Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Defanging Hate

Recently I was listening to a news story about how these psychopaths that shoot up schools are often motivated by various websites and social media groups. Evidently there are sites that go so far as to glorify past school shootings. My immediate thought was "why hasn't anyone taken these sites down?" I then realized this is just a technical problem. As someone who worked in technology for many years I've learned that technical problems are the easiest to solve. Consensus, resources, priorities, these are the hard problems. Technical problems can be solved.

The New York Times just posted this op-ed piece about how Facebook and Twitter are starting to get serious about eliminating hateful postings on their services. This article refers to the terrorists that have been murdering people in Jerusalem. It is critical that these top-tier social media sites accept their responsibility to curb posts designed to insight violence, but it is not enough. We must take it a lot farther.

First we must identify exactly who is the enemy here. Sites that openly, or covertly, promote violence certainly qualify, but many don't need to go that far. Sites that spread lies in order to arouse hatred also qualify. Many of these are racial, but some are just political, but if we adopt a "no tolerance for hate" attitude, then they all most go.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is one group that tracks hate groups. They publish a hate map that currently shows 784 hate groups operating in the United States. By now most of these will have websites, or participation in some online forum. We can shut these sites down, but that will just be a starting point. There are probably thousands of other forums online that spread lies and hatred designed to instigate violence. We can locate and take these down as well.

Think about how good Google is at finding stuff on the web. Imagine applying that awesome power to identify and locate hate speech on the web. It would not surprise me if Google already indexes these things. Then the work can begin.

I am not a hacker, but I have spent a good portion of my career defending websites, servers, and networks from hackers, so I have a pretty good idea of the kind of exploits that are out there. I know that if I don't take the proper precautions my website will be compromised in a matter of hours. And these are just random attacks. I believe there isn't a site or server out there that is safe from a dedicated, prolonged attack. At the very least a denial of service attack can be effective in preventing a site from functioning. This has all been done before.

There are of course the ethical implications of what I am proposing, not to mention legal. Certainly it is illegal to hack a website, destroy data, or launch denial of service attacks. There is also the free speech issue, something we are very devoted to in this country. But we're really talking about a war here. Our children are being gunned down at school. Racism, antisemitism, and violent ideologies are running rampant here and around the world. Terror groups use the web as a recruiting tool. I am advocating a NON VIOLENT method of confronting and defeating these groups. Our country has shown it has no problem tossing aside individual rights and moral issues when it comes to defeating an enemy. Free speech should not apply to hate speech, or incite to commit violence. Yes algorithms are not foolproof and there will undoubtably be the collateral damage of blocking legitimate free speech, but we're not talking about killing people here. We're talking about saving lives. We're talking about changing the course of history. Without a means to spread, this disease of hatred can fade away and die. The Internet has made it possible for psychopaths to get their message out far and wide. We can use this same power to shut them down and silence the hatred. It's just a technical problem.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Stand up for our rights

What if I were to tell you that Americans are being held hostage by a terrorist organization, and that these terrorists have enabled the deaths of thousands of Americans, including school children. You'd expect our government to do something about it wouldn't you? What if you then found out that the government won't do anything because this very same terrorist organization has bought out the majority of our representatives through campaign contributions? Time to put an end to this don't you think? So please stand up to terrorism and demand that our government takes down the NRA, and take the guns off our streets and out of the hands of people who would do us harm. Make it clear to your representatives that you will not vote for any candidate that does not make taking down the NRA and passing real gun control legislation their top priority.

If there is one right guaranteed to every American it is that of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It is ingrained in our conciseness. This is the most fundamental part of being an American. But as long as we have to live with in fear of sending our children to school because they could be murdered by a lunatic with guns, we are being denied this right. No American should have to fear that their children are not safe at school. No American should have to fear for their own lives in a movie theater, a mall, or other public place. That is the very definition of terrorism.

We have fought wars against foreign terrorists. Spent billions of dollars to defeat them. Sent our sons and daughters off to fight and die, so that the rest of us could feel safer. We can end the domestic terrorism imposed on us by the NRA simply by not voting for any politician that takes money from them. Once we have rid the government of these corrupt politicians they can get to work to craft real laws that will get these guns of the streets and let us feel safe again.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

All guns must go

We need to repeal the second amendment and eliminate all guns. Here is why.

The second amendment was written for another time. After the war for independence our young country wanted to make sure the new government understood that if at anytime things weren't working out, the citizens could take up arms and rebel. This simply does not apply to the 21st century. No one is going to overthrow the United States government via a violent revolution. If we want a revolution that will result in anything like the world we want to live in, it will have to be a non-violent revolution.

All of the "sensible" gun measures say they want to protect "legitimate" gun ownership. Things like hunting, target shooting, or as President Obama put it "to protect one's family". Let's examine these.

I respect people that really rely on hunting to feed there family, but have no respect for the average "sport" hunter who goes out to kill animals for the fun of it. There is nothing sporting about using a high powered rifle to kill an animal. Killing other creatures when you don't need their meat for survival is wrong. If you get a "thrill" from taking the life of an animal you become a calloused human being that no longer values life and is one step closer to being able to take a human life. If you really need to hunt, get a bow and arrows.

Target shooting:
Are you the bozo who leaves broken glass and cans scattered through the woods? Or maybe you prefer shooting up road signs as you down a six pack while driving on a country road? Either way we don't need you. Get a life.

Protect your family:
We've all watched the good guys save the day in the movies. Unfortunately real life doesn't always work that way. In most cases having a gun makes it more likely that you will be shot. The presence of guns escalates the situation. Just having a gun in your home puts your family at greater risk. Children are killed all the time by accidental discharge. These parents should be charged with negligent homicide for having a gun in their home.

Wildlife control:
I recently read one person say they needed assault rifles to control the gophers in their fields so that the cattle didn't trip on the gopher holes. For these psychos killing is always the solution. Coyotes, wolves, rabbits, they're all dangerous enemies that need to be shot down. You think maybe there is another way of looking at the world?

The radical right would like to paint even the politicians calling for "sensible" gun control as extremists. If there is any legislation at all, it will be for a "compromise" plan, that takes the "sensible" plan likely to be brought forth by Democrats, and cripples it to be completely ineffective. Let's start with a bold plan, so that a compromise will leave us with something that might actually help. More importantly let's get people embracing this idea, to start moving the conversation in the right direction.

Guns are created for one purpose only and that is to kill. That is the first thing we need to except. What makes a good gun? One that is more lethal, one that makes it easier to kill. If you own a gun you are making a commitment that you are willing to kill. Is that the country you want for your children? Let's make a commitment to end the killing, and start by getting rid of the guns.

Tell your representatives you will not vote for any candidate that doesn't make it their top priority to take down the NRA and put an end to gun violence. Let's repeal the second amendment and replace it with a constitutional right to feel safe in our schools, and in our lives.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why we need to support Bernie Sanders

Politics is a spectrum. In the 1970's and into the 80's the Democratic party was dominated by liberals that kept the ideas of social justice, opportunity, and the well being of all of us in the minds of the American people. When there were political debates these issues were always at the forefront. Then along came Bill Clinton. He saw that they only way to get elected was to move to "the middle of the road". So what happens when you walk down the middle of the road? You get run over, which is exactly what happened to the Democrats under Bill Clinton. By moving to the center he shifted the spectrum rightward, allowing extreme voices like Newt Gingrich to become part of the conversation. As the Democrats shut out the voices on the left, the Republicans were able to embrace the voices on the extreme right. Bill Clinton thought he was moving to the middle of the road, but he just enabled the Republicans to move the road farther to the right.

And it hasn't stopped moving. Today's Republican candidates are so far to the right that 20 years ago they would have been so fringe as to not be worthy of consideration. But now they are actually being taken seriously. We may laugh at the things they are saying but the press continues to give them coverage as if they were real candidates, and the American people are hearing the garbage they are saying. The conversation has moved way too far to the right. Some one needs to grab that road and yank it leftward a couple of light years so that these right wing extremist wackos fall right off and get drowned out by some reasonable discourse.

Enter Bernie Sanders. A true liberal he has not sold out the ideals and values that were once the heart of the Democratic party.  And while the mainstream media is doing their best to shut him out, people are listening. He has struck a nerve with millions of Americans that know our country can do better and are tired of having the political process bought and sold by greedy rich people who care only for their own bottom line. But right now Bernie is still the lone voice on the left (along with Elizabeth Warren). The Democratic party machine is still firmly in the center-of-the-road Hilary Clinton camp. We need to support Bernie and start moving the conversation to the left. Bernie Sanders is not a fringe radical. His policies are common sense "let's do the right thing for America". There are plenty of people far to the left of Bernie, but they have been banished from the Democratic party and their voices mostly silenced.  Let's help Bernie move the conversation back where it belongs. Instead of having the public discussing wether we should be denying citizenship to the children of immigrants, lets get people talking about how American can once again become the land of opportunity as it was when my immigrant grandparents came here. Let's help Bernie move the conversation back to the unfinished business of ending the institutionalized racism that 50 years after the civil rights legislation is still alive and well. Let's help Bernie move the conversation to the left so that minority voices, now almost completely drowned out, can once again be part to the political process.

So please join me in supporting Bernie Sanders for president, and please tell your friends and loved ones to do the same.

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to save the world in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Be nice to each other. 

I mean what good is saving the world if we're all going to be assholes. Without this the other steps don't mean much, however steps 2 and 3 can help us achieve step 1. Be nice. Treat everyone with respect and dignity. Or, as has been said, love one another.

Step 2: Plant a garden and grow as much of your own food as possible. 

Besides the obvious benefits of fresh healthy food, exercise, and an outdoor lifestyle, growing a garden will fundamentally change you as a human being. I can't really explain it, but ask anyone who grows a garden and they will know what I'm talking about.

There are so many ways that growing a garden is critically important. Of course we need to break our dependence on the agribusiness monsters that are raping the earth and destroying the environment. Of course we need to feed our kids the best food possible to build strong minds and bodies. Of course we need to protect the land, feed and nurture it, and put it to the best use possible.

How will growing a garden help us be nice to each other? If you grow a garden you will have more food than you know what to do with. You'll be giving vegetables away to everyone you know, and they will love you for it.

Step 3: Ride your bike as much as possible. 

You don't have wear spandex and train for the Tour de France, or buy a fancy new bike. Ride in whatever clothes you're wearing. Ride whatever bike you have. Think before you get in the car. Can I get there by bike?  Can I run this errand by bike?  For so many short trips around town, a bike is a much easier way to get there than a car. But don't just ride for transportation, ride for fun. Do you remember how much fun it is to ride a bike?

Riding a bike will fundamentally change you as a human being. I can't explain it, but just ask anyone who rides a bike and they will know what I'm talking about.

You may not think that riding a bike will make that much difference if you still have to drive for longer trips. But every short trip you do on a bike adds up, and by the end of the year you'll find you've used a lot less gas. Plus you'll start getting in better shape, which will make you want to ride longer and farther. Pretty soon you'll start wondering if really even need a car.

How will riding a bike help us be nice to each other?  Riding a bike makes you happy, and happy people are nice people.