Saturday, May 4, 2013

Some Not-So-Random Information, Set #2: Bitcoin and Decentralization, Inverted Totalitarianism, Growth, Energy, Israel, Iraq, Privacy, Environment, Revolution, James Steele, and Secrets and Lies

Further information at: Not-so-Random Information: Introduction and Table of Contents
  1. Bitcoin and Decentralization

  2. Inverted Totalitarianism

  3. Growth

  4. Energy

  5. Israel

  6. Iraq

  7. Privacy

  8. Environment

  9. Revolution

  10. James Steele

  11. Secrets and Lies

I. Bitcoin and Decentralization

Bitcoin's Value is Decentralization - “Recently I've read a lot of claims that Bitcoins don't have intrinsic value. I've come to a different conclusion. Bitcoins have intrinsic value if they enable desirable interactions that are not possible without them. Bitcoin is a theoretical and practical breakthrough that makes it possible to decentralize services we couldn't previously decentralize. To elaborate: Bitcoin isn't just a currency but an elegant universal solution to the Byzantine Generals' Problem, one of the core problems of reaching consensus in Distributed Systems. Until recently it was thought to not be practically solvable at all, much less on a global scale. Irrespective of its currency aspects, many experts believe Bitcoin is brilliant in that it technically made possible what was previously thought impossible.… Bitcoin is a currency, because it needs incentives to protect the consensus process from attackers…. Is there value in Bitcoin? Let me ask a counter question: Is decentralization valuable? If you think that we'll increasingly lose trust in the central authorities that manage the infrastructure we rely on, you might expect Bitcoins to rise a lot in value. If not, that is you believe that authorities will be able to tackle the challenges of the future better in centralized form, then from your perspective Bitcoins don't add value. We'll see. ”

II. Inverted Totalitarianism

Inverted totalitarianism - “Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe what he believes to be the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and he uses the term ‘inverted totalitarianism’ to illustrate the similarities and differences between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.”

III. Growth

Less Is More: Rogue Economists Champion Prosperity without Growth - “Economists have largely disregarded the environmental consequences of growth. For them, the key benchmark of prosperity is gross domestic product (GDP), the sum of all products and services produced in a given country. However, GDP does not factor in the overexploitation of resources, the destruction of biological diversity, air pollution, noise, the expansion of impervious surfaces known as soil sealing, and the poisoning of groundwater. But for many people, a wealth model built on chronic growth is no longer a desirable goal. They are deciding to opt out of this model by establishing ‘repair cafés’ or ‘transition towns,’ communities that try to run things differently at the local level. But doubts about the growth dogma are even beginning to creep into politics.”

IV. Energy

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air with David MacKay - “David MacKay, Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK addressed energy issues at a macro and micro scale with the Harvard University community and beyond.”

V. Israel

Tony Judt's Final Word on Israel - “Israelis have created a generation of young Palestinians who hate them and will never forgive them and that does make a real problem for any future agreement, single- or two-state. But Israel should be much, much more afraid of the Israel it's creating for itself: a semi-democratic, demagogic, far-right warrior state dominated by racist Russians and crazed rabbis. In this perspective, an internationally policed and guaranteed federal state of Israel, with the same rights and resources for Jews and Arabs, looks a lot less frightening to me.”

VI. Iraq

Dahr Jamail Returns to Iraq to Find Rampant Torture and a Failed State Living in "Utter Devastation" - “Investigative journalist Dahr Jamail reported for Democracy Now! throughout the early stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq 10 years ago. Now with Al Jazeera, Jamail has just returned from Iraq once again, finding what he calls a ‘failed state’ living in "utter devastation." In part one of our interview, Jamail discusses the harrowing security situation for Iraqis living in fear of bombings, executions and kidnappings, the widespread torture in Iraq’s prisons, and the breakdown of security in what he calls a ‘lawless state.’ Jamail is the author of ‘Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq’ and ‘The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.’”

VII. Privacy

Credit scores: Stat oil: Lenders are turning to social media to assess borrowers - “Grabbing whatever data you can makes obvious sense in emerging markets where credit bureaus are underdeveloped. But it works in the rich world, too, where younger people and immigrants often have no credit histories. Bureaus themselves are now using everything from court records and rent payments to utility and phone bills. And a range of start-ups are also busily exploring alternative data. Some firms piece together scores by analysing applicants’ online social networks. Professional contacts on LinkedIn are especially revealing of an applicant’s “character and capacity” to repay, says Navin Bathija, the founder of Neo, a start-up that assesses the creditworthiness of car-loan applicants. Neo’s software helps determine if applicants’ claimed jobs are real by looking, with permission, at the number and nature of LinkedIn connections to co-workers. It also estimates how quickly laid-off employees will land a new job by rating their contacts at other employers.”

VIII. Environment

Allan Savory - Reversing Global Warming while Meeting Human Needs - “Allan Savory's presentation on January 25, 2013, about how Holistic Management restores grasslands from land that's degraded to desert. This innovative, natural, and simple idea mimics Nature by using careful management of livestock to stimulate the regrowth of grasses, animals, and puts large amount of greenhouse gases (GHG's) from the air into the soil. The event was sponsored by the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Planet-TECH Associates, a consultancy focusing on innovations for a regenerative future. Videography provided by Local Flavor LLC.”

IX. Revolution

Beliefs about Sandy Hook Cover-Up, Coming Revolution Underlie Divide on Gun Control - “Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents”

NOTE: This poll was conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind and, with all such polls, should be taken with a large grain of salt.

X. James Steele

James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq - video (full documentary) - “A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic reveals how retired US colonel James Steele, a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, played a key role in training and overseeing US-funded special police commandos who ran a network of torture centres in Iraq. Another special forces veteran, Colonel James Coffman, worked with Steele and reported directly to General David Petraeus, who had been sent into Iraq to organise the Iraqi security services.”

XI. Secrets and Lies

Wikileaks Was Just a Preview: We're Headed for an Even Bigger Showdown Over Secrets - “We've seen the battle lines forming for years now. It's increasingly clear that governments, major corporations, banks, universities and other such bodies view the defense of their secrets as a desperate matter of institutional survival, so much so that the state has gone to extraordinary lengths to punish and/or threaten to punish anyone who so much as tiptoes across the informational line.”

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