Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation


About the Hugos

For those who don’t know, they are something like the Oscars for Science Fiction works.  Like the Academy Awards the voting pool is limited, and also who most people think it is.  Anyone who is a member of the WorldCon (this year in London) or the subsequent year’s Convention (next year in Spokane), and the previous year’s convention (which was in San Antonio, Texas) is eligible to nominate.  Anyone who is a member of the convention at which the awards will be announced (in this case LonCon) is eligible to vote.

This year it seems an author made a pretty specific pitch to be nominated (Somewhere Puppies are Smiling) Among the slate he endorsed was one Theodore Beale, who goes by the hubristic nom-de-net of vox day.  He made news, recently, for getting kicked out of SFWA.  He’s a shit.  Racist, misogynist, white supremacist and all other manner of unlikable things.

He’s also a crap writer.

So, In my opinion, on the merits (i.e. his crap writing) he doesn’t deserve a Hugo.  On his other merits he ought to be shunned.

Thankfully the Hugo’s have a means for the voters to do that (and so I am commending it).  One, they need to vote (in any given year a lot of the eligible member of a convention don’t vote: many because they don’t feel competent to choose; for having not read the eligible works.  I often refrain from voting in categories I can’t really evaluate).

Two, they need to understand how Hugo Voting Works.  It’s an instant run-off; and I am pretty sure most people don’t understand how to best use it.

The idea is simple.  You have X candidates and get to rank them 1-X.  If your first choice loses, those votes are removed and the second choice from those ballots are added to the tallies of the remaining candidates, until there is a winner.

Where one has to be careful is remembering that one need not vote all the way down the ticket (and if you have a strong preference for one, or two, candidates you need to stop there).  If a ballot has no subsequent choices, no new votes will be added to the tally of any other candidate.  This can make, or break, who wins.  If you only have two strong choices, only vote for two candidates.

But, where the Hugos run-off voting differs is that there is another option.  No Award.  It’s an option to declare that, should your preferred choice(s) be eliminated you don’t think anyone else who was nominated deserves the award.  It’s a way to say a nominated work was (in your opinion) undeserving of consideration (it’s happened, at least once. that the community put No Award ahead of a nominated work, in 1987, L. Ron Hubbard came in 6th in a field of five)

So if, as I don’t, you think the quality of Beale’s work is worthy of a Hugo fine, you should vote for it.  If you think his work isn’t worth a Hugo, don’t vote for him.  If you think his work isn’t worthy, and his social behaviors, are unacceptable in civilised society then, even if you have no opinion on the other novelletes, you should cast a vote for No Award.

Because, as lots of people have said, it’s a great ballot this year.  It’s not the first year a dipshit asshole has been nominated.  It’s not even the first year a dipshit asshole I think is a blight on the face of humanity has been nominated.  We, as a community have the option to show that we discourage that sort of dipshit assholism.

The voting isn’t a closed book. You can take part. I’m going to quote Cat Valente here,

“A final note: you do not have to go to Worldcon to nominate and vote for the Hugos. You can buy a supporting membership for $40* and get that perk. I realize $40 is a lot to express an opinion, but every year we hear complaints about the ballot and every year I hope that my generation will vote a little more, because the Hugos are kind of a bellwether for the field, and I want new crackly risktaking goodness in there, too. Since I have no control over the price of the supporting membership all I can say is—give it a thought, if you have the scratch.”

*in the original it was $50.  LonCon is charging 40 for a supporting membership. In addition to the Hugo balloting (and really, what other prestigious award do you know of, for which you; as a fan, can vote?  I know that, for those years in which I voted, I helped shape what was seen as the best in the field; for the year.  I made my opinion known; in a very visible way, about authors to watch), you also have the chance to decide where the convention will be two years from now; which means you could try to vote for someplace close to home; or someplace you’d like to visit.  It’s a win/win/win proposition (because every con needs money to run).  For that $40, you will get a whole lot of stuff to read, and look at, because the Hugo ballot comes with a lot of files to make it easier to cast an informed decision when you vote.

Leave a comment

This and that

I realise I’ve let twitter become my everyday comments, and am therefore ending up making this, “serious”.  A retweet from @evilrooster reminded me this is not always the best of ways to look at things.

1:  It means the people who don’t follow my twitter don’t see what I say.

2: It means what I might want to say gets less said.

3: It means it’s harder for people to find the things I want to talk about.

4: I get lost.  I start to write large posts, and then don’t get them sorted until they seem pointless.

Work has been busy.  We have three people on vacation, and five quit; one of them the Store Manager (he got a better offer, and took it).  A beloved horse died; which was sad.  Everyone else was away from home for four days (not that I could really tell.  I worked eight days straight; through yesterday, and 18 of the past 21.  I’m getting pretty much full-time hours, but on a part-time schedule.  That’s what, “underemployment” looks like).

But all is not work.  I’ve gotten some spinning done (much while we watch Veronica Mars, which makes me think of Twin Peaks, without the supernatural aspects and a but more linearity of plot: The A-Plot is better framed, and the B-Plot carries the episode in a way that doesn’t leave one going, “Whuh?” about everything).  It’s not my best spinning: I grabbed the wrong fiber, and so it didn’t need to be as loose as I did it.  I plied it up yesterday (first use of my bulky flyer, it’s 6 oz of 2-ply) meant for crochet [spun s, plied z], and the tests I did while plying laid really softly on my hand.

I also got sent a package of fleece.  A rare breed, from New Zealand, Arapawa. That is because the internet is real life.  Some one saw me writing on about spinning and sent me a line asking if they could send me a fleece.  A rare fleece (… a rattlin’ fleece, from the flock down in the valley-oh! o/” ).  Now i want to get a drum carder, so I can see how it behaves.  First I need to scour the wool.  That sounded a lot more daunting six months ago, but I’ve been spinning more, and it seems more like breadmaking than floor-scrubbing (i.e. a little work, over a longer time, rather than a lot of work over a longer time).  The only thing I need is the detergent (as it seems the preferred home method has been made more difficult because dish-soap makers have added enzymes, which happen to attack the fibers, so I need to be sure my scouring soap is free of them).

But I am so chuffed.  It’s got such a nice smell, spicey, and earthy and cleanly acid; with a bit of heaviness.  Musky, I suppose, but not in the civet sort of way. It smells like happy sheep.

I’m also teaching people some basic swordplay.  Bought several new shinai, and am working with them on basic movement drills, and forms.  No one is in any sort of training to spar yet, but that will come soon enough.  They improve with speed.

Summer is fading, but the plants are still doing well.  Asparagus (what hasn’t been ripped out by someone/something) is thriving.  I should get to eat some next year.  I am worried about one of the blueberries, so there may not be any fruit on my present plants.  I’ll put in more.  I seem to have an olive from a cutting (though the transplant may have killed it, in which case I will be sad).  The dill is going to seed, and I have Calif. Poppies in seed, so the summer was a pretty good on in that regard.

The trick to blogging, of course, is to blog.

1 Comment

The NSA, and a State Run by Fear

This is a reprint (with some edits; a dead link to fix, and some clarifications in light of time providing more information) of a piece written when the NSA Scandal first broke, back in May… 2006.  This has been known to be going on for 7 years (and the evidence is it’s been going on, in some form, since at least 2001)

The NSA. They say they aren’t tapping our phones, merely seeing whom we call, so they can decide if they need to tap our phones.

Gee, I feel so much better now that they’ve explained that.

First off they admitted to Qwest that they weren’t going to provide a warrant because they didn’t think the Court set up to deal with such matters would give them one. Since the FISA Court has been one of the most accommodating courts it the nation (and since the proceedings of that court are generally under seal we don’t really have a good baseline to know how rigorous their demands for support of the allegation of probable cause are).

Why might the NSA think the FISA Court would balk at such a warrant?

How about that pesky little Fourth Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Just in case that wasn’t enough to make the case there is a significant history of the abuse of such, “general warrants” ( like the Writs of Assistance used by the Crown in the run up to the US Revolution) were no small part of the abuses mentioned in our lists of grievances when we revolted against Britain.

But why, people ask, should those of us who have nothing to hide be afraid of those who poke about in our private affairs?

Because power tends to corrupt. The fact of the matter is the present system has no oversight, and lacking oversight it has no restraint.

Lets take a hypothetical.

Someone decides, in the course of programming the computer which is mining the data to set up an algorithm which causes a phone to be tapped, and the government decides that what it hears it doesn’t like.

What can it do?

These days it can do anything it likes. It can knock down your door in the middle of the night, spirit you away to a Navy Brig and declare you an enemy combatant, hold you incommunicado for three years and not actually charge you in all that time.

If that sounds farfetched, one has only to think of Jose Padilla.

Or, should it decide you are a “terrorist” on some more solid ground it might just abduct you when you hail a cab, spirit you away to some foreign locale, have you questioned (vigorously, but not tortured, all your bones and organs will still be intact and working when they let you go, or if they aren’t it won’t have been painful when they failed; because that’s how the Justice Dept. now defines torture). After awhile they may decide you are actually innocent. If you are lucky they will then leave you on a hillside in a different foreign country, to make your way home. If you’ve been particularly co-operative you might even get cabfare to someplace. If that seems farfetched, Khaled  el-Masri is probably willing to tell you all about it.

If they aren’t feeling so magnanimous they might just decide that even though you are innocent of the charge for which they abducted you the situation now (what with you being pissed off at being so pissed on) that you are now a threat, and so they keep you in detention… until such time as they feel you have come to see the light (and understand how kind and gentle the treatment has been, after all you could have been tortured, if they were feeling peevish, but they didn’t, they stopped short of pain equivalent to organ failure or death. You weren’t really going to die when they were waterboarding you, it just seemed that way; so it was all in good fun). You don’t really need a trial, and things like Habeas Corpus won’t apply to you because they can keep you in Gitmo, where Justice Scalia says you have no rights at all [<b>this is the flip side of his argument about DNA… he doesn’t really think the Constitution applies to everyone the Gov’t might want to imprison.  It’s not clear what he would say if a citizen were to end up in Gitmo</b>].

I wish this was all as farfetched as it sounds. I wish the absolute incredulity with which most Americans would have reacted to such ideas six years ago was still the case, instead of hearing pundits on both sides debating whether torture is actually warranted, and defending things like shooting to kill, and random searches of peoples’ bags when they enter the subway, and the idea that we ought to round up Arab Muslims and hold them in camps; all as if these were policy issues of real merit, instead of the insane thoughts of deranged whackos.

Because there is nothing, at present, which leads me to believe that this administration  (nor any… how would this feel if it were President Delay, or Sharpton, or Clinton(H), or Feinstein, Dole, Frist, Harris, Pataki, Romney, Schweitzer, etc. (insert the bête noire of your darkest fears here). [I wrote this when Bush II was in office, as time goes on only the names will change]

This shit matters because the slope to which it leads is serious, and steep. The laws we have are what protect us from each other, and from the basest aspects of our darker natures. Few of us would refrain from doing what we have to do to protect ourselves, and fear of those things against which there is no protection is a powerful appeal to the base natures of our little lizard brain.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, not because being afraid is bad, but because it bansishes reason and causes us to act on mere impulse. I would rather live in a world where I was afraid of some random act of terrorism (much as I am afraid of earthquakes, fires and tornadoes) which is beyond my ability to prevent, but with which I can plan to deal with should it arise, than I would live in a world where I am afraid of my shadow, from which I cannot escape; and have to watch my every word, act and even thought, lest I be seen as an enemy of the state and denounced, leading to my arrest (or disappearance) because of something, someone, somewhere, thought I might be thinking of doing.

That way lies madness.


As through a glass darkly

The NSA has been spying on you.  You probably didn’t know it, and if you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear, right?

No.  Why?  Becauase 1: it’s a violation of the basic principles of the 4th Amendment (which is being shredded, in lots of way, I’ll be coming back to that).  2:  You don’t know what it might lead to in the future  Diane Feinstein says it’s no big deal, “it’s just metadata”    That it’s just metadata doesn’t make it better.  It might make it worse.  Metadata is data.

One of the things I got some training in, when I was still doing military intelligence was, “traffic analysis”.  What that banal phrase means, in a nutshell, is, “looking at metadata”.  Do you remember Target sending the young woman coupons for prenatal vitamins, and baby things, when she was barely pregnant, and hadn’t told her parents yet?  They did that from metadata.  Metadata mining is why people don’t trust facebook.  Mining a limited set of metadata is what a paper by a couple of people at MIT to determine a way to create a, somewhat, obejective “gaydar“.

It’s also been a lot more than just your phone.

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.

How broad, and how deep, does this collection of data; this unjustified vacuuming of everything, go?  We will probably never know. That’s scary.  Part of why we will never know is the illegal classification of so much of it.  Why do I say illegal?  Because Obama, as with every president in my lifetime has issued an executive order about it (he gets to do that because, technically, he is is the only person who can classify things; everyone else has a delegated authority).

“In no case shall information be classified… in order to: conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency… or prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.”

Things have been classified because of that.  It’s not that these programs aren’t legitimately classified: if we accept their legality, and the justification for them (I don’t) then classifying them is perfectly reasonable.  But overclassification is rampant, and has been complained of since (at least) 1956.  That is a threat to our security.  It costs a lot of money (as much as $10 billionUS, per year).  It keeps information from moving between agencies.

So what does this mean?  It means we have a problem.  1: The means of oversight aren’t clear.  To go back to the field I was familiar with (investigations of possible espionage against the US Army), when we got information about a US citizen that material was restricted.  Only people involved in the investigation were allowed to see it.  If the investigation hadn’t made those people relevant to the investigation, inside of 90 days, the files had to be purged.  The NSA doesn’t seem to be doing that.  The data center in Utah is designed to maintain huge amounts of information; and we don’t know what the rules are.

Which is a problem.  The Verizon (and we can assume Verizon isn’t the only company in play) campaign is a continuation of George W. Bush’s illegal (retroactively blessed by Congress) wiretapping from at least 2001, to 2007.  The, “oversight” placed on that seems to be token.  The NSA is in a position to make the Stasi look like amateur hour at the Neighborhood Watch.

I’m scared.  I’m scared because one of the other things to happen yesterday was that the Supreme Court created a new sort of test for “reasonable” based not on the effect of the search, but on the way it’s done.

In MARYLAND v. KING the court said that taking DNA isn’t an “intrusive” search, because (unlike a blood test, no skin is broken).  The rationale is specious.

The legitimate government interest served by the Maryland DNA Collection Act is one that is well established: the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody…

When probable cause exists to remove an individual from the normal channels of society and hold him in legal custody, DNA identification plays a critical role in serving those interests.
First, “[i]n every criminal case, it is known and must beknown who has been arrested and who is being tried.” Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Nev., Humboldt Cty., 542 U. S. 177, 191 (2004). An individual’s identity is more than just his name or Social Security number, and the government’s interest in identification goes beyond ensuring that the proper name is typed on the indictment. Identity has never been considered limited to the name onthe arrestee’s birth certificate. In fact, a name is of little value compared to the real interest in identification at stake when an individual is brought into custody. “It is a well recognized aspect of criminal conduct that the perpetrator will take unusual steps to conceal not only his conduct, but also his identity.”

That’s bullshit.  The only way DNA is useful is if there is already DNA in the database.  Fingerprints will serve to tie a person to themselves.  They are unique, and we’ve been able to rely on them for more than a century.   What was at stake in the case?  King was arrested, and processed, and his DNA collected: which was then matched to an unsolved crime from six years prior.  From the arguments before the court, and the text of the Maryland law it seems he was charged with the new crime before his conviction.§

Which makes the assertion this is about “verifying the ID of those in custody” even more ridiculous.

Scalia (who, on so many things is a hypocrite, but seems to take the 4th Amendment with some level of consistent interpretation), makes the case that what the Court has done, in this decision, is create a case of, “general warrant”.

At the time of the Founding, Americans despised the British use of so-called “general warrants”—warrants not grounded upon a sworn oath of a specific infraction by a particular individual, and thus not limited in scope and application. The first Virginia Constitution declared that“general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed,” or to search a person “whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence,” “are grievous and oppressive, and ought not be granted.” Va. Declaration of Rights §10 (1776)

He’s right.  The internal evidence of how DNA is used, and what it needed to make it useful shows this.

King was arrested on April 10, 2009, on charges unrelated to the case before us. That same day, April 10, thepolice searched him and seized That same day, April 10, the police searched him and seized the DNA evidence at issue here. What happened next? Reading the Court’s opinion,particularly its insistence that the search was necessary to know “who [had] been arrested,” ante, at 11, one might guess that King’s DNA was swiftly processed and his identity thereby confirmed—perhaps against some master database of known DNA profiles, as is done for fingerprints. After all, was not the suspicionless search here crucial to avoid “inordinate risks for facility staff” or to“existing detainee population,” ante, at 14? Surely, then— surely—the State of Maryland got cracking on those grave risks immediately, by rushing to identify King with his DNA as soon as possible.Nothing could be further from the truth. Maryland officials did not even begin the process of testing King’s DNA that day. Or, actually, the next day. Or the day after that. And that was for a simple reason: Maryland law forbids them to do so. A “DNA sample collected froman individual charged with a crime . . . may not be tested prior to the first scheduled arraignment date.” Md. Pub. Saf. Code Ann. §2–504(d)(1)

So other methods must be considered adequate to verify the ID of persons who are in custody.

Good thing too, since it takes weeks to get a test done, and one of the requirements for using the sample is… identification of to whom it belongs.  Think about it, if the sample weren’t attached to some other identifying method what would it mean?  Nothing.  Which brings us back to the NSA, DNA is metadata, it’s only useful if we can attach it to a person (or, in the case of things like phone records/buying habits, an entity).

So what does this mean?  I don’t know.  I do know that people in Turkey were arrested for tweeting.  How many laws are there about which you don’t know?  What about that Dropbox joining PRISM?  What happens if you send someone a copyrighted image, and the gov’t wants to make you miserable?  They can tell, e.g. Sony, about it, and you get sued.  Given the SCOTUS decision that massive judgements for downloading music are “reasonable”, this isn’t too far-fetched.  In any case the ability to intrude into our lives is present, and right now the gov’t (we all trust them, right) is doing it’s damnedest to exploit it.






§I infer this from “All 50 States require the collection of DNA from felony convicts, and respondent does not dispute the validity of that practice.” p. 7 KING v MARYLAND

Leave a comment

Guilty minds

Stormfront (a font of racist, and eliminationist claptrap) is on a crusade. See, the “white race” is in danger of extinction, because people are saying racism is bad.

They are trying to engage in a campaign to make people realise this, by changing the terms of debates on race. Mind you Stormfront is a group that has no problem, when talking about how best to spread some agitprop, asking, “What would Hitler do?.

Some of the gems from the little screed they have on how to promote the “being against racism is being anti-white” idea include:

● 1 Stay on message; we deal with the genocide of White people and the perpetrators, anti-Whites. When talking to the general public don’t go into a rant about Jewish conspiracies, banking families, NWO, etc. White genocide is the first step to establish a beachhead in the general population’s consciousness — we can expand on other ideas later.

● 12 Be aggressive and take the moral high-ground; if they call you names say “You’re only saying that because I’m White”.

● 13 Think before you talk. Talking about commiting violence is a no-go. No talking about genocide tribunals because it makes us look dangerous. Using lots of bad language is going to make you – and us – look stupid. That does not mean treat anti-Whites with dignity.

They have odd ideas about what does, or doesn’t make one look stupid.

● 14 YOU ask the questions. If you don’t get a reply keep asking them – it means your opponent is embarrassed and is trying to get off the subject. If they demand you answer questions say “WE ask the questions, because YOU support/justify genocide of MY people!”.

● 17 Know your target audience and wrap our message around what appeals to them. Young adults want to talk about education fees and housing prices, Teens want to talk about music, Old people want to talk about pensions, etc. Try to connect with the people using their language/colloquialisms e.g. “Dude” “Mate” “Bloke” “Howdy” “Yeah” “Lol” “Rofl”

It’s all too easy to think, “what morons, who would listen to them?”. To which one can only say people are listening to them. The Republican Party tolerates, and in some ways actively encourages them. They have also figured out one of the most important aspects of this sort of thing… making it seem the conversation they are trying to have is relevant. They think getting the message out will help them. In some ways they are right. With the Republican Party going on about how this is, “a post racist world”, and any number of the pundits who support them (and are accused of being, “liberal” just because they happen to be members of, “the press”) going along with the idea, there is a currency to the idea that whites are being oppressed by not being in complete control.

I think the last word, the one they need to defend ought to be what they put at the head of their little “mantra”, because it more accurately expresses what they really want.

The Mantra


That’s what they believe. It’s what they want to hide (that and Jewish conspiracies, banking families, NWO, etc). They know that were they to try and flesh out their beliefs people would be against them. They are looking for ways to make those ideas more palatable. So if you see someone spouting off like that, you can look at their script (it’s all there, at that link) and be ready for the “debate” they will try to have.

I’d ask them why they want “white countries for everybody” and what they intend to do about “the jewish problem” and, “the banking families”. Make them defend their core ideas. If they are against the “anti-Racists” then one must assume they are pro-racism. Since, when they talk amongst themselves they admit it, it’s a fair question to ask them why they are trying to hide it now.

Link back to their talking points. Those talking points are defensive They know they have a radical agenda on race, and they want to hide it.

If you see it, shine some light on it.

Leave a comment

Chain links

I used to do this fairly often, a list of things I’d found about the web which interested me (a sort of expanded version of the original “weblogs”).

Kevin Drum putting paid to Steven Levitt and “Abortions Reduced Crimes” nonsense.  It seems that a pair of independent researchers have pretty strongly shown it was lead, from gasoline, which did it.  Part of the conclusive aspects is that it can be correlated internationally, and locally.  America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

A really lovely use of photoshop to remove all traces of people from San Francisco.  Time lapse at it’s best. The bare bones of San Francisco (I don’t think it looks creepy at all.  I’d link to the yuotube directly, but the other clip is worth watching too). A bit further east; a time-lapse of the night sky from Mt. Wilson

More architecture in The Los Angeles That Might Have Been.  It’s a kickstarter, and I think it’s a damned interesting idea.  I’d like the chance to feel I’d missed out if I didn’t get to it.

A few pieces about torture, which has been normalised.  How we talk about it is stilted, and serves to hide the facts (and some of it is straight up, “I shade the truth, but he is a liar”).  The Senate issued a report which said all sorts of things, and also redacted all the things which matter most. I’m guessing I’ll be long dead before it’s unclassified.  Which is part of how the CIA seems to have lied to, or not given very good info to the makers of, “Zero Dark Thirty”, and make it easier for them to say torture is a useful tool in collecting intelligence. (not that I’d really expect the director to care.  “The Hurt Locker has huge problems, from all sorts of standpoints; and is basically a paean to the joys of being in a combat zone.  “Yeah, it sucks, but once you’ve been there nothing else will suffice”.  Utter crap).

Bloomberg Financial Times on Why We Must Go Over the Platinum Cliff, (No More Mister Nice Blog points out the courts would probably side with the Republicans on this, for the usual reason, and how the inability to make Keynesianism more understandable would probably hurt Obama; though the Bloomberg solution does an end run around some of that) deals with exactly what I don’t like about the resolution of the Bush Tax Cuts.  It’s not that I don’t like the tax cuts for the very top being reverted to what they were; it’s that the GOP was allowed to get some of what it wanted (exempting those who are making between 250,000-400,000 from the reversion), for not much.  The Debt Ceiling still exists.  Obama could have (should have) made them give that up.

The Debt Ceiling is some evil kabuki.  The House says, “here is what we authorise”,  but at the same time they don’t make it possible to spent the money they get around to allocating (which is not the same.  Lots of things are, “in the budget” which don’t get funded).  For decades this has been some idiotic theater.  They run up a tab, and later they have to make it possible to pay the bill.  But this time around they’ve decided they can use it as a stick.  If they do, Bad Shit happens.  So they admit they won’t actually do it.  But they will pretend they can, and they will use it to try and force Obama, the Dems, and the Progressive Caucus, to give them more of what they want.  And the press is helping them, with a narrative of false equivalence. (when the pundits aren’t just complaining  about Obama being better at being intransigent as the Republicans, and clutching their pearls as they say, “that’s no fair!”, while lying about how they act when they win) know the Republicans don’t argue in good faith.  When Obama adopts one of their positions, they attack him for it (because what they want, to gut the last remnants of the New Deal, is vastly unpopular).

What I don’t know (and the recent persistent patter of Obama’s visible behavior causes me to doubt; though I have seen some interesting articles saying the close to the vest negotiating he does hides just how much he’s managing to gain) is that Obama will actually put them to the wall on this.  I am afraid he will continue to make visible compromises, and allow them to keep playing the “nice country you’ve got here, be shame if anything were to happen to it,” game.

What does one do when one’s paper has been denying climate change, and helped the oil/gas magnate who owns it pursue his business?  Continue to ignore the facts and just pray for rain.

To close, two bundles of squeeful cuteness.  Baby Porcupines, and Baby Hedgehogs.

Leave a comment

A link roundup on the speech issues raised by outing Brutsch

With all the brouhaha caused by Adrian Chen putting a name to a handle, there has been a lot of discussion about what limits ((if any) there ought to be on what we think of as acceptable behavior on the web.

Tehcnosociology takes a look at how the perceptions of speech reflect power; and that the wild west attitude of the US masks why other groups react so strongly to what they see on the US internet.  The ways in which we don’t regulate it aren’t so understood; because they live in places where it is strongly regulated. That makes things like that film about Mohammed seem sanctioned (which she goes into here, “Why free speech is baffling to many“).

AaronBrady, at The New Inquiry points out that when we think an action is criminal we aren’t so quick to call it free speech, and what we think of as acceptable behavior changes the dialogue about it (who thought we’d see torture being publicly defended by serious contenders for the presidency?).  As a result the law isn’t really the issue.

Excremental Virtue has some thoughts (strung together from tweets) about the difference between taking a picture, and publishing them (which has been something I, as a photographer have been trying to make plain to people), and the assertion that faces are less real than names.
That’s all I’ve got time to put down for now, which is a pity, because there are a lot of questions there; some of them meta (what is free speech) and some of the apparently meta (is the internet “real life”?, to which I say yes) because work beckons, and so I don’t have time to explore those questions any more until later.

1 Comment

You have to own your deeds.

There has been a huge flap over Gawker putting a name to a redditor.  Said redditor was, IMO, no credit to the human race.  Reddit is a huge place, it’s sort of the internet writ small, and Michael Brutsch, in the guise of his reddit handle violentacrez oversaw some of the seamier sides of it.  It was as if he were running the Mos Eisley Cantina… on a franchise model; so you could have tailor made scum and villiany

He didn’t, so it seems, create them, but Conde Nast found that he was good at managing such reddits as Jailbait, Dead Jailbait, Nigger Jailbait, Hitler, Choke a Bitch, Beating Women, Nazi, Pics of Dead Kids,  and I know not what others.  He was lauded for this♠.  Reddit gave him a unique “pimp” badge, to thank him for all the work he did managing the, to understate it, “not safe for work,” side of the house.

What got him into his present troubles, and caused the hullaballoo, was a reddit he was asked to take over (as he’d done so many times before), r/creepshots (it’s gone now, in that iteration,  in lots of ways the seamy sides of reddit are like a hydra; anyone can make a new one when the old one gets shut down).  Creepshots was about revealing photos taken in public places, photos which were then published without the subjects consent.

It wasn’t met with universal approval.  Shit Reddit Says is a subreddit which exists to call out some of the seamier sides of reddit.  They took on r/creepshots, and got the usual response, “it’s not illegal, therefore no one can stop us.”  Which is both true, and false.  Publishing a recognisable image, without a release, is a problematic area.  If it’s done for profit, it’s actionable.  In theory someone could sue Condé Nast arguing that they make money off of reddit, and were/are therefore exploiting the images in places like creepshots for profit.

But it is true that taking such pictures isn’t illegal (creepshots did prohibit “upskirts”, which are illegal in some parts of the US, but not all. I don’t know what jurisdiction Condé Nast uses in its TOS, but that might also have some bearing.  I don’t think  47 USC § 230  applies here).

But something being legal doesn’t mean it’s morally acceptable, and as ‘violentacrez’, Brutsch hadn’t been all that careful about keeping his personal life from his recreational one.  There were photos of him,  and there were people who knew his name.  Adrian Chen found them, put them together, and then called him up, spoke to him, and wrote his piece, among other things pointing out that Brutsch was, in many ways a classic internet troll, “”I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.”

When the article came out, a lot of reddit had a very public fit.

See reddit has this idea that being an asshole is an absolute right.  When r/beatingwomen (run by Brutsch) caused a flap you saw things like this, “People are always ready to fight against censorship until they see something they don’t like. Then they become the ones wanting to censor it. “You don’t like it, neither do I, so don’t go there, and don’t be a hypocrite.”

Which is bullshit, but a lot of redditors believe that what they say on reddit ought to be free from accountability, and that any negative comment on the merit of posting something is morally reprehensible..  It ain’t so.  That it’s not so has never stopped anyone (in the US, at least), from decrying, “censorship” when someone chooses to moderate a blog. Boing-boing dropped comments because they had become a cesspit.  When they decided to bring them back they hired a moderator.  That moderator used “disemvowelling” to reduce the impact of nasty/trolling comments.  It’s a controversial technique, because it short circuits part of the classic trolls’ repertoire. 1:  It makes it harder to read (which reduces it’s effect. only someone who really wants to know what was said will go to the work to read it).  2: It gives readers a heads up that something nasty was said.  3:  It calls them out for being assholes.

I think it’s the last that really riles them up.  I think that’s a huge part of what the redditors who are whining about, “they are suppressing my speech” are really upset about.  There are a lot of assholes in the world, and they don’t like being called on it.

Tough shit.  The world is what we make it, and not calling assholes on their shit makes the world a shittier place.

There is more to it than that, of course, but (hard as it may be to believe) I think P.J. O’Rourke, hit this one on the head.

“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

Which doesn’t mean I’m not ambivalent about this.  Brutsch lost his job because of the furor, though he was pretty sure his boss (a payday lender; whom Chen didn’t name in the article he wrote; all he did was put a flesh and blood name and face to the reddit persona), wasn’t going to like what he expected to happen when the piece was published.  On the other hand, Brutsch, and many of his supporters are pretending all of this was harmless; even as Brutsch makes it plain it wasn’t.

In his attempt to fisk the Gawker piece he matter of factly gives the lie to the argument that “no one knew who the women were, so no one got hurt… except Brutsch,”.

“The fact that none of these innocent women were publicly identified, and those who asked for their pictures to be removed had them removed…”

There is some careful parsing.  “none of these innocent women were identified.”  What he means is that part of his job was to make sure the redditors who posted the image didn’t include names.  What caused the initial furor, which got him appointed mod of r/creepshots was a redditor being arrested for posting shots of his students; his high school student, and another redditor recognising the setting.
He also makes a careful bit of linguistic legerdemain in his own defense,

They would say he was a child pornographer, when all he had done was spearhead the distribution of thousands of legal photos of underage girls.

       He says “underage girls” to conflate pictures of high-school girls with children. Very effective.

   He says, “children” as if the act of sexualising adolescents is harmless.  He also, in that first quotation admits the people in /creepshots weren’t completely anonymous (and in r/jailbait they certainly weren’t, since most of those images were taken from facebook/etc.  google and tin-eye, etc. make it pretty easy to track those back to the person), “ those who asked for their pictures to be removed had them removed.”  Now, it’s possible no one but the women who asked to have their images removed recognised themselves.  That no one was ever told by a friend that someone had put their picture up for people to ogle.  But I don’t believe it.

   Why?  Because of the teacher who was arrested for taking illicit photos of his students and posting them to reddit.  That’s a provable case that someone else knew who the subjects of the photos were.  It strains all credulity to think this was the only instance.  It’s also fatuous to think that couldn’t harm the people in those photos.  But the assholes don’t care, not unless it’s illegal.

    Brutsch, and a vocal part of reddit think the law is the only brake on bad behavior.  They are wrong.  They forget there is social pressure, and they ignore the power of it at their peril (see above, re Brutsch’s employer).  And it’s social pressures, not the law, which will make, or not, any social space more pleasant to be in.  If no one calls the assholes out, then the assholes take over.

♠he was dedicated, he was moderating as many as 400 subreddits  at one point.  He claims that in his career he “created or ran” 500.