Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brave New World circa 1991

In 1991 two things happened. Well, several things but two really important things. Linus Torvalds created a kernel inspired by Minix and Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet. Sort of. Both did nothing more than build on the past, just like everyone else who creates something, but they each gave us something that would inadvertently remake the world.

I won't give you a history lesson here, you can go right over to Wikipedia and read the history of the Internet and Linux. My point here is the present. In response to the surge of information sharing unprecedented in history governments and private organizations struggled to cope, regulate and understand the new world emerging. At first only industrialized nations could access the web, but as hardware became cheaper and second hand hardware more prolific, and with the help of free and open source software like GNU/Linux the people in the world were meeting each other anew.

Content owners and middle men panicked at the ability of people to share and governments recoiled at the ability to learn. Misinformation and malware spread, too, but open software and the non governmental nature of the web countered this. Even while copyright laws became harsher and trade treaties more draconian, distribution outpaced the best of legal strategies. The web was open and there wasn't much that could be done about it. Authoritarian countries have had some success but the advent of software like TOR and proxies on top of satellite internet connections have hampered their regimes greatly.

But now the UN is taking steps to take over the web from private organizations. They think they can monitor and control it, as the US government has tried to do for years. Unfortunately they still misunderstand the creation that has been unleashed. Any computer running any operating system can now communicate with any other computer. All content is tradable and sendable. The UN and FBI have focused on DNS, the system that allows us to type in names to go to websites instead of numerical addresses, but DNS is just a convenience. Already most of the web is the "Dark Net," unconnected to DNS servers and completely unregulated. Many illicit activities take place on the dark net, but so do many activist activities. Whole scale shutdowns of internet nodes can temporarily keep a nation offline, such as in Syria or the Great Firewall of China. While extreme, this method does still work.

But not for long. Projects like are working on mesh networking. If there is power and working hardware in a region, people can communicate. They can move in and out of the web, the dark net, and the mesh. The more the governments of the world try to stop information now, the more layers will grow around it. Government sponsorship created the web but it has long since left their control. TOR protects activists and byzantium works on keeping them online. The greatest tool for information sharing is only now starting to grow into maturity and it will be the end of authoritarian regimes, corporate overreach and hidden politics. Wikileaks spies on governments and shares anything it finds, bitcoin offers secure and unmanipulated currency while linux has opened a world of tools that can be used to build as many webs as are needed to keep ahead of those who would suppress information.

If I were an authoritarian government, NGO or multinational corporation right now I would be trembling in fear.

Logic Priest

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guns, Penises and Revenge

American culture seems obsessed with revenge, guns and dicks. Masculinity is increasingly tied to packing a gun (substitute penis) and the bigger the better, of course. One of the most prolific and politically active arms of the military industry are gun manufacturers. Decades of lobbying and ads and cultural manipulation have led to more guns sold than ever, despite the decrease in the overall crime rate gun owners supposedly need protection from. Hell, everyone from Mother Jones to CNN has the ad from the Bushmaster rifle the shooter in Conecticut had:

Lovely, right? Aside from the sexism, this ad is a blatant promotion of the violent revenge fantasies played out in every action movie and television show. Americans want to be the vigilante, avenging perceived wrongs. Most won't act on them, but I don't think the ones who do are all that different from the ones who don't. Maybe they just got pushed a little too far, were a little to isolated or were a little on edge from life events. Think how many regular office employees with no history of violence get laid off and show up armed.

But we as a culture cannot face our own demons. When a white gunman kills 20 children in a school his mother worked at, we call him "crazy" and a "lone nut." We stigmatize mental illness and then blame it. Now the man in question may or may not have had some diagnosed disorder, but it is statistically irrelevant. The rate of violence among the "crazies" is the same as the "normal" people. It is just an excuse, a dodge from actually examining our gun laws and violence obsessed culture. We have spent too long building arms and worshipping war and revenge to simply fix it, but it would be nice to at least talk about it. A little introspection goes a long way.

Instead we have Fox claiming that it is too early to talk about gun control, then five seconds later saying guns couldn't be to blame because crazy people and because other ways to die exist. They bring up various bombers and such while ignoring the rarity of such incidents. We always fall back on absolutism. If something doesn't work 100% of the time then it may as well never work, right?

There has been a lot of examination on why blaming mental illness is a terrible thing, on why we call out white terrorists as "lone nuts" while simultaneously calling non white terrorists what they are. But at its heart, the problem really lies in our inability to talk about the problem itself. Any way to otherise the violence and defensively fall back to our culture of gun worship we will take. We have problems. And they are very closely tied together. The same military complex that gave us the cold war, the Iraq war, the missile buildup and gun culture gave us these shootings. It gave us our religiosity and fundamental fear of science and distaste for environmentalism and feminism and every other positive ism. It leads even self identified skeptics to be irrational and in the end, it prevents us from introspection. It all ties to that. We cannot look inwards.

Logic Priest

Edit: Read the hell outta this.

Shiny toys

So I ordered 3 Raspberry Pis last week, hopefully I will get them soon-ish. They seem to always be on back order. I already have a million projects in mind including a rack mounted micro server stack and robots of the quadrotor variety. So in this political free post I won't say anything about any shootings or centrists posing as liberals or Fox-splosions or even the War on Christmas™. Perhaps another post.

Logic Priest

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Debate Narrative

The media and democrats underestimate normal people. I don't think very highly of the average person but I do at least know that everyone has been in an argument. Everyone can see when one party is rude and obnoxious and patronizing. The media, however, doesn't believe this. They think the average person wouldn't see Romney's yelling and awkward style as losing so the headlines today will be "early victory for Romney" or "Obama slammed in first debate."

While Romney supporters will take loud and interrupting asshole as a win, they don't matter. They are authoritarian morons and count just being able to breathe a win. If moderates and undecided voters actually watched the debate they would see one calm, adult man debating a petulant, sneering asshole. People aren't that stupid. They are, however, stupid enough to not check the story behind the headlines. Most didn't see the actual debate so their only look is the headlines. Most won't even read the articles. Had they watched or if the media would report honestly as if their audience were adults then the whole narrative would change drastically.

Good headlines would read "Romney interrupts moderator, flip flops on key issues, avoids answering questions" and "Obama defends obamacare, tax plan, economy." Instead they will declare a winner based entirely on how little they think of Americans. They will declare victory because they don't realize that people can tell when someone is an asshole, when they are just being loud because they have no points. People aren't very good at fact checking or logical analysis, but they are good at socialization, they are familiar with arguments. The only ones who think Romney won are either blinded by being on his side or too arrogant to think other people notice the BS. Maybe if the media didn't treat the undecided voters as dib children they would show a greater interest in the campaign.

Not that it matters much anyway. Undecideds didn't watch and won't make a decision based on a debate or policy, but entirely on their feelings about a candidate. Had they watched their feelings might have been influenced, seeing Obama be calm and mature would boost confidence in him, but they will only see the patronizing headlines.

Logic Priest

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Antiquated Crime and Punishment

As time goes on we all like to imagine some progress or other, and one of the biggest segments of society we love to wave over the heads of "backwards" cultures like the Islamic theocracies popping up around the world is how we treat and define crime. Things which don't hurt other people are gradually decriminalized and punishments become less harsh. Supposedly we have moved from punishment towards rehabilitation, and we have tried to remove punishments for behaviors which hurt no one.

This is obviously all bullshit. We may not execute people for blasphemy but in the US we have used the prison system as an institutionalized club to keep separate black and latino populations from the working class. From the arrests to the courts to the harsher prison sentences, black and latino men and women are singled out by a system claiming to be built around justice.

We have criminalized free speech if it crosses a corporate copyright, or if it comes from someone with an islamic sounding name. We have criminalized drugs that non white communities tend to use and we send rich white kids to "rehabilitation" while we send poor black and latino kids to jail for the first offense. Three strike laws turn smoking pot in your own home three times equivalent to rape. Judges and juries and prosecutors overwhelmingly single out black men and women, regardless of actual guilt.

The prison system itself seems to still be built around dark ages ideals. We throw people into chaotic private prisons with abusive guards and slave labor. Pot heads and petty thieves are thrown in with hardened rapists, murderers and career criminals leaving them little choice but to become violent themselves to survive. When they do get out after long terms of isolation from society with no actual rehabilitating therapy or job training, they then must convince employers to hire them over white people with no criminal record. When this fails, they turn back to crime and end up back in the slave labor and abuse built privatizing penal system.

Most states in fact still have executions. State sanctioned murder still exists in the US, even as we mock the third world for barbarism. We have made distributing a copy of a work over a century old a crime that can land you in the same prisons as the violent criminals, let loose in the jungle of gangs and abusive guards. We execute mentally ill and damaged individuals for crimes they didn't even know they committed. We still electrocute people, a punishment which sometimes results in death after minutes of screaming agony. We as a people know the numbers, the facts about racial makeup and the criminalization of actions which hurt no one, but we ignore and allow it because it only affects "others," that is non whites. A rich lawyer in California can run over and kill a man and never be charged, while an inner city high school student can be sent to jail for a decade for being caught with marijuana.

The entire prison system shifts towards longer sentences for increasingly harmless "crimes" under the watch of for-profit corporations using the inmate populations as slaves while barely caring for them. Approaching two centuries out from the end of slaver in the US we have found a way to bring it back. Nothing is more important than the profits of the gentry.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mittens, Fox and the "Otherness" of the Moochers

My favorite part of Mitt Romney and Fox's 47-49% of so called moochers are predominantly white, Republican voters but when Fox and Mitt complain about the welfare queens and those on government assistance they imagine non white people, inner city people who don't work, yankees and west cost elites, rather than themselves. They can be mocked to their faces and not see it.

The break down of those receiving government money by population are mostly the elderly and those working 40+ hours at bad jobs. Broken down by amount of money, it is mostly agriculture related people and large corporations. And if you include the tax cuts inherent in the pro-investor tax code and
"incentives" given to highly profitable companies. Red states receive the most aid, republican voters do as well. The shear dissonance is painful yet hilarious, or it would be if it didn't affect the rest of us.

At least Romney finally realized how much he fucked up though. In his post video release press conference he looked more terrified than Nixon did when questioned about his tapes. He couldn't find words, he was sweating and not at all composed. His normal cocky rich asshole demeanor was gone and shear terror took its place. It was brilliant to see. Even moderates will notice the issues at hand, as shown by a nice margin between Mittens and Obama among likely voters. It is just sad that the hard core republicans, at least 40% of people, will vote for him anyways. They will believe whatever Fox and the GOP sell them.

Logic Priest

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt may just be stupid

So at first I thought he was amoral and out of touch but that he was banking on winning the conservatives and was merely overestimating their numbers. Then I thought he was appealing to the whole white "real" American thing, trying to sway the older vote. Then he started avoiding any and all social issues, then he picked Paul Ryan. It was then and their I started to doubt. He speaks as if he is smart, but that is probably little more than his high education and wealth talking. He looks smart, by dressing in ten thousand dollar suits, by getting three hundred dollar hair cuts. But more and more I doubt that he is as intelligent as he claims.

Supposedly Mittens had been a savvy businessman. Supposedly he was good with economic policy. Then he picked one of the stupidest people in congress to be his VP. Someone associated with one of the most damaging potential budgets living memory. A man associated with hyper conservative social causes, all while Mitt was trying to distance himself from such social issues to win the moderates. After running a campaign reinventing himself as "severely" conservative, Romney now was trying to stay away from that label, but he picked the worst running mate possible for that.

Now he has said pretty dumb things but I had marked it down to a disconnect, at first. Then this happened. It started to become clear. He wasn't saying stupid shit because he was slippery, though he is amoral as hell, but because he didn't understand cause and effect. He is rich, spoiled and genuinely unintelligent. Mitt does not understand that when you say something in an age of digital recordings everywhere, where everyone has a camera phone, everything goes online, that the things he says are actually listened to. We have tape of him supporting choice, then being against it four years later. We have tape of him and his self absorbed wife talking down to and about the 99% of Americans, claiming that the rest of us aren't real Americans, are moochers and lazy slackers. In the linked article they highlight him using the same language used by the damaged psychopath Ayn Rand, a hero of his and Ryan's. He seems to think in the internet age he can say anything and deny it later.

Fifty years ago I could understand this. TV was new for most of the country and recordings uncommon. Even if something did get recorded, one of 3 networks would have to air it for anyone to see it. But blogs have been big for a decade now. Online news is fast destroying traditional news. He cannot rely on Fox to spin this anymore. His conservative base, who are also stupid in the authoritarian-believe-anything they are told sense, will beleive he is talking about them, despite the fact that conservative leaning states are by far the greatest recipients of the federal aid Romney bashes and plans on cutting. They are by far the majority in the group Romney whines about who "don't pay income taxes." But they would vote for a literal mannequin if told to do so by Fox and Friends. The moderates, who may not be good at rational thinking, are at least smart enough to know when a candidate openly hates them. When someone as stupid as Mitt Romney says he hates them out loud. They may vote with their guts instead of brains, but even guts can see such blatant bile and dismissiveness from a robotic and out of touch candidate.

Mitt's only possible chance with moderates was claiming the economy could be fixed by his non intervention (ya doesn't makes sense to me either) but he really isn't smart enough to sell that. He can't avoid the social issues and his own problems with money and tax dodging, and he isn't charismatic or intelligent enough to fake it. So there it is, Mitt Romney isn't just amoral, out of touch, selfish and corrupt. He is a stupid, stupid man.

Logic Priest