Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egyptian Internet

A favorite civil liberties quote by John Gilmore:

"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

Libertarians have often paraded that hopeful message as gospel, but Egypt shows that it isn't true.

I've heard civil defense proposals that cell phones should act as text relay stations so that even if towers and satellites are down (say during a hurricane, other natural disaster, or human-made disaster) you can still communicate. I think it is a great idea for a standard, but there are two major reasons why it would be opposed strongly:

(1) First, the idea that people could communicate electronically at some base level without having to pay phone companies will be opposed by the entire communications industry.

(2) Governments will oppose uncensorable and unspyable communications. Including the US government, which has required all mass communications media to be legally spyable with a court order and routinely intercepts and processes all mass communications anyway.

The US internet and (cell) phone services could just as easily be shut down.

In actuality, civil defense phones could be shut down just as easily with denial of service attacks. It's hard to think of a two-way mass communications system that couldn't be shut down with denial of service attacks.

The solution is a citizenry that is attentive to good government, and seeks to change bad features. Libertarianism doesn't solve that problem, because it has no method for deciding what constitutes good government, good life, or anything else.

20 comments:

Glen said...

This issue has little to do with libertarianism, but I have to challenge some of your technical claims.

"the idea that people could communicate electronically at some base level without having to pay phone companies"...is already true. You can communicate electronically over the ham radio band with people a hundred miles away without having to pay phone companies. Or over bluetooth or over wifi. That camel's nose is already in the tent; something along the lines of mesh networking seems inevitable at this point. Companies like Apple that have to play nice with the cell companies for strategic reasons can't outright render the cell networks obsolete...yet. But they're already making moves in that direction (eg, "facetime" lets you make calls without using minutes), and where they can't go, other companies will.

"It's hard to think of a two-way mass communications system that couldn't be shut down with denial of service attacks."

No. it's actually pretty easy to think of some, but the best candidates for the job haven't really caught on yet due to technical constraints. The chief technical constraint is that the hardware you need is expensive and would be battery-draining in a portable device; there's also a regulatory constraint in that the FCC still thinks its job is to prevent "interference" perceived by nondirectional receivers. The early days of radio were based on really dumb, really cheap receivers and expensive transmitters. But as you throw more hardware at the problem and make receivers more cleverly directional, you can get nearly infinite bandwidth and the ability to tune out any unwanted interference source.

Analogy: Suppose you have a party and invite a dozen guests, of whom: Joe wears a green shirt, Bob wears a green shirt, and Mary wears a green shirt too. The SAME shade of green. Does Mary's wearing green interfere with your ability to see Joe or Bob? No, because Mary is behind you, Joe's on your right, and Bob is on your left. You can just go look *in a particular direction*. If you focus on Bob it doesn't matter how intensely green Mary is because you're not looking at her. Directional receivers work like that - they discriminate incoming signals based on frequency *and* location, so one loud point source in the region can't "jam the frequency".

But while we're at it, how exactly does Egypt "show that it isn't true"? People in Egypt are setting up Tor clients to use the government-approved ISP anonymously, using proxy servers, using dial-up modems to international sites and so on. The Internet is still in use, the signal is still getting through in both directions, still "routing around damage" as far as I can tell. What's your evidence to the contrary?

Glen said...

20 ways to circumvent the egyptian block (by anonymous):
http://pastebin.com/9jJUku77

An egyptian couple's blog explains how they bypass it:
http://manalaa.net/dialup

Relevant WSJ article:
http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2011/01/29/egypt-cuts-off-the-net-net-fights-back/

The latest info I found suggests the main thing Egypt has done is shut down most IP's default DNS services; users can still connect if they know the IP address they want to connect to or if they use an alternate DSN-resolution program.

Mike Huben said...

Glen, you need to read more carefully (per usual.)

I didn't say anything was technologically infeasible. I said it would be opposed by corporate and government interests.

While there are technological alternatives, as mass communications go, they are currently economically infeasible. That might change, but I do not see government or communication company support for it.

It doesn't matter if there are workarounds for the DNS shutdown: that's only the first, lightest level of shutting down mass access to the internet. I strongly doubt that very many Egyptians are able to circumvent this obstacle. The cell phone shutdown compounds the issue, and has even less workaround.

Next levels of shutdown can include ISP's and landlines.

The internet and cellphones can be great forces for freedom: but we have to realistically acknowledge that they have vulnerabilities as well.

Or perhaps we should just reinterpret "routes around it" with a different granularity. Instead of individuals being affected by the censorship finding ways around it, we could mean that the censored nation is routed around and left to rot.

We can also note that the internet is not able to deal with certain clever kinds of censorship, such as the 50-centers sponsored by China.

mikeyaustudent said...

"Libertarianism has no method for deciding what constitutes good government, good life, or anything else."
Not true. I advocate making Oprah president for life.A good life for me- sitting on my front porch smoking my corncob pipe and watching my serfs being knouted for minor rule infractions.
Afterward, put on some fishnet stockings, open up a can of catfood
and wax the Desoto.Im not sure why.

Joanna Liberation said...

"The solution is a citizenry that is attentive to good government, and seeks to change bad features."

That sounds so libertarian. But of course you actually mean, unless when government knows better and can override the citizenry (eg in public schooling), right?

Joanna Liberation said...

"Libertarianism [...] has no method for deciding what constitutes good government, good life, or anything else."

Mike, you sound exactly same as the Randian cultists you allegedly despise. You seem to know what objectively "good government", objectively "good life", or even objectively "good anything else" are.

However, even though Randian excessess are ridiculous, laissez faire fanatics will never employ government aggression to actually force the citizenry into objectively "good life", unlike collectivists like you.

Kevin Wayne said...

laissez faire fanatics will never employ government aggression to actually force the citizenry into objectively "good life", unlike collectivists like you.

May I introduce you to Ralph Nader?

Check the Wikipedia entry on him.His career has been marked by many, many non-profit groups that he either started or inspired that are clearly ground-up. And they work for CHANGE. This is clearly motivating Citizens to inform and intellectually involve themselves in doing the dirty work of Citizenry. All the Libertarians ca do is objectify Government as some kind of Boogey Man that exists separately from thee Consent of the Governed. eventually it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: People think Government as a concept is bad, and are shamed for "wanting the government to solve your problems" and then they do nothing to effect the world around them.

I also think Nader has more brain in his pinky than most Libertarianutz have in their whole body. But that's a personal observation ;-)

My point is: Nader, MLK, Chavez, are just some examples of what real Citizenry is all about. But people don't think of it that way. They think all there is available is "The Government" or "Limited Government." Sad dichotomy indeed.

Joanna Liberation said...

Kevin, congratulations on brainy and sophisticated liberal citizenry, all the governed consenting to be governed because they are governed, all the enslaved consenting to be enslaved because they are enslaved... However, note that libertarians actually work toward much stronger government than it has ever been, in terms of private property protection, so you simply confuse libertarians with anarchocapitalists, same as mikeyaustudent confuses Soup Nazi with rasizm. Boogey straw man of libertarianizm rebutted again and again...

Kevin Wayne said...

"all the governed consenting to be governed because they are governed, all the enslaved consenting to be enslaved because they are enslaved"

Oh, please... that says more about you than it does about anything I've presented. It's the Progressive party of Oregon - on of Nader's legacies fyi, that is opposing Portland joining the FBI
s Joint terrorism Task Force.

"note that libertarians actually work toward much stronger government than it has ever been, in terms of private property protection"

Um ya... they want to give over Public Lands to Corporations in the USA. Nice Shill there, Sherlock.

"Boogey straw man of libertarianizm rebutted again and again..."

In your dreams.

Kevin Wayne said...

I should probably explain what I mean a little further: Your assessment of Progressive Activism as "all the governed consenting to be governed because they are governed, all the enslaved consenting to be enslaved because they are enslaved" actually proves the very point I made. That you would view such Grassroots Activism that brings about Positive Change as "enslaved" points up my gripe with Libertarianism in general. That's simply a low mentality, period. And coming from a People who simply cannot match that track record of real change. Sour Grapes, indeed.

Take a look at the 2008 Libertarian Party candidate, Bob Barr:

http://www.constitutionparty.org/news_print.php?aid=753

"• Barr is in favor of an interventionist foreign policy, arguing for intervention in Iran and South America, among other countries. Barr voted for the Iraq war. He praised Bush because "the surge is working." Chuck Baldwin believes, as our Founders did, that we should be a friend to all and avoid ‘foreign entanglements’. Baldwin has stated that if elected he would see to it that those who have been sent to fight the illegal, unconstitutional and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would receive orders to return home immediately.

• Barr voted for the Patriot Act, and favored reauthorization of that liberty-robbing set of laws. Chuck Baldwin has always stood against the Patriot Act as an unconstitutional power grab by the executive branch.

• Barr favors a national sales tax. Chuck Baldwin contends that does not reform our tax system, it merely re-orders the heavy-handed manner the IRS controls the illegal and unfair robbing of Peter to subsidize Paul."

Gee I really feel like Liberty is being steadfastly defended here. Patriot Act twice? Aw, Hell yeah! ;-)

I like to think it proves that Libertarianism is just a shill for the Rich and Powerful to push their agenda. If the LP nominates more guys like Barr, I will KNOW it!

I will say this to be fair: Ron Paul refused to endorse him, and I think he may have voted for Baldwin. Hopefuly his Constitution Party side will come out more in the future. I agree with them more.

Although I was shocked to see that RP sponsored a 1979 bill to kick Iranian students out of the US. That lowered him in my view, and puts the lie to the claim I saw him make on the news, that Libertarians can't be Racist because Racism is a collectivist mindset. I don't know if he's so much a Racist for that reason, but I think it shows he's not above objectifying a group when he wants to.

Proof of my claim:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d096:H.R.5842:

Further Info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Iranian_sentiment

Joanna Liberation said...

Kevin, LP is opportunistic, same as any other major political party, no question about it, so what, Bob Barr and Ron Paul are still lesser evils compared to straight liberals or conservatives. Now, the fact that the rich are lobbying for something does not automatically mean it's bad for the working class. I don't care for the motives, I only care for the results. Only libertarian parties at least explicitely say they want to actually end all corporate welfare. If it is a shill of the rich, so be it. And as for privatization of public lands, I don't believe even fully libertarian society will ever actually privatize public national parks, rivers, lakes, sea, beaches, air space or some basic infrastructure like roads. Hence nothing about that in LP's official agenda, even when some libertarians believe it possible. Libertarian principles are only a good rule of thumb.

Kevin Wayne said...

In point of fact, actually I think the Green Party & the Progressive Party of Oregon would go you one better: Ending corporate personhood, which I think is more at the crux of the issue.

Disagree with you in that it does matter if the Rich are for certain aspects of the LP platform: They will lobby for what serves them only, and they have more power to impose their will than the LP. Really, the Aristocracy is the problem.

Left-leaning Progressives who are smart enough not to have their agenda "Lo-bama-tized" are simply more consistent. I don't think the Libertarians can even look back on near their track record of accomplishments. Or even Progressive in general.

RP may still be somewhat OK, BB is completely out of the question for me, even after seeing his Fox News interview where he admitted he was wrong about some things. He still thinks impeaching Clinton was the right thing to do, I think it was a major distraction. His judgment leaves a lot to be desired.

Opportunist? Or just plain idiotic? I vote for #2.

I actually voted for Ron Paul i n the Oregon Primary, but now after I know more about Dennis Kucinich, I would have voted for him. Leftist Progressives will always consistently defend Civil Liberties, you can't say the same for Libertarians, as my assessment of Paul and Barr prove.

Joanna Liberation said...

Kevin, there are reasonable libertarian arguments against corporate personhood as well, so libertarians don't need to be one bettered here. However, greens and progressives view private business profits as evil in general, so they are against corporations per se, rather than against corporation privileges like libertarians. Also, leftist progressives only defend civil liberties when they are in opposition, or at least threatened by righ-wing parties in a relatively democratic and capitalist environment. Remember what leftist progressives have consistently been doing in countries where they have secured full undemocratic power.

Kevin Wayne said...

Kevin, there are reasonable libertarian arguments against corporate personhood as well, so libertarians don't need to be one bettered here.

But given the choice, and noting that many Libertarian Think-tanks are simply fronts that pose as Non-partisan but actually are funded by Corporations, I'm going to give the edge to Progressives for consistency. Go to Sourcewatch.org, type in Cato Institute and read what comes up. Ask yourself why an alleged Libertarian group is in bed with the American Enterprise Institute?

However, greens and progressives view private business profits as evil in general, so they are against corporations per se,

Not so, not even close.

rather than against corporation privileges like libertarians.

See above comment re the AEI.

Also, leftist progressives only defend civil liberties when they are in opposition, or at least threatened by righ-wing parties in a relatively democratic and capitalist environment.

Huh? This is just you grasping at straws. Not even close.


Remember what leftist progressives have consistently been doing in countries where they have secured full undemocratic power.

They have been um, securing full democratic power, i.e., True Democracy. And such societies as:

Sweden
The Netherlands
Japan (at least for the Health Care system)
Finland
Denmark

I'm sure I could find more given time.

Joanna Liberation said...

Kevin, there is some funny truth in what you say. Kind of reminds me of "most trusted politician" polls. Respondents in general simply "trust" politicians who share their political views. But in reality it is relatively safe to trust liberal and conservative politicians they will actually implement collectivism, given enough power. After all, they represent all the popular misconceptions. They rarely have to go against more than half of all voters. Libertians face a different world, they often have to go against even up to 99% of populace. Consequently, I sincerely trust liberals and conservatives most, but in this case it is all the more reason to vote for libertarians. Failure to fix is always better than successful damage.

Kevin Wayne said...

You comment is a bit convoluted and hard to follow for me, but I think the essence of it boils done to this: You think I trust Progressives because I agree with them. Not entirely. My views on Moral Issues come closer to the Constitution party than Progressives. I trust Progressives because they seem to hold more consistently to their own views and do not compromise as much. And they simply have a better track record of accomplishments. Also, it appears that Libertarians, due to the view they apparently hold of perceived individual needs being sacrosanct, are more likely to compromise with Neocons. As proof, I've already offered Barr on Iraq and Patriot act, and Paul on Iranian immigrants, Cato institute links to corporations, AEI. I could also mention Wayne Allen Root saying RP was "weak (on) national security and the war on terrorists."

Kevin Wayne said...

Took another look at your last comment and I see what you are saying better. All I can say in response to that is: What you have given is a circular argument that says the reason why Conservatives & Liberal get things done is because they are more likely to impose their will over everyone. Well, if you want to take a Spoiled Child's view over everything, to where anything passed through that you don't like is "forcing" people, then yes. Are Libertarians immune to such abuses? Nope, and my Paul/Barr/Cato/Neocon examples prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Similarly, if you were African American living in the early part of the last Century, you would not say things like "Failure to fix is always better than successful damage."

So basically, Society has chosen to stand up and do the work of adults, and leave the Children stay home, as they wish. And life goes on.

Joanna Liberation said...

Kevin, I agree liberals may often be more consistent than even some libertarians on moral freedoms (another example is strong pro-life movement among libertarians), provided they don't hold too much power. However, I believe economic freedoms are very important to preserve moral freedoms in the first place. In other words, well-to-do individuals can easily work around any moral slavery imposed by conservatives, so better to compromise there rather than with liberals.

Joanna Liberation said...

Also, Kevin,

"They have been um, securing full democratic power, i.e., True Democracy. And such societies as: Sweden"

Sweden is actually a good example of progressives having too much power which results in not only economic but also moral freedom deterioration. Note Swedish state alcohol retail monopoly, exorbitant taxes and regulation. Supermarkets only sell drinks up to alchohol strenght of 3.5% etc. Only Sweden could charge Assuange with rape just because he has not called the girl back. Progressives with too much power try to mold society same as conservatives. Collectivism ends always the same.

Kevin Wayne said...

In other words, well-to-do individuals can easily work around any moral slavery imposed by conservatives, so better to compromise there rather than with liberals.

But compromising on the Patriot Act because you believe that defense is one of the Paltry few things government is allowed to so does not provide freedom. Neither does involving the country in needless wars with no end in sight. The very fact of Barr and institutions such as Cato being in bed with the AEI seem to point to the same Right-wing knee-jerk-ism: "I've had the shit scared out of me, so I'm going to agree to to these things because they will make me feel safe." And since you hold Protection via Police & Military as sacrosanct, rather than look at the broader view of what Societies can do to bring about change, you've left yourself with no other place to go.

And incidentally, such justifications that come out of the conflations of the Libertarian/Neocon ideals of Defense and Security probably factor more into what happened to Julian Assuange. In fact, I would say VERY likely.

Supermarkets only sell drinks up to alchohol strenght of 3.5% etc. Only Sweden could charge Assuange with rape just because he has not called the girl back. Progressives with too much power try to mold society same as conservatives. Collectivism ends always the same.

Just more hot air spouting of conclusions based on scatter-shot anecdotes that may or may not be warranted, like most of your anemic attempts at Sociology.

Incidentally, Collectivism is why Egypt turned the corner this past week. You cannot mount an effective Non-violent resistance campaign on anything else. Hmmm, who else were good at that? Ghandi? King? We're still waiting for Libertarians to honestly say they have ever accomplished... anything.