July 27, 2011

More "After Hours with George Quartz"

The artist sometimes known as George Quartz is a former Good/Bad Art Collective member and CentralTrak resident and shows at Cris Worley Gallery, and he also operates under the personas of La Maladie Tropicale and Jock Ewing.

I find his "After Hours with George Quartz" operation very interesting (previously, briefly blogged here) – he does a live-taped, "talk show"/ performance art -type of work that's like Dick Cavett meets The Twilight Zone. The next one is this Friday.

At the one I saw, the "guests" learned who they were supposed to be at the same moment they were announced to the audience, and none bore any physical resemblance to the celebrity they were to impersonate (e.g., "Joe Namath" was a black female). The "celebrities" were of the 70's-ish vintage emulated by the show.

The ensuing, improvised interviews were sometimes boring, sometimes funny, sometimes weird, usually opening with discussion of the celebrity's career and personal life (about which the guests, mostly young-ish, often knew little or nothing) and culminating with questions such as, "Liz, what is Beauty?", or "George, what is Art?"

Meanwhile, "Quartz" has most of the trappings of a live-taping tv show going on, including a talk show band and a monitor facing the audience that flashes "APPLAUSE" at the appropriate times. And the video actually produced from this performance is beyond-true to 70's or earlier production values (excerpts from the resulting "show" can be viewed on Quartz's vimeo channel).

In short, this is great, wacky parody; but there's a lot more than that going on.

The next Quartz taping/performance will be at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, Dallas, at 10PM; more details here (together with links to visuals). Be part of the audience, and you might end up on "tv."

July 24, 2011


"Thousands of tweets erupted in a matter of hours on #Jul23 protesting the US's failed debt ceiling talks and general policies. Spurred by @JeffJarvis . Seen by some as part of #WorldRevolution or #USRevolution." More at Raw Story.

Twitter capp'd the trend early on, but you can see how it's doing at trendsmap.com.

A few samples:

#f@ckyouwashington for sending our soldiers on 6, 7, 8 tours in combat zones yet thinking it's too much to ask the richest to pay taxes

#f@ckYouWashington for forgetting WHO you represent, Families,Elderly,Moms,Kids, WORKERs...NOT the Coporate Pigs who you cater to

#f@ckYouWashington for thinking activists are the same as terrorists

#f@ckyouwashington for paying billions more to hire private contractor cronies in the name of "efficiency"

#f@ckyouwashington for killing US entry into the Kyoto Accord & failing to police polluters

#f@ckyouwashington for trying to turn the Internet into the biggest top-down surveillance system ever

#f@ckyouwashington for allowing corporations to tie up copyright & patent rights to the point of stifling actual creatives

#f@ckyouwashington for spending tax dollars to illegally propagandize US citizens

#f@ckyouwashington for spending trillions to spread "democracy" abroad while gutting our Constitutional rights at home

#f@ckyouwashington for allowing Repubs to own 95% of the media AND the voting machines

#f@ckyouwashington for ignoring the biggest public outcries against media consolidation in history & approving mergers like Murdoch's

#f@ckyouwashington for repealing laws that would have prevented the 2008 financial meltdown & then claiming "no one could have foreseen it"

#f@ckyouwashington for moving mountains to disable Wikileaks while refusing to prosecute the people who lied us into Iraq

#f@ckyouwashington for threatening seniors with their SS checks they spent a lifetime paying in while working and building this country

#f@ckyouwashington for making the healthcare reform law not worth the paper it is printed on

How it started here.

As Jeff Howe tweeted: “If this trends all weekend, you think it won’t make news? It will. And a statement."

UPDATE: Unfortunately, not quite yet (surprise surprise).

What the Fed HA$ Delivered On:

. . . its intent – clear, for those who would see, in Oct., 2008 – that TARP funds would be used to bail out not only Goldman, but foreign investors et al.

Results of the recent Fed audit showing that trillions went to foreign investors discussed here. Oct., 2008 c-Blog post warning that the TARP bill was designed to permit this here.

July 21, 2011

A few headlines via DU today

("DU" meaning democraticunderground.com.)

Report: Obama top recipient of [Murdoch's] News Corp. donations

Political donations by News Corp., its employees and their families were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with President Obama the all-time leading recipient, according to a report from the Sunlight Foundation. (More at The Hill.)
Cenk Uygur was removed due to "political pressure"; Phil Griffin: MSNBC is "part of the establishment"
After a nearly six-month tryout for the Internet talk show host Cenk Uygur, the cable news MSNBC is preparing to instead hand its 6 p.m. time slot to the Rev. Al Sharpton. . . . Mr. Uygur, who by most accounts was well liked within MSNBC, said in an interview that he turned down the new contract because he felt Mr. Griffin had been the recipient of political pressure. In April, he said, Mr. Griffin “called me into his office and said that he’d been talking to people in Washington, and that they did not like my tone.” He said he guessed Mr. Griffin was referring to White House officials, though he had no evidence for the assertion. He also said that Mr. Griffin said the channel was part of the “establishment,” and that “you need to act like it.” (More at The NYT.)

The "Gang of Six" deficit-cutting plan

Sen. Bernie Sanders warned, "The plan would result in devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and many other programs that are of vital importance to working families in this country. Meanwhile, tax rates would be lowered for the wealthiest people and the largest, most profitable corporations." (More at Common Dreams.)
How to save $2 trillion

There are 23 million Americans who can't find full-time work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are 50 million Americans who can't see a doctor when they are sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There are more than 15 million American families who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to Zillow. That's almost a third of all the families who own homes.

* * * * *
I'll be honest – the federal deficit for the year 2021 is not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, these days. But let's assume – arguendo, as they used to say back in Ancient Rome – that for some reason, there were some compelling, emergency need to work out how to cut $2 trillion from projected federal budget deficits over the next ten years.

I have an idea about how to do that. It's a very simple idea. In fact, I can sum it up in one word, with five letters: PEACE. (More from Alan Grayson at DU.)

New court filing reveals how the 2004 Ohio presidential election was hacked

A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio's 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush.

The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove. Connell ran the private IT firm GovTech that created the controversial system that transferred Ohio's vote count late on election night 2004 to a partisan Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee owned by SmarTech. That is when the vote shift happened, not predicted by the exit polls, that led to Bush's unexpected victory. Connell died a month and a half after giving this deposition in a small plane crash.

Additionally, the filing contains the contract signed between then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Connell's company, GovTech Solutions. Also included is a graphic architectural map of the Secretary of State's election night server layout system.

Prior to the filing, Cliff Arnebeck, lead attorney in the King Lincoln case, exchanged emails with IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore. Arnebeck asked Spoonamore whether or not SmarTech had the capability to "input data" and thus alter the results of Ohio's 2004 election. Spoonamore responded: "Yes. They would have had data input capacities. The system might have been set up to log which source generated the data but probably did not." (More at freepress.org.)
(Originally b&w image above by Ansel Adams, Internees Reading Newspapers, Manzanar Relocation Center, from the Library of Congress.)

July 20, 2011

Feds Indict Coder/Activist for Downloading Too Many Academic Articles (Infowar - Round 2?)

Per TPM, "coder turned activist" Aaron Swartz has been arrested and charged with "breaking into MIT's network and using an automated program to download more than four million articles from JSTOR, an online database of academic journals maintained at MIT between late September 2010 and early January 2011."

Swartz is the former executive director and founder of Demand Progress and co-founder of Bold Progressives, two orgs whose efforts I support, f.w.i.w. TPM also describes Swartz as a prodigy who "has been involved in building many aspects of the web that everyone uses on a daily basis, and concludes:

Demand Progress' Executive Director David Segal professed puzzlement at the Tuesday development. "This makes no sense," he said on the group's blog "it's like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."

"It's even more strange because JSTOR has settled any claims against Aaron, explained they've suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute," he added.

But this could be a political statement from Swartz, since he's been a long-time activist on copyright issues. As the indictment notes, Swartz is a fellow at Harvard's Center for Ethics, where his mentor Larry Lessig is the director.

The indictment notes that Swartz could have accessed the research there, but chose instead to break into MIT's network.
(Emphasis supplied.) More at TPM (thanks, Donna!) and the Demand Progress blog.

The implication seems to be that Swartz may have acted in deliberate provocation – possibly to bring to a head the issue of whether information should, per the "Hacker Ethic," be free.

Swartz's act may in fact have been intended as the next salvo in the infowars.

UPDATE: Just got these links: to ask your FB friends to sign on in support or to tweet it.

FURTHER UPDATE: Swartz supporter dumps 18,592 JSTOR docs on Pirate Bay.
A 31-year-old American who says his name is Gregory Maxwell has posted a 32GB file containing 18,592 scientific articles to BitTorrent. In a lengthy statement posted to the Pirate Bay, he says that Tuesday's arrest of onetime Reddit co-owner Aaron Swartz inspired the document release.

"All too often journals, galleries, and museums are becoming not disseminators of knowledge—as their lofty mission statements suggest—but censors of knowledge, because censoring is the one thing they do better than the Internet does," he wrote.
More at ars technica.

July 15, 2011


Stroom den Haag and NAIM / Bureau Europa are pleased to announce the opening of a new Time/Store in Maastricht, from July 17th though October 2, 2011.

All across Europe, we are suddenly being told that we are too poor to afford culture, but we are not poor. Many of us are artists, writers, curators, teachers, filmmakers, designers, and architects, and we have knowledge and skills. We can self-organize.

* * * * *
Last May, Stroom Den Haag opened the Dutch branch of the e-flux Time/Bank, a platform and community for the cultural sector through which goods and services can be exchanged internationally by using time as a denomination of exchange. As cultural producers, we often do things without the use of money, and the Time/Bank is a tool to amplify this ability—based on the premise that everyone in the field of culture has something to contribute, and that it is possible to develop and sustain an alternative economy by connecting existing needs with unacknowledged abilities.

Time/Store follows the historic Cincinnati Time Store, opened by American anarchist Josiah Warren in 1827 as a three-year experiment in alternative economics. Warren's idea was to develop an exchange system in which the value assigned to commodities would come as close as possible to the amount of human labor necessary to produce them. For example: 8 hours of a carpenter's labor could be exchanged for eight to twelve pounds of corn. This system eventually led to the creation of time currency, and to contemporary time banking—an international alternative economic movement. We strongly feel that the Time/Bank and other mutual aid systems have the potential to become one of the ways in which an independent critical space can be reclaimed by those who produce it.
More info at eflux. I suspect similar store fronts may eventually be opened in other cities.

Resource on ALEC (Where All That Awful Legislation Comes From)

If you think it's a coincidence that legislatures in multiple, Republican-controlled states have been passing bills aimed at busting unions, privatizing state property, "reforming" education, etc., think again. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has pre-fabricated dozens of "model bills" that would benefit ALEC's global corporate funders at the expense of the rest of us, and ALEC has been working with conservative politicians to get them enacted.

There's now an excellent website for info re- what ALEC is up to, at ALEC Exposed – pass the word.

Effects of Misinfo Can't Be Eradicated

Setting the record straight almost impossible

* * * * *
The effect of misinformation on memory and reasoning cannot be completely eliminated, even after it has been corrected numerous times, say Australian psychologists.

Assistant Professor Ullrich Ecker and colleagues from The University of Western Australia outline their findings in a recent article published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Ecker says this effect, known as 'continued influence effect of misinformation,' occurs even if the retraction itself is understood, believed, and remembered.
More at the link.

July 14, 2011

Wikileaks Update

Wired has finally released the full, alleged Manning-Lamo chat logs, and as Glenn Greenwald points out, it seems clear that the portions previously withheld are by no means limited to personal info about Manning or matters of national security, as Wired had claimed. On the contrary, the logs show Lamo to be deceptive and unreliable, and more importantly, contain substantial exculpatory evidence, including but not limited to evidence that Assange took precautions to ensure that he would not know who his leaker was (which could make it tough for the US to prove collusion).

Meanwhile, the hearing on Assange's appeal from the order approving his extradition to Sweden has concluded, but it's expected to be days or weeks before the new ruling issues (see The Guardian).

July 13, 2011

Ideas for Facebook Apps

(1) "Who Are My Sycophants?"; and

(2) "Of Whom Am I on the Brink of Becoming Categorized as a Sycophant?"

July 12, 2011

Tales of Hacking, Madness, and Obsession

Amazon.com currently has available four copies of Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness, and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier by Suelette Dreyfuss (1997). They do not mention that the book was written by Dreyfuss "with research by Julian Assange." The copies are all used paperbacks and are priced from $349.94.

I could be wrong, but I thought I saw a downloadable copy somewhere on the 'net within the last 15 seconds . . . now where was it . . . .

Anyway, below is the long but fascinating video of a 2011-07-15 program with Assange, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now (a somewhat larger version and a full transcript are available here). The venue for the program was cancelled twice because, the hosting organizations explained, the program was "too controversial," so the program ended up at the Frontline Club, well outside of London center; nonetheless, the 2,000 seats were sold out at £25 each.

By the way, the hearing is ongoing on Assange's appeal of the U.K. court order approving his extradition to Sweden; blow-by-blow at The Guardian.


Looks interesting:

Trespass: First a Parade, Then a Party

* * * * *
On Sunday, October 2, 2011 the streets of downtown Los Angeles will erupt in a parade of local artists and residents, complete with music, dancing and performance. The parade is the culmination of
Trespass, a collaborative project between Arto Lindsay, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and West of Rome Public Art (WoR). They have commissioned 40 Los Angeles based artists, including John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Nancy Rubins and Sterling Ruby, to produce a statement—their call to action, pleasure and reciprocity. The statements have been printed on T-shirts in English and in Spanish, and will be worn as part of the parade and sold via the West of Rome website. . . . This project has been created to coincide with Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration of more than 60 cultural institutions across Southern California coming together for the first time to celebrate the birth of the L.A. art scene, which begins October 2011.

On Monday, October 3, 2011 Trespass will reach its climax with a blow out benefit party for WoR at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Fantastic and transgressive Los Angeles iconic underground figure, Miss Vaginal Davis will shape our journey into the night. The rhythms of Trespass will permeate into the evening as musician Arto Lindsay will perform a unique piece composed for the occasion. Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija will engage the audience in a continuation of the collective experience of social awareness stemming from the parade.

More at www.trespassparade.org.

July 6, 2011

The Hacker Ethic

I've been reading Hackers by Steven Levy (1984, 1994); 25th Anniversary edition here. The book recounts the seminal exploits of a relatively small number of nerds who, during the late 1950s through the early '80s, created the basic architecture of computer cognition and memory that we inhabit today.

The meaning of the term, "hacker," has been hijacked since Levy's first edition was published. Now, it's used to suggest a cyber-burglar or worse, who steals or vandalizes for her/his personal profit or pleasure.

But originally, the term simply referred to one who creates computer hardware or software. Levy's "hackers" wrote the operating systems and visual interfaces that brought the mammoth, early computers under our recreative as well as productive control and developed the first widely-available personal computers, among other accomplishments.

And as the Amazon "product description" adds, "[t]hey had a shared sense of values, known as 'the hacker ethic,' that still thrives today."

The "hacker ethic":

  1. Access to computers – and anything that might teach you something about the way the world works – should be unlimited and total.

  2. All information should be free.

  3. Mistrust authority; promote decentralization.

  4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.

  5. You can create art and beauty on a computer.

  6. Computers can change your life for the better.

(See Hackers by Steven Levy, p. 34 {2010 O'Reilly Media, Kindle Edition}.)

For years, these hackers worked day and night, driven by the sheer joy of creating something really cool, and receiving little or nothing more for their efforts beyond the respect of their few, similarly-obsessed fellows. They freely shared the programs and equipment they created, each helping the others to improve and de-bug their creations. As far as they were concerned, none of it should be owned, so none of it could be stolen.

The hackers inhabited a sort of cyber-utopian anarchy in which the only abuse that occurred consisted in the wrong-headed efforts of bureaucrats to restrict access based on claims such as a need for "security." And it was the hacker ethic that made possible the incredible flowering of human potential that occurred during this first decade or two leading up to the commercial success of personal computers and p.c.-based video games.

For me, the fact that such a benevolent anarchy can and has in fact endured for an extended period was one of many interesting revelations afforded by this book. It also provides what seems to be a conscientiously compiled history of our subsequent fall from this Eden, as well as a wealth of details about key, individual hackers and their deeds.

I read the paperback and then bought the e-book; recommended as an invaluable resource.

I recently came across an interesting site, datalove, propounding similar principles:

Data is essential
Data must flow
Data must be used
Data is neither good nor bad
There is no illegal data
Data is free
Data cannot be owned
No man, machine or system shall interrupt the flow of data
Locking data is a crime against datanity
Love data
Datalove appears to be affiliated with Telecomix, one of the Anonymous-type organizations involved in efforts to help Egyptian protesters circumvent Mubarek's shut-down of the Egyptian internet.

One of the nerds described in Levy's Hackers was John Conway, who created the computer game of Life, in which the goal is to design simple, graphic life-forms and then observe how their community either dies out or achieves immortality; below are gifs showing two "immortal" results from this game: (1) a single Gosper's Glider Gun creating "gliders" and (2) a breeder that leaves glider guns in its wake: