Sunday, July 20, 2014

Smashing on Kids is Wrong

The other day, 
a game of volleyball
like any other day at volleyball, yaknow,
open rec, welcome all, just for fun, everyone
just spikes and sets, whatever, shit.

From time to time I see this guy –
we call him “the beast”
because he smashes on kids,
battle cries, and
massive spikes,
and we're all saying
“calm it down bro”
but English isn't something he knows,
so he just smiles
and shrugs it off,
And nobody understands
nobody else,
but high fives all around and clowning,
doesn't matter but a
solid set and a nod of the head

In the corner, kids play soccer,
with a volleyball no less,
bumping it off their shoulders feet and
knees and the tops of their heads.
Half the time the damn ball falls on
the fucking court, boy, it pisses us off
to see that fuckingball on the court again.
Sometimes when I’m spiking I accidentally
skirt the line and hit those kids instead.
Everybody has a good laugh,
and I feel better.

Am I a bad person?

This Lament for Cowards

Fold at the edges,
make of yourself
those many indentations.
Colour inside the lines,
your patchwork person;
that if forged with fury, 
wine and time;
surely purges
ever-waking mind. 
Long is the destiny for seekers of
God in truth and Truth in god,
and where they falter
striketh staff and rod.
The fortunate get crushed completely;
that extreme pressure
of perfectly crystallized ideas -
swimming in paper, 
drowned in digital translators;
this epiphany, infinitely fast and
flashing in electron transistors..
whereby night and to this light the
children flutter, 
race and fly,
moths to lamplight;
close enough to watch,
but not to burn their eyes.  
Peering by pale windows,
sunken, drunk in bright 
delirious delight;
ever clamouring,
scraping and declaring
proclamations for their rights;
those inalienable beauties,
empty phonemes forgotten
from a long-lost fight.
The forefathers' sightless descendants languish long
in their masquerade, 
evading the array of truths betrayed.
Skulls wrapped, 
bound and tightly strapped -
they suppress the smothered breath beneath their masks. 
When trumpets flare,
and liberty is set about by flames,
and the Atlantean fall of mankind's set to rage,
will mere children bear the sword,
as in the days of old?
Will they to battle, in frenzy,
with passion for the peril
of their souls? 
Beware the embrace of creature comfort,
It is a gripping anaconda,
constricting us.
Willingly, we hang these
heavy laurels on our heads. 
They press on our babbling encumbered temples,
steeping us in placid,
accidental madness. 
Every abandoned principle a stone in your pocket.
Every silence of noble ideas around your neck an oaken amulet.
Heavier still is the burden of our
faltering conviction, 
those seasons of wild calamity gone,
and forgotten too the songs
of fire and death, 
smoke and blood. 
One wonders, 
when the storm barrels through heaven, 
that avalanche of rain and wind,
who will sink and who will swim? 
The spring of romance is done.
Liberty fades by every dusk to dark,  slow-motion tumbling leaves
dripping and drying,
bereaved of the tree and
scattered in the whole wind flying:
the sun and sky and moonlight 
enormous before them;
looming so bright and violent it
makes meek their subversive demeanour,
a slow downturn to dust.
So they linger and lament their loss,
embrace their own demise.. 
wet with wool blankets 
hanging heavy over eyes. 

Welcome to 1984

The Rise of the Security State

Part 1: They Built the Beast

“He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen.”

– George Orwell, 1984

When 1984 was written, the scope of technological advancement that the world would see was literally beyond his imagination. He never would have imagined that a single organization could create, implement, and maintain a global security apparatus that collected all information flowing through a worldwide network, called the Internet.  But this seemingly improbable fantasy is our present reality.

In 2013, a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor working within the huge machinations of the NSA, acquired an enormous cache of documents revealing that a surveillance program titled PRISM had seeded itself into the largest and most widely used web services in North America – including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype, Microsoft, and Dropbox.  Further, the documents he acquired through the exclusive “Five Eyes” network revealed that the US intelligence agency had streamlined its spying network to filter data from Canada, Australia, and the UK as well – circumventing domestic espionage law by providing information to their partners (it is considered illegal to spy on your own citizens – but it is not illegal for, say, the Canadian government to spy on American citizens, or vice versa – then exchange that information over a distributed network). Snowden accessed Canadian data through an NSA port, blasting the documents on the Guardian and the Washington Post’s websites.

In Canada, the NSA's equivalent is the CSEC - which is hosted in the most expensive government building ever constructed, at a billion dollars. Additionally, the contractor has been promised another $3 billion over the next 30 years. CBC had an exclusive tour of the facility, which they called "grandiose," and which is internally referred to as "Camelot" in defense department documents.

The CBC reports that "a construction executive familiar with the CSEC project says the exterior panes that cover the building are all custom cut and part of a special mounting system, all of which is 'far more expensive' than anything on a conventional office building."

Gregory Thomas, head of the Canadian Taxpayers' foundation, "points out it is the same Defence Department responsible for CSEC that bought the whole Nortel Networks campus, the biggest industrial complex in the country, for $208 million."


Probably the most infuriating aspect of all this is that these spy agencies are funded by taxpayers.  We are paying people to spy on us, and are expected to be thankful for their service. All the while they operate in a gigantic "spy palace" with glass towers and grand fireplaces, spiral staircases and custom designed glass panes.  The gall is only matched by sheer opulence.

The CBC reports that "the defence minister authorizes CSEC activities that would otherwise risk breaching the Criminal Code provision against intercepting the private communications of Canadians."

In the US, the NSA is several times larger and more expensive than the CIA and FBI combined. Similar to the Canadian Spy Palace, the NSA has recently finished construction of the Utah Data Center, or Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center, at a staggering price tag of 1.5 billion dollars.

Part 2: Discourse of Deceit

“the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
the best lack conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.”

- William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

Since the time of the initial leaks, there has been enormous pressure on the US government to reform its spy practices – as documents continued to be published, revealing further and further infractions on the inalienable rights of peoples using the internet.  An internal audit by the NSA revealed “thousands of infractions per year.” James Clapper, deputy director of the NSA, told congress that his organization had never targeted Americans.  Less than a week later, documents published revealed this was a lie.  Clapper lied to congress several times after this, under oath – which is a federal offence punishable by prison time.  He is quoted, in response to these documents:

            “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner.”

He continues to work as director at the NSA.

Details of these programs were also kept from the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) – a committee specifically designed to audit intelligence agencies.  One outspoken senator – Ron Wyden – admitted that information was kept from he and his colleagues – who were tasked with providing information and analysis to the executive branch with respect to budgeting intelligence services, as well as monitoring the health of civil liberties.

 For years, senator Wyden made attempts to moderate the NSA without success.  He also was in opposition to measures made by the US government to legislate the use of drones to kill Americans citizens, when declared “enemy combatants.” In a filibuster on March 6, 2013 to block the nomination of John O. Brennan as Director of the CIA, he said:
 “Mr. President, what it comes down to is every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”

Since the spectacular leaks, the US government has taken a staunch position of support for global surveillance, rolling out rhetoric such as “if you have nothing to hide then you don’t have to worry;” or that Snowden’s revelations “have damaged US law enforcement, and anti-terrorism capability” and “endangered lives.”  All of these fantastic claims have never been followed up with a single shred of evidence, manufactured or otherwise.

Part 3: Kangaroo Court

“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?”

-Joseph Stalin

Snowden is currently in asylum in Russia, where the US revoked his passport, disallowing travel.  He has been accused of espionage under an act nearly one hundred years old.  The Justice Department has declared that he may not present a defence that indicates he leaked this information in the public interest.  This attitude is resonant of the Chelsea Manning trial – which was a secret military court – in which recording devices, stenographers, or generally untrustworthy journalists were prohibited. Manning was tortured during his captivity leading up to the trial.   It’s no wonder that Snowden refuses to return to the US to face their brand of justice – which would not consist of a jury of his peers – and would not permit the defence of serving the public good.

Part 4: Panopticon

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
-         George Orwell

In quantum physics, there is a phenomenon known as decoherence.  Quantum
systems collapse into definite positions of, for example, spin and velocity, when observed. The most widely known example of this effect is the two-slit experiment – where it was proved that observation of particles influenced their interference patterns. Meaning quite simply that the act of watching produced a change in the system’s behaviour.

Similarly, human beings are deeply influenced by observation.  It’s a common-sense concept – we sing in the shower, in our cars. We harbour strange fantasies, dance, spit, shit, and wail. But put a pair of eyes on us and things can change.  This is referred to as the Hawthorne effect.  Jeremy Bentham, an 18th century philosopher, designed an institution where prisoners could be observed by a single watchman, and named it Panopticon (pan meaning all). The idea was that prisoners were aware that they could be under observation at any given moment. Therefore the institution didn't necessarily have to be watching them to have the intended effect of suppressing misbehaviour.

The striking and terrifying distinction between the panopticon and our modern problem of mass surveillance, is that all our communications, all our browsing history, all our associations, and all our political views are collected, catalogued, analyzed, and stored, permanently. This is not a threat of observation, this is omnipresence.   This is 1984 on steroids.

In physics, thermodynamics dictates that no matter can be created nor destroyed. Similarly, information theory suggests that no information can be created or destroyed – only transformed. There will be a point in the future where processing power will provide for the reverse engineering of every bit of data that ever existed on the internet.

The combination of the knowledge that everything is being observed and analyzed, and that no information ever disappears, is a powerful deterrent to dissidence. In the case of 1984, the protagonist, Winston, possesses a journal in which he writes his thoughts, promulgating in part his disillusionment. He does so because in his apartment, there is an alcove in which the “telescreen” cannot see him.  He operates his subversive thoughts in this small, free space.  But it is enough. For us, there is no escape.

Part 5: The War for our Collective Soul

            Presently, there are efforts to amplify corporate presence on the internet – this has been attempted in Canada and the US, in several failed attempts at legislation including, in Canada, c-13, and in the US SOPA, PIPA, CISPA.. now that these attempts have failed, due to severe backlash from the public, five eyes governments are concealing these measures in an international trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership.  This agreement is being negotiated in secret, outside its respective countries.  Leaked documents reveal staggering implementations of internet censorship. It opens the doors for copyright and patent domination, and presents a serious threat to the advancement of transcendental technologies that would literally, make the lame walk, the blind see, and raise humanity out of poverty and war – and toward sustainability, independence, and decentralization.

            Ultimately, we face the problem of governments attempting to reinforce their power.  Currently, power is highly centralized around economics – all things have a cost – education, health, energy, information, politics, policy – all monetized.  The threat of new technology presents the possibility of making money totally irrelevant. The measures that are being advanced in the cause of reinforcing old power have accelerated; there is no longer any subtlety to their tactics.  Therefore, this article must provide an admonition, a warning:  These efforts will continue to advance, and to accelerate, in order to match the pace of technological advancement, the nature of which is exponential. As such, the response of civil progression must also amp up its efforts.

            There are companies that are combating the surveillance state, and they are privacy advocates like Spideroak and Ixquick.  There are technical solutions to the problem of mass spying, as well as ideological, and legislative ones.  Capitalism is a double edged sword for totalitarian governments. Since they've monetized everything, money is power.  Citizenry can shift the tide of money toward the moral good.  The smallest contribution is to boycott services that facilitate illegal spying.  Moreover, using those services to promote the fight against tyranny is an effective strategy for converting those mediums to a nobler position of consumer-citizen advocacy.

            It is not the purpose of this article to merely bring these programs to light, because, as I wrote, knowing that one is being observed has a negative effect on political discourse.  However; indignation, rage, and moral responsibility are powerful things. They exist to hold to task overreaching powers.  Our liberties and freedoms were forged over centuries of struggle against wealthy elites and self-proclaiming deities. Now we face the most crucial battle in all history – because the victor of this particular struggle will reign for centuries (indeed, the stipulations of the Trans Pacific Partnership plan for hundreds of years).  It is no longer an option to stay silent, and to hope for morally staunch people to take up the cause on our behalf.

            In all the past wars, men fought, and died, for a cause they often didn’t fully understand.  They accrued the risk of losing their lives.  There is a risk in speaking out against these programs, and it is a risk that morally responsible individuals must accept. If we enjoy the beauty of the internet, and the promise it has to elevate humanity, then we too must accept responsibility for its well being.  It is an extension of us – our loves, hates, hopes, dreams, and values.  It cannot be corrupted, insofar as we cannot be corrupted.  So we must say in response to “if you have nothing to hide, why are you worried?” That we are deeply worried, for the future of our collective soul, and the platform on which our children will learn moral truth.