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This page collects pages on the situation in the USA. Often this is also about fighting neoliberalism which the rest of the world seems to be adopting from the US. (RSS, Search)

2014-07-11 Reform

Recently, Jürgen Hubert shared a link to a Foreign Policy post and said on Google+ that while the German system wasn’t perfect, at least it worked.

Some people commented and said they agreed. I wrote that from what I heared Germans in Switzerland say, many like it here as well. I love the Swiss system. And the weird thing is: the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848 “was influenced by the ideas of the constitution of the United States of America and the French Revolution.” (Emphasis mine.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wholly support efforts by Lawrence Lessig: Rootstrikes.

I just finished listening to the latest bunch of episodes about the American Revolution and the drafting of the United States Constitution, and the List of amendments to the United States Constitution, at the Revolutions Podcast. Excellent material if you’re into podcasts at all.

When I read the FP article, I felt disappointed because of its shallow analysis. What about Exportweltmeister and the price the Germans paid, stagnating wages? What about the discussions of the 5% hurdle after recent elections? What about the historic justifications for the Senate in order to convince smaller entities to join the federation? These can be an important issue in heterogeneous federation like Switzerland (there was a time when each canton had its own currency)—and possibly also of interest for nations after a civil war (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, Syria) or countries where so many regions strive for more autonomy and the state is always in fear of breaking apart (Spain, Italy). So yes, the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is great. But the US has its United States Bill of Rights, and a Constitutional Court, and that’s great. In contrast, Switzerland allows its citizens to easily amend the constitution, but there is no constitutional court, so sometimes issues linger for years before appropriate laws get passed! So it would seem to me that the US has all the tools it needs. I suspect it has mostly a broken process. Something needs reform, but I’m not sure that the German system is a good place to start looking.

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2014-06-04 Net Neutrality

The United States of America are trying to nail their feet to the ground when it comes to the Internet. And knowing their power and influence, and their spying and blackmailing, I wouldn’t be surprised if their ideas start spreading elsewhere. That’s the unfortunate reality of life on the Internet: I feel like I need to pay $10/month to the EFF and $10/month to the FSF in order for them to fight for their rights such that their problems don’t spread to where I live. Globalising the fight for our right!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here are two recommended and entertaining videos to explain it all.

If you’re American, you can tell them how you feel. Or, according to FCC Establishes New Inbox for Open Internet Comments, you can send them email: openinternet@fcc.gov

Here’s what I sent, even though I am not an American:

Dear FCC,

Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data that travels over their networks equally, is important to me because without it users have fewer options. ISPs should not be the gate keepers to what we do on the Internet. As it stands, there is also precious little competition between providers. If I don’t like my service provider, what am I going to do? I cannot take my business elsewhere.

A pay-­to-play Internet worries me because new services cannot compete. There is no such thing as a video startup with slow download speeds. We’re automatically favoring existing businesses and making life hard for future entrepreneurs and startups. And we gain nothing in return!

The Internet has the unique ability to make all of us authors. We can read and write, share and consume. By making a fast service more expensive, we’ll be limiting good quality to commercial ventures. We also want non-commercial projects to succeed. We want to download free software, for example. We want to watch our own videos, hosted on our own servers. We don’t want an Internet Apartheid. That is not the “freedom” I want.

Help us make the Internet into the thing almost all of us want, not into the Internet the ISPs want.

Sincerely,

Alex Schroeder

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2014-01-15 Crypto-Gram

I recommend you all subscribe to Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram newsletter if you aren’t subscribed to his blog. Today’s Crypto-Gram, for example, has this excellent passage:

Not only is ubiquitous surveillance ineffective, it is extraordinarily costly. I don’t mean just the budgets, which will continue to skyrocket. Or the diplomatic costs, as country after country learns of our surveillance programs against their citizens. I’m also talking about the cost to our society. It breaks so much of what our society has built. It breaks our political systems, as Congress is unable to provide any meaningful oversight and citizens are kept in the dark about what government does. It breaks our legal systems, as laws are ignored or reinterpreted, and people are unable to challenge government actions in court. It breaks our commercial systems, as US computer products and services are no longer trusted worldwide. It breaks our technical systems, as the very protocols of the Internet become untrusted. And it breaks our social systems; the loss of privacy, freedom, and liberty is much more damaging to our society than the occasional act of random violence.
– Bruce Schneier, How the NSA Threatens National Security

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2013-09-06 Crypto

Concerned by all the Snowden stuff? I am. I’ve had some friends use encrypted mail. Thanks!

I use GPG and you can download my public keys from a public keyserver. I’d be happy to keep our communications encrypted.

I’m also thinking of using the Raspberry Pi I got as a mail server. It would be always on. I think I’d like that. I recently found some instructions on how to do that in a German magazine (behind a paywall). Some alternative articles I’ll be reading later:

I really like what Bruce Schneier has to say. This, for example:

The NSA has turned the fabric of the internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical. They’re limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.

Trust the math. Encryption is your friend. Use it well, and do your best to ensure that nothing can compromise it. That’s how you can remain secure even in the face of the NSA.

– Bruce Schneier, How to remain secure against NSA surveillance

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

– Bruce Schneier, The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back

I remember when Richard Stallman started saying people should pay with cash, not credit and debit cards. I thought it was paranoid but cool. There was no need for me to follow suit.

I’ve been reducing my use of credit and debit cards in recent weeks.

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Comments on 2013-09-06 Crypto


AlexSchroeder
So now I’m trying to convert the PiMAME SD card I have into a card suitable for the mail server. There is a lot of unnecessary stuff to remove. Right now I feel that debfoster is my friend.

I’ve setup Dovecot. It seems to work. I’ll need to write it up one day. I’m using my alex@gnu.org account to test it all. I’m already getting a lot of spam. Aaargh, that’s what Gmail is best at: spam filtering!

Reading mail within my WLAN works. Now I need to investigate FreeDNS.

AlexSchroeder



Josh
Are you having an issues with mail being rejected? I’ve heard that if you run a mail server on a home Internet connection one could have this issue.

re: Swiss hosting (I saw your previous post): I recently opened an account with edis.at and choose a Swiss hosted VPS. So far so good.

Personally, I like the BeagleBone Black over the RPi, but something else you can do with the little guy is run a tor relay on it.

Josh 2013-09-24 22:16 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I have no problems with mail getting rejected since I use a gnu.org SMTP server to send mail. For testing purposes and in order to get system stuff delivered, I have exim4 sending stuff—but I only ever send mail to my gnu.org account, so that’s hardly a test of my rejection rate.

As for servers: my problem is that the company has Austrian roots and therefore falls under EU and under Austrian jurisdiction, and the server falls under Swiss jurisdiction. Doesn’t that open you up to more privacy invasion? I’m not sure but that’s why I wanted to avoid them. Better to keep it all in the same jurisdiction.

A Tor relay is a noble idea but I remember there being a case in Germany with a guy being arrested because of a Tor server he was running. Sadly, my hesitation—and my wife’s hesitation—are an indication of the chilling effects already in effect.

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-25 07:13 UTC



Josh
I think I understand your setup now. I’ve heard some people running SpamAssassian on the Pi, which I think is GPLv2. I assume you are running Raspian?

re servers: Yeah, edis.at is not ideal. I was also looking for a pure swiss server. I had previously used hoststar.ch and it was fine for my tiny website and a mailing list. This time I wanted a VPS (to run a Tor relay) and edis.at came recommended. Did you pick a new hosting provider yet?

re tor: It sounds like he was running an exit node, although it doesn’t say. In the U.S. (at least for now…) it is believed you are ok running a non-exit relay [1]. I am not running an exit relay for these reasons.

[1] https://www.torproject.org/eff/tor-legal-faq.html.en

Josh 2013-09-25 13:02 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Yeah, I’m running Raspian; and no, I haven’t picked a provider yet. I have talked it over with my wife, however. It’s just a matter of time, I think.

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-25 15:23 UTC

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2013-08-11 Chilling Effects

Yesterday I wanted to google for a cartoon in order to show it to my wife. I joked that the keywords would probably get me on a watch list. My wife said I was a fool to use those search terms. Did I need to “prove” myself by googing those terms? When I said that if I stopped looking for information using those terms, I was already accepting that the police state is real. She said, thanks for making it harder for me, should I want to visit the United States again.

Needless to say, the argument was a bit longer and a perfect Saturday was ruined with a late night discussion about the current state of the world surveillance society.

Recommended reading: Restoring Trust in Government and the Internet by Bruce Schneier.

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Comments on 2013-08-11 Chilling Effects


Sean
Yeah, I’m taking you off my blogroll.

– Sean 2013-08-12 01:22 UTC


Sounds dramatic but don’t you see the debate as renegotiating the bargain struck by a democratic society? How we’re going to get to there from here is probably going to be messy.

Alok Singh 2013-08-12 02:58 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Absolutely. The debate is about renegotiating our values. The problem with a surveillance society, of course, is that debate concerning the surveillance itself can be problematic. I also wanted to point out that chilling effects happen on a very personal level, long before we can talk about censorship or self-censorship.

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-12 19:35 UTC



Akiyama
The UK government is going to require everyone to “opt-in” to be able to access porn on the internet. Which I think is a good idea in theory, but what worries me is that it seems that if you don’t opt-in it’s not just porn that is going to be blocked but all manner of other stuff too.

https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2013/sleepwalking-into-censorship

P.S. I just found out about your Old School RPG Planet site last week. That’s very useful, Thank-you!

– Akiyama 2013-08-13 10:57 UTC



AlexSchroeder
Janne Jalkanen wrote about the slippery slope from anti-porn activities to more dubious activities in Finland. It was along time ago but it’s still pertinent. At the time it didn’t seem that all your failed attempts to contact various sites would be recorded. The Panopticon at work. :(

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-13 11:49 UTC



Akiyama
In today’s news - the British Library’s wi-fi filter blocks people from accessing Shakespeare’s Hamlet due to “violent content”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23680689

– Akiyama 2013-08-14 07:40 UTC



AlexSchroeder
As Kristian Köhntopp likes to say on Google+, “All the hands of all the gods of the hindus cannot facepalm enough…”

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-14 14:33 UTC

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2013-07-30 Politics

Looking back at how things have gone in the last year I’d say that all my RPG conversation has moved to Google+ and this wiki-blog has turned into a repository of things I don’t want to loose when Google+ is shut down. All my political thoughts are on Twitter: @kensanata and I’m almost exclusively expressing myself via retweets. I’m also more than happy to talk about it on Twitter.

I post my pictures on Flickr at kensanata for myself and cross-post them to Facebook and a protected Twitter channel for the various family members out there.

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2013-04-30 The Fall

Recently reports have started resurfacing… (I’ve been following Jürgen Hubert on Google+.)

At one point I left the following comment:

The fall of the US from a spiritual leader of freedom and democracy when I was young – in the seventies and eighties I knew nothing of Vietnam and I grew up with American pop music – to a war mongering nation, to a nation that systematically tortures prisoners, a nation that refuses due process to prisoners, to a nation that imprisons so many of their own population, to a nation that uses cruel and unusual punishment in the form of Three Strikes and its variations – there are no words for this moral catastrophe. No words.

I’m still torn: was my decision do abandon my ranting online and turn into a gamer (HomoLudens) the right thing to do? After all, if we all retreat into our little shells, if we all tend to our little gardens, then nothing ever changes, right?

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Comments on 2013-04-30 The Fall

Sorry for being blunt, but the question is: will your ranting and agitation help much more than your shutting in your shell? For me it’s a simple question of what is the next thing I can do that will have the best impact (with additional bonus if only I can do that) – and that is usually doing something for the local community (well, “local” includes also online communities with similar interests), whether it’s gaming, organizing a meetup of some kind or open source coding. Sure, there are people who have it much worse, but I can much better improve the lives of the people around me.

Radomir Dopieralski 2013-04-30 16:47 UTC



AlexSchroeder
No need to apologize. Sometimes a little application of blunt is required.

AlexSchroeder 2013-05-01 00:54 UTC


Yes. (I like to study about communication strategies).

JuanmaMP 2013-05-01 12:45 UTC

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2012-01-18 Privateering For Fun And Profit

Yesterday, I wrote about my thoughts on SOPA and how the USA’s legal arm had grown long indeed.

Today, I want to comment on something I’m seeing in a lot of the statements in protest to SOPA, eg. on Google’s End Piracy, Not Liberty page: “Fighting online piracy is important.” Wil Wheaton says on Today the US Senate is considering legislation that would destroy the free and open Internet: “I’ve probably lost a few hundred dollars in my life to what the MPAA and RIAA define as piracy, and that sucks, but that doesn’t come close to how much money I’ve lost from a certain studio’s creative accounting.”

I agree that SOPA and PIPA are terrible. They will reduce our freedoms, increase legal uncertainty, make it harder to do business, make it harder to host user contributed content (forums, wikis, archives, social networking and more). The goal, of course: Big Hollywood’s Big SOPA Defeat.

But while the citizens of the USA fight stupid legislation (which the USA will then most probably try to impose on other countries as well), let us not forget that the current copyright regime is stupid, too. We need less protection. We need shorter protection. We need less punishment.

I want to be a privateer! sardonic tentacle

Update: Supreme Court Chooses SOPA/PIPA Protest Day To Give A Giant Middle Finger To The Public Domain – they keep extending copyright, what a shame! I prefer the Public Domain.

Update: I love this rant: Why I'm a pirate!

Update: A step in the right direction: Another Interesting White House Petition: Reduce The Term Of Copyright – even though 56 years is still way too long and even though the president appears to be the wrong addressee.

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2012-01-17 SOPA Blackout Protest

I just saw Twitter CEO says SOPA blackout protest "silly" on BoingBoing. I wonder: Should I shut down Emacs Wiki for US residents? I’d have to do a quick geo location of the IP numbers before serving anything. That sucks.

kensanata
Do US #Emacs users require a reminder to fight #SOPA and # PIPA? I think Emacswiki will stay up for the USA. I doubt US Congress uses it.

I always felt that I was as safe as I can be running Emacs Wiki: I live in Switzerland, the server is hosted in Germany, the domain name registrar is French, the top-level .org domain is the only thing connecting it to the USA. But then I read US Can Extradite UK Student For Copyright Infringement, Despite Site Being Legal In The UK – and now I wonder about the worst case. Perhaps I should get myself a different domain name.

Actually, I think the main problem is that with all the scare mongering around copyright infringement and the astronomical punishments dealt out in the US, I have lost my confidence in their judicial system when it comes to copyright and patents. The most positive explanation for that is that I’m just misinterpreting all the bad news I’m reading online. My impression is formed by following @internetlaw, @privacylaw, @techdirt and @boingboing, following the occasional link. I end up reading Actual damages for single unauthorized download of software program held to be cost of single license fee (from $1,370,590 down to $4,200) and I wonder how much it cost the accused in time, energy and money to get this result. I would not want to fight this battle in court, even if I win.

Case in point: How USPTO's recklessness destroys business, innovation, and competition – a company produces something and years later a competitor is awarded a patent. The cost of going to court is prohibitive, and so they just give up.

Overprotective copyright and a judicial system that encourages statutory damages, patent offices unable to cope with new technology, a highly networked world making it easy to publish internationally with incompatible legal systems. It makes my head hurt!

Update: I decided to post a more personal message on EmacsWiki:2012-01-18.

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2012-01-05 American Charities I Like

The EmacsWiki:EmacsWiki page says “If you like the site and want to contribute something, contribute either time or money: Write content, fix typos, clean up pages by removing old discussions, merging and splitting pages, and linking up and down the page hierarchy. If you do not have time, you can always donate money. Show your support by saying on your homepage on this wiki how much you donated to charity because of the Emacs Wiki.”

But which charities would I prefer, personally? Certainly not the National Rifle Association!

  1. EFF – the Electronic Frontier Foundation fights for your rights when it comes to the information society. If you can’t fight this fight, help others fight it for you.
  2. FSF – I use Free Software every time I use a desktop or laptop; Richard Stallman warned against the effects of software patents, digital restriction management (DRM), the anti-circumvention provision in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCR). He deserves our help.
  3. Creative Commons – our world needs more Free Culture.
  4. Wikipedia – I hate the Wikipedia donation “stare” but the truth remains: I use Wikipedia every day. Every day.
  5. Project Gutenberg – As you can see, I’m interested in the abuse and corruption of copyright and patents. Project Gutenberg is something positive, for a change. It’s an example of what we could build if copyright were not as strong as it is today. We need much less protection such that much more of these projects can spring up.
  6. Internet Archive – As our culture moves online (movies, music, graphics, games, writing, combinations of them all), we need to think about conservation. What will future historians study if they want to understand us? What happens to your web pages and your blogs when you die? The Internet Archive is the first step in the right direction. Another positive project!

I want to be more positive. :) ok

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Comments on 2012-01-05 American Charities I Like


Adrian
I agree about Wikipedia, I finally contributed to them because of the amount of benefit I have derived from their existence.

I have looked into the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the one thing that has held me back is that they spend a bit more on administrative costs than most foundations I normally contribute to (I like as much of my money going to the cause as possible). This segues to my plug for Charity Navigator, which I always try to use when evaluating a charity.

Adrian 2012-01-06 22:09 UTC

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