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Friday, December 24, 2010

Billions for the Military and the Ultra-Rich

Food Banks for the Americas Working Poor


by Rose Aguilar
Smirking Chimp
December 22, 2010


As the economy continues to spiral downward with no end in sight, food banks and shelters across the country are seeing a major increase in demand, especially from working families. “People who used to volunteer are now in need of services,” says Brian Higgins, spokesman for the Alameda County Community Food Bank in California. “The old notion of food banks distributing food expressly to the homelessly is gone. That’s archaic. I’m working with a client family that’s been doing media for us. Both parents are working in the automotive industry. They’ve got three small kids. A full-time job now is $8 an hour. That’s poverty. You can’t survive on it.”

According to the Working Poor Families Project, nearly one in three working families is struggling to make ends meet because they’re stuck in low-wage jobs with no benefits.

The report says, “Although low-income working families remain mostly invisible to policymakers, these families are comprised of workers who form the backbone of our economy: working the cash registers, keeping our homes and businesses clean, preparing our food, and helping care for our children and elderly relatives. During these grave economic times, policymakers must choose to invest in these low-income workers and their families.”

The reality is, policymakers continue to invest in the ultra-rich and the military-industrial complex, not the working poor and social service organizations that are doing whatever it takes to ensure families are fed, clothed, and housed. The recent tax cut bill will give another $70 billion in yearly tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy, and the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a $725 billion military spending bill – the largest in U.S. history - with no debate and hardly any media coverage.

This is not sustainable.

Last year, the Alameda food bank handed out 19 million pounds of food. “In 2009, we honestly thought, 'This is it.' We’ve spiked. It cannot get anymore ludicrous than this,” says Higgins. “We keep track by months for emergency food. This past month blew all previous records away for the past 25 years.”

Demand at the Alameda food bank is up 38 percent this year. “Our mission is to go out of business,” says Higgins. “We’re going in completely the opposite direction.”

Because demand is so high, the food bank, unlike most nonprofits, is actually hiring and expanding with a 44,000 square-foot warehouse to use for sorting food and managing volunteers.

Most nonprofits are struggling to survive, especially small organizations in rural areas. According to the United Way, over half of California’s nonprofits saw their revenues decline in 2009, one-quarter had to eliminate service, almost half have increased their use of volunteers, and one-third had to lay off paid employees

A phrase that I hear a lot from nonprofits is, ‘We just gotta hang on. We have to keep our skeletal staff together,'” says Aimee Durfee, vice president of community investments at the United Way.

Durfee says mentoring programs, childcare programs, and shelters are shutting down completely. “If systemic change is going to happen, it has to be at the policy level. We almost need another war on poverty. It happened half a century ago where we actually were able to address poverty in a very fundamental way and we’ve got to go there again.

Click here to listen to Your Call's radio show about how non-profit social service providers are managing to survive.

Guests:
Brian Higgins, spokesperson for the Alameda County Community Food Bank
Aimee Durfee, vice president of community investments at United Way
Michael Braude, director of finance and administration at the San Francisco Food Bank
Susan Olson, executive director of Pajaro Valley Shelter Services in Watsonville, CA

Video interview with Paul Ash, executive director of the SF Food Bank
Part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzXLcWb8A98
Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec-Skw-5jc4

Source:
http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/rose-aguilar/33281/billions-for-the-military-and-the-ultra-rich-food-banks-for-the-working-poor
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais:
Why I’m An Atheist


by Ricky Gervais
December 19, 2010


Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe,” this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me,” but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts.

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”

This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)

When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.”

But what are atheists really being accused of?

The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.

So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.

I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is.

I loved Jesus. He was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. More than God. God was by definition omnipotent and perfect. Jesus was a man. He had to work at it. He had temptation but defeated sin. He had integrity and courage. But He was my hero because He was kind. And He was kind to everyone. He didn’t bow to peer pressure or tyranny or cruelty. He didn’t care who you were. He loved you. What a guy. I wanted to be just like Him.

One day when I was about 8 years old, I was drawing the crucifixion as part of my Bible studies homework. I loved art too. And nature. I loved how God made all the animals. They were also perfect. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing world.

I lived in a very poor, working-class estate in an urban sprawl called Reading, about 40 miles west of London. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I was never ashamed of poverty. It was almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. School was free. My clothes were cheap and always clean and ironed. And mum was always cooking. She was cooking the day I was drawing on the cross.

I was sitting at the kitchen table when my brother came home. He was 11 years older than me, so he would have been 19. He was as smart as anyone I knew, but he was too cheeky. He would answer back and get into trouble. I was a good boy. I went to church and believed in God -– what a relief for a working-class mother. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-­‐fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-­‐fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.

But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob,” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.

Oh…hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist.

Wow. No God. If mum had lied to me about God, had she also lied to me about Santa? Yes, of course, but who cares? The gifts kept coming. And so did the gifts of my new found atheism. The gifts of truth, science, nature. The real beauty of this world. I learned of evolution -– a theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals and us –- with imagination, free will, love, humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.

But living an honest life -– for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, f— you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine.

“Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

Ricky Gervais is the writer and star of HBO’s “Ricky Gervais Out of England 2: The Stand-Up Special”

Source:
http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/12/19/a-holiday-message-from-ricky-gervais-why-im-an-atheist/
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Activism after Clicktivism


by Mica White
Nov. 17, 2010
Adbusters
Issue #93


For over a decade, revolutionaries and culture jammers have been paralyzed by the computer screen. Trusting the promises of technocrats and digital visionaries, dazzled by the viral hype surrounding MoveOn and the like, we've come to rely far too heavily on a particular form of internet organizing. Believing that clicktivism could spark social change, we deployed market-tested messaging, glitzy AJAX websites and social networking apps. We entrusted our revolution to San Francisco techies and put our faith in the methods of advertising. But we have become so dependent on digital gimmicks that our revolutionary potential is now constrained.

Clicktivism is the pollution of activism with the logic of consumerism. Activism is debased with advertising and computer science. What defines clicktivism is an obsession with metrics.  Each link clicked and email opened is meticulously monitored. Subject lines are A/B tested and talking points focus grouped. Clicktivists dilute their messages for mass appeal and make calls to action that are easy, insignificant and impotent.  Their sole campaign objective is to inflate participation percentages, not to overthrow the status quo. In the end, social change is marketed like a brand of toilet paper.

The fundamental problem with this technocratic approach is that metrics only value what is measurable. Clicktivism neglects the vital, immeasurable inner-events and personal epiphanies that great social ruptures are actually made of. The history of revolutions attests that upheaval is always improbable, unpredictable and risky.  A few banal pronouncements about "democracy in action" coupled with an online petition will not usher in social transformation. As Malcolm Gladwell put it recently, "activism that challenges the status quo--that attacks deeply rooted problems--is not for the faint of heart." Clicktivism reinforces the fear of standing out from the crowd and taking a strong position. It discourages calling for drastic action. And as such, clicktivism will never breed social revolution.

The demise of clicktivism is rebooting activism. It is setting off a paradigm shift in social change that opens the door to a new generation of activists. This rejuvenation is emboldened by three tactical insights: revolutions spring from epiphanies; the internet is best suited for meme-war; and daring real-world actions are the indispensable foundation of social change.

Gone is trust in watered down talking points and the "best practices" of keyboard-messiahs.  Metrics are being forgotten, website logs deleted, analytics ignored.  Instead, passionate poetry is regaining precedence. The challenge of sparking epiphanies is the new revolutionary priority. But this does not mean we shut our eyes entirely to the potential of technology.

On the contrary, the next generation of activists will readily acknowledge that the internet plays a crucial tactical role. In the battle for the mind, the speedy dissemination of brain-bombs, image-ambushes and thought-viruses is strategically essential. This is meme-war, after all, and the web levels the battlefield against the propagandists of consumerism. Still, real world action is the only way to achieve social revolution. Clicking a link can never replace taking the streets. Nor can we rely on digital technologies to get people off the screens.

Activism is scary, social change is initially unpopular and insurrection always starts with disobedience. Trepidation is, therefore, the healthy response to the realities of culture jamming. Moments before victory, every revolutionary has felt the gut-pang of anxiety. But clicktivism encourages us to shirk away from these emotions, to hide behind the mouse, to embrace the inaction of passive clicking. Against this tendency, let us welcome butterflies back into our bellies.

Activism will be reborn when culture jammers find strength in the exhilaration of resistance, the intensity of protest and the emotions unleashed by taking part in upheaval.

Find activists near you and move beyond clicktivism to create real and lasting change in your community. Visit MeetUp.com/Buy-Nothing-Day and plan something for the Carnivalesque Rebellion.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

Source: 
http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/93/activism-after-clicktivism.html

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Friday, December 10, 2010

America's Hostage Crisis
Day 3,500 -- And Counting


Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
The Huffington Post
December 9, 2010


When President Obama said he was forced to negotiate with hostage-takers, he conjured an image of ski-masked Republicans suddenly storming the White House and demanding tax cuts for the rich, a screaming Jane Middle Class in tow.

The imagery made it seem as if this bitter fight just emerged -- an impression reinforced by the breathless commentary of pundits who act as if history began last week. In reality, the hostage takers laid their "trap" a decade ago, as former Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett helpfully explained to The Daily Beast: "We knew that, politically, once you get [a big tax cut] into law, it becomes almost impossible to remove it. That's not a bad legacy. The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth."

Republicans have dominated the tax-cut debate because they have consistently kept their long-term objective in mind and skillfully, if ruthlessly, designed their initiatives to achieve it. Indeed, they've counted on the fact that most of us have short memories -- including, alas, journalists who say they want to keep politicians honest.

In our 2005 book Off Center, we summed up the Republican tax-cut strategy as follows:

Republicans carefully calibrated their presentation of the tax cuts to circumvent hostile public opinion. Three strategies were central -- each attuned to the tax cuts' principal liabilities. First, unrealistic projections of federal surpluses and of the costs of the tax changes were used to justify the tax cuts and obscure their effects on competing priorities. Second, Republican leaders managed the legislative agenda to prevent consideration of the tax cuts' specific effects on valued programs. And third, tax-cut advocates worked assiduously to make the cuts look far less tilted in favor of the rich and well connected than they really were...


To respond to their base, Republicans misled most Americans. On an unprecedented scale, phase-ins, sunsets, and time bombs were used to give the tax cuts of 2001 the most attractive public face possible while systematically stacking the deck in favor of Republicans' long-term aims. From top to bottom, Republicans larded the tax cuts with features that made sense only for the purposes of political manipulation.

Most reporters have done a lousy job of reminding us of this background. Why were the tax cuts of 2001 scheduled to expire? Because the Bush administration could not convince enough Senators back then that they were affordable, even at a time of record budget surpluses. The GOP's gamble was that when the tax cuts were due to expire, they would be extended because too many in Washington would be afraid to "raise taxes."

Many Democrats probably thought budgetary realities would make this hat trick hard to pull off. But the Democratic message, if you can call it that, is muddled and complex: one part fiscal rectitude, one part populism -- and lacking any clear alternative vision for the hundreds of billions that Republicans want to give to the rich. And it's made even less coherent by the non-trivial number of congressional Democrats who have basically accepted the GOP position.

Republicans, by contrast, bet on the power of a simple, unified message no matter how divorced from economic reality: failing to extend tax cuts skewed to the rich was to "raise taxes" on "ordinary Americans." And they bet that when the time came for a vote, nobody would remember how we got in this mess in the first place. For now, that bet has paid off -- big time.

Two years from now, tax cuts for the rich will come up for a vote in the lead-up to an election with the economy likely quite weak. Democrats had better start learning from history, lest they be condemned to repeat it.

Or, as President Bush memorably put it a year after the tax cuts passed, "Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson are the authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

Source:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-s-hacker-and-paul-pierson/americas-hostage-crisis-d_b_794602.html
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Obama's disastrous path


By Katrina vanden Heuvel
The Washington Post
December 7, 2010


Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the Democratic Party left him before he left the party. Like many progressive supporters of Barack Obama, I'm beginning to have the same feeling about this president.

Consider what we've seen since the shellacking Democrats took in the fall elections.

On Afghanistan, the administration has intimated that the 2011 pullout date is "inoperable," with the White House talking 2014 and Gen. David H. Petraeus suggesting decades of occupation. On bipartisanship, the president seems to think that cooperation requires self-abasement. He apologized to the obstructionist Republican leadership for not reaching out, a gesture reciprocated with another poke in the eye. He chose to meet with the hyper-partisan Chamber of Commerce after it ran one of the most dishonest independent campaigns in memory. He appears to be courting Roger Altman, a former investment banker, for his economic team, leavening the Goldman Sachs flavor of his administration with a salty Lehman Brothers veteran.

On the economy, the president has abandoned what Americans are focused on - jobs - to embrace what the Beltway elites care about - deficits. His freeze of federal workers' pay, of more symbolic than deficit-reducing value, only reinforced right-wing tripe: that federal employees are overpaid; that overspending is our problem, as opposed to inane tax cuts for the top end; that we should impose austerity now, instead of working to get the economy going.

Now the not-so-subtle retreats are turning into a rout. The president is touting a NAFTA-like corporate trade deal with South Korea. He appears to be headed toward supporting cuts in Social Security and Medicare and irresponsible reductions in domestic investment. And he's on the verge of kowtowing to Republican bluster and cutting a deal to extend George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich in exchange (one hopes) for extending unemployment insurance and possibly getting a vote on the New START treaty.

This is political self-immolation. Blue-collar workers abandoned Democrats in large numbers in the fall; wait until they learn what the trade deal means for them. Seniors went south, probably because of Republican lies about cuts in Medicare; wait until anyone over 40 who's lost their savings hears about Alan Simpson's plan to take it to the "greedy geezers." The $60 billion each year in Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans could pay for universal preschool for America's children, or tuition and board for half of America's college students.

The stakes are much higher than the distant election. The president has suggested unconvincingly that he'd prefer to be a successful one-term president than a two-term president who didn't get anything done. But there are other alternatives. If the president continues on his current course, we're looking at a failed one-term presidency that the nation cannot afford.

Forget about electoral mandates or campaign promises. This president has a historic mandate. Just as Abraham Lincoln had to lead the nation from slavery and Franklin Roosevelt from the Depression, this president must lead the nation from the calamitous failures of three decades of conservative dominance. This requires beginning to reverse the perverse tax policies that have contributed to gilded-age inequality and starved the government of resources needed for vital investments. This demands correcting destabilizing global imbalances, laying a new foundation for reviving American manufacturing and shackling financial speculation.

It means ensuring the United States leads rather than lags in the green industrial revolution. And it requires unwinding the self-destructive military adventures abroad. The president must strengthen America's basic social contract in a global economy, not weaken it.

This daunting project is not a matter of ambition or appetite - or even unconscious Kenyan socialism. It is the necessary function of a progressive president elected in the wake of calamitous conservative misrule. Every entrenched corporate and financial interest stands in the way; it is easier to take a less confrontational path.

President Bill Clinton, for example, found it convenient to join in the conservative project of corporately defined trade, financial deregulation and social welfare constriction. From NAFTA to the repeal of welfare and the failure of labor law reform, to deregulating derivatives and repealing Glass-Steagall, he got his agenda wrong. He was seduced far more by Wall Street's Robert Rubin than by Monica Lewinsky.

Now Obama faces the same challenge. This isn't about conventional politics. This is simply about the fate and future of our country. This president has a clear and imperative historic mandate. If he shirks it, he risks more than failing to get reelected. He risks a failed presidency.


Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of the Nation and writes a weekly online column for The Post.

Source:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/06/AR2010120606599.html
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Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Internet's Voltaire Moment

Let me say up front that I am not a massive fan of Wikileaks. It seems to me that taking stolen correspondence and publishing it for everyone to read is a fundamentally sociopathic act, whether it is a rival's love-letters or a government's diplomatic cables.
There's no doubt that there's a role for whistle-blowing journalism, but each betrayal of trust and privacy needs to be justified by the greater good it delivers, and I remain unconvinced that the cloud of hacktivists at Wikileaks has taken on board that the demand for great responsibility to accompany great power also applies to them.

For me, it falls into the same category as The Pirate Bay; there's plenty to disagree with in what they are doing, but the crisis they provoke is fundamental to the operation of the Internet and we ignore it at our peril. In reacting to WikiLeaks and The Pirate Bay, both business and government have shown their true colours when it comes to citizen liberty and software freedoms. What's disclosed is not pretty.

Topological Change

The weaknesses are not caused by Wikileaks. The Internet-mediated transition from a hub-and-spoke topology of society to a meshed topology is the ultimate cause. It renders irrelevant the control-point thinking from the earlier age of chains of intermediaries. In every place where individuals take up the opportunities of the meshed society, the weaknesses emerge. The challenge by established computer corporations to open source, for example, is a direct consequence.

The problem arises from the fact that those serial intermediaries believe the solution the challenge to their existence is to reinforce their hub-and-spoke control points. So we see corporations fighting back against open source, music and movie industry associations attacking their fans and potential best customers, and governments attempting to muzzle citizens over data distributions that are the inevitable consequence of an endemic internet being available to magnify the leaks they always have and always will experience.

Is Your Cloud Safe?

Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, the actions by both Amazon Web Services and  Tableau Software have revealed that they are willing to withdraw service from a customer without receiving a legal challenge and without investigation or recourse, and to spin it as a "terms of service" issue. It informs us as customers of web services and cloud computing services that we are never safe from intentional outages when the business interests of our host are challenged.

As our business activities (hosted on our behalf) and our software freedoms (mediated through hosted communities) increasingly become dependent on the unassailable business judgement of unseen others, we do well to consider whether we need to take those capabilities away from their single points of failure and instead use peer-to-peer services instead of relying on a centralised provider.

Wikileaks and The Pirate Bay similarly stress the uncomfortable weaknesses in our various democracies.  We see legislators denounce the medium, attack the messenger and attempt to legislate against both rather than engaging in the root-and-branch reform necessary for the meshed society of the Internet age.  We will doubtless see new laws proposed which, in the name of stopping leaks, remove the freedoms of citizens to engage in the meshed Internet.

It's sure to happen, just as thoughtless acceptance of the proposals from lobbyists from the giants of the hub-and-spoke era have caused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the USA and the Digital Economy Act in the UK, both massively misguided legislation that empowers the powerful to eliminate their natural successors. Just as ACTA attempts to set in concrete the discarding of the social contract of the commons from copyright, so we can expect to see global activity to muzzle unregistered internet use. Doing so would push the emerging forms of open innovation underground and rather than protecting society and its economy would slow and cripple it.

Even without that, both Wikileaks and The Pirate Bay have been the excuses for regressive changes. Both provided an immediate justification for the means of censorship of one kind or another - apparently even the Library of Congress is blocking Wikileaks, for example, presumably to prevent legislators getting any first-hand knowledge of the situation. These changes are easy to justify with lazy "opposing this supports the terrorists" rhetoric and take moral effort to challenge.

Vote With Voltaire

So despite my great misgiving over The Pirate Bay, with its Machiavellian arguments that sharing must always trump copyright, and Wikileaks, with its irresponsible equation of the betrayal of trust with transparency, I find myself defending them. Not because I agree with them, but because the misguided attempts to plaster over the fault-lines they stress and expose will inhibit or remove the freedoms upon which internet freedoms - of innovation, of expression, for software and more - all fundamentally depend. As Dave Winer points out, the only way to shut off Wikileaks is to shut off the Internet.

It's crucial we echo Voltaire. I don't like Wikileaks, but we must collectively defend their ability to exist or face all we find that's good on the Internet being made illegal.

Source:
http://blogs.computerworlduk.com/simon-says/2010/12/the-internets-voltaire-moment/index.htm
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