Friday, February 28, 2014

Transparency news… Light battles its way in

First some pertinent announcements!
March 1 is Future Day …even though it should have been March Forth (into the future!)
The initial episode of NASA’s Unexplained Files airs on Sunday 2nd March at 10 pm on the Science Channel.  I was interviewed as one of the talking heads… though how you're edited always depends upon the style of the show. Here's hoping they went for (at least some) serious science!  Episode 2 is on Thursday 6th March, Episode 3 Tuesday 11th March and Episode 4 is on Tuesday 18th March.
The embryonic Science Fiction Museum in Washington DC is closing its crowdfund activity on March 9th – if you haven’t already done so, look it over and consider making a contribution before it ends: www.scificrowdfund.com  - all contributors will appear on the website as “Founding Colonists.” 
And now… back to the crucial issue of our time.
==Sousveillance battles Surveillance==
Dragnet-Nation-cover-artIn this transparency posting, let's start with a solid book: In Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance, Julia Angwin reports from the front lines of America’s surveillance economy, offering a revelatory and unsettling look at how the government, private companies, and even criminals use technology to indiscriminately sweep up vast amounts of our personal data.
In a world where we can be watched in our own homes, where we can no longer keep secrets, and where we can be impersonated, financially manipulated, or even placed in a police lineup, Angwin argues that the greatest long-term danger is that we start to internalize the surveillance and censor our words and thoughts, until we lose the very freedom that makes us unique individuals. Appalled at such a prospect, Angwin conducts a series of experiments to try to protect herself.
More than that, Angwin struggles between the twin impulses -- trying to hide from surveillance and ultimately neutralizing its power to do harm by looking back.  In the end -- especially the last two paragraphs of her interesting book, she makes (what I consider to be) the definitively wise choice.

Listen to Angwin's interview on NPR.
== Light battles its way in ==
US prosecutors are chasing 14 Swiss banks for allegedly helping wealthy Americans dodge U.S. taxes.  Credit Suisse's private banking and wealth management division has already put aside 175m Swiss francs (£118m) to fight a U.S. investigation into hidden offshore accounts in Switzerland.  The bank has said it was "working towards a resolution" with US authorities but has not given a time-frame of when that resolution might be reached.
My prediction? A deal will be struck.  Swiss and other secret banking havens know the era when they can thumb noses at Europe and the U.S. are passing. Besides, helping western mere-millionaires writhe out of taxes is not where the real action is. The big profits come from sheltering and protecting the seamier side of sovereign wealth funds and stashing loot stolen  from developing nations by local kleptocrats.
Those business lines will be protected at all costs. Even if it means tossing a few hundred mere-millionaires off the sleigh.
transparency-word-cloudWill your light switch turn on you?  Philips, one of the biggest names in lighting (and especially in the new world of low-cost LED lighting), has figured out a way to use light as a communications method.  The wonderful LED bulbs we're all installing (this is the year; do it!) can't be used this way...
...but a future generation of them can and will someday be controlled as emitters whose subtle variations can contain signals we won't notice as the bulbs talk to each other… and to computers far away. The advantages and uses will be myriad!  And any room will be whispering data about us.
Want to stop that?  Good luck.  When will folks cease futile railing against the future and start admitting it is a tsunami.  What we need is not absurdly useless stop signs and whining.  What we need are surfboards.
Wearable computing pioneer and University of Toronto professor Steve Mann has offered the following poly-lingual riffs on the core idea that he and I both promote:
     French:       
 Surveillance     Sousveillance
     English:      
 Oversight        Undersight
     Latin:       
  Supervision      Subvision

Elaine Scarry tackles these issues in Transparent Citizens, Invisible Government, in the Boston Review.

Meanwhile…India enters the sousveillance age. And Turkey steps closer to a surveillance state.
Tesla-peak-oilWhere will the next crisis come from? Here's an interesting article from investor Jeremy Grantham concerning Tesla motors, peak oil production and peak oil demand, the mining industry and phosphorus, and fracking's possible role in increased earthquakes. Well worth reading, especially for the many overlaps with my predictions in Existence, coming true much faster than I expected...
Again, privacy activists are up in arms over license plate scanners proving that you can be right to be concerned about the possible looming of a Big Brother State… while being stunningly dense and stupid about what's practical and what might actually help to prevent Orwellianism  Those who believe that they can stymie such a system are probably right… for a year or two… till optical recognition becomes so ubiquitous that there is no "system" at all… when every person will have access to billions of cameras, all over, getting smaller/cheaper and more numerous each month.
Seriously. You think trying to rail and whine about increasing vision will stop it?  Try stopping the tide. Earth's orbit. Or time.

There is, on the other hand, a different way to stay free.  Read the wiser people out there.  Dragnet Nation could be a good start.

54 comments:

LarryHart said...

Responding from the previous thread...

Tacitus:

planning a trip to Alaska in the summer...looked up the weather in Valdez AK and on 27 Feb it is 40 frickin' degrees warmer than my town in Wisconsin!!!


In 2012, I was fortunate enough to experience a cruise to Alaska during the summer. When I left Chicago, it was over 100 degrees here, and it still was when I returned. Up there in Alaska, the highs were in the 50s. My daughter and I watched an outdoor movie at night, and we were wrapped up in blankets and still (literally) freezing.

It seems counterintuitive for Alaska to be warm while we're in the polar vortex, but in fact, that's simple cause and effect. When the jet stream goes north over Alaska, it plunges south to the midwest, carrying polar air with it. When the jet stream is bringing hot weather our way, it's generally doing a dip in the eastern Pacific, allowing cold weather up there. The two regions are typically going to both be normal or else both be abnormal in opposite directions.

LarryHart said...

Still responding from the previous thread...

Robert:

Looking at Obama's foreign policy and how he's been trodding on American civil rights, I'm strongly thinking that I made a big mistake in 2008 by voting for Obama. If only McCain had stuck to his guns and nominated Lieberman as his VP instead of that idiot Palin... we had "vote for Hope despite the fact it's a lie" vs. "vote for the truth with a 90% chance of an idiot gaining the Presidency if McCain dies."

There are many things I am disappointed with Obama for, including some you mention, but in almost all (if not entirely all) cases, my disappointment is in the fact that he continues or exacerbates Bush-era policies that Republicans love as long as they're the ones in charge. I agree with you that "hope and change" implied that Obama would chart a different course, and the fact that he does not do so feels like a betrayal.

However, I disagree with your conclusion that any of the other candidates in 2008 would have produced a better outcome. The things I am disappointed about and which you also seem to be disappointed about reflect that President Obama didn't end up as enough of a departure from the corporatist, war-hawkish agenda of Bush. Would McCain have been any more of a departure in your favored direction? Would Hillary? Lieberman?

A favorite quote: "The optimist says we are in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist agrees with him." In the sense the pessimist means it, I believe that Barack Obama was still the best of all possible choices in 2008. The disappointment is no reflection on the truth of that assertion--simply a wish that I could mean it in the sense of the optimist instead.

David Brin said...

McCain talked "maverick" while surrounding himself with the entire Bushite "brain" trust. Some people so yearn for the impossible that they will spurn the merely better and thus help bring back the awful

locumranch said...

Rather than being "the crucial issue of our time", the rise of the surveillance state is the product of a hierarchical economic model known as 'scientific management', created by Fredrick W. Taylor in 1911 as a means of maximizing national efficiency, worker productivity and employer prosperity, which proposed the creation of an paternalistic expert managerial class that could impose its will upon a subservient class of workers through a combination of reward, punishment and what would later be known as behavioral conditioning, leading directly to the creation of Henry Ford's assembly line, a society built on mechanical rather than human precepts, a hierarchical top-down educational system and an efficient German war machine adept at 'following orders', all of which require increasing levels of Stasi-like surveillance as a means to 'system management', later described by John Kenneth Galbraith as the exercise of condign, compensatory and conditioned power. It therefore follows that the surveillance state is an extension of the autocratic impulse, made necessary by the need to control, channel and compel a laboring proletariat to disregard personal interest, to favor of mechanical perfection, to behave in an appropriately 'industrious' manner and to maximize employer prosperity despite extraordinary environmental, social & personal costs. This is why 'surveillance' is so indispensable to our modern society. It allows the group to establish social dominance, assert conformity, subsume the individual, restrict individual creativity and perpetuate social inequality; it is a prerequisite for both inequality and hierarchy; and it would have no value whatsoever in a truly free society. 'Surveillance' is merely the name we give our chains.


Best

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, the truth of the matter is that Barack Obama has been revealed to be an illusion and a lie. The Patient Protection Act ends up protecting insurance companies and continuing a system that retards competition in the market. Obama's foreign policy methods have combined the worse of Carter and Bush's, so that we look weak while encouraging terrorism by constantly attacking potential terrorist groups... and then cause enough casualties among civilians that five times the terrorists spring up compared to those we killed. The "shift to the Pacific" is further alienating China and making them feel isolated while abandoning the Middle East to Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. And Obama continues policies that strip away our rights and freedoms that was started under Bush.

In short, voting for Obama was a huge mistake. Even the so-called recovery is lackluster, benefits only the billionaires, and is hurting the American people. Better that we'd gone into a full-blown Depression, have the billionaires bankrupted along with the regular people, and then rebuilt as we did in the 1930s than the current Jenga tower of patches that threatens to topple and cause even greater harm.

In the last 20 years, Democrats have become Republicans while Republicans have become something twisted and horrific. But how much of this poison was caused by Obama being elected President? It's a wonderful thing that we finally elected a black president. It's a shame he proved to be corrupt and inept. And what's worse, he's the catalyst for this toxin that spread through the Republican Party. Do you honestly think Republicans would have gone off the deep end if Joe Biden had won in 2008? No. It's a knee-jerk reaction caused by racism.

Yes, it's a shame, and yes, racism should be stamped out. But the Obama Presidency has broken this country nearly to the same extent that Lincoln's election broke it just prior to the Civil War. Sadly, Obama isn't Lincoln. He'd be lucky to be a Herbert Hoover. But in truth, he's more of a Warren G. Harding.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Dr. Brin, the truth of the matter is that Barack Obama has been revealed to be an illusion and a lie.


I don't deny that President Obama is more of a corporatist than I had hoped when I voted for him. That said, he can only do what is possible with the Congress he has to work with. Even in 2009-2010, when Democrats overwhelmed the House and briefly had 60 Senators, Mitch McConnell was able to prevent any meaningful legislation via filibuster (the 60 Senators included Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, the woman from Arkansas whose name I forget, some of whom voted with the Republicans). Once the Tea Party took over the House, it was game over.

The Patient Protection Act ends up protecting insurance companies and continuing a system that retards competition in the market.

I'd have preferred Medicare for All, or a Public Option, but neither of those was politcally possible. Obama had to get the insurance companies on board or else they'd simply drop a billion or two in negative ads as they did against Hillary.


Do you honestly think Republicans would have gone off the deep end if Joe Biden had won in 2008?


Do you think they wouldn't have if Hillary Clinton had won instead?


Yes, it's a shame, and yes, racism should be stamped out. But the Obama Presidency has broken this country nearly to the same extent that Lincoln's election broke it just prior to the Civil War.


Your solution, then is to give in to the hostage-takers? Those who stand up to the terrorists are responsible for the hostages' deaths?

And if you're so hot for the system to burn down in order to be rebuilt, then why is "breaking the country" such a bad thing?


Sadly, Obama isn't Lincoln. He'd be lucky to be a Herbert Hoover. But in truth, he's more of a Warren G. Harding.


Then the real mystery is: Why does Wall Street hate him so much?


LarryHart said...

Robert:

Dr. Brin, the truth of the matter is that Barack Obama has been revealed to be an illusion and a lie.


I meant to add...

What has been revealed to be an illusion and a lie is the exalted nature of the Supreme Court.

And had you succeeded in electing McCain president in 2008, we'd probably stand at 7-3 "Republican" justices by now.

Ypu're aiming your invective at the wrong target.

Robert said...

@LarryHart: They'd react just as poorly if Hilary was President. Thus my comment about Joe Biden, an old white-haired white man to calm their delicate sensibilities.

And yes, it means negotiating with the hostage-takers. But you know what? We got served with the Big Lie. And as a result, voters who voted in 2008 and 2012 are looking at their vote and saying "what was the point of my vote?"

Obama has poisoned the voting pool. Why should people vote for a promising candidate if in fact it's a lie once more? And they'll just assume it's a lie. Obama has ended up the biggest blessing for Republicans ever because he has energized the Republican base (which is dwindling), and poisoned the voting pool for young voters who'd vote Democrat. In short, the Republican Party will take longer to self-destruct because we "did the right thing" and were fed a poisoned pill in doing so.

As for the differences between McCain and Obama? With McCain we'd know a bit of what we're getting and would have had a few good bits with this as well. If McCain had taken the White House in 2008 then I question if the Republican Party would have retaken the House in 2010. So we'd have Democrats in the House and Senate and a Republican who has a history of negotiating with Democrats prior to Tea Party Sensibilities derailing the Republican Party.

I honestly feel McCain would have been a better President for this country than Obama has been. And I do feel Obama will end up one of the ten worse Presidents when the list is written up 50 years from now. Assuming that we still have a country 50 years from now.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Trying to parse the relative merits of a McCain-Lieberman administration is interesting, but is out there in the impractial Turtledovian void. We have this history not some .alt version.

I don't think anybody is really that happy with how the Obmama admin has turned out. I say this with no personal animus towards the man, he simply was an underqualified (on basis of baseline experience) individual who had the campaign skills and the perfect political circumstances to win an implausible victory.

But as this is all about the future, I think we need to take a sober look at how we choose our leaders. President, sure, but you need to look at all the offices top to bottom.

We seem to be headed for what amounts to an American Idol system. From the "historic" (ok, elose the quotation marks, it actually was historic) first black President we are now seeing ballyhoo for the first female one. To be followed in due course by the first Hispanic, first otherly abled, first openly Gay etc.

There is absolutely nothing to any of the above categories that should discourage their pursuing a political career. In various ways each would have some useful insights. But as an essential qualification? Nah, give me a person of whatever ethnicity, mobility and chromosomal makeup who has actually demonstrated executive competence. Bonus points for doing so in a non Gerrymandered setting where getting along with the "otherly polically oriented" is a reality.

I say this in a non partisan way. I am for instance quite willing to discuss the pros and cons of a Hillary Clinton candidacy should it actually happen.

But please, lets make competence and experience the focal point of our polical decision making. Otherwise we may - worst case scenario - end up with a Dances with the Stars political process.

President Kirstie Alley. Sorry for that image...

Tacitus

Robert said...

Well. We shall see if Obama has what it takes and if I was mistaken to vote for him.

My suspicion is he'll pull a Nero as Rome burns.

Ukraine is being invaded by Russia.

LarryHart said...

@Robert,

Believe it or not, I'm not entirely in disagreement with you. Your assertions of fact are pretty hard to argue with. It's (some of) your conclusions I question.


[The GOP]'d react just as poorly if Hilary was President. Thus my comment about Joe Biden, an old white-haired white man to calm their delicate sensibilities.


But that's hardly a plausible alternative for 2008. The Dems were going to run Hillary or Obama.

And yes, it means negotiating with the hostage-takers. But you know what? We got served with the Big Lie. And as a result, voters who voted in 2008 and 2012 are looking at their vote and saying "what was the point of my vote?"


We needed a Democrat in 2008 or we would have lost the Supreme Court for at least a generation. That alone justifies both of our votes back then.


Obama has poisoned the voting pool. Why should people vote for a promising candidate if in fact it's a lie once more?


Having read John Byrne's Superman issues where Darkseid presents the denizens of Apokolips with just that hope-shattering scenario, I can't fault your suspicion.

My rebuttal is that in a rational world, the GOP would have become an ineffective joke by 2006, and Supply Side theory would have had its head and body buried at separate crossroads. Given that neither of those things occured, how much more GOP rule can we afford to suffer through waiting for them to discredit themselves further? Especially when money now literally "talks", thanks to Roberts and company.


Obama has ended up the biggest blessing for Republicans ever because he has energized the Republican base


More than Hillary would have?

And I'm not so sure this is a valid observation. Remember how John Kerry was "the most liberal senator ever" in 2004? Then Hillary was the same thing in 2008? Until Obama was? The Republicans will whip up their base against whoever the Democrat running happens to be. Of the three we've mentioned (Obama, Hillary, and Biden), Biden is probably the least likely target of GOP invective going into a race, but he's also the one most likely to pursue actual progressive policies, which would start the hate-machine right up.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

We seem to be headed for what amounts to an American Idol system. From the "historic" (ok, elose the quotation marks, it actually was historic) first black President we are now seeing ballyhoo for the first female one. To be followed in due course by the first Hispanic, first otherly abled, first openly Gay etc.


I think you're both right and wrong about the dynamic the brought Obama into office. It wasn't as simple as "time for a black guy". In fact, remember all the fuss about how he's not really black enough for black voters? I was drawn to Obama as a candidate because he seemed to be able to pull of post-partisanship. Granted, that has not been the case, and I share your disappointment. But I didn't want him as president because he's black. Rather I was glad it had become possible to elect a black man so that this particular black man could be elected.

Where I think you're right is that political office should not be a prize that is awarded to the winner of a game show. We should be eleoting the person who can do the job, not the one who "wants it more." Ideally, someone wanting the office too much should be a reason for suspicion, not a reason to award him the office as a prize.

David Brin said...

Assume the world doesn't burn. Then Obama's legacy may depend on Ruth Ginsberg coming to her senses this year and letting him appoint a successor. Then holding onto the Senate. Eventually, corporations would stop being people. And Freedom of speech would not be the freedom of billionaires to drown out the people.

David Brin said...

Obama would not have been elected had there been ONE angry bone in his body. Alas, that trait infuriates many on the left.

Tacitus2 said...

There are various threats to Freedom of Speech. Another topic on another day.

LarryH,
while equally happy that we have reached a point in our history where a black person can be elected President I am less happy with this particular individual. It should probably have been Colin Powell, running as a D/R or I.

I wonder....most Presidents are viewed more favorably as time goes by. Will BHO be an exception in this respect also? Not sure...

Tacitus

Tim H. said...

This sounds like something OGH has suggested:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25124-phones-wifi-hotspot-acts-as-sos-beacon-in-disasters.html#.UxIaiF41w7A
A step in the right direction, should only require a firmware update.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

most Presidents are viewed more favorably as time goes by. Will BHO be an exception in this respect also? Not sure..


I don't think so. If historians remember the congress he was up against, he may get more credit for what he managed to accomplish than blame for what he did not.

At some distance, it will be more obvious that BHO was the best thing ever to happen to Wall Street. Which is not so great from my perspective, but it's the kind of thing that gets noted in history books. Oh yeah, he got Osama Bin Laden too.

Aren't most presidents pretty much at their nadir of popularity around the sixth year. There's a certain amount of fatigue that sets in. I don't think that generally affects one's place in history too much, Nixon notwithstanding.

And three years is a long time remaining in which anything could happen that's not even on the radar now.

Greg Byshenk said...

Tacitus, I don't understand how people can continue to promote Colin Powell after his appearance at the UN promoting the Iraq war. That performance showed him to be either willing to lie for his masters or at least willing to avoid asking the hard questions, neither of which are qualities desired in a President.

But more generally,even the immediate discussion seems not to break from the "American Idol" concept. The mythology of the US political systems invests great power in the president, but certainly the experience with Obama shows that this is at best wildly overstated, as lawmaking equally requires the legislative branch, and the judicial, if law is to stand.

Americans need to start thinking less about the top of the ticket and more about lower down. As I've told my progressive friends who are unhappy with Obama: imagine what the Obama presidency would have been like had 25 tea party representatives been exchanged for 25 progressive Democrats!

sociotard said...

Well. We shall see if Obama has what it takes and if I was mistaken to vote for him.

My suspicion is he'll pull a Nero as Rome burns.

Ukraine is being invaded by Russia.


Bad analogy. Nero was in charge of Rome, while Obama has nothing to do with Ukraine.

So it'd be more like Vardanes II of Parthia fiddling while Rome burned.

Cheer on Team America: World Police all you want. I'll keep right on praying for a foreign policy founded on humility and Respect, and not risking war with nuclear powers.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryH
who knows. will the Information Age alter the usual arc of our history (and myth) making?
Greg
Obviously Colin Powell is part of the Turtledove-verse. And the balance between exec/legis/judicial branches is very, very important indeed. President might be more bully pulpit these days. I do not subscribe to OGH's notions about a shadow government of puppet masters but can't argue with the premise that there are powerful forces not easily seen. I might just surmise different ones than you.
Tacitus

David Brin said...

Colin Powell can go straight to Hades, for all I care. He had it in his power to win it for John Kerry and end the horrific reign of treason. Almost ANYTHING he said could have saved us from the Bushite monstrosity. He let us down in every way.

I am entertained enough by locus to actually read some of his missives, carefully. It is like watching a very well trained parrot act very much as if he actually understands the polysyllabic incantations he's reciting… without noticing a single case where one sentence he spouts contradicts the very next one. But above all, the hilarity that he deems himself to be among the rare elect who can see the truth of his incantations. Gawd, it takes me back to the 60s and 70s, when you had only to shake a tree and a dozen pompous preeners would fall out, reciting such stuff.

It's not that all of his sentences are wrong! Some allude to things we need to fight. It's just the preening… all in service of cynicism and pompous "nothing can be done! So don't ask me to do anything!!!" Oh and the straw men. And the manure.


Tacitus said: ".most Presidents are viewed more favorably as time goes by." There is not one scintilla of a sign of that happening to GW Bush OR his horrific father. Both are deeply despised by the United States Officer Corps, by every clade of knowledge in American life. Anyone who can read statistics and see the reign of damage they supervised.

Tacitus2 said...

A scintilla? Why that is not much:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/163022/former-president-george-bush-image-ratings-improve.aspx

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Are we on the verge of an "H2S Extinction Event?" It is one of two ways that the gradual nature of human generated climate change might suddenly do a non-linear takeoff. (The other would be if deep ocean hydrates of methane suddenly reached a critical point and were to "blurp" - along with methane released from thawing tundra, sending the greenhouse skyrocketing.)

Peter Ward ("Under a Green Sky") and other researchers point to several past extinction events on Earth that seem to have been driven by sudden pollution of the atmosphere by hydrogen sulfide gas. This poison is generated in deep ocean anoxic (oxygen deplete) layers that stop getting mixing currents from above, by anaerobic archaeobacteria. The best example of this currently happening is the Black Sea, right next to where the Sochi Olympics just finished. There, just a few hundred meters below the calm surface, and kept down by a delicate thermocline layer, sits "the greatest repository of poison in the world, by far."

http://www.amazon.com/Under-Green-Sky-Warming-Extinctions/dp/0061137928

Someday, it will come out.

Three things need to happen, in order for a world disaster (a Green Sky) of unprecedented proportions to occur and two are already underway.

1. A rapid rise in ocean acidity… check. This is the product of human-spewed CO2 that the denialists at Fox strenuously avoid mentioning. Because there is no response possible. Because the oceans are turning acid at unprecedented rates. No Hannity-obfuscation can hide it… so they never ever ever mention it. And when the topic comes up? They point offscreen and yell… squirrel!

2. Lots of nutrients. Agricultural and other runoffs from civilization aren't feeding the healthy fishery food chains, but massive algae blooms, jellyfish and (when it all sinks) blooms of bottom layer archaeobacteria.

3. Failure of the healthy mixing currents that prevent thermoclines from getting too strong, in the great oceans. From Arctic to Antarctic, currents mix layers and bring oxygen to the deeps. But scientists have long warned of ways that warming might shut down the North Atlantic conveyor... and if that third ingredient happens, we could be in FAR worse trouble than in that silly film THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.

Paul Werbos sums it up: "The previous head of ARPAE strongly recommended a book, the Alchemy of Air, to give us an uplifting story about science and innovation.. . which also tells us about how different our modern world is from the world of a thousand years ago. It looks to me as if the trigger is bigger than ever before in earth history, and as if the oxygenating currents are what save
us. When they go…."

Jonathan S. said...

What experience, exactly, qualifies one to be President of the United States? You're only allowed to hold the job twice, and I've seen absolutely no evidence that prior experience in government is any help whatsoever (Richard Nixon had previously been a US Representative, a US Senator, and Vice-President of the US; yet he still doesn't seem to have made a very good President...).

So, Obama didn't have "the right experience" - who does?

Tony Fisk said...

Unlike global warming, ocean acidification is directly measurable with directly predictable effects.

I bet you will soon see the naysayers claiming that scientists, unable to defend their climate models, are pointing to the oceans shouting 'Squirrel!'. #projection

Tacitus2 said...

I guess you could start here:

http://detritusofempire.blogspot.com/2011/09/help-wanted-president.html

or on an interesting tangent:

http://detritusofempire.blogspot.com/2014/01/leadership-from-class-stars-fell-on.html

semi serious musings. You always have to watch for the Exceptionals.

Tacitus

Jonathan S. said...

Even those criteria are no guarantor. Jimmy Carter was a US Naval officer, of no small courage (he led the team that had to shut down the Chalk River nuclear reactor, each member of which went into the reactor chamber itself for a few minutes at a time in order to disassemble its parts). He also served as Governor of Georgia. Yet I doubt I could find very many people willing to defend his Presidency...

LarryHart said...

Johnathan S:

What experience, exactly, qualifies one to be President of the United States?


Way back in 1953, Kurt Vonnegut's first published novel (Player Piano) postied a future in which the President was pretty much a ceremonial role for public consumption--more of a celebrity actor than a wielder of actual power.

Strangely enough, the name of this fictitious president in the book was "Johnathan Lynn", which to me suggests Lyndon Johnson. But would LBJ have been well known enough outside of Texas back then to be the inspiration for the name? Or is it just one of those coincidences?

Jumper said...

It must be late; I'm agreeing with Tacitus...

I recommend McCullough's Truman. Some reading between the lines is possible, and it's good reading.

Alex Tolley said...

So this week's revelations are that Britain's GCHQ, possibly with the involvement of the NSA, as collecting images from webcam chats from Yahoo. That the staff of GCHQ were getting a bit hot under the collar at some of these indicates that they were actively looking at them. Why this isn't considered a gross violation of privacy that is not solvable with sousveillance is beyond me.

But where is this leading? The hot trend is the "internet of things". There are spycams noted in the India piece on sousveillance. There is the known problem of unsecured home routers. Voice control of devices, will mean that there is potential conversation eavesdropping from a variety of home appliances, much like the OnStar system in cars that have been used as bugs by the FBI. Surveillance drones will soon be dotting the skies over cities and homes. Dr. Brin once said that the home should be a place of privacy, but clearly the logic of his transparency argument and events are showing that we will lose that very shortly.

As David has said, everything leaks eventually, whether by breaking encryption or by whistle blowers. It isn't hard to imagine that the slimy practices of today's predatory debt collection "agencies" will soon be applied to indiscreet conversations. We will be potentially subject to Kafka-esque government threats and private blackmail on a scale that makes the NoW hacking scandal look like a Puritan tea party. The sheer overwhelming potential for damage will not be countered by the state or by any sousveillance. I see this leading to behaviors we see in the Hermit Kingdom - fear of saying anything because one slip of teh tongue could land you in a world of hurt from malicious citizens to "overzealous" agencies needing to prove their value and making their arrest and fines quotas.

Where is the path that leads out of this mess that doesn't cost a lot of effort on the part of ordinary people to life their lives free of this fear?

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Where is the path that leads out of this mess that doesn't cost a lot of effort on the part of ordinary people to life their lives free of this fear?


Looks like it's my day for Vonnegut references. Also my day for pessimistic passive-aggressiveness.

Ok, in a later Vonnegut novel, "Galapagos", the action shifts between the present day and a million years in the future, by which time humanity has evolved into seal-like sea creatures who are excellent swimmers and fishermen, no longer encumbered by the annoying three-kilogram brains of their ancestors. And Vonnegut's narrator mentions that human teeth only last about thirty years in nature without extensive dental work. And that evolution has taken care of that problem, albeit in a draconian manner, by reducing the human lifespan to less than thirty years.

Thus the answer to your question above--a very draconian and pessimistic answer, but that's the mood I'm in right now. The virtual certainty that our total dependence for survival upon a fragile electirc grid plus the accelerating fouling of our world-wide environment should take care of the problem of overzealous surveillance in the next few decades.

Sigh.

locumranch said...

Talk about being distracted by squirrels. Mistaking the forest for the the trees, most of you argue about the relative merits of the US Chief Executive and ignore the hierarchical system that exists only by virtue of foistered political inequality.

The hierarchical model is naturally oppressive. It is pyramidal for the sake of stability. It elevates a few at the expense of many and, irregardless of the the relative 'fairness' of the initial selection criteria, it oppresses the majority in order to create a select elite. It has always been so for hierarchical models.

In the American Experiment, the US Founding Fathers tried to invert this pyramid through the philosophy of public service, placing the majority in charge & on top of few selected 'pubic servants' and this exceptional model worked for a short time before the inverted model 'righted' in favour of pyramidal stability, being the exception that proves the rule.

Likewise, the examples of American 'Exceptionalism' are just that: They are 'black crow' events (exceptional exceptions) which prove the rule of hierarchical oppression, FDR (who exercised his 'New Deal' presidential authority at a time that coincided with hierarchical collapse) being perhaps the most notable exception and ever increasing surveillance (followed by the occasional 'yellow star' and the universal ID) being the rule.

And, as for a terminal H2S event being in our immediate future, I'll leave those type of predictions to the natural pessimists & other negative nellies. Personally, I would welcome such an event (assuming some of us survive) as the perfect antidote to CO2-mediated global warming since any climate scientist can tell you that atmospheric sulfur compounds favour global cooling.



Best

Jumper said...

Assuming sousveillance, by unauthorized citizen-deployed gnat-cams, I foresee the circulation of sex recordings of politicians. This will simply lead to a merging of porn stars with politicians. This is not pleasant to ponder.

Tacitus2 said...

No, not pleasant at all. But consider the effects that the less intrusive development of television had on our political leadership. THIS would be really interesting to watch!
And oh my, the new political slogans would be epic.

Tacitus

maybe those buxom Ukranian protestor gals were the leading edge of this trend?

Jonathan S. said...

This will simply lead to a merging of porn stars with politicians. This is not pleasant to ponder.

I don't know - I thought it was fun when Mary Carey was running for governor of California. Especially her plan to enhance the state's finances by putting pay-per-view webcams in the governor's residence... :-)

Paul451 said...

Robert,
"And what's worse, he's the catalyst for this toxin that spread through the Republican Party. [...] It's a knee-jerk reaction caused by racism."

So it's Obama's fault that the Republican party and "base" are full of insane racists? And because they are racists, you should have voted for their guy, or anyone acceptable to them?

That abused wife logic. If only you hadn't made them mad, if only you'd kept quiet, if only you'd apologised better...

"With McCain we'd know a bit of what we're getting"

Yes. "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." You wish you'd voted for that guy? The guy who spent every year after his 2000 loss to Bush trying to become Bush, who filled his campaign team with Bush people; and even after he got the nomination, instead of switching back to centrist mode to win the election, he doubled-down and let the Bush-ites appoint Palin as his VP candidate, which clearly cost him the election. (And from accounts at the time, they really did appoint her; McCain had almost nothing to do with the decision, he never spoke to her before the selection.) He spent the entire 2008 campaign trying to appeal to "the Base", instead of the nation. What does that suggest about the sort of President he would have been? A centrist? A negotiator? Bah.

This is the guy you want to be facing the current situation in Ukraine? Or perhaps, by now, after 6 years of accelerated Presidential ageing, Sarah Palin? President Palin. With her deep understanding of Russia, you betcha.

...All because Obama isn't as left-wing as you'd like?

Speaking of twisted logic...

Tacitus2,
"We seem to be headed for what amounts to an American Idol system. From the "historic" (ok, elose the quotation marks, it actually was historic) first black President we are now seeing ballyhoo for the first female one. To be followed in due course by the first Hispanic, first otherly abled, first openly Gay etc."

You said, "it shouldn't matter", but you are the one who is making it the sole criteria for judging them.

David Brin said...

forget the spy cams. We are about to get effective lie detectors. They will either be Big Brother's absolute and perfect tool... or else the flattening tool that ensure's reciprocal accountability, saves markets and democracy, and makes Big Brother's arrival impossible.

It will all depend on whether WE get to use them on the oligarchs and politicians before they wise up. A dangerous transition phase and possibly the reason why Murdoch is fighting so hard right now to demolish citizenship.

I never cease to be amazed by the gyrations of locum from blithering polysyllabic incoherence to intervals of actual cogency. In this case, his assertion is an exaggeration but targets the genuine problem that brief renaissances of enlightenment flat-diamond social orders are always under threat by human nature, in which elites use any excuse to rationalize imposition of oppressive pyramids.

Where locum goes loony is (1) assuming he is NOT among folks who agree about that, here (when in fact, I and many others in this group have fought pyramidalization far more relentlessly and vastly vastly more effectively than he has... or ever will... across the entire span of his snarky life....

or (2) that the current suite of methodologies for diamond-maintenance aren't strong and worthy of study, repair and revitalization...

or (3) that is is real easy to snark and whine and bitch and moan. Shoo bee doo... we'd all love to see your plan....

Paul451 said...

Twisting back to the main article...

Re: Hidden money in Swiss bank accounts.

I'm curious if anyone here knows much about how these things work... Is there any practical reason that money transfers to non-reporting (tax haven) banks can't be arbitrarily taxed at the top income tax rate? (Or half, if you tax transfers both to/from.)

In Australia, you give your Tax File Number (closest thing we have to a Social Security Number) to the bank so they can, for example, report any interest income to the tax office. You are permitted to not do so, but then the bank in required to take 47% (theoretical highest amount of tax you can pay) and pass it the Australian Tax Office on your "behalf". You can then claim it back when you file your normal income tax return. The US probably has something similar done with the SSN?

Likewise, when a business makes a payment to another business for a service which they intend to claim as a business expense, the service provider must supply their ABN (different sort of tax file number), usually just by having it on the docket or invoice. If they don't, the customer is required to withhold 47% of the payment and pass it to the tax office on their behalf. As above, the service provider can claim the withholding amount back on their business income taxes, typically monthly or quarterly.

[Which, until I explained the system this way, I didn't realise is actually a (limited) version of David's "own it or lose it" proposal.]

I can't see why domestic banks couldn't be required to withhold a similar top-tax-bracket-plus amount from transfers to/from banks which don't participate in transparent reporting systems. You'd still be able to use those off-shore banks if you had a legitimate reason, but you'd have to claim the withholding back on your taxes (and thus "declare" the money as yours.)

It wouldn't do anything about money already hidden, but it'd hopefully limit the future leakage. And if it damaged the business model of the Swiss banks enough that they agree to abide by the reporting rules, that would also pick up the already hidden billions.

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451 - Is there any practical reason that money transfers to non-reporting (tax haven) banks can't be arbitrarily taxed at the top income tax rate?
Unfortunately it is almost trivially easy to get around the rules you suggested using 3rd parties. Sovereign governments can of course completely ignore any rules.

Tony Fisk said...

This will simply lead to a merging of porn stars with politicians. This is not pleasant to ponder.

Australia already has a sex party. Minor, but they poll reasonably well.

Robert said...

Paul: Obama is as much to blame for the current state of the Republican Party as water is to blame for the explosive nature of sodium when elemental sodium comes in contact with water.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Just idle speculation, but I'm wondering whether all-pervasive surveillance would make blackmail less effective.

For blackmail to work, the possessor of the embarassing information has to have control over it, and at least theoretically to keep the secret if paid off. "Vote for the Keystone pipeline or else these pictures of you and your dog will be made public!" But what if someone else is simultaneously able to threaten to release the same photos unless you vote against the pipeline? And if a third party makes them public just for the heck of it, with no political agenda at all?

Sure, the discompfort potential ramps up, but the actual blackmail potential seems to go away.

Having just read my daughter's copy of "Divergent", what I suggest is similar to the Candor faction's practice of required revealing of one's most intimate secrets, in order to quash the tendency to lie.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
That still makes no sense. You blame Obama, you hate Obama, because the Republicans are unstable and dangerous to those you care about... So you wish you'd voted for a Republican candidate, to keep them happy.

Because that always works.

[By the way, Robert/Tacitus, if my comment earlier reads as hostile/angry (as it does to me, now), it wasn't how I intended. Vox as friendly-but-incredulous.]

LarryHart,
"Having just read my daughter's copy of "Divergent", what I suggest is similar to the Candor faction's practice of required revealing of one's most intimate secrets, in order to quash the tendency to lie."

The Scientology uses this technique, but it's very much intended to be used for blackmail if you want to leave the cult.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

"Having just read my daughter's copy of "Divergent", what I suggest is similar to the Candor faction's practice of required revealing of one's most intimate secrets, in order to quash the tendency to lie."

The Scientology uses this technique, but it's very much intended to be used for blackmail if you want to leave the cult.


But in that scenario, the cult still has possession of the information and the outside world does not. There's still someone who can threaten to release it and also semi-credibly withhold release under its own terms.

In the case of mass-surveilance, the world at large is the cult. Everyone might have the information, and no one controls it.

I see what you're saying, but there's still a difference.


Robert,
That still makes no sense. You blame Obama, you hate Obama, because the Republicans are unstable and dangerous to those you care about... So you wish you'd voted for a Republican candidate, to keep them happy.

Because that always works.


I seem to recall GW Bush running on a similar platform in 2000. Something along the lines of "Vote for me, and the Republicans in congress (and talk radio) won't throw so many temper tantrums.

If yesterday was my day for passive-aggressive pessimism, today must be for conciliatory-ness (whatever the word is). Because I understand Robert's point as well. I just think your (Paul) final sarcastic "Because that always works." is pretty much the final word on that line of thought.

Robert said...

I used the word catalyst deliberately.

And my wish I'd voted Republican has less to do with how Obama is affecting Republicans and more with the sudden hostility of foreign affairs and Putin's determination to rebuild the Soviet Union. If I wanted to vote Republican, I'd have voted for that prat Romney. I didn't. I voted Libertarian in a protest vote against both candidates and both parties.

Jumper said...

David, I read a lot of the "sudden catastrophic release of methane hydrates" alarm-ism and am under the impression it's baloney: yes, they can melt and increase greenhouse problems, but no, there is no fast explosive scenario for this to happen.

I do assume with global seawater temps increasing, we are going to see some positive feedback in this regard, as we already are in melting tundra releasing methane.

sociotard said...

Well slap me stupid. McCain agrees that the US should not intervene in the Ukraine.

http://news.yahoo.com/no-role-us-military-ukraine-crisis-mccain-181459425.html

LarryHart said...

Paul Krugman gets it...

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

Suddenly, or so it seems, inequality has surged into public consciousness — and neither the one percent nor its reliable defenders seems to know how to cope.
Some of the reactions are crazy — it’s Kristallnacht, they’re coming to kill us — with the craziness quite widespread; notice how many billionaires, plus of course the Wall Street Journal, rallied around Tom Perkins. But even the saner-sounding voices evidently have a hard time wrapping their minds around the notion that anyone might find 21st-century finance capitalism a bit, well, unfair.
...
And how does he see this sea-change in attitudes? Why, it must be about growing envy of the rich, which is a terrible thing.
But the polling data don’t say anything about envy: when people say that they have lost their belief that hard work will be rewarded, they aren’t saying that they are envious of the rich; they’re saying that they have lost their belief that hard work will be rewarded. To the extent that people have negative feelings about the one percent, the emotion involved isn’t envy — it’s anger, which isn’t at all the same thing. Envy is when you have negative feelings about rich because of what they have; anger is when you have negative feelings about the rich because of what they do.
...


Myself, I would add that envy is an emotional desire for what they have without any thought to what it takes or costs in order to achieve it. Anger is also emotional, but it's a sane reaction to a sense of injustice.

If you lose the SuperBowl, you might envy the team that won. If you lose the SuperBowl that you would have won but for a blatant bad call made by the referee, you don't feel envy, but anger. The two are not the same thing at all, and it has been a great semantic victory on the part of the Randroid right-wing that they've been successful in conflating the two things.

The entire blog post is definitely worth a read (and NYT blogs are not behind a paywall)

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Well slap me stupid. McCain agrees that the US should not intervene in the Ukraine."

But he still (in that article) insists that it is all Obama's fault and that he has somehow weakened America's influence

Tony Fisk said...

Jumper, I suspect that sudden clathrate release is based on the Eocene event. That was caused by an intrusion of magma under the North Sea. Global warming would more likely have clathrates gently dissolving as sea water temp increases.

Robert said...

You do realize there is more than just methane clathrates in there. There is also a lot of hydrogen sulfide. Now... what happens to a solution when you carbonate it?

The methane will push the hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. And that is a poison. Anything in the Arctic will die because of a poison gas event bigger than anything during World War I.

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

Inertia needs to be considered when thinking about "Geo-flatus" or climate phase shifts, if they're likely, they're also liable to be inevitable. Amelioration perceptible to unaided humans is unlikely in our lifetimes, so anything we do about reducing carbon should have an immediate upside, lest it be abandoned.

Robert said...

The immediate upside is carbon is a very valuable element in industry, and just letting it escape into the atmosphere is wasteful when it could be used in nanoconstruction and also forced plant growth. Indeed, an enriched carbon dioxide atmosphere in greenhouses could help accelerate plant growth and allow smaller areas become more efficient and cost effective for agriculture - and even better, by enclosing the plants in a greenhouse you can minimize pest infestation. All you need is robotic bees to do pollination, and the carbon dioxide could even help kill off pests without the need of expensive pesticides. Enclosed environments also use less water which reduces that cost. And the enclosed environment also allows for phosphorus capture so that less fertilizer is needed.

Why capture carbon? Because it has benefits for industrial agriculture while opening up land for further development and eliminating risks from environmental issues like frosts and disease.

Rob H.

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