How we long for the switchboard operator and virtual spilled tea

During the tumultuous 1960s, someone reminded DARPA that the network of connected computers it created could not be turned on its own people. The guys and gals of the agency had an “a-ha” moment in the late 1980s and decided to pass it off to private sector agents who could then, via an open source technology and a consumerist market narrative, invite the nerds from Bellvue and Arkham to create an insidious surveillance mechanism that you now call the internet.

Getting Americans, who once had a distrust of the CIA and FBI for violating their privacy rights, to spill almost all their personal beings into a computer via digital bulletin boards at first was no simple feat. The first drawing board blew up during the 2000-2001 recession. Amazon was one of the very few consumer-centric companies to survive the downturn. The internet was apparently dead ….until 11 September 2001.

The internet found its two-fold purpose. In private hands under the guise of “democratic openness”, “free speech”, “innovation”, and “market capitalism”, well-off college students would drop out of their undergrad and graduate programs and do the surveillance bidding of government by creating search portals and social media alluring enough to get unsuspecting consumers to look up information they once obtained from newspapers, the barber shop, grocery stores, and Friday night tea parties in exchange for the handing over of their personal (and typically mundane, boring) information.

The second portion of its purpose would be turned outward. Making up for the lack of human intel on the ground in the Middle East, the internet could be used to leverage messaging campaigns to spur revolt, as countries such as Egypt and Libya can attest to.

One has to wonder if the chickens have come full circle to roost as the vanguard of domestic surveillance, i.e. social media, now see its faculties leveraged by Russia as The Great Bear seeks pay back for the dent in its Middle East influence, due in part to the democracy narrative spread by the FANGs.

Yes. Life was simpler when Ruth Buzzy ran the switch board and encyclopedias, radio, television, and tea time gave you all the information you needed .

Strapped teachers are a clear and present danger in the classroom. They bring their flaws. #guncontrol .@realDonaldTrump

So your elected leaders are recommending that school teachers carry weapons in the classroom. I suspect teachers would be required to purchase permits and guns out of pocket.

There were a few teachers of mine back in junior high and high school that I would not want walking into a classroom strapped. A couple had bad tempers. Who knew what their mental state of being would be when they walked in the classroom. One was a certified alcoholic. One day, he literally shuffled and stumbled onto campus, eyes glazed over at 8:00 in the morning.

The blow-farts that you have in office recommending this outlandish policy fail to consider that teachers are humans and bring their issues with them everyday. Some of them hate teaching and hate their students. An armed teacher doesn’t mean extra security. It means increasing a clear and present danger in the classroom.

Kilmonger 1 T’Challa 0 #BlackPanther

“The black elite around the globe should be afraid. That is one of my takeaways from “The Black Panther”, a Marvel movie that when examined closely went beyond anything else so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU, rebooted by the first installment of “Iron Man” has been expressing a political narrative that was heightened as recently as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But “The Black Panther” has taken the politics to a global level as expressed by a final conflict between two men who, without their fathers, find themselves rudderless in a political torrent.

I will start with the anti-elite, anti-hero, Kilmonger. Kilmonger represents the 90% of the African Diaspora that is resource-less. He sees an elite that does not want to or maybe does not know how to distribute the gains from the precious little resources the Diaspora has.

While the educated continue to delude themselves that they are doing well in America, for example, they tend to ignore the poverty that they drive through every day to jobs that have more than a glass ceiling as a barrier to break. They see a disproportionate number of black entrepreneurs forced to go solo after the glass ceiling crashes on them only to face further discrimination from bankers who refuse to throw the lifeline of business credit their way.

In addition, they are increasingly disconnected from the continent that spawned their ancestors, a continent, while rich in resources, still faces challenges extracting and processing those resources and turning them into output.

And while Africa itself is emerging, its growth, like that of America and the West, is driven by credit and IMF/World Bank aid. The poor, who are bearing the undue suffering of this economic and social model have no effective leadership. Like Kilmonger, they are rudderless.

T’Challa, whose character has been getting, in my opinion, too much premature love from the celebrating daishiki wearers that attacked the box office last weekend, represents an elite that believe they have arrived because they live in gated communities and have generated income from monopolizing the little precious resources that the Diaspora has. They are increasingly out of touch, using technology to create, much like the Wakandans, a moat around themselves.

Kilmonger’s father died while Kilmonger was still in his youth. There was no father to help guide him toward being the leader that could effectively create a narrative of Diaspora-wide self sustainability. He had to teach himself by leaving the confines of Oakland and traveling the globe training himself to be a warrior. Unfortunately, his message came from an emotional place, from a place of anger toward a family that had betrayed him. His energy was poorly channeled, again, because there was no father to guide him. For this reason, Kilmonger was the wrong man for the right message.

T’Challa was weak. This weakness led to him crafting a half-assed policy of outreach based on an equally half-assed narrative of “diversity.” Telling the world that Wakanda would step out of its isolation and show the world how to live as “one human tribe” is basically the same policy that led to and keeps the African Diaspora in check. Africans who war with each other are too distracted to lead any globe toward one-world bliss. And history shows what happens when Africa lets it guard down. The colonizers find a way to institute their old playbook of domination.

Cinematically, this movie outdoes every other Marvel movie. The movie has its own unique texture driven by the infusion of various African cultures and the human element of the story. It is the only time I felt tears welling up during a Marvel film as the story not only reminded me of my challenges from losing my father at 26, but displayed the challenges each man had to endure as they reconciled the lack of a father’s guidance in a world that tears their immediate, tribal, and global families apart.

Overall, a great movie, but not for the reasons the daishiki wearers expected.

.@facebook’s role as a digital archive threatened by #Russia and itself…

Robert Mueller’s indictment of thirteen Russian nationals for defrauding the United States by using fraudulent means to leverage social media in order to spread during the 2016 campaign season doesn’t intentionally pick on Facebook as a villain. Members of Congress are asking how the Russian-based Internet Research Agency using 100 or so employees, could have circumvented 22,000 Facebook employees and introduce their “digital political hack” into American cyberspace.

Members of Congress have been acting since last fall when Facebook provided documentation that its platform via paid advertising had been used to send targeted messaging via certain Facebook pages to divide the electorate. For example, H.R. 4077 is a bill designed to increase the amount of transparency in electioneering communication.  Introduced in October 2017, the bill aims for accountability and disclosure of who is behind the financing of paid social media users or, as they are affectionately called, “trolls.”

A companion bill, S. 1989, was introduced at the same time in the U.S. Senate.

S. 625, introduced in the U.S. Senate in March 2017 provides the Unites States Attorney General with investigative tools to flesh out foreign agents using social media to disrupt U.S. elections.  The bill requires prosecution of social media users failing to make this disclosure.

Congress hasn’t gone directly (yet) at Facebook or other social media properties. For the political left, especially members of the net neutrality posse, passing any legislation that hints at slowing down the growth of the very same edge providers that they have been protecting would send a message that they are as dysfunctional as some of the electorate already thinks. Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, has been a proponent of net neutrality rules. They have, to various degrees, built their business models on advertising driven by the free content and personal information that they “hack” from consumers. They make their advertising services available globally and unfortunately for them, their social media levers were pulled expertly by Russian nationals.

Facebook, probably inadvertently, has become a digital archive of America’s thoughts and opinions. Instead of having to rummage through personal libraries in order to learn about what Americans are thinking, historians now have access to digital living history, ironically made open by the openness of the internet. Crackdowns on social media would do more damage to openness than poorly forecasted bad gateway behavior of internet access providers. Net neutrality proponents wouldn’t have to worry about degraded access to content. They would have the bigger problem of congressional regulation of content.

Mr Mueller’s indictment has surmised that the digital hacking of the United States’ electoral system is continuing. Russian nationals may have done some adjusting since 2016 to better avoid detection, problem via some more openness themselves by complying with foreign agent registration laws. As for Facebook, changes in its business model may be on the way.

I don’t see a knowledge economy. I see a knowledge industry.

The term “knowledge economy” gets thrown around a lot. When you combine the term with other terms such as “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning”, you can be left with the impression that unless you have an engineering degree or know how to code, then you will be left to wonder the streets of dystopia, meandering through blithe in search of value or meaning. The knowledge economy, based on how it is presented, sounds like a place carved out for the information elite. I don’t take the dreaded scenario seriously because the knowledge economy does not exist. This acknowledgment is important because embracing this position provides a platform for creating social policy that effectively distributes knowledge as what it is: a capital input.

The United States has gone from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy to a services economy. The labels imply that for some type of output, crops, that there are rules for the extraction, packaging, and distribution of capital necessary for producing an end product, food, and for packaging and distributing to its final destination, the end-user. Once it is consumed, it is either gone immediately or depreciating to zero value over some period of time. There is some range of exclusivity involved in its consumption. We cannot say that for knowledge.

Knowledge results from a combination of information and experience. It is about “knowing how” to do something. It is an awareness of a process behind creating some result. While the “know how” could be protected by the laws of intellectual property, acquiring information, “the noise” and human experience garnered from deciphering through the noise to find a valuable nugget of information, cannot be constrained. The rules of economy are designed to bring society closer to some certainty over how resources will be extracted and distributed, but the open environment around knowledge makes strict rules useless.

Public policy can craft rules that make packaged knowledge exclusive to the creator and owner i.e, copyrights for artistic work or patents protecting applied scientific processes, but there are different paths to creating knowledge resulting sometimes in creating similar but not same packages. Knowledge protection is limited.

For this reason, knowledge can be built upon, expand. There is really no final consumption. Knowledge is reused, modified, improved over time. Rules of economics are not as applicable as they were in agrarian or industrial society.

Knowledge is more input than it is final product. This is why, to me, the term “knowledge economy” is weak. Knowledge has been an input during each of America’s economic phases. America’s increased reliance on information and communications technology over the past fifty years doesn’t mean that “knowledge” gets to claim its own economy.

Markets can be made for knowledge. A consultant takes her insights, advice, and publications into the knowledge market where she hopes she receives an offer that compensates her for the time spent creating the knowledge product and/or presenting the knowledge product.

As for the consumer of the knowledge product, he is taking a gamble that any action plan, output or final product generated by the knowledge creates positive value or profit. The more information the consultant and the purchaser have on the forecasted value of returns on the knowledge, the more accurate the market price for the knowledge.

If anything, we may be in a “learning economy” where consumers are also becoming producers either of their own content or more durable products. The knowledge industry is one of its platforms where knowledge as input is bought and sold.

Opt-in, Opt-out policy appropriate for addressing online privacy

In May 2017, U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn introduced H.R.2520, the Browser Act, a bill designed to provide consumers with some control over the use of their personal information. Specifically, consumers that use broadband access services or websites or applications providing subscription, purchase, account, or search engine services are provided, depending on the sensitivity of personal information, the choice to opt-in or opt-out of policies used by these services to manage consumer information.

For sensitive information, opt-in approval must be expressly granted by the consumer. Sensitive information includes:

  • financial information;
  • health information;
  • information about children under the age of thirteen;
  • social security numbers information;
  • information regarding a consumer’s geo-location;
  • web browsing information: or
  • information on the history of usage of software programs or mobile applications.

Consumers must be provided the opportunity to give opt-out approval for non-sensitive information.

Mrs Blackburn’s intent with the legislation is to equalize broadband access providers and edge content providers under the eyes of the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency responsible for consumer protection and anti-trust law enforcement. In my opinion, this is not a far off from former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler’s goal of openness and transparency throughout the entire internet ecosystem; from consumer to broadband access provider to websites provided by edge providers.

What Mrs Blackburn’s bill also does is address information asymmetries, where edge content providers are viewed as having more knowledge on the value of consumer information that they extract from websites than the consumer does herself. The consumer cannot answer the question, “Is the value of the information I receive from online, x, greater than the value of the information that I give up, p, where that information is private?

It is not readily apparent whether H.R.2520 was also designed to save the consumer from asking this question: ” Why should I pay for an economic good i.e. privacy that isn’t Google’s to sell in the first place?”

Professor Caleb S. Fuller of Grove City College describes privacy as an economic good, something that the consumer wants more of. Most consumers are not willing to pay to protect this good, even though they know that firms like Google are collecting this information for free. For example, according to Professor Fuller’s research, 90% of Google’s users know that their “mouse droppings” are being tracked.While 29% of Google’s users don’t mind being tracked, 71% do. Their reasoning, according to Professor Fuller includes the fear of price discrimination based on their information; the receipt of spam advertising; the risk of identity theft; and the “dis-utility in just not knowing who knows what.”

One equitable solution, in my opinion, would be for Google and other edge providers to pay their subscribers to provide private data. Google could provide an offering schedule based on the sensitivity of the information it wishes to purchase. Consumers would have to consider the value of the privacy they give up in exchange for the value obtained from accessing web content. I wouldn’t expect every consumer to sell their data. Google will wisely set limits on its offers and a significant portion of consumers unable to get a price they want will settle for the old private data for access exchange that they have been conducting for two decades.

The opt-in, opt-out policy mitigates the work that the consumer should put in to determine the value of her data, but gives her the final say over how her private data can be used. Unfortunately this is also the down side where the market won’t be used to truly determine the real value that can be sold.

Social programs. Money laundered through the Great Unwashed

America needs poverty. Poverty eradication proposals are head fakes. America, especially the America that was created right after the Civil War, would not be where it is today without poor people.

Since the industrial revolution, and definitely as America entered the information age in the 1960s, the products designed and built by highly educated, highly paid labor had to be consumed by a large mass of “dependents.” These people are typically wage earners who do not have the capability to be self-sufficient and hold little to no capital. The greater the mass of consumers, the larger the network used to deliver goods. The larger the network to deliver goods means the higher educated, higher paid laborer and entrepreneur faced lower costs for delivering goods.

Emancipation, reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era coincided with the growth of consumerism. The American political economy, not knowing what to do with freed slaves was willing, in lieu of distributing productive capital to them, to turn them into a mass of consumers, with a willing cadre of banks and bond holders willing to launder money through “social welfare” programs.

The food stamp program? An opportunity for bond holders to launder money by financing a program whose clearinghouses are administered by banks.

Affordable housing programs? An opportunity for bond holders to finance the construction of low cost homes with principal and interest guaranteed by taxpayers, many of whom are not in the upper ten percent.

Medicaid and Medicare? Again, bond holders are offered a guarantee that taxpayers will provide a backstop for premium payments while insurance companies collect fees for administering them i.e. WellStar and Medicaid in Georgia.

There is a reason why the poor are referred to as the Great Unwashed. It is because dirty money is laundered through their misery.