athelind: (Constitution)
Reposted from my Tumblr:

Nothing frustrates me more than people who talk about whether a presidential candidate would be a “strong leader”. People who want to be led are and always have been the single greatest danger to freedom.

The role of the President is not to lead the country.
The role of the President is to serve the country.

If you think the United States is “choosing a leader” tomorrow, you do not understand American democracy.

The last year and a half has been a job interview.

Who do you want to hire?

athelind: (Constitution)
Much has been said recently about Indiana’s SB101, the latest in a series of “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” metastasizing around the country. Most of the focus on SB101 has been characterizing it as an "anti-gay" or "anti-LGBT" bill, and, indeed, there's no secret that its primary impetus has spawned from numerous incidents where businesses have faced legal repercussions for refusing service to gay couples.

The text, of course, "cleverly" avoids any mention of sexual orientation.

I submit that this is not an "anti-gay" bill:
It is an anti-everyone bill.

Please understand: I wholly agree with the backlash against those who have smugly and snottily responded to the cry of "Black Lives Matter" with "All Lives Matter". That is an attempt to derail and deflect the outcry against the statistically-documented assault on the nation's black population. Of course "All Lives Matter"; it has never, in this country, been a matter of dispute that WHITE lives matter.

This is not that. This is not trying to derail the vital discussion of the frantic, desperate anti-LGBT flailings of the zealots who claim that the One who broke bread with prostitutes and publicans is really the Prince of Fear and Hate rather than Peace.

However, when I read the text of this bill, and really understood what it allowed, it was clear that this didn't just allow the prudish baker to refuse to make a wedding cake with two little grooms on top.

It allows any business - bakeries, restaurants, even hospitals - to deny service to any individual or group so long as they can claim that catering to them would be an undue burden on their "religious practices and beliefs". Mixed-race couples. Muslims. Atheists. Irish.

All I could think of were the words of Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

athelind: (Constitution)

I will allow the possibility that corporations might be considered people as soon as I see one marched to the guillotine.

Parading its head on a pike is optional.
athelind: (tell it like it IS)
Okay, you know what?

I've Been Criminally Remiss.

I'm sorry. I had the "not afraid of pirates, afraid of creators" epiphany YEARS ago, and it's been in the back of my mind since the whole SOPA thing started up months ago.

And it's a meme that needs to be propagated. EVERYTHING I read, ESPECIALLY the opposition, keeps USING BIG MEDIA'S FRAMEWORK, and prefacing their opposition to SOPA and PIPA with "yes, online piracy is a problem, but this isn't the solution."

NO solution that Big Media pushes is going to be ANYTHING but an assault on small businesses and individual creators, because THAT IS THEIR PRIMARY GOAL. They WANT you to watch THEIR stuff. They CAN'T support you making your OWN stuff.

That IS and ALWAYS WILL BE their primary motivation.

So I need to make yesterday's post a Facebook entry, an FA entry, a DA entry ... maybe my frakkin' comics blog ... And, of course, write to my congressman and senator, and the congressmen and senators who AREN'T mine but are at the forefront of the fight against this crap, because THEY'RE using the same frame, too.



athelind: (Eye in the Pyramid)
The biggest supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act are also the biggest distributors of torrent software, DRM removal software, and other "piracy" tools -- and their sites clearly show step-by-step how to access copyrighted material using these warez.

They've created the download culture and the "piracy problem" themselves, and are using it as a lever to take control of the internet and eviscerate its dangerous ability to enable populism om political, material and creative levels.

They have deliberately encouraged behavior that they are simultaneously trying to criminalize.

Yes, this is every bit as dangerous to your civil liberties as the NDAA's provisions to require the military to indefinitely detain anyone the government deems a terrorist, without council or due process ... especially when you consider the inflamed rhetoric that insists that "online piracy supports terrorism".

If the last three or four decades have taught us anything, it's that today's inflamed rhetoric is tomorrow's mainstream party platform.

athelind: (tell it like it IS)
In a response to my post about the Doctrine of "Real" Names, [ profile] araquan provided the following insight from a Charlie Rose interview with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg:

Facebook COO Sandberg talked about the power of relationship-based networks, contrasting "the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends."

"So that's Google versus Facebook right there," Rose replied.

Sandberg didn't agree. She thinks the entire first phase of the Web's development -- which led to "a lot of wonderful things" -- was largely based on "anonymity and links between crowds."

The next stage of development, the one Facebook has spearheaded, is built around identity. "The social Web can't exist until you are your real self online," Sandberg said. "I have to be me, you have to be Charlie Rose."

The logical fallacy, of course, is the conflation of "real self" with "legal name". You can't be your "real self" if you're always wondering, "what would my family think of this? What if my boss Googles me?"

I am my "real self" online, and my "social Web" is woven among those who know me as "Athelind" and "Your Obedient Serpent".

That other name?

That's not my "real self", Ms. Sandberg.

That's my banking information, and I know why you want it.

athelind: (number six)
It is a classic trope of science fiction that In the Future, We Will Have Numbers Instead Of Names.

In almost every instance of this trope more recent than Ralph 124C 41+, this is a sure sign that you live in a dystopia. It suggests a world in which human concerns are devalued, and society itself is engineered to make it easier for a large, impersonal bureaucracy to track and monitor its citizens subjects.

Over the last few centuries, as Nation-States have arisen and consolidated their power, there has emerged a doctrine that everyone should have one and only one name, used in any and every context; that this is your only "real" name; and that the only possible reasons to use nicknames, pseudonyms, or any alternative to the name recorded in your governmental and financial records are to conceal unsavory practices, or perpetrate outright fraud.

A name that falls outside a limited range of acceptance criteria may not be accepted as a "real" name, and will certainly engender harsh feelings from governmental and corporate bureaucrats inconvenienced by the nonconformity.

As so many things have, this memetic push has accelerated across the close of the 20th Century and the dawn of the 21st.

Be advised, and be aware:

The only difference between this doctrine of "real" names and the dystopian trope of numbers that replace names is the number of bits in your designation.

The intent is to make you easier to track. The intent is to make you a product.

Vernor Vinge warned us, thirty years ago: when someone knows your True Name, they have power over you.

Government watchlists aside, Google and Facebook aren't making money providing you with free email and search and "social networking". They're making money by selling your easily-monitored habits and interests to other corporations. If you operate under more than one name, if you compartmentalize your life and your purchasing power amongst multiple identities, you are diluting their product by making it more difficult to thoroughly profile you—and they consider that intolerable.

Enlightening References:

(I have noticed, and not without irony, that the same kind of people who once ranted about Social Security Numbers as "the Mark of the Beast" tend to automatically and reflexively agree with the idea that people only have one "real name".)
athelind: (veteran)
This was not our era's Pearl Harbor.

This was our era's Reichstag Fire.

After reading the responses, and being asked privately, "Does that mean you're a 'truther'?", I feel the need to restate this more clearly:

The events of 11 September 2011 more closely resemble the Reichstag Fire than Pearl Harbor, most significantly in our response to them as a nation.

Certainly, it is not a one-to-one congruence -- but the "Pearl Harbor" comparison is bandied about far more often, with few objections, and the correspondence is no more exact.

The sticking point for most respondents seems to be the identity of the perpetrators of the Fire. That's a niggling detail, irrelevant to the thesis. I find the nature of our national response to be a matter of far greater importance, because we, lashing out in terror for a decade, have done far more damage to ourselves, to our freedoms, and to the world than the people in those planes ever could have.

The Most Significant Point of Similarity is not whether or not it was an "inside job", but in the fact that it allowed the ugly strain of authoritarianism that had been seeping into into our national political culture for years to finally consolidate its power and win the hearts and minds of the public.

If you want more discussion of "the nature of our national response", feel free to consult Mr. Hicks for his opinion thereon.

athelind: (Default)

Survey says: Tea Party has Lower Approval Rating than Muslims and Atheists.

Can we stop pandering to them now?

Can we stop letting them drag our nation into the abyss in the name of "compromise" and "balance"?

Can we stop pretending that they're influential or even relevant to political discourse in the Untidy States?

They are not the change I voted for.

They are not the "American Values" my ancestors fought to forge and preserve.

athelind: (cronkite)
An addendum to my last post:

Perhaps it's just that I have trouble equating "shot in the head by a death squad" with "justice".

"Justice", to me, would have bin Laden facing war crime charges in front of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Of course, the U.S. refused to sign onto the ICC.

And "justice", to me, would have more than bin Laden before that court.

athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
And so, another year ends, and Your Obedient Serpent will be more than happy to be shed of this one. I bid 2010 adieu with two upraised middle fingers and a shout of defiance.

It's time to face forward.

I've mentioned that sometimes, the radio talks to me, that the station I most often tune to has a tendency to play certain songs over and over again, and sometimes, the songs that cycle into that repetitious rotation are ones that directly address my moods and circumstances.

Back in November, as I was preparing to move a lifetime of belongings out of [ profile] quelonzia's garage, this one played nearly every day.

I was going to post it tomorrow, but it played again, just minutes ago.

This, then, is my New Year: No Resolutions, Just Resolve.

I've got a world and a life and a future in front of me.

And it's mine.

I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams ... )

Happy New Year, one and all!

athelind: (cronkite)
Due to recent events, I haven't been as politically vocal in this forum as I once was. So It Goes.

We've got an election coming up in this country next week, though, and The Big Picture matters, especially with Big Media so happily wedded to Big Stupidity these days.

Let's lead off with Senator Al "won by 312 votes" Franken's reminder that every vote counts. Even yours. That's right, you. He also opines:

The month Barack Obama was sworn in we lost 750,000 jobs in this country. With all due respect to the President, I think his analogy that the economy was a car in a ditch when he took office is just a little too static. Here's my analogy, which, in my opinion, is both more kinetic and, frankly, far more accurate.

When the President took office, not only had the car gone into a ditch, the car had flipped over and was rolling down a steep embankment. We, the American people, were in the back seat, and the Bush Administration had removed all the seat belts, so we were all flying around the interior of this car as it was rolling and flipping and careening down this steep embankment, headed to a 2,000 foot cliff. And at the bottom of that cliff were jagged rocks. And alligators.

Now, at noon on January 20th, 2009, as the car was careening toward the cliff, George W. Bush jumped out of the car.

President Obama somehow managed to dive in through the window, take the wheel and get control of the thing just inches before it went over the precipice. Then, he and Congress starting pushing this wreck back up the embankment. Now you can't push a car up an embankment as fast as it careens down the embankment, especially if some people are trying to push against you. But we got it going in the right direction. And slowly we've gotten ourselves up the embankment, out of the ditch and onto the shoulder of the road.

[Italics mine ... and I confess I'm not quite as optimistic as Sen. Franken that we're quite "up the embankment" yet. Then again, I count things like "war without end" and "condoning torture" as part of the mud on the slippery slope.]

To expand the "every vote counts" theme into one of Solidarity, [ profile] velvetpage gives a concrete example from this week's Canadian elections:

Toronto: the vote on the left was split several ways, while the vote on the right was concentrated on one right-wing ideologue who got the ear of the suburbs by promising an end to corruption and a drastic reduction in social services that the suburbs use less anyway. Want to know how it is that a country where most people lean to the left of centre manages to keep electing these clowns? Here's how: there are so many good ideas and decent people on the left that people can't settle on just one, and with a first-past-the-post system, it means the right-wing guy with less than a majority often comes up from behind.

And with the preliminaries out of the way, some Quick Links:

Thanks to Mark Evanier, [ profile] velvetpage, and most especially [ profile] pseudomanitou for links and leads. Seriously, folks, [ profile] pseudomanitou's LJ is the best Progressive News Aggregator I've encountered. I have a lot of news feeds, but PM's news posts put all the best stuff in one place.
athelind: (facepalm)
For the record, Measure J passed with 60% of the vote.

I think "monorail!" (with exclamation point) is now part of Athelind's Argot.
athelind: (Warning: Self-Evolving System)
After my post about the possibility of a non-violent dissolution of the Union, and particularly in light of this comment about a Disunited States restructuring itself as a North American Union along the lines of the EU, two posts on Futurismic jumped right out at me.

The first raises the idea that the U.S. is just too big to govern with a top-down model, and as the amount of information involved increases, and transparency increases, it simply overwhelms the systems. Some of the quotes sound like knee-jerk Luddism, until you realize that the guy saying "The political system is broken partly because of Internet" is the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the guy saying that releasing more government information would harm politcial debate and paralyze the government was Lawrence Freaking Lessig, one of the founders of the Creative Commons. When that hits, it turns everything around: they aren't critiquing the new technology; they're critiquing the established governmental systems, and actually suggesting new ideas.

(Again, a recurring theme in Toffler is that "second-wave" institutions are are a poor match to an economy driven by "third-wave" technology. Is that The Other Shoe I hear?)

The article about Post-National Identity is also Relevant To Recent Discourse, but it's one in the morning, so good frakkin' night.

athelind: (eco-rant)
Okay, one reason, and one alone:

The United States of America consumes a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and produces a disproportionate amount of its pollution. Even a massive socio-economic catastrophe isn't going to do more than moderate that, at least over the next half-century or so. this is an issue that I can't run away from, because the ripples affect the entire world, and not just economically.

I am an Earth Systems Scientist.

If I have any hope of having an effect on this globe-threatening situation, it's gotta be here.

I've got my lever, rusty as it may be, and I think I'm narrowing down my places to stand.

athelind: (politics)
This was originally tacked on as a footnote to my last post, but I think it needs to stand on its own.

For the record, the "Divided States of America" is only a "worst-case scenario" if the Balkanization is violent. That's not unlikely, because we're all pretty pissed at each other right now, and we do like our guns.

On the other claw, the Soviet Union managed to spin off its component without devolving into all-out war, though, even if there were border skirmishes; if the U.S. pulled off the same trick, California might wind up better off than we are now, with the Federal Government funneling money out of the eighth-largest economy in the world and into Red States who rant against taxation, welfare and government interference.

athelind: (prisoner)
Mostly for my own reference: some thoughtful and measured words about emigration.

I'll tell ya: ever since reading Toffler's predictions for the future of the two "Second Wave" superpowers in 1990's Powershift, and watching it come true in the Soviet Union less than a year later, there's a part of me that's been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Yes, I'm fully aware that this kind of apocalyptic paranoia has contributed to the paralyzing stasis of my life since graduation.

Still, there's an important truth in play: things aren't getting any better in the Untidy States, and the best-case scenario is to hope that the continual erosion of our rights and freedoms will be sufficiently gradual that we won't notice.

And the alternatives ... well, we seem to be using all the worst clichés of Cyberpunk as a road map as it is, why not that one, too?*

I would really like to convince myself that this is just pessimism due to the latest economic downturn, but even during the boom years of the '90s, I saw the "New Democrats" quietly and casually continuing the trends of restricting the rights of biological individuals and increasing the freedoms of "corporate persons". Some oppressed groups have made a few advances in acceptance, but really, it's just welcoming them to the same Village that the rest of us live in. One step forward, two steps back.

I'm in the process of reevaluating my life, realigning my goals, and trying to get a better grip on how the "real world" works.

And around here ... it doesn't. Not very well. Not in ways that will do me any good, now or in the future.

Realistically, if I'm trying to reconstruct my present to make plans for my future, "emigration" needs to be one of my options—even and especially if I land the elusive "Real Job" locally.

The big issue, of course, is that the other Anglophone nations don't really want more USian expatriates.

This is not a post about pessimism or defeatism. This is a post about options.
*See next post.

athelind: (Eye in the Pyramid)
I guess I can boil down my last post into a couple of simple questions:

Does investing public money into building a stadium actually yield a net economic benefit to the community?

If so, does it actually provide more of a benefit than investing the same public money into, say, public transit or public utilities*?

*Note that Santa Clara is one of the few municipalities in Northern California that has its own, independent power generation facilities, and thus is not a serf to PG&E; as a result, they're one of the targets of Proposition 16, officially named the "Right To Vote Act", but generally recognized as the "PG&E Power Grab" or "Monopoly Preservation Act".
athelind: (cronkite)
I should have posted this a lot earlier than the day before the primary election, especially since I know a lot of people who vote Permanent Absentee and have already mailed their ballots in. Better late than never, though.

There's a big push here in Santa Clara for Measure J, committing millions of dollars of public money to build a stadium for the "San Francisco" '49ers.

I hear constant radio ads, talking about how it will "bring jobs" and "boost the economy" and "benefit the schools". In fact, one of those ads is playing as I type this.

I am deeply suspicious of these claims. Has anyone ever done any solid, rigorous studies on the real economic benefits that the presence of a big-league sports franchise claims to provide to a city? Has anyone looked at how the economy of a city swings around when a sports franchise arrives—or when one leaves?

The gut reaction a lot of people have seems to be, "this is a great, big project; of course it will bring great, big changes". There's a lot of talk about intangibles like "prestige" that will bring increased tourist activity, and that it will be a Major Civic Improvement, the centerpiece of a mercantile theme park; there's an air of Shiny Happy Utopianism to these proposals that makes Walt Disney's plans for EPCOT sound cynical.

My gut reaction is that the presence of a sports team doesn't make a lot of difference in a city's "prestige", or in the vacation choices of most travelers. Los Angeles is still Los Angeles, with or without the Raiders—and Oakland, alas, remains Oakland.

I also have to say that, in my experience, the neighborhoods which are fortunate enough to have a stadium descend upon like some Spielbergian mothership seldom look like they've had a significant economic boost. They're not so much "Utopian Theme Parks" full of prosperous businesses and happy locals as they are, um, scuzzy slums punctuated by parking lots.

Full Disclosure: I don't have a lot of use for organized sports. Growing up, baseball was just something that preempted weekend reruns of Star Trek, and football's greatest virtue was that it seldom interrupted things that I wanted to watch. Still, if the presence of a sports franchise really did have a measurable positive impact on the local flux of valuta into the coffers of the city and the pockets of the citizenry, I'd be all for it.

I'm just not convinced.

I hear a lot from the supporters of Measure J.

I don't hear a lot from the opponents.

To me, in this day and age, that doesn't suggest that there are more or better reasons to support the stadium.

It says that someone with deep, deep pockets is shelling out a lot of Dead Presidents to convince us that there are—and that those who disagree don't have nearly as many resources to make their case.

Of course, in this day and age, one doesn't need a lot of folding green to make one's case, and to present hard data. It's just harder to get people's attention without it.

It took some searching to find Santa Clara Plays Fair: The Problems with Measure J. I cheerfully admit that the numbers they present and the claims they make dovetail with my biases and prejudices—however, they're also more thorough and detailed than any of the pro-stadium rhetoric being bandied about.

Follow the numbers, follow the dollars.

athelind: (fascism)

White House Caves on Miranda Rights

We don't need to read terrorist suspects their Miranda rights! This is a Public Safety Matter, based on realistic case scenarios from the best U.S. policy thinktanks!

Don't worry! Nobody could ever get falsely accused of terrorism!

... why would you even think that such a thing could apply to you, hmmmm? Maybe we should keep an eye on you ....

Like I said a few days ago, I'll celebrate my country's independence when it happens.

As I was typing this, the radio just blabbed an ad for a local TV news series inciting panic because the restrictions governing where sex offenders can live can't be applied to homeless people, because they don't have an address. ONOES! Homeless people are out to rape your children!

I am so fucking tired of fearmongering.

athelind: (big ideas)
Elsewhere, I just started to type "corporate plutocracy", and left out the "l".

After a moment's thought, I realized that the typo, if taken as a Spanish root instead of Latin, made at least as much sense, if not more.

So I left it.

athelind: (tell it like it IS)
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Do you celebrate your country's independence? If so, how?

When it finally happens, I'll celebrate it.

athelind: (We The People)
Edit: Yes, this is a May Day post.

John Seavey is a contributor at the Mighty God King blog.1

He just posted an outline for the Captain America prologue story he'd like to write, putting young Steve Rogers' life into its historical context: a sickly, working-class 98-pound weakling who had enough patriotic fervor to try and enlist and to fight his 4F status passionately enough to get the notice of the archetypal Secret Government Project.

He's the son of working-class, Depression-era Irish immigrants, and he's politically-motivated. Seavey observes that his parents were likely union organizers, and quite possibly members of a party that wasn't quite so demonized in the '20s and '30s, though it still wasn't exactly respectable.

This is something that most people outside the fandom don't get about Captain America. They look at the flag-colored costume, the blond hair and blue eyes, and immediately equate him with jingoism and the "America: Love It Or Leave It" crowd. They think he's a right-wing icon, a government tool, a crypto-fascist.

Even the right wing thinks so.

And they are so wrong. Only someone who just looks at the pictures, and doesn't look too closely at them, could think so.2

Cap's a New Deal Democrat, and always has been. He was created by a couple of poor Jewish kids from New York, for the express purpose of punching Hitler in the snoot, almost a year before Pearl Harbor, in a period when a lot of "respectable" Americans were still pushing for isolationism.

He's not a symbol of "Love It Or Leave It": he's a symbol of "Love It and Fix It". That's what real patriotism is, dammit.

He's a left-wing icon, and we need to take him back, and claim him as our own.

1He's not MGK himself, who has a long line of similar posts delineating just why he should write Dr. Strange and The Legion of Super-Heroes. These guys really need to get off their butts and submit to Marvel and DC.
2I'm looking at you, you illiterate hack.

November 2016

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