Recently saw, by jwz's recommendation, "The Man From Earth", a film about a man who claims to be many thousands of years old. It's a rather nice independent film, probably misclassified as sci-fi, as it's mostly about people talking in a single room (maybe a bit like Hitchcock's "Rope" in a few ways). Also pleasing: Amy's Vegetarian Chili.
I'm a bit bothered at the highly neurotic behaviour that the DMCA's safe harbour clause seems to bring about - for sites that do it, reporting queries that pull up large amounts of spam on their site with the expectation that they can follow them and purge things does not work, as anything more than being directed straight towards spam constitutes policing their content, making them legally responsible ... or so people quote their lawyers. It's a pity that it works out that way, although finding another compromise that works reasonably well might be difficult. In a more ideal world, policies like "We police content on our site how and when we feel like it but that doesn't make us responsible for when we don't" would presumably be doable too, although it's not hard to imagine problems with that.
I'm still digesting an article in Middle East Review on social favours in the Arab world and how it distorts the business and personal climate. The article describes it as a problem - that in order to get permits from the government or seal business deals with other companies, one has to rely on hired people who have social ties (or take the time to have the social ties oneself). People living in the nation have mixed feelings about the "system", in that some consider it part of their culture, while some others think it goes too far but some form of social favours as a societla lubricant is positive. The article complains that a good business environment should be judged solely on the ability to meet the market, and these social ties/networks act as a distraction and a potential anticompetitive element. I'm still trying to decide what I think (bearing in mind, of course, that anyone is entitled, beyond agreeing with one of the viewpoints expressed, people might be well off forming their own "side" with its own logic) - while I don't think business interests are necessarily (or even often) in the interests of society as a whole, use of personal ties in this way seems to represent a form of corruption, especially when, as described, people with the right ties are given unnecessary jobs by virtue of those ties rather than by personal skill and necessity for those positions. However, having society completely "out of the loop" when it comes to business decisions is also harmful - it's possible that things that make business sense but hurt society could be stopped through such a system of favours, and losing out on that possibility would mean losing another layer of protection from business. Perhaps another mechanism is called for that would allow for more social control over companies (in a way more flexible and case-specific than laws) without engaging this aspect of us as social creatures that leads to such distortions. I suspect that I know a number of people that, reading the article, would probably declare the system of favours by and large a good one though (particularly those with politically/philosophically primitivist leanings).