Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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“The Robin Hood of science”

In the ever-deepening shadow of the national surveillance state, a bright gem of a story.

Alexandra Elbakyan’s ingenious online resource Sci-Hub has broken the corporate stranglehold on worldwide access to science research.

Sci-Hub

Science writer Simon Oxenham reveals why and how this brilliant young neurotechnology researcher in Kazakhstan did it. Details here, on Big Think.

It’s an inspiring account of knowledge gathered, privatized – imprisoned, really, to exploit for profit – and now, thanks to Alexandra Elbakyan, set free.

A fragment: “Only days after the [New York District] court injunction blocked Sci-Hub’s old domain, Sci-Hub was back online at a new domain accessible worldwide. Since then, the website has been upgraded from a barebones site that existed entirely in Russian to a polished English version proudly boasting a library of 48 million [research] papers, complete with a manifesto in opposition to copyright law. The bird is out of its cage.”

In part 2, here, Simon Oxenham pays tribute to pioneering internet creator and activist Aaron Swartz, who was ultimately hounded to death in 2013 by the US government.

Fortunately, at least for now, Alexandra Elbakyan and Sci-Hub remain beyond its imperial reach.

To encounter other scientists who defy the status quo, check out Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science. Read excerpts here.


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Panic in the Palace

Update on that Wednesday protest in Belleville:

C51 protestors, Belleville

Conservative MP’s office calls police on C-51 protesters for singing and being “noisy”.

Best comment, from Gary Magwood: “Daryl’s office called the police because we were ‘disruptive’, we were ‘noisy,’ and – here’s the best part – we were distracting the office staff from attending to constituents’ concerns. Now don’t you love that for double-speak? Aren’t we constituents?”

Which is exactly why so many Canadians regard Bill C-51 and its authoritarian authors as a threat to national security.

After participating in the Belleville protest, I reported having mixed feelings, even doubts, about its value.

Now I have none.

 

 

 


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Went to a protest today

Against what: A new federal bill, C-51, which smooths the road toward a police state in Canada. The bill is currently winding its way through Parliament.

C 51 protest

Photo: Canadian Press

After protests across the country and from many sources, the ruling Conservative regime has made a show of amending the bill.  Like paint slapped on a rotting house, the proposed changes will have minimal impact on the bill’s nightmarish potential.

So, today’s protest.

Where: At the Belleville constituency office of Daryl Kramp, the local Member of Parliament. He’s a Conservative, ie a Northern Republican, and he’s chairing the committee currently sliding the bill through Parliament. Kramp was absent from the Belleville office today, being rather busy in Ottawa.

Who: 40 – 50 people from the area who are alarmed enough by what they’ve learned about this bill to protest it in public. The rally was called on short notice, in response to the proposed ‘amendments.’

After a few decades protesting a panorama of injustices, bigotry, stupidity, greed, crimes against the earth, abuse of power, state terror and such, at today’s protest I experienced a familiar mix of reactions:

I believe it’s crucial to be here, to inform the powerful that some of us see through their lies, and care enough to resist their schemes to the extent that we can. On the other hand, knowing how power is constructed, I suspect our resistance is too little, too late. On the other hand, it’s crucial that we be here. On the other hand…

This mix, and the gradual shedding of illusions over years, eventually led me to stop going to protests like this one.  But then I was grateful that some people took the trouble to organize it, and that other people bothered to show up on a bright spring afternoon in the middle of a week. But then I know well enough that the real decisions are made far from here, in cabinet rooms and board rooms, by sociopaths in suits, over lunch.

Even so, how can I justify staying home in my comfortable, safe little cave, pretending that I accomplish anything that matters simply by writing?  And who knows what effect each of these acts of resistance might have?  The arrogant managers would have us believe they are oblivious to our protests, and nothing we do will make any difference.  But when they lie about practically everything else, why not about this, too?  Wouldn’t things be that much worse if we left them to their own devices?

It’s a dilemma.

What do you think?

 

 


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Whole food for free-range minds in Winnipeg: a reminder

Wednesday, March 25

1:30 pm.  Bold Scientists, a talk at the University of Winnipeg.  Room 5L25, Department of Geography, Lockhart Hall.  Map.

7:30 pm.  Bold Scientists, a talk at the McNally-Robinson bookstore, Grant Park, 1120 Grant Avenue.  In the Travel alcove.  Map.

Pass it on.

 cropped-bold-scientists-front-cover8.jpg


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Bold Scientists in Winnipeg

Wednesday, March 25

1:30 pm.  Michael Riordon at the University of Winnipeg.  Room 5L25, Department of Geography, Lockhart Hall.  Map.

7:30 pm.  Michael Riordon at the McNally-Robinson bookstore, Grant Park, 1120 Grant Avenue.  In the Travel alcove.  Map.

Unspun science for dangerous times.

BTL BS poster, U of Winnipeg, March 2015


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‘A historic victory’: The internet is ours

“We did it! The FCC just voted to stop the slow lane!”

Internet slowdown protest

This is good news. It’s amazing news.

“The stakes couldn’t have been higher. With so many websites based in the US, the future of the entire Internet hung in the balance.”

A year ago, the open internet looked doomed. The huge bully corporations that monopolize cable and wireless provision announce plans for a two-speed internet: fast for those who could pay, slow – very slow – for the rest of us.

The Federal Communications Commission, responsible for overseeing such things, is not noted for favouring public over corporate interests. Its current chair, Tom Wheeler, is a venture capitalist and former head lobbyist for both the cable and wireless industries, which worked hard behind closed doors and spent lavishly to ensure their stranglehold on the internet.

Erupting in May 2014, a small resistance grew quickly into a multi-faceted, finely coordinated international public campaign, eventually engaging more than 5 million people in protecting our internet. It worked.

On February 26 the FCC commissioners voted 3 – 2 (close, but good enough) to keep the internet open. The details are here (same story, two variations):

Outraged, the bully corps leapt immediately to sue the government, and right-wingers in the US Congress obediently set about sabotaging the historic ruling. Of course.

But still, for now, we can celebrate. This is a rare victory for open communication, equity and freedom of speech.

In Canada, OpenMedia.ca led the campaign, one of many on their docket. This small but formidable grassroots organization is independent, creative and vital.

For more on what’s at stake, check out Bold Scientists, chapter 6, The Cloud.

(Image: popsugar.com)


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Bold Scientists in Toronto: Exercise your Freedom to Read *

cropped-bold-scientists-front-cover8.jpgTuesday, February 24, 1 – 3 pm.  Michael Riordon at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, north of Bloor.  Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium, ground floor, right-hand side of the building, back corner.  More detail hereMap here.

Wednesday, February 25, 7 – 10 pm. Michael Riordon at Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham Street, one minute west of the Bathurst subway stop on the Bloor line (Markham Street exit).  More detail hereMap here.

* February 22 – 28, 2015: Celebrate and defend Freedom to Read (and think, and speak, and share ideas….)

Great minds don’t think alike. They think differently.   Bring yours.