The “Database State”

This database state we’re building is a unique and especially pernicious threat. It’s completely arbitrary.

Before, it was simple: there were clear laws. Some things were illegal, everything else was permitted. You do something illegal (even if it shouldn’t be) and get caught, you get a public record. The chain of cause and effect sometimes had cruel effects but it was rational even when it was wrong.

Now, you buy a video-game while Muslim… you get a record. It’s irrational AND wrong. There’s no logic to it. There’s no way to refute it. We are faced with an inhuman monstrosity that absolutely nobody whatsoever has control over. The bureaucracy has spiraled out of all human control and it will not stop. “Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to worry about.” Except, someone will misuse it. Someone untrustworthy will be granted access. There will be a mistake, a leak even.

The data will be used in ways that were not intended. Credit files are already used this way, to make employment, insurance and housing decisions. They’re not supposed to be but they are. This will be the same way.

Nothing could kill western liberal democracy. There is no force on earth that could destroy it from the outside. The suspicious heterodox dudes with videogames couldn’t do it. Even a sustained attack by a powerful nation-state could not do it. But it can commit suicide. It won’t even take very long.

Islamic State

Americans are not really thinking. They suppose we can just bomb IS into oblivion, maybe send in a few commandos. In reality it would be extraordinarily bloody and prolonged urban combat.

There would be lots of youtube clips of U.S. sons and daughters burning alive in cages. And it would all be for nothing. Four years later I.S. would have been replaced by something else in the same way IS replaced Al Qaeida, after we destroyed it and stepped into the power vacuum after we toppled the Hussein dictatorship.

The bombs and soldiers can’t obliterate the underlying social and economic reasons that movements like IS have purchase. People join the Islamic State militancy or tolerate its presence in their communities because these countries we see on maps hardly exist.

Their borders are fictitious colonial remnants. There are little in the way of state institutions, law has no force, bribery and corruption are endemic, the economy is choked, property is worthless, red-tape is everywhere, justice is wanting, the people have no voice, education is unattainable, truth is weak. They despair of their lives.

This is what must be banished. You don’t have to bomb IS, you have to deprive it of a political leg to stand on. You need political and economic development, secular state-building, legal reforms, a market economy which is fair and well policed. You need a dream of prosperity and a reality of brightened prospects. You need aspiration. You need a middle class.

Unfortunately, Congress has no idea how to do any of that.

Net Neutrality

So there’s all this talk now about Title II and how the FCC is going to force Net Neutrality and we’re going to have the Intertubez flow with milk and honey and blah-dee-blah.

BULLSHIT

We don’t need net neutrality, we need competition. To get competition we need local-loop/last-mile un-bundling. If we had that, prices (which are spectacularly high compared to similar countries) would plummet and competitive pressures would render ‘paid prioritization’ dead in the water. There wouldn’t even be a need for N.N. in the first place because it’s the very lack of these pressures that puts the carriers in the position to extort such schemes.

Wheeler’s plan is secretly a good deal for the cable cabal. They have to eschew a revenue stream, yes, but their monopoly status isn’t going to be challenged,

Brian Williams II

I do not think BriWi will, in the end, survive. The economics of TV news and the increasingly unpredictable finances of the networks mean that they keep doing news in part for reasons of prestige and you cannot be a prestigious prevaricator, no matter how fun that phrase is to say out-loud. If he does, and there is a non-zero chance he will, it will be the final crowning proof that the public are actively rejecting their civic duty to take news seriously and consume it critically and responsibly so they can make good democratic choices. I’m not sure that needs any additional proving at this point but there you have it.

Brian Williams I

Should BriWi go away? It’s not as easy a question as it sounds. Obviously, his credibility has been seriously tarnished but is that a necessary skill for his job? When was the last time anyone took the Main Evening News shows seriously? The format was already on the way out way back in 2004 when it was hit by the 1-2-3 sucker-punch of the death, retirement and discrediting of Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. It never recovered. What difference would it make if he did go? It would not make NBC Nightly News matter again, there is no force on heaven or earth that could do that.