Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 23, 2006

WB: The Belly of the Whale


The Belly of the Whale

Posted by b on October 23, 2006 at 5:17 UTC | Permalink


RE: WB's Leviathan:

Outstanding...and incredibly scary! When people tell me I'm crazy for believing such 'conspiracy theories' I counter with my view that it isn't really a conspiracy but an evolved system.

The Heisenberg Principle makes this kind of grand surveilance useless for the stated objective of locating singular 'actors', but makes it very useful for squashing dissent. In terms of pattern recognition, you'll be able to see whole forests.

Orwell gave The State too much credit, methinks. I believe it's headed rather toward Brazil instead. Also, ala Phish Fighting, anyone with the technical know-how and a couple PCs could set up closed-but-exposed SMTP loops and just send repeated messages with nothing but trigger words and phrases. Enough such loops could easily out-pace the government's ability to procure hardware and manpower to collect and analyze. Not that I would do this...I'm just sayin'...

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Oct 23 2006 6:46 utc | 1

Well Dr., I also suspect that a lot of what we think of as "them" is actually "it."

It being the feedback mechanism inherent in the economic system, literally evolving. It's like the game of Life* where certain rules are set up for a simulated game, with move after move, and it always seems that certain relationships become stable and recurring. Karl Rove need not apply.

In a political system growing in complexity, corrupt behaviors trump altruism, at least until someone catches on and changes the rules. Or the corruption destroys the structure that fosters it.

As to your second idea, it looks like you've been thinking about practical applications of information theory. I'd like to hear more.

* "Life is one of the simplest examples of what is sometimes called "emergent complexity" or "self-organizing systems." This subject area has captured the attention of scientists and mathematicians in diverse fields. It is the study of how elaborate patterns and behaviors can emerge from very simple rules."

Posted by: jonku | Oct 23 2006 7:05 utc | 2

Dr., you said "The Heisenberg Principle makes this kind of grand surveilance useless for the stated objective of locating singular 'actors', but makes it very useful for squashing dissent. In terms of pattern recognition, you'll be able to see whole forests."

I think you are saying that the Heisenberg Uncertaintly principle, where the act of observing something changes the very thing you are observing, applies to the growing national surveillance state. And that trying to use mass surveillance tools, i.e. monitoring the Internet, can't successfully identify 'actors' or individuals.

But the fact that the observed (us) are aware that they are being watched causes our behavior to change -- for example, diffidence and circumspection, in other words being afraid to speak out.

Makes a lot of sense. Of course for those of us who have grown up knowing that the technical ability to do this (listening in to "private" conversations) has been around for decades, it's not really news. In fact people literate in information technology, not to mention concerned 'actors' such as public figures including politicians, those who need to communicate secretly like spies, criminals, dissidents, people with a family member with alzheimer's or an inheritable legacy, have internalized the tricks used to communicate without showing up on the radar.

So in a way it's not so scary. We can live with it ... on the other hand, if this is a 'self-organizing system' that is in a positive feedback loop, where will it end, where is it heading.

Might be an interesting avenue to travel down with respect to pop culture, street slang and buzzwords.

Posted by: jonku | Oct 23 2006 7:51 utc | 3

The primary purpose of this Administration's surveillance is to discover, dampen and punish domestic dissent, in order to hold on to power.

If individual terrorists or discrete terrorist cells were their actual targets, they would have been delighted to publicly try as many suspects as possible these past few years. As is well known, they have no one to actually prosecute, and no actual evidence. They have nothing that will stand up in a court of law.

But they do know their enemy. Us. We, the people of America. They know how we think and what we do and who speaks up.

And they know their only chance at holding on to power is to see that we all hang separately, rather than together.

It begins to smell of civil war, here between these shining seas.


Posted by: Antifa | Oct 23 2006 7:55 utc | 4

And the action I take, knowing that every written word is potentially held in a database until it incriminates me, is to never sign petitions, not go to rallies where my name might be written down (although I do go to large public rallies), post on widely public websites using a handle rather than my own name ... at least I haven't gone so far down that road that I encrypt every email with Pretty Good Privacy or surf the Internet via an anonymising proxy.

But what I'm saying is that the Dr. Yueh thesis applies to me: my political speech is consciously stifled because I know how and want to avoid being the nail that sticks up and is "hammered down."

Where does that train of thought lead ... hopefully the rest of you will continue writing letters to the editor and signing petitions.

Because I have been scared shitless for years.

Posted by: jonku | Oct 23 2006 8:04 utc | 5

Consequences of the Panopticon

as Foucault puts it:

the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it

Indeed, the general paralysis of the Panopticon we now live in, having its own aetiology; Institute, institution, institutionalisation. "such Wise, such Rational, such Beneficial Institutions". The major effect of the panopticon of the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA)

* Government
* Administration
* Army
* Police
* Courts
* Prison

is to induce a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. The inmate,(you),must never be able to be to see his/her surveillance but always be aware that the possibility of being seen is constant. This is the history of the disastrous attempt of the bourgeois to control insanity. By cruel and inhumane means. These means did not reduce or control insanity, on the contrary it increased it. Hence,this camera obscura, manifests itself so deeply within us, internalized to the point where and average man or woman on the street when assailed by an average police man defaults to guilt. For example, all an athority figure has to do is shout "you there" and 9 out of 10 of us will confirm. Thereby, extending our guilt.

As the saying goes, the military is always thirty years ahead in technology than the public knows...

If you haven't seen what technofascism is about do look over this:

The Panopticon Singularity.

That is the how of it, what is the why of it? I suspect the answer to that can be found in an earlier post I did here:in partucular, part three. What will it look like? Try this: Bush's North American Union

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Oct 23 2006 9:39 utc | 6

I still have to finish this thread (kinda hard to squeeze in between work), but...


Knowledge of being watched is certainly a prime factor in shaping the 'observables' and their availability. But it's not necessarily us being aware of being watched. There are other (unintended) consequences of watching too much. The government, needing more and more compute power and storage space and bandwidth could, by simple demand, drive up the price of computer hardware and bandwidth, making it less available to those they wish to watch. Also, the need for more manpower for analisys will eventually lower the bar for hiring requirements, thereby introducing errors in the analisys.

The novelty of the Internet has also certainly worn off for some people, and there are doubtless parallel infrastructures being developed and used by the hard-core techies. Ham radio VPNs, anyone? This probably explains why the spooks trolling the Internet have only been able to catch (or entrap) complete bunglers as 'evidence' that the surveilence is working as advertised.

And, I know I've almost completely ignored telephone conversations. Phone taps are so old-school that even 14-year-olds know not to spill the beans over the phone.

I'm no genius, and I don't have even a fraction of the time I wish I could devote to this stuff. The 'Leviathan' article helped me to flesh out some of these concepts in my head, and my original post was a 'stir the pot' effort. I'd rather see rational discussion of the technical issues involved, than have a bunch of Chicken Littles running around screaming "They're watching us!" Thanks for ushering this thread along in a cool direction. :)

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Oct 23 2006 19:11 utc | 7


- My tactic is different: Be completly open about what you do - what are they gonna do? Kill me? Kill 1,000 like me, kill 100,000 like me, kill 10 million like me? Statistical sacrifice ..

- I know the tech stuff well enough to get away from observation - but I also know how bad their stuff/abilities and algorythms are. I am a false positive like 95%+ of those in Gitmo. I'll saturate their capabilities ...

Anyone who does run these programs will at one point run his own name through the search and at that point will start to have some trouble with her/himself.

I'm happy to help that process go along ...

Posted by: b | Oct 23 2006 19:29 utc | 8

I like b's thinking on this yet understand jonku very well.

death by a thousand cuts is probably the way to go here. once someone starts talking about violence the game is over but pointing out the criminality and baseness of the elites is harder to put down as that would tend to give credibility to the person pointing it out.

as someone else pointed out long ago, we get left alone here because we are not dangerous. just a bunch of raving loonies railing against everything. if we started making threats or putting together a plan on how to stop this madness we would either be overrun with trolls or start having other unrelated problems.

Posted by: dan of steele | Oct 23 2006 19:51 utc | 9


Yep. I'd rather not hide, either. Frankly, I don't have anything to hide. Though I don't attend rallies (I'm far too tied up in survival at this point), I'm a fairly outspoken patriot.

I'm happy to help that process go along ...

Me, too! That's why my comment about SMTP loops and keywords and such. My former employer had the idea of putting lots of buzzwords in your e-mail signature (stuff like "Project Aroura" and "Carnivore") so it gets sent with whatever you send. We discussed this long before 'Leviathan' however, so that idea, as a passive measure, is a bit futile now.

And (disclaimer), I'm not trying to actively subvert the government's ability to catch terrorists. I'm far more concerned about The Beast completely escaping human control of any kind. In that direction, we could all find ourselves enthralled to the "cylons" before too long.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Oct 23 2006 20:10 utc | 10

For a while it was fashionable to add certain keywords to every email message, just to overwhelm the channel with noise. You can imagine for yourself which words would get the most attention these days from the automated index engines that probably scan most email that goes through the Internet.

The NSA is I think the largest consumer of supercomputers in the world; I wonder if those machines are much good for anything beyond cracking encryption, predicting weather and so on. The job of plucking certain phrases or sounds from the wires is probably more suited to multiple small computers, perhaps using ASICs (application specific intergrated circuits) that do sound-recognition processing etc. in hardware. I'm pretty sure those Echelon and Carnivore systems have been in place at major ISPs for years.

Those machines could communicate their findings to a database where the in-depth analysis might extract certain patterns which would be matched against other data including telephone call records, credit card usage and other semi-public data which is available to governments and other agents willing to pay for it.

It is actually in the realm of artificial intelligence. There is a persistent joke about the cyclic resurgence of AI funding, mostly from the "alphabet-soup" agencies. Ray Kurzweil to the side, it seems like the consensus is that machine intelligence is a long way from fruition.

That leaves us with using the machines to do the first cut, handing off leads that will be followed up by (very) human agents. If in fact the goal is to stop plotters it seems like a laughable attempt.

On the other hand, having this kind of data at your fingertips is like the ultimate Google search engine. Let's say the agent's daughter is dating a new guy, what's his first and last name? Okay, now the agent can find out a lot about the new guy ... another example might be the rival for a friend's job. Or a competing candidate for public office.

That is one of the problems with ubiquitous information, it will leak out bacause "information wants to be free."

Actually I read recently that information wants a million dollars in cash and a private jet waiting on the tarmac.

Posted by: jonku | Oct 23 2006 20:18 utc | 11

On the other hand, having this kind of data at your fingertips is like the ultimate Google search engine. Let's say the agent's daughter is dating a new guy, what's his first and last name? Okay, now the agent can find out a lot about the new guy ...

Yeah - "John Smith", "drug user", "nearby", "in steady contact" - i.e. 69, parkinson patient and living next door.

I had been working in that field for a while and don't have any scientific trust in it - other that it generates many dollars of income for those involved.

That doesn't mean that they will not haul us or someone else off to Gitmo or elsewhere, they will, but it will be useless and inevitable ... and that will show though a lot of folks will feel the pain before that happens.

Any way to avoid it?

Posted by: b | Oct 23 2006 20:56 utc | 12


Any way to avoid it?

Wear a T-shirt with "I AM NOT A TERRORIST!" printed on it? :)

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Oct 23 2006 21:07 utc | 13

This has been explored in science fiction, for example Neal Stephenson's Cryptonimicon has a group of computer entrepreneurs setting up an offshore data haven to securely do banking and other information services on a private island out of reach of any national authorities.

Also, John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider deals with a society with ubiquitous computer networks and storage of personal data, where the main character hooks up with a private service that lets people telephone and complain, kind of like a suicide hotline, and they create a self-replicating "worm" (a program like a virus) that they turn loose within the network and it seeks out and releases condemning information on corrupt government officials etc.

In the real world, there are services such as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) that can do a good job of encrypting things like email messages.

There are also services like that publish on little-known computer security topics.

So some tools exist already ... I suppose we are participating in the open-source media project just by discussing this here. The currently public Internet itself is a tremendous tool for sharing ideas which filter into public consciousness.

Maybe we should all carry little wireless Blackberry devices programmed to broadcast "I am being taken away by the men in black" to a waiting audience of activists. It's not that far-fetched really -- people power got the Canadian government to locate and free Maher Arar from Syrian torture, empanel the 911 Commission (for wat it's worth) and so on.

I guess we just keep on keepin' on.

Posted by: jonku | Oct 23 2006 21:29 utc | 14

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