Wednesday, 10 July 2013

cri de couer or you can't handle the truth

Although I still declare that anyone truly shocked by learning that the world is the prying, groping place is a measure naïve or even complacent or complicit, public attention and outrage ought not be placated by life intimato Ars, the words of prophets of doom, or by practicality, commonality—offensive aspirations.

As more is revealed, everyone will have transgressions against the public trust to confess and defend. Arguing that tolerance and reciprocation do not justify the ends invite the same kind of arrogance of seeing the Big Picture, omnipresence, as does the intelligence Manifest Destiny of the US and conspirators. The disabusing quality of the former is far from palatable and probably inures one to the successive headlines—not only in bed with the telecommunication utilities, foreign intelligence agencies but also trawling from the series of tubes, upstream, that make up the internet and now there is an apparent mandate for snitching that's a free-pass for going beyond regular nosiness and jumping to conclusions and this mass-deputization is bound to go above and beyond—and may go far, in a social sense, of explaining why there is a poignant absence of rage on the perpetrating and perpetrated public—that and a convenient coalescing of economic conditions and conditional victories that deflect securities as a very—be-not-proud personal choice.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

percentile or blue-screen

The press seemingly have an obligation to announce their special-coverage with an infographic or a dramatic-photo montage and an orchestral strike. For continuing development concerning the government budget sequestration and mitigating measures, like furloughing defense department employees—with the caveat that contracted, conscripted or otherwise exempt personnel should not be utilised to make up for lost work, one publication went with, I think, a very unfortunate symbol to illustrate a cut in 20% in pay for affected workers—evocative of a time when the Pentagon was really and truly lamed. Perhaps in some ways, it is good to trim back the rhetoric with such stoppage and temporary estoppel but from the perspective of personal hardships and future knock-on effects, it quickly reveals itself as unacceptable and counterproductive.

Friday, 5 July 2013

franking privilege or going postal

It's not as if anything is sacred any longer and such snooping it certainly nothing new or nuanced but I would have thought that the snoops would be less inclined to go after data that's not digitised or clearly verifiable, but—and despite that knowing for years the US Postal Service “scanned” envelops to print a machine-readable zip code, long before optical character recognition was very advanced and long since the ability to print one's own barcodes and postage stamps developed, the so-called Mail-Cover Programme—there being no reasonable expectation of privacy between the from and to lines, has not relented and is going stronger than ever, with the ability to image and archive route of every piece of mail in the country, and perhaps beyond.
In order to steam open the envelop, a request need only be forwarded to the Post itself for approval and such a closed system of judge and juror has set precedence for prying into electronic correspondence as well. Being subject to tracing and inspection of course helps uncover networks after the fact and hopefully going forward, like any good detective work—scams, illicit trade and sympathies but such insatiate methods really only help build dossiers, accurate or otherwise, rather than keeping anyone safe and secure.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

painting the roses red or mezzoamerica

Though not necessarily enjoying the moral high-ground due to their own speculative surveillance practices, China and Russia have little reason to dignify threats from the US over harbouring a fugitive from Justice.
Ecuador's bold and unflinching withdrawal, however, from a export regime, instituted to curb cocaine production, with America in response to sabre-rattling over its willingness to grant Snowden asylum is an act of standing up to bullies and the system deserving of one of those slow claps that gallop to a round of applause. The US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee has moved to deny the South American country preferential treatment in trade—something like a Most-Favoured status which is accorded to some 130 nations. The defiance is more than symbolic, since though they will find other willing buyers for their oil and other natural resources, the vegetable and cut-flower industies will take a hit. Ecuador even does its tormentors one better—not only rejecting this framework to end the blackmail but offering to repatriate or render the equivalent millions of dollars it has realised in benefits to the US to fund institutions and programmes in support of transparency, civil liberties and protecting the right to privacy.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

oh weal, oh woe or ttip—ta ta for now

Watchdog CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory) delves into the details of the US-EU trade agreement that was ratified at the G9 summit and shows how, without much imagination of an embarrassment of gullibility, public welfare is becoming a nuisance easily steamrolled by business interests, constituted in such a way as to give industry carte-blanche to flagrantly ignore established national laws and policies and give pause to governments thinking of championing the common weal.  Of course this development is vying for attention (or rather, seeking cover) with the Conference itself and the effective-date for FATCA in Germany, plus whatever distracting scandal of the day. 

When regulatory climates are seen as damaging to investor profits or acting toward the detriment of health, labour-rights, safety or the environment—depending on one's perspective, both parties are bound to submit their cases before a kangaroo court of arbitrated settlement, the commission for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), headed by a group of lawyers with an established reputation. Lobbyists on both sides of the Atlantic are responsible for crafting these conditions, and thankful activists the world around are keenly aware of the dangers of disincentivizing de-soverigning, too. Unfortunately public service has its price, as well, demonstrated by the precursors to this treaty.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

snowdonia


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

through the looking-glass


Though there is no other side of the coin, no deflecting of blame that makes trawling the internet in the name of security any more dolphin-friendly or excusable behaviour, but perhaps early-adopters of new technologies might exercise more caution and general-users might want to give less weight to convenience, banking on-line or ordering from shops on the internet or over-sharing.
 After all, it seems that a Handy is a tracking-device, a transponder (and not a black-box) that happens to include something called a “Calling - App,” and so forth. Smart phones can summarily out fox us. Although corporations have tried to quash freedom and utility on the world wide web, no monopoly or cartel—or legal codex, has been able to keep in stride with innovation and re-invention. Should the newest gadget or platform, however, be regarded with the healthy suspicion that they are merely casings for bugs and spy cameras, maybe America will realise that its policies and diplomacy have consequences, inward and outward.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

watergate-gate

The American political landscape is really being whipped up into a frothy mess and through the spray and roil, it’s becoming impossible to distinguish among what’s generally and authentically chilling, what’s motivated but isolated, and what’s coloured by two-speed spin. Not that the volume and authorship of past transgressions excuse or assign non-cultural blame to any of current and lingering scandals, but the tempo of the demands are absolutely wilting: the US tax authority targeting conservative groups—be they called patriots or traitors, aggressive wire-tapping of journalists in apparent retribution—be they called patriots or traitors, the laming or disburdening of the functionaries of government—be they worker-bees or drones. This tug-of-war is being waged over the delicate and deliberative field of social reforms, statecraft and choices confounded by economic straits and must surely have a shrill and dulling effect. I think it shows how polarised America is becoming and reaching across the aisle is a quickly receding possibility.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

pyrrhic victory or the hundred years’ war

Though characterized and distilled mostly as the proprietary authority for businesses to demand applicants, supplicants and current employees surrender their social-network profile upon request, which while good for garnering glancing concern and attentions, is sadly short-lived and is not engaging public dialogue in CISPA is again positioned for passage in the US Congress, despite conflating opposition. 
Just as there are champions for keeping us over-safe, we have our tireless advocates, but the issue and the real, long-term stakes remain something that is easily placated or dismissed.
eroding privacy. Victorious skirmishes, sometimes ceded over inflated (at least, in the here-and-now) fears, overshadow—by design, I think, the larger struggle, since these assaults are becoming perennial continuing-resolutions politically.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

p.s.a. or ribbon-awareness month

America has a penchant for proclamations and especially tends to cram a lot of education and spangled reflection into those months without federal holidays not already identified with some other cultural or health moment and movement. April is over-burdened as it is, what with the distinctions of being national Domestic Abuse-, Child Welfare-, Alcohol Addiction-, and Stress-Awareness month and all tied together as Autism Awareness Month. That’s already quite a spectrum, and added to it, per a presidential executive order, April is also Distracted-Driving Awareness Month. How is one exactly supposed to honour and be mindful of distractions? What other random virtues and vices would you include in this cavalcade?

Saturday, 2 March 2013

ab in beurlaubt

The US executive and legislative branches were unable to reach or fake a compromise, which triggers a count-down, sort of like a Rube Goldberg contraption, towards budgetary sequestration across most of America’s federal programmes, mandatorily paring funding and raising the spectre of furloughs (unpaid absences) for hundreds of thousands of government workers world-wide.

It is wholly excusable, I think, for most of the international public to be aghast at the dysfunction while thinking that a temporary curtailment of the sticky wickets of bureaucracy won’t cause any significant damage. It’s an embarrassing situation and a disservice to populace, to be sure, but I think blame and hyperbolic overtures to the boogeymen of security and the already prevalent attitude (in perception and in fact) regarding faded glory do really overlook the cascading effects of the situation. Though the expected cost-cutting measures, immediately and projected out over the next decade, represent only a tiny, tiny fraction of the larger deficiency, some 85 billion dollars out of an either four, eleven, 15 (or exponentially higher) trillion dollar debt, cutting back work on the proposed scales could mean a twenty percent drop in the purchasing power of the federal work force and those associated with it, not to mention those indirectly affected by delay and errors, all of whom will probably never be fully redressed.
This fifth does is not a chuck out of the whole of the abstract US economy, mostly conjuring money out of the movement of money and pushing paper, but—and perhaps even more urgently, this reduction is a double-decimation, not just in terms of income and employment and delivery, but a realignment, like annexing twenty percent of the America’s smaller communities, absorbing them into larger neighbours with an even more massive yet over-burdened civil institutions. It is like the pettiness and gridlock of the Congress leaking out of the Beltway and set loose on all aspects of the American public.  The wheels of government will continue to turn with skeleton-crews, more work pressed out of staff remaining, rotating singly through the work week with less continuity and more matters overcome in the transition because it will have to. Authorities, in spite or because of the knock-on effects, may realize that adjustments (austerity American-style) can be accommodated and can make do with a scaled back government—or, and probably heralded by flagging spending and all around timidity, essential and uniting services both will become untenable under a reorganization that excised too much stability, functional determination and assuredness, whether or not misplaced, out of communities too quickly.

Monday, 18 February 2013

across the pond

While the media focus on European economic policies and tax accords from the perspective of the States seems more preoccupied with the potential spillage and knock-on effects of the proposed Tobin Tax, a levy on financial transactions and market trades, the burgeoning talk of a trans-Atlantic Free-Trade-Agreement, urged by both the US administration and European commission president seems an idea comfortably, tantalizingly far away.

Though it is probably true, for both optimists and pessimists, that reaching any kind of meaningful and functional compromise, aligning US and EU standards on safety, quality and transparency, can only be achieved in a receding distant future, displaced by politics and protectionism (by those current players who would be excluded, too), the notion and the will for such an arrangement is not a Fata Morgana that one can never meet. Naïvely, perhaps, but not without hope as there have been plenty of examples of Bridges to Nowhere over trade and tariffs, like the bickering over the aerospace giants or the fact that one cannot purchase a Silver Lady in the States but embassies of genetically modified organisms, untested drugs and wage inequity are equally unwelcomed, the mutual benefits have been articulated, of substantial increases for the gross domestic products of European nations through fewer administrative and process barriers and greater job security for American export industries.
Those sound positive on balance, but I fear that consumer protections will suffer through compromise. Instead of meeting half-way or adopting the more stringent standards of one partner, existing safeguards, like employment rights, food labeling requirements, safety standards and protection for the environment and livestock will be relaxed, diluted in order to meet industry imposed milestones. I hope that this is not the case, because risking health and security is no lubricant for trade, and to prevent these attitudes from prevailing, one cannot take the stance that procrastination and off-putting is acceptable, any more than in the here and now surrendering one’s sovereignty and self-determination to creditors is.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

polk salad annie, gator’s got your granny

National Geographic magazine had an interesting feature on the work of researchers at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, from 2008, finding that the blood of alligators and other similar swamp denizens has prized anti-microbial properties, which can stave off infections from many types of bacteria, including a few that have developed resistance to human antibiotics through keeping too neat and tidy and abuse of our resources.  Five years on, the research still, I think, merits a look and an update.

It stands to reason that alligators and crocodiles would have strong natural defenses, since they tend to lead fairly violent careers and sustain battle damage in not the most sanitary conditions, yet don’t succumb to infections. The protein fragments, peptides, in the blood of these creatures may even combat HIV. It all sounds like some voodoo white magic but seems promising. I wonder what happened.  Translation of these chemicals, however, may not be immediate and direct since such high levels of peptides would be toxic to humans, although I imagine not less toxic than AIDS or gangrene.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

the bronx is up and the battery’s down

To celebrate the centennial of New York City’s Grand Central Station, which at the commission of the Vanderbilt family, first opened its doors at midnight tonight (or possibly, one minute of, so as to not technically fall on the next day), The Daily Beast presents an interesting collection of one hundred facts, which makes for a great scavenger hunt of trivia, no matter how far one is away from this gorgeous and storied terminus.

Friday, 25 January 2013

autostrada

Since their inception, there have been standards enshrined in the culture of highways, Autobahnen with the intent of breaking up monotony without sparing on utility. There are mandates for gentle curves in order to keep drivers alert, in contrast to straightaway, required in some places to allow for emergency airplane landings.
Sometimes such subtler persuasions are overshadowed by constant construction works, same-otherwise by a few vistas of spectacular scenery and roads hugging the contours of the landscape. There are still, however, quite a number of long numbing stretches of road, especially for the express route through flat lands. Although not common in America or Germany, there are score of techniques tried in France, Denmark and the Netherlands to with art streaming along the margins, posts a-pace with the traffic that change like flip-book animation, rather abstract and Jungian and light installations. Some really creative things have been done, but now such Dutch civil engineers are applying their artistry to creating smart-roads, beginning with a stretch of highway by Eindhoven.

Though the pavement is yet to be steam-rolled and there is a balance of skeptics, planners are brimming with ideas, like hyper-colour reactive paint, that yields neon blue snow flake patterns on the asphalt when temperatures dip below freezing or luminescent lanes that glow in the dark, roads that monitor traffic conditions and issue reports (displaying warning to drivers of on-coming traffic jams), cull wind power from passing cars to power a lane designated for electric automobiles that they might be charged en route. I imagine that quite a bit of energy could be harnessed in intelligent and passive ways. A lot of ideas to make vehicles more efficient are making some head-way but still fall short of where we should be, but paying heed to the pavement, the other substrate may yield a lot of inventive solutions.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

underpass or suburban legend

Though second- and third-hand tales abounded, until recently there was no undisputed evidence of cow tunnels boring under the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. Although far less incredulous than giant crocodiles, sprung from unwanted pets flushed down toilets, lurking in sewers, urban spelunkers are beginning to map out this forgotten underground network, meant to reduce the traffic of livestock brought into 1870s Gotham disrupting human transportation.

Atlas Obscura’s intrepid team of explorers reintroduces this lost bit of infrastructure with a bit of history and discovery. Of course the detour avoiding the most crowded parts of the city was not a radically new idea, what with established gazing commons and cattle trails crossed by railroads and highways. Underpasses were dug in order to keep them doggies rolling. New York’s grid, however, seemed by all accounts a complex and unseen labyrinth. I wonder how many other cities and towns (London, Paris or Berlin, perhaps?) created similar networks (mazes of alleyways, canals or elevated catwalks) for market days and have long since forgot the original use of these passageways and re-purposed them for other uses.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

cosign and spirograph


Current White House chief of staff and former budget wonk Jack Lew is the new pick for Cabinet posting of Secretary of the Treasury. Though a seasoned veteran of Washington, Lew’s appointment’s is garnering the most attention over his loopy, hoovesie signature that will eventually appear on legal tender.
My simple signature—honed and hewn down to next to nothing due to having to sign a lot of paperwork, sometimes causes people to balk and occasionally I am prompted for something a little more legible or identifiable—especially by the postal authorities. I am sure Mr. Lew’s John Hancock would not pass muster either, and it looks like an awkward scrawl of acknowledgement on one of those electronic signature pads at the checkout—the kind that you can draw anything on and the screen brightly informs you that signature is accepted and verified. I wonder where in the aether those x’s are sorted and if they’re ever brought back up.

Friday, 28 December 2012

down on cripple creek or stockholm syndrome

By engaging in the politics of terror, I think the United States is poised to play a very risky game that risks it becoming a caricature, mockery of the democratic process. It is unfair to lay blame squarely and solely on one party faction, since there is more than ample blame to go around—including the voting-public and the abstentious, but I think it is a safe assertion to point to one cadet wing of the Republican Party, trenchantly conservative and angry, as blocking compromise and negotiation.

This one faction is hijacking, ransoming  US policy, and as a result, is not only holding captive its close associates but also the broader Republican Party, the entire legislative branch and the executive besides, not to mention the ameliorating US economy, only just shooed away from the precipice and it’s not going to be something fun or exciting like a roller-coaster or going over the edge of a waterfall in a barrel—that has already been done. On some levels and in some ways, too I fear, the hostages are starting to identify, relate to their captors, though most are roundly alienated and marginalized. By all measures, the US economy is driven by consumer spending and consumer sentiment and not the ripples and tides of investment and abstract enterprise, but sacrificing the former at the bidding of the latter proves that authentic finance is just more and more relegated to show and pretense.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

cliffhanger

Loggerheads, not develop- ments or discourse regardless of tone, concerning the state of the budget and forward-policy regarding taxation and funding for prosecuting wars of all ilk in the US is diabolical in the detail and shortfalls, and despite whether trailing or leading discussion and coverage of the issue, I suppose that these particulars do not matter overmuch nor ever survive the next cycle of austerity American-style.
A polarized, frightful and fear-mongering legislature, with an array of cadet tentacles and inventive pseudopodia (ψευδοπόδια, false feet), is projecting away from any language of compromise, familiarly and characteristically stalling, a move taken from a playbook that could be transposed anywhere and for any episode, showdown that has passed recently and for the foreseeable future. Such inflexibility and laming division allows government to conveniently ignore the mandate of the people who they are supposed to represent and stoke other external pressures, like business and the markets, which always trump congressional indolence and force many hands. It is a vicious cycle of dismantling and up-building inverted, where the conventions razed or raised are the opposite of what’s in anyone’s long-term interest and more and more dulling with each passing deadline and limit.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

null set

I first thought it was a gag-headline but soon realized that indeed, with various levels of earnestness and symbolism behind the dissent, all fifty states of the union have filed petitions (via an official submittinator) for peaceful and orderly withdrawal from the United States of America.

A block including Texas and many of the original secessionist states of the Confederacy has garnered more than the threshold of signatures and support to warrant (not deign, mind you, and to the horror I imagine of a silent majority of stake-holders that would rather remain part of the US) an official response from the White House. Maybe the hardliners ought to be allowed to try it on their own, most likely to their own chagrin since many of these maverick lands are the biggest recipients of federal aid and get more in return in national taxes than they pay in, not to mention infrastructure, social support and protection and quite a bit in the way of services hard and costly to recreate on a sub-national level. What’s astounding to me is that each and every state has expressed a desire to divorce itself either from select members or from the whole club. It’s as if one might as well start over—and more than a bit disheartening. Even the most notorious and incorrigible members have been spared being forcibly ejected so far—and even with more uncertain and arguably less venerable unions, I don’t believe there’s been discussion or the will to let it splinter into its constituents.