How many here remember the discussions early in the previous decade about Admiral Poindexter and his Total Information Awareness concept? If one were to apply neural network techniques to VISA transactions, then a system might learn to identify subtle patterns that matched known terrorist events and might be usable to detect precursors to as yet unknown plots. The more data and the more different sources, the better the chance of training such networks to find patterns. Of course the numbers of false positives would be huge at first… and although it would go down over time, it would still remain fairly large as there is just too much noise in real world data and real terrorists would try to randomize their behavior after a few got caught.
I believe the concept is sound, the only problem is… it is utterly Orwellian. No, it is worse than Orwell imagined. It is the Holy Grail and wet dreams of the Checka, the KGB, the Stasi, the Gestapo and every other secret police system of the last century. The sad thing is that this has come to pass not in one of the many tyrannical states of the world… they are too incompentent to pull it off… but here, in our formerly free United States.
After much thought I have come to believe that Poindexter’s system was not rejected for funding and laughed out of congress as we thought at the time. That was nothing but a cover story as the whole thing slipped into the black world.
If this is TIA Black, we had better start challenging VISA, AMEX and all the others who process financial transactions. I predict that nearly every credit and debit card transaction in the US is being fed in along with the phone records and the google files and facebook pages and private email.
It is a virtual certainty. This isn’t 1984. It is much worse because as the techniques improve it becomes Skynet starring as Big Brother.
Finally! A politician I have no hesitation endorsing and who, if I lived there, I would actually vote for!
- Perry de Havilland at a
ruinous piss up get together of thoughtful political analysts.
If big government were the key to economic success, France, with more than half of its GDP accounted for by government, would have rapid economic growth rather than an unemployment rate of 11 percent and negative growth. Yet France, Britain and the United States are demanding that the low-tax jurisdictions increase their taxes on businesses. They also demand more tax information sharing among countries. The officials of the G-8 assure us — as if they think we are all children or fools — that sensitive company and individual tax information will be kept confidential and not be used for political targeting, extortion, etc. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service had a reputation for being less corrupt and less incompetent than tax agencies in many other countries, which only illustrates how low the global standard is.
- Richard Rahn, the Tyranny of the Taxers
“Journalists have to get more creative and entrepreneurial. And I think that’s the problem. There’s not a less risk-taking crowd than a bunch of journalists who like to tell everyone how to run their businesses and then, like, couldn’t run a business to save their life.”
- Kara Swisher
She was quoted on this Linkedin page here – so readers might have to log in first if they are members.
In fact, quite a lot of the journalists I know and have worked with in the smaller, more startup-style organisations are pretty entrepreneurial. They have to be. Even the process of cultivating new sources, raising awareness of who you are and what you cover, represents a sort of adventurous frame of mind that gels with business to some extent. Of course, there are journalists who despise business, want to just bank a paycheck, do a 9-5 fixed day and no more. And they tend to have a romantic view of “old Fleet Street” and its foreign equivalents, dreaming of the great days of 4-hour lunch breaks, expense accounts and all the rest of it. But in some respects that mindset is not as prevalent as it used to be, at least not based on my own personal experience.
Of course, such journalist/entrepreneurs are also, by and large, more resistant, one hopes, to the desire of the State to regulate the media in the manner suggested by the recent Leveson Report in the UK, which seems, I hope, to have lost some of its momentum (I live in hope).
At Bloomberg, it appears that some of the staff there have been a tad too entrepreneurial, if allegations are to be believed.
Planetary Resources is raising some of the money for a small space telescope via a Kickstarter and are close to their minimum goal of $1M. That such sums of money can be raised for worthy projects and in such short timescales strikes me as interesting in another way: might we be in the early days of a new way to deal with ‘the commons’? Could technology be delivering us a way to replace much of coercive government funding with true voluntarism?
And by the way, support these guys. I know several of them, and it is a way to push New Space forward in the public perception.
Rob Fisher’s posting here a while back entitled Open source software v. the NSA reminded me that on April 26th, in my home, Rob Fisher gave a talk about open source software. I flagged this talk up beforehand in this posting, but have written nothing about it since. I don’t want to get in the way of whatever else Rob himself might want to write here on this subject, but I do want to record my appreciation of this talk before the fact of it fades from my faltering memory and I am left only with the dwindling remnants of what I learned from it.
My understanding of open source software, until Rob Fisher started putting me right, was largely the result of my own direct experience of open source software, in the form of the Linux operating system that ran on a small and cheap laptop computer I purchased a few years back. This programme worked, but not well enough. Missing was that final ounce of polish, the final five yards, that last bit of user friendliness. In particular I recall being enraged by my new laptop’s inability properly to handle the memory cards used by my camera. Since that was about half the entire point of the laptop, that was very enraging. I wrote about this problem at my personal blog, in a posting entitled Has the Linux moment passed?, because from where was sitting, then, it had. I returned with a sigh of relief to using Microsoft Windows, on my next small and cheap laptop.
I then wrongly generalised from my own little Windows-to-Linux-and-then-back-to-Windows experience, by assuming that the world as a whole had been having a similar experience to the one I had just had. Everyone else had, like me, a few short years ago, been giving Linux or whatever, a try, to save money, but had quickly discovered that this was a false economy and had returned to the fold, if not of Microsoft itself, then at least of software that worked properly, on account of someone having been paid to make it work properly.
The truth of the matter was clarified by Rob Fisher, and by the rest of the computer-savvier-than-I room, at that last-Friday-of-April meeting. Yes, there was a time a few years back when it seemed that closed source software looked like it might be making a comeback, but that moment was the moment that quickly passed. The reality was and remains that the open source way of doing things has just grown and grown. All that I had experienced was the fact that there has always been a need for computer professionals to connect computer-fools like me with all that open source computational power, in a fool-proof way. But each little ship of dedicated programming in each gadget floats on an ever expanding and deepening ocean of open source computing knowledge and computing power.
→ Continue reading: What I learned from Rob Fisher’s talk about open source software
Young, ambitious, Chinese officials are being required to read Tom Friedman if they want to get ahead.
I knew the Chinese government was cruel, but until now I had no idea just how cruel.
Once we take measures to not be threatening to the government, it should finally stop harassing us. And then maybe we can learn to live together in peace, simply paying the government whatever tribute it demands and abiding by whatever rules it decides to impose. And while we may witness the government committing some atrocities in the form of spending excesses and insane regulations, we will have to resist the urge to once again try to invade it and fix things. Because any future political attacks on the government will only give it reasons to come after us. So we’ll have to ignore the minor slights so we don’t anger it into lashing out in more extreme ways. Any attempts to reduce the government’s power will only make it worse — unless, you know, we completely obliterate it, reducing the government so much that it barely has any power over its citizens whatsoever.
Oh, actually, now that I think about it, I kind of like that obliteration option better than appeasement. Forget what I just wrote; instead let’s get a sledge hammer and smash apart this government until all those bureaucrats who think they can bully us are completely powerless to do anything but whine at deaf ears. Rubble don’t make trouble.
- Frank J. Fleming
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists are an interesting outfit, a group crowd sourcing denouncing people to various states across the globe.
Just as we see the edifying example of Edward Snowden revealing routine US surveillance of hundreds of millions of people, we have as a counterpoint the ICIJ, who are folks that clearly think there is not nearly enough surveillance being carried out by nation states… and so they want to see if like minded folks can help nations worldwide ensure there is nowhere anyone can keep their money free from appropriation by the world’s tax men.
The ICIJ no doubt warms the cockles of Tory leader Dave Cameron’s heart as much as the likes of Edward Snowden scare the crap out him.
Yet I suspect many people who have not really thought this through very well might assume people like NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden on one hand, and the ICIJ on the other, are actually doing much the same thing.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Last night I, and millions of others, saw a little bit of television history. Television history is not when they do a particularly fine historical drama. It is when the drama happens to television itself. Yesterday it did, to Greek television anyway, when Greece’s equivalent of the BBC was shut down, in mid show, live, on television. The BBC showed it, last night. Then they showed one of the sackees saying, in English, to the BBC, that the public sector of Europe was indeed rather too “bloated”.
Someone described in the headline above this piece as the “Europe TV chief” has said that Greek TV should be switched back on immediately:
The head of Europe’s public broadcasters has arrived in Greece to show support for 2,600 fired state TV and radio staff and demand that the country’s conservative government put the stations back on the air.
I had not realised that there was a “head of Europe’s public broadcasters”. Blog and learn.
Jean-Paul Philippot, president of the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, said he would meet with Greece’s Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to hand him a petition signed by 51 European broadcast executives calling for the broadcaster’s signal to be restored immediately.
A “petition”, “calling for” business as usual to be restored forthwith. Yes, that’ll do it. Clearly, these people fear that they and their underlings could be next, as they could if the Euro-crisis gets worse, as it will.
What I particularly like about this drama is that it changes what is imaginable. Public opinion does not tend to waste its time desiring what is unimaginable. But when what is unimaginable becomes imaginable by actually happening, that can also change what is then desired.
There is, in this world, something called the Budweiser trademark dispute. The giant American brewery Anheuser-Busch produces a beer named Budweiser, an industrial mass produced lager that is not greatly revered by beer connoisseurs but which sells in large quantities, and a brewery called Budweiser Budvar Brewery in the Czech city of České Budějovice (Budweis in German) produces another beer called Budweiser, which is considered an excellent beer by most beer lovers. The two breweries have been fighting in courts throughout the world with respect who has the right to the name Budweiser ever since the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia. In some countries the Americans have won and the Czechs have had to find a different name, and in others the Czechs have won and the Americans have had to find a different name. In Britain the courts have made the eminently sensible ruling that both brewers can use the name and drinkers are smart enough to be able to tell the difference, but I don’t believe this has happened anywhere else.
Beer lovers are often sympathetic to the claims of Budvar, because the beer is better and because it actually come from Budweis, and this is therefore the “Original Budweiser”.
This is not really true, however. Anheuser-Busch started brewing the American Budweiser in 1876, due to the fact that the beers of Budweis were famous, including amongst German Americans. However, the Budvar brewery did not exist at that point. This brewery was not founded until 1895. At some point after that, they also started using the name Budweiser, possibly because the name had been given further fame by Anheuser-Busch. At least to some extent, the Czechs at Budvar may have started using the name because of the use of it by Anheuser-Busch, and not the other way round. Budvar was founded by ethnic Czechs, and the only reason they would have had for using a German name was that the German name had already been made famous by other brewers.
However, what of those earlier beers from Budweis, responsible for Anheuser-Busch starting to use the name? Well, there is another, much older, brewery in Budweis / Budějovický Budvar. This brewery, known as Budweiser Bürgerbräu until 1945, made beer in Budweis under the Budweiser name at least as early as 1802. It is almost certainly this company’s beers that Anheuser-Busch was copying when they started using the name “Budweiser”. This brewery was run by ethnic Germans from its founding until 1945, after which it was taken over by ethnic Czechs and de-germanised. The brewery is now called Budějovický měšťanský pivovar, which is a precise Czech translation of its original name. When de-germanisation took place, the brewery ceased using German words and names, including “Budweiser” (it regained some interest in using them post-1989). However, this brewery has by far the strongest claim that it produces the beer that is the original Budweiser.
That said, the trademark battles between the other two, larger companies have been so ferocious that Budějovický měšťanský pivovar has stayed clear of them, despite apparently having a stronger claim to the name than either of them. The brewery is quite a substantial one, and produces a significant quantity of (excellent) beer. It sells the beer under a variety of names including Crystal, Samson, B.B. Bürgerbräu, Boheme 1795, and more. It only uses the word “Budweiser” in places where trademark law is weak.
This is why I took the above photo, in Tbilisi in Georgia last month. It was certainly not the first time I had consumed beer from the brewery that actually gave us Budweiser, but it was the first time I had ever seen beers from that brewery actually using the word. It is not the most prominent word on the label, perhaps, but it is still prominently there.
There is an article in The Guardian by Paddy Ashdown that falls at the first fence… i.e the tagline at the very top…
NSA surveillance: who watches the watchers? It’s not the widening of state intrusion that’s wrong, but the weakening of the safeguards that should be there to protect us
No that is the key error. It is not the lack of safeguard that is the issue, it is the huge amount of power in the hands of the state. It is indeed the widening of state intrusion that is wrong because there are simply no ‘safeguards’ that can stop the abuse of that amount of power by whoever currently controls the political process.
As has been said before, this is not a “left vs. right” issue, it is a “top vs. bottom” issue. NO ONE and NO INSTITUTION can be trusted with that kind of power. Ashdown is one of the people at the top, there is simply no way for him to understand.