Category Archives: Society

Should be obvious…

Fedora: A Study in Featuritis

Its a creeping featurism! No, its a feeping creaturism! No, its an infestation of Feature Faeries! No, its Fedora!

I’ve been passively watching this thread (link to thread list) on the Fedora development list and I just can’t take anymore. I can’t bring myself to add to the symphony, either, because it won’t do any good — people with big money have already funded people with big egos to push forward with the castration of Fedora, come what may. So I’m writing a blog post way out here in the wilds of the unread part of the internet instead, mostly to satisfy my own urge to scream. Even if alone in the woods. Into a pillow. Inside a soundproof vault.

I already wrote an article about the current efforts to neuter Unix, so I won’t completely rehash all of that here. But its worth noting that the post about de-Nixing *nix generated a lot more support than hatred. When I write about political topics I usually get more hate mail than support, so this was unique. “But Unix isn’t politics” you might naively say — but let’s face it, the effort to completely re-shape Unix is nothing but politics; there is very little genuinely new or novel tech going on there (assloads of agitation, no change in temperature). In fact, that has ever been the Unix Paradox — that most major developments are political, not technical in nature.

As an example, in a response to the thread linked above, Konstantin Ryabitsev said:

So, in other words, all our existing log analysis tools have to be modified if they are to be of any use in Fedora 18?

In a word, yes. But what is really happening is that we will have to replace all existing *nix admins or at a minimum replace all of their training and habits. Most of the major movement within Fedora from about a year ago is an attempt to un-nix everything about Linux as we know it, and especially as we knew it as a descendant in the Unix tradition. If things keep going the way they are OS X might wind up being more “traditional” than Fedora in short order (never thought I’d write that sentence — so that’s why they say “never say ‘never'”).

Log files won’t even be really plain text anymore? And not “just” HTML, either, but almost definitely some new illegible form of XML by the time this is over — after all, the tendency toward laughably obfuscated XML is almost impossible to resist once angle brackets have made their way into any format for any reason. Apparently having log files sorted in Postgres wasn’t good enough.

How well will this sit with embedded systems, existing utilities, or better, embedded admins? It won’t, and they aren’t all going to get remade. Can you imagine hearing phrases like this and not being disgusted/amused/amazed: “Wait, let me fire up a browser to check what happened in the router board that only has a serial terminal connection can’t find its network devices”; or even better, “Let me fire up a browser to check what happened in this engine’s piston timing module”?

Unless Fedora derived systems completely take over all server and mobile spaces (and hence gain the “foist on the public by fiat” advantage Windows has enjoyed in spite of itself) this evolutionary branch is going to become marginalized and dumped by the community because the whole advantage of being a *nix admin was that you didn’t have to retrain everything every release like with Windows — now that’s out the window (oops, bad pun).

There was a time when you could pretty well know what knowledge was going to be eternal (and probably be universal across systems, or nearly so) and what knowledge was going to change a bit per release. That was always one of the biggest cultural differences between Unix and everything else. But those days are gone, at least within Fedoraland.

The original goals for systemd (at least the ones that allegedly sold FESCO on it) were to permit parallel service boot (biggest point of noise by the lead developer initially, with a special subset of this noise focused around the idea of Fedora “going mobile” (advanced sleep-states VS insta-boot, etc.)) and sane descendant process tracking (second most noise and a solid idea), with a little “easy to multi-seat” on the side to pacify everyone else (though I’ve seen about zero evidence of this actually getting anywhere yet). Now systemd goals and features have grown to cover everything to include logging. The response from the systemd team would likely be”but how can it not include logging?!?” Of course, that sort of reasoning is how you get monolithic chunk projects that spread like cancer. Its ironic to me that when systemd was introduced HAL was held up as such a perfect example of what not to do when writing a sub-system specifically because it became such an octopus — but at least HAL stayed within its govern-device-thingies bounds. I have no idea where the zone of responsibility for systemd starts and the kernel or userland begins anymore. That’s quite an achievement.

And there has been no end to resistance to systemd, and not just because of init script changeover and breakages. There have been endless disputes about the philosophy underlying its basic design. But don’t let that stop anybody and make them think. Not so dissimilar to the Gnome3/Unity flop.

I no longer see a future where this distro and its commercially important derivative is the juggernaut in Linux IT — particularly since it really won’t be Linux as we understand it, it will be some other operating system running atop the same kernel.

Come to think of it, changing the kernel would go over better than making all these service and subsystem changes — because administrators and users would at least still know what was going on for the most part and with a change in kernel the type of things that likely would be different (services) would be expected and even well-received if they represented clear improvements over whatever had preceded them.

Consider how similar administering Debian/Hurd is to administering Debian/Linux, or Arch/Hurd is to administering Arch/Linux. And how similar AIX and HP/UX are to administering, say, RHEL 6. We’re making such invasive changes through systemd that a change of kernel from a monolothic to a microkernel is actually more sensible — after all, most of the “wrangle services atop a kernel a new way” ideas are already managed a more robust way as part of the kernel design, not as an intermediate wonder-how-it’ll-work-this-week subsystem.

Maybe that is simpler. But it doesn’t matter, because this is about deliberately divisive techno politicking on one side (in the vain hope that “if our wacko system dominates the market, we’ll own the training market by default even if Scientific Linux and CentOS still dominate in raw numbers!”), and ego masturbation on the other (“I’ll be such a rebel if I shake up the Unix community by repeatedly deriding so-called ‘Unix traditions‘ as outdated superstitions and generally giving the Unix community the bird!”) on the other.

Here’s a guide to predicting the most likely outcomes:

  • To read the future history* of how these efforts work out as a business tactic, check the history of Unix from the mid-1980’s to early 2000’s and see how well “diversification” in the interest of carving out corporate empires works. I find it strikingly suitable that political abuse of language has found its way into this effort — conscious efforts at diversification (defined as branching away from every other existing system, even your own previous releases) is always performed under the label of “standardization” or “conformance to existing influences and trends”. Har har. Joke’s on you, though, Fedora. (*Yeah, its already written, so you can just read this one. Easy.)
  • To predict the future history of a snubbed Unix community, consider that the Unix community is so used to getting flipped the bird by commercial interests that lose their way that it banded together to write Linux and the entire GNU constellation from scratch. Consider also that the original UNIX was started by developers who were snubbed and felt ill at ease with another, related system whose principal flaw was (ironically) none other than the same featuritis the Linux community is now enduring.

I don’t see any future where Fedora succeeds in any of its logarithmically expanding goals as driven by Red Hat. And with that, I don’t see a bright future for Red Hat beyond v7 if they don’t get this and other priorities sorted**. As a developer who wishes for the love of everything holy that I could just focus on developing consumer business applications, I’m honestly sad to say that I’m having to look for a new “main platform” to develop for, because this goose looks about cooked.

** (sound still doesn’t work reliably — Ekiga is broken out of the box, Skype is owned by Microsoft now — Fedora/Red Hat don’t have a prayer at getting on mobile (miracles aside) — nobody is working on anything solid to stand a business on once the “cloud” dream bubble pops — virtualization is already way overinvested in and done better elsewhere already anyway — easy-to-fix media issues aren’t being looked at — a new init system makes everything above worse, not better, and is distracting and requires admins to completely retrain besides…)

Decisions: I’m supporting Ron Paul

tl:dr: I’m supporting Ron Paul. He actually knows enough to hold and argue positions, something sorely lacking from the political field.

I’ve been overwhelmingly busy with trying to start an open-source focused IT company with literally zero financing (yeah, “fat chance” right?) so haven’t had much time to pay to elections lately.

Anyone familiar with my thoughts on geopolitics, economics and political philosophy can probably guess that I perceive a significant separation between the way that establishment political parties portray themselves and the actual policies they adhere to, the way people think and the available menu of parties to choose from, and the way Americanism as a political philosophy is taught through history and the way the situation stands today.

For those who aren’t familiar with my thoughts, or aren’t able to infer just where I believe these political divides to be, you can simply read them directly. Two or three years ago I laid out how the American political landscape is removed from the current menu provided by establishment politics. The basic problem is one of uncomfortable couplings of incompatible principles.

These weird couplings lead to incoherent policies, inventive ways to sell such incompatibilities in elections and then even more inventive ways for supporters of this or that politician to justify just why they favor this or that candidate, having been robbed of any logical foundation for decision.

The mental and even emotional agility required to follow, say, Mitt Romney’s (just to pick someone who is current and known) statements on just about anything tire me, and I’ve got a company to try to establish. And I’m not even in the US right now (Japan, currently).

A close friend of mine from my Special Forces days (which I may be returning to soon in the event my company fails… wahahaha!) met with me the other day and asked me what I thought of Ron Paul. I hadn’t heard of him, so I did what everyone does and asked the internet about it.

It turns out that while the media consciously tries to avoid Ron Paul, he’s all over the internet. Actually, looking at poll numbers, it is amazing he doesn’t get more media time, until you consider what he talks about. (The link is fascinating if you consider that it has been subtitled in German, and contemplate the way a German may interpret this story.)

The man is too correct and too sincere. He is also far too consistent to even sound like a candidate. I found myself disagreeing with him on two areas, but not at all on principles. So implementation arguments I might have with the guy, but all the big stuff I believe him to be dead right about. So I’m endorsing him and I will vote for him if he winds up on the ballot.

Where do I disagree?

Hard VS Soft currency

I subscribe to soft currency Chicago/Friedmanist style economics, Ron Paul is an Austrianist who believes in removing the Federal Reserve completely and returning to the gold standard. I believe the gold standard to be literally impossible to properly implement across the board, and since gold is a major economic commodity today I don’t find it reasonable to base a currency on it. From a practical perspective I don’t see the sense in taking it out of the ground in California at incredible expense only to put it back in the ground in New York or Kentucky. Or London or Tokyo for that matter. People need to trade, so they will trade. A soft currency provides a vehicle through which a farmer can trade cows for soccerballs without having to chop the cow into tiny pieces to buy a single soccer ball. Its a representative wealth vehicle. But it can be mismanaged. Bad management of fiscal policy, whether soft or hard, or even improper regulation of a derivative or certificate market system, can accelerate a boom-bust cycle which I perceive as somewhat inevitable, but exacerbated by mismanagement of policy (and absolutely, unsurvivably catastrophic when linked by society-wide regulatory systems like socialism or fascism).

The problem I see is that hard currencies can be just as easily mismanaged by government as soft currencies, and there is simply no silver bullet (no pun intended) to that situation other than simply removing government from the economic equation as much as possible — and this is the lynchpin of both my ideas and Ron Paul’s. Hard currencies have been abused throughout the ages, and soft currencies have as well. So I see hard VS soft as an issue of practicality and nothing more. I can argue convincingly that abuse of the system — whatever system that is — by government interference is the core problem and that must be the focus even more than any focus on a specific method of wealth conveyance.

Isolationism VS Non-Interventionism

Ron Paul is not an isolationist. He says so himself and he clearly doesn’t believe in that by its purest definition. I don’t believe in isolationism, either. I do believe in a slightly higher level of intervention and martial preparation than he may, however. In particular, he hasn’t had a chance to fully explain his position on recalling all foreign military bases, or even whether that’s what he really means. I don’t think a 100% elemination of all US bases from overseas is wise, specifically with regard to maintaining a global naval capacity. Maintaining a truly open maritime trade environment is what I’m really concerned about, not whether or not we continue to keep forward deployed American armor units in Germany, Poland or Turkey. There are other ways to maintain forward readiness that are cheaper and perhaps more responsible than what we’re doing today, and from a strict security-only perspective a strong navy is the only really critical part of our strategic posture (and I’m an ex-Army Green Beret saying that, not an ex-Navy whatever). When we go beyond that we start getting into really fuzzy discussions (“Well, if this one base in Japan is too important to do away with, why aren’t bases X, Y, and Z in Korea, Germany and England?” &tc.).

Having spent a lot of time in Congress and having heard deep national strategy discussions from time to time, I suspect Dr. Paul probably thinks the same things I do about foreign policy and simply doesn’t have time to get into it during political debates in campaign season. The fact that he could argue reason based on a studied position on these issues, however, defines a significant separation between him and the rest of the politicians from all parties — and that is what scares me a bit.

And that brings me to why the media is shutting him out — including the people who should love this guy at first look: Fox News. The problem with Ron Paul is that he’s really frightening to the establishment. Any establishment. Once an establishment gets large enough it magically gets in bed with government in America, and that is more representative of the fact that we don’t quite really have capitalism in America; not nearly how it was intended to work anyway. The amount of money that is wrapped up in ties to government is only increasing, and that means that large establishments tend to be more reliant on government as time passes, which means that any and all large establishments, whether politically Right or Left (which I don’t believe to be accurate labels any longer) are threatened by ideas like Ron Paul’s. When you hear “the budget went up” it went somewhere, usually to contracted arrangements to federal employee budgets, most of which are not specifically authorized by the Constitution.

Dr. Paul is right about nearly everything I’ve heard him speak on, and the other candidates aren’t really saying much of anything. Its almost like George Friedman, Milton Friedman (no relation), and Ayn Rand got together to run for President — but its just one guy.

If you haven’t made the time to pay attention to the elections because they “just don’t matter” (which is the attitude I was taking until last week) please look Ron Paul up. Listen to some of the things he has to say and the things he has written over the last several decades in office. He knows what he’s talking about and hasn’t changed his story since he was initially elected 12 terms ago. That’s truly amazing in politics in any era.

If my friend happens to read this, I suppose he’ll know what I wound up thinking about Ron Paul.

Gradkell Systems: Not assholes afterall

I was contacted yesterday (or was it two days ago? I’ve since flown across the international date line, so I’m a bit confused on time at the moment) by the product manager for DBsign, the program that is used for user authentication and signatures on DTS (and other applications? unsure about this at the moment). He was concerned about two things: the inaccurate way in which I described the software and its uses, and the negative tone in which I wrote about his product. It was difficult to discern whether he was upset more about me making technically inaccurate statements or my use of the phrase “DBSign sucks”.

Most of the time when someone says something silly or out of turn on the intertubes it is done for teh lulz. Responding in anger is never a good move when that is the case (actually being angry about anything on the internet is usually a bad move, one which usually precipitates a series of bad judgement calls and massive drama). Mike Prevost, the DBsign Product Manager for Gradkell Systems, not only knows this well, he did something unusual and good: he explained his frustration with what I wrote in a reasonable way and then went through my article line-by-convoluted-line and offered explanations and corrections. He even went further than that and gave me, an obscure internet personality, his contact information so I can give him a call to clear up my misconceptions and offer recommendations. Wow.

That is the smartest thing I’ve seen a software manager do in response to negative internet publicity — and I have quite a history with negative internet publicity (but in other, admittedly less wholesome places than this). So now I feel compelled not only to offer a public apology for writing technically inaccurate comments, I am going to take Mr. Prevost’s offer, learn a bit more about DBsign (obviously nobody is more equipped to explain it to me than he is), and write about that as well.

The most interesting thing here is not the software, though — it is the wetware. I am thoroughly impressed by the way he’s handling something which obviously upsets him and want to ask him about what motivated his method of response. When I say “obviously upsets” I don’t mean that his email let on that he’s upset directly — he was quite professional throughout. Rather, I know how it feels to have been deeply involved in a knowledge-based product and have someone talk negatively about it out of turn (actually, it can frustrating to have someone speak positively out of turn in the same way). I’ve developed everything from intelligence operations plans to strategic analysis products to software myself and I know that one of the most important aspects of any knowledge worker’s world is his pride and personal involvement with his work. This is a very personal subject. Just look at the way flamewars get out of hand so fast on development mailinglists. I still have epic flamewar logs kept since the very early days of Linux kernel development, Postfix dev mayhem and even flamewars surrounding the Renegade BBS project. While the decision to use a comma (or a colon, or whatever) as a delimiter in an obscure configuration file may seem like a small point to an outsider, to the person who spent days ploughing over the pros and cons of such a decision or the people who will be enabled or constrained in future development efforts by such a decision it is very personal indeed.

Unfortunately this week has me travelling around the globe — twice. Because of that I just don’t have time to call Mr. Prevost up yet, or make major edits to anything I’ve got posted, but I’m going on record right now and saying three things:

  1. I should have personally checked what the DTMO help desk (clearly a dubious source of technical information) told me about how DBsign works and what the hangups in interoperation with current open source platforms are. I’m sorry about that and I likely cast DBsign in the wrong light because of this.
  2. Gradkell Systems are not a bunch of assholes — quite the opposite, it seems. Their openness is as appreciated as it is fascinating/encouraging.
  3. DBsign might not suck afterall. Hopefully I’ll learn things that will completely reverse my position on that — if not, Mr. Prevost seems open to recommendations.

I've been turned into a mudkip. Nice move.
So yes, I’ve been turned into a mudkip.

The part in point 3 above about Mr. Prevost being open to recommendations, when fully contemplated, means something special (and I’ve had a 16 hour flight and two days in airports to think about this): Great managers of shitty software projects will eventually be managers of great software projects; whether because they move on to other projects that are great, or because they take enough pride in their work to evolve a once bad project into a great one.

Sometimes stereotypes turn up in strange places

The other day an unusually perfect message title drifted through the “Fedora Women” mailing list. It was good enough that I felt compelled to screenshot it for posterity — and today I remembered to share it with the world:

womenapi.png

Whatever the odds of the elements of this subject line coming together to form that particular combination, it was sweet poetic justice. (I mean, we don’t have a “Fedora Men” mailing list… or maybe that is all the other ones? Sort of like not having a “white history month” in school.)

Libya: Now officially a political lollerthon

I’ve been watching Libya pretty closely, wondering when the world will get a clue and understand that the geopolitical play is actually still between America & Saudi VS Iran. The Libiya situation is awesome high drama for the world right now (despite being of little import) yet the interplay between a Persian rise across the Middle East and how the world recovers from the current economic slowdown in the face of a major emotional (and nothing more) crisis over energy (think long and hard about the implications of people being more scared of nuclear power than they were before the recent tsunami in Japan) is definitely more interesting and more important.

But modern man is far more concerned with inconsequential drama (e.g. “human rights” — a concept which serves socialists well until it comes time for them to violate the principle themselves — of course, only in the interest of the “greater good” you see) than the concrete resolution to very real problems which are difficult to deal with (and therefore emotionally easy to defer until later — a habit known to schoolchildren as “procrastination” and to politicians as “dynamic focus”).

Anyway, Ghaddafi has proven once again why he is the ruler of a difficult country called Libya and our senior Student Council President, Barak Obama, is not. Ghaddafi is in charge of a collection of cutthroat tribes who would (and do) sell out their own mothers to gain an upper hand, even at the expense of splitting their own country in half or subjecting their people to endless iterations of civil war. That is, in fact, what has happened in several cases recently. Libya is not so much a country as a collection of tribes who are constantly at odds. Humans are nothing more than mammals, and the faggotry that is the anti-religion movement supports me on that. On the other hand the same fags that hate the idea of religion (because God says “penor in male buttocks is bad” — yet oddly has very little to nothing to say about fish festivals — unfair, but whatev) also hate the idea of “human rights” abuse (the Christians are, oddly, usually OK with it, accepting the idea that life sucks and is unfair in most cases) and so don’t agree with Ghaddafi at all.

The problem here is that the basic assumption is that humans are generally good and peaceloving and very fair. That is simply not true. Humans are mammals and as such very aggressive, mean, selfish, cliquish and smart. All at once. What that means is that humans are the sort that not only would survive the extinction event that destroyed the dinosaurs, but also give rise to the next apex predator (specifically, me). You don’t get to the top by being nice (and I am certainly not, unless you are on my side).

Now consider a tribal society living very close to the survival line (as opposed to a lax society composed of newfags who are so far removed from the survival line that they think art is important “for art’s sake”, emotions matter at all, and that women are not somehow fundamentally more important for biological progression than men because they haven’t experienced a generation in which famine, disease or total war has limited the things one can do in a day or life in concrete and definitely “unfair” ways). In such a society only the alpha dog will rise to the top. Such an alpha will be considered a complete thug by outsiders who live in, say, France (or almost anywhere in Europe). That is normal. What is not normal, however, is that the Europeans should think they need to somehow regulate what another nation’s alpha thug is up to — aside from ensuring that he no longer sanctions the downing of civilian flights in Scotland.

The Europeans, Americans and Asians — everybody, in fact — recognize that it is in their best interest to just let Ghaddafi have Libya and resume the status quo as soon as possible. What they screwed up on was shifting their position when they got Egyptian public noise confused with actual power moves and further got Libyan tribal noise mixed up with Egyptian agitation. Libya is not Egypt, and there is nobody in Libya to control the tribes (who are in serious need of controlling) than Ghaddafi. Westerners should be careful about their calls for “democracy” because they might actually get what they are asking for. If, for example, a democracy were to be installed in Saudi Arabia the West would instantly see a huge surge of funding for anti-West Islamic jihadi groups from London to New York to Tokyo (funny thing about jihad is that Tokyo not being Christian doesn’t exonerate them from the Islamic mandate to be subjugated — a point worth remembering).

Who would that benefit? Nobody, that’s who. The Europeans would either continue to be fags and rot in their own American protected and subsidized socialist filth while America atrocitied the shit out of the entire Middle East in an attempt to protect the Europeans and their values of non-aggression (ah, the irony of that is so sweet — as would be the European outcry against “American barbarism”), or the European pendulum would finally swing the other way in typically radical fashion and the Europeans would again start building gas chambers to deal with the “brown people question”. Is this ridiculous? No. Not at all. It has happened before. Actually, it has happened several times, but nobody wants to talk about that and Europe in the same breath… because we all think the EU is going to change all that (and we are wrong).

So anyway, back to the focus of what I usually write blog articles about: what will happen next. Ghaddafi will win. Period. The Europeans will continue to have talks about having talks. They will talk a lot about imposing a “no-fly zone” when, in fact, flying isn’t in the least the issue at hand here. Ghaddafi will go ahead and try the folks for treason who actually committed such (as would happen in, say, France, the UK or the USA were someone to attempt to violently suceed or militarily assault the national capitol) and allow the other members of various tribes to come back into the fold (specifically, this means accepting pledges of fealty from tribal leaders who had previously announced a split with Ghaddafi or had been ambivalent in their stance during the uncertain periods of the last two weeks).

What is yet to be seen is whether Libya will resume energy ties to former partners. A lot of state owned energy companies stand to lose a lot in the ensuing mix. But whatev. The countries who decided to intervene in another country’s internal matters now have to face the consequences of having planted their flag on the losing side — as sometimes happens in geopolitics.

Everything Ghaddafi has done has demonstrated how savvy he is — and therefore deserving of his position at the head of the geographic and cultural disaster that is Libya. Everything the West has done “in response” has not only demonstrated how inept they are at identifying anchored points of real power (perhaps a failing of democracy where a leader is elected based on how good he is at running political campaigns, not actually wielding the resultant power), but also how little they respect the sovereignty of smaller nations (would Germany be seen as benevolent in its next invasion of France were the Southern French to once again revolt against Paris?).

Anyway, watching everyone backtrack from their strong statements is going to be pretty funny. We’ve seen Obama, running an administration which has increasingly demonstrated that it has not given a thought to developing a coherent foreign policy (which prevents one from making pre-emptive decisions and instead just reacting with everyone else, and hence developing a geopolitical Johnny-Come-Lately syndrome which is not at all unlike the same syndrome manifested in, say, the stock market where the last person to pick up the “last big thing” is the biggest loser) make gradually escalating statements against Ghaddafi when it should have been ramping its rhetoric down the more aparent it became that Ghaddafi never really lost control. We’ve seen the Europeans do the same thing. What this does domestically is push the leaders of such countries into a corner where they have to at least be seen as acting decisively about issues they have claimed are important to them (and their nations, though that is highly debatable).

Wee. Meaningless drama. All the while the fate of the Hormuz Strait is completely left unreported on — and therefore unconsidered by everyone driving a 2-ton vehicle 40+ miles to work everyday, all the while bitching about how the goddam price of gas keeps going up. Its OK. Its all the Japanese tsunami’s fault. And as we learned from Katrina, that is all George Bush’s fault somehow. Ignorance is bliss.

Immigration, Protectionism and Freedom

Note: The following is a response to a widely circulated email regarding American immigration policy, which is reproduced at the tail of this article.

It could be enlightening to consider that every country compared against the United States below sucks horribly.

Perhaps we are framing the immigration issue the wrong way. Surely you are not suggesting that we should emulate the policies of such garden spots as Saudi Arabia or North Korea?

Are we forgetting why the free market made us great and how immigration is a part of that equation? The more protectionist we get the further we remove ourselves from our roots — a past where Federal spending was less than 3% of GDP, a minimum wage was nonexistant and well understood to be a market inhibitor (and contributor to inflation), government programs for everything from industrial subsidy to public healthcare didn’t exist and were not expected, and a lack of regulation on immigration and industry promoted innovation and competition on a scale never before seen in human history (It is interesting to note that today compliance with regulation in industry acts chiefly to impose significant barriers to entry for newcomers who don’t have large initial capitalizations. This effectively protects entrenched businesses who usually had a part in lobbying for the regulations themselves once they became political inevitabilities, and in no way protect the little guy who wants to try his hand at business. Also note the consumer doesn’t enter into the equation at all.).

We are now enjoying the fruits advenures into true free market capitalism and universal immigration made not by us, but by previous generations. Now that we have arrived in the information age and are more comfortable than any society in history ever has been (a unique situation where we have produced conceptual oxymorons such as the poor fat person, or people who are too poor to do anything other than “sit on ass and play vidya gaems”) we are becoming protectionist and frightened of true competition. This is slowing our minds, numbing us to the exhilerations of risk and diminishing our rewards. Our country is so overwhelmingly powerful that we have nothing to fear from open competition in every field from technical achievement to military contest.

If this were a trivial issue it would be comical that the center-right in America is the faction that has chosen immigration to be the politically acceptable way to manifest protectionist rhetoric in government (which leads to barriers to market entry by restricting the domestic labor pool) and the left has chosen international trade tarriffs and industry subsidy as their opposing politically acceptable form of protectionism (which leads to barriers to market entry in the form of regulatory compliance and a form of corporate welfare for noncompetitive pre-existing companies). They are both different shades of the same thing, but it is highly impolitic to say so to a member of either school of thought, mostly for emotional reasons.

If a Mexican wants to come to Texas to cut my grass for less than minimum wage, why should I be prevented from hiring him? If he is not merely making my property look nice, but is helping my business grow at a reduced cost by making products for me below the cost of other available labor, my company is now gaining in competitive advantage — critically, my company is not just gaining in competitive advantage against other US companies, but regaining some of the advantage lost to Malaysian and Chinese factories (which is, ironically, the origin of the protectionist argument to begin with). My state loses no tax revenue because the Mexican pays taxes every time he conducts a market transaction anyway. In a non-socialized state such as Texas or Florida this works well (contrasted with, say, California where a worker not paying income taxes dodges a large portion of his burden but can still reap state subsidized benefits).

Flipping to the other side, the left’s idea is generally to have the government make market decisions for us, the difficulty being that once the government enters the market place it is impossible to decide what market decisions it should and should not make — so eventually (and history is a good guide here) socialized governments tend to make all the market decisions, and badly. Identifying the scope of responsibility for a government in the market is so gray that it is impractical. The left will say they support the union and the average worker but in actuality their policies end up protecting entrenched corporate interest more than anything else by preventing newcomers from pushing into the market and insulating established large businesses from the consequences of bad decisions. They say that “unfair” competition from overseas is stealing American jobs and that we have to erect trade barriers and impose regulations on industry to keep the vile boom and bust of rampant competition down to a  “manageable” level (without quantifying what any of that means). Unfortnately this just means that instead of individual businesses experiencing boom and but cycles, entire nations boom and bust together (which is the cancer that is killing Europe right now, and the chief danger facing China today as well).

From my point of view, if the consumer decides that all the Chinese crap at Walmart is good enough at the price it is sold to continue buying it, who am I to stop him? (And the responsibility rests with me and you, as we vote for the micreants in office to get them there, after all. Not voting is also a deliberate choice, so no way out there.) After all, I don’t really want Americans doing monotonous plastic injection molding jobs and I don’t want the chemical leftovers in our country either.

If the Chinese government is willing to use its own people’s tax money to subsidize fundamentally flawed businesses that would fail without intervention only to create cheap goods that they then sell at a loss to me in the US, why stop them? Let the Chinese government absorb the cost of your cheap products for you. Subsidized Chinese goods shouldn’t say “Made in China” on them, but rather “Compliments of China”. If left alone, the situation would eventually balance out and the Chinese will either be forced to start charging more (making our superior products more competitive) or collapse (removing the challenge completely). I can guarantee that if a sudden lack of shitty plastic toys suddenly grips the market an alternative will emerge to replace them — either an American will stand up a shitty toy factory overnight, or more likely, an American will build a factory in Mexico to make the same (or better) stuff. Either way, we win and anyone else loses, because we were the ones who didn’t engage in self-destructive economic practices.

If the French government wants to lose boatloads of money subsidizing Airbus, why stop them? Boeing is only getting smarter against the competition and is still doing well in any case. I don’t see how having roughly 30% of each A300 sold below cost to an American corporation be provided for free by the French government is hurting us — if anything it is certainly hurting France, so this is not something I desire to stop because it means we are winning.

There is entirely too much emotion tied up in the debates of today, and our public dialogue has lost its logical foundation. The political rhetoric of fear of American decline has really gripped the country, and I can’t see why. I have been everywhere there is to go in the last decade. I’ve seen just about all of the globe in a working, not tourist, capacity — and almost everyplace sucks but the US and a very short list of its close friends. Pipe dreams of power abound around the world, but the next time someone starts talking about how America is failing and going to hell in a handbasket, or how we will soon be in the “post-American era” just ask yourself what alternatives are there to American power? Really how weak is the only nation that has absolute undisputed control of the all the oceans, absolute dominance of space and global air supremacy at will? Really how weak is the nation that everyone still craves to enter and build a life for themselves in? Really how weak is the nation that gave the information age its beginnings, from the lightbulb to the telegraph to harnessing nuclear technology to the programmable computer to the space shuttle to the open market and so on… ?

My point being, America has nothing to fear from competition and everything to gain. Every time America steps out into danger it gets busy doing things right, not because “it” does anything, but because the individual genius of its mish-mashed citizens is unleashed. Dramatic examples such as how Americans (as distinct from America, though that is also an interesting story) reacted to 9/11 or the entire history of American involvement in existinal struggles such as WWII get a lot of play, but less dramatic examples are just as important such as the universality of American businesses in the technical sphere, our unbroken naval supremacy and our enormous lead in space and information technologies.

Other governments seek to control the creative, economic, aggressive, randomly boiling potential of their people. The US government has from its beginning sought to deliberately unbridle and unleash the creativity, economic activity and aggression of its people. The worst decision we could make now is to send signals to our government that we want to be more heavily regulated and controlled. That sort of request for subjugation can begin with immigration policy or with trade protectionism — both are equally bad because they are essentially borne of the dynamics of the fear of failure. Populist traps are bad for America, regardless which way they are spun. Our personal freedoms are intimately tied to our economic freedoms in America in deeper ways than are immediately obvious when catching the headlines.

I strongly advise anyone who is at least curious about the arguments above to either study up on the history of these arguments or (more likely) catch the short version by watching Milton Friedman’s now forgotten video series Free to Choose.

Now take a look at the list below again and ask yourself if you would rather make America more like any in the list or less.

Cross the North Korean border illegally you get 12 years hard labor.

If you cross the Iranian border illegally you are detained indefinitely.

If you cross the Afghan border illegally, you get shot.

If you cross the Saudi Arabian border illegally you will be jailed.

If you cross the Chinese border illegally you may never be heard from again.

If you cross the Venezuelan border illegally you will be branded a spy and your fate will be sealed.

If you cross the Mexican border illegally you will be jailed for two years.

If you cross the Cuban border illegally you will be thrown into political prison to rot.

If you cross the United States border illegally you get:

1 – A job

2 – A driver’s license

3 – A Social Security card

4 – Welfare

5 – Food stamps

6 – Credit cards

7 – Subsidized rent or a loan to buy a house

8 – Free education

9 – Free health care

10 – A lobbyist in Washington

11 – Billions of dollars in public documents printed in your language

12 – Millions of servicemen and women who are willing to – and do – die for your right to the ways and means of our constitution

13 – And the right to carry the flag of your country – the one you walked out on – while you call America racist and protest that you don’t get enough respect.

IF YOU AGREE, COPY AND RE-POST THIS!

America: Changes in the Political Landscape

America is changing, but then again, America is always changing. Two major factors historically guide American political changes: generation gaps in personal and societal expectations, and the occurrence of significant events which impact the minds of the majority of Americans. Both of these factors are operating now.

scene_at_the_signing_of_the_constitution_of_the_united_states2.jpg

Societal views change over time. That is why we are no longer burning witches in Salem or running slave auctions in Mobile. The cultural norms of American society bring concrete political changes with them in a delayed fashion. Therefore the shifts in societal norms are a leading indicator of shifts in political alignments to come. The corollary to this is that legal and political changes are trailing indicators of cultural shifts which have already occurred.

The generational changes taking place now have to do with the base definitions of social acceptance, self identification, lifestyle choice, and the political association of terms such as “liberal,” and “conservative.” In my parents’ generation the anti-war movement was tied very closely to other, almost exclusively liberal, social movements. While you didn’t have to be a free-lover or a pot head to be against the war, you couldn’t show up at an anti-war rally and start talking trash about animal rights activists.

By the late 80’s a whole new generation who never experienced the Vietnam war directly but was interested in civil disobedience and protesting had latched on to new issues but largely continued to retain the same social cues and emulate the war protesters of two decades before. This sort of protest culture came to be identified with student movements, the open-pot 4:20 culture, a desire for government assistance for the disadvantaged, etc. In short, liberal progressivism was the realm of the pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-legalization, pro-social services, anti-religion (often this really means simply “anti-Christian” — few have ever been, say, “anti-Muslim”), anti-gun, and sometimes pro-socialist camp and that camp is what the Democratic Party decided to latch on to as a support group.

Standing against that was the other half of the country. They tended to be a collection of people whose agreements began with a universally anti-progressive view (interested more in the actually quantifiable sort of progress) and who stood for limiting government in all areas possible, including borderline support for economic anarchist efforts. Their agreements ended when it came to issues such as abortion, religion in government (again, generally Christian), gay rights and related social issues. The resolution to conflict on social issues was to focus less and less on social issues and more on concrete issues that affect business, law, and civil governance — specifically adopting a political policy which denies the government involvement in as many areas of civil life as possible. The pro-Christian camp was all about limited government involvement with social issues, as the current legal structure tended to be in agreement with heterosexual Christian life choices and therefore no significant disagreement was to be found between the Christian Right and the Republican Party.

These definitions made relative sense throughout the 80’s, 90’s but started becoming a little shakier as the 2000’s came on. Folks born in the late 1970’s and 80’s were often a lot less enamored with religion, had different views on the role of government in private life and also had different expectations about how their lives would turn out that their parents had. It was no longer necessary to identify Christianity with support for gun rights or tie support for gay rights to a desire to inflate government provision for social services. In fact, in the modern day we see a large shift and a huge number of confused voters whose social agenda is very different from their economic and policy agenda. Christian Right voters who would like to see a constitutional prohibition against gay marriage are running into foundational Republican arguments against government involvement in social and religious issues. Gay rights advocates are running into trouble rectifying their desire to be left alone by the government with the long-standing Democratic arguments for populist support efforts which place the government in the middle of family affairs.

For this reason we are seeing now a broad shift in political leanings and the way those leanings are expressed. We have Libertarian and Anarchist movements detaching from the Republican and Democratic base and agitating on their own because they do not agree with the Obama administration’s handling of a broad swath of foreign policy, social and business issues. On the other hand we have the Tea Party movement swelling its ranks and pulling away from the standard Republican base. Because we have a largely binary political system in the US it is still expected that the Tea Party will vote Republican (despite the misgivings of the Christian Right which forms the significant majority of the Tea Party base*) and that Libertarians and Anarchists will vote more or less in line with the Republican and Democratic parties for lack of a better fit that will actually have an impact (they will feel they are splitting the conservative and liberal voting base by voting on an independent or off-brand party — and they are right).

* To understand just how mixed up the current political climate is one should be aware that the original Tea Party, call it v1.0, was originally founded on the Federalist, almost libertarian, impulses to be found in old-corps Republicanism, which differs significantly from the way the Tea Party plays things today. Tea Party 2.0 has increasingly identified with social (usually Christian) conservatism which stands in strict contrast to the libertarian-style policies actually mandated by small government Federalism.

Both movements, however, are not insignificant. If anything the existence of the Tea Party is far more distinguishable than the existence of the Democratic dissident columns, but that is merely a reflection of how disorganized the Democratic Party in general is at the moment, contrasted by how relatively intact the Republican Party is. The impact of a new generation with new social definitions donning the mantle of political franchise and exerting their influence is becoming clear.

So what will happen?

I expect the Tea Party to continue to grow in strength, but take on an even more Christian Right feel to it. This will be the quickest way for the Christian Right to find a group it can dominate and will also be the fastest way for the Tea Party to swell its ranks and remain politically significant during elections. The Tea Party, being more based on religion than business, will accordingly begin to focus on socially divisive issues more than concrete policy and present a front that is more or less focused on being anti-abortion, anti-gay, etc. The old Republican tenents of gun ownership and limited governance will continue, but there will come a point when a desire to have the government directly prohibit certain aspects of civil life (such as the choice to marry gay) will overrule the desire to have government remain small. That will be a turning point and signify a split with the Republican base — federal libertarians, pro-American nationalists, etc. will feel suddenly uncomfortable with what the new Tea Party will mean.

On the flip side of the aisle the gay rights, social libertarians, economic anarchists, etc. will continue to be increasingly disenchanted by what they perceive to be “all talk, no action” on the part of the Democratic Party on foreign policy issues. They will also increasingly take issue with the broad attempts of the Democrats to regulate industries that affect techhies — which a huge number of this group are. Specific issues such as digital rights management, limits on information privacy and personal encryption (which amounts also to prohibition on personal mathematical exploration) which are being argued in Congress and negotiated at the Executive level internationally will scare the bejeesus out of the personal-rights camp. The most natural fit for both the business-focused and social-freedoms focused groups politically would be to eventually split and move to the part of the Republican base that is splitting toward pro-American nationalism and libertarianism once it is generally free of the Christian Right (which, to this point, has been the key article of distaste for the leave-me-alone flavor of personal-rights advocates).

The changes in how the generation that is coming to power now perceives itself and perceives society will have a delayed impact on how the government functions and who get installed in power there. I would not be at all surprised if in the future we have a shift in social rulings that lower the age of consent, legalize certain recreational drugs, loosen the government’s stance on digital rights management (specifically repeal the DMCA), legalize gay marriage and polyamory, and otherwise move to a more socially hands-off policy on society and individual lifestyle. I would also not be surprised if some sort of semi-federalized healthcare option were eventually put in place, though to conform with the Constitution it will have to be seriously limited in scope as compared to the impractical pile the Obama administration was able to sign in to law recently (which can never be practically implemented anyway — much better, and far more legal, actually, if it were a per-state healthcare system as the federal government lacks the authority to actually do federal healthcare — not that questions of legality seems to be discouraging Obama very much).

The shifts I detailed above will eventually become geopolitically significant in ways that we can’t foresee just yet, but not because they are happening inside the United States. The same generational shifts which give rise to these complex dynamics of change are occurring everywhere that matters: Europe, China, Japan, SE Asia, even in the Middle East. While the American policy game will likely not change (America is already largely adjusted to its international role, the discussion above just details an internal national monologue), Europe may well become far more conservative and even hawkish over the next decade, China will likely experience a political and economic collapse (with an attending revolution), Japan will find a new tack on quite a few things, and SE Asia might see a few of its risers actually getting with it enough to project power (specifically Thailand and Malaysia).

And an aside on how I first noticed this:

Changes are on the way. For older voters who do not choose to recognize this, just consider that my generation grew up in an *igger society. That’s totally different than a nigger society — its missing a whole “n.” Being a nigger doesn’t have anything (or at least very little) to do with color these days. We now have wiggers, spigger, chiggers, miggers and niggers. While older, out of touch black leaders (and the sort of wacko that makes a career out of white/male/mainstream apologism while themselves being a part of that group) still like to hear themselves talk in “black studies” courses at pro-Panther universities which offer such things, all the pragmatically aggressive and intelligent black folks my age were in different schools or in the Army studying up on real subjects that matter, like mathematics, computer science, music theory, etc. Learning new skills instead of just learning how to be properly blacker. On the flip side of that we’ve had white, brown and yellow kids (not to mention the legion of mixed kids) who grow up enamored with black gang culture and rap turn the whole culture upside down. All that is a reality. And its not really bad or good, it just is. When my Dad was a kid Asians were study and work machines — nothing else (you know the meme, “Asians don’t have souls”). In my generation they have these amazing things called personalities and first names. Whoa! Huge change there. Even in the Army nobody tends to notice race, they notice which group a person self-elects to identify with. The same goes for the fags. Being a fag has nothing to do with actually liking the cock anymore, and nobody really cares what you do with whatever part of you and your partner in another house. A transgender person (i.e. a dickgirl or newhalf or “transitioned” woman or whatever other term you want to flip about over me using here) who doesn’t have a complex about themselves isn’t going to be discriminated against in a job interview. But the lack of a complex is absolutely critical here — it turns out a lot of them take themselves far more seriously than your average difficult-to-manage asperger. The examples in this last bit are meant to be whimsical. If you found them offensive then you’ve probably not absorbed enough modern Americana and can go fuck off — and I mean that in the nicest way.

The Warning Signs of Violence: Ecoterrorist Attack on Discovery Communications

After an attack that affects civil society has occurred it is common for the media to discuss the “warning signs of violence” and how they were ignored or not perceived leading up to the event. Ultimately this is a cry for the authorities to do something, even though if most situations are examined more closely it usually evident that the authorities are ill-equipped and entirely unempowered to do anything prior to an attack. In fact, in almost all cases police forces are not chartered to prevent illegal activity as much as they are there to punish it after it already has occurred. It is a feature of free society that the members of the civil body are given as much personal freedom as possible. This is a powerful thing both for the state and for the individual. Generally speaking, the benefits far outweigh the dangers. But dangers abound. Just like anything else powerful and useful, freedom also means that preventing or pre-empting crime amounts to pre-crimes and that falls outside of the role of policing duties in Western society accept under extreme circumstances.

commandunit-discovery-jonathan-calvert-0901.jpg

The alternative to having a police force step outside of its law enforcement duties is to focus the efforts of a privately developed intelligence and security organization on the problem. Private intelligence and security work is not cheap, so this solution is obviously not a good fix for all situations, but then again not every individual and organization is a major target for attack in most cases, either. In the case of Discovery Communications, however, a cursory review of the eco-terrorist agenda reveals that educational media — despite being an industry the average media consumer would quickly rate as a “very low threat group” — is a very high priority target. Everything from the global warming/cooling argument to animal rights to cultural and religious historical studies to extra-terrestrial contact planning are covered extensively by the educational media and all such issues are hot button issues for a wide variety of eco-terrorist, socio-terrorist, anti-human and other specially focused socio-political movements which have in recent years increasingly turned to violent tactics an effort to raise the profile of their issues.

Such groups are unique in that as opposed to supporting their self-belief in righteous violence by referencing divine instruction the way Muslims can (God is a difficult concept to counter through rational argument), the eco-terrorists who subscribe to an anti-human agenda view humans as dirty, a natural aberration and something which should be gotten rid of and this serves as a foundational justification for violence against other humans and their activities. For anyone with an anti-human agenda sexual sterilization is a pre-emptive fix to human existence and execution is a forensic correction to the same problem. Identifying human existence as a crime against nature invalidates human society as a legitimate construct and therefore invalidates the concept of civil criminality.

Warning signs abounded prior to the the Discovery incident, but without a professional and experienced group of intelligence and security experts to assemble the individual tidbits of information and events into a comprehensive mosaic Discovery Communications stood very little chance of doing better than the 500-foot restraining order that was already in place against the perpetrator. The police do not have the resources to run surveillance on every potential attacker, but a large organization such as Discovery does have the resources to contract a permanent private intelligence organization to look out for its interests and raise red flags and recommend other actions once serious threats are identified. As intelligence scales very well from an economic standpoint, it would make very good sense for a consortium of educational media companies to enter a joint contract with an intelligence and security company. The cost of intelligence work can be distributed across the members being serviced, and recommended specific security operations (such as looking deeper into an identified threat such as ELF or the individual perpetrator in this case — or even placing major threats under surveillance for a period to determine whether or not an imminent threat is evolving) can be paid for by the specific organizations affected by a specific threat.

ht_james_lee_former_protest_100901_mn.jpg
James Lee protesting the Discovery Channel in 2008

Private intelligence service is not commonly incorporated into corporate security plans for most mid-sized companies in the United States currently, but with the shift in threat profiles, political balance and social norms and perceptions over time a small industry focused on dynamic intelligence and security provision is being created by forward thinking companies such as Sponte. This company is the first so far to structure itself as a complete security solution which is prepared to handle everything from information collection and intelligence development to course of action development and training and extending all the way to tactical team deployment and armed response operations. This goes beyond what the police are capable of providing as they already have one hand full with everything from domestic law enforcement to staffing DARE sessions at local schools and the other hand tied by budgetary constraints and jurisdictional complications. These types of services are also an order of magnitude more in-depth than the typical rent-a-cop security solutions seen across America today.

Through private intelligence and security arrangements described above it is very likely that evolving domestic threats can be identified and accurately assessed. That identification and assessment process is what can assist industries which do not perceive themselves as under threat with identifying where they actually are threatened. In the minds of most Americans Discovery Communications is as innocent a company as could exist and not worthy of worrying about. But in the minds of an emotionally unbalanced (or, far more frightening, in the eyes of an educated, rational, smart and emotionally stable) anti-human activist Discovery Communications is a perfect high-profile target.

Here is a link to a website that the perpetrator had posted at http://savetheplanetprotest.com/. I doubt this link will work well for very long, so I have locally mirrored it here to preserve it. It offers a high degree of insight into the perpetrator, his mental state, his writing ability, worldview and all that taken together gives us a lot more understanding of the individual and others who think like him than we would gain from a 30-second headline spot on the news.

While warning signs are readily apparent after an event such as this one, finger pointing is useless media drama. The only way any organization stands a practical chance of identifying the next James Lee and developing a pre-emptive intervention is to rely on a private intelligence and security service which has the ability to collect and analyse information, advise the highest level of management when necessary, formulate and execute a physical security posture or response and coordinate closely and effectively with local law enforcement.

Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi: Could this be an honor killing?

I am certainly not in a position to jump to conclusions about the circumstances surrounding the somewhat bizarre death of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi, but the details which have been released so far do open a speculative possibility I have not seen discussed thus far: an Islamic honor killing.

The scene of the crime appears at first glance to be a murder suicide. This, however is circumstantial and the absolute lack of any prior indicators that Kazemi was planning to off herself and murder her boyfriend have given the police pause in their investigation. Normally in a murder suicide, particularly once occurring in a domestic environment and not involving a hostage situation, it is almost inevitable that neighbors, family members and close friends will eventually come forward saying “we were wondering when that was going to happen…” But this time nobody is saying anything of the sort. All anecdotal evidence is that Kazemi was in consistently good spirits, had not received any shocking news recently and that her live-in boyfriend McNair was getting on well with her.

The suicide argument stems from the lay of the scene, with McNair having been shot three times at a distance and once up close (one shot in the head and two in the chest at range, once in the head at point-blank range) and Kazemi having been shot once in the head from extreme close range. A scenario of a murder suicide can easily be imagined from this. The discovery that the gun they were both killed with brought a tighter argument to the suicide theory and will certainly influence police in that direction

But there are mitigating factors, both circumstantial and social. For one Kazemi had long expressed an interest in purchasing a firearm and had been to firing ranges for target practice in the past. None of this raised suspicion as she had a genuine interest in both marksmanship and in self-defense, having had discussed applying for a firearm carrying permit according to her aunt (who was raised as her sister). The purchase of a firearm is therefore does not have to be interpreted as an out-of-character act, but could rather have been a very inconveniently timed purchase. Her frequent comments to ger aunt about feeling vulnerable and personally insecure could also be an indication that she felt under threat from a known source, one which the police investigation simply has not yet revealed. Another primary mitigating factor is the apparent total lack of motive. A happy woman living with a happy man is entirely against the profile of a female murder-suicide suspect. An additional — and thus far entirely undiscussed — socially mitigating factor is one that is possibly too controversial to breach in the traditional media: that of an Islamic honor killing.

Kazemi was Iranian, as was the rest of her family. Honor killings are an Islamic phenomenon in which usually male members of the family of a girl who is engaging in sexual conduct outside the confines of an Islamic-sanctioned marriage must kill her and the man or men with whom she has been acquainted to cleanse the name and preserve the honor of the family. There are varying interpretations of how violent to be, who to target and what specific acts define the term “sexual conduct” across the Muslim spectrum. For example it is not unusual for an unmarried woman who is observed exiting the car of a man not closely related to her (brother or father, specifically) to be the subject of an honor killing by the father or brothers in a very strict society such as Saudi Arabia. On the other end of the spectrum there are some “liberated” Muslim women openly living in Baghdad alone maintaining long-term relationships with foreigners with the open blessings of the family. On the weird end of all this there is a custom in the predominantly Muslim areas of the Sulu Archepelago of the Philippines where a man who desires a specific girl for marriage will arrange a kidnapping and rape of the girl to reduce her dowry price (which in that culture is a price paid to the father for the hand of the girl) by means of stripping her of her virginity, thus making her “less valuable” — for some reason this custom does not generally result in a clan war, just a frustrated father-in-law.

With all the above in mind it is certainly unreasonable to assume that an honor killing is to be primarily suspected in this case, but it is also possibly unreasinable to simply rule this case a murder-suicide in light of the circumstantial and socially mitigating evidence. Kazemi’s aunt was very close to her and has not only made statements to the effect that Kazemi had a private and normal interest in firearm ownership but that she also felt threatened. She has also made statements to the effect that she believes that not only was Kazemi’s death a set-up by a third party but that the death of another female relative was also carried out by a party with malicious intent.

This information and the additional curveball of the Islamic social component definitely opens the door to the possibility of an elaborate honor killing in this case. Unfortunately honor killings of this sort have become an oddly prolific problem in the Muslim neighborhoods of England, France, the Netherlands, etc. despite the otherwise rather clean domestic safety record for the other demographic groups in those countries. This has never been a major problem in the US, at least not a very well reported one if a problem actually does exist to the ignorance of the public. For this reason it is also interesting to speculate on why US muslims tend to be less vocal and violent than their peer social groups in Europe who are quite prone to social violence and creating civil unrest. Are things just that much better for US muslims than those of Europe? Is this sort of question pointed in the wrong direction and missing the essence of whatever problem does exist? I’ve no idea, but the very real possibility of an honor killing in this very public case brings an interesting opportunity to examine these issues from new angles.

Classaction lawsuits in a troubled climate

Since the first hint of recessionary pressures banks, bankers and financial institutions of all types have suddenly become the favored scapegoat/bogeyman to pin all blame on. I don’t usually concern myself too much with this sort of thing — it merely illustrates the simpleness of the public — until I find myself in a theater watching an entire movie based on such a flimsy premise, and then only concern myself as far as to write a short, meaningless post about it.

But this time is a little different. I have accounts at an online stock brokerage called TD Ameritrade (originally Ameritrade, then they merged with TD Waterhouse and rebranded themselves as banks so often do). I get email from them including their newsletter, any filing information I am required to see, shareholder’s meeting and voting information and so on. Its pretty typical stuff. I just received an unusual notice today of a classaction lawsuit against TD Ameritrade concerning spam emails. The basic argument is that TD Ameritrade somehow (directly or indirectly, it is not clear at this point) leaked some (or all?) account email addresses to stock spammers, resulting in unsolicted and deliberately false stock advice.

I have 8 email accounts which I use on a daily or at least weekly basis. I check them all regularly. I receive spam, including deliberately (and obviously) misleading stock advice in most of them. TD Ameritrade is aware of only one of those email addresses, yet I have received the same spam mail in several different addresses at once.

While it is entirely possible that TD Ameritrade could have leaked email addresses unintentionally given the technical sophistication of some of the more skilled spam cartels, that TD Ameritrade would ever intentionally sell or give out email or other personal information on account holders is highly unlikely. TD Ameritrade is a technology and information trading company at its root. It buys and sells information as the core of its business. As such a business it is intimately aware of the legal implications of violating intellectual property, privacy and information trade rights. It would be directly counterproductive for such a company to suddenly decide to sell or otherwise lose control of any personal account holder information in violation of its posted privacy policy. Their business is based upon trust and the long-term implications of violating that trust versus the short-term and relatively minor profit to be gained from the sale of account holder contact information simply weigh very strongly in favor of retaining the trust of their paying client base.

What I suspect is that someone — or a few someones — made plays based upon spammy, false email stock advice and lost some money. It may have been all fun and games in the mid 00’s, but now that people are scared of the economy and bankers have replaced George Bush as the national scapegoat its just not funny anymore. It looks like someone lost out and wants to take it out on someone… anyone who is a good and reasonable target and this particular tack makes sense from that perspective. Once a classaction lawsuit is properly baked by skillful lawyers it is a simple matter to get everyone to hop on the bandwagon hoping to claim fabulous cash prizes for doing nothing other than signing their name on a line somewhere. It is even easier to substantiate and grow (which in this case amount to the same thing) such a frivolous lawsuit when the court orders that the defendant, TD Ameritrade, contact every person potentially affected by email to notify them of the lawsuit.

Its a bit sad. I’ve received tens of thousands of spam emails purporting to be solid stock advice. I’ve received a few thousand, at least, at the address that TD Ameritrade has knowledge of. I have absolutely no reason or inclination to join such a ridiclous lawsuit, however, because it misrepresents the situation present across the internet today and tries to place blame — to the tune of lots of money — on what is essentially an information company who knows very well the importance of protecting its client’s trust and the chances of being caught in violation of that trust if it took any actions counter to the interests of its clientelle.

If this lawsuit plays out in favor of the weak, frightened or opportunistic sheep who join in then it could precipitate a host of similar actions against similar companies. This is just one way that the financial sector is being bled in the current environment. Not a happy time to be a banker… whether individual companies’ and individuals’ financial mistakes and problems are the fault of the banks or not.