2014-07-10 09:42Free Movement of Citizens

France and the UK consider controls on movement of radicalised citizens who go to fight in the Middle-East wars.  Such a measure may be relatively easy to implement for the UK, which is not a part of the Schengen area and also an island.  France would have no way of doing it, not even if they were not in the Schengen area.

In fact no central European country could do it:  crossing borders is very easy at night, through fields and forests, and so on.  It would need a permanently guarded high fence, of the Iron Curtain type, the Berlin Wall or the Israeli West Bank barrier, all around the EU nations.

Once again, no single European country can deal with the problem of these radicalised fighters.  They hold EU passports, but not the ideas of freedom of thought, rule of law and separation of powers.

It is not desirable that these people travel to the war zones to fight alongside other extremists, but they are also not welcome to return in order to recruit more and spread radicalised ideas.

To deal with this problem all EU nations must act together, we must adopt a common policy.  There is no room for the argument that free movement of EU citizens is wrong, rather it is the moment for reflecting together on how to guarantee it without putting ourselves in danger, and find common ways for the EU members to act.

Two more points, related to the problem:

1.  Think about the word "radicalised".  Does it not mean:  well, we don't like those ideas in the first place, but we tolerate them;   however, when they get too extreme we don't know what to to except use the label "radicalised".

2.  In a recent interview a fairly young imam in the UK said that he had told his congregation that the wars in Syria and Irak were not holy wars, they were political wars; it was not worth it for young people risking their lives in them.  So did that mean it is worth dying in a "holy" war?  I'm not denying that the crusades were not at least advertised as "holy" wars, but they happened more than 700 years ago.  No business of today's population.

2014-07-09 21:13 International Sport Events

The FIFA football cup is nearly over.  The Tour de France has started.

In a sense it is better to have the public engaged in these international competitons than in actual wars.  But the events are not about competing teams:  they are about competing states.  In that sense they keep nationalism alive, which is not a good thing.

2014-07-09 18:48 Why not

With everything that is going on in the Middle East and in other hot spots, why am I not writing about these incidents, wars, conflicts?

Because I'm not going to put my foot into the wasps' nest of religious/traditionalist messes.  Elsewhere I have a page on atheism.  Monotheistic religions are the worst meme-plexes ever begotten by humanity.  It would take far too much space to express clearly and unambiguously my views on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, not to mention all the traditional systems that still persist.

So, instead of writing long blog entries every day on all that stupidity, and risk "offending" irrational feelings (shouldn't I be offended by their ideas?) I prefer to remain silent on those subjects.  For now at least.

2014-05-27 20:19 European Parliament Elections

So it all happened.  The Eurosceptics made a lot of noise, and some had indeed a few good points.

Just before the elections I posted this in the welcome page:

Vote for people who will defend Europe in the world.

The Members of the EU Parliament should have the European area's interests at heart as much as their local interests.

Electing Eurosceptics to the Parliament weakens the area you live in.  Obviously I want my region's interests defended, my country's needs taken into account, and perhaps above all I would like to see reforms and progress in the construction of a prosperous and stable Europe.  But we really need a stronger, more united European area in dangerous world situations.  That cannot be achieved with Eurosceptics.

Then on Sunday 25 May 2014 we went to cast our votes to the only French party we could find that had a completely positive approach, and in a good order of priorities.  We had eliminated those with destructive programmes and the well-intentioned incompetents, and then those whose programmes were relatively good but featured at least one point that would hold the construction of Europe back.

Obviously the guys in Brussels have to wake up, and after the results were out I posted this for a few days on the welcome page:

EU Vote:

"Irresponsible demagogues trying to solve a complex problem with oversimplified answers" on the one hand, "sleepy, tired, fang-less politicians" on the other hand.  In the meantime the multinationals and financiers stealthily take over.  There is by far not enough communication from the EU about what it does for its member states, no wonder people feel lost.

And any serious vote should be preceded by an amount of informed public debate proportional to the importance of the issues.  There was hardly any and it was partially a role for the media.  To be corrected on all fronts.  Fast.

I do remain convinced that we need to unify, harmonise, move forward, improve and work hard at the European Union.  The area I live in is exceptionally rich in many aspects.  It needs to be and can be a force in shaping the future of our planet, but not if we keep arguing among ourselves over details.

2014-05-01 20:06 European Parliament Elections

Form 22 to 25 May the EU will hold elections to the Parliament.

But funnily, everywhere I look politicians are trying to woo voters with the argument that they will defend them at the EU parliament.  It sounds like “vote for us, we will keep the EU out of our country”

I thought the Parliament was there to organise the EU, and to defend the EU in the world against attacks on it.  To uphold our basic European values (even though I dislike the word “values”).

The Members of the EU parliament should not be there to split the EU or to obstruct cooperation.  Surely one of the prime reasons for being in the Parliament is to further the cause of the EU in the world.  If not, then, dear politicians, don’t go!

2014-05-01 20:14 Crimea Crisis

Another brilliant example of polarisation in societies where things don’t go well.  Read the history of the region:  a total mess for hundreds of years, with loads of “ethnicities” (another bad concept) moving in and out. But they all lived together in peace until a few months ago.  Shame on humanity.

2014-05-01 20:22 Net Neutrality

My first opinion is that the whole of the TCP/IP technology is totally unsuited to what people mostly use today.  If you watch a movie streamed over the net, if you make a purchase at a commercial site, if you look at YouTube, you are in fact using a connection.  The underlying internet technololy is not suited for connections or streaming.  So maybe we should simply stop trying to use it in that way.

But the second opinion is that the current debate involves content providers and transport providers. The user is left out entirely!

The user is the one who should pay.

Separation of Powers

There should be a strict separation of the powers of the content providers and the transport providers.

Users should pay for the number of bits they transfer, both up and down.  If I want to watch a movie, then I should pay for the number of bits that are transported by my ISP.  It is up to my ISP to figure out how much to charge me, depending on how much it has to pay other ISPs between my device and the content provider.  But the ISP should in no case differentiate between those bits.

Liken this to the postal system (since we are still using TCP/IP and therefore must think in terms of packets sent and delivered).  The parcel you put in the post will be delivered on three terms:

The post office does not care what you put in the parcel (with some reasonable exceptions:  you are not supposed to ship dangerous or illegal materials).  The ISPs should do exactly the same.  It should not matter what is in the TCP/IP packets.  But the user should pay.

About 2014?

So it’s 2014 now.  It could be worse.  Why do we split things by years?  As if there is no continuity?  But then I suppose there is a true cycle:  that of the plants and animals from which we derive our livelihood.  They go by the seasons, and the seasons are the result of the tilt of the Earth’s axis.  So there is summer and winter.  The shortest day is occasion to celebrate:  from that day on, light returns, nights get shorter and a little while later temperatures rise again.  At least in the Northern hemisphere;  my friends in the Southern hemisphere will forgive me;  they are more wont to celebrate with six months difference.

The shortest day (up North) is on the 21st (or 22nd) of December.  That is really when New Year should be.  I do not know why certain civilisations shifted that by 5 or more days, I suspect “spiritual leaders” had a finger in the broth again.  For my part, I send Winter Solstice Greetings to friends.

2014-03-15 09:14 Electronic Publishing

Heard that Apple Inc. took an electronic book off their store because the cover features a picture of a naked woman.

This is their right:  they are a commercial company.  But the arguments of the author are tenuous at best:  he wants pressure on Apple to resume sales, with the cover unchanged, on the basis that Apple is one of the most influential e-book publishers.

The fallacy in his argument is that he sees Apple or any other of the major e-book retailers as institutions that are answerable to the public.  But they are not, and there are only very few of them.  Effectively he has a very limited choice of channels through which to present the book to the general public.

Always this same aspect of the digital world comes back:  it makes effective monopolies due to compatibility issues.  The best course of action for the author today would be to publish the book in some open format and at a voluntary price.

Some guarantee of fair payment comes only with the large overhead of digital rights management, which in turn links the author to a distribution company that has the means to enforce it.  If there were hundreds such companies he would have a choice and simply distribute his book through another one than the top few.  But there are very few and e-books published by one retailer will simply not display on the device of another one.

They could even make the book unreadable to those who have already downloaded it.

For more on this problem, see
http://wi.bwl.uni-mainz.de/publikationen/InteroperabilityReportGutenbergfinal07052013.pdf

2014-02-19 15:50 European Internet

Ah.  Angela wants a European Internet.  This has probably to do with the hacking of her phone, the spying of the NSA, and maybe other worries (or intentions?).

Let’s first see what NSA stands for:  it is the National Security Agency. Not of Germany or the EU:  of the USA. Somehow when we say “NSA” the qualification “of the United States of America” seems unnecessary, like when we say “MI6” we all think “James Bond”.  The mere observation that the NSA does not need a country qualification may already be sinister.

But as I wrote in December 2013 about the opinion Mr. Snowden voiced on internet spying, the problem is not with the intelligence agencies or the governments.  It is with the neo-feudal behaviour of commercial companies.

In the good old days, before 1994, before the suits invaded the internet, any mail server would pass on messages to any destination.  After that time commercial ISPs began to refuse to relay.  The beginning of making money for the sake of making money on the internet.

Mind you, I have nothing against honest remuneration for services.  But let’s come back to Angela and the European internet.  What is the landscape?

Here are some factors I see:

  1. electronic communication networks have become essential,
  2. people in general do not understand how they work,
  3. networks have a vast entertainment component,
  4. the boundary between the entertainment and serious use is fuzzy at best,
  5. there is no method of paying for information,
  6. income from information is derived mainly from advertising,
  7. language is a hard barrier in communication on the network.

Let’s examine these in some detail.

Electronic communication has become essential:  where would we be without e-mail, mobile phones, web sites, positioning systems?  Things would be much slower and much more local.  But who controls them?  The dependability of electronic communication is much in the hands of commercial companies, though they have in some cases an obligation to provide a basic service at all times (e.g. emergency calls on mobile phones).  Is there any obligation on internet services?  Why not?

Since most people are ignorant of simple electricity, we should perhaps not expect them to understand the fundamentals of communication networks.  I have heard it said that for GPS(1) to work you have to be connected to the mobile phone network, or that the GPS system knows where you are.  There is a big difference between knowing how to operate a facility and understanding how it works.  Unfortunately this distinction is seldom made, and I often get operating instructions when I actually have asked for details about the underlying principles.  This ignorance, and even more so the acceptance that this ignorance is normal, is greatly worrying.

The use of the net has a vast entertainment component.  One might argue that this is what boosted the spread of the net:  social sites(2) (Facebook), instant diffusion (Twitter), TV over fibre.  Because these sites are not really networks, they can become successful only within a large language reservoir, and that means most of them grew profitable only inside the USA.  They then spread globally, wiping out local systems where they existed, but are still controlled commercially, ethically and legally from the US.

The success of some of the entertainment sites put pressure on companies and governments to have a presence on these sites, in order to reach their clients and citizens.  However, information diffusion activities are bound by effort and timing.  It’s not easy to bring news on many channels at the same time.  No wonder that some organisations gave up on maintaining their own sites.  This is a slippery slope.  Official news sites run with taxpayer’s money, such as the BBC, refuse access to certain services to connections from outside their country, but nevertheless happily require their readers to put comments on their Facebook page!  What happens when Facebook decides to censor the BBC?  Do people understand that commercial social sites are not a reliable, answerable service?  And what happened to rules on advertising:  suppose instead of “Follow us on Twitter” there were “Drink Coca-Cola” on the screen?  Would the broadcast authorities intervene?

I have argued for a very long time in favour of micropayments as a way to pay for information.  Micropayments do not imply an obligation to pay for any tidbit you read on the net, they simply provide one of the many possible means of remunerating the person who provides the information and make the reader more independent of the source.  They are an instant and time-limited contract between the author and the reader:  you want some info from a certain source, you pay them for it straight away.  No subscriptions linking you in for a year, no passing over of private information, no intermediates.  But as there are no micropayments, the only way to reach a broad audience instantly is to get the remuneration in a different way altogether:  via advertising(3). This is a viscious triangle, where the advertiser, even unwillingly, puts the information provider under pressure:  “offensive” or “inappropriate”(4) content is banned for fear of losing advertising revenue.  The censoring is often done on the basis of the “value” system of the USA, other systems being ignored (until something bad happens).  I am against all censoring, governments should not apply it, but commercial companies certainly should not.

So Angela wants a European Internet, or at least that is what I read in the press.  I have the impression it is more a desire to get out from under the supremacy of the USA.  That’s fine, we should all be as independent as possible.  My arguments given above hopefully show that there were simple reasons for this supremacy, which unfortunately have little to do with any action on behalf of the US government, but rather follow from an evolution which could take place much more easily in the US than in Europe (or indeed any other region on Earth).  The speed with which things spread on the net is very important to who gets the monopoly.  That speed is controlled by the language shared by those who do the spreading, and that language happens to be English.  Europe’s status on the network is a miracle, because even if it seems to lag, and if its weight is below that of the US in these matters, the levels of activity, awareness and inventiveness here are formidable in the light of the fact that we speak and think in so many different languages.  We are a bunch of quarreling small nations, each one suspicious of its neighbours, but we seem to manage quite well.

That said, I think Angela is right, though I hope she has advisers who understand where the real problems lie and what real remedies could be.  There should be more local control over the net, but that local control should not lead to breaking up the most important global system that Humankind has ever built.

 

1. GPS stands for “Global Positioning System”, the USA version of a way to determine longitude, latitude and altitude on the planet.  Other similar systems are GLONASS (USSR/Russia), Compass and Galileo, the latter two under construction.

2. Facebook, Twitter, G+, and others are not networks as such, they are in fact huge sites, partly distributed, but logically behaving like giant single entities, with no real connections to entities outside.

3. It can however be argued that getting revenue from advertising instead of direct payments is a leveler:  the rich buy more of the advertised products than the poor, so they indirectly give more money to the advertising budget.

4. I dislike the words “offensive” and “appropriate”, they are often euphemisms to cover the existence of a hidden agenda.

2014-02-09 12:00

Marius the giraffe was killed.  Stuff for talk on many TV programmes, fingerpointing at unethical programmes, horrified screams.

I did not like the killing either.  But what were the options?  You can find them discussed all over the news sites.  Ultimately humans are the cause of all this trouble:  they proliferate over the planet,pushing all other life into miserable corners, such as zoos.

Do those who buy cheap products from Asia realise that indirectly they cause a demand for African animal products?  Elephants are killed for their ivory daily, but that is far, far away, in another galaxy.  Marius was close by, had a name, and looked cuddly (anyone seen how male giraffes fight each other? Vicious).

Should we have crowdsourced funds to transport the giraffe back to its natural habitat? (where it might have been eaten by lions the next day) Perhaps.

We are destroying our planet, but instead of doing something about it, we go up in arms over a giraffe.

2014-02-06 23:10

So “fuck the EU”.  Brilliant.  Should a person with this kind of attitude really represent a large nation?  Of course, the EU has not been very good at handling anything recently, as a result of too many of our little countries still thinking they can do something great on their own.  As long as we remain a set of quarreling states we should not expect more civilised reactions.

At least some news sites did give a transcript of the conversation, which is rather rare;  they seem to prefer to talk about incidents without giving the data.

Also good was that Van Rompuy reacted.  Mildly, very mildly, but still, he was there.  As was Angela.  Angela for EU President!