Saturday, January 28, 2012

FDL: Twitter allows for censorship of tweets in individual countries.

David Dayen story here.

At least it forces the issue when they make an overt announcement. It is the type of news story I have been wanting to see for five years. Cover Twitter executives - cover Evan Williams - don't just cover stories that break ON Evan Williams' medium.

This means that *every* news outlet and every piece of the internet that makes a de facto standard out of having the Twitter "T" in the corner is going to have to contend with the fact that they are using a medium that censors when governments ask. I have never liked the damn thing because I always felt as though this censorability and master switch-ability was being downplayed or ignored.

I guess as this notion of censorship erodes trust in Twitter, it probably drives some people to set up their own services with strong encryption. See recent Wired story about development of replacement social networking :here. So what I'm wondering is, then does strong encryption get criminalized, or given the reliance of business on encryption, will there be strong encryption licenses, and will it be illegal to SE without permission from a government?

There has never been a better time for Eben Moglen's Freedom Box.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hedges sues Obama administration over NDAA

I am glad he is doing this. But don't these types of suits usually get thrown out because of standing? By pointing this out, I am not opposed to the suit. I am just discouraged.

Eventually, it probably *will* be found unconstitutional. But there is a temporal trick in there, which I've noticed coming up from time to time. It could have been passed with the authors knowing perfectly well it would eventually be thrown out by SCOTUS. But this gives them a couple of years of carte blanche in the meantime. Doesn't it? So you can detain a lot of false positives and screw up a lot of innocent peoples' lives in the time it takes for your justification for doing so to be thrown out by the courts.

It's like a broader form of police taking advantage of what they are permitted to do in the moment, maybe knowing perfectly well it won't hold up. So protesters can be arrested in the moment, and if the police don't have a case or have overreached, just release them and don't file charges. Isn't this a sort of checkmate? For any trial balloon you want to launch, just structure it to only work for as long as it will take to be shot down by the courts. Then move on to something else short-term.

I don't know if Hedges is correct in what he says about why it was passed. He probably is. So it's bankers who want austerity and read austerity for its impact on an *investment.* When money isn't spent on social services, that's good, because it means it will be put towards debts, or I guess they also like it because it means a hospitable operating climate for them. I'm partially getting this from Klein, partially from James Crotty and others, like on Real News. Michael Hudson, for example. It's very helpful that Paul Jay is constantly asking interviewees what's in it for them, who wants austerity and why?

So populations will fight back and protest movements will grow. Hedges says that bankers/governments don't trust the police to enforce their crackdowns, so they want the military to do it. That's interesting. I get the impression from some of what I read that maybe the military is as likely to rebel as the police are. Someone commenting on Daily Bail made the fascinating point that a few unemployed JSOCs who go down to Zuccotti Park would probably be able to run rings around the police, because they're trained. It puts blowback in a whole new light. Another thing that it puts in a whole new light is the recent advent of "Hire-a-Veteran" initiatives. Keep them busy - they are the people you DON'T want siding with the unemployed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Newton's Third as a rationalization for bad policy

There's an argument that I hear and see around for why something that the left is concerned about is really no big deal. It sounds like Newton's Third Law, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So bad policy will be its own undoing. If the NDAA is used to detain someone, there will be suits. The Supreme Court will eventually hear it. Bill Scher gave this argument for why the left should "calm down" about the NDAA. He and his co-host were basically criticizing Cenk Uygur for expressing his doubts about re-electing Obama.

I don't agree with this argument. For one thing, the process that occurs as this reaction plays out is stressful to the individuals involved. It is a kind of de facto punishment. Real News had stories about demonstrators who were detained at the G20 in Toronto. First they were arrested, in the moment. By virtue of being arrestees, they were subject to a low buzz of verbal abuse and degrading treatment by police. This is all in the middle zone between the action and the equal and opposite reaction. So then after a period of time, charges are dropped, or no charges are filed. This activity that can happen *right away* in the moment is actually not a side story, but the main event. There are many other stories of this nature. Democracy Now journalists were arrested at the 2008 RNC in St. Paul, MN. They challenged the police conduct in a federal suit and eventually won a large settlement. The settlement is an equal and opposite reaction, years later. But does their ordeal, in & of itself, work as a chilling effect on others?

Hopefully not, but the point is that real psychological and physical damage to innocent people's lives can be done in this temporal middle zone. In the case of the activist work and court challenges that are going to come against the NDAA, people may die in detention while waiting to find out that that detention is unconstitutional. The notion of a future ameliorating event should not be an excuse or a reason to shrug off new bad policy and bad laws. If the center left is apologizing for these things and the eventual counterweight is their reason why, they ought to be ashamed.

Tom Lantos on Yahoo cooperation with China

This is a few years old and I wasn't aware of it at the time. I admire Rep. Lantos for saying these things.

Thank you Richard for pointing out Yahoo and talking about this hearing when we were discussing the role of name-brand IT in Occupy and the new post-Lehman left.

In this graphic, the EFF calls out thirteen corporations: Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Myspace, Skype, Twitter, Verizon and Yahoo. Yahoo has since gotten one star out of four from the EFF, for fighting for user privacy in the courts. Good. But I think there is a serious deficiency of journalism that covers these 13 companies in a critical way. And in my opinion, the fact that some of them are part of the media's essential "social networking strategy" in itself will tend to ameliorate the coverage. Specifically, Apple and Google, for their mobile platforms, Amazon, for Kindle, and Facebook and Twitter as the de facto mediums for dissemination of news and ancillary promotions around news.

The elephant in the room is that as the endless war rolls into its third presidency (either now or in 2016,) I think quite a few of these information and computer corporations will continue to sell people out and cooperate with governments that are repressive now, and governments like the USA that are not facing a hell of a lot of outcry for codifying preemptive military detention. There is some, but not from the center. I don't view a Chinese dissident differently from an American one, but the idea of U.S. companies helping go after Americans, and being wrong a lot of the time, would shock a lot of Americans. Especially if you consider the high false-positive rate that JSOC is having with assassinations, according to Dana Priest, according to Stanley McChrystal. One would assume that the "elite" JSOC is about as good as it gets, and that isn't very good. It's a different agency, but I don't think that matters.

In addition to Yahoo we have the example of AT&T. I think Google did say no to something, so yeah, kudos to Google on that. I hope there will be a lot more people in the coming years who see through the fetishization of Silicon Valley's cool inventions, read them as news and not simply as an inert conduit over which you read news. And consider that they may be participants in a military-industrial complex where in place of military you can substitute the octopus legs of a militarized police response to Occupy, war, DHS, fighting terrorism and surveillance in the U.S., and in place of Boeing or Lockheed, the cooptable information sector. And the response could be aimed towards any Occupy demonstrator or, if the JSOC example is any guide, a high rate of innocent bystanders per success.