RSSCategory: Orwellian

Justice Isn’t Boring

December 2, 2010 | By | Reply More
Justice Isn’t Boring

I’d heard about this Boring case a couple of years ago, and it finally has reached a verdict. In essence, Google’s Street View crew accidentally drove up and filmed a private road, and the owners had nothing better to do than sue. I’m picturing some legal adviser drooling over Google’s coffers and thinking they had an angle to get something substantial in the form of a settlement. But the case was pretty weak, with several judges simply stripping off charges, until they were left with second degree trespass. But they won! They beat Google!

As Geek.com puts it: Boring couple win $1 compensation for Street View trespassing.

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Can Future Censorship Be Regulated?

December 1, 2010 | By | 11 Replies More
Can Future Censorship Be Regulated?

The question at hand is, who decides what you find on the web? I recently read Regulating the Information Gatekeepers about search engines. This article focused mainly on commercial implications of search engines changing their rules, and the ongoing arms race between companies that sell the service of tweaking web pages and links and click farms to optimize search engine ranking positions, and the search engines trying to filter out such bare toadying in favor of actual useful pages.

On my MrTitanium.com site, I ignore all those search engine games and just provide solid content and current items for sale. In 2002, MrTitanium was usually in the first dozen results when Googling for “titanium jewelry”. In 2003, Google decided that the number of links to a page was the primary sign of its usefulness. Within days, link farms popped up, and my site dropped from view. I waited it out, and in 2004, Google changed the rules again, and MrTitanium reappeared in the top 30. Top five for “titanium earrings”.

But the real question is, should someone be regulating these gatekeepers of information? Who decides whether a search for “antidepressants” should feature vendors, medical texts, or Scientology anti-psychiatry essays?

There are two ways to censor information: Try to block and suppress it, or try to bury it. The forces of disinformation and counterknowledge are prolific and tireless. A search engine could (intentionally or inadvertently) favor certain well represented but misleading positions (such as Truthers or anti-vaxxers) over proven science, and give all comers the impression of validity and authority to “bad” ideas.

But the question of regulation is a dangerous one. The best access to information is open. But if a well meaning legislature decides that there needs to be an oversight board, this board could evolve into information police and be taken over by populist electors who choose to suppress good information.

On the other hand, the unregulated and essentially monopolistic search industry began with great ideals, and so far has been doing a good job at a hard task. But it, too, could become malignant if there is no oversight.

Another facet is, whose jurisdiction would this fall under? If the U.S. congress passes laws that Google doesn’t like, they simply move offshore. There are designs for, and even prototypes of, data centers that float beyond any countries jurisdiction, powered by waves and sun, and connected via fibers and satellites. If the U.N. starts regulating, then whose rules apply? North Korea? Iran? China? And who could enforce it?

The information revolution is just beginning: We do live in interesting times.

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Whence Wikileaks?

November 30, 2010 | By | 21 Replies More
Whence Wikileaks?

At Democracy Now, Amy Goodman presents a fascinating discussion regarding the most recent of a series of leaks by Wikileaks. But first, her summary of the leaks:

Among the findings, Arab leaders are privately urging the United States to conduct air strikes on Iran; in particular, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called on U.S. to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program, reportedly calling on American officials to “cut off the head of the snake”. Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, also said they support a U.S. attack. The cables also highlight Israel’s anxiety to preserve its regional nuclear monopoly; it’s readiness to ‘go it alone’ against Iran, and its attempts to influence American policy. The cables also name Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al-Qaeda. The cables also provide a detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb targets in Yemen. One cable records that during a meeting in January with General David Petraeus, the Yemeni president Abdallah Saleh said, “We will continue saying these are our bombs, not yours.” Among the biggest revelations is how the U.S. uses its embassies around the world as part of a global spy network. U.S. diplomats are asked to obtain information from the foreign dignitaries they meet including frequent flier numbers, credit card details, and even DNA material. The United Nations is also a target of the espionage with one cable listing the information-gathering priorities to American staff at the UN headquarters in New York. The roughly half a dozen cables from 2008 and 2009 detailing the more aggressive intelligence collection were signed by Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. The New York Times says the directives, quote: “Appear to blur the traditional boundaries between statesmen and spies.” The cables also reveal that U.S. officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for CIA officers involved in an operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was abducted and held for months in Afghanistan. The cables also document suspicion of corruption in the Afghan government. One cable alleges that Afghan vice president Zia Massoud was carrying fifty two million dollars in cash when stopped during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Only 220 cables were published by WikiLeaks on it’s website on Sunday with hundreds of thousands more to come. The Obama administration has been warning allies about the expected leaks since last week. A statement from the White House on Sunday said, “We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.” It also said the disclosure of the cables could, “deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world.”

I approve of these leaks by Wikileaks. We the People supposedly run this country, but we are kept totally in ignorance regarding many of our nation’s foreign policy adventures. Our mainstream media should be gathering this sort of information by aggressively reporting by doing investigative reporting, and by reporting when our government fails to be forthright. But they have failed miserably. This is thus what it has now come to: massive dumps of “unauthorized” information that embarrasses our government and should embarrass our government. But instead of seeing our mainstream media praise Wikileaks, we continue to see scurrilous attacks on Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Glenn Greenwald understands why:

Focusing on the tabloid aspects of Assange’s personal life can have no effect — and no purpose — other than to distract public attention away from the heinous revelations about this war and America’s role in it, and to cripple WikiLeaks’ ability to secure and disseminate future leaks.

It’s not hard to see why The New York Times, CNN and so many other establishment media outlets are eager to do that. Serving the Government’s interests, siding with government and military officials, and attacking government critics is what they do. That’s their role. That’s what makes them the “establishment media.” Beyond that, the last thing they want is renewed recognition of what an evil travesty the attack on Iraq was, given the vital role they know they played in helping to bring it about and sustain it for all those years (that’s the same reason establishment journalists, almost by consensus, opposed any investigations into the Bush crimes they ignored, when they weren’t cheering them on). And by serving as the 2010 version of the White House Plumbers — acting as attack dogs against the Pentagon’s enemies — they undoubtedly buy themselves large amounts of good will with those in power, always their overarching goal. It is indeed quite significant and revealing that the John Ehrlichmans and Henry Kissingers of today are found at America’s largest media outlets. Thanks to them, the White House doesn’t even need to employ its own smear artists.

Our federal government and our mainstream media could put Wikileaks out of business in a heartbeat if only they could stop being such liars and manipulators of information. Our government and most of our popular media seem to be under the impression that their sole purposes for existing are to maintain power and make money. This is the perfect storm for the creation of an organization like Wikileaks, because there are many of us who have strong hunches about what is going on out there in the real world and we want to see virtually all of that information made public.

George Carlin exactly expresses my sentiments tonight:

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AM radio shows as broken windows

November 23, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
AM radio shows as broken windows

In an 1982 article, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling announced their “broken windows” theory of crime:

Broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the normsetting and signalling effects of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may prevent further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime.

Here’s more from Wikipedia:

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.

[More . . . ]

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Getting Science Under Control

November 10, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
Getting Science Under Control

After the election of 2008, we fans of the rational and provable had high hopes that government may give as much credence to the scientific process and conclusions as to the disproved aspects of philosophies promulgated by churches and industry shills. We watched with waning hope as a series of attempts to honor that ideal got watered down. But at least it was an improvement.

But the 2010 election quickly reveals a backlash. Those whose cherished misunderstandings had been disrespected for the last couple of years now will have their day. As Phil Plait says, Energy and science in America are in big, big trouble. He begins,

“With the elections last week, the Republicans took over the House once again. The list of things this means is long and troubling, but the most troubling to me come in the forms of two Texas far-right Republicans: Congressmen Ralph Hall and Joe Barton.”

He goes on to explain why. It comes down to them being proven representatives for Young Earth and fossil fuel interests, doing whatever they can to scuttle actual science by any means necessary. Especially where the science contradicts their pet ideas.

Barton has published articles supporting climate change denialism. His main contributors are the extraction industries.

Hall has used parliamentary tricks to attempt to scuttle funding for basic research. The Democrats offered to compromised by cutting funding, and he refused in hopes that the whole bill would fail. It passed. Then Hall publicly called Democrats on the carpet for using tricks to fatten the bill by the amount that they offered to cut. The Proxmire spirit lives on.

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Mind your expressions of dissent

October 8, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
Mind your expressions of dissent

Popular social news site Reddit provides a dramatic example of how innocent and ordinary conversations are enough to trigger terrorism investigations in our modern America.

Reddit allows anyone with a free account to post items of interest, and the discussion generated by postings provides much of the site’s appeal. About three months ago, a user named JayClay posted the following query in regards to the TSA’s security screening procedures at airports:

“So if my deodorant could be a bomb, why are you just chucking it in the bin?

And if it’s just harmless deodorant, why are you taking it from me?!

But no. I did not say this aloud. Like everyone else, I didnt want to say or do anything that would jeopardize making my flight. So I just turned around and walked towards the room after security.

Where they just happened to sell deodorant.

The thread on Reddit has generated 1,563 comments as of now, mostly critical of the security theater that is the TSA.

[More . . . ]

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Anti-communist propaganda alive and well

September 14, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Anti-communist propaganda alive and well

For some reason, our government and its propaganda arm, the mainstream media, refuses to give up beating the dead horse that is Cuba. We’ve had it in for them ever since they went Commie, and we’re not about to quit now! I just noticed this article from Newsweek entitled “Castro tells the truth about Cuba” which gives us the current bad news:

He has outlasted eight U.S. presidents, survived countless CIA efforts to do him in, and his communist regime has remained in power for a generation after the collapse of his Soviet sponsors. So what does the leader of the 1959 Cuban revolution think now of the system he created? Last week The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg reported Fidel Castro’s startlingly honest assessment: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Some observers suggest that the 84-year-old Castro’s unexpected honesty may be a belated attempt to throw himself on history’s mercy. After all, they say, Cuba is in tatters. According to Andy Gomez, assistant provost at the University of Miami, tourism on the island has declined 35 percent this year, and remittances are expected to drop to $250 million—far below the peak of $800 million earlier this decade. Cuba’s own National Statistics Office has reported that economic indicators, such as construction and agriculture, were down significantly in the first half of the year. And last month, President Raúl Castro began a process of dismissing or transferring some 20 percent of state employees—a major move, given that the government employs more than 90 percent of the country’s labor force. Says Gomez, “The Cuban economy is the worst it’s ever been.”

How dare Castro “survive countless CIA efforts to do him in”, who does he think he is?? Anyway, some of these numbers are meaningless without comparison, so let’s look at the good-old U.S. of A.

[More . . .]

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A question for President Obama

September 9, 2010 | By | 28 Replies More
A question for President Obama

I wonder, which is a better recruitment tool for potential terrorists: the burning of a Koran or the following news items from the past month or so:

“Spin” defined

August 2, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
“Spin” defined

World English Dictionary defines “spin” thusly:

13.informal to present news or information in a way that creates a favourable impression

President Obama is kind enough to provide us with an example:

President Obama on Monday announced plans to withdraw combat forces in Iraq, providing assurances that an Aug. 31 deadline will be met as the U.S. moves toward a supporting role in the still-fractured and dangerous nation.

U.S. forces in Iraq will number 50,000 by the end of the month — a reduction of 94,000 troops since he took office 18 months ago, the president said in remarks to the Disabled American Veterans. The remaining troops will form a transitional force until a final withdrawal from the country is completed by the end of 2011, he said.

… “Make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing — from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”

Only in the world of “spin” (or Orwell) would 50,000 troops be considered a “civilian effort led by our diplomats”.

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