Monthly Archives: July 2011

anti-internet texts from the 1990s

A collection of anti-Internet texts from the mid-1990s. Each of these were written at the point just as the net was unquestionably entering its stage of hyper-growth, absorbing more and more personal time as well as gobbling up independent networks into its own.

The Internet As Hyper-Liberalism (1996) argues against interconnectivity of networks.

Net-ism is wrong because it is coercively expansionist. There is no inherent or inevitable technical or historical trend to a single communication network. On the contrary: never before in history, have so many separate networks been technically possible. Linking all networks together is a conscious choice by some people, a choice then imposed on others. The logic is identical to that of colonial governments, which forced peasants into the agricultural market, by imposing cash taxes. (To pay the tax, the peasants had to sell cash crops such as sugar). This logic says in effect: 'no one is free to stay outside the free market'. Today, not just governments, but business, social movements, intellectuals and artists, all want to impose the Net. This broad movement is obviously more than profit-seeking (and a non-profit Net would also be wrong). It is an ideological movement seeking ideological imposition. That imposition itself, the universalism, the expansionism, their involuntary nature, the basic unfreedom to exit – that is what makes liberal structures wrong. That applies to the free market, and it applies inherently to the Internet.

From Pandora's Vox Redux (humdog, 1994)

many times in cyberspace, i felt it necessary to say that i was human. once, i was told that i existed primarily as a voice in somebody’s head. lots of times, i need to see handwriting on paper or a photograph or a phone conversation to confirm the humanity of the voice, but that is the way that i am. i resist being boxed and inventoried and i guess i take william gibson seriously when he writes about machine intelligence and constructs. i do not like it. i suspect that my words have been extracted and that when this essay shows up, they will be extracted some more. when i left cyberspace, i left early one morning and forgot to take out the trash. two friends called me on the phone afterwards and said, hummie your directory is still there. and i said OH. and they knew and i knew, that it was possible that people had been entertaining themselves with the contents of my directories. the amusement never ends, as peter gabriel wrote. maybe sometime i will rant again if something interesting comes up. in the meantime, give my love to the FBI."

Cliff Stoll in Newsweek, Why The Internet Will Fail (1995)

What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who’d prefer cybersex to the real thing? While the Internet beckons brightly, seductively flashing an icon of knowledge-as-power, this nonplace lures us to surrender our time on earth. A poor substitute it is, this virtual reality where frustration is legion and where–in the holy names of Education and Progress–important aspects of human interactions are relentlessly devalued.

The mid-1990s were a good time to be high-mindedly anti-network.


Debt ceiling cat is watching you negotiate

From the Tumblr Debt Ceiling Cat.

Also, the 14th amendment is being thrown around. Here's the relevant text.

 The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. 

A relevant case, perhaps, is Perry v United States 1935.

The Fourteenth Amendment, in its fourth section, explicitly declares: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, . . . shall not be questioned." While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the Government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle, which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the Amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression "the validity of the public debt" as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.

which a contemporary legal scholar, Henry Hart Jr, wrote at the time

what was confusing to the reporter at the first reading is even more so to the commentator at the hundredth. Few more baffling pronouncements, it is fair to say, have ever issued from the United States Supreme Court

The dissenting opinion in this case is as strongly worded as any: from Justice McReynolds

Loss of reputation for honorable dealing will bring us unending humiliation; the impending legal and moral chaos is appalling.

Oh, let's hope to not have to go there.

Oslo explosion

At about 3:30 p.m. CEST (about 9:30 a.m. EST) a bomb exploded near the office of the prime minister in central Oslo, damaging buildings, blowing out windows, and causing at least 8 injuries. Reporting from the scene 45 minutes later is still chaotic. I'd rather point you at a coherent narrative, but there doesn't seem to be one yet; here's some of the details I've found from people near the scene.

Twitter hashtag: #oslo. On the scene: @finansakrobat, @geirolav, @chaglen. On Google Plus: Alexander Nørstad.  

News: Aftenposten (in Norwegian): Stor eksplosjon i Oslo sentrum; same headline, NRK (in Norwegian).  BBC: Norway: Blast near prime minister's office in Oslo. The Norwegian state broadcaster is NRK which has this as the lead story, many photos.

Blogs: Rachel Maddow: Explosion at Norway prime minister's office with some links.

Live blog: Reuters live blog: Explosion rocks Oslo. Guardian live blog: Oslo explosion – live coverage. BBC: Oslo Explosion.

Photos: from 20 sec after explosion; damage to windows (Aftenposten); damage to buildings with crowd visible (Christian Aglen).  Twitter search: Oslo photos.

Borders Books (1971-2011)

ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 18, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —

Borders Group reported today that, in accordance with the terms of its financing agreement, the Company will submit to the Court for approval the previously-announced proposal from Hilco and Gordon Brothers to purchase the store assets of the business and administer the liquidation process. Borders said that, in the absence of a formal proposal from a going concern bidder, it did not require an auction prior to presenting the proposal to the Court at a scheduled hearing on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

"Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development," said Borders Group President Mike Edwards. "We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now," he added.

"For decades, Borders stores have been destinations within our communities, places where people have sought knowledge, entertainment, and enlightenment and connected with others who share their passion. Everyone at Borders has helped millions of people discover new books, music, and movies, and we all take pride in the role Borders has played in our customers' lives," Edwards continued, "I extend a heartfelt thanks to all of our dedicated employees and our loyal customers."

Borders currently operates 399 stores and employs approximately 10,700 employees. Subject to the Court's approval, under the proposal, liquidation is expected to commence for some stores and facilities as soon as Friday, July 22, with a phased rollout of the program which is expected to conclude by the end of September. Borders intends to liquidate under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code and, as a result, Borders expects to be able to pay vendors in the ordinary course for all expenses incurred during the bankruptcy cases.