Tag Archives: Germany

Technology and Democracy: Wired Magazine Elitism versus Pirate Party Openness

Logo of the Pirate Party in Germany

New Orleans  My son subscribes to Wired magazine, the glossy, tech and computer boosting publication.  I like it and read it regularly once he’s finished.  Yesterday, it was in the pile of publications I toted to the basement of the Criminal Court jury rooms to pass the time in my required biannual service as a citizen of this fair city.

An article by Wired contributing editor, Joshua Davis, called “Fewer Voters, Better Elections,” was breathtaking in its elitism and implicit attack on democracy.  Citing two current research studies, one disappointingly from Stanford, Davis argues for a random “statistically valid” sample of 100,000 of our 313 million citizens who would be polled on the questions and candidates of the day.  Davis deftly avoids the gaping holes in his argument against mass citizen participation by citing the litany of problems with the current system (lack of participation, problems of campaign financing, TV ads) and arguing for a system of random participation in “small group deliberations” which would have more time and ability to make “informed” decisions, which he likens to jury pools, ignoring all evidence to the problems with juries as well.

Parts of the Wired argument are not only anti-democratic but almost calculatingly deceptive.  First, Davis glances over the fact that he and the researchers want to pool their random people from a pool of “registered voters,” which blatantly reinforces a huge structural weakness in the current American system, which excludes, and increasingly suppresses, the citizen participation of minorities, elderly, and the poor among many others.  Secondly, Davis tries to conflate the Stanford “small group deliberations,” which he touts as “part of legally binding decision processes in 18 countries” as being the same or an adequate substitute for the real engagement and participation that is voting.  Small group, big group, mass meetings, whatever, let a thousand flowers bloom as pieces of a “decision” process, but that will never be the same as democracy, and no country has adopted that in this world.

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Mirror Sites, Domain Hosts, and Wikileaks Cyber War

wikiprotestmain-420x0 New Orleans I’ve got to admit that the more there is a bully boy, gang up on Wikileaks by governments, businesses and cowards, the more I’m sympathetic to their situation and the need for all of us to step up some way or another.

My hero of the day is Toronto-based EasyDNS, a domain registration outfit with 55,000 customers, that was misidentified of Twitter and then in various newspapers as hosting Wikileaks’ website.  As most know, the real hosts turned tail and ran for specious reasons, so when the Wikipeople realized that EasyDNS had a set, they asked them to host, and sure enough, Mark Jeftovic, head of EasyDNS, said it was time “to put up or shut up.”  So, they strapped it on for the fight and took Wikileaks on as a customer.  I’m definitely going to give them some of my little business!

In response to rouge individual and government efforts to knock Wikileaks off the web, a couple of hundred people at last report had downloaded and were hosting “mirror” sites.  Ok, techno-peasants, what is a “mirror site?”  According to SearchStorage.Com:

“A mirror site is an exact replica of the original site and is usually updated frequently to ensure that it reflects the content of the original site. Mirror sites are used to make access faster when the original site may be geographically distant (for example, a much-used Web site in Germany may arrange to have a mirror site in the United States). In some cases, the original site (for example, on a small university server) may not have a high-speed connection to the Internet and may arrange for a mirror site at a larger site with higher-speed connection and perhaps closer proximity to a large audience.”

I think we ought to help these mirror sites multiply so that these botnet strategies of pushing unpopular sites off the internet are stopped.  Like it or not, there is very valuable information coming forward from these news reports based on the cables released thus far.  We’re finding out more than we might have wanted about how diplomacy is in service to corporate globalism, and particularly in places like Africa and Latin America we’re gaining valuable policy insights without risk of potential harm.

As for “cyber war,” what a hoot!  It’s like a huge hoax that made the front page, lead story on the New York Times. These are folks watching too many grade B movies on HBO about computers that talk and bombs bursting in air.  We’ve learned even more about cyber-censorship at the state level from reading the news reports, but this cyber war hype is little more than electronic picket signs on some corporate sites by a far flung band of “hacktavists” and other wannabes.  I realize it’s on the edgy side of the law perhaps, but darned if I didn’t wish Anonymous would decide to jump in to support one of ACORN International’s campaigns around Remittance Justice for example.

The Times very respected media columnist, David Carr, had a piece today looking at the issues.  Steve Coll, who now heads the New America Foundation, but while working in the trade did great work that has taught me a lot, was a bit snarky on the whole “Wikileaks is journalism” frontier.  He correctly observes that “established interests and the rule of law tend to come down pretty hard on incipient movements” and then rather than standing up to defend such movements compares apples to oranges by injecting Napster into the conversation as a red herring, since Napster became an avowedly commercial enterprise competing with the music industry it was balkanizing.  He wants an office, an address, and a way to call for an interview without understanding that “incipient movements” have to protect themselves and their survival, before they cater to the 9 to 5 requirements of the press.

Disappointing!  Especially since Julian Assange and Wikileaks clearly went “establishment” in the release of these cables in creating a partnership with major news organizations around the world.  My bet is that they did so in the most “old school” way by connecting with (or hiring) someone who knew how to deal with those very organizations.  I don’t know, but my bet is that Mark Stephens, the oft quoted lawyer from the United Kingdom, who represents Wilileaks and Assange in that country carried some of the weight especially with The Guardian and the connection to the New York Times for the collaborative release.  One article mentioned that Stephens is also the lawyer for the Associated Press.  This is not some legal aid newbie to the bar, but someone who obviously has stature with news outfits and could “represent.”  This is not a lift that Julian made himself, even if he and his comrades orchestrated and approved it.  Who needs an office when you have a high powered lawyer?

We need more deep breaths.  This is good stuff and we need to all do our small bit to crawl up from under the mushrooms where we have been fed dung, and grow a little taller and stronger in some sunlight.