logomancer: Xerxes from System Shock 2 (Default)

Today I found this blog entry by cellist Zoë Keating about an ultimatum she received from YouTube. More details there, but she has two options: agree to be part of their Music Key program, which restricts her in a variety of unpleasant ways, or face blocking of her account, and presumably all of the videos with her music in it.

And it's at this point that YouTube has more or less lost my respect. Then again, they weren't really looking for it. Their model is the same model as most data silos -- get everyone in a room, make it hard to leave, then start turning the screws. Keating can leave YouTube, but then she loses a lot of exposure, and thus money. Were it me, I'd tell the shitheads at Mountain View to piss off, but Keating's husband has cancer, and cancer is very hard on the wallet (among other things).

One thing is clear, regardless -- YouTube has started to be more of a liability than an asset. Which means people should start looking for alternatives.

logomancer: Xerxes from System Shock 2 (Default)

Like a lot of people, I was glad when I heard of Margaret Thatcher's death. Indeed, I would say that I've never been more celebratory of someone's demise than in any point in my life. On my third Thatcher meme for the day, a friend pulled out the old and tired phrase "De mortuis nil nisi bonum", and I decided that my point had been made. In retrospect, had I any sense, I would have kept going.

Why do I hate Thatcher? I'm not a UK citizen, and I was 7 when she was forced out of No 10. But what she did do was midwife the paradigm shift of thinking that transformed society and government from bodies which existed for the good of all to bodies which existed to further the interests of the obscenely rich, together with Ronald Reagan&emdash;who wasn't scorned at his passing in 2004, and is now a saint in America's civil religion&emdash;and Brian Mulroney.

Read more... )

Most of us, even the ones that consider themselves liberals, have become convinced that this is the way of things, and it is right and just. And Thatcher and her ilk were the ones doing the convincing. They played on our fears, our dreams, and mostly our prejudices in order to change us from a community of people working toward a common good to a pack of wolves snarling over the crumbs on the table left to us by the plutocracy. And it worked.

And that...is why I hate her. And Reagan. And Mulroney.

logomancer: Xerxes from System Shock 2 (Default)
So, I just realized that I'm following someone who's done half the themes for DW. And it's kinda awesome.
logomancer: Xerxes from System Shock 2 (Default)

At long last, I have come back to writing in this thing, because something happened recently, and I needed to write about it someplace where space wasn't an issue.

So, the thing that has happened is that Aaron Swartz hanged himself this past Friday. I imagine none of you know who that is.

Aaron Swartz started by co-writing the RSS specification when he was 14. He later on helped found Reddit, wrote code for several open source programs, helped start the liberal copyright site Creative Commons, went on to found the political action group Demand Progress, and was one of the many people leading the charge against the Stop Online Piracy Act:

He was, in short, a hero of the Internet. No less a personage than Sir Tim Berners-Lee paid his respects to him after his passing. So, also, did Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

He was also a shit-disturber. He once freed, singlehandedly, 20% of American federal case law from behind a government paywall by copying the files -- produced by the US government, and therefore in the public domain -- to an open archive. I first heard about him, however, when he was arrested for downloading thousands of academic journal articles from JSTOR, for which Swartz had an account for being associated with Harvard. His alleged methods were, from a moral and legal standpoint, questionable; supposedly, after MIT tried to cut off his access he found other ways in, including breaking into a network closet and plugging his laptop directly into the router. Bizarrely, instead of charging him with B&E or trespassing or some such, the prosecutor threw the book at him, charging him with 5, and later 13, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If convicted, he would have faced decades in prison and millions in fines.

Many people -- including his family -- think that the upcoming trial for this partially led to his suicide. For my part, it seems that way. The behavior of the prosecutor, one Carmen Ortiz, was irrational, as Lessig makes clear; after JSTOR wanted the charges dropped, she doubled down (adding the extra charges), and was painting him as the most notorious computer criminal since Kevin Mitnick. The case was, at the very least, an exemplar of this country's incredibly fucked up priorities when it comes to dispensing "justice". Swartz did all he did for the public good, and they treat him like a mobster. Meanwhile, people who have ruined a great economy, plunging millions into debt, literally destroying people's lives, are wined and dined at the White House. It renders the concept of American justice utterly laughable.

I care about this so much because in him, I see echoes of me, or perhaps the idealized me, the person I could be had I more courage that I presently possess. A shit-disturber for the common good, someone who could talk about anything and everything, an embodiment of Chaotic Good. It's caused me to reflect on my current path -- that is, not sticking my head out, lest someone chop it off. I suppose it's easier (but not easy!) when you have the luminaries of the Internet in your corner. But he had his bouts of depression, as have I. He wasn't perfect, by any means. But, I think, he's someone I can relate to. And salute.

I hope that he found some peace.

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Happy Birthday, [personal profile] rebelsheart!

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