Review DVD: The AMERICAN Ruling Class

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Congress (Failure, Reform), Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Justice (Failure, Reform), Leadership, Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Reviews (DVD Only), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Remarkable–Provokes & Entertains

December 10, 2009
Robert Altman, James Baker, Bill Bradley, Harold Brown, Hodding Carter, William Coleman, Walter Cronkite, Barabara Ehrenreich, Vartan Gregorian, Robert Hackney, Doug Henwood, Mike Dedavoy, Joseph Nye, Samuel Peabody, John Perkins, Pete Seeger, Lawrence Summers, Arthur Sulzberger, William Taft,  Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Zinn

This DVD is superb and also subversive. I doubt that the “stars” in this movie, particularly James Baker, Bill Bradley, Howard Brown, and Larry Summers, really knew what they were getting into, since their words–and their bland denials–ring so false in this context.

I put the film in while trying to deal with Microsoft’s latest “update” that cost me half the morning, and I recommend it very strongly as a Christmas present or for classrooms and book clubs.

My notes:

+ A Peabody, whose ancestors came on “the boat” and also founded Groton, laments that whereas all the leaders used to pass through Groton, now there is no real “source.” I am reminded of Lee Iacocca’s Where Have All the Leaders Gone?.

+ Hedge fund visits basically boils all ownership in America down to four banks, and later in the film we learn that six multinational control almost all “content.”

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Journal: Chuck Spinney Sends–Katrina & Fear

03 Environmental Degradation, 08 Wild Cards, 12 Water, Earth Intelligence, Ethics, Government, Military
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

The Detritus of Katrina and the Paralysis of Fear:
A Metaphor for Contemporary Politics

The vast Mississippi Delta in Louisiana is sinking as sea water from the Gulf of Mexico seeps in to destroy its fresh water marshlands.  The Army’s Corps of Engineers says it can not protect New Orleans from the inevitable storm surges caused by hurricanes (see the Guardian report attached below).

Some may dismiss this warning as alarmist hype, and the Army’s Corps of Engineers certainly does not have an enviable track record in this regard.  That said, the Corps’ warning does make evident the political-economic  detritus left over from Hurricane Katrina.  Inferentially, the warning also highlights the hollowness in the scare tactics used by global warming advocates to raise money for their far more costly ambitions, not to mention the paralyzing political-economic consequences posed by the politics of fear practiced by the Pentagon.

The reality of the Delta thus becomes a metaphor for the larger emptiness that now pervades American politics.

Below the Fold: Balance of Spinney Comment, Full Article with Highlight, Books
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Journal: Tech ‘has changed foreign policy’

Best Practices in Management, Civil Society, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Democracy, Diplomacy, Government, Information Society, Methods & Process, Peace Intelligence, Policy, Technologies
Full Story Online
Full Story Online

Tech’s inroads to a “global society” will influence its governance, Mr Brown said

By Jonathan Fildes

Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford

Technology means that foreign policy will never be the same again, the prime minister said at a meeting of leading thinkers in Oxford.

The power of technology – such as blogs – meant that the world could no longer be run by “elites”, Mr Brown said.

Policies must instead be formed by listening to the opinions of people “who are blogging and communicating with people around the world”, he said.

Mr Brown’s comments came during a surprise appearance at TED Global.

“That in my view gives us the first opportunity as a community to fundamentally change the world,” he told the TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference.

“Foreign policy can never be the same again.”

Global change

The prime minister talked about the power of technology to unite the world and offer ways to solve some of its most pressing problems.

He said that issues such as climate change could not be solved alone, adding that digital technology offered a way to create a “global society”.

You can’t deal with environmental problems through the existing institutions
Gordon Brown

“Massive changes in technology have allowed the possibility of people linking up around the world,” he said.

In particular, he said, digital communications offered the possibility of finding common ground “with people we will never meet”.

“We have the means to take collective action and take collective action together.”

He talked about recent events in Iran and Burma and how the global community – using blogs and technologies such as Twitter – was able to bring events to widespread attention.

He also highlighted the role of technology in recent elections in Zimbabwe.

“Because people were able to take mobile phone photographs of what was happening at polling stations, it was impossible for [Robert Mugabe] to fix that election in the way that he wanted to do.”

But Mr Brown also stressed the need to create new organisations to tackle environmental, financial, development and security problems.

“We are the first generation to be able to do this,” he told the conference. “We shouldn’t lose the chance.”

He said that older institutions founded after the Second World War, such as the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund, were now “out of date”.

“You can’t deal with environmental problems through the existing institutions,” he told the conference.

Review: The Social Life of Information

6 Star Top 10%, Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Misinformation & Propaganda, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Social LifeSuperb Primer for Any Age

January 19, 2008

John Seely Brown

I come to this book eight years after it was first published, and with all the accolades and superb reviews that it has already accummulated, my primary focus here, apart from flagging the book for those that follow my reviews, is to suggest that it is one of the finest overviews available and easily exploited as a primer for undergraduates, graduates, or adults pursuing their own continuing education via Amazon, which is now the hub of the World Brain.

As is my custom, I provide here a few highlights from my flyleaf notes, and then link to ten books that can be used to study discrete aspects of the digital age as I have come to understand it.

This is one of the best books I have found that makes the case that “fiber to the forehead” is next to worthless, it is not about acquiring more information, but rather about the nuanced networking and social interpretations of information in context.

Indeed, they say that with all the technologies now pushing and creating digital information, consumption of this information is only increasing among individuals by 1.7 percent a year.

I value this book, in part because I have seen the U.S. secret intelligence community lose its mind, today spending $60 billion a year of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money, to create monstrous and often counter-productive technical program that access the 4% of the information we can steal, while ignoring the 94% that is in 183 languages we do not speak, and more often than not, NOT online.

The authors write well, and gifted turns of phrase about, such as “the radical instability of infopunditry.”

They do a superb job of addressing the ills of technology-centered tunnel vision, a point that Peter Drucker made in Forbes ASAP 28 Aug 98, and I repeated in my keynote in Vegas to the National Security Agency (NSA) IT conference, in the early 2000 timeframe. We’ve spent the past 50 years on the T in IT, we need to start focusing on the I now.

The authors are eloquent in saying that more of the same is not the answer, and I totally agree. Returning to the secret world, I paraphrase an Australian journalist commenting on the pathologies of secret programs, who said that giving more money to dysfunctional secret agencies is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Right on. I want to reduce the secret budget to $12 billion a year, and redirect everything else to US education, global access to open sources in all languages, and free on demand education to the five billion poor via a network of 100 million volunteers with skype and internet access who can answer a cell phone question in any of 183 languages: education “one cell call at a time.”

The authors point out that at its best, technology augments and enhances human capabilities, it does not replace them (less the truly repetitive mechanical aspects).

They observe (in 2000) that 1-2 exabytes of information per year are created, but that much of this is not useful, and there is a major short-fall in sense-making and precision access.

They discuss, most usefully, the reality that designers underestimate what people do (and I would add, what they want or need).

“Information fetishism” is defined as the belief that information and information technology can replaced nuanced relations among people and their individual and shared insights. In Body of Secrets, link below, Jim Bamford ends his second book on NSA by saying that with all the trillions they have spent, they have still not built the ultimate computer, one that runs on a tiny amount of energy, weighs less than a few pounds, and can make petabyte calculations per second: “the human brain.”

The authors respond to earlier criticism about not addressing LINUX, and point out that LINUX is social innovation, not technical innovation. See Wealth of Networks below.

They note that the primary advantage of IT is that it enhances both local and global access. On the downside, it neglects periphery and context.

The authors reassert, compellingly, the value of intermediation, and I am reminded of our earlier criticisms of the Internet, still valid, in that most information is unedited, unformatted, unpaginated, undated, and lacking in source bias insight. This is still true, and Google is making it worse.

By the authors own account, this book addresses:
1) Limits of infopunditry
2) Challenges of software agents
3) Social character of work and learning
4) Limits of management theory
5) Resources for innovation
6) Unnoticed aspects of the document
7) Implications for design
8) Future of information, especially for university

I have a couple of nits, but not enough to warrant removal of one star. This is clearly a seminal work of lasting value.

Nit #1: Organizational Intelligence (Wilensky, 1967) is not to be found in this book. The authors do not go past Quadrant III (see loaded images).

Nit #2: While they have a superb bibliography and include works by Barlow, Kelly, Strassmann, Toffler, and Turkle, they do NOT include the seminal works directly relevant to this book, specifically, Barlow’s seminal manifesto, and the following:

Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World
Information Payoff
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit , Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Amazon limits us to ten links. See my earlier lists (the first ten) for 300+ books covering information and intelligence. Here are six more:
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

I regret the limitation on links. See also such gems as Forbidden Knowledge; Voltaire’s Bastards; Age of Missing Information; etc etc.