On not pulling my weight

Sometimes I really feel that I don’t have the energy to mobilize against the next stupid/dangerous/horrifying/hair-brained scheme proposed by some evil/half-witted/misguided (take your pick) parliament. So I relax and let others write and argue for causes that I also should be arguing. It’s complacency legitimized with sentiments such as “I have a lot to do right now” or “I don’t have time to understand this new threat” etc.

This has been the way in which it was with the new Swedish proposal on digital surveillance. Yes, yes I know that this is not going to be a good thing. Yes, yes I know that the politicians are either intentionally lying to the people or are too stupid to understand what they are actually doing (I often wonder which is worse?) – but look I really don’t have the time or energy right now. Lots of work, lots of personal shit, lots of everything. So I lean back and let others write. The more I read the more I realize that my words are unnecessary.

Then today I read Oscar Swartz blog on the topic (his blog is excellent – unfortunately, or naturally, in Swedish) and I realized something. It’s not a matter of whether or not my voice is needed. Of course it isn’t needed. Not mine, personally. But by leaning back and letting others do the work I am making others work a little bit harder. It’s like being on a tug-of-war team that may still win even if one team member isn’t pulling his/her weight. Damn! I knew I should have been active earlier. Guilt bores its way under my skin, my orginal annoyance at the suggestion has been fermenting for much too long.

So here it is.

The proposed FRA law in brief is that the National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt – FRA) shall be given the power to listen to all cable based communication (yes that means everything on the Internet) which crosses Sweden’s borders. The idea is that only international communication (i.e. communication exiting Sweden) will be monitored. Basically since even most national Internet communication passes over international borders the focus on international communication is only a way of pacifying the general population.

Basically the idea is to force all Internet and Telecom providers to copy all communications to state surveillance systems. This means telephones, email, chat, websites, comments on blogs – the works.

Naturally in the age of doublespeak the proposed mass violation of integrity is legitimized by the need to protect the democratic country. People will lose their rights and be viewed as criminals as a default. This will not protect the country. It may help catch people after they have done something but it will not (it cannot) prevent actions.

To make matters worse – oh yes it can be worse – the surveillance is not being carried out by the police. Why is this important?

Well the police have to follow due process. This means in practice that when the police want to bug someone they need to have probable cause to suspect a crime. This new system will make this unnecessary. Everyone will be under surveillance and the state may now order special surveillance on individuals or groups who are not suspected of crimes but who hold political views which are “wrong” – oops now we lost freedom of thought.

Sweden has a long tradition of presenting itself as a bastion of democracy. But this is old stuff. The last decade has seen Sweden shed these ideas and attempt to rush to the forefront of lowlife nations who feel the need to enact a surveillance regime which would have made big brother green with envy.

So what can be done? What did Oscar do to get me going? He just reminded me that the most important feature in a society is the ability of its members to remain active against opposition. To talk, to write and to maintain a voice of dissent – especially when the odds are stacked against us.

Australian Immigration Policy

This is an excerpt from a recent post on Subtopia about an Australian immigration detention center being built on Christmas Island. I was particularly attracted to the technology involved in detaining immigrants. This is not exactly pleasant reading…

Since 2005 Australiaâ??s Department of Immigration has been constructing an “Immigration Reception and Processing Centre.” 2,400 km from Perth, 360 km from Jakarta and nearly 2000 km from Darwin, this deteniton complex is at the far end of the island which, according to this dispatch, is a narrow strip 24 km long and 7 km wide.

Keep in mind, as Angela tells us, â??under Australian law it is possible to intern people extra-judicially (without trial or charge) and, since 2004, to do so indefinitely. Migration detention is, therefore, a wholly administrative matter.â??

So just what exactly are they building out there in them pristine jungles?

Well, it turns out itâ??s not just some rinky dink detention outfit with some barbed-wire fencing and ramshackle barracks cliff-side. No, this is a $396 million tropical prison paradise. Thatâ??s right. For what the government refers to as a â??deterrent to illegal immigrationâ??, it is a state of the art 800-bed prison complex, with electric fences, movement detectors, hundreds of surveillance cameras, hidden microphones in the trees, the works.

[Image: "Camp Howard" - Australia's very own Guantanamo Bay on Christmas Island, Feb. 2007.]â??The camp on Christmas Island has CCTV linked to a RCR [Remote Control Room] so guards in Canberra can watch detainees around the clock.â?? And planners arenâ??t leaving any thing out for this rugged remote little island prison either. â??Detainees will wear electronic ID tags or cards, identifying them wherever they are.â?? While the place crawls with guards wandering in between a perimeter of checkpoint cubicles, there is a hospital, operating theatre and visiting rooms, solitary cells, and even family units and a nursery. â??Everything can be controlled remotely â?? doors, TV, radio.â??

{Image: Floor plan for the Detention Facility at Christmas Island.]In addition to developing this offshore island-chain barrier against migration, the Australian government has launched its border patrol ship, the Triton, dubbed the â??prison shipâ?? by critics. This â??98-metre trimaranâ?? is said to be capable of detaining â??30 people for up to a month” on board and is “armed with twin machine guns.â??

[Image: The ACV Triton Australian Border Patrol Ship.]While officially deployed to patrol and intercept illegal fisherman, others are more concerned what the Triton could mean for migrants stranded at sea already facing one of the most conservative immigration-tolerant nations in the world.

Update: The last line should probably read immigration-intolerant…

Narcissistic Personality

Believe it or not teachers are concerned. At our faculty the students all have laptops and the whole building is connected via wifi (for a discussion on laptops in universities look here). In a discussion earlier today the faculty was discussing why it is so difficult for students to “get” that they need to do more than stare at the computer screen. They need to actually read the litterature. One of the more unnerving comments (by the faculty) was that the students seem to actually think that it is better to “know” stuff than to learn it. This means that reading is not an appreciated way of learning.

Via AlanC I was sent a link to an article from today’s LA Times Gen Y’s ego trip takes a nasty turn. The article is based upon a report of a study conducted by researchers from San Diego State, University of Michigan, University of Georgia and University of South Alabama. Their findings appear to show that students had elevated levels of narcissism. One of the conclusions drawn by those conducting the study was that this affected the way in which students understand their role at university

“The old model was a collegial one in which students and professors alike sought knowledge for knowledge’s sake. The new model is ‘I paid my money, give me my grade and degree.’ It makes me want to ask [students], ‘Want fries with that order?’ “

I don’t really know whether I should be releived or horrified that it is not only here that students are like this…

A European Spine?

“The British Government has issued a response to a recent petition calling for ‘the Prime Minister to make software patents clearly unenforcible’. The answer is reassuring but perhaps doesn’t go far enough, and gives no specific promises to bring into line a patent office that grants software patents (according to the petition) ‘against the letter and the spirit of the law’. The Gowers Review that it references gives detailed insight into the current British position on this debate, most interestingly recommending a policy of ‘not extending patent rights beyond their present limits within the areas of software, business methods and genes.’” (via Slashdot)

OMG! Does this mean that there are European countries, part of the EU which actually may have a spine? That they are prepared not to toe the EU competition of who can sellout their values the fastest in order to please the US?

Originally I thought that European Unity was a good idea since it would enable Europeans to take a stand against the cultural and economic superiority of the States – but we haven’t seen much of that yet…

Last Lines

The opening lines to any work are obviously of great importance. Many writers spend a lot of time and effort to get the line just right. One of my favourite opening lines is from Camus “The Stranger”. The confusion and sadness in the opening lines both sets the stage and sums up the confusion of the character.

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I donâ??t know. I had a telegram from home: â??mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.â?? That doesnâ??t mean anything. It may have been yesterday.

Closing lines rarely recieve the same amount of attention – which is strange. The importance of opening and closing is not limited to fictional works. Academic works also attempt lift their work with opening and closing lines. Here are a few examples:

Democracy and its critics (Dahl 1989): Yet the vision of people governing themselves as political equals, and possessing all the resources and institutions necessary to do so, will I believe remain a compelling if always demanding guide in the search for a society in which people may live together in peace, respect each other’s intristic equality, and jointly seek the best possible life”

Water Wars (Shiva 2002): The struggle over the kumbh, between gods and demons, between those who protect and those who destroy, between those who nurture and those who exploit, is ongoing. Each of us has a role in shaping the creation of the future. Each of us is responsible for the kumbh – the sacred water pot.

A Theory of Justice (Rawls 1971): Purity of heart, if one could attain it, would be to see clearly and to act with grace and self-command from this point of view.

Free Speech: A philosophical enquiry (Schauer 1982): There will always remain some hard cases, but many of them are not as hard as they may at first sight appear.

My own last line: Discarding the technology entails a limited, regulated use but will fail to recognise the full potential of disruptive technologies as an agent of change within the participatory democracy.

Some last lines attempt to sum up the whole work, some attempt to sum up the last chapter, others simply finish of the final chapter. Obviously there must be a last line in a book and this line need not have any particular function in itself – but it seems a bit of an anti-climax when the last line of a good book has no other desire than to end the book.

Virtual Property

The worst thing about trying to catch up on my blog reading and writing is that some of the stuff becomes dated – but this is still relevant from Technolama.

According to Slashdot, eBay has caved-in to increasing pressure from the games industry and has de-listed all in-game items from its database. However, I’ve made a search and you still can find some items. If you want to buy gold, rare items, swords of power and exotic pets, you will have to go to other websites. In many instances, you may have to go to officially sanctioned websites, such as Sony’s Station Exchange, in order to get your goodies. Why? Because this could be another profitable source of income for MMORPG providers.

The economics of gaming is a fascinating subject which has just begun to be explored. Here are some interesting starting points:

Lastowka, F. G. & Hunter, D. The Laws of Virtual Worlds

Taylor, T. L.  Whose Game is this Anyway?

Klang, M. Avatar: From Deity to Corporate Property

Creative Commons v3

A bit late to blog about the obvious but at the same time it feels wrong not to blog about such a central event in the Creative Commons project. Anyway the news is (if you haven’t heard about it already) that CC now has released its latest versions of the license. Welcome to version 3.0.

The latest version of the Creative Commons licenses â?? Version 3.0 â?? are now available. To briefly recap what is different in this version of the licenses:

Separating the â??genericâ?? from the US license

As part of Version 3.0, we have spun off the â??genericâ?? license to be the CC US license and created a new generic license, now known as the â??unportedâ?? license. For more information about this change, see this more detailed explanation.

Harmonizing the treatment of moral rights & collecting society royalties

In Version 3.0, we are ensuring that all CC jurisdiction licenses and the CC unported license have consistent, express treatment of the issues of moral rights and collecting society royalties (subject to national differences). For more information about these changes, see this explanation of the moral rights harmonization and this explanation of the collecting society harmonization.

No Endorsement Language

That a person may not misuse the attribution requirement of a CC license to improperly assert or imply an association or relationship with the licensor or author, has been implicit in our licenses from the start. We have now decided to make this explicit in both the Legal Code and the Commons Deed to ensure that â?? as our licenses continue to grow and attract a large number of more prominent artists and companies â?? there will be no confusion for either the licensor or licensee about this issue. For a more detailed explanation, see here.

BY-SA â?? Compatibility Structure Now Included

The CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses will now include the ability for derivatives to be relicensed under a â??Creative Commons Compatible License,â?? which will be listed here. This structure realizes CCâ??s long-held objective of ensuring that there are no legal barriers to people being able to remix creativity in the way that flexible licenses are intended to enable. More information about this is provided here.

Clarifications Negotiated With Debian & MIT

Finally, Version 3.0 of the licenses include minor clarifications to the language of the licenses to take account of the concerns of Debian (more details here) and MIT (more details here).

As part of discussions with Debian, it was proposed to allow the release of CC-licensed works under DRM by licensees on certain conditions â?? what was known as the â??parallel distribution languageâ?? but this has not been included as part of Version 3.0 of the CC licenses.

Below is a list of CC blog posts about Version 3.0:

Getting to Version 3.0
Version 3.0 â?? Public Discussion Launched

Version 3.0 â?? Revised License Drafts
Version 3.0 â?? Itâ??s Happening & With BY-SA Compatibility Language Too