The Great Firewall of China Blocks Plurk
report that Plurk has fallen victim to the Great Firewall of China, just like WordPress, YouTube, and parts of Wikipedia. This is not very surprising. The Chinese government has a considerable history of censoring websites with content they find politically undesireable.
What leads to a bit of head-scratching is that Twitter remains accessible in China. No one knows for sure why there is such a difference in enforcement, and the difference is confusing since Plurk is one of the websites introduced as, "It's like Twitter but..."
The difference in enforcement may just lie in the last word of that phrase. How is
Plurk different from Twitter? Plurk pages are more customizable and the UI utilizes a horizontally scrolling timeline to surf posts, but these are merely aesthetic differences. Another major difference is that Plurk threads responses to a post instead of having a response posted on the user's timeline. (That is, a response is posted as a comment in a thread and not like an individual post, in case any non-Plurkers are confused.) I suspect that this is the reason why Plurk is blocked while Twitter remains accessible. The response structure on Plurk lends itself more to ongoing discussion, whereas responses on Twitter are usually kept to one tweet.
"[P]lurk is like a mini UN," Matthew Hughes once posted
. Although most Plurks don't usually lead to intense political discussion, Hughes is still correct in asserting that there is a community on Plurk that is pretty dedicated to political discussion. I cannot speak for the (former?) Chinese Plurk community, since I don't know any Chinese, but I assume that this trend remains true despite language or region.
This could all be completely wrong though. Although it sounds like a reasonable explanation, we have to keep in mind that this is the People's Republican of China we are discussing. It is just as likely that I am looking for reason where there is none. Perhaps some Chinese official saw a single Plurk that displeased him and brought the hammer down on the whole website. No matter what reason the PRC has for blocking Plurk, it doesn't change the fact that practice of internet censorship is ethically reprehensible. I feel bad for the Chinese Plurkers who will now be left to find a new site to have discussions on. (I hear that Twitter site isn't too bad...)Click here
if you want to check out Plurk and join the fun.
Oh What a Circus Posted at College Republicans (With Problems)
So, this was my first article
posted to the College Republicans at Texas blog, regrettably the Youtube videos were not embedded properly. This is most likely my own fault; I probably need to become more familiar with posting in WordPress. I can't edit my articles at the College Republicans at Texas blog as easily as I can hear, (not complaining, just stating) so in the meantime here is the same article, complete with my Youtube videos of the event:
I'll give the protesters credit: they were rather successful at interrupting David Horowitz's speech (before they were told that any further interruption would result in arrest, that is). No doubt they consider their protest a result because of this, but if they took some perspective they would realize their protest was a complete failure. Their protesting methods did nothing but to hurt their cause and reveal just how indoctrinated and foolish they were. Rather than being proud, they should be ashamed, and no one should be more Ashamed than Dana Cloud.
Before addressing Dana Cloud, one must first understand the methods of the protesters that she condoned. There is nothing more ironic than seeing a mob chant "free speech" in order to drown out a single disstening voice. One cannot watch such a scene without being taken back to the bleating sheep in George Orwell's Animal Farm
. The message these protesters were sending is pretty clear: Free speech is free until someone starts making a point they don't like, at which point the person must be silenced by chanting. "Free speech" was far from the only chant they had.
The protesters would also yell "Fact check!" at Horowitz. This can actually be an effective protesting strategy, but only in moderation and only if his facts were, in fact, incorrect. Instead, it seems the protesters chose the exact opposite strategy. At one point during the speech the protesters would yell fact check at Horowitz at the end of almost every sentence. This spam was not due to an inundation of dubious facts being used by Horowitz. Actually, every time I fact checked at the suggestion of the protesters, the fact they were disputing was correct. At one point we became so frustrated that we sent someone over to inform a protesters that Horowitz was correct when he had previously called for a fact check. "Ok," was his response. Apparently it is not the actually reality of the fact that they care about, but rather they use the appeal to fact checking as another chant to interrupt Horowitz. If the protesters ever decide that they'd rather have their "fact check" strategy be persuasive to some degree, they should learn to yell fact check only when the fact Horowitz is referring to is actually incorrect.
Another common chant was "No more witch hunts!" Perhaps it is my turn to yell: Fact check! Horowitz has never actually called for a professor to be fired, but rather, he has only highlighted professors who are guilty of radical bias in the classroom. Horowitz even said during his speech (not that the protesters were giving it a close listen) that he has no problem with Marxist professors, his only problem is if they teach "Marxism…as if it is Newtonian physics." Dana Cloud said that Horowitz was still guilty of "leading" a witch hunt, and the protesters agreed saying that he provided "ammunition" for the witch hunts. This is incredibly weak reasoning. There is an enormous difference between "leading" a witch hunt and writing a book with facts that are used as "ammunition" to go on a "witch hunt." A few further facts about witch hunting need to be clarified as well. "Witch hunts" are generally an angry, irrational mob. Also, witch is used in the term witch hunts very intentionally, because witches do not exist. However, professors who use their classroom as a platform for political activism do
exist, so comparing a professor being fired for legitimate reasons to an angry mob burning a woman for being something that she couldn't possibly be is a fallacy.
I took a video of the behavior of the protesters at the speech. Apparently some protesters think we were photographing and videotaping them in order to identify them later and retaliate. This is not true at all. All I plan on doing is sharing the video online so that people can see just how irrational and obnoxious the protesters were. We are guilty of their accusation only if you equate with "posting on youtube" with "retaliation."
Note: This is actually a video of Horowitz's introduction, but it still accurately represents the behavior of the protesters.
Who could be counted among these protesters? The esteemed professor Dana Cloud of course. She declined the opportunity to co-host the even with David Horowitz in order to take the high road and support irrational and obnoxious protesters. It seems to me that any respectable UT professor would discourage the Orwellian tactics of the protesters and encourage them to engage in rational political discourse. Regrettably, this was not the case at all. Horowitz condoned the behavior while at the same time claiming to be opposed to the "hysteria" that Horowitz supposedly encourages.
Cloud stepped up to the mic during the Q&A section of Horowitz's speech, and I recorded her speech and Horowitz's response.
A number of things need to be said to put this video in context. The applause at the beginning happened at the urging of David Horowitz, who politely introduced her by saying, "Professor Cloud, lets give Professor Cloud a round of applause everyone." Perhaps I am crazy, but it seems to me that the person who condones the frenzied chanting of protesters is the one guilty of promoting hysteria, not the person who politely asks a round of applause be given for his or her opponent.
When you listen to Cloud in the video you may get the impression that Horowitz spent his whole speech trashing her. This is not true at all. In fact, Horowitz never once singled out Cloud in his speech. The only time Horowitz mentioned her was when he was being interrupted, and described the protesters as "Dana Cloud's circus."
Cloud begins her speech by making an excellent point, but also by presenting it in a very disingenuous way. She says, "I think it's important to notice that faculty can separate their activism from their teaching. … [W]e have separate arenas for our lives. I have a family. I go home and cook supper. I don't cook supper for my students." This argument is entirely reasonable. I absolutely agree with Cloud. You know who else does? David Horowitz, except he was booed when he made the exact same point. I mentioned earlier that Horowitz specifically said that he has no problem with Marxists professors, as long as they don't teach their students Marxism "as if it is Newtonian physics." This is exactly
the same point that Cloud made. They both agree on the same point that activism should be kept out of the classroom (a point that many radical professors do not agree with, by the way). The only point of disagreement is whether or not Cloud is guilty of allowing her activism to creep into the classroom or not. The honest thing for Cloud to do would be to acknowledge that she and Horowitz agree on this point, but disagree on where the line is drawn. Cloud was disingenuous and chose to present this as an opposing view instead.
Next Cloud uses passive voice, a staple strategy of politics. She says, "The hysteria that gets whipped up around these figures like myself … that hysteria actually has consequences in the real lives of people." Her sentence never specifically identifies who
has whipped up the hysteria around figures like herself. This is because she
is guilty of whipping up this hysteria. Horowitz has written about Cloud, and in his book he accused her of activism in the classroom. Dana Cloud sat with the protesters and condoned their protesting methods. She did nothing to discourage their behavior, even as a UT representative had to ask the protesters multiple times to allow Horowitz to give his speech. Dana Cloud intends for the target of this quote to be David Horowitz, but the only person who was guilty of whipping up hysteria that night was herself. I agree with her general point, and I suggest that if she really feels this way that the next opportunity she has to whip up hysteria she should decline the opportunity rather than encourage it like she chose to do that night.
Cloud's final argument relied entirely on emotional appeal. She described UT students as brilliant. "Since the students at UT are so brilliant how can one believe they can be indoctrinated?" That was essentially the argument she made. This kind of "rah-rah, UT is the best" rhetoric is wonderful for football games and March Madness, but it has no place in a serious political discussion. I love UT, but it is ridiculous to suggest that every student her in immune to being indoctrinated. It must have taken a severe lack of irony to suggest that students at UT cannot be indoctrinated while she stood 20 feet away from more than a dozen examples of just how brainwashed some students can become.
Oh Snap! People Actually Read My Blog
It's true, I actually have readers, and some of them even like my blog! When I was asked if I'd be interested in blogging for College Republicans at UT I immediately said yes.
My first article
was posted, but it is just the same as my Horowitz Liveblog post on here. I'll be sure to update you guys on here whenever I post again.
So basically I plan on posting my thoughtful political entries at utexascrs.org
, while all my boring, nerdy, and personal entries will remain here. You should totally keep your RSS subscription to this site and add the UT College Republicans RSS as well, because they have tons of other awesome articles.
My Liveblog from Horowitz's Speech
This may seem redundant since I linked to my twitter profile in the previous entry, but it makes sense if you think long-term. My twitter profile has non-political stuff as well. (A.k.a. boring personal crap.) So I decided to post my Horowitz liveblog here in order to make it accessible without forcing people to click "back" repeatedly on my twitter profile.
Also, these are just my immediate observations during the event. I will post my analysis and reactions as soon as I can.
6:55 - I just overheard someone say, "Don't you think it would be fun to be a conservative here?" Yes, yes it is.
7:09 - Protesters are inside now, chanting very loud.
7:12 - They're delaying his speech with their chanting.
7:16 - There's something Orwellian about chanting "free speech" in order to drown out someone else.
7:20 - I will give the protesters credit, their presence is much more obnoxious than when we host John Ashcroft.
7:21 - I talked with a woman who was a part of College Republicans in Wisconsin, she said when Horowitz visited they were spit on.
7:23 - Some of the older conservatives are very upset and demanding that the protesters be thrown out for their third violation. (It's way past 3.)
7:24 - The younger conservatives are less irritated, but we are becoming less amused as it goes on.
7:25 - Horowitz says he has never personally called for a liberal professor to be fired. They say he is still guilty for providing "ammunition."
7:25 - Horowitz reminds them that there is a Q&A section if they want to rant at him, but apparently they don't want to wait.
7:27 - The protesters keep making snippy remarks and overlaughing. Someone goes "hur hur hur." It made me laugh.
7:30 - The talk just got completely shut down. Now they're talking about ejecting the protesters.
7:31 - "Who's the censor now?!" They're chanting. Well... aren't they guilty of censorship?
7:31 - An uneasy quiet just went over the room.
7:33 - He says he has no objection to Marxists teaching at a University, provided that they do it professionally.
7:34 - He says, "I think teachers should teach students how to think, not what to think."
7:36 - "Students are presented with political doctrine as if it is the truth."
7:37 - "A teacher is obligated not to indoctrinate his or her students."
7:40 - A protester just said something about the Iraq War. Seriously?! I guess no matter what the issue is liberals are right because of the Iraq War.
7:41 - Horowitz said he read countless Marxist and socialist literature, and never once read a chapter on how to develop wealth.
7:42 - Someone shouted, "How many people are unemployed now?"
7:42 - Third strike. (Officially.) They were told that any further disruption will result in removal and possibly arrest and academic discipline.
7:45 - "I have an objection if a University claims to honor the principles of academic freedom if it indoctrinates students."
7:46 - A lot of protesters are leaving. Looks like their fun is over if they can't chant like sheep.
7:47 - "The students who suffer most in such an academic setting are the liberal and left-wing students."
7:49 - "If you teach Marxism in a university as if it is Newtonian physics, you are guilty of indoctrination."
7:51 - "How many of you hear have been taught that gender is a social construct?" - "Because it IS," one girl interjects.
7:51 - Hopefully that girl means "gender roles" are social constructs, because there are clearly identifiably biological differences for gender.
7:52 - A pic of the protesters from earlier: http://i40.tinypic.com/2nlzi9j.jpg
7:53 - Of course, the protesters have calmed down a bit now: http://i42.tinypic.com/6p86cn.jpg
7:56 - If you believe sexual hierarchy is so prevalent, why have three of the last four Secretaries of State been women?
7:57 - If you believe the racial hierarchy is so prevalent, then why is the most powerful man in the world black?
7:57 - Now he's talking about Oprah Winfrey, who is the only person that can make any book a bestseller by recommending it. (Something I loathe.)
7:58 - He describes Oprah as the most powerful figure in the private sector. He's probably right.
7:59 - He mentions that Oprah has all this power and respect over an audience that has largely never been to any sort of "sensitivity training."
8:00 - One girl among the protesters was briefly crying.
8:03 - He just said that some of the classes teach that we're a, "racist, sexist, classist, homophobic society." Someone murmured, "True that."
8:08 - "Cornel's CD is a watershed in the history of rap recording." A quote from Cornel West's brother. LALS.
8:08 - "Cornel West has not written a scholarly paper in 20 years."
8:09 - I wish he had mentioned Richard Thompson Ford, my personal favorite black intellectual.
8:11 - Horowitz says that it's a shame to blacks that jokes like West are held up while real black scholars are ignored. Amen.
8:12 - He mentioned one class titled "Great Religious Thinkers" which included scholars such as... Tupac Shakur.
8:13 - "I was called a racist for objecting to a black professor who was an idiot." (Referring to the professor he criticized for including Tupac.)
8:23 - Marxism doesn't work because "you can't get someone to work for somebody else the way they work for themselves."
8:25 - "We can't all think if we're just going to chant together." Loud applause after that statement by Horowitz.
8:26 - Q&A time. Our fearless leader Mike Garcia is defining for people where the line starts.
8:27 - The line looks mostly filled with crazies. Should be fun.
8:27 - "Marxism is a church itself."
8:29 - Someone from the Daily Texan is here to ask a question.
8:31 - He brought up the example of a military hierarchy having mobility while still being a hierarchy to explain the positions of Oprah and Obama.
8:34 - He said women control most of the wealth in America, and they yelled "Fact check" at him.
8:35 - Here's the fact check: "Women control 51.3 percent of the private wealth in the United States." http://tinyurl.com/2vvyne
8:36 - Oh snap! Dana Cloud is about to ask a question. She is a professor he has written about previously.
8:36 - He said, "Lets give Dana Cloud a hand." Very polite.
8:50 - Speech is over now.
Liveblogging David Horowitz
The David Horowitz speech has been pretty intensely interrupted by protesters making fools of themselves. It's been going on for awhile and I neglected to give noticed at the beginning. Anyway, I am currently liveblogging the event on my twitter page.http://twitter.com/allthosemoments
The Overdue Data Pop Entry
So, two weeks ago I mostly stayed in Austin for Spring Break. (I also had a two-day visit to Sea World.) During the break I went to some awesome SXSW stuff like Screen Burn
and the AMoDA Showcase
. However, the best event at Spring Break was not a SXSW event, it was Data Pop 2009
. It was awesome
Data Pop was a chiptune concert. If you are not familiar with this genre do not despair. Chiptune is nay one of those douchey terms that hipsters will judge you for not being familiar with, rather it is the complete opposite. If you don't know what chiptune music is it just means you're not a nerd. (You are
missing out, by the way.) Chiptune music is music composed using sound chips from game systems. The most popular choice is the Game Boy, which has had the most extensive cartridge development for artists and is featured on the logo for 8-bit Collective
. A good, quick explanation and demonstration of 8-bit music is the trailer for Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet
, a documentary about chiptune music.
There were tons of good acts at Data Pop. The first band was the favorite act for two of my friends. The band was called 8-bit OK, and we talked to them later and found out this was their first ever performance! They're real new and don't even have a website yet. Anamanaguchi was awesome too, and I actually spent $10 on their new album Radiant Dawn
. (So worth it.) The two closing acts were Bit Shifter and Nullsleep, who are two enormous names in chiptune music. If you see them perform it becomes pretty clear why; those guys are amazing.
We were right up by the stage for most of the performance, so I got some amazingly good concert footage. In fact, Anamanaguchi put one of my videos of them in a blog entry. Awesome! Here is the link
to their blog entry, and my video is below. (In their blog entry they say I took the video from onstage, but that is not true. Now I wish I had gone on stage since it seems they wouldn't have cared.)
I have more videos on my youtube page
of Bit Shifter, Nullsleep, and a few other artists from the show if you want to check it out.
Ashcroft at UT
Any discussion of sound bites includes the Mark Twain quote: "A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense." This expresses how a proper sound bite should not just be pithy, but properly capture the point the speaker is making. This, of course, is contrary to how sound bites are utilized in mainstream American politics. Instead, the perfect sound bite is one that can be used to create a caricature of the speaker's intention in order to attack his or her general point. I attended John Ashcroft's speech at the University of Texas last week, and I think the media coverage of this event typifies this sort of behavior."I don't have a mark on my conscience."
One quote that is repeatedly tossed around is Ashcroft declaring, "I don't have a mark on my conscience." "Well, no conscience no marks," Keith Olbermann snidely assesses. It is certainly more convenient to simply play this quote. Conservatives can pat themselves on the back, feeling reaffirmed that nothing whatsoever has been done wrong. Liberals can have a laugh to themselves at Ashcroft's expense and rant to each other about how evil the Patriot Act is. Who does this help? Nobody, it seems to me. This kind of rhetoric more closely resembles sharks feeding on chum than constructive political discourse. These kinds of sound bites do nothing to encourage discussion on important issues and serve only to keep everyone complacent in their political beliefs. I think we owe it to ourselves, and the 79th Attorney General, to pick some sound bites that reflect Twain's "maximum of sense" rather than the "maximum of convenience" that most news sources prefer."[Freedom] is worthless absent consequence."
It seems to me that only the most insane of anarchists would disagree with this quote, but before expounding on such an encompassing statement I should first pin down specifically what Ashcroft meant. Ashcroft is essentially repeating the timeless expression that "we are a nation of laws." Even when we disagree with laws, we are bound to respect and follow them because of our belief in democracy. This is a simple thing to say that almost everyone can agree on, but like all such statements the simplicity in which it can be expressed does not reflect its simplicity in practice.
This same principle was leveled against Ashcroft by his critics, who believe that he broke the law and should be in jail. (Never far behind are criticisms of former President George W. Bush.) Ashcroft was asked numerous times during Q&A why he was not in jail. One woman even tried to turn Ashcroft's rhetoric back at him, asking why he was not in jail if he sincerely believes what he says. "We did not break the law," Ashcroft said simply, but of course his critics disagree. This begs the question, why don't we hear critics using this sound bite? If Ashcroft man is so demonstratively guilty than this sound bite is devastating. The man is a criminal, he used his influence to avoid justice, and-to top it all off-he is a complete hypocrite. He champions the very political philosophy that he blatantly disregarded. The answer is obvious; Ashcroft is not the evil criminal that his critics make him out to be.
Critics avoid this sound bite in order to avoid a real discourse about his actions because in that scenario they have no guarantee of being vindicated. Not all blame goes to his critics, plenty of Ashcroft supporters are guilty of avoiding this same discussion because they, too, have no guarantee that they will be vindicated. What results is two antagonistic groups avoiding one of Ashcroft's more salient sound bites in favor of a dull one which each group can either praise or mock as they see fit. Instead, critics and supporters alike should focus on the kind of sound bites which Mark Twain would approve of, because they lead to an informative disccussion of Ashcroft's decisions as Attorney General, the most controversial of which is the Patriot Act.
"The Patriot Act was a conglomeration of previous law enforcement strategies."
This was actually news to me. The Patriot Act is probably the only Act you can expect the average American to be familiar with. The Patriot Act is that it is entirely the creation of John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration. "Author of the Patriot Act," and "Chief Architect of the Patriot Act," are the most popular ways of referring to Ashcroft. This fact reveals Ashcroft's role to be that of a person collecting previous legislation, rather than someone sitting down and penning new laws that infringe on the civil liberties of American citizens. This means everything in the Patriot Act had legal precedent.
One who accepts this fact is still entitled to oppose the Patriotic Act, but the struggle becomes a process of voting (even on years without a presidential election, snore) and writing to Senators and Congressman (too long, did not write). Opponents ignore this sound bite, and the truth it reflects, because it undermines the energy and antagonism they like to feel towards Ashcroft. After accepting this truth, it is impossible to argue that Ashcroft should be sent to jail, one can only hope to change the law to prevent another Attorney General from repeating what he has done. Acceptance means one is reduced to opposing the Patriot Act rather than resisting it. Acceptance means the romance is gone. Acceptance also means that opponents of the Patriot Act would be forced to acknowledge its legal precedents and its practice. This is inconvenient because it makes the act much less ominous.
Ashcroft's explanation of roving wiretaps is a perfect example. This practiced back in 1988 in order to track drug dealers. Warrantless, rather than roving, has become a popular word to describe such wiretaps. This practice started in 1988 in order to keep up with drug dealers. Why, in 1988, did "warrantless" wiretaps become necessary to track drug dealers? Because the way warrants were issued was becoming cumbersome. Before 1988, investigators had to get a warrant in order to monitor a single telephone. This was not a problem initially, but the development of mobile phones changed that. Drug dealers were no longer dependent on landline phones, and soon discovered they could evade observation by getting a new phone every week. It was completely unfeasible for investigators to get a new warrant every week in order to track a single person, so a "roving warrant" was developed in order to keep up with such drug dealers. Rather than issuing a warrant for a single phone, a judge would issue a "roving warrant" that allowed investigators to tap any of the named drug dealer's phones. The roving warrant is "warrantless" in the sense that no subsequent warrants are issued for new phones, but it is disingenuous to describe it that way since there is an original, more flexible warrant allowing investigators to track new phones. Rather than an illegal display of power, roving wiretaps were created as a sensible response to a critical problem.
As I said before, one can still disagree with the Patriot Act. Some may even disagree with my assertion that roving wiretaps are a sensible solution. The strategies in the Patriot Act vary; there will certainly be practices in the Patriot Act with more questionable legal precedents than the roving wiretap just as there will be other practices with even less contestable precedents. What is not disputable is that everything in the Patriot Act has legal precedent. Regrettably, this critical fact is widely overlooked.
"I would hope that if you really care about freedom you would allow people to talk."
Ashcroft interrupted the protesters chanting in the back of the auditorium with this line. Although he was successful in immediately silencing them, it proved impossible to keep them quiet for the duration of his speech. A few minutes later, one of the protesters yelled to the crowd, "I hope you realize that by listening to this guy you're making yourselves look stupid." I rank her comment as the most foolish one expressed that night. The protesters may have chanted "Hiroshima" as if Ashcroft were somehow responsible. The protesters may have boo'd when Ashcroft gave an explanation of where Congressional and Executive powers have overlapped historically. The protesters may have repetitively asked Ashcroft why he wasn't in jail, but at least these protesters were not openly advocating that that we ignore everything the man had to say. The sentiment she expressed is exactly the same as the sheep in George Orwell's Animal Farm. She places no importance on analyzing what her opponent has to say, but simply knows she hates Ashcroft and has learned the proper slogans and chants to yell at him.
I say the other protesters did not "openly" advocate what she said because I believe their shared behavior is because they share her sentiment. It is important to mention that the protesters were not the only liberals in attendance. There were other liberals sitting near me who were generally respectful. "Why are they still bitching about this guy, do they realize we won?" one of them said, expressing disdain for the protesters. If only more people had that attitude.