Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D NM)

Senator Bingaman,

Today, major websites across the internet are shutting themselves down. This is not only an act of protest against a pair of proposed bills - one each for the Senate and the House - but also to make salient what the internet would look like if either of those bills passed.

Those bills are the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (of which both you and Tom Udall are cosponsors).

I am writing you to tell you that not only will both of these bills be unable to perform their pretexts, but in fact can and will be used as de facto legal weapons against extant and future internet businesses, and one which will be most readily utilized by the wealthy and powerful against those less so.

Both bills can and will fail to stop piracy and other types of copyright infringement by foreign web sites due to publicly available and easily employable methods. These are not some hypothetical technical tricks. Indeed, they are used by millions of citizens in oppressive regimes to exercise their basic human rights in defiance of their totalitarian states.

Instead, all that either bill will accomplish is the total destruction of the new American economy, and the ossification of the old to the detriment of the enterprising American citizen.

Of course, such a claim sounds like hyperbole, but I will clarify and stress that such a prediction is by no means far fetched, but instead, a troubling potential reality.

Both bills target websites that, succinctly, "commit, are designed to commit, enable, or facilitate copyright infringement," and make websites that can permit users to employ such mechanisms liable for user generated content. This criterion could not be more vague, and can include any website that has any mechanism for posting user-generated content, from the ability to host video files down to a simple comment submission system.

'Foreign' websites, or those that have a foreign domain name but can still reside in the United States, are, once identified as performing any of the above mentioned functions, legally bound to be censured by search engines and American ISP's. In addition, advertisement and payment websites and services are likewise bound to sever contact with them.

However, the definition of a 'foreign' website does nothing to account for the technical complexity of the internet. Their are countless instances of American websites bring hosted by foreign servers, or vice versa, or of American websites utilizing foreign domains either through necessity or creativity, and numerous other examples. Due to such complexities, American web sites, designed by Americans with which American citizens earn a living and maintain a business, can be argued in a court of law to be viable targets under these bills.

Thus, both bills can, and I have great confidence that they will, be abused as a means of shutting down effectively any modern website. An act so simple as the posting of song lyrics in the comment box of a web comic can lead to that website being shut down. A website, mind you, which has been the means by which it's owner and operator's independent, entrepreneurial, and creative livelihood has been maintained in the face of a disintegrating traditional economy.

In addition, such processes as described above can be employed as a weapon with which extant copyright holders with great litigious power can wage a war of legal attrition against potential competitors. Again, it would be simple for the existing and established power to purposefully and covertly insert their own copyrighted material into the competitor's web site, leading to it's shutdown, and the nascent competitor's financial exsanguination in the ensuing legal contests between it and the holder. This gives existing commercial entities the power to disable, if not outright destroy, it's competition not through superiority of product, service, or quality of work, but rather through the amount of legal power it already possesses.

In an economy reputed to be a champion of free enterprise, this can not stand.

Lastly, but in importance I rate primarily, is the potential these bills have to strangle freedom of speech and expression.

The utilization and development of the Internet has given rise to an unparalleled mechanism with which thoughts and ideas can be archived and communicated. I believe that, if not presently then in the near future, the internet is such a monumental event in the context of communication and human relation that it will be ranked second only to the invention of the written word itself in terms of importance and benefit to humanity.

It is a tool with which thought, feeling, sight, sound, and experience can be stored and transmitted to potentially any human being across our precious Earth, up to the speed of light. The internet, along with the harnessing of the power atom, is the most exalted human achievement in the last century. We are only now, with our first few cautious steps into these next hundred years, beginning to explore the potential the Internet has to unify our species and change the human condition.

At this point, the major nexuses of development are websites such as Wikipedia (a modern manifestation of the mythical Akashic Record), Youtube (a website and tool with which any human being can be an entertainer, newscaster, instructor, and anything else one could imagine), and Facebook (a social networking site devoted to facilitating and expanding social relation). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is pioneering a new system of education that will give people all across the globe the opportunity to learn and master the skills necessary to invent and harness the technologies that will be the cornerstone of a prosperous future.

2011 has proven how such websites and countless others across the internet can be used as instruments of social change. Arab Spring, the cascading revolutions across the developing world that saw the overthrow of dictators and the liberation of millions, was enabled and coordinated with such aforementioned web sites. The Occupy Wall Street movement is one that has entwined cyberspace and realspace into a new mutation of social activism. The infamous hacker group Anonymous has used such sites as a platform for the enumeration of their political position and philosophical basis.

All of these websites, all that human possibility, can be utterly destroyed by those with power, who are threatened by the potential they posses. Their weapons are SOPA and PIPA, if not in themselves than in the dangerous precedents they establish in our government and legal system. Both bills are directed against web sites that enable the posting of user-generated content by exploiting the possibility of their abuse.

The entertainment industry - a conglomeration of Hollywood, record companies, and software distribution services - has lobbied millions of dollars into these two bills so that they can stomp out what they perceive to be direct threats to their market dominance. It is not foreign pirate sites that they purport to fear, but rather the mass of human beings who are just as if not more talented, inventive, original, ingenious, and numerous than they can ever hope to be.

Thus, they are presently endeavoring to strike against the two forces of a new, modern age that would see them cast down from their vaunted heights: freedom of information and freedom of entertainment, enabled by such great and wondrous devices in the vein of Wikipedia and Youtube.

PIPA and SOPA are bullets loaded into a legal gun and aimed at the hearts of those incredible machines of social evolution. They are the knives with which the industry aims to stab in the back the democratic principles that the Internet could very well realize, and have up to this point seemed distant and hypothetical.

By supporting and voting for either bill, you are confirming your and your government's stance: that the few, wealthy, and powerful possess more of a right to liberty and prosperity than the many and meager.

Your signature will be words written that speak volumes on how a person with a new idea has no claim to prosperity, and only those with old ideas - given power by those old ideas, who are terrified of the new - are more deserving of the boons of existence.

Of course, this is all high minded and idealistic. I will lower myself to your level and speak to your lizard brain, the part of your subconscious that concerns itself with eating, killing, fucking, and not dying.

Your support of this bill is just one more reason for the mass of increasingly irate citizens, battered by the current economic depression, left bleeding by increasingly regressive social policies, to hate you.

They will hate you, Senator Jeff Bingaman, for giving the powerful one more weapon with which they can take away the means to improve the less powerful's lot in life, and make their life worth living. They will hate you, they will hate the powerful that you lower your pen for, and they will hate the government you operate in.

And hate is a powerful thing, Senator. Hate is a fire that burns cold, burns long, and burns deep. Hate can feed a person as much as any food, warm them as much as any fire, and numb the wrath of the sun. Hate will ease the pain of bullets, abate the terror of war, and justify the taking of any quantity of quality of life.

But the one thing that Hate does not quench is thirst. That can only be sated with blood, Senator.

Good day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Song Shuffle Story: Comin' For Your Tank

The song that was selected by my playlist was "Comin For Your Tank" by Miracle of Sound ( ).


Fireteam Echo's radio pleas were redundant – we saw the machine gunner that nailed them into cover behind a bus stop, across the road, in the second floor of the terminal. Hostile brass and shattered glass were all but a giant reticule painted over the nest.

We, Corporals Ross, Barlotti, and Yours Truly, got in the spirit of defenestration day and crashed into the building through the windows behind a Singapore Air counter. Easy enough in MPA-03, you don't need to worry about being sliced up in a powered exoskeleton.

Stairs are just a little bit more tricky. You need to be damn sure to put your center of 'g' over your toes, or you'll fall ass backwards. It's doable, but too fucking slow when the squishier part of your squad is in ironsights below.

“Fireteams Echo, Foxtrot, be advised: hostile armor inbound, grid updated,” the eyes and mouth in the sky told our ears. We stopped and checked the grid overlay – everything we didn't know but wanted to illustrated in graphics blue.

It, an MBT designated 'dragon,' was grinding through asphalt along the perpendicular edge of the building. A glance brought everyone in a BDU to the same page – hammer and anvil. The nest was holding Echo down, and the tank was going to curbstomp them when it rounded the corner of the terminal.

Of course, I had to say “nope” as loudly and as clearly as fucking possible so that the tank crew could hear it. A gauss rifle was a whisper against front and side, so...

It could be a scream against deck armor, though.

Words weren't needed, just a point at trigger happy and my two most oft inebriated of comrades were off to end his party. I broke off and ran to the tank's edge of the building as the capacitors along my arm whined into charge.

Instructors drill it into your skull hard on how the MPA-03 is just a piece of equipment. It does not turn you into a superhero, or God, on that they are clear. On being 'A' god, something Hellenic, they're not so elaborative I fear.

I felt a lot like Zeus when I dropped out of the sky, through clouds of reactive armor shrapnel, on to the top of that alloy hulk. More when I aim and fired in that ozone haze: once, lightning, thunder and the ring of tortured armor; twice, plating ripped asunder, to the crew a promised hell; thrice, a supersonic roar through metal and cannon shell.

Actinic arcs stormed off the gauss rifle's frame as fire and fracture brewed in that can. I pulled the barrel up, away, and drew flame through the molten scores of that newly dead titan.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A conclusion.

It is here that I deviate from my previously expressed schedule – admittedly, after much delay – and express the conclusion of my elucidation of the Prime Grievances. While there are likely significantly more data to cover concerning the aims and desires of The Movement, others have outlined and extrapolated upon them in a manner significantly more in-depth than I can hope to contrive on my lonesome.

That said, I have as of yet refrained from levying my own thoughts on the matter. While, of course, my word choice and employment will indeed convey upwards of the slimmest indication of Bias, I purposefully decided to hold any overt opinions until such a time as I either defined my observations or abandoned them, of which I believe I have done both.

Thus it is here that I share my thoughts regarding our present circumstance.

Know now that I do not hold any ill will towards greed in and of itself. This is not to say that I endorse it becoming the sole driving force of an individual, but rather that I understand that it should be one of the many motivations for any organism, from self-exalting humans to the humble protists, to possess if it should hope to acquire resources, survive, and reproduce.

Rather, my concern, which has always lingered in the creases of my brain and had only now in the face of such extant and looming crises been made salient, is the contempt the so-called 1% bears towards the likewise so-called 99%.

Contempt is the cognitive and emotional cocktail of one and one's peers elevation, in whatever measure but most concernedly in status and moral character, over others by whichever grounds can be plausibly justified, accompanied by scorn and derision towards those below oneself.

This contempt, so observed, is the other edge to the sword of the Protestant Ethic. The belief that wealth and status is derived from labor and strong character has always possessed the implication that those lacking in such boons are thus deficient in such qualities, respectively. The past months have shown just how sharp the reverse-edge can become. I am terrified by the prospect that with the progression of time and the exacerbation of our socio-economic crisis, that edge will only become keener, more easily wielded, and more frequently used.

I suspect that this contempt was the sole rational shortcut needed for business leaders and captains of industry to internally justify the gutting of the first world's industrial base, and the establishment of exploitative replacements in the developing world. After all, what would one owe to their own workers? If they actually worked hard and lived a decent life, they would be wealthy and wouldn't need to worry about their sole means of survival being excised from them.

Indeed, if they actually spent their time wisely and productively, they would all have more than enough money to afford such trivial necessities in the vein of a house or two, $300,000 medical bills, and three-course meals thrice a day. Even further, if they dared exercise the smallest degree of thrift, they could purchase the little pleasures in life: asteroid-harvested iridium shaving kits, olympic-sized swimming pools filled with century old merlot, their own reality television program, or even a pet Senator or two.

Since the wretched rabble clearly posses none of these things, they surely have an abysmal work ethic, and deserve not a single ounce of consideration. Nor do they warrant paid vacations rewarded over the course of annual employment, reimbursed time spent raising their own children, or even an equitable and scrupulous health coverage policy in the event of bodily misfortune. They should in fact feel privileged, honored even, for having the opportunity to spend even an hour working at a more virtuous individual's business and having earned a single cent.

I believe that the sheer absurdity of such thoughts, explicit or implicit, is self evident. Granted, I exaggerated, but only to make absolutely salient the thought process and sole ultimate conclusion of the initial premise.

It is of course easy to dismiss such notions. I, however, fail to see any other explanation for events transpired.

I am at a loss for conceiving of any other rationale behind a Law firm that serves international banks hosting a Holloween party themed after, and parodying, the mass-scale foreclosures that have, are, and will continue to occur in the United States. ( ) Many of which they themselves are the actuators of. What else can enumerate why these individuals feel it not necessary, not just desirable, but enjoyable to trivialize and invalidate the suffering of other human beings? How else can they take joy in the fact that the lives of millions are evaporating and leaving a precipitate of destitution and despair?

Why should we care? A valid question. While the attorneys at the Steven J. Baum law firm are only guilty of impropriety, civic police forces are culpable for significantly more grievous and, in my opinion, disturbing actions.

Actions including point-blank head shots with tear-gas canisters at Iraq war veterans. ( ) Actions including the deliberate use of chemical agents as a means of torturing non-violent, non-threatening political dissenters at a college campus. ( ).

Again, I ask, what possible thought could an individual have to sanction themselves for such acts? What could enable them to hold themselves blameless for the actions cited and the manifold more unreferenced?

It is my opinion that there was indeed nothing manifest in their minds but the most gross, consciousness encompassing, and conscience blinding manifestations of contempt conceivable when those costumes were donned, those shanty-facades were erected, that head was held in iron sights, and that nerve-agent was fired.

And it is because of my opinion that contempt has come to be the means by which those with power regard those without that I dread the future.

While the 20th century was a chapter in human history written in blood, it was done so with the pen of contempt. I fear that the author has not yet lost it under a pile of out-dated customs and barbaric practices, like so many other means of human relation, but instead holds it tightly, and has dabbed it in a new sanguine pot.