It's Not Magic
Writings of a techie wizard
Wed, 31 Aug 2011
I just came across an article that shows I'm not the only one who thinks that US Constitutional law has gone a little overboard in its interpretation of the Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court decision. The article's position is summarized in this paragraph, towards the end of the introduction:
The bit about "strict textualism" is explained further later on in the article:
As I noted in my previous post, this does raise questions when considering issues that weren't even contemplated by the Framers, such as whether wiretapping constitutes a "search and seizure" under the Fourth Amendment, as in Olmstead v. United States. But such questions always end up being questions of classification, not principle: whether wiretapping counts as a search and seizure, rather than whether evidence obtained by a search and seizure without a warrant is admissible (no one disputed that it was not). As I noted in my previous post, many of the Court's classifications (such as what they think counts as interstate commerce) are highly questionable, and the logic suggested by the above quote can be used to see why. Would an average American in 1790 have agreed that growing food on one's own property for one's own use counts as "interstate commerce"? I'm guessing not. So on the whole I think the methodology advocated in the article is sound.
The full article is worth a read, and I won't belabor the details of its arguments here (though I will note that the article focuses, as I did, on Chief Justice's Marshall's statement that the Supreme Court's job is to "say what the law is", and how that statement has been taken way out of context). However, I can't resist one more quote:
Which is a good brief summation of what I was getting at in my previous post. (Please note that this is not a blanket endorsement of everything on the Free Republic website, which is where the article is posted. The article itself is from the Northwestern University School of Law.)
Sun, 28 Aug 2011
In a previous post I mentioned the Protect IP Act as an example of government making things worse instead of better when it tries to censor the Internet. Today I came across an article talking about another very bad effect that the Protect IP Act would have if it were passed: it would break DNSSEC, which is a key security mechanism that lets your computer validate DNS records, so that, for example, when you type your bank's URL into your browser, you know that you're talking to your bank's server, instead of some rogue site that has been set up to impersonate it.
Fri, 26 Aug 2011
Twenty years ago (yesterday, to be exact, but cut me some slack here), Linus Torvalds posted a message to the Usenet newsgroup comp.os.minix, announcing that he was working on a free operating system and wanted to know what features people were interested in. The original message is on Google Groups here. So it's time for another brief nerd interlude:
peter@localhost:~$ uname Linux
At some point I'll do a longer post on why the above is true, but for now I think I'll just let it stand by itself. Thanks, Linus, for starting it all 20 years ago, and thanks to all the developers and distributions who have kept it going.
Sun, 14 Aug 2011
I've already referred to my favorite Heinlein quote once, and I'm sure I'll be doing it again, so I figured I might as well lay it out in full and unpack in detail why it's my favorite quote. Here it is, from Time Enough For Love, as noted on wikiquote:
Mon, 08 Aug 2011
Fri, 05 Aug 2011
For non-nerd readers, I promise I won't do this very often, but once in a while I just have to get these sorts of things out of my system. Does anyone else find the following (from a transcript of a short Unix shell session) a little weird?
peter@localhost:~$ true peter@localhost:~$ echo $? 0 peter@localhost:~$ false peter@localhost:~$ echo $? 1
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