Monday, February 03, 2014

An About-Face Regarding ZH Conspiracy Theories

Enigma House
1 Underabigrockov Square

RE: An Apology

Dear ZeroHedge,

I am sorry. Evidently, I was wrong about conspiracy, more specifically, the US Government's pursuit of what must be one of, if not THE world's biggest: the hoovering-up (no pun intended) storage and analysis of the entire world's digital and voice information. In the past, I derided your cherished belief in a US Government Puppeteer-like Plunge-Protection Team on the Ockham-inspired grounds that it would be virtually impossible to undertake what was alleged without at least some whistle-blowers, co-conspirators and/or enablers coming forward with evidence to expose such actions. I was quick to point out the glaring inconsistency to your argument that mocked what you saw as the US Government's apparent ineptitude in Agriculture, Healthcare, Securities Market regulation, Welfare, Military Purchasing, Industrial Policy, FEMA, as well as Fiscal and Monetary policies, yet somehow managed to confer an ability to implement and perpetuate Machiavellian manipulations and direct interventions in financial markets to great success (and to the chagrin of perma-bears and pessimists alike) without ever getting get caught.

Now, looking at what the NSA has accomplished, more or less without general disclosure until recently, ranging from their ability to access and subsequent archiving of every digital and voice communication, to the ubiquitous tools built-in to every device and every information orifice everywhere in order to access whatever it wants, whenever it so desires, it is apparent that not only is the US Government awe-inspiring in the scope, breadth and efficiency of what it can accomplish when it sets it sights on it, but people are now ascribing near-omnipotence to its abilities, so much so that at a dinner the other night, I was told in no uncertain terms, that "they" can activate one's phone - even when it's powered off - and use it to listen to surrounding conversations. Irrespective of whether or not it's true, the point is that it's powers and abilities are now-deemed so great, detractors are afraid of what and how (whether premeditatedly or inadvertently) they might be used.

Of course, the government has not been without their successes in the past in areas such as funding university research, DARPA, US Nuclear Weapons development, NASA, Hubble, TVA, National Highway System, NOAA, USGS, CDC, etc. These are conveniently expunged from Libertarian derision of The State. But Snowden's revelations of the NSA's awesome prowess, giving it near-total electronic omniscience, should humble observers and silence all doubters, irrespective of whether or not one agrees with their objective, and give the US Government maximum respect for its powers of organization, implementation and efficiency, to the point where even a skeptic like me must concede the possibility that a PPT might, at the very least, actually exist. I'm not saying it (an Oz-like Wizard at the helm) DOES, but it seems that such a minor undertaking, in light of recent revelations, is well within their capabilities.  What say YOU WikiLeaks?

So impressive is the US Govt's can-do mobilization of resources to achieve an objective when it wants to, one can only imagine the inspired possibilities were our now-exposed, highly-motivated, best and brightest, to tackle something like Single-Payer Healthcare, ubiquitous quality Education, forward-thinking Energy Policy, and even Inequality. Vanquished is the image of the US Government as a tree-house for plodding lazy job-for-life postal workers, replaced with not only "men-with-a-plan", but the wherewithal to realize it with the same focus that put Neil Armstrong on the moon (understanding ZH'ers reservations as to the veracity of this event).
Somewhat more controversially, consider that with the NSA's complete-and-total data-acquisition and mining infrastructure at its disposal, we might banish Medicare fraud, Welfare cheats, Defense contractor malfeasance, Co.'s flouting  environmental regulations, Govt contractor bid-riggings, bridge-closings, bogus analyst recommendations, HFT collusion, Bernie Madoff, self-detonating CDOs, and even incontrovertibly-nail GOOG, AMZN, & SBUX for rather obvious and cynical tax evasion ploys are surely just a hop, skip and several keystrokes away. No wonder the latter are becoming uncomfortable with their prior cooperation. A tad Orwellian, one might ponder? Perhaps. But since it is out there, is it not worth asking whether our (and it IS "ours") rather impressive machinery might not, at the very least, be targeted at enhancing the wider Public Interest in more generally protective ways? "No more secrets" cuts both ways.   
Once again, mea culpa for doubting you, and I look forward to your help in conceiving how awesomely the US Government will achieve similar efficiency and success in Healthcare, Education, and Transport when we approach these issues with equal resolve, as we have demonstrated in the manipulation of markets and God-like elimination of all secrets from the electronic sphere.

Yours truly



Mason Duede said...

formidable, cet écrit est absolument formidable, bien cordialement, MD

David said...

Dear Cassandra --

I am a data analyst. I have never done data analysis for the government.

I think you leap too far when you ponder what can and can not be done with the NSA's mother of all databases.

So far, the NSA has only shown that it is capable of collecting data. We have seen nothing about whether it is properly stored, nor do we have a clue whether it can be extracted to serve the purposes you describe.

In a nutshell, the NSA has collected a boatload of data. Can it use the data to create actionable recommendations? Probably so, but GIGO. If its query capability is weak and/or the underlying data contain a significant proportion of errors the actionable recommendation will do less good and more harm than it should.

Ask the thousands of law-abiding people, citizens and visitors, who have been prevented from traveling in our free country because the great computer in the sky said they are on the no fly list.

Last, but not least, you are sliding down a slippery slope. The justification for all this data collection was antiterrorism, remember? You are advocating using it for normal everyday law enforcement purposes.

If you had advocated creating the NSA's data collection system absent before 9/11, how do you think it would have been received? I would say that puts you on the wrong side of the freedom vs. security debate.


David Whitney

Okimutt said...

The latest and greatest is the cars communicating w/ each other.
Pure evil genius- imagine the beeps, chirps and nagging w/ cap-
tive commuters. Road rage will be
declared an epidemic and a War on
Road Rage will ensue. It will be a
10yr./$20,000 felony to tamper with a nag box in your "private vehicle." When you hear "it's for
the children", you are doomed!

"Cassandra" said...


I feel you may have missed the sardonic undertones. For the avoidance of doubt, I find the Orwellian possibilities worrying (an understatement) and have no difficulty conjuring many nefarious possibilities to both use and misuse such infrastructure. However, similar fears pervade in regards to GOOG, FB, LNKD your phone co. etc. I do not trust them either - and perhaps even less since I fear greater misuse may result from commercial pursuits than "public interest" pursuits. If nothing else I'd feel better that someone had the ability to systematically monitor those who monitor us.

As an early and consistent user of data and big data techniques, I understand the GIGO problem well. Yet one must still admire the, let's call it "organized determination", that sends the Police to the home of the unfortunate family googling for a new pressure cooker, at the same Jr. is searching for a new backpack and mom is buying hummuous online, or the detaining of a British Tourist upon arrival in the USA who tweeted that he was going to (metaphorically) blow-up L.A. (i.e. party!!) during his week-long visit. Such false positives seem ridiculous of course, despite their intention to protect the public interest. If nothing else, the authorities need humility and commonsense sympathetic with rate of false-positives (high). i.e. "...Sorry to trouble you ma'am, but
it's probably nothing, but you've been flagged...may we...". Surely with 10 minutes of further analysis a sensible analyst can tell the difference between between a middle-class librarian with extremely low prob of threat from a Chechen refugee who's on a Russian watch-list. My point is the logistics and implementation of what they've managed to date remains impressive (though the ground-level execution appears less so), which leads to my main point: uber-libertarian views of the bumbling ineptness of The State are schizophrenic at best and totally flawed at worst, and as other societies have demonstrated, universal healthcare as reasonable shared societal cost is perfectly feasible and in the public interest to pursue.

McMike said...

For the record, the government is doing exactly what it wants to in heath care, agriculture, finance, and defense.

It is making a handful of cronies very very rich, and leaving them free to act with impunity, at the expense of the rest of the country's health, wealth and well being - all while 300 or so million citizens sit on their hands and let it happen to them.

Merely the largest daylight robbery and mass low level physical physical assault in the history of the world.

If you think this government is incompetent, you are simply not looking for the actual objectives.

Mike said...

Phones can be turned on remotely and used as listening devices. A google search is your friend.

Basically if you can do something yourself it can also be done remotely. said...

"similar fears pervade in regards to GOOG, FB, LNKD your phone co. etc."

My relationship with all of those organizations is voluntary (and soon to be non-existent for most of them). My relationship with the intelligence organizations of the world is not. This strikes me as a vitally important distinction, though perhaps less of one as mega-corporations and governments merge...

If you really want to challenge the "oh noes NSA" crowd, you might more sensibly ask what exactly they think the Chinese, Israeli, and Russian intelligence agencies are up to.

As for "them" being able to turn on your phone remotely, that theory is not particularly far-fetched:

There is ample and repeated evidence in the Snowden documents showing that every iPhone is fully accessible to NSA, should they perceive a need for that access. The leaked documents specifically say this, mentioning contacts, text messages, camera, and microphone. Whether this access was achieved with Apple's help is not known, but it would not be surprising... And in that case, it would also not be surprising if "off" was not really off. It's not like you can remove the battery.

Mercury said...

“So impressive is the US Govt's can-do mobilization of resources to achieve an objective when it wants to, one can only imagine the inspired possibilities were our now-exposed, highly-motivated, best and brightest, to tackle something like Single-Payer Healthcare, ubiquitous quality Education, forward-thinking Energy Policy, and even Inequality.”

Let’s not get carried away, evidently they can barely build a web site, even with ~unlimited funds.

For the most part the US Gov’t has simply coerced private communications and technology companies to incorporate back doors into their products and serve as choke points for the purpose of massive data collection and surveillance – a real turn-on for some perhaps but not exactly an achievement on par with the Manhattan Project or the moon landing (the veracity of which I’m pretty sure ZH is cool with BTW).

Once you grasp that Washington DC (boomtown home to the greatest inequality in the nation) is primarily in business for itself at this point the reasons for the above and the continual, frustrating outcomes surrounding your other pet causes will become more obvious. Have you opened your myRA yet?

jo6pac said...

Have you opened your myRA yet?

8:36 pm, February 10, 2014

I have and I put all of my hard earned blue collar money into them. I just can't understand why anyone wouldn't. Oh right the Greece hair cut is coming my way. I guess I'm happy to be dirt poor in the new and improved Amerika:(
That's what the .01% are telling me and I believe them because only they know what's best for us serfs.