Wednesday, 11 June 2014

amnestรญa or the children's crusade

The United States has a penchant for decades of turning a problem into an absolute disaster, although these upgrades seem to be happening at a much quicker pace lately—mass surveillance, Iraq, Afghanistan, the health care system, kleptocracy, gun control, environmental stewardship.   And now America is fomenting a grave humanitarian crisis with immigration policy with an overwhelming (if the medium is to be believed) incursion of children and youth walking great distances, unaccompanied, to cross into States.  It not as if this situation materialised overnight but tens of thousands of young people have been placed in temporary shelters or released to live with friends or family.  As attention turns to this situation, the government has responded by designating military bases as temporary homes, flying the children away from the border region, and providing legal champions to assist the young people with the naturalization process.  Politicians, from all persuasions, are afraid to say anything cross about the situation and broader repercussion it inevitably bring for fear of appearing racist or xenophobic—or simply uncaring for these refugees that have walked, alone, from Central America to Texas.  Parents apparently were willing to abandon their children to such an arduous and dangerous march lured by promises of a better life in America and what’s being interpreted as a lure, an open invitation to come to America, where no one—especially children, is being turned away.

This is unspeakably irresponsible in the short-term and in the long-term, as immigration authorities do not have the means to keep track of all these young people (as they are undocumented and unlikely to have already surrendered their identities to the internet and competent authorities) as they arrive and are sent off to destinations unknown.  There is no process in place to handle this sort of influx, or fairly apportion benefits and support promised which the US cannot or is lacking the political will to provide to its own citizens and no way to follow up on these baptisms by trafficking.  Aside from an already over-burdened delivery system for financial support (backed by script that’s of highly subjective value), what about America’s schools, hospitals and jobs-market?  Those institutions, failing by many estimations already, I think, would completely buckle under the added weight.   More immediately, the conditions under which the children are sheltered are rapidly deteriorating and there is a very serious threat of disease, not to mention the crowding and the heat.  Such a welcoming reception is dangerous and underhanded and most cruel.  America has long gone overboard with its security theatre but these measures run counter to its enshrined institutions of bullying and limitless scrutiny—undignified treatment by deputized goons at the airport, the need for vetting of clearances for any regular person to gain access to military installations (or to be a day-care provider) that’s applied universally yet lifted in this circumstance.  Governments like to poor-mouth when social programmes are mentioned yet there seems to boundless optimism in this situation.  What do you think?  How did the US come to this point and who manufactured the crisis and was the migration really in response to dire conditions in Central America or because of touts?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

the privacy act, as amended

To the patient on the other side of the counter, it must look like those at the reception desk are engaging in a quick round of Space Invaders rather than scheduling a follow-up appointment as these systems require a lot of keyboard interaction—scrolling through that eventually comes really rapidly with video-game like reflexes.  Though there is no universal operating system as yet (HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, legislation after all is not really about protecting privacy or securing medical records but about sharing that information among hospitals and physicians), there is one dominant player that’s delivered under government contract some really robust albeit technically ancient legacy software—the Space Invaders type.
Given the mandate that all practitioners in the US are required to keep electronically accessible medical records (the insurers pushed for this as well) and that the government will again claim imminent domain on individuals’ entire medical history—documented by competent authorities and from non-traditional sources, like social networks, as well—in order to better execute its mission of bio-surveillance, I am sure that the contractor formerly known as the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) will see a boon and become the industry standard.  Public health and being able to track the spread of sickness (both for oneself and for the population at large) in time to do something about it is one thing and it would be prudent and in any one’s better interest to do.  I suspect, however, that maybe benignly the government will keep tabs on everyone to ensure that they’re getting regular check-ups and remain healthy, balanced and productive members of society—or rather, nefariously, at the behest of big pharmaceutical companies, peddling their snake-oil and leech-craft for them and ensuring that employers can get more and more from the proletariat.
SAIC is already the perfect candidate to interlace all of this data, having been commissioned in the past to carry out work for the National Security Agency, including technical support for ThinThread and its successor Trailblazer Project that wire-tapped the World Wide Web.  More bizarrely, SAIC was also part of a consortium of research laboratories conducting trials for the Army’s Defense Intelligence Agency’s Stargate Project to study psychic abilities and the viability of paranormal talents for espionage.   The program supposedly was discontinued in the mid-nineties, but who can say, as it was standard protocol for the proctors never to disclose to their telepathic and clairvoyant subjects whether they were right or wrong, as it might influence native aptitudes.  Regardless of the disposition of this data and just because America has already compromised the security and private lives of every human on Earth with its prying, it does not mean that we ought to become complacent about maintaining integrity for our confidences and health and surrender.  Withholding of intent—whether by or for faith-healers, is not good bedside manner and about as off-putting as having the receptionist banging on a keyboard—repeatedly and randomly without explanation.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

better mousetrap oder nachgestellt

Though not quite on the frontier of forensic science as the technical capabilities have been explored for a decade and longer, genetic researchers are just discovering now the score or so of genomes from a sample that determine ones outward appearance, forehead, chin, ears, eyes, nose, lips, etc. (excluding nurture, vanity and lifestyle) that could be quickly scanned and extrapolated to produce police-sketches of suspects, possible even creating a visual match—for those populations not already in a registry.

Witnesses could of course tweak the profile returned to account for things that are not necessarily in ones genes, even with the possibility for a computer-generated crime scene reenactment with avatars. These new degrees of accuracy won't only be used to catch criminals, however, and the potential for abuse remains great since all ones predispositions and proclivities are all laid out there in same snatch of human detritus. Insurers, pharmaceutical companies, lenders and employers would certainly be eager to project their profits, gains and losses against each individual on these threads spindled by the Fates (Moirai). A burgeoning discussion has developed in response as to how to protect elements of this data, to encrypt ones DNA after it leaves ones body and go into the wilds—or into the lab. I don't know what form this practise might ultimately take, but I imagine once the public realises the implications it's going to be hygiene that everyone will be interested in.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

media matters or upright citizens' brigade

In 1971 an activist group, after thorough planning and casing the facility burgled the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in a small Pennsylvania town and obtained more than one thousand documents of a sensitive nature.
The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI submitted the pilfered material, which revealed the extent of the Bureau's focus on the profiling and surveillance of pacifist organisation's and willingness to target petty crimes and inconsequential conduct and overlook larger, systemic damage done by groups with power and influence, to many press outlets but most of it went unpublished until (for fear of reprisal or doing damage to on-going operations) until a journal advocating non-violent resistance disclosed the entire cache. Ultimately, the revelations led to congressional investigations, which caused the Bureau to abandon its most controversial and politically motivated programmes, although the efforts were just splintered and buried with more secrecy and overtaken by more inscrutable agencies. The FBI let the case go after the expiration of the statue of limitations and the perpetrators went unknown until just now, with the release of a memoir and documentary on the break-in and players. Just after the get-away, one member recalls, they called a journalist from a phone-booth and delivered a powerful statement, challenging the members of the media who have demonstrated integrity and concern for the truth to help bring about reform and justice by broadcasting their modus operandi that prosecuted the war in Vietnam against the will of the America's to appease a few masters in politics and industry.

Friday, 7 February 2014

plying ones trade

I still don't know what to make of the situation and protest in (the country asked that the article the be dropped, as in the Netherlands, the Philippines and the Gambia in English as they are not in thrall to the Soviet Union) Ukraine, which seems equally divided between the status quo and the revolutionaries led by a professional boxer (who's also a twin and a PhD-holder) from Germany, but the stakes are certainly high.
US foreign relations, domestically at least, usually fails to grab much attention lately, unless in the form of secret-sharing and a frank discussion leaked has the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in a conservation with the US ambassador to Ukraine, disdaining the champion for the opposition and westward leaning candidate in the running, favouring someone more experienced to safeguard American interests, neatly summarised by “Fuck the E.U.” This statement has had some coverage, but the difference is notable, whereas the release has enraged Europe, in the States, reporting focuses rather on the fact that the sound-bite, undisputed, originated from a Russian posting before circulating world wide, and in a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black, America is accusing Russia of spying, despite all the recursive news of US snooping, within and without. Perhaps America will say that the fugitive, Edward Snowden, holed up in Russia, was behind this leak, or she, the diplomat, earnestly meant that the European Union should not interfere with Ukraine's best interests... The other noteworthy nuance in the reporting is how American journalism must censor the expletive, while the rest of the world is mature enough to do without the bleeps and peep-tones.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

personae, pandora

Conceived as sort of an electronic annual, a year book ten years ago for an elite university in a dorm room, the reigning social network has matured and seems to have come of age, established and hard-wired.

Of course, it's only a platform that could be easily unseated, as were its predecessors and it is the behavior of its users—like the adage a leader is not leader without the support of his or her first follower, that craft how we communicate. It is not, I think, the other way around—beneath the surface lexical and semantic shifts, such changes in the way we communicate are expressions, important ones—nonetheless, of statements that would have been voiced already in one fashion or another.
I cannot say whether the lure of the instantaneous and easy and convenient is taking away from native creativity (rather than enhancing it) or more artistic, meaningful or fulfilling pursuit—but if that is the case, I think people are still quick (mostly, at least as quick as they would be otherwise) to realise that that chance is not easily retaken, but there is more than just a change in our vocabularies or ways of coddling our own sense of indolence or procrastination in the simple fact that the Internet does not forget and reminders are lightly stirred. I believe, if used correctly, that could be a supplement rather than a liability too, but considering the current climate, telecommunication providers being prosecuted for complicity and governments being held liable for their abidance, it seems that we are not very good at self-censorship and temperance.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

boundless informant or ham radio

Virtually unsourced as if it's just an accepted precept—some revisionist bit of Orwellian historyclaiming things have always been this way and not otherwise, the New York Times reported that the National Intelligence Agency has devised a way to access closed computer networks essentially via induction.

Rather than unlocking a back-door into a computer network by exploiting software vulnerabilities or honey-pots, a computer's activity can be gleaned and relayed through hidden radio transmitters that only need be near the machine. Evil genius is not to be out-done, but this technique is decades old and been used to snuggle up to computers for many years already and still, to sort it all out later—indefinitely later, is cheaper and more cost-effective than actual intelligence-gathering, like billboard advertising. Some one hundred thousand transceivers or so are said to have been been deployed in foreign lands to aggressively infiltrate systems secured against conventional eavesdropping. I wonder what form these dark minions take.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

dura lex sed lex

No one is particularly heaving a sigh of relief over the off-the-cuff adjudication of one US District Judge's that the mass-surveillance carried out by American intelligence agencies was “significantly likely to be unconstitutional.”

Even without considering the source, who is part of the cadre who orchestrated dreadful scandals like the Iran-Contra Affair (the scheme to supply Iranian kidnappers allied with Lebanon weapons through Israeli channels and use the proceeds to divert arms to the paramilitary group opposed to the democratically-elected government of Nicaragua, all at a premium for the military-industrial complex—the enemy of my enemy is my friend—and to free some hostages by negotiating with terrorists), overturning the mandate that cigarette packages bear graphic warnings since being forced to do so would have infringed on the tobacco-manufacturers' First Amendment rights, and questioning the president's legitimacy at every turn over his citizenship, such opining is inviting blowback. It is a minority—or at least split, opinion among the legal professionals who've commented on the spying scandal—which in any case, only concerns itself with its own jurisdiction, American citizens on American soil and not the rest of the world. De minimis non curat lex. Appealing to a higher court could result in dire consequences in the long-term for the USA.

Monday, 9 December 2013

pelagic waters or octopi, occupy

As an addendum to an earlier post, there is a tumble-blog (incidentally, the inter-webs though having an initial affection for the letter e, with e-commerce and e-mail and so on, seem to be launching an offensive against the vowel, easily elided for trade-marking sake) dedicated to propaganda featuring sinister octopodes called Vulgar Army, which includes, among many others, the advisement to know one's Communists enemies, which is baldly the inspiration for some latter day programmes.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

travelling matte

More documents leaked to the press by the Fugitive reveal that US intelligence has the capability and apparently the prerogative to track the whereabouts of some five billion cellular telephones, the world's human population, per day. As the Washington Post reveals, with an array of special-programmes under names like CO-TRAVLER, the National Security Agency is able not only to intercept communications but also to plot the location of the devices and their users even when the phone is not actively sending or receiving—American reporting hinging on the fact that indiscriminate surveillance, almost apologetically those unfortunate and misguided Americans abroad, has culled some native mapping and associations—inadvertently.
Making self-reflection the biggest transgression always makes me angry about this sort of coverage, which comes at the expense of the rest of the population, as if their privacy was a trifling thing. With such a universe of star-crossed paths to reference, of course, analysts can retrace steps and build quite telling profiles (or misconstructions) through the gleaned habits and contacts of individuals. Of course, we've all too willingly outfitted ourselves and our lifestyles with these homing devices and pay a handsome ransom for the shackles of convenience, presence and awareness and such clever and useful tools were not doled out like identity papers or cattle-brands for these ends alone. It does seem odd, ironic that there is so much glee over the state-of-the-art when that's all the tidier to survey, with or without industry cooperation.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

a-list or he knows when you've been sleeping, he knows when you're awake

Though it's maybe too early for the decorations and music, it is the right time to think about ones greeting card list. The Retro Christmas Card Company allows one to personalise and automate—after a fashion, since carefully nicking open an envelop to a honest-to-goodness card is the still best part, even if it was handled by a third-party.

The middle-man was not the NSA this time, but another good reason for sending out cards now is that it allows the intelligence services to know who in advance of the holidays constitutes a frequent and sustained contact in ones life. The service, custom-printing and mailing, offers lots of swank retro designs—plus a selection of motifs from the Mid-Century movement of 1950s and 1960s Americana.

Friday, 13 September 2013

austausch, b-gosh

Long had European Union Commissioner for Internal Affairs Malmstrรถm held her tongue over the on-going revelations of the breadth and depth of indiscriminate intelligence gathering on the part of the US—not, I think, out of a lack of concern or zeal but rather to not bait controversy prematurely, but digesting the reported reach of the spying, suggested that the lack of transparency could lead to the EU's withdrawal from the SWIFTBanking Treaty with the United States.

The agreement provides that the signatories hand over certain financial transactions to America, in the name of combating tax-evasion and money-laundering and rooting out all imaginable evils. Malmstrรถm, after learning how the SWIFT clearing-house for international bank transfers is apparently already subject to eavesdropping, she questions why they are now asking permission. Her statements have galvanised the parliament in Strasbourg and several factions have agreed to join together with demands that all cards be laid on the table, including back-door practices. Quitting the treaty would be a significant affront US-EU relations and mark the first time that a bilateral data-sharing (Austausch) arrangement was challenged—a few of which the Swedish commissioner herself helped orchestrate.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

social mediation

It should come as no surprise, since nothing seems out of bounds—especially for the information that we've volunteered for scrutiny, but the revelation that lenders world-wide are using ones social media connections to supplement more traditional means of gauging creditworthiness. Apparently, the company that one keeps and their own credit-histories can have a significant impact, especially for those absent any track-record of loans and repayments, young people and first time-buyers, to reference. I wonder what repercussions that this sort of financial-intelligence might have on how one cultivates connections, friends of friends, realizing that anyone may prove a liability and probably not a source of collateral. Maybe it's better to sit out this dance.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

green grow the rushes ho, tell us of your GOOG-O

It is already been noted how the mass surveillance and spreading confessionals of intelligence agencies could well have a disastrous chilling effect when it comes to the early adoption of the latest gadgets and our understanding, relationship with mobility and convenience. Though by nature, equally as gimmicky and peripheral to the architecture of the internet, which ought not be co-opted and re-worked as a for-profit enterprise exclusively, I wonder what opportunities and threats will come if the mood of the surveyed is extended further, making seeking out advertising-space and market-intelligence more difficult, if not an anathema, with the public retreating into closed systems, forgoing the ability to triangulate.
If one does not look at them, do they go away?  Certainly the profit-motive and the creation of niche-markets has done much in the name of progress and ease of propagating ideas, even for those panhandlers that collect the crumbs of the advertising industry and including those Great-Souled individuals who expect nothing. What do you think? Targeted ads, when they hit the mark, can be disturbing in their own right, without considering the full dossier that others may have—and considering those tangential commercials that are laughably off-target, one has to wonder what computer-driven assumptions might be conspiring to form one's persona of record.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

zing, zing, zing went my heart-strings or grey hat

Although the technical capability to unduly deputize one's electronic cachet into accessories of snitching and surveillance has probably been with consumers since the beginning, in one form or another. Now, however, it does not sound so hare-brained or paranoid to think that one's mobile device, which makes one constantly reachable is forever reached and pinged—by professionals and not stalkers or opportunists to listen to whatever ambient conversion is within earshot, or that the cameras embedded in everything else are not surreptitiously switched-on, to record from the other side of the looking-glass. Unresolved and disputed as it is, the fact that technology manufacturers have been complicit in making their networks and devices privy to prying eyes and ears can be roundly accepted.
It's amazing how the pitch of marketing to embrace the latest versions, like there's no looking back, has this extravagant fervor, choreographed like a Busby Berkeley musical number, something unbridled and detestable as a tactic in the advertising world, in which a single product—much less an awkward operating system, can make someone alive with pleasure and depict someone having more fun and more at ease than is possible. Maybe such a ploy, besides encouraging people to flock to the latest de-bugged edition and not have to operate in troublesome compatibility- or legacy-mode, is enough to dissuade end-users from putting a band-aid, fig-leaf over the cameras on their computers and phones or keeping said phones in the refrigerator or tin-foil wrappers when not being actively used. What do you think? Is that court-stenography in your pocket a little bit disconcerting? Or are such worries still the egotism of conspiracy theorists?

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 naรฏve 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.

Monday, 8 July 2013

tell or insider trading

I always thought those friendly games of poker that became quite a regular tableau for the senior crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation illustrated a sort of refined irony, sort of like those velvet paintings of dogs playing poker or fishing with no expectation of catching anything—since, after all the human players were at a clear disadvantage, facing the analytical skills of an android, a psychic and a Klingon who might rips ones arms out of their sockets if he didn't win. Though I think after wards there will be little danger of the of the accords not being agreed to in their present form, there is an important debate happening in the Bundestag and other parliaments of Europe concerning the US-EU free trade agreement.
How could any nation reach true compromise with the other bargaining unit knows exactly what the other wants to hear and what concessions to promise and how the future regulatory landscape will change? The thrust of intelligence gathering and snooping was certainly not limited to juicy gossip and blackmail-material but also extended into business-spying, and for production and labour standards worlds apart, very different cultural tolerances for employment protections, genetic dabbling with food, internet architecture, ecological stewardship, rigour of testing for pharmaceuticals and respecting privacy and proprietary information itself, it is hard to see a happy medium reached without someone taking the upper-hand. Go fish. Let the Wookie win.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Considering the on-going disclosures that monitoring of commun- ications is not a bailiwick reserved for the world-police and is a common commodity, I wonder if the story might not be watered down to the extent where all outrage is put on the level of a mopey adolescent who feels devastatingly violated after discovering his parents thoroughly rifled through his belongings and contacts out of concern and for his own good. Of course, that's a very parental thing to do and usually advisable despite whatever angst or wrath is incurred—but I think it's not the job of the government to put its wards who've reached majority in such an uncomfortable situation—regardless whether their own up-bringing saw such awkward moments of tension or not, no matter how this tactic might defuse cries of fascism and unfairness.  Being made to relive teenage traumas shouldn't deflect from the gravity of being talked-down to.

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.