Seth Woolley's Blog

Occasional Musings

amtrak feedback(0)

November 2, 2006

I arrived at Jack London Square at 9:24 for the late 527 San Jose train that was supposed to come at (estimated on-line when I left my apartment at 9:04am) 9:29.   At 9:29 a train showed up, but was labeled Sacramento (error 1).

No arrival announcement was made on the reader board in the waiting area outside (error 2).

No arrival announcement was made orally by station attendants (error 3).

No arrival announcement was made orally by the 527 (error 4) conductors despite their train being labeled 518 to sacramento (which I didn't realize was wrong and was from hours before until I checked the schedule).

The reader board continued to say that 527 was "delayed" for twenty minutes after the train left and included no arrival time in the delay notices before and after the train's actual arrival (error 5)!

The train showed up and left without me because no indication had been made that it was my train!

I've been doing this same exact commute daily since September 1 with monthly passes.  The price just went up five percent for the pass and now I get even less value out of it to the tune of another five percent (one day in twenty work days is totally messed up).

I can't assume that southbound trains are the correct train for a few reasons.  Trains other than my own show up late and out of order that are originating at okj or are continuing to oac and stopping or turning around.  The okj trains are few.  When I miss an okj train I have to wait hours for the next one.  The next one wasn't until the afternoon.

I bike nine miles a day for this commute and am a strong advocate of public transit.  For two years I was State Secretary of the Oregon Pacific Green Party, was on the Coordinating Committee for another two years, and was a local chapter secretary for another two years.  I helped run candidates whose platforms were to subsidize public transit for positions ranging from governor to senate to transit district representatives.

I even work at a company that's responsible for many of the multi-modality routing systems available and navigation systems you'd find in everything from cell phones to websites.  They even subsidize my train ticket through reimbursing most of the cost.

My faith in public transit will never waver, however, it's not my faith you should be concerned about.  I can excuse the lateness due to freight traffic since I know freight has priority on the Union Pacific lines ever since we privatized and subsidized the private train industry to the point of granting them human rights in the Southern Pacific v. Santa Clara decision the 1880s.

But, if conductors, station agents, and other employees are simply unable to do a crucial part of their job all at once, public transit is not feasible.

A system where people are irresponsible in assuming "somebody else" will communicate the proper train signage is not way to ensure train travel is usable.  All parts of the system should be working to high degrees of efficiency so that when the fallback communication methods are needed they fall into place and actually work.  If only half the time each component works, In riding the train over eighty times, assuming an equal distribution of error, a five factor redundancy system such that you have would require the probability of each component working to be around 58.37%.  Almost half the time, each part fails to participate. 58.37% is an F grade.  In reality train signage is almost never wrong.  The times it is wrong, I've seen once on bart, and a couple times on amtrak.  Thus the probability for the other contributing error events to happen is even higher, on the order of most of the time.

As I'm a participative individual, I expect a response on what corrective action has been taken to ensure that the probability that each element of the communication system works.  Personally, I think most of the problem can be attributed to the conductors simply not paying attention to their own train's signage and taking corrective action, however I'm at a loss to understand why all the other signage was void of information that could have given a hint that the train that was at the station was actually the 527 train.

If an expert and non-disabled user such as myself can't get on the correct train, what are we also to do about disabled people?

I look forward to your response and I am willing to help craft a solution that can improve service to the point that an error such as this is simply intractable.  There may have been a systemic problem that can be remedied that caused the cluster of errors to form, but I'd have to have detailed knowledge of how the communications infrastructure works to correct it.  I am curious to learn more so that I can assist the board and authority to come to a realistic solution to improve service.

Seth Woolley's Blog politics reallife

roger williams and his bloody tenent of persecution(0)

Quote

The Church or company of worshippers (whether true or false) is like unto a . . . Corporation, Society or Company . . . in London; which Companies may hold their Courts, keep their Records, hold disputations; and in matters concerning their Societie, may dissent, divide, breake into Schismes and Factions, sue and implead each other at the Law, yea wholly breake up and dissolve into pieces and nothing, and yet the peace of the Citie not be in the least measure impaired or disturbed; because the essence or being of the Citie, and so the well-being and peace thereof is essentially distinct from those particular Societies; the Citie-Courts, Citie-Lawes, Citie-punishments distinct from theirs. The Citie was before them, and stands absolute and intire, when such a Corporation or Societie is taken down.

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions4.h\
tml

Essay

In 1644, Roger Williams wrote his famous tract, the Bloody Tenent of Persecution.  In it, he argues, from analogy, that, the success of the corporate model should be applied to religions, and religions should be made subject to the state and civil authorities as corporations are.  The church should no longer have domain over the state.  Religions should rise and fall and that should be of no consequence to the state.

But, let us note, that back then, corporations _were_ subjects of the state (See http://www.ratical.org/corporations/TCoBeij.html ).  Corporate charters, until 1886, in the United States, with the Santa Clara decision ( http://www.mcn.org/e/iii/afd/santaclara.html ), were granted by the authority of the state and had no rights except those granted upon review of the state.

It is ironic now that Santa Clara would be the battle ground for corporate personhood as it was.  I take the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific) tracks via amtrack on my daily commute to San Jose, through Santa Clara, from Oakland.  Furthermore, the Santa Clara station is called "Great America", and ... as lofty as that sounds, it's just a small platform underneath a city street overpass.

With that decision, and the power of corporations to aggregate wealth, the people of the United States lost its sovereignty.  The largest corporations are now bigger than most countries.  Those corporations, while identical in every respect to any other country and human, are distinct in only one way: they have no sovereign land of their own.  They may own land and obtain private property, but they may not set the laws on the land that it purchases which are sovereign of other countries.

Still, this is a small token of restriction when you look at the massive power that corporations have to control government policy.  Because corporations are considered people, they have the right to plead their cases in courts, and have standing as a human, to sue a human (not just another corporation, or within the limits of their corporate charter).  Their rights transcend any charter.  Their charters are drafted by the members and wholly ignored by the state, unless, by chance, a member of the corporation itself presses violations of their charter.

Perhaps what we need to do is completely separate the corporate religion from politics, as Roger Williams expected in his diatribe against the corporate analogy -- churches intertwined with the state.  We should forbid it all access to our state political system, as is the great bargain with the churches.  We can even eliminate all their filing taxes for this bargain, as we also did with Churches -- but they must not be allowed to violate laws or we shall seek charter revocation.  Corporations are unique in that they are like humans, but vastly more powerful.  If we are ever to contain their corruptions and nepotisms, we have to triumph over hundreds of dead mens' fortunes, through their family political funds, and erect a wall of separation between corporation and state.

If we eliminated the taxes, we could eliminate all intermediary holdings that a corporation could accumulate, not through taxes, but by considering all its holdings the divided property of its shareholders.  By returning to a full liability system, we can clean the perversions of justice that corporations, typically large and aggregated ones, routinely exhibit.

Who thought up the limited liability system, anyways?  Why did we legalize running away with the corporate money?  When did we legalize fronts for criminals to organize their crimes?  It's not a conscious decision that we make.  It's a political decision, and we'll never attain any visions of these proposals unless and until a progressive majority chooses to enact them.  Why did we do a mere right-turn with regard to persection and decide that the better vehicle was the corporation instead of religion to spill the blood?

I don't think we ever did.  It took an activist court in the 1880s to give rich, white Republicans their free meal tickets to money.  Perhaps now it's time to rally the activist people to tell the courts to give us back our personal and democratic sovereignty over what we have demonstrated can become of the concept of the limited liability corporation with human rights.  Let's choose to abolish corporate personhood.

Seth Woolley's Blog politics

dns blacklists, spam control, and net neutrality(0)

Critique

On four occassions in the past month I've sent email and had it bounce back due to DNS blacklists (most specifically SORBS) since I send email from a cable modem range.  These four instances were:

  • A university in Greece, while sending email to a professor.
  • A university in the Czech Republic, another to a professor.
  • A smaller email service provider to another Source Mage developer.
  • A custom email service provider in Portland.  I re-sent the email from another account, but received no reply as well.

What particularly disturbs me is that these methods have not merely decided to block based on a series of factors, but on an entire class of users.  The whole debate about a neutral net has broken down with the email system.  Users who can administer their own boxes have no way out of the blacklist, even by request, from SORBS.  SORBS, thus, exists only to serve corporate interests who want to Balkanize the web into classes of "pay extra" and "users who shall have no democratizing force".

If a user wants to use a blacklist, that's fine.  But most of these people having their email blacklisted have no idea what is going on.

More thoughts on blacklists can be found here:

http://www.faqs.org/ftp/internet-drafts/draft-church-dnsbl-harmful-01\
.txt

Example

In one case, I was attempting to notify the person of a security vulnerability in some of their code.  Since the IT department of the university is responsible for this blacklisting and they are also directly responsible for the security of said network and I have no way to communicate with them, I will simply publish the results for all to see here:

http://swoolley.org/man.cgi/man

Read the first paragraph -- how it points out that arguments containing a / are interpreted as files.  My manual page viewer does not have this problem because I knew man had this behavior.

http://www.softlab.ntua.gr/cgi-bin/man-cgi?man

Oddly, no mention is made in the above manual.

Exploit

http://www.softlab.ntua.gr/cgi-bin/man-cgi?/etc/passwd

So we can do something like the above url -- since he had no idea it did that, despite this package being a rewrite.

I sent the author an email notifying of this, but, SORBS blacklisted my email.  Thanks to SORBS, you all have first-disclosure.

Seth Woolley's Blog politics security

can capitalism save the environment?(0)

Critique

homelandstupidity.us has a June 2 article up about capitalism and the environment.  (No link provided because I have a policy of not linking to blogs collecting ad revenue.)  I left this comment there as a critique:

It takes a certain level of ignorance to presume that if we put environmental protection in the hands of an unrestricted monetary system that somebody who wants the land for externalizing destruction and internalizing profits wouldn't pay the highest price for it given the short-term economic gain that can be had in a single lifetime versus the long-term economic gain that would be required for unbridled dollarism to actually value conservation.

Land we would like to preserve will always have some resources that can be privatized, used, and destroyed -- that is until said resource extraction has completed its continuing course of self-destruction.

Not that the limited success highlighted in the article only describes an accidental niche whose time will expire the moment development takes an interest in the other resources on the land.

However, if we actually decided to internalize the cost of lost resources by charging for the extraction of resources at the same rate used to replace the resource, we might actually have a monetary system that would work, but no libertarian would ever support such a system of full-cost accounting.  If they did, they'd be a member of the Green Party who already supports such taxes.  These taxes could eliminate sales and income taxes in most places.  Enforcement could be localized and trade could be allowed based on calculating in the costs of exploiting comparative advantage, as well, with those countries that have no such legal framework.  Natural efficiencies would develop, natural trade routes would open, and people would be paying <em>actual</em> costs, with the help of a market system.

Instead what I hear is that economic progress would come to a halt and even retrograde if we actually internalized ecological costs.  I only see that as a tacit admission that the capitalistic system couldn't cope with sustainability, and it only drives those who care about the environment into socialism.

Can capitalism be reformed to internalize losses to the public welfare?  Perhaps it can, but it won't through the current libertarian ideology of socializing risk and destruction and privatizing profits.  This article completely misses that mark.

Seth Woolley's Blog politics

AJAX to Balkanize the web(0)

Essay

I've written on AJAX previously, so you are aware of my stance on AJAX, but my fears of balkanization are coming to fruition.

Take for example, Gates' recent memos on Web 2.0.  Microsoft is finally deciding that they can not only leverage their use of a web browser throughout their own products on a client workstation install, but they can turn Microsoft Office into a web service.

Why is this significant?  Because before AJAX, there was literally no reason to enable javascript in a browser.  Now software providers are finding more and more ways to make it a requirement.  Instead of thin services relying upon the basic CGI process, we'll have thick (in terms of bandwidth) services that will be ever so uselessly interactive.  Bandwidth requirements go up, computing power needs on the client go up, more Intel Processors ship, the ISPs justify running more and more bandwidth to homes, thick xml-based protocols promulgate, and all the corporations are happy.

Why is this bad for us?

First, it's bad because the developing world is not going to catch up to the system requirements any time soon.  The developing world is thus not able to afford the thick clients and pipes needed for an AJAX-based Web 2.0.

Second, As more and more services are required to be download-based, asymmetry continues to develop in the ISP's motivation to deliver bandwidth to end users.  Upload prices will remain high as they reap large rewards from corporations that desire to be in on the Web 2.0 world that they develop.  Download bandwidth prices drop, but the only parties able to deliver the content will be corporations.

Thus the Web 2.0, far from being the democratic medium it was supposed to be, becomes fractured by ever-growing bandwidth and clock cycle differentiation.  Peer-to-peer systems and other democratic forms of communication become more and more unfeasable as the asymmetry between download and upload speed continues to grow.  Web 2.0 becomes more broadcast-based and less peer-to-peer.  Democracy flounders.

So, how do we combat this?  Well, I have a few ides.  Content providers who care can pursue the following policies:

First, they should continue to provide standards-compliant and accessibility-driven websites that follow core protocols and ignore implementing core utility features in javascript.  The semantic web is not a javascript world.  The W3C, the IETF, nor any working group of the Internet Society did not standardize ECMAscript/javascript.  ECMA did.  ECMA is essentially clueless on policy decisions.

Second, instead of making crazy, proprietary thick-clients that only use part of the standards stack, we should continue to stick to W3C-based protocols such as XHTML, CSS, and XSTL.  I believe the free software community has done a pretty good job with this, especially in regard to open documentation and document formats.

Third, instead of promulgating arbitrary XML schemas, we need to ensure that the XML schemas are well-documented.  Microsoft, for example releases completely undocumented XML schemas.  Some free software projects also have a problem with this, in that they are all documented in implementation, but they have no formal documentation that third party developers can use to develop against while expecting stability.

Fourth, if you have to use AJAX, make sure that it's got a very good reason, that it is accessibility-friendly, and that it's well-documented such that people can easily write accessible interfaces to the XML to present it using ones own scripts.

By following some simple guidelines (more are welcome), we can make sure Web 2.0 doesn't Balkanize the Internet into the content-providers and content-consumers, undemocratically.  Why will we prevail?  Because the very existince of these alternatives allows the continued interconnectedness of under-interconnected populaces.  With an alternative system provided, people will have a choice of participating in either system freely, and once the infrastructure is in place, created by free software and the cooperation of developing countries' governments to fund cheap, mass hardware deployments (hopefully enabled by the rejection of foreign patents) the content classes can create their private networks without risking the destruction of the public commons already created.

That still leaves only one major trick we have to perform: the democratization of ideas through the rejection of software and trivial hardware patents.  Software patents and absurd hardware patent enforcement will eliminate all the rosiness of my outlook and allow the content producers to monopolize, through a government-enforced monopoly, all the technologies that would have allowed the democracy of ideas to flourish.

Seth Woolley's Blog politics webdevel

Portland Business Journal Survey(0)

Survey

http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/bol_survey/survey.html?survey_id=\
3089

Business Pulse: Should government expand the use of tax incentives?

As global competition heats up, should government expand the use of tax incentives to entice companies to relocate or expand here?

Should the government expand the use of tax credits? "No."

Comment

Absolutely no, let the small businesses have a chance.  Giving our tax incentives to companies to relocate is a bad game theoretic solution.  Giving tax incentives to comanies already here to stay here is also a bad game theoretic solution.  Putting a tax on "profit leaving" (but not exchange money) and "luxury and finished goods entering" (but not purchases intended as components) the governmental jurisdiction are incentives that can help reinvigorate our local economy and increase our production to the point that we can become an economic powerhouse.

In short, we should expand the use of taxes, not tax credits -- our social services are already too underfunded than they need to be, and economic activity in the upper classes is enough to sustain us so long as we tax it (by not eliminating capital gains taxes and shifting taxes away from payroll -- as payroll funds are the main driver of economic sustainability).  Increasing profits that are already acting as enough of an incentive gives a lower marginal utility than increasing the ability of people to actually purchase economic goods.

Businesses that are too unethical and that desire even more profits than they need to be sustainable should simply not be allowed to flourish.  The right is the pursuit of happiness, not consumptive excess.

Seth Woolley's Blog politics

fsweblog updates and a forest protest(0)

Update

So, I've done some hacking on fsweblog, here, and, so far, I've changed how I refer to the filesystem times so that you can see both status change and file modification times (ctime and mtime), added a regular expression searching system, and did a few tweaks here and there to my blog style to make it work well in IE.

No, I'm not going to make a web front end to posting.  The shell is the way things should be done.  However, I might add a way to auto-update the .plan file for fingerd to respond to.

Vacation

Secondly, I thought I should mention what I did over the Fourth of July Weekend.  On Friday, I took a biodiesel bus (it's actually a regular bus but filled with biodiesel, as no mods are actually needed if you're using filtered and refined biodiesel) named "COOL" that a couple of my friends bought on credit cards for using on logging protests.  This group known as "Back 2 the WALL" reformed after the original WALL (Witness Against Lawless Logging).  WALL was formed out of the now famous Salvage Rider that Clinton signed in 1996.

After numerous lawsuits challenging salvage legality on particulars and environmental laws, much of the forests were enjoined and protected, and some normalcy came back to the forests after lots of tree sits and civil disobedience delayed logging on national forest lands while the Roadless Areas soon gained some sort of protection as well under Clinton.

Then Bush was selected, and WALL reinvented itself as B2TW ( http://www.orwildlife.org/wall.htm ).  Bush made cutting down national forests (public land) a priority, and used the Brown and Biscuit fires to showcase his new "forestry management" plan that was guised as a fire management plan.

What most people may not realize is that in Oregon (especially Southern and Eastern), forest fires are quite common and serve to clear underbrush.  In a mature forest, there's a top canopy that prevents fires from burning as intensely and the tree bark is often thick enough to avoid tree death.  Also, they tend to burn in a "mosaic" pattern, getting spots here and there, and not completely devastating the area.

What Bush's forestry plan does is throw out the window all forestry science and declare all burned areas fit for "salvage" because he considers anything uncut as money to the logging industry (his constituents) -- nevermind that this is not land they own, it's land that belongs to all of us and is reserved for public use for all, not private profit for some.

The Bush Administration, through the National Forest Service (which is basically a front for the logging industry as most people hired into it are there for the purpose of selling off national forests), declared the 2002 and 2003 fire salvages in Oregon "an emergency" in seeking to get the logs cut before judicial review could proceed under the claim that "rot" would set in and "damage profits".

However, talk to any student of environmental science and they tell you that the process of dead trees rotting keeps the soil nutrients in the ecosystem.  By taking logs out and using only one kind of tree, they do a number of fatal actions to the ecosystem.  First, as any agricultural scientist knows, they are removing certain nutrients from the soil that other plants can provide, but the natural ecosystem is prevented from providing it.  In agricultural science, chemicals and toxins are used to regulate nutrients.  Forests cannot and should not have this done to them -- for one, since they tend to not be in flat lands, it's very difficult on the soil and nature to use them, and fertilizers are often made out of petroleum products.  A natural ecosystem will have, for example, a complete nitrogen cycle.  In unnatural environments, they tend to complete the nitrogen using shipped-in nitrogen products.

Another one of the worst things that can happen to a forest ecology is erosion.  This is accomplished by the sheer act of cutting, burning slag, and road building.  One of the keys to the forest is existing logging roads.  The Bush Administration loves the idea that they can start logging in a burned mosaic and justify further timber sales outside of the burned area.  In fact, loggers can take "green trees" from a salvage just by felling a brown tree onto it.  The additional damage that roads do is that they prevent wildlife from traveling, as big game tend to keep their distance from large roads.

Well, I should get to the point.  On Friday, see, I went to a logging protest on 8-mile road on highway 199 near Grant's Pass, Oregon.  The Thursday night before we arrived from Stumptown (Portland) and camped out with a bunch of Earth First! activists ( http://cascadiarising.org/ ) at a local State Park.  From there, in the morning, we visited the Forest Service headquarters in Grant's Pass and met up with the 40' tour bus owned by the Oxygen Collective ( http://www.o2collective.org/ ).  After a short protest of the extension of the road closure (to all except logging trucks) covered by the local television media, we tried to get a permit to go witness the logging happening.  After that was denied, we went up to the road closure line in our biodiesel busses.  Since a roadblock was setup, it made it hard to do anything, so the guard was talked into letting some people walk in, however, since the site was so many miles up the hill, it was done symbolically, for a few hundred yards, to protest the constitutionality of the closure (it's being challenged in federal court, currently).

After that, we went a mile down to the Illinois River, went skinny-dipping, and had lunch.

Later that weekend, I went to a Croquet party with a few local Pacific Green Party members, and yesterday talked with Joe Rowe regarding his work on the local Pacific Green Party database and how it can be integrated with the state party database.

Seth Woolley's Blog bloginfo politics