Monthly Archives: February 2008

Over at TLF, Tim Lee posts about the InfraGard brouhaha, which started with an article by Matt Rothschild over at the Progressive, and also generated a post over at the Future of Freedom Foundation, a libertarian think tank. When the Progressive and a libertarian think tank both agree something is dangerous, it’s got to be interesting to find out why two so very different groups agree.

I find Tim Lee strangely trusting in his post which says:

Is InfraGard a Privacy Threat?

Gary D. Barnett at the Libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation sounds the alarm about InfraGard, a collaboration between the FBI and private-sector people interested in security. Barnett paints InfraGard as a sinister effort by the FBI to get private information about American citizens.

Jim Lippard has a different perspective, explaining in some detail what InfraGard does, and convincing me, at least, that there’s nothing especially sinister going on. It’s perfectly legitimate for law enforcement to cooperate with the private sector to inform one another of potential security threats. Obviously, companies shouldn’t disclose their customers’ private information without a warrant, but Barnett offers no evidence that companies do that as part of InfraGard. It’s great that Barnett is working to ferret out potential threats to Americans’ privacy, but it looks like he might have raised the alarm prematurely in this case.

I’m surprised Tim seems to trust big government, giving them a ‘free pass’ to create an entity that’s designed to avoid oversight, and is potentially very powerful. And so my response (edited for grammar and clarity) is:

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Cord Blomquist, sometimes e_f Commenter, asks a question over at TLF:

While I agree that Bill Gates ought to be admired for his monumental charitable efforts, can’t we also admire him for being an entrepreneur and creating countless billions in wealth?

He answers his own question thus:

After all, Gates didn’t just create wealth for himself or Microsoft, he’s also made the world a whole lot richer. Like it or not, it was Windows that provided the platform for much of the information revolution, which subsequently created a worldwide economic boom. We shouldn’t relegate this accomplishment to a mere footnote in Mr. Gates’ biography and it’s certainly worth considering the moral implications of that sort of wealth creation.

Note how Cord includes an assumption in his question, i.e., that Bill Gates has created countless billions in wealth. I am not prepared to stipulate agreement with this assumption, so I’ll restate Cord’s question, without the assumption below.

But, leaving aside Cord’s presentation of his argument, let’s look at the substance of what he is saying. The trouble I have with this thinking is that it shows almost zero faith in outcomes provided by authentic market structures and forces, so my response post over at TLF is:

This is a silly argument, for a variety of reasons that should be apparent to anyone with a slight faith in market based outcomes. I’ll just give the single largest example here, and follow up in few days with a post on this misinformation.
Had Microsoft or Windows never existed, another company would have stepped in to fill the market demand for a PC Operating System. So to make the argument that Bill Gates is personally responsible for the wealth creation of the PC revolution doesn’t hold water unless you demonstrate that there was something unique that Bill Gates brought to the table. So, when I bought a PC in 1991 for a construction site office (it was rare at that time, believe it or not) it came preloaded not with windows but PC GEOS, a non-MS product that MS used it’s anti-competitive practices to crush. If a true competitive market for PC Operating System had been part of the regulatory policy at the time (i.e., had MS been quickly enjoined from using it’s anti-competitive practices to first crush PC GEOS and then BEOS) it’s quite probable that we would have had better OS’s faster, due to competitive market forces. Instead, we had MS enrichment, not wealth creation.

Of course there are plenty of other reasons why Cord’s line of reasoning doesn’t make much sense, and he really steps into when he starts comparing Bill Gates to Mother Theresa:

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Well, it took a whole day for wikileaks to be mirrored and redistributed, and now thousands of people are redistributing the wikileaks content. I am happy to say that I am one of them (using peer to peer technology). It would be immoral not to redistribute that content, especially since Julius Baer has tried to suppress the content. the entire site, to get their content taken down.

In any case here is a link to the wikileaks site:

There is a big stink here. There is no reason for the judge to put a lock-down on the whole site. In addition, the DNS attack that has been reported by Wired Magazine seems strange–would a bank pay for a DNS attack? And the fire…?

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As of this evening (December 4th 2010)I could still get wikileaks here:

It seems Julius Baer, the venerable Swiss Bank, has managed to suppress the site wikileaks. The site was a magnet for whistle blowers of all kinds, but now has been taken off-line in USA. The site in India is still on-line, and can be found with a little googling. In any case, just as we’ve observed with the 09 F9 thing, it is nearly impossible to take some piece of information down, and the act of trying to take it down creates a will to replicate that information. Let’s call that the ’09 F9 effect.’ Notice that the Bank does not allege that the documents showing tax evasion and money laundering are forgeries, just that they are confidential. So are there protections for whistle-blowers or not? More later.

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An interesting question asked by a member of Parliament to the EU Commission about those nearly invisible yellow dots that the US government had all of the major printer manufacturers make their printers secretly print out, without the user’s knowledge. Question by Satu Hassi, Green Party Representative from Finland:

Hat tip: EFF deeplinks:

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And these are pounds, not dollars, so it’s real money, that is being withdrawn from mutual funds in the UK, as noted in the Financial Times (credit for the original quote goes to Senator Dirksen although there’s some doubt he actually said it nobody can find the actual quote.. But how much is a Billion dollars anyway?):

Billions taken out of top UK mutual funds
By Ellen Kelleher and Kate Burgess

Published: February 15 2008 22:17 | Last updated: February 15 2008 22:17

Private investors have pulled billions of pounds out of some of the UK’s best-known mutual funds in recent months, in a sign of jitters about the downturn in markets and the economy.

Confidential fund sales data obtained by the Financial Times show the last three months of 2007 were among the worst on record for UK asset managers.

Fidelity suffered a net outflow of £977m from its UK funds in the fourth quarter, ceding its top ranking to Invesco Perpetual.

Standard Life reported net outflow of £492m and Norwich Union of £468m, according to data compiled by a UK fund research group. Outflows for Credit Suisse and Axa Framlington were £575m and £347m respectively.

Lipper Feri compiled the data from figures provided by asset managers. Analysts say heavy outflows continue this year and fund managers expect investors to take more money out if markets remain volatile.

A story about someone secretly taking video inside a slaughterhouse, documenting the mistreatment of cattle. Those who shot the video, probably with a very small camera, seem to have been acting mainly from the perspective of reducing cruelty to animals (certainly a good thing to do) but there is also a public health perspective to this as well:

USDA extends meat ban at Calif slaughterhouse

Westland Meat Co. voluntarily suspended operations last week after the release of undercover video taken by the Humane Society of the United States was released. The video showed, among other things, ramming of cattle with forklifts, and workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing “downed” cows – considered too sick or injured to walk – to force them into the federally inspected slaughterhouse.

“Downed Cows” or “downers” are known to be possible carriers of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy aka Mad Cow Disease) and the few documented case of BSE are perhaps the tip of the iceberg. But remember that when one beef producer wanted to test all of their cows for BSE, the Bush administration sued to prevent them from doing that, on the grounds that if one producer did that they would “disparage” the quality of the rest of the beef. So much for market forces and freedom of the press!

This is just another example, as noted here and here, of the advantages that accrue to those NFP players who are seeking to further the public good under Web 2.0. (Note that those NFP’s that are seeking to further special or corporate interests don’t do so well under Web 2.0, as noted here*.) This is, of course, in addition to the other advantages the NFP sector had already been accruing during the 1990′s which I’ve written about here.

The link to the video and more below the fold:

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Or I should say, everybody will know, a whole lot more about corporate sponsored disinformation campaigns. (But the chance to use a great Leonard Cohen song as a title of my post, I could not pass up.) In any case, the site I’d mentioned earlier, FRONT GROUPS, has a wiki. I think this will take off, especially after hearing about the rule of five: over at the blog Hyperpeople:

Earlier this year, I was privileged to go “on tour” with Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, the founder and public face of Wikipedia, as we crisscrossed the nation, talking to educators in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. Everywhere we went, people asked the same question: why is Wikipedia such a success, while my wiki languishes? What do you need to achieve critical mass? The answer, Jimmy said, is five people. Five individuals dedicated to an altruistic sharing of collective intelligence should be enough to produce a flowering similar to Wikipedia. Jimbo has learned, through experience, that the “minor” language versions of Wikipedia (languages with less than 10 million native speakers), need at least five steady contributors to become self-sustaining. In the many wikis Jimbo oversees through his commercial arm, Wikia, he’s noted the same phenomenon time and again. Five people mark the tipping point between a hobby and a nascent hyperintelligence.

From: Hyperpeople Hat Tip: Global Guerillas

Let’s not forget that web 2.0 places new challenges for those who would repress organizations promoting progressive social change. So when we add together: (1) a very motivated user group, much greater than five in number; (2) the possibilities of Web 2.0, to uncover and distribute secrets that many would like to remain secret and (3) an understanding of any conflict as being primarily about connectivity, a la Col Boyd, it’s my conclusion that those progressive social forces have every likelihood of unleashing the full revolutionary potential of democracy. So this process will grow.

Some interesting stories from the “Did you know?” section of’s wiki:

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