Hackers: The Spirit of America

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Wed, 20 Oct 2004 12:00:00 GMT
From samizdata:
"The idea that you can increase taxes and stimulate the economy is pretty damn stupid." -- Edward Prescott

# Elaine Cassel at Counterpunch - Civil Liberties, Three Years After 9/11: The Other War - Lots of examples of the injustices promulgated in the name of the war on "terror", which is really, as in the title of Ms. Cassel's book, The War on Civil Liberties. Oh, how I wish someone would provide a permanent solution to the Ashcroft problem. [grabbe]

By war on civil liberties, I am referring to the erosion of the freedoms " embodied in the first ten amendments to the Constitution - known collectively as the Bill of Rights. Bush said that "they" "hate" 'us" for our freedoms. Well "they" have much less to "hate" three years after Sep 11. Bush talks of spreading "liberty" abroad like butter or jelly. Well, we are scraping away "liberty" at home. It is something we are told we must do, in order to "preserve" freedom.

A radio interviewer made an interesting suggestion to me recently--should we call the Bill of Rights the Bill of Restrictions? I like that idea. Restrictions on government power. We could reframe them as not freedom of speech but freedom from government intrusion into speech, assembly. Not freedom to have an attorney represent us, but freedom from government eavesdropping on us and our attorneys and on limiting our right to counsel, as it has done in the case of hundreds of immigrants, hundreds of "enemy combatants," material witnesses, and Americans Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla.

We are supposed to have freedom from being arrested without probable cause or not being held to account for a crime unless indicted by a grand jury. We are supposed to be free from government denying us access to the witnesses against us. Evidence is supposed to be presented in open court and subject to cross examination and the scrutiny of the light of day. We are supposed to be free from inquisition by secret evidence. We are supposed to be free from bond being denied us while we await trial and free from cruel and unusual punishment. And by we, I mean not just American citizens, but aliens lawfully in this country. These guarantees have been violated thousands of times since September 11.


Not one conviction or plea gained by John Ashcroft in his prosecution of "terrorists" has been against anyone plotting anything against the United States. Most have been for non-terrorism crimes like lying on visa application or lying to prosecutors (which is why none of you should EVER talk to a prosecutor -- you cannot in any way defend yourself, lest you be charged later with lying) or being involved with a Muslim charity that sends money, goods to countries we don't like-regardless of whether relief goes to civilians or not.


As we begin year four of the war on civil liberties, some Americans are a little more aware of what our government is doing to us, some congressmen and women are a little concerned, and a few judges are taking names and making notes. Hundreds of counties and cities, and a few states, have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act (which, by the way, is only the tip of the iceberg in the govt's war on its people. Much has been blamed on the Patriot Act which has nothing to do with that law).

Would anything be different under a Kerry administration? I doubt it. I tend to agree with Nader that Kerry is, in terms of Bush and civil liberties, a distinction without much of a difference. I think he or anyone else that replaces Bush (someday) will appreciate the precedence of the Bush years that sanctioned an administration making up the rules as it goes along and ignoring the courts and the Congress. Who wouldn't want that power? The founding fathers did not want the Bill of Rights, and fought its exclusion from the actual constitution. Refusal of some delegates to the Constitutional Convention to agree to sign the Constitution without some protection of people's rights led to their adoption as amendments.

Thanks to the lobbying of George Mason and others, the Bill of Rights became law.

But the Bill of Rights-or any other law-only has meaning if it is obeyed and enforced. In the past three years, Bush has demonstrated that an Administration can trample on the Bill of Rights with impunity. That is not a trend that we will see reversed in our lifetimes.

# Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - I Have a Plan... - why no government agent should ever be allowed to have a plan about anything.

As election time nears, we are bombarded with political ads and speeches by candidates telling us their great plans for running the country. At the end of the recent presidential debate, for example, the Democratic nominee recited a litany of supposed cures for nearly everything that ails us, beginning each sentence with the phrase "I have a plan..."

The problem is that government is not supposed to plan our lives or run the country; we are supposed to be free. That our public discourse strays so far from this principle is an unhappy sign of our times. Those who believe in limited constitutional government should worry every time a politician says, "I have a plan."


By contrast [to socialist central planning], capitalism--which is to say economic freedom--raises the standard of living for everyone in a society. But we must understand what capitalism really is. Capitalism is not a system, but rather the result of free individuals taking economic actions without interference by government. A true capitalist economy is neither planned by bureaucrats nor steered by regulators. This is why it's so important that we resist the idea that any president should plan our economy. If we accept that government "runs" the economy, we accept a fundamental tenet of socialism. We must understand that economic liberty is every bit as important as political and civil liberties.

In a truly free nation, the government acts only as a referee by protecting property rights, enforcing contracts, prohibiting force and fraud, and providing national defense. Such was the system envision by the Founding Fathers, who strictly limited regulatory and tax powers in the Constitution. They were tired of having their business affairs managed by the Crown, so they created a servant government that would allow freedom and capitalism to flourish.

Hackers are unruly. That is the essence of hacking. And it is also the essence of American-ness. It is no accident that Silicon Valley is in America, and not France, or Germany, or England, or Japan. In those countries, people color inside the lines.


To hackers the recent contraction in civil liberties seems especially ominous. That must also mystify outsiders. Why should we care especially about civil liberties? Why programmers, more than dentists or salesmen or landscapers?

Let me put the case in terms a government official would appreciate. Civil liberties are not just an ornament, or a quaint American tradition. Civil liberties make countries rich. If you made a graph of GNP per capita vs. civil liberties, you'd notice a definite trend. Could civil liberties really be a cause, rather than just an effect? I think so. I think a society in which people can do and say what they want will also tend to be one in which the most efficient solutions win, rather than those sponsored by the most influential people. Authoritarian countries become corrupt; corrupt countries become poor; and poor countries are weak. It seems to me there is a Laffer curve for government power, just as for tax revenues. At least, it seems likely enough that it would be stupid to try the experiment and find out. Unlike high tax rates, you can't repeal totalitarianism if it turns out to be a mistake.


When you read what the founding fathers had to say for themselves, they sound more like hackers. "The spirit of resistance to government," Jefferson wrote, "is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive."

# Paul Graham - Good Bad Attitude - how hackers embody the spirit of America. [wes]

Data is by definition easy to copy. And the Internet makes copies easy to distribute. So it is no wonder companies are afraid. But, as so often happens, fear has clouded their judgement. The government has responded with draconian laws to protect intellectual property. They probably mean well. But they may not realize that such laws will do more harm than good.

Why are programmers so violently opposed to these laws? If I were a legislator, I'd be interested in this mystery-- for the same reason that, if I were a farmer and suddenly heard a lot of squawking coming from my hen house one night, I'd want to go out and investigate. Hackers are not stupid, and unanimity is very rare in this world. So if they're all squawking, perhaps there is something amiss.

Could it be that such laws, though intended to protect America, will actually harm it? Think about it. There is something very American about Feynman breaking into safes during the Manhattan Project. It's hard to imagine the authorities having a sense of humor about such things over in Germany at that time. Maybe it's not a coincidence.

# dundi.com - Distributed Universal Number Discovery - no mention of crocodiles. [wes]

DUNDi™ is a peer to peer system for locating Internet gateways to telephony services. Unlike traditional centralized services (such as the remarkably simple and concise ENUM standard), DUNDi is fully distributed with no centralized authority whatsoever.

DUNDi is not itself a Voice over IP signalling or media protocol. Instead, it publishes routes which are in turn accessed via industry standard protocols such as IAX™, SIP and H.323.

DUNDi can be used within an enterprise to create a fully federated PBX with no central point of failure, and the ability to arbitrarily add new extensions, gateways and other resources to a trusted web of communication servers, where any adds, moves, changes, failures or new routes are automatically absorbed within the cloud with no additional configuration.

An Internet Draft of the DUNDi protocol can be found here.


The document which regulates the E.164 context is the Digium General Peering Agreement, (GPA™). Essentially, the GPA permits parties to peer under a specific set of guidelines, for example only publishing routes for valid phone numbers, and honoring acceptable use policies for routes. The full text of the GPA is available here.

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