Videos from Boston CryptoParty Available

The Boston CryptoParty was a success with over 50 people
participating in it.  We recorded most of the talks, but haven't
processed them all.  The following are done:

Additionally, raw videos from a number of the talks are at the Tor Project.

Fragile Interconnected Complex Systems

Yves Smith has a post about how Sandy continues to disrupt NYC and how fragile complex systems are.  Now this wouldn’t be a surprise to folks reading The Oil Drum, but should be a wake up call to everyone else as the planet warms because of our own stupidity and greed. As we build systems that are efficient, redundency goes out the window, which will be a serious problem as our planet’s climate gets increasingly chaotic.

The hospital situation is particularly telling as she cited from one commenter:

“The Manhattan hospital system is near collapse. Sounds like an exaggeration? It’s not. How do I know all this? I was hit by a cab on Monday afternoon, and taken to an Eastside hospital, and medical staff told me this.

My visit to the ER was beyond chaos (not normal ER chaos). I and several other trauma patients never received TRIAGE. They had no ICE. They were so short-staffed only cardiac patients received triage. One TBI patient had to wait over 4 HOURS to have a head CAT scan. These are bottom-line protocols that should never be violated, even in an emergency. The entire hospitals network was on the blink; everything had to be done manually (the servers in the flooded basement).”

More on Sandy’s effects on hospitals.

The world the plutocrats wish for us

Naked Capitalism is rapidly becoming my favorite blog on economics & finance issues.  Yves Smith (pseudonym) and her fellow bloggers always bring insights and clarity to the post-2008 financial crisis world.  Even though I read it almost daily, I missed this article (no doubt due to the title), and only became aware of it via the Dollars & Sense blog

It succinctly expresses my own views of the world that our plutocrats and their supporters envision for us and have been working since the 1970s to achieve bit by bit.  Throw in increasing government and corporate surveillance, laws like SOPA & CISPA and corporations increasing attempts to enclose the internet commons for their private profit, and we have a vision of a future where all but a few are slaves.  A future that may not be all that different than the ancient Roman Republic during the Servile Wars, only with means of control that are totalitarian in all but name.

I need to go support Naked Capitalism, but I hope you will find that Yves Smith's words clarify the reality we all face.

“My sense is that the widespread sense of gloom, the increased level of aggression in many walks of life (and on the Internet) isn’t just due to the lousy state of the economy, although that certainly isn’t helping. In the last year, it has become increasingly evident that a very ugly set of changes that will have broad social impact is moving forward with surprising speed.

“We are in the midst of a finance-led counterrevolution. The long standing effort to roll back New Deal reforms has moved from triumph to triumph. The foundation was laid via increasingly effective public relations efforts to sell the Ayn Randian world view that granting individuals unfettered freedom of action would produce only virtuous outcomes, since the talented would flourish and the rest would deservedly be left in the dust. In fact, societies that have moved strongly in that direction such as Pinochet’s Chile and Russia under Yeltsin, have seen plutocratic land grabs, declining standards of living (and even lifespans), and a rise in authoritarianism or (in the case of Colombia) organized crime. Those who won these brawls did flourish, but at tremendous cost to society as a whole.

“In the US, the first step was making taxation less progressive. A second, parallel measure was deregulation, particularly in financial services. Together, they fostered the growth of an uber wealthy cohort that increasingly lives apart from middle class and poor citizens. The rich can thus tell themselves they have little to gain from the success of ordinary people. And, perversely, the global financial crisis has worked to the advantage of the financial elite. As former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson described in a May 2009 Atlantic article, the US instead suffered a quiet coup, with the top end of the financial services industry becoming more concentrated, and more firmly in charge of the political apparatus. And you see more vivid evidence of the financial takeover in Europe, where technocrats are stripping countries of their sovereignty and breaking them on the rack via failing austerity programs, so as to avoid exposing the insolvency of French and German banks. In the US, the events of the last year are less dramatic but no less telling, including a coordinated 17-city paramilitary crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, a “get out of jail almost free” settlement for the mortgage-industrial complex, and an election where the two candidates are indistinguishable in their enthusiasm for cutting Medicare and Social Security, and murder by drone.

“The implications of gutting social protections are far more serious than they might appear. Dial the clock back eighty years, and most people lived in or near the communities they grew up in. They could turn to extended family, or other members of the community for support if they suffered a serious setback. Informal social safety nets stood in the place of the government provided ones we have now.

“Broadly shared prosperity and government safety nets are essential underpinnings of a modern, mobile society. The American nuclear family isn’t just an outgrowth of the automobile era; it’s also the result of union jobs in an industrial economy helping create a wage foundation, and the high confidence most men (in those days, it was men) had in continued employment, and the existence of social protections if something bad happened (Social Security’s disability programs have raised entire families, for instance) made it viable to move far from one’s hometown in pursuit of opportunity.

“But as the population has become more mobile, the role of community, and their local support mechanisms, has faded. Yes, when people get desperate, they might still move in with a parent or child. But anecdotally, that seems far less common today than it was a few generations ago. So when government provided social insurance programs are gutted, the broader social impact is much greater than taking us back to the era right before they were implemented. Michael Hudson has described the changes under way as neo-feudalism. We are moving towards the sort of stratified society we had not in the 1920s, but in the early Industrial Revolution with a landed aristocracy, a small haute bourgoisie, some well remunerated craftsmen, and a large agricultural/servant class. In other words, the effort to roll back the New Deal is in fact going much further, in terms of reinstitutionalizing class stratification, lack of mobility, and a resulting large new “lower order” that will live in stress and often squalor. A new, more brutal society is being created before our eyes, and it seems such an incredible development that many people are still in denial about what is happening.”

From: Launching the NC 2012 Fundraiser