Monday, September 30, 2013

Sooner or Later

Sooner or later, the fubar known as US Healthcare (AKA Obama Care) will eventually become Single Payer as the public will eventually demand that this ongoing travesty be transformed into an efficient, cost effective and open environment with the profit motive removed, able to function as a 21st connected system able to meet the needs of the people at reasonable cost, something not possible with the current system in place given just how complexified healthcare has become due to 

1: The profit motive permeating every aspect of medical (IT, doctors, hospitals, labs, imaging, big pharma & insurance) with the end result of the public paying way too much for services rendered in a system dominated by big pharma and the insurance companies and...

2 : Government Regulatory, where inefficiency rules due to collusion with the insurance companies and significant others rather then acceding to the wishes of the people who want a system like that of H.R. 676 that works for all and not just the privileged few.

To whit.
To add fuel to the fire, Matt Miller, a conservative writer who does op-ed pieces for the Washington Post, has some interesting words to say about the Canadian system. something naysayers in the US don't want to hear about because it's socialistic.

Factoid: Yours truly has good friends in Quebec and Toronto and all agree that their HC system works. In fact, whenever both parties come to the states, they take out temporary insurance to cover any unexpected medical costs that are, in fact, covered under the CA system.

Isn't it about time Single Payer becomes the way to do business regarding all things medical. Makes sense to me.

Addendum: Interesting piece in the NYTimes titled Single Payer, Period where numbers don't lie.

Any questions?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Info-graphic - Big Data

Just found a terrific site displaying the talents of Jacob O'Neal, a gifted designer who knows what tech is all about. Click his info-graphic to get an accurate take on what Big Data is all about. You won't be disappointed. Seen below is an IBM image showing, in this case, the amount of content generated by users of wikipedia edit, something done at grand scale without question.

A visualization created by IBM of Wikipedia edits. At multiple terabytes in size, the text and images of Wikipedia are a classic example of big data.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


BRT talked about Cousera, the first viable MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offering over a year ago, describing this initiative to be disruptive to the max. It seems this modest prediction was correct as this tech is going viral, something , as stated before, truly disruptive to the max, a force that will change higher education forever, which, in this writer's opinion, is a good thing without question. 

Dollars are now bits

Matt Taibbi, like Seymour Hersh, is relentless. Like Hersh, he has never been sued nor has his analysis on all things financial has ever been proven to be false, something yours truly treasures regarding the news as finding reliable sources who understand how the world works at deep level, is becoming ever more difficult given how utterly controlled the so called press is in the age of the web.

In his latest article for Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi reports that Wall Street firms are now making millions in profits off of public pension funds nationwide. "Essentially it is a wealth transfer from teachers, cops and firemen to billionaire hedge funders," Taibbi says. "Pension funds are one of the last great, unguarded piles of money in this country and there are going to be all sort of operators that are trying to get their hands on that money."

Read the transcript and view the video to see why Dollars are now bits.

Friday, September 27, 2013

All the News That's Fit to Print

Seymour Hersh rocks. Ruthless, bull dog tough and relentless, he's a reporter's reporter, an outlier and proud of it, has some strong words about the lack of a real press in America and what should be done about it. To whit

Needless to say, yours truly can't wait to read his upcoming book on national security, something Bush and Obama won't be happy about when it's released later this year. His take on Snowden is spot on.

76 and still being a PITA. Not bad, not bad at all. :)

A Sign of the Times...

This simple chart from Daily Kos says it all in terms of why I like science, something bloviators, religious fanatics and the uneducated think is too difficult to understand as science requires one to question how reality works from the perspective of intellect and open mindedness rather then accepting a pat answer from on high, which conveniently precludes any of the rigor demanded of a discipline as hard edged as science truly is. Adding fuel to the fire is this sad factoid.

Any questions?

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Right to be LEFT ALONE

The right to be left alone, a concept originally coined by David Brin in his prescient Transparent Society work, is systemically being taken apart, not only by the NSA but also the DEA, FBI, CIA and, who knows, the IRS, with complicit assistance from FISA, the secret rubber stamp for 24/7 spying known by its formal nom de plume,  the Foreign Intelligence Court.

In the U.S. these days, privacy is so been-there-done-that.  Just this week, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret outfit that hears only the government side of any argument and has generally been a rubberstamp for surveillance requests, declassified an opinion backing the full-scale collection and retention of the phone records (“metadata”) of American citizens.  That staggering act was, the judge claimed, in no way in violation of the Fourth Amendment or of American privacy.  She also gave us a little peek at corporate courage in our brave new surveillance world, writing that “no holder of records [i.e., telecommunications company] who has received an order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an order.”

That story, like so many others in recent months, arrived thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden about the ever-widening powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), led by a general who, we now know, lives in a world of intergalactic fantasies of power and control out of Star Trek: The Next Generation and once even worked in an Army intelligence war room created by a Hollywood set designer in the style of that show.  As Christopher Calabrese and Matthew Harwood indicate today, however, gigantic as the NSA’s intrusions on privacy might be, they are only part of an uncomfortably large story in which many U.S. agencies and outfits feel free to take possession of our lives in ever more technologically advanced and intrusive ways.

Just this week, in fact, the American Civil Liberties Union (for which both Calabrese and Harwood work) released an important new report on the post-9/11 morphing of the FBI into a “secret domestic intelligence agency.”  In addition to the subterranean surveillance of protesters and religious groups, the Washington Post offered this summary list of the ways in which, according to that report, the Bureau has expanded in the twenty-first century: “The changes highlighted in the report include the FBI’s racial and ethnic mapping program, which allows the FBI to collect demographic information to map American communities by race and ethnicity; the use of secret National Security Letters, which asked for account information from telecommunications companies, financial institutions, and credit agencies and required no judicial approval; warrantless wiretapping; and the recent revelations about the government’s use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act to track all U.S. telephone calls.”

Click on the ACLU graphic to learn how the FBI, under the esteemed Robert Mueller, III, was
transformed into a domestic intelligence and law enforcement agency of unprecedented power and international reach.

The FBI remains widely admired on Capitol Hill and within the Obama administration, despite a record of extraordinary abuse—particularly targeting racial and religious minorities, immigrants, and protest groups under the guise of counterterrorism after 9/11.

The abuse, enabled by a roll-back of post-Watergate intelligence reforms and encouraged by long-standing Justice Department and FBI practices, has subverted internal and external oversight by squelching whistleblowers, imposing and enforcing unnecessary secrecy, and actively misleading Congress and the American people.

Click here to get the complete report, needless to say it will not warm the cockles of your heart.

While reading this, one might say, "I have nothing to hide." and... with undue modesty, yours truly doesn't but that's not the point. The abuse of power and the total lack of safeguards regarding the right to be left alone is, something an amendment, along the lines of the 28th, should be acted upon before it's too late. Just read the first paragraph of 1984 to see why.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Entering the Valley of Death :)

Anyone who has done a presentation has experienced this moment of terror, including me. :)

The Tower of Pisa - in 3D

Novel approaches to solving really difficult problems, i.e. capturing large immovable objects, like the Tower of Pisa, in system to generate accurate 3D models in efficient fashion, never ceases to amaze, somethng CSIRO has done with a spring loaded portable scanner that acts like, in indirect fashion, a large bubble head doll.

Developed by the CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, the Zebedee technology is a handheld 3D mapping system incorporating a laser scanner that sways on a spring to capture millions of detailed measurements of a site as fast as an operator can walk through it. Specialised software then converts the system's laser data into a detailed 3D map.

While the tower's cramped stairs and complex architecture have prevented previous mapping technologies from capturing its interior, Zebedee has enabled the researchers to finally create the first comprehensive 3D map of the entire building.

Seen below is a partial rendering of the Tower. Pretty cool to say the least.

No Question is a Dumb Question...

PHD Comics strikes again because yours truly has been in this situation many years ago. :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Taking the Shot

Zeitgeist, the once in a life time opportunity given to us all to do something significant, might be happening with Iran and the US regarding Iran's nuclear program given the quiet dialog via letters that's been going on between Obama and Iran's newly elect president Hassan Rouhani.

One can only hope given just how catastrophic a war with Iran would be.

Click here to view the NYTimes interactive timeline of Iran's Nuclear program, interesting to say the least. Maybe this is give back for the CIA's action against Mohammad Mossadegh back in 1953.

Addendum: Read the reason why Iran wants to move ahead here. Heartfelt and nuanced, Hassan Rouhani's message should be read by everyone who is concerned about the troubled Iran/US relationship.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Not a Matter of IF but When Unless we change things NOW

We all know what this is but did you know how many times we could have experienced this first hand due the foibles of man vs tech of unimagined power and destruction. I know I didn't, until now.

In Command and Control, Eric Schlosser blows the doors off of secrecy regarding just how precarious our situation truly is, particularly in Pakistan, the country of love and peace situated next door to India and Afghanistan, which happens to have nukes, lots of them and we know nada on how intelligently the Pakistanis are dealing with this monstrous tech.

While reading Schlosser's incredible book, the reality of us chickens living in an aleatory universe, where probabilities rule and how sh*t happpens...always, strikes home. Because of this fact, yours truly thinks it's just a matter of time when the unimaginable becomes reality unless we abolish nuclear weapons because it's not a matter of if but when regarding the quantum universe, forever inhabited by Fortuna, the ever present fickle goddess of fortune & fate. 

Read this, it's the right thing to do.

Addendum: Back in 1961...

Click here to see the actual document in question.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Avoiding the Abyss, for now

Bill Maher makes a lot of sense. Intelligent, funny and above all else, politically savvy, his take on America and its insane approach to the Middle East and Syria is spot on.

New rule: 12 years after 9/11, and amidst yet another debate on whether to bomb yet another Muslim country, America must stop asking the question, "Why do they hate us?" Forget the debate on Syria, we need a debate on why we're always debating whether to bomb someone. Because we're starting to look not so much like the world's policeman, but more like George Zimmerman: itching to use force and then pretending it's because we had no choice.

Now, I'm against chemical weapons, and I don't care who knows it. And there's no doubt a guy like Bashar al-Assad deserves to get blown up: using toxic chemicals on unsuspecting civilians is purely and profoundly evil.

But enough about Monsanto. When it comes to Syria, I do understand the appeal of putting the world on notice that if you use poison gas, the United States of America will personally fuck you up: we will seek out the counsel and support of the entire family of nations, and then, no matter what they say, we will go ahead and fuck you up.

But however valid that argument may be, it is, I believe, outweighed by the fact that we have to stop bombing Muslim countries if we ever want to feel safe from terrorism in our own. The Chemical Weapons Convention is important, but to the jihadi in the street, it just looks like we're always looking for a new reason to bomb them. We keep calling this part of the world a tinderbox - and we keep lighting fires there.

Even worse, bombing seems to be our answer for everything.

Vladimir Putin makes a lot of sense as well in his extraordinary op ed piece in the NYTimes stating why caution, above all else, must be exercised on a situation too dangerous to mess with by bombing Syria instead of trying to get Syria to destroy its chemical weapons by diplomatic means, something that, thank god, may work based on the fact Russia and the US have reached agreement on doing just this.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

Any questions?

Dead End?

Yours truly loves the net. I can honestly say I have been using it since the time of Arpa, phones placed in modem/headsets ( War Games ) and 6 kilobaud data rates, to talk to other geeks about the wonders of an environment years before the advent of Mosaic, the first GUI web browser that was developed, in large part, by the research done by  Tim Berners-Lee @ Cern using the NeXT computer  to create the HTTP protocol that all browsers use to access the web. During this time, we all have seen the tremendous changes, for both good and bad, wrought by the web upon the world at large but it's now under attack by the powers at be, slowly changing this wonderful and wild environment into something Orwell would understand as the start point to 1984.

When looking at this, one sees, courtesy of the net that's under siege, how government, in collusion with big corporations, is trying to change the net in ways that impact us all. The question to ask is, what are we going to do about it? Click here to help stop this nonsense before it's too late, our freedom really does depend on it if we don't.

End of rant.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fair & Balanced

Aljazeera is a breath of fresh air in terms of REAL NEWS. Fair & balanced, terms Fox News uses and abuses, apply here, IMHO, to this new news organization that's rapidly changing how America gets it's news. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Conundrum of too much Data

PHD Comics rocks. Entertaining, concise and spot on, the site never ceases to put a smile on yours truly's face when it comes to the foibles of man and the oftentimes rocky road to attaining, in this case, the elusive Ph.D. The conundrum of too much data and how it applies to the humanities is the topic du jour of this video. Enjoy. 

The Right Approach

Yours truly was browsing Wired and came across this wonderful article titled Let’s Stop Focusing on Shiny Gadgets and Start Using Tech to Empower People, a post about Red Burns, a teacher I really wish I met as her approach to tech is the right one without question.

I used the same approach at Pratt when I as an adjunct professor for 6 years teaching advanced computer graphics to kids getting their masters whereby the student chose their assignment according to the particular design discipline they were in (interior, graphic, packaging etc., etc.) with the only proviso being that said assignment had to be not only professionally done at the highest possible level but also the assignment had to be presented to the class as a whole as designers of all stripes have to do this when pitching a client. Needless to say, the results were astounding because the students used tech as a gateway to enable creativity to come forth on projects of their own choosing. Hopefully I channeled Red when doing this way back in the 80's as it was an experience I hold dear to the cockles of my heart. :)

Friday, September 06, 2013

Project Bullrun

Based on recently released documents courtesy Edward Snowden, it's evident the NSA either knows all or can get access to anything it wants by cracking all the normally used encryption technologies used on the Net as seen by the joint post  from the NY Times and The Guardian.

Seen below is a screen grab of the various types of private communications the NSA can crack. Click the image to learn about the different kinds of encryption we rubes use to "protect" our privacy.

Here is a blurb about Bullrun, the code word used for the top secret NSA decryption program.

I feel better already.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Why We Need Referendums

When looking at this Huffington Post image delineating the public's opposition to, IMHO, a disasterous military operation to be made against Syria, it shows, in spades, why referendums, as per Sweden's model, matter because if we had one today, this fubar would not happen but because we don't, our so called leaders continue to rush to war based on incomplete intel and a false sense of morality, something we lost a long time ago beginning with the removal of Iran's democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 courtesy the CIA. To add fuel to the fire, here is a quote from David Stockman, a person yours truly finds both insightful and entertaining at the same time regarding his take on important issue like finance and, in this case, war. Needless to say, his commentary on this totally unnecessary act of folly is most interesting to say the least.

Pat Buchanan's analysis is also apt. 

Click on the graphic to get information about the War of Jenkins' Ear, another totally needless military action lasting 9 years from 1739 - 1748 between Great Britain & Spain to encourage the Spanish not to renege on the lucrative asiento contract (permission to sell slaves in Spanish America).

Birds of Paradise

Evolution writ large. Enjoy

Monday, September 02, 2013

Sunday, September 01, 2013