5/20/11

Some Recent Headlines that Should've Gotten More Attention

Banks Taking Out Insurance on Your Life

Maybe you heard the old joke about life insurance. When you purchase life insurance, you say, "I bet I'll die." The insurance company says, "we bet you won't." You bet anyway and pray they're right.

Well, now the banks want to bet too. According to Bloomberg,

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), which bundled and sold billions of dollars of mortgage loans, now want to help investors bet on people’s deaths.

War

The National Defense Authorization Bill has a provision tucked away in it that authorizes, in the ACLU's words "a worldwide war." "Essentially, it would enable the U.S. to use military force anywhere in the world (including within the U.S.) in search of terrorists." One congressman complained (John Garamendi, a Democrat from California) and promised a debate on the House floor.

A search on Google News didn't reveal any mainstream articles about the bill. The war on terror is a metaphor, like the war on drugs or the war on poverty. Unfortunately, we've made the metaphor literal via invasions of three countries and lots of money down the tubes. Wars against metaphors can never be won because there is no party, group, or country that can surrender. What this means is endless worldwide war.

Freedom of Speech

Bill Clinton wants to censor the internet. He thinks that the US government or the United Nations should create an internet agency that corrects misinformation and quashes rumors online. In effect, he wants a Department of Truth.

You should be worried if you believe in the so called "marketplace of ideas" theory of free speech rights first formulated by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919. The theory states that the competition of ideas, through open and free debate, is how people should formulate their opinions. The best idea, like the best product, will flourish, while the worst ideas will die. The question is, basically, should the government decide what is true for you, or should you be able to decide for yourself?

While Clinton will likely never hold public office again, what he says matters because he shares views with those who are in power. For example, Cass Sunstein, Obama's communications czar, proposed
that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites -- as well as other activist groups -- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories" about the Government.  This would be designed to increase citizens' faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. (From Salon.)
What's a false conspiracy? It could be anything. The government just has to deem it so. That the earth is round, that the planets orbit the sun and not the earth were once deemed false by those who were in power because it served their interests.

You think that this is farfetched and you're safe? The US already manipulates foreign social media. What about in the US? Here's an example. According to Google,
YouTube occasionally receives requests from governments around the world to remove content from our site, and as a result, YouTube may block specific content in order to comply with local laws in certain countries.
 Just how many requests do they "occasionally" receive? No one knows, but the number of government requests for user data might give us an approximation. Have you ever come upon a video or article on the web that was blocked because "this content is not available in your country due to a government removal request"? We'll probably see this more and more, as people like Senator Lieberman want the government to be able to shut down the internet if it so chooses. For example, it has been claimed that people in the UK can't watch this video. (If you're in Britain, please confirm by emailing me or with a comment.)



Privacy

Indiana's supreme court recently overturned a common law dating back to the 1200s which recognized the right of the people to resist illegal entry by the police. A number of similar rulings in other courts, including the Supreme Court of the US, are very concerning.

Many people are of the view (in my opinion it's a mindless slogan used to cut off all thought and debate) that "if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about." If you hold this view, I have a few questions for you.

Is it okay if I enter your house so I can watch you? May I watch you in the shower? May I set up cameras and other recording devices so I can see what you do during the day? May I shuffle through your documents and wardrobe? May I look at all your photographs? May I read your diary? May I read your email and listen in on your phone conversations?

Why wouldn't you want me to do any of these things? Is it because you're doing something wrong? If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Right?

Wikinvest Wire