Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

There’s no such thing as gay rights, it’s human rights all the way

February 18, 2014 2 comments

This opinion piece I read the other day in the Guardian ( got me thinking.

Why do we even talk about ‘gay rights’ as something different and separate from ‘human rights’? Or about the rights of women, for that matter? Aren’t LGBT people and women human beings? Why should their rights be treated separately and somehow in a different manner than human rights in general?

As for this whole gayness issue, why all this talk about genetic predisposition? Hasn’t it been a well established fact for quite some time now that human sexual attraction can work in all sorts of wacky ways with both nurture and nature playing pretty much equal parts and that some people can happily swing both ways and that yes, sometimes it’s a choice when people just feel more comfortable doing it with a person of the same sex as them. So my question is so what?

Why should society, let alone government, be in control over what people choose to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms?

Russia’s going full tilt bat-shit crazy on these issues these days, once again serving as a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, providing an example of what you never wanna see happening in your own country.  However, what’s been going on in Russia these past few years is a brilliant illustration of how gay rights and human rights are in fact one and the same thing.

A lot of those self-righteous conspicuously straight people  who supported the Russian ban on gay propaganda both within and outside Russia ( yes it seems weird but I actually know in person a few of the latter) don’t understand the simple fact that when government starts telling gays what they can and cannot do and gets away with it, tomorrow it will be telling all of us what we can and cannot do, including in our own private personal lives and that is already happening in Russia: come this July lace underwear is going to be officially banned in Russia and the other Customs Union countries (Belarus and Kazakhstan). For that alone the Ukrainians must do everything in their power to try and escape the clutches of Putin’s suffocating embrace.  Run, Ukraine, Run.

But back to my point: when LGBT people are discriminated against in any way, it’s not a gay rights violation, it’s a human rights violation. There is no such thing as LGBT rights separate from human rights.  People must understand that we all have to speak out loud and clear against discrimination of LGBT people because when their rights are being violated, our rights, as humans, to do whatever we want to do between consenting adults are being violated too.

And as for how homosexuality is unnatural and all that: people, wake the fuck up: it exists, that pretty much means it’s natural, saying homosexuality is some sort of an aberration is like saying that whoever doesn’t like apple pie is a genetic aberration and must be stripped of their human rights. In other words, it’s just insane.


Geoblocking is evil

December 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Geoblocking is when you go to a website such as netflix and it tells you that the service is unavailable in your country, or worse still you go to a website such as amazon, and you want to buy something there so you add the item to your basket, go through the tedious process of filling out all the details to place an order with them, enter your credit card details and that’s when, they look at your credit card details and tell you the item you’re interested in cannot be purchased from your country.

Now I believe this practice is evil because it is a lose-lose situation. The vendor does not make a sale, the prospective buyer does not make a purchase – the question is who wins? I can’t see anybody standing to gain anything in this situation and yet what totally blows my mind is that nine times out of ten geoblocking is introduced and enforced by the businesses themselves – WTF?

The worst geoblocking offenders are companies that sell content or access to content. Netflix’s already been mentioned here, then there’s services like Hulu and the like. And then the media/movie companies backing them have the gall to go after people who share that content on the Internet. Again WTF? Are they really that stupid that they can’t understand that if only they removed their stupid geolblocking Internet piracy would probably go down by as much as 90%? These days the bulk of content that gets downloaded ‘illegally’ is comprised of TV shows that come out in the US and that people want to watch on the same day or the next day.  Now what totally escapes me is why the companies that hold rights to those TV shows won’t simply sell access to them globally through the Internet?

Those guys really love to compute how much money they lose every time somebody downloads their content ‘illegally’ but have they ever tried to calculate how much money they lose every time someone wants to sign up for netflix from outside the US and they’re told they can’t do it?

The Internet gives them access to the global market and yet, in a fit of irrationality, they say, ‘we don’t want that, we only wanna sell in these little local markets.’ Again I do realise that in a situation with a lot of small local markets there’s opportunities for price gouging, in theory, but again when we’re talking about digital content that’s so easy to copy I’m fairly sure that all that extra profit they make from price gouging gets eaten up by the loss they make when they refuse to sell content to people thereby forcing them to go and get it on torrents or P2P networks.

The question is what am I missing here? Could it be that all my assumptions are wrong and that it’s still more profitable to lose money on people who are forced to get your content ‘illegally’ but make up for that loss by selling overpriced content to a handful of dupes who don’t know how to use the Internet?  Because to me it seems like geoblocking is totally more trouble than it’s worth.

Movie companies often cite staggered release schedules as a reason for geoblocking but that’s BS, imho.

For one staggered releases don’t really make sense for countries that speak the same language. I mean what’s the point to releasing a movie two weeks later in the UK than in the US? Especially in our day and age when you can download the digital copies to all the movie theatres around the world simultaneously, seeing how modern movie theatres use digital projectors and all, it’s not like you’re going to be shipping reels of film by boat across the Atlantic.

And as for countries that speak different languages: ok before an American movie can be properly ‘released’ in Russia, for example, it has to be translated and dubbed but what’s the point to blocking access to the original English language version of the movie from Russia. Those people who can speak English in Russia and know how to use the Internet will be able to watch it in English anyway if they really put their mind to it before it gets released in Russia so why not just let them do it legally for a reasonable fee? And those that can’t speak English are going to wait for the official dubbed release because watching it in English wouldn’t do much good for them – again we come to the same conclusion, geoblocking does not make sense.

And last but not least, one more reason why geoblocking is evil is because it’s part of a rather ominous recent trend where vendors are trying to control their customers more and more. I.e. instead of doing everything they can to allow people to consume their products where and when people want, vendors, and especially media companies, are increasingly trying to dictate people when, where and how they are supposed to consume their content.  What I can’t understand is why these media corporations fail to realise the simple fact that people don’t generally like to take orders and they won’t take them. In fact that’s the main reason because the media market is collapsing: media companies are trying to force people to consume their content the old way, the way people bought and consumed it when it had to be sold on physical media, like CDs or tapes before that, but people will have none of that – and why should they do things the old inconvenient way when today we have lots of far easier and more convenient ways to access and consume content?

Categories: economics, IT, Politics

is reprecentative democracy really just a farce

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

With the upcoming elections to the Russian parliament (the so called doom-ah) just around the corner a lot of people in Russia are sometimes rather heatedly discussing whether or not to participate in the elections. Many believe that the results are a foregone conclusion, United Russia, the ruling party, will be once again pronounced the winner regardless of whether or not the majority of the people that do turn up at the polling stations on Dec 4 actually vote for it. If they don’t, just about everyone in Russia is sure the results will be falsified and United Russia will still be pronounced the winner.

The situation in modern day Russia is unique in that all the drawbacks of representative democracy have been laid bare here. It would appear at first sight that all the necessary institutions are in place, we’ve got a parliament and a president that is elected in a general election and yet we’ve had the exact same group of people in power for more than ten years now and they’ve managed quite successfully to remain in the Kremlin despite the economic crisis of 2008 and the devastating wild fires of 2010.

Do elections get routinely rigged in Russia? I personally don’t know, probably some of them do, however, I don’t think that they necessarily have to be in a representative democracy. Theoretically, for instance, just about anyone can run for president in Russia but in reality most people can’t for the simple reason that they don’t have enough resources to mount a successful presidential campaign. The same applies to parliamentary elections. To get to parliament you need a party but to organize a party you need resources and lots of them. Thus at the end of the day whoever has got the most cash ends up calling all the shots in a representative democracy.

And this doesn’t apply to Russia alone, it’s just that in Russia today the powers that be cannot even be bothered to make the effort to put on an air of legitimacy; their methods are crude and they hardly even try to conceal their machinations. Plus in general the ordinary people in Russia tend to be a bit less gullible than in some other places about these things.

So if what we’ve been taught about representative democracy is a hopelessly idealized model that doesn’t really work in reality, sort of like perfect competition with every decision maker having access to all the information about the market, why do the ruling elites in the world’s most successful countries even bother with this charade. After all, even in the US when push came to shove in the 2000 election, it was the supreme court and not the voters that decided who was going to be the president.

My theory is that enlightened ruling elites use the institutions of representative democracy as a means to gauge the public mood and aspirations. History teaches us that if the ruling elites completely lose touch with the masses things will often get completely out of hand with the masses storming the posh houses and palaces of their rulers and stringing them up on lamp posts or doing some other nasty things to them. The last such major showdown was in Romania where the Ceuacescus were essentially summarily executed after a failed attempt to escape Romania. Before that a similar fate befell the Romanov family in Russia. Imho, the failure of both regimes stemmed from total loss of touch their their people and that’s where representative democracy comes into play.

Its goal is not to empower people to rule themselves but rather to provide the ruling elites with a safety valve and a way to monitor what’s going on in the general population.  However, in Russia, it would appear that our representative democracy is failing miserably in this mission. The prudent course of action at this stage, imho, would be to ditch the Putin-Medvedev tandem as well as the United Russia party and bring to power someone new. If Putin actually remains in power in Russia things might eventually spin out of control, possibly even by 2017.

the demise of the global village

I will probably never understand why people seem to take so much pleasure in drawing borders where there were once none.

In technology today things are changing very fast. I’m not really all that old yet but I can still remember the time when the Internet was global in the sense that it didn’t matter where you were accessing a resource from, you’d still be getting the exact same information. Back in the ‘olden days’ I was so enamored of that ‘global village’ idea I didn’t even notice when things started changing.

I believe that the first time it was brought home for me loud and clear that the global village might be going down the drain was back in 03 (or was it 04) when I was visiting my relatives in West Ukraine and wanted to look up the roaming rates of my mobile operator on their website. I went to a local Internet cafe, since back then my Ukrainian relatives did not eve have a computer, but to my total dismay each time I tried to load my mobile operator’s website, it loaded the website of their Ukrainian branch instead. I remember that I eventually figure out a way around this region-based redirect and got through to my mobile operator’s website but still the whole experience seemed totally wrong to me. What’s the use of the Internet if I can’t access a website I want from anywhere in the world?

Unfortunately since then things have been going from bad to worse. This abandonment of global values has been especially awful in the corporate world. The websites of various commercial news outlets, TV companies and the like offer lots of content that can only be accessed from within the US or the UK or whatever regional market they happen to be targeting. It’s the f..cking DVD region codes all over again. As one sitcom character from the 1990’s would have said, ‘This sucks, this is total BS’

It would appear that the corporate types have totally missed the entire point of the Internet. The whole idea behind the technology was to make information globally accessible to facilitate cooperation and creativity and I believe that at its core this idea doesn’t really run counter to market economy. If anything the globalization capability offered by the Interent on the one hand makes the market place more competitive, which in theory should lead to better products, but on the other hand allows companies with niche market offerings to make a killing by targeting niche markets all over the world.

I was also wondering if there are any legal repercussions to refusing to sell stuff to people because of where they happen to be accessing your website from. It’s one thing if you simply can’t send things there but what if all the infrastructure is in place (and for most places it is in place, services like DHL can deliver things wherever) but you still say, sorry, you’re in eastern Europe so you can’t buy anything from us.

Well, whatever the case might be regarding all those legal issues, the fact remains that the global village as people envisaged it in the early naughties seems to have been divided up and segmented into tiny little localized sub-villages with all sorts of restrictions on what kind of information can be passed from one to another, and I personally think it’s a rather sad development – yet another dream of humanity has been crushed or is in the process of being crushed.