Monday, 26 August 2013

Unlearned Lessons

Here we go again, with another ill conceived intervention in a remote land. In the meantime, some communities wise up to create their own solutions.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Overextension in Action

As explained before, it is not often flawed policies that cause corruption and state failure, but the lack of feedback mechanisms to prevent doubling down on them. The top cause of failure for superpowers and powerful polities historically is not being able to compete, or funneling resources for adaptation in the wrong direction. For example, the transition from battleships to aircraft carriers as the chief warship in the early 20th century was stalled by "battleship admirals." The Romans could not adapt to steppe and Germanic barbarians due to political corruption.

Like a hyper-extended elbow in an arm bar, a state may seem broad, but is at the mercy of forces beyond its control. Over-extension means that territory cannot be held, bills go unpaid, promises are not kept, and institutions fail. People in the system may individually realize what is going on, but political momentum keeps them from implementing significant changes or making the wrong ones.

A lack of meaningful discussion (the point of free speech and political transparency) serve as key feedback mechanisms. When there is excessive secrecy, democracies and republics can become just another self-serving polity. Their increasingly desperate actions, however, serve to further undermine their legitimacy even faster. The system becomes a positive feedback loop, amplifying the process of failure. There comes a point when the most pragmatic response is to dismantle the surveillance state machinery (or turn it on those who created it), but do not count on sanity from patient with a neocon fixation.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Death Throes of the Dinosaurs

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall."

All around the world, larger institutions are fumbling and stuttering to keep pace with forces beyond their control. The problem with this is such groups often resort to brutality, instead of conventional rule of law mechanisms (or even a convincing show trial). There comes a point of diminishing returns, however, when the vampire cannot find enough blood to sustain itself.

Take, for instance, cable TV. Despite a few decent shows, many networks prefer selling conventional subscriptions instead of experimenting with online streaming. They often abused patent and intellectual property laws to squash competition. Despite this, their efforts merely delay the inevitable. If they were smart, they'd shift their focus to streaming, but corporations, like government bureaucracies, take years to readjust.

From erroneous links and takedowns, to companies censoring their own sites from search engines, even the apex predator of the globalized era start showing their age. Swarms of activists, fans, citizen journalists, bloggers, and others increasingly observe the dysfunction, and can join in on some activity. This is not a 'right' nor 'left' activity, but merely the application of open-source insurgency or 4th generation warfare principles to the socio-economic plane (or simpler terms, 'swarm attacks'). Such swarms are comprised of members who may not be the smartest nor the most capable, but they are capable of observing and copying what works.

The future, even with energy shortages and decaying infrastructure, still allows for much to be salvaged. It is possible to put almost anything online, even without power or advanced infrastructure. Despite this, corporations and governments still chase diminishing returns.  Such a system is potent, but so were the dinosaurs. In contrast, certain insects have not changed significantly in millions of years. Swarm logic is a proven principle in nature and economics alike.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


"If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom." -Ike Eisenhower

It is no secret many places in the US and abroad are starting to resemble the old Soviet Union. Legalized theft is not merely for well-connected firms, nor has been for a while. Warrantless surveillance expands into domestic law enforcement due to 'mission creep' and post hoc justification. Combining this with a predatory prison industrial complex, political momentum can easily lead to an open air gulag that easily surpasses North Korea.

When everyone is an outlaw, the most ruthless tend to dominate. Interestingly, there was a part of the (long dead) US Bill of Rights known as the Tenth Amendment. The 10th Amendment was intended to allow states and individuals rights that were not officially stated under the 'standard' Bill of Rights. Today, some activists have considered using "nullification," against policies they consider illegal. They were employed by civil libertarians, drug legalization activists, gun activists, and so on in various ways.

The fundamental theory, however, is a solid one for a free society. Instead of "Why should we let you," the question was "Why shouldn't we let you?" The idea of WHY NOT instead of WHY would you need something (applied from drugs to weapons to automobiles to other things) appears largely alien to the politics of the 1970s through the present. Perhaps the Boomers were used to bureaucracy, and hoped to create a system to prevent individual suffering. There are cases where it is understandable (particularly dealing with, say, radioactive materials and handling dangerous pathogens), but some where it gets rather arbitrary. Some laws are often drafted in ignorance of the subject matter at hand, but others are not. The problem of a security state where EVERYTHING is banned by default is that anyone can go to jail for spontaneous behavior, and it is not particularly conducive to creativity. It is, of course, a boon for those who wish to make the world into a prison with themselves as the warden. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Rising Supervillainy vs. Sousveillance

The recent revelations on X-Keyscore come at a time when the English speaking world is putting the final nails in the coffin of individual rights, the basis of civil society. While the latest surveillance system raises more questions as to the nature of its implementation and infrastructure, its existence is proof of the absolute contempt for citizens' rights that the "Free World" once prided itself on.

This is not an isolated trend. From the US to even New Zealand, politicians are eager to justify increasingly unpopular spying. Part of me wonders if the rush of these bills are not intended for future implementation, but rather post-hoc justification for questionable activities that have been going on for some time. Given the communication between the 'Five Eyes' intelligence agencies (especially in the post-9/11 chaos),  this may not be totally out of the question.

However, an interesting dynamic remains. What if the public were given access directly to these tools? Not merely knowledge of their existence (as Snowden and other whistleblowers had provided), but allowed to view politicians and their own requests/demands for information? Imagine a bill allowing public recognition of an administration's information demands, requests, and the like disclosed after they leave office. Of course, the statue of legal limitations regarding certain crimes would definitely be a point of contention. The surveillance infrastructure exists (and can break common types of encryption), so why not allow taxpayers to turn it against the would be kleptocrats that currently control it?