A conversation with Ilya Ponomarev, an exiled dissident Russian State Duma Deputy living in San Jose - "When the Russian government voted to annex Crimea last year, only one member of parliament stood in opposition—Ilya Ponomarev. The final tally was 445 to 1, with Ponomarev wanting the world to know that the annexation did not have unanimous support. He is now barred from returning home to Russia. First elected to Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in 2007, Ponomarev became a leader of political protests that shook Moscow before Putin's return to the presidency in 2012. Now, the Russian parliament has voted overwhelming to strip Ponomarev of the immunity from prosecution granted to lawmakers by the Russian Constitution. How long can this government maintain control by silencing these voices of opposition? With elections scheduled for next year, what is the future of Putin's government and Russia's relationship with the United States?" [more inside]
The vote of 67 - 32 will move the measure to President Obama's desk. Previous reports suggest that he will sign it immediately.
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
"In short, it seems that when a white male thinks about the meaning of things, any things, it is philosophy..." (SLTheGuardian)
The New York Times reports today that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used her personal e-mail address to conduct all business. In response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. [more inside]
Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
Why were people sitting on other people's faces outside the UK parliament recently? A variety of specific sexual acts were banned from UK-filmed online porn videos under the 2014 Audiovisual Media Services Regulation, which came into effect this month. Protesters say some acts that show women enjoying sex are now banned while similar restrictions do not apply to men. [more inside]
You're not really supposed to try to find this sign up-close in person, you're supposed to look at it from a distance. Arguments begin on how short that distance can be... [more inside]
You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy [more inside]
"Trust Women" is a popular motto in the pro-choice movement. It sounds a little sentimental, doesn't it? Part of that old sisterhood-is-powerful feminism it is fashionable to mock today. But "Trust Women" doesn't mean that every woman is wise or good or has magical intuitive powers. It means that no one else can make a better decision, because no one else is living her life, and since she will have to live with that decision—not you, and not the state legislature or the Supreme Court—chances are she is doing her best in a tight spot.How Pro-Choicers Can Take Back the Moral High Ground: an excerpt from essayist and poet Katha Pollitt's latest book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. [more inside]
Patrick McLaw, under the pen name "Dr. K. S. Voltaer', wrote a novel about a school shooting in the year 2902. However, Mr. McLaw is a 23-year-old middle-school teacher in Cambridge, Maryland. Because of the content of his sf novels, he has just been placed on administrative leave, according to Dorchester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Wagner as quoted in Raw Story. Mr. McLaw was taken for an 'emergency' medical exam, and the police were unwilling to disclose his location to local TV news. They would say he is not on the Delmarva peninsula. An article in Reason is characterizing the exam as a "mandatory psych eval". According to Reason, Mr. McLaw has yet to be charged with any crime. He teaches eighth-grade language arts.
GQ: The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit. "For nearly thirty years, a phantom haunted the woods of Central Maine. Unseen and unknown, he lived in secret, creeping into homes in the dead of night and surviving on what he could steal. To the spooked locals, he became a legend - or maybe a myth. They wondered how he could possibly be real. Until one day last year, the hermit came out of the forest." [more inside]
Greg Abbott is running for governor of Texas. He's campaigning in Regal Cinemas as a pre-movie ad. Alamo Drafthouse, a competing chain, has a long history of making PSAs asking patrons not to talk or text during a movie (previously). They felt they had to respond. [more inside]
This week's Glenn Greenwald revelation is that Britain's GCHQ JTRIG intelligence organization offers its agents and planners tools with abilities to increase the search ranking of chosen web sites, “change outcome of online polls”, “masquerade Facebook Wall Posts for individuals or entire countries”, and accomplish “amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (Youtube).” [more inside]
In the spirit of this post, about Frederick Douglass's classic speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", what is Independence Day for the Native American? Some folks have powwows on this day and/or march in parades, proudly wearing the uniforms of the US Military. NPR's 2008 story on the topic is worthwhile.
The psychology of Soylent and the prison of first-world food choices
People are born with neither the ability to cook nor compile; both are taught, and chastising even an adult for not knowing how to cook a healthy meal makes about as much sense as chastising an adult for not knowing how to code or how to compile an application from source. Each of those two different ridicules demonstrates an identical lack of empathy and an accompanying equally stunning sense of privilege that you should probably check immediately.
Over the past two weeks, Iranian women have been publishing pictures of themselves without hijab, as a protest to the 35-year long encroachment on their right to choose how to dress. [Guardian] [HuffPo] [Vocativ] [more inside]
Reuters: EU court rules against requirement to keep data of telecom users [different news sources: BBC, The Register] Considerably more detail is available in the ECJ press release (pdf) and the full judgement but the Court has invalidated Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC and struck a very clear blow against metadata storage in national law as the authority of the directive will soon cease to exist. This has a particular impact for UK MeFites, as UK law was based on the Directive and crucially passed through Parliament via the European Communities Act and thus skipped some review steps but is founded on the validity of the directive being implemented. Remaining national law would of course also be open to challenge on the same grounds. [more inside]
The Sunni Islamic monarchy/theocracy's restrictive laws on political expression have become even stricter this year. This is in response to potentially dangerous dissidents returning to Saudi Arabia from the Syrian civil war. But the categories of offenses are so broad as to define virtually any non-Muslim as a terrorist, and to ban all independent political expression. [more inside]
This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, two cases where private corporations have challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate. Previously, and previously [more inside]
Consumerism's petty liberties have made us inhumanly passive. We've forgotten what freedom is, and how easily it is lost.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat ruled today that its Height Committee has determined that One World Trade Center’s height to its architectural top is 1,776 feet (541.3 meters), which will eclipse Chicago's Sears "Willis Tower" as the tallest building in the western hemisphere. [more inside]
This shift in how companies are governed and raise money is bringing with it a structural change in American capitalism. That should be a matter of great debate. Are these new businesses, with their ability to circumvent rules that apply to conventional public companies, merely adroit exploiters of loopholes for the benefit of a plutocratic few? Or do they reflect the adaptability on which America’s vitality has always been based? - Rise of the distorporation - how changes in the way companies are financed and managed is changing the wealth distribution of America.
DJ Hennessy Youngman follows up CVS BANGERS [prev.] with his new Soundcloud mix, NSA BANGERS. NSA BANGERS is an audio landscape full of paranoia, espionage, epic snooping, unhealthy obsession, and the stress of being a contemporary type human being. Basically, NSA BANGERS is the soundtrack of Freedom! And Freedom is expensive y'all! Apparently, it like, costs your Freedom!
The Quality of Life: As Macaulay once noted: “If men are to wait for liberty till they become good and wise in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.”
The point being, an angry song about a political prisoner in South Africa, held captive for 21 years (at the time of writing), and written and performed by a bunch of chippy former pop stars who appeared hellbent on throwing their success back in the faces of their fans, has no business being this happy, this celebratory, and this powerful.
SCOTUS declares DOMA Unconstitutional, 5 - 4. The gay rights movement saw a significant victory at the Supreme Court Wednesday, where the justices struck down part of a law barring federal benefits to married same-sex couples. In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits -- like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns - to same-sex couples legally married. The impact of the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, is clear for the nation's approximately 130,000 married same-sex couples. Section 3 of the law, the provision that was struck down, denies same-sex couples federal benefits. That provision impacts around 1,100 federal laws, including veterans' benefits, family medical leave and tax laws.
The NFL announced a change to its bag policy Thursday and beginning with the 2013 season, only clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags will be permitted inside NFL stadiums. [more inside]
I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Richie Havens has died. Havens, who first roared onto the national stage at Woodstock with the brilliantly improvised "Freedom," has died. [more inside]
The state of Washington has filed suit against Arlene's Flowers, whose owner, Barronelle Stutzman, refused to provide flowers for the wedding of regular customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. [more inside]
Justifying Coercive Paternalism - autonomy is "not valuable enough to offset what we lose by leaving people to their own autonomous choices"
To understand what is at stake we need to make our way through the rhetorical smog. For months prior to the WCIT, the Euro-American press trumpeted warnings that this was to be an epochal clash between upholders of an open Internet and would-be government usurpers, led by authoritarian states like Russia, Iran and China. The terms of reference were set so rigidly that one European telecom company executive called it a campaign of “propaganda warfare” (2). ~ Masters of the Internet, Le Monde Diplomatique
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The Political Science Department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring a panel discussion about the BDS Movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel this Thursday Feburary 7th. The event features Omar Barghouti, BDS co-founder and Judith Butler, prominent philosopher. The college has come under widespread attack for its hosting of the event, with a coalition of New York City councillors threatening to defund the school. [more inside]
Jacob Appelbaum speaks about resistance in his keynote address at 29c3 (previously : 28c3, 24c3) [more inside]
Lisa Kristine, a photographer, gives a thoughtful and very moving talk on the extent of modern day slavery in this TEDx talk. The photos she shows are absolutely beautiful and the bare-bones stories behind them are exceptionally hard to hear at times. The group she is working with, Free the Slaves, seems to be doing a lot of good work and working on real solutions for the people involved (such as the one example she gives where the slaves that were freed carried on doing the same work, the only work they had ever known, but rent the quarry themselves and are now the recipients of the profits etc). She has published a book with these photos as well and it's available on her website.
Let it Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace from Crooked Timber.
Look at Azerbaijan! But look beyond the shiny Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) which will be held tomorrow in Baku. Look at the “Dirty Secrets” [SLYT, BBC Panorama, 30 min., English] and at independent film maker Liz Mermin’s film “Glanz und Schatten in Azerbaidschan” [SLYT, 30 min. German but more informative IMHO]. > Locals that voted in the music contest for a country that was not in favor of the ruling family were investigated by the police. And then there is the story of two expensive donkeys (€42,000 each) and a comedic video that landed a young man in jail. Let’s not forget the story of a journalist who was blackmailed with secretly shot sex tapes. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch often report of restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Azerbaijan. Shortly before the ESC young musician Jamal Ali fled the country. While US peace corps volunteers don’t feel like criticizing much and sing a song of their own [SLYT], we see more arrests in Baku today.>
The Naked Rambler now in prison for 6 years for nudity Six years ago, Naked Rambler Stephen Gough's hike from Land's End to John O'Groats brought him media fame – and a prison sentence. Then another, and another, and… why has he been locked up ever since?
Although officially abolished in 1981, slavery still exists in Mauritania. CNN Special Report includes a twenty-two minute video and offers a look inside a country where an estimated 10 - 20% are still enslaved.
[All links NSFW] In solidarity with Egyptian women's rights activist Aliaa Magda Elmahdy (previously), 14 women have posed for the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar [pdf] for release on International Women's Day. #NudePhotoRevolutionary
In the UK, people pay a yearly licence fee to watch live television, with revenues funding the BBC. TV Licensing is the group that collects fees, and they use a number of methods — some real, some imaginary, some in between — to gain compliance. But one Briton remains determined not to play that game.
"Because we don't know how to make a wheel that is still generally useful for legitimate wheel applications but useless to bad guys."
Cory Doctorow's 28C3 talk The Coming War on General Purpose Computation (abstract, transcript) warns that "the coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race." [more inside]
Two days ago, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), "with reservations about key provisions in the law — including a controversial component that would allow the military to indefinitely detain terror suspects, including American citizens arrested in the United States, without charge". [more inside]