Elect-me-not

All the countries I lived in had something in common: they were all called “… democracy” at some point. Whether it was a “developing democracy” or “developed democracy”. Democracy is the word we use a lot and with the imminent election musings about democracy become inevitable. So inevitable it spills into my conversations all the time. After all we are about to elect “democratic government” through the process of “democratic elections”.  Naturally, I started looking for definitions. There are plenty options (opinions?) to chose from – all have the same theme though. It’s really interesting that the word “democracy” is used so often and it’s standard definition allows for giant loopholes: “rule of the people” (Greek). Of course people are going to be ruling pretty much everywhere except for the 12 colonies where Cylons are taking over…!

One definition caught my eye as it was the most concise and obvious yet had enough details to be able to analyze it:

We can think of democracy as a system of government with four key elements:

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

“Free and fair election” is a very good starting point for a philosophical debate. What exactly Free means here? More importantly what is Fair? Canadian election show all the signs of unfairness. Government of the country currently is elected by a mere majority of 22% (58% turnout with only 38% of those voting for governing party) of voting populace which has translated into 46% seats. How is it fair to the 78% of voting populace that did not vote for them? How about the rest of population that is non-voting? In other words we should either accept this new norm that “22%” means – “majority” or redefine Fair or better yet – stop calling countries like Canada “Democracy”. We are far from democracy, real far. How is electoral process Fair to small communities like ours when we are “bundled” in the same riding with “monster” communities with 10 times the population. In other words – there is no way in hell our views will be represented on the highest level even if the entire community voted for the same candidate!

Which brings me to the second point – “active participation of people”. Now here’s a twist and a wrinkle – remember those 78% that aren’t really represented? Are they actively participating? So can we still call ourselves “Democracy”? How about candidates? Assume some of those 78% residing in the riding of an MP they didn’t vote for still want some representation and ask candidate to represent their views? Is he obligated to respond to their requests? No. Will he respond to their requests – typically no. Why? They are not voting for him so he doesn’t really need them until the next election. So how are we encouraging people to “actively participate” under those conditions?

Which was a nice preamble for the next point “protection of human rights of all citizens”. Well if you re-read previous paragraph you’ll realize that that is simply not the case if we carefully examine definition of Human Rights employed by UN. Article 1 anyone? You must have some mean brother that wouldn’t listen or reply to you. Well that is your MP that you did not elect. Maybe some Article 12 on the side? Interference with my privacy is happening all the time from all private entities that government does not protect me from: telemarketers, banks, random companies, recording industry – you name it. Article 16 for gay people maybe? Article 17 is something you should think about next time you buy music at iTunes or over some other DRM-riddled channel. Oh, you thought that when you purchased music you own it? Wrong! Ask Orwell fans who bought his books through Amazon for their Kindles, or people who bought music from Wal*Mart. So how does my government ensures my freedoms? By signing treaties that undermine it, and pushing through Bills that annihilate my rights. For a parent combination of Article 22 and 26 is another source of frustration – schools are half-run by corporations trying to “hook” kids on their products from “get-go” (Microsoft, Kraft, Pepsico, etc.) and government does everything to promote it by decreasing school’s budget and forcing schools to look for external sources of funding. I feel like my human rights were violated (as well as my family’s) do you?

So after showing how corporations enjoy better freedoms than people of the country lets take a look at the heads of those corporations. Have we ever heard of a case convicting corporate head vs “less wealthy opponent” ? In “democratic” societies it’s quite clear that the quality of democracy is proportional to your income. I enjoy fairly good pay myself so I know my freedoms extend way further than person’s next door with income half of mine, does that seem right? Does that sound democratic?

All of that brings up a dilemma: should I vote or should I not? If I do should I vote “for” or “against”? Every single party in my riding is “tainted” for me so I have no desire to vote for any single one of them. However Not voting gives more power to the minority that already elected the government I hate. If I vote – I just fed another monster that will do essentially the same just under a different guise. So to defeat present monster I should vote against but by doing so I get nothing in return except for delayed replay of the same tragic scenario. I do not see how my views and opinions will be represented in the newly elected government no matter how I vote. On top of that, as I mentioned before my community is dwarfed by another community in our riding that will essentially make my vote void because I’m pretty sure of the way they’ll vote. I’ll take my chances and vote my preference (out of all evils chose the smallest) knowing full well that it’s all futile, but there’s that off-chance that maybe my vote is the one that’ll count and other people like me will come out and vote and express their opinions in a slightly blurred fashion.

Electorate reform may be able to fix it but none of the existing parties brought up this issue an certainly none of them made it their priority. Until then our only screwed up way of voting is to vote “against” in most cases.

One may say – “Well, other definitions of democracy can not be as easily dismantled” and would be plain wrong – all definitions I looked at have the same problem – they are inapplicable in so-called “democratic countries”. Take the “ultimate authority” on everything – Wikipedia:

Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law. It can also encompass social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination. The term comes from the Greek: δημοκρατία – (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”,[1] which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (Kratos) “power”, in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC

Does it make much difference? Not so much. Rinse-and-repeat.

Если бы я был сволочью…

Интерестное мнение/видение пробудило во мне желание покопаться в ошметках моих старых идей и мировозрений… Ну не то чтоб я их забросил или они уже не мои – но не возвращался я к ним уже достаточно давно.

Вот ведь штука какая – и возразить-то нечего: все ведь так – и жизнь сведена к жри/вкалывай/отрывайся и как бы текущий экономическо-политический режим тоже располагает… Но если начать с мелочей, то не все так просто как кажется. Взять ведь само существование журнала с этим-самым “мнением” – ведь он сам по себе является продуктом вышеописаного цикла (ровно как и этот журнал): мы ток подаем к той самой пластинке иным образом, стимулируем себя по-другому. Журнал это отдушина, илюзия что тебя кто-то услышал и твое мнение считается. Все та же пластинка, все та же мышь. И сгораем мы вываливая всю душу на публичное обозрение в надежде что заметят, поймут, оценят. Пытаемся превратить все то плохое что накипело-накопилось во все то хорошее чего не достает, и ногу с педальки не снимаем.

А вот как начинаешь идти по этой тропинке-то так и остановиться тяжело. Ведь если прикинуть на коленке – все чудеса прогресса и цивилизации – порождение лени и желание стимуляции того самого “эпицентра счастья”.  Значит если вывернуть это наизнанку – единственным путем остается откатиться до первобытно-общинного… И вот тут заковыка выходит – ведь если до первобытно-общинного откатишься так и дальше до инфузории-туфельки недалеко… Что же получается – одно с другим связано – желание “давить на педальку” и “homo sapiens”? Никакой разумности не было бы если б не желание сделать себе хорошо.

Ну вот теперь разобрались с одним направлением мысли… и если б был я сволочью то начал бы цепляться ко всем словам и деталям… да не выйдет. Почему? Да потому что раз уж мы (цивилизация) встали на этот путь – назад дороги нет (ну ладно, есть – но это тема для другой заметки). Раз уж начали мы этот процесс эволюции то нам его и заканчивать. Не было бы нас так другой подвид занял бы наше место. Это как с бурной рекой – если уж оказался на крутом участке – дальше дорога одна, и самым безопасным будет просто отдаться течению и плыть по нему – лавируя между препятствиями и стремясь лишь в малой мере контролировать скорость. Невозможно контролировать горный поток, нельзя плыть вспять, но можно лавировать… О чем это я..? Так вот общими нашими усилиями цивилизация катится к своей неминуемой развязке (чем бы она ни была) и единственное что мы можем с этим сделать это задавать вопросы и пытаться сделать все чтоб корректировать путь свой.

Вот к примеру капитализм – дожили мы до всемирного капитализма и убедились что ничего хорошего он не несет, и как говорил Маркс:

И уже не рабочий употребляет средства производства, а средства производства употребляют рабочего. Не он потребляет их как вещественные элементы своей производительной деятельности, а они потребляют его как фермент их собственного жизненного процесса, а жизненный процесс капитала заключается лишь в его движении как самовозрастающей стоимости.

Но в то же время тот же Маркс утверждает что капитализм должен был произойти и было ему место в истории – как одна из ступеней развития без которой никак нельзя.

Можно было бы отмести всяческие вопросы и сравнения с мышом как несостоятельные потому как экстраполируя мы могли бы прийти к абсурдному утверждению с которым и автор не согласился бы, но с другой стороны напоминание о недостатках наших и привязаностях наших это то что мы обязаны делать ежедневно. Иначе никак. Иначе никакого “homo sapiens” – ни тебе ничего “человеческого” ни тебе ничего “разумного”. “В споре рождается истина” и важно это не забывать.

 

Dear Nokia…

Dear Nokia,
I hate you so very-very-very much for virtually killing any hope for my mobile phone to ever come to existence. N700, N800, N810 and N900 were all examples of what I could (at least remotely) call – my device. They allowed me enough freedom to tinker and change and adjust and develop the way I want. While you’re busy cuddling with Microsoft I will think of your betrayal and exercise my freedom to question your decision from the consumer stand-point.


Now, how do you revive “stagnating platform”… by switching to another one that has even less market penetration! (according to common wisdom of CEO’s if we are to believe Nokia’s press reports)

After doing some casual digging (trust me on this one – I didn’t spend hours digging for all that) turns out S. Elop is an ex-Microsoft employee. Now when I look at timeline of events it starts to become clearer and clearer:

Am I paranoid or that timeline looks awfully suspicious? From Nokia side of story – yeah, I got it – they got desperate and $1bn is a nice pocket money for fooling around with hardware which Nokia does like. It looks like S. Elop was hired to perform “Nokia loves Microsoft” stunt – who is going to execute and sell it best if not the guy who worked for the Microsoft?

From Microsoft’s side things look more like orchestrated attack on OpenSource and Linux in particular. Lets look at revised timeline with several additions:

You see, that Feb 17 line hides another icky detail: Attachmate is about to funnel patents Novel has to a holding company controlled by Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle. Another interesting detail: Nokia deal apparently gives Microsoft access to Nokia’s patents as well. Now if you dig deeper back – SCO was receiving generous donations from Microsoft too while it was busy doing nothing but attack Linux and GPL.

So if anybody was thinking that Microsoft is busy baking cookies – you’re wrong – they are up to same “no good” as they ever were. This time their guns are bigger though. Pocketing Novel and Nokia is a gutsy move I must say and it’ll take all the strength of FLOSS community to get through this one.

Update (2011-05-16):  “The Register” published some interesting speculation stating that Nokia’s phone business is about to be bought by Microsoft and departure of S. Elop before the end of the year. It may be a rumor but it aligns with what was forming in my head… Bye, Nokia! (or was it: Buy Nokia! 😉 )

 

Software industry, disaster capitalism and… wait… Microsoft!

I’m not sure whether anybody is paying attention, but it looks like lately there is a ton of mounting evidence that Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalism” is in fact the new base standard for any form of capitalism.

Let’s examine some evidence. Let’s see what Slavoj Zyzek says on this account:

…we are now entering a period in which a kind of economic state of emergency is becoming permanent: turning into a constant, a way of life. It brings with it the threat of far more savage austerity measures, cuts in benefits, diminishing health and education services and more precarious employment.

Naomi’s own words:

What we have been living for three decades is frontier capitalism, with the frontier constantly shifting location from crisis to crisis, moving on as soon as the law catches up.

Now after a bit of thinking this is the exact model Software Industry employed. Industry creates it’s own disasters to profit selling means to clean up the aftermath. Case in point: Antivirus industry. Where it started is with Microsoft and alike who were too busy pumping out new products to pay any attention to fixing existing ones. It’s like hitchhiking on a runaway train – you climb aboard for a ride when it’s moving slow but then after a while you can’t jump off – it’s moving too fast and you can’t really stay because you know tracks end someplace… So Microsoft software was buggy and full of holes which were instantly exploited by virus/trojan-makers. Instead of Microsoft plugging those holes – we saw the rise of industry responding to those problems: Antivirus. After that one took off there was no stopping it: Microsoft became partners with those same companies now they can’t screw them over and all of sudden fix everything, and why would they – nobody pays for increased security – people are conditioned to pay for “new and shiny”. So now this hydra has 2 heads, but it gets better: spammers catch on and we see the rise of botnets. Botnets provide the means for bruteforce attacks of systems that are otherwise well-protected. And you’ve got yourself third head. That monster is growing and heads multiplying.

Now look at this from the user perspective: user by now is conditioned that his/her machine is in constant state of “disaster” and doesn’t mind that state anymore since they don’t know it could be any better. Which only strengthen position of monopolies of Software Industry. If you look close enough – every “big player” plays by that book: Oracle, IBM, SAP, etc. It’s all covered by “to err is human” logo which in fact covers the ugly truth: features sell, security doesn’t.

Which is where Open Source enters the scene. Lets make a ridiculous assumption that Microsoft was producing Open Source OS to begin with. What’s the point for Antivirus companies to produce Antivirus if they can go straight to MS code and fix the vulnerability in the first place? Now for Microsoft it’s “bad business” for two reasons: somebody fixed their code and proved they know nothing about what they do, and they killed off a potential branch of “partner companies” that otherwise could feed Microsoft. So instead of spending money on fixes, code control etc. they are actually earning money by extending their partnerships and keeping an image of impenetrable corporate entity.

On closer examination Software Industry doesn’t follow capitalist ideas anymore (moreso than any other industry). Current techniques employed by software industry are more totalitarian, something that is indeed dear and near to any disaster capitalist. Corporations do not compete anymore – they are too busy screwing each other:

Behind Microsoft’s $15 Samsung Android royalty claim

What is Microsoft doing suing  companies producing Android-based devices? It’s the most blatant racketeering scheme of them all. Nobody ever saw MS claims, defendants are not the ones in position to argue since they are not the one building the platform – they are merely hooked on it. It is cheaper for them to just pay off MS so that they can get back to building handsets and other devices.

http://blogs.forbes.com/timothylee/2011/07/07/microsofts-android-shakedown/

 

Tea and Tranquility

Tea cupAside from other things I’m passionate about tea is one thing that caries me through the day. Sometimes I really need my tea. My addiction is not of chemical sort – it is a mental addiction – tea is just a symbol, a ritual to break daily routine and get some space for myself where there is none.

Tea is my reason to get out of my chair – walk down the hallway put on kettle, wait about 5 minutes for water to boil, pick my tea in the meantime – green means I’ll have to use my cup to stage boiling water through – transferring water through cup should bring temperature down about 5-10 degrees if needed I can let it cool down bit more for couple more minutes to get the best brew. Black tea shortens the time by eliminating cup as a transit station but extends brewing time. All boils down (pun intended) to about 10 minutes for myself – for my ritual – away from grinding routine, away from dark political matters from social injustices from everything that makes me feel down.

My subtle addiction to tea culminated in purchasing the book “A brief history of Tea, The extraordinary Story of World’s Favourite Drink” by Roy Moxham. I’m far from being through the whole book but have learned quite a few history lessons already. The rise of monopolies in 18th century (East India Company and such), governments offloading their responsibilities onto corporations, which in turn rip off everybody they deal with, lobbying that goes a tad farther than subsidies and culminates in international military conflicts. The darkest so far for me is Opium trade in China in 19th century. British Empire exploiting Chinese weakness against that powerful drug that didn’t stop at simple distribution – distribution was pretty much enforced and legalized to increase British profits all in the name of recovering silver to be able to buy more tea:

The exchange of opium for tea was a disaster for China. While it was true, as British were ever fond of pointing out, that no one forced the Chinese to smoke opium, it was also true that exports from British territory and the smuggling by British merchants undermined Chinese efforts to stem addiction… Perhaps most seriously of all, the British military expeditions sent to protect the opium-for-tea trade destabilized the Chinese regime and fueled xenophobia…

In other words another corporation creates this new market – hooks entire country on it, then forces everyone else to pay the bill for it’s wrongdoings, washes off their hands and moves on to its next target barely affected. What, Microsoft, IBM and Apple (I can name more but that’d be boring 😉 ) tactics are not new???

History is always complex. It’s always one little thing that triggers another that causes chain reaction with the following explosion of revolution, war, conquest etc. But why did it have to involve the drink that I like?

So now even my tranquility moments have been invaded and sabotaged by corporations, governments and not-so-smart general population. No hiding from it now. Just like in “No Logo”: there’s “No Space” left for personal, it is all overtaken by other entities. Not only on the streets but also in our minds. I will fight for my space though. I do not let go of things that are mine by right, so easily. I won’t stop drinking tea. What I will have to do is “invert” the space around me: just like army taking battles from the streets inside the houses and moving through the corridors and roofs – I will invert the space around me and walk along the crevices and claim some of them as mine and expand from there.

Blu rays of death

There is an onslaught of infuriating things coming to my attention lately. And being the person I am I can’t just let it slide – it irks me. So here’s another one: doing a bit of casual research about Blu-Ray support in Linux I came across some happy blog talking about MakeMKV so, naturally I went on exploratory mission (it would’ve not been me if I didn’t)  and came across some interesting material about BD+ and SVQ files :

For example, if a blu-ray player is connected to home network then a BD+ program can scan all shared files on all computers on the network and upload the report to a remote server. While it is very unlikely that studios will put such an evil program on a disc, it is technically possible.

Whoa! What?!?!?! I was musing before on the subject of possibly revoked keys on your Blu-Ray device via acknowledged firmware update to accommodate newer disks requiring firmware higher than rev X, but this blows even my conspiracy theories!

Wikipedia article doesn’t alleviate the fears – it makes it oh so much more real:

BD+ is effectively a virtual machine embedded in authorized players. It allows content providers to include executable programs on Blu-ray Discs. Such programs can:[8]

  • examine the host environment, to see if the player has been tampered with. Every licensed playback device manufacturer must provide the BD+ licensing authority with memory footprints that identify their devices.
  • verify that the player’s keys have not been changed.
  • execute native code, possibly to patch an otherwise insecure system.
  • transform the audio and video output. Parts of the content will not be viewable without letting the BD+-program repair it.

While everybody was thinking that Blu-Ray devices were made for viewing movies by their owners, things are exactly in reverse – those movies are watching us. How can we be so stupid and let ourself be fooled into that?

While I have no problem paying for movies and I do exactly that to which I have a proof – my 300+ DVD collection, I object to any snooping done by any third parties in my house. My freedoms are being tampered with; I am being stripped of my privacy, my rights and my choices. I seriously, truly hate that.

Yeah, we all want high-def content on our monster-TVs, but I am not prepared to trade-in my freedoms for that. No way. I hope BD+ gets hacked just like DVDs were – once and for all. I do not to feel like criminal doing whatever I please with the Blu-Ray content within my Fair Use rights. I will not tolerate piece of equipment in my house that doesn’t play by my rules.

Blu-Ray spells death to consumer freedoms, death to privacy and death to democracy. You don’t have to think hard to imagine scenario where disks could be programmed to disable all “unwanted” content. As you’ve seen from above quotes and resources – any disc is allowed to “patch” your Blu-Ray player as it sees fit, including modification of locally stored key chains. And we though Microsoft was evil. There are new games in town that are bigger and meaner than Microsoft. Microsoft paved the way to all those new and brave entrepreneurs willing to grab you by the balls and squeeze it until you scream and then back off a little.

I am not exaggerating here. Yes, above post indicates that studios are not likely going to do it, but Sony CD rootkit scandal begs to differ. Corporate mentality dictates 2 things: maximize profits and do whatever it takes to get things done your way. Everything is evaluated as a price and apparently our freedoms cost very little in comparison to the opportunity to sell copious amounts of digital copies on different media while keeping a close eye on those who may step out of line. It has been proved over and over again – those who “pirate” content did not intend to buy or rent it in the first place so there is no “lost sales”. It is all boiling down to “creating new markets”… and selling MORE content. We who buy content may download a thing or two on occasion only to buy that same content on our next trip to the store. It is all about the availability and accessibility of content, Blu-Ray does nothing to cover those. Read “Piracy is Good?” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Blu-Ray design proves that it was intended as a lock-in mechanism, and until I see some moratorium statement from **AA’s and elimination of accompanying functionality from Blu-Ray devices I won’t believe otherwise.

I truly and honestly hope that *AA gangs will choke on their greed and drop dead sometime soon. But that is not happening and not going to happen. I see people giving into the temptation of having “more” and it is sad. We do not ask questions and we do not think until it’s too late. Reminds me of Adbusters article” After America, there is no place to go” by Kitty Werthmann ( Issue #92 :  The Carnivalesque Rebellion Issue ). Looks and feels like we’re going through the same issues as Austrians in 1938 – they elected Hitler because they were OK trading in a “piece of freedom” for a “piece of mind” and a “peace of bread”. Very soon Austrians discovered that status-quo didn’t last. Within a year things have changed and freedoms eroded more and more every day while piece of mind and piece of bread were not forthcoming either. Our present freedoms are being taken away every day. We have elected our Hitler – the overpowering drive for “more” with Industry Admirals (or should I say Großadmiral’s?) at helm.

Don’t get me wrong, capitalism is a good thing and I do not pitch communism here, but what we currently have is not capitalism and democracy, it’s a corporatism and oligarchy – look up definitions and you’ll see I’m right.

Boxed Communism

Got thinking about iStuff vs things like Android and other [semi-]open initiatives today. I have come to realize that iProducts are representing the poor choice we had during communism times. Look: you come to the store, ask for 200g of sausage, you don’t ask which kind – there is only one, and the closest you can get to a “variety” would be question: which newspaper do you want to wrap it into – yesterday’s or today’s? iPhone differentiation is only superficial – skin-deep if you will. “Look, I’ve got pink skin!” or “Look I’ve got neat wallpaper”. Somehow the rest of the industry managed to at least make it look like there’s a variety. Not to mention that iProducts share an oversight of Mao and Party.

So here’s the dilemma – for an unsuspecting user platforms like Android or Symbian (or even Windows mobile, for that matter) are complex and hard to comprehend – “Hey, Joe! You’ve got to get yourself an Android – awesome apps etc. What do you mean which one? Oh, there’s Galaxy, Nexus, Desire… What do you mean simple? No, Joe, you’ve got to take a look and see what you like.” Whereas with iPhone – “Joe, buy yourself an iPhone”. Done.

We are our own enemies – we kill selection by being lazy and then complain that we’re being duped on every corner by monopolistic corporations that disregard our opinions and tell us what to do.

Ok, so here’s what I think should happen – we stop following somebody else’s orders/visions and start thinking for ourselves. Easy enough, right? No.

Here’s where I get to the real communism (USSR-style). How many parties do we have to choose from? Well, here, in Canada it’s major 4 (in Alberta it’s major 1) and how deep the difference goes? Not very. We cry and we bitch about Copyright reform in Canada pushed through by Conservative, however it’s Liberals who introduced it, and while NDP was oposing it, they are seeking merger with Liberals. Where does that leave us? Exactly where we are.

I’m the opensource guy and I am being labeled as “communist” at times and Ballmer scares people with stories of OSS turning countries into communist state but here’s the problem – it’s people like Steve (heh, got both of them here) who turn state into communist state and not the communist state Marx and Engels are talking about – the one that was implemented in USSR and the one that spread over eastern Europe.

Thankfully there are beacons of reason out there: Fair Vote Canada is trying to spread the knowledge on alternative forms of elections – the ones that would actually represent *all* of the population rather than minority (do you math: only 30-40% of population goes to vote and 40% of those voted elect your government – does that seem right? FSF and EFF are working hard educating governments and users about what “freedom” is in IT and what can be done to preserve it.