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Comment How I started (Score 1) 298

You want to know how people started so I'll tell you. In the early 1980s I got a 300 baud modem. I began calling Bulletin Boards Systems. One of them was a board with a private section which I gained access to after chatting with the sysop. It had "codez" that I could make free phone calls with.

I got busy in the mid-1980s, but in 1989 I began calling BBS's again. I started calling boards with h/p sections, or totally h/p boards. One one of them I mentioned the dialup to a local university, and what I saw on the various menus I could get to. Someone responded to my post (this person later became the CTO of a company whose worth was in the billions). He gave me the hostname, and a username and password of a SunOS box at the university. I logged in. It was the first Unix I ever logged into.

Anyhow, fast forward to early 1996. I have hacked the account of someone who runs a local ISP, who I dislike. I am reading through his e-mail and various files. One thing I see is his Usenet spool of the local tech job postings. I start reading it, and see an ad for a company. The company is a new ISP which is about to expand from extremely small to slightly bigger. It sounds so small and poor I think I might have a shot. I log back into my legitimate systems, and send an e-mail to the ad placer and say I'm interested in a job. I say I know Unix well (true) and that I complete my college and have a computer science degree (not true). When I meet him, his wife's friend is there, and I happen to know his wife's friend, so that was luck for me as well. So I get hired. The main box is a Linux pre-1 which got upgraded to Linux 1.X on the first week of work. We also purchase a used Sparcstation IPX at a good price.

And it's gone on from there. The most I ever made as a Unix sysadmin was over $90k a year. Although adjusted for inflation, the highest I got in an adjusted for inflation sense is $110k.

Unix administration was really hot in the ISP and dot-com go-go days. Not so much any more. Of course there's jobs out there. People are trying to do more "in the cloud" nowadays so that lessens work to some extent. There really wasn't as much good turnkey web hosting and managed colo and the like in the mid-1990s as there is now, so a lot more people had to roll their own. Or shared virtual servers. I have been doing different stuff in IT lately, I have never even worked with some of the "newer" stuff like blade servers. Not that blade servers are that new any more.

Also be prepared to be chained to your cell phone 24/7 and getting calls at 3AM if there's an outage, even when you're not on the on-call rotation. And then have office gossips and nosybodies complaining you're not in the office at 10AM after you took that two hour call, which almost no one will know about. Or having to deal with old, out of warranty, broken servers that have trouble backing up and keeping their data, with no good recovery plan, which no one cares about until they go down - then the bosses will all crowd your desk every five minutes frantically asking you for a time estimate of when everything will be back to normal. Of course other IT jobs, like development, have a different kind of pressure. In some ways system administration is more preferable, as you can only keep servers up 24 hours a day - developers usually have a mountain of desired features piled on top of their workload.

Comment Iran had a secular democracy (Score 5, Insightful) 585

Iran had a secular democracy back in 1953. The west, especially England and the US, and overthrew it with a dictatorship, much more ruthless than the present government.

As the left was the great fear, the dictatorship jailed, (effectively) exiled and killed the left. When the people overthrew the foreign-backed government, the only power left in the country were the mullahs, and bazaar shop keepers, and that is who is in control now.

Harvard only began admitting women in 1999, although the first openings of that were in the 1960s. It's amusing to see westerners, who were just invading Iraq and torturing and forcing Abu Ghraib detainees to masturbate on camera, are now all sanctimonious about how Iranian universities are preparing classes. Iran is a paradise of academic freedom for women compared to US ally Saudi Arabia, why don't we hear about that? And why all the concern about women's studies in Iran, something Americans can do nothing about because the US doesn't even have diplomatic relations with Iran, at the same time the US is stepping up pressure on Iran on other fronts? The US is who overthrew Iran's secular democracy in 1953, then the CIA worked with the Savak to wipe out the left. Now they complain the mullahs have too much control over the universities. No Slashdot headlines about women's education in Saudi Arabia. Women can't even drive in Saudi Arabia, where's the noise about that? As there is none, it's clear this is just more propaganda as the war drums are being beaten. As smug, hypocritical, imperialist westerners stick their fingers into the Middle East, torture their people in prisons like Abu Ghraib, kill off and take over new land in the West Bank with US funds - you can be sure the inevitable 9/11s will come in response, as some people will always resist imperialism and foreign tyranny.

Comment Not completely true (Score 1) 131

Certainly it is true that if you tell someone something, they can always tell someone else, so the safest way for something not to get out is to keep completely quiet about it. On the other hand...

Plenty of small groups of people have done a lot of stuff without any problems, and with everyone keeping quiet about it. This goes from hackers to cells of the Irish Republican Army. There are also many instances of one person getting caught, having extreme pressure, even torture, applied to them and them keeping their mouths shut. The leader of the French resistance, Jean Moulin, died while the Nazis were trying to torture him for information. Certainly there are instances of rats and turncoats, but you generalize it to "your friends will rat you out in a heartbeat if it give them any advantage. Don't think for a second that any friend of your is loyal to you. Anyone can be bought, some can be bought for a lot less than others." This ignores all those who over the centuries have faced life imprisonment, torture, death and have kept silent. Ethel Rosenberg was promised eventual freedom if she testified against her husband - instead she chose to stay silent and went to the electric chair, leaving her children orphans.

From hacking groups, to insurgents fighting a foreign invader, similar mistakes have been made over time. One is trusting too many people. Sabu busted five other people. That means there was a group of minimally six people working together. History shows this is far too large a group to be working together on something like this. In a cell network, four is usually the largest number of people working together. If the network is paranoid about turncoats and infiltration, the cell size is often three people. Having to only worry about two other people is much more comforting about having to worry about five other people. Plus you can be more sure they are reliable type people, you have a closer relationship that would make people second-guess turning etc.

There are other factors as well. These people let Sabu know enough about them to get them arrested, but they (AFAIK) never met him. It's a lot easier to turn against faceless people behind keyboards then friends you have met and spend time with. Then there's the question of what they're doing. It's a lot easier for someone to turn against people for say randomly crashing web sites (not saying they did this) then comrades fighting an invasion of your country by the Germans, or English, or whoever. People are more willing to sacrifice when a higher cause is involved, randomly crash web sites is not a higher cause. Then finally, there is how much the government is interested in finding people to turn, and how much pressure they are going to bear on people. It's easier to keep quiet and do a year in jail than twenty years in jail. Also Sabu's children or foster children are brought up - it is obviously easier to do time for someone without kids, then someone who will be worrying about supporting kids. Of course, this is something Sabu should have thought of before he began committing crimes, but a dumbass criminal turned rat like him obviously doesn't do much thinking.

It is true when you are working with other people, even reliable seeming people, you can never be entirely sure how they will react under pressure. But to say "anyone can be bought", "will rat you out in a heartbeat" etc. is just not true, there are plenty of counter-examples of this, including hackers in the US.

Comment "Discipline of the capital markets" (Score 3, Interesting) 418

What is the discipline of the capital markets? At the end of 1999, Warren Buffett, who had been investing successfully for four decades, was being lambasted for not buying dot-coms and having as good a year as some other companies. Of course, this all went to nothing a few months later. He is known for being out-of-step with the markets, focusing on the long term, not going with the newest trend, not splitting his stock. As he has been so successful over four decades, he can get away with it.

So what companies have been under market discipline? In 2001 the #5 company on the Fortune 500, Enron, was shown to be a complete fraud, top to bottom. Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual made subprime loans to people who would never be able to pay them back, in a manner that encouraged this (no money down, monthly loan payment rockets up after a year or two).

Other than the markets wanting to have gotten a piece of Facebook earlier, I don't really see any indication of what would have been differently if it was under "market discipline". If overeager suckers wanted to overpay for Facebook initially, it's a bonus for Facebook, and a loss for the market buyers undisciplined enough to know what a stock is worth.

If you watch the documentary "Born Rich", you realize there these 1%ers who inherit there money, these heirs who control almost all of the capital - they need things to parasite off of. There's always a massive of shortage of viable businesses for them to glom off of. Facebook is private and they whine about how they can't stick their snouts in the trough, and suck off of the people actually working and building businesses. Microsoft, Google, Facebook - most of the successful founders know to put off the IPO, because it's only a way for the 1% parasites to grab a majority stake of the company, and be parasites off of those doing the work. That's why founders postpone it so long.

Comment Psychohistory (Score 5, Interesting) 291

Most modern Americans are unaware of the worldwide ideological debates of the early 20th century, and thus they miss the boat on what psychohistory obviously is. From a variety of things, including knowing Asimov's involvement with the Futurians in the 1930s, it's obvious that psychohistory is a parody of the Marxist conception of historical materialism. In fact, to anyone familiar with Marxian historical materialism, it is incredibly easy to see that this is what is made reference to by psychohistory in the book - although in the book the technique has been further developed. I've always felt the Mule was a reference to charismatic leaders like Hitler and Mussolini - ugly at close view, but with the ability to persuade large masses of people nonetheless, something which Marx did not foresee. That's just my interpretation though, it's not completely clear. I think that Hari Seldon is a Karl Marx figure is even more of a sure bet than the Mule possibility. To people who don't know the ideas of the Futurians, or the ideological ideas within the milieu of left-wing Jewish intellectual circles in New York City in the 1930s, I think it is easy to miss a lot of the references being made.

Comment Exactly (Score 1) 333

Exactly. I'm not sure why the new Slashdot heads are on an "anarchists hate science" kick. A similar story was posted a month ago.

The scare headline in the blurb is "violence by self-described anarchists against scientists or scientific establishments". Then we read the story and see this happened not to a scientist, but to a business executive. "Scientific establishment" conjures up people in white lab coats studying the Higgs boson, the person shot was head of a military contractor. He was head of a company that made weapons that kill people. None of this is mentioned.

I mean, this is straight propaganda. The guy is a business executive for Finmeccanica, which makes guns, tanks, nuclear stuff, and that sort of thing. He lives by the sword, and got a bullet in his leg - maybe a bullet made by his company. What does Slashdot say - "violence by self-described anarchists against scientists or scientific establishments".

If people are so concerned about violence against nuclear establishments, the US and Israel unleashed Stuxnet against Iran's nuclear program. A program the U.S. has endorsed in the past. Nuclear scientists in Iran have not been shot in the leg but actually killed by foreign intelligence services, probably Israel. We see multiple outraged headlines on Slashdot when some nuclear executive for an Italian military contractor is shot in the leg, why don't we see outraged headlines about the Iranian nuclear scientists who are being assassinated?

Comment Classes online, a radical innovation? (Score 1) 105

I have been hearing all this hype about how innovative online classes are, how this will change teaching, how we might not have colleges any more because it is so revolutionary. I am a little skeptical of the hyperbole of the "future of education" as the blurb puts it.

I have watched videos on Youtube etc. to try to learn things. Sometimes the videos are not explicitly meant to be educational - Walt Mossberg interviewing some tech guy for All Things Digital can be more educational than a classroom lecture sometimes.

Sometimes they are meant to be educational. The videos I've watched have been in two categories. The first type is a company like Google has someone on stage with a Powerpoint explaining one of their newest APIs. The second type is a video of a professor in front of a classroom explaining some math or computer science concept.

Your mileage may vary. In the case of Google explaining an API, or the professor, many times they have a thick foreign accent. Google is a little better about this then some random professor's class, but not always. Then there's the question about how good of a teacher they are. Yes, they may know the API or math/CS concept in and out, they may have even wrote or discovered it, how good are they at explaining the concept to layman students? Often they have little capacity to do this.

Video is not magic. If a smart person who understands the topic and can also write clearly writes a textbook or manual explaining a math/CS concept or some API, this is often far, far more helpful than some videotape of some professor with a thick foreign accent who is not good at explaining things.

And case in point is Thrun himself! Videotapes of him are streams of sentences like "I haff a-bout an hou-ER too doo thees" (I have about an hour to do this) in his German accent which I struggle a little bit to understand. I'd probably better understand what he is trying to teach if he wrote it down.

In the 1980s, Abelson and Sussman up at MIT made videotapes of their lectures on the structure and interpretation of computer programs. Then going back to the 15th century with Gutenberg's Latin textbooks. Yes it's nice that we have lectures on Youtube now, but the "future of education" sounds a little bit like hyperbole to me. The important thing it seems to me is to find a native speaker of your language, who understands the topic thoroughly, and who can communicate it clearly, who puts it together for you. Then whatever form they take - online lecture, classroom lecture, book - whatever - is helpful. A well-written book or clear and thought out classroom lecture beats an online lecture. I can always ask the professor after class if I don't understand something. I can't watch Sussman's 1980s lecture and then ask him what cons does in LISP (although I guess I could e-mail him).

Comment Banks (Score 5, Insightful) 708

I worked in IT at one of the larger investment banks for a bit.

At somewhere like Apple or Google, IT is everything. Or a lot. At an investment bank it is nothing - the investment bankers and sales people are the entire focus. You can argue about how important IT is there, but these are institutions with tons of money to burn, and if they make a mistake, the US taxpayer will always bail them out. That's the thing, they have a ton of money. I have seen insane things go on in terms of technical time bombs waiting to go off. But they have so much money, they can throw money at any problem and it will be fixed. IT is treated like garbage I would say. I think it's insane people would work there in IT over a long period of time. Where I worked, almost everyone who did not leave of their own accord was pushed out - they can people all the time, especially when the market dips. Then again, it is such a big industry, sometimes people find a good spot which seems like a sinecure, and it is not so bad. But some people who think they found a sinecure one day find out they were wrong. It can be a good experience to work at a place like this for a year or two, and it looks good on a resume, anyone who stays for a long time I think is crazy, and their personality always seems to me to change, they seem unhappy. Look how nervous you seem in your post, it does not seem the post of a content, happy person. You're at a company at the apex of world financial power, yet they make you feel insecure. You're one of the workers doing all the work that creates that wealth for them, but they seek to make you feel like a disposable peon. You are a disposable peon.

Anyhow, your age works against you. People are smart enough to not say any age discrimination stuff, but I've been forced to pass over extremely qualified candidates more or less because (unsaid) they were old, had a family they would have to spend time with, might stick up for themselves etc.

If you want to stay in finance, connections are everything. When the cuts come, and they always do, the managers will get together and decide who stays and who goes. Are any of the decision makers going to fight for you? Aside from this, keeping in touch with people when they move to other companies is important, especially when you're looking for work. The stupidest thing you can do is stick your head down and do a good job for sixty hours a week. No one gives a shit - at all. If you think the vultures running your company care, if you think your manager's manager cares, you are a complete fool. Politicking is everything in places like that. As far as consulting, usually these places want to deal with consulting companies, so you have to get to know the project managers and such at consulting companies. This is not hard to do - the project managers want to have a good relationship with hired staff at the company, they want their consultants supported and to get more business, they know you can always be the one who is bumped to team lead or manager.

Also, if you're not chasing the brass ring where you are there is NO reason for you to be there. Your goal should be to be either a managing director in IT (which there are very few of, because the bank considers IT a backroom joke) or in the elite architecture/engineering team. Why would someone kill themselves at these places otherwise, other than to get the experience and resume blurb for a year or two?

As far as getting a job, it is like this: there is a bell curve. Most people are in the middle. You are probably in the middle. Most interviews are looking for people on the right end of the curve. When you go on a technical interview, do you miss questions? I've interviewed dozens, maybe hundreds of people. People on the right side of the bell curve can answer mostly everything I throw at them - 99 out of 100 questions. A few people are on the left side and know very little. Most people are in the middle, you can tell they kind of know it, and could probably do the job, but you're not sure, and you just interviewed 10 people just like them. So being on the right side of that bell curve helps. Especially with hot skills. Stuff like mobile is hot right now, believe me, someone who is on the right side of the iOS knowledge bell curve, or even Android knowledge bell curve is NOT unemployed right now. On the contrary, companies are knocking down their door trying to hire them despite the economy or whatever. But does someone like you with a financial job which takes a lot of time, a family and so forth have the time to not only learn that stuff a little, but master it like some kid who was doing it through his college CS classes, and is now three years out of college writing iOS apps? Probably not. But people who really know their shit in other domains are being looked for as well - server side Java people etc.

Then there's side projects and income. Do you have your own web site or mobile app or whatever that brings in revenue? Do you do consulting on the side? Most of the smart people I know do. You might say you don't have the time. Well then - you're fucked. You have to sit in your current job and worry about whether you'll be canned or not as the economy gets worse. You'll then be a 40 year old with a family, in an economic recession which may hit finance hard, in an economic system where IT people are not wanted much past 40. Yes there's exceptions, but people on the right side of the needed skill curve are always an exception.

Comment Wales is the root of the problem (Score 3, Interesting) 194

Everyone has their own political opinions, as does Jimmy Wales. He used to run a mailing list devoted to Ayn Rand. Speaking of Wikipedia and conservative economist Friedrich Hayek, Wales has said "Hayek's central to my own thinking about how to manage the Wikipedia project. One can't understand my ideas about Wikipedia without understanding Hayek." Thus, his opinions on politics, and what used to be called political economy, have bearing on Wikipedia's structure.

Of course, a project which gets large enough can't be run as an absolute dictatorship, or it falls apart (or everyone moved on to a split). The official Wikipedia explanation page for the 2005 Elections is laughable. First of all, if you read the mailing lists and Wikipedia posts, Jimbo didn't even want a binding election, he wanted to appoint everyone himself. There was such resistance to this he backed off. Then fanatical Point of View pusher JayJG ran in the 2005 election for the Arbitration Committee. By any measure, he lost the election, partly due to such an overwhelming number of no votes, because so many people thought he lacked fair-mindedness and balance. So Jimbo ignored the election votes and appointed JayJG to the Arbitration Committee. Because they were ideological allies. This is all glossed over in the official entry on the elections above.

Nowadays, it probably seems silly to have been so involved in it, but when Larry Sanger's Wikipedia came out (another person thrown under the bus by Jimbo, once Sanger's Wikipedia idea started taking off, Wales took over and tried to write Sanger out of history) it had a lot of potential. So much of what happened is despite Wales, not because of him. I think it could have been even better, but it was not meant to be, not in this iteration of the wiki encyclopedia idea any how.

Speaking of neutral point of view, the recognized systemic bias etc., let's take a look at the opening two paragraphs of the Abu Nidal biography and see if sounds encyclopedic or not:

"Abu Nidal...born Sabri Khalil al-Banna...was the founder of Fatah–The Revolutionary Council. At the height of his power in the 1970s and 1980s, Abu Nidal, or "father of [the] struggle," was widely regarded as the most ruthless of the Palestinian political leaders. He told Der Spiegel in a rare interview in 1985: 'I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing ... nightmares.' Part of the secular Palestinian rejectionist front, so called because they reject proposals for a peaceful settlement with Israel, the ANO was formed after a split in 1974 between Abu Nidal and Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)...Patrick Seale, Abu Nidal's biographer, wrote of the attacks that their 'random cruelty marked them as typical Abu Nidal operations.'"

I doubt even Haaretz would publish something like this. Yet it's an encyclopedia entry on Wikipedia. Whether you like Nidal or not, this is not neutral and encyclopedic writing. If you don't think this is biased or unencyclopedic enough, it gets worse as the article goes on. And there are worse examples, this one just comes to my mind. If your answer is "It's Wikipedia, just change it yourself", you've missed the point of this post. Go to Wikipedia Review to really get an answer to that question.

Comment Economics (Score 1) 1201

Nowadays, and especially back when there was the USSR, and the pre-Deng People's Republic of China, we are told that our economy is capitalist because it follows the natural law of economics. The economic school which is taught came into being in the late 19th century. We're taught value comes from marginalism. That there is supply and demand and the price point is where these things meet. If demand increases, then it leads to higher equilibrium price and higher quantity. What they're saying goes against this, which is more or less one of the core ideas for the rationalization of running the economy as it is run. For those with deep enough pockets, there can't be unmet demand according to the economic principles we supposedly live under. If there really was demand, salaries would rise. Prices would reflect the demand. Claims that there are a shortage fly in the face of every economic theory that justifies the capitalist economic system we live under.

In a tangentially related note - another thing that flies in the face of our hegemonic economic theories are the RIAA/MPAA story. In the economic theories which justify us living under capitalism, prices are based on marginal utility, and the marginal utility of each equivalent commodity decreases as the supply of units increases. However, with an MP3 or MPG, it effectively costs nothing to replicate each commodity. Thus *under this theory*, everything the music and movie studios sell is virtually worthless, and should be sold for maybe a penny, if that. The arguments they make, of how the singer is creating the wealth and needs to get paid, are echoes of the old labor theory of value which was discarded by mainstream economists around the turn of the 20th century. It is the idea that labor creates wealth, the first cited exponent of was Benjamin Franklin, and then all the early classical economists (Adam Smith, Ricardo, Say, Malthus, Mill) adopted. Ricardo delved into this idea especially. In the middle of the 19th century, Karl Marx delved into the idea that labor creates all commodity wealth (although not natural wealth) even more, to such an extent it is more-or-less nowadays considered a Marxist idea. After Capital was published, the right formulated the modern economic ideas justifying the current economic setup. The problem is, these ideas don't justify commodities that can be replicated for little to no cost. So the RIAA/MPAA have really been making Marxist arguments for why "the artist should get paid", as the foundational ideas of capitalist economies don't justify Hollywood's prices.

Comment Italian democracy versus the 1% (Score 4, Interesting) 245

Italians have voted to not do this. They're tired of US corporations like Monsanto pushing them around. Actually, the US with the push of its power elite was heavily involved in fixing elections and installing a puppet government in Italy, and then making sure that government couldn't be tossed out once it was in. Now Italian workers are told they have to suffer under "austerity" (for them) and be ruled by foreign banks and foreign corporations.

Good for Mario Capanna and company. The Italians democratically voted this in, I have no desire for the Monsantos of the world to find some way to weasel around this. What does Monsanto do anyhow? Create plants with sterile seeds, so Monsanto can then grab all of the farmer's money? Sue farmer's whose fields are next to Monsanto seed fields, alongside the blowing winds, and get the courts and government's to side with them against small farmers?

The antiquated, anti-enlightenment ideas are not the working people and small farmers trying to protect themselves against a small handful of parasites trying to take ownership of everything. The backwards, antiquated ideas are the corporate newspapers and websites who attack anyone against against handing the whole world on a plate to the parasite heir Monsanto majority shareholders. In Italy, in Greece, in Spain, at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy everywhere, people are fed up with the high unemployment, and the expropriation of surplus value from the majority of working people to a handful of parasitic 1% heirs. This Monsanto GM IP deal is no different than the big companies in IT who own all the patents and are parasitically suing everyone around, and harming economic growth.

Comment Highly trained workers (Score 3, Interesting) 357

As has been pointed out before, the point of H1-B visas is to get rid of older American workers who with education and experience have become highly trained, and replace them with less trained, cheap foreign labor. In 2010, during record-high unemployment, 117,409 people came in on the H1-B visa. Which is just one of many visas that people come to the US and work on. Professor Norm Matloff has a web page about this.

Comment Scientists? (Score 4, Interesting) 426

The blurb starts with "A loose coalition of eco-anarchist groups is increasingly launching violent attacks on scientists." But then one of the links is to Raytheon. By and large Raytheon does not have scientists working for it studying black holes and the like. It has engineers, and those engineers are designing missiles, to be used in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and so forth. I see mention that eco-anarchists are launching violent attacks when they shut down train tracks, not much mention that engineers at Raytheon are involved in violent attacks all over the world.

Also the "nuclear engineering" executive mentioned in the blurb was working at Finmeccanica, another merchant in the death trade. He's an executive at another company in the death trade. Not a scientist, not even an engineer. Yet Nature headlines the article "Anarchists attack science".

There has been bombing, executions and sabotages against Iran's nuclear program. A nuclear power program which at one time the US establishment whole-heartedly endorsed. Why the hue and cry about an attack on a nuclear executive in Italy, which is an "attack on science", but not a word about this. Isn't shooting nuclear scientists in Iran an "attack on science"? Where are the articles on Slashdot, Nature and so forth bemoaning this?

It's just simple propaganda. An executive making money on explosives killing people is himself attacked. So the lie must come into play, it is an attack on science. Disrupting Raytheon's blood profits by shutting down railroads for a day are a violent attack on scientists.

From a moral standpoint, I have no problem with what these bombers and gunmen are doing. At best it would be justified, at worst it is simply eye-for-an-eye, tit-for-tat - one band of killers attacking another band of killers. I feel more secure that people are out there attacking Raytheon, Finmeccanica etc. executives than not. So mark that down, NSA listeners who are now monitoring domestically due to the Patriot Act.

While I feel it's certainly morally justified, or at least equivalent, from a tactical and strategic standpoint I don't see this as a necessary thing for the average American to do. There's plenty of legitimate and legal work that can be done - organization, education and the like, which is ultimately more effective. Even at Reagan's height HE was the one who had to go underground to fund Contras, not the domestic opposition to him. With elections, the first amendment, right to assemble and so forth still intact, I can't see much tactical or strategic reason for an American to do this sort of thing in the US. In Italy, with its history ( P2, Gladio, elections fixed by foreign powers) it may make more sense, I don't know the situation on the ground there as well. The people who lit bombs in the 1960s like Bill Ayers, Diana Oughton etc. were generally children of the wealthy, working class activists like the Black Panthers and other organizations were not at that level of militancy, they felt free breakfast programs and organization and education was the important thing.

Comment Logical basis? (Score 1) 412

If you will concede the point, believing it or not, that a group of people producing a commodity is being exploited, one would ask what has been done in the past over this? What has been done is primarily workers organizing into unions, and perhaps secondarily into political parties representing their interests. Some other things such as co-op movements can come into peripheral play as well.

What has not been done is people individually buying or not buying a commodity due to perceived exploitation. What does that do? Nothing. The closest thing to that coming from these other movements is the boycott. Even that is a weak tactic, and is used sparingly - people are boycotting Coca-Cola because they are killing their workers who are trying to organize unions in Colombia, sometimes even right in the factories. Or they boycotted grapes during the UFW strike. These boycotts are almost always adjunct to the primary campaign, which is almost always a union organizing campaign.

It is difficult to look at a commodity and tell what the history of its production is. Is a diamond a "blood diamond" or was it mined centuries ago? How was an apple in the supermarket picked, or a pair of pants, or so forth? Atomized individuals deciding this do nothing, it's a waste of time.

If you really want to do something, work to get US military bases out of places like Kyrgyzstan, Guantanamo Bay and so forth. The US has been funding the Honduran military, who threw out the elected leader a few years ago, then had another "election" where opposing candidates were killed, as were opposing campaign workers. Being picky about buying electronics makes little sense politically, and why stop at electronics, you have to look at clothes, food - everything. Not that it makes sense to begin with.

Comment The US way of doing things (Score 4, Insightful) 212

I'm typing this right now, and sending to a web server on the Internet, a computer network which only exists because the US taxpayer financed the Pentagon, who in turn gave the money to military contractors like BBN, SRI and so forth.

That's what it is, and that's how it had to be. It's how Magnitogorsk was built in the USSR, how Volkswagen and the Autobahn were created in Germany, and how things like this happen here in the US and how they had to happen. There's some kind of emperor's new clothes things where people can't say the decades long creation of Internet was financed by the taxpayer via the government. I have heard so many US politicians talk about how the Internet was created by the "free market" (whatever that means), capitalism, private enterprise and so forth and how it shows the innovation that can come from that. Of course, we all know better, or at least those of us old enough to have owned 300 baud modems back in the early 1980s know that.

While we hear from the news commissars and politicians of how broke the US is, with a huge deficit, and how we have to cut back, notice how a massive military bill just sailed through Congress. Americans have to tighten their belt, and go with less garbage pickups, or shorter library hours, and that sort of thing, but there's plenty of money for military bases in Djibouti and Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan. The US is spending a ton of money to ramp up the US military presence in the Pacific (shades of the late 1930s), on a new class of aircraft carriers and so forth. Meanwhile, all of this heavy duty equipment is completely useless against small cells of anti-imperial Arab nationalists that are willing to go on suicide missions.

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