This passage from the interview of Julian Assange by Google CEO Eric Schmidt exemplifies the kind of radicalism I most admire. Notice the lack of a clean, rationalist philosophy or any sanctimonious univeralist moral bravado.
I looked at something that I had seen going on with the world. Which is that I thought there were too many unjust acts... And I wanted there to be more just acts, and fewer unjust acts. And one can sort of say, well what are your philosophical axioms for this? And I say I do not need to consider them. This is simply my temperament. And it is an axiom because it is that way. And so that avoids, then, getting into further unhelpful discussions about why you want to do something. It is enough that I do.
The rest of the interview has some fascinating insights, anecdotes, and theory on networks, social movements, politics and conspiracies, technology, and even ontology (never knew URLs were so deep). Highly, highly recommended!
I have wanted to write about the issue of "women in tech" for a long time, and now donglegate has elevated the matter to a level I can no longer ignore. It's like a train wreck from which you can't look away, but the underlying tension speaks to a broader conflict in the tech community. While I find Amanda Blum's excellent post on the matter pretty authoritative, I don't want to focus on Adria Richards' behavior, but instead talk about the background issue of sexism and gender parity in the technology community that informed her behavior.
So, first off: are women and minorities underprivileged in the technology sector? Of course; they are underprivileged in almost every sector of society. Biases, hostile environments, outdated socially constructed roles, bigotry and outright discrimination are pervasive in our community, as they are in most communities. And it doesn't just suck for our community because it's manifestly unjust, but also because it hurts us and our work.
We technologists can write all the code, build all the gadgets, run all the software we want--but if people can't use it, if it doesn't actually solve their problems, if it doesn't speak to their diverse experiences, then it's useless. As women become an ever larger user base, we require their perspective as first-class citizens in the creation of software, hardware, and other high tech products that have become so important. We need to listen to them, sure, but they should also be part of our community as creators themselves, possessing the same skills and ability to pursue their vision in concert with, or independent of, male technologists.
This article by Bruce Levine argues that many if not most diagnoses of depression, ADHD, ODD, etc. are actually the psychopathologization of anti-authoritarians. This excerpt really rings true to me:
Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.
It's scary to think that some of our best and brightest are probably being medicated into mediocrity, but I posted the above excerpt for all my friends who wrestle with these issues. Kissing the boots of some jackass has always felt like a small death to me, but I've had the support from family to deal with it in a healthy manner. My mom always told me that getting through the public school system was a game I had to play, since she knew I found it intolerable and incredibly dumb.
I thought this up on the car ride to Asheville, when I was trying to keep myself awake.
And I'm cowed to be an American
Where the drones are watching me
And I won't forget the men who died
In that no-knock raid last week
And I'll gladly lay down on the ground
With my arms behind my back
'Cause there ain't no doubt that I'm under arrest
God help the USA
This gist referred to by the Devise wiki is no longer accurate as far as I can tell. So I wanted to share my approach for how to use devise in a situation where user documents are embedded in account documents, especially in the scenario where your account has a subdomain assigned to it.
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is make sure you always have access to the current account as keyed by the subdomain. This means a before filter on any controller that runs under the subdomain that loads in your account. The idea is that once you load the account, you never have to pull it from the database again:
class AccountSubdomainController < ApplicationController
@account ||= params[:current_account] ||= get_account_by_subdomain
params[:user][:current_account] = @account if params[:user]
Account.where(:subdomain => request.subdomain.downcase).first
If you're not using an account-specific subdomain, just modify this to pull out the account from the URL or something.
I often hear defenders of "Right to Work" (RTW) laws say that unions are collusive and extortive in a way that is simply unfair to employers. Neither workers nor management should be forced to negotiate through unions, and RTW laws simply level the playing field by ensuring that employees can always negotiate directly with management. The point of labor unions, to the mind of RTW supporters, is to exploit the Wagner Act that forces all parties to negotiate in good faith, and to thereby move wages and benefits up in a way a free market in labor would never allow. The aforementioned article on RTW even compares unions with Mafia protection rackets in this regard.
To describe this line of reasoning as selective would be a gross understatement. After all, let's assume that labor unions are as evil as the RTW lobby says they are. Even granting that for the sake of argument, labor is not the only interest engaging in collective bargaining. What about the individuals involved in the employing corporation? Aren't these businesses effectively "capital unions" exploiting incorporation laws to achieve a better bargaining position relative to labor? Isn't the reason why investors pool their resources and form businesses to get better deals in the market through economies of scale? Isn't that why they try to get investors rather than simply borrowing all the money for their start-up costs--to spread the risk and the reward?
So unions of labor are only one side of this story; to emphasize collusion on the workers' side is to leave another form of collusion totally unaddressed. Corporations are capital unions, organizations whose members work together to negotiate wages and benefits (and other costs, of course) downwards to get the best return for themselves. Why is one form of collusion wrong and the other not?
A few minutes ago Tasha and I said our tearful goodbyes to our friend and companion for the last twelve years, our beagle Tela. Tela wasn't just a wonderful, cheerful, cuddly dog whom we doted on; her life intersected with our relationship so completely that it is difficult to picture us without her. We always told her that we were a couple, but that she made us a family.
Tela came into our lives because I needed a present for Tasha when she graduated from college. She was actually promised to Tasha before she was even born, and ended up being born on Tasha's graduation day. Tasha would be going back home to start building her pottery business, and I still had another year or so of school. So my mom got me in touch with a breeder in my hometown, and they arranged for us to come visit the litter once it arrived.
these cells of the inner self
are worse than the deepest stone dungeon
and as long as they are locked
all your revolution remains
only a prison mutiny
to be put down
by corrupted fellow prisoners
The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, by Peter Weiss, Athenium. 1965
I'm a big fan of Glenn Greenwald; just about every position he takes is anti-authoritarian, liberal in the best sense, and based on rule of law (which, in this age, is as close to fairness as one can expect). However, he wrote an article on the Chick-fil-a controversy that bugs me. On the narrow question of whether governments should be able to punish corporations for political advocacy, I agree with him that such punishment is unconstitutional. I take issue with his reasoning, though.
Greenwald invites us to consider a series of bills that enlist government in punishing corporations for views they express, money they donate to causes, etc. Some examples:
- Congress enacts a law that states: No business incorporated in America, whether for-profit or non-profit, shall be permitted to donate any of its money to groups espousing liberal ideas. Any business found to be in violation of this prohibition shall be guilty of a Class A felony. Corporate donations to groups espousing conservative causes shall still be permissible and legal.
- A city enacts an ordinance that states: Any business found to have donated money to any group that advocates same-sex marriage or abortion rights (including Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood) shall be barred from doing business within the city limits. Businesses shall still be permitted to donate money to groups which advocate against same-sex marriage or against abortion rights.
I agree with him that the above laws are unconstitutional. Government is prohibited from discriminating or giving unequal protection to the free speech rights of corporations as currently settled law stands (that was indeed one of the caveats he made). Indeed, Greenwald took pains to point out that even in the Citizens United case, not one Supreme Court justice questioned the legitimacy of corporate personhood at all (I addressed Greenwald's commentary on this matter in more detail here). I also agree with him that The Nation's Lee Fang takes an unprincipled, politically expedient position against corporate personhood -- one cannot confine one's critiques of the doctrine to only those cases where it acts against one's sense of justice. Nobody wants to be allied with a hack like Fang less than I.
So we're deep in summer here in Richmond, and things are as busy as ever. My consulting business is going well, and I'm about to start work on a few cool projects while continuing work on past ones. Tasha's business is also taking off, and so we are partners in stress -- for once! I'm even considering advertising for an intern as Tasha did, since it would not only be a chance to get some help but to give a computer science student the kind of real-world, practical tools for building a consultancy that I never got.
Last week, Tasha and I saw Wilco in Charlottesville and that was great. Having been a fan of jam bands for so long, I'm used to artists taking big risks on stage and it either paying off wonderfully or crashing. To see such accomplished musicians deliver stunning performances so consistently impresses me -- and the songs are pretty much top notch. After that we went to Baltimore for Artscape, where Tasha sold pottery while I got drunk and walked around the exhibits with our Baltimore friends. It was a fun weekend but not so relaxing.
As far as writing, I have a new piece over at C4SS on my experience with the anarchist pedigree of Occupy Richmond. I'll be expanding on this in a future post. I also am working on my "freedom of religion / defense of the pre-rational" argument. I also just wrote an attack on a developer encroaching on our neighborhood. It's pretty sick how rich developers can subvert city regulations at will, yet I have to go through an ordeal just to put up a picket fence.
Well, that's about all I can think of. Stay tuned for more hopefully -- I'm really trying to post more often!
I've been doing a lot of work on the blog infrastructure lately, including augmenting the tag system and updating my links page. Most of my blogroll and links from the old Wordpress site got lost, so I'm trying to put together something that represents all my interests and the blogs and sites I read and support. I rediscovered lawofone.info which is an awesome web application my friend Tobey Wheelock put together to make the Law of One material indexable, searchable, and categorized. He's also used it to compile his work on relistening to the original sessions and he's picking up some interesting corrections to the original text. It's really cool to see the material go from one guarded by a few people to a crowd-sourced collaborative rediscovery of the source.
Anyway, Tobey also has a page of interesting quotes and I found one of my favorites. One of the things that really appeals to me about this way of looking at the human condition is that it reconciles waking life with a greater reality in a way that doesn't require you to really believe in any concrete metaphysics or afterlife or anything fancy. The focus is not on heaven or hell but on making the best use of the tool of human incarnation. Getting new agey people to appreciate their mundane human experience -- not in contradiction to but as itself the spiritual teleology they seek -- prioritizes self-knowledge over system- or doctrine-knowledge. Spirituality should be something you engage in to satisfy your own needs, not to conform to a system that will fill in the blanks for you.
So why is our human condition the way it is, if we are all genuinely one? Why do we have these short lives trapped in finite bodies with limited senses if we are, indeed, infinite in reality? Because there is a utility in our ignorance, something we can learn in this constrained experience that we can't learn in any other way:
So the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is constitutional, according to the Supreme Court. Does it actually conform to the United States Constitution? And does that question actually matter to anarchists? I'd argue "no" on the first question, but I think the latter is a more important question if we are to be effective in building institutions and relationships that serve our interests and crowd out the state's monopoly on legitimacy.
As anarchists, we find ourselves in an environment run by statists who attempt to get away with all manner of illegitimate actions and policies. For us, those acts and policies are not illegitimate because they are inconsistent with the state's own internal rules. We believe there are no rules that can justify the state or its coercive actions.
However, the statists who claim to rule us are in thrall to the myth of the constitution's legitimating power. Of course they get away with a lot that any plain reading of that document prohibits. This is the origin of "loose construction" in the first place: if they could just ignore the constitution to get what they want, they wouldn't bother framing their acts in any construction of the constitution at all. Clearly, the constitution doesn't matter to them in the way it's supposed to, but it does play some sort of role in the state's performative exercise of authority and power.
I have a large Rails 3 project with lots of reusable code in modules. Tests for these modules are placed in
test/lib to isolate them from database-heavy model tests. In order to run these tests automatically along with my unit, functional, and integration tests, I implemented the solution described here some time ago. However, at some point over the last year, either Rake or Rails or both broke this (I'm leaning towards Rails, since the new tasks in the Railties gem look much more complex, with special subtasks derived from the
Rake::TestTask class). I've been looking for a new approach, and today I got fed up and started fixing it myself.
As a longtime libertarian and an avowed egalitarian socialist, I've struggled with the concept of "political correctness" for as long as I've had a political awareness. I went through a neoliberal democrat phase in the 90's where what many denounced as PC simply looked like good manners to me. Don't get me wrong; some of it was just that: the attempts of well-meaning people to navigate a culture permeated with deep-seated privilege and oppressive features. And yet, just as much polite talk is not exceedingly honest, I always had a nagging suspicion that politically correct habits were something more than mere social graces.
So this essay has been a long time coming for me, as I try to figure out where I fit in on the Left. My heart is in the struggle for an egalitarian, enlightened, peaceful world. But I don't consider leftism a religion, and the impulse of many to treat it as such -- to codify and regulate the behavior of people according to its tenets -- too often looks like a movement going through the motions instead of genuinely challenging the human condition. Indeed, my argument is that political correctness, far from being an expression of genuine compassion and anti-bigotry, has transformed into a cosmetic substitute for authentic radicalism legitimating authority and privilege while hampering our efforts to change our condition. The goal of this essay is to start a conversation within the Left about our means, not our ends.
Over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Dr. Matt Zwolinski has a video defending sweatshops. I suppose if this were just another libertarian site, it might not concern me. After all, he's hardly the first libertarian to associate our philosophy with defenses of exploitation.
What gets me is that the site is called "Bleeding Heart Libertarians". Ostensibly, the goal of the blog is to defend libertarianism as a compassionate philosophy. It adds insult to injury for libertarians to make the same tired arguments not only in a flashy new medium but also on a site intended to represent a compassionate, concerned variety of the philosophy whose label we both employ.
It's not that his arguments are wrong per se. Yes, sweatshop jobs are the best of a crappy set of options for far too many people in the third world. Yes, shutting down those sweatshops without doing anything else would not improve anybody's situation. And yes, I can't contest the point that people should do things to help their situation, even if they don't remedy it completely.