Category Archives: ‘pocalypse

exactly what it sounds like, unfortunately

A call to keyboards

Bruce Schneier in the Guardian

"The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet – and now we have to fix it. Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us. This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back. And by we, I mean the engineering community. Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention. But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do."

As a user and/or builder of the 'Net, would you get behind engineers' efforts to fix it?

Broken Systems

This morning in the news we find two very broken systems:

1.  "Copyright" "Enforcement":  The fact that neither YouTube's complex "takedown" system nor the DMCA (federal law) as practiced could stop Lionsgate (a film distributor) from forcibly removing this completely legal film TWICE is a pure example of how very broken the current system is.  Even after a lawyer is hired to step in, and even though this particular video had already been explicitly declared a shining example of Fair Use by the U.S. court system, it's obvious that without months of dogged effort and some luck, it would have remained offline.  

And of course, no-one ever made mention of how, maybe, the creator of this content should have received some compensation for being unfairly prosecuted, for having his hard work taken offline unfairly for many weeks, or for the many hours of time (and lawyer time!) he had to pay to iron things out.

Share a song with your friend, though, and the middlemen who distribute it (not the artists who made it) want a couple grand to "cover their losses".

It also shows how massively and basically biased our current system is against content-creators (i.e. people).  Have you ever heard of the DMCA or other copyright laws being used unfairly against a movie studio, or the recording industry conglomerate for example?  

2.  Entertainment in general:  All of that is one event, but seen in light of the overarching fact that we live in a society where three full films were made idolizing a pretty-faced male stalker and his mindlessly "in love" female victim, to the tune of billions in profit for corporations and rich people, while one 6-min free piece of art calling bullshit on the idea was banned from public view. 

WTF HUMANITY?!  I mean, 

Anyway, if you've never seen "Edward vs. Buffy", you definitely should, especially now that it's back online!

http://youtu.be/RZwM3GvaTRM

Do Not Miss “Secrets and Lies of the Bailout”

Isn't it funny how citizens of the US have heard almost nothing but bland reassurances about how that whole cost-of-an-entire-war-to-bail-out-the-banks thing worked out?

Yes, well. One of our country's greatest remaining investigative journalists has some news for you…the whole thing is an amazingly good read, but here's an important taste:

…On paper, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was simple: Treasury would buy $700 billion of troubled mortgages from the banks and then modify them to help struggling homeowners. Section 109 of the act, in fact, specifically empowered the Treasury secretary to "facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures." With that promise on the table, wary Democrats finally approved the bailout on October 3rd, 2008. "That provision," says Barofsky, "is what got the bill passed."

But within days of passage, the Fed and the Treasury unilaterally decided to abandon the planned purchase of toxic assets in favor of direct injections of billions in cash into companies like Goldman and Citigroup. Overnight, Section 109 was unceremoniously ditched, and what was pitched as a bailout of both banks and homeowners instantly became a bank-only operation – marking the first in a long series of moves in which bailout officials either casually ignored or openly defied their own promises with regard to TARP.

In fact, the amount of money that eventually got spent on homeowner aid now stands as a kind of grotesque joke compared to the Himalayan mountain range of cash that got moved onto the balance sheets of the big banks more or less instantly in the first months of the bailouts. At the start, $50 billion of TARP funds were earmarked for HAMP. In 2010, the size of the program was cut to $30 billion. As of November of last year, a mere $4 billion total has been spent for loan modifications and other homeowner aid.

So what exactly did the bailout accomplish? It built a banking system that discriminates against community banks, makes Too Big to Fail banks even Too Bigger to Failier, increases risk, discourages sound business lending and punishes savings by making it even easier and more profitable to chase high-yield investments than to compete for small depositors. The bailout has also made lying on behalf of our biggest and most corrupt banks the official policy of the United States government. And if any one of those banks fails, it will cause another financial crisis, meaning we're essentially wedded to that policy for the rest of eternity – or at least until the markets call our bluff, which could happen any minute now.

- via Secrets and Lies of the Bailout | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

The Drone Problem: Restriction Can’t Make Technology Less Scary

Drones.  It's a huge topic, but this article by the ACLU does a great job with its major points and substantive links-for-more-info.  (That's also a real, researched article; and this is a blog post; so compare accordingly.)

My own take on drones — which are little remote-controlled (or even self-controlled, to various degrees) flying machines that surveil and otherwise interact with people by proxy for their owners — isn't one I come across in my reading all that often, so I wanted to get it written down.  I actually developed this opinion as a result of researching and planning one of the novels I've tried to write*.

We live in a technological world.  In a technological world, one value matters above all:  Who has that technology?

There's often an argument made that technology should be restricted, and it's often phrased as though putting a "NO" label on some technology will stop it from happening.  In fact, all it does is limit who will have it.  People are like crows — they spread knowledge once they have it, and all disallowing it does is limit its use to the people who are willing to do disallowed things

And while criminals are scary, they also usually don't have the kind of resources that the other major group of people who are willing to do disallowed things does — that group of people being, of course, the ones with authority, who share with criminals the perception that they won't be punished for violating the rules.  Technology takes resources, and what drug-dealers, sex offenders, or burglars could do with permission to use drones pales, I think, in comparison to the havoc a government or a police-force could wreak with the same ability.  

The thing is, if you restrict drone technology (as a whole, I mean; not just "making it illegal for anybody to put a laser-gun on one" type of restriction), you:

  • make it impossible for law-abiding citizens and citizen groups to use it.  
  • You may make it more difficult for criminals to use it.  
  • You will make it at best only marginally more difficult for governments and police to use it — especially since technology is global, but restrictions are not; even perfect compliance with US law by US government and police agencies (which, come on, hahahaha) — still doesn't protect US citizens from Russian, North Korean, Saudi, or other drones.  

The law-abiding citizens, the ones who need and deserve protection from the misuse of technologies — and drones are definitely a technology that can easily be horribly misused — are not only not well-served by restrictions; arguably they're the ones most hindered by them.

So who and what can protect law-abiding US citizens from rampant surveillance by, and even attack from, drones, whether piloted by our own police, homegrown (or corporate!) mafia, our own increasingly overzealous government, or agencies aligned with unfriendly countries and foreign criminals?  

The answer is pretty clear, isn't it?  Other law-abiding citizens.  Specifically, ones who understand the technology, and can create it, improve it, and keep it and ways to circumvent it safely IN the hands of the people who a) are least likely to hurt others with it and b) need it to protect themselves from abuses by it.

Who can invent, create, spread and use the technology to protect innocent people from unlawful surveillance and attack?

Who can ensure that the information captured by surveillance technology is fair and honest, and that its capture wasn't in violation of civil rights laws?

Who can make sure that the people with money and power and willingness to break the rules are held accountable for their actions, by making sure they're just as surveilled as everyone else?

Yeah.  PEOPLE can.  Makers can.  Students can.  Garage-DIYers and kids and hobbyists and private engineers can.  Those are the people who can and will put drone technology to use to protect the innocent, to enforce the constitution, to catch the criminals — both the low and highbrow kind — and to defend themselves and their neighbors from the many threats that drones can pose if they're controlled exclusively by the wrong kind of people.  

(The argument will be made:  But it's the authority-figures' jobs to protect innocent people.  Citizens should just never think about it, and leave it in the hands of their cops and their lawmakers and all will be well.  And while I personally find it hard to justify that response with a straight-faced answer, I will give this one anyway:  The argument so often made to citizens is that if we have nothing to hide, then we won't object to being surveilled.  That argument goes both ways and then some, since the cops and the lawmakers are being paid by the people to work for the people — what should they ever have, or be allowed, to hide?  Their rights to privacy are not only the same as everyone else's, but less, since the rest of us aren't working publicly-accountable jobs.  And ditto for anything else that they're allowed to use drones to do to the citizenry; I fail to see why the citizenry shouldn't be allowed to do the same things right back.)

Police-states.  War and invasion.  Criminal overlords.  Corruption and fear.  Corporations have no interest in preventing such things — there's no money in it, plain and simple — and governments only care insofar as it's not their own power being usurped.  (Neither of those are judgments; they're just facts about how corporations and governments work.)  But people care.  People care about their neighborhoods, about their bosses, about the police who pull them over and the adults minding their kids and the gangs on their streets and the judges running their courts.  People are the ones who will use those drones to watch the people who need watching, especially as those people gain ever more power to watch the people, and to remote-control their interactions via little helicopters.

The little helicopters are coming — no, they're here — and trying to outlaw them or stop them is just stupid; it's a reaction based on fear and all it will accomplish is to make the reality of things much worse.  What needs to happen, and quickly, is to protect the right of the people to build, keep, and use those copters, because it's from law-abiding citizens that all the good uses for them will come.  

And there are such good uses!  Even beyond watching the watchers and protecting the innocent from abuse by authorities and criminals.  I think that, like the telephone, which in the early days was thought to be a useless or frivolous-at-best invention, the really cool uses for the drones have barely begun to percolate through the makerspaces, and could change the whole world vastly for the better when the technology gets more momentum.

Think of a world where only authority-figures and criminals could use telephones.  (Actually, that'd be a cool sci-fi dystopia, hmm.)  Think of how much power they'd have that ordinary law-abiding citizens were prevented from using…think about if gangs could call their dealers, and corrupt politicians could call their lobbyists, and terrorists could call their bosses, but it was illegal for you to call your neighbors for help or call the media to give them a tip.  That's the level of power differential we risk if the fear-based gut-reaction to the little helicopters is allowed to take over, and regulations and restrictions come into play that prevent engineers and makers and schoolkids from using and making drones.  And this may seem like a premature warning to some people, but on that you'll just have to trust me — it isn't.  The technology is in the wild-and-wooly state now, where the materials are cheap enough that most people can use them, and the people with a lot of resources are just starting to use the bloody hell out of them, and for more and more extreme things.  Restrictions on what governments can do, in warfare, in surveillance operations, etc. are definitely coming; and the danger — the biggest danger, if you ask me — is that the next step will be to restrict the citizenry from having and using the technology, using fear-based arguments about nameless "bad guys" who might do bad things.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be rules (and if you're such a simplistic thinker that you figured I was, um, why are you even reading this?).  There are rules for using telephones, and obviously-bad things that nobody is allowed to do with them; and that makes sense.  It's access to the technology that needs to be protected from restrictions.

Remember, then, that what enables unfairly bad technology is unfairly huge resources:  And in that arena, it's the big corporations and the governments that we'd better worry about.  As long as the rest of the field is open, the criminal element won't have any real advantage over the law-abiding citizens (and will, in fact, have several important disadvantages, which are apparent enough with a little thought that I won't go into them here).  And remember that criminality is, among those with the usual amount of resources, not the norm:  Other things get done with technology at a far higher rate than criminal things, even if the media is terrible at accurately portraying that ratio.  

If regular, awesome people can build and use their little helicopters, both to protect themselves and their rights, and for all the cool shit regular awesome people typically think of, then I think drones could be the beginning of a seriously awesome revolution.

 

*I'm always trying to write novels, and sometimes finishing them and throwing them out — my dream is to one day write one of them to my satisfaction!  I have three stories that really need to happen eventually, and one of them concerns the drone/privacy revolution and the fight over who gets access to that technology, and what they use it for.

Who’s your zombie apocalypse dream team?

Just a fun question that occurred to me today:  Out of all the people you know, which handful would you most rather be stranded with if the real, apocalyptic shit were to hit the fan?

(Not necessarily zombies — the idea isn't to pick for a specific skillset, but rather the people you know who you'd most trust in a full-scale redonkemergency.  And perhaps, if the people closest to you or around you most often are not among them, to ask yourself wherefore.)

Spend Wisely: Buying vs. DRMRenting

It's yet another example of the kind of imprecise language that gives me hives: Companies and their customers refer to purchasing rights to controlled content as "buying", when it's emphatically not. A perfect example showed up in the news today:

Did she violate any terms? Amazon will not tell. Perhaps by accident? Amazon does not care. The conclusion so far is clear: Amazon closed her account, wiped her Kindle and refuses to tell her why. End of discussion.

Outlawed by Amazon DRM « Martin Bekkelund.

So remember — and this doesn't apply to just Amazon, but to any case where you're DRMRenting instead of buying something:

If the retailer, in this case Amazon, thinks you’re a crook, they will throw you out and take away everything that you bought. And if you disagree, you’re totally outlawed. Not only is your account closed, all your books that you paid for are gone. With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient.

Pay attention!

[EDIT:  BoingBoing nails it in more detail here.]

SOPA / PIPA

NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no NO no 

STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID stupid STUPID STUPID *DUMB*

 

…And I imagine that that, in combination with what you're seeing everywhere else today, is Nuff Said, yeah?

(If not, poke me via any means and I'll happily elucidate the NO and the STUPID as much as you like.)

 

[[one last big FACEPALM for the government of the country that built the Internet, for being too bought-and-paid-for to bother even understanding the basics of how not to break it.  *SHEESH*]]

And I’m a lucky one


Mine is brief, because I felt weird sharing more of my story that that.  I also feel that the details of how we're different matter less than the many broad ways in which we're the same:  We are ALL suffering because our government, in spite of claiming status as the biggest and best democracy in the world, won't provide us decent health care, reasonable safety-nets, and protection from the people who, before we had a strong socialist* government, had no problem treating the 99% as straight-up slaves, including withholding access to education and weapons as a way to control us. 

The answer is not "less government" — but it's not surprising that the supporters of the 1% want it to be.  They've lamed the horse, and now they want us to let them shoot it, so they can go back to being lords and having serfs and never having to worry that "the rabble" will have any real influence.  These are people who want to use most of humanity as their own personal cattle, to buy and sell and work and kill as they see fit.  A government they don't own gets in their way.  So first they own it, then break it, then try to get people cheering for abolishing it altogether. 

But the 1% should fear the 99%, not the other way around.  Maybe it's been too long since we reminded them why.

 

*Socialist = with public works, public health, public schools, public emergency services and public courts that enforce the law evenly among everyone.  All things that level the playing field, and which the 1% are of course eager to do away with (except when they can work it so the public pays for those services, but the 1% benefit most from them).

Class warfare > Class massacre

Those complaining about the Occupy protests being Class Warfare are right.  Finally, it's turning to a war, with both sides aware that they're fighting it.

Thus far, it's been Class Genocide, with one side pooling their immense resources to safely corral and eradicate the 99% from afar.  By controlling the media, they've managed to keep the people they're attacking — depriving of food, shelter, education and rights — from ever realizing or acknowledging that they're under attack.  Like "safari hunters" who shoot caged lions, with enough money the 1% can make it cheap and easy to pick off their opponents like fish in a barrel.  It's been war-without-ever-leaving-your-mansion, winning without risking so much as a profit-margin. 

Until now.  Now the jig is up, and though they've been under attack for at least a decade already, the 99% are grabbing some weapons and getting ready to make this a real, honest fight.

Of course those who've been winning effortlessly for so long don't like it when their prey starts fighting back, turning the easy massacre into a real battle in which, oh yeah, they're massively outnumbered.  Now they might lose something; now, if they want their protected status and special privileges, they may actually have to pay for them.  It's not nearly as profitable to mug a person to their face as it is to sneak into their house while they're out working two jobs and swipe everything, is it?  When someone is facing you and the deal is open on the table, they might fight back, and they might even win. 

Cowards don't like warfare.  They prefer psyops.  They like missions that involve keeping people too scared and hungry to fight back, and "battles" where you can shoot everyone while they sleep.  But the cowards are in for it, if the 99% have woken up.

I'm not a fan of battles in general.  But Class Warfare beats the heck out of Class Massacre.