The Income Tax System in USA and Business Licensing system in Israel

Thomas Frey predicts the collapse of the Income Tax system in USA.

Few weeks ago I was in the offices of the Israeli organization of small businesses (by the way, simply-smart.com, their Web site designers, royally botched their job – at least as far as the Web site viewability under Mozilla 1.7.8 at the moment of writing this blog entry is concerned; 2.5 second long surfing session using this browser version would have showed them that the current Web site design is totally broken) to see an exhibition of art by people with disabilities. At this opportunity, I saw on a table a report about the woes of the business licensing system in use in Israel.

It seems that like the American Income Tax system, the Israeli business licensing system is being abused by using it to accomplish additional politically-desirable ends besides ensuring the safety, health and honesty of the business.

Is a Jewish cyborg allowed to live on Saturday?

There is a thread (in Hebrew) about the subject in Ort’s Sci-Fi forum. The topic was opened by me after having seen a discussion in a forum of Israeli cochlear implant (CI) users about using CI on Saturdays.

The next question is: are there any halachic considerations concerning life with heart pacers. They are not ordinarily turned on or off by the human who carries them, unlike hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, the heart beat rate might be varied according to what the human is doing with himself. I do not know the details but I assume that it is possible to vary the paced heart beat rate by performing certain actions, such as running. The question is now whether this is allowed on Saturday by the Jewish halacha.

Nitpicking Larry Niven's "$16,940.00"

In the story, Kelsey is a professional blackmailer. He asking Carson, a “client”, for extra payment of $16,940.00. The money is needed for paying Horatio. Horatio was another “client” of Kelsey until the statute of limitations for his crime kicked in. Now Horatio is trying to blackmail Kelsey to get back all money he paid him.

In the story, Kelsey and Carson find that there is a technical problem for Carson to prepare this amount of money and transfer it to Kelsey. So they decide that if Carson kills Horatio, this will solve the problem.

My nitpicking yielded an alternate end.

Carson contacts Horatio and promises him $20,000.00 if Horatio agrees to wait few more days for the money. Carson gets from Horatio a copy of his blackmail evidence. Carson uses it to blackmail Kelsey into ceasing to get money from him. This way, Carson gets off the hook, Horatio gets back his blackmail money, and Kelsey is a bit poorer.

Inaccessibility by fiat

A friend’s mother has passed away, and I attended the funeral. The deceased mother was to be buried in the new Netanya cemetery. When I entered the parking lot and parked my car, I noticed a sign saying that it is forbidden to drive cars into the cemetery, except for people with motor disabilities. And even their cars are allowed only until 12:00 noon. All this was in the name of “respecting the location and the feelings of other people”.

I wondered to myself what will do a wheelchair bound person, who needs to attend a funeral held at 13:30 (like the funeral which I attended).

Later I noticed that there is an old man, who has great difficulty walking, and who needed to use a walker.
During the funeral procession itself, I noticed that a car followed us. When we were near the burial place, the same old man went out of the car and walked slowly toward the burial place.

Turned out that he was the father of the deceased woman (my friend’s grandfather). He was allowed to enter the cemetery by car even though it was after 12:00.

Apparently, this time the Israeli custom of bending regulations saved accessibility.

European software patents

Software patents cleared another hurdle toward approval by the EU (see http://comment.zdnet.co.uk/other/0,39020682,39190515,00.htm).

Now the question is: what are the implications for the Israeli patent law and software industry?

  1. Will Israel be pressurized to allow software patents as in USA and Europe, or will we escape this fate due to the relatively small local market for software?
    If pressurized, how much ability will Israel have to resist the pressure?
  2. Will the Israeli patent office rigorously examine software patent applications?
  3. What will happen to Israeli Hi-Tech companies, which develop and/or use software, which violates software patents, but is critical to their product, process or service business?
  4. What will be the impact on joint ventures between Israeli and European Hi-Tech businesses?

A discussion held in a far-away country with crazy legal system

The discussion at http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?joel.3.75691.30
(titled “Excuse me: you are unsecure”) illustrates the situation in a country where people do not understand the difference between breaking mechanical locks and breaking into computers or Web sites.

I said it in the past and I am reiterating the point.

A burglar can break only one physical lock at a time. Therefore vulnerabilities in locks has a built-in limit on the possible damage to society. Working societies do not have enough burglars to exploit the vulnerabilities in locks. Existing laws are also adequate to deal with those who chose the careers of burglars.

On the other hand, a vulnerability in a widely-used software package can cause millions of computers to be broken into with a single sequence of keystrokes, once the hacker has figured out how to exploit the vulnerability. Therefore, vulnerabilities in software have no built-in limit to the possible damage to society. Therefore, liability must be assigned to software vendors, who leave vulnerabilities unplugged, rather than to hackers.

Suicide bombers not legally responsible for their actions?

Recently I saw a LiveJournal entry by someone (name does not really matter, as several people hold the same attitude) who claims that Israeli soldiers, who fight Palestinians in Rafah and other places, are war criminals.

I replied and complained that they are overlooking the nature of the enemy of those Israeli soldiers. This is an enemy who is not fighting for its own liberty or economic advantage. This is an enemy who is fighting to kill the people of those Israeli soldiers.

The typical Leftist closed-eyed attitude was manifested in the reply by that someone: “Your comments are not welcome in my journal. go away.” accompanied by no attempt to counter the points which I made.


I would like to raise the general issue. How do you deal with people who have been brainwashed to believe that they must kill you? Do you kill them only because of the crazy memes that they carry in their brains? By this logic, one third of the Germans would have had to be killed at end of World War II due to their having been infected with the Nazi meme.In the case of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the problem is that the youths are brainwashed by their elders to believe in the virtue of becoming suicide bombers and killing Israeli civilian children, women and men; and that 72 virgins are waiting in the Garden of Eden for anyone who has committed such an act.According to the established Western standards of law, such brainwashed people are not legally responsible for their actions. This means that they should not be tried in court for their attempts to be suicide bombers. However, they can be institutionalized as legally insane.

Such a treatment would have been feasible if the number of people infected with the Suicide Bomber meme were on order of hundreds, or at most, thousands. However, when about 60% of the multi-million Palestinian population are infected with the Suicide Bomber meme, what can be done to deal with the situation?

I’d say that the ethics of the situation are similar to the ethics of dealing with an high mortality rate plague. If you do not have the resources to isolate and treat all sick people in an area, you cordon them off and let them die. You do try to treat sick people wherever their number is small. If a powerful and effective medicine is found against the disease, you of course venture into the cordoned-off area and try to treat as many people as possible at as short time as possible.

But, when the disease consists of poisonous memes in the brains of large percentage of the people in an area – what is the appropriate treatment?

Police and junk FAX messages

I am deaf and I use (among other technologies) a FAX machine to keep in contact with other human beings.

Recently a sales operation has been sending me junk FAX messages touting their offerings.

During the last few weeks, I saved six FAX messages. The first, second and fifth messages were accompanied by my request to stop sending me FAX messages. So I could prove that my request does not yield the desired outcome.

Today I went to the police and lodged a complaint against the anonymous (identified only by a voice phone number) sender of the FAX messages.

Tips from my experience:

  1. Bring with you several coins of 0.10NIS. The photocopying machine in the police (in case you need your own copies of documents) costs 0.40NIS per copy. Small change is not routinely available in the police station. Not even in the cafeteria (unless you buy something there).
  2. Bring your ID card and the junk FAX messages.
  3. Prepare details of your own attempts to contact the sender and get the sender to stop sending you junk FAX messages.
  4. At around 09:15AM, there was no queue and I was served immediately.

About the proper way to deal with writers of computer virii and worms

Steven Landsburg proposes to execute writers of computer virii and worms. This is just an extreme expression of the general sentiment that threats to punish writers of computer virii and worms are an adequate way to plug security vulnerabilities, which allow those virii and worms to propagate.

My thesis is that this sentiment is wrong. It is horribly wrong.

When a burglar picks a lock and enters into a building without permission, he is punished (if caught). This is reasonable, because a burglar cannot pick more than one lock at the same time. Any damage he may be doing at a moment of time is limited to a single site. Besides, high quality locks are very expensive.

However, when there is a vulnerability in a software package in widespread use, a cracker has the power to pick the equivalent of one million locks at the same time, by writing a worm which exploits this vulnerability.

If we do not require the software writers to fix this vulnerability promptly by assigning to them responsibility for worm damage, then several installations are at risk. The risk is not only due to crackers. It is theoretically possible, even if rather improbable, for a PC to create automatically self-propagating software by corrupting existing software due, for example, to noise, soft errors (due to overclocking or overheating) or disk crashes.

Besides, the cost of deploying patches which fix the vulnerability, once it is discovered, is very low – unlike the cost of replacing a broken door lock.

Another analogy. Let’s say that a certain bridge was designed and built. The bridge can carry its designed load of pedestrians, cars and trucks as long as they pass on the road passing through it. But an hammer tap on the side would cause the bridge to immediately collapse. Obviously, the bridge designers did not do their job properly. Should we treat as criminal someone, who waits until the night (when there is no transportation on the bridge) and taps on the bridge’s side to trigger its collapse? Probably not, because he is saving us from false reliance upon a bridge, which might suddenly collapse if a strong wind threw a stone at its side.

Yet why do we treat as criminals crackers, who exploit vulnerabilities of widely used software to spread worms, whose payload has only nuisance value? Especially when the software vendor/s in question are not prompt in fixing the vulnerability in question.

Should test cases of GPLed software be under GPL as well?

Pros:

  1. By definition, source code is the form of software, which is easiest to modify. The actual executable is created from it by an automatic build process, which may include compilation and linking. If you modify a complicated piece of software, you want to make sure that your modifications broke nothing. To do this efficiently, you need test cases.
  2. If your modifications are not generally useful, owners of secret test cases won’t test your modifications. The same applies if you were forced to fork the software package in question.

Cons:

  1. RMS didn’t require this so far. RMS’ printer driver problem can be solved without test cases. This has not been a requirement so far.
  2. Some test cases may embody proprietary software usage scenarios, and releasing them to the world, as required by GPL, would reveal too much of the company’s trade secrets.
  3. When you add your modifications to a GPLed software package, users with secret test scenarios will test your modifications, if they are useful for them. If your modifications break the software, they will fix them and you’ll get back their fixes thanks to the GPL.

At any case, there is a case for strong recommendation that test cases be constructed for GPLed software, and that they be released together with it and under the same license (GPL or LGPL).

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