Monday, January 31, 2011

Our Own Worst Enemies

Stop hitting yourself.

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“Government is just all of us working together.” “We are the government.” I frequently read such statements by liberals who react with alarm to the very notion that someone might fear the government.

If we are the government, we certainly do a lot of stuff to ourselves that isn’t very nice. Here, in no particular order, are some examples from the past week or two:


Friday, January 28, 2011

Data Privacy Day is Among Us

Get out there and flaunt your privacy!

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To appreciate Data Privacy Day you must first ignore the Euro-babble description of what is Data Privacy Day (“an international celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information”) and take it for what it really is: a prodding for Internet users to take a critical look at how they share and communicate information online.


Friday, January 21, 2011

A Step Toward a Decentralized Currency

Rainey Reitman on Bitcoin and the value of digital curency.

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To understand digital currency, one must first note that money in the digital age has moved from a largely anonymous system to one increasingly laden with tracking, control and regulatory overhead. Our cold hard cash is now shepherded through a series of regulated financial institutions like banks, credit unions and lenders. Bitcoin, created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, is a peer-to-peer digital currency system that endeavors to re-establish both privacy and autonomy by avoiding the banking and government middlemen. The goal is to allow individuals and merchants to generate and exchange modern money directly. Once the Bitcoin software has been downloaded, a user can store Bitcoins and exchange them directly with other users or merchants — without the currency being verified by a third party such as a bank or government. It uses a unique system to prevent multiple-spending of each coin, which makes it an interesting development in the movement toward digital cash systems.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Targeting our efforts

Kevin Carson points the way.

"When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at his finger."

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John Robb, who writes about asymmetric warfare and networked organization, is one of my favorite writers.  A central theme of his work is what he calls “systems disruption.”  To disrupt centralized, hierarchical systems, it’s not necessary to take over or destroy even a significant portion of their infrastructures.  It’s simply necessary to destroy the most vulnerable of their key nodes and render the overall system non-functional.

We can apply these lessons to our own movement to supplant the state.  Conventional politics aims at taking over the state’s policy apparatus and using it to implement one’s own goals.  But taking over the state through conventional politics is enormously costly.

We must find some weak point besides gaining control of the state.  For us, the state’s systempunkt is its enforcement capability.  By attacking the state at its weak point, its ability to enforce its laws, we can neutralize its ability to interfere with our building the kind of society we want here and now — and we can do so at a tiny fraction of the cost of gaining power through conventional politics.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Why you should always encrypt your smartphone

Ryan Radia delivers solid advice on protecting your privacy.

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Last week, California's Supreme Court reached a controversial 5-2 decision in People v. Diaz (PDF), holding that police officers may lawfully search mobile phones found on arrested individuals' persons without first obtaining a search warrant. The court reasoned that mobile phones, like cigarette packs and wallets, fall under the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

California's opinion in Diaz is the latest of several recent court rulings upholding warrantless searches of mobile phones incident to arrest. While this precedent is troubling for civil liberties, it's not a death knell for mobile phone privacy. If you follow a few basic guidelines, you can protect your mobile device from unreasonable search and seizure, even in the event of arrest. In this article, we will discuss the rationale for allowing police to conduct warrantless searches of arrestees, your right to remain silent during police interrogation, and the state of mobile phone security.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Default comment for any police misconduct story

Brad Spangler has composed a handy response for police misconduct reports. Yes, it is as simple as that. You want reform? This is reform.

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Please feel free to save this little text blurb I composed earlier today and use it yourself as a default comment on ANY police misconduct story.

“Simple economics tells us that any monopoly will have a strong tendency toward excessively high price, poor service/product quality, poor customer service and poor service/product availability. Police are a service monopoly. If you don’t like this [INSERT STORY REFERENCE], you basically have to support opening up competition — which makes you an anarchist. It’s as simple as that.”


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Greenwashed Corporatism is Still Corporatism

Posted by Kevin Carson at C4SS

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I hear frequently from a doctoral student named Keith Taylor, who’s researching electrical power cooperatives and decentralized models for developing wind power.  He’s sent me quite a bit of material, over the past year or so, on the extent to which government “alternative energy” policy systematically privileges large-scale, conventional corporate business models and expensive proprietary technology.

The government’s refundable tax credits, for example, don’t go to rural electric co-ops because they’re tax-exempt.  Sounds only fair, right?  But the thing is the credits are refundable — which means that if a business pays any taxes at all the credits it’s eligible for don’t have to bear any relation to the amount of taxes actually paid.  It’s like a $20,000 welfare check that kicks in when you earn a single dollar in wage income, but is unavailable to the unemployed.  So the credits are, in fact, a massive subsidy to the largest corporate wind farms.


Friday, January 07, 2011

The Net Neutrality Fight Goes on…and on

Larry Downes comments on CES panel debate over the FCC and the steps Congress is taking (HR96)

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I published an article for CNET late last night on a spirited debate at CES yesterday over the FCC’s recently-enacted “open Internet” rules, aka net neutrality.  Panelists from the FCC, Congress, AT&T, Verizon, Google and the Center for Democracy and Technology actually agreed on one point, which is that the neutrality saga has only completed its first chapter.

While some panelists believe the next step is more regulation, others promised Congressional and perhaps court challenges aimed at undoing the Commission’s “Christmas Surprise.”  As I note in the piece, the new Congress, with its Republican majority in the House, has already taken up reversing the rulemaking as a priority.  Rep. Marsha Blackburn has introduced legislation, signed by 60 other members including at least one Democrat, that would make clear the FCC’s lack of authority over broadband access.

And Neil Fried, senior counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, promised the overfull audience that the Committee would take up the FCC’s “overreaching” as its first tech agenda item.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Next Net

Douglas Rushkoff prepares us for the next step.

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The moment the "net neutrality" debate began was the moment the net neutrality debate was lost. For once the fate of a network -  its fairness, its rule set, its capacity for social or economic reformation - is in the hands of policymakers and the corporations funding them - that network loses its power to effect change. The mere fact that lawmakers and lobbyists now control the future of the net should be enough to turn us elsewhere.

That's right. I propose we abandon the Internet, or at least accept the fact that it has been surrendered to corporate control like pretty much everything else in Western society. It was bound to happen, and its flawed, centralized architecture made it ripe for conquest.