Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kitty Hundal: The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance #NSA #StopSpying

Kitty Hundal: The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance #N...: Dear Kitty, Big news. Today, the Internet is uniting to fight back against mass surveillance.  The political landscape has shift...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why Do I Support #OpIsrael?

Why do I support OpIsrael?

Essentially my position on the Middle East is that I don’t support either side and consider both sides leadership terrorist.

Note that I’m not saying that all Israelis are terrorist anymore than I am saying that all Palestinians are terrorists.

Both sides are led by terrorists and therefore both sides engage in activities than can be defined as terrorist activities and often do so on a large scale.

Hamas can equivocate all they want but there is no doubt that they haven’t changed their position that all Israelis should be driven into the sea. And they and other Islamist religious extremist groups don’t hide the fact that they are willing to use any means necessary to make this happen. The suicide bombings are despicable terrorist acts and violate any sense of justice and humanity on secular grounds.

This is not a position that I can in good conscience agree with or accept especially on the grounds that they justify it which are religious extremist grounds.

On the other hand, what is being done to the people of Gaza is despicable and violates any sense of justice and humanity on secular grounds as well. There are absolutely no legitimate grounds for it that I can see to abuse the people of Gaza in the way that the Israeli state has been doing.

Anymore than there are legitimate grounds for the activities of the Armed Settlers which are consistently backed by the Israeli state. The Armed Settlers are implementing a religious extremist agenda established by the Kahane Chaiists.

Yes. The same people who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin when he was negotiating a peace with the Palestinians and got in the way of the illegal activity of the Armed Settlers during those negotiations with Arafat. Both were negotiating a peace on secular, political grounds. One which religious beliefs played no part in the negotiations.

That was the one brief period in the history of the Middle East that there was hope for a negotiated peace.

That hope died with Rabin’s assassination and the election of Sharon and later, Netanyahu. The Palestinians reacted to Arafat’s death in the same way by electing Hamas.

The Kahane Chaiists and their supporters like the Armed Settlers and Netanyahu’s family justify their activities on religious and racist grounds in precisely the same way that Hamas does. They want Israel for Jews only and want to create the mythological Israel described in the Bible.

Those are also not positions that any rational secularist atheist like me can in good conscience accept.

So I support the secular issues raised by OpIsrael and am protesting only those issues by supporting OpIsrael.

All the religious extremists who want to use this momentum to further their religious agendas can go fuck themselves.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Religion Has Contributed To The World This Month

Great new YouTube monthly news series by a fellow atheist.

This is a nicely produced monthly news video series which I subscribed to. It briefly summarizes all of the contributions religion has made over the past month (and I use the term contributions loosely ;-D).

I'm sure you'll enjoy and appreciate it as much as I do. It's definitely enlightening and full of interesting bits of information which can be used to give your theist friends a reality check on their beliefs.

I'm always happy to promote new works by atheists, whether they're videos, books, etc. so feel free to send them my way for review and promotion. Occasionally life gets in the way and I'm not able to review and post them but I try to put through as many as possible.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Aaron Swartz

There are some deaths that are just such a tremendous loss to the world that one can't express the impact of that loss. I don't know or care whether Mr. Swartz was an atheist or religious. His public contribution during his short life was impressive, irrespective.

Copied from Facebook, originally posted on the  People Over Politics Page:

Harvard Law's Lawrence Lessig on Death of Aaron Swartz:

"Prosecutor as bully

(Some will say this is not the time. I disagree. This is the time when every mixed emotion needs to find voice.)

Since his arresting the early morning of January 11, 2011 — two years to the day before Aaron Swartz ended his life — I have known more about the events that began this spiral than I have wanted to know. Aaron consulted me as a friend and lawyer that morning. He shared with me what went down and why, and I worked with him to get help. When my obligations to Harvard created a conflict that made it impossible for me to continue as a lawyer, I continued as a friend. Not a good enough friend, no doubt, but nothing was going to draw that friendship into doubt.

The billions of snippets of sadness and bewilderment spinning across the Net confirm who this amazing boy was to all of us. But as I’ve read these aches, there’s one strain I wish we could resist:

Please don’t pathologize this story.

No doubt it is a certain crazy that brings a person as loved as Aaron was loved (and he was surrounded in NY by people who loved him) to do what Aaron did. It angers me that he did what he did. But if we’re going to learn from this, we can’t let slide what brought him here.

First, of course, Aaron brought Aaron here. As I said when I wrote about the case (when obligations required I say something publicly), if what the government alleged was true — and I say “if” because I am not revealing what Aaron said to me then — then what he did was wrong. And if not legally wrong, then at least morally wrong. The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too. But as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine.

But all this shows is that if the government proved its case, some punishment was appropriate. So what was that appropriate punishment? Was Aaron a terrorist? Or a cracker trying to profit from stolen goods? Or was this something completely different?

Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.

Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.

Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

One word, and endless tears."
From Aaron Swartz to the rest of us, his post on Pastebin: http://pastebin.com/cefxMVAy

    "Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.
    There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.
    That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.
    “I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.
    Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.
    Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.
    But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.
    Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.
    There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.
    We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.
    With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?
    Aaron Swartz
    July 2008, Eremo, Italy"

Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz dies at 26

Threat Thoughts

Dandelion Salad

Saturday, November 10, 2012

In Honor Of Our Vets

Atheists In Foxholes (United States)

Atheists in foxholes, some say they are myths,

Creations of the mind who just don't exist.

Yet, they answered the call to defend, with great pride.

With reason their watchword, they bled and they died.

They took Saratoga from the British crown,

Secured America's freedom at the Battle of Yorktown.

From Sumter to Appomattox, fields flowed with their blood.

When the cannons grew silent, the flag proudly stood.

From the Marne to the Argonne, in trenches and tanks,

They defeated the Germans -- the whole world gave thanks.

They were bombed at Pearl Harbor, fought on to Berlin.

Many freethinking women served along with the men.

Still war keeps erupting -- Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

Where is the peace that eludes people so?

It is broken by tyrants who bear crosses and creeds,

That overshadow reason with hate and cruel deeds.

So atheists prevail until your work is complete.

Mothers mourn, children cry, and bigots plan your defeat.

By air, land, and sea, you answer freedom's call.

Without god or faith, you seek liberty for all.