anarchist-handThe local (Chicago) group I am involved with, Four Star Anarchist Organization, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary by publishing its guiding Statement of Principles. This is meant to be a short and accessible overview of our politics and goals, without going into detail on strategy or specific ideological points (we’ll address those, as they arise, in other published statements). It’s rather difficult to collectively write political statements –especially short ones — that aren’t laden with jargon or anarchist in-group terminology, but I think we did a decent job. We also made an effort to talk more about what we want, rather than just throwing out a laundry list of things we opposed.  Feedback is, of course, appreciated.

Here is the statement in full:

The Four Star Anarchist Organization believes all people must have control over the basic conditions of their lives. Core values of cooperation, equality, and direct democracy guide our struggle toward a free society that transforms our relationships with our neighborhoods, workplaces, culture, the world in which we live, and each other.

  • In our families, women, children, and all members must have equality and freedom from violence. We must be free to develop healthy, supportive relationships of our choosing as opposed to living conditions and arrangements resulting from economic, religious, cultural, or government coercion.
  • In our neighborhoods, community and economic development must be freely decided by all. All people are entitled to quality housing, safe communities, healthcare, education, and other necessities of life.
  • In our workplaces, we must have direct democratic control over the conditions of our labor and effort. Bosses must be replaced by the cooperative decisions and actions of those who work in homes, stores, offices, hospitals, schools, factories, and all other workplaces. This work must be based on fulfilling real needs rather than creating profits for the wealthy.
  • In our communities, people must be free to develop and maintain culture–art, music, sport, and food–that reflects the best part of daily life in our society. Justice, respect, and passion can only thrive in a world where our popular culture is both social and cooperative.
  • In our world as a whole, we must engage scientific principles and appropriate technologies to ensure a thriving and sustainable planet for all. Most people are experts on their own needs and we are able to solve even the biggest problems when we work together.

Four Star is committed to struggling against the lethal combination of oppression and domination that characterizes life in our society: capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, environmental devastation, and the state. Our vision is to help develop affinity and empower people by providing direct support to groups, communities, and individuals who are identifying solutions in their lives. To make this happen, we involve ourselves with social movements and promote anarchism, direct democracy, and militant direct action.

Pirate Bay Bad News

April 17, 2009

pirate-flag-half-mastSo the Pirate Bay lost their Court case, which is a shame. What really made me nearly choke on my breakfast though was this quote from one of the music industry  mouthpieces:

“There has been a perception that piracy is OK and that the music industry should just have to accept it. This verdict will change that.”

This quote couldn’t illustrate more how clueless they are, and why they are ulrimately doomed to failure. As a friend of mine put it, widespread cultural attitudes are not going to change because of laws, so no matter how many people they prosecute and put in jail, people are not going to just turn around and uninstall their torrent clients. Instead, they’re going to get more pissed off, fight back more aggressively, and in the end they’ll win.

On a tangent, however, while reading up on the Pirate Bay stuff, this also came to my attention — that the fourth defendent in the case is actually a well-known suspected neo-nazi. This doesn’t seem to have been widely reported, but it looks like the Pirate Bay crew took in serious donations from Carl Lundstrom, who is heavily involved in extreme-right politics.

Some of the news regarding the links between Lundstrom and the Pirate Bay crew seems exaggerated (claims that he was a stakeholder, for example), and the Pirate Bay trio also claim that Lundstrom was included in the lawsuit because he has a bad reputation and so it helps to make them look bad. When it comes down to it, however, there are no excuses for making such alliances, even if the Pirate Bay was only taking donated money and equipment. If anything, that potentially puts them in a position where they hold obligations to an extreme right figure.

While the Pirate Bay’s fight should be supported, their actual politics have often come across as shallow and sometimes opportunistic in the past, which is unfortunate. Likewise, working with the extreme right in any capacity is something that can only be condemned.

Image credit: Atom X

More 3D Printing

April 11, 2009

reprapThe Singularity Hub has a good overview of RepRap machines — open source and (almost) self-replicating 3D printers:

Imagine having a machine for $500 in your living room that can take your computer based specification for a 3D object and print out a plastic replica of the object in a matter of minutes.  Imagine furthermore that all of the specifications for the machine are completely open source, completely shareable and modifiable by anyone in the world, and that there is a worldwide community of volunteers working feverishly to support you and anyone else to troubleshoot and improve the machine.  Imagine no longer…this machine, called a Reprap, is reality!  Best of all, these machines are ultimately designed to self replicate themselves, bringing us within tantalizing reach of a long envisioned era of self replicating machines.

There’s also news that people working on the Fab@Home 3-D printer project (similar to RepRap, but not self-replicating) have figured out a way to cut the costs for the raw stock they use to 1/50th of the previous cost:

“Normally these supplies cost $30 to $50 a pound. Our materials cost less than a dollar a pound,” said Ganter. He said he wants to distribute the free recipes in order to democratize 3-D printing and expand the range of printable objects.

Once these things get even cheaper and more widespread, we’re going to see people coming up with lots of creative uses. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the anarcho-bike-freak modders build a bicycle almost entirely out of 3D printed parts in the near future.

Quick Links 04-03-09

April 3, 2009

    One of the great criticisms of the transhumanist movement is that it will only benefit wealthy, First World citizens and that the ones who need the most help, the impoverished and marginalized – including their children – will be forgotten.


    I say this in a postcolonial context because a great number of transhuman and postmodern technologies allow for those countries that had their ‘natural historical development’ (for lack of a better term) derailed by colonialism to skip, as it were, the path of current developed countries. In short, they don’t have to industrialize. Transhuman and postmodern tech, like alt-energy, cell networks, and micro-manufacturing allow tiny, rural communities to be both self-sufficient and enjoy a high standard of living. The key here is to make these technologies available and useful but also present enough options to prevent corporate colonialism.

    If I find myself harboring racist or cruel traits that are incompatible with my otherwise humanist personality, I might become a more coherent and kind person by somehow altering these dark sides. In fact, reshaping our identities is a large part of what normal adults do all their lives. We wish to be certain kinds of people, and we admire the people who become better people.

    If nobody gets hurt and everybody has access, says Hughes, then genetic modification is perfectly fine, and restricting it is an assault on reproductive freedom. “It’s in the same category as abortion. If you think women have the right to control their own bodies, then they should be able to make this choice,” he said. “There should be no law restricting the kind of kids people have, unless there’s gross evidence that they’re going to harm that kid, or harm society.”

    Simply thinking about words associated with money seems to makes us more self-reliant and less inclined to help others. And it gets weirder: just handling cash can take the sting out of social rejection and even diminish physical pain.

    If the legal implications were murky, the political implications were clear. Given the dramatic racial disparities of family searches, African-American families might be four times as likely to be put under genetic surveillance as white families.

    At the center of this community are hacker spaces like Noisebridge, where like-minded geeks gather to work on personal projects, learn from each other and hang out in a nerd-friendly atmosphere. Like artist collectives in the ’60s and ’70s, hacker spaces are springing up all over.

    There are now 96 known active hacker spaces worldwide, with 29 in the United States,  according to Hackerspaces.org. Another 27 U.S. spaces are in the planning or building stage.

    A new research paper from The National Labor Committee unveils the the lives of women building keyboards. Being tech activists, sometimes we need to step back and take a look at the effect of our technology and think “does the end justify the means”?

    Electromagnetic pulse weapons capable of frying the electronics in civil airliners [or, perhaps, military and police drones/vehicles--i] can be built using information and components available on the net, warn counterterrorism analysts.

    Quick Links 2-11-09

    February 11, 2009

    Why the recently announced Singularity University falls short:

    For an institution that claims to be “preparing humanity for accelerating technological change,” it sure seems to be spending a lot more time talking about nifty gadgets than about the connection between technology and society.

    Also worth checking out is George Dvorsky’s roundup of the ensuing debate.

    A look at the x-risk posed by human super-intelligence and abuses of power/authority:

    If the first intelligence-enhanced human is smart enough to rise to power in a country with a large military and nuclear arsenal, then expansionism can begin under the guise of whatever rallying call of the week is expedient.

    An interesting little rant …

    Every health problem, mental or physical, will be treated in light of the person’s genome, which will be part of a person’s medical record. Drug doses will be determined genomically because different people can have greatly varying sensitivities to medicines. Almost any medical recommendation may be tailored to the sufferer’s genome.

    His fear is that, when a citizenry has no sense of the horrors and true cost of war, they will choose to go to war like any other policy decision, “weighed by the same calculus used to determine whether to raise bridge tolls.”

    If the early adopters don’t go crazy and/or use their newfound abilities to turn the world into a totalitarian dictatorship, then they will concisely and vividly communicate the benefits of the technology to their non-uploaded family and friends. If affordable, others will then follow, but the degree of adoption will necessarily depend on whether the process is easily reversible or not.

    The purpose of the Seasteading Institute—and of this gathering—is to figure out how to make aquatic homesteads a reality. But Friedman doesn’t just want to create huge floating platforms that people can live on. He’s also hoping to create a platform in the sense that Linux is a platform: a base upon which people can build their own innovative forms of governance. The ultimate goal is to create standards and blueprints that can be easily adapted, allowing small communities to rapidly incubate and test new models of self-rule with the same ease that a programmer in his garage can whip up a Facebook app.

    We are just now witnessing the beginning of what is surely going to be a huge wave of self-sufficient communities, enabled by the new modes of production made possible by the Internet and communications technologies. The prospects for this are enormous for everyone, but especially those in poorest and most dependent places on Earth.

    Cowell says there is now “a self-imposed moratorium on ‘wetwork'”, or all synthetic biology experiments, until researchers can show that what they are doing is safe.

    this makes it easy to build a complete UAV for less than $500, which is really kind of amazing. As exciting as that it is, it’s also sobering to know that a technology that was just a few years ago the sole domain of the military is now within the reach of amateurs…

    In open source warfare, an insurgency’s strength grows through a proliferation of groups with a similar high level objective:  a weaker nation-state.  The question becomes:  how is this proliferation achieved?

    “Our adversaries are constantly watching what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “They’re adapting and drawing insights and they’re going to make us fight this different kind of war. This manual is not a solution for Iraq or Afghanistan, but it will prepare Soldiers and Marines for where we are going in the future and the enemies we will face.”

    As 2009 opens, our financial institutions are deep in massive, irrational panic. That’s bad, but it gets worse: Many other respected institutions have rational underpinnings at least as frail as derivatives or bundled real-estate loans. Like finance, these institutions are social constructions. They are games of confidence, underpinned by people’s solemn willingness to believe, to conform, to contribute. So why not panic over them, too?

    Quick Links 12-18-08

    December 18, 2008

    * Bailout Cost

    People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

    Where has all this money been before? Why haven’t we been using it to counter some of our very real social inequalities and problems?

    * Hope in Common

    The last decade has instead seen the development of thousands of forms of mutual aid association, most of which have not even made it onto the radar of the global media. They range from tiny cooperatives and associations to vast anti-capitalist experiments, archipelagos of occupied factories in Paraguay or Argentina or of self-organized tea plantations and fisheries in India, autonomous institutes in Korea, whole insurgent communities in Chiapas or Bolivia, associations of landless peasants, urban squatters, neighborhood alliances, that spring up pretty much anywhere that where state power and global capital seem to temporarily looking the other way. They might have almost no ideological unity and many are not even aware of the other’s existence, but all are marked by a common desire to break with the logic of capital.

    * Most Favor Reproductive Technologies – But Not Sex Selection

    What is it about sex selection that gives cause to such rejection?

    * Experts: Use of Brain Drugs Should Be Permitted

    According to the piece, written by a group of ethicists, psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists, “cognitive enhancement, unlike enhancement for sports competitions, could lead to substantive improvements in the world.”

    * Tracing Crime Suspects Through Relatives

    the idea of scrutinizing families based exclusively on their possible genetic relationship to an unknown suspect makes privacy advocates and legal experts nervous. They argue that it effectively expands criminal databases to include every offender’s relatives, a potentially unconstitutional intrusion

    * Cellphone Mic as Eavesdropping Tool

    The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone’s microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

    * Resources on Mobile Phone Surveillance

    Obviously, the most secure way to use a phone is not to use one at all. Even so, most organisations, even if they understand the risks involved, find that phones are too useful to discard completely. The best approach then becomes one of harm reduction: identifying and understanding the risks involved, and taking appropriate steps to limit exposure. In this article, we try to identify these risks, and to offer some suggestions for securing your mobile communications.

    Quick Links 11-19-08

    November 19, 2008

    * The Technium on the Pro-Actionary Principle

    The absences of second-order effects in small precise experiments, and our collective impulse to adapt technology as we use it, make reliable models of advance technological innovations impossible. An emerging technology must be tested in action, and evaluated in real time. In other words the risks of a particular technology have to be determined by trial and error in real life. We can think of this vetting-by-action algorithm as the Proactionary Principle. Technologies are tested through action, rather than inaction.  In this approach the appropriate response to a new idea is to immediately try it out.

    * The Reversibility Principle

    Jamais Cascio’s stab at an alternate approach.

    * Bruce Sterling’s Last Veridian Note

    Hairshirt-green is the simple-minded inverse of 20th-century consumerism. Like
    the New Age mystic echo of Judaeo-Christianity, hairshirt-green simply changes
    the polarity of the dominant culture, without truly challenging it in any
    effective way. It doesn’t do or say anything conceptually novel — nor is it
    practical, or a working path to a better life.

    * Indymedia and the Enclosure of the Internet

    Political groups don’t advertise their presence on Indymedia anymore, they set up a MySpace group. For that matter, most political people don’t register email accounts with riseup.net or aktivix.org or one of the other activist-run email services, they get a Gmail or Hotmail account instead. This is a general problem and is much bigger than either Indymedia or left activism, but it’s worth thinking about how we can respond to it.

    * Libertopian Doublethink on the Singularity

    Apparently you are allowed to opine that super-robots will either bring us a perfect world free from want, or possibly wipe us off the map. But if you suggest that we might need social policies to ensure our economic welfare when robots take most of the jobs then you are a socialist throwback unaware that free markets have always solved the structural unemployment problems of the past.

    * FBI using Triggerfish to Monitor Cellphones Without Warrants or Telco Knowledge

    Triggerfish is a fake cell phone tower that intercepts phone calls, keeps MIN (phone number) ESN (electronic serial number) and location information, and then forwards the call to the actual cellphone tower.

    * Bioethics Policy Handbook

    The chapters, written by leading ethicists, are nonpartisan, presenting reasonable considerations from various perspectives that are grounded in good scientific and ethical facts.

    * From the Garage

    Why the majority of the work in colonizing the space frontier will come from amateur effort

    * Why Children Like to Share

    Researchers are increasingly coming to understand that people are also “programmed” to care about others.

    * Mini Nuclear Power Plants

    Quick Links 10-24-08

    October 24, 2008

    * Humans Evolved Egalitarianism in Pleistocene

    Egalitarianism and competitive urges are key elements of human nature and egalitarianism’s development came about to help people compete more effectively.

    * The God that Failed: The 30 Year Lie of the Market Cult

    This is one of the main facts that ordinary citizens around the world should take away from this crisis: the money to maintain, secure and improve the lives of their families and communities was always there — but their governments, and their political parties, made a deliberate, unforced choice not to use it for the common good.

    * Chomsky on the Nature of Capitalism

    A study by international economists Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder 15 years ago found that at least 20 companies in the Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments “socialise their losses,” as in today’s taxpayer-financed bailout.

    * Three-Way Fight on Capitalism in Crisis

    There is no evidence of capitalist complacency in the current situation – but there is a good possibility that many left radicals will relax and snooze their way through it. I recommend that those who see the current situation as just “capitalists just being capitalist” make sure they understand the concept and the function of “leverage” and then google – ‘collateralized debt obligation’ and ‘credit default swap’. This should provide some recovery therapy for business as usual disorders on the left.

    * Physical Security Maxims

    Double Edge Sword Maxim: Within a few months of its availability, new technology helps the bad guys at least as much as it helps the good guys.

    * GPS Spoofing

    Quick Links 07-17-08

    July 17, 2008

    * How Do We Fight Corporate Control of the Internet?

    So what is the solution, if it isn’t nice crowds of people creating their own content and building their own tether-free DVRs? My honest answer is that we need organized crowds of people systematically and concertedly breaking the tethers on consumer technology. Yes, we need safe spaces like Wikipedia, but we also need to be affirmatively making things uncomfortable for the companies that keep us tethered. We need to build technologies that set Comcast DVRs free, that let people run any applications they want on iPhones, that fool ISPs into running peer-to-peer traffic. We need to hand out easy-to-use tools to everyone so crowds of consumers can control what happens to their technologies. In short, we need to disobey.

    * Using a File-Erasure Tool Considered Suspicious

    I have often recommended that people use file erasure tools regularly, especially when crossing international borders with their computers. Now we have one more reason to use them regularly: plausible deniability if you’re accused of erasing data to keep it from the police.

    * The Big Picture: Collapse, Transcendence, or Muddling Through

    I’ll start this essay by leading with my conclusion: do we make it to the end of this century? Yeah, but not all of us, and it’s neither as spectacular nor as horrific as many people imagine.

    * The New Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

    That’s the direction we’re heading in — more surveillance, more systemic government monitoring and data mining, and minimal oversight and accountability — with most of the oversight being very general, not particularly rigorous, and nearly always secret — and with the public being almost completely shut out of the process. But don’t worry, you shouldn’t get too upset about all this. You probably won’t know much about it. They’ll keep the dirty details from you, because what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

    * Plutocracy Reborn
    Interesting infographic.

    Quick Links 4-28-08

    April 28, 2008


    * Open Source 3D Printer Copies Itself

    The RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyper) printer can replicate and update itself. It can print its own parts, including updates

    * Science 2.0 — Is Open Access Science the Future?

    A small but growing number of researchers (and not just the younger ones) have begun to carry out their work via the wide-open tools of Web 2.0. And although their efforts are still too scattered to be called a movement—yet—their experiences to date suggest that this kind of Web-based “Science 2.0” is not only more collegial than traditional science but considerably more productive.

    * Liberate and Disseminate

    So, I’ve taken it upon myself to start an organisation called MLOP, the “Movement for the Liberation of Old Papers”. What I do is hack into restricted websites, download the documents I’m interested in, and then use my favourite open-source paint program to remove the copyright statements from each page. Next I assemble the pages into one single pdf file and upload it to the Internet Archive, where it will become universally available to both researchers and citizens.

    * DIY Weapons

    We can expect to see these weapons become dominant (in use) in the next decade as they branch out into new areas and begin to take advantage of newly emerging capabilities. For example: personal fabrication that can churn out rockets/UAVs with tight form factors and customized/integrated flight systems — or — bioengineered pathogens that use commonly available materials, university sequencing/design software, widely available skills, and labs on a chip. The only limiting factor are the imaginations of the world’s guerrilla entrepreneurs. In combination with systems disruption and increases in lethality, the sky’s the limit.

    NOTE: In contrast, the big defense contractors will find themselves focused increasingly on developing anti-weapons to counter innovations in the DIY space. Not sure they will be flexible enough to pull it off.

    See also: Tinkering Networks and DIY Rockets.

    * Hackers Publish German Interior Minister’s Fingerprint

    To demonstrate why using fingerprints to secure passports is a bad idea, the German hacker group Chaos Computer Club has published what it says is the fingerprint of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s interior minister.

    * How to Fake Fingerprints

    Instructions from the Chaos Computer Club.

    * Reward Offered for UK Minister and Home Secretary’s Fingerprints

    Privacy International and the UK’s NO2ID are offering a reward for the first person to collect and submit the UK Prime Minister’s and Home Secretary’s fingerprints. Plus you can download and print your own Wanted Poster!

    * The Myth of the Transparent Society

    This article by Bruce Schneier does a good job of expressing one of the critiques I’ve held regarding calls for a transparent society or participatory panopticon:

    Explained in books like David Brin’s The Transparent Society, the argument goes something like this: In a world of ubiquitous surveillance, you’ll know all about me, but I will also know all about you. The government will be watching us, but we’ll also be watching the government. This is different than before, but it’s not automatically worse. And because I know your secrets, you can’t use my secrets as a weapon against me… Except it doesn’t work, because it ignores the crucial dissimilarity of power. You cannot evaluate the value of privacy and disclosure unless you account for the relative power levels of the discloser and the disclosee.

    See also: David Brin’s reply.

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