Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gore's historic MLK 2006 speech

Gore's historic speech attacking Bush administration for an unprecedented abuse and expansion of executive power. Read or watch!!! This may finally move Americans to action.

===== Below Quoting Liberty Coalition website - organization that hosted this Jan 16 2006 event in Washington DC
We have posted the full text of Mr. Gore's speech to our website. It was
an interesting address that put current abuses in context with history,
such has Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and the Lyndon Johnson
administration's lies about the Gulf of Tonkin. You can find the full
text here: Gore speech text

If you have RealPlayer, you can paste this address in (Ctrl+O , Ctrl+V) to
get C-SPAN's video archive of Gore's speech (sadly missing
Ostrolenk's introduction):

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Privacy rights?

Protagonists of privacy rights should think about this:

If we are identifiable by registration numbers on the cars we drive every day then we could be identifiable by imprinted bar codes or fingerprints anywhere by any agent - store merchant, another fellow passer by. Well that could be made illegal - no - that would be an abridgment of liberty. Fortunately quick identification by barcode, registration plate, fingerprint or DNA trace is still a bit technologically out of reach.

But one day it will be feasible, one day it will be possible to identify a person by facial features as quickly and surely as is done by passport agents at the border. Will you want to hide your face from the world and other people among which there will be masses of robotic paparazzi documenting your whereabouts. I think you will want to appear to the world with your face boldly uncovered. How otherwise would you be free?

So the issue of privacy is not central here because we cannot prevent our private lives to be broken into. The treasure to protect is our safety from unjust prosecution for the lives that we will have to lead in the open. And our lives will be led in the open and not in "undisclosed locations" because our thirst for liberty will demand that. So we guard against the expansion of prosecutorial powers in a world where technology will make us lead completely documented lives. We should be able to say to that - so what?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Decline of the West - with honesty and courage

I am greatly impressed and moved by Michel Houellebecq's novel "Platform". He has the courage to speak his mind, which has the scale of an average European white collar worker, and his words reach obvious but hardly ever spoken truths.

This is a story of a personally unattached European bureaucrat, who professionally deals with government sponsorship of modern art, for which he feels a tolerant contempt, and who gets involved in sex-tourism initiatives through a young woman to whom he becomes deeply attached. Their story is played out, like a truly romantic story, on the frontlines of a clash of civilizations - Christian West cooperating with Buddhist Far East against the monotheistic Middle East. It culminates in prescient depiction of a terrorist attack on Western tourists in Thailand.

The novel takes us through accounts of difficulties of Westerners of making intimate or at leastc close contacts with each other - absorbed in work, sacrifice for the good of the family, immersed in meaninglessness of entertainment and of modern art alike, people lose sight of the value of pleasure - carnal and sexual pleasure which can lead to deep emotional connections and love. On social scale sexual relations lead to cultural assimilation. The epitome of this loss is the image of Paris sex clubs - dominated by S&M practices, which the author considers a dehumanized form of sexuality. The other side is the culture clash between the poor, mostly Islamic immigrants of the suburbs and a bit richer, but more secure in their position, native French. The French, and the West in general, is unable to accept the influx of the immigrants flowing in prinicipally under the symbols of the repressive religion of Islam.

The author speaks his mind about world religion through the mouth of one of his characters. Islam and Judaism are the most inhuman religions because they are monotheistic with no easy mediation between man and God, whereas Christianity and Buddhism allow a variety of middling deities that allow these faiths to be more accepting of human desire for earthly paradise. The novel is pessimistic not only because it ends in an Islamic slaughter of Western tourists traveling to Thailand to purchase safely quality sex services. It also shows how the West has abrogated its hedonistic pursuits, by condemning the purpose of tours to South East Asia, and resigning itself to S&M, capitulating to the Abrahamic wing of Christianity.

The West is indeed decadent, in the writer's view, but still has something to offer in its dying days. Probably the money of Europe could be an ally of the hedonistically inclined places in Asia, Africa and South America. What about the money of America? I am afraid it will want to join the Abrahamic phalanges.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Construct meaning

Lawrence Lessig in his newest book "Free culture" makes arguments for the importance of intellectual creative content being freely available for reuse via the internet and other media. At least a large part of it should be freely or easily possible to copy with or without modification lest we fall into the trap of surrendering our culture to large entities that can afford to navigate the complex legal framework guarding intellectual "property". Ordinary people would be dispossessed of their culture.

And here is why it is important. The author asks a professional pedagogue or educationist about what it is that people do creating blogs, presentations, collages of music, images - nowadays much of it from the material borrowed/copied form the net. The answer is that they need to "construct meaning" for their lives in the world. This is a very deep statement about the role of culture which was always true but may be even more true in the current post-modern situation of man, in the age where we mostly produce and create abstractions no longer directly interacting with the material world. The modern world gives us more trouble with finding meaning, the sense of doubt about the significance of our actions is pervasive. Construction of meaning, or generation of culture, is a sort of necessary social psychotherapy and the common man cannot be deprived of the right to it giving it up to corporations, experts, governments.

Also note that the word here is construct and not create. I think actually creating a new content is beyond the capabilities of common man but constructing it is a necessary function.