doing anything to cause this change of behavior, and M's cellular phone, which is identical to mine except in color and degree of wear, still behaves the old way.

There may be a setting somewhere in the labyrinth of randomly-titled menus of the phone's firmware that controls this, but I'm certain I didn't change that setting on purpose (given especially that I don't know how), and it seems unlikely that I did it by accident (given that I seldom bother venturing into that labyrinth, the world offering so many more-rewarding activities).

Cosmic-ray hit? Random firmware bug reading from an uninitialized variable if you power on the phone when the current time in seconds is thirty-seven more than a multiple of four million? No telling!

Computers are so very complex and implictly stateful.

Imagine if other parts of the world worked like this.

"Hey, I notice your car only has three wheels!"

"Yeah, it's weird. I'm pretty sure it used to have four, but since last week there's only one in the front. It still steers okay, but I'm sort of afraid to go very fast."

"You should take it in for service."

"Well, I did, but the guy said that when he took it out for a test drive, it had the usual number of wheels."


"Wow you look tired."

"Yeah, I haven't been sleeping very well. There's something wrong with my bed, and every time I lie down it dumps me off onto the floor."

"Ouch! My sofa was doing that last month, but I gave it a swift kick and it stopped. You should try that with your bed."

Briefly noted: a post on Mildly Diverting leads us to this piece of art which I love for various reasons, and this thought-provoking piece about if and how and whether web content can outlive its author.

And now I will either go back to bed *8) or go grind Kurenai rep in Nagrand, or do something about all of these piles of books, or something...