Professor-rat's Blurty
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Professor-rat's Blurty:

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    Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    3:32 pm
    Hey Beardo
    Tomas Leon: Hey, you!
    Ray Quick: [Looks around]
    Tomas Leon: Yeah, I'm talking to you. You think you know me? I asked you a question. You think you know me? 'Cause the way you're looking at me, we must be old friends. Where did we meet?
    Ray Quick: Nowhere.
    Tomas Leon: [grabs Ray] Nowhere. You like the bitch? Huh?
    Ray Quick: [starts to walks away]
    Tomas Leon: [grabs Ray] Maybe you like me.
    Ray Quick: No, I don't like you.
    Tomas Leon: Then don't stare so hard. Somebody could...
    [pulls out switchblade]
    Tomas Leon: put something in your eye.
    Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
    1:04 am
    Hope I never get so lonely.. lonely that I, like Louis Proyect, start tracing Troll IP addresses...

    Here's another sad Marxist loser...

    Poitras: The media totally failed in the Iraq War. They were cheerleading for the invasion, not asking tough questions. Guantanamo was the same. The fact that major newspapers did not use the word torture is staggering. That's not news, and it's not what the press should be doing.

    The culture of fear has been very destructive to the press. It's improved a little since we've gotten more distance. Then again, the stuff around ISIS feels very familiar.

    But I do think there's been a shift. When the WikiLeaks story broke, something about it opened up some antagonistic reporting that looked at the government in a different sort of way. Part of that is due to the way it happened. There wasn't one organization that got the information. They decided to partner with multiple news outlets. If The New York Times wasn't going to report something, Der Spiegel would. That raises the bar, when you know that the same story is going to be covered by multiple international outlets. In terms of the Snowden reporting, there was a lot of fear at the institutional level. The fact that Glenn was so aggressive, that he would've walked away from The Guardian, helped. In retrospect there's a lot of appreciation of the reporting, but at the time there was a lot of fear, including The Washington Post not sending someone to Hong Kong. That's a lot of fear." FROM
    Monday, October 27th, 2014
    1:13 am
    A reactionaries manifesto
    Maximoff, following in the footsteps of Bakunin, traces the Leninist policy to "political marxism" itself.
    Russian socialism had always been "distinguished by its libertarian and progressive character," writes Maximoff in opening his book. "Political marxism," though, "Is an anachronism, a vestige of the dying past and is altogether reactionary in its essence.
    The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels is a reactionary manifesto and is in striking contradiction to science, to progress in general, and humanism in particular.
    The demands of dictatorship, of absolute centralisation, of political and economic life in the hands of the state, of 'forming industrial armies, especially for agriculture,' of a regimented agriculture in accordance with a single plan, of raising the state to the position of an Absolute and the resulting stultification of the individual, its rights and interest--all that is nothing but the programme of reaction which is incompatible with human progress, with freedom, equality and humanism. The realisation of these demands carries with it state slavery."
    12:17 am
    Another Assange
    From Mendax to Verax ...and a recent Tech Crunch article covering a Snowden interview at the New Yorker Festival:

    "We can have secret programs. You know, the American people don't have to know the name of every individual that's under investigation. We don't need to know the technical details of absolutely every program in the intelligence community."

    2013 and 'some kind of Platoon 3 " ASSANGE

    JULIAN "The military protects the sovereignty of Australia. It protects the independence of Australia". ASSANGE
    Sunday, October 26th, 2014
    10:19 pm
    Moving up to colonialism
    Once Planned an ‘Orthodox al-Qaeda’, Moved On...
    By Andrew Stuttaford
    October 25, 2014

    Russia’s fusion of nationalism, Russian Orthodox Christianity and reverence for (heavily sanitized) aspects of the Soviet past continues to evolve in less than reassuring ways


    As voters in most of Ukraine prepare to go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament, the rebels in the east are planning their own vote a week later. For many of the pro-Russian rebels, both local and Russian volunteers, their political vision for the region is the creation of “Novorossia”, a kind of new, improved Russia.

    “We are fighting for the liberation of all Russian lands and we are ready to march all the way to the Danube,” says Alexander Matyushin, a rebel field commander.

    “We must restore the historic injustice which befell the Russian people in the 20th Century. We need to take land which is ours by right and bring it back into the fold of Holy Russia.”

    Matyushin’s fighters – just over 100 of them – are stationed in his native Makiivka, a suburb of Donetsk, which is the largest city under rebel control in eastern Ukraine. The great irony of this conflict is that 10 years ago Mr Matyushin was on the other side of the political divide which now splits this country in two.

    He used to work with a far-right Ukrainian nationalist, Dmytro Korchynsky. “We had the idea of a Christian Orthodox revolution back then,” explains Mr Matyushin. “Our ambition was to create an Orthodox al-Qaeda.”

    A legacy of communism, in Ukraine as well as Russia, was civil society in ruins, a gap that was—and is—an invitation to the extremes.

    Back to the BBC:

    The rebels say they have 18,000 volunteer fighters, mostly from Russia, and that more are keen on joining. Several far-right organisations are involved in the online recruitment process. One of them is the Eurasian Movement, a far-right political group with an international reach, founded by ultra-nationalist philosopher Alexander Dugin. Close to the Ukrainian border, in the Russian city of Rostov, one of Dugin’s Eurasian activists, Mikhail Uchitel, is working with Russian volunteer fighters who have been signed up online in preparation for their journey into Ukraine. Although the recruitment process is taking place in Russia, Mr Uchitel is adamant that the rebels do not answer to Moscow.

    Yes and no, I’d say. And sometimes, I suspect, puppets just don’t see the strings.
    Friday, October 24th, 2014
    9:02 am
    Wikileaks warn of NED wedge in Hong Kong
    Imperialist-backed “democracy” activists seeking to end Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control over the capitalist enclave of Hong Kong continue to block streets in parts of the city, as they have since late September. Using the demand for universal suffrage as a wedge, the protesters, known as the Umbrella Movement, are attempting to open the way for Hong Kong’s capitalist parties to exercise direct political power.

    It is in the interest of wikileaks people around the world to oppose these protests. Political power in the hands of the bourgeoisie in Hong Kong would be a spearhead for smashing the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state and opening the mainland to untrammeled capitalist exploitation.
    8:38 am
    Frontline shifts to Estonia
    Just days after reports of a Russian submarine being sighted in Swedish waters, Estonia today accused a Russian spy plane of violating its airspace before it was intercepted by NATO jets.

    According to the BBC, the spy plane took off from Russia’s Kaliningrad region, a small territory between Poland and Lithuania geographically isolated from the rest of the country, and initially approached first Denmark and then Sweden before being intercepted by jets from each respective country. It then entered Estonian airspace, only to be escorted out by Portuguese NATO F16s shortly thereafter.

    Russia has denied the airspace violation occurred, maintaining the flight was part of a routine training exercise that stayed over “neutral waters.”

    The news comes one month after armed Russian officers allegedly entered Estonia and abducted a member of the country’s security services.
    Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    6:18 am
    I told them to ban the Hijab last week
    On Wednesday, Tony Zobl, 35, said he witnessed the soldier being gunned down from his fourth-floor window directly above the National War Memorial, a 70-foot, arched granite cenotaph, or tomb, with bronze sculptures commemorating World War I.

    ‘‘I looked out the window and saw a shooter, a man dressed all in black with a kerchief over his nose and mouth and something over his head as well, holding a rifle and shooting an honor guard in front of the cenotaph point-blank, twice,’’
    Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    12:53 am
    Listen up
    Equality of opportunity, common healthy pleasures, To walk abroad & recreate yourselves. Here was a leader! when comes such another?

    He has left you all his walks, his arbours & new-planted orchards.On this side he's left them you & to your heirs for ever, common pleasures

    Then I, and you, and all of us fell down, while poisonous bloody treason flourish'd over us! O, now you weep; and I perceive you feel!

    Even at the base of Pompey's statue, which all the while ran blood, great Gough fell. O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!

    If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. You all do know this staunch maintain: I remember well the first time ever Gough put it out.

    You are not wood, you are not stones, but men; and, being his heirs, bearing the will of Gough,it will inflame you, it will make you mad.

    Have patience, gentle friends, I mustn't read his will out loud. Its not meant you know how much he loved you before this *honourable* crowd

    I will not do them wrong; I rather choose to wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, than I will wrong such honourable men.

    Were I disposed to stir your hearts & minds to mutiny & rage, I should do Julian & Jellybean wrong, who, you all know, are honourable men.

    Yesterday the word of Gough might have stood against the world; now lies he there. And none so poor to do him reverence as a WL supporter.

    O democracy! Fed to brutish beasts! Men have lost their reason.Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Whitlam. God damn monarchy

    Not to disprove what JA spoke but to speak what I know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then to mourn

    When that the poor have cried, Gough hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Julian says he was ambitious.

    He bought the troops home from Vietnam but Julian prefers a Liberal and Julian is an honourable man.

    He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Julian says he was ambitious;
    And Julian is an honourable man like Don Chipp the Liberal

    Here, under leave of Julian and the rest: For Julian is an honourable man; So all Libertarians, all honourable men- Come I to speak humbly.

    The noble Julian has told you Labor was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously have they answer'd for it.

    The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred with their bones;
    So let it be with our good friend Gough.

    Men and women of Australia - lend me your ears. I come to bury Whitlam; not to praise him.
    Monday, October 20th, 2014
    4:06 pm
    Francis the talking Mule
    In his homily, the Pope decried what he called ‘the globalization of indifference’ to the suffering of which the tragedy of the drowned was a manifestation and a consequence. Our culture of comfort, he said, has made us indifferent to the sufferings of others; we have forgotten how to cry on their behalf. He made reference to the play of Lope de Vega in which a tyrant is killed by the inhabitants of a town called Fuente Ovejuna, no one owning up to the killing and everyone saying that it was Fuente Ovejuna that killed him. The West, said the Pope, was like Fuente Ovejuna, for when asked who was to blame for the deaths of these migrants, it answered, ‘Everyone and no one!’ He continued, ‘Today also this question emerges: who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We each reply: it was not I, I wasn’t here, it was someone else.’

    The Pope also called for ‘those who take the socio-economic decisions in anonymity that open the way to tragedies such as these to come out of hiding.’

    With all due respect, I think this is very loose thinking indeed of a kind that the last Pope would not have permitted himself. The analogy between the two situations, the murder of the tyrant in Fuente Ovejuna and the death by drowning of thousands of migrants, is weak to the point of non-existence. After all, someone in Fuente Ovejuna did kill the tyrant; no one in the west drowned the migrants. Is the Pope then saying that Europe’s refusal to allow in all who want to come is the moral equivalent of actually wielding the knife?

    By elevating feeling over thought, by making compassion the measure of all things, the Pope was able to evade the complexities of the situation, in effect indulging in one of the characteristic vices of our time, moral exhibitionism, which is the espousal of generous sentiment without the pain of having to think of the costs to other people of the implied (but unstated) morally-appropriate policy…..
    3:53 pm
    Lords of Netspace
    It’s not hard to coax an opinion out of Marc Andreessen. The tall, bald, spring-loaded venture capitalist, who invented the first mainstream internet browser, co-founded Netscape, then made a fortune as an early investor in Twitter and Facebook, has since become Silicon Valley’s resident philosopher-king. He’s ubiquitous on Twitter, where his machine-gun fusillade of bold, wide-ranging proclamations has attracted an army of acolytes (and gotten him in some very big fights). At a controversial moment for the tech industry, Andreessen is the sector’s biggest cheerleader and a forceful advocate for his peculiar brand of futurism.

    I love this moment where you’re meeting Mark Zuckerberg for the first time and he says to you something like, “What was Netscape?”1

    He didn’t know.

    He was in middle school when you started Netscape. What’s it like to work in an industry where the turnover is so rapid that ten years can create a whole new collective memory?

    I think it’s fantastic. For example, I think there’s sort of two Silicon Valleys right now. There’s the Silicon Valley of the people who were here during the 2000 crash, and there’s the Silicon Valley of the people who weren’t, and the psychology is actually totally different. Those of us who were here in 2000 have, like, scar tissue, because shit went wrong and it sucked.

    You came to Silicon Valley in 1994. What was it like?

    It was dead. Dead in the water. There had been this PC boom in the ’80s, and it was gigantic—that was Apple and Intel and Microsoft up in Seattle. And then the American economic recession hit—in ’88, ’89—and that was on the heels of the rapid ten-year rise of Japan. Silicon Valley had had this sort of brief shining moment, but Japan was going to take over everything. And that’s when the American economy went straight into a ditch. You’d pick up the newspaper, and it was just endless misery and woe. Technology in the U.S. is dead; economic growth in the U.S. is dead. All of the American kids were Gen-X slackers2—no ambition, never going to do anything.

    What did you do?

    I just went to college. I did my thing. I came out here in ’94, and Silicon Valley was in hibernation. In high school, I actually thought I was going to have to learn Japanese to work in technology. My big feeling was I just missed it, I missed the whole thing. It had happened in the ’80s, and I got here too late. But then, I’m maybe the most optimistic person I know. I mean, I’m incredibly optimistic. I’m optimistic arguably to a fault, especially in terms of new ideas. My presumptive tendency, when I’m presented with a new idea, is not to ask, “Is it going to work?” It’s, “Well, what if it does work?”

    That stance is something I work very hard to maintain, because it’s very easy to slip into the other mode. I remember when eBay came along,3 and I thought, No fucking way. A fucking flea market? How much crap is there in people’s garages? And who would want all that crap? But that was not the relevant question. The eBay guys and the people who invested early, they said, “Let’s forget whether it’ll work or not. What if it does work?” If it does work, then you’ve got a global trading platform for the first time in the world, you’ve got liquidity for products of all kinds, you’re going to have true price discovery.

    But clearly you don’t think everything’s going to work.

    No. But there are people who are wired to be skeptics and there are people who are wired to be optimists. And I can tell you, at least from the last 20 years, if you bet on the side of the optimists, generally you’re right.

    On the other hand, if there’d been a few more skeptics in 1999, people might have kept their retirement money. Isn’t there a role for skepticism in the tech industry?

    I don’t know what it buys you. Let me put it this way. If you could point to periods of time in the last hundred years when everything just stabilized and didn’t change, then maybe yes. But that never seems to actually happen. The skeptics are wrong all the time.

    These days, Silicon Valley is this cultural institution in a way that Wall Street might have been in the ’80s.

    That has its pros and cons. But one of the things you’ll hear from entrepreneurs is it’s better—not necessarily easier—to build companies when there’s a recession because there’s less froth,4 it’s easier to hire people, there are fewer competitors. Entrepreneurs say in an economic boom it’s actually hard to build a company because everybody’s too excited and there is too much money funding too many marginal companies.

    There are a few big companies in the tech industry today: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple. Which of today’s start-ups do you think is going to join them?

    All of ours.

    You’ve got your hands in so many pies as an investor.

    And you have to love all your children equally.

    One of the things that you seem to really enjoy, at least on Twitter, is digging up old pessimistic predictions of people like Paul Krugman, saying that the internet’s going to be the next fax machine or something.

    This is part of what you experience in the tech industry. And it’s so weird, but it actually goes to the heart of American culture. You’ve read de Tocqueville,5 right? There’s a paradox at the heart of American culture: In theory, we like change, and then when change actually materializes and presents itself, it gets vast amounts of blowback. We like change in the general case, but we don’t like it in the specific case. With every single thing that anybody here has ever done, there’s always been people saying, “That sucks. That’ll never work. That’s stupid.”

    The media has certainly been more skeptical about tech than you are.

    There’s more of a cultural criticism that’s kind of developing. I obviously disagree with a lot of it, but I do think it’s a very valid set of topics: Is technology eating all the jobs? And income inequality, and there’s this whole debate on disruption.

    I noticed you didn’t much like Jill Lepore’s essay on disruption6 in The New Yorker.

    That was a little bit less of an analysis, a little bit more of a primal scream. But the argument that drives me the most crazy was more common three years ago—that innovation was dead. “The Great Stagnation.”7 There’s this economist in Chicago, Robert Gordon, who says, “All this new stuff sucks. How could you possibly compare this to the Industrial Revolution? There will be no more economic growth.” Frankly, I’d rather have the criticism that technology is having too big of an effect on the world than that technology is just irrelevant.

    In terms of cultural critique, it seems we’re in a moment of peak Silicon Valley—with the eponymous HBO show8 especially.

    I thought that show was incredible.

    But it was mocking people like you.

    It’s amazing. Accurate satire—we’ve never had anything like that here. I know every single person in that show.

    The venture capitalists don’t come off well.

    Those people actually exist. That guy, I know.

    Who is it?

    I’m not going to say. But I know him really well, and I love talking to him. And he’s exactly like that. 9

    The critique of Silicon Valley is also that it isn’t very diverse. At Twitter, for instance, 90 percent of the tech employees are male and more than 50 percent of them are white.

    I think these discussions are totally valid. Now, I disagree with many of the specific points.

    What’s your take?

    Shall we? Let’s launch right into it. I think the critique that Silicon Valley companies are deliberately, systematically discriminatory is incorrect, and there are two reasons to believe that that’s the case. No. 1, these companies are like the United Nations internally. All the diversity studies say that the engineering population is like 70 percent white and Asian. Let’s dig into that for a second. First, apparently Asian doesn’t count as diverse. And then “white”: When you actually go in these companies, what you find is it’s American people, but it’s also Russians, and Eastern Europeans, and French, and German, and British. And then there are the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Indonesians, and Vietnamese. All these different countries, all these different cultures. To believe in a systematic pattern of discrimination, you’d have to believe that we’re discriminatory toward certain people without being discriminatory at all toward an extremely broad range of ethnicities and religions. Because of Pakistanis, we’re seeing a higher-than-ever proportion of Muslim employees in a lot of our companies.

    No. 2, our companies are desperate for talent. Desperate. Our companies are dying for talent. They’re like lying on the beach gasping because they can’t get enough talented people in for these jobs. The motivation to go find talent wherever it is is unbelievably high.

    So what explains the numbers?

    There are two fundamental problems that are resulting in what a lot of people believe is discrimination, and these are the problems that I think need to be solved. One is inequality of education. If you come up through a path that’s sort of a stereotypical upper-middle-class American path and you go to Stanford and you get a really great technical education and your professors really care about you, then you come to Silicon Valley and you’ve got the skills and you’re golden.

    But, of course, most people in the world—including most people outside the U.S. but also people in the U.S., like where I grew up in rural Wisconsin, or people in the inner city—never have access to that kind of education.

    You believe in the meritocratic ideal of Silicon Valley.

    Yes. But I believe the ideal is compromised by two things right now: One is educational skills development, and the other is access. This is the critique that I think is actually the most interesting, which is, yeah, the meritocracy works if you know the right people, if you have access to the networks. How do venture capitalists make investment decisions? Well, we get referrals based on people we already know. Well, what if you’re somebody who doesn’t already know anybody, right? What if you don’t know the recruiter at Facebook so you can’t get the job? What if you don’t know the venture capitalist so you can’t raise funding? We think access is broadening out the network so that everybody who could contribute can get access to the network. And that’s the one that we’re working on.

    We’re talking now primarily about ethnic diversity. But gender diversity too …

    Yeah, same thing.

    Same thing?

    Yeah, same thing.

    So there was no need for Sheryl Sandberg to write that book?

    Oh, I thought Sheryl’s book was incredible. I thought it was great.

    But it was all about systematic bias.

    I will not second-guess Sheryl on anything that she has said. We cite the book all the time. Whenever anybody’s sitting up against the wall we’re, “Lean in, sit at the table.”

    It’s become a catchphrase. But I think that the catchphrase is sticking because people recognize it to be true that women in tech have a harder time getting in the door.

    Look, I’m a huge fan of Sheryl. She’s completely capable of speaking for herself. But I think the big message of the book is people can take control of their own destiny to a greater extent than they believe. The big part of the book that got her a lot of flak was, “You can do things to inject yourself more into the situation. You can literally come sit at the table.”

    And this is my point on desperation. There aren’t enough Stanford graduates to go around. How many science undergrads does Stanford produce a year? Five hundred? Six hundred? And then we go up to Berkeley and it’s like another 2,000. It’s not enough. And you see efforts all over the place. This big thing Google’s doing now, for coding in schools, is aimed at this:

    You could probably bring in the whole online-education movement. But for me, the question is, who does the best with online schooling? And it’s mostly ­autodidacts, people who are self-starters. They’ve found that people from low-income communities actually get the least out of it.

    It’s way too early to judge, because we’re at the very beginning of the development of the technology. It’s like critiquing dos 1.0 and saying that this will never turn into the Windows PC. We’re still in the prototype experimental phase. We can’t use the old approach to teach the world. We can’t build that many campuses. We don’t have the space. We don’t have money. We don’t have the professors. If you can go to Harvard, go to Harvard. But that’s not the question. The question is for the 14-year-old in Indonesia staring at a life of either, like, subsistence farming or being able to get a Stanford-quality education and being able to go into a profession.

    The one other thing that people are really underestimating is the impact of entertainment-industry economics applied to education. Right now, with MOOCS,11 the production values are pretty low: You’ll film the professor in the classroom. But let’s just project forward. In ten years, what if we had Math 101 online, and what if it was well regarded and you got fully accredited and certified? What if we knew that we were going to have a million students per semester? And what if we knew that they were going to be paying $100 per student, right? What if we knew that we’d have $100 million of revenue from that course per semester? What production budget would we be willing to field in order to have that course?

    You could hire James Cameron to do it.

    You could literally hire James Cameron to make Math 101. Or how about, let’s study the wars of the Roman Empire by actually having a VR [virtual reality] experience walking around the battlefield, and then like flying above the battlefield. And actually the whole course is looking and saying, “Here’s all the maneuvering that took place.” Or how about re-creating original Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theatre?

    Let’s talk about politics for a second. Politicians like Rand Paul12 are seizing on young people’s embrace of companies like Uber and Lyft and Airbnb that are disrupting heavily regulated industries and saying, “You know, if you’re frustrated about Uber, let me tell you about these other regulations that are terrible.” Are these companies breeding a new generation of libertarians?

    I guess I would say the following: If you have been in an Uber car and gotten pulled over and had the car seized out from under the driver when you were like in the middle of a trip that you were otherwise having a good time on, you might be a little bit radicalized. You might all of a sudden think, Wait a minute, what just happened, and why did it happen? And then you might discover what the taxi companies did over the last 50 years to wire up city governments and all the corruption that’s taken place. And you might say, “Wait a minute.” There’s this myth that government regulation is well intentioned and benign, and implemented properly. That’s the myth. And then when people actually run into this in the real world, they’re, “Oh, fuck, I didn’t realize.”

    One of my favorite things of all time is George McGovern, who ran for president in ’72 as a hyperliberal. Of course Nixon kicked his ass. And in 1992 he wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal13 which told the story of his life after he left politics, when he bought an inn in Connecticut. And he said, “Oh my God, I didn’t realize.” And the “Oh my God, I didn’t realize” was: I did not realize what a layered impact 50 or 100 years of regulations and laws applied on small-­business owners actually meant.

    My mom is renting out my childhood room on Airbnb.

    There you go. She’s one of the lawless libertarians.

    One of the things that I hear a lot from people in Silicon Valley, especially engineers who deal with the concept of friction, is that democracy itself is pretty bad from a friction standpoint.

    I hear that a lot in the Valley, and I don’t like it. I completely disagree with it. The specific version of it that you hear a lot is, “China has it all figured out.” If China wants to build a dam and they need to move a million people, they just tell a million people to move, and then they build the dam, and they make progress. And isn’t that better than the American system? We could never build a dam because we’d never get the people to move.

    It’s the “China for a day” thing. If you could just be an autocracy for one day, fix all the problems, and then go back to democracy.

    This is a long-running view that business has held. And the reason is, if you’re a businessperson, especially a CEO, you actually run a dictatorship. But businesses and governments are different, in my belief. They actually have very little to do with each other. And so I’m actually completely on the other side of that argument. When it comes to government, I am pro-gridlock.

    How so?

    I think the American system is incredibly well developed. I think the founding fathers were geniuses. I think the founding fathers had lived under effective ­government, and it was called King George, and they did not like it. I mean, they knew what an autocratic government was like. And so they implemented a representative democracy, with the representation layer as a buffer against autocratic change and against mob rule. The other thing I don’t like is direct democracy. This proposition system we have in California is craziness, just lunacy. The last thing you want to do is put the mob in charge.

    So if you’re designing a country from scratch, a government from scratch, to ensure rapid change and maximum gains—

    I think basically the same as the U.S. is set up now. I would set up a system designed for gridlock. Three branches, two parties, representation, Electoral College, all good. Love it, fantastic, let’s do that again.

    You see no problems with the American political system?

    There are two biases that I would probably try to figure out how to tweak. One is there’s a bias toward more spending as opposed to less spending because the way politicians cut deals is they fund each other’s projects. And then on the regulatory stuff, the bias in government is just to keep creating laws and regulations.

    So you need a spring cleaning once a year.

    Somebody made an argument of, basically, for every new law, we should take out an old one. And at first you think that sounds crazy. But how many laws and regulations are there already? And the answer is, like, 100,000, 500,000, a million?

    You see those things all the time where it’s “Men in Mississippi aren’t allowed to eat pickles on Tuesdays” or whatever.

    And the modern version of that are these big omnibus bills, the Patriot Act and Dodd-Frank14 and Sarbanes-Oxley, that are these 1,500- or 2,000-page bills, or Obama­care, where they talk to senators and congressmen afterward: “Yeah, I didn’t even read it.” Right, and it’s this elaborate scaffolding of all this stuff. And then years later it’s like we see with Obamacare right now, courts are, like, “What the fuck? How do we even implement this?” So that’s the modern version of “You can’t eat pickles on Tuesday.”

    Are there any politicians on the field today who you think share your vision or who come closest to approximating the way that you view the future?

    George McGovern. I’m a McGovern libertarian. In the ’90s, the centrist Democrats were pretty close. In the ’90s, Clinton and Gore and, back when he was a Democrat, Joe Lieberman were pretty close. On the right, I mean, there’s a part of conservatives that I don’t like at all, and then there’s a part of conservatives that really understands free-market economics. The American Enterprise Institute, I think, does a lot of good work. Rand Paul—half of what he says, you’re like, “Oh my God, he’s a genius.” And then the other half, you’re just horrified.

    The problem is that the people who are the most advanced about the future and getting rid of regulatory barriers are also the people who want to cut the social safety net.

    I think you don’t want massive change on these issues. You do not want a massive dismantling of the social safety net. But you also do not want a massive buildup of the social safety net. I call this the Daily Show problem. I love the Daily Show, and I think Jon Stewart is hysterical. But literally the answer to every single problem is “Congress should pass a new law.” It’s this unbelievably optimistic view of, “We can pass a law and then everybody will get along.”

    Can we talk a little about robots, one of your favorite subjects?


    You’ve said that there will be two types of people in the future: people who are told what to do by computers and people who tell computers what to do.

    I have repudiated my former self.

    People have worried for decades that automation is going to wreck the economy.

    Nobody wants to talk about the old. The old farming jobs were fucking terrible jobs. I mean, farmers wake up at six in the morning and work 14-hour days. Industrial jobs—people would get killed in these factories all the time. Coal miners—people are trying to protect coal-mining jobs. They’re terrible, terrible jobs. The new jobs are better. They’re just ­better. This is what’s happening throughout China. Now it’s happening in Indonesia and Vietnam. Every time Foxconn15 opens up a plant, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who apply for those jobs. In developing countries, everybody’s dying to get into modern factory jobs because the alternative is far worse. What actually ends up happening is through progress, the jobs get better.

    But say they invent a machine that cleans hotel rooms. We can turn over hotel rooms more efficiently, hotels can cut their costs. But there are all these maids who are now out of work. Your argument is that they can go retrain themselves to be participants in a different part of the economy?

    So this goes back to the libertarian thing—I believe in a safety net. I believe at the individual level, these changes are real and they matter. I grew up in rural Wisconsin in the 1970s. I grew up in farming country. I grew up in industrial country. We lived this. So I believe at the individual level in the safety net.

    From an economic standpoint, what you just said is the lump-of-labor fallacy, because maids are not the only jobs at hotels. If you go to a modern hotel in a major city, it turns out the maids are not the whole workforce. It’s all the people who work in the spa, and all the people who work at the health club, and all the people who work at the gourmet restaurant, and all the people who arrange the local tours. It’s all of these new jobs. If you went to a hotel a hundred years ago, none of those jobs existed. That’s the cycle of development that happens. You also climb the ladder of economic growth, which is what produces all the tax revenue that then comes back and pays for the safety net.

    See, that’s where I fall off the wagon. The assumption embedded in that is that this money is automatically going to flow into the safety net, that the growth will be captured and will come back in the form of a safety net. That’s a deliberate policy choice that
    a lot of people don’t want to make.

    I’m not one of those people. We have a very advanced welfare state today.

    Let’s take the hotel argument from the other side. Let’s suppose that we’d be better off if the jobs didn’t change. We have this new magic machine that cleans hotel rooms, but we’re not going to use it because we want to keep the maids in business. Well, in the old days there used to be a job at the hotel called the guy who lights the coal fire. Should we get rid of heating systems and bring back the guy who starts the coal fire? Before refrigeration, there was an entire field of people who cut and delivered ice. Should we go back to storing food on ice that’s cut and delivered by hand? If you believe that machines are an enemy, then you should want to go back and unwind, right? If you follow that logic, you would unwind all the way back to where it all started, which was subsistence farming. We’d be better off if we were making our own clothes.

    Hunter-gatherer paradise.

    We’d be better off if we were hunter-gatherers.

    You say we have an advanced welfare state today, but we also still have millions of people in poverty.

    But this is the big story of our time—the elimination of poverty. We have people rising out of poverty at a global level and in the U.S. at unprecedented rates. In 50 years, we’ve gone from hunger being the dominant problem among lower-­income people to obesity being the dominant problem. We have people coming out of poverty all over the world at astonishing rates. Bill Gates16 has been talking about this a lot, and he’s exactly right. This is the progress of our time, bringing people up out of poverty.

    And yet we have more internal inequality in San Francisco than we do in Rwanda.17

    So then move to Rwanda and see how that works out for you. I think you just answered your own question.

    So you’re not a big believer in Piketty-style arguments18 about inequality within countries being a problem?

    I don’t want to live in a world of lords and serfs any more than anybody else. I just don’t think that’s how the economy’s working. What’s actually happening is we have a reasonably well-­functioning capitalist system and then we have a very vigorous safety net. We have very high tax rates. We generate enormous amounts of tax revenue, and we have a very big safety net. There are 15 national nutrition-­assistance programs in the U.S. right now. Not one. Fifteen.

    And how do you feel about a universal basic income?19

    It is a very interesting idea. There are even libertarians who believe in UBI. They say basically the problem of welfare is you have this massive state apparatus, and you have all this bureaucracy that determines where it goes, and you have all these paternalistic tests by the government to decide what you should be able to, like, eat and what you can buy with food stamps and all this stuff. Forget having that giant government machine. “Just give people the money and let them figure it out on their own” is actually a libertarian argument. Then there is an argument on the other side which is, if you just give people money and they don’t have to work, what ­percentage of them do you think are actually still going to work? And that depends on your point of view.

    Well, let’s talk about the nature of work. Keynes said that when everything is automated, we will essentially have no material needs and no need for work. All our food will be delivered or synthetically printed or something—

    We’re working on that. But it’s not that there’s no longer the need for work. Keynes was writing in the ’20s and ’30s, when it was a serious issue whether you were going to have enough food or whether you were going to have heat in your house. But he fell for the same lump-of-labor fallacy these guys keep falling for, which is the assumption that there is a set of needs that, once you’ve reached them, are done. We’ve got food and clothing and housing, and that’s it, and that’s all we’ll want. We won’t want the spa, we won’t want the psychologist, we won’t want the video game, we won’t want the space tourism, we won’t want artificial organs, we won’t want corneal implants for blind people, we won’t want the hundred thousand new things we’ve discovered.

    This is the Milton Friedman side of it, which is what I believe. Friedman thought Keynes was wrong20 on this for the same reason I do, which is: Human wants and needs are endless. We’re never satisfied. Go back to Keynes and tell him that every middle-class parent in the U.S. is going to want their kid to take violin lessons.

    I think you’re right in the sense that the acceleration of applied technology has made consumers better off. But for producers, things have gotten tough. I think about this all the time with a company like Amazon. I love Amazon as a customer. I get all kinds of things very cheaply delivered to my door. But as a producer of books that are sold on Amazon, the power that it has scares me. With Spotify, too, we as consumers have more choice than we’ve ever had, but the producers are feeling a squeeze. Part of what worries me about your vision of the future is that it’s treating people as if they’re only consumers and not producers.

    No, no, no, no, no. It’s treating people as consumers and producers. The same technology makes people better producers. Are you a better producer today than you would have been without all these new technologies?

    Yes, but am I compensated properly if I’m a musician whose song gets a million hits and he gets a check for $6?

    That’s when we get down into the sticky situation, which is, is our work actually worth what we think it is?

    And what’s the answer?

    The answer is, it depends. You look at most of the successful authors now, and they’re doing paid speaking. For musicians, the live-touring business grew four times in the last 15 years. So as digital music has taken reproduction down, as the reproduced version has become abundant, the live experience has become scarce. So touring revenues are way up.

    But that’s just the superstar model.

    No, even for touring bands, even for regular bands. Look at half the heavy-metal bands21 from, like, the 1980s that in the old days could sell 300,000 albums, they’re touring all over the world and the money’s pouring in. And even the bands that fall completely on hard times, they now go and play at people’s birthday parties, or they play launch events for tech companies. People don’t want to listen to Hootie and the Blowfish anymore, but it turns out it’s pretty cool to have them at a birthday party. And they get paid $25,000.

    So the future is superstars doing bar mitzvahs.

    That’s a fricking big part. But here’s the thing. You get your speaking engagement to show up and tell everybody how horrible this stuff all is.

    Yes, at the National Association of Blacksmiths.

    The other thing you could say is that recorded music was an oligopolistic cartel. The only reason why musicians were getting paid what they were getting paid in the 1990s off CDs was because the record labels were price-fixing. CDs didn’t cost $16 because that was the floating market price. They cost $16 because the five record labels got together and fixed prices. And who ate it on that? Consumers. And why did consumers react so positively to digital music when it first came along? Because it broke the cartel. Book publishers are the same thing. Amazon broke that wide open. So would you rather live in that world or would you rather live in this world?

    As a consumer, I’d rather live in this world. As a producer, I’m not so sure.

    I think you’re going to do just fine. You might have to go on the road a little bit.

    You’ve described the middle class of the 20th century as a myth.

    There are two middle classes. There’s the historical middle class—which is the bourgeoisie—starting in the, like, 1600s. This was the businesspeople and the traders, the merchants, the butcher, the baker, the general-store manager, the guy who was going off to China to go get silk and bring it back. Businesspeople.

    But in the 1940s something really significant happened, which is we bombed the rest of the industrialized world. And so the industrial base of Germany was obliterated. Japan was reduced to rubble. The rest of Continental Europe was bombed. England was bombed. The industrial base of the world was bombed. The one major industrial country that wasn’t bombed was the United States. So the United States became the monopoly producer of industrial goods.

    The army bombed the American middle class into existence?

    It was an accident of history. We had a window of opportunity which we took full advantage of. We had this window from basically 1945 to 1966, 1968, in which we were basically running unopposed. In that window, all kinds of wonderful things happened. One of the things that happened was the rise of this new idea of the middle class, which there was no historical precedent for, which was college-level wages for high-school-level education. As long as there’s no competition, it’s all well and good. The minute the Japanese show up, the minute the Germans show up, it just all falls apart.

    Last night, you tweeted something to the effect of, “The problem with being a billionaire is that no one ever tells you when your dumb ideas are dumb.” Was that autobiographical? I mean, is this something you worry about?

    I’m not a billionaire! That’s why I found it so entertaining. Everybody immediately thought I was talking about myself.

    But you are in a circle where if I worked for you, I’d be scared to tell you that your dumb idea was dumb.

    The problem that I was tweeting about is the billionaires don’t understand that it’s happening to them. They’re the last to know. Because they don’t feel like anything’s changed. They just feel like, I’m who I was before, I’m going around, I’m doing my thing. And it’s very rare that they actually stop and think, Everybody’s nicer to me than they were ten years ago. By the way, this is not limited to billionaires. This applies to presidents, senators, congressmen, mayors, anybody who gets in a position of power.

    So how do you, Marc Andreessen, make sure that you are hearing honest feedback?

    Every morning, I wake up and several dozen people have explained to me in detail how I’m an idiot on Twitter, which is actually fairly helpful.

    Do they ever convince you?

    They definitely keep me on my toes, and we’ll see if they’re able to convince me. I mean, part of it is, I love arguing.

    No, really?

    The big thing about Twitter for me is it’s just more people to argue with.

    Judging by your tweeting patterns, you seem to sleep about three hours a night.

    I would say it’s intermittent.

    Do you have a bed in your office where you can retreat to during the day?

    This is the first time in my life I’ve had an office with a door, and the reason for that was that this was the first time in my life I’ve had a couch in my office. So, I did have a very nice afternoon nap yesterday, as a matter of fact.

    What does a venture capitalist do all day? I’m sure you sit in dozens of pitch meetings a week, but what would I learn if I followed you around for 24 hours?

    In a sense, we only really make about 15 decisions a year22 at the firm.

    That’s a nice life.

    Yeah. Our output at the end of the day is investment return. We’re a fiduciary for investors. They trust us with a lot of money on behalf of other people. The purpose of the firm is to make investments and then return profit from those investments. And we make about 15 primary investments a year. So, those are the big decisions. At the end of the day, what are we most responsible for? It’s making those 15 decisions and the consequences of those decisions. A lot of my time is working with founders and CEOs of the companies in the portfolio. I’m basically permanently on call to all of them.

    Switching to leisure time: You’ve talked about love of TV. I know you like Deadwood.23 Is that still your all-time favorite?

    Yeah. All-time favorite so far.

    In a sense, it could not be more perfect for a venture capitalist because it’s all about a gold rush and building a society. Do you think you were meant to be a Wild West gold prospector?

    Oh, I’m sure I would have been. Deadwood happens to take place in the Dakotas, but obviously California was ground zero as well. So yeah, I have no doubt … My entire life I’ve always been completely fascinated by the concept of the frontier.

    Where I see the frontier spirit now is in a lot of the stuff about life extension. I think it annoys a lot of technologists that we haven’t conquered death.

    One of the fascinating things on that is, if you just survey Americans and you ask people would they like to live longer, it’s actually surprising how many people say no. It’s, like, something like 70 or 80 percent of people say that they wouldn’t.

    Do you sympathize with them?

    I think there are two very big downsides that we would have to be very careful about. One is there is a phenomenon—as people get older, they get more resistant to new ideas. Not individually, and there are many exceptions, but collectively, like from a societal standpoint, you can see it happening. Then the other interesting question is inequality. If you give people another 20 or 50 years to compound wealth, the concentration of wealth by age is going to become really remarkable.

    I hate the word legacy, but when you’re thinking about your life in aggregate and the things that people are going to know you for, what do you want that to be? Is it Netscape? I mean, Netscape is clearly going to be in the first paragraph of the hypothetical obituary.

    You’re supposed to ask the question without using that word.

    Do you think your greatest contribution is yet to come?

    Oh, God, I don’t even know how to answer that question.

    I assume you’re not going to buy a newspaper like Jeff Bezos?24 You told the New York Times to stop printing.

    They haven’t done that yet. But they may make it, they may make it. Things are looking a lot better. They now say their online business seems to be working better. And actually, the strategy memo25 I thought was very good.

    The one by Arthur Gregg Sulzberger26

    I mean, they always should have made it, and it seems like they’re going to make it. Obviously The Wall Street Journal will make it. The Financial Times will make it. And I think the strengths of those properties are just outweighing the issues.

    Are you going to get the Apple watch?

    Invariably, yes. I’m not a good litmus test. My answer is always yes. I have every smartwatch. I buy them all.

    One of the themes that I picked up in reading about you is that you don’t have necessarily the warmest bedside manner. I think you said at one point, “I don’t like people.”

    I like people in the abstract.

    On the individual level?

    On the individual level I don’t know. The jury’s out.

    *This article appears in the October 20, 2014 issue of New York Magazine
    Sunday, October 19th, 2014
    11:14 pm
    Biographer reveals Assange feet of clay
    Another Australian icon of limited freedom to move and ever-declining public sympathy is also back in the news. Julian Assange's once-approved, later denounced biographer Andrew O'Hagan has been allowed a lazy 26,390 words in the London Review of Books to relate his dealings with the WikiLeaks founder after he was invited to ghost-write Assange's book in 2011.

    It does not make for pretty reading, starting with Assange discussing Hitler's Mein Kampf: ''When people have been put in prison who might never have had time to write, the thing they write can be galvanising and amazing. I wouldn't say this publicly but Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in prison.''

    O'Hagan also relates asking Assange if he had a working title for his book. The reply: ''Yes. Ban this Book: From Swedish Whores to Pentagon Bores.'' There are another 26,200-odd words in similar vein on the London Review of Books website if you have a few hours

    Read more:
    6:53 am
    Search for simplicity
    Following Einsteins advice how do you reconcile apparent breaking of c ( the speed of light in the vacuum) at the cosmic scale ( inflation theory, Alan Guth)and the Planck scale? ( entanglement, *teleportation* of states, John Bell) The theory of relativity seems to break down at the very large, heavy scale and the very small, light scale.
    It would be simpler to assume these two are very closely related. The ultimate speed-limit may have a finite number that is the same in both cases. In both cases a lot of attention must be paid to similarities & symmetries so we may exploit any math that could fall out. Disclosure - I suck at math. Possibly useful is the instanton. Just the name is suggestive as is teleportation.
    Saturday, October 18th, 2014
    8:56 pm
    Deliver us from evil
    The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religion have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – God is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.

    --Gore Vidal
    Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
    3:27 pm
    Cyberwar, cybersecurity, cyberattacks. Today “cyber-this” or “cyber-that” is in the news all the time and usually for pretty scary reasons. Retailers seem to be getting hacked on a daily basis, the federal government’s computers are targeted, and people’s private information is being stolen by criminals using code rather than a gun.

    But “cyber” — more of a prefix than a word — hasn’t always been so ominous. In fact, it was quite the opposite back in the 90s when the prefix was sometimes linked up with sex to form “cybersex.”

    Where we’ve heard it

    Cyber originally comes from the ancient Greek word kubernetikos, which means “good at steering or piloting.” It morphed in French to cybernetique to mean “the art of governing.” With this definition the word cyber began to resemble its modern form.

    But it was mathematician and writer Norbert Wiener who pushed “cyber” closer to everyday use with his 1948 book about cybernetics, or how people, animals and machines control and communicate information.

    The cyber prefix was propelled into the mainstream in the late 80s and early 90s when a cultural fixation with technology and computers began to dominate pop culture. Science fiction movies such as “Bladerunner” and the novel “Neuromancer” left authors desperate for a way to replace digital — and cyber was perfect because it could morph to any topic. There was cyberpunk, cybertron, cyborg, cybercommunity, cyberchats, cyberbully, cyberlaw, cybserstalker and then, of course, cybersex — which is a virtual sex encounter via computer network.

    According to Richard Holdren, a lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary, cyber just took off when it became clear it could be used to describe both good and bad things. In an interview with “io9” he said:

    At that time you . . . seem to get a mix of positive and negative terms involving the prefix, which possibly reflects the mixed feelings people often have about the opportunities and threats a new technology can bring.

    According to Annalee Newitz at “io9” the earliest record of the word cybersecurity came about in 1989, the same year that cyberporn began making the rounds.

    What does it mean today?

    As mentioned above cyber has become a bit more perilous today. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the concept of good cyber-sex never lasted past the 90s but cyberattacks have grown in number and intensity. Or it’s the fact that the U.S. government is still struggling to prevent hacks and attacks over the internet. While cyberwarfare once felt like a concept from a far-off, future reality, today it has proved to be very real.

    Cybertheft 2014
    5:08 am
    Red-fascist running dog
    Greenwald chooses to associate himself with pseudo-left. Just like them he does not see the way out - at one point he even proposed to stop using modern technology such as Internet (specifically Google) in order to avoid being spied on. His example of a man setting himself on fire in a protest against government (as an “act of conscience” of a heroic individual) was of a particularly bad choice - I guess his solution is that we should stop using telephone, computers and credit cards altogether, move to a cave, plant our own tomatoes and set ourselves on fire (for those who are brave enough) to fight the system. FROM
    Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
    7:09 pm
    Try 20 weeks
    mikelorrey • 11 hours ago
    In the current age of fiscal unsustainability of many governments, here in the US, Spain, Italy, and elsewhere, its obvious that the state has to drastically rethink not just monetary policy, but how it operates in every way. Externalizing and decentralizing administrative functions into cryptocoin blockchain functions to eliminate expensive human bureaucrats, while turning people receiving entitlements, whether they be unemployed, welfare recipients, government employee retirees, social security retirees, etc into active miners of the state blockchain's cryptocoin, is IMHO the ONLY way the state can survive the next 2-3 decades in most of the world. Whether its authenticating court orders for surveillance cameras or wiretaps, to vehicle registrations, to paying taxes, transferring property titles, incorporating businesses, or monitoring environmental, weather, and climate conditions, all of these functions can be handled with greater efficiency, speed, and at significantly lower cost than through a monolithic, centralized, top down bureaucratic regulatory structure.
    I am running for the New Hampshire State House of Representatives this year with this goal as part of my campaign platform. I will first sponsor a bill mandating that state and local governments accept bitcoin payments from citizens for any tax, fee, fine, or other payment. Then the next year I will sponsor a bill to create a state blockchain cryptocurrency for state and local agencies to decentralize their administrative functions into, and enable those on entitlements to mine this blockchain in order to earn the money that previously would have merely been taken from the taxpayer and redistributed. FROM
    12:16 pm
    Republicans against vaccinations
    an enthusiastic thumb up to George A. Romero’s 1973 conspiracy thriller The Crazies, which centers on the Defense Department’s (failed) effort to contain an outbreak of a bio-agent in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

    I am not claiming The Crazies is a masterpiece. It features many of the weaknesses of early Romero pictures: choppy editing, poor sound pickups, overly facetious musical cues, and some really undistinguished lighting.

    But The Crazies also has many of Romero’s strengths: very earnest performances by no-name actors, occasionally beautiful images, convincingly lived-in mise-en-scène, and open-mindedness about the horrific scenario it lays out. The movie makes very clear that Trixie, the disease the Army is determined to wipe out even at the cost of destroying an American town, is a real threat to humanity. But the dignity of the locals who fight back against the government’s quarantine effort is not disparaged, and the movie’s complexity (which may be why it didn’t really catch on, although I remember bowdlerized cuts of The Crazies playing frequently on local TV when I was a kid) is maintained until the last frame. In a movie environment dominated by both cheap happy endings and cheap unhappy endings, Romero stands out for having a real sense of tragedy. There are no easy answers. And while Romero is a celebrated Midnight Movie filmmaker, The Crazies also shows what a traditionalist he is. Geography is made clear and respected throughout the movie. Every time somebody gets shot, you see who pulled the trigger and who got hit. And during a brief conference-call-with-the-president scene, the chief executive of the U.S.A. is seen only from the back of his head — a movie trope that even in 1973 was so hokey Romero’s use of it shows great humor and chutzpah.

    The Crazies was remade in 2010 with what looks like a terrific cast and what I presume are 21st-century bells and whistles. But the original has had me thinking since I first saw it more than 30 years ago, and it’s available at full length on The YouTubes. (Linked rather than embedded for violence, brief nudity, and downbeat adult themes.)
    Monday, October 13th, 2014
    10:09 pm
    The Revolution Will Not Be Centralized

    decentralization as an end-run around government regulation is going to enable the shift to dystopian cyberpunk hypercapitalism in new and exciting ways

    when complexity rises and the number of agents grow to epic proportions efficiency in centralized structures drops like a bomb. The biggest problem is centralization of power considering various nature of human beings. If corrupted evil people gain power then it is far more dangerous than drawbacks of less organized decentralized society.
    9:56 pm
    Denver Post - Online threats target Feds

    Online threats target Denver investigators - Anarchist says e-mails harmless; feds disagree
    By Jim Hughes
    Denver Post Staff Writer

    Monday,July 07, 2003 - An anarchist using the online moniker "Professor Rat" has threatened the lives of two federal terrorism investigators in Denver, advocating that they "need killing."

    The threats name an FBI agent assigned to the local multiagency Joint Terrorism Task Force and the government's lead prosecutor of terrorism cases in Colorado.

    Although those who travel in the same online circles as Professor Rat say his provocations are not to be taken seriously, officials say they are concerned about the threats, which were sent to an e-mail listserv and posted on the Internet in April.

    "The recipients of the threats have no way to discern their validity," said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. "They cause fear and they disrupt lives, and it's for that reason that they're taken very seriously.

    "It's more than the individual targets. It's the families and those associated with them," he said.

    That is the purpose of the postings, an Australian man who admits to using the Professor Rat name and to posting these kinds of threats said in a telephone interview and a series of e-mails: To scare people out of working for the government.

    He refused to admit to any specific threat, to avoid prosecution, he said. He already is charged with making similar threats against police in Australia, according to the Victoria Police in Melbourne.

    Saying that his real name was Matt Taylor and that he was 48 years old, Professor Rat said he promotes a theory called Assassination Politics that emerged at the periphery of cyberanarchist circles in 1997.

    The concept is that of an online lottery in which people bet on a date that public figures will die. The implication is that the lottery "winner" likely helped arrange the death. Winnings would be paid in untraceable digital cash, which does not yet exist.

    The development of digital money,and encryption software restricting government's ability to monitor Internet activity, are common goals among the online anarchists and libertarians known as "cypherpunks."

    The ultimate purpose of Assassination Politics is to deter people from working for government
    agencies, corporate media outlets or institutions "beholden to the violence of the state," Taylor said.

    Professor Rat also has threatened a University of Ottawa law professor, a columnist for The Boston Globe and a Cincinnati police officer.
    Many of those threats were posted to a listserv called Cypherpunks.

    The e-mail distribution network allows libertarians and anarchists interested in the tension between government oversight and individual liberty on the Internet to discuss those issues via e-mails that when sent to the listserv are distributed to all members.

    Dorschner would not say whether there was an investigation into Professor Rat, calling the matter an issue of "internal security."

    The columnist for The Boston Globe, whose sin, in the eyes of Professor Rat, was to criticize civil libertarians for objecting to the Patriot Act of 2001, said he did not take the threat at all seriously.
    He learned of the threat only last week, when told of it by The Denver Post, he said.

    The Post is withholding the names of the subjects of posts by Professor Rat to avoid promoting any specific threats.

    "The way I see it, this kind of talk is pretty cheap on the Internet," the columnist said. "This is something I would consider casual hate speech. This person didn't send me an e-mail saying 'I'm going to kill you."'

    But officials in Denver see nothing casual about the statements, Dorschner said.

    In an interview, Taylor taunted the Denver officials named in the April 8 statement.

    "They're welcome to come and get me extradited," he said. "Here I am. Come and get me."

    The Cypherpunks listserv is also where Jim Bell, an MIT-trained chemist and Washington anarchist who now is in prison for interstate stalking of federal agents, unveiled his Assassination Politics. He was convicted in 2001.

    Federal prosecutors in Seattle that year also won a conviction against Carl Johnson, a Canadian man accused of threatening federal judges and Microsoft founder Bill Gates by e-mail.

    Later in 2001,Thomas Wales, a federal prosecutor in Seattle, was shot to death. Though his death was noted on the Cypherpunks listserv, no connection to Assassination Politics has ever been made. The case remains unsolved.
    John Hartingh, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle, declined to comment on Wales' death.

    Taylor said his threats are intended solely as a rhetorical deterrent.

    "No one has to die," he said. "All that has to happen is for people to accept the system."

    If anyone Taylor threatened ever was assassinated, "I would totally reassess my involvement
    in it," he said. "It would totally change the whole situation. Basically, I'm a nonviolent person."

    The posts made by Professor Rat fall under a relatively new category of crime known as "cyberstalking," said Jim Doyle, a retired New York City police sergeant who now works as a cybercrimes consultant for a Connecticut company called Internet Crimes.

    The statements made by Professor Rat constitute prosecutable offenses, he said.

    "The bottom line is what the victim feels," he said. "Is the victim threatened? Is the victim alarmed? Hey, that's a crime."

    Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and a First Amendment specialist, said the threats were probably criminal, given Taylor's description of the purpose of Assassination Politics.

    But "in order to (prosecute), you have to get your hands on the guy," he said.

    Most current Cypherpunks subscribers have set up their e-mail in-boxes to block any messages coming from Taylor, said Declan McCullagh, a reporter for the high-tech website He has subscribed to Cypherpunks for 10 years, he said.

    Taylor exists on the "radical fringe" of online anarchists, McCullagh said. "He's routinely ignored and 'kill-filed' by just about everyone on the list. I'd be surprised if more than a small handful of people are reading his postings, let alone taking him seriously."

    Taylor acknowledged that he does not not have much support in anarchist circles.

    "Most anarchists see what I'm doing as counterproductive. ... I'm not exactly at the center of anarchism by promoting Assassination Politics, that's for sure."
    R. A. Hettinga
    The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation
    44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA

    "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity, [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
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