Monday, December 12, 2016

Social Justice Warriors

Lately I've been coming across the term "SJW" online, and for awhile was willing to not really know what it meant beyond being a putdown of some kind or another. Finally, however, curiosity got the best of me and I consulted Wikipedia:

"Social justice warrior" (commonly abbreviated SJW) is a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics. The accusation of being an SJW carries implications of pursuing personal validation rather than any deep-seated conviction, and being engaged in disingenuous social justice arguments or activism to raise personal reputation, also known as virtue signalling.

And so in case you didn't get the memo, the term "do-gooder" is now enjoying a sunny retirement in Ormond Beach, Florida and has passed the torch of bourgeouis contempt for those who actually want to effect change and (God forbid!) make the world a better and more just place to the term "SJW". The thing to understand, however, is that like any putdown, the term (and the assumptions that go with it) says more about the person using it than the one to whom it is directed.

From where I'm sitting, it would seem the kind of person who hurls "SJW" as an insult is someone who doesn't want change, or at least any disruption of a society or system that is treating them just right. Furthermore, they probably object to talk of class struggle, systemic racism or human rights - after all, such talk may expose the fact that they have it pretty good through no merit of their own compared to those who have it much worse through no fault of their own. It's hard enough being a member of the dominator culture without these other human insects buzzing at the perimeter of their own self-importance.

On the other hand, have a look at those throughout history who would have had "SJW" spat at them had the term existed in their time...

Take, for example, those who took part in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, a time when doing so meant serious risk of bodily injury or worse. They locked arms and stood their ground, regardless of what anyone else had to say or do about it. Because of those SJW's, nobody can be discriminated against on the basis of race or religion, and thanks to their successors in more recent years, the same also holds true for discrimination on the basis of physical disabilties or sexual orientation. (Caveat: the civil rights movement didn't make discrimination go away - what it did do is establish legal or legislative frameworks for protecting and expanding those rights and freedoms, thus helping the consitution live up to its full potential.)

Similarly, if you enjoy having an eight-hour workday, weekends off, some degree of health benefits, maternity leave, and wages that are decent compared to less fortunate parts of the world, then you can thank the SJW's of the previous century's labor movement who had the courage to endure state violence at the hands of police and hired goons. (A particularly egregious example of this is the incident where "officers of the peace" and others beat women and children with clubs during the "Bread and Roses" strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.) Industry didn't suddenly just decide to improve working conditions and wages out of the goodness of its own heart. It took relentless agitation from below. Call these SJWs of yesteryear "reds" or "commies" if you like - just realize that you have grown up feasting on the fruits of their sacrifice.

And finally, self-described Christians who would mock people with the term "SJW" or at least roll their eyes at the mention of "social justice" should probably take a closer look at the red-lettered passages in their family bibles. As a man of the Christian faith, however flawed an example I may be, I consider "social justice" to be just a natual byproduct of living the spiritual life with any sort of integrity. Furthermore, in His time Jesus would have been called an "SJW" by those not wanting to see their own good lives disrupted by having to live for something other than their immediate personal gain.

(While I offer no apologies for bringing Jesus into this, that last example isn't for the sake of proselytization but merely as a rebuke to fellow Christians whose first instinct is to sneer from the sidelines at others who are trying to improve this world. I also realize that Christianity doesn't have the monopoly on "social justice" - we can thank Judaism for providing the mindset that has made our contemporary notions of social justice possible, not to mention Christianity in and of itself. For more information, see Thomas Cahill's The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels.)

Like I said, a putdown says more about the person saying it than the person on the receiving end, and so the next time you feel tempted to "call out" someone as an "SJW", try opening your mind and heart to what it is the person is trying to tell you, and ask yourself why their message is such a threat, and whether you are just trying to circumvent the issue at hand with a thought-terminating cliché.

As Max Hill writes in his essay, In defence of 'social justice warriors':

But what’s really going on is that those who do dominate the conversation are reacting with fear and confusion to the shifting tides of cultural acceptance and values. Female, non-white, LGBTQ, non-binary, disabled, low income, and other formerly silent voices are slowly gaining a foothold in our society, and those who openly express support are vilified and deprecated for their “hypocrisy” and “shallowness.”

As for me, at times I blog about issues that are important to me, and on occasion I fire off a letter to the editor, or an email to a public official to protest this or that. And last February, I nearly froze my feet off while egaging in minority unionism by participating in a picket line in front of a workplace that wasn't my own. Don't be taken in by such deeds, however, as they are mere dabbling. I don't blog enough, I don't raise hell enough, and I certainly don't pray enough.

In short, don't call me a "Social Justice Warrior", as I haven't done nearly enough yet to deserve that honor.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Openindiana Hipster 2016.10: Field notes from a fresh install

The past month or so has seen me flit back and forth between OpenBSD 6.0 and OpenIndiana Hipster 2016.10 since getting my hands on a refurbished Dell Inspiron 1525 for next-to-nothing from a computer repair shop. (The invoice didn't include any line items on the software end, but for such a wickedly awesome low price I am quite confident I evaded the Microsoft Tax on the Windows 7 installation, whose hours were bound to be so severely numbered once in my possession.)

I probably would have hung in there with OI Hipster on a more continuous basis if it weren't for some irritants, including:

  • The inability to exit MATE to console mode. I have no problem with MATE itself, and am eager to get to know this Gnome 2 successor fork better. However, sometimes I just have to get in some quality time with the command line, or enjoy the utilitarian beauty of twm. Unfortunately, when I entered the command to do so (# pfexec svcadm disable lightdm), the system would exit out of MATE and then hang, leaving me with a grey cursor blinking in the top left corner of a black screen. No fun. No fun at all.

  • Rolling upgrades that would make a butcher wince. The first three or four reinstalls of 2016.10 saw rolling upgrades (via # pfexec pkg refresh --full followed by # pfexec pkg image-update -v) resulting in a newly-upgraded boot environment (openindiana-1) that was unbootable. While I can't remember the messages on the screen, I had to reboot with Ctrl-Alt-Delete, whereupon I was able to select openindiana from FreeBSD Loader and get back to the out-of-the-box BE. (Despite the aggravation of a botched upgrade, being able to simply turn back the clock in such a situation illustrates the inspired thinking and innovation exemplifed by the engineering talent at Sun Microsystems back in the day. To those people, wherever they have ended up, thank you.)

I had it in mind to submit a bug report or two - initially for the botched upgrade and then a subsequent one for the MATE exit hang, assuming such a problem would have persisted post-upgrade. But with the OpenBSD 6.0 DVD iso looking at me seductively after a prolonged absence from that spartan (by which I mean beautiful) system, my energies were thus spent elsewhere.

I'll be blogging about OpenBSD 6.0 sometime soon, but for now let me say that it is easily the most polished system I have used. Ever. While it doesn't come off-the-rack with many of the bells and whistles of its more GUI-centric rivals, everything it does have just works. Beautifully. I'll save any further gushing for some other time, when I can offer up screenshots or even a screencast or two.

In any case, whatever annoyances I had with OpenIndiana Hipster 2016.10 were drastically outweighed by my interest in seeing it succeed on this machine. And so, just yesterday, I resolved to reinstall it and then proceed with whatever bug reports were needed to help make it live up to its potential. I had decided that my first post-install tasks would be to load it up with whatever apps and extras I could think of, including the sfe.opencsw.org build of LibreOffice. (Any such apps installed prior to upgrading are carried over into the new BE, and so if the next upgrade is to prove disastrous, at least you can roll back to the previous BE without having to waste time reinstalling anything.)

Assuming I had my bug reporting cut out for me, I completed the upgrade from 2016.10 to the December 9, 2016 snapshot only to find (much to my delight) that it then booted into openindiana-1 with no difficulties whatsoever. Then, with a bit of trepidation, I opened a terminal window and issued # pfexec svcadm disable lightdm and felt euphoric at suddenly finding myself at a text-only login screen.

Sweet!


With all of that resolved I decided to throw my brain at finding a solution for a more trivial matter, which is getting the audio cranked much higher than the current OI Hipster build of MATE will allow. Although the GUI tools for controlling the volume remains decidedly meek as of this writing, I came across a command line workaround in the OI Hipster bug tracking portal, as suggested in Nikola M.'s initial bug report, as follows:

# audioctl set-control -d /dev/sound/audiohd:0mixer volume 100

# audioctl set-control -d /dev/sound/audiohd:0mixer headphones 100:100

# audioctl set-control -d /dev/sound/audiohd:0mixer speaker 100:100

While the above works like a charm, it is nevertheless a ton of typing just to turn up the volume. This being UNIX, however, means that any series of commands can be saved in a text file for ease of use. In this case, I saved the above three commands in a file called crank (as in "crank up the volume") in my personal export path (/home/jed/bin in this case), and so since executing # chmod +x crank I now have a one-word command that can run either in MATE or other desktop environments/window managers lacking volume control tools of their own. Therein lies the beauty of text-based solutions in UNIX - a workaround for a problem in one environment (MATE) can serve as a great solution in other environments (such as twm).

(It should be noted here that while my crank script works just fine in twm, the sound isn't as much of a joyously eardrum-shredding experience as it is in MATE.)

If I'm going to have a script for turning up the volume, I thought, then why not have one for turning it back down? And so I copied the contents of crank into a new file called ucrank, for "uncrank", but rendered as a nod to umount, a UNIX typo that quite endearingly has been around since the very beginning, and as such can't really be considered a typo. For ucrank I simply replaced each instance of "100" with the default level of "75".

Alright...now what?

The only remaining pebble in my shoe as far as OI Hipster goes is what appears to be a lack of support for my wifi card, a Broadcom BCM4315 (according to the OpenBSD 6.0 /var/run/dmesg.boot file). In fairness to the OI team, it appears that support for BCM4315 is a futhermucker outside the Windows walled garden. If/when I find a way to make wifi work on this laptop, I'll document the solution in a future post. Also to be discussed in a future post will be how this system handles video playback from my digital camera's SD card.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

UNIX news roundup, with apologies to Tic Tacs

Here is a brief selection of UNIX and Unix-like headlines that have caught my eye, along with some commentary (or fanboy smarm passing itself off as 'commentary'):

  • Now that the U.S. election season has reached its painful conclusion (and like the proverbial gift that keeps giving, there is sure to be residual pain to come), Computerworld's Sandra Henry-Stocker provides what could be a novel alternative the next time around in her latest opinion piece, Why scripts are better than politicians. As you work your way down her 20-point list, you'll notice the central proposition becoming less and less absurd. If I had to add my two cents to the list, and because I'm simply not wired to resist the temptation, I'd say scripts are better than politicians because you have nothing to fear if and when they reach for your Tic Tacs. (Audience groans, comedian apologizes.)

  • The PC-BSD project has rebranded itself TrueOS (TrueOS Succeeds PC-BSD Desktop-Friendly Unix OS). While I've read additional material from other sources (including the project's home page), I have yet to come across an explanation for the reasoning behind the name change; my own inkling is that while hardly concealing the system's FreeBSD base, there may nevertheless be a desire for the project to present itself as something much more than just another distro. If you've ever gone with a vanilla install of FreeBSD and tried to make it more desktop-friendly from there, and then taken PC-BSD for a spin, you'll have no problem agreeing that it is indeed more than just FreeBSD with some extra goodies thrown in. Personally, I think the name change is befitting a project that works so hard at making FreeBSD so user-friendly that even your grandmother would find it intuitive. It is a complete operating system in its own right in the same way as Mac OS X, which also just happens to be powered under the hood by BSD. Beyond the fresh moniker, it should also be noted that the project now follows a rolling release model. Kudos to Kris Moore and the rest of the team.

  • The OpenIndiana 2016.10 "Hipster" release has now been unleashed (OpenIndiana 2016.10 Unix OS Migrates to FreeBSD Loader, Adds MATE 1.14 Desktop), which I hope to try out as soon as absolutely possible. While I've been aware for some time of the switch from the Gnome 2 desktop to its successor fork, MATE 1.14, I was happily surprised to learn of GRUB being replaced by the FreeBSD Loader. Yes, my UNIX bias is showing - the use of GRUB by Solaris and most of the OpenSolaris descendant forks has always left me feeling like those systems were trying to come across as Linux-like, as if replacing CDE with Gnome 2 wasn't self-debasing enough. (Ah, let the flame war begin...)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dear Ann Coulter: Bullying has never made America great

It has been speculated that Ann Coulter's 2015 book, ¡Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, provided what would become the blueprint for Donald Trump's election platform. In that tome, she advocated certain views on immigration that should seem familiar to Trump-watchers by now.

Whether or not Trump cribbed his policies from Coulter, each are akin to the worst kind of person you knew in high school - except that while most of those faces from the past went on to outgrow the very qualities that made them hard to be around, malevolence for personal gain (be it wealth, political power, or readership numbers) is something that continues to define Trump and Coulter in their professional lives. And in certain ways, the two are spiritual twins.

Their shared knack for body-shaming is but one example.

Trump has by now well-established himself as a pig who views each woman as a sex object, and can't resist letting the world know it by publicly insulting female critics on the basis of their physical appearance or even their menstrual cycle.

Conversely, as Coulter recently tweeted on the topic of the post-election anti-Trump demonstrations, "Without fat girls, there would be no protests." (This from the same woman who feels the need to present herself as Republican Barbie® on the covers of her books, perhaps as some Pavlovian attempt to condition would-be readers to salivate at the ugly content within.)


For all the gushing Coulter has done over Trump, is it possible that she has failed to realize that many of the women who comprised Trump's base may have had less 'perfect' physiques than hers? Does it even matter to Coulter that many women, especially those in their teens, may have feelings of anxiety that are triggered by such public comments? (Empathy is a tall order for any sociopath, so I can't imagine Coulter meeting such a question with anything more than a vacant gaze. Someone of her ilk is only concerned with their own notoriety, and will get it wherever they can, no matter how low the road nor how easy the target.)

Boiled down to her true essence, Coulter is nothing more than a bully working on behalf of those too powerful to need defending in the first place. Put even more succinctly, she is simply a fascist.

For all the nastiness he exhibited during the primaries and the general election, Trump at least seems to have a human side, which gives me hope (however faint) that he may surprise his critics by accomplishing something in the course of this term that is truly an evolutionary step forward for his country.

As for Coulter, it is hard to imagine her even wanting to use her pulpit for bringing about positive change in anyone's life other than those who would have the middle and lower classes continue to be turned against their own interests.

If America is indeed great, it is because of people who do things that are innovative, courageous, or otherwise transforming - it is certainly not because of high-profile misanthropes buzzing like flies around the dung heap of America's worst instincts. And so in body-shaming her sisters of a different political bent, Ann Coulter has shown us all that she has earned her wings, fecal stink notwithstanding.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Effigies' Haunted Town

Lately I've been stumbling across some old gems for my Why haven't I heard of this before? file. One such example is The Effigies, a punk outfit from Chicago that has been active on-and-off since 1980. I've been repeatedly listening to Haunted Town, their 1981 debut, for a few days now. This 12"vinyl  EP has basic (but solid) production values that stay out of the way and allow this furious sonic assault and its constituent voices and instruments to burst forth with heft and clarity. What follows are just my initial impressions, and not a review, per se.





Beyond the above I don't know a whole lot about The Effigies - all I have to go on is the sounds on this awesome EP. The opening, Below The Drop, kinda/sorta reminded me at first of Warsaw by Joy Division, though in an increasingly tenuous way now that I've given the latter a fresh listen for the sake of comparison. (The two songs don't really sound alike, but something in the energy made me perceive some sort of sonic resonance between the two.)

Next is Strongbox, which may be the fastest cut of the five, and as such it comes the closest to being true 'hardcore'. (I'm not quite sure what exactly the "strongbox" in question is, but then with a firecracker like this, lyrical interpretation trails well behind jumping around, smashing things, or getting a speeding ticket.)

The title track slows things down ever-so-slightly with some sort of narrative about urban decay, and provides some bona fide lead guitar melodies that act as a welcome counterpoint to the relentless drive of the song.

On Mob Clash the lead vocals are vaguely reminiscent of Joe Strummer of the Clash (oddly enough.) A less metallic rendition of this strident tune may not have been out of place on London Calling, the album on which the Clash showed how punk energy and sensibilities could be 'tamed' and channeled into making the greatest rock n' roll album, ever. Needless to say, this is my favorite cut off Haunted Town.

And finally, We'll Be Here Tomorrow appropriately closes out this brief set, perhaps intended as a calling card of sorts at the time. Nothing much to say about this one other than the reverb-soaked vocals have a certain quality that places  the track well within the milieu of late 70's/early 80's punk and new wave. (I don't mean this to say that it makes the song dated, but rather that it imbues it with the distinct aroma of its time, a time for which Yours Truly is quite nostalgic, musically.)

Election 2016's true losers: a tale of two establishments

It's a little soon to say with any finality what exactly went wrong with the U.S. presidential election that someone like Donald Trump could so thoroughly break every conventionally-accepted rule of politics and still end up trouncing his eminently more-qualified opponent. Trump's strategy seems to have been one of donning helmet, elbow and knee pads and roller skates and simply plowing gracelessly through anything resembling opposition, while insulting and alienating anyone along the way who wasn't on side. In the roller derby rink that was this election, the track is littered with bruised competitors of both party stripes who never saw it coming.

Am I happy with the idea of Trump's boorishness being validated with what is arguably the most powerful job in the world? Hardly. But at least some of that disappointment is tempered by the prospect that Trump's victory represents something that eclipses either of the candidates, and that is the defeat (for now) of the establishment elites in both parties.

While it's a little late now to engage in the parlor game of pondering what could have been if Bernie Sanders had carried the populist torch for the Democrats, it remains a fact that the party's brass conspired against Sanders during the primaries, as revealed in leaked emails that saw Debbie Wasserman Shultz resign as chair of the DNC. From outward appearances, it appears the primaries were rigged, to use a Trumpian term. Sanders, like Trump, was able to look 'beyond the beltway', as it were, to the America that the elites would rather keep hidden, as it betrays any notion that globalist capitalism is working for anyone other than the investor class. Also, Sanders was getting by on donations from ordinary citizens, rather than engaging in the usual big ticket fundraising or depending on support from super pacs.

Perhaps this was the reason Sanders was shunted aside by whatever tactics the party's upper echelon could get away with. Meanwhile, the conventional wisdom being espoused was that the party needed Hillary Clinton, as she was much more 'electable' than Sanders.

On the other side of the aisle, Trump never seemed to have the full and unconditional support of his own party's establishment. While also being guilty of Sanders' sin - admitting that there really is an underclass being left behind by big business as usual - Trump was rude, crude and (supposedly) self-funded. In this way, he was Bernie Sanders' evil twin. Right down to the wire, Trump never did capture any sort of full-throated endorsement from House Speaker Paul Ryan.

So looking at the results through the above lens, Donald Trump captured the highest office in the land despite the tepid support of his own party's establishment, and Hillary Clinton failed in spite of what appears to have been an unethical leg-up from hers.

Furthermore, the positive lesson here is that if you acknowledge legitimate anger and give voice to those who are otherwise ignored, forgotten or taken for granted, very good things can happen. The downside of this Mobius Strip is that it took a campaign as malevolent as Trump's to finally make the point.

Monday, October 17, 2016

UPDATED! Solaris 11.3: Firefox, Flash, and the distant dream of gcc

After a prolonged spell of flitting about with various distros, I have taken up once again with Solaris 11.3 as my main desktop, this time with an eye to satisfying two modest goals:

  • upgrade Firefox from the out-of-the-box 31.0 to something with fewer flies buzzing around it, and

  • a working Flash player for said upgrade to allow for audio streaming and use of websites that do fun stuff.

As for the first goal, the answer was under my nose for longer than I'd care to admit. As written about in this space previously, the good folks at UNIX Packages provide Firefox and Thunderbird binaries free of charge. I had gushed quite profusely at their Firefox 38 package on my last install of Solaris 10, but more recently had revisited their offerings, and saw no Firefox/Thunderbird options for Solaris 11.x. The available systems were for OpenSolaris and Solaris 10 (and older). Hmmph!

And then it hit me: Solaris 11.3 may be binary-compatible with (what had been) OpenSolaris, and so I took a whack at installing that package to this system.

As for the installation, simply download the package for Firefox 45.4.0 (the latest as of this writing), and then within the Nautilus file manager, right click on the downloaded *-pkg file and select "Extract here". Once it's extracted, use Gnome Terminal to get yourself to your Downloads directory (or wherever it lands in your system), and enter:

# pkgadd -d fire*-pkg

It goes without saying that you should adjust the wildcard as necessary if you have other files starting with "fire". (This moment of patronizing didacticism has been brought to you by the Ford Motor Company. Find the right Ford for you at www.ford.com. )

Problem solved.

To make it run by default (at least when clicking the little Firefox icon in the top taskbar in the Gnome 2 interface), I right-clicked on said icon, selected "Properties", and changed the "Command" field to read: /opt/sfw/bin/firefox %u.




Akin to the goal of upgrading Firefox, a solution to my Flash woes had likewise been lurking about just beyond the perimeter of my patience and reading comprehension. Over previous sojourns with this OS, I had come to understand that Adobe had dropped Solaris support for Flash altogether (which it has), and that mummified versions of Flash were available in their archives, which is also true, though with God as my witness I was sure that said archives were now unavailable. Silly rabbit.

Once you have downloaded and extracted the files (be sure to look for version 11,2,202,223), you'll need to move libflashplayer.so to /opt/sfw/lib/firefox/browser/plugins. (I had to create the plugins subdirectory myself, as it wasn't there by default after installing Firefox.) Check here to confirm that it is working.

All-in-all, I'm quite pleased with Solaris 11.3 this time around, and am now readying my mind to tackle the real challenge, which is getting gcc installed after previous botched attempts. As it turns out, the gcc versions I've found so far can't be installed in this system due to licensing conflicts or some such, which is a drag because I'd like to then proceed with building packages from NetBSD's pkgsrc project to allow for at least a bit more variety of applications.

But that can wait for another day.

_____


October 23, 2016 update: Eureka! The dream of gcc has now been realized! Install it as follows:

# pkg install developer/gcc-45
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Racism: available in soft and ultra-soft


When someone (often an old foreigner) says something with a soft racial undertone about another race that is not meant to be derogatory but often comes out in a way that may make others slightly uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed yet sympathetic for said old person.

Often it is because of a difference in social and cultural norms that they say something softly racist.
 -Urban Dictionary, "Soft Racism"

I'm sure we've all known someone who has stepped on the above-noted conversational rake without realizing it, and while it can certainly cause awkward tension in a group setting, anyone with even a little bit of emotional intelligence can finish blushing and then give the speaker a pass for their own cultural and/or age-related naïveté. For the most part it's easy to tell if the person was being deliberately hurtful or simply didn't know any better in the moment.

But there's another form of racism that is easy to miss if you're not looking for it. In fact, if you gaze into the mirror (so to speak), you may need to strain your eyes to notice it, and even then your mind may not recognize nor accept what is being seen. As for me, someone had to point it out to Yours Truly. Up until then I had been completely oblivious. What allows this racism to slip under our radars (generally) unnoticed is that it has nothing to do with any conscious intent to be derogatory towards nor marginalize a person or group based on their race, which in its own way makes it all the more insidious.

The kind of racism I'm talking about is typically expressed when you're telling a friend about an encounter you had with someone earlier that day, and you include a certain detail that has no bearing on your story. For a white person, it could be something like "I was in the express line at the grocery store and the black guy ahead of me had nine items instead of eight".

In this case, the guy's skin color was of no relevance. We are all guilty of going over the maximum number of items in the express line at least most of the time. (Personally, I usually treat the "8 Items or Less" sign as a suggestion rather than a rule.)

To test the absurdity of this paradigm, tell a similar anecdote to someone of your own race, but make the person in your story the same skin color as you and your listener. I think most of my friends or family would at least be momentarily taken aback if I said "I asked a white guy for directions."

I truly don't think any of the above is evidence of antipathy towards any one race or other races in general, and thus my intention here is not to equate it with overt racism. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if there's a sincere and committed anti-racist or two who make this mistake with no harm or insult intended.

For myself, I used to chalk it up mental laziness. After all, skin color can be the most noticeable thing about a person. You may not recognize their identity from across the street, but you sure can tell their race. Perhaps referencing the person as "some black guy" (or "Asian guy", or "Indian guy", etc.) is a quick and dirty way to add descriptiveness to your story, and to some extent I believe this forms the basis of such a practice. However, if the person in the story is white (assuming you and your listener are also white for the sake of this example), then their skin color would lose all descriptive value.

I can't speak for races other than my own, but as a white person I can tell you that when we are describing someone to one of our own "kind", the default assumption is that the someone in question is white unless otherwise noted. By doing so, intentionally or not, we set ourselves apart from others along racial lines. While not "racism" as practiced by "hate groups" nor cause for self-flagellation, it nevertheless hints at tribalism (or what I would call "ultra-soft racism"), which to me would seem to be a precondition for hard racism in the same way that unchecked nationalism clears the way for fascism (soft or hard).

Nowadays, I make daily decision to not draw needless attention to a person's race when talking about them in the third person unless it's pertinent to the story. Sometimes it comes easy, other times it feels momentarily awkward and requires conscious effort, and then there are moments when I transgress and resolve to try harder next time.

While I wholeheartedly aspire to be an anti-racist, I also realize I have work to do. And although part of me thinks this is all a matter of making a big deal out of so very little, I wouldn't want a little thing leaving the door open for something bigger and uglier.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Your 2016 Presidential Nominees: Hillary Trump and Donald Clinton




Cruise Night (July 19, 2016)

The following pictures were taken at the weekly Kanata Cruise Night at the Hazeldean Mall. Proceeds from the event go to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.


This experience reminded me of how I've always preferred natural light photography over studio or flash photography. (I'm not knocking studio photography, as great art can occur there. It's just not for me, as I prefer to venture out and search for the unexpected. As for flash photography - it's fine for ribbon cuttings or shots from the office Christmas party. However, it imposes an artificial blast of light on the subjects and obliterates whatever mood was set by the existing light.) Sometimes working with natural light is matter of navigating low or highly selective lighting conditions to find a compelling focal point, like a beacon in the darkness. Other times, as with this event (which I attended in the early evening), there is an overabundance of light, and so in addition to providing uniformly adequate lighting (where appropriate), it also presents opportunities to use the excess light to great effect. After all, chrome is meant to gleam, and so if you position yourself to catch the sun glinting off a shiny surface, it can give a picture the extra something it deserves, be it an enhanced sense of depth or contour, or merely a sort of photographic 'jewelry'.


Although I have always been infatuated with the overall forms and lines of classic cars, the graphic design and calligraphy geek in me has also become increasingly fixated on details and markings that hark back to an era where industrial design and lettering could be by turns brash, delicate or swanky, or some combination of all three. This was a time that was more free hand and open-ended, in thinking as well as execution, whereas today is an age of point-and-click plasticity.






















Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gay discrimination is not a right, even for the 'religious right'

There is a childlike phenomenon among Christian conservative commentators, namely the indignation they express at the fact that their business-owning brethren cannot use their 'faith' as an excuse to discriminate against gay customers. And in order for their followers to buy into their logic, these commentators engage in intellectual dishonesty by way of conflating gay discrimination with Christianity itself.

This isn't the first time I've written about this phenomenon, and I thought I had already said what I had to say last year, but a recent opinion piece on the Charisma News website by Janet Boynes (Gay Agenda's Attacks on Christianity Leave Former Lesbian 'Frustrated') betrays more of the same dishonesty, and so I think the time is ripe to revisit this topic and clarify my thoughts in this regard.

In her piece, Boynes laments that Christian Mingle (a 'Christian' dating site), has been 'forced' to accept gay singles as members and to pay a fine to two gay men who had previously been denied membership on the basis of their sexual orientation. In keeping with the same logic espoused by others (such as Breitbart's John Nolte), Boynes wrings her hands and wails in despair at the prospect of the “Christian businesses/organizations that have been targeted and shut down or people who have lost opportunities because of their Christian beliefs”.

For one thing, discriminating against or publicly insulting one's gay brothers and sisters does not constitute practicing one's 'Christian' beliefs. Furthermore, engaging in or encouraging homophobia is not made any better or more noble if done under the guise of 'Christian' beliefs. In fact, there are some branches of Christianity who are more accepting of the gay community than others. Here in Canada, in fact, some churches even allow gays to join the clergy. And so it cannot be said that anti-gay beliefs are consistently promulgated across the Christian denominational spectrum.

As for the Christian Mingle case, the dating service in question is a business operating in the public sphere. Anyone should be able to be a customer without being discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality, even by businesses marketing themselves to the wider Christian community. But if 'Christian' beliefs are truly being targeted here, let's look at this case in a larger context by posing some questions:

  • Does Christian Mingle vet its members to ensure none of them will have pre-marital sex with each other? Do prospective members have to click Agree or Disagree in a pop-up window containing the statement: “I promise not to pass second base with fellow Christian Minglers”? (I don't know the answer to this, as I do most of my mingling with fellow Christians after Divine Liturgy during coffee hour in the church hall.)

  • If Christian Mingle members are using that service to engage in the sin of pre-marital sex with each other, then wouldn't that fact alone render a ban on gays in the name of 'Christian' beliefs somewhat hypocritical?

  • Does everyone who becomes a member of this service do so with the explicit purpose of having pre-marital sex, or do some use it to engage in platonic relationships? If the latter is true, then how 'Christian' is it to prohibit gay people from participating in a community that is Christian (in name, at least)?

  • Suppose a similar service was being run by a business whose owner(s) belonged to a heretical Christian sect that considered it a sin to be black (as offensively incompatible with any true Christianity such a notion would be), and thus made it their standard practice to ban blacks from doing business with them. Would this be easily forgiven as a simple matter of the business owners practicing their 'religious' beliefs? Would this be considered a 'freedom of religion' issue? If not, then why should it be any more acceptable to discriminate against gay people in a similar fashion?

And no matter how justified business owners feel in discriminating against gays, such practices have a deeply negative impact on the human beings on the receiving end. According to www.reference.com (in answer to the question What are the potential effects of discrimination?):

The potential effects of discrimination may also affect work and social relations between people of differing religions, cultures, gender, race and sexual orientation. For example, if a Muslim is discriminated against by a Christian, he may be less likely to interact, cooperate or associate with other Christians as a result. The feelings associated with discrimination can lead to stereotyping, which can discourage people from networking or associating with those who are related to a particular group based on race, gender, religious preference or culture.

The potential effects on a person's health and well being are also significant if discrimination continues. For example, the stress of being excluded and passed over for a promotion or job opportunities can lead to financial stress, mental strain, anxiety or depression. Self-confidence and self-esteem are potentially affected by discrimination as well. Stress can further ignite physical health symptoms due to discrimination, such as a rapid heartbeat, cold sweats and even stomach pain associated with ulcers.

Furthermore, the way I see it, when you discriminate against someone you assault their basic human dignity, and as seen above you are potentially causing mental, emotional and/or physical harm to that person. This would not seem to pass the What Would Jesus Do? test.

For additional evidence of how misguided Boynes' logic is, look no further than two of the other 'examples' she cites of businesses or individuals being persecuted for so-called 'Christian' beliefs:

  • “Twin brothers David and Jason Benham lost their opportunity to host their own HGTV show.” These guys lost the chance to host their own house-flipping show on HGTV after one of them made disparaging remarks about gays during a rally. But here's the thing – because the two were tapped to host an HGTV program, from that moment on they would be deemed to be representing HGTV when in public. Even though they wouldn't have necessarily been speaking explicitly on their new employer's behalf, anything they utter in public could nevertheless be seen as a reflection on HGTV. And with anti-gay comments tending to polarize the viewing public, HGTV was well within its right to act in the name of its own best interests by giving the Benham twins the boot. (Make that two identical boots.)

  • JONAH, who ran the largest Jewish gay conversion therapy organization, was sued and shut down.” Firstly, I'll ignore the obvious fact that this organization was Jewish, not Christian. Secondly, however, Boynes doesn't go into any detail at all about the facts behind the story. To do that, after all, would entail revealing that the key 'therapist' in question was not a licensed therapist, had no post-secondary education beyond an undergraduate degree in music and theatre, and often had his young clients strip in front of a mirror and touch their genitals while he watched. The organization also hosted weekend retreats in the woods that featured group nudity and creepy 'rebirthing' ceremonies. If you ask me, it would appear that 'gay conversion therapy' was but a thin pretext for targeting vulnerable adolescents for sexualization, which in itself seems to be sexual abuse of a sort. Maybe I'm wrong. Boynes should understand that this 'gay conversion' group was not shut down for promoting values in keeping with her own 'Christian' beliefs, but for consumer fraud and commercial practices that the courts found “unconscionable”. Boynes further omits the fact that, based on new information gleaned at the trial, the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America concluded that it could no longer endorse JONAH, as the organization no longer met its standards.

In short, before lobbying for the 'right' of businesses and individuals to engage in dubious practices in the name of 'Christian' beliefs, Janet Boynes and her colleagues on the religious right would be much better off to first get the hang of more basic Christian values, namely respect for other human beings (gay or straight), respect for the laws of the land (especially regarding discrimination), and of course honesty, inconvenient though it may be.


 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dear ADL: Do Palestinian lives matter?

Israeli police initiate ‘friction activity’ on quiet streets in East Jerusalem - See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/07/friction-activity-jerusalem/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=9e45fde3c6-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-9e45fde3c6-381619166&mc_cid=9e45fde3c6&mc_eid=2eed502418#sthash.1OY71L20.dpuf
The following is an email sent to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on July 13, 2016.

___


Israeli police initiate ‘friction activity’ on quiet streets in East Jerusalem - See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/07/friction-activity-jerusalem/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=9e45fde3c6-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-9e45fde3c6-381619166&mc_cid=9e45fde3c6&mc_eid=2eed502418#sthash.1OY71L20.dpuf
To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for the work your organization has done since its inception to combat anti-Semitism specifically and bigotry in general. I especially appreciate the news items, commentary and research provided on your website, which I have frequently sought out for the purpose of taking stock of my own attitudes and beliefs during times of turmoil on the international stage. In this way, the Anti-Defamation League provides an invaluable public service, and for that I am grateful.

While I myself am not Jewish, I do not hesitate to proclaim that despite obvious dogmatic differences, the Christian values that inform my conscience are in fact decidedly Jewish values, and that my faith is historically rooted in and continues to be indelibly influenced by Judaism. This is something I acknowledge and celebrate. I am also confident that these same values inform your own fight against intolerance.

In light of a recent news report, however, I am feeling the need to contact you directly for your insight as well as ask some pointed questions.

As reported by Nic Hasson in a July 12, 2016 news article in Haaretz (Border Police Deliberately Provoke Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Internal Reports Say), it would appear that at least some of the unrest among Palestinians (which is supposedly hindering the peace process in that region) is being manufactured by Israel. According to the article:

Border policemen initiate “friction” with residents of East Jerusalem to provoke a violent response from them, according to police reports. Just such a provocation apparently took place in Isawiyah earlier this year, sparking confrontations in which a boy was seriously wounded

On January 6, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Border Police troops who entered the East Jerusalem village. During the confrontations Ahmed Abu Humus, 12, was shot in the head with a sponged-tipped bullet. Suffering serious brain damage, he was sedated and on a respirator for three weeks, and since then is not communicating with his family.

The article goes on to say that Eitay Mack, the lawyer representing the boy and his family, fought (unsuccessfully at first) to secure the file for the internal investigation on this case, and was initially told by Israel's Justice Ministry that “there was no evidentiary basis of an offense being committed.”

Eventually, the lawyer received the full file. According to Hasson, the file:

...included 10 reports made by police who were involved in the clashes. Nearly all of them reported that the events began with a “friction activity” or an “initiated friction activity.” One policeman named Timor said, “During the afternoon shift we launched an activity in Isawiyah to create friction with the residents.” Two other policemen reported that they “were asked to come to the Menta gas station in Isawiyah for a friction activity in the village,” and that they were briefed before getting started.  



From the above I believe we can assume two things, namely:

  • With said internal reports including consistent (and bureaucratically euphemistic) terminology such as "friction activity" and "initiated friction activity", it would appear that deliberate provocation of Palestinians is a standard sanctioned protocol. The fact that two police officers were instructed to attend to a "friction activity in the village" only further underscores that this incident was not a one-off incident by a group of rogue police officers.
  • The initial efforts of the Justice Ministry to conceal the truth of these events by denying that any offense had been committed shows that these police activities are state-sanctioned - otherwise, I'm sure that the Israeli state would have launched a vigorous and objective probe into police activities that serve no purpose other than to keep the region destabilized, thus placing Israelis and Palestinians alike at risk. But from what I can tell, this didn't happen.

It goes without saying that while your organization is pro-Israel, I don't expect it to necessarily be a knee jerk apologist for the Israeli government. Furthermore, I trust that your definition of 'anti-Semitism' doesn't hinge on whether one supports or objects to every decision of Israel's politicians, military or law enforcement officials.

Having said that, the chain of events referenced above (assuming they are being reported accurately and objectively), when viewed alongside some of the materials on your website, strikes a rather dissonant chord. Take for example an article in your Israel: A Guide for Activists section, entitled Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel Is Not Interested in Compromise for Peace, which states:

Inaccuracy: Israel is not interested in or prepared to make meaningful compromises to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Response: Israel is committed to pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians so that it may finally live in peace and security. Israel was able to reach historic peace agreements with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) in which both sides made serious compromises for the sake of normalized relations.  

While Israel has made great efforts to promote serious negotiations and a final peace agreement with the Palestinians over the past two decades, peace has proved elusive primarily because there has not been a Palestinian peace partner willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and able to uphold peace commitments

If Israel is indeed "committed to pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians", then why is the Israeli state, via its police officers, engaging in "initiated friction activities" to deliberately provoke Palestinians into a violent response? Perhaps a "Palestinian peace partner" is too much of a threat to Israeli expansionism for the police to forgo such tactics? (I realize I'm making a leap here, but in the absence of a more satisfying explanation it is all-too-tempting to draw such conclusions.)

At the same time, your July 8, 2016 press release (ADL Welcomes DOJ Investigation of Death of Alton Sterling) decried the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of Baton Rouge police officers, and welcomed a civil rights investigation into the case by the U.S. Department of Justice while urging a similar investigation into the death of Philando Castile.

Given that you abhor and decry state violence perpetrated against vulnerable minority populations, and also given that there are elements or organizations that are quite happy to capitalize on such state violence for the purpose of radicalizing said minority populations, would it not be in the best interests of the people of Israel for the ADL to lend a voice of stern protest against the police tactics described above, and lobby for the civil rights of Palestinians?  Or are Palestinians even entitled to civil rights in your estimation?

You are quick to decry direct violence against Israeli citizens by Palestinian extremists - would it not demonstrate moral continuity to take Israeli authorities to task for deliberately making a dangerous situation worse for G-d knows what purpose? (From what I can see, your organization has not commented on the events in East Jerusalem as they pertain to these tactics. Please correct me if I've missed something, or if the events in question are recent enough that your position has yet to be formulated.)

And so, taking all of the above into consideration, please clarify your position on the tactics of the Israeli police as described above, and explain whether or not you agree that the safety of the people Israel (and the wider Jewish diaspora) is threatened by actions that appear to further what the ADL considers the 'inaccurate' view that "Israel is not interested in peace with the Palestinians".

On a more general note, your work is twofold: to fight intolerance and bigotry, as well as defend Israeli nationalism. In your organization's view, however, does the latter trump genuine concern for the safety of the Palestinian people and the overall stability of the region, or do you hold the Israeli state to be essentially blameless and therefore exempt from accusations of intolerance and bigotry (as expressed through state violence) towards its Palestinian neighbors?

On June 30, 2016 you called on the world to denounce the death of Hallel Ariel, a 13-year-old Israeli girl who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian extremist. Are you prepared to also denounce the deliberate (and potentially life-threatening) injury of 12-year-old Ahmed Abu Humus by Israeli police for purposes that remain unexplained and unjustified? Are you prepared to proclaim that Palestinian lives matter just as much as Israeli lives?


 Ahmed Abu Humus

Please note my refusal to adopt your own terminology ("Palestinian terrorist") to describe the Israeli teen's killer. If you are unwilling to label as "terrorism" the deliberate (and state-sanctioned) incitement of violence by Israeli police within a population vulnerable to radicalization, which agitates the very terrorist threat you decry, then I'm not going to play ball when it comes to highly-selective use of a term like "terrorist" for the purpose of advancing certain geopolitical interests. (Further to the twofold mission described above, it would seem the ADL serves two masters at once, thus putting itself in a moral conflict of interest on certain issues.)

Please note that this email will be posted in its entirety on my blog, as will any formal reply from you.

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your response

Sincerely,

James Deagle
Ottawa, Canada



 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

OpenIndiana Hipster: random notes of a distrohopper restrained

I'm still hanging in there with this installation of OpenIndiana Hipster, which I've been upgrading (via # pfexec pkg image-upgrade -v) at least once every other day, and sometimes every day.

Easy-peasy: rolling release upgrade with OpenIndiana Hipster

Here are some random notes from this leg of the journey:

Some like it (not as) hot

One thing I've come to appreciate is how this ThinkPad T61p seems to run at a lower temperature under OI Hipster than other operating systems. Whether it's Oracle Solaris, NetBSD or Linux Mint, normally you could probably fry an egg off the far left edge of this machine, right about where there appears to be a plastic 'grill' or something. With OI Hipster, however, it feels a wee bit warm after several hours of being on, but not nearly warm enough to cause me worry. (I wish I could report actual temperatures for the sake of scientific comparison, but this laptop tends to squirm and wriggle away at the sight of a thermometer.)

Ultimately, I can't say for certain that the lower temperature is a result of the current choice of OS, but nevertheless the coincidence seems too strong to ignore.

illumos + pkgsrc = the best of both worlds

One of the things that has kept me coming back to NetBSD time and again is the availability of certain increasingly-antiquated treats, particularly ones that only a fool for retro UNIX could adore. This includes many (if not all) of the classic window managers you'd ever want or need, including uwm, aka "The Ultrix Window Manager", from 1985, only for those who think twm makes for an appallingly decadent desktop experience, xearth (which turns the root window in Google Earth, though minus any interactivty whatsoever), as well as a decent assortment of games.

 As NetBSD as you wanna be: Motif Window Manager (mwm), with xearth 
running in the root window, as well as Scribus and xgalaga, courtesy of 
SmartOS' pkgsrc repository

On the other hand, one of OpenIndiana Hipster's (current) drawbacks is that it is somewhat light on applications, and until this is rectified, pkgsrc goes a long way towards bridging that gap. For Yours Truly this would mean Scribus for desktop publishing and layout design, though I recall reading somewhere that an illumos-native build was in the works in a tool shed somewhere in sfe.opencsw.org.

The folks over at the SmartOS project have been working at maintaining a pkgsrc repository of pre-built binaries for those of us who just want to type $ sudo pkgin -y install xgalaga and be done with it. Just follow the prescribed directions, and keep in mind that if you're using gnome-terminal, you can copy and paste that long gobbledygook into your terminal session for accuracy and lower blood pressure.

Another beautiful thing about pkgsrc is that it allows me to run NetBSD packages, but much zippier. (I assume this is owing to the better hardware support on account of OI's ancestry in the commercial UNIX realm.)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

No meaningful consequences for bad cops puts good cops at risk

Lest anyone think I'm being anti-police in the text that follows, an important proviso is in order.

The vast majority of police officers, to the absolute best of my knowledge, carry out their duties with professionalism, compassion, and a genuine desire to make a positive difference in their respective communities. I grew up knowing several police officers who lived on my street, and I knew them all as honorable people. (I was friends with some of their sons and daughters, and so I had gotten to know them somewhat well over the span of multiple decades.)

My own direct experiences with law enforcement, either when I was (potentially) in the wrong or needed assistance, has almost always been at least courteous, and often friendly, even when I was in the process of being charged with a moving violation or parking infraction. (The one exception was an officer in Toronto who chose to act like a power-tripping jackass in response to an innocent and unassuming question from Yours Truly regarding a ticket he had just handed me. This, however, was just him having either a rotten personality or a bad day. No big deal.)

The police have a job to do that is as important as it is dangerous. Our society should show them the due respect and admiration they deserve. And for that very reason, however, the system they serve must dole out meaningful punishments to those who dishonor their badge and uniform with conduct that any reasonable person - including their fellow officers - would find reprehensible.

With the chaos in the United States that has erupted since the point-blank shooting death of Alton Sterling at the hands of policemen who already had him pinned down, an aftermath that has gone on to also include officers who were gunned down in Dallas while protecting protestors, it's easy for people to fall into all-or-nothing frames of mind.

"The police are anti-black racists!" 
"Black Lives Matter is an anti-police movement!"

The problem with that sort of simplistic thinking is that it creates a false binary – the police are certainly not some state-sanctioned branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and not all blacks are out to gun down officers.

However (and this is a huge however), no white person can presume to fully understand the persecution blacks have suffered historically and into the current era. While there are some whites who face dire economic circumstances and the diminished efficacy that goes with such a state of affairs, most of us go through life armed with what Utah Phillips (by way of his mentor, Ammon Hennacy) referred to as “the weapons of privilege”. As such, we become so acclimatized to our good fortune that we forget that this isn't the same experience for others, or perhaps we willingly enter into a state of denial regarding the ongoing reality of black oppression by the state because it threatens the North American version of the 'classless society' myth. (We prefer our oligarchy with egalitarian window dressing, thank you very much!)

At the same time, while I find the idea of targeting the police for violence or worse completely offensive, it cannot be denied that those in law enforcement stand on the more advantageous side of the power balance. In essence, they are the state, and so when they pull a gun, lift a club or give the taser a few test zaps before using it on another human, they do so with the full blessing of the establishment. Moreover, and partly because of this advantage, they should (ideally) be held to a higher standard than the average person, and face harsh consequences when they fall egregiously short of that standard.

Unfortunately, in so many instances where it appears excessive brute force has been used against blacks at a level we virtually never see used against non-blacks (peaceful anti-globalization protestors notwithstanding), there just never seems to be any kind of punishment for the offending officers other than a few weeks of paid vacation leave. Conversely, there never seems to be any resulting deterrent against repeats of said incidents. Exacerbating this situation is the sense of denial among mainstream law enforcement personnel when they hoist signs on social media emblazoned with #BlueLivesMatter, which has always struck me as a tone deaf response to the reality of unpunished state violence directed at a particular ethnic minority. It's as if they'd like us to simply forget the incidents (and resulting sense of grave injustice) that trigger such public unrest.

The upshot is that if I were a black man living in America, I would indeed feel like my people were being hunted by the police, and would have absolutely no reason to doubt that the system was complicit in its refusal to hand down any meaningful punishments to the very few 'bad apples' of law enforcement.

And so because of the very respect and admiration I feel for police officers who do their jobs with maximum dedication to doing right by their fellow citizens, and also because of a profound sense of heartbreak at the prospect of yet another black man being murdered by those who otherwise have no business wearing a badge and uniform, there needs to be real and meaningful consequences for those who are damaging the law enforcement brand (and thus putting their more professional brothers' and sisters' lives at risk) with such dangerously offensive misconduct.

As for the rank and file who truly care, perhaps there is an opportunity for healing the community the next time they pose for Twitter pics if, despite all that has happened, they let down their guard and hold signs simply affirming that #BlackLivesMatter.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Selective outrage: Bill O'Reilly and anti-Obama hysteria

Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor isn't exactly known for being a fount of well-reasoned commentary - except to those who already subscribe to its right-wing fear-mongering. His latest anti-Obama diatribe likely won't win over any moderates (nor thinking people in general), and conversely his followers will only feel ever more emboldened in their conviction that America is under attack from within by the sitting Jihadist-In-Chief.

The main product peddled by right wing pundits is outrage in and of itself, perhaps as a way to distract citizens and keep them seduced into voting against their own interests. And in order to make outrage(!) fly off the shelf, it helps to dispense with logic and a sense of perspective.

On his July 7, 2016 broadcast, O'Reilly unveiled shocking(!) photos of a young Obama dressed in Muslim garb, thus confirming once and for all, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Barack Obama has "deep emotional ties" to the Muslim faith.




Even worse, reasoned O'Reilly, is that these photos may help explain why (according to him) Obama is so reluctant to call out radical Islam.

The host attempted to draw an even stronger connection, saying:

“There is no question the Obama administration's greatest failure is allowing the Islamic terror group ISIS to run wild, murdering thousands of innocent people all over the world, including many Muslims. Mr. Obama has never, never acknowledged that mistake, nor does he define the ISIS threat accurately.
“That group is killing innocent people in order to impose a radical version of Islam on the world. The jihad is solely based on theology, perverted as it may be.”

If you look for a thread of sanity in all of this, you'll find it in the fact that at the time the photos in question were taken, Obama was in Kenya for his half-brother Malik's wedding. Is it really so strange that one should take on cultural garb at a family function, particularly when it occurs in one's ancestral homeland and within the milieu of one's ancestral religious culture?

And if the sitting President feels a sense of closeness to and pride in his ancestral culture, religion and all, then what of it?

What should be a source of outrage to those with even a spark of neural activity, and an insult to those who consume O'Reilly's dreck on a regular basis, is that a public broadcaster is using his pulpit to draw such a tenuous connection between the photos in question and the murderous activities of a terrorist network. (This presumes one has enough spiritual energy to work up a sense of outrage at a predictable troglodyte like Bill O'Reilly. As for me, it helps that I'm flying high on a gallon or so of black coffee at the moment.)

In short, O'Reilly is simply trying to further the right wing myth that Islam = terrorism, and is willing to grasp at any straw within reach to advance that cause.

Furthermore, it speaks volumes about O'Reilly's regard for human lives lost to terrorism that he so blithely exhumes them for the purpose of propping up his anti-Obama/anti-Muslim invective. Perhaps if O'Reilly was genuinely concerned about the victims of terrorism, he'd try to get down to its root causes, at least insofar as it relates to Middle East geopolitics. At the very least, he (and others in the neocon hot tub) should stop blaming Obama for the current threat posed by the likes of ISIS, and take a sober look at where the problem truly began.




But then outrage, like any absolutist doctrine, is a very selective phenomenon.

___


As for the phenomenon of right wing disdain for the concept of 'root causes', I've already been down that road before, though I think it warrants revisiting here. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe that for hawks, imperialists and others who wish to see all political and financial power resting in the hands of the very, very few, the various conflicts and social unrest in the world are not problems to be solved, but rather ends in and of themselves. They are justifications for more military spending abroad, increased militarizing of the police at home, and ever more trampling of basic rights and opportunities for those of us who comprise the vast bulk of society.

Therefore, to actually get down to the 'root causes' of said conflicts and unrest runs directly counter to the interests of the powerful, and runs the risk of exposing the extent to which the West intentionally destabilizes the Middle East. Here in Canada we had our own example of this outlook in 2013 when former Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's suggestion that we should study the "root causes" of the Boston Marathon bombing with a dismissive "This is not the time to commit sociology."

It would appear that the warped little men pulling the levers would prefer us to not peer behind the curtain.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

OpenIndiana Hipster: Hello, GCC 4.8!

This is just a quick update in case anyone out there is holding their breath until I provide an update on my efforts to get GCC working.

____


I have to be honest - I was just about to give up on OpenIndiana Hipster yesterday due to what seemed like a wild goose chase when it comes to getting a working compiler installed on that system. Throughout all of my previous OI installations (151a8 or Hipster), I had never (not once!) been able to get GCC or even Sun Studio up and running. It would often appear to be installed, but then nothing would happen when I'd try to use it.

Over time, I had come to assume that working GCC on OI was but a grand joke played on unwitting newbies who thought they'd like a SunOS 5.11 platform on which to learn C programming. The gullible naifs! Ha! Ha!

This was further exacerbated by the muddle of information online, none of which seems definitive. And then, while doing a search for GCC at the sfe.opencsw.org package repo, I saw a package for GCC 4.8, at which point I opened a terminal window, became root, and took a shot in the dark:

# pkg install gcc-48

At this point the system asked me to choose gcc-48 from either sfe.opencsw.org or the main OpenIndiana Hipster repo, and so I decided to stay close to home:

# pkg install pkg://openindiana.org/developer/gcc-48

Success!





And so it is with a deep and abiding sense of closure that I can proceed with learning C via Teach Yourself C in 21 Days. This will turn up the heat in a different way, as I'll only have my sense of procrastination to blame for further delays on that front. (I bought that book in the mid-1990s, prior to my UNIX enlightenment, whereupon I spent the rest of that decade locked in a cage match with the Borland C compiler installation CD that came with the book, as it didn't seem to work on any Windows machine. Then again, as I vaguely remember hearing Eric S. Raymond put it in a speech I saw online a few years ago, learning to program in Windows is like learning to dance while wearing a full body cast: it can be done, but it's not nearly as much fun.)

You can breathe now.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

OpenIndiana Hipster: SunOS 5.11 + awesome sauce

A brief (if circuitous) history


For the uninitiated, OpenIndiana Hipster is preceded by a long and winding historical road, which I'll attempt to recap here with the caveat that this is only my own understanding of a fascinating but complicated story.

Early 1970s: UNIX is developed at Bell Labs (owned by AT&T) by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and other brilliant engineers.

Mid to late 1970s: UNIX installations start proliferating at universities and other institutions. At UC Berkeley, student Bill Joy helps maintain that school's UNIX installation, and begins writing some extra software tools, an effort that will expand in scope to become "Berkeley UNIX", or the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). Initially known as a set of extensions for use with AT&T UNIX installations, BSD will go on to become a wholly separate UNIX-derived operating system in its own right. Meanwhile, much of the BSD source code finds its way into AT&T UNIX, thus blurring the line between the two. (In other words, while today's BSD-derived systems can't legally call themselves UNIX, they are just as UNIX in spirit and source code genetics as their "official" UNIX cousins.)

Early 1980s: Bill Joy is lured to the fledging Sun Microsystems early enough to be considered a "founder". One of his tasks is to adapt his BSD for use on Sun's line of workstations. This modified version of BSD is christened "SunOS".

Early 1990s: Sun Microsystems decides to merge SunOS's BSD-derived codebase with AT&T's SVR4-derived codebase. While the post-merge UNIX base of their product continues to be called SunOS, the entire operating system (comprised of SunOS plus the GUI and a multitude of extra tools and utililties) is now marketed as "Solaris". (I'll avoid a rundown of the version numbering here. It's complicated.)

Early to mid 2000s: Sun begins the process of open-sourcing as much of Solaris as possible, an initiative that will culminate in the release of OpenSolaris, a binary distribution codenamed internally as "Project Indiana". The idea is that the work done on OpenSolaris by Sun engineers and the wider community will find its way into Solaris 11.0 (as undergirded by what will be known as SunOS 5.11).

Mid to late 2000s: OpenSolaris takes flight, only to have its wings clipped by muddled thinking and short-sighted decisions from the suits at Sun.  I guess that's why the men in the corner offices make the big bucks.

2010: Sun Microsystems is bought by Oracle. One of Oracle's first orders of business is to kill OpenSolaris. On an unforgivable note, Oracle decides that any updated versions of open source code created by the OpenSolaris community will henceforth become closed source. (Bryan Cantrill's rant on this is as epic as it is cathartic.) Meanwhile, some former Sun engineers (and other soon-to-be-disenfranchised members of the OpenSolaris community) have already seen this coming, and set about preparing the OpenIndiana project to ensure that the OpenSolaris codebase will continue to be maintained and improved independently of Oracle. (To make matters a little more confusing for those who don't eat, sleep and breathe this stuff, OpenIndiana, a full desktop OS, is shepherded by the illumos Project, which oversees the open source version of the SunOS 5.11 code, which is also used by other OpenSolaris distributions such as OmniOS, SmartOS and Tribblix.)

2013: The OpenIndiana project introduces "Hipster", its fast-moving development branch following a rolling-release model. This is where the latest OI and illumos stuff happens, though with the caveat that you can expect breakages every now and then due to things occuring at a full gallop. Users are advised to use the Legacy branch (151a8) for production purposes.

Some bumps on the road back


As for my own recent personal history, I'm now running Hipster for the first time in a few months, and so far it has been a very smooth experience after a previous one that was quite dodgy - I was unable to go to console mode and thus switch to an alternate desktop or window manager, and the screensaver would lock up if I didn't remember to at least jiggle the mouse every now and then.

After filing bug reports for both of those issues, I found wasn't able to upgrade from the 2015.10 iso to the newest build in order see if said bugs were fixed. Shortly after entering the upgrade commands (pfexec pkg refresh --full and pfexec pkg image-update -v), the process would halt with an error message reading "Segmentation Fault (core dumped)". Not cool.

And so I had spent the intervening months with a waning sense of enthusiasm for the project, thinking that perhaps it was in too much of an experimental state to be remotely useful for reliable daily use. A few days ago, however, I downloaded the newest iso (2016.04), hoping this cut would resolve my issues, only to find my ThinkPad T61p wouldn't even boot the live DVD. Waning enthusiasm was now turning to outright frustration at a system that I otherwise knew to be a jewel within the UNIX world.

What happened since then to turn the tide?

After the non-booting iso fiasco, I then noticed that other newly-burned iso images were also failing to boot, indicating there could be a hardware problem on my end. This lead me to think that perhaps I should retry upgrading from the bootable OI Hipster image already on hand. After installing from the DVD and trying to upgrade anew, I got the same error message noted above, but this time resolved to do some reading, and on the OI Hipster wiki saw that the package repository had changed since the 2015.10 iso. And so I changed from the old repository to the new one as follows:

# pfexec pkg unset-publisher openindiana.org
# pfexec pkg set-publisher -O http://pkg.openindiana.org/hipster openindiana.org

And wouldn't you know it, I was then able to upgrade to the latest build as of June 22. (I have since upgraded again, and am working from a build that is current as of two hours ago.) Upon checking that everything worked, I was finally able to close off the two delinquent bug reports.


The (open source) SunOS also rises


All-in-all, I am absolutely smitten with OpenIndiana Hipster, and am very pleasantly surprised by how polished it now seems compared to my previous experiences. I now have most of my favorite stuff installed, and am happy to report that with the upgrade from 2015.10, the Firefox version jumped from 24.something to 45.2.0. With this newer version, YouTube videos play on this machine with maximum smoothness, even in fullscreen mode.

Any complaints or issues I do have are as follows:

Support for Flash - My initial Google searches for Flash on OI Hipster are giving me a tension headache. I suppose it can be done, but I'll have to really dig in to make it happen.

Emacs not booting in GUI mode - I can start Emacs either in the console (i.e. without booting X11 first), or by entering emacs -nw in gnome-terminal. How am I supposed to play Snake? Very troubling, indeed.

gcc can't even compile hello.c - For some reason, dev/gcc doesn't recognize stdio.h, and so for now my longstanding mission to knuckle down and learn C programming will have to wait (for now). 

The above issues aren't insurmountable, and will surely result in some bug reports in my near future. Otherwise, OI Hipster is now a thing of beauty.