19 September 2014

Black Hole of US Regime "Justice" System

. @dsdamato. #policestate. #slavery. #prison. #anarchism.

The Black Hole of the American Injustice System

Though many Americans know that prisoners often work while behind bars, the conditions under which they toil may be less than clear. Fortune magazine made waves this summer when it reported that “[p]rison labor has gone artisanal,” revealing a multimillion dollar business that puts convicts to work making everything from specialty motorcycles to goat cheese sold at Whole Foods.

And while consumers pay top dollar for the prisoners’ expensive wares – and companies like Colorado Corrections Industries rake in millions – the prisoners themselves often make as little as 60 cents per day. David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, says that prison labor operates in a “legal black hole” where basic legal protections such as minimum wage are conspicuously unavailable.

That hopeless black hole has swallowed nearly 2.5 million individual Americans, destroying lives and dreams, tearing families asunder and leaving them in financial ruin. As is now a well-known and shameful fact, the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its populace than any other government on earth. No country sanctioning such a practice can maintain that it is “free” in any but the most ironic, mocking sense.

Such statistical data confirm the United States’ brutal and unjustifiable over-criminalization, the tendency toward outlawing acts that a free society would treat as permissible. Today, a huge percentage of American prisoners at both the state and federal levels are nonviolent offenders, their crimes usually involving the possession of illegal drugs. Most of these captives are black or Hispanic Americans – even though these groups are no more likely to possess “contraband” than white Americans. Subjected to militarized police forces that treat their neighborhoods as occupied war zones, members of these vulnerable groups are routinely harassed, stopped and frisked, watched and arrested without cause. They are made criminals, sent to prison to languish or perform slave labor.

Yet even if we grant, for the sake of argument, the preposterous premise that almost everyone in prison has committed some actual crime, we are nonetheless left with the question of how a free society ought to deal with those who violate the rights of others. The notion that wrongdoers must be punished is the great unexamined assumption. It is not at all clear that justice is served by punishment – much less that justice requires punishment.

In Resist Not Evil, distinguished attorney Clarence Darrow argued that punishment itself represents a great injustice, his great legal mind condemning “the evil and unsatisfactory results of punishment.” Darrow believed the criminal justice system should strive to make a victim whole and to reform the lawbreaker, not to subject the criminal to savagery and vengeance, the barbaric holdovers of less enlightened ages. Darrow went so far as to contend that the state’s simple and mindless revenge, “without any thought of good to follow,” is indeed worse “than any casual isolated crime.” Considering the practice of punishment from all angles, addressing all ostensible rationales, Darrow revealed it as wrong, ineffectual, inhuman.

Market anarchists believe that only acts which violate the equal rights of others ought to be regarded as crimes. Every individual thus has the sovereign right to live her life in whatever way she chooses, as long as she allows everyone else the same right. Under these simple standards, the prison system is an abominable example of injustice and aggression.

“The time will come,” Darrow wrote, “when the public prosecutor and the judge who sentences his brother to death or imprisonment will be classed with the other officers who lay violent and cruel hands upon their fellows.” With American prisons bursting at the seams and giant corporations exploiting the slave labor pool they create, one hopes that the day Darrow wrote of is coming sooner rather than later.

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17 September 2014

NOt an Option - Final Reasons to Vote YES

. @YesScotland. #IndyRef. #18September. #ScotlandDecides. #VoteYes. #Tomorrow.

For Scots: Some key reasons to vote YES in the Scottish Independence referendum taking place tomorrow, on 18 September:
  • Scotland should control its own destiny
  • Escape further decades of bad governance by London
  • Scotland should be able to base its policies on its own interests, not London's interests
  • Remove the specter of dwindling and southward-shifting industry that has plagued both Scotland and Northern England
  • Independence will remove the regime completely, implementing a more significant change than any general election. UK general elections are obsolete for Scotland and never produce what the Scottish people want, due to Scotland's small population
  • The main Westminster parties openly acknowledge that they are all of the same view on Scottish independence, as they are on all issues, and therefore all are inept choices for real change. Independence allows for actual change, not fake change
  • London is highly likely to implement further economic hardship on Scotland in the event of a NO vote, as punishment for the referendum being held at all and a deterrent to future referendums
  • London will not give more powers to Scotland after a NO vote as they will have no incentive to do so and more incentives to do the above
  • That the referendum is being held at all contravenes the Tory government's interests and priorities so decisively that Scotland cannot expect to be rewarded for holding it, if a NO vote occurs
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16 September 2014

Help Crowdfund ClubOfINFO Circulation

. @Indiegogo. @Openlrning. #democracyforall. #ecourse. #openeverything.

ClubOfINFO is reaching out to potential donors to keep the site online and maintain our packages that offer a voice to the voiceless. We have 55 days left to make this happen, so check out our efforts and see what you can do to assist.

Please review our new crowdfunding campaign at the popular platform, Indiegogo. See the perks you can unlock by contributing, and consider putting a small sum forward. We could at least do with the minimum $25 renew control of our own domain name, and we have no-one to call on but the crowd to achieve it.

We have created a new page at ClubOfINFO explaining how we directly assist people searching for the right outlet to express their views and develop as a successful online author. In addition, we have introduced a free ecourse teaching our special zero-budget personal publishing tactics at Openlearning, and at least three students have already enrolled to discover our secrets. Consider joining them, and get the same material that had previously only been available in the book, Make Your Own Headlines.

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Cypherpunks (2012) – Book Review

. @WikiLeaks. @ORBooks. #Transparency. #Privacy. #Anonymous. #WikiLeaks.

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet is a fascinating series of conversations between Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann. While illuminating the political dangers of state “total surveillance” of the uploaded lives of the population of the entire industrialized world, the more positive case on the internet at the end of the book draws attention to the unprecedented level of popular influence and freedom it can still represent. For those who only go with a highly optimistic view of technology, Cypherpunks may cause disillusionment, but it also offers hope and a brilliant direction for incumbent technological change to be channeled. At the very least, this book enables those of you who consider yourselves to be “hackers” or to be striving for positive technological change in society to quickly know thine enemy. The book captures how hacking is the popular conquest of technology, while “centralization of technique” is the state conquest of technology for sustaining the power of a privileged few.

In stores prior to the disclosures of Edward Snowden in May 2013, the book nevertheless captures the awareness of the extensive nature of the surveillance yet unrevealed by Snowden at the time. The book’s concern seems to be that state political and economic abuses, particularly repression, unequal exchange and insider trading, will become rampant if government officials exploit their present information privilege (p. 4). While currently governments enjoy high privacy and citizens are made transparent by surveillance, instead the opposite ought to be enforced (p. 141-147). Going beyond the normal political spectrum, the book posits that both the state and powerful firms are enemies of our newfound technological liberation (p. 53-54).

The book considers how governments believe secrecy is needed for the sake of “slowing down processes to better control them” (p. 22). This kind of state thinking is an admission that states currently consider themselves too sluggish to keep up with popular technology and the popular wills expressed through it. Knowledge can be interpreted as the power to understand and effect change (p. 23).  States, which depend on borders, regard the internet as a horrible wound, and their vicious reactions to leakers resemble the throes of a fatally wounded beast. They are afraid of the popular “ability to affect government affairs by travelling to other countries, speaking to people, and spreading ideas.” The “most dangerous” thing that state authorities believe they are facing is that they can be popularly rejected and contradicted because of the information explosion (p. 113). However, the internet in politics can be seen as a double-edged sword for both sides, as it can be used to track down dissidents as well as criticize governments. One decisive point that deserves particular attention at our juncture in history is the simple observation of how, rather than it remaining the case that state technological advantages and monopolies are accepted as practical necessities by the public, those state advantages are increasingly only ever justified through a variety of paranoid and autocratic security narratives (p. 72).

In their horror at the newfound popular power of the internet, states want to bypass the war of information and seek the last-ditch defense of hardware dominance (p. 3). Perhaps they feel the urgency to control the ground upon which data centers rest. Yet, in spite of all their efforts, high “centralization of technique” is historically succeeded by “democratization of technique,” as more people are empowered by the historical flow of technology (p. 26-27). Everything rests on the way in which the technology exists and can be used, and inherent democratic properties and potentials in the technology itself can indicate inevitable democratization of the technique of using the technology.

The state retains control of many hackers by teaching a “cog in the machine” mentality (p. 36) to them. This goes against the current historical trend of the crisis of state social cohesion. Hackers, among tomorrow’s educated youth, reject the “nation”. The true trend is that the youth are becoming increasingly difficult to use as nationalistic automatons, and must directly be affected morally in order to compel them to do anything. They are more morally affected by their peers, who reject state authority, than they are by the state. This trend ought to be encouraged if technology is to move in the direction favorable to freedom.

Part of the war of position of the hackers is their encouragement of legislation to counter surveillance, as explained (p. 41-49). However, this is not possible unless in a small country where rulers can more easily be known to be violating their mandate and easily held accountable. In a larger country, it is far harder to know when legislation and treaties are violated by the government itself. Hacker culture is also part of the war of position, as transnational civil society has proven overwhelmingly sympathetic to the hacker activist element (p. 68). Cryptographic tools are the key option in the maneuver warfare of hackers to circumvent the prying eyes of states, because they subvert the ability of governments to threaten violence to stop information (p. 59-65). Violence cannot be used when the source of the information is unknown.

A fascinating observation shared by Assange is the fact that there seems to be only two kinds of escape from the “totalitarian surveillance society”. One is the path of the hackers (people who are trained and willing to take apart and understand systems to conquer them) and the other is the path of the neo-luddites (people who simply avoid communication technology to escape surveillance, but become politically irrelevant as a result) (p. 62-63). With the larger public, there could arise the problem of self-censorship, in which true political grievances go unexpressed because all people know they are being listened to and don’t want to be investigated or harassed (p. 65).
The end of the book looks beyond the apparent dystopia forming around us, to imagine a better world through free technology and information (p. 149-161). Most importantly, technology has a life of its own and can run free from the hands of the powerful and even its own creators:
“Technology and science is not neutral. There are particular forms of technology that can give us these fundamental rights and freedoms that many people have aspired to for long” (p. 151)
 Compare this with the fact that the political vision of the modern world has really always been in favor of liberty and equality. Nothing could be more foolish than to throw away an opportunity to impose those revolutionary images in the architecture of our world with technology. A free world requires free software and free access to technology (p. 152-153). We must make the world hacker-friendly, and the key to this is to win the war of opinion and education to create individuals who are both skilled and free thinkers with a strong ability to chastise the powers that be when they are behaving in an undemocratic way.  Making the world hacker-friendly could go beyond mere internet freedom to the real world, with 3D printing and other technologies to allow people to “build their own three-dimensional objects” (p. 153). This DIY technological world threatens to debase states and monopolistic firms in the world, which is why it is so necessary to win the popular battle of encouraging a decentralized culture which maximally values freedom.

Only a small amount of the book’s attention is paid to the human element in the fight for freer information and technology. However, hackers are characterized as being “away from our national identity” (p. 156) and have their own “common consciousness”. Transnational in nature, the democratic conquest of technology is necessarily something that must leave the current kind of state behind in the pages of history. More hopeful is the prospect that a generation of new political minds will arise who understand the internet and the democratization of technology, and know it is unstoppable and necessary (p. 157). In this sense, the web freedom controversy can be seen as a conflict between the global youth and the current old geopolitical states system. Perhaps those of us who wish to understand the future should regard the controversy in a non-emotional way as a necessary part of a historical social transition.

However, Assange considers the pessimistic scenario to be a far more likely outcome, and is more committed to cautioning people on the emerging technological dystopia than positing a utopia (p. 159). If the dystopia is certain, the only way to oppose it is through a “high-tech rebel elite” (p. 161) because only the hackers hold the key to lifting technologically-imposed injustice. Highlighting the most positive trend that could be taken by accelerating technological progress is the observation that global problems simply necessitate the global freedom of information enabled by the internet (p. 131). Thwarting this freedom could seriously hamper the ability of humanity to articulate and address their primary concerns or avert catastrophes of civilization. There must be a “self-knowing of human civilization” (p. 158), meaning that the world of the future must be a hacker’s world, occupied and led by those individuals who play with technology and, driven by their curiosity, truly conquer the machines our new world has been suspended upon. 

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published at h+ Magazine on 23 August 2013

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