Posts Tagged ‘ corruption

Can you trust your own government?

So I’m sure you have all heard of PRISM, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Lavabit. I’m also sure you have heard of Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange. You might have heard of Aaron Schwartz. You’ve definitely heard of PIPA and SOPA. And you know what, this list is endlessly long. But there are two pieces of recent news that I’d like to talk about.

First is the David Miranda incident and it’s aftermath. Ever since the internet exploded, we have slowly but surely outgrown the government’s control of mass media. Propaganda is harder to spread since there are many on the internet willing to take time and debunk lies and myths that the government attempts to spread. Unlike printed media, you cannot control all of the voices in the blogosphere. Everyone can create their own soap box to stand on and speak. Because of this trend, the government has to resort to greater intimidation tactics to try and influence those who are speaking out. These tactics are both highly unethical and borderline illegal. Laws are twisted and sometimes flat out ignored by the government. And you know what? This is the future. This is where we are all headed. A world where a Chinese police state is the norm except the public has no idea that it’s happening.

Do you think your government is different? That your politicians aren’t corrupt? Let me tell you this, America isn’t the only bad apple in the basket. Every government is capable of violating your privacy because, as all technologists have known for a long time, not all protocols are perfectly secure. And even if they were, all it takes is the government exerting secretive powers to strong arm companies and individuals into doing their bidding. And when they choose to protect their users instead of betraying them? Their companies and lives are destroyed ala Lavabit. We live in a world where hard working, honest people can be threatened by governments at will without repercussions. A world where people like David Miranda can be detained for bogus reasons just to intimidate them into being quiet. A world where being the Bolivian president doesn’t mean jack shit.

And you know what, good people will continue to fight the good fight. But how long can that keep continuing? Especially when personal possession can be confiscated and destroyed without compensation. Without reason. Without and legal standing. All all without any recourse from the individual. Or when technology can be compromised or simply forced to shut down ala Lavabit or Silent Circle. Apparently not long as this bring me to the second bit of news I want to highlight. Groklaw is shutting down.

Email is a vital part of communication in the modern world as are SMS (texting), VoIP, XMPP, and various other protocols. But just like phonecalls and mail before them, all governments are capable of intercepting these messages. We never had privacy which is why anonymous sources and secretive meetings were some of the few ways confidential information was passed along. But in our technological age, where confidential information can come from all over the world, we are reaching the point where nothing may be confidential anymore. If the government has years of history on every as well as access to all of their private, personal data, then we are at a dead end. Encryption? That won’t last. Secure channels? Doesn’t exist when the companies running the hubs have been compromised. The only option is to risk your sources and fight or shutdown in the biggest way possible so as to make a splash that will hopefully ripple into a wave of political activists.

Groklaw is taking the second route. For that I am thankful but at the same time, I mourn the loss of perhaps the greatest objective news source in the intellectual property fight. Without them, it is not a stretch to say that Android would not exist. That the current state of the internet would not be possible. Or that we would have a choice for computing software/hardware outside of Microsoft and perhaps even Apple. I sincerely hope their death will not be in vain.

So I guess it’s time to ask, can you trust your government? I don’t for the obvious reason that I live in America and we have had the blessing of the PRISM leaks. Snowden gave us a fighting chance to force the government to reveal all of its corruption. Everyone else? History and recent evidence says no. So how about we all come together and think of a way to take back control of our lives and our governments?

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Innovators – A Dying Breed in the US (more like being killed off)

And bam! Like I said, China and India will be two of the emerging world powers when it comes to technological innovation. I had read an earlier article many moons ago that discussed Professor Vivek Wadwha’s findings with regards to his students’ desires to return to their homelands. At the time, the push against illegal immigrants were already under way and, as mentioned, many companies found this appalling. It wasn’t too hard to connect the dots and realize that we would be massively screwing ourselves in the global market. Sadly, there isn’t much one (or a few) people can do to get Senators to care about the well being of the US over their desire to get votes for reelection. Now we see the affects of our Government’s shortsightedness – China and India are indeed two of the fastest growing markets for tech and with a greater influx of bright minds from US universities, it won’t be much longer before we see their reliance on US “innovation” fade away. Perhaps that will be the wakeup call that slaps some sense into US Government and gets them to listen to engineers instead of self-serving lobbyists.

Then there is the epic student debt problem that haunts our youth. So not only are we driving away the best and brightest foreigners, but we are also fucking over our own best and brightest newcomers. Good job America! President Obama is trying to find a way to alleviate the pains of the recession on new grads by pushing for a bill to help with student loan debt. Now the big question is: will this be enough to push new grads into starting their own businesses? I personally believe that this is too little, too late and, combined with the influence huge corporations have over the government, will be one of the contributing reasons we will lose our dominance as technological innovators. And do the numbers back me up?

Just looking at past census data (2008), we know that a gigantic chunk of employment is by small businesses. Using even 500 employees as a cutoff instead of actual dominance and ignoring the fact that huge companies tend to have a higher percentage of non-US based workers, we still end up with about 40% of the population being employed by small businesses. That is a shitfuckton of people and doesn’t even account for unregistered entrepreneurs (i.e., the new grads coming out of college). Oh, and then there are the freelancers too. Can’t forget them. Using this as our basis for small business importance, it becomes strikingly clear that pushing for small businesses and fostering startup growth is crucial to keeping our economy alive. Entrepreneurs, in particular, are some of our best innovators and provide quite the buffer setting us apart from other countries. As our buffer slowly dies, it becomes much easier for large companies in other countries to compete with the US as those companies will have the resources to match our own local R&D departments (i.e., they are on even grounds for hiring the best US workers for R&D and have the additional benefit of being much more attractive to the best and brightest foreigners – those that got educated in the US and left to go home). Once this happens, the US is going to be in deep economic shit.

So what can we do about this? For one, getting the government to realize that idiotic laws like E-PARASITE (formerly known as PROTECT IP) and the ridiculous software patent laws will only serve to hasten our decline. Perhaps getting the government to follow through on some of the We The People is a non-superfluous way would be a good start. For example, this is the response from the many marijuana petitions. The arguments and justifications put forth are idiotic (and rather than usurp my own post, I will refrain from going through them in detail) and just out of morbid curiosity (cause I don’t even agree with the petition), I’ve signed this petition just to see what inane response they send out that won’t contradict what they just wrote (or I can just sign this one). Remember Us Government, when you try and use illogical arguments against the entire US populous, you will get some sarcastic assholes who will tear your argument apart with a counterexample. Or perhaps the government can listen to the 99% and stop shacking up and fucking with corporations (Occupy Wall Street anyone?). There is a lot wrong with our government and the combination of media explosion (YouTube, Twitter, etc.) and the recession has made it much more transparent that we are declining as a nation of innovators.

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