The Fifth HOPE conference (HOPE stands for Hackers Of Planet Earth) was held this weekend, here in New York and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend 2 of the 3 days. Though I’ve known about this conference for years, this is the first time I have been able to attend.

The panels were enlightening as well as entertaining. Speakers ranged from Steve Wozniak to Jello Biafra to Kevin Mitnick. In addition to the speakers, there were a number of workshops and panel discussions. There were public terminals available to the attenddees and some very cool tee shirts, magazines, and other paraphenalia. A number of organizations were represented, such as Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

All of these people and events were brought together by 2600 Magazine and Emanuel Goldstein (an alias pulled from George Orwell’s 1984). Emmanuel Goldstein should be given much credit (as well as ALL the staff who helped put the conference together. Especially notable was the security staff who were couteous and helpful throughout the 2 days I was there and probably on Friday too).

Speaking of Orwell’s 1984, that was the theme graphically. Large banners portraying big brother were hung in the main halls and smaller posters warned of being watched.

The attendees were uniquely courteous crowd and often I overheard offers of help and questions being answered. I have to admit it made me feel better knowing that there are still so many who value knowledge, exploration, and constitutional rights. My only regret is that I was not able to attend any of the previous conferences.


I was talking with a reporter friend the other day and I asked if said reporter had seen Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 yet (BTW, I found out that it has finally opened in the UK as of yesterday). Her response surprised me. She said she had not seen it, and that she didn’t like viewing or reading things that were so one sided. I had a talk with another person earlier in the week who said he wouldn’t see the film because he hated Michael Moore.

I was surprised by the reporter’s response because it seems to me ttat whether or not she agrees with the point of view, it would be her job to know what this phenomenon is actually about as opposed to what others say it is about. The film is of such magnitude that people refer to it as simply “Fahrenheit” now. i.e. have you seen Fahrenheit? Both she and the other person I talked to have already decided that they will not see the film. So I got to wondering, why. Okay, so the second person said he hates Michael Moore. Not the films Moore makes, but Michael Moore… as a person… someone he doesn’t know. The only conclusion I can make is that he says that he doesn’t like Michael Moore he’s not talking about his grooming habits (or is he?). He’s really saying he doesn’t like Moore’s politics. The reporter seemed to be saying the same thing but preferred not to reveal her political leanings and that somehow by going to this movie she would be confronted with information she’d rather not deal with.

My contention is that these are people who will not be swayed by anything negative about the Bush administration because they will not allow anything in, that contradicts their beliefs. There is a a fear that by viewing the movie, they will lose all sense of their own beliefs and be converted by Moore’s beliefs. They fear(2) they will be hopelessly lost in the land of propoganda. And fear(3), after all, is what the Bush administration uses to keep people in line as evidenced by Homeland Security maven Tom Ridge, the other day when he announced a new terror alert that conveniently vied for attention in the news with the announcement of a Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party:

Ridge said that in addition to elaborate security plans for the political conventions this summer in Boston and New York, officials are weighing how to protect polling places come November.

(Get it! Don’t go near the polling places, folks. They might blow up!). Alas, many are so engulfed in fear that they could almost be considered lost souls. There will be no convincing or persuading them. Perhaps they will follow eventually, but anger is not the answer to trying to change their minds. Nor Logic

on drug companies

A friend of mine passed on this article from the New York Review of Books on drug companies. I haven’t finished reading it myself, but here’s an excerpt from it:

In fact, year after year, for over two decades, this industry has been far and away the most profitable in the United States. (In 2003, for the first time, the industry lost its first-place position, coming in third, behind “mining, crude oil production,” and “commercial banks.”) The prices drug companies charge have little relationship to the costs of making the drugs and could be cut dramatically without anywhere close to threatening R&D.

Interesting, don’t you think(?), that oil and banks should supplant the pharmaceuticals during the Bush administration. These drug companies are really global entitities according to the article, so there’s plenty of blame to go around. The article also makes the point that:

In 2001, nearly one in four seniors reported that they skipped doses or did not fill prescriptions because of the cost. (That fraction is almost certainly higher now.)


I just saw one of the most powerful movies that I have ever seen in my lifetime. I avoided the opening night crowds on Friday and the weekend, and met my wife after a doctor’s appointment for a 2pm show. 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon and it was totally filled (including the seats in the very front). If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about Fahrenheit 9/11.

If you have a right wing relative or loved one who proclaims it’s all propaganda, ask them if they’ve seen it. Ask them to see it and then discuss it with you. It is so easy to understand why it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. It’s powerful, powerful film making.

There are times in which it seems to drag but that’s when we are being given dry information. So understand that I am not saying it is a perfect film, but it is extremely well done. Perhaps it is because I live in NYC, but one of the opening scene in which the audience is not shown the World Trade Center being hit, but hears all the sounds, is one of the most powerful moments in cinema.

If you have not seen it yet, run… very fast, to the nearest theater showing it. You won’t be sorry.

unskilled and ignorant

From the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1999)

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

hmmmm…… now where does this apply?

Fahrenheit 9/11

I just finished readng an interview of Michael Moore, documentary filmmaker and creator of the about to be released film, Fahrenheit 9/11 by Matt Lauer. Lauer is a TV personality here in the states. As you can see, the tone of the interview is pretty assaultive.

It seems the extreme right is already in attack mode even though the film has not even been released yet. The same people who brought us the demonstrations in Florida to not count all the votes are now bringing us an organization called “Move America Forward.” If you’re wonder (as I did) who these people are, there is a very interesting exchange reported at Pacific Views: RM R and Move America Forward.

Alternet has a thorough assessment of the right wing attack machine and this issue in particular, with some background material.

I remember

It’s been weeks since my last post. No excuses. Just didn’t feel like typing. A lot has happened since my absence, including the deaths of Ronald Reagan and Ray Charles.

The Reagan thing, was very interesting. I’ve never seen such a love fest in the “mainstream” media here in the states. It’s almost as if they had totally forgotten everything negative about the man and painted this picture of a saint. That is not the Ronald Reagan I remember. I remember his arguing that ketchup is a vegetable for school kids, I remember people losing jobs and big blocks of cheese. I remember his comments about the homeless choosing to be so. I remember the invasion of Grenada. I remember thinking that if you were rich it was a great time, but if you were middle or lower class you were in trouble. I remember a huge US deficit. But hey,… That’s what I remember.

Meanwhile, Ray Charles has died as well. I remember songs like “Hit The Road Jack,” “Busted,” “America, The Beautiful,” and even a ditty by the Beatles called “Eleanor Rigby.” I remember that Ray Charles sang all types of songs from R&B to Country to whatever. That was the nature of his genius. He wasn’t bound by any categories and he was good at whatever he attempted. I’m sure he has had some flops during his time, we all have (… even Reagan). I remember seeing him in concert and his stopping the band from playing (in the middle of a song) because they weren’t keeping up with him. He scolded the band right there on stage and then started over. My understanding is that he was not an easy man to get along with.

The easy going guy and the hard to get along with guy. Your choice.

An Addendum

a thinking person’s quiz

I was reading The Republic of T the other day and came across a link to this Christian Science Monitor “test” for determining what your political stance is. The test is called the Neocon Quiz, but will actually drop you into one of four categories:

• Isolationist
• Liberal
• Realist
• Neoconservative

Be forwarned, that this is not a quick test (though it’s only one page). I had to read the options through a few times to choose one that fit my thoughts on any particular matter. Also, note that the questions deal mostly with international affairs.