We'll try to look at the bright side, this time, with a look at some hopeful trends. Starting with...
Wikileaks appears to be implementing a system that I have pushed for since 1989 - a way for whistle-blowers to safely alert citizens of corrupt or oppressive actions. “Wikileaks is an uncensorable system for safe mass document leaking and public analysis. Our primary interests are in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we expect to be of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.” A summary on wired-blog mentions a couple of others.
In fact, I have long believed that one billionaire could transform the world, by not only funding the expansion of a service like this, but enhancing it with the ”Henchman’s Prize.”
What's a Henchman's Prize? An annual award of a million dollars -- plus a new identity, if needed -- for whoever on the planet blows the whistle on ‘the worst thing.’ Crossing all cliched lines of left or right. Runner-up prizes would descend to a free Groucho nose and mask for all entrants. Yes, there’d be issues of liability. But they could be overcome. And if pursued in a balanced way, it could re-make the world.
And it continues. Watch a new startup called HelpHookup taking shape before your eyes. “The inspiration of Help Hookup is actually a comic book called Global Frequency by Warren Ellis. It was also made into a TV show that never aired. I understand that it is available on BitTorrent. Global Frequency was a network of 1,001 people that handled the jobs that the governments did not have the will to handle. I thought that it was a great idea and it would be more powerful with 1,000,001 people or 100,000,001 people. We would have to leave out the killing that was in the comic.”
Nice of them to add that last part.
Fascinated by the effects of birth order? As one of three kids... and the father of three... I find the whole topic fascinating. Now see a report that ran in THE INDEPENDENT. “The difficult middle child, the spoilt only child, the wayward baby; few of us escape being labelled according to some sort of sibling stereotype. But what, really, are we to believe about the role our position in the family plays in determining our personality? Are the stereotypes true – or is the psychology of birth order just a load of hokum?”
Now here’s some fresh meat for you guys: An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion by Travis S. Taylor et al. (Anyone care to review it for us?)
And something along similar lines. Any of you speak or read German? See:
FROM THE TRANSPARENCY FRONT: "...Naïve as I was, I found myself astonished at the level of detail that drug companies were able to acquire about doctors’ prescribing habits. I asked my reps about it; they told me that they received printouts tracking local doctors’ prescriptions. every week. The process is called “prescription data-mining,” in which specialized pharmacy-information companies (like IMS Health and Verispan) buy prescription data from local pharmacies, repackage it, then sell it to pharmaceutical companies. This information is then passed on to the drug reps, who use it to tailor their drug-detailing strategies. This may include deciding which physicians to aim for, as my Wyeth reps did, but it can help sales in other ways. For example, Shahram Ahari, a former drug rep for (the maker of Prozac) who is now a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy, said in an article in The Washington Post that as a drug rep he would use this data to find out which doctors were prescribing Prozac’s competitors, like Effexor. Then he would play up specific features of Prozac that contrasted favorably with the other drug, like the ease with which patients can get off Prozac, as compared with the hard time they can have withdrawing from Effexor.
“The AMA is also a key player in prescription data-mining. Pharmacies typically will not release doctors’ names to the data-mining companies, but they will release their Drug Enforcement Agency numbers. The A.M.A. licenses its file of U.S. physicians, allowing the data-mining companies to match up numbers to specific physicians. The A.M.A. makes millions in information-leasing money..."
You’ll recall that I reported working as a civil defense - CERT volunteer, during our recent San Diego fires. Light duty, actually The first-ever activation for San Diego's Community Emergency Response Teams is getting high marks for its work during last month's wildfires.
CERT members are volunteers trained to help fire agencies in first aid, basic search and rescue, logistical support, evacuee assistance and other essential duties during disasters. “Their training and commitment really paid off,” San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman said of CERT volunteers' efforts. “The dedication to the job was beyond comparison and really made a positive difference.”
Or volunteer most modestly at Free Rice. Play a word game. For every word you get right, ten grains of rice go to the poor.
And re: the Age of Empowered Citizenship? “One resident of a Malibu neighborhood, a builder, had bought a fire truck and tanker truck at auction, for a total of $6000. He and his neighbors saved millions of dollars worth of property before the professional firefighters could get there.” Um, yes, though of course these are rich people in Malibu. Still, they have the spirit.
Speaking of citizen action, it seems that there are still places where the courts “get” the difference between the spirit and the letter of the law. Zechariah sent this one in. ”In France the Untergunther, a group of covert guerilla anti-vandals, snuck into the Panthéon and repaired the old, rusting, broken clock. Authorities were clueless until they got were informed they should go wind it up. For pics of the clock before and after: For a reputable news source.
In contrast, see the hard life of a congress person, explained!
Finally, a brief re-lighting of the political lamp. Some of you may have seen a lovely, truthful-while-satirical “Job Resume of George W. Bush.” It is biting... and rather lengthy, so I have posted it under comments in an older blog entry. With some of my own, unique addenda.