Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm part of the 'unparty'

I tend to post a lot of political information on Facebook. I mean a lot. I view the service as much as a platform for public activism as I do a place to socialize with friends and family and one of my goals is to reach out to my connections and make them think. I don’t expect them to agree with me or even like me after reading a specific post, but if I make them think about things a little differently just for a few seconds, I’ve more than achieved my goals.

A few people have emailed and accused me of being a conservative while others have labeled me a liberal. While some of my views certainly fall on both sides of the political spectrum, I prefer to think of myself as part of the ‘Unparty’.

What is the ‘Unparty’ you ask? We’re the people who’ve broken out of the left/right paradigm and have realized that both parties are the problem. Republicans blame Democrats; Democrats blame Republicans but, in the end and regardless of which party is in power, nothing significant ever really changes.

That’s where the ‘Unparty’ comes in. We understand that, if we are ever to have real change, we have to stop playing the game. We have to stop looking at left and right and start looking at what’s sensible and works. In the end, it matters little which party someone belongs to and more what they do to advance the causes of liberty and freedom.

A politician who destroys our economy, discriminates against humans who are different from themselves, or one who devalues the dignity of those they don’t agree with is an evil and corrupt person regardless of what political label the choose to slap on their chest. Many times, I fear the game is actually constructed so that we get so caught up in the left/right battles that we don’t pay too much attention to what’s actually going on or how little difference there is between the two sides. It’s an expertly contrived scam that’s worked on voters for more than 100 years and it seems to be as effective as ever.

As a person of conscious, I find myself in a place where I simply can’t play the game anymore. I can’t be part of a party that segments people away from each other, plays word games as to what ‘freedom’ really is, or puts value on someones contributions based solely on if their paperwork is in order or not. Nor can I be part of a party that believes bigger government, larger social programs, and giving more handouts is the way to go while absolving people of personal responsibility. It seems like I just don’t fit into the standard two party system anymore and, I have to say, I’m glad I don’t.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in my disgust of politics as usual. Millions of others are joining me and they’re mad as hell. They’re waking up to the reality that both major parties in the US are bought, owned, and sold, by corporations who’s only goal is to increase profit and who have no qualms about harming or enslaving others to do so.. They understand that our politicians no longer actually work for us but rather work for GE or Ford, or Monsanto. For these politicians, it’s all about the money and the average citizen simply doesn’t matter. Freedom, liberty, constitutional right? Those are just abstract, antiquated, concepts on some 200 year old piece of paper. They aren’t relevant today. Today, the republic means nothing to these people; the corporatocracy is the only thing that matters.

Unfortunately for those politicians, and fortunate for the people, there are liberty minded people outside of the two party system who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough!’. They are willing to fight and bleed for freedom and the natural rights that we all have. They recognize our innate right to self ownership and they understand that we are not slaves and are entitled to keep that which our labor generates.

These people, the Libertarians, are the reason I’ve not completely given up on our political system. I’d all but lost hope that principled people of conscious could make any difference at all. But they are making a difference. In local and state elections around the country they are waging a war for individual freedoms and against the status quo. They are not content with leaving things the way they are because they understand the way they are is broken. They’re offering real solutions to real problems without the need for increased government or new laws. Imagine that! When was the last time you heard a politician say ‘no, it’s ok, we don’t need a new law for that’? Shocked me too when I first heard it.

Before this becomes nothing more than an ad for the Libertarian party, I want to stop and say that there are things the part stands for that I don’t agree with. But they’ve gotten me excited about politics again and believing that things are not too far along to make a real difference. They’ve re-lit the fires of freedom in my bones and I am once again optimistic about our country. In the end, not being the perfect party is something I can live with. Politics is never perfect, it’s never clean. But when freedom is the outcome, it can’t be all that bad either.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I do not support "Caylee's Law'

I've been reading about 'Caylee's Law' all day long. For those who haven't heard, Caylee's law is a proposal that would make it a criminal offense (a felony) not to report a missing child within a certain amount of time. The idea, of course, is that valuable time that could have been spent searching for the child is sometimes lost when a parent doesn't notify police of a missing child immediately.

I do not support this law.

The more I read about it, from its name on up, the movement smacks of an end run around the justice system. Most people believe Casey Anthony murdered her child and got away with it and this seems like a way to make sure that, if the situation ever raises its head again, we'll 'at least get them for *something*'. It's a way to make sure that, when the jury process doesn't work the way we want, we have a way to still exact revenge.

Think about this for a moment: let's say you've just murdered your own child. Are you likely to call the police and report them missing or are you more likely to hide the body and remain quiet about it? If you've murdered your child, the last thing you want is police involvement.

Now, let's say you wake up one morning to discover your child missing. You have no idea what happened to them, where they are, or when they disappeared. All you know is that, when you went to bed the night before, they were there and now they aren't. You are, because you have not murdered your own child, fairly likely to call the police and report them missing.

Likely but not certain.

A parent losing a child is a devastating thing. In the moment, the only thing you are thinking about is finding them and you're not thinking rationally or clearly at all. Communication with loved ones is muddied, thought processes are impaired, and there is a chance that you may not call the police Sure, it's a slim chance and one you're probably all sitting there thinking 'no way, I KNOW I'd call the cops!' but how do you know? Unless you've lost a child, you can't know. I don't know. I'd like to think I would but I don't know how I'd react until I am faced with the situation.

The problem was this law is twofold: It's a way to exact revenge when we know someone is guilty but gets away with a child's murder and it will put innocent, emotionally overwhelmed, parents in jail If Caylee's law is passed, it will only add to family heartache, not resolve it.

I urge you to consider what I've written. On the surface, supporting such a law sounds like a rational and caring thing to do. But it's not. It's reckless and irresponsible. It's an emotional response to smelling blood that we were waiting to be spilled but never was. And I say that with the full belief that Casey Anthony got away with murder.

People complain about the justice system not working for the 'little man'. In this case, it did. Whether Casey is guilty or not, the prosecution did a horrible job at proving their case. When that happens, it is a juries job to acquit the accused. Many of the jurors probably believed Casey was guilty too, but they did their job anyway and acquitted her based on evidence and arguments.

This law would lay our entire jury system to waste and I simply cannot support doing that much damage. It sucks that Caylee Anthony is dead and that her mother likely got away with murder. I have the same taste for blood and feel the same rage you do in this case. But the failure wasn't of the justice system here, it was of the prosecution.

In the end, no law or rule is going to fix that. Better, more prepared prosecutors can do that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why you should have the right to be Microsoft's (or anyone's) bitch

There's a big debate in the free software community about this thing called DRM. DRM is actually a misnomer that stands for Digital Rights Management and it's nothing that gives or manages your rights but rather something that restricts them. If you've ever tried to share a song you bought on iTunes or a book you bought on your Kindle with a friend, you've experienced DRM first hand when you were told you weren't allowed to do it.

The Free Software community has always held that things should be, well, free. You should be able to share your music, software and books with your friends because that's just what friends do. You can do it in the real world, so why not allow it in the digital world as well? For the most part, their argument makes sense if you don't consider the unique 'edge' cases where sharing in the real world is significantly different than doing so in the digital.

For the most part, but with a few modifications, I tend to agree with this belief. If I purchase a digital book, why can't I share that book with friends? I should be able to lend you a book for as long as I want and the publisher or Amazon should have absolutely nothing to say about it. The same is true for music and other like content too. But recently, there's a movement within the community to legislate against the use of digital restrictions on content and that's where I think it goes a bit too far.

Those who seek to legally ban the use of DRM are essentially saying 'I support your freedom as long as it lines up the way I think it should'. But that isn't true freedom. It's an illusion of freedom that allows its proponants to stick their chest out and pretend that they're 'fighting for the rights of the people' when, in fact, they're simply being self serving.

Supporting true freedom on the other hand, means support the right of someone to deliberately choose enslavement. If, knowing their are other options out there for the same or similar content, the user chooses to use the restricted option, then that is their choice and restricting or eliminating that choice because you don't agree with it is simply enslaving them in another way. Supporting freedom means supporting things you don't agree with because you realize people have a right to choose their own path.

If the free software movement truly supports freedom, the correct option would be to abandon the silly push for legislation and instead focus on user education and creating usable alternative options that would encourage users to choose the free option over enslavement. Let it be the users choice and, even if they choose to be enslaved for a time, with the right education coupled with their own bad experiences using DRM, they'll come around to our side eventually.

I respect Richard Stallman but I think he is totally wrong in making this a moral or legal issue. People who choose to produce things and restrict their use are not immoral nor or people who choose to use products that restrict their freedoms. What is immoral, however, is trying to mandate that other options be outlawed or not available at all.

Wake up, Richard! It's time for us to move back into the marketplace of reality.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reviving the Spirit of '76

The following is an Op Ed piece that appeared in a Texas newspaper. I did not write it but I found it particularly poignant to share on our American Independence Day. -- Anthony Papillion  (CajunTechie)

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the
government fears the people, there is liberty." *-Thomas Jefferson

by R. Lee Wrights

BURNET, Texas (July 2) - Several years ago I wrote an article entitled "Is
the Spirit of '76 dead?" My concern then was that the revolutionary fire
that once burned hot in the hearts of Americans had been reduced to a
smoldering ember. I was afraid that we had lost the necessary desire to
question authority. It appeared to me that Americans had been such poor
caretakers that the tree of liberty was wilting, its boughs sagging
dangerously close to the ground.

This was still on my mind one year ago on July 4 when I began this campaign
for the Libertarian nomination for President of the United States. Our
nation has been dragged into a perpetual state of deadly and costly war. Our
leaders have manipulated every real or perceived threat to instill fear in
Americans. Then, they use this fear they have created to divide us and,
worst of all, con us into surrendering more and more of our liberty for the
vain and empty promise that they will somehow procure our security for us.

This weekend we will inevitably hear pious proclamations and political
pronouncements from prominent figures in the ruling class praising the
wisdom and foresight of our Founding Fathers. Undoubtedly, many will repeat
the words written by Thomas Jefferson: "*We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.*" But their recitation of these immortal words
will be hollow, bereft of any wisdom or understanding. They'll probably
gloss over, if they mention it at all, the rest of that paragraph: "*That to
secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their
just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People
to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government*..."

"Just powers" and "consent of the governed" are phrases and concepts
modern-day rulers don't want you to understand, and probably don't
understand or believe themselves. Few politicians will tell you that
Jefferson and the Founders were revolutionaries and that the Declaration of
Independence was the written expression and explanation of revolutionary
ideas. When the delegates to the Continental Congress issued this unanimous
proclamation, they knew it wasn't just an exercise in semantics. The
Founders knew these words spoke the beginning of a long and bloody struggle
to free themselves from tyranny.

Make no mistake, this Declaration was not drawn up casually or without due
consideration of the causes and consequences of the action. The leaders of
the American Revolution understood that people are naturally inclined to
leave things as they are, willing to endure many hardships and much
suffering for as long as possible before taking action against oppression. "
*Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not
be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience
hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are
sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they
are accustomed*," Jefferson so eloquently wrote.

But the Founders also understood that there was a point at which people not
only had the right – they had the duty – to change things and to fight if
necessary: "*But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing
invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute
Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such
Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security*." When
Jefferson penned these words he wasn't talking about holding elections.

James Bovard wrote in “Lost Rights: The Destruction of AmericanLiberty*, “Americans need to remember their constitutional birthright and stand up to arrogant government officials who treat them like subjects rather than
citizens.” Mr. Bovard is telling us something we must never forget. Citizens
of the United States, each individually, are the caretakers for those
precious American siblings – Liberty and Freedom.

As I've traveled around the country this past year visiting libertarian
groups, I've been encouraged to discover that the Spirit of '76 has not been
entirely extinguished. While it's still being smothered by the apathy of
many Americans, and arrogant elected officials are still attempting to stamp
out its flame, the fire is still alive, cared for and nurtured by a small
but growing group of freedom-lovers. This campaign can be a catalyst to
rekindle the Spirit of '76 and set a brush fire in the hearts and minds of
all Americans that will engulf and destroy the tyranny and oppression
brought to our land under the guise of fighting foreign and domestic

On this Fourth of July I urge everyone to read the Declaration of
aloud to your children, your grandchildren, and your friend's children and
grandchildren. Tell them that the Fourth of July is more than just a time
for going to the beach, eating hot dogs and watching fireworks. Teach these
future caretakers of American freedom that it's about honoring the vision
and sacrifice of those who gave their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" so
that we might be free by not allowing the flame of liberty die.

* R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is
seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian
message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war.
To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign
will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be
heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the **Libertarian
Party ** and co-founder and editor of of the free speech
online magazine **Liberty For All **. Born in
Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stop begging government, start replacing it!

Americans have become used to begging our government for what we want. We beg them for lower taxes, better national defense, a fair marketplace, less influence in our daily lives, but it always seems that their answer is a resounding 'NO!'.  That's because, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, our government doesn't serve we the people but rather is beholden solely to huge, multinational corporations.

Begging the government for relief will never work. They are not interested in what you need. They are interested in how they can expand government influence and corporate power. The fact that you are paying  taxes more and living closer to poverty doesn't matter. The fact that both you and your wife or husband both have to work and  still barely earn enough for basic needs doesn't matter. YOU don't matter. 

It's time we stop begging the government for change and begin implementing change ourselves. In the movie "V for Vendetta", the protagonist speaks one of the most memorable and true lines I've ever heard in a movie: "The people should never be afraid of their government; government should be afraid of the people". The problem in our modern day is that government has lost its fear of the people. Politicians know they can lie, cheat, steal, and sell our future to the highest bidder and still be assured they have a pretty good chance at re-election in the next election cycle. We vacillate constantly between Republicans and Democrats hoping that one will fix the problems created by the other. 

But they won't. Because they are all part of the same corporate controlled machine.

If we are to bring about real change; "change we can believe in" as Barack Obama loved to say, we have to begin acting in ways we've never acted in before. We have to begin thinking outside of the two party system and doing something that's radical and scary: we have to start replacing the two party corporate whore-mongers with third party options. They have to be shown that we don't buy their lies anymore. The jig is up! We know they're both the same and we want true liberty, not continued promises that never seem to get fulfilled.

In his 1997 essay called "Assassination Politics", Jim Bell theorized that political behavior could be controlled by placing a price on a bad acting politicians head. In such a system, politicians who act against the best interests of the people might find themselves on a prediction list and, soon enough, the wrong end of a bullet.

While Bell's essay is interesting, It has no practical value today. In an atmosphere where most Americans readily swallow the lies their government tells, the trigger of a voting booth becomes a much scarier and much more effective weapon than the trigger of a gun. Kill a politician and you will be labeled a terrorist and new, tighter laws will be passed to control your fellow man. Worst of all, the people will support is since killing is such a heinous act in most cases. Career assassination, on the other hand, provides an even handier and more effective way to get rid of the scum while protecting both yourself and your fellow man from the repercussions that come with Bell's ideas.

The voting booth, when used correctly, is the most effective tool we have. It's more powerful than a gun, more frightening to the elite than the very threat of death itself, and perhaps the only solution that is available to nearly every American. In the voting booth lies our true power and that scares the hell out of politicians.

Notice, however, that I said 'when used correctly'. We don't tend to use the voting booth correctly in this country. Largely, we aren't allowed to. Ballot access laws, media biases, and political propaganda, are all used as a way of keeping us locked into the failed two party system and, because it's almost always been that way, most Americans don't even bother fighting it.

But we must fight. We must break out of the mindset that there are only two options and that we're forced to choose 'the lesser of two evils'. There aren't just two options. We don't have to pick either or; we can demand more. We can demand fair ballots where everyone can be represented equally and people are given a true choice. But to get there, it's going to take work and it's going to take a whole lot of trial and error.

Government doesn't only need to be reduced, it needs to be replaced with people of conscious; people who are not beholden to special interests, corporate favors, and backroom payoffs. We have to stop bouncing between the two parties, stop begging government for our freedoms and favors, and start demanding that those we elected to represent us actually do so. If they don't, then we need to replace them with someone who will; someone from outside of the system.

Stop begging, start replacing.

Can we achieve liberty? Yes! But as long as we stay locked in the two party mindset, we will never find true freedom. The two parties are there solely for the illusion of choice. That illusion, like any illusion, is a smoke and mirrors game where the real function and action is well hidden behind the locked doors of corporate power. Unlock those doors! Kick them down! Choose real choice! Kick the 'business as usual' maniacs out and replace them with people who are truly willing to do the will of the people! No time in history has been better for political reform than the place we stand right now. It's up to us what kind of future our country has. 

Are you willing to truly start a revolution?

Friday, July 1, 2011

How I tried (and failed) to use Ubuntu One

For the last year, I've been following all of the excitement in the blog world surrounding Ubuntu One.  Ubuntu One, for those who've had their head buried under a rock, is a Canonical created cloud storage service similar to or Dropbox.  The service gives you two gigabytes of online storage and automatically keeps the folders and files you define in sync between multiple computers. It allows you to easily share your data with anyone on the next with the simple click of a mouse and, best of all, it lets you stream music stored in the cloud directly to your PC or Android device.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I'm very wary of storing my data in the cloud. Much of my fear was confirmed a few weeks ago when it was  revealed that data sync'd with the popular and dominate Dropbox service was transmitted completely unencrypted and only secured 'at some point later' on their server. While I see the attraction of the cloud, I don't think the convenience is worth the risk associated with it.

But Ubuntu One was different. Since it came from an open source company, I thought 'I can probably trust these guys' and I went ahead and set up the client on my machine. My impetus for doing this had a lot to do with the fact that I had just lost a lot of data due to a hard disk crash and I thought Ubuntu One was probably a pretty great way to make sure that didn't happen again.

After configuring my account, I spent a few minutes creating symbolic links in the "Ubuntu One" directory to my /Documents, /Pictures, /Music. and /Projects directories and I was all excited as I waited to watch my (encrypted) data stream to the cloud.

It didn't.  In fact, the only thing that happened is that the folders that were symbolically linked were created on the Ubuntu One server, but not a single byte of the data they contained was moved into the cloud.

After waiting for almost two hours, I decided something had to be wrong and went to the forums to see if I could find anyone else having a similar problem to mine. I found a few people and it didn't seem like there was an easy solution except 'make sure you actually added your computer'. Isn't that part of configuring the client? Wasn't that the very first thing I did?  Still, I went and unlinked my machine and added it again just in case.

Still nothing.

Back to the forums I went and posted a question basically asking 'WTF? My Ubuntu One is Broke!' and I clearly described my problem, giving all of the necessarily information. That was three days ago and I still haven't gotten a response from anyone.

Looking through the forums, however, I saw lots of problems with the software. I saw people complaining about it crashing on Windows (what doesn't?), people complaining about it not syncing all of their data, and even complaints of data loss while using the service. All around a service that's been out for two full releases now. Why are we still having these problems?

So I disabled Ubuntu One and I installed Dropbox. Dropbox works and works well. Their security may be crap but I can get around that by storing my data in a TrueCrypt container so it's all encrypted on my machine before being sent to the cloud. Dropbox was fast and easy to configure and it worked from the very first moment it was running. So far, I haven't had a single support issue with the software while I see even more issues have arisen on the Ubuntu One forum; more unanswered questions too.

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical (the company that makes Ubuntu) said in a press conference that Canonicals goal was to bring on 200 million new users to the Ubuntu desktop in the next four years. I can say definitively that if one of Ubuntu's selling points to those users is in any way related to Ubuntu One, they are going to massively fail. Two releases into the program and it's still not stable enough for reliable, everyday use. The Windows client, while still in beta and kind of newish, just doesn't work on some machines and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. In the meantime, Canonical is pushing forward with new Ubuntu One version for Android, iPhone, and Mac, that will likely suffer many of the same problems.

When I've talked negatively about Ubuntu One on IRC, I was immediately told to shut up. Everyone's system is different! It can't be expected to work seamlessly on every system. Why not?  This is not a hardware issue which is where the 'everyone's system is different' argument would actually make sense. Canonical controls the operating system and, to a large degree, everyone's basic operating system is the same. Why can't the company that makes the operating system also make a program that runs reliably on that operating system. It's not like they're having to integrate with some undocumented API or anything. They are simply writing a program to work on their own operating system. That's not rocket science hard.

Personally, I think Canonical has bitten off more than it could chew with Ubuntu One. They were too aggressive with its deployment, too congratulatory of its features, and too inattentive to its problems. If it's going to replace Dropbox on most users machines, it's going to have to offer a compelling and, most importantly, reliable experience to users. Until then, the software will stay in its little corner to be played with every now and then to see how far it's come and then quickly replaced by Dropbox or something else.

Wake up Canonical! 400 million users aren't going to come with broken software! We in the Linux world are constantly telling people how superior the OS is to everything else, about how great the quality of the software written using the open source paradigm is and yet we can't get a simple file syncing program to work right? That gives Linux a black eye and will only drive people quicker into the arms of Apple and Microsoft.

Does Canonical really want to be the reason people choose Apple and Microsoft? I would hope not but a lot is going to have to change if they want to avoid that fate. Ubuntu One is an important factor in that change and, I'm afraid it's being paid way to little attention. Will Dropbox continue to dominate even the Ubuntu desktop when it comes to file syncing?

That is a question that only Canonical can answer. What are your thoughts?