"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Free Speech, Terrible Ideas, and The Internet

The other weekend I wrote about the Trump Phenomena, and its connection to social media supplanting traditional media gatekeepers. An old colleague of mine shared it into his network on Facebook, breaking my filter bubble, and resulting in a spirited response from a Trump supporter, which was awesome:

[Outlandish Josh's] devotion to the First Amendment is really ankle deep. He likes free speech as long as the speaker agrees. Everything else, he's ok with suppressing...

What it comes down to is, "We can't rely on the establishment to silence people who don't agree with us anymore, so we'll just have to do it ourselves."

One of the things I appreciate about Trump is that he's forcing the liberal brownshirts to show their true colors.

Liberal Brownshirt! Amazing. It got me thinking about what I really mean by "stick a big fat stake into the heart of some of the most malignant political ideas that stalk the land." More to the point, how does this dialectic thing actually work, and what if anything does it have to do with free speech?

At the same time, there's also some Internet drama I'm casually following around a programming get together called LambdaConf, and whether or not a particular speaker should be invited to speak or not due to the fact that he's a foundational figure for a noxious bloom of reactionary thought known as "The Dark Enlightenment". I'll explain the details later.

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Trump and the Filter Bubble

The phrase "Filter Bubble" was coined by Eli Pariser, founder of MoveOn, the first effective left wing online organization, and a man who knows a bit about how the internet can influence political thought. Pariser was most concerned with the pernicious impacts of systemic personalization (e.g. weighted Google Search results or algorithmic timelines), but I believe what Clay is referring to is the result of Social Media becoming a primary news source.

He's right. The Trump phenomena will be studied and professionalized in the same way the political establishment digested Howard Dean's use of online outreach to build grassroots support and raise small-dollar donations. The benefits of the internet aren't without hazards. This is one of them.

More and more Americans get their news from Facebook and Twitter, a trend that is going to continue to increase. What Trump is exploiting has nothing to do with pernicious personalization algorithms, but rather the fundamental result of what happens when news is curated by social network rather than newspaper editors. Once you're getting your news via what is effectively word of mouth, a few things happen:

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Talkin' Class - Difficulties and Solidarity

It's difficult to talk (write) about class. Part of the difficulty comes because it's generally a verboten subject in the ostensibly classless utopia we inhabit here in Estados Unidos. We don't have a well-oiled vocabulary to deploy, or much history to draw on in framing the discussion. But let's be honest, most of the difficulty comes from the fact that any such discussion quickly becomes one that is self-implicating and/or divisive.

Here's me trying to get around that. I've given up on trying to write the One True Blog Post with my thoughts, so in the spirit of getting back in the groove of writing and posting I'm just going to start chipping away.

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Dr. King, Alcatraz, and Civil Disobedience

At the remove of decades, and felt through the thick rubbery buffer of my white male privilege, what I admire most about Dr. King is the soaring power of his oratory.

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Weekly Exercise - New Clues, Solidarity w/Paris, Code Withdrawal

As per the previous post, I want to "get back on that bloggy horse". For now I'm going to try honoring that by publishing something every week. At the moment my head is all over the place, so it's kind of a bit of a roundup of a few disparate topics.

  1. The throwback energy of "New Clues"
  2. Responses to responses to the Charlie Hedbo attack
  3. Coping with coder withdrawal

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Thoughts on the DriesNote: Towards Drupal "Contribution Credits"

UPDATE: putting theory into practice, I'm now hiring someone at Pantheon to contribute full time.

Two weeks ago at DrupalCon Amsterdam, Dries Buytaert gave his traditional State of Drupal, or "Driesnote", presentation, outlining his thoughts on scaling open source communities. I thought it was one of his best presentations to-date: addressing a pressing concern within the community with both a philosophical outlook and some specific proposals to start a wider discussion. It's a pressing topic, and I wanted to add my own two cents before my thoughts became too stale.

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What Is To Be Done?

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Gentrification, which received quite a few thoughtful responses. Thanks to everyone for those. I really appreciate the stimulation.

So far I've ducked the question of right and wrong. My mode was one of reflection on my experience of living in places that are changing, being a part of that change. However, the themes of development and displacement have a moral dimension. People naturally go right to this; so why fight it? Let's get into it!

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Elizabeth Warren vs Hillary Clinton in 2016?

An interesting piece by Noam Scheiber in TNR about a potential challenge to Hillary Clinton by Elizabeth Warren for the democratic nomination in 2016. He's absolutely right that "inevitable candidates have a way of becoming 'evitable'", and in drawing deja-vu parallels around Clinton's potential mis-alignment with the base (if not the nation in toto) over how to handle inequality and the finance sector vis-a-vis her positions on national security (esp Iraq) in 2008. It's an interesting read.

He also does a good job of describing how Warren wields her influence, by being willing to violate some of the social norms of Capital Hill in very public settings, for instance asking regulators "when was the last time you took a bank who broke the law to trial?" (to which they had no answer). I am a fan of Warren's rhetoric and style, and pedigree as an antagonist of the neoliberal establishment.

Still, I'm skeptical that Warren will make the run, but Scheiber makes a compelling case that she's motivated enough by her belief in economic policy and what it means for working families that she'd do it even as a long shot. He notes:

Of course, any prediction of a populist revolt against the party’s top brass must grapple with the tendency of such predictions to be wrong. From the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 to the Occupy Movement in 2011, the last decade in Democratic politics has been rife with heady declarations of grassroots rebellion, only to see the insiders assert control each time. Even the one insurgency that did succeed, the Obama campaign, was quickly absorbed into the party establishment, from which Obama was never so far removed in the first place.

But concludes with a quote from an insider:

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Metadata, PRISM, and the Surveillance State

UPDATE Seriously, just go watch this video with the whistleblower who is the source all the below.

I've been tweeting up a storm and got a couple questions along the lines of "what do you think of PRISM?" so I thought I'd sit down and exercise my ability to explain in long-form what I think is going on, and what it means.

The News

Late last week, Glenn Greenwald broke a story at the Guardian about how the NSA — the National Security Agency; the camera-shy and more data/computation driven cousin to the CIA — was collecting phone records for millions of Americans:

National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

Then, the day after the Guardian and the Washington Post published stories based on leaked documents about a program called PRISM which allows the US and UK intelligence services to mine data from popular internet destinations:

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Things are wired up wrong

Started as a tweet, but I can't fit it into 140 characters.

What makes an idea good, or "compelling"? What makes a person expressing an idea worth listening to?

I've been thinking about "Suck On This", the infamous Tom Friedman statement after "the war was over" in Iraq:

(it gets really great towards the end)

Friedman is a bit of a piñata because he makes all kinds of generally innocuous but-still-ridiculous statements, and has a really ridiculous bio photo. He's an architypical gasbag with a perch on some of the most influential forums for "ideas" that the english-speaking world convenes, which is a shame, but I think what he represented in the video above deserves special attention. It's above and beyond simple buffoonery.

As a nation, we have a dysfunctional political culture, and it's in part due to terrible information inputs. Like we say in my game, "garbage in, garbage out": if your inputs are bad, you can't have quality output. The fact that most congressional offices have a TV in the main area playing 24-hour cable news (or, also, that financial institutions play CNBC) is an enormous problem.

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