Monday, January 14, 2013

Transparency in 2013: A Followup

I had considerably more transparency-related news than could fit in one posting. So now let's get into a series of micro-snapshots of this most-important front in the fight for tomorrow.

First: we failed to generate the needed 25,000 signatures for a petition at requesting the Obama Administration to look into my "no-losers" proposal for how to simplify the tax code without much political pain. (Thus making it somewhat possible, at all.) Thanks Thomas Benson, for trying.

== Has Obama betrayed the promise of openness? ==

Professor Jack Goldsmith is a smart fellow, expert in the field of rights, freedom and privacy. His new book  Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11, suggests that those liberals who are angry at President Obama for retaining some Bush Era powers have not looked closely enough.  Obama has cooperated with the establishment a significant limits and oversights to those powers that had been lacking before. 

"Conventional wisdom holds that 9/11 sounded the death knell for presidential accountability. In fact, the opposite is true. The novel powers that our post-9/11 commanders in chief assumed—endless detentions, military commissions, state secrets, broad surveillance, and more—are the culmination of a two-century expansion of presidential authority. But these new powers have been met with thousands of barely visible legal and political constraints—enforced by congressional committees, government lawyers, courts, and the media—that have transformed our unprecedentedly powerful presidency into one that is also unprecedentedly accountable."

That is not to say that I am without disappointments.  In fact, several Obama Administration lapses and measures have me seething!  I will be so-pleased when conservatism wakes from its fever dream and can serve as a proper foil, to keep democrats accountable and honest.  Alas, till then, we are stuck with a choice between flawed and corrupt-crazy.  I'll choose flawed.

== Transparency Miscellany ==

We the people... A step toward more open government: See how GitHub uses open source to allow citizens to access, interact with, hack and edit government documents, data and software.

psychicYou really need to watch this, showing the amazing psychic at work... and his secret... (the multiple tents should be a clue.) 

A growth in anonymity...The online anonymity network Tor claims that 36 million people have used the system since it was first deployed about a decade ago. The system conceals its users' identities by encrypting communications and routing them at random through a set of servers. This ensures that the sender and recipient cannot be identified by an eavesdropper along the way. What's more, the last node in the route always appears as the originator of the message, at least as far as the recipient is concerned. That protects the location and identify of both the sender and receiver. Now Cal Berkeley researchers claim to have fixed a problem in this method by utilizing social networks to avoid malicious nodes. Me? I don't trust such systems an iota and only a fool would. We have one route to freedom.  Strip the mighty naked. 

Ah, progress... A drone of your very own..if you have 990 euros.  Definitely a unique way to remotely keep an eye on the kids, a dad in the Northeast modified a quadcopter to watch from afar.

UnknownMohammed Ibrahim is a strange sort of philanthropist, in that he doesn't do handouts. The problem in Sudan and the rest of Africa, Mr. Ibrahim says, isn't lack of money. It's "governance—the way Africans govern themselves." So Mr. Ibraham has a different idea: He gives directly to individuals—specifically to political leaders—who have to earn the money. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, begun in 2006, tracks the quality of governance across Africa and awards cash prizes to leaders who leave office with relatively uncorrupt records.

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership offers a tidy $5 million over 10 years and then $200,000 annually for life. You might call it offering payoffs to leaders who don't take payoffs.
Westerners no longer ignore what African governments do for—and to—their citizens. This shift "really helped democratize Africa a lot," Mr. Ibrahim says. The leaders there are hardly perfect, he adds, "but they're moving in the right direction." He is only too happy to dangle a gold-plated carrot to keep them moving that way.

Federal officials can apparently use a "stingray" to locate a mobile phone even when it's not being used to make a call. The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the devices to be so critical that it has a policy of deleting the data gathered in their use, mainly to keep suspects in the dark about their capabilities.  Read the WSJ article... but bear in mind the implicit myopia.  That whatever federal agents can do, criminals and corporations will have access to, in a few years... and then your nosy neighbors.  Again, ironically, the solution is not to pass laws against such things; the laws won't work. It is to make it all above-board.

== More Transparency snippets! ==

4. While definitely one-sided and politically driven (it's hard to imagine anyone standing up for the other side) this essay about the fall of Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973 is primarily about an experiment in internet-like cyber-governance that was attempted during Allende's brief tenure in office.  Completely aside from the tragic history and our own Nixonian shame is the fascinating tale of a utopian experiment in connectivity, way before its time.

5. In a fairly simpleminded theoretical model, some physicists report that there is a natural inertia and momentum to fanaticism of belief... that moderation of opinion suffers from disadvantages when confronted with powerfully-held memes.  From the descriptions of the model, I am not terribly impressed.  But it does continue to show what I described in my paper to the National Institute on Drugs and Addiction... that we face a difficult task becoming a nation and world of pragmatic negotiators and and practical, calm listeners and innovators in making a better world.

6. Creative Barcode is a nonprofit organization that allows members to share new ideas without the risk of unauthorized copying. It was founded in 2010. Members embed digital codes in creative works to indicate usage permissions. Private disclosure is made to other members who agree not to publicly disclose the idea or use the idea without permission of the original creator.

Quv1IbxXiVBU-bvjUd6cKTl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVaiQDB_Rd1H6kmuBWtceBJ7. Another audio interview podcast, this one on the subject of "Funding the Dream: The Future of Crowds."  Interesting sub-topics around the notion that creativity will have all sorts of new avenues available to all of us in the future.

8. Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together. Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

9. Adolf Hitler's infamous book 'Mein Kampf' will be published again for the first time in some 70 years. Bavaria, Germany has held ownership of the book’s copyright since the end of World War II, but those rights are due to expire in 2015. Perhaps the intent is to publish a fully annotated - and critical - version that then floods the market so that the 2015+ editions put out by Nazis and others will not stand alone.

10.  At least a fifth of all embedded computers that are accessible online -- including possibly your printer or modem -- still have their factory default passwords, meaning just about anyone can waltz in (digitally) and compromise them, and thus enter your main computer. Printers can even be taken over by coding contained in a doc file! Read Charles Choi in Scientific American on secret electronic wars in our embedded computers. There are positive developments too... that are starting to look more and more like the multi-layerings of an immune system learning to combat the ferocity of viruses and other parasites.

11. Text messaging on contact lenses. Vernor and I depicted it in science fiction.  Stuff keeps arriving faster than we anticipated!

12. Meanwhile, dig it: black boxes required in cars by 2014.  Only if they go in squad cars and limousines too!

13. Andy Kessler provides us with a summary-snapshot of the current balance of power between government surveillance and the rise of citizen-level sousveillance. For example: Already a third of large U.S. police forces equip patrol cars with automatic license plate-readers that can check 1,000 plates per hour looking for scofflaws. U.S. Border Patrol already uses iris-recognition technology, with facial-recognition in the works, if not already deployed..

ConsiderCopyright14.  Then there is the matter of IP... Intellectual Property. Having filed suits against Samsung for "slavishly copying" its products and selling them around the world, Apple now has developed a history of winning in places where people invent things (Germany, the U.S.) and losing in places where they steal them (South Korea, Japan).

The real meaning of Apple's legal, and marketplace, struggles is cast into sharp relief by this schism in how various legal systems treat the question of copying others' work. For this reason, Apple has done the world a terrific service by bringing a problem front and center which has been known to everyone, but not properly discussed until now. When it turns out that the thieves' courts say stealing is OK, and the inventors' courts say it is not, then what?

LATE BREAKING: The Aron Swartz case is sad. Tho somewhat unsurprising -- he was a hothouse depressive type -- I am also very angry that prosecutors tried to high-ball their preliminary plea charges at 35 year... for what was in effect a civil offense that should have been dealt with in civil court.

Onward.  What interesting times.  Spread light.


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David Brin
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Ian said...

"Apple now has developed a history of winning in places where people invent things (Germany, the U.S.) and losing in places where they steal them (South Korea, Japan)."

Yeah that's the immediate and obvious pattern one sees in that data.

dimonic said...

Apple case is a vast oversimplification. Are you saying they don't invent things in the U.K?

Just because you live on royalties doesn't make every patent either valid or useful. Much of Apple's stuff is not even first use. Much of it should not be patentable. They are busy patenting the web at the moment. Will you still support them gladly when only their browsers can render popular content?

Tim H. said...

The ferocity of the Aaron Swartz prosecution might have been sort of a pledge of devotion to enormous media, a way to demonstrate that the Obama administration, though perceived liberal, can be just as attentive to the money as any conservative.

Tony Fisk said...

Just how turbulent a priest Aaron Swartz will prove to be for this administration remains to be seen.

1. a bit of humble pie will be called for
2. eating it will not be a long term problem

Alex Tolley said...

Re: experiment in internet-like cyber-governance in Chile

I had the pleasure of Stafford Beer as a lecturer at Manchester B School back in the early 1980's. His ideas on controlling systems with cybernetics was ahead of its time. I think his simple displays were the idea of computer dashboards about 25-30 years before they were "reinvented" for the web age.

Ian said...

"The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a preliminary ruling against Apple Inc.'s "pinch-to-zoom" patent, which Apple used as a cornerstone of its case against Samsung Electronics Co.

The agency rejected all claims in Apple's patent on Wednesday, according to a document issued by the patent office that was filed by Samsung in federal court in San Jose, Calif. The document lists portions of the patent that were struck down on reexamination, on the basis that prior patents covered the same inventions.

The patent office said that in order for the Apple's claims to be valid, they must be considered patentable despite any "prior art patent and printed publication cited." In a detailed report, the agency said they did not.

Christal Sheppard, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, said Apple can still appeal if the patent office decision becomes final, and potentially salvage its patent. But if it is unsuccessful, the decision could impact the damages Apple is awarded.

"There may need to be a new phase of the trial to figure out what the damages are," Ms. Sheppard said, but not the facts of whether Samsung infringed Apple's other patents as well. "The facts of whether they infringe or not have been found."

Samsung said the development supports its request for a new trial. A Samsung spokesman declined to comment beyond the filing. An Apple spokeswoman also declined to comment."

LarryHart said...

From the earlier threead, regarding gold as "objective value"...

Isn't there a fallacy in that concept independent of the stabiity of the currency?

Value isn't necessarily neatly quantifiable into fungible units. For example, just because you'd willingly trade 40 hours of work a week for a weekly paycheck of $1000 doesn't mean you'd trade 160 hours a week for $4000.

At greatest remove, if there is a shortage of food, water, oxygen, etc, then any rational being would have to trade all the money they possessed for the smallest amount of those items necessary for subsistence. Only in an economy of relative plenty can we even think about concepts such as how much food you'd trade for an I-Pod.

David Brin said...

Also, nations often get themselves out of terrible jams by devaluing their currency. It worked so well for Argentina and Brazil that they recovered beautifully. Greece cannot do that because of the Euro. Mistake.

Can't do it with gold-based curency!

Lorraine said...

Apparently you invented this term "hothouse depressive." Could you please provide a definition?

Paul451 said...

You recall the Grail lunar imaging mission ended when the two orbiters were deliberately steered into a lunar mountain. Obviously those last few orbits were quite low, about 10km, so during the final pre-collision check-out, they recorded a couple of thousand low resolution images from the two cameras, one aimed forward, one rearward...

Flying over the moon. Enjoy.

Ian said...

I spoke to a friend who lives in Argentina when the subject of the 200-2002 currency crisis and devaluation last came up here.

He tells me most Argentinians regard that as the single worst period in their country's very troubled recent history.

They certainly don't think it "worked beautifully".

I know that isn't how Paul Krugman likes to portray it.


Tim H. said...

I'm guessing that "Hothouse depressive" refers to someone who easily becomes depressed.

Anonymous said...

Dickens (in Nicholas Nickleby, 1838): "Mrs. Witterly is of a very excitable nature, very delicate,
very fragile, a hothouse plant."
- Jumper

Anonymous said...

The cell-phone tracking is a vital component of the cell-phone network. It can be misused but that's the technological reality: local tracking is needed for cell handovers and a larger-scale tracking is required for receiving phone calls (and also used for billing).

David Brin said...

The hothouse part of the term refers to a person deliberately choosing a manic life, filled with challenges and windmills to charge at. It is dangerous when combined with depression, plus a loose and cavalier attitude toward self-protection.

No one said devaluations were fun. But they are often successful at wringing out debt and inflation and creating trade surpluses that then generate jobs. After pain.

Jonathan Roth said...

The here is an article I found relevant, but my iPad refuses to paste the URL. Google "How Game Theory Explains Washingtons Horrible Gridlock"

David Brin said...

Game theory bah.

Murdoch, Kochs and the Saudi Royal House. All the explanation you need.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, you're edging into Conspiracy Theory territory again. Given the number of Republican politicians out there, and the gains to be had for squealing on their fellows, a NeoCon Conspiracy would fall apart fairly quickly. What we have here is instead the backlash of change-resistant Americans who elect change-resistant politicians who jimmy the system to ensure their reelection. They cannot negotiate lest they alienate their most diehard supporters who are the ones who vote in primaries.

In short, you're talking human nature here, not the actions of a few opportunists who are getting rich off of the change-resistant by feeding them the news diet that they want.

Rob H.

Ian said...

In case anyone is interested: this article looks at the Argentine devaluation and its economic results.

In summary: real wages fell more than 20% and didn't recover for years. The economic growth experienced post-devaluation lagged behind that other commodity-based economies in the same period.

The current account corrected because most Argentines could no longer afford any non-essential imported items(or in many cases essential imports like medicines) while employers took advantage of the fall in wages to undercut foreign competitors.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Also, nations often get themselves out of terrible jams by devaluing their currency. It worked so well for Argentina and Brazil that they recovered beautifully. Greece cannot do that because of the Euro. Mistake.

Can't do it with gold-based curency!

"Mistake" for the debtors is a "feature" for the creditors. Why do you think the oligarchs have been not only discouraging monetary expansion (stimulus), but pushing for a return to the gold standard? Even during a Great Depression?

Jonathan Roth said...

I don't see what's wrong with using game theory to clarify things; it in no way discounts the Koch brothers, Murdock, The Saudis, etc.. Where I would disagree with with the article is when it states that Republicans have less to lose than in December, that the blame for failure would be shared more equally. It seems that more and more Americans are seeing them as obstructionists, not Obama.

On a somewhat similar tangent, we're seeing more partisan bickering on gun issues; what I don't understand is why we're not hearing more about gun safes. Many shootings are accidental, by kids playing with guns, heat of the moment arguments between couples and friends, and from guns stolen from homes. If we can require car owners to buy insurance and have seat belts, why not a law that says, "if you can buy a gun, you can buy a gun safe." it wouldn't prevent all such shootings, but as with seat belts, it would cut down on fatalities.

locumranch said...

You are sadly mistaken if you think the modern financial economy possesses some sort of objective value.

As Paul451 pointed out in prior post, paper currency represents a promissory note backed up by faith in the reputation of the issuer.

Currency devaluation is yet another example of such a loss of faith and/or reputation. The untrustworthy borrower (who admits that he can't pay off what he owes in 'old currency') pays off in a 'new currency' which is worth a fraction (maybe 10%) of the original.

In other words, currency devaluation is a cheat, fraud and/or breach of trust.

The very fact that many believe currency devaluation to be laudable and/or reasonable proves that almost every modern currency (dollar, peso, euro, etc) is only worth what we believe the reputation of the issuer to be worth, leaving us (in other words) with a faith-based economy.

The old 'gold standard', despite all its flaws, tied the value of a currency to a set amount of commodity (whether gold, wheat, opium or coffee beans) and provided wage earners, investors & borrowers with a modicum of protection against such a loss of faith and/or reputation.


LarryHart said...

locumranch, when I was much younger, I used to be in total agreement with you about the gold standard. As I grew older and saw more of how economies actually work, I came to agree more with the likes of Paul Krugmann. It wasn't so much a change of ideology as a recognition of the practical.

I'm reminded of my favorite Yogi Berra-attributed quote:

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is."

In practice, gold is also a promissory note for what that gold can be exchanged for later. Hardly anyone works for gold as an end in itself--they want the economic power that the gold represents. I see no difference between getting paid in dollars whose value erodes with inflation or getting paid in gold which I can then exchange for items whose prices rise over time.

Again, I know where you're coming from and I was there once myself, but I've come to believe that the real world money supply should be flexible in times of depression (and to be fair, in times of inflation as well).

Acacia H. said...

Because gun safes are often large and expensive (and heavy, which may be a problem for upper-floor apartments). And people who have guns for safety reasons don't want to try and get the gun out of the safe while someone is breaking in. Mind you, it's a good idea. But there are plenty of people who will refuse it or who if forced to own one won't use it. Just as there are people who keep their guns loaded with the safety off despite the sheer idiocy of doing so.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

Oh, and locumranch, you just described... price-fixing. Oh wait, that's the Government telling you what you have to spend in order to get a product... in short, it's not Capitalism and thus Heresy. What, are you a Communist or something? ;)

As I've stated before, the Gold Standard (without price-fixing) is subject to supply and demand. Gold is worthless in a time of total economic and social collapse. It's a pretty metal, but a soft one that has no true value. And there's a lot of it, so there's not even a scarcity factor. (I mean, look at the number of gold wedding bands out there, and gold jewelry!)

In short, a Gold Standard has no true benefit for the situations you envision it for. It has plenty of drawbacks for more normal times. And really... how are you going to eliminate all the money currently out there to RETURN to a gold standard? In order to do so you have to undergo massive deflation to eliminate the excess money. That will cause massive harm to the economy. So... no. No return to the Gold Standard. It has no benefit and plenty of drawbacks.

Rob H.

Unknown said...

Pioneer Hi-Bred (Dupont now owns them) in Iowa biotechnology patents versus Monsanto when they have a case near home turf of St. Louis are geographically hidebound too.

Monsanto though has been very heavy handed by projecting its IP as an over shadow on non-customers of various sorts. The terminator gene Monsanto tried to work into their product line became a thankful public relations albatross that almost no one mentions much anymore.

locumranch said...

Like your answers, LarryHart, but my comments re. "gold standard" are more about evaluation and/or value than they are "gold".

Like modern currency, the very concept of "value" is relative and arbitrary. The term "currency" suggests flexibility, prevalence, general acceptance and/or "flow"; and the term "value" suggests strength, desirability and/or esteem.

In other words:

Everything financial, especially money and/or monetary units, are "variables" rather than constants. These variables remain unfixed, inconstant and arbitrary-- they don't "add up" -- even though, invariably, we like to pretend that they are constant, fixed or comparable:

Financial markets are based on faith.


Ian said...

"The old 'gold standard', despite all its flaws, tied the value of a currency to a set amount of commodity (whether gold, wheat, opium or coffee beans) and provided wage earners, investors & borrowers with a modicum of protection against such a loss of faith and/or reputation."

Except for the several hundred (literally) examples of countries suspending redemptions of their currency for gold, requiring citizens to sell their gold to the state at an inflated rate or changing the gold value of the currency overnight.

duncan cairncross said...

I liked Robert Heinlein's economics in
Beyond This Horizon

As physical production increased the "Board" had to increase the symbolic structure (money) to match

So as production increased the amount of money/credit available had to increase to balance

As an engineer this sounds like a reasonable approach to achieve a stable system
This could be done with "fiat" money but I'm dammed if I can se how gold could be used

Tacitus said...

Regards gun safes. Also trigger locks and whatever sort of fancy biometric sensor guns/phasers that may come in the future.

I've been steering away from the gun control/rights discussion, but it seems to me that there are basically four reasons to own a gun.

1.Collectors. There really are some fine examples of history and craftsmanship. These guns don't often turn up at crime scenes.

2. Hunting. Weapons that put grouse in my freezer do not require any of the problematic features being discussed. These guns are occasionally crime weapons, but not mass killers.

3. Self defense. Lots of room for debate on this one. I have previously commented that a carry permit should require annual marksmanship test etc.

4. And finally, lets be honest. The Constitution sanctions an armed citizenry in part to forestall a predatory government. But in that context a "Well Regulated Militia" could certainly find room for a few, well, regulations. Wider background checks? Sure. Means for safe storage. Sure, would't want the Tories to swipe your guns.

I am quite confident a lightweight gun storage rack with locking ability is within our technology. And we subsidize so many other things, in exchange for a concordance on this we could probably make them free or cheap somehow.

Although I still think tasers in schools would do more good regards school shootings. Deny monsters the dramatic death they seem so badly to want


Acacia H. said...

There is one potential problem with a light-weight gun safe - you can just pick up the entire safe and walk off with it (if you're a thief) and then break into it at your leisure. And apartment complexes (and people who rent out houses and the like) tend to be leery about people drilling holes in the floor or walls to secure objects. Given that when criminals are robbing a house they tend to take everything that isn't nailed down (because you don't know when you might find something valuable) just snagging the safe for later opening isn't going to be a problem to them. And if you rig the inside of the safe to detonate to damage the guns... well, I can see an enterprising criminal getting harmed breaking into a gun safe and then suing the gun owner for injuries.

Seriously. You cannot boobytrap your own house. If a criminal is harmed when breaking in, they can (and have successfully) sue the homeowner for injuries sustained. It's #&@)#!ed, but it's still a fact.

I do agree with Tacitus. Tasers are the more effective tool. The problem is that tasers have been used in dealing with problem children before and resulted in a public outcry. In these circumstances the guard would have to know "you are only to use this weapon against someone who is armed and a threat." Of course, the other thing with these guards is that they would have to be like Air Marshals - you don't know who in the school is the guard so they're not targeted first.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...


In each case we are not looking for perfect answers (although I am mechanical enough to have some fun mentally designing that gun safe/rack). Perfect answers do not exist.

We are looking for somewhat improved deterrents.

How 'bout this design...

Kevlar/fiberglass shell. Large water tank on bottom can only be filled from inside. Alarm that sounds if water level drops from hoodlums puncturing it. I could build this in my shop for a few hundred bucks...


Acacia H. said...

That works. It works better if the company includes a product statement that it is not liable for loss of objects stored in the safe if the bottom is not filled according to specifications. (There is also the question on how you drain such a device if you have to move it; while a key unlocking that section would be useful, the problem is that most people would store the key in their apartment (or in the safe), thus negating its value.)

Actually one other benefit of a liquid bottom is that in case of an apartment fire... it bursts, and thus slightly retards the expanse of flames (especially useful seeing gun safes would often also have ammunition within it).

You know something? Draw up plans for it, and patent it. Seriously. I suspect a number of people would want to own something like this. And not just to store guns!

Rob H.

Ian said...

As far as gun safety regulation go (safes, locks etc) why not require no-fault third party insurance: if one of your guns is involved in a shooting (other than justified defense of people or property), your insurance company has to compensate the person shot or their estate.

The insurance industry would work out pretty quickly what were cost-effective safety measures and price policies accordingly.

"You want to display your guns in an open rack along with 500 rounds of ammo?" That'll be $500 per gun per year.

Tacitus said...


Lets just kickstart a WRM* Industries.

Might be a government grant in there somewhere. NRA can kick in a little too.


*CEO of Well Regulated Militia Industries

Alfred Differ said...

Use of gold for stabilizing the value of currency would still work today, but only as one of the stabilizing forces. The right way to do it today is to use multiple forces and some of them have to be quite large. Because governments are borrowers they have incentive to screw with the markets when they can't pay their debts. The largest force I know to counter that is to prevent them from having a monopoly on 'legal tender'. If I can pay my taxes in a variety of currencies (including IOU's from my neighbors), they can trade them on an exchange to whatever they want upon receipt and have little control on the value of the assets I hold or offer up for those payments. We would all wind up playing in the futures market in order to stablize our own assets (or buying services from a broker who did it for us) and gold could be one of the assets.

Hayek wrote about the denationalization of money late in life. One doesn't have to agree with him on all points to see that there ARE things we could try in order to put an end to government (or anyone else) devaluing our currencies in order to reset their debt.

The morally acceptable method for clearing debt is to be honest enough to declare bankruptcy. We should try to block other fraudulent and criminal options.

Acacia H. said...

Heh. So, how much are larger three-dimensional printers going for? After all, a one-piece structure would be the most structurally sound, leaving the door itself as the point of access for any wannabe thieves. A honeycomb internal structure would allow for increased strength of the fiberglass so that someone can't just take a sledgehammer to it to break it open with one blow.

There can also be variable size gun safes - pistol safes that are maybe two-by-two-by-three feet (with half of that being the water anchor), and rifle safes that are five or six feet tall.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Posting here to avoid contaminating the new thread:

"The very fact that many believe currency devaluation to be laudable and/or reasonable proves that almost every modern currency (dollar, peso, euro, etc) is only worth what we believe the reputation of the issuer to be worth, leaving us (in other words) with a faith-based economy."

You do know that every business transaction, every debtor/creditor relationship, works like that?

Re: Gun safes.

Jonathan Roth,
I don't believe that gun safes have much of a better record than just a locked cupboard. Opening them isn't enough to cool an overheated brain, and kids know where the key is (or password written down). And "home-defence" gun owners object to them because they claim it slows down their potential response to armed intruders. (Ignoring that the rate of stranger-murder in households with guns is the same as in households without guns, meaning that it's statistically impossible for guns to have a defensive effect. (**)) Then you'll have the paranoia argument, that such a law gives Teh Gubment the right to come in to gun owners' homes to decide if they meet some arbitrary standard.

(** People in households with guns have a nearly 3 times greater chance of being murdered. But most of the difference is familial murders. And most of that is handguns, the least likely to be properly secured or even just stored unloaded.)

Rob and T2,
Long arms aren't especially dangerous in the home, and they are the easiest to secure. Any rifle-safe is going to be cumbersome for a thief to physically remove, even if it's not bolted down. Handguns are the biggest problem, and even proper handgun safes are notoriously weak. (There's a whole range that can be unlocked by being dropped or firmly tapped. Others which have a release to bypass the lock which any thin tool (or stiff wire) can trip.)

The trend from padlocked racks in the den to hidden safes in the bedroom does seem to be based somewhat on the illusion of safety. I honestly think you'd reduce gun ownership if you banned gun safes. For many parents, it would eliminate the false-reassurance that keeping guns in the house is okay as long as they are in a safe.

[My preference is licence, registration and insurance. With restrictions on the types of weapons that can be kept in the home, (basically hunting rifles and long-barrel non-tactical shotguns) with broader allowances at gun ranges and clubs and museums, provided they have greater security.]

Paul451 said...

Re: Water-safe.
Wouldn't an internal movement sensor and screaming alarm be another solution? (If the owner wants to move the safe, he can just open it and turn off the switch from inside.)

Oooh, what about using gold to weigh it down. Or am I mixing up threads again.

Rob H,
"one other benefit of a liquid bottom is that in case of an apartment fire... it bursts,"

Steam explosions are not a benefit. Google "mythbusters water-heater explosion".

"You know something? Draw up plans for it, and patent it."

Or if you don't intend to commercialise it widely, draw up plans and publish it on a hack-space website like so that others can benefit. That doesn't prevent you from selling them yourself, but establishes prior art against a major manufacturer driving you out of business (well, not really, but in theory), without restricting others from making/modifying their own.

Tacitus said...

Oh, none of this is really all that practical...but I was mostly thinking of a system required for folks who insisted on having the sorts of guns impractical for purposes other than keeping the British Dragoons from returning...semi military stuff and all. Obviously most firearms tragedies will be with handguns and I see no practical fix for that right now.

OK, here is the WRM safe Mark II. It has a large box occupying the bottom section. It has to be filled with something that weighs at least 150 pounds, otherwise the locking mechanism will not engage. Water in bottles, Spam, Ammo. Gold bars would totally work too.

A Well Regulated Militia needs both arms and rations. Might appeal to a certain segment of the populace.

Unlikely to do much. Same can be said of all currently proposed legislation but this at least would find some favor on both sides....


LarryHart said...


Like modern currency, the very concept of "value" is relative and arbitrary. The term "currency" suggests flexibility, prevalence, general acceptance and/or "flow"; and the term "value" suggests strength, desirability and/or esteem.

In other words:

Everything financial, especially money and/or monetary units, are "variables" rather than constants. These variables remain unfixed, inconstant and arbitrary-- they don't "add up" -- even though, invariably, we like to pretend that they are constant, fixed or comparable:

Financial markets are based on faith

I don't disagree, but the part that I feel I've learned over time is that the gold-bug idealist is wrong when he believes that a system of trade based upon "objective value" of the currency produces superior results.

If one maintains (as Ayn Rand seems to) that gold has an intrinsic value irrespective of what one can trade it for at any given moment, then one is forced to explain how the plundering of a foreign treasury, the discovery of a new lode of gold, or the landing of a gold meteor on earth produces more value in a way that is not produced by the Treasury department printing more dollar bills.

It seems to me that the real value of the currency in circulation is determined by supply and demand. As the available pool of "stuff that people want" increases, then prices drop, which means currency is worth more. As the aggregate demand FOR that "stuff" increases, then prices rise, which devalues the currency. That's equally true if the currency is dollars or gold.

If a vital commodity becomes scarce, then demand for that particular item (say food or water) can subvert demand for other things. In a famine, food may be the ONLY thing people are willing to buy, which raises food prices and lowers prices of everything else. No "objective value" model of an economy can account for that sort of relative-price shock.

Lorraine said...

OK here's a date-stamped prediction: The gold bubble turns out to be a bubble with price under $1,000/oz by end of CY 2013.