Tag Archives: USA today

About America, chapter 11

This is a short story; it is not part of a novel where you have seen the first 10 chapters. This is in all seriousness an issue when we consider Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, number 11 deals with bankruptcy.

So why take my word for this? Why am I right, when every journalist, every economist claims that this is not the case? How diluted am I to think this?

These are all valid question. Now consider the facts. The US treasury (from various sources) had collected in 2013 around 2,700 billion dollars. This seems like a lot, yet the budget as President Obama stipulated in 2012, the budget had spending set to around 3,800 billion dollar, so the US is already 1 trillion short. If we consider the total US debt at 18 trillion, meaning 18,000 billion, then the total debt would need 100% of all taxation for 6 years, an act that is totally unrealistic.

Now take this to your own homestead. I remember that I could never get a loan for a mortgage for more than 4 annual incomes. Now, this is like comparing apples to oranges, but is my train of thought so far out of bounds? It is my view that these seemingly ‘clever’ economists have been rolling their gambling dice in several ways for too long.

Consider the Dow Jones Index. We get fed the line that the economy is good, because 30 companies are doing ‘well’. Ever since the ‘dip’ it took in 2009 to 6547 (at http://stockcharts.com/freecharts/historical/djia1900.html), the Dow has ‘restored’ itself to 16743 (as per now). So, in the time when all was well, before the first economic collapse in 2004, when the Dow was 11722, and until the second collapse in 2008 when the Dow went from 14164 to 6547 in 2009, we now are in a time when many in the US are down on their luck and finances, when many all over the world are feeling the brunt of recession and other financial calamities, the almighty Dow is at 16743.

Is anyone considering the notion on how dislodged the entire Dow Jones concept is in regards to the reality of life?

Consider the following information:

– Amazon is buying Twitch for a billion Dollars in cash (at http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/25/6066509/why-it-makes-sense-for-amazon-to-buy-twitch)

– Roche to buy U.S. biotech firm InterMune for $8.3 billion in cash (at http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/24/us-intermune-roche-idUSKBN0GO0PI20140824)

These are two of several (read dozens) of large shopping sprees, throwing cash around like it is nothing and as these billions come into the other parties’ hands, what taxation ends up getting paid? This is at the heart of the founding issue that should keep our minds busy ‘Is America Bankrupt?

There are two sides. First there is the Sovereign Default. No matter how you twist or turn it, if a nation cannot pay its debt, it will default and should be seen bankrupt. A good example is Greece. After Europe bailed out a nation with 11 million people, by ‘giving’ it well over 300 billion, it is still complaining. The reality is that it should have been allowed to go under in bankruptcy. Not because I like it, or because I have anything against Greece (in all honesty, Crete is one of the loveliest places I ever saw). The natural cycle of economy has been ‘arranged’ (I would call it mismanaged) into cycles of only good news. You talk to any farmer, they will all tell you that no field can survive on spring and summer alone, nature is all about balance and as we threw away balance, we started to undo our own prosperity.

It is said that a business is stated as ‘insolvent’ when its debts exceed its assets.

Is that not the case here? I have stated in the past that I have reservations about the true value of LIBOR.

If we continue the question: “How much money they need to borrow from their peers to plug any holes in their balance sheets and if they have an excess of available cash, how much they can afford to lend“, which is at the heart of LIBOR (at http://citywire.co.uk/money/qanda-what-is-libor-and-what-did-barclays-do-to-it/a600479), considering that the margins had been played with in the last two years, is the idea that the total valued amount has also been tweaked?

This is all based upon an availability of actual existing Cash. But the entire system is based upon a certain value of assets and goods, as I personally see it, I do not trust that list as it is dependent on the ego of honest bankers, which seems an impossible concept and no one can produce at any given moment an exact list of it. So what value exists in all reality (not in the eager mind of a commission driven banker)?

We now get back to the Dow Jones Index. If we consider the past (when life appeared good) and the now where most of have lost a lot (if not all), then is that index not artificially driven upwards? This is not just my view; several parties, including USA Today (at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/03/04/federal-reserve–quantitative-easing/1963539/) are showing us a view that shows an economic system that is driven upwards in artificial ways. So we now get a different view. Are all these mergers and multi-billion dollar deals we see regularly now on TV about growth, or about the top of the US industry that seems to leave the sinking ships before the system collapses.

This is at the centre of a few issues, where the US is rallying for ‘support’ whilst not showing one iota of accountability to get its budget under control. The last part is at the heart of the need to call the USA bankrupt (not because I desire it). It will cost many a lot, but is growth not depending on the downfall of others? If we consider that all together we are 100%, does our growth not depend on the need that someone else does less? That intertwining, where we ignore basic foundations that growth is not eternal, we see that there is a consequence to overinflating (yes, this also applies to my ego).

Yet, economists have time and time again stated that there is more here and there (whilst they point to virtual spaces). Now we see the heart of the problem, who has the actual 18 trillion that the US is down for? If we look at the oil links, should USA perhaps mean ‘Unionized Saudi Arabia‘? If we consider the real wealth, are they not the ones holding the oil reserves (one of the big four) and as such, the outstanding debt? I know it is not that simple, it never is, but when we ask a summary of where the debt lies; we will get some clever list from a highly educated economist and some excuse ‘that it is all a lot more complex then it looks‘.

He is not incorrect, but he is also not telling you who hold the 18 trillion the US had been spending in one way or another and as such, the realisation should now be upon you. If America is bankrupt, then what will happen next? Japan will pretty much be permanently out of commission and I reckon the UK will be in very deep waters, but we the Commonwealth must find a way to go it together if we are to survive.

It seems to me that America never realised that lesson, like several others, they all used to max out a credit card in virtual space whilst the actual, supporting currency is not there, so why has America not been declared bankrupt?

I reckon soon enough we will get more and more long winded talks, but in the end no one is sayng anything because those who will be making the speeches are at the heart of what went wrong and no one wants to hold on to that guilt when those left without their house ask them the question ‘where are my savings?‘.

 

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No Press, No Facebook!

So, another day in the life of you, the reader, me the blogger and us, the victims of big business in a way that neither of us expected.

Why are we in a stage of No Press? Well, I cannot confirm this for the UK, Canada or Europe at large, yet in Australia it started last year, the second week of November.

Most did not ever bother to look at this, but one I found (at http://www.cinemablend.com/games/PS4-Doesn-t-Block-Used-Games-Game-Rentals-60480.html) wrote the following: “A new last minute reputation management troll-rumor has surfaced online in an attempt to curb Sony’s momentum leading up to their big launch later this week“.

This is a hilarious ‘sucking-up-to-Sony’ response! So what actually happened?

In the two weeks before the launch of the PS4, Sony decided to change the terms of service (at https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/legal/software-usage-terms). I gave the information to Channel 7, Channel 9, Channel 10 and the Sydney Morning Herald.

NONE!
I say again NONE of them did anything about it. There was a flaccid message (to follow shortly).

So what is so important?

Sony wanted to start putting in place several issues to enforce DRM and to end certain practices. As the PS4 had not launched yet, they could not be too vocal about it, which meant that those claiming to be journalists had a duty to look into it, especially as these changes affected well over 80 million consumers globally. So either journalists only care about the boobs of Rihanna and on how people prefer fake boobs (of course, the possible silicone in a chest is always more newsworthy then the silicon chip that holds an economy).

So what is the exact issue?

Two points from the terms of agreement

  1. 3. You must not lease, rent, sublicense, publish, modify, adapt, or translate any portion of the Software.
  2. 1. You must not resell either Disc-based Software or Software Downloads, unless expressly authorised by us and, if the publisher is another company, additionally by the publisher.

I will admit that 6.3 is badly phrased (a big no-no in any term of service agreement), but in this form it specifically targets one area of usage, which where at blockbusters one could rent a game for a week. An interesting try before you buy approach (not debating the validity or invalidity of this).

It is 7.1 that is the big issue, by agreeing to this (if you do not you lose your PSN account and online abilities) you confirm that you will not resell your games or buy second hand games. This was the big killer for Microsoft in the beginning in addition to the fact that this issue hits 80 million consumers. How is this not in EVERY newspaper? Perhaps their bosses where in the act of ‘hustle for advertisement coin’ (whoring seems like such a harsh word here).

When we look at Eurogamer (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-11-12-sony-reiterates-you-can-sell-and-share-your-ps4-games), we see the following: “Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida added on Twitter: ‘If you are concerned about our new European TOS, we confirm that you are able to sell or share your disc PS4 products, including in EU.’” This is the flaccid response I referred to. If this is the case, then WHY make it part of the terms of agreement? Because Sony lawyers are perhaps cheap? (They really are not!)

We do not doubt the words of the Sony CEO, yet his word can be changed in a simple board meeting, the terms of service is a legally binding document between the consumer and the corporation offering the device and the service. Why am I the one person explaining this ‘oversight’ to the press?

This is a massive issue! The impact on the software industry would be felt in several countries. The fact is that many shops are in business only because they make a few extra dollars of second hand games. If not, new games would have to rise in price. Also, there is, especially in these economic times a large group depending on cheaper game solutions. A pre-owned game, which is at times at least 50% cheaper than the new alternative is one way for some to play a few games. The simple truth is that many cannot afford a $120 game, more often; their parents also are not in possession of such spending sprees, which makes the pre-owned game market an essential part to cater for a sizeable chunk of these consumers.

The second issue is the one that we see evolving now.

I was confronted with this almost two weeks ago, but something about the list of changes seemed so horrifying that I decided not to upgrade. This is still evolving and there are genuine concerns. Yet, what is the actual truth?

If we look at the Bull (at http://thebull.cbslocal.com/2014/08/07/facebook-crosses-the-line-with-new-facebook-messenger-app/) we see the following:

  • Facebook can change or alter your connection to the Internet or cell service without telling you.
  • Facebook can send text messages to your contacts on your behalf.
  • Facebook can record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time
  • Facebook can read your phone’s call log, including info about incoming and outgoing calls
  • Facebook can read your contact data, including who you call and email and how often
  • Facebook can read personal profile information stored on your device
  • Facebook can get a list of accounts known by the phone, or other apps you use, it can connect all your accounts and Intel together.

It is in part the worry I had when I was looking through the rights I had to agree to when installing the Facebook Messenger app, which I decided against. If I lose my messenger history, so be it!

If we consider the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/smartphone-apps/facebook-is-forcing-messenger-app-on-users-and-they-arent-happy-about-it-20140729-zycfb.html), we see the following quote “CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed during last week’s earnings call that the company eventually wants to monetise Messenger and the app will eventually ‘overlap’ with payments, though, as TechCrunch notes, he acknowledged the company still has a lot of work to do before users will see payments cropping up in the app“. It is fair enough that people will get to pay at some point. At that point people can return to the old Yahoo Messenger, which has forever been free!

My issue here is that there is a lot more visibility here, yet why this is not the lead with every news channel as this affects BILLIONS of people is also a little beyond me.

There is of course the other side. Is what ‘the Bull’ stated true? I am not stating that they were lying, but the android permissions are at times a little out there. This view is actually reinforced by CNBC (at http://www.cnbc.com/id/101911170).

The confusion seems to have stemmed from Android. “The app when you install it, it explains in a list what it needs permission to do, and this is the list that frightened a lot people initially,’ Simons said. ‘That doesn’t mean it sort of willy nilly goes about contacting friends or recording you as you go about your day using your phone camera,’ he added.

I cannot disagree with this view, yet the truth is that just like with Sony, we agreed on something, we made a binding pact and that what is and that what could be are now intertwined and as such it is not about handholding, it is about clarity! When Big Business forces you the consumer, they will be precise (example: ‘we hereby charge you $11,732.34 to be deposited within the next 10 days‘). Yet when they would like something from you, they hide in ambiguity (example: ‘we can change all your savings into a fortune, deposit all today and the larger returns could be yours quite soon’). So, how large a deposit, how much larger, how soon? These answers would not be forthcoming until AFTER the deposit I reckon.

So where do we stand?

When we consider the issues that have plagued the tech savvy population, like the TPP, Sony, even government spending seems to be missing on the glasses of those ‘considering’ themselves to be Journalists. Another bash of that seems to have missed the larger view in news (at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/05/federal-spending-transparency-money-missing/13485581/).

The first quote is “the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data on USASpending.gov is ‘fully consistent with agencies records,’ according to the report“, which makes me wonder who is keeping track of the deficit and how much larger could it be?

The second one is “The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs“, which reads like, if we aggregate numbers, you are less likely to find anything and we can hide it under a total header. Failing to report on half a trillion is a big thing, it is well over $1000 for every resident in America.

So, does that mean that the deficit of the US is a lot larger? That would indeed be news as it would put the US in a peculiar financial position, or better a position they no longer hold. I am not stating that I am right or that I am wrong (both are an option). It seems that the papers and newscasts we get bombarded with every day seem to become more and more selective on what they consider important. One article affecting 80 million (the combined population of Australia and the UK) as well as the new issue which hits over a billion people does not seems to be important. The last news of last week is one that does bear scrutiny, yet to get something from USA Today and not the Guardian or any of the Australian news bringers does pose questions.

The Facebook issue will hit us for some time and it might result in something different. The issue linked to this is whether Android has a registration system that bears scrutiny. Android has its own faults (also not too overly reported on by journalists) and just pointing the finger at Facebook is also not entirely the right thing to do.

There is also the difference on what some will do and what some could do. It is the ambiguity that is slowly getting to more and more people.

So what should the journalists be doing and what should Facebook not be doing?

 

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To be deleted!

I stumbled upon an article by Kevin McKenna that was an interesting read. It was published last Sunday (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/05/google-right-to-be-forgotten-kevin-mckennas-own-confessions). The headline caught me at first stating “Don’t hide your dark side from Google. Much better to tell all“, which works out really well for Google, but what about the person? In his ‘journey’ as a starting Facebook user, this quote seems the strongest “And I realise with mounting horror that this is how real people with normal lives interact with each other and that it is I who am out of step once more. So I fear I may soon have to conclude my Facebook experiment before I alienate that dwindling band of those who still regard me with some fondness“, but as I see it, the article never ever goes anywhere near the issue why people want things to go away. The reference “we discovered that prominent people are beginning to deploy some arcane European privacy legislation to force Google to ‘forget’ about their historical misdemeanours“, sounds funny enough, but is that it? The following reference “American financier Stan O’Neal who helped drive his bank to ruination in 2007 were ‘deleted’“.

This sounds all fun, but is Google paying Kevin for this article? You see, Mr McKenna does not get within one mile of the actual issues, the dangers that Social media brought upon us all (many were likely never a consideration when Mark Zuckerberg came up with the idea to begin with).

We get the following from Forbes “But there’s another good reason for checking out a candidate’s Facebook page before inviting them in for an interview: it may be a fairly accurate reflection of how good they’ll be at the job” (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/03/05/facebook-can-tell-you-if-a-person-is-worth-hiring/). Here is the kicker: the workplace is riddled with people not really that great in sizing other people up, a fair chunk of them in HR and upper management. I have been around for a long time, and these people look at ‘presentation’. I have met my share of managers with ‘fuck all’ (pardon my French) idea of what actually needs to be done, like most sales people they will have a nice PowerPoint, and when reality hits, they will dump it on the people who will end up doing the actual job, which often enough is not them. In addition, we see recruiters who have no idea how to be a recruiter. I used to have one that never had anything for me and actually send ME the resume of others asking if I had a job for them. Really? These people will seek you out on Facebook and judge you for what YOUR FRIENDS will post on your page?

Mr McKenna has spent absolutely no words in that regard. To those youthful young undergrad recipients, Facebook could at this point be nothing less than a career death sentence; even if those around them know that those people will work their asses off getting it all done. That part is never on Facebook and they lost out on a job. Better stated: that corporation lost out on a person who would have been one of the best Returns On Investment EVER!

CNet adds a little more (at http://www.cnet.com/au/news/facebookers-beware-that-silly-update-can-cost-you-a-job/), here we see the headline “Study shows that companies have rejected 1 in 10 people between ages 16 and 34 because of something the person shared on social media“. CNet has graphics too, so check it out. It goes in the same direction as Forbes, but there is one quote that I have heard about, but never experienced, or met anyone who directly experienced it “In January, six states officially made it illegal for employers to ask their workers for passwords to their social media accounts“.

These people should reply with the fact that many agreements state the following “You must not reveal your password and must take reasonable steps to keep your password confidential and secure“, the very fact that personal privacy is transgressed to this degree is questionable, or is it?

In USA Today (and many other papers) we see the statement “Burglars use social media to target homes” (at http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2014/01/03/social-media-identity-theft-home-videos/4248601/). It is not a new ploy, it has been around a little longer than that, but what is new is the linked approach that is slowly becoming visible.

Although at present, no ACTUAL events are currently documented, other than from the less reputable journalistic sources (Daily Mail and the Telegraph). There is more and more talk on how social media will influence your insurance claims. If you tweet your events, as might your children whilst on Vacation in a place ‘far away’, your local homestead might be missing several pricey items when you get home. Burglars keep their eyes on those who boast travel. It only takes one jealous school ‘friend’ for the parents to miss out on TV, Jewellery, computers and so forth. There is more and more talks on how insurance policies might not cover it in the near future and that mandatory alarm systems as well as spectacular premium rises are linked to these events.

So there is a massive need from many people to be forgotten all over the place!

A more long term consequence tells us (at http://healthissocial.com/healthcare-social-media-ethics/the-healthcare-insurance-impact-of-your-social-media-graph/), that social media goes so much further than that. As a data miner I have always seen this, but many are only now seeing the dangers. This article voices is perfectly by stating the following two thoughts:

What if health insurance companies realized that with whom you associate may correlate to your health and thus risk?” and “What if your online behaviour indicated (directly or indirectly) your health behaviour – either psychiatric or otherwise?“, so not only could your health care cost spike, in some cases you might not be able to get coverage as you are considered too much of a risk factor. So a person’s unadulterated need, to speak out ‘Suicidal and standing on the edge‘, might in light of their upcoming ‘healthcare premium to be’, seriously consider taking that one final step at that point.

There is one quote I saw that covers the dangers of Social Media that we should all mind “Behind every successful student , there is a deactivated Facebook account“. The issue for us all is that there is genuine truth in that statement (or status). Not because of what the student does, but because of what others do with the data and with the image incorrectly reflected. In one account I took a look at his page had references to ‘Hash Brownies’ and ‘Funky mushrooms on his bacon and egg roll this morning’. The man is a Vegan with an utter dislike for chocolate (I tend to get his chockies around Easter). So, will he see his premium rise by insurances in the future? Because SOMEONE said so?

So Mr McKenna, The ‘right to be forgotten on Google’ is not a strange concept at all, in this day and age it might be the next essential thing if we are to move forward in an affordable way.Because at this point, there is every indication that our cost of living could quite soon be linked to social media data. The worst thing is that mined data just is, and what is taken for ‘granted’ often never is, that is the one part that no cleaning pass in data mining can provide for, whoever claims it can, is in my view clearly lying.

 

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Is gender equality too futuristic?

This is not an article for many. Some will be livid, some will be outraged and many will be angry. Yet, will my view be wrong? This is at the centre of what some call the future of women in high positions.

If I compare it to Law School, then we have our share of women, most of them highly intelligent, many of them no less to Law savants. The last one might be regarded as a cheated achievement, as they usually come from parents with law education or even law practices. They do have a benefit, but to make it in Law, you cannot get by on daddy’s (or mommy’s) tailcoats. You are either truly good, or you won’t pass past your first case. For me in most cases, it almost feels like cheating, as I would be a 1st generation law graduate. I had to do it alone, no daddy to help me (thank god that the alcoholic is dead). So, there is no anger or envy towards these male of female co-students. As we see how these women are now growing the ranks of the senior, partner positions and the silks of the bench, we see how women are not just up and coming, they are growing the waves of the future benches of the courts. This is not a negative issue for me. As the women had grown in the legal profession from the 80’s onwards, they are now becoming the future of the high courts. In that regard I recall my first year mentor. She was not just bright, she was part of a team that wiped the floor (OK, the proper term is victorious) against the Oxford Law team. even though India won, the fact that both groups outdid Oxford should give you a clear view on how good you need to be. If we see the perception of many students, the regarded rankings like Oxford, Harvard and Yale (as we see Ivy League schools), then the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) did a mighty fine job.

How is all this connected?

I am getting to this. It is first important you see the views I have and the way I got to my view.

So what started all this? Well, yesterday the following tweet passed my screen:
UK Prime Minister @Number10gov Mar 8
Tomorrow is International #WomensDay – see how UK govt is supporting & celebrating this year’s #InspiringChange theme http://ow.ly/ulkZ4

It came right after a tweet By Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU)

Her headline on Twitter is “I am Vice President of the @EU_Commission leading @DigitalAgendaEU and #ConnectedContinent plans. I am fighting like hell for a EU you can believe in. Global (based in Brussels) – bit.ly/KroesNeelie

I remember her as a politician (when I was living in the Netherlands). I never saw eye to eye with her views, but I do no hold that against her. What is important is that she is extremely intelligent. I reckon that if Albert Einstein would have been around when she turned 21, his words would have been “Whoa girl, you’ve got skills!” Let’s, be certain about the fact that he would refer to her political skills, not her skills in physics. Basically, she is one clever lady is the view of many.

My issue is all about the International Woman’s day as some ‘portray’ their support of it! I am not against it in any way, but let us take a look at the other side of this.

This we see at http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/adfa-skype-scandal-cadets-sentenced-avoid-jail-20131023-2w0hz.html, where we see the quote “The woman told the court last week that she had been bullied and ostracised across the ADF after details of the Skype affair became public. She said she was offered little support, and was referred to as “that Skype slut” by her peers. The victim said the incident destroyed her life and forced her to leave her dream job in the military.

The two men got a 12 month good behaviour order. The interesting part is that the media seemingly buried it after August 19th 2013. Interesting how little exposure these issues get. I found two more items as they were places after the August date, yet this one (at http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2013-11-09/adfa-cadet-daniel-mcdonald-sacked-over-skype-sex-scandal/1217280) seems to add one more item. The quote “Today, Defence released a statement saying McDonald had been told it intended to sack him in mid-September and after giving him an opportunity to respond, his services were terminated as of last night

So how should that be read? He was offered to walk or get booted?

This is not an isolated case for the military on a global scale. The header ‘Conflicting accounts open U.S. Army general’s sex crimes trial‘ (at http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/03/07/uk-usa-courtmartial-sinclair-idUKBREA260OK20140307) gives a clear view that we are not anywhere near ready for an International Woman’s day. As we see these transgressions go on and on. In addition, as we see the media staying as blasé and diminishing the exposure of such events, then you tell me how fair it all is. When we see a celebrity drink too much, EVERYONE shows it off to the maximum of the gettable coinage possible, which includes the Washington Post, the Guardian, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Reuters and such large ones. When we see the General being accused of these acts, the amount of newspapers that make it to Google page 1-3 is pretty laughable (even though the big ones mentioned earlier are also there). Why the military? Well, it is pretty much the last bastion of testosterone. When women get an accepted place without the psychic and physical assault dangers, then we are truly entering a new area. If you want to disagree with my view here, which would be fine, then compare the hits you get when you compare the allegations between Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair (US Army) and PR guru Max Clifford (UK publicist), so even though the UK is only 20% of the US, Mr Clifford gets 500% more hits on Google. As this goes into the millions I decided not to look at all of them, but is there any value to the conclusion that a PR guy is bigger coverage, or that the media does not ‘regard’ the alleged transgressions as such important news. The General did plead guilty to having an extramarital affair with the captain.

So why do I have this issue? As mentioned before I illustrated the evolution of Law staffing. A Dutch research showed only a few days ago, that the incomes are changing. Within the younger population, income between the younger populations of gender has changed. The women are now ending up with a better pay package. This is in my view clear evidence that not only is there more equality; the game is changing in a better respect for all. If both sides of the gender path will get the same chance to get the high coin, then we are entering a competitive field where the victor takes the spoils, no matter what gender the victor is, it ups the game and all will become better competitors because of it.

Yet, if we see the article CNN placed last year (at http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/15/opinion/chemaly-tech-leaves-out-women/) we see a clearer view on why I think that there should be an International Woman’s day, but at present there is no reason to party on that event. I must state that I do not completely agree with Soraya Chemaly on her article ‘In tech world, women ignored‘. The reason for this is because as I got my training and degree in IT, the amount of women I saw was a massive minority. When I got into the data game in the 90’s, the women represented a presence of a mere 5% would have been overstating their presence. If getting to the top takes 12-15 years, then it will be at least another decade until we see a visible level of female presence in the tech world. There is however another side to this. When we consider tech PR companies like ‘Panache PR‘, we would see that the founder Cathy Campos is regarded as a global authority in the gaming industry. I met her in the days of Robert Maxwell, as she was the visible side of the marketing of Mirrorsoft (1989) and her drive to market the visibility of games by the visionary Peter Molyneux were ground breaking. She is not just accepted by all, I reckon the newbies in this field will consider an internship with someone like Cathy as the start of a possible golden future.

One of the statements I do not agree with is “The tech industry has a well-documented pipeline problem, one largely the result of gender stereotypes that reach into the educational system” Really? When I was into gaming, meeting any woman who was into games was regarded as a joke, both genders thought of games and gaming as uncool, nerdy and not worth the effort. That view only seriously started to change around the time the Xbox 360 was announced to become the hot potato of the future. So, basically, in that tech field women are less than one console generation old. When we look back to the early years we see the names like Roberta Williams (Kings Quest and a few others), Jane Jensen who worked with Roberta Williams on KQ6. Dona Bailey, who is an Atari Legend as she was one of the founders of Centipede, which is still regarded as one of the better arcade games of all times. Lastly there is Graner Ray who worked on Ultima VII (my favourite RPG series). She entered this field late in the Ultima series, but giving it artistically a unique view. So, when we consider these 4 women to be at the foundations of gaming, is it a wonder that the female population in this tech field is still small? Nowadays, we see a much stronger female representation in the gaming field, and many of them are outstanding in their own rights.

This is why I do not completely agree (not opposing either) the view we see at http://www.polygon.com/2014/3/7/5408194/how-smarter-schools-can-help-break-the-game-development-boys-club. I personally have never cared about who wrote the game, only that it was a good game. Consider that Kings Quest was one of the first PC games I loved. It was made by a woman and that never mattered.

So is it about the game or the developer? This is why I opposed the quote from Soraya Chemaly “Controlling women’s access makes men keepers of speech, keeps sexist status quo“. No! The gamer wants a good game, value for money, so anyone can get into this field with a good product. I reckon that especially in places like India, women could grow into this field as they offer originality in gaming through iTunes (iPad) or Google play (android). I reckon that 6 successful new female developers are all it takes to prove my hypotheses in this case. As additional female developers enter the field from MIT game lab and UTS (and other universities of course) we will see a clear shift. I do have a few questions to my own train of thought, which was caused by the quote I read (at http://www.polygon.com/2014/3/7/5408194/how-smarter-schools-can-help-break-the-game-development-boys-club) “Indie developer Mike Bithell tells us the lack of women in development ‘monumentally embarrassing’ for the games industry“. It raises my concerns on how wrong I might be, but is that because of the games developed, or by the games that get funding? You see, I focused on the gaming side, because that side I know from various sides. As I see women in Law proceed to the high places, I feel that my views remain correct. The ones who now will get the high posts are the ones I study with at University and they are truly good at what they do. That view is to some extend reaffirmed by the NY times (at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/opinion/great-expectations-for-female-lawyers.html). The quote “Of course, the attrition rate is high for men, too — but not nearly as high; in American law firms, the overwhelming majority of partners are men” shows that even though the men are in a massive majority, these are the partners that came from law school 12 years earlier. It took a while for new generations to get into these seats and as such the women we study with are likely to be the majority of high law ranks as they continue their law careers over the next 10-15 years.

When we get back to gaming we could see a correlation with the evolution of high placed women in gaming. If we accept the quote in the previous link affirms my position “Women make up only 11 percent of the total of those pursuing a career in the games industry as of 2005“. So, women do not select this track, which means that it will take some take until the top of gaming has an equal female representation. Yet, is there unfairness in this? When we see a current coverage of only 11%? So as time progresses we see 1 in 20 making it to the top, not because there is inequality, but because only 5%, which is half of the coverage proves to be that good and the math is on my side as I see it. That same math which predicts that over the next 10 years the women in high law positions will likely double, that same curve will apply to the gaming industry as women pursue in several fields they will take the lead as times passes. The issue that many ignore is that this evolution has been just a little over 2 generations and as we see the gender changes in fields, the growth of women in the area of visionary and evolutionary powers, moved to equality to encompass middle managers, which now leads to upper management, this is not a bad record.

As for International Woman’s Day, I am not against it, or against the visibility. The issue is that the field remains unequal, especially when the media is handing us a ‘stacked’ deck. How eager they are to steer away from certain trials, whilst in most of these cases they just spout the same ‘average leveled‘ information. The stacked deck is not in the direction that the BBC shows (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-18187449). As I stated my view, that over time the percentages have shifted and they are shifting even more, but consider the issues as we saw it in regards to Jimmy Saville, not just what he did, but as alleged how those around him are stated to have reacted and how the matter was dealt with for several decades, that part seems to be ignored to a larger extent. Even now as we see the events unfold, we see the Saville jokes, we see the investigation, but the ‘support system‘ around Saville, as he got away with the amount of events does not get the media scrutiny it is supposed to be getting. So, this is not just about the women in general, but the ‘old boy’ groups as they remained around for too long a time. This is the case that many articles made, but I personally see this as the ‘wrong side’. I would much rather see how we see that now in Law, and how women in new fields, like Technology, Gaming and other new areas can more easily inhabit these areas and they could be ruled by the best in the field, no matter what gender. That is the side that does not get enough visibility. It should and the media should use moments like International Woman’s Day to show what is possible, because if it is about inspiration, it should be about where opportunity lies, not just where some ‘stated’ view on the places where the uphill battle remains. This does not mean that I am now opposing my own words, but that it takes time to get women in these top positions, which they achieved within 2 generations (banking examples: CEO Westpac and Christine Lagarde, IMF). When we look at a new field like gaming, which is only now entering its second generation, women are on an equal field, as there is little to no historical entry to content with.

In the end a true visionary will always be successful and get funding, simply because being the first implies that this person is the best and new fields are always ruled by the visionary (closely followed by the evolutionary visionary). Consider this last point; would it have made any difference to the success of Facebook whether it was Mark or Marcia Zuckerberg who invented it?
I feel certain that this would not have made any difference to the global change it brought.

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Patrons of Al-Qaeda

Many people have some form of religion, which is fine. To have a personal believe in something that is bigger than yourself or bigger then that what you see is not a bad thing. Many Christians have their father, their son and their holy ghost. Some go the other way and give credence to Satan, the anti-Christ and the false prophet. I cannot vouch for any of that. I agree that there is more than this in the universe, but what?

No matter how that part falls, it is likely that Al-Qaeda believes in their personal ‘information’ trinity.

They would be Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. These three people have done more to support Al-Qaeda then Osama Bin Laden ever could.

Assange, who is still hiding in an embassy, is the lowest transgressor of the three. First of all, as an Australian he did not really break any laws (although some debate should be had over hindering the actions of an ally under war time conditions). The public view is that on one side he should be nailed to a cross and on the other side he should be heralded. Information is often a lot more complex than many consider. If you want an example, you only need to look at this week’s situation where Assad is now blocking peace talks. Should there be any surprise?

I still am not completely convinced he was directly involved with the Sarin attacks; the issue here is that too much intelligence is questionable. If the USA had shown ALL OF IT publicly, the doubt might not have been there. Yet, the reality is whether they actually had hard evidence on who did it. Let us not forget that the evidence collected in the investigation was all about whether it had happened, not who did it. And guess what, Al-Qaeda was an element in Syria too, so what exactly did happen? Watching Secretary of State John Kerry go on a plane with his briefcase, shown on the news like he is some kind of rock star is not helping anyone either. It seemed as empty to me as a PowerPoint on some concept that no one wants to spend money on.

It shows two possible sides, either they have actual evidence that needs to remain a secret (which no one seemed to be accepting), or they actually didn’t have any and we were watching some version of the Punch and Judy show!

The other side is one that Assange was not into, the acts of terrorism by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not shown, we saw through WikiLeaks just one side of it and it changed the overall balance.

Then WikiLeaks released thousands of diplomatic cables, which I consider to be an act of utter stupidity, the information was one-sided, so the US opposition (all of them) get several free punches into play and as such, US recovery is still being hindered. This is the ‘bad’ side of Julian Assange. Their one sided act destabilised many events. Yes, there is a case to be made, but by not exposing the other side, we get a one-sided situation. In the end, the damage is done and even as there might not be any criminal activity by Julian Assange, we should ask questions.

In case the reader thinks that ‘actions’ against Julian Assange should be made, then consider that many in the financial industry did nothing ‘criminals’ either, even though thousands became homeless because of their ‘non-criminal’ actions.

By the way, remember the quote by CNBC (and many others), somewhere in 2010: “WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange told Andy Greenberg at Forbes that he was in possession of a trove of documents that ‘could take down a bank or two.’ The documents wouldn’t necessarily show illegality but they would reveal an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ at one of the biggest banks in the United States. WikiLeaks would release it ‘early next year.’

They never came! So was this about intelligence, or about positioning banks in an even stronger place? Is it not interesting that Al-Qaeda’s patron number three and number one patron are all about neutering governments, whilst the banks stay out of play? Is it such a far fetching thought that these two idealists get played by those who believe greed is all?

In the middle we see Bradley Manning. This is not some ‘foreigner’; this was a member of the US military. In my view, he is a traitor plain and simple. A private, without any in depth education thought he had it all figured out, decides on US military policy. Which is interesting as many military members above the rank of Colonel are still trying to figure out what the best course of action is, even those with Ivy League degrees. The only positive thing from all this is that the military needs to seriously start to address its mental health issues, but beyond that small sparkle of recognition, this person was more than a small danger.

That part is not addressed even as the news still discusses the winner of this unholy threesome. Three days ago USA today published information on the fact that anti-leak software had still not been installed. I think it is even worse than many think it is. Some of these applications have (as any good application would) powerful log files. Even when we look at non-military solutions we see the following:

“The client’s log file is located at <user_directory>/Palantir/<version>/logs/client.log”

We can see at Palantir’s wiki what it logs, and depending on the settings it can give a lot (at https://wiki.palantir.com/pgkb/does-the-palantir-product-do-any-logging.html)

By the way, one needed only to change three settings to really log a lot:

# log4j.logger.com.palantir.services=error # package level
# log4j.logger.com.palantir.serveres.Nexus=warn # class level
# log4j.logger.MyLabeledLogger=info # specific logger

Removing ‘# ‘ on each line was all it would take.

This one warning gives a final view “Note that we do NOT recommend enabling logging below the warn level for production scenarios.” which means that all logging is possible mapping out the active military network in real time as the user muddles along.

This is not about Palantir, or even anti-Palantir. It is a software solution that part of the Intelligence community is currently using. IBM Modeler and SAS Miner are both data mining tools with similar abilities (and there are more). They all have these options as it is needed to make their products go smoothly. So when Bradley Manning gave it all away, he really gave it all away! The consequence might have (or could be resulting) in deep targeted attacks against a military server system. The question becomes how good is the anti-leak software? As many logging is set at higher levels (read administrator), many of them would be able to log events unhindered by many prying eyes (it is not realistic to monitor all logs on even 1 server). Even if it is all covered, who else has access to just read these log files? It is not uncommon to negate log files, as their users are usually vetted for use of the application. LOG files can however show more than many bargain for.

Unless the server architecture has been re-arranged, there is plenty of worry whether these servers are safe at this time, because log files are inherently their and needed, they are not linked to a password change and often, they do not get reconfigured away from their standard configuration as the case has been with plenty of application that it would hinder smooth operations.

Last on the list of the Patron Threesome is Edward Snowden. I have mentioned him often enough, so I will not go through it all again. He is in my view a traitor and not some ‘holier than thou’ protector. He is not some idealist, too much pointed to him making a getaway with the eye on some quick bucks (and many of them), I might be wrong, but that is how I see him. As he showed us how ‘naughty’ the NSA was, did he show us how unscrupulous Microsoft seems to be?

That view can be seen through an article in Techbeat just 4 days ago. The first quote is “Microsoft is developing a new technology to replace cookies. This work is similar to projects being undertaken by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Tracking cookies have come under scrutiny recently from regulators by many concerned about privacy; certain types of cookies (Third party tracking cookies) are now easily blocked through built-in functions and extensions/add-ons within main web browsers.

The second one from the same article is “This technology should also include Microsoft services including their search engine Bing. Tracking in mobile devices remains a key point. The big advantage of Microsoft’s emerging technology is that it could track a user across a platform.

So basically, this reads like: ‘we the consumer used to have a little privacy, but soon, thanks to Microsoft, that privacy might be gone forever, allowing for non-stop online harassment wherever we are‘ So, That Snowden fellow never gave us anything on that, did he? Even though the NSA should have been aware of such plans long before Techbeat had a clue. Does the reader still think he is such an idealist?

Yet, on the other side, he has shown one important weakness. The US intelligence branch is on that same low level as the organisation that in the 50’s used to be laughingly referred to as ‘British Intelligence’. The question is not just how weak is the NSA seems to be; it links to questions regarding the weakness that GCHQ and its current Commonwealth peers might have. There are in addition issues with the personal digital safety of people on a global scale. Not because the NSA is scanning to identify terrorist networks, but if one person (Snowden) could get away, is there anyone else who just wanted money and gave their data download to cyber criminals? There is absolute 0% guarantee that this did not happen, so in how much danger are our details?

So, why this blog today? Many do this at the start, but in certain light this had to be done at the very end. It is not just about their acts, but also about the acts you and I undertake. We willingly give out our details to Facebook (including a beheading, but excluding exposed breasts), LinkedIn and Google+, yet many scream about ‘some government‘ seeing what we are doing and who we are doing it with (or without).

The twisted world we allowed to be created is likely to throw us at least two more curve balls before Christmas. Enjoy!

 

 

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