Monday, July 16, 2012

Accelerating Dangers & Opportunities from Transparency

The future comes rushing upon us so quickly, already I worry that the world portrayed in my freshly minted novel will be old hat long before the time it is set, 30 years from now. (Meaning that we need futuristic and open-minded thought experiments now, more than ever.)

Try these items on for size...

With new laser technology, hidden government scanners will instantly know everything about you from 150 feet (or 50 meters) away, detecting traces of drugs, explosives, bioweapons or gunpowder on your clothes or luggage -- even recording your adrenaline levels. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will install these scanners (a million times more sensitive than current systems) at airports and border crossings across the country -- as early as 2013. The Russians are developing a comparable system.

Now... if this reduces our exposure to x-rays and allows the TSA to tamp down the aggravation at airports, you can expect the new systems to have their upside. On the other hand, this sort of thing could be Big Brother's most delicious dream.  (More on that aspect.)

...then there's this. Cell phone providers received 1.3 million cell phone snooping requests last year from law enforcement agencies seeking information on locational data and calling records. There is little oversight over who can make such requests, or what is done with the information.

Way back in '97, in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom, I made it clear that we'll not stop any of this with whining, moaning or by trying to ban these technologies.  Our only chance? If government - and other mighty elites - are absolutely fated to know everything about us anyway, our sole option is to know everything about them. 

This is the important distinction between surveillance and sousveillance -- looking down vs. looking back.

And though I've covered it at-length from many directions, I expect to be doing so repeatedly, for the rest of my life.

Is it even remotely possible for sousveillance to work?  For citizens to shine enough light upward to remind our civil servants that they are servants?  To keep a choke-chain on our guard dogs, so they never see themselves as wolves?  To remind corporations that they are constructs, and oligarchs that they are not feudal lords, with droit du seigneur?  As it happens, there are dozens of techniques that might help... providing we nurture the calm, rational... but militant... determination to make this practically happen.

Let's start simple. See just one practical approach that - with a very simple slip of legislation that could be written on one piece of paper - and maybe cost 20 million dollars - we might suddenly and smoothly add a layer of safety and accountability to help let us sleep at night. It's no panacea!  But by simply changing how government inspectors general function, we might follow the sage advice of Sun Yat Sen and stymie the bad in government, while aiding the good.

Let's hope that this election cycle someone actually listens.

And another Transparency related item.  This one not only forecast in The Transparent Society  but also in EARTH...

...the tendency of humans to filter out news or opinions or views or even sensory input that we don't like or agree with.  (Yes, one side of the political "spectrum" is currently doing it to psychotic degrees... but the other end does it too!)  We've been finding out that our brains naturally pass disagreeable info and opinions and input through emotional centers rather than those devoted to reason.  But as predicted, electronic "filters" are making things even worse for some, even while opening up vast universes of wonder and possibilities for others.  See "Are we stuck in a filter bubble...hearing only what we want to hear?" Then see how this very issue was dealt with, in Earth (1989).

Indeed. And then comes the new world of "augmented reality."
Patricia F. Anderson wrote: "Graffiti goes virtual with an augmented reality app for your cell phone, called LZRTAG  Shades of @DavidBrin 's early scenes in Existence."  Indeed, the layering of virtual surfaces over our world has already begun. Still images, animations and video can be tagged to real world surfaces, so your smartphone can interact with media, billboards, lampposts or landmarks. Vernor Vinge and I do - however - show where it must eventually lead. That is, where it must lead if we are lucky and do smart things!

To see where it will lead if we drop courage and brains?  Try Nineteen Eighty-Four.

=== Fascinating cases of watching the watchers at work ===

Think I am naive? Teams at Harvard and the University of Hong Kong have been using new software that allows them to watch the censoring of posts on Chinese social-media sites more closely than before. Monitoring the Monitors summarizes their report in The Economist:

The team found that, overall, 13% of all social media posts in China were censored. Yet their most surprising result is that posts critical of the government are not consistently censored. On the other hand, posts urging people to assemble in protest, are generally removed from the internet within hours. Harvard professor Gary King writes, “Clearly the goal is actually to repress people gathering.”

Rebecca MacKinnon, author of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, comments. “The goal has never been total control. The goal is to keep the Chinese Communist Party in power.”

The researchers analyzed the posts that had been censored to determine exactly what had made them objectionable to the government. What they found was a constantly changing list of keywords and sensitive topics, resulting in "a cat-and-mouse contest between people and censors.”

=== Keep the dream alive ===

On the recent American Independence Day... with a marathon of the eponymous film playing in the background ... I was reminded of the ways that our revolution has affected the world.  Sometimes for ill - though less than any other great "pax" power across time. And sometimes for profound good.  That may be viewed as biased (though in fact, I am more of a Californian than a yankee).  So I suggest steeping in points of view that might be considered neutral and yet poetically insightful.  Such as this account, by the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, of how a remote Circassian mountain tribe once sat at his feet, demanding stories about ... Abraham Lincoln.

PHASES-CIVIL-WARAre we made of lesser stuff than our parents, or the heroes of the first phase of the American Civil War?  We are in phase three now.

Wake up and end it.  By winning it.

=== Science Miscellany ===

We need to discuss what to do about nuclear waste.  It never made the slightest sense for us to abandon the Yucca Mountain site on account of some supposed small chance that the depository might leak a little in 10,000 years.  Say what? So these people are now willing to talk about sci fi levels of time, when they won’t even discuss a decade from now, on any other issue?  Dig it. In 10,000 years, the stored radionuclides are far more likely to be more valuable as stored "gold", than they are to leak into a desert aquifer.  Read up.

Dinosaur sex! Scientific!  With feathers, yet.  And facial expressions.


sociotard said...

I'm not entirely sure how to ensure reciprocal transparency with the government scanner thing.

Open them up for public purchase? except I expect these to be well out of range for most individuals, though it might be added to Corporate power and big data. Now there's a chilling thought.

Put some kind of oversight system in place? except elites will just avoid it

Invent "you are being scanned" detectors? Maybe. mouse-and-mousetrap escallation games don't sound fun, but it might work.

Make them open, as you suggested we do in the "City full of Cameras" scenario Same problem as oversight. Elites will get a few extra to hide, bad guys will just avoid places with the scanners.

what were your concrete suggestions for making this tech transparent.

sociotard said...

On reading the article, I hope that they open it up a little. A few well placed scanners set to look for virus and bacteria markers could be a boon for epidemiology.

sociotard said...

Ah, here it is. Remember when you blogged this?

the possibility of using cell phones as CBRNe detectors

So, once they get the unit small enough, bobs your uncle.

Tacitus said...

From the ephemeral last thread:

"Tacitus, I honestly admit that it is possible that I treated your counter-example unfairly in the past. Frankly, all I remember is THAT I did not find that it met the criteria and you complained about my bias... hence I look fwd to when you do dredge it back up so we can chew on it more carefully, now that book release frenzy is over."

As it happens I have been looking at some rather interesting data. I will be nightshifting a bit, so can't condense it until the weekend.

And character limits may force me to post it to my blog and link. My usual visitors-expecting archeology, robotics and dogs in silly costumes-will just have tolerate the departure.

Detritus of Empire

Dwight Williams said...

Another chain in the ancestry of the tricorder, hm?

Someday, I expect that these things will be small enough and affordable enough for everyone with a will to own or rent them.

Michael C. Rush said...

So, human nature + virtual overlays means that in the (fairly near) future people won't even SEE things they disagree with or don't like in the world, rather than just refusing to acknowledge or condone them?

Scarily plausible.

Tony Fisk said...

I think everyone's already reacted to the 'laser' story with 'soon after... one in every backpack' (along with increasingly frantic attempts to 'prevent the sale or import...')

Tacitus: think of it as your bit to burst the filter bubble!

My first reaction to 'dinosaur sex' was to recall an early scene in the animated romp 'The Missing Link'. It involved stegosaurs...

I believe work continues on refining the properties of 'synroc' (which stores nuclides in a v stable crystalline lattice, rather than an amorphous glass). Now with plutonium...

In other news, Zen Pencils gives Robert H Goddard the treatment.

Ian said...

Sociotard: how about requiring the government to tell you when you're being scanned and what data is being collected?

Set up a real-time system where you can access from your mobile phone what data is being collected and a web-based system where you can long on and see exactly what data about you has been collected.

Come to think of it, is there any reason why banks and stores, for example, shouldn't be required to stream their security footage in real time?

Tony Fisk said...

Actually,Ian, most stores do stream their footage. You have but to look up.

(Meanwhile the capcha's increasingly convoluted word pretzels add weight to the notion that security is for the inconvenience of legitimate customers)

Dwight Williams said...

But I suspect Ian's question implies another one behind it: would there be enough bandwidth available at this point to have the stores stream their cam-footage to the Net at large?

Ian said...

Yes, I'm thinking stream it to the net.

While you're at it, offer rewards for people who spot suspicious behaviour leading to arrest of shoplifters.

Give the 50 Cent Party something more constructive to do with their tme.

sociotard said...

You're thinking of cameras, I think, not the list of probable detected compounds with the picolaser.

I'm not sure how a picolaser would detect a shoplifter. Or who would want to look at a live feed of detected compounds.

Ian Gould said...

Sociotard, correct. I thought that was obvious from the context.

Dwight Williams said...

Sociotard: If one can imagine an investigative technology's existence, one can usually find an audience for its scan results.

Ian Gould said...

I had never heard of British Muslim author and journalist Robin Yassin-Kassab before reading this article but I am immensely impressed by it.

I'm impressed not just by his analysis of events in Syria but by his wider point about the dangers of groupthink and over-generalization.

David will likely also appreciate Yassin-Kassab's view of those he refers to as his "infantile leftist ex-friends".

George Orwell would be proud.

sociotard said...

Hey, I found another thing that conservatives do better: Be Happy.

Jumper said...

In the spirit of enclosing long paragraphs of random numbers in our emails to tie up the snoops trying to break our non-existent "code", I propose an aerosol spray containing a few thousand of the most suspicious molecules, and everyone can spray any object they see at any time as they move about civilization.

rewinn said...

Perhaps the Inspector General Service could be tried at the state level. States are so strapped for cash now that anything that saves money and/or increases efficiency "should be" popular. I'll forward this to my states 2 major candidates for governor - who knows? they actually need issues to tell them apart!

("Should be" is in quotes for reasons that should be evident.)

Alternatively, at the very least, IG recommendations should be posted online for the public to comment and vote on.

And ... let me put another plug in for SkyTruth as another direction for sousvelliance.

Paul451 said...

Re: Law&Order: IGU.

In David's original (linked) article with the idea, he includes an example of the amount of money that could be saved by implementing the thousands of suggestions from the IGs (...I's G?). Suggestions which were at best ignored, at worst suppressed.

If you could find a similar set of figures in your own state, this would allow his/her opponent to justify the introduction of a statewide uniformed IG dept. (Otherwise, they risk looking like they are "creating more government", which is verboten these days.) "My opponent ignored X thousands of recommendations from his own Inspector Generals(*), which would have saved X hundred million dollars! Why, I hear his cronies even tried to get some of those Inspectors sacked! That's why, in my first 100 days in office, I will..."

(* Yes, "Inspector Generals". We don't need no faggoty college grammar from you, city boy.)

[tedFeb 27: Not to be confused with TEDFeb, which has nothing to do with bears.]

Paul451 said...

It's always surprised me that more people don't get pranked with the training spray used for drug-sniffing dogs. It just seems so obvious.(*) Even if you get caught with the spray, although it's not meant to be sold to the public, it's not actually illegal.

(* Or I may just be a bad person.)

David Brin said...

Ian G... the Qunfuz article is interesting and a good added perspective. But of course he exaggerates the EXTENT of the lefty counter-counter think, favoring the "brave Assad regime."

I mean geez, that is a snippet minority flake view espoused my silly people who are looking for a shock reaction.

Qunfuz also does not go far enough in redefining the Saudis away from "American clients". Clearly, when the GOP is in charge in the US... we are the Saudi clients. So are all viewers of the partly Saudi owned Fox.

Paul451 said...

"You wouldn't steal an anti-piracy ad?"

An anti-piracy group paid a Dutch composer to produce a theme for a one off anti-piracy event. Then went off and used it on 70 different commercial DVDs without bothering to pay any royalties.

"You wouldn't use your public-interest position for person gain?"

Head of the Dutch "Artists' Rights" group tried to... "help"... by suggesting the composer sign his rights over a record company he just happened to own. Anyway, lawyers were generally thrown about the place.

tl;dr - Composer won. But still hasn't received all his royalties. And the head of the supposed "Artists' Rights" group had to stand down.

Paul451 said...


MIT Professor Stephen Mann, who wears a "wearable computer" as a kind of prosthetic for the past 27 years (to the point where he can't walk properly without it), was assaulted by McDonalds staff while on holiday with his family in France. Even though he had a doctors letter and other documentation with him, they tried to rip the head-mounted prosthetic off his head, damaging it in the process. And ripped up his documents in front of him.

Paul451 said...

"sign his rights over a record company"

Probably a "to" in there somewhere.

"wears a "wearable computer" "
"the head-mounted prosthetic off his head"

Redundant information is redundant.

Tony Fisk said...

I propose a 'flash' event where the participants enter the McDonalds store in question, wearing 'eye-glasses' or mockups.

Since Prof. Mann's camera captured the events (ironically, *because* of the assault), I would call it a case of pro-sousveillance.

Rob said...

his own Inspector Generals(*)

Don't make me come over there, Paul. ;-)

sociotard said...

So it's true what they say about Parisians.

Still, who the heck goes on vacation all the way to Paris and eats in a McDonalds?

Acacia H. said...

You eat at McDonalds because no matter which McDonalds you go to, you're guaranteed a certain quality of food. It might not be the best of food, it might not be something you like, but you know it will fill you and not make you sick.

I eat McDonalds (as does my dad) when we drive out west each year to go hunting in Colorado. They're everywhere so we're guaranteed to be able to find someplace to eat, more often than not. It's pretty much the only time we eat at Mickey Ds.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

I know Steve Mann, who co-coined "sousveillance" and I am pissed off about this, though it is totally expected.

As for Paris... well... I lived there for 2 years. They may be proud of their sauces, but their street food sucks and sooner or later you must do McDs.

Street food capital? New York. Every block you pass through twelve aroma zones, only 3 of them disgusting!

Dwight Williams said...

For those wanting the perspective of some of those of us in Prof. Mann's hometown, there's this from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

Dwight Williams said...

One more thing: given the recent copyright law revisions passed by our Parliament on Stephen Harper's watch, it may now be a crime for Prof. Mann to visit any and all movie theatres anywhere in Canada.

(Unless he's already talking with Michael Geist at U of Ottawa about this sort of issue...?)

Tony Fisk said...

Every block you pass through twelve aroma zones, only 3 of them disgusting!

Suffusing a fine restaurant with with a whiff of vomit and placing the aromatic cheeses in the back-alley of said restaurant may not alter your perceptions by much.

Acacia H. said...

Just felt like sharing a whimsical and crazy idea for a fanfic I'll never write.

Imagine, a world devastated by magical war... as great ravenous beasts known as the Vold attack from Beyond. The only defense England has are gigantic golems piloted by teenage wizards and witches, the only people with imaginations vivid enough to let them control their giant clay machines.

This is: Neon Genesis Pottereleon.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

A quick note re eating in MacDonald's in Paris.

After two weeks in Japan eating only Japanese food I became violently ill - not that there was anything wrong with the food it was just different and my system was having trouble adjusting.

At that point, a meal at KFC was a weclome change.

sociotard said...

RIP James Sobol, author of Encyclopedia Brown

sociotard said...

Sorry, Donald Sobol. Wow. This is why I should always use ctrl C

Dwight Williams said...

I used to read those books when I was in the target age range for them.

Rob said...

Americans go to McDonalds in Europe the first time to see if it's any different. It is; the prices are much higher. And the beef is necessarily better.

But if you end up living there as David did in Paris or I did in Switzerland for two years, you go for a taste of home.

David Brin said...

Idiots who run the Boy Scouts, They are parsing it all wrong. Persecuting a lesbian cub scout leader???? WTF?

Both of my sons have done scouts. One is Eagle and the other nearing it. The usefulness in helping transform them into sturdy and trustworthy and useful men is beyond comparison to any other non-home influence I could imagine and my only regret is that our daughter could not do it.

But the BSA leadership has got to shift on the gay thing and on atheism. The latter simply has to go away, completely. And in fact, I know of no case where it has ever been a practical issue.

A polemical one? Yes. Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) and I have tussled over it. He wants "reverent" removed from the Scout Oath and I say "WTF just revere the universe man. Yeesh."

The gay thing is simply stupid, though. All it would take is a REPHRASING of the position! Simply say this:

"Human males are inherently dangerous. A small fraction of them do most of the terrible things that make life difficult or stressful for countless millions.

" One of the core purposes of Scouting is to reduce that fraction by helping parents and civilization to raise boys into decent, generous, tolerant, skilled and calmly courageous men. In order to accomplish this task, we rely on a vast array of volunteers, especially parents, to participate in our programs. This requires of the BSA that it establish very rigorous and stringent child protection policies.

"We recognize and accept that the vast majority of Gay and lesbian people are fine folks who would never in any way seek to impose their lifestyle on impressionable boys. Nevertheless, we are caught in a bind that is created by the small minority of that inclination whose attractions might draw them toward our scouts in unwholesome ways.

"What it boils down to is this. Any organization that deals with thousands or millions of young potential victims must exercise extra care and scrutiny toward any male adults who might be attracted, sexually, to those youths.

"If a single adult heterosexual male were to approach the Girl Scouts seeking a position of leadership and control over female teens, without being one of the parents, would you not expect the Girl Scouts to exercise some skepticism?

"Are the Boy scouts unreasonable to exercise similar skepticism, if a single adult homosexual male seeks a position of leadership and control over male teens?

"We shall continue to maintain that policy of skeptical protection... but hereby announce that it is being modified to be more reasonable and to move with the times.

1) Any overall ban on lesbians or female LGBT simply does not meet the criteria of common sense.

2) Toward gay single men who seek leadership positions in the BSA, we now shift from a ban to "skeptical inquiry" that might help us to reasonably protect our young charges, without preventing diligent and patient gay adults - who are willing to jump a few extra hoops - from adding their wealth of experience, wisdom and generosity of spirit to our 100 year old movement."

Okay... I don't expect to win any friends with that... AND I ASK THAT YOU LEAVE THIS DRAFT RUMINATION HERE, UNDER INFORMAL COMMENTS, WITHOUT TAKING IT (OR WARPED "HE-SAID") OUT TO THE WEB. It is just for discussion here.

A rumination....

Tim H. said...

My stepson made Eagle scout and my daughter would've liked a unified "Kid scouts" (6 to 12 years, than split by gender.), if such a thing existed. The lesbian is likely being persecuted out of some bizarre notion of fairness, I would have no worries about her being around young men.

David Brin said...

Yep that's the irony. In this case, the argument should be:

"Treat with skeptical scrutiny any (non-parent) adult male who seeks a position of leadership/control over young people of the gender they happen to be attracted to."

Heck, even parent males are watched carefully by the Girl Scouts! As they should be!

This is no time for evenhandedness between genders. The position should be diametrically opposite and issued jointly by BSA and Girl Scouts.

"A small but very significant fraction of adult men are dangerous and drawn toward youths. We assert a commonsense right to look more carefully at those non-parents who are drawn toward positions of leadership/control over youths of whichever gender attracts them."

It is suddenly no longer about LGBT discrimination at all. It is about a worrisome fraction of male humans who might and do cause harm. (e.g. Jerry Sandusky.)

rewinn said...

Maybe we need to organize "Science Scouts".

I had a great time in Scouting and can totally see the value, but the built-in authoritarianism appears to make it susceptible to the same sort of self-selecting idiocy that is driving the Vatican to ruin.

Science Scouts. Like Boy Scouts, but sciencier.

Ian said...

David, ALL groups that deal with young people have policies in place to protect their charges from sexual exploitation.

That's a given and hardly needs a special declaration.

You might also want ot note thatsexual abuse of girls by lesbians is also a real concern.

The Scouts simply need to adopt the same policies as any other group in a contemporary western society.

For example, here in Queensland, teachers, school employees, coaches and, yes, scout masters and salaried employees of the Scouts have to get a "Blue Card" which involves a national check of police records (amongst other things).

That strikes mes as a far more effective way to protect children than a ban on openly gay men.

Need I point out that heterosexual neb are actually more likely to be pedophiles than homosexuals.

(Homosexuality is a sexual preference. Pedophilia is a mental illness that inclines its victims to sexually assault children. Many if not most pedophiles are sexually attracted to children of both sexes.)

Ian said...

A quick addendum: is they any evidence, ANY edidence at all, that sexual abuse within scouting has worsened in any of the countries that have allowed gays to serve in leadership roles?

The protection issue is a smoke-screen, the BSA simply wants to exclude people it considers morally unacceptable - which includes atheists and agnostics as well as homosexuals.

For that matter, the BSA oath requires Scouts to do their duty "to God" - which is interpreted to exclude members of polytheistic religons such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

I suppose we should be grateful they did, eventally and reluctantly,drop their requirements for racial segregation.

Oh and I'm yet to hear of the BSA refusing to allow scouting groups from national associations that accept gays to take part in scouting events iwthin the US or prohibiting its members from attendign events in those countries.

I guess it's only the ANERICAN gays you have ot watch out for (that or the real reason for the ban is that the Catholic church and the Mormon church sponsor thousands of scout troops in the US and would withdraw their support if the policy was changed.)

The Catholic church are, of course, the first group most people would turn to for advice on how to protect young people from sexual abuse by authority figures.

Tony Fisk said...

"Neon Genesis Potterlion" is clearly a load of Hogwarts...

And the KFC Matrix has you, Ian!


And finally, for those who are interested, a quick note to point out that Wikileaks has found a way around the credit card blockade.

'273 ickgroa' ancient slime molds released from their prison in a melting glacier.

David Brin said...

Actually, I expected more heat from this than seems to have arisen...

Ian: "You might also want ot note thatsexual abuse of girls by lesbians is also a real concern."

To whom? Nobody I know. When was the last time you heard of a lesbian Sandusky? Oh they exist, anecdotally. But seriously, any effort to make this "evenhanded" is just silly. And so are Girl OR Boy scouts who fret about female Lesbians or Bi's.

Ian: "The Scouts simply need to adopt the same policies as any other group in a contemporary western society"

They HAVE! We have to take Child Protection courses and there's a rule that no adult is ever to be alone with a scout, ever. Silly but necessary.

And you still miss the point. I do NOT claim that gay men are more dangerous to Boy Scouts than hetero men are to Girl Scouts. Both have to watch out for MALES who are attracted to their youthful charges.

Period. It is not gayness that is the problem. It is perverted males who want to be near helpless members of the gender they are attracted to.

My position is both logical and ENTIRELY NEUTRAL on the big picture of gay vs straight tolerance. The issue is not gayness it is males.

Ian: "The protection issue is a smoke-screen, the BSA simply wants to exclude people it considers morally unacceptable - which includes atheists and agnostics as well as homosexuals."

I agree that their are troglodytes in leadership roles in BSA. They would not agree with my attempt at a compromise because they personally ARE bigots. I oppose them, openly.

Ian: "For that matter, the BSA oath requires Scouts to do their duty "to God" - which is interpreted to exclude members of polytheistic religons such as Hinduism and Buddhism. "

You are being silly. Like Penn. There are no efforts across the BSA to police any aspect of "god" or "reverent"... yes, the mormon troops are another matter. And there are troops with harraguing scoutmasters and I would fight that if I saw it. But I have never, ever personally seen a trace of it in 50 years of scouting.

The crux... making an enemy organization out of one that does as much good in the world as scouting is simply loony. There are irksome aspects that are gradually being reformed and I have put forward a suggestion that would re-couch the whole thing in a way that would eliminate half of the injustice and move us forward. In 20 years my approach would be obsolete, now it would be a step forward.

Obdurate thickheaded nostalgia is a fault of the right. The left often, in its impatience, refuses to consider complexity.

BCRion said...

From a perspective of a millennial, the BSA is stuck with the values of a bygone era. If the BSA wants to stay relevant in the 21st century, they are simply going to have to change their position on gays. The latest generation of parents, the millennials which are just now entering the years where they have children old enough to join the BSA, largely accepts the notion that gay people should have equal rights.

Taking stances those parents view as bigoted is entirely unhelpful toward ensuring they have the membership they need to ensure long-term vitality of the organization. I'm sure this all will change eventually along with shifts in leadership to the next generation, but by then, it may be too late.

David Brin said...

An example if just now doing your homework.

See the Hindu & Buddhist religious medals awarded by the Boy Scouts of America

Heck fire, there's a UNITARIAN one! Jesus, what do you want???

Rob said...

I went through the BSA scrutiny a couple of years ago, when I served as Cubmaster.

They rigorously background-check and vet every adult volunteer. In my view the exclusion of gays from unit leadership is a bottom-up decision. Most scouts are sponsored by Catholic troops. Most units are Mormon.

Mormons are working through the truth of things. The trajectory is toward much greater tolerance. I have anecdotes to offer if anyone is interested. I don't know what the Catholics are doing, but I can attest that a nominal Cub Scout pack sponsored by a Mormon ward isn't going to quibble about a nine year old boy's conception of God. They're far too busy just executing the program.

Whether or not to admit girls to Tiger Cubs and Cub Scouts is left to a Council/District/Unit decision. In other words, the sponsoring organization decides. The only "boy only" groups left in the national charter are the actual red-epaulet and orange-epaulet Boy Scouts and Ventures, though I think girls can be Ventures.

Verifiably, young women are employed as camp counselors in our district in the PDX area, under Oregon's very liberal employment laws.

David Brin said...

Girls can do Venture but by the time we set one up my daughter was already shrug blase and uninterested, Didn't know we could put her in cubs! That must be recent. sigh.

But it does show they are evolving. Interesting how it is in rhythm with the evolution of mormonism.

Forgive me but I think we can wait on a Mormon president till the next, more evolved generation.

Acacia H. said...

I'm not sure about Sandusky-level lesbian pedophiles, but there are definitely a number of female pedophiles out there in the teaching profession. Every so often you hear about some teacher who was caught sleeping with her mid-teen students. When you consider how many sex crimes go unreported... well, it's entirely possible that there are female pedophiles who do target girls.

A simple search on Bing quickly revealed two websites with data on female pedophiles. While you can't necessarily trust what you read online... I'm not sure these two sites are necessarily fake:

(I'm not linking to the specific stories in question because I didn't feel comfortable doing that. After all, I have no proof those stories are legit, which is why I linked the websites behind the threads in question.)

If I were to guess, I'd say that seeing that pedophilia is a mental illness and teachers are under increasing amounts of stress due to public and political sentiments against their pay and unions... and just snap one day and start behaving in a fashion they'd not do if not under the severe amount of stress they're under.

And speaking as a former substitute teacher who was sexually harassed by a female student (and then warned by the school administration next time to immediately report the girl to the administration because of the possibility of her trying to report me falsely to get me into trouble), it's also entirely possible that some of these cases (in which charges are not levied) were false charges against the teachers out of a twisted need for revenge by some socially-deficient young teen.

But to go back to the concept of the female Sandusky? They exist. They're just not usually in a position of extreme visibility as Sandusky was.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Of course they exist. But forest for the trees.

Males are dangerous. Half of civilization is about dealing with that fact. Sometimes you gotta start with the obvious.

David Brin said...

Do any of you have accounts at

One of the forums carried some stuff about me worthy of a brief answer but I don't want to join just for that.

matthew said...

Re: Best street food in the world. I've been to NYC. Portland,OR, just kills it. Over 1200 various carts. And I can't think of a bad one that stayed open over a month. But then I have a "Cartivore" t-shirt, so I might not be a fair judge. Of course, cnn agrees with me

And us news and world

Just sayin

David Brin said...

Yeah, I walked past the permanent festival of food trucks at the Old Courthouse square in Portland, a week ago and thought about how many days it would take to cycle around and then go to line two on all the menus, then line three...

Jiminy, did any of you look at the range of religions listed as giving BSA faith awards?

Look up General Church of the New Jerusalem and Meher Baba... there's one for Zoroastrians!!

But the unitarian one... it means atheists and agnostics are welcome, so long as you use the word "unitarian" once in a while...

People oughta chill.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acacia H. said...

I know what you mean, Dr. Brin. I want to send them a cease-and-desist for copying verbatim one of my reviews but paying $10 for the right to join the forum just to do that doesn't sit right.

I e-mailed their tech support people but never received a response. It wasn't even a nasty cease-and-desist either, just a polite request. Ah well. They've not done anything like that since (that I'm aware of) and I did put up a copyright notification on my own website so hopefully having sent a request will be enough to protect my copyright.

Rob H.

Rob said... charges the $10 for an account, once, and nothing thereafter. There is no tech support and they never respond to requests. You'd probably have to go right to the DMCA cease-and-desist to get satisfaction on a copyright complaint. And even then you may not get it.

Acacia H. said...

You know, they do repost comics there, in violation of the copyright for said comics. The problem is, you smack them with a stick and they swarm you worse than Japanese hornets. You know the hornets in question, they're the size of the palm of your hand and spit caustic liquid in your eyes?

Yeah. Worse than that.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

I was a Boy Scout in a good troop - 155 near Chicago in '65 - and it was outstanding. I think you should write a few letters to the organization, David, your thinking makes sense to me.

The readers here might like this unrelated article from England:

(a repost; I was in Troop 155, not 152...)

Re the stolen writing, if they charge money to read their site, they are ripe for copyright lawsuits...

David Brin said...

Harumph, well, I had a word or two for a group on somethingawful... but it war-en't woth ten bucks I wish em well...

David Brin said...


Acacia H. said...

They don't charge to read the site. They charge to join the forum (posting content to the forum). I suspect in the rules and regs they say "don't copy shit" or the like but it's not adhered to usually.

As such they probably get around that technicality.

And honestly, so long as they don't keep it up then I'm not going to suffer grief over it. I've posted my "please don't copy my stuff, you're allowed to do excerpts but not wholesale copying" request on my site, that should suffice for legal purposes.

Rob H.

Rob said...

Yeah, I take your point. SA tends to be overpopulated with young illiterate-literates, ping-ponging the most recent and popular ideals back and forth to one another. (Disclosure: I possess a dormant account and have traded merchandise on their forums.)

They're loyal to their sense of combined entitlement and each other, willing to participate in community acts of revenge-enforcement. A very interesting combination of openness, reciprocal loyalty, and relatively appalling immaturity. Craig's List, with attitude and lots of profanity.

Could be worse.

Hey, what if you were to take a bit of IP work, slap a Creative Commons license on it, and announce that you saw that people were copying your stuff, acknowledge the backhanded compliment and offer another, free of charge, with a polite request connected to your livelihood/reputation/whatever?

Acacia H. said...

The funny thing is, I'd not even be aware that they did it except initially the person linked to my site. Then he removed the link because he didn't want me getting the traffic (which makes me think he was associated with John Solomon, a shock jock webcomic reviewer a few years back who thought "review" meant spouting f-bombs and insulting the cartoonist with various false accusations. Solly ultimately ran out of steam and his site vanished, but at one point he "reviewed" me and tried to rile up my readership by posting a link to his review to my forum. Which I promptly deleted. Time and time again.

Finally they went over my head and went after my host, Glych, who let a discussion start so long as my own dictates were followed: no links and no mentioning Solly by name. For a year afterward he'd deride a comic, link me while insulting me, and I would laugh in his face and thank him for all the traffic he sent my way... which was not reciprocated at all because none of my readers knew he existed. Finally it dawned on him that I was right at which point he stopped linking me.

So this is either Solly or one of his close associates and he realized that I was getting traffic from that link. I tracked it down (I was curious where the traffic came from) and noticed the copying of my review. If he'd not initially linked me then I'd never have known.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Story on catching Olympic dopers relates, in my mind, to transparency issues.

Dwight Williams said...

I don't know if this fits into the transparency thread or not, but in last year's federal election up here in Canada, we've had...issues. And it looks like an investigation-via-lawsuit is definitely going ahead.