Posts concerning power


17:39 27 Oct 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly since 01 August 2006: every day for that first year, five times per week for four years after that, and at least once per week since 01 August 2011. Now it’s time for a break.

Permalink     5 Comments     [, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ]    

“The System”: Tropa de Elite

23:27 01 Sep 2013

Tropa de Elite and Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro[1] are two Brazilian crime/action movies about the drug trade and corruption in Rio de Janeiro. While fictional[2], they clearly draw upon contemporary Brazilian politics. They both follow Roberto Nascimento, who at the start of the first film is a captain in BOPE, an elite unit roughly analogous to the American SWAT squads[3].

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

The Zimmerman Verdict

23:15 14 Jul 2013

George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder and/or manslaughter of Trayvon Martin, was acquitted yesterday. The social media response I’ve seen has been almost uniformly one of disgust or despair, intermingled with the apparent belief that the verdict is representative of racism in the United States (and, perhaps, in Florida particularly).

Based on what I know, I think Zimmerman probably accosted Martin in some way and provoked or initiated the struggle that ended with his killing Martin. And had I been on the jury, I would have voted to acquit. Because “probably” isn’t enough.

Permalink     3 Comments     [, , , , ]    

Not all Hacking Cases are Treated the Same

23:57 23 Jun 2013

From the UK, evidence that there’s a markedly higher tolerance among law enforcement for certain types of hackers. “The other hacking scandal: Suppressed report reveals that law firms, telecoms giants and insurance companies routinely hire criminals to steal rivals’ information”. You know, “the right people”.

I’m vaguely surprised that so far, we haven’t seen any hard evidence of data going from government sources to business entities for this kind of thing. Money clearly gets you access to police files and the like, but I’m curious about the extent to which “blue-chip companies” have been able to get their hands on state surveillance data such as that being collected by GCHQ.

That’s the thought I’ll leave you with this week; hopefully I’ll put together a longer post for next week. Take care out there.

Permalink     2 Comments     [, , ]    

Trust Us

15:28 16 Jun 2013

It appears that the NSA has been collecting both phone call metadata and actual phone call content from an unknown, but very likely vast, number of American citizens, and that this likely extends to other forms of communication such as email and text messaging. They may have been doing this in violation of the US Constitution while avoiding getting that issue before the courts, but they may also have been doing this in violation of the guidelines that the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act court has laid down—i.e. illegally.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , ]    

The Boston Marathon Bombings

21:28 21 Apr 2013

The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings made clear just how much the media—and apparently a substantial portion of the population—want to promote the notion that the “War on Terror” is a real war, that there’s a real and highly dangerous enemy, and that the US is engaged in a struggle where the nation itself is under threat.

Prior to the identification of the suspects, it seemed like many media figures were thinking, “please let it be Al Qaeda”—and that if if it had turned out to be some disgruntled middle-aged guy protesting IRS policies, they and a chunk of their audience would lose a lot of interest.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , ]    

Political Writing Burnout

22:25 24 Mar 2013

I’ve noticed over the last few months that I’ve had more and more difficulty writing about political subjects for my blog. This ranges from commentary on overly political matters such as legislative and judicial decisions to socio-political topics such as various forms of discrimination.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

It’s Safer, But Why Stop the Scaremongering?

18:50 22 Jul 2012

Radley Balko does a good job of putting into context statistics about police fatalities in the US, and pointing out that despite the impression you would get from every media outlet, it’s a job that seems to be getting safer—but this doesn’t seem to alter policy in any way.

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

Marriage, Same-Sex and Other

23:17 13 May 2012

Same-sex marriage has been a major news topic this week, because of the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One and Barack Obama’s statement that he thinks same-sex couples should be able to marry. A good time, then, to explore the subject.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , , , ]    

Corruption: Ireland’s Mahon Tribunal

23:34 01 Apr 2012

Dublin has grown a great deal over the last 30 years, and in so doing has become a case study in how not to manage urban/suburban development, planning, or transit policy[1].

The urban planning process for Dublin County in that period was endemically corrupt, which was common knowledge at the time but has been made extremely clear by the final report, released 22 March 2012, of the Mahon Tribunal, a body set up in 1997 to investigate such matters. It seems unlikely in the extreme that the corruption and the terrible urban sprawl aren’t connected.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , ]    

NYPD Notes

23:59 30 Oct 2011

I don’t recall any interactions with the police when I lived in New York, but over the years my accumulated impression has been that it’s a very corrupt organization. That’s not necessarily unusual—I suspect that most of the police forces in major American cities would be just as bad (and nothing I’ve heard about, say, the Los Angeles or Chicago police has made me think otherwise). At the moment, though, the NYPD seem to be at the forefront.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , ]    

Expression, Pseudonymity, Google+

23:06 21 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important.

Permalink     3 Comments     [, , , , , , , , , ]    

The Rorschach Riots

23:28 14 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

I mean the various incidents of unrest in England earlier this week. The reference is not to the Watchmen character, but to the blots, because from what I can tell every commentator (I include myself here) is seeing in the events a confirmation of their already-existing political beliefs. That’s not unique to this particular issue, but it strikes me as a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon.

Permalink     3 Comments     [, , , , , , , ]    

Safety Nets are for Losers

17:31 07 Jul 2011

Would it have been better if McCain had been elected?. The best argument that Obama is better than McCain would have been is that McCain might have started a war with Iran (instead of Libya); then again, he might not have. McCain would also have pushed for Social Security and Medicare cuts, but Democratic resistance would have been significant—now, with the push coming from a Democratic president, it’s highly likely that the Democrats will cave in.

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

Some Bribery Statistics

11:40 05 Jul 2011

Using data culled from secret police records, John McMillan and Pablo Zoldo examined bribes made (by the secret police) to various figures in Peru during the 1990s: legislators, judges, and… the media. It was the television stations that commanded the most in bribes, about ten times as much per month as the other groups combined. The article explores why the media were worth more than the politicians and judges, and has some interesting hypotheses on how the incentives worked.

Also, it has data tables about bribes, something you don’t come across too often.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

Out to Get Him After All

19:38 04 Jul 2011

I find this really sad and infuriating.

Being kept under surveillance would itself be deeply disturbing, but perhaps most sad about it is its contribution to Hemingway’s feeling that he can’t trust his friends because they might be spying on him for the government; if the FBI is actually spying on you, is that really a paranoid view?

Incidentally, what appears to be the website for the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation has the Hoover line “Justice is incidental to law and order” on its front page, and I can’t figure out whether it’s earnest and really scary or just a phenomenally good parody.

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

On the Death of Osama bin Laden

23:30 02 May 2011

I was surprised when I heard the news—via SMS from Twitter from my brother—that US forces had apparently killed bin Laden. Surprised, but not particularly affected. No glee, no sadness, no sense that as an event it was important in itself (rather than for its symbolic value).

Permalink     2 Comments     [, , ]    

The Generosity of the Federal Reserve

00:20 15 Apr 2011. Updated: 00:22 16 Apr 2011

Matt Taibbi covers the still-astonishing handouts given out by the Federal Reserve as part of its “crisis management” measures over the last few years. Given the amounts of money involved, it is absolutely stunning that this stuff isn’t brought up whenever benefit cuts are discussed. Yes, I know that the whole point of the mainstream media is to prevent mass awareness of just how twisted the situation is, but even so, it’s amazing how effective it seems to be.

To slash public spending while simultaneously showering money on the wealthy—never mind acting pious and responsible while doing so—is nothing less than massive thievery from the poor to the rich; there’s really no other way to describe it.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is busy addressing the key problems facing America today, although some members of Congress and the Senate want a different focus.

The current mantra guiding US actions seems to be “the floggings shall continue until morale improves”.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

You’ll Eat Our Lunch and Like It

21:04 12 Apr 2011

The headline really says it all: “Chicago school bans homemade lunches”.

That’s right. The daytime prisoners at this institution—sorry, the beloved Children Who Are Our Future at this Future-Oriented Center for Learning—are no longer allowed to provide their own alternatives to the midday meal, but must have whatever the school supplies.

Permalink     2 Comments     [, , , , ]    

A Guatemalan Tale of Truth Stranger than Fiction

21:37 28 Mar 2011

David Grann’s “A Murder Foretold: Unravelling the ultimate political conspiracy” is an amazing article; I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

AT&T: No Escape

23:24 22 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:25 23 Mar 2011

When I first got my landline in San Francisco, it was with PacBell. They got bought by SBC, who were bought by AT&T. When I first got a cellphone in 2006, my service was with Cingular. They got taken over by AT&T. I stuck with AT&T for a while, with plenty of gripes, before escaping to T-Mobile. I’ve been very happy with T-Mobile.

So, naturally, AT&T now intends to buy T-Mobile.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , ]    

Cities: Urban Centers or Transfer Points for Capital?

22:33 15 Mar 2011

Cities have always been centers of capital; I don’t think you can have cities without something (in our history, initially agriculture) to produce surpluses of goods that can (must?) be stored (hoarded? selectively distributed?), and the centralization that such storage encourages has always been a fundamental part of why cities exist.

I love cities. I love them for their concentration of people and culture (the modern form of which, it could be argued, arises out of the former), for the intermingling they encourage and for the aspects of cultural and social choice they provide. I’ve always disliked other aspects, however: the concentration of capital and the power dynamics this creates, and the shaping of cities as feeding/breeding grounds for capitalist/consumerist expenditure/exploitation. I don’t care that these dynamics have thus far been prime drivers for the existence of cities; an optimist (yes, really) about human potential, I believe it’s possible for us to reorganize cities to have the good without the bad. In any case, cities have always had this tension (among others) between capital and people, but they’re still understood largely as spaces for inhabitation—that is, as places for people.

This may be changing.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , , , ]    

Blast from the Past: Reddy Realty

23:50 14 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:51 15 Mar 2011

From 1999–2000 I lived in a Berkeley apartment, and was recently reminded that it was rented from a criminal sex offender who would ultimately plead guilty to, among other things, the transportation of minors for illegal sexual activity.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , ]