Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

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FTR #744 The Shape of Things to Come

Dave Emory’s entire lifetime of work is available on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books available on this site.)

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Introduction: Viewing the future through a glass, darkly, this program looks at extreme measures being proposed (and actualized) to deal with dire economic and social dislocation. Some of these measures are gambits sought by the privileged, in order to gain distance from the chaos that their policies generate. Some are proposed in order to impose anti-democratic ways and means on those affected by economic and social deterioration.

Before diving into the seastedding movement and the political philosophy (and philosophers) underlying that phenomenon, the program highlights an essential statement by Patri Friedman, grandson of right-wing economic theoretician Milton Friedman. In this defining presentation, Friedman distills the fundamentals of the seastedding movement–a “corporate state”–precisely how Mussolini defined his fascist system.

An Alternet post sets forth details and substance about the movement and, in particular, the formidable, far-right wing entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a driving force behind Silicon Valley commerce and culture. (Thiel, one of the seastedding movement’s backers is discussed at length in FTR #718.) Epitomized ideologically by his view that the United States began going downhill when we allowed women to vote, Thiel has used the powerful Koch  brothers’ political and media apparatus to publicize their view that “democracy and freedom are incompatible.”

In addition, the post highlights the strong area of intersection between the Frontier Group (a major  backer of the seastedding movement)  and the Carlyle Group.

Thiel’s ventures are far more than theoretical. Thiel was instrumental in developing the electronic intelligence firm Palantir, whose primary application is counter-terrorism. Aside from positive application of its technology, however, the firm has apparently been engaged in political espionage and covert action against political opponents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A terrifying glimpse of “things to come” has been provided by TV commentator Rachel Maddow, who has exposed a plan by the Michigan GOP establishment to, for all intents and purposes, eliminate democratic process in the Wolverine State. Ostensibly designed to deal with “financial crises,” the GOP proposes government by executive fiat, with delinquent areas to be turned over to corporations to be administered as–you guessed it–corporate states!

Of particular significance for our purposes is the apparent contemplation of these measures as necessary to implement “Shock Doctrine,” as conceived by seastedding maven Patri Friedman’s grandfather Milton.

Anticipating a global apocalypse, hedge fund managers have purchasing all the arable land they can, in order to cash in on global famine.

Program Highlights Include: Proposal to establish “Charter Cities,” which would enable foreign governments (and perhaps corporations) to assume governance of cities in other countries; Deutsche Telekom’s use of T-Mobile to spy on users of that network (Deutsche Telekom–controlled by the German government–assumed a 5.5 percent stake in A, T & T in exchange for that company’s acquisition of T-Mogile. Will Deutsche Telekom have access to the A, T & T database?)

1. Before diving into the seastedding movement and the political philosophy (and philosophers) underlying that phenomenon, the program highlights an essential statement by Patri Friedman, grandson of right-wing economic theoretician Milton Friedman. In this defining presentation, Friedman distills the fundamentals of the seastedding movement–a “corporate state”–precisely how Mussolini defined his fascist system.

. . . Backed almost entirely by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, the team plans to seastead, colonize the sea beyond the reach of existing nations.

Friedman’s mission is to open a political vacuum into which people can experiment with startup governments that are “consumer-oriented, constantly competing for citizens,” he says.

“I envision tens of millions of people in an Apple or a Google country,” where the high-tech giants would govern and residents would have no vote. “If people are allowed to opt in or out, you can have a successful dictatorship,” the goateed Friedman says, wiggling his toes in pink Vibram slippers. [Italics are mine–D. E.] . .

“Patri Friedman Makes Waves with ‘Seastedding Plan’ ” by Nellie Bowles; San Francisco Chronicle; 6/1/2011.

2. An Alternet post sets forth details and substance about the movement and, in particular, the formidable, far-right wing entrepreneur Peter Thiel, driving force behind Silicon Valley commerce and culture. Epitomized ideologically by his view that the United States began going downhill when we allowed women to vote, Thiel has used the powerful Koch  brothers’ political and media apparatus to publicize their view that “democracy and freedom are incompatible.”

(In his speech at the Industry Club of Dusseldorf, Hitler won the hearts and minds of Germany’s industrial elite with a presentation that portrayed democracy as inherently evil, because it allowed inferior people to structure society to their benefit. In Hitler’s view democracy led inevitably to communism. This speech is discussed in Miscellaneous Archive Show M11.)

In addition, the post highlights the strong area of intersection between the Frontier Group (a major  backer of the seastedding movement)  and the Carlyle Group.

. . . . The floating castle is a longtime dream of libertarian oligarchs — a place where they can live their lives in peace free from the teeming masses of starving losers and indebted parasites and their tax demands. Since they’ve grown so rich off of America, they have enough spare change to fund projects like the Seasteading Institute, run by Milton Friedman’s grandson, Patri Friedman, and financed by the bizarre right-wing PayPal founder, Peter Thiel. . . .

. . . Both Thiel and Milton Friedman’s grandson see democracy as the enemy–last year, Thiel wrote “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” at about the same time that Milton Friedman’s grandson proclaimed, “Democracy is not the answer.” Both published their anti-democracy proclamations in the same billionaire-Koch-family-funded outlet, Cato Unbound, one of the oldest billionaire-fed libertarian welfare dispensaries. Friedman’s answer for Thiel’s democracy problem is to build offshore libertarian pod-fortresses where the libertarian way rules. It’s probably better for everyone if Milton Friedman’s grandson and Peter Thiel leave us forever for their libertarian ocean lair–Thiel believes that America went down the tubes ever since it gave women the right to vote, and he was outed as the sponsor of accused felon James O’Keefe’s smear videos that brought ACORN to ruin. . . .

. . . While Thiel and Friedman are busy cooking up their libertarian dystopia, the Frontier Group investment firm — an offshoot of the Carlyle Group — has already entered the realization phase with the Utopia floating castle. Frontier Group, was founded by some of the same big names from the notorious Carlyle Group–the private equity firm that brought together right-wing oligarchs like George H. W. Bush and other top American officials with their billionaire pals in Saudi Arabia like the Bin Laden family, who together raked in enormous profits thanks to the War on Terror that their kids Dubya and Osama launched.

While neither Bush nor the Bin Ladens are principals in the Frontier Group, its founding director, Frank Carlucci, is a name they know well, and you should too. Carlucci ran the Carlyle Group as its chairman from 1989 through 2005, right around the time that the wars started going undeniably bad, and floating castles started to look like a viable plan. But Carlucci’s past is much weirder and scarier than most of us care to know: whether it’s his strangely timed appearances in some of the ugliest assassinations and coups in modern history, or serving as Carter’s number two man in the CIA, and Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, if Frank Carlucci (nicknamed “Creepy Carlucci” and “Spooky Frank”) is the founding director of a firm that’s building floating castles, it’s a bad sign for those of us left behind. . . .

. . . Carlucci may be the scariest of the Frontier Group bunch building the floating castles, but he’s among his kind. Other Carlyle Group directors who joined Carlucci at Frontier include David Robb, who headed up Carlyle’s investments in defense and aerospace; Sanford McDonnell, the former CEO of McDonnell Douglass and onetime head of the Boy Scouts of America; and Norman Augustine, another ex-president of the Boy Scouts, another Princeton alum, and former board director at the scandal-plagued Riggs bank.

Riggs bank became one of those dark unsolved mysteries of the Bush-Cheney War on Terror. After the attacks on 9/11, the FBI discovered that Saudi government officials used accounts at Riggs bank to wire funds to at least two known associates of the Saudi hijackers who crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Riggs was also implicated in the Britain-Saudi $3 billion bribery scandal, in which British Aerospace bribes were wired through Riggs accounts to Saudi officials in return for lucrative contracts. One of Riggs bank’s top executives was Jonathan Bush, the brother of George H. W. Bush, after Riggs bought out Jonathan Bush’s bank in 1997, and appointed him as a director. In 2005, with Riggs embroiled in investigations and scandals–Riggs pled guilty to money laundering Augusto Pinochet’s stolen funds, and the funds of various Equatorial Guinea officials– it was taken over by PNC bank, with the approval of Fed Chair Alan Greenspan. Even after the Washington Post revealed that Riggs’ billionaire chairman flew Greenspan’s wife, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell, on the company jet. . . .

But the weirdest of all the Frontier Group directors has to be founding director Danny Pang. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pang embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars from his private equity firm PEMGroup. Pang claimed he was investing money in “Dead Peasants Insurance” (life insurance policies for people considered likely to die), but in secret, Pang confided to PEMGroup’s ex-president that he ran it as a Ponzi scheme. That sparked a fresh FBI investigation into Danny Pang’s crimes–which led back to the unsolved murder of his wife, Janie Louise Pang, a 33-year-old ex-stripper who was shot to death execution style in their Irvine, California home in 1997, the same year Pang was accused of embezzling three million dollars from another fund he worked at. There was plenty of reason to suspect Danny Pang of murdering his wife: he beat her so often (breaking her nose on one occasion) that police were called in on at least four occasions before her murder. She’d had him tailed by a private detective who discovered Danny holding hands with another woman shortly before she was murdered. Danny had known ties to the Taiwanese Triad mob, he took the fifth and refused to cooperate in the murder trial, and reportedly threatened Janie’s friends after her murder, demanding to know what Janie told them about his business activities.

Here is a description of the actual murder, from the L.A. Times:

“According to the family maid and two of Pang’s children, a clean-cut man with a pencil-thin mustache arrived at the door asking for her husband. The pair talked casually for a couple of minutes, until the man drew a semiautomatic pistol. Pang began running and the maid, terrified, spirited Pang’s children out the back door. Within minutes, the killer caught up with Pang, who tried to hide in her bedroom closet. The killer fired several .380-caliber rounds and left her to bleed to death as she lay in a fetal position.”

Somehow, the trial ended with a hung jury, and Danny Pang went on to join Frank Carlucci and the Boy Scouts presidents to start building the world’s first billion-dollar floating castle to spirit away all that stolen money in luxury. But Pang was apparently too careless for them. He was outted last spring in the Wall Street Journal, and in September 2009, Danny Pang was found dead of unknown causes in his Newport Beach home. . . .

“The Really Creepy People Behind the Libertarian-Inspired Billionaire Sea Castles’ by Mark Ames; Alternet; 6/2/2010.

3a. Thiel’s extremist political views may find expression through his financing of the Palantir firm. Note that Palantir CEO Alex Karp apparently has Frankfurt, Germany, roots, like Thiel. (For more on Thiel’s background see FTR #718.)

. . . Palantir CEO Mr. Karp says such criticism doesn’t trouble him. He says the company is already expanding rapidly.

Palantir’s roots date back to 2000, when Mr. Karp returned to the U.S. after living for years in Frankfurt, where he earned his doctorate in German social philosophy and discovered a talent for investing. He reconnected with a buddy from Stanford Law School, Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of online payment company PayPal.

In 2003, Mr. Thiel pitched an idea to Mr. Karp: Could they build software that would uncover terror networks using the approach PayPal had devised to fight Russian cybercriminals?

PayPal’s software could make connections between fraudulent payments that on the surface seemed unrelated. By following such leads, PayPal was able to identify suspect customers and uncover cybercrime networks. The company saw a tenfold decrease in fraud losses after it launched the software, while many competitors struggled to beat back cheaters.

Mr. Thiel wanted to design software to tackle terrorism because at the time, he says, the government’s response to issues like airport security was increasingly “nightmarish.” The two launched Palantir in 2004 with three other investors, but they attracted little interest from venture-capital firms. The company’s $30 million start-up costs were largely bankrolled by Mr. Thiel and his own venture-capital fund.

They modeled Palantir’s culture on Google’s, with catered meals of ahi tuna and a free-form 24-hour workplace wired so 16 people can play the Halo video game. The kitchen is stocked by request with such items as Pepto Bismol and glass bottles of Mexican Coca Cola sweetened with sugar not corn syrup. The company recently hosted its own battle of the bands.

One of the venture firms that rejected Palantir’s overtures steered the company to In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit venture-capital firm established by the CIA a decade ago to tap innovation that could be used for intelligence work. As Silicon Valley’s venture funding dries up, In-Q-Tel says it has seen a surge of requests from start-ups in the last year or so, many of which now see the government as an alternate money stream.

In-Q-Tel invested about $2 million in Palantir and provided a critical entreé to the CIA and other agencies. For his first spy meeting in 2005, Mr. Karp shed his track suit for a sports coat. He arrived at an agency — he won’t say which one — and was immediately “freaked out” by security officers guarding the building with guns. In a windowless, code-locked room, he introduced himself to the first official he met: “Hi, I’m Alex Karp,” Mr. Karp said, offering his hand. No response. “I didn’t know you really don’t ask their names,” he says now.

Mr. Karp showed the group a prototype. The software was similar to PayPal’s fraud-detection system. But instead of identifying and connecting cyber criminals, it focused on two hypothetical terror suspects and followed their activities, including travel and money transfers.

After the demo, he was peppered with skeptical questions: Is anyone at your company cleared to work with classified information? Have you ever worked with intelligence agencies? Do you have senior advisers who have worked with intelligence agencies? Do you have a sales force that is cleared to work with classified information? The answer every time: no.

But the group was sufficiently intrigued by the demo, and In-Q-Tel arranged for Palantir engineers to meet directly with intelligence analysts, to help build a comprehensive search tool from scratch. . . .

“How Team of Geeks Cracked Spy Trade” by Siobhan Ghorban; The Wall Street Journal; 9/4/2009.

3b. Palantir is one of several defense contractors implicated in a case of political spying against opponents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In February, ThinkProgress broke a story revealing that attorneys for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had communicated with a set of military contractors — HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies — to develop tactics for sabotaging and spying on the Chamber’s progressive critics. The Chamber attorneys and the security firms discussed targeting ChamberWatch, the SEIU, MoveOn, ThinkProgress, and other groups. The proposals details efforts to steal private computer information, spy on the families of the Chamber’s critics, and plant false documents within organizations opposed to the Chamber’s agenda.

ThinkProgress has uncovered yet another presentation from one of the private security firms describing plans for the Chamber. Because of a technical glitch, a few emails of the 75,000 emails leaked to the public from one of the defense firms did not process. One of the emails now processed correctly reveals yet another proposal, created by HBGary Federal executive Aaron Barr, and forwarded to the other security firms. Although it appears not to have been completed, the last slide in the presentation lists tactics — labeled “Discredit, Confuse, Shame, Combat, Infiltrate, Fracture” — to “mitigate [sic] effect of adversarial groups while seeking litigation.” . . .

“New ChamberLeaks Presentation Emerges, Details More Plans to Sabotage Liberals” by Lee fang; thinkprogress.org; 4/11/2011.

4. Another indication of the shape of things to come may be found in the draconian measures being implemented by the GOP in Michigan. TV commentator Rachel Maddow set forth some of the delightful features of this program.

Of particular significance for our purposes is the apparent contemplation of these measures as necessary to implement “Shock Doctrine,” as conceived by seastedding maven Patri Friedman’s grandfather Milton.

. . . She described the threat to democracy in Michigan, “Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget in Michigan is expected to cut aid to cities and towns so much that a lot of cities and towns in Michigan are expected to be in dire financial straits. Right now, Gov. Snyder is pushing a bill that would give himself, Gov. Snyder and his administration, the power to declare any town or school district to be in a financial emergency. If a town was declared by the governor and his administration to be in a financial emergency they would get to put somebody in charge of that town, and they want to give that emergency manager that they just put in charge of the town the power to, “reject, modify, or terminate any contracts that the town may have entered in to, including any collective bargaining agreements.”

The bill also has the power to suspend or dismiss elected officials, “This emergency person also gets the power under the bill to suspend or dismiss elected officials. Think about that for a second. Doesn’t matter who you voted for in Michigan. Doesn’t matter who you elected. Your elected local government can be dismissed at will. The emergency person sent in by the Rick Snyder administration could recommend that a school district be absorbed into another school district. That emergency person is also granted power specifically to disincorporate or dissolve entire city governments.”

Maddow said Michigan Republicans want to abolish entire towns, “What year was your town founded? Does it say so like on the town border as you drive into your town? Does it say what year your town was founded? What did your town’s founding fathers and founding mothers have to go through to incorporate your town? Republicans in Michigan want to be able to unilaterally abolish your town and disincorporate it. Regardless of what you as resident of that town think about it. You don’t even have the right to express an opinion about it through your locally elected officials who represent you, because the Republicans in Michigan say they reserve the right to dismiss your measly elected officials and to do what they want instead because they know best.”

What’s worse is that this power to be abolish governments could be handed to corporations, “The version of this bill that passed the Republican controlled Michigan House said it was fine for this emergency power to declare a fiscal emergency invoking all of these extreme powers, it was fine for that power to be held by a corporation. So swaths of Michigan could at the governor’s disposal be handed over to the discretion of a company. You still want your town to exist? Take it up with this board of directors of this corporation that will be overseeing your future now, or rather don’t take it up with them. Frankly, they’re not interested.”

Maddow talked about the power grab behind the fabrication of a fiscal emergency, “The power to overrule and suspend elected government justified by a financial emergency. Oh, and how do you know you’re in a financial emergency, because the governor tells you, you’re in a financial emergency, or a company he hires to do so, does that instead. The Senate version of the bill in Michigan says it has to be humans declaring your fiscal emergency. The House bill says a firm can do that just as well.”

Rachel Maddow concluded, “This is about a lot of things. This is not about a budget. This is using or fabricating crisis to push for an agenda you’d never be able to sell under normal circumstances, and so you have to convince everyone that these are not normal circumstances. These are desperate circumstances and your desperate measures are there for somehow required. What this is has a name. It is called shock doctrine.”

Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine” implies that man made crises are used to push the “free market principles” of Milton Friedman et al, which are pushed through while the citizens are reacting to disasters or upheavals. The perpetrators of the shock doctrine require a violent destruction of the existing economic order in order to achieve their means. In the case of the Michigan governor, Snyder positioned himself in a state already reeling from financial crisis, vulnerable and ripe for a takeover. . . .

“Rachel Maddow Exposes Michigan Republicans’ Secret War on Democracy” by Sarah Jones; politicususa.com; 3/9/2011.

5. Something that might be seen as an extension of the GOP plan for Michigan concerns proposals for corporate “charter cities.”

. . . About a decade ago, he walked away from academia, started an online teaching company, sold it and then turned to his next big idea: To create jobs to lift millions out of poverty, take an uninhabited 1,000 square-kilometer tract (386 square miles), about the size of Hong Kong, preferably government-owned. Write a charter: the all-important rules. Allow anyone to move in or out. Invite foreign investors to build infrastructure for profit. And sign a treaty with a well-governed country, say Norway or Canada, to serve as “guarantor” to assure investors and residents that the charter will be respected, much as the British once did for Hong Kong, and—with some oversight from the Honduran Congress—govern the city.

. . . “It’s a mixture of great creativity and great naivety,” says William Easterly, an NYU development economist. He doubts the city, especially if successful, could withstand pressure if the Honduran government turned hostile. Adds Harvard’s Ricardo Hausmann: “It would be great if it happened, so we can take a look at the experiment.” He, too, has doubts , and recalls Henry Ford’s failed Fordlandia, which was to be an oasis of U.S. capitalism in Brazil.

Back while Mr. Romer was courting Africans, a group of Hondurans was pondering how to improve their country’s prospects. One idea, a turbo-charged version of existing free-trade zones, was to lure investors to a super-embassy, an area governed by another country’s laws. . . .

“The Quest for a ‘Charter City’ ” by David Wessel; The Wall Street Journal; 2/3/2011.

6. Deutsche Telekom’s spying tactics actualized through that company’s T-Mobile subsidiary gives us a view as to the use the company might make of its potential access to the A, T & T database. Note that the company (Deutsche Telekom) is controlled by the German government.

The espionage potential of that company gaining access to the A, T & T database would be considerable.

FTR #152 sets forth the profound links between “corporate Germany” and the Bormann capital network.

A favorite pas­time of Inter­net users is to share their loca­tion: ser­vices like Google Lat­i­tude can inform friends when you are nearby; another, Foursquare, has turned report­ing these updates into a game.

But as a Ger­man Green party politi­cian, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already con­tin­u­ally being tracked whether we vol­un­teer to be or not. Cell­phone com­pa­nies do not typ­i­cally divulge how much infor­ma­tion they col­lect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cell­phone com­pany, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.

The results were astound­ing. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his lon­gi­tude and lat­i­tude coor­di­nates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlan­gen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.

Mr. Spitz has pro­vided a rare glimpse — an unprece­dented one, pri­vacy experts say — of what is being col­lected as we walk around with our phones. Unlike many online ser­vices and Web sites that must send “cook­ies” to a user’s com­puter to try to link its traf­fic to a spe­cific per­son, cell­phone com­pa­nies sim­ply have to sit back and hit “record.”

“We are all walk­ing around with lit­tle tags, and our tag has a phone num­ber asso­ci­ated with it, who we called and what we do with the phone,” said Sarah E. Williams, an expert on graphic infor­ma­tion at Colum­bia University’s archi­tec­ture school. “We don’t even know we are giv­ing up that data.”

Track­ing a customer’s where­abouts is part and par­cel of what phone com­pa­nies do for a liv­ing. Every seven sec­onds or so, the phone com­pany of some­one with a work­ing cell­phone is deter­min­ing the near­est tower, so as to most effi­ciently route calls. And for billing rea­sons, they track where the call is com­ing from and how long it has lasted.

“At any given instant, a cell com­pany has to know where you are; it is con­stantly reg­is­ter­ing with the tower with the strongest sig­nal,” said Matthew Blaze, a pro­fes­sor of com­puter and infor­ma­tion sci­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia who has tes­ti­fied before Con­gress on the issue.

Mr. Spitz’s infor­ma­tion, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those fre­quent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail. . . .

“It’s Tracking Your Every Move and You May Not Even Know” by Noam Cohen; The New York Times; 3/26/2011.

7. Meanwhile, hedge fund managers have been investing in arable land, seeking to cash in on anticipated global famine.

. . . But on a recent afternoon, The Observer had a conversation of a different sort about agricultural pursuits with a hedge fund manager he’d met at one of the many dark-paneled private clubs in midtown a few weeks prior. “A friend of mine is actually the largest owner of agricultural land in Uruguay,” said the hedge fund manager. “He’s a year older than I am. We’re somewhere [around] the 15th-largest farmers in America right now.”

“We,” as in, his hedge fund.

It may seem a little odd that in 2011 anyone’s thinking of putting money into assets that would have seemed attractive in 1911, but there’s something in the air-namely, fear. The hedge fund manager and others like him envision a doomsday scenario catalyzed by a weak dollar, higher-than-you-think inflation and an uncertain political climate here and abroad. . . .

“Hedge Farm! The Dooms­day Food Price Sce­nario Turn­ing Hed­gies  into Sur­vival­ists” by Fos­ter Kramer; New York Observer; 5/17/2011.

Discussion

43 comments for “FTR #744 The Shape of Things to Come”

  1. Looks like you misspelled the name for http://www.palantirtech.com/. But a good listen!

    Posted by David M | June 16, 2011, 10:29 pm
  2. @David M: Good catch! Hadn’t noticed it myself. =)

    Posted by Steven | June 18, 2011, 2:38 pm
  3. One thing I missed in my analysis of the seastedding movement is the similarity with the Ark of Noah. At least, that’s probably how they see those ships, as if a great flood is coming. It says it all.

    Have a great day.

    Posted by Claude | June 18, 2011, 9:28 pm
  4. @Claude: Frankly, I see things the same way…….when will the American people wake up?

    Posted by Steven | June 19, 2011, 7:54 am
  5. > when will the Amer­i­can peo­ple wake up?

    The “American people” are the ones doing all of this mischief. The rest of us are either in their way or supporting and enabling them to grow their empire.

    Posted by bruce k. | July 29, 2011, 8:22 am
  6. Posted by Sandra | October 1, 2011, 1:54 pm
  7. Here’s an unintentionally comical peek into the inner worlds of the folks like Thiel guiding the shape of things to come:

    ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Producers Replace ‘Embarrassing’ DVD Covers That Say Movie Is About ‘Self-Sacrifice’
    TPMDC

    Jillian Rayfield November 11, 2011, 5:36 PM

    The producers of the film version of “Atlas Shrugged: Part One” apologized for an “embarrassing” error on the DVD cover that described the theme of their adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel as one of “self-sacrifice.” As disciples of Rand, one of libertarianism’s heroes, are supposed to know, Atlas Shrugged is actually all about “rational self-interest.”

    On Friday, the producers announced plans to replace more than 100,000 title sheets on the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the movie because they “were packaged with an inaccurate synopsis of ‘Atlas Shrugged.’”

    Whereas, according to the producers, the book presents “a cogent argument advocating a society driven by rational self-interest,” the synopsis instead described it as “AYN RAND’s timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice comes to life.”

    “It’s embarrassing for sure and of course, regardless of how or why it happened, we’re all feeling responsible right now.” said Scott DeSapio, Atlas Productions’ COO and Communications Director, in a statement. “You can imagine how mortified we all were when we saw the DVD but, it was simply too late – the product was already on shelves all over the country. It was certainly no surprise when the incredulous emails ensued. The irony is inescapable.

    ….

    Reading the news these days, it’s starting to feel like the more a society falls into the hands of folks like the folks we got running the show nowadays, the more that last line becomes a cosmic law.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 12, 2011, 3:54 pm
  8. Here’s a long and very interesting piece on Thiel’s background, his vision for the seasteader movement, and its underlying philosophy:


    “The ultimate goal,” Friedman says, “is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government.” This translates into the founding of ideologically oriented micro-states on the high seas, a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

    So all these corporate “citizens” are going to be leaving out in the ocean on abandoned oil rigs retrofitted with no building codes and few weapons restrictions…making this a quite possibly the first planned community ever that uses Mos Eisley’s Cantina as a fundamental building block.

    And just FYI to the future inhabitants of these communities, you might want to google something called dead peasant insurance. Something tells me there won’t be many rules against it where your living.

    It’s a vivid, wild-eyed dream—think Burning Man as reimagined by Ayn Rand’s John Galt and steered out to sea by Captain Nemo—but Friedman and Thiel, aware of the long and tragicomic history of failed libertarian utopias, believe that entrepreneurial zeal sets this scheme apart. One potential model is something Friedman calls Appletopia: A corporation, such as Apple, “starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate,” Friedman says. When I ask if this wouldn’t amount to a shareholder dictatorship, he doesn’t flinch. “The way most dictatorships work now, they’re enforced on people who aren’t allowed to leave.” Appletopia, or any seasteading colony, would entail a more benevolent variety of dictatorship, similar to your cell-phone contract: You don’t like it, you leave. Citizenship as free agency, you might say. Or as Ken Howery, one of Thiel’s partners at the Founders Fund, puts it, “It’s almost like there’s a cartel of governments, and this is a way to force governments to compete in a free-market way.”

    I’d be curious to see the ratio of dictatorship/non-dictatorship proposals put out by these folks (and yes, I know, you can’t divide by zero).

    I’ll bet every one of these Seasteader founds are planning their own personal dictatorship-lite paradise right now. I wonder what Thiel’s vision would look like?


    When I ask Thiel what, beyond work, gives him pleasure, he cringes slightly and says, “You know, it ends up being, um . . . it ends up being a lot of, uh . . . a lot of time, uh . . . it’s mostly, uh, pretty basic, simple social things. Hanging out with friends, having good dinner conversation . . . sort of doing outdoor-hike-type stuff. It’s not . . . it tends not to be . . . I don’t really have any crazy hobbies. It’s nothing that, um . . . it’s nothing that, uh . . . nothing that insane or exciting.” This may be true, but gossip items about Thiel’s partying suggest a healthy dose of excitement. In June, the New York Daily News reported that firefighters were called to his apartment to rescue a group of partiers from a stuck elevator. The “full-on rager,” according to the paper, featured a “not-so-hot shirtless bartender,” and a source was quoted bemoaning the disappearance of the servers in “assless chaps” that had once enlivened Thiel’s parties. One of the guests at the party, who prefers to remain anonymous, confirmed the majority of the account, disputing only the detail about assless chaps. “He used to have servers wearing nothing but aprons,” the attendee corrected, adding, “Peter works hard, but he likes to play hard, too.” (Thiel declined to comment on the event.)

    Got it!

    Of course, this anecdote begs an important question: will the private Seasteader fire department have the right to NOT save the assless chap-clad party people stuck in an elevator if the firefighters don’t approve of the assless chap lifestyle? Given Thiel’s politics, I’m going to guess yes.


    If the seasteading movement goes forward as planned, Thiel won’t be one of its early citizens. For one thing, he’s not overly fond of boats, although maybe, as Friedman says, “he just needs to be on a large enough structure.” Thiel characterizes his interest as “theoretical.” But whether Thiel himself heads offshore or not, there’s a whole lot of passion underlying that theoretical interest. Thiel put forth his views on the subject in a 2009 essay for the Cato Institute, in which he flatly declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” He went on: “The great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms,” with the critical question being “how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country.”

    Until a libertarian colony can be established in outer space—Thiel is bullish on that idea, too, though he thinks the technology needs at least a half-century to develop—seasteading will have to suffice. “[It’s] not just possible, or desirable,” he said in an address at the 2009 Seasteading Institute Conference, “but actually necessary.”.

    Ok, great, so in 50 years now we have to worry about rogue libertarian space dystopias. Oh well, at least Thiel doesn’t have rockets yet. He has to go to his business partner for those:

    Peter Thiel funds Elon Musk’s sputtering rocketships
    Aug 7, 2008
    By Nicholas Carlson

    Peter Thiel fought viciously with Elon Musk in the early part of this decade; after they merged their companies to form with PayPal, they wrestled for control, with Thiel emerging victorious as the CEO who led the company through an IPO and a $1.5 billion sale to eBay. At the time, Musk was the richer, having sold a forgotten company to another forgotten company for an unforgettable $220 million. The two have long since made up — and a lucky thing for Musk, who now finds himself a supplicant to Thiel. Thiel’s venture capital firm, the Founders Fund, has agreed to invest $20 million in Musk’s faltering SpaceX, a rocket-ship startup whose latest vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean rather than soaring into the beyond.

    ….

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the future of Elon Musk’s “Space-X”. They’re going to be building the next generation of rockets that will replace the space shuttle for NASA. While it might seem risky to basically hand over monopoly status to a private company for something as critical to national security as payload launch capabilities, at least NASA doesn’t need to worry about launching rockets anymore. On second thought…:

    SpaceX: We Need NASA to Change Crew Contracts
    Today, leaders of private space companies testified before a congressional committee on their relationship with NASA, and they weren’t happy: The space execs say the contract NASA has written to cover their crew-carrying spacecraft is too vague, too intruding, and too slow—and one of the biggest players threatened to drop out altogether.

    By Joe Pappalardo
    October 26, 2011 2:30 PM

    If NASA doesn’t change the terms in the draft version of its contract to build a spacecraft that can deliver astronauts to orbit, then Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) may simply bow out of building one for NASA. “We may not bid on it,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said. However he is increasingly optimistic that the agency will change some of the rules that dictate the design.

    Musk was in Washington, D.C., today, along with other leaders of private space companies, testifying before the House Committee on Science and Technology about the state of the partnership between NASA and private space companies. Musk made his comments to PM outside the hearing room, but the backstory of his frustration is the first draft of a contract called the CCIDC (Commercial Crew Integrated Design Contract), which NASA issued last month to guide the way that private companies build crew-carrying spacecraft. As Popular Mechanics reported last week, this early version of the contract allows NASA to exert more control over the hardware design than many in the industry are comfortable with. It installs NASA staff into the companies’ facilities and leaves open the question of how many changes the agency can force companies to make.

    The witnesses also expressed discomfort with the lack of detail on how much NASA’s demands on the design would drive the cost of development. “NASA should provide oversight and direction in all cases where they see a need to improve safety of a spacecraft being developed for their use,” Sierra Nevada’s flight director Steven Lindsey said. “However, that does not mean that every technical change suggested by the government should be accepted. If a change makes the design ‘better’ but doesn’t impact safety, then the commercial company must have the leeway to accept or reject the change based on technical, cost, or schedule considerations.”

    Just think, in a mere 50 years we could see humanity’s first assless chapped space pirate Cantina. I wonder what the weapon restrictions will be like up there?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 21, 2011, 4:31 pm
  9. @Pterrafractyl: If Peter Thiel is behind the seasteading movement, I wonder who’s behind Peter Thiel? =p

    That said, TBH, I always thought floating nations on boats or artificial islands, or what have you, was a cool concept…..the truth about the seasteading movement kinda ruined that fantasy for me, though.
    =(

    Posted by Steven l. | November 21, 2011, 9:57 pm
  10. @Steven L.: I know how you feel. I have nothing against assless chapped space pirate Cantina enclaves. But if they’re to be used as wedges to delegitimize democratic societies or create “safe spaces” for bad actors (think of Liechtenstein merged with Pakistan and launched into orbit), now I’m suddenly somewhat anti-assless chapped space pirate Cantina enclaves…at least those particular enclaves.

    And now that I think about it, I’m actually opposed to assless chapped space pirate Cantina enclaves in general. I mean, the assless chaps with the pirate outfits probably work on some level, but space piracy just sounds like a bad idea (except when it’s not!).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 22, 2011, 2:11 pm
  11. @Pterrafractyl: Yep, yep.
    On the other hand, at least we might be able to find a floating Vegas one of these days, LOL(hey, if it’s run by a legitimate business and not an Underground Reich mob outfit…….) !

    Posted by Steven l. | November 23, 2011, 10:54 am
  12. It looks like HBGary might have some competition:

    TPM
    Who Is Behind Secret Phone Tracking Software ‘Carrier IQ’?
    share
    Carl Franzen December 1, 2011, 12:21 PM

    Your smartphone is probably spying on you, unless you’re a Windows Phone customer.

    That’s the unfortunate conclusion of a number of tech bloggers and security researchers over the past two weeks who have stumbled upon the whopper of all real-life tech conspiracies: That a piece of what appears to be remote, real-time tracking software called “Carrier IQ,” made by a company of the same name, is installed on upwards of 140 million handsets worldwide, including many popular Android, iOS, Nokia and BlackBerry devices in the U.S.

    Further, the software records a breathtaking amount of user information, including keystrokes, SMS messages, Web searches and a user’s location, all without a user’s knowledge or expressed consent.

    Still unanswered: Just who installed the software on the handsets in the first place and who is receiving all of the user information obtained. Handset makers (such as HTC and RIM) are blaming wireless providers (carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint), but many wireless companies have denied installing the software.

    Whoever is benefitting from the software, they and Carrier IQ could be subject to a class-action lawsuit for breaking U.S. wiretapping law, a former Justice Department prosecutor recently told Forbes.

    In the case of the Android, Nokia and BlackBerry devices, the software may be capturing and recording nearly all of a user’s activities by logging their keystrokes, according to systems administrator and Android researcher Trevor Eckhart, who first brought the matter to light in a blog post the week of November 14, after he hooked his Android phone up to his computer and ran an analysis on the Carrier IQ software, only to find that it “secretly chronicles a user’s phone experience, from its apps, battery life and texts,” as Wired Threat Level reported.

    Eckhart later posted a revealing video showing just how much information the software captures, including every keystroke on his Sprint HTC EVO 3D 4G Android device, and all without any disclaimers that it is doing so and without any way to stop it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 1, 2011, 11:14 am
  13. The prospect of mining in space is extremely tempting for a ton of reasons, including the avoidance of trashing the biosphere. But I am a bit wary of just who we’re going to allow to become the space robber barons when a single asteroid deposit could be worth more than than the GDP of most continents. Then again, a single find of the right rare metals could obliterate existing earth-based mineral cartels. I’m not looking forward to the property-rights battles. Maybe there really is a market of orbital space-pirate cantinas?

    Shooting for the moon — to mine it
    Naveen Jain of Moon Express Inc. describes plans to put robots on the moon as part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition.

    By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times

    December 9, 2011, 6:57 p.m.
    Most people don’t take it literally when they’re told to shoot for the moon — but thinking small isn’t Naveen Jain’s way. The 52-year-old Internet entrepreneur is a co-founder of Moon Express Inc., one of several companies in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, in which privately funded teams will try to put robots on the moon by 2016.

    Jain’s plans don’t end at reaching the moon’s surface. MoonEx, as his company is also known, plans to make billions mining the moon for precious resources. It also hopes to let customers send messages and materials to the moon.

    Jain spoke with The Times about the project.

    Why go to the moon?

    Our interest in the moon came because we think it’s a great business, not because it’s a great hobby. My whole thinking really is, how do we use science and entrepreneurship to solve the big problems?

    The MoonEx project came about because we started thinking: There are a tremendous amount of resources that are available on the moon, and the moon has never been explored from the perspective of an entrepreneur. Every six inches of moon has been mapped. But no one has combined the data together and realized [that] these resources are right here.

    What kinds of resources?

    Rare earth elements. Today, 80% of these come from China, which now has a policy not to export them. That means we’re held hostage. We know we can get these elements on the moon.

    What will this cost you?

    The idea is to develop a system and take a lander to the moon for under $70 million. NASA had to spend billions of dollars to figure out how to do it. Now we’re able to use existing technologies.

    By passing the torch to companies like yours, is NASA giving up?

    NASA isn’t giving up on the moon or outer space. They’re simply passing this on to the private sector and saying, “Look, the science for this has been developed.” Now it’s up to the private sector to go out and create businesses.

    ..

    Who owns the moon?

    People do say, “What right do you have to go up there and do this?” But it’s no different than looking at international waters, which nobody owns. You can go out there and fish, and the fish you bring in is yours. You can drill there, and the oil you bring in is yours. You still don’t own the water. How is it going to be different on the moon?

    What is your relationship with NASA?

    We have an agreement with NASA that allows us to use NASA technology and allows us to hire NASA to do work for us. Also, NASA has matched the Google Lunar prize for $30 million. We’re one of those three companies in the running.

    Wow, so NASA spends billions developing the technology required for robotic mining and then decides to “hand off” the mission of extracting those materials for profits economic and scientific treasure to the private sector and even offers to do contract work for these contractors. I hope these companies remember that public sector kindness when it comes to taxing their treasure trove (ROFLMAO!)

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 10, 2011, 9:56 pm
  14. Egads, it looks like Newt was calling for lunar mining colonies back in 1984. It also looks like the the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 sort of allows mining, but it’s ambiguous, so that will probably change soon.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 12, 2011, 10:36 pm
  15. PayPal co-founder Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, just got an awesome boost today. Paul Allen wants to build the worlds biggest plane and launch those rockets from 30,000 feet:

    Tycoon’s Next Big Bet for Space: A Countdown Six Miles Up in the Air

    By KENNETH CHANG
    Published: December 13, 2011

    One of the richest men in the world is going to build the biggest airplane ever.

    And then he is going to use it to launch rockets.

    Paul G. Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, said Tuesday that he was entering the rocket business with a concept seldom used until now: a plane that can take off the conventional way and then, at 30,000 feet, launch a rocket to orbit, carrying with it satellites, supplies and — eventually — people. The first rocket launching could be as soon as 2016.

    The airplane that his new company, Stratolaunch Systems, plans to build will be larger and heavier than the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’s record-setting flying boat that flew, just once, in 1947. With wings that will stretch 385 feet — longer than a football field — it will dwarf the double-decker Airbus A380, which is the biggest commercial passenger plane flown today. It will take off from a runway, fly to a normal cruising altitude and then drop off a rocket, eliminating the need for costly launching pads.

    With government-funded spaceflight diminishing, there is a much expanded opportunity for privately funded efforts,” Mr. Allen said. He noted that NASA had ended its space shuttle program this year, scrapped plans to return to the Moon and begun relying solely on Russia for launching astronauts to the International Space Station. He said his new effort would help keep “keep America at the forefront of space exploration.”

    Mr. Allen thus joins the ranks of tycoons who are placing big bets on the heavens. The most prominent is Richard Branson, whose Virgin Galactic subsidiary is planning to fly tourists on short jaunts to the edge of space. Other big names are Elon Musk, who used his fortune as a founder of Paypal to establish SpaceX, a rocket maker that is racking up contracts with NASA, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, the Amazon.com founder, who has a space company called Blue Origin.

    Instead of a tiny space plane like SpaceShipOne, Stratolaunch’s carrier airplane will cradle a full-size rocket, a variant of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, weighing about half a million pounds. The plane will take the rocket to 30,000 feet, almost six miles high, and then drop it. The rocket’s engines will then ignite and the tail fins will turn the rocket’s direction upward. The airplane will return to the airport and, in a quick turnaround, could be ready to launch another rocket by the next day.

    I wonder how many they’ll make and what else they can carry. . You have to wonder what else that thing can be used to carry. I guess the closest thing to a rocket is a an intercontinental ballistic missile, so that’s one interesting possible application. And I suppose it could carry a really really big anti-missile laser. I some non-missile related stuff too I’m sure.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 14, 2011, 12:00 am
  16. The AT&T/T-mobile merger was just called off. I’m sure Deutsche Telekom is distraught:

    T-Mobile’s Parent Celebrates AT&T’s ‘Record High Break-Up Fee’

    share
    Carl Franzen December 20, 2011, 12:22 PM

    AT&T wasn’t happy to cancel its bid to purchase T-Mobile for $39 billion, as the company candidly stated when announcing the historic retreat late Monday.

    But T-Mobile’s German parent company Deutsche Telekom is savoring a “record high break-up fee,” of $4 billion that AT&T agreed to pay the company if the merger fell through.

    “This is one of the highest payments ever agreed between two companies for the termination of a purchase agreement,” Deutsche Telekom noted up high in a statement provided to TPM. “It includes a cash payment of USD 3 billion to Deutsche Telekom, which is expected to be made by the end of this year. In addition, it contains a large package of mobile communications spectrum and a long-term agreement on UMTS roaming within the U.S. for T-Mobile USA.”

    Indeed, specifically, T-Mobile will take control of AT&T’s “large package of AWS mobile spectrum,” in 128 regions across the country, “including 12 of the top 20 markets (Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle).”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 20, 2011, 10:44 am
  17. More floating villagesOceanic data collection platforms are hitting the seas this year:

    Last updated: January 6, 2012 6:27 pm
    Super-rich buying ever larger yachts

    FT

    By Victor Mallet in Madrid

    The world’s super-rich, led by Gulf sheikhs and Russian tycoons, are taking delivery of ever larger and more luxurious European-made motoryachts this year, according to the latest superyacht ranking.

    Financial and economic crisis in the west has crippled some European yachtmakers. Ferretti, the debt-laden Italian manufacturer, is selling itself to China’s Shandong Heavy Industry Group for a fraction of its 2007 value of €1.7bn. But demand from international billionaires at the very top end of the market has remained robust despite the economic crisis.

    Superyachts.com, the luxury yachting web portal, says 11 new vessels, some the size of cruise liners, will join its annual top 100 ranking by length this year, compared with nine new entries last year.

    This year’s largest entry – a superyacht is usually defined as a private vessel more than 100ft or 30m in length – is Topaz, a 147m yacht built by Germany’s Lürssen Yachts for an unknown owner, possibly a member of the ruling Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi.

    Superyacht projects are often shrouded in secrecy, and research groups vie with each other to publish the first photographs and provide details of the latest additions to the fleet. Prices and customers’ names are frequently kept secret to shield owners from accusations of ostentatious living. The largest vessels cost well over $100m and can cost more than $1m a week to charter.

    I don’t know why these billionaires are so worried about accusations of ostentatious living. It’s not as if ALL super yachts are covered in gold and platinum.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 7, 2012, 5:36 pm
  18. Newt has a Big Idea. I think it means he’s substantive or something:

    Gingrich wants U.S. base on the moon
    By Sarah Huisenga National Journal January 26, 2012

    COCOA, Fla.–Appealing to residents of the state’s economically struggling “Space Coast,” Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich promised to have a permanent U.S. base on the moon by the end of his second term as president.

    To cheers and applause in an area that has suffered major job losses since the cancellation of the space shuttle, Gingrich said, “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”

    He also said that by the end of 2020, the country would have “the first continuous propulsion system in space” capable of allowing people travel to Mars. “I am sick of being told we have to be timid, and I am sick of being told we have to be limited in technologies that are 50 years old,” the former House speaker told the crowd at a “space roundtable” he hosted at a Holiday Inn.

    Responding to rival Mitt Romney’s criticism of his proposal for a lunar settlement, Gingrich said, “When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state. And here’s the difference between romantics and so-called practical people. I wanted every young American to say to themselves, ‘I could be one of those 13,000. I could be a pioneer. I need to study science and math and engineering. I need to learn how to be a technician. I can be a part of building a bigger, better future.’

    Well, on the plus side, at least the Native Mooninite’s probably can’t catch smallpox

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 26, 2012, 8:28 pm
  19. This looks like an “Uh oh” moment heading for Mitten’s campaign: it’s being reported that his old firm, Bain Capital (which still holds a huge chunk of his fortune), recently purchased a surveillance-camera division from a Chinese company heavily involved in the Chinese government’s “Safe Cities” (by spying on everything) program. At least Panantir will have some competition in the “Big Brother Tech” department and competition = “healthy”, right?

    NYTimes
    Firm Romney Founded Is Tied to Chinese Surveillance

    By ANDREW JACOBS and PENN BULLOCK
    Published: March 15, 2012

    BEIJING — As the Chinese government forges ahead on a multibillion-dollar effort to blanket the country with surveillance cameras, one American company stands to profit: Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney.

    In December, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company that claims to be the largest supplier to the government’s Safe Cities program, a highly advanced monitoring system that allows the authorities to watch over university campuses, hospitals, mosques and movie theaters from centralized command posts.

    ¶ The Bain-owned company, Uniview Technologies, produces what it calls “infrared antiriot” cameras and software that enable police officials in different jurisdictions to share images in real time through the Internet. Previous projects have included an emergency command center in Tibet that “provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life,” according to Uniview’s Web site.

    ¶ Such surveillance systems are often used to combat crime and the manufacturer has no control over whether they are used for other purposes. But human rights advocates say in China they are also used to intimidate and monitor political and religious dissidents. “There are video cameras all over our monastery, and their only purpose is to make us feel fear,” said Loksag, a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Gansu Province. He said the cameras helped the authorities identify and detain nearly 200 monks who participated in a protest at his monastery in 2008.

    As with previous deals involving other American companies, critics argue that Bain’s acquisition of Uniview violates the spirit — if not necessarily the letter — of American sanctions imposed on Beijing after the deadly crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square. Those rules, written two decades ago, bar American corporations from exporting to China “crime-control” products like those that process fingerprints, make photo identification cards or use night vision technology.

    ¶ Most video surveillance equipment is not covered by the sanctions, even though a Canadian human rights group found in 2001 that Chinese security forces used Western-made video cameras to help identify and apprehend Tiananmen Square protesters.

    ¶ Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, who frequently assails companies that do business with Chinese security agencies, said calls by some members of Congress to pass stricter regulations on American businesses have gone nowhere. “These companies are busy making a profit and don’t want to face realities, but what they’re doing is wrong,” said Mr. Wolf, who is co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

    In public comments and in a statement posted on his campaign Web site, Mr. Romney has accused the Obama administration of placing economic concerns above human rights in managing relations with China. He has called on the White House to offer more vigorous support of those who criticize the Chinese Communist Party.

    Uniview is proud of its close association with China’s security establishment and boasts about the scores of surveillance systems it has created for local security agencies in the six years since the Safe Cities program was started.

    Social management and society building pose new demands for surveillance and control systems,” Uniview says in its promotional materials, which include an interview with Zhang Pengguo, the company’s chief executive. “A harmonious society is the essential nature of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Mr. Zhang says.

    Until now, Bain’s takeover of Uniview has drawn little attention outside China. The company was formerly the surveillance division of H3C, a joint venture between 3Com and Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant whose expansion plans in the United States have faced resistance from Congress over questions about its ties to the Chinese military.

    In 2010, 3Com, along with H3C, became a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard in a $2.7 billion buyout deal.

    H3C also sells technology unrelated to video surveillance, including Internet firewall products, but it was the video surveillance division alone that drew Bain Capital’s interest.

    By marrying Internet, cellphone and video surveillance, the government is seeking to create an omniscient monitoring system, said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. “When it comes to surveillance, China is pretty upfront about its totalitarian ambitions,” he said.

    For the legion of Chinese intellectuals, democracy advocates and religious figures who have tangled with the government, surveillance cameras have become inescapable.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 16, 2012, 7:05 am
  20. @Pterrafractyl: Romney is such a f****** hypocrite, claiming that he’s against suppression in China while giving cold hard cash to a company BASED IN CHINA, that is helping their government with the universal surveillance program! Unbelievable. Romney? Hah. Somebody at Democratic Underground, btw, invented a nickname for him(purely by accident believe it or not!)….and that would be ‘Rmoney’. Makes sense to me….LMAO. xD

    Posted by Steven L. | March 16, 2012, 9:19 am
  21. Apparently, as part of an inevitable societal reconsideration of our rights to privacy, the dishwasher gets to spy on you for the CIA:

    CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher

    By Spencer Ackerman

    March 15, 2012 | 5:35 pm

    More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

    Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

    All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

    “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

    Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true — if convenient for a CIA director.

    The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.

    That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish.

    “Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come,” Petraeus observed. “Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.”

    It’s hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spy’s friend. But Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.

    Why? With the arrival of Timeline, Facebook made it super-easy to backdate your online history. Barack Obama, for instance, hasn’t been on Facebook since his birth in 1961. Creating new identities for CIA non-official cover operatives has arguably never been easier. Thank Zuck, spies. Thank Zuck.

    So in addition to turning our appliances into the stasi, the CIA also wants to develop technology that will be able to wipe the internet of all info related to a target individual. Nothing creepy about that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 18, 2012, 7:38 pm
  22. So are calls for sovereign libertarian space colonies going to become a permanent fixture in our political discourse or is this just a phase?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 10, 2012, 1:24 pm
  23. I’ve sometimes wondered if one of the long term strategic objectives of destroying the environment while simultaneously pushing overpopulation of the planet was to eventually force humanity into a situation where all societies have to make the decision “who lives and who dies? We have no choice, there’s just no enough left to go around” (the eugenicist’s dream). But as this article suggests, we might be asking “Who lives? Who Dies? And who gets modified?” (the high-tech eugenicist’s dream).

    The authors of the published paper appear to be taken aback by the controversy that erupted over their proposal to have humanity embrace a slew of genetic modification to adapt to a rapidly change environment. As they point out, their proposals include the precaution that all individuals would be free to choice which modifications they want. The article doesn’t indicate if their proposal also involves making the modifications themselves free. Aside from all the other ethical concerns about this proposal, a “free-market of genetic modifications” doesn’t seem like the best solution for a degraded ecology. I bet Peter Thiel just loves these guys.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2012, 7:52 pm
  24. It’s worth recalling that yesterday’s Facebook IPO had some folks near the Kremin smiling too:

    NYTimes
    A Russian Magnate’s Facebook Bet Pays Off Big
    By ANDREW E. KRAMER
    Published: May 15, 2012

    MOSCOW – With his droopy eyeglasses and boxy suits, Alisher B. Usmanov is at no risk of being mistaken for a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. But the Russian steel tycoon is poised to make billions of dollars from the initial public stock offering of Facebook this week – in the same league as many of that social networking company’s early backers.

    Mr. Usmanov, an industrial and media magnate who has demonstrated a keen ability to take advantage of the opportunities that appear in a financial disaster, is reaping the rewards of an ambitious bet on Facebook made amid the global economic recession in 2009.

    Mr. Usmanov, 58, who got his start in the plastic bag business and was reared in a remote part of the Soviet Union, said he learned the benefits of acting boldly during the ruble crisis of 1998.

    I have a theory of crisis that you must employ crisis to create additional margin,” he said this week in a telephone interview. “You need to understand when the moment of growth is coming, and invest just before that.”

    Mr. Zuckerberg turned to the Russian investors in 2009 at a meeting quietly brokered by Goldman Sachs. Other sources of financing had slowed because of the crisis. And, because of the popularity of online social games in Russia, investors here had a keen sense of the value of social networking sites and were willing to pay more than others for a stake in Facebook.

    The Russians were also willing to accept another condition important to Mr. Zuckerberg. Despite owning 10 percent of Facebook, they would get no voting rights or seat on the board. They would also have no say in the site’s policies on privacy or political organizing – preserving independence that has become especially important as Facebook has played a major role in domestic politics in Russia.

    Mr. Usmanov, who is close to the Kremlin, has not hesitated to use his media properties to support the government. Last December, he fired the publisher and editor at one of Russia’s most respected newsmagazines, Kommersant Vlast, after it published detailed accounts of bald falsification in national elections. Mr. Usmanov said he fired the executive not for the political coverage per se, but for printing a picture of a ballot defaced with an obscenity insulting Vladimir V. Putin, then prime minister of Russia and now president.

    The precise details of the Russian ownership in Facebook are difficult to assess. The investments were made over two years though the Russian Internet company Mail.ru and the investment fund Digital Sky Technologies, also known as D.S.T., which is run by the venture capitalist Yuri Milner. Although Mr. Usmanov was the leading backer, other investors were involved.

    Mr. Milner met with Zuckerberg in 2009 before the first investment, though Mr. Usmanov has never met him.

    Mr. Milner said that this led to an understanding that social networking business models involving tiny payments from large numbers of users had vast potential in emerging markets.

    Mr. Usmanov said that, after the series of investments from 2009 until 2011, he and Mr. Milner owned about 9 percent of Facebook at one point, but now own about 6 percent and will hold about 4.5 percent after the initial public offering. The other shares they originally controlled have gone to other investors, clients of D.S.T. and corporate entities.

    Mr. Usmanov earned his billions in the post-Soviet business world, managing steel mill subsidiaries for Gazprom before they were spun off as his own businesses, Gazmetal, later renamed Metalloinvest. Mr. Usmanov has said he took on debt in this transaction and others acquiring iron ore mines in Russia.

    He said he would use money from investors who buy his shares in the Facebook I.P.O. to invest and pay down debt at his other Russian businesses.

    This year, Russia’s second-largest cellphone company, MegaFon, which Mr. Usmanov partly owns, is expected to issue shares in London in its own I.P.O.

    From his work with Gazprom, Mr. Usmanov is said to be close to Russia’s former president and current prime minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev, a former chairman of the Gazprom board. His ties to the Kremlin and Facebook have stirred concerns that he might influence the company’s policies in subtle ways to appease governments in markets where Facebook is also an important tool of political dissent, such as Russia.

    So a figure close to the Kremin owns a sizable share of Facebook, and Facebook happens to be one of the main outlets used by the anti-Putin protesters. I’m sure there’s nothing for the protesters to worry about.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 19, 2012, 8:18 pm
  25. Big Brother just got another excuse for his voyeurism obsession…apparently we’re better people when we know we’re being watched by security cameras according to a recent study that focused on security cameras in public settings. It will be interesting to see what happens to peoples’ behavior on the interwebs once everyone finally realizes that it’s all being watched. While there might be a reduction in some bad behaviors – like calling our control-freak elites nasty names like “control-freak elites” – there’s also a distinct possibility of the collapse of the global digital economy…something like this, but in reverse. ;)

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 25, 2012, 2:47 pm
  26. A recent NY Times investigative report on the trend of for-profit prisons, jails, and halfway houses in the US found a rather surprising problem with a private company running halfway houses in New Jersey: prisoners escaping with apparent ease from halfway houses with only months left on their sentences. Dangerous conditions were a frequent reason given by recaptured prisoners. Now, if there was actually competition in this type of privatization, there might be an incentive to improve these conditions. But, of course, there isn’t, so the private prison industry looks like it’s going to continue having a problem with escaped prisoners(blustering aside). Fortunately (for the industry) it looks like some innovative entrepreneurs have come up with a brilliant way to ensure an endless stream of new prisoners into the system: criminalize the poor on probation profitably:

    NY Times
    Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation

    By ETHAN BRONNER
    Published: July 2, 2012

    CHILDERSBURG, Ala. – Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.

    When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed – charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

    For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.

    It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.

    “With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. “The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.

    Half a century ago in a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that those accused of crimes had to be provided a lawyer if they could not afford one. But in misdemeanors, the right to counsel is rarely brought up, even though defendants can run the risk of jail. The probation companies promise revenue to the towns, while saying they also help offenders, and the defendants often end up lost in a legal Twilight Zone.

    Here in Childersburg, where there is no public transportation, Ms. Ray has plenty of company in her plight. Richard Garrett has spent a total of 24 months in jail and owes $10,000, all for traffic and license violations that began a decade ago. A onetime employee of United States Steel, Mr. Garrett is suffering from health difficulties and is without work. William M. Dawson, a Birmingham lawyer and Democratic Party activist, has filed a lawsuit for Mr. Garrett and others against the local authorities and the probation company, Judicial Correction Services, which is based in Georgia.

    “The Supreme Court has made clear that it is unconstitutional to jail people just because they can’t pay a fine,” Mr. Dawson said in an interview.

    In Georgia, three dozen for-profit probation companies operate in hundreds of courts, and there have been similar lawsuits. In one, Randy Miller, 39, an Iraq war veteran who had lost his job, was jailed after failing to make child support payments of $860 a month. In another, Hills McGee, with a monthly income of $243 in veterans benefits, was charged with public drunkenness, assessed $270 by a court and put on probation through a private company. The company added a $15 enrollment fee and $39 in monthly fees. That put his total for a year above $700, which Mr. McGee, 53, struggled to meet before being jailed for failing to pay it all.

    “These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” said John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga., who is taking the issue to a federal appeals court this fall. “There are things like garbage collection where private companies are O.K. No one’s liberty is affected. The closer you get to locking someone up, the closer you get to a constitutional issue.”

    In a 2010 study, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law examined the fee structure in the 15 states – including California, Florida and Texas – with the largest prison populations. It asserted: “Many states are imposing new and often onerous ‘user fees’ on individuals with criminal convictions. Yet far from being easy money, these fees impose severe – and often hidden – costs on communities, taxpayers and indigent people convicted of crimes. They create new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder to find employment and housing as well as to meet child support obligations.

    With the way things are going with this privatization mania, you almost have to expect to see towns start privatizing their entire governments.

    Ah, there we go.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 4, 2012, 10:12 pm
  27. Great. Climate researchers just found that the ice sheet melt in Greenland was going at an unprecedented rate in July. At first they thought the data showing melting across 97% of the ice caps was was a mistake. It wasn’t. Let’s hope we can say the same about the glaring mistakes humanity is making in our stewardship of the entire biosphere:

    Greenland ice sheet melted at unprecedented rate during July

    Scientists at Nasa admitted they thought satellite readings were a mistake after images showed 97% melt over four days

    Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent
    guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 July 2012 17.48 EDT

    The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.

    The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.

    In a statement posted on Nasa’s website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.

    “This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” Son Nghiem of Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.

    He consulted with several colleagues, who confirmed his findings. Dorothy Hall, who studies the surface temperature of Greenland at Nasa’s space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, confirmed that the area experienced unusually high temperatures in mid-July, and that there was widespread melting over the surface of the ice sheet.

    Climatologists Thomas Mote, at the University of Georgia, and Marco Tedesco, of the City University of New York, also confirmed the melt recorded by the satellites.

    However, scientists were still coming to grips with the shocking images on Tuesday. “I think it’s fair to say that this is unprecedented,” Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Guardian.

    The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%.

    Zwally, who has made almost yearly trips to the Greenland ice sheet for more than three decades, said he had never seen such a rapid melt.

    Lora Koenig, another Goddard glaciologist, told Nasa similar rapid melting occurs about every 150 years. But she warned there were wide-ranging potential implications from this year’s thaw.

    “If we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.” she told Nasa.

    The most immediate consequences are sea level rise and a further warming of the Arctic. In the centre of Greenland, the ice remains up to 3,000 metres deep. On the edges, however, the ice is much, much thinner and has been melting into the sea.

    The melting ice sheet is a significant factor in sea level rise. Scientists attribute about one-fifth of the annual sea level rise, which is about 3mm every year, to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

    In this instance of this month’s extreme melting, Mote said there was evidence of a heat dome over Greenland: or an unusually strong ridge of warm air.

    The dome is believed to have moved over Greenland on 8 July, lingering until 16 July.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 24, 2012, 2:24 pm
  28. Nothing to worry about here. All those protestors in Bahrain were no doubt criminal terrorists:

    NYTimes
    Software Meant to Fight Crime Is Used to Spy on Dissidents

    By NICOLE PERLROTH
    Published: August 30, 2012

    SAN FRANCISCO — Morgan Marquis-Boire works as a Google engineer and Bill Marczak is earning a Ph.D. in computer science. But this summer, the two men have been moonlighting as detectives, chasing an elusive surveillance tool from Bahrain across five continents.

    What they found was the widespread use of sophisticated, off-the-shelf computer espionage software by governments with questionable records on human rights. While the software is supposedly sold for use only in criminal investigations, the two came across evidence that it was being used to target political dissidents.

    The software proved to be the stuff of a spy film: it can grab images of computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes. The two men said they discovered mobile versions of the spyware customized for all major mobile phones.

    But what made the software especially sophisticated was how well it avoided detection. Its creators specifically engineered it to elude antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, Symantec, F-Secure and others.

    The software has been identified as FinSpy, one of the more elusive spyware tools sold in the growing market of off-the-shelf computer surveillance technologies that give governments a sophisticated plug-in monitoring operation. Research now links it to servers in more than a dozen countries, including Turkmenistan, Brunei and Bahrain, although no government acknowledges using the software for surveillance purposes.

    The market for such technologies has grown to $5 billion a year from “nothing 10 years ago,” said Jerry Lucas, president of TeleStrategies, the company behind ISS World, an annual surveillance show where law enforcement agents view the latest computer spyware.

    FinSpy is made by the Gamma Group, a British company that says it sells monitoring software to governments solely for criminal investigations.

    “This is dual-use equipment,” said Eva Galperin, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties group. “If you sell it to a country that obeys the rule of law, they may use it for law enforcement. If you sell it to a country where the rule of law is not so strong, it will be used to monitor journalists and dissidents.”

    Until Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak stumbled upon FinSpy last May, security researchers had tried, unsuccessfully, for a year to track it down. FinSpy gained notoriety in March 2011 after protesters raided Egypt’s state security headquarters and discovered a document that appeared to be a proposal by the Gamma Group to sell FinSpy to the government of President Hosni Mubarak for $353,000. It is unclear whether that transaction was ever completed.

    Martin J. Muench, a Gamma Group managing director, said his company did not disclose its customers. In an e-mail, he said the Gamma Group sold FinSpy to governments only to monitor criminals and that it was most frequently used “against pedophiles, terrorists, organized crime, kidnapping and human trafficking.”

    Awwww…poor FinSpy. After the Mubarak regime collapsed they lost a customer (if only Mubarak had bought FinSpy earlier). Oh well, I’m sure Egypt’s new government will still be interested in FinSpy’s services:

    Time
    Shades of Mubarak: Egyptian Journalists Chafe Under Media Controls
    Mohamed Morsy’s appointments and restrictions have led to howls of protests from Egyptian journalists. Has the Muslim Brotherhood taken a repressive turn?
    By Ashraf Khalil / Cairo | August 28, 2012

    Sabah Hamamou recalls hoping for the best and giving Mohamed Morsy the benefit of the doubt when the longtime Muslim Brotherhood official became Egypt’s first ever elected civilian President earlier this summer.

    For Hamamou, a deputy business editor at the state-owned flagship daily newspaper al-Ahram, it was an opportunity to finally fix the institution to which she has dedicated 17 years of her professional life. Hamamou is one of the hardcore dissidents inside Egypt’s state media machine. Halfway through the January 2011 revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power, she and a handful of colleagues launched an internal revolt to chase out the Mubarak-appointed editor. So when Morsy came to power, she hoped for a fresh start and a new regime that would return the historic paper to something approaching respectability.

    That optimism crumbled on Aug. 8 when the Shura Council — the upper house of parliament controlled by Morsy’s Muslim Brotherhood — announced dozens of new editors at a host of state-owned newspapers and magazines. The new al-Ahram editor, Abdel Nasser Salama, was just one of the hires that prompted a widespread revolt among Egyptian journalists.

    The criticisms over Salama’s appointment started before he could even move into his new office. A former midlevel editor at al-Ahram, he gained notoriety as an inflammatory Mubarak-era columnist. One column argued that women shouldn’t run for parliament for their own good; another, written in the final week of the revolution, claimed that cars bearing foreign-diplomatic plates were ferrying food and supplies to the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square. Hamamou can barely contain her contempt for her new boss, calling him “barely qualified” and a “totally closed-minded person.” Efforts to contact Salama to respond to the criticism were unsuccessful.

    The day after the appointments, a handful of columnists (all at privately owned papers) ran blank columns in protest — objecting to both the individual choices and the idea that Morsy’s government was adopting the Mubarak-era levers of media control. That turned out to be just the opening salvo in a widening conflict that has Morsy’s young government accused of suppressing free speech.

    A pair of prominent government critics now face charges of incitement to violence and the purely Mubarak-era crime of “insulting the President.” Tawfiq Okasha, a firebrand anti-Brotherhood television host, has had the channel he owns temporarily shut down. And police raided the offices of the privately owned newspaper al-Dostour, confiscated the Aug. 11 edition of the paper and charged its editor in chief, Islam Afify, with incitement.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 31, 2012, 2:36 pm
  29. Posted here (see Pterrafractyl’s March 18 post above) as the only Spitfire mention of ex-CIA chief General David Petraeus:

    Some questions about the General’s 11/9 demise:

    Theory: Did Petraeus resign due to Benghazi — OR was Benghazi itself a set-up to eliminate Petraeus?

    Petraeus could easily have run for President in 2016.

    Ostensibly, Petraeus was a Republican. I have my doubts about that.

    Nevertheless, Petraeus would have likely run as a Republican.

    Petraeus’ meteoric career rise took a boost from Bush when he was assigned to lead the Iraq debacle. Subsequently, he was re-assigned by Obama to the Afghanistan debacle.

    In both cases, he was assigned (first by a Republican, and then by a “Democrat”) to a career-suicide assignment. A lesser general’s career might have been seriously damaged by situations that should have lost control further than they did.

    Neither of the two “career assassination attempts” succeeded.

    Finally, Obama assigned him to lead the CIA.

    On a side note, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was also in the news this week — removed from duty due to an “extramarital affair”.

    Whether or not the affairs in question took place are a moot point.

    My question is: Cui bono? Who benefits from the elimination of Petraeus?

    I say that both Team Bush and the Pentagon and Team Obama (all the same team) have much to gain from the career assassination of Petraeus. But the question of Benghazi has nothing to do with Obama’s gain, as is being speculated by the feverish right-wing. Obama gains much more than that.

    Also being missed is the significance of the date:

    Benghazi happened on 9/11. Petraeus’ assassination happened on 11/9. (Dave has covered 11/9 as a significant date in Nazi mythology, and Germanic supremacist lore dating back to the 1800s; “11/9” is how 9/11 is written in Europe, where the date is signified before the month number).

    Republicans were never interested in what their president knew on 9/11 or about forewarnings given to Bush. Their sudden interest in crippling Obama for the exact same reasons on the same date will fizzle out as a scandal, whether or not it deserves to.

    Hence the elimination of Petraeus becomes a clean getaway. Like the JFK assassination, members of both parties had a noteworthy interest in his demise. And Petraeus: Cui bono?

    And don’t forget, there is another precedent for this:

    Shortly after Bush’s 2004 “re-election”, Bush got rid of CIA chief Porter Goss and Deputy Director Dusty Foggo. The scandal at that time was “Hookergate” — along the lines of the Franklin Scandal, but without any reported children involved ( … that we know of … ). Allegedly, at the Watergate Hotel, prominent government figures were lured into poker games which involved prostitutes & cocaine (and probably other things) which were reportedly filmed for blackmail behind a two-way mirror.

    (Note that this scandal has been almost scrubbed from the Internet, with little of the more significant details still extant in any of the remaining Internet material).

    Who was Porter Goss? What was his role in or knowledge of 9/11? Florida was Goss’ home state as a Congressman before he was elevated to head CIA. Venice, Florida (and other Florida locations) was where the alleged terrorists were bootlegged (and probable CIA/German BND asset Mohammed Atta) through the “flight school” that has CIA connections.

    Remember where Goss was on the morning of 9/11. Why was Goss similarly eliminated, directly after Bush’s “re-election”? The parallels between the demise of Goss and of Petraeus are remarkably similar.

    Posted by R. Wilson | November 9, 2012, 9:16 pm
  30. From memory, as I recall,the “5 B’s” whose influence should never be underestimated; bullets, beds, bribes, bombs, and blackmail.

    Posted by GK | November 11, 2012, 3:46 pm
  31. @R. Wilson:
    Here’s a good article that covers much of the weirdness that’s emerged in the Petraeus resignation story in just the last day. And here’s another summary article that comes complete with a “love pentagon” diagram. One interesting tidbit that was left out of both is the fact that Natalie Khawan, Jill Kelley’s identical twin sister that lives with her in Tampa, is also a lawyer that specializes in whistleblower cases in law school. I haven’t seen any info on what actual whistleblowing cases she’s ever worked on, but hopefully it didn’t involve whistleblowers in the military with accusations against high-ranking officers because there might be some conflict of interest. This is definitely one of the more bizarre sex-related stories we’ve seen come out of a powerful networks in a while (if you don’t count all of this. Or this.)

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 14, 2012, 12:35 pm
  32. @Robert Wilson–

    Good catch with the 9/11-11/9 link.

    I’ll be posting about the Petraeus affair soon–it’s in process.

    Consider what’s happening at the BBC right now and examine the passage from Sun-Tzu in FTR #366, quoted by Gehlen in his autobiography.

    Consider also the long-term subversion of the Anglo-Saxon world by the Underground Reich.

    You can bet that the BBC scandals aren’t reinforcing Britons’ sense of civic pride and patriotism.

    Best,

    Dave Emory

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 15, 2012, 12:20 pm
  33. Oooo….the National Intelligence Council just published its “Global Trends 2030” report on what the world will likely look like in a couple of decades. Big shocker, it’ll be like today but with more thirst, hunger, and poverty:

    Global Trends 2030 Predicts Water Struggles And Climate Change Challenges
    AP
    By KIMBERLY DOZIER 12/10/12 01:15 PM ET EST

    WASHINGTON — The United States could see its standing as a superpower eroded and Asian economies will outstrip those of North America and Europe combined by 2030, according to the best guess of the U.S. intelligence community in its latest forecast.

    “The spectacular rise of Asian economies is dramatically altering … U.S. influence,” said Christopher Kojm, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, as it released the report Global Trends 2030 on Monday.

    The report is the intelligence community’s analysis of where current trends will take the world in the next 15 to 20 years. Its release was timed for the start of a new presidential administration and it is aimed at helping U.S. policymakers plan for the future.

    The report also predicted the U.S. will be energy independent.

    The study said that in a best-case scenario, Americans, together with nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, will be middle class, mostly living in cities, connected by advanced technology, protected by advanced health care and linked by countries that work together, perhaps with the United States and China cooperating to lead the way.

    Violent acts of terrorism will also be less frequent as the U.S. drawdown in troops from Iraq and Afghanistan robs extremist ideologies of a rallying cry to spur attacks. But that will likely be replaced by acts like cyber-terrorism, wreaking havoc on an economy with a keystroke, the study’s authors say.

    In countries where there are declining birth rates and an aging population like the U.S., economic growth may slow.

    “Aging countries will face an uphill battle in maintaining living standards,” Kojm said. “So too will China, because its median age will be higher than the U.S. by 2030.”

    The rising populations of disenfranchised youth in places like Nigeria and Pakistan may lead to conflict over water and food, with “nearly half of the world’s population … experiencing severe water stress,” the report said. Africa and the Middle East will be most at risk, but China and India are also vulnerable.

    That instability could lead to conflict and contribute to global economic collapse, especially if combined with rapid climate change that could make it harder for governments to feed global populations, the authors warn.

    That’s the grimmest among the “Potential Worlds” the report sketches for 2030. Under the heading “Stalled Engines,” in the “most plausible worst-case scenario, the risks of interstate conflict increase,” the report said. “The U.S. draws inward and globalization stalls.”

    “This is not inevitable,” said lead study author Mathew Burrows. “In most cases, it’s manageable if you take measures … now.”

    The report warns of the mostly catastrophic effects of possible “Black Swans,” extraordinary events that can change the course of history. These include a severe pandemic that could kill millions in a matter of months and more rapid climate change that could make it hard to feed the world’s population.


    One bright spot for the U.S. is energy independence.

    “With shale gas, the U.S. will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come,” the report said.

    OK, so let’s see…according to the report, the big looming threat facing the developing world is that there won’t be enough kids to keep our “growth forever!” economic system chugging while nearly half the global population is expected to face severe food and water shortages. Also, the “Black Swan” event that could really mess things up is faster than expected climate change, but at least the US should be able to frack its way to energy independence. As they say, you can’t fix stupid, so hopefully the neuro-enhancements also predicted in the report might help. We’re going to need ALL the help we can possibly get.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 10, 2012, 3:21 pm
  34. Glenn’s Gulch is on the drawing board:

    Right Wing Watch
    Independence Park to be Glenn Beck’s ‘Galt’s Gulch’
    Submitted by Kyle Mantyla on Friday, 1/11/2013 10:14 am

    The other day we mentioned that Glenn Beck intends to “go Galt” with a new effort called “The American Dream Labs” which he is building with the intention of revolutionizing everything from technology to education to agriculture to entertainment and even creating new forms of energy.

    On his program last night, Beck revealed that his intention to “go Galt” is quite literal, unveiling grandiose plans to create an entirely self-sustaining community called Independence Park that will provide its own food and energy, produce television and film content, host research and development, serve as a marketplace for products and ideas, while also housing a theme park and serving as a residential community.

    At the center – in the middle of the lake that is itself larger than all of Disney Land – Beck (with the help of David Barton) will create a massive “national archive”/learning center where people can send their children to be “deprogrammed” and elected officials can come to learn “the truth.”

    All for a mere $2 billion.

    Ooooo…David Barton is going to help with the “deprogramming” center. That should be, um, “educational“.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 14, 2013, 1:08 pm
  35. You have to wonder if Glenn’s Gulch will get an embassy here:

    Idaho Statesman
    Survivalist community of thousands planned for North Idaho

    Published: December 20, 2012

    By Audrey Dutton — adutton@idahostatesman.com

    A group named The Citadel is hoping to build a community in the mountains of North Idaho made up of thousands of households. The project would be a “martial endeavor designed to protect residents in times of peril” and “built as a fortified bastion of liberty,” according to the group’s website, iiicitadel.com.

    The plan is to build the community — with a fortified castle and firearms museum, and typical city features like a bank, jail and library — south of Coeur d’Alene. It would have 3,500 to 7,000 families living on about 2,000 to 3,000 acres, according to the website.

    But the fate of the project is very uncertain, according to the group. It isn’t clear yet whether it would even be built in Idaho.

    “Currently we are a loose collection of several hundred people with a germ of an idea, and honestly not ready to provide you with a cogent interview or even background,” an unnamed representative for the group said in an email to the Statesman.

    Benewah County is the “first choice” because of its low population density and “shared world-view” of independence, self-sufficiency and patriotism, the website said.

    One to two square miles of the Citadel would be protected by walls and towers, the website said.

    Residents would have to agree to conditions such as:

    — Following federal and state constitutions

    — Being able to shoot a man-sized steel target at various distances with a handgun and a rifle

    — Keeping on hand a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle variant, at least five magazines, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and other supplies

    — Keeping every household stocked with enough food, water and other provisions to last a year

    — Taking courses in areas such as basic medical care, firearms safety and marksmanship

    — Being armed with a loaded sidearm whenever visiting the Citadel’s town center

    The application — with a $208 fee — asks if the person plans to raise livestock, farm, live inside or outside the Citadel’s walls or start a business there.

    The Citadel will not have a leader, and it started as an idea in the Patriot Blogosphere in early 2012, the website said.

    As of early December, the Citadel group said it was waiting on early legal paperwork to be approved by attorneys and the state of Delaware, stressing that the group was waiting for approvals to proceed in earnest.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 14, 2013, 2:54 pm
  36. And the privatization of global security continues, this time with privateers:

    Wired
    This Tech Entrepreneur Is About to Launch the Blackwater of the High Seas

    By Spencer Ackerman
    01.23.13
    6:30 AM
    Beware, pirates of Africa. You may have outlasted years of patrols from the world’s navies. You may have driven fear into the hears of shipping magnates and sent insurance rates skyrocketing. But now you’ll have to contend with a dapper British investor who is seeking to privatize the fight against seafaring brigands.

    Anthony Sharp, a 50-year-old veteran of tech startups, grew up with a love for ships. On February 7, he’ll turn that boyhood affection into what might be the first private navy since the 19th century. Sharp’s newest company, Typhon, will offer a fleet of armed ex-Royal Marines and sailors to escort commercial ships through pirate-infested waters. In essence, Typhon wants to be the Blackwater of the sea, minus the stuff about accidentally killing civilians.

    Sharp thinks the market is ripe for Typhon, a company named for a monster out of Greek myth. Budget cuts are slicing into the wallets of the militaries that provide protection from pirates. The conflicts and weak governments that incubate piracy in places like Somalia persist. “Maritime crime is growing at the same time that navies are shrinking,” Sharp tells Danger Room by telephone from the U.K. “The policemen are going off the beat.” Sharp thinks that creates a potent opportunity for the fleet he’s buying.

    But he might be too late. Without much notice, piracy actually declined in 2012, bringing down the high insurance rates that send shipping companies running for armed protection. Meanwhile, the market for such security is being filled by companies that station armed guards aboard commercial ships to deter or combat pirates. That practice, known as “embarked security,” follows years of security firms, including Blackwater itself, trying and mostly failing at amassing fleets to escort commercial ships — Typhon’s model.

    Sharp says he’s heard the objections and is undeterred. “We’ve got personnel. We’ve got clients,” he insists. And when Typhon launches on February 7 and begins operations in April, Sharp won’t just take a gamble on a market much different than the ones he made his money in. He’ll reintroduce the world to the forgotten concept of a private navy. And the U.S. Navy is watching, with much curiosity.

    It used to be that when navies needed aid on the high seas, they would hire private warships as auxiliaries. The auxiliaries, known as privateers, would fly the flag of the nation that hired them, and were thereby empowered to do the rough nautical business of raiding and plundering commercial ships from hostile nations. During the War of 1812, for instance, America hired a privateer fleet of more than 517 ships; the U.S. Navy had just 23 vessels at the time. But by the mid-19th century, the notion of private navies seemed like a threat to a stable economy. “A privateer coming across a wrongly flagged ship could become a pirate very quickly,” recounts Kevin McRainie of the U.S. Naval War College.

    So in April 1856, most western nations (with the important exceptions of Spain and the United States) signed the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law. “Privateering is, and remains, abolished,” it readsk.

    Not that Sharp is, strictly speaking, a privateer. Privateers were hired by governments, not companies. Historians don’t really have an apt framework for Typhon. “It’s like if Exxon, Coca-Cola or one of the other big companies was arming and commissioning ships for their security, or for someone else,” says McRainie. “I can’t think of any precedent that goes along with that.” And while other companies have recently tried to do what Typhon is doing — more on that in a second — Claude Berube, a prominent analyst of maritime security, considers Typhon reminiscent of the British East India Company, the firm chartered to protect the Crown’s all-important eastern trade.

    But if Typhon beats the odds, it’ll have revived a very old concept for a strangely enduring threat. “I saw an opportunity,” Sharp says. “To get those armed guards on your vessel, you have to divert to a port to pick them up, then you have to divert to their international armory in international waters, you then complete your transit and you have to divert to the international armory to drop your weapons off, and then you have to divert to port to drop your armed guards off.” Maybe, he’s gambling, it’ll be cheaper to pay for the modern-day version of a privateer.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 24, 2013, 1:16 pm
  37. One can see why Peter Thiel & Friends are so keen on creating their own island nations…what, with abuses like this routinely taking place year after year who wouldn’t want to leave?

    Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013 09:22 AM CST
    Facebook Has Friends in DC
    In a fight between Corporate America and Middle America, Washington follows the money
    By David Sirota

    The news that Facebook made more than $1 billion in profit and yet will nonetheless get a $429 million tax refund comes at about as teachable a political moment as possible. With the president using his State of the Union address to demand what he called “comprehensive tax reform,” headlines about Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth force us to ponder what that phrase really refers to – and whether it refers to something far more sinister than meets the eye.

    That’s a possibility worth pondering, after all, since only a year ago the president defined “comprehensive tax reform” as specifically ending the alleged situation whereby “companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.” When juxtaposed next to the deeper meaning of the Facebook situation, such platitudes look less like earnest objectives than misleading lobbyist-sculpted talking points designed to further reduce corporate taxes in what is already one of the lowest-tax (and, thus, most deficit-plagued) countries in the industrialized world.

    The details of the specific Facebook tax break reveal that bigger story. As the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice shows, the company used a gaping tax loophole that lets companies pay their executives in stock options, and then, when the options are exercised, the firms “take a tax deduction for the difference between what the employees pay for the stock and what it’s worth.” The New York Times summed up the net effect: “Companies can claim a tax deduction in future years that is much bigger than the value of the stock options when they were granted to executives” thereby “depriv(ing) the federal government of tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade.”

    Thanks to this and other such tax subsidies, deductions, write-offs and loopholes, the United States has become something of a paradox – we simultaneously have a comparative high official corporate tax rate and a very low effective corporate tax rate.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 19, 2013, 8:46 am
  38. The CIA’s venture capital firm just bought a company that develops software capable of interpreting data and writing text summaries well enough that it’s already by some newspapers. It sounds like it’s going to be useful in analyzing and summarizing the vast volumes of data the intelligence community deals with. So, just FYI, Skynet is learning how to read and write:

    gigaOM
    The CIA takes an interest in Narrative Science’s quick summaries of big data
    By Jordan Novet 6/5/2013

    Summary:While visualizations have gotten plenty of attention as options for getting good stuff out of data, In-Q-Tel’s investment in Narrative Science suggests information in paragraphs could work too.

    Narrative Science has attracted media attention because it has the potential of disrupting people who work in the media. The company’s technology can take heaps of data about, say, a sports game, a company’s quarterly earnings or a person’s life and surface the most important stuff.

    Now it appears Narrative Science’s capability would be of use to the U.S. intelligence community, with the company announcing Wednesday a “strategic partnership and technology development agreement” with In-Q-Tel, the investment firm with roots in the CIA.

    The partnership will help Narrative Science whip up a version of its Quill artificial-intelligence tool for government users. And it looks like the technology won’t be sitting on a shelf. In-Q-Tel invested in company in order to help the intelligence community within 36 months, according to its website. In other words, the CIA and others might see an immediate need for this technology.

    It’s not the first time investors have seen value in Narrative Science. Battery Ventures, SV Angel and others have put up more than $10 million in funding and debt rounds, according to a spokeswoman.

    It’s hard to dispute the federal government’s claims to having big data — specifically the speed at which it comes in and the sheer size of it all. This point came through crystal-clear at GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference in March, when the CIA’s chief technology officer, Ira “Gus” Hunt, talked up the importance of being able to spot the important stuff amid vast and growing supplies of data, with more inputs coming online all the time. And at least in the CIA, that ability might not be at the level it should be:

    The goal we have is I have to be able to get the power of Big Data and the analytics into the hands of the average user. The only way that the real value is going to be realized by us, or even in the commercial sector and by individual companies, is when everybody has access to a tool and the data in order to get their jobs done and they don’t have to worry about it. Tomorrow what we want are really elegant, easy-to-use tools, the machines to do the heavy-lifting, and we want to get out of simple things like ‘search’: search is so broken in this peta-scale world that we’re talking about.

    The CIA isn’t the only organization facing challenges like that. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is, too. Speaking at the Economist’s Information Forum event in San Francisco on Tuesday, the agency’s information innovation office director, Daniel Kaufman, said he wants computers to start presenting hypotheses to him. “What if the computer could ask a big data question?” he said. “… Tell me something interesting, and how do you know that that was interesting?”

    While it sounds like “Quill” will have a lot of immediately useful applications in dealing with “big data” needs described above, there are quite a few other intelligence-related areas where having software with the ability to analyze data and write text might come in handy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 5, 2013, 11:21 am
  39. […] our last post, we noted that, in addi­tion to Peter Thiel, the CEO of Palan­tir (Thiel asso­ciate Alex Karp) had Ger­man roots. The avail­able evi­dence sug­gests that they […]

    Posted by “Danger, Will Robinson!”–Peter Thiel, Robots and the Underground Reich (Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid!) | The Freedom Report | August 16, 2013, 5:55 pm
  40. In case anyone was curious about whether Seasteader-in-chief Patri Friedman publicly endorses the neoreactionary/Dark Enlightenment movement here’s a recent Facebook post by Friedman on just this topic

    During the last year, while I’ve been focused on caring for & supporting my wonderful family, interest in the so-far-poorly-and-inconsistently-named neoreactionary/dark enlightenment/red pill cluster of ideas has exploded, as have related blogs. I’ve belatedly but happily discovered that Mencius is no longer an obscure single voice, but has somehow managed to inspire an entire school of red pill political philosophy.

    There are tons of great pieces and new ideas that I’d like to catch up on, comment about, remix, and ferment, and I hope to find time this year to do so. I’m currently taking notes on “a more politically correct dark enlighenment” (hey, gotta find a way to be contrarian), adding anti-racism and anti-sexism to my controversial new pro-monogamy stance. And I of course look forward to exploring neoreactionary ideas from a competitive governance perspective.

    Great, so Friedman is going to develop the kinder, gentler version of a philosophy that’s tailored for the rich and powerful and deeply anti-democratic at its core? Well, good luck with that Patri. These kinds of things are easier said than done.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 27, 2014, 11:13 pm
  41. Oh look, a transhumanist Libertarian wrote a children’s book. What wisdoms might be passed along to the next generation?

    Vice
    Motherboard
    A Transhumanist Wants to Teach Kids That “Death Is Wrong”
    Written by
    Meghan Neal
    @meghanneal meghan.neal@vice.com
    March 1, 2014 // 11:02 AM EST

    Gennady Stolyarov is afraid to die, and not afraid to say so. He also strongly believes that human beings don’t have to die, or at least, will live much, much longer in the future. A writer and transhumanist activist, Stolyarov sees death as something that can be “solved” by technology and science, and one day it will possible to extend life indefinitely. To that end, he’s trying to buck the cultural perception that mortality is inevitable, and he’s starting with kids.

    Stolyarov published the children’s book Death Is Wrong in November, and Zoltan Istvan, author of The Transhumanist Wager, unearthed the story in a post on Psychology Today. Now Stolyarov is promoting the book with an Indiegogo campaign, trying to crowdfund $5,000 to print and distribute 1,000 copies of the book and get the anti-death word out. (Hat tip to “The mainstream of society remains pervaded by the old death-acceptance arguments,” the campaign page explains. To get rid of these “pro-death prejudices,” the book gives an overview of the major reasons that life extension is feasible and desirable. It makes the case for immortality—for ages eight and up.

    The life-extension movement is one faction of the transhumanism creed—the idea that we can transcend the limitations of being a human being by embracing technological progress. Both radical ideas are certainly gaining traction, thanks in no small part to Google’s Calico moonshot project announced last fall, an initiative to study and defeat aging, and eventually even mortality itself.

    Google, which also raised eyebrows by hiring renowned futurist and AI expert Ray Kurzweil as its director of engineering, has breathed new life into the H+ movement. So much so in fact that just this week, a handful of transhumanist activists gathered outside the Googleplex with signs saying ‘Immortality now,’ ‘Viva Calico,’ and ‘Google, please, solve Death.’”

    “This is merely the beginning,” wrote the blog the Proactionary Transhumanist about the “protest.” “This was the first ever street action to occur for Transhumanism in the US, which will soon turn into a stepping stone for future actions. Transhumanism is a growing international social movement, gaining speed as more and more people begin realizing the full potential of scientific and technological advancements toward humanity’s next evolutionary steps.”

    But Stolyarov’s strategy to groom the next generation to grow up thinking they might not have to die is unique—and more than a little bit creepy. The way he sees it, the biggest hurdle to conquering death isn’t that it’s physically impossible—biotech is working on taking care of that—but rather a pervasive cultural perception that it’s not natural, not “right.”

    For a lot of people, tampering with the human body and brain is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, but the transhumanist movement is going strong. Stolyarov will speak about his book at the Transhuman Visions 2.0 conference in California tomorrow, which also happens to be “Future Day.” The attendees at the event, some 150 futurists, AI experts, immortalists, techno-optimists, transfigurists, and others will meet to discuss the “deep future.”

    They’ll be tackling topics like nanotech, bioethics, nootropics, artificial intelligence, radical life extension, existential risks, bioethics, cryonics, the singularity, nanotechnology, and robotics, and 450 attendees will get a free dose of the popular CILTEP “smart drug,” which is believed to enhance the brain function.

    “Ultimately, there is an evolutionary dynamic in there,” Stolyarov told FastCo. The people who choose not to terminate their own lives … are the ones who are going to determine the course of our culture, our philosophy, everyone else’s attitudes.” Wacky as this still all sounds, he may have a point.

    Listen to your wise Libertarian elders, kids. They really really care about life. Well, specifically, their own lives. And if you follow their lead you might be able to enjoy the future hellscape the Libertarian philosophy is creating for a long long time. You probably won’t be getting many lessons about sharing the limited resources on the planet with other living things but that may not really be an issue. Your elders are trying to stop themselves from dying from of old age. They aren’t ending death.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 28, 2014, 2:39 pm
  42. Here’s a reminder that every time an expensive, cutting edge transhumanist technology gets rolled out, the world’s yawning wealth gap includes a new biology gap too:

    Vice Motherboard
    Sleep Tech Will Widen the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor

    Written by Natalie O’Neill
    January 19, 2016 // 12:00 PM EST

    It’s easy to blame politicians and greedy corporations for the growing gap between the rich and poor, but some say it’s actually sleep technology that will spark the class war of the future.

    Some experts believe that sleep reduction gadgets will intensify the planet’s income inequality problem, because only wealthy people will be able to afford them and can spend those extra waking hours working, making the rich even richer.

    In the next 20 years, military leaders will unlock the secret to needing only two hours of sleep a night, using a “combination of devices and chemicals,” predicted Marcelo Rinesi of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Rinesi predicts that once scientists work out the glitches and reduce negative side effects, the productivity-boosting machines will become available to civilians.

    Like computers, early models of these sleep innovations will likely cost tens of thousands of dollars, offering a biological advantage to those who are already economically advantaged, Rinesi said. That will likely trigger outrage and protest, he predicted. “The social and economic impact is going to be huge. It’s going to create a lot of resentment and envy. We are not used to wealthy people having a completely different biological experience of being alive.”

    “It will give employers a lot of leverage, especially in a tight labor market as companies begin to rely more on robots,” he added. “This my personal dystopia.”

    Today, poor people live shorter, less-healthy lives, often plagued by obesity and sickness, according to data from the Urban Institute. Soon, they may be forced to add sleep to the list of factors that lower their quality of life, Rinesi said. “Sleep is not a disease—but in 50 years we might hear people say, ‘Oh that poor person, he has to be unconscious for 8 hours a day.’”

    Early sleep reduction tools will likely be “machines that soldiers hook themselves up to” in order to monitor and adjust neurochemistry, Rinesi said. As the design is perfected, the tool will become iPod-sized and portable and eventually get “smaller and cheaper and better” until it’s tiny enough to be “implanted into the brain,” he said. The implants will stimulate sections of the brain, and likely be paired with pharmaceuticals to speed up metabolism and tweak brain and body chemistry, he explained.

    Professionals who earn high rates, such as lawyers and hedge fund executives, will be motivated to spend their extra hours working, he said. Others may feel a pressure to compete with robot workers, agreed bioethicist James Hughes.

    Think of sleep technology as the new coffee, said Hughes, author of the nonfiction book Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future.

    “It will be used like caffeine and amphetamines to increase production—mother’s little helper,” he predicted. “In the future, the number of jobs will decline due to robots and those who don’t have to sleep as much will have a huge advantage.”

    It may seem ripped from the pages of a science fiction novel, but the US military has already been studying how to reduce sleep, according to a “Human Performance” report commissioned by the Pentagon.

    The report drummed up a sense of urgency about being first to tap into sleep technology. “If an opposing force had a significant sleep advantage, this would pose a serious threat… The manipulation and understanding of human sleep is one part of human performance modification where significant breakthroughs could have national security consequences,” it stated.

    Five years later, the US Military’s research branch designed a mask to reduce the need for sleep. The Somneo Sleep Trainer warms the face and blocks out audio and visual distractions to encourage deep sleep quickly—allowing the user to get better sleep in less time, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It also features a blue light that gradually brightens as the user’s waking-time approaches, restricting the sleep hormone melatonin to create a less groggy feeling.

    Military leaders, such as World War II leader General George Patton, have long used sleep as a strategy to win wars, the Human Performance report points out, by exploiting the enemy’s state of exhaustion. In World War II, the Nazis took methamphetamine to stay alert and enhance performance— calling the speed an “alertness aid” and “a miracle pill,” according to Nobel-prize-winning German author Heinrich Boll.

    The way Rinesi sees it, sleep reduction technology is an extension of that. “We’re still not sure how to keep people awake without making them psychotic. But it’s going to be US military or Chinese military that figures out how to do it. They have the money and need for it,” he said. “Once it gets into civilian hands, that’s when it gets interesting.”

    Technology has already played a major role in widening the income gap in America in the past 60 years. “Some economists now believe that… the major driving force behind the changes in the U.S. wage structure is technology,” a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research noted. “There is a direct causal relationship between technological changes and these radical shifts in the distribution of wages taking place in the U.S. economy.”

    But putting restrictions on technology—including sleep reduction tools—isn’t the the way to solve the problem, Hughes said. “We don’t ban kale because it’s better for you than potato chips,” he said, adding the gadgets could enhance productivity and quality of life in the same way that healthy diets do.

    Instead, it’s up to governmental branches to help level the playing field. In the future, the solution to shrinking the gap between rich and poor won’t be much different than today, Hughes said. “It’s the same thing we’ve being trying to do for 150 years,” he said. “Tax the rich.”

    “It will be used like caffeine and amphetamines to increase production—mother’s little helper…In the future, the number of jobs will decline due to robots and those who don’t have to sleep as much will have a huge advantage.”
    Well, workaholics should at least have something to look forward to: First, the anti-sleep technology is so advanced that only the wealthy will be able to afford it. But as the cost of the technology declines and its availability becomes more widespread, the anti-sleep technology is just going to be one of those things the rest of us simply need to use in order to compete with the everyone for the shrinking number of non-robot-dominated jobs. That’s right, in the future, you’re either going to be one of the poor sleeping masses or a non-sleeping non-robot.

    So it’s looking like the global elite on track to become one giant unregulated experiment on what happens with the most powerful people on the planet systematically sleep deprive themselves with an array of technologies. And that’s just one of the potential transhumanist technologies we could see over the next 50 years. There are plenty of other technologies, each with their own potential impacts on the wealth/biology gap, coming through the pipeline.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 25, 2016, 2:12 pm
  43. From the moment the news of the unexpected passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia become public, the fight over who should replace him on the court suddenly became the biggest question in American politics, as happens when a Supreme Court justice dies. And, of course, the conspiracy theories that Scalia was bumped off by Obama were started a moment later. That was pretty much guaranteed.

    So it’s worth noting that one area of emerging technologies could make future Supreme Court nomination fights like this a lot less frequent, although it might make the conspiracy theories surrounding any Supreme Court justice deaths, or any deaths for that matter, somewhat more frequent:

    The Telegraph
    Will technology help us live forever?

    Madhumita Murgia

    21 January 2016 • 6:30pm

    This week, 112-year-old Yasutaro Koide died in Japan, passing on his title of the world’s oldest man to a compatriot, Masamitsu Yoshida, aged 111. These men are part of one of Earth’s most exclusive clubs – supercentenarians, or humans who live beyond 110 years old.

    According to the Gerontology Research Group which keeps track of these rare few, there were 82 living supercentenarians in the world as of 2015. For decades, scientists have been obsessed by the secrets to long life – what slows down the usually relentless body clock? What genetic clues can reveal the key to extending our longevity?

    In 2012, the United Nations estimated that there were roughly 316,600 living people over the age of 100. By 2050, medical technologies will raise that number to over three million.

    The search for immortality is not a niche academic pursuit. It’s a thriving area of technological innovation, funded heavily by an unexpected group – technology billionaires.

    Founders of the world’s most well-known companies, from Google to Paypal and Oracle are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into defying death. One of most generous funders is Larry Ellison, the founding chief executive of Oracle, who gave an estimated $45m annually for over a decade to solve the problem of ageing.

    Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin has reportedly donated $50m to curing “old age” diseases, such as Parkinson’s, after a genetic test found that he was at risk of developing the illness. Paypal’s co-founder and tech luminary Peter Thiel has donated $6m to the Sens Foundation, which is researching longevity, saying his approach to death is “to fight it.”

    Whether technological advancements can help us live longer is not in question – we’ve already proved it’s possible. In 1900, you’d be lucky to live until 50; today, the average Briton lives until 81 years old.

    Although scientists do believe that there is a maximum cap on how long human bodies can function, research suggests that this significant previous jump is due to medical technologies and social innovations, rather than an evolutionary change. If we can hack the ageing process of cells, and reverse it, we could potentially live indefinitely.

    But forget immortality. Living beyond 100 years old will be routine in the near future; the new generation of supercentenarians is likely alive today, and will still be around in 2100.

    And as our productive years extend far beyond current retirement ages, corporations and governments need to start preparing for the inevitable shake-up of the global workforce.
    Graph showing the life expectancy of men and women in the UK

    So what are the most futuristic technologies that can help us live an extra 100 years? Currently, although we are living longer, we are struggling with chronic diseases that come with age, such as cancers and Alzheimer’s.

    Approaches span the gamut of treating these individual diseases, to finding the genetic key to ageing.

    In the latter area, researchers are testing everything from hormones and drugs that reverse cellular death, to the rather macabre vampire approach – transferring blood from the young to the old.

    Several drugs have had a dramatic influence on mice longevity, and will be next tested on humans. For instance, an organ transplant drug called rapamycin managed to extend mice lifespans by 25pc and protected against cancers, and the red wine molecule reservatrol debatably impacts cell metabolism.

    A study published earlier this month found that a hormone called FGF21 increased mouse lifespan by a massive 40pc and protected against the age-related decline of immunity.

    An ongoing human trial at Stanford University, run by neurology professor Tony Wyss-Coray, is pumping Alzheimer’s patients with blood transfusions from young people, to see if it helps them regain their cognitive faculties. The data is currently still being analysed, so the jury is out.

    In 2013, Google decided to step in. It incubated a fledgling company called Calico – California Life Company – with the sole aim of extending humans’ healthy lifespan.

    Despite Silicon Valley hype about Google wanting to “disrupt death,” the goal is more reasonable: to give humans at least a few more productive, disease-free decades.

    So far, Google’s parent company Alphabet has invested roughly $730m into the research and development startup, which has partnered with universities and pharmaceuticals to create commercial life-extending products.

    Projects include finding longevity-related gene markers in centenarians, and developing treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

    In two weeks, the recently formed umbrella company Alphabet, which encompasses Google, Calico and several other sub-companies, will report financial results for Calico for the first time.
    If everyone is living until the age of 200, current retirement ages would be obsolete

    While scientists set about solving the mystery of life, let’s consider what happens next. In a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, researchers and entrepreneurs envisioned the future of work in 2100, where everyone could be living until the age of 200.

    In this scenario, pushing people out of the workforce at 60 would be ridiculous, current retirement ages would be obsolete.

    In order for people to support themselves for the extra decades of life, families will have to have multiple earning members, who could take turns working several full-time careers in a single lifetime.

    Major corporations will have to start allowing you to bring an elderly parent to work, just as we do with children or pets. Offices will set up crèches for people with physical or cognitive infirmities.

    Ultimately, we may never crack the code to life. Hormones, drugs, blood transfusions and self-growing organs could give us another 100, even 200 years but immortality will likely stay out of reach.

    But along the way, these technologies will uncover cures and treatments for some of humanity’s most wretched chronic illnesses, allowing us to end our days with dignity. That will be more than enough.

    “But forget immortality. Living beyond 100 years old will be routine in the near future; the new generation of supercentenarians is likely alive today, and will still be around in 2100.”
    Just imagine, if Calico pulls some sort of longevity breakthrough in the near future, you’ll never retire and John Roberts will be the Supreme Court Chief Justice forever. And if he does shed his mortal coil, it must have been some sort of foul play! Vampires don’t just spontaneously keel over. It’s not like they’re 79 year olds with chronic heart conditions.

    If an immortal John Roberts sounds like some sort of judicial hell on Earth future scenario, keep in mind that some immortality technologies could indeed make hell on Earth scenarios sort of a reality. At least if it involves uploading your brain into a computer or something. And should that ever happen, the Supreme Court is probably going to get a lot of cases involving judicial hells on earth:

    The Atlantic
    Immortal but Damned to Hell on Earth

    The danger of uploading one’s consciousness to a computer without a suicide switch

    Conor Friedersdorf May 28, 2015

    Imagine a supercomputer so advanced that it could hold the contents of a human brain. The Google engineer Ray Kurzweil famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. Organized technologists are seeking to transfer human personalities to non-biological carriers, “extending life, including to the point of immortality.” My gut says that they’ll never get there. But say I’m wrong. Were it possible, would you upload the contents of your brain to a computer before death, extending your conscious moments on this earth indefinitely? Or would you die as your ancestors did, passing into nothingness or an unknown beyond human comprehension?

    The promise of a radically extended lifespan, or even immortality, would tempt many. But it seems to me that they’d be risking something very much like hell on earth.

    Their descendants might damn them to it.

    * * *

    Let us begin by noticing that justice, as most people presently conceive it, permits or even requires that at least some crimes be punished as far after the fact as is now possible. Take Hans Lipschis, who had far-exceeded his life expectancy by 2013, when the 93-year-old made headlines. He was living in southwestern Germany at the time. Police arrested him there. Prosecutors wanted to charge him with murders perpetrated seven decades prior. He had served as a guard at Auschwitz.

    Now imagine an alternative scenario. Technology advances more quickly than expected; an elderly Holocaust perpetrator uploads his consciousness next year, before being found out; then, five or six years from now, evidence of his crimes comes to light. I suspect that a strong majority would favor punishing him for his mass-murdering, and would quickly settle on some alternative to physical incarceration. Perhaps the consciousness would be denied new information, or the ability to interact with others; or perhaps there would be some degree of torment inflicted.

    For how long?

    With the consciousness of Adolf Hitler in our possession, 6 million years of disembodied punishment would still constitute just one year for every murdered Jew.

    Yet Ghengis Khan, who perpetrated all manner of atrocity less than a millenia ago, would inspire some sympathy, I think, if it were discovered that his contemporaries had imprisoned his consciousness upon his death as punishment for mass murder. Were he discovered in mental chains after eight centuries of suffering, there would be demands for his release and debates about applying morality across time. And utilitarians would debate the consequences of his military victories across the centuries. Perhaps he’d be freed due to his unfathomably long punishment and the fact that his victims seem so remote to us. Or maybe he’d be forgotten in prison, as is done to so many individuals in our existing system.

    These are wild thought experiments, but with them I only mean to illustrate a narrow point: Radical life extension would so scramble and confound our normal notions of justice that there’s no telling how future Americans would react to the new reality. Historic monsters might be punished for 6 million years … or just three or four times longer than a 150-year sentence a U.S. court imposed on this obscure money-launderer. It’s hard to speculate even when confining ourselves to descendants of ours, in this country, with moral codes closely resembling our own.

    In fact, it isn’t clear how we’d react right now.

    If today’s Americans magically took custody of servers containing the disembodied consciousnesses of every figure ever mentioned in the country’s newspapers, going back to the beginning, would we stop at punishing former Nazi leaders? Would there be a protest movement to hold Native American killers and slaveholders accountable? What about the folks behind the Tuskegee syphilis experiment? Or the city leaders of towns in the Jim Crow South that subjugated blacks?

    Answering as a thought experiment is comparatively easy.

    Future Americans will face countless actual controversies just like those if whole generations start uploading themselves. And it isn’t outlandish to imagine futures where the masses look at us with the disdain that we have for Bull Connor and his analogs. Perhaps the Americans of 2215, with their laboratory-grown synthetic meat, will look in horror at those of us who had animals killed throughout our lives in order to eat them. Maybe they’ll regard a year’s punishment per animal killed to be fair, with a 10-year enhancement for animals kept in cruel conditions before death.

    Maybe everyone in the fossil-fuel era will be condemned to punishments corresponding in length to the years of destruction that we wrought on a fragile planet.

    Perhaps people who had abortions, or people who bore more than two children, will find themselves in disfavor. Perhaps an ISIS-like brand of sharia law will prevail, and most everyone who uploaded their consciousness in the West will be tortured for a millennia, until the course of history changes and new rulers take control.

    Of course, it’s possible that future generations will be less punitive than I imagine. But will that last forever? In any case, humans will be forced to make a decision about whether to upload their consciousnesses before knowing what the far future holds.

    Admittedly, the living don’t know the near future even today.

    Nuclear war could come tomorrow. Those of us who survive it might spend the rest of our days in misery. But that misery would be relatively short. Radical life extension via mind uploads would seem to risk inconceivably long, possibly endless misery. And this holds even if no future generation deliberately inflicts that misery.

    Strange as it may seem, the most important hedge for those seeking immortality just might be declining radical life extension unless they’re assured a suicide switch.

    “Nuclear war could come tomorrow. Those of us who survive it might spend the rest of our days in misery. But that misery would be relatively short. Radical life extension via mind uploads would seem to risk inconceivably long, possibly endless misery. And this holds even if no future generation deliberately inflicts that misery.”
    Yep, while fears of hell typically involve dying first, who knows, maybe transhumanist immortality technology without a suicide switch could one day make hell a reality. It’s the kind of thought that should give us pause as we “summon the Demon” of artificial intelligence. If we don’t want to suffer indefinitely as a digital consciousness, our future A.I. critters probably won’t appreciate it either. Hopefully the Supreme Court will have something to say about that at some point.

    But in the mean time, while you should be breathing a sigh of relief that Antonin Scalia’s mind hasn’t been immortalized so it can rule from the bench for centuries to come, you should probably also be breathing a sigh of relief that you aren’t a disembodied consciousness trapped in a machine either. Sure, you might not be able to see all the fascinating Supreme Court precedents that will be in an age of immortal man-machines if you don’t upload your mind, but at least you won’t get tormented indefinitely by the Sys Admins of the future.

    Yes, this wasn’t a very cheery thought experiment, but it could have been worse!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 16, 2016, 7:11 pm

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