Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Patience Overshoot Day

According to a think tank populated with under worked academics, today, August 20th, 2013. We pass the ecological landmark that predicts that we have now used more resources this year than the earth can provide in a year.  This announcement is supposed fill you with fear, and make you want to buy a Prius.

I don't feel this fear. But I do wonder how much of these resources they are so worried about are being consumed making these predictions.
The Earth is Closed

Let's assume for a second that the earth is a closed system. And just to be clear, in a closed system, nothing gets out.  Water, that runs down your drain, is not lost forever into the void. It goes on a journey from your sink, into streams and rivers, ultimately into oceans.  Where it then evaporates, becomes clouds, that make rain, that is collected and used to provide water for you to pour down your drain. (And so it continues. Forever.)

So, to believe that we can use more resources than the earth has, is like thinking that we can drink all of the water. Or breath all of the air.  It doesn't really work. It can only make us afraid of the darkness.

I am not afraid of this darkness. I fight it by turning on the light. (And I use an incandescence bulb when I do. None of those LEDs or compact florescents for me.)  So, what are these resources we are using up with such abandon?

Yes, guessed it. Our friends at the Footprint Network are talking about CO2.  They are talking about our Carbon consumption, because we need to be afraid of the most fundamental building block of life. The thing that makes the plant grow, puts food on the table, and gas in your car. The evil beyond evil.  That substance that you exhale whenever you breath.

If you have been following along, you will know by now that I don't put a lot of stock in the CO2 scare tactics.  I have two major problems with it.

1st problem. 

I haven't met a Global Warming argument that I can't poke holes in. (This means I am either very smart. Or that I haven't found the right arguments.) If I can poke holes in these arguments, this means I am no persuaded by them. And they either need more evidence, data, and facts that can be verified, or its a lie and I need to fight it. (Professor Demming adds 24/hrs of sunshine a day in his calculations of the green house affect on the surface of the earth. Yes the sun does shine all day long, but not on the same surface.  And now we have half (or less) of the energy absorption necessary to increase the temperature as is predicted by his equations.)

It doesn't take many simple errors like this before the tale of global lukewarming sounding like the tale of chicken little when the sky fell. 

2nd Problem.

The arguments are presented not as science, but as behavioral imperatives. Environmental 'scientists' don't just tell us the facts, they are advising behavior like buying a certain car, or adopting a certain life style, or outlawing certain products and technologies.

A scientist says, "eating french fries causes weight gain in 7 our of 10 cases."  A fake science evangelist says, "French fries cause obesity, we should outlaw them or make them really hard for people to get so they will make better choices."  I examine what the scientist says, and I mock what the fake science evangelist says. Its just the way I am.

Party Time

So I am going to celebrate tonight.  I am going to crank up the AC on my house, and then head out for a long drive in my SUV.  Maybe stop and get an conspicuously large meal with a 32oz drink.  And top it all off with an attempt to add even more humans to our 'over populated' planet. (Because I am always looking for excuses to celebrate.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Connect the Dots Surveillance

I have nothing to hide. So I should not fear aggressive data collection and surveillance. Right?

Well if I had reasonable trust that the data would only be used to find real threats, I might be. Or if I had reasonable trust that an abuse of the data would not bankrupt me and send me to jail, I might be.

But I'm not.

Here are the dots.

1. Big Brother gathers the metadata of your communication. Metadata, is the data about your data. So they don't listen to your call, of read your email. The just gather who you are calling, and how often. And they put this data in the database with all the others, and mine it for patterns.

Doing this, Big Brother can create a terrorist communication profile. And just like any other profiling technique, identify likely threats. Then they can get authorization to tap phone and read email.

I think this is a great use of technology.

Is powerful.

And accurate.

2. Everything, and everyone has a profile. Terrorists have a profile. And bankers have a profile. Serial killers have a profile. And soccer moms have a profile. And in order to make a profile to catch the bad guy, you also have to build the profile to identify the good guy.

This means there are profiles for potential republican voters. And democratic voters. And donors. And organizers.

There are profiles for people that are likely to buy a car this year. Or a house. Or a new computer.

All you have to do to find these people, is have enough data. And have the profile to filter out the targets.

3. There is no check on the use of this data. Anyone in power, with the authority to ask, can ask for people that match any profile. There is nothing to stop them. And they don't have to tell anyone they retrieved the list.

If a senator asks for a budget estimate from the CBO, its public record. But if he asks for a list of names of people likely to donate to his competitor in the next election, no one will ever know.

4. It is a fact that the IRS targeted people for audit based on political information. This kind of attack is expensive for those that receive them. And almost impossible to defend against.

There are other ways to damage your political opponents if you can identify them early and silently. Damage those that support them, and you have silenced political opposition.

5. Now ask yourself, "Is there anyone in government, now or in the future that would target me, or people like me, for something that I do or might do, if they had this type of data at their fingertips?"

When you answer "Yes" you have joined the group of people that don't like the NSA surveillance program.