Sunday, 21 June 2015

Anti-intectualism is not only destroying America

Cook Straight News 15 June 2015
A recent post on Psychology Today, highlights that much of America's political and social dysfunction stems from the abandonment of reason. From Jim Inhoffes tossing a snow ball on the floor of the senate to disprove climate change, to Paul Broun's 2012 claim that "Evolution, embryology and the big bang theory are lies straight from the pit of hell designed to make people like me believe we don't need a personal saviour."
We also see it in Australian politics where the environment is something Tony Abbott wipes off his shoes as he steps up to be anointed by Coal baroness Gina Reinhart as reward for gutting environmental science research. He also wiped his ass with injustice to Australian sexual abuse victims by dismantling the commission of inquiry into their claims, perhaps because if Australians bit into the fruit of that tree of knowledge, the Catholic church's PR and business model would implode simultaneously.

This pathology exists here in New Zealand too. On climate our government has a similar attitude to the environment,  courting every drilling company that turns up while often simultaneously feigning ignorance of the scientific consensus on climate change.
Peter Dunne accused cannabis advocates of having a psychotic attachment to their position, While research is limited by funding and prohibitions, what research is available does appear to be showing promising medical benefits. (Cannabidiol Reduces Intestinal Inflammation through the Control of Neuroimmune AxisCannabis Proves Effective In Treating Crohn’s Disease According To New Study) This is at odds with Dunne's assertion "The current law remains in place and I have no intention of changing it,..." Worst still, Amy Adams' assertion that Cannabis is a gateway drug in the same week research is published, the demonstrates that is not. Amy Adams 'shows her ignorance about medical cannabis'

Then there is the woeful performance of Simon Bridges, not only the October 2013 tantrum on Campbell Live, There's also the time he flogged off exploration rights to a national park without even knowing its location. The PM's persistent amnesia, while comical on the surface it hides deeper and worrying problems. His claim that critics of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership don't know what  they are talking about not only echoes the comments of US President Barack Obama's words concerning Elizabeth Warren's critiques, it is also disingenuous. Obfuscating the facts that those who do have full access are corporate lawyers, and cleared advisors who are prohibited under penalty of law from discussing the content of the agreement (not only publicly but with anyone, so they can't get legal advice about what they read) and that what is known comes from leaks to WikiLeaks. Also when they read the TPPA, They are prohibited from taking notes, or using any recording device, being accompanied staffers (this even applies to US senators)

It is thought that the TPPA is so constructed that the public could not accept it, and that is why the content of the deal is to be kept secret for four years after it comes into effect.  The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) which among other things will prevent nationalisation of industry of strategic importance (water, Electricity, Banking), and have adverse effects on Pharmac's role in reducing the cost of public medicines -- will remain under similar secrecy for no less than five years after it comes into effect. Once it is in we're never getting Mighty River Power back. Some US companies have been involved in efforts to privatize water, to some extent they have succeeded, only to suffer a reversal when water price hikes sparked revolt and violence because poor families could not afford to pay or were being charged more for water than the middle class.

Last Monday, a self described "WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant) wrote a letter to the editor of Cook Straight News claiming "The rot set in with Darwin" played hand puppet with that lurid trope which claims "evolution therefore Naziism, so kill evolution before it kills the unicorns and Jebus too." It read like the nonsense which is standard fare in Louisiana where Bobby Jindal has allowed creationism to be taught in schools.. Social Darwinism -- which is only connected thematically to natural selection and the name of the author who postulated the original hypothesis for the diversity of life -- is an idea rejected by those who understand Darwin's framework to a professional level. Fitness for the environment, does not mean the most brauny( ask a dust mite), it does not mean the most warlike, see Bonobo, Weta, It means the ability of a species to replicate over time in concert with the environment with modification that keeps the needs of the species in sync with the availability of environmental resources. Nothing in that requires one group with in a species to subject another group to a pogrom. In fact, the loss of diversity by such pogroms is a loss within the species and in culture.

Darwin himself, would have been disgusted by the behaviour of the Nazis, and sickened that his work was twisted in to their service. Something else the WASP missed, While Nazi era Germany counted about 70% of its population as Catholic and anti-Semitism was official doctrine at the time, Most of the remaining 30% or so were Lutherans, and many of them too enthusiastically supported the regime.  Children of that era are still alive today, those exposed to the indoctrination of the regime while growing in local culture that supported anti-Semitic views remain anti-Semitic to levels not apparent in younger or older generations.

The millenial generation reject the ideas of prejudice, as a response to the establishment's handling of 9/11. So their is hope for positive social change. This generation is also embracing science, So this generation is overcoming the anti-intellectualism, which pathology underlies human difficulties in forthrightly and pragmatically dealing with issues that face us as a society, as people, and as a species.

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Monday, 8 June 2015

Progressive political movements and Tor - Uses, traps and necessity.

I have recently seen the BBC's Dark Web a documentary that details the development and use of the Tor encrypted virtual private network. Where privacy is needed, especially in communication with vulnerable people who are subject to persecution by government's this system represents a valuable tool and a life line to external support. Vulnerable people can refer to persecuted ethnic, and political groups, but also to whistle-blowers. The Tor network has been invaluable in exposing the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs(including “collateral murder”), as well as chapters of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement under negotiation.

What use is Tor to a progressive political movement outside of the above uses, and what if any are the risks?

Certainly, participating individuals could speak freely, openly, even crassly or with dark sarcastic humour, without fear of their words being taken out of context as was done in the “fit up” better known as Operation 8.
A risk is that such measures to preserve privacy rival the extent to which establishment reactionary institutions, fascists, and corporations protect their secrets from the public. With the example of the TPPA, being one where if the public knew what was in it, few of the participating governments would find supporting it politically tenable. A legitimate question would be, in the case of a progressive political movement in regard to the use of a tool like Tor, what is being hidden – from the public, or from the prying eyes of the political establishment or law enforcement? While it is unlikely and unforeseeable that anything of legitimate concern to the establishment or law agencies would be transmitted, the question could be pushed by external interests to harm public perception
That use of this technology for a movement's general, policy, strategic and tactical communications would look peculiar to the public, and segments of the media could and likely would play up the paranoia concerning the purpose for which this technology is being employed. In regard to these communications, it seems to me the risks offer greater political costs than the privacy gains.
Typically, the executive membership often lack the technical skill to deal with the management of encryption keys. Just as losing your car keys can ruin your day, failure to correctly deal with encryption keys can leave people completely locked out. However, this problem can be reduced through training, but it can not be eliminated from a large organisation.
The difficulties of managing encryption keys, will lead to frustration among users, and there will be a natural inclination to use other communication channels which may or may not be protected.
The public to which progressive movement are trying to attract are often wary of secrecy, it bothers them, because they have seen a history of secrecy used against the interests of ordinary people like themselves.


While a communication technology may be for all intents and purposes, completely secure, people are not, Security experts and hackers, have been known to successfully break into systems by communication with authorised users, and administrators in order to gain credentials and access to secure systems.

In conclusion

This technology should be used sparingly, for what is known as back channel communication with vulnerable individuals and groups. To reduce political backlash, it may be wise to state up front that this is the purpose of this technology, to get ahead of fear-mongering that may have more media leverage if use of the technology was revealed accidentally or by hostile-investigation.
Public support for a progressive political movement, I believe, would be very likely harmed by loss of trust, if secure technology is used for work traditionally done in the open as the public that support progressive ideas, largely see openness as an important, even a core, value.
In short, use sparingly, and be clear about it.
This poorly form and inadequately expressed opinion is based on by experience as a software developer and information technology professional which does not include an in-depth understand of the Tor platform software. I welcome the advice an opinions of those who are more familiar with the technology.