Monday, December 26, 2011

The most surprising shift of this year: The year of alternative media

As this year draws to a close, I thought to make a quick note of some of the greatest surprises of the year:

1)  Occupy Wallstreet - In the last 3 months, the protests have done one great thing.  They've changed the entire debate going on in Congress.  Before, people were talking about the debt ceiling.  Now, the very real issues of income inequality have become a talking point for almost every American.  The protests show the limits of free speech, which isn't allowed if it goes against those in power.  However, in the day that everyone is a journalist, exposing the footage of the goings on of the day, you find out that the country has a lot of problems within, while espousing freedom elsewhere in the world.

2) Wikileaks - As much as the government dislikes being embarrassed, Wikileaks continues to expose the issues of governments around the world.  What has occurred, an open discussion about the politics of countries.  The destruction of dictatorships in the Middle East.  The true length of corporate politics in the US.  New definitions of journalism and who constitutes a journalist.  Which leads into the third part

3) Bradley Manning - You can't talk about one without the other.  The trial of Bradley Manning has begun with quite a thought provoking exercise.  How do you give a man a fair trial when he's been abused for 19 months, someone who exposed higher level security documents served no jail time, and Obama's administration has been the main one bullying whistleblowers?  Further, Obama has found Manning guilty as his commander in chief.  The facts remain that everyone understands the kangaroo court of Manning.  He did far more good and exposes the problems with our justice system.  If such a man can be vilified for blowing the whistle on wrong doing, what does that say about our government?

4) SOPA - The epitome of copyright law.  Never before have we had such an egregious method to criminalize the entire world through censorship.  Bear in mind, the copyright law in the US has had the damaging effect of destroying the lives of individual people through high statutory damages, increased powers for copyright holders, and extended lengths of copyright protection for the enforcements.  SOPA's main power makes this even more egregious by allowing the federal government to become involved with copyright violations.  For a FAQ, Declan McCullagh does a fine job of showing the highlights.

5) Income inequality - Perhaps the largest problem with our government at the current moment.  It cannot be denied that the money in politics continues to have the largest impact on the laws passed.  All of them have been bad and it goes beyond political parties.  As it currently stands, the two party system has had a horrid effect of polarizing the people.  Meanwhile, the laws passed have been horrid for the public.  From the Patriot Act renewal to SOPA, all of the laws have been about the top tier of society passing laws to ensure no economic mobility in the United States.  This does not mean that there are no opportunities. As I've come to understand these trends, it means that the way we vote people into politics needs to change.  Some are focusing on taking money out of politics.  I don't think this is the right approach.

After careful review, I have to consider the ideas of changing the voting system.  Perhaps one day I can explain all of the problems with the electoral system and the First past the Post system used by the US.  Still, getting the money out of the politics is also a great first step to ensuring the preservation of the US republic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ICE "delists" Sheriff Arpaio. Pot Meet Kettle

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is known for quite a few things.  He's tough on crime in Arizona, even if the accused are only awaiting for a trial.  The numbers of people that have criticized his tactics are numerous.  From the ACLU to the New York Times, his tactics are not without its naysayers.

In reading about his Tent City in the hot Arizona heat, I can't help but wonder if his tactics are truly effective.

So it is without saying that Arpaio has found his tactics to be in hot water.  Sheriff Arpaio failed to investigate 400 sex crimes cases. There was also a pattern of civil rights violations and discrimination against Latinos.  With the Feds investigating, they have decided to pull the plug on Arpaio.

But wait...  Who are these mysterious people that are pulling the plug on the "good Sheriff?"  Are they as well meaning as they should be portrayed?

The ICE does not have a clean record when it comes to immigration and civil rights.  A record 396,000 people were deported with very little in regards to due process or civil liberties.  As the article indicated, this was a mandate by Congress.  If ICE wanted more funding for these abuses of civil liberties, they were to meet the goal of 400,000 people to be deported.  Within the same article, only 40% of the people were violent criminals.  No statistics were given for those who had low level crimes on their record.

The results of the ICE lock ups have been devastating.  The women in the prisons are coerced into having sex with guards.  ICE officials bully those that speak up into silence.  The fear of deportation maintains that silence against this disproportionately Latino crowd.

There is a lot to criticize with ICE.  Sure, they remove Sheriff Arpaio from abusing Latinos.  But do we really want ICE to be a purveyor of justice when they have even more blood on their hands?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Drugs and the right to express oneself.

Let's start with a bang.  The US drug policy has failed.  The Global Commission on Drug Policy has seen it.  Our officers have seen it through increased membership to LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.  However, the US policy on drugs has not changed in 30 years.  Why is that?

The police have had a War on Drugs since Nixon's "Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.  In this war on drugs, we've seen the police use every trick in the book to continue using these laws.  But the effect of these laws have been devastating for civil rights.  The police have become more militarized in their thinking.  There is no compromise with a drug dealer, merely a look at stopping supply with nary a look at actually stopping demand:

We have created circumstances under which the American people are no longer individuals protected by the Bill of Rights, but rather "enemy combatants." The consequences of such a mindset have proven time and again to be lethal, as we now rely on military ideology and practice to respond to crime and justice. For some insight into the implications, one needn't look any further than minority communities, which have long been the victims of paramilitary forces posing as police officers. Black and Latino communities in the inner-cities of Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago have witnessed first-hand the deadly consequences of militarization on American soil. Military culture now permeates all aspects of our society. Does anyone really believe that heavily armed soldiers trained to kill are capable of maintaining an atmosphere of nonviolence?

And what have we gained for the destruction of our freedoms? An perpetual underclass who have limited chances at education or advancement. A black market that is costing the US $76.8 billion dollars in lost revenue. Perverse incentives where police target pot smokers over more serious crimes.

When faced with all of the information showing the problems of our drug policy, why should the police not be allowed to speak out about it?  Just like the Occupy Wall Street movement, the police are not allowed to speak.  If they make statements that don't support "The Mission", then it's tantamount to career suicide.  Bryan Gonzalez, a young border patrol agent found out the hard way:

If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.  

Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”

As the article states, police are reluctant to support LEAP openly.  Most officers know that the drug policy is ridiculous, just not the extent.  However as others note, you can't be promoted if you're soft on crime.

The best advocacy for drug legalization should come from those that have worked in the field and seen the problems of our current laws.  As seen in Colorado or Sweden, legalizing drugs is a win-win.  It allows for more growth in job creation, entrepreneurial innovation, and more tax revenue for the government.  What is there not to like in expressing a notion that our drug policies are hindering American process?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A look at OWS, an overview

The Occupy movement is a really young movement.  In just two to three months, it has changed the political landscape entirely.  At first, it was dismissed as a fringe movement of dirty hippies and Socialist college students. But as the movement has gone on, those in positions of power have become more and more afraid.  The top GOP strategist has changed the language of the political debates for Republicans:

Don’t Mention Capitalism
 – Empathize With The 99 Percent Protesters
– Don’t Say Bonus
– Don’t Mention The Middle Class Because Americans Don’t Trust Republicans To Defend It
– Don’t Talk About Taxing The Rich

The issue of wealth inequality has been increasingly acknowledged in the Mainstream Media, such as Fox News.  Before, the debates were mainly about how much money to pay for the debt.  Granted, they continue to occur, but they are not prevalent on most sites and in the minds of America now.

In a small time, with few real resources, Occupy has brought about a change in the US.  Will we have more transparent politics?  Is our First Amendment in danger from exposing the income gap in the US?  I honestly can't say.  The main demands of Occupy Wallstreet greatly echo those of my favorite speaker, Lawrence Lessig.  For those that don't know, Lessig has not been in the copyright arena in the last decade.  He has instead joined the Progressive movement, looking to take the money out of politics as he lays out in Bloomberg.  

How will all of this attention affect the debates?  How will people pick between the current presidential nominees when all of them have their flaws?  Only time will tell.  The OWS movement is only going to grow as more people look for the government to answer questions regarding its role in their lives.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

People don't want to pay for DLC?

In the quest to learn more about the gaming market, you sometimes have to scratch your head at oddities in the gaming world.

Here, executive producer Patrick Bach tells OXM, 'If you're giving it away, why couldn't you give it away earlier?' There were a lot of complaints."  This is in response to the "flack" received when EA released Battlefield: Bad Company 2 maps as free DLC, yet got an almost unanimously positive response when it put out a slightly larger map pack and charged for it.

The major complaint is how EA "broke" the game by allowing people to have earlier access to game items for those that preordered.  Having a better weapon before anyone else leads to more kills which discourages others from playing, but it seems that complaint is ignored by EA.  Bach goes on to discuss how they had a new map pack for 1200 Microsoft points ($15) had a more positive response.

But how can you compare a better weapon from a preorder to a different map that everyone might want to play?

Bach then makes the questionable comment: "Consumers are not used to getting things. There are no free lunches, and people get very suspicious when they get something for free."

Then my Valve sense tingled.

For 4 years, Team Fortress 2 has been a quasi free game.  Recently, it changed into a Free to Play game.  They actually have a way to keep the community together by taking away barriers to entry.  Of course, if you buy a game on Steam, you can get a new hat, a new weapon, or a new item to show off more ego.

Within the game, items are dropped randomly, allowing you access to make newer weapons or try out weapons for yourself.  For free.

Further, you never have to pay for a map but if you want, you can support the map makers from the store in the game.  Here are the maps for the TF2 community.  It's your choice to support the community.  You don't have to pay for the game if you don't want to.

How can EA's Bach say that something for free is actually a harmful thing?  I've no idea, but at the very least, he should look a little more closely at why people will complain about certain problems in a game.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Joseph Lieberman

So I've been reading a lot of Techdirt recently when I stumbled upon Joe Lieberman.  It's a name that rings a bell to me simply because of his past with censorship.  He's "concerned" about Video game violence, but all of the evidence (millions of people playing, very few incidents of actual violence) continues to disagree with him.  His newest fight has been about Wikileaks, rather than TSA's security methods.

Throughout Joe's tenure in Congress, I can't remember a lot of good things about him.  He always seems to be the first to ask for censure, the first to say that we don't have the right to free speech, and he's always been the one to act shocked that things don't go quite to his plans.

Looking at his Lobbying record, it's not hard to see why he isn't hard to be bought.  He has very little in terms of actual individual donations.  No, he's supported very heavily by insurance, banks, lawyers, and lobbyists.  To go off on a small tangent, it's interesting to see that Joe still doesn't understand the new world that is taking form.  Perhaps his bank lobbyists should worry.  Namely, Julian Assange has said that big banks are next.  I guess the Constitution is damned when you have something to hide as a Senator.

Perhaps Joe should look into new ways to find money.  Janitorial duty works wonders for all the things he's spewing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The good stuff

So there's been some great thinks coming out recently:

Judge loses it in Xbox case

How to perform character assassination: Julian Assange

Leaking Black Ops: a Pirate story

Taking down a website? Internet provides solution


I could talk about all of them but for now, I'll leave others to discuss this.