and has 0 comments

  One can take a container in which there is water and keep pouring oil in and after a time there will be more oil than water. That's because oil is hydrophobic, it "fears water" in a direct translation of the word. You can then say that the percentage of oil is higher than the percentage of water, that there is more oil in the container. Skin color in a population doesn't work like that, no matter how phobic some people are. Instead of water and oil, it's more like paint. One can take a container in which there is white paint and keep pouring black, red, yellow and brown paint in, but from a very early stage, that paint is no longer white.

  I keep finding these statistics about which part of the world is going to have Whites in a minority after a while. Any statistic counting people by color of skin is purist in nature and, as we should know by now, the quest for purity begets violence. The numbers are irrelevant if the basis of these statistics is conceptually wrong. In a true openly diverse population, white skin color should disappear really quick. The only chance for it to exist is if people with white skin would not mingle with people of any other color.

  What is a White person? Someone who has white skin? Someone who has European ancestry? Someone who has no ancestry that is not European? Are Jews white? How about coptic Egyptians? Some Asians are really white, too. There is no argument that uses the concept of White which is not directly dependant on the idea of racial purity. And then there is Non-White. A few days ago someone was noting that it feels weird to use the term Latino, considering how many different countries and interests are represented by the people labeled as such. So how can anyone meaningfully use a term like Non-White, which groups together Black people, Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, Eskimos and Native-Americans, among many others? Two "African-American" people of identical skin color may be as different as someone can imagine: one a many generations American with slave ancestors, the other a middle-class African recently arrived in the US.

  What I am saying is that the most politically correct terms, used (and imposed) by proponents (and arbiters) of racial justice and equality, are as purist as they could be. The only argument that one can possibly bring here is that purism is somehow different and distinct from racism. This is absurd. One can be a purist and not be racist, but not the other way around. In fact, when people are trying to limit your freedom of expression because some of your words or concepts may be offensive, they are in fact fighting for the purity of ideas, one that is not marred by a specific idea of purity that they are against. These are similar patterns, so similar in fact that I can barely see a difference. No wonder this kind of thinking has taken root most in a country where a part of its founders were called Puritans!

  So how about we change the rhetoric to something that does not imply segregation or a quest for purity or a war on something or cancelling other people or creating safe spaces or hating something that is other? And the phrase above is not ironic, since I am not proposing we fight against this kind of ideas, only that we acknowledge their roots and that we come up with new ones. Let us just grow in different directions, rather than apart.

Uitindu-ma la protestele de ieri am fost surprins ca nimeni nu face legatura dintre altercatiile cu fortele de ordine si Revolutia din 1989, singura perioada in care tin minte ca ar mai fi fost asa ceva in Romania. Ieri se vorbea de Colectiv, de cit de nesimtiti sint la PSD, ca jos Dragnea. A fost Colectiv atit de departe incit nu mai tinem minte cum era? Lumea era in strada scandind impotriva clasei politice in general. Acolo nu s-au bagat ultrasii sau jandarmii, iar lumii ii era lehamite de orice forma de politica. Acum, insa, lupta e polarizata, jos unul, sus altul, si am cazut iar in ciclul ala puturos din care nu am mai iesit din '90 citeva decenii: un permanent vot impotriva, punindu-ne bolnav sperantele in cealalta directie, ca si cum citeva rocade intre partide ar fi rezolvat ceva. La Revolutie am dat jos un sistem, iar acum, cred eu, orice mai prejos de atit este un rateu gigantic.

De aceea nu o sa ma vedeti prin piete scandind impotriva unuia sau altuia. Sint toti la fel. Singura solutie este castrarea politica: sa nu mai aiba nimeni posibilitatea de a da legi nediscutate, sa poata introduce oricine o lege sau un veto la o lege cu un anumit numar de semnaturi, sa eliminam posibilitatea, prin Constitutie, ca un presedinte sa tina parlamentul blocat sau ca un parlament sa se joace cu legislatia pe cintecul vreunui partid sau ca DNAul sa tina parti si tot asa. Sa tragem la raspundere oamenii pentru vorbele, promisiunile si faptele lor. Nu cu legi si inchisori, ci public, colectiv. Cumva am uitat ca alegerile politice sint doar o abstractie a vointei populare care se poate schimba in orice moment.

Ce faci cu cineva care ti-a inselat increderea? Nu i-o mai acorzi. Daca ii dai cheile de la casa si te fura, ii iei cheile! Poate il si bati mar, dar in mod clar nu il mai lasi in casa ta. Solutia nu e nici sa dai imediat cheile altuia, ci sa le tii tu si gata.

Repet: Protestele de dupa incendiul de la Colectiv erau o explozie de indignare impotriva intregii clase politice, Revolutia de la 1989 si ce a urmat imediat, singura perioada in care imi aduc aminte sa fi fost jandarmi cu tunuri cu apa si gaze folosite impotriva manifestantilor in Romania, a fost o explozie de indignare impotriva intregului sistem politic. Ma pis pe manifestantii din Piata Victoriei daca tot ce vor este sa il dea jos pe Dragnea cind pleaca de la servici, daca asta e toata ambitia lor.

I have been a professional in the IT business for a lot of years, less if you consider just software development, more if you count that my favorite activity since I was a kid was to mess with a computer or another. I think I know how to develop software, especially since I've kind of built my career on trying new places and new methods for doing that. And now people come to me and ask me: "Can I learn too? Can you teach me?". And the immediate answer is yes and no (heh! Learnt from the best politicians that line) Well, yes because I believe anyone who actually wants to learn can and no because I am a lousy teacher. But wait a minute... can't I become one?

You may think that it is easy to remember how it was when I was a code virgin, when I was writing Basic programs in a notebook in the hope that some day my father will buy me a computer, but it's not. My brain has picked up so many things that now they are applied automatically. I may not know what I know, but I know a lot and I am using it at all times. A few weeks ago I started thinking about these things and one of the first ideas that came to me was FizzBuzz! A program that allegedly people who can't program simple can't... err... program. Well, I thought, how would I write this best? How about worst? I even asked my wife and she gave me an idea that had never occurred to me, like not using the modulo function to determine divisibility.

And it dawned on me. To know if your code is good you need to know exactly what that code has to do. In other words, you can't program without having an idea on how to use or test it afterwards. You have to think about all the other people that would be stumbling unto your masterwork: other developers, for example, hired after you left the company, need to understand what they are looking at. You need to provide up to date and clear documentation to your users, as well. You need to handle all kinds of weird situations that your software might be subjected to. To sum it up: as a good developer you need to be a bit of all the people on the chain - users, testers, documenters, managers, marketers, colleagues - and to see the future as well. After all, you're an expert.

Of course, sketches like the one above are nothing but caricatures of people from the viewpoint of other people who don't understand them. After all, good managers need to be a little of everything as well. If you think about it, to be good at anything means you have to understand a little of everybody you work with and do your part well - exactly the opposite of specialization, the solution touted as solving every problem in the modern world. Anyway, enough philosophy. We were talking programming here.

What I mean to say is that for every bit of our craft, we developers are doing good things for other people. We code so that the computer does the job well, but we are telling it to do things that users need, we write concisely yet clear so that other developers can work from where we leave off, we write unit tests to make sure what we do is what we mean and ease the work of people who need to manually check that, we comment the code so that anyone can understand at a glance what a method does and maybe even automate the creation of documents explaining what the software does. And we draw lines in a form of a kitten so that marketers and managers sell the software - and we hate it, but we do it anyway.

So I ask, do we need to learn to write programs all over again? Because, to be frank, coders today write in TDD style because they think it's cutting edge, not that they are doing it for someone; they work in agile teams not because they know everybody will get a better understanding of what they are doing and prevent catastrophic crashes caused by lack of vision, but because they feel it takes managers off their backs and they can do their jobs; they don't write comments for the documentation team, but because they fear their small attention span might make them forget what the hell they were doing; they don't write several smaller methods instead of a large one because they believe in helping others read their code, but because some new gimmick tells them they have too much cyclomatic complexity. And so on and so on.

What if we would learn (and teach) that writing software is nothing but an abstraction layer thrown over helping all kinds of people in need and that even the least rockstar ninja superhero developer is still a hero if they do their job right? What if being a good cog in the machine is not such a bad thing?

While writing this I went all over the place, I know, and I didn't even touch what started me thinking about it: politics and laws. I was thinking that if we define the purpose of a law when we write it and package them together, anyone who can demonstrate that the effect is not the desired one can remove the law. How grand would that be? To know that something is applied upon you because no one could demonstrate that it is bad or wrong or ineffective.

We do that in software all the time, open software, for example, but also the internal processes in a programming shop designed to catch flaws early and to ensure people wrote things how they should have. Sometimes I feel so far removed from "the real world" because what I am doing seems to make more sense and in fact be more real than the crap I see all around me or on the media. What if we could apply this everywhere? Where people would take responsibility individually, not in social crowds? Where things would be working well not because a lot of people agree, but because no one can demonstrate they are working bad? What if the world is a big machine and we need to code for it?

Maybe learning to code is learning to live! Who wouldn't want to teach that?

and has 1 comment
I was reading this BBC article a few days ago on Philip Hammond, a British conservative politician, saying terror apologists must share the blame. This comes together nicely with all the recent changes in political stance that push otherwise modern democratic countries towards ideatic extremism. The UK is a prime example. After they invested immense resources into surveilling their own citizens, after they started blocking sites on the Internet, and after their media became more and more xenophobic, now they are moving towards this ... I don't even know how to call it... opinion control. In other words, you are allowed to speak your mind, but only if it is made up in a certain way. Akin to outlawing crazy people from denying the Holocaust, the political discourse is now pushing towards banning all kind of other opinions.

And I just had to write this article to say that this is completely idiotic. People do things not because they heard it somewhere, but because they have a drive to do it. If they are not sure about it, they start talking about it before they commit to action. Simple gagging a point of view - beyond being a very clear violation of the spirit of free speech - only pushes that opinion underground, where only like-minded people will engage in the conversation. Assuming you can quash an opinion just like that, through some legislative method, people who cannot discuss an idea will just implement it directly. The lone-wolf terrorist concept - one that has profusely been used by political media, but proven to be an unfounded myth - will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I remember when I was saying that outlawing types of philosophies, like the Nazi one for a classic example, is bad while other would argue using the same example to justify shutting people up. It is a bad thing that, writing these words, I feel vindicated. I shouldn't feel that way, instead I should be proven wrong. When an entire society chooses to close ears (and punish mouths) it should be for a good reason, not something that can predictably be abused later on and extended to ridiculous degrees.

One has to remember that when subscribing to some weird theory, one that is not generally accepted, people are just asking "what if?", an essential question for finding solutions for your problems, for thinking out of the box, for developing into a mature human being. If someone is asking "what if terrorism is good?" there should be a lot of people there to listen to them and argue back and forth until a conclusion is reached, one that in this case seems obvious, but still needs discussing. One could just as well ask "what if the Earth is not in the center of the universe?" - they punished people for that, too.

The principle of free speech as it is understood nowadays is less about freedom to speak and more about the principle of harm: you can say whatever you like, unless that is hurting someone. But we've exaggerated this idea so much, that everything is now considered harmful. This doesn't strengthen, but weakens us. Are we so fragile that we cannot take a few nutcases expressing their opinion? Are we children or are we adults that we must be protected from things we might hear for fear of somehow contaminating us. If you think about it, it is a ridiculous idea that an intelligent educated person would ever become a Nazi or a terrorist just because he stumbles upon some page on the Internet.

I just want to scream to these idiotic governments: "treat me like a human being, not like a mentally challenged child!". So yeah, rant over.

Just a few links from yesterday, all in the same edition of the BBC site:
EU plans new team to tackle cyber-terrorism
Access to blocked sites restored by Reporters Without Borders
UK ISPs block Pirate Bay proxy sites
Banning Tor unwise and infeasible, MPs told

Last year there were three very good US political shows: Homeland, of course, then The Americans, which presents two KBG agents pretending to be US citizens as the main protagonists, as well as The Assets, which was not that good, but was about Aldrich Ames, the infamous American CIA agent who sold secrets to the Russians. All of these shows were presenting various intelligence services doing their best, and in good conscience, to further the interests of their countries. Motivated people, some you might love, some you might hate, but all doing things for the right reasons. Unfortunately, this year seems to be plagued by disgustingly propagandistic shows like Madam Secretary and State of Affairs, bent on showing the US as the spotless white knights and their enemies as faceless evil villains.

Both seemingly wanting to put forward strong female characters with real power and responsibility, they do it in a sledgehammer way that makes me want to cringe. Madam Secretary is about an ex-CIA, now political university intellectual, woman who gets to become the US Foreign Secretary after an unforeseen accident to the real secretary. Interpreted by the beautiful Téa Leoni, it presents the entire US administration as a bunch of do-gooders, plagued by the moral consequences of using their power and having to often sidestep their conscience in order to save the world from the boogie man. Not only a powerful woman at work, she is also a mother, having to take care of her daughter and solve family problems together with her teacher husband. The entire image portrayed by the series is so artificial that you actually see all the pink dripping from where it was forcefully painted over all the black bits.

State of Affairs just started. The lead of the series is Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl, also a CIA woman with a direct professional and personal connection with the US president, who is a black woman. Her fiance was killed right in front of her by terrorists. He was none other than the president's son. In the first three episodes she has to make decisions to thwart the efforts of: Arab terrorists abducting American doctors and threatening them with decapitation, Russian submarines that steal American secrets by tapping undersea fiber optics and Boko Haram terrorists kidnapping school girls. Meanwhile she is being torn by the fact that the guy who killed her fiance was a former asset of hers. She doesn't tell the president because... she would break her oaths to the CIA. The show has some darkness in it, but it also artificial, as some hidden entity has some proof that would incriminate her and a shady character who might be good or bad or both is circling like a vulture. Soon enough we'll discover her father is somehow involved and her fiance is not dead and he is actually her brother or something.

To their benefit, after exhausting the original material, Homeland is not necessarily worst. Also there is another show which I cannot yet say if I like or not, called The Honourable Woman. Great cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stephen Rea (who is not a werewolf in this one... yet :D ) and others. It is an US/UK coproduction, really atmospheric, really dark, but also a bit slow and obtuse. I may have had my brain affected by the previous shows so I can't yet appreciate the value of this one. It seems to mix real politics with some really heavy stuff like assassinations, the economic battlefront between Israel and Palestine, arms smuggling, etc.

The reason why I wrote this post is because sometimes I feel like the media shows are following too closely the politics of the moment, so close in fact that many a time they seem to be slightly ahead of it. The bad guys are entities that are not yet enemies of the US or that behave in worst ways than their real life counterparts, the people in charge often have to bend the rules in order to remain the good guys, even if officially in reality those people have not (yet) bent those rules, etc. Unlike war movies that try to erase or at least erode the moral debt of nations and people involved in past wars, I feel now there are films and series that inject the apology before the act has even been committed. In a period when the US intelligence apparatus is being attacked from all sides by news reports of their activities, here they are, all these stories about the good ole CIA, ran by intellectual and beautiful women of power who maintain their morality like the good mothers of the nation that they are. Am I paranoid here?

Bear with me here, this is one of those posts that come from an idea and result in a completely different thing.

This one started with the idea that religions have an expiration date. There were a lot of religions before Christianity took hold of the world, some of them really really old. The innovation of both Christianity and Islam is that they introduced prophets, new versions of their Gods and proof that they are not dead, uncaring or otherwise absentee. So, I asked myself, is it possible that a religion has an expiration date, after which it can't support the hold on its followers and they drift away to other things, like Scientology?

Then, the second idea. In order to create a new religion, one that can be called something more than a sect, we need a prophet. Someone with a history so outrageous that people can associate it with divinity. He or she must also sacrifice themselves for their strict ideals and/or people. We also need someone who came about sooner than 2000 years.

Idea number three: Hitler! He affected the entire world, he had pretty strict ideals and has sacrificed himself for them and (presumably) for his people, whoever they might have been. Outrageous life: check. New to the scene: check. Fanatic following: check. He is the perfect prophet! Add to this his deep hatred of Jews, who can only be reasonably differentiated from other people only by their religion. Add to this the mysticism that consumed Hitler before he died and his fascination with the occult. You get a prophet that burned the world for religious reasons.

Idea number four: That idea number three must piss both sides equally much. Neonazis would probably consider it blasphemy (thus unwittingly giving strength to it). Jews... well, they are pretty pissed at Nazis. Any cult based on them would probably disagree with them, too. The other people, they would bring into the argument the horror of war and the Holocaust and other things like that. Admittedly, the God that Hitler would have been a prophet for has to be pretty twisted, but we've seen worse, as gods go. The present ones are Gandhi compared with the old bunch.

Idea number five: we've discussed a ridiculous idea and the arguments against it are pretty much liked to the horror that Hitler brought onto the world. While over 70 million people have died as a consequence of World War II, we fixate on the religious connotations of the Holocaust and the directed persecution of one people. I hope I am wrong, but when I imagine the angry masses, terrified by this idea of mine, I imagine people bringing the Jew massacre in the forefront, with pancards and signs with "Never again". And that leads me to this fifth idea: that if 6 million people being massacred for their religion and nationality is horror, then the rest of 64 million being ignored or considered casualties of "regular" war, the idea that people can be killed in the millions and it is OK, if there are political and economic reasons for it... that is true horror.

and has 1 comment
I am linking four news items. Do you see the connection?
Standard Chartered accused of over $250bn of illegal transactions to Iran
Kim Dotcom judge rules mansion raid was illegal
Gary McKinnon extradition decision delayed until October
TV Shack founder loses round in extradition battle

So let me break this down for you. A British bank is accused of dealing with Iran, against the American embargo laws, to the sum of 250 billion $. It risks losing its licence to operate in the state of New York.

Kim Dotcom, the mega rich founder of MegaUpload, site used almost exclusively to store and share copyrighted material. There are emails of the employees and his detailing the ways they were sharing links to stuff they knew were copyrighted. The New Zealand government raided their offices, arrested him, prepared him for extradition to the US. He was released on bail and the link above explains how the raid was found to be illegal.

Gary McKinnon, a hacker looking for evidence of the US government suppressing information about UFOs and free energy in their military servers, is fighting against extradition to the US. He did minimal damage, and that according to his accusers (McKinnon denied it), he didn't leak the information, he just snooped. The link above shows he is not being extradited yet as the UK home secretary is busy with the Olympic events. If convicted in the US, he is facing up to 70 years of jail. The problem the US government seems most damaging seems to be the bloated cost of 700000$ to "track and correct" the problems McKinnon allegedly caused. In other words, they want him to pay their security costs.

Richard O'Dwyer has hosted links to copyrighted material (not the materials themselves) on UK servers, where such linking is legal (or may be, the discussion rages on). No matter, he is awaiting extradition to the US, where such practices are apparently illegal. The link above shows he lost the first battle against extradition. If convicted in the US, he is facing up to 10 years of jail.

Now do you see the connection? The smaller you are, the larger the punishment. The deed is irrelevant (especially in Great Britain - not so great now, eh?) as well as any national laws when the US is involved. Frankly, I was expecting something like this from my own government, a ridiculous joke that sways whatever way the other nations say, but not from the UK. Canada almost has the same problem, but there the citizens actually rise up against American influence.

and has 2 comments
I usually comment on big political events in my home country of Romania, although I am not really that involved. The thing is, since the end of the Communist era, we Romanians have chosen worst and worst leaders as time went by, every time being certain in our righteous beliefs that the new guys will be better. Hell does seem to be paved with good intentions after all.

A quick recap for those of you who are not Romanians (or don't share my skewed views on reality). After Nicolae Ceausescu (the dictator, remember him?) was gracefully deposed by way of angry mob and firing squad, we chose Ion Iliescu as our first president. From the initial tableau of a murderous dictator being replaced by a fighter for freedom the image shifted over the years to a delusional old man being replaced by a shrewd manipulator of the system. We did not like that, although the people were pretty used with a single president for the rest of our lives and elected Ion Iliescu twice. Luckily our law says there are only two consecutive presidential mandates for a single person, so we had to change the guy with another.

Well, if we have to change the president, we might as well keep the party, we thought, still entrenched in our habitual maintaining of the status-quo. In order for that not to happen, all the other parties coalesced into a big ball of shapeless mud and rallied behind a single candidate, a university professor, an intellectual. And he won. Welcome to the glorious era of Emil Constantinescu, who, besides being a dusty professor who had no clue about politics or management of any kind, despite being a propaganda secretary for the Communist party in the past, he was a fool with no balls. During his single mandate nothing was done at all, since he didn't know what to do and the ball of mud, now in power, disintegrated immediately after elections. Constantinescu's party, a historical party, important in the political landscape of Romania, all but vanished into oblivion.

Yay! We get to elect our main guy again. Let's go with what we know: Ion Iliescu, the former Communist, posing as a freedom fighter, equally loved and hated. Personally, I think he was OK. You can't be a politician and not be a bit corrupt or manipulative or even downright evil, but Iliescu had style and, while he wasn't an angel at all, he rarely did obvious blunders of incompetence, stupidity or lack of self control. No wonder they chose him an honorary president of the party, he was their only real politician! Now over 70, Iliescu got another mandate before a new champion of justice entered the arena!

The next iteration, two people fought for the most visible position in Romania: Adrian Nastase, a corpulent minion of Iliescu, with an intellectual allure and a lordish demeanour, versus Traian Basescu, a populist fellow, former ship captain and behaving mostly like a Romanian Popeye, championing for democracy and the people in the most crowd pleasing ways. It was tight, so tight that the real results of the election will forever be uncertain. Basescu won, while Iliescu's party won everything else. Nastase's allure and demeanour made him appear too arrogant in front of the populace and they could not possibly elect someone who looks down on them. Also, all that façade with no intelligence to back it was ridiculous.

We have now reached "modern times", the actors having relevance today, after two of Basescu's mandates. You see, as president Basescu immediately moved to impose his position over parliament and senate. If the people have chosen him as their champion, then it would make no sense to have his party as the opposition party. He wiggled his way until his party was in power, through all kinds of tricks and alliances. During his reign, Basescu frequently overstepped his presidential responsibilities, being, again, both loved and hated for it. Adrian Nastase, former Prime Minister, was almost forgotten, like any loser in Romanian cock fights.

Fast forward to today. Basescu is at his last legal mandate. The economic crisis and the abuses of both himself and his party have left him without political capital. Attacked from every side, the two main opposition parties having united into a single political entity (even if their ideological platforms are completely different), Basescu and his minion Emil Boc held on to power as much as they could. Until anticipatory local elections were forced and finally removed Basescu's party from rule. He is next. Again democracy has prevailed.

Or has it? The opposition parties are led by arrogant, relatively young politicians Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu, more mouth than political clout or experience. Happy to have won the anticipatory elections they see the period until normal elections as an opportunity to consolidate their power in order to have a stable mandate. Instead, they fall into traps (some of them really obvious) at every step. Like the old Romanian fighters, Basescu has retreated and poisoned the wells behind him. If the local elections showed the lowest possible confidence in Basescu's party, now at every mistake of the new power, that confidence seems to grow. So what happened?

First Adrian Nastase is sentenced to jail for stealing as much as he could in a ridiculous and stupid way. The first major politician to go to jail, former prime minister, the mentor of now party leader Victor Ponta, almost president (remember the close elections), he not only loses badly, he attempts suicide when the police come for him... and he fails! He is the laughing stock of the entire country. Yes, that's how we are, if someone tries to commit suicide and fails we laugh at them for being stupid (sometimes we show them how its done, to demonstrate our superior intellect).

The silly thing is, even with Nastase going to jail, I would still choose him over Basescu as president. That is how high hate can rise in this story.

Second Victor Ponta, a doctor of political science, is accused of plagiarism in his doctorate. We could talk of this for ever and still find something new to say, but the truth is that everybody in Romania plagiarises in doctorate thesis. The teachers themselves point towards places where one should gather material for their papers. If you wrote something original (in that rare case you actually did something for yourself instead of Googling it and translating it) the teachers tell you you need five times as large a paper, so they point you to chapters in the books of the people that taught you in university. Take one from three of their books, write a conclusion and you have your five fold quantity of wasted paper. It's how the system works.

Of course, instead of just laying down and accepting such an obvious fact, Ponta half denied it (aka failed to properly deny it and again lost face), then in a wave of brutal and ridiculous moves, dismantled the plagiarism committee and even the Constitutional Court. Well not exactly like that, but it certainly felt like that. The populace is in shock, of course: didn't we elect someone in order to not have fists shoved in our mouths?, they ask.

Finally, as the conflict between Prime Minister Victor Ponta and President Traian Basescu cannot continue like this, the coalition of victors (yes, yes, a pun, sorry!) moved to impeach Basescu. And they did, only now, by law, a popular vote must be organised to see if they can remove the president from office. And guess what! Even if there are virtually no chances for Basescu to remain in seat, there will be so many votes in his favour that the power parties will lose immense political capital which will hurt them badly in the coming permanent elections.

In this light, a question begs for attention: Isn't it possible that Basescu allowed for the party change just after he carefully prepared his attacks against the opposition? Wasn't this all a big political entrapment? And of course it was. Basescu has proven himself a shrewd manipulator himself, a "playing president" as he himself imagined he would be. Instead of winning prematurely, the eager beavers stepped right into it and failed miserably. Remember what happens in Romanian politics when someone fails at something?

So let's review this long long story. We changed a dictator with a freedom fighter, only to find him a former Communist with great political skill. We replaced him with an intellectual, only to find the guy incompetent. We went back a bit, electing a 70 year old man as president for the third time, then replaced him with a populist alpha male with psychopathic tendencies, which now will be replaced, probably, by a loud mouth fool that fell into every trap that was set for him (and his buddy Ponta) Am I the only one who sees this trend as going down?

and has 0 comments
This is the 912nd post, see? :) And it is about terrorism.

It has just occurred to me that Anonymous, the hacker continuum that has humiliated security and financial companies and even governments, has the structure that would allow a terrorist organization to survive. Look at Al-Qaida: a news article described how the death of Osama bin-Laden has alienated the financial backers of the organization. Well, yes, it makes sense, because Al-Qaida is (and will always be) a corporation. Terror is a means to an end, not the reason for the existence of the group. The point of this top-to-bottom led movement is to gain support; ideological and political would be nice, but money would do even better. When power and money are concerned, people always tend to organize in a hierarchical fashion, thus the US strategy of targeting the leaders rather than the drones. It's funny that these feared terror kings of the East have not thought of going the same way against their enemies corporations, but let's not give them ideas.

Now look at my friends at Anonymous: their purpose, more or less, is to have fun. They don't really have leaders, only more or less involved individuals, doing their part as they see fit. I've previously found similarities between Anonymous and Ghost in the Shell's the Laughing Man, but it goes further than that. There were studies into the reasons why people are happy and motivated and the result was that money is only a motivation for repetitive non creative tasks, while for intelligent creative tasks the motivation comes from a job well done. So here we have a peer-to-peer network of people, motivated by a job well done, the perfect organization model for free happy people.

I know it does show similarities with communism, but the main difference is that communism was supposed to be a closed, self sustaining system, while "anonymism" is like a parallel system, based on hobby, like playing a complex multiplayer online game. You don't earn your money out of it, you earn your freedom, motivation and self-esteem, which are more important for an individual. The problem with this model from a terrorism standpoint is that terror doesn't motivate anyone. You might hate someone to really enjoy doing a great job harming them, but it is a method doomed to fail in the long run. Who has ever heard of flourishing organizations based on hate (except ridiculous super-hero movies)?

Oh, I have many more connections in my head right now, with the software piracy epidemic, for example, and the (futile, in my opinion) attempts of governments to regulate the Internet. The same conflict between corporation (as a larger concept, including churches, governments, Al-Qaida and all large top-down organizations) and the individual is linking all of these. And from all of these, the model of peer-to-peer sharing of time and passion for a common cause seems the only one which preserves individual freedom inside a group. And besides, I've added so many keywords in this post that I am sure some US security group is going to read it, I don't want to give them ideas either. (Hi, guys!) Anyway, I am sure that even CIA agents go home and play an online game from time to time and may even partake in software peer-to-peer piracy and could even feel like individuals from time to time ;)

I found this link on the Codeproject newsletter, a place where I often find news that are not reported anywhere else and opinions that are well informed and interesting. So, here it is: The Weakest Link: What Wikileaks Has Taught Us About the Open Internet.

What it basically says is that the Internet is open only as the huge private companies that control it are willing to allow this openness. Governments and companies alike can pressure key points in order to control the spread of information. The laws (which set of laws, btw?) are vague, allowing a limbo in which only the powerful have the upper hand. Two services we take for granted, like DNS and the newly found fab cloud computing are easily attacked or pressured into blocking access or revealing information.

But what I found even more troubling is the way this challenge of Wikileaks (because what else can you call wearing the underpants of the biggest bully as your flag) has been answered so mindlessly by the US. The government that is trying to get its hands and make an example out of Gary McKinnon had his most secret documents openly exposed, making it look vulnerable, weak. Its response is nothing less than angry mindless rage: denial of service attacks on the Wikileaks DNS, harassment of anybody supporting financially or technically the Wikileaks organization, very convenient rape charges against Julian Assange and so on. This is the behemoth that, behind nice faces like Obama's, does stuff like Guantanamo and has that huge inertia that would almost push humanity to extinction during the Cold War: "you mess with me, I mess with you".

However, this is a battle that any government has already lost. Short of a global apocalypse, the rabbit is out of the hat and the Wikileaks model will live on, regardless of who runs it and what structure it has. People have been shown to actually make a difference. All that media and movie onslaught of images of the evil government that can kill anybody at will and make everything disappear has been proven a myth. They are not invulnerable. Even worse, they can't handle the stress, they are sore losers. They lost information, but also face and honor. And the funny thing is, they did it to themselves.

A while ago, before the election craze began to grip Romania, someone asked me what I think will happen. At the time (as now) I knew more about the plot of the TV series I am watching and the insides of .NET than what was going on politically in my country. Of course, I answered anyway, as the truth is often found in the mouths of children and crazy people. Being both, I said Basescu, the current president, would win the elections, due to populace inertia, and the coalition of parties that wanted to replace him will see each of the inner parties split into people that don't want Basescu and people that want power, making the Democratic Party even larger, even meaner, even worse.

A month after my prediction, month spent in the hope that I was just a fool and didn't know anything about anything, it came true.

And, as if things couldn't get worse, I get to see how the difference between candidates has mostly been provided by the Romanian diaspora, rather than the poor bastards that have to live with the decision. And I know these guys, people that left the country in search of better payment, better conditions, maybe some respect. Knowing nothing about Romania anymore, they just vote as they see from afar, smug in their belief that they do one good thing or the other. Like fighting communism. Maybe it would have worked 20 years ago when you left! That, my friends, pisses me off. If you left, dear diasporans, leave us the fuck alone! Choose a president where you live, not where we do. I can't believe that the same people shouting the country is shit, that they want to go live in a "real" country, that they want to be treated with decency and so on and so on, gather en mass outside the borders to vote with the same idiot that ruled us so far.

And you know what is the funny thing here? People that see how this went and are just as disappointed and disgusted as I am... they say this could have happened only in Romania and they want to leave! It's like a zombie infection, isn't it? And we all got bitten.

and has 0 comments
I am not usually one to talk politics, especially since I don't really think there are essential differences between people participating in this game. Yes, I do see it as a game, with rules that you need to follow to get the prize. But this year's mayor election proved that some of the rules are more subtle than just spending the biggest amount of money in promotional ads and having the biggest party support you. Well, pretending to be "one of the people" seems to always help, though. :)

What happened? Internal struggles within the main opposition party led to them choosing their candidate for the city hall not the man with the most popular votes (as resulting from opinion poles), but the man with the most connections in the party. Therefore the other guy decided to candidate independently. He spent almost nothing on campaign ads, while the leading party candidate spent about 600000 euros just for the first part of the elections and God knows how much for the final part.

Conclusion? Sorin Oprescu, the independent candidate, has won the elections. The leading party candidate lost, with all his ad money, while no one even noticed the candidate from the oposition party. Apparently, a great victory for the people in Bucharest. I have no idea if the guy will be any good as a mayor, and I think that is the major flaw in Romanian elections, but the arrogant belief that party support and lots of money can just land you in a popular position has failed once more in Bucharest today.

But my theory is that Oprescu didn't win just by charisma or by the total lack of charisma of his opponent, Blaga, but from the ugly and cheap attacks against him and other candidates from the main party. With slogans like "Let's get rid of the garbage in sector 5, dump Vanghelie" and images of a bulldog and a snake with glasses (Blaga looks like a big ugly dog, while Oprescu wears glasses) they pushed people away. I guess that the fact that the snake is a symbol of wisdom in many cultures past them by completely.

Anyway, my conclusion is that arrogance is the worst thing a Romanian politician can do right now. They can be stupid, corrupt, pathetic, but NOT arrogant. It is traditional in Romania to dream to become powerful, rich, above all others, and it is even more traditional, since most people never do get rich or famous, to totally despise and hate the people that do or behave like they do. Today was a lesson in humility for the political class.

and has 0 comments
I've come upon this PDF file that explains what an euphemism is. I moved then to doublespeak, which is already a highly talked and blogged about term (679000 googles) because it is a form of euphemism used by politicians and press to change the emotional impact of information or even distort its sense. Stuff like "Collateral damage" to replace civilian death or "physical persuasion" used instead of torture.

Here are some useful links:
PDF file on euphemism
Doublespeak at Wikipedia
Also very interesting is the discussion on the article on doublespeak, which some call biased.
A funny rant about doublespeak and the US foreign policy when it comes to wars that are not wars

and has 0 comments

You know, even about Bush people have said that he is in reality a very smart man and his obvious stupidity is an act. Could it be that Basescu is the same way? Oh, it seems I need a politics tag for this blog.

Well, Basescu is back in his presidential office, just like Ariel is back in school, and in his very first day as a not-ousted president the very day of the referendum that decides to oust him or not he does this incredible stupid thing. Basically he first goes shopping in a mall (like a normal citizen, mind you) and then he gets annoyed with this reporter woman that kept filming him with her cell phone. So he takes her cell phone. He has no idea how to turn off the phone, so it continues to record, including a conversation between Basescu and his wife in which he calls the reporter an aggressive stinking Gypsy. Then the recording is being analysed by the president's SPP corps (kind of like Secret Service) and the bit about the stinking Gypsy is removed. Little did they know that a recording like that can be restored; and it was and now all this is public domain.

There was great protest against the obvious racist remark, also about the way the president of a country treats a reporter and nobody does anything about it. How stupid can you be to do something like that, right?

But let me bring you this conspiracy theory: Basescu did this on purpose! After the elections he faced a publicity void, one that he either had to fill with keeping his promises (a rather difficult feat for most politicians) or one that had to be replaced with a new stunt. It is already obvious that a lot of the people that voted against his ousting this time are zealots, loyal to Basescu personally, so a little incident like this would not decrease his popularity, maybe it would just show (again) how human and average and of the people our president is. And also shift the attention from the presidential duties to a more common, easy to understand, irrelevant topic. Yet the last thing, the recording that was supposedly deleted then restored, was a stroke of genius. He now got really close to the racist electorate. And, funny enough, the Romanian Press Group decided to boycott the president in the media, thus removing any need of him to do anything. I mean, if you are not on TV or in the press, why do anything? Meanwhile, the press devoted to Basescu would write only the good stuff. And the reporter herself, after receiving an apology note (Basescu is good with notes) and some flowers, decided not to charge the president with anything.

Could this have a hint of truth in it? Who knows but Basescu and his inner circle, but there is this joke circulating in Bucharest about two Basescu supporters. One of them says "Oh, it would have been great for this thing to happen before the referendum". "Are you crazy?", the other one replies, " people might not have voted for him!". "Nah. He still would have been president, but now 75% of the population would get rid of the stinking Gypsies".

The incident can be easily found on YouTube, but I am not going to give you the link, as it is irrelevant.

and has 1 comment

BBC News released an article today, regarding the referendum in Romania about the decision to oust or not to oust the president, Traian Basescu. The picture in the article was very representative and it is the same in this post. That's why I feel robbed! I go vote and I see that this kind of people stole the vote from under me.

But I went to vote anyway. It is my first time (political deflowering?), and I knew it was for nothing just as well as I knew it the times I didn't go to vote, the idea being that even if I will be (again) in the minority that no one cares about, Basescu will look at the numbers and see me there! He will see that some of the people don't really like what he does and how he does it. Maybe this will stop him from going all Elvis on us.

Anyway, to people who are not employed in the budgetary system, this ousting of the president thing was like a good opportunity to watch something interesting on TV for a change. Nothing changed when he got suspended by the Parliament and nothing really changes today. Maybe that will make people see soon enough that we don't need a hero, just a good system.

However, I still fell pissed off because I always get ignored in the votes because of the "people" in the picture. Geez! Use head, don't bang!