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The running joke about Chemical Valley is about its eventual demise. We all know something bad is going to happen here, when we drive by Belle and smell the chemical plants across the river, Union Carbide, and others, we all kind of live here knowing it’s a disaster waiting to happen – we figure that sometime in the future there will be dead bodies lying every where, it won’t be about clean water. We wonder when DuPont will implode, and the chemical cloud will come down the valley and we will die choking. But I guess it’s like living under a volcano. It spews out magma, a few people get hurt, stinks up the place but then the news goes away. You get used to keeping a wary eye while wondering when its going to full-on explode. I’ve always wondered how people felt when they lived next to a volcano. Is our volcano your volcano, our poisonous cloud your poisonous cloud, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, DC?

Possibly 12 million people are potentially exposed to “4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation by Freedom Industries whose storage facility was last inspected in 1991, and the source of the leak.” It occurred not from terrorism but ineptitude.

MCHM was released by two escapees from a Carl Hiassen novel. It affects, not merely 300,000 easily dismissed West Virginians, but if you count Cincinnati, Louisville, and all the population between there and the Gulf of Mexico you exponentiate to the millions.

Our nightmare has come true, our water systems have been compromised, and not from terrorists but from ineptitude, from surgical budget cuts that hobble inspectors, and from a no-regulation ideology in a state desperate for employment. Two companies that lacked oversight, and one that lacked zero regulation have endangered the population of the middle America and its water supply.

Think it doesn’t affect your city, it’s a West Virginia problem – not thinking is why we are here – it is recommended that we don’t think. A city runs on water. Water seeks it’s level. You cannot stop rushing water, nor can you control seeping water. It is a force. You cannot keep it out of your tap water, unless you take action.

Call, write, persuade your representative to intercede in this national crisis. It’s not just those West Virginians who live in Chemical Valley who are not able to drink municipal water after the NO DRINK BAN was lifted.. The Elk River spill will slither its way to the your doorstep. If you escape this one with the aging infrastructure, and a state with few or no regulations, will your town be next?

Cincinnati, Louisville, and cities and towns down the river route to the ocean are exposed to a sinister chemical that although it has not been tested thoroughly, and has been known to kill rats, to interfere with the formation of the embryo, lower white blood count, and possibly cause leukemia and lymphoma, according to the wording of a major lawsuit filed in the brink of a major toxic water event that is unfathomable. Is there any acceptable level for this chemical? Are sores, burns, rashes, and pneumonia acceptable?

Any city’s financial health is tied to the daily delivery of drinkable, useable water to restaurants, salons, schools, and hospitals, communities at large. MCHM does not disappear when Cincinnati closes its valves for 48 hours. Louisville, regardless of what American Water, a corporation traded on the stock exchange tells us, the source has not been eliminated, the river banks, as well as the streams will most likely release it for sometime.

If perchance this stuff gets into your water supply in sufficient quantity, your customers will not drink this stuff. It stinks like cherry-liquorice commode cleaner. Wash a customer’s hair in it they might have sores on their scalps, or not, you might have introduced a stealth carcinogen to your customers. Like to fish, and like to eat your fish: caution.

So, it happens to you, but your neighbor’s water is flushed, but the ban has not been lifted in your area, the offending company brings “clean” water around, distributes it to the high school. All is good, right? Wrong. In West Virginia, the water company runs around back, loads up its tankers with dirty water, distributes it at the local high school, still smelling like commode cleaner. They pass the tanker water off as clean water; they don’t admit it is dirty water until people begin complaining. So, you ask yourself, can a company who tells you it’s delivering water from clean source be believed when it says it’s tested the water, and it’s safe to drink?

The CDC is usually the agency you go to for answers, but this time they wouldn’t back themselves up. It was the same mantra over and over. When the CDC was asked if the water was safe the questioners were referred to the American Water Company, and when the reporters went back to the water company they were told to contact the CDC.

The people of West Virginia were told the chemical was safe to drink and bathe in. Forty-eight hours later they said, no, wait, maybe pregnant women, children under three, and those with immune system problems shouldn’t drink it. A doctor from the health department said essentially that it is all in the heads of the complainers, it will go away. Who are you to believe. You want to bathe, you want to wash dishes, you want your life back.

And, the CDC decision to call the toxic water fixed at one part per million is a joke, and the real joke is on all the states bordering the rivers that the Elk River in West Virginia flows into, and leaks away from to free standing wells and septic tanks, because this chemical cannot be turned off by closing the valves for 48 hours, it’s still coming. The 60 mile plume is only the most evident sign that it’s passing your cities.

And if you can smell it, and you get pneumonia are the particles in the air hazardous? The smell is not a detector like Mercapton in natural gas. Natural gas smells funky because it has an additive that smells, and warns us when it leaks so we can detect it. Gasoline smell is simply gasoline. It irritates when ingested or breathed. MCHM does the same.  MCHM has an odor described as faint. Crude MCHM contains six additional ingredients, which we may or may not have an odor, and may or may not cause lungs, eyes, and throat to burn. [There is too little information about the crude MCHM in combination with the other six ingredients to say for sure if the combinatorial chemical is hazardous to breath.]

I am nothing if not cynical about West Virginia, my state of birth and the nation I’ve respected and loved. We are led by leaderless, self-absorbed, greedy, without conscience, arrogant, superior feeling group of politicians who spy and lie to their constituents – barefaced lies, that barely conceal their contempt for those they deem inferior – anyone who is not them. They are smarter and more deserving, smug and sure, and ripe for political upending.

Our elected representatives from the president of the United States down the line through the Senate and Congress failed to report to duty, or rather reported, then ran off when the real work started in West Virginia, offering flats of water without offering words of assurance or compassion, or a plan. The city of Charleston’s fragile economy is falling apart. A city runs on water. Do you understand the implications, Cincinnati and Louisville? West Virginia is small enough to fail. Cincinnati may be too large to help.

California burns, North Carolina leaks radioactive water, poor children miss the only sure meals for the week because they cannot attend school in West Virginia, a mother whose husband has died chooses between buying kerosene for heat or water for her children; a school shooting happens in New Mexico, but who cares or notices.

The national pundits fiddle while California burns, the Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers are poisoned, and North Carolina streams – who knows, so little about the recent radiation damage is published. While our children are hungry, and our unborn babies development threatened, the national media fawns and fumbles over the Chris Christie cat fight, a footnote in history. Not all of the media, thank goodness. Some are brave and relentless, appalled and letting us know it, like Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette, giving us information to make decisions for an about our families.

When you have two corporate weasels and two corporations not locally owned, and politicians bought and paid for, and a system not propped up by regulations, inspections, and regular maintenance, it’s surprising it has not happened before on a larger scale.

 

EricSchmidt

 

 I expected to read details, hitherto unknown to us, about that weird country, North Korea, in Eric Schmidt’s book, The New Digital Age. After all, North Korea is a hot topic, and Schmidt, recently, had a bird’s eye view of it.

Schmidt is on the short list of a very few Americans to experience North Korea intimately, notwithstanding the blinkered Dennis Rodman, who attended a North Korean “celebrity sporting event” a month before Kim Jong-un threatened nuclear annihilation to four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu.

Or, let’s not forget the photo-op of ashen-faced, hostage negotiator, ex-president, Bill Clinton who stood on stage beside the elder, Kim Jong-II during a tense hostage situation. We are curious about North Korea, as-is, on a day-to-day basis, rather than a sanitized distance. Schmidt entered the inner sanctum.

Yes, there were many quotable lines about North Korea and the future of business in Asia in The New Digital Age, but for the rest of us, seeking ephemera, the chapters were like dry lake beds encrusted with cracked mud. 

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen dual authored The Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The book was published this April, several months after Schmidt’s business and sightseeing tour with his daughter, Sophie, to North Korea.

Since books are printed in bits instead of ink, mostly, nowadays, it seems like Schmidt and Cohen could’ve updated their Kindle version to include more North Korean local color before it was published; could’ve added a page or two of local kitsch slash melodrama for those readers who are so very curious about, but will never see the innards of North Korea; with those edits in mind, Schmidt could’ve let his daughter write the book.

Daughter, Sophie’s hot-wired blog post written after her visit to North Korea with her father, Eric Schmidt, was far more fun, informative, and readable than Schmidt’s and Cohen’s book. You might like to visit Sophie in North Korea or read Eric Schmidt’s Daughter Recounts the Duo’s Bizarre Trip to North Korea, a Gizmodo story. It’s lively.

Seemed like the Schmidt-Cohen combo was possibly cautious about letting loose Google secrets or damaging a future working relationship with that Manchurian Candidate-kind-of-country, North Korea. Or something.

A Kindle search for the phrase ‘North Korea’ in The New Digital Age leads to no less than thirty-four instances. But for all those talking points the authors might have been describing a dull gray, nondescript, electrical box that every body owns.

Yeah, we know the North Korean government filters their public Internet. Give us details we can chew on. Give us concreteness. Give us gossip, any morsel, scrap, tedious leftover. Linsday Lohan gets better coverage than that bad-boy, North Korea, after a Schmidt visit.

Maybe informed readers with insider views to Google, and the future, read more into Schmidt’s lines than disappointed reviewers read. I’m sure, reading between the lines totally titillates CEO’s and those who like to guess what Google’s next move is about — readers get that, but a good read that broadens our understanding of the future, sprinkled with some bling-bling, and magic dust, particularly, when describing North Korea is what most readers expected.

A few reviewers on Amazon reviews were disappointed. We were in the minority. Below is the gist of my comment left on Amazon:

Bought The New Digital Age book on Amazon Pre-Order because I thought it was a book I might enjoy a lot. Rarely do this. The first chapter was interesting enough, but the writing kept me, the reader at a distance.

After the first chapter I would find myself flipping through other books in my Kindle. I didn’t get much past the first chapter, though I sampled later chapters to try to find a place to anchor my interest. I gave up on it.

Had just finished reading James Merkosi’s Burning the Page with little effort; I read it page for page, and gave it a good review on my blog. The distance between the two books on the WOW scale was wide. I read Burning the Page without a bump, but there was nothing but turbulence in the cockpit when I attempted to navigate The New Digital Age.

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Bit Coin fascinates me not because it is a get-rich-scheme or a convenient way to buy weed off the grid, which I don’t smoke, but don’t mind if anyone else does, or because I’m a Libertarian with gold on hand, I’m not. Bit Coins are the perfect storm heading our way, and the perfect opportunity.

Bit Coins or Bit currencies are the tip of the “Fat Tail.” Fat tails “are events that appear highly unlikely to occur but that are earth-moving when they do.” Bit coin is the Cat 5 hurricane coming to you and me in the next five to ten years. It could be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how world wide acceptance shakes out.

Bit currency is an emergent electronic payment system similar to Pay-Pal, which is an over simplistic way towards explaining it but about the best I can do. It’s an electronic money system whereby we all could become merchants. It’s a system where a few law abiding entrepreneurs now pay for a pizza or buy a WordPress site or sell yard sale items without a credit card or without cash. It’s a money-medium that’s convenient for not-so law-abiding people to buy and sell items, or move money they don’t want traced. It’s a money system without bill collectors. It’s permanent; you can’t get your money back. All sales are final.

Speculators are drawn to it. It has a future. It’s security is okay — that is until you cash out your cyber bits in exchange for dollars. That’s a crack in the system right now. There are robbers waiting to take your money when you cash out. It helps if you’re tech savvy. And, oh yea, speculators may try to crash the currency so they can buy it back from you when the price drops like it recently did. Or you may lose your encrypted back up file or accidentally wipe it out, and your Bit coins are gone. Yet, this nascent system is the tail end of the hurricane.

Since it’s an emergent system, it’s also similar to a snowflake or a termite cathedral or DNA replication or Wolfram’s computations where a pattern begins simply but generates complex designs over replication. Like DNA something pleasing might come from it like a baby or like the termite cathedral something not altogether likable. Emergent systems like Bit Coin don’t emerge in a vacuum, they bring other systems to the forefront with them, hence complexity.

Eric Schmidt, Googleplex person, says that by 2020 the entire world will be online. If so, we will want to buy and sell from our neighbors, which will include the entire world, which will require other emergent systems as helpers. If that’s so, a fairly secure Bit currency is going to be necessary, a stronger Maker culture will most likely be put in place, and a faster transportation system might have evolved.

We’ll need a world wide communication system to propel the buying and selling, and making, and a same day world wide system for delivery of concrete goods, and a maybe an unsettling shift in government. But like termites when disturbed governments are self-organizing, and seem to fare well after turmoil, coming back stronger and we should hope, more democratized.

A fairly secure Bit currency: Fairly secure but not absolutely secure Bit currency with a fast connection, and maybe free phones, is all that’s keeping us from buying instant art from an African artist in Timbuktu or hand knit wool socks from North Korea (well maybe more). The network doesn’t need to be absolutely secure, just secure enough. If products were cheap enough that I could afford to lose money on a small percentage of my purchases or sales, then it would would work as a currency. If we accepted a small loss it could work. It might be called fuzzy accounting for Bit currency instead of bank or credit card accounting where each penny is accounted for, and an over-priced transaction fee is charged.

A healthy Maker culture: Couple Bit currency/micro payments with a home or community based, Maker printer, and an artist living in Timbuktu, Africa, could send me her sculpture plan, created in her village, or the North Korean, homemaker could send me his sock design created in his village, ready to print anywhere in the world on a Maker printer in any suitable medium, be it yarn, wood, plastic, or steel. Or if the fat tail is really fat, and imaginative, those original North Korean socks could be delivered same day by a transport fueled with a NASA UW fusion rocket recently proposed to reach Mars within 30 days. Far fetched, maybe, but … I’m still waiting for my robot.

So, why should Bit currency matter to you and me? Bit currency is an emerging technology that’s going to revolutionize commerce. It may not stay in the present form but mutate into something we haven’t anticipated yet. Whatever it is when Bit Coin was unleashed it was like going through a gate that had a one way spring, there is no going back — Bit currency is here, and it’s a reality. Oh, yea, there are going to be Bit currency billionaires made just like railroad moguls and oil barons. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them.

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“I think the case against Auernheimer is deeply flawed, and that the

principles the case raises are critically important for civil liberties online.”

 

“In a blog post Thursday, Orin Kerr, a professor from the George Washington University Law School, said he is stepping in to help Auernheimer due to concerns over the length of his sentence and the manner in which the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was applied in the case.”

AT&T HACK

A few days ago, I read about “Weev” Auernheimer hacking AT&T to reveal a deep flaw. He did it for the challenge and a notoriety. He was hacking for fun not profit. He’s going to jail. Why?

Why are our brightest minds wasted in jail? A rapist gets one year and a non-malicious hacker gets three to four, and another altruistic one is driven to take his life, and yet another one, a talented Texas journalist rots in jail. It’s more than unfair. It’s wasteful. And, heart breaking.

I’m not a hacker. I tinker. Yet, our society is so backward, and so under-educated about technology that I might be lumped into that category. I tinker, like so many others. To say that I hack is like saying that singing Karaoke is the same as performing a musical virtuoso. What I like to do is write or at least think about writing. It’s probably what Barrett Brown likes best, too — what he thinks about while in jail for hacking, which he probably didn’t know jack about, what he knew about was writing and investigative journalism.

Technosociofile, Subspecies of the Nerd

Years ago I got fascinated by a new thing, a bulletin board, run by a skinny teenager who worked at Walmart. I don’t remember his name; I remember he killed himself, though. One day I had someone to share a hobby the next I had no one. I used to talk to him about computers when I went there to shop. I’d look him up. One day he wasn’t there, and they told me they found him by the wood pile near the shanty he lived in. He’d shot himself. He was a Technosociofile, not a terribly understood subspecies of the nerd. Seems they are the most vulnerable.

Brown, Swartz, and Auemheimer

In a small way that’s why I feel so bad for activist, Aaron Swartz, altruistic JSTOR hacker at MIT who committed suicide while under Federal indictment “facing decades of prison”, and to some degree, I feel bad for Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer in what is considered “Federal overreach”, for the AT&T hacking. And then there is Barrett Brown, who got hold of a story that his journalistic personality wouldn’t allow him to let go.

Cyberwarfare Discussion

Don’t get me wrong I don’t like or support malicious hacking but hacktivism is another story. It often doesn’t come tied up in a nice bow with manners and etiquette. It’s comes in the package of a sometimes obsessive, reclusive, inquisitive mind who just wants to know if they can climb one more level in the game. And when they are caught, nowadays, lately, the crime often does not fit the punishment. I’m not saying all who hack and get caught should go unpunished I’m saying recently this is beginning to look like a witch hunt.

Is this an era we will look back on as a destruction of the best minds of the early twenty-first century, the ones who are self taught, self-motivated, the possible geniuses who might protect our country against cyberwarfare through exposing holes in the technology-Internet-infrastructure? I’m saying let’s have open discussion, let’s have oversight in sentencing, and let’s understand the difference between malicious destruction and hacktivism. It’s a very fine line but democracy has always allowed us to tread that fine line delicately.