Post Politics

No peace, no justice

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

Revolution is an invitation to trolls, subjects non-combatants to depredation, is usually crushed and otherwise usually produces another tyranny, and abets impoverishing cycles of conflict. No revolution should be celebrated, including one producing a long-lived and relatively non-tyrannical (in some respects) state such as the United States. All revolutionaries should be condemned as atavistic accomplices to attempted mass murder, that is when not actual mass murderers. No revolution should be celebrated.

There are many ways to work toward justice or other top political value. Eschewing peaceful means for revolution is sociopathic. This is especially the case for a privileged elite such as the “founding fathers” of the United States, and anyone reading this.

Last year, 2007, and related in 2005.

Ideas for limiting civic extortion, one in US 2016 federal budget proposal?

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

How to Stop the Stadium Wars (2015-03-17):

Or better yet: The next time the Cobb County Braves decide they’re ready to spin the Wheel of Taxpayer Subsidy, we should all hope the whole practice has become illegal.

That’s what the Obama administration proposed in its budget last month: to end the issuance of tax-free government bonds for professional sports facilities, a practice that has, according to research by Bloomberg, siphoned $17 billion of public money into arenas for NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL franchises over the last 30 years and cost Americans $4 billion in forgone federal taxes on top of that. It’s too late for residents of Cobb County, but Congress might yet save the rest of us some dough.

After an initial attempt in the 1960s to steer government bonds toward true public works, Congress placed a provision in the 1986 Tax Reform Act that seemed sure to kill tax-free, no-limit stadium deals. It had exactly the opposite effect. Essentially, qualifying projects now need either to serve public uses or to rely on public funding. With pro sports facilities, the former is obviously impossible, so the latter, though politically improbable, has become the way billionaire team owners retain access to cheap government financing. Cities and counties wound up borrowing more for their teams than ever before.

It’s been clear for decades that new stadiums don’t bring the business they promise, let alone enough economic activity to justify the investment. It’s a ruse, but it works because public officials are more worried about being blamed for the loss of a team in the short run than, say, for failing public schools in the long run. And it works because the country has more big cities and rich counties than sports teams in each league, so that even if Cincinnati taxpayers wise up, their counterparts in Austin will step in.

Obama’s budget isn’t the first national political effort to impose federal taxes on stadium deals. New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan proposed ending the loophole in 1996, and it’s been kicked around in committee since. But with groups like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity now opposing stadium deals at the local level, Obama’s idea has a chance of gaining bipartisan support.

Additional sources mentioned the proposal in February and March. I do not see more recent mentions. Is it surviving? The linked article mentions some lower status proposals (I’ve bolded the proposals, also above):

One solution, instead, could be to change the way teams operate, either by bringing antitrust suits against the leagues (which sports economist Andrew Zimbalist has suggested) or by allowing cities to exert greater control over their brands (as law professor Mitchell Nathanson has imagined). Should names like the Irving Cowboys, the East Rutherford Giants, and the Orchard Park Bills be forced upon suburban squads? In his 2000 book Leveling the Playing Field, Harvard Law professor Paul Weiler fantasizes about a nationwide union of cities that could lock out pro sports teams to obtain a league-imposed “stadium cap” on taxpayer subsidies, which would effectively end bidding wars.

The article also links to Should we ban states and cities from offering big tax breaks for jobs? (2014-09-15) which includes more general ideas:

Unilateral disarmament is a tough political proposition. As a systemic solution, Funkhouser advocates instead some kind of national law, what he loosely envisions as a domestic equivalent of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans bribes of foreign officials to obtain business. At the very least, he says, we should hold accountable officials and chief executives who promise jobs and economic gain — for which a community has paid dearly — that never materialize.

LeRoy doesn’t realistically expect any federal law any time soon. But he suggests a more modest alternative. In the mid 1980s, the federal government threatened to withhold a share of federal highway funds from any state that didn’t enforce a legal drinking age of 21. We should do the same today around economic development incentives, LeRoy says: withhold 10 percent of some coveted federal funding stream — maybe Community Development Block Grants — from states that actively poach jobs from each other.

Add these to my preferred limitations on civic extortion for stadiums (no copyright for events in subsidized venues) and generally (ban based on a modern conception of the U.S. constitution’s import-export clause).

Apparently it is looking more likely that more than one professional sports team will leave Oakland for locations willing to give billionaires greater subsidies. Good riddance! Though I am a little bit sad that the people of other cities that I like (e.g., Los Angeles) will lose out, tempting as it is to blame their politicians and publics.

Speaking of Los Angeles, film location/movie production subsidies are another high visibility extortion that ought be vulnerable to a similar range of targeted or general limitations.

Bike San Pablo

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 30) there is again an open streets event in my neighborhood, Love Our Neighborhood Day (coverage 1, 2, 3, 4). San Pablo Avenue (California Route 123) will be closed to cars for a stretch going through North Oakland and Southwest Berkeley. Last year, looking toward downtown Oakland:

Love Our Neighborhood Day 2014 San Pablo Avenue

Flyer for this year:

In the 6.5 years I’ve lived half a block from San Pablo Avenue, it seems to me that bicycle traffic has multiplied. I suspect many of the people I see in the morning and afternoon are commuting. I very occasionally ride on San Pablo because it’s much more direct to many places than safer routes. There are no accommodations for bicyclists on San Pablo in Emeryville, North Oakland, and Berkeley.

Emeryville’s plan calls for a “corridor redesign” that does not officially designate San Pablo Avenue as a bicycle route but does suggest “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs and painting shared lane markings. Berkeley is updating its bike plan but I don’t know if San Pablo Avenue is yet on its agenda. It does not seem to be for Oakland.

To the north, El Cerrito and Albany are apparently planning protected bike lanes on San Pablo Avenue. Hopefully tomorrow’s event will get people in Oakland and Berkeley thinking likewise.

Much of the Oakland stretches of San Pablo Avenue (there’s another to the south between Emeryville and downtown Oakland, passing under 980) has substantial and poorly maintained medians (weed control cloth which is exposed, tattered, and does not control weeds is ugly-tacky several times over; plus dead trees) that could be removed to make room.

At the same time, because people cruising for parking are dangerous to bicyclists, some parking spots would probably be lost to bike accommodations, and the neighborhood is booming, parking on San Pablo Avenue and nearby should become paid, preferably as part of a community parking benefit district as recently implemented in the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland.

A day to remember our fallen predators

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Last year I decried sad and tacky memorials for gang members and advised to take the advice of lower status memorials (street gang rather than military gang) and “stop violence” before robots take it over.

This year I’m embracing the future. Below, a heroic predator defending the freedom of U.S. citizens by killing Afghanis. Not pictured: similar heroic service over Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Syria, Philippines, and elsewhere.

MQ-1 Lethal Presence

Apparently 4 of your brothers have been shot down and 11 died in accidents while on combat missions. Hundreds more brothers and cousins have fallen in other accidents.

Sorry if it was all for lies, delusion, and lack of a non-bullshit peace movement.

The Killing of Abu Sayyaf (according to unreliable, one-sided, and conflicted sources)

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Read The Killing of Osama bin Laden or a summary on the English Wikipedia entry for Seymour Hersh.

Then read Abu Sayyaf, an ISIS Leader, Killed in Syria by Special Forces, U.S. Says. The part after the last comma is backed up by the article:

Pentagon officials said
One American military official described
the Pentagon’s description
A Defense Department official said
The official said
(The accounts of the raid came from military and government officials and could not be immediately verified through independent sources.)
officials said
American officials said
The White House rejected initial reports
said Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said
Officials said
Defense Department officials said
a Defense Department official said
the official said
the official said
the Defense Department official said
Defense Department officials said
officials acknowledged
officials said
Mr. Carter said
the senior United States official said

Why bother to publish this story? Why is the disclaimer of verifiability buried in a parenthetical instead of a banner at the top of the article highlighting multiple issues, a la Wikipedia?

The article closes with a conjecture from a former C.I.A. analyst that anyone could have made.

I’m not complaining about anything new; recently reading the Hersh article made me want to skim the article on the apparent killing of Abu Sayyaf, and the opportunity to update the title of Hersh’s article made me want to write this blog post.

Jackson Removal Act

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

I just learned of and support a campaign called Women on 20s to put the face of a woman on the US$20 bill. The campaign is in the news today because it announced the winner of a poll to select an individual: Harriet Tubman won.

Why the US$20 bill, that is, why remove Andrew Jackson:

Andrew Jackson was celebrated for his military prowess, for founding the Democratic party and for his simpatico with the common man. But as the seventh president of the United States, he also helped gain Congressional passage of the “Indian Removal Act of 1830” that drove Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States off their resource-rich land and into Oklahoma to make room for white European settlers. Commonly known as the Trail of Tears, the mass relocation of Indians resulted in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. Not okay.

An unrelated call last year to Kick Andrew Jackson Off the $20 Bill! The seventh president engineered genocide. He should be vilified, not honored notes:

Jackson climbed the American socioeconomic ladder. Jackson was the only president who worked as a slave trader, and he accumulated much of his fortune that way. In fact, Jackson later pursued his “Indian Removal” policies specifically so that the stolen lands could be used to expand cotton farming and slavery.

Jackson ought be removed from the US$20 bill, and all other memorializations. Jackson should only be first, with many others to follow, as I wrote last July 4:

After 238 years, isn’t it about time to renew US Independence Day? I suggest terminating all honoring of slave owners, including the so-called discoverer of the Americas, all pre-Civil War presidents except John and John Quincy Adams, the first two post-Civil War presidents, the most famous non-president “founding father”, and a real estate entrepreneur whose name graces a commonwealth. Currency, the names of said commonwealth and one state, many counties and municipalities, thousands of streets, buildings and other public places, statues, and two faces on Mount Rushmore, all should change.

Hello World Intellectual Freedom Organization

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Today I’m soft launching an initiative that I’ve been thinking about for 20 years, obtained a domain name for in 1998, blogged about once in 2004, and the last few years have been exploring on this blog without naming it. See the first items in my annual thematic doubt posts for 2013 and 2014: “protecting and promoting intellectual freedom, in particular through the mechanisms of free/open/knowledge commons movements, and in reframing information and innovation policy with freedom and equality outcomes as top.”

I call it the World Intellectual Freedom Organization (WIFO).

Read about its theory, why a new organization, proposed activities, and how you can help/get involved.

Why today? Because April 26 is World Intellectual Freedom Day, occupying and displacing World Intellectual Property Day, just as intellectual freedom must occupy and displace intellectual property for a good future. Consider this 0th World Intellectual Freedom Day another small step forward, following last year’s Without Intellectual Property Day.

Why a soft launch? Because I’m eager to be public about WIFO, but there’s tons of work to do before it can properly be considered launched. I’ve been getting feedback from a handful of people on a quasi-open fellowship proposal for WIFO (that’s where the activities link above points to) and apologize to the many other people I should’ve reached out to. Well, now I’m doing that. I want your help in this project of world liberation!

Video version of my proposal at the Internet Archive or YouTube. My eyes do not lie, I am reading in an attempt to fit too much material in 5 minutes.

I’ll probably blog much less here about “IP” and commons/free/libre/open issues here from now on, especially after opening a WIFO blog (for now there’s a Discourse forum; most of the links above point there). Not to worry, I am overflowing with idiosyncratic takes on everything else, and will continue to post accordingly here, as much as time permits. ☻

Be sure to celebrate the 0th World Intellectual Freedom Day, even if only momentarily and with your lizard brain.

Great Crimes, Again and Again

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Title refers to Medz Yeghern (Armenian: Մեծ Եղեռն, “Great Crime”), a name for the Armenian Genocide (April 24 is remembrance day), and the empty slogan never again.

I recommend the English Wikipedia article on the Armenian Genocide. It’s a good long read; I learned a fair bit from it that should stick with me. I did not realize that the vast majority of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire lived a helot existence (I only knew that there were prominent Armenian elites in the Empire; indeed the remembrance day is the anniversary of rounding up of 250 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople), that there was a mass expulsion of Muslims from the Balkans in the years prior to the genocide, that the genocide was widely reported in the West as it was in progress, and that it was witnessed directly by many (Central Power allies) Germans, possibly creating a direct line to some elements of the Holocaust.

I’ve only done naive searches for and skimming of genocide prevention material but my general impression is that it all takes an international perspective. That’s necessary and fine, but given how abysmal and nationalistic international governance is (including with regard to remembering genocides), I’d love to read more about how potential perpetrator and victim groups within jurisdictions have attempted to prevent genocide or its direct preconditions. I know when they have failed (documented genocides), but am almost completely ignorant of what attempts have been made, including any that have been successful, and how such attempts might inform the actions of people under threat today. I’m not talking about simplistic hypotheticals (e.g., what if someone killed Hitler before the war), nor heroic actions to save some people during a genocide. I’m wondering for example the extent of Turk liberal and Armenian elite efforts toward equal rights for all, Armenian elite efforts to protect Armenian helots, Armenian helot efforts to organize, and how such efforts could have been made more effective.

Previously regarding the Armenian-Assyrian-Greek genocide.

“Within jurisdictions” implies “improve yours” (in my case, the U.S.), which indeed I take as highly effective and necessary. A few past posts: Stop Killing Them and Invasion Ethics (present), Robot Gang Memorial Day (future), and Independence′ Day (remembrance).

Addendum 20150501: The English Wikipedia Signpost’s traffic report for April 19-25:

And much more sobering, but also in the Report for the first time, is the Armenian Genocide (#10 added: 631,960 views), which commenced 100 years ago this week. Farther down the list on the Top 25, it is worth noting that Adolf Hitler (#23), who famously asked who remembered the Armenian Genocide, also appears in the Top 25 for the first time. While World War II related topics often make the charts, for some reason Hitler himself has not since the Top 25’s debut in January 2013.

Apple watch

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Apple Watch official logoApple epitomizes the future we’re choosing by way of treating knowledge as property: gross inequality and hierarchical control, but amazing, such that it is hard to imagine a different arrangement. (I argue very different arrangements concerning knowledge are possible and some would produce much better outcomes — freedom and equality — and some would produce much worse, but still be considered amazing, as they would be relative to the past — knowledge policy is a point of incredible leverage in either direction.)

I don’t watch Apple closely at all, but occasionally a headline catches my eye, as two have recently.

  • Android share of smartphone profits plummets to 11 percent. 89% of smartphone profits go to Apple, despite shipping only 19.7% of smartphones. Of course there are other contributing factors, but these numbers suggest to me something about the surplus obtained by producers and consumers in the case of proprietary (iOS) and open source (Android) operating systems, and the resulting concentration of wealth toward owners of the former.
  • Apple Is Now More Than Double the Size of Exxon—And Everyone Else. That’s by market capitalization, around $750 billion. As the article notes, IBM in 1983-1985 had more than double the market cap of any other company. Knowledge as property driven wealth concentration is not at all new, but I suspect it is increasing as knowledge becomes unambiguously the commanding heights and we shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy (transition captured in pithy phrases such as “data is the new oil” and “software is eating the world”) and knowledge is increasingly subject to various freedom infringing (intellectual property) regimes, and I suspect that more people are recognizing this.

In the more people department, I’ve noticed in the last day:

Now these two are largely making stereotypical contemporary political points for or against state activity respectively (the latter by proxy of claiming Democrats don’t really care about inequality) and not demanding a fundamental shift away from property as the regime governing knowledge (the former demands a ‘golden share’ of intellectual property derived profits for the state). But I’d be very happy to see both “sides” embrace such a shift. Demanding that government and government-funded knowledge not be treated as property is a good start.


My ironic edit of 5 reasons you should never buy an Apple Watch, pointing out that control and inequality appear to be marvelous.

6 reasons for GPL lovers, haters, exploiters, and others to enjoy and support GPL enforcement

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Linux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig today filed a lawsuit against VMware (NYSE:VMW; US$36 billion market cap) due to their long time refusal to observe the terms of the GPL when incorporating code by Hellwig into their kernel, which remains proprietary. If VMware observed the GPL’s terms, their kernel including all source would be released under the GPL. This is a significant case, in part due to the rarity of GPL enforcement lawsuits. Details on the website of Software Freedom Conservancy, which is coordinating and funding (you can help) this action.

If the GPL is rarely enforced, its differentiation from non-copyleft licenses such as MIT, BSD, and Apache is muted. Why should you support license differentiation and thus GPL enforcement?

  1. You think copyleft is a wonderful hack, a productive and even necessary strategy for protecting and expanding the software commons. No enforcement makes the hack buggy: rarely executing and easily circumvented. So of course you want enforcement.
  2. You think copyleft curtails freedom, and ironically hampers the software commons — intractable incompatibility means software can’t be freely mixed, and the attempt to prevent capture by proprietary software interests only abets capture of the field by intellectual parasite lawyer interests. Your efforts to persuade developers and companies that they should avoid GPL software at all costs (up to reimplementation) in preference to permissive and public domain instruments can only be enhanced by prominent GPL enforcement by lawsuit.
  3. You think copyleft is great for software business, as one can acquire users by offering GPL software, then acquire customers by shaking down users who could conceivably not be observing the GPL to the letter. Public GPL enforcement makes your salespeople more compelling.

Among people who have any opinion about copyleft, I’m pretty sure there are very few who accept more than one of the above thoughts. I enjoy all three (the third looks like a sin tax to me). My point here is that people who completely disagree on the purpose and efficacy of copyleft ought all be excited and supportive of copyleft enforcement. But there are additional, less commonly discussed reasons:

  1. You think strong copyleft encourages more people to release free software, people who would not be comfortable with releasing under a non-copyleft license, whether because they fear piracyproprietarization more than obscurity (some overlap with 1 above), or because they want to make wealthy entities pay (lots of overlap with 3 above). Strong copyleft serves as the NonCommercial of the software world (without being fundamentally broken like NC, though the most radical believers in 2 above might disagree) in that it increases the range of licensing options to meet the preferences of both those who fear exploitation by business, and those who want to exploit business. Strong copyleft isn’t so strong without enforcement, so anyone who understands the value of this differentiation should want it to be strengthened by enforcement actions.
  2. You think copyleft-for-x is needed for some non-software field (or hear such thoughts expressed; e.g., for seeds or hardware designs, even real property), but the details of how copyleft works are a bit fuzzy. Enforcement by lawsuit is where the rubber meets the road, so you should enjoy the demystification provided by such actions and support them. Also, successful copyleft enforcement will stoke more people to have desires for copyleft-for-x, thus increasing your community of people intent on figuring out the “for-x” part.
  3. You think copyleft is most usefully considered as a prototype for and test of rules that ought be enforced by more effective regulatory mechanisms. Whether you think software provided without source and permissions should be totally banned, not regulated at all, or only regulated for particular uses or in particular fields (e.g., products and services already subject to other safety, disclosure, and pro-competition or consumer protection requirements), it is absurd to think that developer whim and resources in applying and enforcing the GPL regulates and regulates effectively an optimal set of software. It is time to move beyond debate of a hack of state-deputized private censorship as central to software freedom politics and policy, and on to debating directly state vs. market regulation of software (with all the usual arguments about (in)adequacy of market provision and harm/help of state intervention) as in any field of importance, preferably with very strong commons-favoring bias from both sides (e.g., software freedom market-skeptics and state-skeptics ought agree that regulation by private censorship, which serves proprietary interests almost exclusively, be wound down, and that state entities self-regulate by mandating software freedom for everything they acquire and fund). Unenforced copyleft means the rules prototyped are untested, reducing salience of the prototype, so you also should enjoy GPL enforcement actions.

I enjoy these latter 3 reasons especially, perhaps especially because few other people seem to (I’m eager to be or become wrong about this).

Go help Software Freedom Conservancy support Hellwig’s enforcement against VMware, or tell me why I’m wrong. Note I’m on Software Freedom Conservancy’s board and endorse all of their work, but as usual, this blog post represents only my opinion. Of the reasons to support enforcement above, they’d agree with 1; probably find 2 and 3 and maybe 4 objectionable; 5 and 6 perhaps curious but distant from work in today’s trenches. Again, my point is that many more people than those who agree with 1 (copyleft for good), even those who totally disagree with 1, should enjoy and support GPL enforcement.

The lawsuit will probably be heavily covered in the technology press, but you can read some early discussions now at LWN.net, Hacker News, and reddit. You can also read about copyleft in general at copyleft.org (another Software Freedom Conservancy project; my take).