2011-12-31 Response to A Proposal on Governance

Image Ms Marsh wrote this proposal on the 24th of December, regarding her thoughts on the organisation of political and economic systems "post-NDAA", or National Defence Authorisation Act. As a brief aside, the NDAA is the US military's appropriations bill, but with benefits. It allows for indefinite military detainment, and the converting of the United States proper into a 'front' in the 'Global War on Terror'.

In my opinion, the core of Ms Marsh's proposal is a reaction to the problem of centralisation. This problem takes many forms, but for my purposes I believe Ms Marsh was focused on just two facets: Economy and political centralisation. An example of each facet, respectively, is global corporate Capitalism and the nation-state.

Reading Ms Marsh propose with this in mind, I think, lends greater weight to her critique and solutions. The adage of 'live local, think global' comes to mind. In essence, the predominance of economic and political organisation will occur within only about two or three degrees of separation, in context of affinity groups of such a size which are capable of providing self-oversight.

Here we run head-long into the nation-state and its wealth of problems. A small piece of semantics, however, as this is a term which needs to be brought back to its true definition: A State composed of one Nation, as in a group of people who share a common identity. Hence the concept of 'national identity', as part of the defining characteristic of a nation-state.

2011-03-03 The Internet, the spirit, the resistance – How the Internet fuels voices of dissent in Vietnam

Despite the fact that the communist government firmly controls the Internet and blocks any web sites that might be any ‘threat to national security’, the Internet silently mends the fire of dissent voices simultaneously around Vietnam.

Courage cannot be ‘centralized’ – Farmers protest against arbitrary land seizures with the help of Internet

In a tightly controlled, Facebook-blocked country, Vietnamese farmers marched out to the Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s second largest city and a national economic hub, to resist the government’s decision to seize their land.

Due to the centralized economy, government authorities are sole legal actors who can switch legal status of any land. Besides, the legal procedure of dealing with various different land rights of the government and farmers are extremely complicated, which becomes the central loophole allowing public officials to blur the line where exact responsibilities lie.

Exploiting this, lots of corrupt officials can take away seemingly profitable lands, handing tiny amount of compensation money to the land owners. The victims mostly fail to find the proper government authorities to get the fair compensation due to the blurred responsibility.

Government officials have been arbitrarily ‘robbing’ the lands as huge ‘development plans’ have swept the major urban cities into the swirl of dazzling real estate speculation. The real estate prices have hit thousands of dollars per square meter, which made both cities involved in the ‘Most Expensive Cities in the World’ list. However, Vietnam has the lowest real estate transparency index among 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

2011-02-13 Cable: Ordinary Algerians Losing Confidence in Bouteflika Regime [UPDATE:1]

Image(update below)

Thousands of demonstrators came out to demonstrate against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime in Algeria on February 12. Security forces arrested hundreds of protesters, including human rights activists and syndicate members of the General Union of Algerian Workers. The Internet was also shut down.

A peaceful sit-in led to 100 being detained.

Al Jazeera reported Algerians, inspired by the success of the popular revolution in Egypt, were “heavily outnumbered by riot police,” but “2,000 protesters were able to overcome a security cordon enforced around the city's May First Square” and join others calling for reform.

2011-01-24 PdF presents: A symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet freedom (II)

Tonight at 6 p.m.(23:00 utc) the Personal Democracy Forum, in partnership with New York University's Interactive Technology Program, will present the second symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet Freedom.

The panel will include:

  • Member of the Parliament of Iceland Birgitta Jónsdóttir
  • NYU professor of media, culture, and communication Gabriella Coleman
  • NYU Distinguished Writer in Residence Clay Shirky
  • Distinguished Fellow at the MIT Media Lab John Hockenberry
  • Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams

Tools of the Trade.


I call this blog 'Tools of the Trade'. What I'll attempt to do here is to focus on the technologies behind the Wikileaks story. This could be hardware, software and even just concepts which, when wedded with technology, produce results the makers never conceived of. Let's look at secure networks, encryption, national and corporate censorship... as well as how folks circumvent it, smart phones, thumb drives and other ways of staying connected.

2011-01-14 Tunisia: Ben Ali Out, Mohamed Ghannouchi Out

Today marked the end of a 23 year rule by Tunisian president Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after police in the country killed at least 23 protesters. “What happened here is going to affect the whole Arab world,” said protester Zied Mhirsi. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his intention to serve as interim president, and protesters immediately refused to have him.

Fadhel Bel Taher, whose brother was one of dozens of people killed in protests, said: "Tomorrow we will be back on the streets, in Martyrs Square, to continue this civil disobedience until... the regime is gone.

"The street has spoken."

2011-01-12 Futures for the Internet

The explosion of Wikileaks related news, and the manifestation of the internet's political potential to those who had previously ignored it, or only superficially acknowledged it, has led to a debate of increased intensity about the nature of the net, its political dimension, and its uncertain future. WL Central compiles some valuable commentary on this issue:

Rop Gonggrip: Keynote at 27C3

Rop Gonggrip's fascinating keynote speech from 27C3 projects an uncertain future, online and off, and offers some visions of what the role of the internet, and the hacker community, will be in this future. His riveting pessimism is tempered by a reassuring pragmatism, and a veteran's insight into the subject matter.

2011-01-09 National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

The US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, released in a 39 page draft on June 25, 2010, is back. CBS News reports White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said on Friday that the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace will be released by Obama in the next few months.

Details about the "trusted identity" project are unusually scarce. Last year's announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.

Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. "I don't have to get a credential if I don't want to," he said. There's no chance that "a centralized database will emerge," and "we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this," he said.

EFF raised some concerns about the original draft. Since most criticisms of the draft focused on the overall concept, not the detail, it is not likely that they have been addressed.

2011-01-03 US Dep't of State Internet Freedom Programs

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) are looking for organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that support what the document terms 'internet freedom'. Specifically, they have US$30 million for

projects that will foster freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet and other connection technologies in East Asia, including China and Burma; the Near East, including Iran; Southeast Asia; the South Caucasus; Eurasia, including Russia; Central Asia; Latin America, including Cuba and Venezuela; and Africa. Programming may support activities in Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Burmese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, French, and other languages spoken in acutely hostile Internet environments.

The State Department's previous attempts at promoting 'internet freedom' met with a lack of success, according to Foreign Policy because "By aligning themselves with Internet companies and organizations, Clinton's digital diplomats have convinced their enemies abroad that Internet freedom is another Trojan horse for American imperialism." The statement from the link above: "DRL and NEA support programs ... in countries and regions of the world that are geo-strategically important to the United States." may have helped convince their enemies. They will have the opportunity to disprove that idea when all of the following technology is turned in all other directions, as history shows it will be. Always assuming any of the new projects work better than, for instance, Haystack.

2011-01-02 Saudi Arabia Regulates internet publishing

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture and Information has adopted regulation for internet publishing, including electronic newspapers, forums, and blogs. outlines the regulations in an article.

Besides the electronic press, forums and blogging, the thirteen forms of internet publishing include websites, electronic ads, mobile phone or other broadcasts, email groups, electronic archives, room dialogues, and "any form of electronic publishing the ministry wishes to add".

There are ten terms required to obtain a license, including good conduct and behaviour.

2011-01-02 Reining in freedom on the web

SFGate has an article about facebook and the internet translated from Philippe Rivière of Le Monde:

The world's most powerful online architects and its political leaders plan to "civilize" the free Internet, which they still see as a lawless zone. If they succeed in domesticating the Internet, stating your real identity will be the price you have to pay in order to enjoy full access. The word "web" was originally an image used to describe a decentralized system of interconnected information networks. Nobody imagined that a spider would actually take up residence at its center and start spying on the activities of all Internet users.

The 30 IQ Point Bridge

For decades we in North America have watched anything intelligent viewed with deep suspicion. From high school clichés, to ‘charisma’ politicians, the mainstream has marginalized the intelligentsia.

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Logic and the Law

Recently, I watched a scene from another time in history, a set piled high with paper, where professionals in business suits scurried through rooms with dollies stacked with boxes of paper, all stamped, signed, and distributed in huge amounts of copies. Everything was tabbed and filed beyond all comprehensibility, people were flipping madly through binders in a race against time, no one agreed on any of the facts or could find any, and the end result was a mop of perspiration and a guess at the facts in most cases.

The New Journalism

I have been mostly rolling my eyes at all the talk lately about ‘hacktivism’ and ‘hackers’ as a distinct culture. Even though I remember thinking that programming was the only job I could ever have in business, and the feeling of belonging to a very exclusive club with our own secrets and jokes, I know a lot of engineers, physicists, physicians, etc., who feel the same. But watching the current clash between computer geeks and journalists has caused me to wonder; is there really a completely different core philosophy here? And what will be the result of this clash?

The Chrysalids

When I was in high school, there was a book on the required reading curriculum called The Chrysalids, written by John Wyndham in 1955. Like 1984, it was a pretty interesting book that has come to take on the significance of a history book … for the future.

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