This Revolution needs a Revolution

Yesterday I went with my wife and son to visit the Victoria & Albert’s Museum exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The aim of the exhibition was quite clear:

How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?

I was very much looking forward to visiting the exhibition. It is SO timely, and SO needed, I thought.

After visiting it, I left enraged. Why? After all, it was very well “put together”, full of artifacts and information, with a fancy sound system, and beautifully arranged and orchestrated.

ORGANIZED

More importantly, it was not a nostalgic attempt at regurgitating old revolutionary slogans.

What enraged me is how co-opted the whole collection felt. How all those efforts and sacrifices, how all that energy and suffering from past revolutionaries, has been assimilated by the system.

From the ® Registered slogans to the “no photographs” signs at the entrance (to which I, OF COURSE, paid no attention to whatsoever):

® slogan!

To the texts denouncing powerful corporations and states controlling Western media making it difficult to broadcast alternative opinions. You don’t say??!! How about adding “even museums”?

You don't say??!!

Of course, the whole thing had a watered down flavor, “ready for the masses to consume it” (at over£17 or over $20 per ticket). Not just because of the large dedicated-store (“Exit through the gift store” as Banksy brilliantly highlighted), where many appealing objects were for sale for nostalgics and revolutionary wannabes.

Interesting mash up poster

But also for the paternalistic tone of the whole exhibition, surgically isolating issues (identity, sexuality, peace, music, fashion…), even (correctly) including the new contemporary totemic theological substitute: technology.

Origins of Personal Computers

I was very happy and proud to tell my son that his grandmother was in Paris throwing cobblestones to the police in the student revolts of 1969; that his grandfather took me, when I was a little kid, to see a forbidden theater play during Spain’s democratic transition, fearing the secret police repression; that I participated as a kid in discussions with adults about anarchism and communism, when both were outlawed in Spain; and that I have participated in some of the revolutions and protests that came in the decades after that.

I’m not angry because they took “my” revolutions and repackaged them for easy digestion by accommodating masses. That was foreseeable, and an obvious result of the reigning empire of consumerist capitalism.

I’m not even nostalgically refusing to accept that times have changed.

What really annoyed me and made me angry was the lack of reference to a combative present, to the continuation of the struggle.

The fact that they showed, at the end of the exhibition “How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today” but completely left out “and think about the future” is what enraged me. Particularly as Trump is president in the USA, May PM in GB, the PP rule Spain, the far right advances in France…

We need to remember that the fight is not over, that fascism is not only back, but stronger and more powerful than ever. We, all of us, and the institutions that serve us, including museums, have a duty to promote thoughtful debate around ethics and values, and fiercely protest and fight through self-organisation, unity, and collaboration. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those who fought for us in the past, we owe it to those who will come after us.

If the urban bourgeoisie wants to be the first to fall under the boot of the oppressors again, so be it. If proto and pseudo-intellectuals endlessly self-delude themselves into thinking that our democracies and institutions will save us from authoritarian demagogues, fascist megalomaniacs, and our own blind pursuit of endless consumerism, so be it. In the meantime, I will be teaching my children about the struggle and participating in the smartest and most effective way I can.

I stood up against a terrorist in a German train

Yesterday, after spending the day at a tradeshow in Düsseldorf, on my way by train to the hotel in Mülheim, I stopped in the town of Duisburg, which was on my way, because I heard they were setting up a Christmas market. The market was indeed being set up, but it was still closed, so I decided to go back to the station. To avoid the sprinkling rain I took the 901 tram at König-Heinrich Platz.

From the window I saw three kids (around 12-13 year old, I guess) wearing some team sports uniform, laughing and rushing onto the tram. They were not particularly disrespectful or anything, but one man standing in the platform (tall pale and bolding German, around 40 years old) apparently didn’t think so, because they did not let a woman board the tram before them. Some of us appreciate old-fashioned manners more than others, but it is hardly a crime, anywhere in the world, to not let a woman board a train ahead of you… specially when you are a pre-teen or teenager, so commonly unaware of your surroundings.

So this man started screaming at the kids. I saw that out of the three kids (two white and blonde, the other one middle-eastern looking), he was only screaming at the foreign-looking one. My German is not too good, but I picked up words like “schwein” (cerdo), “mohr” (moorish, used pejoratively for “muslim”), “Paris”, “terrorist”… You did not need a PhD in Germanic Languages to understand what was going on there: an obviously mentally unstable person, directing xenophobic fury at the wrong “target”.

Had my German been better, I would have told this person that while I defend his freedom of speech, that is no way to address a kid. Or anyone for that matter. Since I could not communicate in his language, I did not say anything, but remained alert, fearing things could get worse. And they did.

This man held the automatic tram door, preventing the departure on time, while his screams got louder, his tone more aggressive, and his body language more menacing.

I was at the other end of the tram-car, but I looked around and nobody did anything. The car was full of people, most of them German looking. But they all acted as if that was not happening. Some looked around the platform, as if looking for the police, or some “authority”.

I have found, excuse my gross generalization, that while the English are to a large degree “conformist”, the Germans are to a large degree “obedient”. Had the police, or any other form of formal authority been there, things would have gone completely different. But upon lack of authority, brutality and submissiveness took over. Sorry to sound so obvious, but let’s keep in mind the dangerous results that mixing the “wrong” circumstances, xenophobia, ignorance, and mindless acceptance can produce.

At this point, seeing that nobody else was doing anything at all to stop this violent escalation, I got up from my seat, walked across the car, and positioned myself between that kid and the aggressor. The man kept holding the door and shouting at the kid as if I was not there. Everybody else remained still.

Then, a good four minutes into this non-sense, and after having gestured several menacing signs (“cut throat”, “fist smashing”, etc), the man, who was still in the platform, reached into the car, holding the kid’s uniform and pulling towards him trying to get him out of the car and onto the platform.

This is what I call a “terrorist”. Someone with the intent to instill terror in others, particularly to prove a point or avance a particular ideology. If you find the use of this word not appropriate, ask yourself about state-sponsored terrorism, or about the constant mis-use of the term “terrorism” by the media (western or eastern) or politicians.

That was the line, that was it. I grabbed the man’s hand, twisted it (I think my Aikido sensei, years ago, used to call this “sankyo”), kicked him in the chest, and knocked him onto the platform.

Free from the man’s hold, the doors automatically closed and the tram moved on. Nobody did or said anything. Nobody even looked at me. Not even the kid.

I have witnessed and suffered my share of violence throughout the years, but what struck me the most was not a demented criminal, a “terrorist” attacking a “victim”. What struck me the most was the appalling passivity of everyone in that train.
What’s happened to us? When did we become “lambs”? Have we always been “lambs” (whether “God’s”, “the crusade’s”, or “Bush’s”)?

What happened to idealism, utopia, values and beliefs? How can an agnostic like me have more “beliefs” (or at least be more willing to act on them) than the church-going and flag-rallied crowd? What do we think we have to loose, that makes us fear helping others? How can we be so blind in not seeing that inaction will cause us more harm than putting ourselves in harm’s way to defend our values and ethics (not “morals”)?

We are so full of ourselves. We talk non-stop about modern western civilization’s grandeur. I consider myself a liberal free-thinking humanist and peacifist. We are so proud of our humanism, our liberalism, or democracy, our liberty, our rights… but all those are little more than nice sounding ideals, tergiversated and manipulated by politicians, corporations and mass media.

Is John Gray right when he talks about “The Human Animal”, the “Homo rapiens”? When I look around me, that is what I see.
But a Zen monk once told me while sipping some green tea in Japan: “we are what we choose; not so much what we do, or even why we think we chose it”. Some contemporary information technology theories, behavioral neuroscientists, as well as some metaphysical philosophers, would agree with that to a surprising large extent.

So I chose. I chose to stand up.

Million masks march

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On Thursday, coming back home from a meeting, I run into the Million Masks March. While I assume I agree with most of their anti-system protests (the truth is I did not bother to read them), I think their choice of Guy Fawkes as an “icon”, even if a graphical one as proposed by the comic/movie “V for Vendetta”, is a very stupid one. Just read about what that historical figure had in mind and judge for yourself.

Another thing that struck me is the media sensationalism, the government paranoia and over-reaction, and the typical “apparatus show of force”, including a large number of policemen, police vehicles, and even laser projections on public buildings, like the message projected on the National Gallery regarding the obligation to comply with police request to remove face maskings, and saying:

“Failure to comply (sic; notice it did not say “failure to do so”) is an offence”

Canceling a trip to India due to bureaucracy… I’m going to Tokyo

The absurdly convoluted visa policies of India, and the absurdly privatized process of obtaining it, have made me cancel a trip that was supposed to be a routine work day in Kalkata. It’s amazing that in the XXI century bureaucracy affects so many countries so much, and toy with people’s lives via ridiculous laws.

The official information handled by my travel agency, one of the largest in the world, says that if I spend less than 24 hours in India I do not need visa. But the Indian government says I do. However, an officer of the consulate said that, even if they allowed me in the country, they probably would not have let me out of the airport, but he did not know for sure. Furthermore, although a transit visa and emergency visa exist, the first one takes 5 days to obtain since the documents reach the consulate, but there are exceptional circumstances (as in my case: Spaniard requesting a visa from the United States), in which case it may take (much) longer. And while traveling in fewer days than necessary for the visa processing, the emergency visa did not apply because it only applies to Indian citizens who live within a certain distance from the embassy and have had a death in the family. Motherf$%”# … So much for “quick business trips”.

But every cloud has a silver lining, so on the way to Singapore I will spend four days enjoying my favorite city in the world: Tokyo.

^ _ ^

When "progressive media" is ultra conservative

Last Tuesday, October 1, I attended a panel at the City University of New York Graduate Center, titled “Into Left Field: Progressive Media in the Age of Austerity“.

The Graduate Center’s Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart), senior political writer for the Daily Beast, discussed the health of progressive media with Katha Pollitt (@KathaPollitt), longtime columnist for The Nation; Joy-Ann Reid (@TheReidReport), managing editor of NBC’s TheGrio.com; and Nermeen Shaikh (@nermeendn), co-host of Democracy Now!

While you can view the whole thing in the embedded video, here are some quotes mentioned that caught my attention:

“Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

A. J. Liebling, also author of the quote “People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.”

But the most notable part of the whole debate, from my point of view, came after I asked a seemingly innocent question (1:10:38 in the video):

What IS “progressive media”?

 Joy-Ann Reid’s reply, “one without a giant sponsor”, is shockingly FAR from what “progressive” media is (it might mean “independent” but definitely not necessarily “progressive”), and Katha Pollitt’s “it’s about where you stand politically” gets it somehow wrong too. I liked Nermeen Shaikh’s answer the best, “left, independent, critical”, but still, too shy. 

The shocking truth? Even the most progressive media in the USA is incredibly conservative, since they do NOT question representative democracy as a political system, “news” is practically reduced to debating White House press releases, and their view of anything outside market capitalism is extremely tangential and limited.

Corporate cowardice, political hypocrisy

On July 25 I was asked by someone at IBM to write an article about the use of the cloud in healthcare:

I’d like to offer you the opportunity to author an article which we would look to promote across all of our social properties, other external communications as well as our paid media sponsorships, i.e. blogs.

I was given suggestions on article length, topic, and keywords, but freedom to write whatever I wanted. So I did (you can find it here) on July 31.

On August 7, I received the following feedback (and two more points about sources and brands):

Thanks for the submission. I shared this with my team and they have requested some edits.

We need to avoid calling attention to controversial news, i.e., National Security Agency 

I replied the same day:

On the contrary, we need to address it.
The market, customers, are talking about it.
When you mention “cloud”, the first thing they say now is “fear” (even more than ever before). Particularly in Healthcare.
Many of those customers are from other countries, or working in international networks, so it is of particular concern to them that a government may breach their laws and make them liable.

I believe I have addressed it in a “non-controversial”, “non-partisan”, “non-beligerant” manner. My own personal opinion is much much stronger. But since this is a professional article, I have kept it professional. For that very same reason, I believe this issue must be addressed.

To which I received this reply:

Jorge,  I understand your view regarding the point below, but unfortunately I have been advised by our comms team that we can not publish an article with this content. 

And this is what I had to say to that:

With all my respects to your comms team:

“Recent revelations about the extent to which the NSA obtains electronic data from third-parties will likely have an immediate and lasting impact on the competitiveness of the U.S. cloud computing industry if foreign customers decide the risks of storing data with a U.S. company outweigh the benefits. Unless the White House or Congress acts soon, the U.S. cloud computing industry stands to lose $22 to $35 billion over the next three years.”
Source: The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

You are seeing a $35 BILLION train coming at you and you want to look somewhere else? If you don’t address the issue, your customers will be the ones looking somewhere else. And the way to address the issue is through transparency.

Sorry, my personal convictions and ethics are stronger than my ego or the need for publicity of my company. Without that aspect on my article, I can not publish it.
I am willing to work on the wording, but any article on the cloud today needs to address the issue.

The next day, the final word came:

I appreciate all your efforts, but it might be best if you don’t continue with this article. 

And here is what I have to say about that decision:

Corporate cowardice makes me sick, and it is toxic. Such meekness betrays not only a lack of ethical courage, but also a poor sense of where their real interest lie. Sure, it is easy to understand that individuals are afraid to loose their job (from the advertising exec being fired by the VP of Marketing to the CEO being ousted by the C-Board, who is afraid of stockholders, who are afraid of media, who are afraid of government, who is afraid of lobbies and the military-industrial complex…). But its also easy to understand that soldiers have to follow orders, even when those orders mean committing crimes. And then its all about punishing the whistle blower.

As a society, we owe to ourselves to be clear, transparent, and honest. Corporations are not different than that. Only those who sell “concepts” have to hide behind the “appearance”. And that is the problem. We are constantly sold things we don’t need, or worse, things that are bad for us. From junk food to addictive pharmaceuticals that alleviate symptoms but do not cure the cause of disease, to airport body scanners that are dangerous to our health, to operating systems designed to spy on you. Everybody has come to believe that “we” are consumers, tax-payers, statistics, and “they” are profit-maximizing machines. But that is not true. Corporations are made of people. People who can and should make decisions and be responsible for them. People who have or should have ethics.

Why is everybody hiding behind a title, a badge, a desk, a uniform?

The more aggressive the behavior, whether it be through censorship, or through forceful compliance, the more it shows weakness and fear.

Take the Government of the U.S.A. Hiding behind a “sounds-so-good-I-want-to-believe-it” “humanitarian” excuse, planning the bombing of another country. Use of chemicals on civilians regardless of the 1925 convention you say? How about the U.S.A. using millions of gallons of Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam in the sixties? That caused over 4 million dioxin victims. Or take the Gulf War syndrome: depleted uranium, sarin gas, pyridostigmine, organophosphate pesticides… The US Government and military again using chemicals weapons against an enemy and exposing his own troops! That was 1991.

Don’t get me wrong: what Assad is doing with his own people is a crime. A crime Western countries knew about for decades (and now, thanks to Manning, we know that and the NY Times writes about it, but Manning continues in jail for giving us proof of the big hypocrisy). But so was the US using the army against striking coal miners in the 1920-21 West Virginia coal wars. And nobody paid for it. Or the Kent State student massacre by the Ohio National Guard in 1970. Or Abu Ghraib. Or Guantanamo. Or… you get the point.

So the political hypocrisy is colossal. Why does the US Government need it? If you are the biggest and mightiest, you don’t need excuses to bully your weight around a region you want to control for oil (or rare earth minerals, or whatever the resource happens to be at any point in history). A region that was messed up largely by the USA and the UK even before “the victors” threw it into forced conflict by drawing artificial borders after WWII. 

But here comes fear: it was fear of the communist, then fear of losing control of military bases, then fear of losing key resources, then fear of terrorists… it’s a weak and paranoid state afraid of its own shadow. This is not even a great and mighty empire. It will never be respected. And with such hypocrisy, it will never even be feared. Other countries have sustained millions of lost lives pursuing principles or defending themselves. No excuses, no fear. And after their ordeals, they have gone back to living their peaceful and cooperative lives. Why can’t the USA do the same?

The USA “sells itself” as the defender of international law and order. But then it should start with its own actions. And look everywhere. Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Kenya, Yemen, Chad, Afghanistan… Or is it that only those with strategic interest (military, resources) “deserve” help? Perhaps it is shameful that most of those crises have been directly or indirectly been caused by US intervention in other countries’ affairs? 

“A matter of resources”, you say. “We can not be everywhere and help everyone” (if by help you mean bombing, and financing assassins and terrorist, supporting military coups, etc).

Another fallacy. There are resources. Lots of resources. Discretionary budget to be assigned to whatever government chooses. There was money to bail out unsupervised greedy private banks. Why aren’t those nationalized? Why aren’t all their executives in jail? 

And that happens everywhere. The Spanish Government says there is no money for public schools, public healthcare, or research. They are taking the dangerous and failed austerity approach as prescribed by Germany (Greece and Portugal should have been examples enough). But when it comes to politicians’ salaries, Olympic Games bids, or bailing out failed private banks with proven ties to corrupt politicians, there is money, lots of money.

FEAR. That is the reason. Fear to lose the next election. Fear to lose the private jet, or not to be able to pay the mortgage. Eventually just fear to lose power and riches. But we are born naked. We leave this world alone. Like Samurais, Buddhism, Søren Kierkegaard, or bad sci-fi movies say “Danger is real. But fear is a choice.” And sometimes we create danger by being afraid.

Our life begins to end the day we  become silent about things that matter

I Have a dream speech. Martin Luther King Jr.

Speak up. Take a stand. Don’t hide behind a desk, a title, a badge, a uniform. 

“What can I do?” you ask. That’s another post. Coming up. Stay tuned. But in the meantime: gather information, facts, data, think, debate, and take a stand. And above all, don’t be afraid.

The key to the use of cloud in healthcare

In a single word: security.

By now there is no doubt about the advantages of the cloud: easy collaboration, scalability, ubiquity, sync, cost savings (21% on average, according to AFCOM 2011, 40% according to our own customers), rapid deployment, etc.

There is also no doubt about the need for a move to the cloud in healthcare: according to Enterprise Strategy Group, by 2015 an average of 665TB of data will be generated per hospital per year. And the number one reason for that data size is PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) medical imaging systems. Furthermore, as digital pathology and genetic (-omics) data, which are only now becoming common place, start to grow, that number could easily be multiplied by two or three. We already have customers that generate over a PETABYTE (1,000 terabytes, or a quadrillion bytes) of data per year.

Our solutions help store and manage all that data. But with over 425,000 telehealth providers in the USA alone (according to BCC research), that data increasingly needs to be shared. Yet not all hospitals have the capability or resources to do it. So the cloud is the perfect solution.

With constantly falling telecommunications prices and increasing bandwidth, study after study and poll after poll show that the number one factor restricting the adoption of the cloud in healthcare is “security”.

HIPPA requirements and the very sensitive and confidential nature of healthcare data are the first reasons that come to mind. But recent news about the National Security Agency spying on citizens without court orders, even through backdoors on privative operating systems with consent and even help of software and telecoms companies, have escalated the fear for data security breaches even more.

How should the concerns about data security be addressed? Again, one single word: transparency.

The cloud is no more or less secure than your cell phone, your computer, your operating system or your applications. The more we seek ease of use, speed, and convenience, the more we go up the abstraction layers, separating ourselves from the deep knowledge of the inner workings of the tools we use everyday.

If we want complete control and security, we have to have knowledge of the building blocks (operating system kernel, electronics, etc). But who has time for that?

The only solution to overcome fear is trust. And the only way to trust with security is through knowledge. But knowledge is only possible when there is transparency.

So request your cloud providers to be transparent about their systems, policies, protocols, formats, etc. Also make sure updated free-open source software is used end to end. And add as many additional layers as possible while maintaining manageability (encryption, auditing, logging, etc).

Police state: TXT with police alert in TX

While in Fort Worth, TX, I received the following TXT:

TXT from TX police

It’s a police TXT asking for collaboration to locate a vehicle.

Right after that, I entered a grocery store and there was a large screen that showed the faces and data of individuals seek by the police.

It’s amazing that this TXT was sent to anybody who was in a particular area. Never mind privacy, permission, explanation… nothing. It’s about Jeremy Bentham’s XVIII century “Panopticon”, George Orwell’s 1949 “1984”, Foucault’s “eye-of-power” and 1977 “Discipline and Punish”…

When the individual is reduced to either an enemy from which the truth must be concealed (#FreeManning #SupportSnowden) or an unwilling  collaborator in a crusade in the name of “security” that stomps over any fundamental right (#helloNSA #PRISMisthenewECHELON), we owe it to ourselves to stand up and do something about it. That is the one and ONLY reason why the right to bear arms (which I oppose) exists.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin, 1775

 

How to abide to the law while rejecting threats

According to Spanish law

logo ministeriologo secretaría

web (emphasis mine):

Information intermediary suppliers:

  • Do not have an obligation to supervise the contents they host, transmit, or classify in a link directory, but must collaborate with public authorities when required to interrupt an IT service or take a content down.

  • They are not, in principle, responsible for alien content they host, transmit, or give access to, but could incur in responsibility if they take an active participation in its ellaboration or, if knowing of a particular material being being illegal, do not act swiftly to take it down or prevent access to it.

So if “someone” send you threatening messages, requiring take down, etc, etc. you have NO obligation to do it. Such request must come from a public authority (like a judge), and the responsibility derives from a content being ILLEGAL (which, again, can only be determined by a judge).

STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS!

And, remember: don’t feed the troll 😉

I am being sued by a troll

A few hours after the first email, I received this second one with a threat (again, translated by me; here is the original):

Mr. Cortell:

I can prove my identity and the defamatory content of the indicated page, as I said it has been notarized. I can also prove that this site is currently the subject of proceedings in the Courts of Barcelona, in which the prosecution has already ruled, appreciating criminal evidence. But I see no need to do so, since you have shown no willingness to cooperate (“I do not wish to receive further communications from you”) and your certainty of not being subjected to Spanish law enforcement, since you abhor it and live abroad.
 
So, consider yourself sued.
 
Best regards.

Daniel Vicente
==============
 
Curiously enough, this individual still does not provide any proof of his claims. So he expects me to censor somebody else’s free speech just because he considers himself harmed by it.
 
Let me make myself very clear: until a judge orders me to do so, there is no individual, lawyer, police, or mafioso that can bully me into acting against my principles of believing in a fair legal system with due process and presumption of innocence. Further more, bullying and threats have to be denounced and stood up against. Our rights have to be defended. Othewise draconian laws trying to “control” by limiting them on the internet will lead to complete submission and surrendering, paving the way to a fascist state where we will have no rights left.
 
So, Mr. Daniel Vicente, defend your rights in court. I am defending mine, AND YOURS, by standing up against threats and censorship based (until now) on unsupported claims.