We now know that terrorists have found ways of hiding communications encoded in financial transactions.

Never mind the evidence for the prevalence of this problem; weʼre only beginning to uncover the threat.  For now, itʼs clearly a technical possibility.  Even Paypal have done it for years.  Each single figure in an arbitrary decimal sum can represent four and a half bits of digital character information; the essential, brief command messages sent between terrorist cells can therefore easily be hidden in a few purchases between sock-puppet traders on eBay, Etsy and Amazon.  We know this sort of activity goes on, for all sorts of reasons.

But now weʼve realised that stock exchange high speed trading is also a perfect medium.  The volume of transactions is such that, with customised trading software, they can hide enormous amounts of data about targets, how to get round security systems, where to get the latest training videos and when.  And letʼs face it, terrorism is well-funded by certain interests with connections to people we know have access to a share of our oil wealth.  It might be time we did something about that.  Finish the job.

And not only stock exchanges.  Consumer-grade bank accounts can be used.  A disturbingly high proportion of the population now has these, and theyʼre all available over the internet.  Potential terrorists with no police record, no record of anything apart from walking past security cameras with abnormal features, could now be simply logging into a superstructure of terrorism command and control networks through their online bank accounts, sending a few pennies at a time in any currency, according to some master plan dictated to them by unidentified controllers.  Remember, we donʼt have total surveillance yet.  We donʼt know what theyʼre really doing in the gaps when weʼre not watching them.  Donʼt believe the naïve suggestion that the larger planning instructions can only be disseminated in the media weʼve already succeeded in monitoring.  If only it were that simple...

Clearly, thereʼs only one thing to be done if we are to give our children the secure future they deserve.  We have to take control of the stock markets. 

covering up

Hereʼs a public policy suggestion from a few weeks ago, which I havenʼt encountered before.

... A real solution for gratuitous violation of civil rights by the police would be to abolish their immunity.  Force individual officers to carry insurance or a bond, paid from their own salaries.  By all means give the officers a raise to cover premium expense, but if an officer faces too many claims or judgments, a responsible, objective third party (the insurance company) can revoke his badge by cancelling tort coverage.

Iʼm not sure quite how serious the suggestion is.  But as a thought exercise...  I suspect there are problems with it, over and above the ones hinted at by the author (the police & unions wouldnʼt like it, sort of reasons).  Iʼm going to have to think about it though.  At a first guess they would involve the kinds of problems that usually crop up with insurance companies ... and the kinds of problems that usually crop up in court cases dealing with insurance companies, and dealing with police actions.

However, some of those are in part about a sort of (sub-)cultural attitude regarding police officers, both inside and out of the forces.  Were a suggestion like this enacted, perhaps there would be a culture shift?  (Noting that ‘immunity’ means different things in different countries, and possibly different US States, so the nature and degree of effect should vary.)

There are as things stand some professions where this kind of insurance has to be in place ... really, not that different from driving insurance – but for most people thatʼs not really comparable, because driving is a luxury rather than an essential or a livelihood.  It would be interesting to look at the effect of required insurance on different professions.  Maybe it would help draw a conclusion.

Or in fact, what are the effects on police officers of having to have driving insurance, where that is the case?

The Wrong Anxieties

scottish and hypothetical ewnicish flags

I see David Cameron is getting round to supporting his supposed cause of unionism.  Or Brand Britain at least.  This is basically whatʼs wrong with the United Kingdom.  Itʼs not about a nation, in the sense of a group of people with something shared – however illusory.  Not according to the Tories and their ilk.  Itʼs a marketing opportunity.  A brand.  A way to allow shareholders to turn a profit.  That non-shareholders, and even the small scale shareholders, arenʼt now, nor will regularly in future, be getting anything worthwhile out of this is of no relevance.  Itʼs not even relevant that the large shareholders arenʼt from any particular part of Great Britain or its associated islands.  International capitalism requires successful brands, be it under Saʼudi, Chinese or British ownership, and the beneficiaries of the branding exercise are few and from around the world.

Well enough of it.  I had started out a couple of years ago assuming that the arguments for separation were mixed, which they are.  What has taken me by surprise is how abysmal the arguments for remaining in the UK are.  A reheated serving of romantic nationalism about a Britain that never was, but which has been getting increasingly ladled out by UK media for the last decade.  British sports, British baking, British monarchy, British reality TV, British I-donʼt-know-what-any-more.  You can tell that an identity is in trouble when it has to be so massively hyped, and that was before the referendum came over the horizon.  And underneath it, what?  More opportunities for the rich to become richer at the expense of everyone else.  I used to be amusedly tolerant of it, at least, so far as it wasnʼt the kind of malevolent Britishness of Ulster Unionism or British Imperialism and Nationalism.  After the last few years of brand exposure, Iʼm seriously sick of it.  Can has some clear headspace please?

politics in a cardboard cutout sense

Having spent most of my life alternately bored stiff of or driven to despair by the one-dimensionality of conventional descriptions of political thinking, I am interested to find a website based on an explicitly two-dimensional rather than one-dimensional analysis: The Political Compass.  Their two dimensions and many interesting graphs are stretched between poles of “social authoritarianism/libertarianism” and “economic left/right (or communism/neoliberalism)”.  So, from uselessly simplistic to descriptively two dimensional.  Not much of an improvement, given the hugely polydimensional nature of politics and the underlying factors that produce it, but an improvement nonetheless.

(Though there is a curious echo here of The Thatcher Lie about the initial divisibility of economics and society.  I donʼt wholly reject these graphs, but I think it important to understand that social policies have economic implications, economic policies have social implications, and both have wider ecological implications.  These things arise mutually.)


Iʼve been having a discussion around the meaning of slavery, shortly after encountering this intervew with an escapee from the Westboro Baptist Church. Iʼm not quite certain whether this kind of domineering upbringing should count as slavery. But I would think it could, unless knowing youʼre a slave from the outset is an essential characteristic – but if it were, no-one could ever have been born into the condition.

suspect utilities

Whatever else will happen in the Bradley Manning trial, it is apparent that the prosecution will be careful to present anything that could possibly be seen as out of order when it comes to his use of equipment – at least, based on this report in The Guardian:

Military computer experts told the hearing that they had found a computer programme called Wget that is used to speed up the transfer of files, and another called Roxio for burning CDs.

So, this may not be news, but possession of standard operating system utilities or the most commonly distributed applications may be regarded as incriminating evidence.  And be reported as such.  I commented on this recently in another place, to which the entirely valid response was made that use of Roxio may have been illicit on a military computer.  Even that may be too broad – it could be that Bradley Manningʼs unit were not allowed to use Roxio or wget on specific computers, or perhaps he was personally banned from using them at all.  But none of these seem likely – or at least, not very sensible.

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