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

For The Record  

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.)

MP3 Side 1 | Side 2

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.


44 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. It looks like the Michi­gan Plan is just get­ting start­ed.


    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’

    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:

    Who Is Behind Secret Phone Track­ing Soft­ware ‘Car­ri­er IQ’?
    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

    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’

    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


    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?

    Firm Rom­ney Found­ed Is Tied to Chi­nese Sur­veil­lance

    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:

    A Russ­ian Magnate’s Face­book Bet Pays Off Big
    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

    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:

    Soft­ware Meant to Fight Crime Is Used to Spy on Dis­si­dents

    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:

    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.


    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
    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:

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

    By Spencer Ack­er­man
    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:

    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?

    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
  44. The arrest of Steve Ban­non over fraud charges issued by fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in the South Dis­trict of New York (SDNY) involv­ing fundrais­ing for a group that was osten­si­bly going to be build­ing a wall on the US-Mex­i­co bor­der is under­stand­ably dom­i­nat­ing US polit­i­cal head­lines today. The fact that Ban­non was arrest­ed while he was on a yacht owned by Guo Wen­gui, the Chi­nese bil­lion­aire who is Ban­non’s key part­ner in gen­er­at­ing anti-Chi­na pro­pa­gan­da, off the cost of Con­necti­cut only adds to the intrigue giv­en that SDNY inves­ti­ga­tors are still look­ing into Ban­non’s rela­tion­ship with Guo.

    In one sense, get­ting charged with fraud­u­lent­ly rais­ing funds to pri­vate­ly build a bor­der wall is quite a turn of events for some­one like Ban­non who entered into the Trump White House pledg­ing to ‘decon­struct the admin­is­tra­tive state’. The pri­va­ti­za­tion and even­tu­al fraud­u­lent rig­ging of gov­ern­ment ser­vices has long been a Repub­li­can Par­ty project, after all, so direct­ly rais­ing funds for a pri­vate ini­tia­tive that would car­ry out Trump’s poli­cies is kind of the next log­i­cal awful step in that agen­da. But get­ting arrest­ed for fraud was obvi­ous­ly nev­er part the plan and that’s part of what makes this the kind of sto­ry that prob­a­bly has Pres­i­dent Trump even more on edge about the per­ils of los­ing the White House because it’s a big reminder that even some­one like Ban­non, who was Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor not too long ago, might end up get­ting charged with fed­er­al crimes for their gross malfea­sance. And gross malfea­sance is basi­cal­ly the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s uni­fy­ing theme. Plus a num­ber of Trump’s inner cir­cle, includ­ing Don Jr., have been open sup­port­ers of the “We Build the Wall” scam project. Giv­en the grow­ing alarm over Trump’s pre­emp­tive moves to dele­git­imize the results of the 2020 elec­tion it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s sab­o­tage of the elec­tion ramps up even more in response to these charges.

    So with Ban­non’s yacht arrest tak­ing place in the midst of a grow­ing Trumpian elec­tion sab­o­tage agen­da, per­haps now is a good time to get an update on the sta­tus of the Seast­eading move­ment. After all, if you’re a world leader in fear of arrest after you leave office imag­ine how con­ve­nient it would be if there were all sorts of float­ing mini ‘sov­er­eign states’ owned by fas­cists like Peter Thiel where you could flee to after leav­ing office. And back in June we got such an update: The Seast­eading move­ment con­tin­ue, although it does­n’t appear that its ini­tial back­ers like Peter Thiel are still open­ly financ­ing it (con­tin­u­ing secret fund­ing is anoth­er ques­tion). Author and self-appoint­ed “sea­van­ge­list”, Joe Quirk, now runs the Seast­eading Insti­tute. As we might expect, the move­ment is using the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic as a new jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for Seast­ead: If you’re scared of the coro­n­avirus flee to a Seast­ead!

    They’re also pitch­ing the Seast­eads as a means for small island nations to deal with ris­ing oceans and cli­mate change as well as a means of restor­ing coastal envi­ron­ments by act­ing as arti­fi­cial reefs. Inter­est in using Seast­eads to deal with cli­mate change even got one group close to get­ting per­mis­sion from the gov­ern­ment of French Poly­ne­sia to agree to the cre­ation of a Seast­ead off the coast of the coun­try. The deal fell through, how­ev­er, once the French Poly­ne­sian gov­ern­ment real­ized that the Seast­ead­ers were far more inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing a lib­er­tar­i­an sov­er­eign state right off the coast as opposed to actu­al­ly help­ing the coun­try pre­pare for cli­mate change. That rejec­tion by French Poly­ne­sia, in turn, led one of the fig­ures involved with the project, Collins Chen, to shift his entire Seast­eading vision away from cre­at­ing Lib­er­tar­i­an sov­er­eign float city-states and instead turned it into basi­cal­ly an engi­neer project where exist­ing cities would use Seast­ead tech­nol­o­gy to expand their foot­print into coastal areas at the same time the coastal envi­ron­ment is renewed. Even the UN has expressed inter­est in the Seast­eads-as-arti­fi­cial-reefs mod­el for deal­ing with ris­ing oceans, with the Unit­ed Nations’ sus­tain­able devel­op­ment arm, UN-Habi­tat, host­ing a round table dis­cus­sion for Chen’s project in April 2019.

    Still, there appears to be plen­ty of remain­ing Seast­ead­ers who are intent on cre­at­ing their Lib­er­tar­i­an sov­er­eign mini-states includ­ing a project in Pana­ma that cen­ters around build­ing a giant 3D print­er to print new Seast­ead units. The plan is to have each unit reg­is­tered as a boat and fly­ing the Pana­man­ian flag and rent­ed on a time-share basis. The idea is that if it proves to be an eco­nom­ic suc­cess the off­shore com­mu­ni­ty will grow large and pow­er­ful enough to even­tu­al­ly strike out on its own. So there just might be a few sov­er­eign mini-states for Trump admin­is­tra­tion fig­ures to flee to in the future, but prob­a­bly not soon. Might the Trump admin­is­tra­tion sud­den­ly take an inter­est in allow­ing sov­er­eign Seast­eads (specif­i­cal­ly ones with­out an extra­di­tion treat with the US) off the US coast in com­ing months? We’ll see, but as the fol­low­ing sto­ries of Seast­eading make clear, it does­n’t actu­al­ly take long to set up a mini-Seast­ead. Phys­i­cal­ly get­ting the infra­struc­ture in place isn’t the hard part. It’s get­ting a gov­ern­ment to agree to allow some­thing like that off their coasts that’s the hard part:

    The Guardian

    Seast­eading – a van­i­ty project for the rich or the future of human­i­ty?

    Beloved by Sil­i­con Val­ley tycoons and tyran­ny-fear­ing lib­er­tar­i­ans, are cities atop the waves Earth’s next fron­tier?

    by Oliv­er Wain­wright
    Wed 24 Jun 2020 07.32 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Thu 25 Jun 2020 04.35 EDT

    A white steel pole ris­es out of the sea off the Caribbean coast of Pana­ma, pok­ing above the waves like the fun­nel of a sunken steamship. Launched into the water last month, this is no ship­wreck, but the base of what will soon become a float­ing home and, in the eyes of its mak­ers, the first step towards build­ing a brave new post-Covid-19 soci­ety, out on the open ocean.

    “Coro­n­avirus is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show the world that what we’re build­ing is actu­al­ly going to be very use­ful in the future,” says Chad Elwartows­ki, in a recent video post from his beach­side base in Pana­ma. The Michi­gan-born soft­ware engi­neer turned bit­coin trad­er is a lead­ing fig­ure in the seast­eading move­ment, a lib­er­tar­i­an group ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing inde­pen­dent float­ing cities on the high seas. Along with the bunker builders and sur­vival­ist prep­pers, their long-held ambi­tions have been bol­stered by the cur­rent glob­al pan­dem­ic. “No mat­ter if you’re scared of the virus or the reac­tion to the virus,” he adds, “liv­ing out on the ocean will be help­ful for these sit­u­a­tions.”

    It is not the first time Elwartows­ki has attempt­ed to realise his dream of a float­ing future. In April last year, he and his Thai part­ner Supra­nee Thep­det (aka Nadia Sum­mer­girl), were forced to flee their first float­ing home off the coast of Thai­land, just moments before it was raid­ed by the Thai navy. They had con­struct­ed what they declared to be “the first seast­ead” 12 nau­ti­cal miles from Phuket, but the author­i­ties decid­ed that the six metre-wide fibre­glass cab­in, perched on top of a float­ing pole, posed a threat to Thailand’s sov­er­eign­ty. It was an offence pun­ish­able by life impris­on­ment or even the death penal­ty. “The cou­ple announced on social media declar­ing their auton­o­my beyond the juris­dic­tion of any courts or law of any coun­tries, includ­ing Thai­land,” said Rear Admi­ral Vitha­narat Kochaseni, adding that they had invit­ed oth­ers to join them. “We see such action as dete­ri­o­rat­ing Thailand’s inde­pen­dence.”

    After a few weeks on the run, dodg­ing Thai patrol boats and even­tu­al­ly mak­ing their way to Sin­ga­pore, the cou­ple moved to Pana­ma to relaunch their com­pa­ny, Ocean Builders with the finan­cial backer of the project, Rüdi­ger Koch, a retired Ger­man aero­space engi­neer. “This event has dou­bled down our efforts,” the group said in a state­ment, fol­low­ing the Thai ordeal. “We can all clear­ly see that seast­eading needs to hap­pen now as tyran­ny creeps ever more deeply into our gov­ern­ments to the point that they are will­ing to hunt down a cou­ple of res­i­dents resid­ing in a float­ing house in mid­dle of nowhere.”

    The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic has giv­en fringe lib­er­tar­i­an groups around the world renewed vigour to pur­sue their dreams of build­ing autonomous new soci­eties. Gov­ern­ment-enforced lock­downs and increased dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance have added fuel to their sus­pi­cions of state con­trol, while the sus­pen­sion of day-to-day norms and the spec­tre of an eco­nom­ic melt­down have ampli­fied their calls to rethink soci­ety. “When you’re not sure which virus is more con­ta­gious,” says the slo­gan of a recent meme made by Amer­i­cans for Lib­er­ty, shared on Elwartowski’s Face­book page. “Covid-19, or those fine with com­plete gov­ern­ment con­trol.”

    The sen­ti­ment lies at the core of the seast­eading com­mu­ni­ty, a dis­parate group that has grown since 2008, when the Seast­eading Insti­tute was found­ed in San Fran­cis­co by Patri Fried­man. The self-styled anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ist (and grand­son of Nobel prize-win­ning econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man) was work­ing as a Google soft­ware engi­neer when he man­aged to attract fund­ing from Pay­Pal bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel to set up the insti­tute. In a found­ing state­ment, they described its goal as being “to estab­lish per­ma­nent, autonomous ocean com­mu­ni­ties to enable exper­i­men­ta­tion and inno­va­tion with diverse social, polit­i­cal, and legal sys­tems”. Thiel was noth­ing if not con­fi­dent: “The nature of gov­ern­ment is about to change at a very fun­da­men­tal lev­el,” he pro­claimed.


    Progress has been bumpy. Thiel’s dona­tions soon dried up, and Friedman’s plans nev­er got much fur­ther than launch­ing Ephemerisle – a water­borne ver­sion of the Burn­ing Man fes­ti­val, staged in the Sacra­men­to Riv­er delta near San Fran­cis­co, where rival float­ing pon­toons com­pete for the atten­tion of sog­gy par­ty­go­ers. He has since moved his focus away from the water, recent­ly launch­ing a com­pa­ny to devel­op exper­i­men­tal cities on dry land instead. But the Seast­eading Insti­tute con­tin­ues with­out him, head­ed by author and self-appoint­ed “sea­van­ge­list”, Joe Quirk.

    “Near­ly half of the world’s sur­face is unclaimed,” says Quirk, who pub­lished a book on seast­eading in 2017, with the ambi­tious sub­ti­tle: “How float­ing nations will restore the envi­ron­ment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and lib­er­ate human­i­ty from politi­cians”. In an intro­duc­to­ry video, he describes the planet’s oceans as “a sort of research and devel­op­ment zone where we could dis­cov­er bet­ter means of gov­er­nance”, and says that seast­eading could “pro­vide the tech­nol­o­gy for thou­sands of peo­ple to start their own nano-nation on the high seas”, giv­ing peo­ple “oppor­tu­ni­ties to peace­ful­ly test new ideas about liv­ing togeth­er”. The most suc­cess­ful seast­eads, he says, “will become thriv­ing new soci­eties, inspir­ing change around the world”.

    So far, his own attempts don’t bode par­tic­u­lar­ly well for the future of float­ing utopias. In Jan­u­ary 2017, after years of tech­ni­cal fea­si­bil­i­ty stud­ies and polit­i­cal nego­ti­a­tions, the Seast­eading Insti­tute signed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with the gov­ern­ment of French Poly­ne­sia to build the first seast­eads in its ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters. The designs, devel­oped by Dutch archi­tects Blue21, looked like a high-end resort in the Mal­dives, depict­ing a series of vil­las linked by an undu­lat­ing green land­scape. It was all to be mag­icked from the waters by an ini­tial coin offer­ing, a form of crowd­fund­ing through sell­ing tokens of a new cryp­tocur­ren­cy, all the rage among the tech com­mu­ni­ty in 2017. “We’re going to draw a new map of the world with French Poly­ne­sia at the cen­tre of the aquat­ic age,” Quirk declared.

    The choice of loca­tion was strate­gic. Com­prised of almost 120 dis­persed low-lying islands and atolls, French Poly­ne­sia is at severe risk of suf­fer­ing dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences from even the slight­est rise in sea lev­el. It also hap­pens to boast the world’s largest exclu­sive eco­nom­ic zone, an area of sea that can stretch for 200 nau­ti­cal miles from a territory’s coast­line, over which it can claim exclu­sive eco­nom­ic rights. At five mil­lion square kilo­me­tres, French Poly­ne­sian waters span an area as large as the land­mass of the entire Euro­pean Union, mak­ing it an ide­al place to exper­i­ment with nov­el forms of aquat­ic juris­dic­tion. In the­o­ry.

    “We explained to the Poly­ne­sians how hav­ing a qua­si-autonomous area near­by was a good thing,” says Tom W Bell, pro­fes­sor of law at Chap­man Uni­ver­si­ty in Orange Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia, who drew up the legal agree­ment for the project. “Look at Mona­co, or Hong Kong or Sin­ga­pore – spe­cial juris­dic­tions cre­ate a lot of growth out­side their bor­ders.” In his book, Your Next Gov­ern­ment? From the Nation State to State­less Nations, Bell traces the pro­ject­ed evo­lu­tion of a seast­ead. It would begin “like a coral polyp”, he writes, pro­tect­ed by a country’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters, where it would start to gen­er­ate eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty, “enrich­ing its envi­ron­ment and attract­ing still more life”, before break­ing free to start a new autonomous life on the open ocean. Ulti­mate­ly, he imag­ines seast­eads nur­tured by dif­fer­ent host nations con­gre­gat­ing in mid-ocean gyres, shel­tered with­in float­ing break­wa­ters. “A new kind of gov­ern­ment aris­es,” he writes, “born in Earth’s last free places, fat­ed to advance the human fron­tier.”

    The real­i­ty didn’t quite pan out that way in the South Pacif­ic. “There wasn’t a per­fect align­ment of inter­ests,” says Marc Collins Chen, for­mer min­is­ter of tourism of French Poly­ne­sia, who co-found­ed the com­pa­ny Blue Fron­tiers with Quirk to realise the project. “The gov­ern­ment was look­ing for some­thing to address sea lev­el rise and envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, where­as the Seast­eading Insti­tute was more about auton­o­my.” He says that the prospect of a tax-free enclave held lit­tle appeal for the locals, giv­en that Poly­ne­sians don’t pay income tax any­way. One Tahit­ian TV host com­pared the sit­u­a­tion to the evil Galac­tic Empire in Star Wars impos­ing on the inno­cent Ewoks, while secret­ly build­ing the Death Star. The lib­er­tar­i­an posi­tion didn’t help either. As Collins Chen puts it: “It’s very dif­fi­cult to ask for gov­ern­ment sup­port when your nar­ra­tive is that you want to get rid of politi­cians.” In ret­ro­spect, Bell agrees: “They already had a beau­ti­ful par­adise in French Poly­ne­sia. The local com­mu­ni­ty wasn’t very enthu­si­as­tic about the project, and I get it. They didn’t need strangers com­ing in and ruin­ing their view.”

    Collins Chen has since moved to New York, where he has estab­lished a new com­pa­ny to devel­op fur­ther plans for float­ing cities, this time stripped of any lib­er­tar­i­an tax-dodg­ing ide­ol­o­gy. “I realised that the real future for these sorts of projects has to be clos­er to cities,” he says. “They have to be an exten­sion of an exist­ing city’s infra­struc­ture, they need to be run by the may­or, and they have to pay their tax­es – as opposed to being enclaves for the wealthy.”

    His plan, titled Oceanix City, has been designed in slick Ted Talk style by Bjarke Ingels, the Dan­ish archi­tect beloved of Sil­i­con Val­ley tech com­pa­nies. His twin­kling ani­ma­tions depict a float­ing world of inter­lock­ing hexag­o­nal islands, where pow­er is har­vest­ed from waves and the sun, where res­i­dents live on a diet of sea­weed and fish, and where marine life is “regen­er­at­ed” by arti­fi­cial reefs. “If this float­ing city flour­ish­es,” said Ingels in a pre­sen­ta­tion, “it can then grow like a cul­ture in a petri dish.” On a screen behind him, the float­ing hexa­gons mul­ti­plied until they took up an area more than three times the size of Man­hat­tan, a vision of low-den­si­ty sub­ur­bia sprawl­ing vir­u­lent­ly across the sea.

    “Over the next 40 years, the world is expect­ed to build 230bn square metres in new con­struc­tion,” says Collins Chen, “the equiv­a­lent of adding one New York City every month. This could be a way to accom­mo­date that growth, with­out the dev­as­tat­ing effects of land recla­ma­tion or defor­esta­tion.” He says part of the appeal is the abil­i­ty to recon­fig­ure the urban form accord­ing to chang­ing needs, in a process of drag-and-drop city build­ing. “You could lit­er­al­ly float one a city block away and put a dif­fer­ent one in its place, when the need for a new school, hos­pi­tal or uni­ver­si­ty arose.”

    Remark­ably, their sci-fi scheme has won the sup­port of the Unit­ed Nations’ sus­tain­able devel­op­ment arm, UN-Habi­tat, which host­ed a round table dis­cus­sion for the project in April 2019. As glob­al heat­ing accel­er­ates, sea lev­els rise and more peo­ple crowd into urban slums, “float­ing cities is one of the pos­si­ble solu­tions,” said UN-Habitat’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, Maimu­nah Mohd Sharif.

    Back in Pana­ma, the notion that float­ing habi­tats could be an inclu­sive solu­tion to glob­al hous­ing need seems a long way off, to put it mild­ly. Despite the country’s coro­n­avirus lock­down, the Ocean Builders team has been at work through­out, lay­ing the foun­da­tions for a fac­to­ry that will soon house the largest 3D print­er in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, ready to pro­duce what their web­site touts as “the world’s first 3D-print­ed, smart float­ing home with an under­wa­ter room wrapped in an eco restora­tive 3D-print­ed coral reef” – yours for between $200,000 to $800,000 (£160,000 to £640,000).

    “In light of the glob­al pan­dem­ic, we’re real­ly focus­ing on mak­ing the homes feel like a kind of lifeboat,” says the company’s CEO, Grant Romundt, who worked on the Free­dom Ship project in Flori­da in the 1990s, an abort­ed plan to build a mile-long cruise ship for 40,000 peo­ple, topped with a run­way. “They should be a safe place to escape to and be total­ly ener­gy inde­pen­dent, with solar pan­els on the roof, water desali­na­tion on board, waste col­lec­tion by drone, and aero­pon­ic sys­tems to grow your own food.”

    Designed by Koen Olthuis of Dutch archi­tec­ture prac­tice Water­stu­dio, the plans for the lux­u­ry “SeaPods” look like a row of gigan­tic motor­bike hel­mets on poles, stick­ing up out of the sea in pearles­cent shades of blue, green and grey. “We want­ed to have some­thing that was very futur­is­tic look­ing, very clean and flow­ing,” says Romundt. “I didn’t want to have a 90-degree cor­ner any­where in the house. I think that’s bad feng shui.” The inte­ri­ors recall super­sized san­i­tary­ware, envis­aged as white, wipe-clean worlds of free-flow­ing sur­faces, echo­ing retro-futur­is­tic visions of stream­lined space cap­sules. The sim­i­lar­i­ty is no acci­dent: for com­pa­ny founder, Rüdi­ger Koch, seast­eading is mere­ly a step­ping stone for tri­alling exploits in space. He has long har­boured plans to build a cable “launch loop” to pro­pel pay­loads into space with­out rock­ets, and he sees the ocean as the per­fect launch­pad. “There are almost only large open spaces at sea,” he told Ger­man region­al news­pa­per, Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, “and you need them to make sure that noth­ing goes wrong and nobody is hit by pos­si­ble fly­ing parts.”

    Romundt insists that the com­pa­ny is mere­ly build­ing float­ing hol­i­day homes, which will be reg­is­tered as boats under the Pana­ma flag for legal pur­pos­es, and like­ly oper­ate on a time­share basis. “That would give you the slow adjust­ment peri­od,” he says, “then more of an econ­o­my would start to build as more peo­ple come requir­ing more ser­vices, and it would start to self-per­pet­u­ate and grow.”

    For Bell, the ulti­mate goal is to see such float­ing com­mu­ni­ties raise their own flags in the open ocean. “Right now, a self-flagged seast­ead would have effec­tive­ly no sta­tus at all in inter­na­tion­al law,” he says. “The coast guard would show up, assume you were either a pirate or a float­ing meth lab, and tow you right back in to shore. But if seast­ead­ers can say they have enough peo­ple and a big enough ter­ri­to­ry, and start flag­ging them­selves, that’s when things will start to get inter­est­ing.”

    And if they fail? “That’s the mar­vel­lous thing about seast­eads,” says Quirk. “If a gov­ern­ment fails, there’s noth­ing much the peo­ple who live there can do about it, but if seast­eads fail, they sim­ply dis­as­sem­ble and go away” – see­ing all those bit­coin dol­lars sink into the sea just as quick­ly as they were con­jured.


    “Seast­eading – a van­i­ty project for the rich or the future of human­i­ty?” by Oliv­er Wain­wright; The Guardian; 06/24/2020

    ““Coro­n­avirus is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show the world that what we’re build­ing is actu­al­ly going to be very use­ful in the future,” says Chad Elwartows­ki, in a recent video post from his beach­side base in Pana­ma. The Michi­gan-born soft­ware engi­neer turned bit­coin trad­er is a lead­ing fig­ure in the seast­eading move­ment, a lib­er­tar­i­an group ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing inde­pen­dent float­ing cities on the high seas. Along with the bunker builders and sur­vival­ist prep­pers, their long-held ambi­tions have been bol­stered by the cur­rent glob­al pan­dem­ic. “No mat­ter if you’re scared of the virus or the reac­tion to the virus,” he adds, “liv­ing out on the ocean will be help­ful for these sit­u­a­tions.”

    No mat­ter what the prob­lem — whether or be a pan­dem­ic of a gov­ern­ment response to a pan­dem­ic — liv­ing on the ocean is the solu­tion. That’s the Seast­ead­er pitch. A pitch from some­one who was chased off the coast of Thai­land last year after he set up a six metre-wide fiber­glass cab­in on a float­ing pole 12 nau­ti­cal miles from Phuket. It’s an exam­ple of one of para­dox­es of Seast­eading: in order to set up a sov­er­eign mini-state you need the approval of an actu­al sov­er­eign state first:

    It is not the first time Elwartows­ki has attempt­ed to realise his dream of a float­ing future. In April last year, he and his Thai part­ner Supra­nee Thep­det (aka Nadia Sum­mer­girl), were forced to flee their first float­ing home off the coast of Thai­land, just moments before it was raid­ed by the Thai navy. They had con­struct­ed what they declared to be “the first seast­ead” 12 nau­ti­cal miles from Phuket, but the author­i­ties decid­ed that the six metre-wide fibre­glass cab­in, perched on top of a float­ing pole, posed a threat to Thailand’s sov­er­eign­ty. It was an offence pun­ish­able by life impris­on­ment or even the death penal­ty. “The cou­ple announced on social media declar­ing their auton­o­my beyond the juris­dic­tion of any courts or law of any coun­tries, includ­ing Thai­land,” said Rear Admi­ral Vitha­narat Kochaseni, adding that they had invit­ed oth­ers to join them. “We see such action as dete­ri­o­rat­ing Thailand’s inde­pen­dence.”

    After a few weeks on the run, dodg­ing Thai patrol boats and even­tu­al­ly mak­ing their way to Sin­ga­pore, the cou­ple moved to Pana­ma to relaunch their com­pa­ny, Ocean Builders with the finan­cial backer of the project, Rüdi­ger Koch, a retired Ger­man aero­space engi­neer. “This event has dou­bled down our efforts,” the group said in a state­ment, fol­low­ing the Thai ordeal. “We can all clear­ly see that seast­eading needs to hap­pen now as tyran­ny creeps ever more deeply into our gov­ern­ments to the point that they are will­ing to hunt down a cou­ple of res­i­dents resid­ing in a float­ing house in mid­dle of nowhere.”

    And it’s that para­dox that appears to have ulti­mate sunk the 2017 agree­ment between the Seast­eading Insti­tute and French Poly­ne­sia. The gov­ern­ment want­ed a solu­tion to cli­mate change and ris­ing sea lev­els but the Seast­ead­ers just want­ed a spot to set up their even­tu­al­ly-sov­er­eign float­ing exper­i­ment:

    Progress has been bumpy. Thiel’s dona­tions soon dried up, and Friedman’s plans nev­er got much fur­ther than launch­ing Ephemerisle – a water­borne ver­sion of the Burn­ing Man fes­ti­val, staged in the Sacra­men­to Riv­er delta near San Fran­cis­co, where rival float­ing pon­toons com­pete for the atten­tion of sog­gy par­ty­go­ers. He has since moved his focus away from the water, recent­ly launch­ing a com­pa­ny to devel­op exper­i­men­tal cities on dry land instead. But the Seast­eading Insti­tute con­tin­ues with­out him, head­ed by author and self-appoint­ed “sea­van­ge­list”, Joe Quirk.

    “Near­ly half of the world’s sur­face is unclaimed,” says Quirk, who pub­lished a book on seast­eading in 2017, with the ambi­tious sub­ti­tle: “How float­ing nations will restore the envi­ron­ment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and lib­er­ate human­i­ty from politi­cians”. In an intro­duc­to­ry video, he describes the planet’s oceans as “a sort of research and devel­op­ment zone where we could dis­cov­er bet­ter means of gov­er­nance”, and says that seast­eading could “pro­vide the tech­nol­o­gy for thou­sands of peo­ple to start their own nano-nation on the high seas”, giv­ing peo­ple “oppor­tu­ni­ties to peace­ful­ly test new ideas about liv­ing togeth­er”. The most suc­cess­ful seast­eads, he says, “will become thriv­ing new soci­eties, inspir­ing change around the world”.

    So far, his own attempts don’t bode par­tic­u­lar­ly well for the future of float­ing utopias. In Jan­u­ary 2017, after years of tech­ni­cal fea­si­bil­i­ty stud­ies and polit­i­cal nego­ti­a­tions, the Seast­eading Insti­tute signed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with the gov­ern­ment of French Poly­ne­sia to build the first seast­eads in its ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters. The designs, devel­oped by Dutch archi­tects Blue21, looked like a high-end resort in the Mal­dives, depict­ing a series of vil­las linked by an undu­lat­ing green land­scape. It was all to be mag­icked from the waters by an ini­tial coin offer­ing, a form of crowd­fund­ing through sell­ing tokens of a new cryp­tocur­ren­cy, all the rage among the tech com­mu­ni­ty in 2017. “We’re going to draw a new map of the world with French Poly­ne­sia at the cen­tre of the aquat­ic age,” Quirk declared.

    The choice of loca­tion was strate­gic. Com­prised of almost 120 dis­persed low-lying islands and atolls, French Poly­ne­sia is at severe risk of suf­fer­ing dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences from even the slight­est rise in sea lev­el. It also hap­pens to boast the world’s largest exclu­sive eco­nom­ic zone, an area of sea that can stretch for 200 nau­ti­cal miles from a territory’s coast­line, over which it can claim exclu­sive eco­nom­ic rights. At five mil­lion square kilo­me­tres, French Poly­ne­sian waters span an area as large as the land­mass of the entire Euro­pean Union, mak­ing it an ide­al place to exper­i­ment with nov­el forms of aquat­ic juris­dic­tion. In the­o­ry.

    “We explained to the Poly­ne­sians how hav­ing a qua­si-autonomous area near­by was a good thing,” says Tom W Bell, pro­fes­sor of law at Chap­man Uni­ver­si­ty in Orange Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia, who drew up the legal agree­ment for the project. “Look at Mona­co, or Hong Kong or Sin­ga­pore – spe­cial juris­dic­tions cre­ate a lot of growth out­side their bor­ders.” In his book, Your Next Gov­ern­ment? From the Nation State to State­less Nations, Bell traces the pro­ject­ed evo­lu­tion of a seast­ead. It would begin “like a coral polyp”, he writes, pro­tect­ed by a country’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters, where it would start to gen­er­ate eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty, “enrich­ing its envi­ron­ment and attract­ing still more life”, before break­ing free to start a new autonomous life on the open ocean. Ulti­mate­ly, he imag­ines seast­eads nur­tured by dif­fer­ent host nations con­gre­gat­ing in mid-ocean gyres, shel­tered with­in float­ing break­wa­ters. “A new kind of gov­ern­ment aris­es,” he writes, “born in Earth’s last free places, fat­ed to advance the human fron­tier.”

    Will the Seast­ead­ers even­tu­al­ly find a gov­ern­ment that’s will­ing to spon­sor an aspir­ing sov­er­eign state off their coasts? We can’t rule it out. Let’s not for­get that the Char­ter City con­cept sounds awful­ly sim­i­lar to state-spon­sored qua­si-autonomous Seast­eads, at least in terms of cre­at­ing a kind of spe­cial eco­nom­ic-zones. So we prob­a­bly should­n’t be sur­prised if a gov­ern­ment some­where decides to indulge in this kind project. If the Seast­ead­ers weren’t so con­sis­tent­ly hyper-greedy they prob­a­bly could have bribed the required gov­ern­ment offi­cials some­where by now to make it hap­pen. Plus, while hav­ing a Seast­ead off the coast of your own coun­try is prob­a­bly just ask­ing for trou­ble, if claim­ing “unclaimed waters” is part of the plan it’s con­ceiv­able that spon­sored Seast­ead com­mu­ni­ties could be seen by some nations as a means of col­o­niza­tion and indi­rect force pro­jec­tion over the plan­et’s oceans. It’s one of the grand ironies of the move­ment that its like­li­est path to suc­cess prob­a­bly comes by find­ing a way to make them­selves very use­ful to exist­ing gov­ern­ments. And for the next few months the idea of inde­pen­dent new off­shore micro-nations (with­out extra­di­tion treaties with the US) is an idea that could be very tempt­ing to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Will Peter Thiel final­ly get his Seast­ead, per­haps with US gov­ern­ment sup­port, in com­ing months? We’ll see, but if it hap­pens thanks to Trump it will prob­a­bly come with the very high price of hav­ing to put up with some very annoy­ing per­ma­nent house­guests.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2020, 3:46 pm

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