Archive for November, 2011

Home Truth Is Out There

Monday, November 28th, 2011 by Strep Throat

Data from a new study, published in the British Medical Journal, has been chewed up by the Fourth Estate and spat out to deliberately fear-monger against Home Birth.

See the Press Assoc., BBQ, Terriblybad for examples of the most widely reported ‘angle’ on the study.

Babies born to first-time mothers who choose a home birth are almost three times more likely to die or suffer a medical complication, according to a report.

I have read the study, linked above. The overall risk for a ‘serious adverse outcome’ did not reach statistical significance in home birth vs other birthplace cohorts. Only when a specific subset of data were analysed was a significant result reached.

And just to clarify the inflammatory quote above, see table 8.4 in the Appendix to the study for the data which show that your child does not have ANY more likelihood of dying at home compared to a ‘medical’ setting. In fact, the highest proportion of neonatal deaths were found in freestanding midwifery units. For what it’s worth.

However, having read the study and having tried to understand the data, I would like to present an alternate interpretation.

CHOOSING TO GIVE BIRTH IN AN OBSTETRIC UNIT HARMS YOU, AND HARMS YOUR BABY, BEFORE YOU EVEN ARRIVE

It’s true, and this brilliant study proves it.

THEN THEY HARM YOU SOME MORE

It’s true, and this brilliant study proves it.

Let me elucidate on the data which supports my hypothesis.

So, you are ‘low risk’ (defined by this study), gestation has gone very well (defined by this study), labour starts… at home you get on with things. Eventually a midwife usually arrives and checks you over.  At this stage only 5.4% of women at home had any kind of medical complication (meconium leaking, abnormal foetal heart rate and so on).

If, however, your labour starts and you have to leave home, get to hospital and do whatever they tell you to do before a midwife sees you… 19.5% of women showed 1 or more complications! 8x as many women in hospital had 2 or more complications than those women who stayed at home.  That’s a bad start.

So, baby is coming and those Obstetricians just can’t keep their hands away. If you’ve chosen hospital you have 4x more chance of little Chelsy being sucked out with a plunger (ventouse), 3.5x more use of metal salad servers (forceps), 5x more chance of being slit open (caesarean), almost 2x more chance of serious perineal trauma, 2x more blood transfusions, 5x less chance of a normal placenta delivery, 3x less chance to use natural pain relief such as water birth – but 4x more chemical pain relief (epidurals etc.), and, finally, 4x more chance of having your fanny slashed by a scalpel-happy medic.

Also, home birth rates better than midwife-led units in all these aspects.

Obstetric Unit births were classified as ‘spontaneous vertex’ (normal head-first) births in only 74% of cases.

At home your chance of a completely normal birth was 93%. Again higher than midwife-led units.

All this data is freely available in the study manuscript online and it’s online appendices.


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Save us from the lawyers and the luddites

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 by Irdial 1DnwFLXczVZV8kLJbMYoheUrpqHesjxrSi

John Matonis has a new and excellent post on his ‘Monetary Future’ blog.

In it, he logically goes through some of the issues surrounding Bitcoin. It is well worth reading.

One section however, spurred this BLOGDIAL post. It’s the part about Vili Lehdonvirta’s ideas on ‘virtual goods’…

[...]

I am worried that Bitcoin is a step too far as it leaves no possibility for even democratic governments to enforce their laws. This is a topic I would love to debate with the community and hear opposing views. I think the end result could be a better understanding for me, but also a better understanding for the Bitcoin community on how to live in harmony with democratic authority.

Absolutely astonishing. A ‘step too far’? Towards or away from what exactly? We do not want to live in harmony with democratic authority. Democratic authority, to us, is inherently illegitimate, evil, immoral and completely unjustifiable. There are people who are attracted to Bitcoin precisely because it is beyond the control of ‘democratic authority’. As for it being a step too far, we must bear in mind that no one is forcing anyone to use Bitcoin. You decide on your own to use it, and if it succeeds or fails, you take the benefit or profit or losses respectively. Violent Statists are of course, vehemently opposed to free trade, voluntary exchange and liberty. Bitcoin is to the Statist as sunrise is to Dracula.

Matonis chimes in with…

For the most part, I respect Vili Lehdonvirta’s academic work on virtual goods ownership, but he harbors confused thoughts on the broader acceptance of bitcoin through dilution of its most beneficial properties, because he mistakenly extends the notion of virtual goods legal recognition to virtual currency legal recognition.

Fascinating. The Statists from the legal profession class are described by Murray Rothbard in ‘For a New Liberty’ as follows:

We see clearly why the State needs the intellectuals; but why do the intellectuals need the State? Put simply, the intellectual’s livelihood in the free market is generally none too secure; for the intellectual, like everyone else on the market, must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men, and it is characteristic of these masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual concerns. The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a warm, secure, and permanent berth in its apparatus, a secure income, and the panoply of prestige.

[...] since the early origins of the State, its rulers have always turned, as a necessary bolster to their rule, to an alliance with society’s class of intellectuals. The masses do not create their own abstract ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and promulgated by the body of intellectuals, who become the effective “opinion moulders” in society. And since it is precisely a moulding of opinion on behalf of the rulers that the State almost desperately needs, this forms a firm basis for the age-old alliance of the intellectuals and the ruling classes of the State. The alliance is based on a quid pro quo: on the one hand, the intellectuals spread among the masses the idea that the State and its rulers are wise, good, sometimes divine, and at the very least inevitable and better than any conceivable alternatives. In return for this panoply of ideology, the State incorporates the intellectuals as part of the ruling elite, granting them power, status, prestige, and material security. Furthermore, intellectuals are needed to staff the bureaucracy and to “plan” the economy and society.

[...]

In all societies, public opinion is determined by the intellectual classes, the opinion moulders of society. For most people neither originate nor disseminate ideas and concepts; on the contrary, they tend to adopt those ideas promulgated by the professional intellectual classes, the professional dealers in ideas. Now, throughout history, as we shall see further below, despots and ruling elites of States have had far more need of the services of intellectuals than have peaceful citizens in a free society.

[...]

For States have always needed opinion-moulding intellectuals to con the public into believing that its rule is wise, good, and inevitable; into believing that the “emperor has clothes.” Until the modern world, such intellectuals were inevitably churchmen (or witch doctors), the guardians of religion. It was a cozy alliance, this age-old partnership between Church and State; the Church informed its deluded charges that the king ruled by divine command and therefore must be obeyed; in return, the king funneled numerous tax revenues into the coffers of the Church. Hence, the great importance for the libertarian classical liberals of their success at separating Church and State.

For a New Liberty

The whole idea of ‘Digital Goods’ is a fallacy, created by Statist professionals in order to gain a foothold in the emerging digital economy that threatens to disrupt their authority and completely replace the old world economy in many areas, specifically the delivery of films, books and music, and now through Bitcoin, the process of moving money around the globe.

The fallacious notion of ‘Digital Goods’ is pyramided on the idea that copyright (an artificial concept of the State) is legitimate and logical. As is the case with copyright, the idea of Digital Goods conflates the correct idea of property rights in real-world physical goods with a false right in intangible pure information, which can be infinitely copied, transmitted and transformed without loss.

An idea can have a human originator, but once that idea is conveyed to another man, it resides in the mind of that man. The only way that you can prevent that second man, the receiver, from using this idea is to initiate force against him. On this basis alone copyright as a legitimate idea falls, since it violates the non aggression axiom. I will leave it to you to explore the rest of this idea at your leisure. I also strongly recommend that you read ‘Against Intellectual Monopoly‘.

Bitcoin is an extraordinary and important innovation. It is the first system where a ‘Digital Good’ cannot be double spent. That means Bitcoins can be duplicated perfectly an infinite number of times, but they cannot be spent more than one transaction at a time between two people.

Bitcoins retain all the qualities of information (near zero cost transmission, infinite transformability, infinite lossless replicability), but the Bitcoin ecosystem changes them into something that has some of the qualities of physical property, whilst retaining all of the advantages of pure information. You can actually own a Bitcoin secure in the knowledge that even though everyone can read your Bitcoin, make copies of it, and see it in the Block Chain, they cannot steal it from you and spend it. You can copy Bitcoins ad infinitum, but inside the system is the only place where they have value or more accurately, utility. Bitcoin is the first instance of a digital representation that has some of the scarcity properties of a physical good.

Interestingly, this idea if transposed onto a music file, picture or film, could not work to prevent people using (double spending) those things, because there is no inherent value in owning a digital copy of a music file, film or book.

Imagine that instead of digital signatures, the Bitcoin block chain was used to control signed MP3 files. You could then have an ecosystem where unique copies of tracks (unique in that they were digitally signed, could not be forged and ownership was verifiable) could circulate for payment. The problem with this is that in this scenario music has two uses, one when it is stored in a file, and another when it is played in a music player, as well as being a string of numbers stored somewhere. There is also the ‘problem’ of the intent of music creators being that the same music is available to many people all at once.

Bitcoins do not have any use other than to confirm that they are owned by someone. This is why they can be used to transmit money over the internet. A digression, but interesting nonetheless, because this is the sort of thinking the large media companies should be doing or paying to have done for them, if they want to survive in any form over the next decade.

Apart from the revolutionary and singular case of Bitcoin in the Bitcoin ecosystem, all digital representations of ideas have zero intrinsic value, because they can be copied at a cost that approaches zero. In fact, the more copies there are, the lower the cost of obtaining a copy becomes because there are more storage locations to get them from and the cost of your time to search for them decreases. On some level, the law industry understands this, as they put pressure on Google to remove search results that point to files they claim contain ‘intellectual property’ belonging to their clients.

Digital technology has changed the way the world handles information forever. Trying to superimpose the outmoded, ridiculous and erroneous 19th century ways of thinking about property and business on people living today is a fruitless and anti-human endeavour. What’s more, it does not make everyone more honest and make business more efficient. Look at the dispute resolution mechanisms in eBay and Amazon, and you get a glimpse of how the free market works to protect everyone and benefit everyone. The State does not poke its snotty nose into the dispute resolution systems of these online services and the vast majority of transactions happen without any problems, and where there are problems, they are resolved within the mechanisms of the services to everyone’s satisfaction.

Just as the buggy whip makers, the lake ice industry and all superseded industries were eliminated by progress, the notion that music, books and any work that can be digitised should remain scarce, by force, is an astonishingly evil idea. The difference in people today as compared to those living in the age of the horse and cart it seems, is that this generation of men is not sufficiently agile, and a subset of them is unwilling to pivot and change business models to deal with the new reality. This is probably due to the very rapid pace of change, and the fact that there appears to be no future whatsoever for the people in the business of hoarding and supplying scarce information distributed in physical containers. They are squeezing this model for every drop of blood they can get before it becomes untenable to ask for money in exchange for physical discs or files.

Ill informed and self interested cronies and Statists are trying to keep man in horses and carts when the internal combustion engine car is in the garage of every home. It simply doesn’t make any sense on any level, is immoral, and the only reason why they can get away with it is they have an agent with the monopoly of violence to back them up: the State. In absentia of this force, no one would listen to the Statists, the MPAA/RIAA, the luddites, the lawyers, the buggy whip manufacturers and the Statists. Since they offer nothing of value, they would simply be ignored.

I predict that there will come a time when none of these people are taken seriously, and they are ignored and sidelined. The world simply will not be held down to the level of Stone Age Man to suit the needs of a vanishingly small number of venal, violent and ignorant men and their blinkered apologists. The dispute resolution systems that are an emergent property of sites like Amazon and eBay will spread out into the real world, making the State and its proponents redundant. It would be a fascinating project to try and separate these arbitration services and generalise them so that the public could use them instead of the courts of the State.

The fact of the matter is that lawyers have no right to tell anyone how to voluntarily exchange goods and under what terms those goods are to be exchanged. Their role is to arbitrate in disputes where both parties agree to be subject to the rules of the arbitrator, and nothing more. Because the vast majority of humans can exchange without disputes, they must create conflict in this area to maintain their social status and incomes, with the help of the State. This is why lawyers support the fallacious idea of copyright, and why they want to extend this sickness to Bitcoin, and all areas online.

The Statists refuse to accept reality, or cannot understand it, or understand it and actively fight to control it with violence. Lawyers especially have the most to gain from keeping the immoral, illogical and absurd copyright laws in force.

Or do they?

The fact of the matter is that once copyright laws are removed from all statute books, the amount of work for lawyers will not decrease, but will in fact increase, as creative people adapt to the new business models.

For example, no one has the right to steal a physical disk from anyone. If a musical work is created and stored in a fixed medium, and the right to be the first to sell it is sold to someone, a person who steals that disc and releases what is stored on it could be held liable for the damage caused to both contracting parties.

A disc of an unreleased highly anticipated pre-sold masterpiece would have an agreed value that is set out in a contract, and a value in pre-sales. Once it is leaked by theft and no one will pay for it, losses have been imposed upon the creative party, since exclusivity has been broken by the thief. In this scenario, damages are not calculated by how many copies are in the wild but by the fact that a physical disc has been stolen, its contents leaked and sales potential has been destroyed through cancellations. This is of course, completely separate from a work that is released on a disc, sold to a person, and that person making a copy for whatever reason. This is entirely legitimate, for reasons laid out clearly in Against Intellectual Monopoly.

This scenario is the same as someone breaking into a jewellery store and stealing a diamond necklace. Once that necklace has been stolen, it cannot be sold to someone else. The scenario of a pre-release disc being stolen and released is even worse, because the irreplaceable, unique first use opportunity has been destroyed forever. This is the true nature of the damage and theft done to both parties by this sort of act; the value of such a theft can be estimated and a valid moral claim made against a thief. Once again, this has nothing to do with the subsequent copies made by people who got a hold of the data by whatever means.

I use the example of the theft of a necklace deliberately, because it is used by the copyright monopoly to justify everyone being forbidden from making copies of what they own. Note how I am separating the act of copying what you have legitimately purchased from the destruction of potential by an unauthorised pre-release of a stolen disc.

There are many other circumstances where fault can be placed in this scenario. For example, if one party fails to maintain security and this is the cause of the leak, someone is at fault and has to pay. This can be laid out explicitly in a contract. These byzantine details are the job of lawyers to sort out, set terms for and organise. It is for lawyers to define these agreements, fix the agreed penalties, pursue the wrong doers in case of a breach of information. This would be a huge amount of complex work, worth an enormous amount of money. Lawyers are major beneficiaries of a world without copyright.

Of course, once a suite of music or book or other information is released, it can be copied ad infinitum, but then the next thrill is the thing that is valuable, and the public has an insatiable appetite for the new; this is just one possible model for the creative to explore, and of course, since they are the creative, its up to them to think of new ways of approaching the market in a reality where every idea can be copied and can spread world-wide in a matter of hours, if you hit exactly the right note.

The ignorant, imagination-less Statists want to prevent this astonishing world of the super abundance business model from fully emerging. They are doing everything they can to wreck the exponential growth of tools, contracts and technology that will unarguably benefit the entire planet, for the sake of a handful of ignorant, comfortable, computer illiterates.

Unfortunately for them, the harder they push against the internet, the stronger it becomes. Every service they have tried to cripple has either resulted in that service strengthening or spawning new services. Bulletin Board Systems, IRC DCC channels, Napster, Gnutella, Bittorrent are all examples in chronological order of how software outpaces the luddites, and of course, that list excludes the peripheral discoveries like MP3 that fuel the creation of new services.

This is a battle that they cannot win and which they should not win, because they have no case or moral foundation whatsoever.

Read this article in Hungarian.

Robots, socks and gloves

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 by Irdial 1DnwFLXczVZV8kLJbMYoheUrpqHesjxrSi

Whilst reading over the comments to the video of some robotic, brainwashed OWS chanters trying to disrupt a Ron Paul speech, I noticed something that seemed vaguely familiar; a comment, which in content and form looked like many other comments I have been coming across that try and discredit Ron Paul by misrepresenting his ideas.

Unfortunately for the people who are doing this, Google can help us find out if they are an organized group or not.

Here is the root comment that looked suspiciously like many comments that I have read, from Raw Story:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/11/21/ron-paul-gets-mic-checked-by-new-hampshire-protesters/#disqus_thread

and here is another example from a YouTube comment stream:

http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=lI1gvPmA_c8

You can find your own examples yourself. There are quite a few out there, with slightly different wording and in different contexts. A cursory search indicates that there might be a small group of people who are behind these comments. I don’t have time to research who they are with any precision. But we can do an analysis of what they are up to.

This activity is called ‘Glove Puppetry’ or more commonly Sock Puppetry.

Groups of people with an agenda to change the tone or direction of an online discussion, for money or the lulz, take on positions that are different to (opposition for money) the polar opposite of (opposition for lulz) the dominant group in a thread or stream of comments, to manipulate them, troll them and destroy any chance of a reasoned linear discussion.

Sock puppetry is also being done by the State, to try and influence public opinion. You can read about this practice in these links.

This is a very interesting subject, on many levels. Can Sock Puppetry work in the age of the internets? Google is only a click away from any instance of puppetry, so any lie can be instantly neutralised. Also, a Sock Puppet entering into a nest of people who are thinking in one way (correctly or not) cannot gain traction without being exposed as a troll and voted down where a down arrow is available. Sock Puppets do not believe what they are typing, they are working off of a script. Within one or two replies you can spot a Sock Puppet because their thinking and writing is not coherent. When the script comes to its end, all they have is ad hominem attacks, which means they lose.

We wrote about this as an example of Baudrillard’s ‘Mass’. You should read ‘In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities‘ for some insight into the difficulty of penetrating coherent groups of people who are thinking in one way, though in this case the fit is not exact.

In the meantime, now that you have these two examples, you know the format of the current organised poison trolling that is taking place wherever a Ron Paul discussion or stream of comments is in progress. I will leave it to you to find your own examples, and to discover who the source of these troll / Sock Puppet posts is.

Hopefully, if enough people find out about these Sock Puppets, their effect will be neutralised. Its good to refute the bad arguments of people who are misguided, but wasting time on Sock Puppets is not a good use of time.

Police Undercover Snatch Squads and Agents Provocateurs

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by Irdial 1DnwFLXczVZV8kLJbMYoheUrpqHesjxrSi

The unintelligent, inexperienced and completely deluded students are out again in force, to be kettled, sheared, abused and used as fodder to provide the police with much needed overtime money.

What is interesting here is that we may be seeing the seed of the idea that all the video cameras that everyone has by default could be used for something useful, active and defensive, instead of just a child’s toy.

From BLOGDIAL, “The answer comes before the question” January 13th, 2009

Imagine this scenario. Someone somewhere sets up a Web 2.0 site that features photos of bad police and other officials, or those mysterious agent provocateurs that have been plaguing the useless demonstrations around the world. Imagine that the software behind this site (which could be connected to iPhoto 09) identifies all the bad people and exposes them to the public, nullifying all acts of political infiltration over night. Anyone setting up any sort of anti-state gathering or demonstration or action could, with a gauntlet of workers armed with iphones, vet every demonstrator as they turned up to weed out all the infiltrators, collaborators and provocateurs.

I guarantee you that this will happen, and not only that, but that someone is going to put into a copy of iPhoto 09, a huge archive of photos from demonstrations and political meetings going back decades to pick out the bad guys.

This explosion and convergence of technologies is a double edged sword, and since there are more of us than there are of them, it will be the case that all this technology and the networks that join them together will result in something totally unexpected; the tools may turn around and bite the state in the ass in an unexpected way. The very nature of networks says that this will happen; the population by virtue of its vast networked numbers can overpower any government in a scenario where the network is the power.

We are not powerless like the slaves in the Soviet Union were. We have fantastic tools, all of them free, right in our hands. Those tools, by the act of using them, change the game entirely, and the more the state pushes against the mass, the more dense and impenetrable it becomes.

This is a war that they cannot ever win.

http://irdial.com/blogdial/?p=1517

[...]

Now look at this video, uploaded to YouTube by noshockdoc on Nov 11, 2011:

If these people had any sense, they would have already set up this web service as I described in 2009.

Using Augmented Reality ID:

They could check each ‘protestor’ against the online database of Agent Provocateurs and police officers to make sure that they had not been infiltrated.

Of course, anyone who is that smart is not interested in demonstrating in the first place, but we will leave that aside for now.

The point is, these young and very foolish people are behaving as if it is 1960 and not the end of 2011. As I have said before, again and again, the age of demonstrations is over. The shape of them, how they play out, move, surge and flow is well understood. There can be no surprises with them. Nothing comes of them, no matter how large they are, as we saw with the StopWar demonstrations before the destruction of Iraq.

The problem these people have is that if they were intelligent enough to know this, they would not be demonstrating, and would be well on the way to formulating a strategy that would actually give them what they want. Their problem, clearly, is a toxic mix of a lack of intelligence and experience.

They do not know exactly what they hope to achieve with these acts, they have no discrete goals or deliverables, they have no means of creating a new strategy because they lack the mental capacity to formulate one; in other words, they are a completely lost cause.

One thing that is coming out of this is interesting however.

Because everyone has a camera at these demonstrations, it might come to pass that the light bulb switches on over the head of some computer science student as she realises that it should be possible to create what I describe in the post above.

There are literally dozens of cameras in this clip; surely someone somewhere must be thinking that there is a use that can be put to the footage to help weed out the provocateurs. Who knows?

What we can say with a high level of certainty is that these students are going to achieve nothing by marching in the street. Everything they are planning, even if it is not known about in advance by surveillance is easily counter-able because marching and demonstrating is a ‘dead tactic’ that the State has a perfect understanding of.

All of this is a complete distraction of course; even this very post has distracted me from doing something else productive. Unless by chance it spurs the creation of the system I have been writing about.

Once again, demonstrations are ‘Yellow Ribbon Thinking':

http://irdial.com/blogdial/?p=1152

they divert energy from useful acts and thinking, and prevent or delay permanent solutions from emerging. You should not participate in them; instead, you should be working only on things that have discreet goals and that has metrics that you can measure directly so that you can know if you are being successful or not.