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Religion(s) Of Peace

January 11th, 2015 Comments off

As France deals with the suspects of the Charlie Hebdo attack I found myself reminded of a piece I wrote immediately after the bombing of The Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 .

I considered just reposting that link and then I read Ted Landau’s two great pieces in response to that attack and some of the underlying issues.

Ted is somebody whose writing I’ve read and sporadically corresponded with since the early nineteen nineties and have enjoyed spending time with at Macworld Expo over the years. I’d like to call him a friend but that might be two presumptuous.

You should read them:

Paris shooting and “extremist groups”

Giving religion the respect it deserves

He wrote his posts with far less overt rage than the one I wrote immediately after the attack on The Boston Marathon and he did it with the skills of the professional writer that he is and I’m not.

That said, his measured and artfully expressed words got me thinking even more and actually got me angrier. Mostly angry at myself for my lack of courage.

Even in the original post, I censored myself. Not just with splat-characters in lieu of curse words but by being oblique and never using the word ‘religion’.

It’s wrong that I should be cowed into timidity about that word when I speak publicly. It’s wrong that I’m afraid my comments, angry, surely, but in no way directed or even meant as an attack on any single group would jeopardize my ability to earn a living or worse.

So, I’ll not mince words now.

If your lunatic fringe commits crime in the name of your faith, your first job is not to try to tell me “we’re not all like that.” That claim deserves no air time while the murder continues. Your first job is prove it not claim it and in the claiming make the rage about their behavior seem an injustice to your innocent belief system. Your belief system is only above reproach when you can unambiguously show your entire community has effectively condemned the actions of those who do violence in professed support of your ideals.

There is no way any of these extremist groups could get the traction (money, weapons, training etc.) they are without at least the tacit approval of the more moderate majority within their own communities.  This is true whether it’s Catholics not forcing the Vatican to bring abusive priests to justice, American Jews and Christian Fundamentalists supporting Israeli military aggression, Mormons not trying to ‘save the souls’ of others with baptism by proxy and in so doing, co-opting their memory, Muslims not organizing to present their Al-Qaeda or ISIL fringe to justice.

Every single major religion, yes, even Buddhists, have had a violent fringe claiming they’re acting on behalf of the religious cause. If you are a practitioner of a particular faith, your first job is to stop your lunatic fringe. Manage that first then we can talk about how ‘you’re religion is about peace’.

Clean your own house first.

With all that said, those quick to fly the ‘Je suis Charlie’ flag should perhaps look into the legacy of that publication as well. It’s not so simple as ‘they published satirical cartoons depicting Muhammad and suffered violence for it’. There has been a history of anti-Semitic (a term which the reader should note actually includes, among others, both Arabs and Jews), anti-Catholic and, damned near anti-every-other-damned-thing editorial cartoons from Charlie Hebdo for quite some time. None of this is to say the violence was remotely justified. None of this is to say Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t have every right to offend anyone they chose to with satire. The point goes right to the core of this update and the original post. Don’t be so quick to align yourself with a cause or a group without knowing what your flying their flag may say about you.

I’ll share a quote that does a pretty good job of summing up my feelings on the matter by way of apology for my prior lack of courage:

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” – Salman Rushdie

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A first and premature reaction to the Boston Marathon Bombing

April 15th, 2013 No comments

Let me say first that, mere hours after the fact, we still have no idea who was responsible for the bombings of the Boston Marathon today. It would be not only stupid but destructive to make any assumptions about motive or responsible parties. That said, I’m utterly enraged and history suggests, that whether group or individual, this was an act intended to make some political point.

There is no political point that justifies a deliberate attack intended specifically to injure and terrorize civilians.

So, knowing nothing of the agenda of the perpetuator, I’m going to express the following politically incorrect opinion in public and be held accountable for it if you disagree.

Here’s the deal. If you number yourself a member of a group, political or religious or whatever shared banner you wave , you no longer are allowed to say to me “That’s just the crazy fringe.” until you have demonstrated loud and committed effort to fix the lunatic fringe who claim your banner first.

If you’re a ‘Flamboozian’ don’t you #$%^&ing dare tell me after somebody claiming to be a Flamboozian shoots up a school, flies a plane into a building, burns a cross on somebody’s lawn, sets off bombs blowing up a Federal building, disrupts a family’s funeral or sets explosives to maim and kill civilians during a public gathering that you’re the ‘real’ Flamboozian not them.

Don’t you dare talk about your fellow Flamboozian’s years of oppression. Don’t you dare try to say that “the book we follow doesn’t say to do that” . Don’t you dare look to me for sympathy for how your reputation is tarnished until you can point to a track record of calling out the fringe among your own first.

Until you can show courageous opposition, first and foremost, to your own fellow Flamboozian’s extremism you are hereby invited to shut the %^&* up about how you’re not like them.

Until you do that, take responsibility for dealing with your own lunatic fringe, you may consider yourself part of the problem.

The moment we begin to take responsibility for the behavior of people who nominally agree with us and hold them to a higher standard because they profess to represent us, then we’ve begun to take power back from the edge and begin to be able to negotiate compromise.

 

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Apple Tax My Eye

August 27th, 2012 No comments

If you read the WSJ and NYT and a few other sites with paywalled content I won’t link to, you’ll hear about the ‘fear of an Apple tax’. The idea is that, because Apple won the lawsuit, Samsung and others will have to pay Apple to license patents and the cost of your phones will go up.  The anti-Apple angst in this argument  is absurd on it’s face because:

1) Apple pays license fees to Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and countless others who have IP in the wireless telecom business now as part of the price of every chip they buy.

2) Apple pays a “Samsung Tax” now because Apple buys components from Samsung that Samsung makes a tidy profit from selling to Apple. It’s naive and childish to imagine the idea that any product as complex as a smart phone isn’t already ‘taxed’ in a very tangled web. You may say Apple’s IP will be additive but even if it is, it’s just so much noise below much louder signal.

3) The patents in question are not difficult to work around at all, that is unless you want to make product that looks and feels like an iPhone.

Beyond this Apple Tax hogwash is a segment of the internet’s population that wants to make Apple the villain and Google the great ‘Open Source Savior Of Our Freedom’.  They loathe Apple, they want to make Apple a villain that goes and whines to the courts. They cite history they don’t understand to paint Apple poorly.

Unfortunately the only legitimate thing they can cling to as proof of Apple’s evil is the infamous quote:

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

“I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.” - Steve Jobs Via Walter Isaacson

Well fine, be mad at Steve for his typical tone. When you’ve been in any kind of meeting where there is a multi-million dollar argument going on and you haven’t heard somebody take that tone, or, the more dangerous one, the quiet calm and subtle one, get back to me.

That quote is what we in the business call… business.

Remember that Apple has been on the receiving end too: ZDNet: Nokia likely netted $600 million plus in Apple patent settlement.

A few things these great “Message Board Marauders” should probably know before they step up to paint Apple the big bad wolf in an industry full of sweet warm fuzzy sheep:

– Apple’s ‘look and feel’ lawsuit against MS was because MS agreed to licensing terms with Apple when they launched Excel.  Excel, for those who don’t know, was a Mac *first* application built with Apple support and (according to Apple) licensing for MS to use some UI functionality) and Apple objected to MS’s taking license (poetic not legal) in MS’s interpretation of the agreements around Excel by using them in Windows. And..  before you jump up and down and say “Apple ripped off what they saw at Xerox PARC!” remember, Apple paid for that (in advance, not after getting sued by the way).

– The lawsuit settled in 1997 with the patent cross licensing agreement with Microsoft was not the ‘look and feel’ license suit but another one over QuickTime and Video For Windows sharing some of the same actual code because MS used the same company to support VfW dev as Apple had used for the QuickTime port to Windows.

– Apple did try to negotiate with Samsung before filing suit.

– Samsung countersued trying to use patents that fall into a class many courts have described as “standards essential” and therefore must be licensed under “Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory” (FRAND) terms. and, in this case, were “exhausted” because Apple had paid for the chips from vendors who had paid already to license Samsung’s patents. In other words, iPhone buyers were already paying a “Samsung Tax”,

You can have all the opinions you like about which company in the shark lagoon of the tech industry  is the poor persecuted underdog worthy of your activist support but make the arguments you use to support your opinion with some awareness not only of the facts but their historical context.

As I might actually agree (and I do) that the US patent system is a disaster in need of reform the intent of the patent system is a good one, a necessary one:  “if you invent something, you should have a reasonable period of time to make money off your efforts before others can use what you invented without paying you.” or.. as it’s said in the US Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

Here’s my take on the current state of affairs:

– Samsung nakedly ripped off Apple in several small but important ways and got spanked for it.

– Google bought Android they didn’t ‘innovate it from whole cloth like conquering heros’ and Android is not, in any practical way like Linux or other FOSS because the carriers maintain control of most Android devices in the wild and they do it in cahoots with the Samsungs and HTC’s of the world. Thinking Android protects your rights as a consumer is delusional at best.

– Until Apple managed to cut their deal with ATT for the original iPhone exclusive, phones in the US were positively buried in crap designed to preserve and extend carrier revenue.  Verizon locked out Bluetooth and wire-connected contact syncing direct to the device so you had to use their online service to manage your contacts off the phones on *many* models of phones. They all had horrible and little ‘carrier branding animations’ at phone startup and ugly badging on the phones. They all  set it up so ringtones were things you could only buy from a carrier at absurd pricing. If a phone had any ‘smart’ at all, it was crammed full of bundled ‘crapware’ even less removable than the junk you find on el-cheapo consumer PC’s.

Apple did more for your ‘freedom’ in that deal they cut with ATT than Android ever has.

If you love Google so much, instead of whining on message boards about ‘big bad Apple’  think about this; Google could use this situation as an opportunity to fix the Android ecosystem and we’d all win.

How?

Google licenses “Official Android” branding and access to Google’s Android marketplace to phones that meet certain hardware and openness standards including:

– Users can upgrade to new versions of Android from *Google* not at the carrier’s whims.

– Google will indemnify handset makers from lawsuits from Apple and anyone else over the software.

– Google will “badge” phones that meet minimum specs for current and roadmap Android versions so customers know they won’t have a locked down phone with hardware quirks that make Android development both absurdly complex and profitless.

Google then innovates Android away from Apple’s patents or, if you think they can’t manage that, or that Apple’s patents are bull#$%^, Google can sues to invalidate those patents.

If Google did that? Android would get better. Windows Phone would get better. iOS would get better and the carriers would be left to compete on their quality of their service to attract and retain customers instead of thinking they had any business in the content game that kept them wasting money, and crapping up your phones, hoping to cash in on the next ‘flash of cultural lunacy’ that was the ringtone market.

For more from somebody far more ‘in the know’ on this see: Jean-Louis Gassée’s:  The Apple Tax, Part II

And… in the pity for Samsung department, see the previous post below.

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