Monday, May 12, 2014

Going Fishing...

Dear Readers,

I'm about to take a new position on May 22nd, and so will be going offline for the next year.

I do hope to be back online after it wraps up on May 23rd, 2015…tanned, rested, and ready.

In the meantime, thank you for reading this blog, and all the best to all our readers over the coming 12 months.

Sincerely,
Laurence Jarvik

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

NYPL Saved From Vandals!

http://observer.com/2014/05/nypl-dumps-much-maligned-42nd-street-renovation-plan/


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/arts/design/public-library-abandons-plan-to-revamp-42nd-street-building.html?_r=0

The NY Times reports:

"Mr. de Blasio had expressed skepticism about the library’s renovation plan during the mayoral campaign and recently met with Mr. Marx to discuss his views on the project.

"This shift is something of a defeat for the library, which had long defended its plan against a roster of prominent scholars and authors who said the introduction of the circulating library in the research building would diminish its capacities as a center for scholarship.

"The library had heralded the renovation as part of a significant new chapter in the library’s effort to rethink its physical plant in preparation for a digital future in which public access to computers would become as important as books.

"Several factors contributed to the library’s decision: a study that showed the cost of renovating the 42d Street building to be more than expected (the project had originally been estimated at about $300 million); a change in city government; and input from the public, several trustees said. (Four lawsuits have been filed against the project.)

"Scholars and others objected to the plan in part because it required the books in the stacks to be moved to New Jersey — which could cause delays in retrieving them — and many questioned the cost as vague and wasteful. Under the new plan, all of the books will remain on site; the library has found a way to free up additional space in its storage area under Bryant Park."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Down the Memory Hole by Peter Van Buren

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren


...However, blocking and redirecting technologies, which are bound to grow more sophisticated, will undoubtedly be the least of it in the future. Google is already taking things to the next level in the service of a cause that just about anyone would applaud. They are implementing picture-detection technology to identify child abuse photographs whenever they appear on their systems, as well as testing technology that would remove illegal videos. Google’s actions against child porn may be well intentioned indeed, but the technology being developed in the service of such anti-child-porn actions should chill us all. Imagine if, back in 1971, the Pentagon Papers, the first glimpse most Americans had of the lies behind the Vietnam War, had been deletable. Who believes that the Nixon White House wouldn’t have disappeared those documents and that history wouldn’t have taken a different, far grimmer course?Or consider an example that’s already with us. In 2009, many Kindle owners discovered that Amazon had reached into their devices overnight and remotely deleted copies of Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 (no irony intended). The company explained that the books, mistakenly “published” on its machines, were actually bootlegged copies of the novels. Similarly, in 2012, Amazon erased the contents of a customer’s Kindle without warning, claiming her account was “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies.” Using the same technology, Amazon now has the ability to replace books on your device with “updated” versions, the content altered. Whether you are notified or not is up to Amazon.
In addition to your Kindle, remote control over your other devices is already a reality. Much of the software on your computer communicates in the background with its home servers, and so is open to “updates” that can alter content. The NSA uses malware — malicious software remotely implanted into a computer — to change the way the machine works. The Stuxnet code that likely damaged 1,000 centrifuges the Iranians were using to enrich uranium is one example of how this sort of thing can operate.
These days, every iPhone checks back with headquarters to announce what apps you’ve purchased; in the tiny print of a disclaimer routinely clicked through, Apple reserves the right to disappear any app for any reason. In 2004, TiVo sued Dish Network for giving customers set-top boxes that TiVo said infringed on its software patents. Though the case was settled in return for a large payout, as an initial remedy, the judge ordered Dish to electronically disable the 192,000 devices it had already installed in people’s homes. In the future, there will be ever more ways to invade and control computers, alter or disappear what you’re reading, and shunt you to sites weren’t looking for.
Snowden’s revelations of what the NSA does to gather information and control technology, which have riveted the planet since June, are only part of the equation. How the government will enhance its surveillance and control powers in the future is a story still to be told. Imagine coupling tools to hide, alter, or delete content with smear campaigns to discredit or dissuade whistleblowers, and the power potentially available to both governments and corporations becomes clearer.
The ability to move beyond altering content into altering how people act is obviously on governmental and corporate agendas as well. The NSA has already gathered blackmail data from the digital porn viewing habits of “radical” Muslims. The NSA sought to wiretap a Congressman without a warrant. The ability to collect information on Federal judges, government leaders, and presidential candidates makes J. Edgar Hoover’s 1950s blackmail schemes as quaint as the bobby socks and poodle skirts of that era. The wonders of the Internet regularly stun us. The dystopian, Orwellian possibilities of the Internet have, until recently, not caught our attention in the same way. They should.
Read This Now, Before It’s DeletedThe future for whistleblowers is grim. At a time not so far distant, when just about everything is digital, when much of the world’s Internet traffic flows directly through the United States or allied countries, or through the infrastructure of American companies abroad, when search engines can find just about anything online in fractions of a second, when the Patriot Act and secret rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court make Google and similar tech giants tools of the national security state (assuming organizations like the NSA don’t simply take over the search business directly), and when the sophisticated technology can either block, alter, or delete digital material at the push of a button, the memory hole is no longer fiction.
Leaked revelations will be as pointless as dusty old books in some attic if no one knows about them. Go ahead and publish whatever you want. The First Amendment allows you to do that. But what’s the point if no one will be able to read it? You might more profitably stand on a street corner and shout at passers by. In at least one easy-enough-to-imagine future, a set of Snowden-like revelations will be blocked or deleted as fast as anyone can (re)post them.
The ever-developing technology of search, turned 180 degrees, will be able to disappear things in a major way. The Internet is a vast place, but not infinite.  It is increasingly being centralized in the hands of a few companies under the control of a few governments, with the U.S. sitting on the major transit routes across the Internet’s backbone.
About now you should feel a chill. We’re watching, in real time, as 1984 turns from a futuristic fantasy long past into an instructional manual. There will be no need to kill a future Edward Snowden. He will already be dead.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.6TyabClo.dpuf

Friday, April 25, 2014

Daniel Greenfield: The Blair Doctrine | FrontPage Magazine

The Blair Doctrine | FrontPage Magazine



In his speech, Blair argues that reactionary Islamic rule is the problem, rather than mere tyranny. It’s a shift that invalidates the entire political Islam movement behind the Arab Spring. And for all the many ways that he covers his tracks, subdividing Islam from Islamism, he does hold a nearly firm line on Islamic rule. That is a rarity in a world order which had come to embrace political Islam as the future.
And yet Blair’s speech isn’t really that revolutionary. It’s a reaction to current events such as the degeneration of Erdogan’s Turkey, once used by Western diplomats as a model of Muslim democracy, into a brutal tyranny whose abuses the world is no longer able to ignore, the collapse of the Arab Spring and the failure of elections to bring peace to the religious conflicts in the Muslim world.
The establishment parties and pundits have had little to say about it. The Obama-Romney foreign policy debate has been largely mirrored across the ocean in Europe. Widely hated by his own party, Blair has little to lose by offering a shift that seems very mild, while explaining the failures of the past 15 years in terms of a new paradigm. It’s much more graceful than Cameron’s episodes of unconvincingly bellicose rhetoric, to say nothing of his opposite number, and yet for all its shortcomings, it’s also very promising.
If religious freedom replaces democracy as the metric by which we judge Muslim countries, if we put as much effort into protecting the rights of minorities as we did into promoting elections, we will finally be on the right track. And even if we accomplish little, the metric effectively blocks the political ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various front groups.
And that is no small thing.
The Blair Doctrine, while paying ample lip service to the peaceful nature of Islam, would block the rise of Islamic political parties. It would make pluralism into the new democracy and “religious extremism” into the new tyranny. It would be far less interested in majority rule elections and far more cognizant of protecting the diversity of political and religious expression.
It would apply the very metrics that the modern left insists on applying to the West, but refuses to apply to the Third World, to the Muslim world.
Republicans could do worse than put copies of the speech into the hands of presidential candidates still mumbling confused nonsense about the region. Blair offers much of the same rhetoric, but with a clear focus on the lack of religious freedom. If Romney had been operating from the Blair Doctrine, he might have been able to put forward a polished and reasonable worldview in the debate.
There are plenty of things wrong with Blair’s speech. He believes the Saudis are reformers, that the Palestinian Arabs want peace and that the issue isn’t Islam as a religion. But he is also surprisingly honest about Egypt, Syria and Libya; and about the links between Islamic power and violence.
And the Blair Doctrine’s shift from democracy to religious freedom could fundamentally change our relationship with the Muslim world.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tony Blair's Clash of Civilizations Speech


Money quote:
...Finally, we have to elevate the issue of religious extremism to the top of the agenda. All over the world the challenge of defeating this ideology requires active and sustained engagement. Consider this absurdity: that we spend billions of $ on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems and in civic institutions of the very countries with whom we have intimate security and defence relationships. Some of those countries of course wish to escape from the grip of this ideology. But often it is hard for them to do so within their own political constraints. They need to have this issue out in the open where it then becomes harder for the promotion of this ideology to happen underneath the radar. In other words they need us to make this a core part of the international dialogue in order to force the necessary change within their own societies. This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st C turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures.
If we do not act, then we will start to see reactions against radical Islam which will then foster extremism within other faiths. Indeed we see some evidence of this already directed against Muslims in Asia particularly.
When we consider the defining challenges of our time, surely this one should be up there along with the challenge of the environment or economic instability. Add up the deaths around the world now – and even leave out the theatre of the Middle East – and the toll on human life is deplorable. In Nigeria recently and Pakistan alone thousands are now dying in religiously inspired conflict. And quite apart from the actual loss of life, there is the loss of life opportunities for parts of the population mired in backward thinking and reactionary attitudes especially towards girls.
On this issue also, there is a complete identity of interest between East and West. China and Russia have exactly the same desire to defeat this ideology as do the USA and Europe. Here is a subject upon which all the principal nations of the G20 could come together, could agree to act, and could find common ground to common benefit. An international programme to eradicate religious intolerance and prejudice from school systems and informal education systems and from organisations in civic society would have a huge galvanising effect in making unacceptable what is currently ignored or tolerated.
So there is an agenda here in part about the Middle East and its importance; and in part about seeing what is happening there in the context of its impact on the wider world.
This is why I work on the Middle East Peace Process; why I began my Foundation to promote inter-faith dialogue. Why I will do all I can to help governments confronting these issues.
Consider for a moment since 9/11 how our world has changed, how in a myriad of different ways from the security measures we now take for granted to the arenas of conflict that have now continued over a span of years, there is a price being paid in money, life and opportunity for millions. This is not a conventional war. It isn't a struggle between super powers or over territory. But it is real. It is fearsome in its impact. It is growing in its reach. It is a battle about belief and about modernity. It is important because the world through technology and globalisation is pushing us together across boundaries of faith and culture. Unaddressed, the likelihood of conflict increases. Engagement does not always mean military involvement. Commitment does not mean going it alone. But it does mean stirring ourselves. It does mean seeing the struggle for what it is. It does mean taking a side and sticking with it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Terrence O. Moore: Indiana's Schlocky Common Core Standards

http://www.libertylawsite.org/2014/04/21/losing-our-stories-losing-the-regime/
The loss of great literature in the schools and its replacement with something that is manifestly not great—and is meant in fact to put an end to the very idea of greatness—is no academic matter. As Plato taught us long ago, whoever controls the stories, what today we call “the narrative,” of any society, will inevitably control the society. If we give up our stories, we lose our surest means of teaching young people what is truly good and true and beautiful; we lose the best way of teaching them how to be human. Should we give that up because self-appointed educational experts apparently don’t know how to talk about a great book when it is put in front of them?
Call me old-fashioned, but it seems to me that if you were having a statewide discussion about education you would have to talk about books. Moreover, if the subject you were discussing was what used to be called English (now known by the horrendous acronym ELA), the debate would be over Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe and other worthy storytellers and poets whose stories should fill our imaginations and whose words should be etched in our hearts. You would have to offer some indication, some hint, as to what great books are about: love, hope, despair, heroism, victory, in short, human life.
Such a conversation has certainly not taken place over the last few weeks in Indiana, as “Technical Teams” and “Evaluation Teams” have rushed to copy and paste and slightly re-word the Common Core in order to produce the Hoosier state’s “new” college- and career-ready standards. Far from having a conversation about real learning, the only thing the educational establishment in charge of this charade has talked about is “the process” of coming up with new standards.
It has produced a document that would guide schools in the teaching of English yet omits the likes of Shakespeare or Austen or Poe. The reason is that those responsible for re-crafting English standards in Indiana do not really care about great literature; nor do they show much concern for the English language. They certainly have not recognized that the primary innovation of the Common Core English Standards has been to take great literature out of English classes and to replace it with a combination of largely forgettable and often biased “informational texts” and depressing post-modern schlock that no child should ever read.
So they haven’t fixed anything. The school children of Indiana remain vulnerable to the mind-numbing, soul-shrinking, imagination-stifling, story-killing mandates of the Common Core.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Fool's! (not)

http://wemeantwell.com/blog/2014/03/31/state-department-spends-400000-of-your-money-on-sculpture/

 Peter Van Buren reports on WeMeantWell.com:

 Your Department of State spent $400,000 of taxpayer money on a piece of sculpture called “Camel Contemplating Needle” for the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The sculpture weighs 500 pounds. The written justification for not putting the project out for competitive bidding includes a cut ‘n paste from Wikipedia about the artist. The State Department says that the sculpture meets the “values of a predominantly Muslim country.” The price paid, $400,000 of your money, included crating of the sculpture. The photo above is the actual $400,000 sculpture. These are the people in charge. That is all.

- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/blog/2014/03/31/state-department-spends-400000-of-your-money-on-sculpture/#sthash.PRsRf24J.dpuf