Sunday, November 27, 2005

Anarchist organization and authoritarianism

Part of being an anarchist is examining power structures and speaking out against authoritarianism. This post makes the argument that anarchists (particularly White males) do not want to hear, that an established open structure is preferable to structurelessness. She points to the rant on attempting to debunk the idea of creating structures in collectives and affinity groups as proposed in "The Tyranny of Structurelessness." The basic argument boils down to anyone who would use the essay by a 1970's feminist socialist to criticize the behavior of their small ad hoc groups is not an anarchist.

The question is asked in the Infoshop piece why would people (women presumably) read this essay instead of talking about their problems with the group. The answer is actually pretty obvious, the people that are marginalized by society as a whole and subsequently by their anarchist comrades need a way to press the discussion. The problems with anarchist groups is pretty obvious but rarely discussed in fear of being called authoritarian.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A gay man, self-defense and a tough cookie

Lucas Dawson was cleared of manslaughter charges brought by Philadelphia D.A. Lynne "One Tough Cookie" Abraham for stabbing his assailant in a gay bashing incident. You can read the links for the details suffice it to say that he didn't have a choice and tried to flee at first. The thing that makes this so interesting is that Abraham who tries to foster a reputation for being tough on crime brought charges in the first place.

The argument for charging him centered mainly on the fact that he is 21 and the attackers were under 18 including Gerald Knight Jr. who was 17. The officers involved said he used excessive force in trying to defend himself from youths who followed him for nearly as he fled from their taunts half a block and began punching and kicking him once they got him on the ground.

This new found concern for the use of appropriate force would have been appreciated in the cases of the videotaped beating of carjacker Thomas Jones and Officer Christopher DiPasquale who had a long record of brutality complaints and shot an unarmed teenage motorist twice (once in the head). In the Jones case there were no charges brought against the half dozen officers who held Jones down and beat him with batons while being videotaped. DiPasquale lost his badge not by anything the D.A. did but through a routine investigation by I.A.

She is in no risk of losing her job as she won re-election quite handily this month. The Republicans don't bother to put up a real candidate since this is a highly Democratic town and the Democrats will not support a challenger since she is so popular and what poltical organization is going to throw out a sure bet. I just wish she would do a little "soft cookie" once and a while.

OS X a no go on $100 laptop

While I am a big fan of OS X I am on the fence whether Red Hat Linux would be a better fit for the project to bring a $100 laptop to the developing world. The developers are looking for a totally open source laptop so that they will be "tinkerable" while I am sure they have good intentions they may also have too much invested in an idealogy of Free Software and not best software.

Reading the FAQ and other information they have big plans for making all the software open source in order to allow students to get into rewriting the code but is this meeting the need of the user or the developer? While Linux is great (I'm dual booting OS X and Yellow Dog Linux) there are some issues with ease of use. They are addressing the user space quirks but the question needs to be asked is this the best soultion for the problem since there are still outstanding issues.

Ideally they could have used Apple's and yes, even Microsoft's help in refining the Linux distro that would be installed. Instead they are going to use Red Hat Linux which is a solid choice (the basis of Yello Dog Linux) but not the most user friendly environment. They could have made all changes to the sytem to make it more accessible open source under the GPL, which could be used by other Linux distros.

To cut through all the crap and get to the heart of the matter all of the technology companies currently involved or considering involvement are looking at long term growth trends. Third world countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia will not be Third Worlders forever. Just the continuous search of capital for inexpensive labor pools to insource will raise the standard of living. China and India are likely to become economic superpowers in the near term and Africa and Latin America are ripe for growth. People want to develop brand loyalty early not just Apple or Microsoft but Red Hat as well.

While open source is great and promotes the freedom to alter your tools fundamentally to meet your needs if there is a proprietary tool that meets one's needs it should be considered. OS X is mostly open source, the only closed source parts of the OS are the Finder, Aqua, Core Graphics/Audio, and some of the apps like iTunes. If the user wishes to change OS X to a strictly open source piece of software they can strip it down to Darwin and install another window manager and recompile Linux apps for it. Frankly, it is the best of the proprietary and open source worlds.

I can understand people wanting to be evangelistic about open source especially when the possibility of nearly doubling market share overnight is in sight but somebody should "please think of the children." The prospective buyers should be given the choice of operating systems from anyone willing to provide them and lifetime service agreements. No one should be able to provide "free" software and then charge for support, neither Apple nor Red Hat. If Microsoft wants to offer a version of Windows let them do it but users should be able to replace the operating system at any time. Since the machines are so small and do not have large hard drives Flash memory is the ideal solution to the cost, size, speed and upgrability of the sytem.

If they want to use a totally open source system why are they using proprietary chips from AMD and not the open source chips on the market? If the idea is to have people tinker with the laptops why limit the tinkering to the software? Why are they using Red Hat Linux and not Ubuntu Linux? Ubuntu is built on the non-profit model and does not charge for support.

There is still some discussion around it going on.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The MPAA is killing my TiVo

Caesar at arsTechnica takes a look at the latest attempt by the MPAA to kill fair use. Basically, if the "Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005" passes the whole point of a TiVo, recording video to watch at a later time or transfer to another TV in the house will be severly limited.

If you've listened to Jack Valenti and other MPAA representatives this is just a small step to the eventual goal. Presented with the hypothetical of a father videorecording his child's first steps who steps in front of a TV which is playing a protected movie Jack opted for the the recording to go black. The rationale is if you allow this type of fair use then eventually video pirates will twist it to their advantage.

Considering that Hollywood is putting out more and more life wasting movies I might just opt out of the whole thing.

David Cole puts John Yoo on the rack over torture

For those who aren't that into politics the name John Yoo will likely be followed by the question, 'whose he.' In many ways he is the architect of the Abu Ghraib, GTMO, extraordinary strategy in the war on terror. He has a new book, The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11, making the case for why torture is a good thing when America does it. I've seen him in interviews most recently on Frontline.

He is an originalist but that doesn't seem to square with his views for a strong executive branch. David Cole, a Georgetown law professor and author of a competing view Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism, takes up the case against Yoo's originalism and his legal opinnion on torture in The New York Review of Books. The article can be read in its entirety on TomDispatch toward the bottom of the page.

While in my personal opinnion Yoo's legal reasoning is contradictory and baseless in cited precident, when he bothers to quote it, his book gives insight into the White House's thinking. Won't buy it but may pick it up at the library along with David Cole's book.