March 26, 2011

Family Entertainment

(Thanks, Ben!) Good comments at YouTube; e.g., "What led up to this? Clearly the man in the white robe is a wizard, who's somehow brought the wooden family from inside a German cuckoo clock to life, and has forced them through sorcery to sing and dance about his incontinence issues," and "Westboro Baptist Church: THE MUSICAL!"

March 19, 2011

Student Thwarts Facial Recognition Software

"CV Dazzle" is based on the original camouflage from WWI and targets automated face detection and recognition systems by altering the contrast and spatial relationship of key facial features.

By Adam Harvey; more info at (Thanks, Ben! Note: looks like you have to cut your bangs funny, too.)

March 18, 2011

About Anonymous

I'm still seeing a lot of confusion about what Anonymous is.

During the last several months, Anon constituencies have been most active in organizing peaceful online protests against services like MasterCard, Visa, and Bank of America (which are attempting to strangle Wikileaks financially) and in supporting the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East. For example, when Mubarek shut down most Egyptians' access to the internet, Anons provided critical help to the Egyptian people by creating and publicizing alternative means of access and other communications.

Part of the problem is that there have been both overt and covert disinformation campaigns going on about the Anons (as well as about Julian Assange and Wikileaks). E.g., during the Anons' DDoS "sit-in" against MasterCard, a rumor was spread that they'd actually hacked the site and had published a bunch of individuals' MasterCard account information. This was a fabrication; in fact, someone had published a list of account numbers that bore no relation to any actual accounts, in a deliberate effort to smear the Anons.

More recently, per The Guardian: "US spy operation that manipulates social media: Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda." And there's no reason to believe that the disinfo efforts uncovered so far are the only ones.

The Anons are at least as diverse as any other large group of people and certainly include pranksters. But the majority seem almost poignantly altruistic; and I believe the results of their major operations have been helpful. Before you accept as true anything about or purporting to be from Anonymous, please check it against a trusted Anonymous news source. For info about the known, "legit" operations, see AnonNews or AnonOps Communications. Other sites have existed but have been taken down; new ones continually arise; again, please use caution re- the source.

Here are a couple of legit Anonymous videos. In the first, they describe themselves and their general purposes. In the second, they describe one of their more recently-launched operations.

March 16, 2011

Isao Hashimoto's "1945-1998" Maps Nuclear Explosions

"Ten Things You Need to Know About the Infowar"

Or, Are We in Post-Reality Yet?

The full essay with links to sources and more is here. (To comment on it, please return to this post and click here or on "comments," below.)

Here's the précis:

1. A balance of power requires a balance of information. In the US and elsewhere, we've developed a serious imbalance, in that governments and big businesses know everything about us, and we know less and less about them.

2. What's new about Wikileaks is that it may be the first instance of an institutional system that confers the power that comes from the revelation of secrets on the people rather than their rulers. The potential to help restore the balance of knowledge and thus the balance of power between the oligarchs and the rest of us constitutes what I've called as the most important effect of Wikileaks' revelations.

3. The infowar strategy of exposing the secrets of corrupt regimes (which I call, the "Exposure Strategy"), as described by Julian Assange, is three-pronged:
(a) It gives us the opportunity to redress previously hidden injustices;
It tends to deter injustices in the first place by heightening the likelihood and
thus the fear of exposure;
It tends to weaken corrupt organizations by prompting them to tighten security, thus lowering their
own computational I.Q.

4. The counter to the Exposure Strategy is "public relations," which uses our most primitive emotions and drives in order to induce us to disregard truth and to act against our own best interests, at least up to an as-yet-not-fully-understood point. When p.r. is deployed successfully, the truth simply no longer matters; it's as if we've been immunized against it. And note that, to the extent "public relations" is effective, it neutralizes all three prongs of the Exposure Strategy; i.e.,
(a) Injustices exposed need not be investigated, prosecuted, or corrected;
(b) Future injustices are therefore not particularly deterred;
(c) Corrupt organizations need not tighten their security, and thus can avoid having to lower their own
computational I.Q.

5. How far p.r. prevails over the Exposure Strategy will provide an important indication of the extent to which we now live in Post-Reality.

6. Computers are the new guns; but an infowar is not just a war using information as ammunition; it is a struggle between old and new power structures over who will control access to information.

7. The infowar is in essence a class war over knowledge as a form of wealth. As a corollary, information is a commodity for which there are markets that are (absent effective regulation) manipulable.

8. Greater transparency maximizes efficiency and profits for a group as a whole, but individuals within the group profit most when they're not transparent while others in the group are.

9. So long as a system as a whole remains mostly transparent, it's a more-than-zero-sum game; but where transparency has sufficiently deteriorated, the competition among "players" devolves into a race to see who can loot the most the fastest, even if valuable resources are wasted in the process.

10. By virtue of the internet, humanity is (again) on the verge of a potential transition from a system in which powerful elites exploit the governed in a less-than-zero sum game, to a more transparent, collaborative, more-than-zero-sum game system. If the system as a whole remains mostly transparent, the growth in mankind's collective intelligence and well-being may be about to explode. But this beneficial effect could be retarded, perhaps even partially prevented, if we fail to protect the internet and facilities like Wikileaks from those who seek to control them.

More here.

March 13, 2011

Anonymous's Next Campaign: "Operation Empire State"

As summarized by Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge,

The world's most (in)famous hacker group – Anonymous – known for effectively shutting down their hacking nemesis security firm (with clients such as Morgan Stanley and, unfortunately for them, Bank of America) – HBGary, advocating the cause of Wikileaks, and the threat made by one of its members that evidence of fraud by Bank of America will be released on Monday, has just launched communication #1 in its Operation "Empire State Rebellion." The goal: engage in "a relentless campaign of non-violent, peaceful, civil disobedience" until Ben Bernanke steps down and the "Primary Dealers within the Federal Reserve banking system be broken up and held accountable for rigging markets and destroying the global economy . . . ."

From uberlad: What was the world like before Anonymous and Wikileaks? Shoot. All we had back then was Jon Stewart. #OpESR

For details re- the Operation, see Zero Hedge; or you can see an Anon's announcement on YouTube.

The Great Dictator

Charlie Chapman was Anonymous:

The Great Dictator (1940) is a comedy film written, directed, produced by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. It was his first true talking picture as well as his most commercially successful film.

March 12, 2011

Tractorcade in Madison

Farmers joined other protesters today to protest Governor Walker's coup against the people.

More photos here.

Japan Quake Triggered by Solar Flare?

On Wed., March 9, at 5:23 pm CST, a Class X1.5 solar flare erupted, "one of the most powerful types of flares," "letting loose a wave of charged particles . . . aimed straight at Earth" (Yahoo News).

On Thurs., at 12:30 am CST, the coronal mass ejection hit Earth's magnetic field (NASA). Thurs. night, Northern Lights were visible in Canada and the Northern US (I'm not sure about elsewhere) (id.; image right taken near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada by Zoltan Kenwell; click on it for a beautifully bigger version).

On Fri., at 11:46 am CST, an 8.9 earthquake struck near Japan ( It is Japan's largest quake and the 6th largest in the world since seismic records began (British Geological Survey).

NASA has previously stated that "they have found a close link between electrical disturbances on the edge of our atmosphere and impending quakes on the ground below" (BBC) (see also this abstract of an article in the American Geophysical Union).

March 10, 2011

What's in Spock's Scanner

Ok, I'm a bit of a Trekkie.

March 9, 2011

Ten Things You Need to Know About the Infowar

I'm working on an essay to put flesh on these bones, but wanted to get this out there without further delay. The essay will have lots of links to sources, plus images.

UPDATE: The guts of this post has been moved here.

March 7, 2011

WikiLeaks: Why It Matters. Why It Doesn't?

This video has been around for a few months and is long, but it's very good – I'm not aware of a better summation of many of the issues involved (I just went back to it as a source for an essay I'm working on). If you can't make it through the whole thing, my faves were the moderator, Paul Jay; Neville Roy Singham; and every bit of Daniel Ellsberg (including his comments near the end).

UPDATE 2011-03-07: Greg Mitchell celebrates his 100th day of blogging the WL story today with an article on his top Cablegate revelation picks; see also Kevin Gosztola's top 100 leaks in 100 tweets.

March 3, 2011

Ten Artists Who Use Video Games as Their Medium

Nine more at Flavorwire.

Breast Milk Ice Cream Banned

"Ice cream made from [human] breast milk was banned from London gourmet shop The Icecreamists, based on a complaint regarding a perceived health risk. The mother’s milk was screened at a leading medical clinic, pasteurized, and then served in a martini glass with lemon zest and vanilla for about $22.50."

More at Bust. What's next? (At right, Takashi Murakami, My Lonesome Cowboy, 1998.)

Last Word