Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

how to fix the United States’ financial woes

August 12, 2011

Sell freedom of speech rights to China. In exchange for assets, allow China to censor American citizens as they see fit.

general thoughts on economics and government, IMO

March 9, 2011

Some thoughts after a discussion with a friend and self-described “libertarian”:

Government isn’t a means to a socially prosperous end. However, government can serve a positive (or negative) role during the process of social change. It’s a tool that may be beneficial or harmful depending on how it’s put to work. Regarding contemporary economics, implementing a purely laissez-faire or strict command economy will surely stifle. Our nature (which we’ve inherited yet differs from, the animals) demands a nuanced approach. We must be given the freedom to learn as individuals yet our aggression is best kept in check, at least to some degree. I think of our current existence as wounded yet promising. We’re often in conflict; that is our history and present. Confronted with scarcity and a fear of it, greed often dominates and we ruthlessly compete. Yet, we are capable of deep compassion and often, with no strings attached, care for others and the environment. I think government can be useful medication for the wound as we heal; or it can be salt.

Freedom Box

February 22, 2011

Today I decided to support Freedom Box. Funding for the project is hosted on Kickstarter. I encourage contributions but if that’s not possible, please read the following excerpt below explaining why this software is being written.

Why Freedom Box?

Because social networking and digital communications technologies are now critical to people fighting to make freedom in their societies or simply trying to preserve their privacy where the Web and other parts of the Net are intensively surveilled by profit-seekers and government agencies. Because smartphones, mobile tablets, and other common forms of consumer electronics are being built as “platforms” to control their users and monitor their activity.

Freedom Box exists to counter these unfree “platform” technologies that threaten political freedom. Freedom Box exists to provide people with privacy-respecting technology alternatives in normal times, and to offer ways to collaborate safely and securely with others in building social networks of protest, demonstration, and mobilization for political change in the not-so-normal times.

Freedom Box software is built to run on hardware that already exists, and will soon become much more widely available and much more inexpensive. “Plug servers” and other compact devices are going to become ubiquitous in the next few years, serving as “media centers,” “communications centers,” “wireless routers,” and many other familiar and not-so-familiar roles in office and home.

Freedom Box software images will turn all sorts of such devices into privacy appliances. Taken together, these appliances will afford people around the world options for communicating, publishing, and collaborating that will resist state intervention or disruption. People owning these appliances will be able to restore anonymity in the Net, despite efforts of despotic regimes to keep track of who reads what and who communicates with whom.

perhaps an american can explain this to me…?

January 22, 2010

I don’t get how restricting corporate spending on political campaigns violates free speech. This is disgraceful. Implied by the freedom to speak is the freedom to think for oneself. A corporation is incapable of personal thought or speech because it is not a real person. Sure, a corporation can release a statement to the press but a corporate statement is always bound by groupthink.

Every CEO, shareholder, and employee of a corporation is already a citizen granted the right to free speech and the right to put personal dollars toward political use. Therefore, I don’t see how restricting corporate spending violates any person’s right to speak freely. The US has taken the idea of corporate “personhood” way too far.

i HAD to OPIne

March 11, 2009

Nate Anderson at Ars has an article labeling the drafted “HADOPI” law as “anti-P2P”, but it’s much worse. The law not only attacks p2p activities of the wired citizenry, but threatens to cut computer users off from Internet access entirely. If citizens are perceived to be sharing unauthorized works, a 3-strikes-you’re-censored response would take effect. While it’s impossible to imagine any justified trade-off in this approach, what’s proposed is insulting:

In return, French DVDs will appear a couple of months closer to their theatrical release date and music and movie groups will have to drop much of their DRM. Global music trade group IFPI thinks this is a wonderful trade-off.

So in exchange for Global Business Interests at the expense of freedom, digitized French works will be released sooner and stripped of the already ineffective technical restrictions known as DRM. If that isn’t une escroquerie, what is? “Wonderful trade-off” indeed. Beyond the imbalanced nature of this “deal” are other disasterous consequences. The law would require

home Internet users to install certain approved security software and to secure their networks.

Want to create a community of Internet users that share a public commons of bandwidth? Too bad. Doing so would prevent the recording industry from spying on your activity to peg you a “pirate”. Here, the “secure network” doublethink is language of Orwellian stature. It’s no wonder too, why ISPs might wish to support this measure. A legal measure preventing the sharing of bandwidth only serves their interests.

Finally, the insanity of this law is revealed through the handling of users who seek to share information using public wireless access points. To protect corporate media’s 20th-century business modelthe artists, this perceived problem will be taken care of using a “solution” that’s “simple”:

such hotspots would offer only a “white list” of approved websites.

Since the ability to spy on you is lost at the coffee shop or local library, the technology itself shall be declared guilty in advance and on your behalf. Vive la censure!

a (cynical?) perspective on this historic US presidential election

November 6, 2008

While some may label this as cynicism, my joy over the election results comes not from an Obama/Biden win as much as a McCain/Palin loss. What I do hope for, is that eight years from now I’ll be celebrating the win.

the EESA and Lessig’s “corruption”

September 30, 2008

Lawrence Lessig has made clear what he means by “corruption” in the political process. That is, corruption not as outright bribery but corruption marked by the “amplification” of money within the political process. The recent rebuke of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act certainly was an extraordinary display of citizen action (not, as some Republicans might have you believe, a partisan blunder by Pelosi) but what’s almost as interesting to note are the underlying statistics of this historic vote:

Interests who wanted this bill to become law gave an average of:

$231,877 to each legislator voting Yes
$150,982 to each legislator voting No

Coincidence or corruption?

Thanks to Jim for the email.

Main Street recovery

September 26, 2008

Though American democrats settled on mediocrity by choosing Obama, they could temper that choice by spreading this (authored by the candidate they, IMO, should have chosen).

ethical licensing for electronic voting software

August 5, 2008

Update: Luis Villa was kind to converse with me via email and noted that the AGPL’s language speaks only to networked software as a service. Therefore, while the AGPL may be a good choice for web-based voting, it may not work at all for traditional e-voting machines. A similar-in-spirit license with slightly different wording may be needed (I’m wondering if one exists). Of course, the better approach would simply be to legislate disclosure of the code and the best might be to ban electronic voting altogether.


Dan Wallach:

My question to the peanut gallery: what sort of license would you select for a bright, shiny new voting system project and why?

Lots of mention of the GPL in the comments of that post but it nor any permissive free software license (or the public domain) is appropriate. The GPL does not require disclosure of modifications made to the machine-installed version as the software is not being propagated. Therefore, the software on the machines could be different than the version(s) voters download to audit. To serve democracy, the voters must be able to audit unmodified copies of the software actually used on the machines. A license that will do this is (not necessarily – see update above) the Affero GPL. It would force exact copies of the software used on the machines to become available to users of the machines.

And on a related note, electronic voting needs free software as a service but that’s not enough. A tangible record (e.g. paper) is also necessary as free software doesn’t necessarily prevent tampering of the machines in the possession of those the public must trust.

absentee landlord

February 28, 2008

John Fru Ndi:

Mr. Biya is an absentee landlord. He’s never around the people. He never knows how much a market woman goes through to bring her goods to the market. He doesn’t know anything. To say that fuel is not expensive, Mr. Biya wouldn’t know because he has never gone to the gas station.

Government rule is so pretentious that when officials of significant rank (or their family members) travel by car, a large portion of the city streets are closed down. This needless interference in public life happens many times a month – often on little notice. The government of Cameroon is incredibly corrupt – not just in a Lessig sense, but through blatant bribery and extortion. The people of Cameroon deserve much more. It is sad to hear that lives are being lost in rebellion.