Wednesday, September 19, 2012

DO YOU FEEL SAFE WITH A BAN ON SPAM AND HURTFUL BLOG POSTS?


When I first heard about the anti-cybercrime legislation being enacted (RA 10175), it was from one of the Palace’s propagandists, who of course praised it in a way that suggested people’s lives will be improved by the new law.

What’s so great about it anyway?
- Prohibits trespassing (for lack of a better term by me) into other’s data systems, i.e. other’s property. How revolutionary!
- Prohibits non-consensual receipt of e-mails for commercial or advertising purposes.
- ‘Libel’ now categorically includes shit written on the interwebs.

The sad fact is, people who support the administration will not wake up to the fact that government intervention in the internet encroaches freedom, unless an anti-internet porn bill is proposed. And then they’ll go, “Now that’s going too far!” (This is slightly based on a true story)

HOW TO STOP SPAM

I hate spam as much as anybody, but does this mean spam is a crime against me? Hell, no. In the first place, the one to dictate whether such mail will reach my inbox is the e-mail host. They’re the ones who figure out how to filter out spam. Banning spam outright only impedes the creation of technologies that otherwise would have eliminated these nuisances without impinging on my freedom.

And how long will it take before the definition of spam expands to mean “anything contrary to prevailing political interests”? Can we really trust this ‘matuwid’ administration, with its flip-flop over the Freedom of Information bill, to not use this new law to silence gadflies?

FEAR OF LIBEL CHARGES



Anyway, I’ve been meaning to stop blogging on political economy for a time now. After all, what more is there to say other than “Government is bad”…? Sure, the implications of this simple statement have to be realized for oneself, but I’ve covered pretty much all there is to cover about politics and society in the last five years. RA 10175 just gives me a pretext to rest my head.

I’m still not sure whether I’ll limit my view settings or just let people read what I had to say before the CyberCrime Prevention Act came around. And I might continue to write “P-Noy is an idiot”-type articles anyway, because it’s not like anyone reads this crap, right? And it’s not like the Philippine government has enough resources to implement its thousands of laws.

But for now, I feel like keeping quiet.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A EUGOOGOOLY FOR THE DOLLAR


“I used to think that only America’s way was right. But now the Holy Dollar rules everybody’s lives. Got to make a million, doesn’t matter who dies.” — Geoff Tate singing Queensrÿche’s ‘Revolution calling,’ 1988

Born in Manila in the early 1980s, I first knew the Dollar from foreign movies, TV, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer (which also taught me the word ‘government’). The Dollar was a parallel currency to the Philippine Peso of which I actually used, and a powerful parallel at that. One Dollar equaled 25 pesos, how great it must be! Little did I know then, and little do people still know now, that the Dollar was already in its last stages. Nixon had severed the Dollar’s connection to actual, limited money (gold) back in 1971, boosting gold prices tenfold over the next 30 years (and fiftyfold in 40 years).

Looking back now, my naïvely high regard for the Dollar back then matched my naïvely high regard for the US of A as well (no lubak on the roads, as my then-newly-immigrated friend said in 1996). And just as I have learned to see only massive wealth destruction in the Dollar and fiat currency in general, I now see an empire collapsing.

The only way I can preach without nagging to people I care about in the States, is to make oblique references to the upcoming dictatorship/economic collapse, which are not so much the effect, but rather the manifestation of primitive, short-term thinking and behavior, i.e. the use of coercion in social affairs. In spite of the shitty traffic, shitty internet, shitty shit I experience here in the Philippines, I pity my family and friends stateside, with all its wide highways and wide selection of consumer goods. Americans are going to be subjected to things usually seen in the ‘The World’ section of newspapers (which are also dying. Wow, I’m nothing but bad news today!).

I don’t know how bad it will be, but the fact that sudden hyperinflation is a distinct possibility, is worrisome for those whose ears have somehow managed to hear.

Last Thursday, the 13th, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben The Bernank Bernanke basically killed the Dollar. Previously, he had already committed to low, easy-money rates until 2014. As if that was not enough, he now has made the issuance of $40 billion/month in new money an indefinite thing! This, on the belief that this somehow created jobs!

(In fact, increased employment comes from more capital, which in turn comes from previous productivity. Adding more dollars in the system only redirects wealth to the politically privileged, not to mention causes depressions.)

Keynesians of today are lucky. They are about to learn the truth, a privilege not enjoyed by previous Keynesians. Sure, this would mean eating humble pie, and realizing they wasted a Masters and Ph.D on bullshit, but this is a small price to pay for truth, right?

Maybe I’m being too optimistic. While some may indeed renounce their Keynesian mindsets, many are also likely to try to reinterpret facts to fit their dying paradigm. But in any case, as with the Dollar and the US Empire, Keynesianism is nearing its demise, or at least getting a pretty severe stroke.

So goodbye, Dollar. We’re actually better off without you. Say hi to the Euro for me. You two won’t be alone for much longer either.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SOTTO IS RIGHT: PLAGIARISM IS NOT A CRIME

How many jokes did they rip off?

In a recent post, I emphasized the danger of using Senator Tito Sotto’s emotional speech about his dead son as a campaigning tool against RH legislation. Basically, I pointed out that if hypocrisy was involved (I referred to the possibility of promiscuity), this would make the anti-RH stand appear even less appealing to the pro-RH folks who just don’t know better that the problem with the RH Bill is bad economics, and not bad religion.

Little did I know that less than a month later, any sympathy Sotto had elicited would be crushed under accusations of plagiarism against him.


AGGRAVATING THINGS

Instead of coming clean, the senator had a short discussion on the floor with Senate President Enrile on the ‘need’ for regulating blogs (like a mountain, just because they can). And it turns out that his plagiarism extends to translating the late Robert Kennedy’s speeches from 40 years ago. The fact that he could do this so blatantly, in this age of Google and duplicate-content software, just adds to the folly of it all.

To be fair to Sotto, he didn’t do the plagiarism himself. He was maybe not even aware that his staff was ripping off living bloggers and dead US senators. That makes his deeds somewhat less dishonorable, but dishonorable nonetheless.

I don’t think there’s anyone in the House or Senate who is opposed to the bill on principle, and not because of religious bias (keeping in mind that being religious is not the same as being moral). So Sotto’s stance, whether pro- or anti-, means nothing to me in itself.


WHERE IS THE CRIME?

But now that ‘plagiarism’ is brought up, I should mention that plagiarism, while repugnant, could not be classified as a crime in any meaningful legal sense, that is, within a property rights framework. No scarce resources are taken from an ‘original’ source of information, even as a copycat downloads such ideas as files and passes them off as original work, as Sotto did. Where’s the violation of property? There is none.

(To learn more about intellectual property, read this).


PROHIBITION MAKES EVERYTHING WORSE


One problem is that people tend to equate ‘bad’ with ‘to be prohibited by government,’ neglecting to consider the consequences of such prohibition. This is the case with alcohol or drug bans, which do not solve alcoholism or addiction but instead make the trade of such more violent, dangerous and expensive for everyone.


This is also the case with lying or cursing, which may sound terrible and may even destroy relationships, but would lead to tyranny once the state enters the picture (breach of contract is a separate matter that does involve property infringement).

Even without the threat of the state, plagiarism can ruin one’s career, and quite justly. It is in bad taste. I may believe that prohibitions on expressing ideas that others had previously expressed is a violation of our right to free speech. But part of the free exchange of ideas means being able to call someone for passing off an idea as their own (even though technically nothing is new under the sun. Thanks, Ecclesiastes!).


CONCLUSION

People like Tito Sotto and Fareed Zakaria may deserve their fall from grace (Sotto is still a hilarious dude though). It really depends on individual circumstances if plagiarists are to be pardoned by the public (as crony Manny Pangilinan has been, apparently). 

My point is that public opinion is a sufficient deterrent, a more sufficient deterrent than the state, even. Good reputations are more likely to flourish when built from a sense of decency, as opposed to a fear of violent reprisal.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

QUEZON CITY, ENEMY OF PLASTIC (AND OF PEOPLE TOO)


I first heard about it Saturday, but got my first taste of it today. Quezon City is officially anti-plastic (SP-2140). I had to buy a plastic grocery bag for an additional 2 pesos. As to how this ‘environmental fee’ will be of benefit to anyone, I have no idea.

In the politicized mind, we are somehow preserving Mother Nature by minimizing our use of plastic, no matter how token the reduction.

Let’s forget the fact that plastic emerged as the bag of choice for some reason, including reusability and durability when wet, qualities in which paper is inferior. The effect on the environment is supposedly much worse than the convenience it gives us.

But there is nothing intrinsically bad about plastic. A ban on it is just as arbitrary as banning alcohol due to traffic accidents.

Perhaps it’s about time we study causes rather than scapegoats. I myself would say that it is the absence of truly private infrastructure that leads to negligence in waste disposal and sewage. It just so happens that plastic, being so valuable in our daily lives, tends to be found everywhere… including unattended drains. Plastic thus conveniently takes the rap in place of the real problem: our tolerance for these monsters who proudly declare where our taxes go.