Opps, it is already here…

The national police state isn’t on its way, it is already here…

So much evidence, there’s no need to show it
http://politics.salon.com/2011/10/03/awlaki_7/singleton/

So easy for everyone to ignore ‘just this one case’ until they start to add up the number of people the government can now target.  But wait! you say, I am a WASP, not some dirty Muslim terrorist eager to bring down our great government!  However, with very little effort on the government’s part, you could trivially be made into a terrorist sympathizer and rounded up and sent to some due-process free hell hole somewhere, never to be seen again.  All the government has to do is claim it has overwhelming evidence you are a bad guy.

Initially I was thinking Obama was the Antichrist, then I started to doubt him, but now I am changing my mind again.  If he gets reelected someone needs to shave his noggin and start looking for signs.

More not-bad news

Is Violence Finished?
In our era of wars, genocide, and terrorism, Steven Pinker says we’re more peaceful than ever.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/10/02/steven-pinker-s-better-angels-of-our-nature-review.html

I have read similar reports in the past.  I would imagine as violence becomes less common it attracts more attention so for some period it _appears_ as if violence is increasing when in fact it has been decreasing.

Finally, a good idea

A proposed demand for Occupy Wall Street
Let’s tackle the debt that actually matters
http://politics.salon.com/2011/10/05/a_proposed_demand_for_occupy_wall_street/singleton/

Yes, the ‘moral hazard’ is still there, but as the author points out, how is that one tiny bit different than Goldman Sachs reporting record profits when the entire globe is in a recession?  There is plenty of moral hazard in complaining banks are too big to fail then making them even bigger!  And don’t get me started on the corporate moral hazard of our government guaranteeing profit for companies that package mortgage backed securities (Freddie and Fannie) or student loans (Sallie).  Yes, it would really suck to be the one who responsibly paid down their debt, lived within their means and were lucky enough to remain gainfully employed during this Great Recession, but which is worse?  Another decade (or two!) of slow to no growth where you can’t find buyers for your house and your retirement grows at a pace that actually causes it to shrink once inflation is accounted for or growth such as we saw during the Clinton years?

This would give the top 1% an ‘opportunity’ to share with the rest of the country’s economic malaise.  Of course it has a near zero chance of becoming a reality, but it makes for a fabulous rallying cry and likely any politician smart enough to attach to it would see huge voter support.  And maybe, just maybe, that support would translate to action in Congress.

What is evil?

An interesting article that tries to discuss a complex subject:

The End of Evil?
Neuroscientists suggest there is no such thing. Are they right?
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_spectator/2011/09/does_evil_exist_neuroscientists_say_no_.html

In my view ‘evil’ is a subjective thing and will always remain so. People who consider that the ends justify the means (our government is largely populated with such people) will engage in all sorts of very nasty things with a clean conscious, but I am willing to bet the people killed by the drone bombs (or rather the relatives of the same) don’t think the acts were ‘good’.  I would be curious to hear someone define ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and come up with a clear and unambiguous algorithm to distinguish betwixt the twain.  If we consider that there is a spectrum between good and evil (I don’t think it is possible to consider it any other way), then what does it mean to be 50% evil?  Is someone who is 49% evil worthy of rehabilitation and someone who is 51% evil not?  What about the greatest good for the greatest number? Doesn’t that imply that a minority is going to get royally screwed? Is society evil towards these getting screwed?  If they decided to overthrow society because they don’t like being screwed are they good or evil for doing so?  If you think ‘evil’ thoughts, but never act upon them are you evil or not?

Privacy is already dead…

Just in case you thought there were any vestiges of privacy left…

Cloud-Powered Facial Recognition Is Terrifying
By harnessing the vast wealth of publicly available cloud-based data, researchers are taking facial recognition technology to unprecedented levels
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/09/cloud-powered-facial-recognition-is-terrifying/245867/

Couple this with the police state tactics our government is already engaged in, I already have strong doubt that even if the Wall Street protesters start to develop a strong following that there will be any change.  I recently read an article that essentially said that anyone who was involved in these (and other similar) protests are basically consigning themselves to a lifetime of unemployment since they are all likely to get criminal records for their efforts (thus making them unemployable) and even if they manage to avoid that fate, their pictures are everywhere and it is highly unlikely that any well established mainstream company would risk hiring them.  Particularly for people like me, simply showing up as a bystander is conceivably enough to get me fired (a state dept. employee was recently fired with the stated reason being he was guilty of revealing classified information since he had a link (just a link) to a Wiki leaks page) so even if I was otherwise inclined to show support (I think they are barking at the moon and trying to staunch the tide) that fear might persuade me to stay home.

Welcome to our Brave New World!

It had to happen

Computer virus hits U.S. drone fleet
http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/10/tech/innovation/virus-hits-drone-fleet-wired/index.html?hpt=hp_bn6

And the geniuses are not even sure if it was specifically targeted or just happened to coincidentally infect from the Internet.

I am starting to take the doomsday scenarios about China having our systems complete infiltrated more seriously now, since you can be sure this isn’t the only case of this sort of thing happening.

911 conspiracies easy to believe

Rather than the govt being actually involved in the 911 attacks, this is about the cover-up afterward when it seems the CIA not only knew that a couple of the terrorists were in the US, but actively worked to keep the FBI from knowing about it, then after 911 they worked diligently to continue denying the FBI access to any of the information.

Insiders voice doubts about CIA’s 9/11 story
Former FBI agents say the agency’s bin Laden unit misled them about two hijackers
http://www.salon.com/2011/10/14/insiders_voice_doubts_cia_911/

Interesting how science works

Perhaps you heard some of the buzz that a group was reporting that they had measured a particle (neutrino) moving faster than the speed of light?  Well, most people who have studied the topic were 99.9% sure it was an anomaly in their measurements (but would love to be wrong).  Below is an article that refutes that evidence.  You might not find the article as amusing as I did, though my high energy physics background is more of a wannabe nature than anything resulting from actual study or comprehension, so I will paraphrase the article:

Using data that had been collected years ago (thus not requiring any new experiments), a group was able to conclude with very high statistical certainty (1,000 times higher level of certainty) that the earlier faster-than-light neutrino measurements were full of crap.

ICARUS Refutes Opera’s Superluminal Neutrinos
http://www.science20.com/quantum_diaries_survivor/icarus_refutes_operas_superluminal_neutrinos-83684

The next level of programmable hardware

Scientists Create Reconfigurable Electronic Materials
http://www.azom.com/news.aspx?newsID=30906

I didn’t get any sense of the speed that the hardware could be reconfigured and in the case of FPGAs it seems the lag in reprogramming is substantial enough that it is something you don’t want to do every second or faster, but this is an interesting idea if it can be made practical.

The next big bailout

And I bet I don’t get any benefit from it either…

Student loan debts crush an entire generation
Hyped like subprime mortgages, school loans now run to hundreds of billions with no relief in sight
http://www.salon.com/2011/10/20/student_loan_debts_crush_an_entire_generation/singleton/

I have been out of school now for over 15 years but because of lots of financial difficulties (resulting in capitalization of the unpaid interest) I have barely made a dent in my student loans and will (barring winning the lotto) be making payments for the next 15-20 years (at, btw, over $500 a month with record low interest rates (I currently owe something on the order of $55K)).  Since I have means, my debt will eventually get paid, but exactly like the Fannie/Freddy mortgage mess, the US taxpayer is on the hook to pay back the majority of the debt (I am sure that the article is off by three orders of magnitude; the collective debt isn’t a billion, it is a trillion) and at some point people are going to have to wake up to the realization that most of this debt, just like the mortgage issue (where, at least part of the debt can be recovered because of the house as security) will never get paid.  It seems to me that the earlier article I sent that talked about wiping out debt for the 99% really makes sense if we ever want to return to a vibrant economy in our life times.  Sure, there are some snags that have to be worked out, but think of all the money now pumped into the economy!