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Snowden leaks: the real take-home

(Before I begin: there are participants in the discourse who would say that we're supposed to natter on about Edward Snowden, and not the contents of his disclosures, because turning it into a personal issue rather than a political one is useful to the machineries of state. But the point I'm about to make here is different ...)

(UPDATE: An extended, reworked, more detailed essay along these lines can be found in Foreign Policy.)

In the 21st century, the NSA (and other espionage agencies) face a big system-wide problem that I haven't seen anybody talking about.

The problem is sociological, and it's going to get worse.

First, a brief re-cap. Here's the BBC's Adam Curtis on why the HUMINT establishment is incompetent by design (hint: we can blame a late 19th century author of technothrillers and the Daily Mail). Here's John le Carre on the relationship between spy fic and fact and, more worryingly, an anecdote from personal experience about an intel officer who made stuff up out of sheer boredom. Now, you might think that ELINT is better; computers don't lie, do they? But as Bruce Sterling has been pointing out snarkily from the sidelines for about 25 years now, the emperor is stark bollock naked. (Note: read that last essay as a sarcastic, irony-dripping rant by a prophet who burned out and gave up all hope years ago and is now luxuriating in a bath of pure schadenfreude.)

Are we ready? All together, now:

The big government/civil service agencies are old. They're products of the 20th century, and they are used to running their human resources and internal security processes as if they're still living in the days of the "job for life" culture; potential spooks-to-be were tapped early (often while at school or university), vetted, then given a safe sinecure along with regular monitoring to ensure they stayed on the straight-and-narrow all the way to the gold watch and pension. Because that's how we all used to work, at least if we were civil servants or white collar paper pushers back in the 1950s.

But things don't work that way any more. A huge and unmentionable side-effect of the neoliberal backlash of the 1970s was the deregulation of labour markets and the deliberate destruction of the job for life culture, partly as a lever for dislodging unionism and the taproots of left-wing power in the west (yes, it was explicit class war by the rich against the workers), and partly because a liquid labour market made entrepreneurial innovation and corporate restructuring easier (I love these capitalist euphemisms: I swear they'd find a use for "final solution" as well, if only some naughty, bad people hadn't rendered that clause taboo two-thirds of a century ago).

Today, around 70% of the US intelligence budget is spent on outside contractors. And it's a big budget — well over $50Bn a year. Some chunks go on heavy metal (the National Reconnaissance Office is probably the biggest high-spending agency you've never heard of: they build spy satellites the size of double-decker buses and have so many Hubble-class space telescopes cluttering up their attic that they donated a couple to NASA in 2012), but a lot goes on people. People to oil the machines. People who work for large contracting organizations. Organizations who increasingly rely on contractors rather than permanent labour, because of buzz-words like "flexibility" and "labour market liquidity".

Here's the problem: they're now running into outside contractors who grew up in Generation X or Generation Y.

Let's leave aside the prognostications of sociologists about over-broad cultural traits of an entire generation. The key facts are: Generation X's parents expected a job for life, but with few exceptions Gen Xers never had that — they're used to nomadic employment, hire-and-fire, right-to-work laws, the whole nine yards of organized-labour deracination. Gen Y's parents are Gen X. Gen Y has never thought of jobs as permanent things. Gen Y will stare at you blankly if you talk about loyalty to their employer; the old feudal arrangement ("we'll give you a job for life and look after you as long as you look out for the Organization") is something their grandparents maybe ranted about, but it's about as real as the divine right of kings. Employers are alien hive-mind colony intelligences who will fuck you over for the bottom line on the quarterly balance sheet. They'll give you a laptop and tell you to hot-desk or work at home so that they can save money on office floorspace and furniture. They'll dangle the offer of a permanent job over your head but keep you on a zero-hours contract for as long as is convenient. This is the world they grew up in: this is the world that defines their expectations.

To Gen X, a job for life with the NSA was a probably-impossible dream — it's what their parents told them to expect, but few of their number achieved. To Gen Y the idea of a job for life is ludicrous and/or impossible.

This means the NSA and their fellow swimmers in the acronym soup of the intelligence-industrial complex are increasingly reliant on nomadic contractor employees, and increasingly subject to staff churn. There is an emerging need to security-clear vast numbers of temporary/transient workers ... and workers with no intrinsic sense of loyalty to the organization. For the time being, security clearance is carried out by other contractor organizations that specialize in human resource management, but even they are subject to the same problem: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

We human beings are primates. We have a deeply ingrained set of cultural and interpersonal behavioural rules which we violate only at social cost. One of these rules, essential for a tribal organism, is bilaterality: loyalty is a two-way street. (Another is hierarchicality: yield to the boss.) Such rules are not iron-bound or immutable — we're not robots — but our new hive superorganism employers don't obey them instinctively, and apes and monkeys and hominids tend to revert to tit for tat quite easily when unsure of their relative status. Perceived slights result in retaliation, and blundering, human-blind organizations can slight or bruise an employee's ego without even noticing. And slighted or bruised employees who lack instinctive loyalty because the culture they come from has spent generations systematically destroying social hierarchies and undermining their sense of belonging are much more likely to start thinking the unthinkable.

Edward Snowden is 30: he was born in 1983. Generation Y started in 1980-82. I think he's a sign of things to come.

PS: Bradley Chelsea Manning is 25.

261 Comments

1:

I'm ripening on the vine at the venerable age of 33. I work for a company that was a little late to the party on the "flexible" workforce, and many of my co-workers have worked here for 40+ years. Here, the "job for life" culture is alive and well.

And I want none of it. I'm here until I get bored, and then I'm out. My loyalty to the organization extends only so far as my urge to be good at my job. I like being good at my job, I like being respected by my peers, and to an outside observer, that can look a lot like being loyal to the organization.

The idea of a "job for life" is not only alien to me, but it sounds deeply unpleasant. It echoes Peter Gibbons, "What if we're still doing this in 30 years?"

//Also, because of aggressive saving and avoiding large expenses like children, I'm on track to retire in my 40s.

2:

Bradley Manning is not just young. He's of the generation of soldiers who, in the UK at least, are experiencing a clash between the traditional two-way loyalty—the Regiment looks after its own—and, largely imposed by a faceless bureaucracy, the scrapping of any long-term security.

You can be a good soldier, with an excellent record, and promotion prospects, and the Government will make you redundant.

The Navy and the Air Force are the same: skilled elites who are being discarded.

Armies, though, are trained to deliver lethal violence, up close and personal. In a culture where the tools of such violence are widely available, and the policing of society is more and more using quasi-military units, how long before the clash of arms?

Not war, but something like a bank robbery which pits a squad of trained soldiers against your local friendly SWAT team.

(This is deliberate bait for the guns-and-violence sub-thread, and it is still a Hollywood plot. There is the film The League of Gentlemen as one example to show the idea is an old one. However, reflect on the documented violence, war crimes even, of soldiers in Iraq.)

3:

For some reason, what you're describing here reminds me of the Condottieri during the Renaissance.

If there's no intrinsic group loyalty, money has to serve as a poor substitute. Poor because your contractors are only as loyal as long as you've got the biggest purse.

You end up in an age of the New Digital Condottieri (which would also be an excellent band name).

4:

t3knomanser, in some ways, your codicil about being 'on track to retire in my 40s" post is very much in keeping with the subject in Charles' post. This is not an insult just an observation on how close Charle's post is to the reality on the ground.

5:

As a member of genY (born 89) this really resonates with me. I've had conversations with my grandad before about his experience of working life and it seems utterly alien. He had a variety of jobs as a young man but around the age of 30 got a job as a driver for Shell and stuck with it til retirement. Despite the fact he's been retired for 20+ years he still gets invited to social events run by the company for ex-employees and whilst he worked there he had all manner of benefits like company grants to send his kids through university if they had the grades.

I don't know too much about how the company was run but I've always got the impression from him that it was like a community. Sure the bottom line was profit but there were a whole lot of non-wage related perks that kept the employees happy.

I'm under no illusions (and don't remember ever having been) that ill jump from place to place throughout my career. Hell I'm the last 3 years I've jumped from activity instructor to HR to landscaping and will be starting a PhD soon, despite being a few years out of uni. Ideally I'll stay in one field but working for one place for 5+ years sounds...unbelievable.

Perhaps this ties in with the recent post on employment. Back in the day companies needed to do everything they could to keep workers but now with decreased need for workers but increasing need for work the power is shifting ever in favour of the employer. If we do ever make a transition to a basic income with work for luxuries economy maybe those benefits and perks will start to come back as a way of enticing people to perform paid work when they don't need to. I doubt job for life will ever return though.

6:

I never worked for any employer -- other than myself -- for more than 39 months.

(Myself: I've been self employed for going on 13 years. But that's different, isn't it?)

7:

This is certainly a very interesting angle.

When I started my career at [military equipment manufacturer] in the late 80's the staff of my division was made up of 50% old-timers, all in their 40s or 50s, who had been with the company from the beginning, and 50% graduates. None of the old-timers ever left, they were so entrenched in their niches it seemed impossible the company could function if any of them did. The grads or near-ex-grads, by contrast, typically never stayed longer than two or three years.

Now that old guard has reached or passed retirement age, I imagine the workforce is entirely made up of Gen X and Gen Y.

8:

Much the same for me at my very similar first employer, where we recent grads were the first out the door when the peace dividend contraction began...

(and like Charlie, I've been freelancing for the last decade, while most of my previous jobs lasted no longer than three or four years at most)

9:

I'm 47 (just about GenX) and I watched with incredulity while organisations in my home country, New Zealand, destroyed the concept of loyalty and abandoned corporate memory for short-term gains. All the benefits of staying with a company were systematically stripped away during my first years in the workforce.

In times of booming profits and massive expansion in the 1980s, companies became penny-pinching and aggressively clawed back any employee benefits they could. They constantly looked for ways to encourage people to contract out of statutory protections of workers rights. Suddenly staff were an overhead rather than an asset. Partly because computers meant monkeys could do what used to be skilled jobs I suppose, and partly because shareholders began to demand a much greater share of profits. Though ironically I watched all this happening in publicly owned and funded workplaces like local government and educational institutions (as a librarian) where the profit motive played no direct role in day to day operations.

The irony of a free market economy is that you sell things of value to the highest bidder. In intelligence if the nation is no longer the highest bidder, or if for some other reason (such as illegality) the nation's bid is poor, then the *rational* thing to do is sell the info to someone else. At least Manning and Snowden were relatively selfless. What about all the people we don't know about who are selling information right now purely for profit? The powers that be wanted this to be how society was run - every man for himself, dog eat dog. At best it is tribal. How can you betray when there is no trust in the first place?

I totally agree that this is class war by the rich and that it is relatively organised. It's implicit in the Lewis Powell Memo (1971) which many see as a kind of manifesto for that war, because it outlines the Neoliberal backlash. It's worth reading to get an idea of the scope of the activities that were involved, from co-opting universities and government, to buying up media outlets. Adam Curtis's blog on how they then co-opted the religious right is a chilling addendum to the LPM.

I also agree that economists and politicians seem far too absorbed in abstract ideas about humanity (like Game Theory) and too detached from humanity itself. They lack insights into their fellow man. What understanding of humanity they do have is used as leverage in the process of controlling us and milking our labour for their benefit. Professional politicians too often resemble sociopaths or even psychopaths.

While the hippies were dropping out and dropping acid, the Neoliberals were going to business school and taking over. Shudder.

10:

The NSA can't work without the contractors, and now it can't work with them. Assange was right.

He decides, instead, that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s information environment. Which is why the point is not that particular leaks are specifically effective. Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire.

http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/julian-assange-and-the-computer-conspiracy-%E2%80%9Cto-destroy-this-invisible-government%E2%80%9D/

11:

True though IMO it's also different because you're lucky enough to have a profitable hobby. Ask 100 people what they'd love to spend the majority of their time doing and 90 of them will say something not possible to make money out of and 9 of them will say something not possible to make [i]enough[/i] money out of.

Then there's the lucky 1 who would do the work for free but happens to be able to earn a living from it.

12:

It was a hobby for 20 years, before it became a job; and it's not profitable for most people who practice it.

But, yes.

On the other hand: if you're self-employed and get to decide what you work on -- by which means I exclude the many involuntary "self-employed" contractors who are so only because their employees refuse to employ people directly because that would imply being responsible for their work force -- you generally choose something that interests you. And with age comes the ability to narrow your focus. It's not so much "would do the work for free" as "at least the job isn't shit, and the management is sympathetic".

13:

Interesting point of view. I've not been following the Snowden thing as closely so I'm not sure but it looks like also that maybe that "loyalty" element is a required part of the human psyche? I mean, it looks like Snowden did what he did because he believes it is what he should do for the good of "the American People". Loyalty to the apparatus of State that employed him in the way you mention being a joke, still one needs something to believe specially if one is working on what is supposed to be public service.

You follow a career that is supposed to be about lofty goals of National Security for the Leader of the Free World and get more or less treated like any other cog in the corporate machine. That void Le Carre's spoke of, that need for the mystical side of "espionage" is still there, but the reality is worse than the old boring work-for-life-in-a-cubicle situation back then. Suddenly the pull to do something Right for once and Really Courageous and actually Relevant must be eating any smart and hopeful young man that is staring to realize his career is not exactly what he dreamed about in neither public service and usefulness or belonging to some prestigious organization that deserves his loyalty...

14:

Its not just lack of employer loyalty. Since the cold war defrosted, in the west at least, there is a lack of country-loyalty. Back in the Cold War era it was absolute adherence to your country because they were the ones defending you against the monster of...whatever. The various Western Governments have tried to paint the drugs cartels, paedo-rings, Somali pirates, and Islamic terrorists as being on the same level of threats, but frankly we just don't see it. The Bush and Blair government's shenanigans with the missing WMDs didn't help that either.

Gen X and Y just don't see that level of threat, and don't see the justification for all those dirty deeds, population monitoring (and that latter is going to be a big thing for Gen Y as they were the ones who really broke into the internet at the same time as the net became mainstream but before the net became overly corporate and monitored, Gen-Pirate Bay), and all the rest. Not only does the government not justify the same level of loyalty it once commanded, but it brought Gen Y up to see it as the enemy. Plus with the Western Governments becoming more tribal themselves (republicans don't talk to democrats, Tea party-ers don't talk to anyone, etc) and less willing to compromise internally, screwing over the other guy doesn't even have that big nationalistic stigma it once had. Hell, the way governments screw over large parts of their populace intentionally to appease the base, they play right into the corporate mindset you mention in the piece.

15:

I'm broadly of an age with Charlie, and a work history with him. Although possibly unlike him, I've technically been self-employed but for 7 years of that one client paid about 75% of the money coming in on a project that I very much enjoyed and in other circumstances could have been my employer.

And although I don't know the details of what Manning leaked I have quite a lot of sympathy for his actions and was certainly relieved he was spared the death penalty. He's in a more awkward position than Snowden as a member of the Armed Forces though - even though the oaths and regimental honour and the like are being stretched and torn out of recognition by the politicians I think the soldiers and officers are trying to maintain them and recognise their value, at least here - and he transgressed that side of things.

But Snowden was always a part-time civilian contractor... and yet he's supposed to be a) trusted with high powered secrets and b) trusted by a system that he's not part of? I'm just amazed he's the first one to go public really.

Even when there were "jobs for life" and "loyalty to the organisation" and "Queen and country" and all, there were double agents all over the place. Being a Brit, Philby, Burgess et al. are the ones I know best, but the Americans had them too, sleeper agents and so on.

I think the thing that perhaps the people at the top haven't quite clicked to is that there's a fairly genuine ideology of "information wants to be free" out there. People won't sell information to the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans or similar. They can't be blackmailed because of sex with people with the same genitals or the like. A lot of the old markers for possibly dangerous activity will apply to some of course. But some people will just dump it all onto wikileaks, post it to a million blogs or whatever and say "Look at this world, ain't it shocking!" and they won't show up in the current security checks.

16:

Resoundingly wrong I'm afraid. If you own and/or manage $site, and I am there legally (or even illegally if the only offence is trespass) then you are still legally responsible for my H&S even if I am legally a corporate entity rather than your employee.

17:

#14 Not sure, I think thats kind of my point. Loyalty to the country still exist - but given how things are for us today, "the country" and "The State" are not the same. Your country are your fellow networked citizens, the State as much or more of an enemy as the islamopedopirateterrorists.

If in previous generations the idealistic young man that went into the national security business could, even when disappointed in the reality of his job both in nature (much more boring and idiotic) and objective (defend freedom, hahaha), feel some remnant of loyalty for the "company" that nurtured him, currently that brake is all broke, so not much stopping the innate desire to actually Do The Job.

Or maybe Snowden and Manning are just the Gen X/Y equivalents of the idealistic fools that sincerely did work for the USSR because they wanted to believe there was a good side in all this and they were in the wrong one, but now as they cant be duped by "the enemy" as there isnt one, they just go with their own feeling of working for "the people", 21th Century Internet way. Which sounds better and more actually useful for me but from the point of view of them they are very well much walking the high wire without the safety net of a foreign hostile power to catch them.

18:

s/feel/still felt/

19:

I think it's more of an employer problem. They value a flexible work force more than their employees.

I for one would love to dedicate my life to a company if the job i do is fascinating and i can choose to change my path while still looking out for what's best for the company.

The job security offered would give me the opportunity to try things that could take years to pay off without worrying that i will loose my position tomorrow because everybody wants results now.

There are things you would never try within a big company because even if it pays off you may be not get the credit or get rewarded for it. The company is clearly not loyal so i can't count on the to be fair either.

Small companies lack resources so they need instant results while large companies value a flexible work and instant results more.

Everybody is looking for instant gratification and the result is this dysfunctional nomadic system. Some of us a just unwilling participants.

Do you really think something like Bell Labs could work in this situation?
They were all doing things that from the point of view of any economist of the time would have looked like a waste of resources.

20:

Charlie:
Your initial piece, before the discussion, suggest again, that the USSA [ & everyone else’s? ] “intelligence” agencies have done it to themselves, as a result of their fucked-up employment policies – another classic example of that ὕβρις that I spoke of earlier, on another thread.
IIRC, we were also discussing this peripherally, the other day … even a supposedly Feudal society was bound together by mutual contracts – the oath sworn by Pippin to Denethor is a good example – there are mutual obligations in that oathtaking. Classically, if a an overlord broke his contract, the next level down could sear another oath, that of (IIRC) Diffidatio A definition can be found HERE
The new employers, your “Martian corporations” & governments are ignoring this at their peril, as you point out. They are also breaking their own (published) rules, which appears to be what got Snowden going …..
[ Admin note: I’m 67 – I have been through the “job-for-life” option & seen it betrayed post-Reagan in a US-owned company that killed itself through idiocy ( a household name, incidentally. ) & been a teacher - & watched both “left” & “right” political factions burrow-worm their way through that until it was totally rotten too.
Cynical, moi? Certainement, Monsiuer! ]

Ayarava @ 9
Yet, those same corporations & guvmints EXPECT COMPLETE LOYALTY don’t they, even though they have thrown their half of the Feudatory away?
The US gummint was breaking all the rules in it’s own book, & expecting supposedly loyal citizens NOT to tell on them to the very people they are supposedly representing … the disconnect is vast, and yet “the organisation” (any of them) don’t seem to be able to see, never mind comprehend what they have done.

@ 13
Yes
Snowden has a smaller version of the problem that afflicted a huge number of people [ Godwin alert ] 1933-45. You are a patriotic loyal German, & you love your country. However, your country has gone stark, staring totally mad. Now what do you do – stay in & fight / run away to another country & fight / just try to keep your head down & hope “they” don’t come for you?
Snowden is the first US Solzhenytsin, but he won’t be the last.

21:

See also IR35.

Health and Safety overrides employment law, it's true, but unfair dismissal and so on only applies to employees, not to contractors. Hence the trend in recent years to demand that casual IT workers form limited companies and those companies tender for their work even though they're taxed as an individual by HMRC.

22:

I'm with the Gen-Y-ers (although a certified Gen-X-er), but I want to add two notes, for this organisational hive-mind is where poets and authors and other assorted creatives (*wave*) are at their guerrilla work...

Organisations are, in essence, fictions, they are arrangements of warm-hearted people, who, over a pint or dram, care about much, have passions... So how are (more or less) generous folk turned into a hive-mind that screws fellow human beings over for that mystical entity known as shareholders? And how might it be otherwise? (Let's keep some optimism, here). I don't have any answers, but I think you're right, Charlie, it's an issue of community (admission: I am a card-carrying ethnographer, so this has me going).

Second, scifi is at the game of re-wiring the imaginary (as I see it), so how might scifi re-imagine organisations as communities differently? I am thinking of Ursula Le Guin's work, but it's too far from this gritty issue. Anyone know of any interesting scifi that does this, does corporate community differently, dare I risk, better? (Charlie: have I missed one of your tricks??). If so, I guess we could always setup a charity and start dishing out free e-books to VPs and board members (that's a joke, okay, only partly a joke).

23:

I don't think H&S is what Charlie means. If you employ me, you're legally obliged to provide minimum amounts of paid holiday time, sick pay, etc. If I'm a self-employed contractor, that suddenly becomes my problem. It's a very significant difference. (And a lot of people will try to argue that paid-per-hour self-employed contractors shouldn't be paid more than the nominal per-hour rate they used to give the employees before they fired them all to save money. Which then amounts to a very substantial paycut the moment you're ill or actually don't want to work 40 hours in every week of the year.)

24:

Clearly the next step is for (Western) governments to apply their own rhetoric about the wonders of the marketplace and open up intelligence assessments to competitive tender. Privatise MI5 / CIA / ASIO and let them sell intelligence to anyone who'll pay.

I'm half serious. I'm not a libertarian, but after reading the Adam Curtis post, how could it get worse?

Plus is seems that Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc are already working for the intelligence agencies; this way they could cut out the middleman and sell directly to governments, which would no doubt be very pleasing to their stockholders.

25:

On a separate note, as a corporate cog myself (System Janitor First Class, cleaning up your server when it shits itself), its kinda weird to see both modes of thinking in action.

Or there is something else going on, but really, I lost count of how many campaings, email, communications, etc I see all days that still try to tell me about the incredibly big family we are and how we are all in this together and yadda yadda yadda.

And while I'm perfectly happy where I am and cant say they treat me badly, nobody I know believes that crap for even a second. You now the company will boot your sorry ass the microsecond they find a cheaper way to do the job. Your "loyalty" extend, if at all, to your fellow wageslaves in your team. You make take pride ind doing your job well, but dont kid yourself with it meaning anything but a possibility to still find employement somewhere.

And yet, they insist. Thanks All For Your Effort In Delivering Excelence In Service And Raising Profits This Quarter Too You Rule (TM), followed by "your raise this year is 0%"

Either the 2 "cultures" are still battling it out in the corporate mind or is just a pathetic attempt to keep the faith for the few remining faithful?

26:

And mother of God I'm writing worse and worse with every post.

27:

I agree, a very thoughtful insight you have there. And I find it ironic that an agency that deals with "intelligence" didn't see that one coming. They should have known as early as the 60's-70's even that they could not expect to continue keeping zombies and loyal dogs without question. And since the grand inception of our great nation, the government has faced opposition to any type of action that encroached ever so slightly on public freedoms and rights. I read most of what I know about Snowden and NSA snooping from http://vpnexpress.net, so I'm not exactly well-read on the issue, but it seems clear that they expect compliance without explanation, without protest. And this is because they can give no good reason, and they can't afford to have people disagree. What happens when they do? Threats. (Poor Lavabit. But good on Mr. Levison for taking that stand against totalitarian tactics like a good old rebel against restrictive regimes.) Loyalty today comes from mutual respect, that's why jobs for life don't work. "I'm not gonna kiss your butt, boss, just because I get a paycheck. You pay me because I'm good. And if I don't agree with your "policies" I'm gonna walk away. And if you do something nasty I'm gonna tell." We are not getting pulled back into an outdated way of thinking just because it makes things easier for the spooks.

28:

This is an excellent insight Charlie. So, it would seem the short sighted policies of the corporate hive mind are coming to haunt them.
Very interesting implications.

29:

I work for a branch of the UK government, as have most of the members of my close family, one way or another.

The "job for life mentality"/"loyal to the corps" still persists in my workplace, but mostly among those hired prior to 1997. The kind of labour-force maltreatment common to post '97 employees causes great disaffection to most employees, except the really young ones, who have experienced little else.

I was hired in at Christmas 2002, on a six-week contract that was renewed every six weeks - for four years!

Do I feel any loyalty to this organisation, which keeps the cogs of British society lubricated with your money?

No.

Would I do what Snowden did if I had the opportunity?

Yes.

30:

There's another facet.

The USA and the USSR were quite open enemies, each one aimed to destroy the other one's way of life (ideologically and may be even thermonuclearly). In that situation betraying your country and government to the other side was hard, unless you were really well motivated and/or really wanted to destroy the way of life of your country. And very few people in the West actually wanted this, especially towards the final years of the USSR.

But now? Whom is Snowden betraying? There's no existential threat from terrorists or even North Koreans. There are no real ideological enemies anymore, capitalism has won.

31:

I was born in 1957 (baby boomer I guess), before Gen X, but I never expected, or wanted, a "job for life." I always assumed the validity of "Employers are alien hive-mind colony intelligences who will fuck you over for the bottom line."

Loyalty cannot be bought -- it must be earned. And it cannot be earned by an organization: loyalty is what you feel for a person, or an idea. An organization can earn loyalty only by embodying an idea (think of the NSA as embodying the idea of defense of the free world and all that that), but will quickly lose loyalty when people see thru the propaganda, and most people are not stupid.

32:

I think the turning point for the job-for-life thing was some time in the mid to late 1970s ...

33:

Everything described in this post is yet another pernicious consequence of the Reagan administration. I was working for the Government when Reagan came into office, and immediately RIFed (Reduction in Force, i.e., fired) thousands of civil servants, without, however, reducing the tasks of their agencies. The only way to square that circle was to hire contractors, typically politically well connected contractors. By the time Reagan left office in 1988, it was common to see Government agencies where whole departments had no in-house competency. There would be a civil-servant boss, a civil-servant CFO, and a few lower-level civil-servant admin types to support them, but all of the engineers and technical staff would be contractors, a pattern that continues to this day. It is extremely inefficient and wasteful of the public money, but nicely effective at funneling money to the politically well connected.

This is what Reagan wrought, and I can't say I am surprised by the consequences.

34:

I think the end of the job-for-life thing is good.

Isn't it better to work for somebody for as long as it is rewarding and then go work for somebody else? I think the freedom to say fuck off helps to sleep much better.

The problem, as I see it, is that our social structure, social security, pension system etc. are built for life employees, and not yet adapted to the needs of self-employed free agents.

35:

Isn't it better to work for somebody for as long as it is rewarding and then go work for somebody else? I think the freedom to say fuck off helps to sleep much better.

Only if you can cope with the insecurity that comes with that. Lots of people can't. Consider older folks with chronic medical conditions in situations where medical care is a private sector service (i.e. insurance required). Or people trying to raise a family with small kids. Or other dependents.

What people in those situations need is a vastly better social security system, or a basic income system, or both. But as often as not, what they get is a job, which they cling to even though it grinds them down.

36:

re "Only if you can cope with the insecurity that comes with that. Lots of people can't."

I know what you mean, getting used to insecurity is _very_ hard when you come from having more security.

But you can try to turn your mental omelette. The "security" of a job lasts only until they kick you out, and there is always some little trick or clause that they can use. Having many clients is intrinsically more secure, because if you lose one you still have the others.

I totally agree that a combination of basic income and social security would be a good solution.

37:

It's also the case for us right-ponders. Billions spent by our Civil Service on contractors.

Funnily enough, those big contracting companies provide all sorts of help to the various political parties. Cap Gemini or Accenture or McKinsey or whoever don't really care who's in power, just as long as they're sweet on them. Supply a few interns to each major party and you're not being partisan, because you're buttering all sides up. Then whichever party is in power ends up beholden to you - even if not in a tangible debt sort of way, you've had your people working with them, and the osmotic pressure gets your views, your ways of working, across.

Sadly, we've not had a proper credible Socialist point of view since, oh, '79? (Yes, I know, I voted Tory that election, my first. It was that or the bouncing Czech Bob Maxwell.)

38:

Dear Diary: A geezer's perspective:
My POV: I'm a 23-year teacher--"job for life", so increasingly the exception in today's economy. Loyalty, for my work, is to the students, my colleagues, and the country. With increasing pressures, and cities/states defaulting on pensions & benefits, loyalty is stretched very thin.

The 39-month-job/hot-desk/dozen-careers-by-55y.o. employment profile works at age 25: we eat steep learning curves for breakfast, and have the flexibility and chops that come with youth, and from which employers derive great benefit. Loyalty for worker, boss, AND clients, implies a two-way street, and that requires care for the worker as s/he ages. Hard truth, Gens X & Y: you will not be as quick, as flexible, OR as marketable when you reach AARP age. "Use-'em-and-lose-'em" employers who benefit from your skills/energy/flexibility at 25 are forgetting the rest of the bill for those services; the cost of the increasing human life span. Free agency only works with young employees; witness any 50-y.o. NFL player..

If the boss & worker & nation are loyal to each other, all benefit from the seasoned employee/citizen and his/her wisdom and perspective, and we are not discarded at an age when we are less able to find new work and succeed at it. The talks with grandparents can often yield valuable history-of-labor knowledge-- the "Ohhh, right.." realizations that come later. You'll see.

Illustration w/example of loyalty in a different arena: "For better or for worse" takes on real meaning when illness/age/change affect couples. Picture yourself clubbing at 50, 60, 70 to find a "new" mate..

And now..we get to compete with the 6+ billion others; "International Workers of the World"? A dream, not real, not now.

The effects go *way* beyond Snowden. I wish you, and us, all the luck in the world as we navigate all of this. We shall certainly need luck, and wisdom, and action.

traskthird

39:

ugo.fisher @ 24
This is the Libertarian fantasy if everything gummint does is hopeless, because gummints screw up, then … why do they have armies & police - & watch the “Lib’s” scream with rage – I did this to one only 2 days back …

Latro @ 25
[ Name from the Gene Wolfe story? ]
No, it’s called “disconnect” or “separation of magisteria” or “compartmentalisation” or something like that….
No different to the OSD in the RC church setting a living human alight, whilst pretending to himself that “god” is “love”.

mjean @ 27
To some extent, loyalty always came from mutual respect.
It is *just” that they have conveniently forgotten this.

Charlie @ 32
Spot on. Loyalty was expected & benefits offered, in the multinational I joined in 1969 … some time in the early 80’s [ I’d say ‘83] there was an almost audible “CLICK” as the operations towards the “lesser orders” changed. And even quite senior people took early retirement, before they got screwed – I’m still in tough with my lsat immediate boss there, f’rinstance.
See also marshal.eubanks @ 22, for confirmation.

40:

Oops
"in touch" not in tough....

41:

If "job for life" is a indicator of the generation you grew up in, then the next one is "buy your own house".
It's pretty much taken for granted by most people over a certain age that getting a mortgage and a house is What You Do. After a certain age however (modulated by the social class you were born into), the idea of owning your own building is utterly preposterous.

42:

In the absence of any larger organizational loyalty, people will revert to kin, friends and near neighbours and their associated personal networks to gain some stability and security.
Expect to see a massive rise in nepotism in the medium term.

43:

marshall.eubanks @ #33

Yep. The really sad thing is that it's all just a shell game. Reagan and his successors boasted that they had "cut the size of government", because Civil Service employment had gone down. The workload didn't go down and the number of people required to do it didn't go down; hence, contractors. I know a number of "temps" who have been in the same job for over ten years -- kind of strains the definition of "temporary".

I find it hard to believe that this system saves money. Temps get paid more than regular workers to make up for the nonexistence of benefits and the temp *agency* gets paid anywhere from a third more to double what the worker is paid.

44:

My situation is somewhat different from yours, yet the frustration is the same. At $ORKPLACE I'm the only engineer working on signal processing, which for a telephony outfit might be considered slightly useful. Without false modesty, I've come up with some interesting variations on what were well-known themes, and since this is a startup I've stood for startup wages and (you can see this coming) promises of equity. I asked for a slightly larger slice than the meager increment now in my hands, but this appears to have been vetoed by the finance bod who, of course, doesn't want to see his much larger tranche diluted even a tiny little bit.

Fine. They can require competence since that's a condition of employment. They cannot force me to be brilliant so some finance prick can get rich.

45:

Also, Snowden's $120,000/salary? Bottom of the scale. In the current environment, if you have a "TS/Poly lifestyle" clearance, which I assume Snowden did, you're pretty much guaranteed a six-figure income for any job at all. The only one I've heard of for less was one junior tech writer who was making in the mid-$90,000s.

Thing is, that level of clearance is very expensive and very time consuming*. When you're working on one-year contracts, a clearance that takes eighteen months to come through isn't just overly expensive, it's impossible.

* Not to mention illegal in the state of Maryland, where the NSA has its headquarters. (It's illegal to require a polygraph test as a condition for employment.)

46:

I am not certain if I have seen any signs of analysis work by the NSA which exceeds the capabilities of a pack of teenagers.

Then again, that's not really their role, is it?

47:

Saving money isn't the true purpose. Getting lobbying money & campaign contributions (none dare call it bribery) from the body shops, however, has decorated many a free-market pol's portfolio.

48:

The really sad thing is that it's all just a shell game. Reagan and his successors boasted that they had "cut the size of government", because Civil Service employment had gone down

voodoo economics, in other words

rhetorical slight of hand like that ends resulting in the taxpayer paying more, and more of your hard-earned money becoming some corporation's guaranteed profits

try explaining that to the average voter, though

49:

To add to the whole insecurity thing and all it's ramifications. It's why you see 30 year olds still living at home, because their work doesn't pay enough to move out. It leads to people renting rather than buying, or having the stress and difficulties of either moving house frequently or commuting long distances, which then puts a strain on the roads and public transport.

Basically, this kind of setup greatly increases the hidden costs of doing business, which are then born by society in terms of increased psychiatric problems, more damage to roads and railways due to increased use, mnore difficulties with more parents having to go out to work all the time yet not really being able to afford childcare either; increased use of agencies and gatekeepers for jobs, which is one reason I'm unemployed and unemployable - I don't fit in the holes the gatekeepers use, and the employment market is so confusing I can't work out what I should retrain in.
Plus the expecting you to retrain yourself, which would be fine if you were earning professional salaries, but isn't if you are on minimum wage, hence the growth of government schemes, i.e. the taxpayer subsidises stuff that used to be paid for by individuals beacuse their wages were high enough to afford it.

Oh, and of course, if you do save/ spend on more courses, you aren't carrying out your patriotic duty of spending money on stuff, which means the economy has problems. But of course consumer spending is also hurt by increased costs of everything, including housing.
Basically we're in a horrible trap with no easy way out. As far as I'm concerned, the easiest way out is massive technological advancement as rapidly as is sensible (A word which encompasses ethical, legal, and resource issues which we could argue about for ages).

50:

Hey Charlie,

I don't see the real point, though. Yes, we as a people are less loyal to our employers in the terms you outline, and that is especially pronounced with younger workers. But I see no real relationship between that, and an impulse to betray an oath to your country, or to blow a whistle, or however one wishes to describe what Snowden did. Those are orthogonal to me.

51:

I'm 26, and work for a large company that's still half working with the job-for-life mentality. During my time here I've seen two "early retirement" clearouts, a number of WFRs, and the utter destruction of my team as everyone left for better offers. Not to mention the implosion of the entire organization where a bunch of people picked up and moved to a different company, probably to their benefit (but very definitely to my current company's detriment).

I honestly wouldn't mind a job for life. Even if I'm well set up for the nomadic job life with a portable set of job skills and no house or kids, I'd prefer to have to job hunt as little as possible. (My bout of unemployment after collage led to some mental problems and I'd really rather not have to go through that again.) But that's for my comfort, not for any loyalty to the company. I've seen how the company treats people that work here for life. Hint: layoffs.

In situations like this, it's easy to find something else to be loyal to. Family, friends near and far, or an ideology. I fully understand the idea of wanting to make a real difference, to not just be a replaceable cog in the machine. If you can strike a blow for justice (however you define that) against some faceless overlords...well, we like those stories. And there are a lot of faceless overlords to strike against now.

52:

My company is currently making the transition from life time employees to interchangeable cogs (point roughly starting from when the original Big Boss passed on). It is not fun.

But I have another point; so far these leakers aren't attacking anyone who is likely to shoot them with poison from an umbrella or poison them with plutonium (or make them pick rice for the end of the days, to name Another Player in the Great Game). They leave that to somewhat braver journalists. I would think more highly of them if they did, but I am not holding my breath. Gen X, after all, are used to thinking of their own welfare first.

53:

I'm still not sure how Edward Snowden "betrayed his country" - how does revealing that a government is exceeding its statutory powers by snooping on it citizen-taxpayers betray one's country?

How would any foreign power benefit from that?

Bradley Manning maybe, but Snowden?

54:

Turning people in hive minds to screw others to pay the shareholders is moderately easy if there's no loyalty. Screw those faceless bastards, to keep the people you actually know (whether or not you feel any minimal loyalty to them) off your back and some of the dosh flowing into your pocket. The fact it means more flows into the pocket of some other group of faceless bastards you don't know is moderately irrelevant save in as much as their presumed goodwill flows back down to your not-faceless boss and makes him/her happy which makes you happy.

No requirement for loyalty, enlightened self-interest. You move to the next place and do the same for more money flowing into your pocket.

Of course all of this is based on the assumption that you're motivated by drinking vouchers above a range of other things. But enough people are motivated by money above almost all other things and most of us by money above starvation and homelessness for example that it's a pretty good working assumption.

55:

You ask why people aren't loyal to their country, but since their country isn't providing security in every day life why should they be? Western governments are not promoting security or social cohesion (in fact current governments are promoting social divisions to get their party base out more), so where is the loyalty to their citizens. Loyalty, to employers or government is a two way street.

Back in the Cold War era it was support your country or else nuclear mega-death, so it was easy for government to drum up unconditional support and to get citizens to overlook the more unsavory aspects, now there just isn't the threat to justify that attitude.

Also, much as there are no longer jobs for life (and really shouldn't our government be doing their bit to rein in corporate abuses and support their citizens?) many of us no longer live in the same country for life. I know one person who has had French, US, and now UK citizenship. No job for life, no country for life, no unconditional loyalty. Its a new world.

56:

Who do you feel more threatened by; your own government or somebody elses?

Who can you be betrayed by; your own government or somebody elses?

Who should you feel loyalty to; your government or your people?

Enquiring minds want to know.

57:

Isn't it better to work for somebody for as long as it is rewarding and then go work for somebody else? I think the freedom to say fuck off helps to sleep much better.

As Charlie said, maybe for you. I don't expect to have my current job for life, not the least because the company has changed a lot around me during the time I have been working there, but still I like the continous employment they offer me.

Even before I had children and a loan for the apartment, I didn't like uncertainty. I used to work as a researcher in a university. I had it good: I was on salary instead of grants, and had always a contract for the whole calendar year. It was still very stressful for me and it was one of the main reasons I quit the job.

I don't think it's even a choice between for-the-life-jobs and everybody forced to be a contractor with week-long contracts. There is probably room for many kind of deals - but if the companies decide, I think I know which way will win. And I wouldn't like it at all.

58:

From living inside the looney bin that the USA has become, and being old, I have observed to warring ideas have been at work throughout the Gen X lifetime: 1) the idea that we have to protect the basic freedoms of America no matter what the cost, and 2) we have to abandon these freedoms to protect America. The cognitive dissonance is almost overwhelming for many older (baby boomer and older) people. What both of these young men did makes complete sense within these two disparate ideals, as does the government's response.

59:

many of us no longer live in the same country for life

Even if we don't move :-/

I remember when we were the good guys. When secret prisons and torture happened behind the Iron Curtain. When, despite a terrorist bombing, assassination, and kidnapping campaign, US Presidents from both parties issued Executive Orders that that banned assassinations and targeted killings (both directly and indirectly).

60:

You forgot: shooting down hijacked airliners was something the Soviets did. Us? Nuh-huh.

And now the Soviets Russians have their very own principled morally-motivated defector from the rival bloc, petitioning for asylum. They must be chortling like drain pipes.

61:

The problem is that walking out the door with skills and knowledge is largely illegal.

Whether it's information about product, policies, or first-hand accounts of misconduct, we can't live off our skills or knowledge or even write about it as testimony. We only have the right to be sued or arrested.

62:

Interesting that the radio show Here and Now talked about something very like this today.

They had a segment on "What Makes a Whistleblower? It was research that showed that people who valued fairness over loyalty were far more likely to blow the whistle. Interestingly, this could be primed in their experiments, so to some degree, it can be taught or inculcated.

I'd suggest that Gen X and Gen Y value fairness over loyalty. In an ideal world (which this isn't), things are changing so fast that even the good guys might have to fire you just because of circumstances. Companies rise and fall quickly. Personal loyalty works to some small degree, but fairness is far better. If a fair manager fires you for a good reason (such as the company tanking), you might well work with that person again on another project. Someone who is unfair? Screw 'em.

Yes, this maps on to politics, where US conservatives value loyalty, while liberals value fairness. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Altemeyer's The Authoritarians, which finds much the same mapping with his Right Wing Authoritarian test.

Note that I'm not saying that right wing=bad and left wing=good here, because there are saints and sinners on both sides (here's lookin' at you, Bob Filner). Still, it's a split between both cultures and generations that's going to bite down on conservatives hard.

The hilarious irony is that the best solution for American conservatives is to bring back unions, promote loyalty to groups and companies as a lifelong solution to a happy life. Get those laborers to be loyal to companies above all, and they'd have a huge bunch of very loyal conservatives working for them. Unfortunately, all they can think to do is punish people who are disloyal and destroy their perceived enemies. All that promotes a sense of unfairness that drives people away from them.

As for the intelligence culture, I wonder if the current US administration is playing some deep game, by encouraging the intelligence community to destroy itself by punishing any sign of disloyalty, rather than encouraging it to build impregnable fiefdoms by rewarding loyalty. Maybe? Nah. I think garden variety incompetence is a better explanation, although the end result might be the same.

63:

I'm still not sure how Edward Snowden "betrayed his country"...

He betrayed his service, and the larger intelligence apparatus of which it is a part, by revealing secrets they were, it's pretty plain, deliberately concealing from not only their enemies, but also their nominal overseers in the open government. Even the head of the FISA court itself is starting to sound mightily peeved, as of this morning's Washington Post.

That's not necessarily the same thing as betraying his country. But there are powerful people who believe that the activities of the intelligence crowd are necessary for the continuance of the state, and those people may not perceive any difference.

64:

@El I am not sure it’s simply loyalty. I think it’s more about trust.

I don’t think money is the motivation for most of the decisions I see. In my experience inside the high-tech industry (always limited, whose isn’t, but I have been inside and a professional ‘observer’ from the outside for twenty years), I only ever meet smart people trying to make the best decisions they can, in the face of what appears to be insanity from the higher or lateral echelons. But when you go talk to said echelons, they are still smart-people-trying-to-do-the-best-they-can etc. And many of them, when you point out the insanity, roll their eyes and say, yes, I know, it’s mad, but what can you do, that’s what is expected, that is what everyone believes we should do.

The hive mind appears to be (imho) a whole lot of smart people without the time or resources to stop and question a whole lot of assumptions, assumptions from both industry culture, but also corporate culture, and wider culture. And so the juggernaut rolls on, and gathers steam.

I digress. Sorry. Trust, I am getting there… Loyalty, as you point out, assumes a kind of gift-exchange: I work for you and care for you, if you look after me, and care for my well-being. And money does not buy loyalty, money only buys service (see mercs, sellswords, hiredguns, pick your genre). Trust has to be established for loyalty to flourish, and that takes time, and it takes commitment on both sides.

An organization (NSA, Acme Inc.) seems a bit optimistic (to keep it polite) if it expects loyalty from its contracted sysadmin ‘mercs’. It could gain their loyalty, perhaps, but then it - meaning the people in the company, it always comes down to flesh and blood - would need to invest the time and commitment with those contractors, to establish trust with them.

So, getting back to Charlie’s point, the move to contracted labour might appear to suit a certain kind of economics, but it, frankly, stuffs up the company culture, company identity, and company loyalty. And no amount of gag-orders and contractual small print can repair that leak. Bluntly, given the loss of corporate memory, corporate knowledge, and all the extra work that loyal employees tend to do for free, let alone classic IP and ‘state secrets’, the move to contracted work might not be as ‘economic’ as it first appears…

(with apologies for the lengthy ramble… pauses for breath)

65:

NASA in the late 70's through the end of the 90's was a series of contractor shuffles, and you hoped like hell that they would offer you your job again when the contractor switched. I lost a job I loved that way early in my career because of a bureaucratic screwup - the incoming company simply forgot to make offers to some of the contractors. Very much the same realization that Charlie speaks of.

66:

Hat-tip to OGH for once more putting words on what I had perceived, but not formulated.

@5:
I've worked at an "old" oil company, there were good reasons why they pampered their employees: It avoided leaks the could do without. And no, I'm not talking about oil-spills here. The other thing is: They could very much afford it.

@9:
Snowden and Manning did sell to the highest bidder: They both got a historical legacy, almost on par with a Nobel Prize. Few if any HR departments can match that.

@14:
Read Anderssons "Imagined Communities". English as "Lingua Franca" and the Internet kills the nation-state. Now "our community" is not limited by the reach of our newspaper and language. (... Wrote a dane, on a scottish authors debat forum, in reply to somebody he has no idea where lives. 20 years ago that only happened to people how knew what "USENET" was.) EU states are only now realizing that their citizens can pick and choose climate, societies and countries.

@32:
I'd say 10 years later. Management on short term contracts, which focused on their exit-bonus was a middle 1980-ies thing, but this may be my European experience lagging USA.

@33:
No, Reagan was the electorates way to implement their shift of mentality, the wind had already changed before that, probably as a direct result of hang-overs from the oil-crisis in 1973-4.

The fact that they probably got more than they bargained for is an entirely different argument, and possibly testament to the fact that the last thing USAnians seem to want is a president who expects them to be rational and intelligent (Carter, Gore etc.)

PS: "In Computer Crimes and Capers" The juxtapotion of "Spanner in the works" and "While-you-wait" right after each other is not entirely without relevance to the current topic.

67:

There could be a million and one good reasons for seemingly insane decisions.

I've just starting working with a new client. This is involving me learning my way around a new system. I'm making some bad choices in the circumstances - things that in other settings are smart choices are poor choices here because the system has other ways to do it better. Ah well, I'm learning gradually.

OTOH I was asked to poke something the client had been told was 'impossible' by someone else and 20 minutes had a first pass running tolerably, ten minutes after that, bar some CSS tweaks that were someone else's department had it working perfectly. In a bigger hierarchy, someone 3 levels up could easily have been told "oh, that's impossible" and the choice to have the new girl have a poke at it and see never trickles down. The fact new girl thinks it's a doddle and thinks whoever thinks it's impossible is a senile dinosaur (and can prove it) seems like an insane decision when rumour spreads that some consultant is hired at an outrageous rate to perform some web wizardry to install said functionality.

Equally, in a different vein, a friend of mine was laid off by BT from a permanent contract, then rehired as a consultant. Fortunately he knew the game, and he is actually paid significantly MORE as a consultant, in fact more than he cost them in total (including employers taxes, pension contributions etc.) and is still there about 10 years later. But he's in a different budget line so it makes their accountants happy. This is a smart move for someone... somehow. I don't see how this makes more sense to anyone (except the guy getting paid more) but apparently it does.

I think there's a whole of things going on. Some of it is about quality of information. Some of it is about cultural/organisational use of information. But I suspect some of it is about age/generational/cultural use of information too. To nick a line from a post on my blog - at nearly 50 I'm looking at the Lone Ranger movie as a summer blockbuster and thinking 'WHY?' But I rather suspect the decision makers are a bit older than me, they remember watching the TV show as kids and the pitch got approved because of that. Unfortunately for them, the other decision makers - the ones who decide to put bums on seats are more of mind than theirs.

Roll all of those together - and Robert Anton Wilson's comments about honest information exchange in a hierarchy isn't a reaction to the hierarchy, it's just easier to spot in hierarchies where you can add a control/fear of punishment element to the mix too.

68:

Hey Charlie,

So, I'm 27 years old. I was born in 1985, started working when I was 19, and ended up staying at my 2nd job for 7 years as a warehouse manager. I learned a lot during those 7 years, but the most important lesson I learned is that my employer didn't give two shits about me or any of the other staff, yet expected us to remain loyal.

If alphabet agencies are treating their top secret spies in a similar manner, well... I wish them luck. They're really going to need it.

69:

@ 50
You miss the point entirely.
Snowden has blown the whistle as a loyal, patriotic American (USAian) BECAUSE his gummint broke their own rules – & possibly - can’t you see that?

von.hichtofen @53
Precisely: the US gummint betrayed it’s own feudal contract – so no contract then exists, does it?

@56
YES!

@ 59
YES, YES YES!

heteromeles @ 62
And, if you are offered fairness AND loyalty … & then it is reneged on … what do you expect?

Unfinished man @ 68
You said it!

70:

@60:
petitioning for asylum. They must be chortling like drain pipes.
---
Sure... unless someone there is worried that the NSA is running a Nosenko operation against them.

I still find it hard to believe that, with even the most basic security (and the NSA wrote the guidelines for Federal information security...) that Snowden could get access to so much of such varied information. After that, the layers of "hard to believe" just keep getting deeper and deeper.

71:

Bruce Sterling is not burnt out. He's always acted by observing and describing, and continues to do so. He's not going to help you, but a personal trainer can't lift your weights for you either. To be angry and disappointed at Bruce is to be a character in a book who is angry at the author and disappointed that the world he has created isn't puppies and sunshine.

If what he says makes it clear that your comfortable middle class activism isn't going to be enough, deal with it. Real politics sometimes requires breaking laws and living with the consequences of that, and his message in a lot of his recent stories is that that's ok, it's a worthwhile thing that good people do, and it's not a suicidal gesture, there's a career path after taking that step.

72:

I'm going to cast this argument in somewhat different language. Let us say, rather, that in order to recreate a class system, a huge amount of effort has been spent to destroy the honor and loyalty of vast majority of people; these are things that now carry serious privation.

The new aristocratic class has now discovered that it can no longer find honest and loyal retainers. What a big surprise!

73:

This is, of course, a conservative argument and conservatives--real conservatives, not authoritarians who call themselves conservatives to expand their personal or class power--ought to pay attention. I don't see how any society can hold together without commitments on the part of its members and the human race is facing dark times. Unless it can find a way to hold together, the future is grim indeed.

"And what rough beast...?"

74:

Hey, I'm not disappointed with Bruce; I view him as an Object Of Emulation! But not all my readers agree with his icy-cold perspective ...

75:

Hey, I have a lot of respect for real conservativism -- the Burkean kind, which seems to be in short supply these days. (Despite my soft-headed leaning towards First International leftism -- as opposed to the second-third International variety that gave us the likes of Lenin.) We're all children of the Jacobin society here, if not of Cromwell's men.

76:

Perhaps history will prove me wrong, but I think economic and class-based analysis of Snowden is incorrect.

Snowden's actions are those of someone who at his core really believes in America and the principles that this country is supposed to stand for. What the NSA has been doing is massively illegal. It needed to be brought to light. The Obama administration (and likely the Bush administration before it) along with their Congressional "oversight" committees has allowed or ordered the NSA to engage in a abusive and unconstitutional surveillance regime.

Asylum in Russia (hardly a bastion of human rights) was clearly not Snowden's first choice. But to turn himself in US authorities for trial would just be stupid. There is nothing to be gained by making himself a martyr. Were he to go to trial here, he would stand a very high chance of spending the rest of his life in an 3.5m x 2m (7ft x 12ft) SuperMax cell, twenty-three hours a day, isolated from any human contact.

77:

Isn't it better to work for somebody for as long as it is rewarding and then go work for somebody else? I think the freedom to say fuck off helps to sleep much better.

That freedom only exists when you can easily find another job in two to four weeks.

I quit a job I liked and a product I believed in back in 2010 because "loving it" wasn't going to pay the mortgage if we tanked due to lack of sales. In the end I could not handle the financial worry any longer so I found another (not very ideal) job and then quit.

I don't live in a world where I can quit because I don't like it any more and then get something new a few days later. Most of us don't live in that world.

As for being my own boss. I don't know if I would be that nice an employer ;)

78:

J Carl Henderson @ 77 wrote:
Asylum in Russia (hardly a bastion of human rights) was clearly not Snowden's first choice. But to turn himself in US authorities for trial would just be stupid. There is nothing to be gained by making himself a martyr.

I disagree. Snowden, and Assange before him, IMHO severely weakened their case by not standing trial. Gandhi and Martin Luther King both wrote that an essential component of civil disobedience is to to look the government in the eye and demand they enforce the laws that everybody knows are unjust.

Martyrs are respected, even by their opponents, and strengthen the cause. Us primates are less impressed by those who run away, unfair though that may be.

79:

@78 (hugo.fisher)

I get your point. There's the problem, however, where no one can risk being martyred because in the old days it meant death. Now it means the end of life, to some extent, but it inaugurates a new life as a perp-celebrity. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

This reminds me of ten years ago when the 24 torture-pr0n idiocy was in vogue on the right and the justifications for the actual acts of torture were matched by the advocacy among the right for a kind of amnesty for the perpetrators of administrative detention and torture. I disagreed with the Fox-style arguments about the effectiveness of torture, but that wasn't the point.

The point is that it's bad enough that these supposed patriots were willing to let any low-level flunky torture prisoners in contravention of law, treaty, and against the evidence of the reliability of the info, but these folks go further and aren't willing to see torturers go in front of a judge to get their slap on the wrist. There aren't words for the hypocrisy.

The disparity is striking, where physical assault and torture get no or small punishment (not even much legal review) while whistleblowing of actual illegality (perhaps not in Manning's case: that was a clusterfuck of good intentions versus incompetence from Manning and Assange) gets the maximum tolerated by the public, up to and including talk about the death penalty.

Can we make martyrs without actually killing them or locking them in a small box for the rest of their life? Can the torture-fetishists get their martyrs too? The gods below know justice would be better served and the fetishists would get more mileage from it. Everyone wins.

80:

raven 268 @ 72
The new aristocratic class has now discovered that it can no longer find honest and loyal retainers. What a big surprise!

That's the exact problem - they have NIT noticed, at all. Hence the agonising over Snowden, at least in part.

Charlie @ 75
No. We are children of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. Itself the outcome of the previous 45+ years of internecine conflict, admittedly.
Cromwell was a shit, but then, so was CharlesI Stuart, whihc was a large part of the original problem ....

hugo fisher @ 78
And if the gummint in question postures as "the good guys" (as the USSA gummint is doing, right now) what then?
Snowden won't be able to write his memoirs from a supermax cell, will he?
And Martyrs are not respected by their opponents.
Which, long-term, will/may bring the oppressors down.
The cruel murder of so many "potest-ants" by the RC civil arm under Bloody Mary garuanteed that the RC church would never again control England, ever.
But only after Mary's death .....

81:
Also, because of aggressive saving and avoiding large expenses like children, I'm on track to retire in my 40s.

This is framing the facts in a positive light. I understand that you find this solution appealing (else you would not have chosen it) and that you might want to rationalise any inconvenience that you had to endure because of it. Nevertheless, the bare facts are: "After maintaining reduced life standards, you wish to cease your activity in your 40s".

If I wanted to spin this in an unfavourable light, I could report the same facts as "Man starves self for years and renounces family to escape job he loathes".

Probably it is better than to starve by unescapable misfortune and be forced into a lifetime or servitude. But it is not the life of challenging scientific pioneering in designer-decorated space stations that we were promised when we were children. Nor is it as comfortable to live than the lifetime of stable income and social status that the Baby-Boomers enjoyed -- partly at the expense of the later generations.

82:

I think that the issue of the salary is a red herring. There is a point beyond which increases in salary yield little additional satisfaction (usually stated to be in the 100'000 $/£/€ range).

A well-paid precarious job is still a precarious job. Some relish the mercenary lifestyle, but most do not. I would by far prefer to have a stable job with a mediocre pay working at NASA on the Apollo programme, for instance, than endure the life of Fabrice Toure, with lots of easy money that evaporates when your boss makes you a scapegoat for the plundering of the entire world economy. Because I value the sense of purpose and stable lifestyle over leprechaun riches.


83:

@78 Hugo Fisher & @79 Andrew Whilmer

The state has always had asymmetric laws. Most states tend to dislike private armies for example. Even the US, which grants its citizens the constitutional right to be part of an arms bearing militia doesn't actually like it when they do that. Feudal society attempted to have checks and balances on the guys with the private armies so they couldn't rebel against their overlords and while not 100% successful they were generally pretty good. If you take British history, there's only a couple of successful rebellions (Baron's revolt, ECW) that spring quickly to my non-historian mind, all the other big internal strifes (the other ECW, Wars of the Roses etc.) were really wars of succession I think.

Similarly, to the best of my knowledge if anyone on this list smashes my front door down under most circumstances, the long arm of the law theoretically at least starts looking for them. (If I'm bleeding and you notice it and break in to rescue me, I think I could sue for the damage to the door, but it would be kind of churlish.) Certainly you can't take things here, or me, away. In theory the police and the security services can't just 'disappear' me without due process, warrants and the like. But the state certainly reserves the right to smack my door down, take me and my stuff away if it really wants to. It keeps trying to extend how long it can just hide me in a cell without charge, without judicial review and the like as well, at least in the UK. (Although it's an aside, I don't mind a fairly low and gradually rising bar to continuation of detention without charge, but I do mind long detention without at least some form of oversight.)

When the agency you decide to tackle is part of the organisation that has thrown people without trial into Gitmo for well over a decade - including its own nationals, nationals of allied counties and the like - and your main hope seems to be the public eye being on you to stop you disappearing too - is standing up and daring them to publicly treat you unjustly the smart play? MLK and Gandhi both lived in a time where it seemed Western governments at least might not care about their international reputation too much, but they cared what their public thought of them. You could dare them to mistreat you, the individual, because while they might, they might not. Today? You're so screwed, so fast pal... while we might respect that in theory, there will be a lot of people looking and saying "you're mad" if you actually do it.

84:

To add to this: in the 1980s, there were non-violent militants in prison for years; a foremost example is Nelson Mandela. The point of disappearing people is that they get forgotten. In the 1980s, organisations like Amnesty International were active to prevent this. They used the shelter of the Western democracies to conduct campaigns that helped sanctions against far-right South Africa.

This was then. Now, the Western democracies have entertained significant authoritarian and repressive tendencies. Non-violent movements like Occupy are called "terrorist" by Western authorities. Amnesty now shies away from calling Assange and Manning "prisoners of conscience" (even though they have been a little bit more supportive recently; before that, they utterly ignored the matter).

If you review comments of articles about Manning on mainstream press websites, you will notice that USA apologists gleefully state that after Manning disappears in prison, those who presently comment on him being a hero will soon forget him.

We will have to learn to live in a society where information is managed.

85:

Retiring doesn't necessarily mean "ceasing activity". There's a lot of scope for research and creativity if you've got enough cash saved that you don't have to go to the day job every day.

86:

Of course retiring is not equivalent to ceasing all activity. That is dying, not retiring. But he's obviously not going to continue the same activity: if he wanted to do that, he could go on without doing the paperwork and he'd continue cashing in.

Which brings me back to the point that he want to cease his activity as soon as possible. In other terms, he does not enjoy his job.

87:

Do you think that many of the Boomers really enjoyed their jobs-for-life (as opposed to the status they conveyed?).

I'm not saying that the current arrangements are wonderful -- but was the 20th Century really better?

88:

My memory is Nelson Mandela switched from non-violent protest to being part of an active bombing campaign.

I'm not saying he wasn't fighting for a good cause. I don't clearly know what he was actually imprisoned on Robin Island for and I don't have a trustworthy source from which to find the information to hand. But I am pretty sure he himself doesn't describe himself as a non-violent protestor. It's a while since I read his autobiography, but it discusses his decision to switch to what we'd now call direct action.

89:

"The Science Myth" Magnus Pyke, 1962

90:

"The main body of the citizenry, the "workers", are kept segregated from the drones, the women at home, the children, the old and the idle ...the necessary doctrine of the division of labor makes this regimentation necessary. But it has the effect of setting economic effort apart and dividing the day and the week into "work" and "everything else". This way of thinking has so deranged our minds that we have come to accept that only when we are actually carrying out paid industrial work are we serving our purpose on earth. To minds so deformed, the things that "retired" people do are not considered to be of value. They are empty, merely something to do."

"The Science Myth" Magnus Pyke, 1962

quote went missing ??? :confused:

[[ You put bare angle brackets around your entire quote, turning the whole thing into one massive, long and unknown tag. This is why it's a good idea to use the preview: illegal HTML can be spotted before you actually post it - ahb]]

91:

@ 87
but was the 20th Century really better?
YES, it was, even allowing for the continual threat of nuclear annhilation.
It started to go pear-sheped some time in the early 80's (as said before)
Now, all our ideals, the supposition that we are the good guys seem to be draining away.
I admit, as someone born in 1946 I may be indulging in the usual moans of a grumpy old git that "Things were better in my day" - but they were.
The obvious improvement in living & working standards between 1945 & 1980 was truly remarkable, coupled with reduced death rates from things like pollution & industrial accidents going down, by large (if not huge) amounts.

92:

the greatest era for economic growth in the twentieth century, according to the OECD was 1901-14

the greatest era for economic growth in the twentieth century AND living standards, AND technological development, according to the OECD was 1945-73

Massive capitalist and [neo]-liberal propaganda has managed to characterize this as an era of stagnation, decline, and consensus welfarism.

More importantly, the last year in which Britons said they were happy in their own lives and confident in their own and their children's futures - was 1976.

Despite what any idiot political commentator/Reaganista/Thatcherite/ high-tech boosterist/singularity snake-oil merchant might tell you, it's been downhill ever since.

93:

"It's why you see 30 year olds still living at home, because their work doesn't pay enough to move out. It leads to people renting rather than buying"

This sort of thing is only a problem if you insist on looking at it with the previous generation's mindset; this whole piece is about how those social rules and expectations have been rejected. Living with your parents at age 30 seems odd to you because that's what you were taught. Renting rather than buying seems odd to you because that's what you were taught.Given the non-existence of a job for life, and that a nomadic existence moving from job to job is becoming normal, buying a house (unless you can buy it and still afford to rent places near wherever you happen to be working at the time) seems incredibly foolish and a throwback to a previous age. When I hear people suggesting that buying a house is somehow almost an absolute smart move, it's like hearing people advising me to buy lots of coal in the summer when it's cheaper so that I save money on my winter heating.

The rules have changed and you cannot continue to apply the biases of previous generations to the modern Western twenty-something.

94:

Mind you, a government making it easier to buy houses (but not really doing much about changing the rental market) while not making steps to produce more houses doesn't really make you think there's much about those at the top that have woken up to the new reality here either.

And while I live in rented accommodation, of my peers I'm the only one that does. In the UK it's common to buy, that part of our parents culture is still well entrenched in Gen X at least and seems to be pretty common into Gen Y from what I can see.

95:

@87 ""Things were better in my day" - but they were."

True or not, the source of that 'betterness' could not continue, which is why Nixon signed the Clean Air Act (1970) and created the EPA.

It is an oft missed "detail" of the 1973-4 oil-crisis that it was not the only corner-turning at that point in time: The industrial "sustainability" concept is from the same time-period.

It's been argued, that OPEC saved western civilization from itself. That is probably stretching the argument too far, but it is certainly not without merit.

The cleanup from your "better old days" have been a economic drag on western nations ever since.

From the "Black Dollar Hole" of Hanford, the continuing mess of Sellafield to the "Superfund sites" under the semiconductor revolution, to macroscopic phenomena like the Halons eating the Ozone layer and CO2-driven climate change.

There's a reason why the party isn't quite the same any more.

96:

The flip side of working in an economy without loyalty to an employer is that personal connections become more important. The people you work with now will work for your competitor next year and they'll be the source of your next job two years from now. I speak from many years' personal experience on this.

97:

I could accept Charlie's speculation if:
1) Increasing number of whistlelblowes (number minus chilling effect of prosecution/ostracizing, plus supposed encouragement through "transparency").
2) Assuming venality remains constant across generational lines
3) ease of apathy due to nomadism
4) assuming the good times of the Long Boom were normal, rather than an anomaly, and
5) forget Snowden, what to make of Thomas Drake?
I don't have the numbers, but my thought would be Snowden is the result of the inevitable ineptitude of increasing size of a ureaucracy rather than a lack of primate groupthink.

98:

In the current British Medical Journal: Perceived job insecurity as a risk factor for incident coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis

http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f4746/rr/657465

"This meta-analysis found a moderate association between job insecurity and an increase in coronary heart disease incidence. "

You might want to let it mature for a bit, but potentially there are more bad things about messing the citizens around than merely economic.

99:

Of course would a missionary of the Church of Singularity also be an apologist of the neoliberal dismantlement of human civilization by the transnational corporatocracy...

100:

But wasn't the GenX parent generation, the boomers the rebellious generation that had low regard for authority. That should translate to decreased "loyalty".

Even Hollywood caught the zeitgeist with "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" that was somewhat anti-corporate.

I personally think that anyone will change their minds about society given enough experience. When IBM famously dumped its older workforce around 1990 destroying its job for life reputation, affected boomers changed their minds about the social contract.

101:

I vaguely remember from a blog discussion--might have even been this one--a article about the arc of loyalty in empires. (The Roman empire being a good example.)

A tribe starts off with intense loyalty of both the leadership to the tribe and the tribe to the leadership. This gives the tribe the strength to become an empire. But after a while, the rot sets in and the leadership fails to uphold their side of the bargain.

The general populace maintains its loyalty to the institutions, but eventually, this being unreciprocated, they turn to their close kin as the only people who offer reciprocal loyalty. The empire then becomes corrupt from top to bottom with everyone looking out for themselves. Outside of kin, the whole mindset is to take the best offer you get. Even though the empire maintains large forces, it eventually collapses because somebody from the outside makes those forces a better offer.

Where their once was an empire, you now have a kin loyalty society rather than a tribal loyalty society. Kin loyalty societies have real trouble constructing functional civic institutions because nobody has any loyalty to the society. The best functioning ones are brutal dictatorships where fear is used to produce societal cohesion.

I wonder if we are seeing parallels of this today, particularly with respect to the corporate world.

102:

I wonder ...
If with increasing "globalisation" (even more than in the 1890-1914 period) coupled with the removal of mutual trust & respect in employment that we have been immediately discussing ...
Are we coming to the end of the post-Tudor, crystallised-at-Westphalia (Frieden von Westfalen, 1648) era of the Nation-state to which we give loyalty & expect protection from, against outside forces?
Because, if so, we are in for a bumpy ride.

Whom can we trust?
And do not/ can not the "bosses" see that removing all elements of mutual trust works against their interests also?
[ Of course this is long-term interests, not short-term, this-years-only "profits" ]

103:

If you are right, the proposed solution of firing 90 percent of the sysadmins will have interesting results. Solve the problem by taking large numbers of employees of dubious loyalty already, and giving them a big grievance.

Even if the proposed end state (near complete automation of system administration) turns out to be feasible, which I doubt, the transient state could be very unpleasant for the agency. One wonders about the decision making process that would come up with this idea.

104:

I'm thinking the other part of that event, the creation of the United Provinces. What an interesting counterfactual if the New World was not conquered when it was, for all the Enlightenment would have no fuel to sustain itself. The denizens of the Dutch Republic do not pass their talents on to the English, who likewise not benefitting from the Atlantic trade, do not prosper and build up a unique merchant class. In turn, no Glorious Revolution, holding forth a wholly alien concept of egalitarianism. Not the end of the nation-state that is the problem, more the end of liberalism. Ah, but remember, "Out of small things comes concord".

105:

Is the general lack of organisational loyalty, in both directions, necessarily a Bad Thing?

In the 1980s, cyberpunk science fiction (books, movies, RPGs) usually assumed that the future would be dominated by ruthless multinational megacorps, with fanatically devoted executives and their own private armies.

You can certainly argue that we are dominated by ruthless megacorps and sociopathic top executives, but the likes of BP, Enron, etc don't fight their way free from government fines with helicopter gunships and ninjas.

106:
The flip side of working in an economy without loyalty to an employer is that personal connections become more important. The people you work with now will work for your competitor next year and they'll be the source of your next job two years from now. I speak from many years' personal experience on this.

This situation (which I'm not disputing) interacts very awkwardly with attempts to commodify social contacts. Companies are wanting to use the social networks their employees participate in as a way of expanding their customer base and corporate contacts -- but when a personal connection can be so much more long-lasting than an employee's job with the company, it's not good for the employee to do this.

107:

"You can certainly argue that we are dominated by ruthless megacorps and sociopathic top executives, but the likes of BP, Enron, etc don't fight their way free from government fines with helicopter gunships and ninjas."

They don't need to. The government already has helicopter gunships and ninjas, and is entirely willing to use them on behalf of the megacorps if they turn out to be needed. Consider the militarisation of police forces, and how puny government sanctions against the megacorps are even when they are found guilty of egregious crimes.

108:

Proles with heart disease because of job uncertainty? That's not a bug, it's a feature: insurance rates go up, making insurance companies more valuable even if they skim a constant amount, and the rentier class wins. Again. And if said proles pop their clogs early, so much the better for saving on Social Security!

In a similar vein, Philip Morris commissioned a study which concluded premature death from cigarette smoking was a net good for the economy, even factoring in added health care costs:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/W._Kip_Viscusi

109:

Even if the proposed end state (near complete automation of system administration) turns out to be feasible, which I doubt, the transient state could be very unpleasant for the agency. One wonders about the decision making process that would come up with this idea.

I suspect uncritical acceptance of the rosiest tales of "cloud computing"'s benefits --- combined with blind ignorance of the amount of rework that can be required to achieve even a fraction of those benefits while redeploying a pre-existing system "in the cloud".

The intelligence community does have a "cloud computing" initiative: Amazon and IBM are in court about the bidding process for a $150 million contract. That might be part of the process that Gen. Alexander had already underway, so he says, to reduce admin headcount, or something related to it. But you only get those benefits once deployment, upgrades, monitoring, fault recovery, and so forth are largely automated --- and if all that was already in place, a substantial amount of the expected headcount reduction would have happened already.

110:

I could write an whole article in response to these comments.

With regards to the nomadic lifestyle, home ownership might sound jaded but everyone pays rent. If you don't own the place then that is money down the toilet. Forced nomadacy is another means of control and wealth restructuring. Corporations controlling the flats = no wealth accumulation.

This is just more subterfuge to push people into becoming a finite economic variable not just in terms of business but also in the eyes of the state. The West can no longer, regarded it's citizens, see the forest for the trees. Business and the state have merged to neithers advantage.

I see two major problems with the way this is headed:

1- If the state has absolute oversight of computer systems regardless of ownership, then that information and its existence is at the liberty of the state and corporations who control it. This is just asking for trouble.

2 - If I, as an individual, rely on computer systems to record my official existence as well as my social existence, and those systems cannot be trusted, other people are the only thing I can trust. So corporations and the government become obscure corruptible database systems which are just variables in my daily existence. Citizenship is just a means to an end and a job is just a job.

So the 21st century is not going to be a war against nations, as they are a fiction of the past, or a war of corporations vs corporations, since that would be a zero sum game. It is going to be a guerrilla war between the nations/corporations and the majority of humanity who is basically enslaved to a system of information management, wealth management, and poverty. The technocracy, which I am a part of, are writing themselves out of the game along with everyone else (unavoidably).

The only end I can see that would be worth while is an open sourced, descentralized system that had no national or corporate ties. Information wanting to be free is not a left wing mantra. It is a necessity because the alternative is to be a slave.

111:

megacorps (...) don't fight their way free from government fines with helicopter gunships and ninjas.

Ahum hem.

Let's take Academi, for instance (formerly Xe, formerly Blackwater).


  • Ninjas - check

  • Helicopter gunships - check

  • fight their way free from government fines - just go ask the Iraqi government what happens when you try to hold mercenaries accountable for blindly shooting in the crowd.

Now, consider that private companies contracted by the US government are shitting Bearcat armoured vehicles so fast that Washington gives them away for free to towns who can be bothered to simply ask for them. Or that 70% of the budget of the NSA goes to private contractors. Do we have signs that the influence of these para-military corporations is rescinding ?

112:

Owning your home in an era that requires a 'flexible workforce' to use the buzzwords requires you either buying in to long range commuting and money, time and resources down the drain, maintaining a second home, whether rented or owned, and more invested of hard to find capital or money down the drain (and certainly in the UK extra stress on the limited resource of the housing market) or a really rapidly moving housing market in all areas and easy access to mortgages and the like.

As a really clear example of the worst of the commuting etc. a friend of mine lives in the North of England and works in Italy. He leaves home on a Sunday lunch time, goes down to London, flies to Italy, keeps a flat there, stays there four nights, working nearby. He flies back to London Thursday night, staying in a hotel because he gets back too late for the last train. He has an arrangement to hot desk with the parent company on Friday, then catches the train back up on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend at home. (The parent company he works for have a contract for with a company in the same city as his home but won't transfer him to work with that company for some reason.) But by your analysis, it's all OK, because he's not throwing money away renting his supposed main dwelling.

During my adult life there have been several (I think 4) national failures of the housing market on that basis and some local or regional ones as well. The UK's current apparent good news on the house price front after 4 or 5 years is masking the fact that in Northern Ireland and Scotland the bottom is still falling out of house prices and trying to sell is presumably a nightmare. Trying to borrow is still a bit an issue too.

In my father's working life, when he didn't actually have a job for life in the civil service despite the expectation of such, he moved away from home for national service, and he'd lived in the same house throughout his childhood. He moved from national service into a small house, actually attached to the place he worked. Then into a house with his wife, where my sister and I were born. Then again as we got bigger. Then again as we got bigger again. Apart from a brief flirtation with moving to Canada while he was working over there and running two homes, he's now moved back to that last house.

I obviously lived in 3 houses as a child, 12 places since. I'm looking at probably moving next year too. They're not evenly distributed - this last place is 12 years now although there have been a couple of mishaps that have kept me here and some near escapes. OK, I have no supposed capital for the money I've "wasted" on rent. I've also not lost any of it on repairs, conveyancing, surveying reports and the like. I think it's only clear cut if you're in a position to not move often or moving is always fast and easy and at least in the UK it's often not.

113:

Ah ah, the "flexible workforce".

As a post-doc, you get one-year or two-year contracts, whose location is selected on a Carmen San Diego basis (more or less random all over the planet). Hence, whatever money you save on your low wages during your contract does up in smoke moving, paying registration fees and deposits, and renting storage for things you cannot move. Lack of stable situation and income will furthermore limit you to renting well over normal prices. You can add to this the fact that is practice you will probably have to pay two health insurances because the transfer the insurance scheme from one country to the other works very well in theory.

Of course if you have a significant other, you are screwed on this respect. Or more accurately you are not, unless you are willing to devote a fraction of your income to transportation and survive the exhaustion of the travels to have a meaningful sentimental life. Doable on the short term, but inconceivable as an actual lifestyle.

The real challenge is to keep your cool when some Baby boomer asks why you are not buying a home and don't have a car, implying in not-so veiled terms that you lack entrepreneurial spirit, and potentially even the maturity to outgrow being a student, settle down and be an adult. "I serve Science and it's my joy".


114:

You can certainly argue that we are dominated by ruthless megacorps and sociopathic top executives, but the likes of BP, Enron, etc don't fight their way free from government fines with helicopter gunships and ninjas.

Don't they?

One could argue that the whole sweep of history in the Middle East during the 20th and early 21st centuries, and the War on Terror, were shaped by large energy corporations using western governmental military force (and local governments too) as proxies to protect their interests. Meanwhile, the government fines are fought free of with lawyers or evaded via double Dutch/Irish accountancy sandwiches and similar gambits ...

It's a little more indirect than the 80s cyberpunk vision, but effectively barely any different.

115:

Going back to the corporate employee loyalty erosion thing, the IT industry might have been a contributing factor.

Geeking around with computers was FUN, and it didn't take long before corporate entities realized they could get enthusiastic labor at low prices... or just treat their workforce as temps.

The Voices finally dredged up a book I had read years ago - "The Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder, about the engineering death march to complete the design of a new Data General minicomputer, circa 1980. 16x7 work weeks, people sleeping under their desks, eventual success... and then the tiger team shuffled over to the dungeon of tech support, or laid off.

Back then, it was a radical new thing... but I've been under that grindstone more than once, before I learned better, and nowadays it's the norm in the IT industry. Few employers want the overhead of a permanent skilled workforce, particularly in a field where the skill set ages so rapidly. There's no intent to develop "institutional knowledge" or maintain a working team; programmers and engineers are like toilet paper, to be used once and discarded.

Several of Greg Bear's dystopian novels have a common piece of background, where "employees" as we think of them are virtually unknown; almost all jobs go through temp agencies, and employees compete for those temp slots like Japanese teenagers swotting for their examination scores.

My wife works for a relatively famous multinational. She's been there for thirty years, about average for the permanent employees. But they haven't made any new hires for twenty years or so; half of the workforce are temps, some of whom have been there for years.

Maybe Bear was onto something...

116:

@114:
One could argue that the whole sweep of history in the Middle East during the 20th and early 21st centuries, and the War on Terror, were shaped by large energy corporations using western governmental military force (and local governments too) as proxies to protect their interests.
--
Failure of the British government to protect various business interests in British America was the direct cause of the American Revolution.

Despite centuries of propaganda, the American Revolution was a revolution of the wealthy trading class, not a popular uprising. Enough businessmen got angry over their ships being sunk, the government basically told them to fribble off, there was a war on somewhere else, just deal with it. And so they did, though probably not in the way it was intended.

When you have corporate entities that have lobbyists and the funds to put their own people into the government, are large enough to sponsor legislation in their favor, sometimes have their own media networks, and some of them have annual budgets larger than the GNP of some entire nations, you have a bunch of 800-pound gorillas in the room that aren't safe to ignore, at least if you're a politician who hopes to keep his job.

Back in the '80s a common SF trope was "megacorps running the world." Intel and Microsoft still aren't issuing their own money and fielding private armies... but it's probably cheaper to outsource that sort of thing to national governments, which also lets someone else take the inevitable backlash. And like some kind of alien body snatchers, you have corporate entities like whatever Blackwater is called this week, which, as "private contractors" and mercenaries, have infiltrated until they're indistinguishable from government employees.

117:

"The Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder, about the engineering death march to complete the design of a new Data General minicomputer, circa 1980.

Actually, the DG Eagle shipped in the early 1970s. Push it back a decade, at least.

And I heard stories about the working hours the folks on the Apollo Program put in, to get to the moon first: a third of a million people, doing 80 hour work weeks for 2-3 years at the height of the project.

I suspect it goes back to WWII and the exigencies workers took on, mostly willingly, during wartime. Management learned the lesson and applied it subsequently: emergencies [seem to] get more out of your salaried employees ...

118:

@117: "Actually, the DG Eagle shipped in the early 1970s. Push it back a decade, at least."

Uhm no, it didn't it shipped in 1980 as the MV/8000 and the book came out about 9 months later.

And btw: We have one of them in datamuseum.dk, until six years ago it stitched radar tracks for the danish ATC.

119:

Other issues

There is a large cultural gap between the "information must be free" ethos of most hackers, who NSA needs to recruit and the hyper-secret culture of spook agencies.

To keep perspective on the original posting, there are many deep security breachers such as Aldrich Ames, Robert Hansen, who were career spooks. For a complete list, go here .

120:

"With regards to the nomadic lifestyle, home ownership might sound jaded but everyone pays rent. If you don't own the place then that is money down the toilet. Forced nomadacy is another means of control and wealth restructuring. Corporations controlling the flats = no wealth accumulation."

Do you make your own clothes? Every penny you spend on clothing is money down the toilet. Do you own your own farm and grow and process all your own food? Every penny you spend on food is money down the toilet. Do you provide all your own entertainment? Every penny you spend on that is money down the toilet. How about electricity? Do you generate all the electricity you need? Every penny you spend on that is money down the toilet.

Nomadcy is exactly the opposite of controlling people. When I am bored with work, I leave. I have no mortgage. I don't have to sell a house. I just leave and move anywhere in the world where there is someone who will give me a better deal. I have that control. I've quit jobs at the drop of a hat with no onwards job to go to because, when your jobmarket is "anywhere in the world, and I can start tomorrow" you've got a great deal of control.

I know many people in many jobs who want to leave. Who want a better job, or to live somewhere else. Many of them can't. They are tied to a house via a mortgage.

Sure, if you can skip straight to owning it outright without spending twenty years tied to it via a mortgage, and you decide that having all your money in an illiquid bubble-prone liability is a good move, good for you.

Maybe you don't like other places to store your money - I currently pay my complete rent and bills out of investment income, so I'm living free of charge but with the freedom to move out whenever I feel like it; if I took all my money and tried to buy a house, I wouldn't be able to afford one - a crazy situation when investment income alone pays full rent and bills, but if the landlord wants to subsidise my life by taking on all the expense and risk of owning property, that's up to him.

121:

Charlie @114 wrote:


One could argue that the whole sweep of history in the Middle East during the 20th and early 21st centuries, and the War on Terror, were shaped by large energy corporations using western governmental military force (and local governments too) as proxies to protect their interests.

Yes, the oil fields of Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are vital to understanding local and international interests in those countries.

Oh, wait, they don't have any oil fields.

The left wing assumption that the entire Middle East consists of oil-rich fiefdoms propped up by the USA is just as patronising and inaccurate as the right wing assumption that they're all jihadis.

Maybe, just maybe, it would help to think of "the Middle East" as different countries, with different people and governments?


122:

Yes, the oil fields of Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are vital to understanding local and international interests in those countries.

Oh, wait, they don't have any oil fields.

And they weren't shaped in any way by money flows or political pressure from the neighbouring countries that do have oil?

You'll get on better here if you don't start by trying to derail the thread.

123:

shaped by large energy corporations using western governmental military force (and local governments too) as proxies to protect their interests

Reminds me of a former acquaintance; an ex-US Army Ranger who, after he was retired, joined a company called AirScan which sent him to Angola to teach how to disarm landmines (which he had done for the Army in Bosnia). He once told about being present at a meeting of the Angolan president and his ministers. The Minister of Finance (IIRC, who was the president's sister) was snoozing, until the subject of off-shore drilling and the miilions to be made from them came up. I believe he only worked for them a few years and left to spend more time with his family.

from the Wikipedia link:
AirScan was hired by the MPLA government of Angola in late 1997 to provide surveillance of the mostly Chevron owned oil installations in the Cabinda region, a region Angola had just weeks earlier led an offensive from into the Congo.....The timing and location of hiring AirScan leads some to believe these firms are providing covert training and assistance in oil wealthy areas of Africa.

124:

Egypt was a net exporter of oil and gas until recently -- during WWII the oilfields in the eastern Sahara were a target for the Axis forces in North Africa. Algeria produces 400,000 bbl/day and its oil and gas exports make up 30% of its GDP. Tunisia, 80,000 bbl/day. Lebanon's offshore gas fields under development are thought to be the best in the region. Syrian oil production is 400,000 bbl/day. Jordan, no easily extractable oil but lots of oil shale ripe for the picking once the cost of processing it makes it worthwhile.

Nope, no oil (or gas or oil shale) fields there, nosirree. No mention of Libya or Iraq or Iran in his pick-list of destabilised nations in the region, of course.

125:

I think that the US agencies have a unique problem that goes beyond even what you discuss here.

If the US government selects operatives based on loyalty to the US, they run smack dab into the Catch-22 of the fact that their most secret operations run directly counter to the principles school children are socialized to believe are synonymous with the US.

In other words, a vast propaganda machine is aimed at young people to teach them that they must love the US because the US is noble and good and stands for human rights and freedom and is the only hope for the world. To the extent that propaganda succeeds, children grow up to "love their country" and be patriotic and loyal.

But when you select one of those propagandized adolescents for service to the state, as soon as they're "inside" they discover that certain elements of the propaganda are simply not true. They may never have been true, and they certainly aren't true now.

So the most loyal state subject is the most likely to feel an immense sense of betrayal if the state tries to rely on that subject as a servant.

That means that if the intelligence services select for high loyalty and patriotism, they run the risk that disillusionment will create disloyalty. But what can they possibly do as a response? Select for high disloyalty and a lack of patriotism? That doesn't work, either. Select for sociopathy? That has problems, too.

126:

Actually, I'd suggest it's not quite emergencies.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, my engineer grandfather and my engineer father used to joke that managers hired engineers "by the acre" on the theory that if they threw enough engineers at the project, the technical problems would go away. They would then be let go after the project was over, or (at best) transferred to another project in another state. My grandfather logged time in something like 45 states by the time he died. They also joked that, a year after the laser had been invented, some company-or-other was looking for engineers with ten years' experience working with lasers.

In other words, things haven't changed in a while. I don't know if WW2 was the watershed, or whether it was the big projects of the Great Depression, or whether it goes back further than that to the great bridges, dams, and railroads of the Gilded Age.

127:

Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia aren't even Middle East but North African. And until very recently (ie. with the Arab spring) I don't recall any international interest in those countries. And most interest in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria comes from being Israel's neighbours. Let's face it, the only two questions that matter in the West are: Are they enemies of Israel? and Do they have oil? Democracy or Human Rights might make nice stories in the sunday papers but are irrelevant when it comes to western foreign politics.

128:

I think you got a point there. BTW; selecting for greediness also only works as long as you pay more money than the opposition.

OTOH you could run your intelligence agencies with management principles centered on human rights, freedom and fairness. But I guess they rather deal with disloyalty than trying that.

129:

Well, regarding Tunisia and Algeria, yes, but Egypt?

Egypt is part of the Middle East. That it is also North Africa is not really important - saying that it is (mostly) North African no more bars it from being in the Middle East than Saudi Arabia being part of Asia does.

And while I can't help what you recall about international interest about Egypt, it's been an important part of the Middle East question as far as the US has been concerned for decades, to the point that it has been receiving billions of dollars a year in foreign aid since the peace accord with Israel.

130:

to the point that it has been receiving billions of dollars a year in foreign aid since the peace accord with Israel.

... Most of which aid is in the shape of export credits to underwrite purchases of weapons from the US.

The logic is twofold. Firstly, prior to the 1973 war, Egypt was to some extent a Soviet client state (Nasser really set that ball rolling), so the US took the 1977 peace agreement as an opportunity to buy them back into the fold. Secondly, throwing money at the Egyptian military to this day buys their cooperation in several areas: gives them toys to play with in exchange for renouncing territorial ambitions in a north-easterly direction (ahem), gives them guns to point due west (important geopolitical consideration from 1971-2005, settled only when the Libyan civil war deposed Gaddafi), gives them reasons to cooperate with US basing and operational requirements in the region (US forces in the ME aren't based on Israeli soil because striking at Arab targets from bases there would be too inflammatory).

It probably helps to view Egypt as a Military that has accidentally acquired a nation and doesn't know what to do with it (but doesn't much want to take responsibility for running it).

131:

"If the US government selects operatives based on loyalty to the US, they run smack dab into the Catch-22 of the fact that their most secret operations run directly counter to the principles school children are socialized to believe are synonymous with the US.

In other words, a vast propaganda machine is aimed at young people to teach them that they must love the US because the US is noble and good and stands for human rights and freedom and is the only hope for the world. To the extent that propaganda succeeds, children grow up to "love their country" and be patriotic and loyal."

That is changing though but. Games like Call of Duty and tv shows like NCIS are reshaping the American ideals. Those ideals of honesty and freedom are no longer being propagated as they once were (heck, even good old wholesome Transformers cartoon recently had where Optimus "Robot Jesus" Prime threatened to use torture...sorry "enhanced interrogation techniques" on a captive"). These days, unless you are watching a show about multi-coloured ponies, it is all hi-tech surveillance, "the ends justify the means", and dirty foreigners should expect to do America's bidding in the child-socialization meme pool. It is getting very oppressive and imperialistic on tv, books, and new media.

Of course that is a double edged sword for the alphabet agencies too, it does away with the old noble ideals, but on the other hand it freakin' does away with all those old noble ideals. Its creating a piranha tank and countries which encouraged that kind of social piranha tank generally do not last terribly long.

132:

Egypt is also of interest to the West because of a little thing called the Suez canal. The ability to get ships from the Med / North Atlantic to the Persian Gulf without having to go round the bottom end of either Africa or South America is significant, both militarily and economically.

133:

cryptic.mirror @ 131
It's creating a piranha tank, and countries which encouraged that kind of social piranha tank generally do not last terribly long.
[Godwin warning]
1933-46 - der Dritte Reich?

But how much damage (to tothers, never mind Germany) was done in that 13-year period?
NOT a good precedent.

Chris @ 132
"We" managed (reasonably well) 1967-75.
Could be done again - inconvenient - but so?

134:

[Godwin warning]

I wasn't going to go there, I promise. I do not think the political trajectory in the US and other Western Governments is heading towards Godwinland, let me be clear on that. I do not think we will see the kind of systemic genocide that occurred there, that was due to the personal quirks of the Godwinated one and a particular social stigma for a certain religious grouping that I do not believe is present (in any great strength) in current social prejudices.

I do believe we will see the increasing use of extra-judicial (and quasi-judicial) imprisonments though. However rather than being targeted the way Godwinland operated, it will be more in line with the way Chile under Pinochet or the other South American dictatorships.

135:

There was an Empire from the Pyrenees to the Himalaya within a hundred years of the death of Muhammed. There has only been one empire in human history which controlled more people and land and like that Arab-Islamic Empire, it spread the language and culture of the Imperial people.

Saying North Africa is not part of the Middle East is missing almost everything of signficance in those countries. There's a confusion too with geography, and that's shifted also.

136:

There has only been one empire in human history which controlled more people and land and like that Arab-Islamic Empire

I think you may owe the Mongol khanate an apology.

(As for the current American Empire, it's more of a tribute/trade empire than a direct administrative one like the British Empire it succeeds. Although it's probably fair to say that historians a thousand years hence will speak of the American Empire and the British Empire much as those of today recall the Byzantine Empire and the western Roman Empire -- the one as an outgrowth/replacement for the other.)

137:

And indeed today we saw the quasi-judicial detainment (and temporary imprisonment, albeit for a few hours), of the partner of the Journalist who broke the Snowden story. Kept for no reason except to send a message, and held right until literally the last minute the law allows before demanding charges. Something they don't do even do when they really do have grounds.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/18/david-miranda-detained-uk-nsa

138:

Ok, move Egypt to the "neighbours of Israel" group then. And of course it has the Suez canal. Wasn't there an episode where Egypt threatened to close the Suez canal over the Israel-Palestinian conflict?

139:

That appears to be a really stupid move. If you don't like the news, it usually doesn't help when you harass the press. In this case it reinforces the ideas that a) US+UK security services are operating outside the law and b) UK is America's poodle.

140:

UK is America's poodle

That's just an idea?

Here on Airstrip One that's been pretty much understood to be the case by all Serious foreign policy folks, ever since Orwell was busy writing "1984". Sixty-something years ago.

(We used to have a navy that wasn't just a helpful fill-in for the USN, you know. And a foreign policy that wasn't just the Mini-Me to the State Department's Dr Evil.)

141:

>it is all hi-tech surveillance, "the ends justify the means", and dirty foreigners should expect to do America's bidding in the child-socialization meme pool. It is getting very oppressive and imperialistic on tv, books, and new media.

You can always find examples of anything of course, but imho the trend isn't quite so bleak. Sure the online discourse of many americans raised on simplistic "idealistic" propaganda fare of yore is nakedly aggressive and imperial, but modern media is far more nuanced.

Mainly because it's more international, even in the rah rah simplistic Call of Duty you can find yourself as a Soviet conscript participating in the defense of Pavlov's house (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavlov%27s_House) and stuff like Metal Gear Solid which on the surface looks like the videogame equivalent of a Tom Clancy novel is in fact chock-full of mindfuckery (And a lot of fairly straightforward historical data dumps). And as for torture, you're the one likely to experience it.

tl;dr people raised on manichean fare are easier to corrupt into "ends justify the means" types.

142:

Oh, I didn't know that counts as common knowledge in the UK. ;-) Over here in Germany many people still think the UK is an independent state which is just good friends with America.

143:

I do not think the political trajectory in the US and other Western Governments is heading towards Godwinland, let me be clear on that. I do not think we will see the kind of systemic genocide that occurred there.

Me neither : I don't think that we will see that sort of systemic genocide, because it's already been done. The acquisition of Lebensraum through genocide occurred in the USA during the 19th century, mostly at the expense of the Amerindians. Expending to the North has been out since the war of 1812 (yeah Canada!), and South, the USA haven't had had the cheeks to explicitly conquer the Americas like they do in the CSA mockumentary ; on the other hand, ask whether life was funny under the Contras or Pinochet or the other US stooges of the same brand...

144:

Ironically, one could argue that the western hemisphere has been on a century-long voyage away from Godwin-land, at least so far as the various Native American tribes are concerned. Admittedly, we've got a long way to go, but we're no longer doing scalp bounties and smallpox infested blankets.

145:

Define common knowledge. There are plenty of people who'll deny it, most of them because they genuinely believe otherwise. (But some of them because they run/work for the media outlets that exist to mislead the majority.)

146:

In other words, a vast propaganda machine is aimed at young people to teach them that they must love the US because the US is noble and good and stands for human rights and freedom and is the only hope for the world. To the extent that propaganda succeeds, children grow up to "love their country" and be patriotic and loyal.

Well, as I understand it, we people born in the West have been raised on an ideology shaped largely by the victory in the Second World War. With references to core texts defining basic rights, like the Declarations of Human Rights (either 1789 or the UN flavour), the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, etc.

Many of us were raised in families where somebody had lived through times where their countries had gone to shit. Therefore we are not so loyal to our countries or "our flag" (it's a bloody piece of fabric anyway), and more so to the ideals that our current regimes stand for (or pretend to stand for anyway).

The French know that the Vichy Regime and the Algerian War happened in the name of France under the tricolour. The Greek know the Colonel regime. The Germans, don't even get me started. The British should remember the mass shootings in India and the joys of Northern Ireland. The Spanish had Franco, the Italians had Mussolini, etc. Basically, we all know that our very own countries can be on the side of the baddies; for this reason, we swear allegiance to principles rather that the form and appearance of loyalism.

Maybe the thing that distinguishes the US on this respect, is the small level of introspection taught in school, and the dismissing of such thinking as "bleeding-heart liberalism". From there comes the blind acceptations of "the troops" to be like of firefighters with guns, who can do no wrong and who perform some sort of abstract do-good service that harms nobody. When you know for a fact that your own army has practiced torture in the recent past, and has threatened to stage a coup against the democratically elected government -- or actually done it--, you have a more sober view on its relationships with society.


147:

(Australia is the wrong time zone, this is difficult.)

I'm not trying to derail the thread, I'm taking exception to the "everything is the fault of the USA" that seems to be the default for many commentators.

By blaming the USA or Western colonialism for everything that happens, you're still assuming that those people and countries are helpless pawns in the face of Western superiority, unable to make their own decisions or act in their own interests.

The Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire and in doing so is often credited as kicking off the Arab Spring did so because the police had shut him down for not having a necessary approval. A martyr for the cause of deregulating small business: Margaret Thatcher would have approved.

The Algerian protests were against the originally Soviet backed government that won the war against France.

Across North Africa there are Berber and Toureg rumblings about greater autonomy, and that issue dates back to the 7th century CE Arab invasion. Not a lot the USA had to do with that.

Libya had oil, so was different. (@114, if I'm listing states without oil, of course I'm not going to put Libya, Iraq, and Iran on it!) Egypt is different again, for reasons given by earlier commentators.

And so on across the region. It's not a universal struggle against US imperialism. Most (not all!) protestors are waving smart phones, not Kalashnikovs; and they're wearing far more Nike swooshes than pics of Che Guevara. Most (not all) want Western values and freedoms.

148:

Top Secret clearance does not require a polygraph. My source? I had one. It took about a year. It wasn't hugely onerous, although my friends and family chuckled about the interviews. ("Of course he spends time with foreigners! He lives in Mexico!)

It can be expedited in as little as three months (the Army does that all the time). Even if it takes a year, I'm at a loss as to your point about expense. OPM pays the expense; both companies and agencies just put their people on other jobs while waiting.

Some agencies do require polygraphs above and beyond the clearance. The NSA is one. But the Maryland law exempts law enforcement and no state law, of course, applies to federal agencies or contractors. I'll further add that the Maryland law is redundant: see the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988.

In short, I'm not really sure what you're getting at.


149:

Meh. I love my country because it's mine, same way I love my family.

Yes, I have cousins whom I don't really like very much. Makes the point stronger. Anyway, see Orwell for a better discussion of the point.

Y'all be oversimplifying. Don't!

150:

Charlie, this is a bad argument. (Note that I am not disputing your larger point.)

Here's why. Imagine that the U.S. had no oil majors. Does our post-1973 Middle Eastern policy change?

No, not really. The reason is that since 1973 it has been shaped around American interests as oil consumers, not producers. Nobody is threatening the flow of rents to the U.S. from Middle Eastern oil, because those rents are now pretty much all captured by the local governments.

Rather, U.S. policy is set up to insure two things. First, that the flow of oil to consumers from the Middle East is not threatened. (In fact, most of those consumers aren't even American, but the point holds.) Second, that the flow of rents goes to governments we trust, rather than ones we do not. (See Gulf War 1.)

Thing is, the majors would find the first thing in their economic interest: prices would rise precipitously. They are generally indifferent to the second; in the case of Mr. Hussein, he was likely to be more amenable to their interests than the Kuwaiti bureaucrats he replaced.

This is not related to your general point. It is public knowledge that I tend to agree with it. (See here.) But it is not really right in the particular case.

151:

Actually, my comment applies to one before Cahth3iK. Apologies!

To expand further: non-idealistic cynical small-p patriots who love their country react the same to wrongdoing as anyone else. An example is typing at this keyboard right now.

152:

I'm not following the "tribute" part.

153:

I think you're raging against strawpeople. No, there isn't a universal struggle against US/European Imperialism, but almost all current political struggles can be framed in reference to European Imperialism, Cold War politicking, US interventionalism, or some combination thereof. The US gets discussed the most because its interventions are the most recent and therefore have the most direct affect on the current situation.

154:

Ugly business.

Greenwald (the journalist) is in Brazil.

Expect the situation to be presented as the interception of a possible courier carrying illicit documents. Whether they can make it sound like potential terrorism or not.

But David Miranda (the partner) is so obvious a connection that you have to wonder why anyone would risk using him as a courier.

[Waves to NSA-man and offers cookies]

You can see why Greenwald would be expected to use couriers. But this only makes sense as intimidation.

155:

CrypticMirror @ 134
Yes, very likely & even a Pinochet/Greek Colonels’ dictatorship would be thoroughly nasty. Rather like the parallel USA under WARBUCKS in Charlie’s “Family Trade” set.
Euw.

Charlie @ 136
And, even there, the specifically British Empire was very largely based on trade & trading. Several of the military take-overs were almost by accident, or because there was such disorder “next door” that the Brits felt obliged to step in [ Burma & Uganda are the classic examples here ]

CrypticMirror @ 137 et seq ….
And, when (if) will Mr Miranda get his possessions back?
How does one go about recovering things seized by the “authorities” on flimsy pretexts?
Paging Dirk Bruere: – will D Bruere, please contact The Guardian concerning similar treatment of someone involved with Bitcoin?

Andereas Vox @ 138
Err… see my post @ 134
The canal was CLOSED 1967-75, wasn’t it?
& @ 142 – depends on how cynical one is – both here & in the BRD

Charlie @ 140
Yes, that’s one of the reasons I would like to see Thatcher’s corpse dumped ( a la Cromwell) & all the subsequent PM’s hung for treason, in running the Navy down.
What I want to know is – what was & is in it for them? Who is profiting from our weakness & why are they doing it?

cahth3iK @ 146
But, that’s the point – that’s (probably) why Snowden flipped … The US is supposed to be the good guys – all the propaganda points that way.
Then, all of a sudden, you find that either it ain’t so, &/or someone is corrupting/misusing the system in illegal/immoral ways.
Err … “Northern Ireland” was an (at least) tri-partite civil war, with none of the sides having any monopoly of either vice or virtue.
However, you correctly, I think point up the low level of introspection inside the USA … and, of course, they still have not agreed across the whole country that slavery was a “bad thing” or that the “South” was 150% in the wrong – have they? Maybe it would be better if they did. [ In fact Ireland – all of it – also has this exact same problem, that people of all the factions did horrible things & were wrong, & no-one, or very few people, are prepared to admit it. ]

justin.boden @ 153
AND … because the USSA & their poodles over here are so CLUMSY & STUPID.
Are they deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from the population, that normally wouldn’t care or notice?
If they are, then that is even worse, because then, “they” are not interested in “just” economic servitude, but police/military/autocratic servitude, Pinochet-style (as mentioned up-thread). Nasty.
Question, then – what’s people opinion on this?
Are they clumsy & stupid? [ The most likely answer – a cock-up ]
Or are they doing it deliberately? [ A conspiracy, of sorts. ]

156:

By blaming the USA or Western colonialism for everything that happens, you're still assuming that those people and countries are helpless pawns in the face of Western superiority, unable to make their own decisions or act in their own interests.

Actually, the western colonialism rap sheet in the ME really goes back to Napoleon (who kicked it off with the invasion of Egypt) and then, a century later, the British and French imperial grab for the provinces of the Ottoman Empire. But I take your point.

However ... you need to define "act in their own interests" rather better. Most of the middle eastern states were carved out of several provinces of the earlier empire by western fiat, established on the classic 90%/9%/1% colonial line. This was a deliberate policy developed to ensure that colonial states were weak, too weak to effectively challenge the imperial power. The 1% at the top consisted of either a weak puppet monarchy or a cadre of imperial administrators; if the latter left during decolonization they'd be replaced by a cadre of local ruling elites. Representative government of the people, by the people, wasn't part of the blueprint. It never was. And so the interests of the people and their rulers frequently diverged.

157:

(See Gulf War 1.)

ObNitpick:

Gulf War I: 78 - 88

The US didn't see much military action in this one except shooting down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew on board.

Still, it was one of the the longest and bloodiest wars in recent history and was kept going by arms sales to both sides by many countries around the world, including weapon sales from the US to Iran (see Iran-Contra Affair). The startegic position of the West is nicely summed up by this quote from Kissinger: "It's a pity they both can't lose." and explained by Ed Juchniewicz from CIA, the number two man in the Operations Division at that time: "We didn't want either side to have the advantage. We just wanted them to kick the shit out of each other".

The war cost 500.000 - 1.000.000 lifes, and I really hate it when people try to ignore it or hush it up.

Gulf War II: 90 - 91 (Bush senior's glorious reestablishment of the Kuwait monarchy, 20.000 -26.000 deaths)

Gulf War III: 2003 - ongoing (Bush junior's glorious cleansing of Iraq from WMDs, 100.000 deaths, and replacement with a failed state in civil war, another 500.000 - 1.000.000 deaths)

158:

The tribute part: think in terms of GATT, the WTO, and so on. Foreign trade is a huge benefit to any economy, but in order to play in the paddling pool you have to play by the rules -- and the rules in this particular pool are largely dictated by the US, to the extent that US intellectual property law and contract law is exported around the world. One may infer that this lends a huge first-mover advantage to indigenous American corporations and investors, who are more familiar with these rules than those who are newly grappling with them. So it's indirect rather than direct tribute, but it's still a system that benefits the USA disproportionately. And will probably continue to do so until we no longer peg our exchange rates for currency value against the US dollar.

159:

In fact, that's one of the many issues in the "Scottish Independance debate"; the idea that some of us don't want to spend our taxes on Merkin noocular missills (sic) any more.

160:

Is Suez really so important anymore? An increasing number of supercarriers are too big to use it and the Indian Ocean situation has rendered it increasingly hazardous to approach anyway. Transport corporations are surely getting more used to sending things the long way around. And if the predictions on the Arctic sea for 2015 onward pan out then they'll have a brand new shortcut across the top instead.

161:

The US didn't see much military action in this one except shooting down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew on board.

The side the US Gov't was overtly supporting in the 1980-1988 Gulf War killed many more US servicemen than the one it was covertly supporting [the hated Eye-ranians]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Stark_incident

the USS Liberty of its day. The downing of Iranair flight 655 two months later, was a response to the Stark incident with USN becoming more trigger happy and defensive to Iranian activities.

Bizarre.

162:

Surely the fact they enthusiastically export IP law at least undercuts the implicit indirect tribute theory?

Pretty much whatever company you are, if you're going to be getting into international trade, you'll be moderately well established and you'll have some grasp on IP law. If your local IP law is already pretty well aligned to US and international IP law it's a lower barrier to international trade, not a higher barrier. The step-up comes earlier, when you switch, from operating in your local economy and perhaps not bothering with an accountant, a lawyer and the like, to operating in a regional/national economic setting where contract law, running proper books, in the UK things like VAT and so on suddenly become really significant, and establishing and defending patents, trademarks and the like might be too.

Not that they're irrelevant at the smaller level, but you're more likely to be able to get away without, or by hiring someone at need.

By the time you're making the step up to the next size for significant international trade, you've probably got a a lawyer or two on the staff for such things and processes in hand for all those things.

Of course that won't always apply. It's relatively easy to be an international entrepreneur as a 16 year old in your bedroom selling apps via your favourite mobile device's online store. I'm sure content has been taken down for breach of IP rights, but there's some hand-holding around in there and I'm not sure it's more than takedown notices that have happened for apps?

163:

Since US IP law (patent law in particular) explicitly privileges activities in the US over equivalents abroad in various ways, making it universal just means that people in other countries are penalised by their own laws as well.

Totally OT: Charlie, is it possible to arrange for ticking the "remember me" button to result in wordpress actually remembering me? It's currently neither keeping me logged in nor restoring my username and password when I want to comment again.

164:

>And if the predictions on the Arctic sea for 2015 onward pan out then they'll have a brand new shortcut across the top instead.

Read an article recently (Can't find the link just now) that claimed the northern route is already being used, mainly during summer months, and that in fact the volume of shipping is slowly reaching the levels it had during the Soviet Union when the soviet fleet of nuclear icebreakers escorted ships through.

165:

I thought somebody might pick on this. There is no correct answer, Andreas. I am correct and you are correct; your nitpick is a fail, I fear.

Standard U.S. usage is to call the first of those conflicts the Iran-Iraq War. Then come the two Gulf wars. The second Gulf War ended in December 2011 when the last American combat troops withdrew.

Iraq is currently not quite in a civil war, but when it heats up it'll be called the Iraqi Civil War. (Technically it will be the second civil war, but since the first coincided with Gulf War 2 the usage won't become common.)

All the best!

166:

That's just a trade empire, Charlie. The metropole sets the rules; sometimes they benefit the subordinate powers and sometimes they don't.

A modern form of tribute would be something like the way the Middle Eastern countries paid for Gulf War 1, or the Japanese payments to host U.S. troops. No?

Any discussion of imperialism inevitably dissolves into a semantic battle, of course. (For example, as I've argued elsewhere, the U.S. government has for formal power in the Bahamas than the Dutch government has in St. Maarten.) In this case, though, I think it's a little confusing to invent a term (indirect tribute) when you've got one (trade empire) that perfectly describes the situation.

167:

Iran Air 655
It is said (but with what degree of truth I really don't know) that someone with a rush of blood to the head tried to sneak a fighter/ground attack aircraft close in behind the civil flight, so as to have a pop at the US Navy. This turned out to be terminally stupid, & IIRC the ship involved ( USS Vincennes ) claimed to have shot down two aircraft - the military one & (oops!) the civilian one.
How much of that was US spin, how much true & how much just bullshit from everyone involved, I really don't know.
But, according to recent reports, though, (such as Wiki) there was no second aircraft & the whole thing was a major military screw-up.
What is more certain is that the PanAm flight that landed hard on Lockerbie was blown up by the Iranians in retaliation - Gadaffi & his people were NOT involved .....

168:

Iraq is currently not quite in a civil war, but when it heats up it'll be called the Iraqi Civil War. (Technically it will be the second civil war, but since the first coincided with Gulf War 2 the usage won't become common.)

I think you missed a civil war or two: the first and second Kurdish Iraqi Wars probably amounted to such if you stick to the borders of Iraq as drawn on a map by the British and French.

169:
So it's indirect rather than direct tribute, but is still a system that benefits the USA disproportionately. And will probably continue to do so until we no longer peg our exchange rates for currency value against the US dollar.

Ugh. Yes. It's easy to play the counterfactual game, even easier to be the old duffer telling anyone who will listen just Where We Jumped the Rails. In the context of this discussion, I'd nominate Nixon for his role in the abandonment of the Bretton Woods system. Don't be too hard on him though. The U.S.'s share of world economic output had been falling since the early 50's, its balance of payments had gone negative (in fact, it had to be for the system to work), and there was a certain amount of, shall we say, monetary inflation. So the dollar had been slipping for some time and nobody was really surprised when a 1971 joint Congressional report recommended devaluing the dollar 'to protect it from foreign price-gougers', code for 'let's roger the furriners and blame them for the rogering'. Sound familiar ;-) No, if Nixon hadn't done the deed, someone else would have sooner or later. Finally, Oil production in the States and elsewhere had peaked around 1970, putting an upwards pressure on oil prices and, ironically, imposing an unwelcome dependence on said dark-skinned foreigners. Life is funny that way.

What happened next? Well, according to the Wiki (there are better sources, I know):

The price shock created large current account deficits in the oil-importing economies. A spontaneous petrodollar recycling mechanism was created, through which the surplus funds accumulated by OPEC nations were being channelled through the capital markets to the West to finance the current account deficits. The functioning of this mechanism required the demise of capital controls in the Western oil-importing economies and it is seen by scholars as the beginning of an exponential growth of the capital markets in the West from the 1970s onwards.

What could have been done to avert this? Well, ballsy as he was, Johnson didn't have the stones to raise taxes to pay for that Vietnam business and his Great Society programs. Perhaps if he had done so the dollar wouldn't have been so terribly overvalued and there wouldn't have been that crisis of confidence in it's worth. Alternatively, perhaps he could have reined in Cold War spending. According to one interpretation of events,

The essential conflict was that the American role as military defender of the capitalist world's economic system was recognized, but not given a specific monetary value. In effect, other nations "purchased" American defense policy by taking a loss in holding dollars. They were only willing to do this as long as they supported U.S. military policy. Because of the Vietnam War and other unpopular actions, the pro-U.S. consensus began to evaporate. The SDR agreement, in effect, monetized the value of this relationship, but did not create a market for it.

I don't know about that, but it certainly seems that when money for hire replaces loyalty and commitment to institutions the result is nothing good. That and when you use somebody else's stuff without an explicit contract being drawn up, its usually a good idea to explicitly acknowledge that you are, in fact, using their stuff and make some attempt to compensate them. Doesn't have to be money; could be services and/or loyalty in return.

170:

Totally OT: Charlie, is it possible to arrange for ticking the "remember me" button to result in wordpress actually remembering me? It's currently neither keeping me logged in nor restoring my username and password when I want to comment again.

It's always done that for me. I log in via LiveJournal, so there may be other issues; for whatever reason the site has never remembered me. I speculate that whatever is going on is subtle and not merely a matter of clicking a "Work, dammit" button on the website software.

171:

In the Roman Empire at least, kin loyalty was always a major factor. Family and lineage was supremely important. You also had client-patron relationships (which resemble Tony Soprano and his crew -- the more things change). Adult men would adopt other adult men as their sons, just to establish kin ties for political advantage.

One extremely significant factor leading to the Empire's decline was escalating military pay. Mad emperors would promise huge bonuses to the legions. When more fiscally responsible emperors came to power, cutting back those payments wasn't an option. Armies don't take kindly to sweeping pay cuts.

172:

Me: "The flip side of working in an economy without loyalty to an employer is that personal connections become more important. The people you work with now will work for your competitor next year and they'll be the source of your next job two years from now. I speak from many years' personal experience on this."

Patricia: "This situation (which I'm not disputing) interacts very awkwardly with attempts to commodify social contacts. Companies are wanting to use the social networks their employees participate in as a way of expanding their customer base and corporate contacts -- but when a personal connection can be so much more long-lasting than an employee's job with the company, it's not good for the employee to do this."

How so? I'm afraid I don't see the connection.

173:

"... Philip Morris commissioned a study which concluded premature death from cigarette smoking was a net good for the economy, even factoring in added health care costs.... "

I did not follow the link (too lazy) but I can see where cancer can be good for the economy. All that surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and expensive MRI equipment gets lots of money moving around. It creates jobs!

Whereas, I got my Type II diabetes under control through weight loss, exercise, and eating right. I no longer take -- and therefore no longer spend money on -- five different kinds of meds. I'm terrible for the economy!

174:

The basic problem here I think, is that our measuring tools just don't work the way people pretend they do. No one really has a good notion of what value is, or how to price various externalties. Particularly when said externalities are of the intangible sort. Consider Charlies bit above about "We have a deeply ingrained set of cultural and interpersonal behavioural rules which we violate only at social cost. One of these rules, essential for a tribal organism, is bilaterality: loyalty is a two-way street." Indeed. How do you determine the dollar value of loyalty? Is it even possible? And how can you pay for it in anything else but reciprocated loyalty? At any rate, gold or dollars or drugs or sexual services or what not don't seem to be reliably exchanged for the stuff.

175:

At first I read

Patricia: "This situation (which I'm not disputing) interacts very awkwardly with attempts to commodify social contacts.

as

Patricia: "This situation (which I'm not disputing) interacts very awkwardly with attempts to commodify social contracts,

which I think is also true, in fact more true in some fundamental sense than the original. Social and cultural norms about, say, dispute resolution are possibly just as important as the legal mechanisms put in place to resolve disputes. Not that all disputes require a legal and political system to resolve, of course. Consider that new-fangled way of reconciling different opinions about how the real world works known as the scientific method. Now think about the cultural norms regarding its applicability and social attitudes about how much faith to put in its pronouncements.

176:

Hmm:

Value of all Gold ever mined: 9,120,000,000,000 US$
Total debt of US federal government: 9,510,000,000 US$
US Household net worth: 58,740,000,000,000 US$

Looks to me that gold has to become much more expensive or dollars much (more) devalued if you want to return to the gold standard.

177:

"... Philip Morris commissioned a study which concluded premature death from cigarette smoking was a net good for the economy, even factoring in added health care costs.... "

I did not follow the link (too lazy) but I can see where cancer can be good for the economy. All that surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and expensive MRI equipment gets lots of money moving around. It creates jobs!

Actually, that was not the gist of Philip Morris' study. They did count cancer treatments as costs to the economy. What they found (and they may well have been right) was that non-smokers' longer retirement incurred more Social Security costs and ultimately more medical costs than the smokers' much faster shuffle off to the grave. IOW, non-smokers take longer to die, but in the process have many other expensive ailments.

178:

Just imagine how good it would be for the economy if we gave pensioners free Crack! They'd die even faster and with hardly any medical treatment at all!

179:

Hmm. I'm using the Movable Type local login option (none of the others suit, for one reason or another). It only seems to keep me logged in for about twenty minutes or so at most, or until I close the browser window.

180:

The Philip Morris study is of a theme with my comment though. In both cases, the values that are universally acclaimed as better for society are worse for the economy.

Paraphrasing Douglas Rushkoff: Consider two options for an evening's entertainment. One option is you go out to the movies, and buy a lot of snacks from the concessions stand. The other option is a night of games and conversations with friends.

Games and conversation are universally acclaimed as better for you and for society. But you're spending a lot less money that way -- so it's worse for the economy.

181:

>>>Just imagine how good it would be for the economy if we gave pensioners free Crack! They'd die even faster and with hardly any medical treatment at all!

They'd die even faster if we shot them.

182:

It's probably impossible, and for a slightly more subtle fact than you may think: if you put a dollar value on it it goes away. One of Dan Ariely & co's behavioural economics studies (discussed in his book "Predictably Irrational" and summarized almost to uselessness here) showed people can be regarded as partitioning exchange of goods and services into two norms: the market and the social. The market can be summed up as "pay me," the social as gifts or favours. If you pay someone for something thought of as a social exchange, it moves that thing from the social norm to the market norm, and you now _have_ to pay (and it is almost impossible to move things back; it's almost a one-way system). And things under the market norm are judged more harshly than those under the social norm; strict reciprocity is expected.

This has been brought to you via a hazy recollection of a technical book read around 5 years ago; I really suggest reading it for yourselves, as it illuminates much about people - and should have condemned Homo Economicus (classical economists' spherical humans) to immediate extinction.

183:

Oh Dear...another, err, youthful persons? .. View that severely underrates the talents and abilities of the older person. In the unlikely event that I wanted “free Crack! " then, thanks to the free advice from the internet, and my own personal financial capital I could manufacture the Stuff myself ..And then sell it on to the Young and foolish. Same applies to, say, crystal meth and similar such stuff that is the Drug of Choice of the Young and not of the, err...Late Middle Aged?

Actually my personal self selected “Stocks and shares ISA” supplement too my pension - I.S.A. Is a U.K. income tax exempt investment fund - contains an investment in...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hill_%28bookmaker%29

Which encompasses, " In addition to its online sportsbook operations, the company offers online casino games, 'skill games', online bingo and online poker. Since the Gambling Act 2005,[26] gaming machines have strengthened profits to counteract falling revenues in other areas.[27][28]

William Hill ran their very own cable TV channel in 2004 which lasted two years, and now offer a in-house live visual broadcast direct to their Betting Offices. This is filmed in the Leeds studios and, running in tandem with the shop radio output, offers a unique service to prospective punters. "

And also ... " 'crack cocaine' gaming machines: Payouts to be capped and punters told how much they are losing

Machines' profit now account for half of all income for high street bookies Maria Miller proposed crackdown on online betting”

Well you have to invest in something if you invest at all...and I do have an investment in United Utilities which is a water services company ..the local equivilent of which here in the North East of England is Northumbria Water ..

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/epic/nwg/

Evidently I'm not the only person who makes sensible income producing investments.


So..look into my eyes ..I KNEW IT ! ..the characteristic signs of a WATER addict!

184:

In David Graeber's "Debt" there's also a lot of information about differences between market economies and gift economies.

I particularly liked the ethnographic examples where he showed that barter developed as an alternative to war, and repaying your debt to a friend to the penny is considered an insult because it tries to cut existing social bonds.

185:

Along similar lines I've been listening to the audiobook version of End of Growth by Richard Heinberg. He gives an interesting account of anthropologists visiting a tribal society and accidentally insulting. The tribes people gave them gifts when they arrived and the anthropologists replied by also giving gifts thinking it was the appropriate thing to do. But from the tribal perspective this meant that the anthropologists were only interested in trading and you don't trade with friends (you gift them), only strangers.

186:

Oh, and a P.S. to the above, lest our US of American confreres confuse the Tourist...Holiday in the U.K.!! See the beefeaters and don’t neglect the beef burgers...Stuff of fantasy with the world of here and now that the tourist never sees...

" London police have seized several guns and crystal methamphetamine after a raid at a Rectory Street home.

Members of London's guns and drugs unit and the RCMP executed a search warrant at the residence on Wednesday.

Police seized a Savage CIL 607H 12-gauge pump action shot gun, an Ardesa Traditions Tracker 209 single-shot rifle, a replica Airsoft pellet handgun, four shotgun shells, bear spray and 1.6 grams of crystal meth worth $160.

Allan Corr, 46, and Lindsay Dubblestyne, 36, both of London, have each been charged with:

three counts of careless storage of firearms and ammunition
possessing a prohibited firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized
possessing a prohibited weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized
possessing an unloaded regulated firearm. "

http://london.ctvnews.ca/guns-and-crystal-meth-seized-in-rectory-street-bust-1.1412054

In the US of A it would have been M16 automatic rifles or Kalashnikovs but we do our best to keep up.

187:

Mitch Wagner @ 180
In both cases, the values that are universally acclaimed as better for society are worse for the economy.
In which case either the wrong metric is being used or the interpretation of the results is wrong, or the whole measuring process is wrong.
[ &/or the wrong questions are being asked - which will automatically give you rubbish answers! ]
Phrased like that it becomes an engineering problem.
Now, how to adjust the metric & questions, so that sensible results are obtained?
Interesting.

188:

Actually the Phillip Morris study is much more indicative of a different sample - the ability to bias a study by predetermining your results.

Phillip Morris clearly wanted evidence that smoking wasn't all bad. They'd lost the fight that smoking was bad for your health. They were being horribly smacked around on "and it's bad for the economy - look, you get ill, all those expensive treatments for lung cancer and so on" and suddenly there's this study (sponsored by them) saying 'actually dying early because you're a smoker is expensive, yes, but living longer and claiming support and dying of other expensive things is MORE expensive.

It didn't ultimately win the war - smokers are more and more persecuted and driven to smoke outside in more and more hostile weather in more and more countries and so on - but it possibly helped delay the 'no smoking in the workplace' and 'no smoking in public spaces' legislation by a decade or so in most of the Western world and helped keep the cash rolling in.

But, while in the pure terms they considered, their sums may be true, if you live for any significant period longer, then even if you don't pay national level taxes (pension may not be high enough or may be tax exempt) you pay city level taxes for where you live, you buy food and services and quite possibly pay sales taxes. You contribute to keeping people employed, shops and facilities open.

OK, one pensioner on low income may not contribute a huge amount each year, but over each additional year they live because they didn't smoke it builds up. Ignored completely. And measurable.

It's also worth considering, although I'm sure there are a range of other health-care factors that contributed, the general decline of smoking correlates quite nicely to the rise of the active pensioners - whatever you call them in your country. I'm equally sure it's not only the lack of spending on tobacco products through their lives that means more of them can afford to travel and do exciting things when they do retire, but looking at the prices in the supermarket (£8 for a pack of 20 online) it must make some difference although I guess that must also feed back into the daily maintenance of employment and services as well.

189:

The Algerian protests were against the originally Soviet backed government that won the war against France.

No government "won the war against France". There were armed militias practicing a mix of urban terrorism and guerrilla in rural areas. By 1962, these groups had been almost entirely wiped out, and ceased to exist as fighting forces. Then, De Gaulle very aptly decided to negotiate with the remaining Algerian representatives and managed the evacuation of the French colonists.

De Gaulle had understood that winning the military side of the affair did not make the political situation more manageable. The 1958 Algerian war was only the latest step in centuries of violence. After the previous massacre, in 1945 at Sétif, the French general in charge had stated that the killings had bought ten years of peace; he was spot on.

Lesson: you might win militarily and still end up with an unmanageable situation from which you can only retreat.

190:

When our host hits the ball, he hits a homerun (yes I am from the USA. Why do you ask? ;) Fine, fine piece of writing.

Anwyay those last words "avoided major expenses like children" ought to scare the powerful silly.

191:

The event that really impressed me in the horrible history of the Long Tobacco Wars advertising and public relations spin campaigns was not the publication of Scientific Papers and the desperate attempt to refute the evidence but this...

" Uploaded on 26 Nov 2006

The CEOs of the country's 7 largest tobacco companies, known as "The Seven Dwarves", perjure themselves before congress

" I believe that nicotine is not addictive "

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQUNk5meJHs


Did any of those men suffer as a consequence of their statements?

192:

It not the question of making it east for people to use US Intellectual property laws, but giving them a choice as to what these laws should look like.

Example 1: the US has pushed for longer and longer copyright protection after the death of the author, basically to protect the Disney Corporation against the law as it is now. It is trying to impose longer copyright protections in other countries too, even publishing lists of "good" and "bad" countries; you'd read these lists and you'd believe that ensuring Disney's rents is as noble and important for humanity as wiping our preventable diseases or fighting torture.

Example 2: at relatively high-level international meetings of the UN, you will see protocols being discussed in very posh and very large rooms. Imagine they're trying to eradicate preventable diseases, fight global warming, or something of the sort. It's quite soporific until you come to the points where they try to "encourage technology transfers", at which point the first-world delegations will all try to torpedoe the wording, and the third-world delegations will all insist that it is important for them.

That is what we're talking about.

193:

How so? I'm afraid I don't see the connection.

Mitch, how do you deal with friends who try to rope you into Amway or similar multi-level marketing scams?

Here's a hint: unless they're close friends or family, they usually become ex-friends, if you've got any sense.

Now generalize the principle ...

194:

Much as I admire Graeber's work (not just Debt), I don't think the idea that barter is an alternative to war works, and I'm not sure he even said that (although I'm working from memory).

Jared Diamond's latest (The World Until Yesterday) talks about traditional warfare and traditional barter or gift exchange, which, not coincidentally, take place among the same people. Even in places with chronic warfare, there is trade, gift exchange relationships, and so forth.

Here's a more sensible take: war is what happens when dispute resolution fails in a relationship. Trade (barter, gift exchange, etc) is about exchanging goods, but it's also about building relationships. In the absence of a state, if someone gets injured, killed, robbed, or divorces, everyone with a relationship to both sides of the dispute becomes involved in trying to settle the dispute. If dispute resolution (e.g. talking it out, figuring out a settlement) fails, then violence ensues as the aggrieved parties (everyone with a relationship to the victim) goes after those of the perpetrator to get by force what they couldn't do by negotiation.

This can quickly lead to feuding and endless cycles of pay-back raiding, which is why state-run justice can be beneficial, for all its many and very real problems. If dispute resolution fails in a modern state, the alternative is a long and costly trial, NOT a private war. Sure, both are risky and expensive, but oddly enough, most people would rather fight with lawyers than fight with spears or guns, given a choice.

Note that this type of dispute resolution isn't limited to humans. It's pretty common in symbiotic relationships for mutualisms to work best when both partners can effectively retaliate when the other one cheats (this is the old iterated prisoners' dilemma game, with the tit for tat solution).

So no, trade isn't an alternative to war, but part of a bigger constellation of relationships.

195:

" Now generalize the principle ... "

Yes, agreed ...its painfully true I'm afraid.

Schemes like " Hearts " relied upon people recruiting their friends and family and such schemes are still apearing in slight variations of the same principle ..


" The spectres of the "Hearts" and "Women Empowering Women" schemes have re-surfaced in Gloucestershire.

Under the scheme people are asked to invest an amount of money and then rope in a certain number of people to also invest the same amount.


They in turn each have to recruit the same number of investors and so on.

Gloucestershire County Council is today warning people that pyramid investment schemes are illegal.

Under law introduced in May 2008 anyone establishing, operating or promoting such a scheme is acting illegally.

The schemes became an illegal banned practice with the introduction of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Eddie Coventry, Head of Trading Standards, commented: “We are grateful for the public making us aware of the existence of these schemes.

"Pyramid investment schemes work by recruiting in small communities and work place contacts through friends, colleagues and neighbours.

"But the schemes are doomed to failure as the supply of new recruits is quickly exhausted.

"The people at the bottom of the pyramid face a high risk of losing their investment and not getting any return.

"For this reason these schemes are now illegal.

"We would urge anyone invited to take part in such a scheme, not to part with their money and we would welcome information from members of the public about where the schemes are operating.”

If you have been approached by someone offering a pyramid investment opportunity, email web@glosmedia.co.uk and we will investigate.

Read more: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Pyramid-investment-scam-warning/story-11893907-detail/story.html#ixzz2cRQzV7q9 "

196:

Somehow, I can't help but be struck by the contrast between the ways Rich People and commoners are considered:

Giving money to Rich People: good, because they will lavish the rest of society with the contracts and purchase that their extravagant lifestyles warrant. Who said "rich" anyway, it's not "rich", it's "job-creating". Let's cut their taxes to make then even richer, I mean more job-creating.

Giving money to pensioners: hey, that's wasting money!

Disclaimer: and I tend to think that at least some pensioners had it easy in their lifetime, lived basically at the expense of my generation with borrowed money, ecological externalities and accumulation of resentment in foreign countries. Giving money to students or workers (with "worker" meaning up to engineers and scientists) is seen more and more as pure cost.

197:

Ah. Yes, I see your point.

Within the past couple of weeks, I just unfriended a college friend on Facebook. His *only* interaction with me was to drop links to his blog or ebook or whatever on my Facebook page every few months. Last time, he dropped a link into a comment on a completely unrelated thread.

This guy could always be annoying, but had a charming side to his personality to make up for it. I was sorry to see that apparently the annoying side of his personality had won out.

And I almost never unfriend someone I actually know on Facebook.

198:

It didn't ultimately win the war - smokers are more and more persecuted and driven to smoke outside in more and more hostile weather in more and more countries and so on - but it possibly helped delay the 'no smoking in the workplace' and 'no smoking in public spaces' legislation by a decade or so in most of the Western world and helped keep the cash rolling in.

Excuse me, where are smokers persecuted?? Smoking isn't even as strictly regulated as having sex (which is allowed only voluntarily and not in public). I'd be happy if it were. As it is now in Germany, smokers are still allowed to gang up at entrances to railway stations and other public buildings or can smoke next to my outdoor table at a restaurant.
When we complained about smokers at the workplace or in restaurants in the past they called us whiners, but now they complain about bad weather just because they are to lazy to go home or a club to smoke there... who's whining now?

199:

Point taken.

For various reasons, as you pointed out, those conflicts are called the Kurdish Wars.

The political reason being, of course, that the Kurds ultimately won autonomy after Gulf War 1. You alluded to that as much when you mentioned the colonial borders.

But there's also the problem that the Kurds then proceeded to fight their own civil war after receiving autonomy. So calling the Kurdish Wars "civil wars" would get very confusing very fast.

Not that the history isn't anyway.

200:

Graeber makes a clear distinction between barter and gift exchange. Barter is not seen as a way to build a social relationships but as a way to do without.

He describes one tribe who'd hide their women and children before approaching a foreign clan for barter. Then there's a fixed ritual that leads to exchanging goods, and only when that is on track the women join in. As I understood it, without that ritualized barter, war would be the only way to get any goods they want from the other clan. They are definitely not friends.

This is only episodical evidence. And don't think Graeber wants to imply that all barter developed solely from war and/or conflict resolution.
He does describe a strong link between war, slavery, money and debt though.

201:

>Excuse me, where are smokers persecuted??

Indeed, where? I am a non smoker who defends anyone's right to suck burning poison into their lungs so long as they don't force anyone else to do that. Several times a day in my city people walk by me and blow their second hand poison into my lungs. Just who is being persecuted?

And I think, for my own peace of mind, I'll just not get started on butts...

202:

Several times a day in my city people walk by me and blow their second hand poison into my lungs. Just who is being persecuted?

At risk of being inflammatory (heh) ...

I'm borderline-asthmatic. I carry a salbutamol inhaler. The three things that set the asthma off reliably are: chest infections, mold spores, and cigarette smoke. Guess which affects me every day when I step outside? (As opposed to the infrequent nuisances.)

I don't have a problem with e-cigarettes, and wish more smokers would use them. (It doesn't irritate by-standers and it carries a vastly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease or lung cancer -- what's not to like, unless you're a cigarette company executive?) I don't have a problem with pure cannabis smoke either, except it's usually adulterated with crap tobacco. Even cigars and pipe smoke are vastly less irritating than cigarettes. I wonder what they're putting in the things?

203:

Am I the only one who sees a parallel between the thesis served by OGH and Angletons problems with Bob's attitude and commitment in the Laundry ?

204:

I was recently reading "Regional Advantage" by Anna Lee Saxenian and she pointed out some radical differences in corporate cultures between "Route 128" and Silicon Valley. By the 1980s, the Silicon Valley culture was one of changing companies every few years while the culture in Route 128 was more of a "job for life" mentality. Start-ups in the North East were trying to become small General Electrics or small DECs. And the culture at DEC sounded more like what I experienced working for GM in the 80s than any high tech company I've worked for.

The entire American semiconductor industry started from the "traitorous 8" who quit Shockley to form Fairchild (and then Intel and others). Saxenian was describing the hostilities between DEC and the break-away Data General going on for more than a decade. In Silicon Valley, quitting because you've accomplished the things you wanted to do when you joined is common (and there are shades of that in t3knomanser's comment at #1). At DEC, if you quit you could never come back - you joined out of college and worked there for life.

My point, and I think I have one, is that the mobility (or if you prefer "lack of job longevity") has permeated our society. I don't think it really is a generational thing, it just started "out west" early on and diffused throughout society. And now it has taken over the "intelligence" communities. I think you are correct in noting that the pathologies of the hive-mind of corporations infesting the military and intelligence agencies. They've stopped protecting the host nation and have instead become parasites that are destroying the nation. The media has become complicit in this, and when it forgets to be complicit, gets harassed, as in Greenwald's partner getting harassed during his trip through an airport in Airstrip One.

205:

CHarlie @ 202
In answer to your question.
... the really cheap, horrible stuff.
I realised this, because my latre father was usually a pipe-smoker, & selective about the brand he used.
Occasionally, though he'd light up a fag.
EUGH!
And the raw product smelt different, too.
Pile it high sell it cheap - rot your lungs - "virginia" ciggies.

tangurena @ 204
Looks as though the Brit police, responding to orders form the US (Oops, did I say that? ) may have over-cooked it.
The main journo & others, are now saying "you'll be sorry you did that"
Presumably by showing up sevral more instances of terminally-stupid &/or illegal behaviour.

Could be fun!

206:

@202 (CS)

What I get from an occasional whiff of cigarette smoke is the kind of reaction you get when you stub your toe or clonk your face into something: instinctual rage to smash the offender. I'm not made physically ill by cigarettes. As a former smoker my aversion is entirely neurological. My father chain-smoked and I never minded. The main thing was that when he tried to quit he became more unhinged than usual, so I avoided that drug.

As an adult, however, I got snared. The vector of transmission seems to be the act of hanging out with degenerates. I finally quit after a few years, off-and-on, and eventually stepped down for good to nicotine gum. Just a few weeks ago, after four years since my last puff, I graduated down from regular Trident gum to nothing. No chewing distraction, nothing to soothe the empty feeling in my throat and soul.

So apart from the immediate physiological reaction of mucousal choking by vulnerable people like you there is something of the need for distraction and activity driven by something at the base of the brain. And with my gradual climb down from that progression I've been able to not go slightly berserk when I get a whiff of smoke.

But there's definitely something disease-like and zombifying about tobacco. Something for the Laundry.

207:

Likewise, not least because it's portable enough that I can use the same blog Id in multiple places (not at the same time; I'm mobile rather than multiple people), and get about 4 hours between logoffs. I agree that "remember me" doesn't even work well enough to remember my username, and suspect a (lack of) cookie issue.

208:

I'm borderline-asthmatic. I carry a salbutamol inhaler. The three things that set the asthma off reliably are: chest infections, mold spores, and cigarette smoke. Guess which affects me every day when I step outside?
You're not the only person I know (or have known) who finds that to be a trigger. Curiously, smokers are the only people I know who are reluctant to accept that something they do typically at least once per hour actively makes other people ill.

209:

On the Miranda Affair, we're definitely getting into the territory of "They would say that, wouldn't they."

And the latest revelations include the startling account of GCHQ specialists overseeing the destruction of hard drives at offices of The Guardian, after various discreet meetings with senior civil servants issuing delicate threats.

The trouble is, the stuff which is happening is a revelation that governments have been acting illegally for years, and lying their heads off about what they have been doing. And there are challenges under way, under the ECHR system, to the whole Schedule 7 system. Miranda is the obvious public talking point.

Incidentally. the European Convention on Human Rights has some of the same functions, for the signatory countries, as the Bill of Rights does in the USA. It's also a reaction to recent history, something that most of Europe experienced within living memory. There was an element of that in the Bill of Rights too, but it's far more ancient to Americans than the events of 20 or 70 years ago are. And European countries have some sense that they didn't do a good job over the former Yugoslavia.

I doubt that the USA or Britain has anything like the same feeling of recent experience, and maybe that means that our totalitarian fuck-wits do think they can get away with it.

After all, we're the people who conquered Godwinland, we don't need to worry about such things.

210:

Wow, just found out that Pamela Jones is taking Groklaw out of service because of this.
I've followed Groklaw for *years*, and I will sorely miss it.

211:

Noted. Chilling effects all round.

I've just added a new blog entry on how the NSA are going to try and tackle the issue. It's not happy fun mind space to be thinking in.

212:

The likely outcome in all of this is that the large spying organisations realise that they can no longer expect employee loyalty but fail to realise that in the past, employee loyalty was being bought with a secure job for life.

These organisations will then decide that the lack of loyalty is because the consequences for any form of disloyalty are not nasty enough, and will proceed to embark on Soviet-style purges and show-trials. These dysfunctional reactions, combined with low wages will mean that any sane or intelligent person will not go anywhere near them.

Over time, this will lead to the likes of MI5 and the NSA being seen as bumbling yet highly aggressive idiots, a sort of real-world version of Lovecraftian horrors which react irrationally and violently to perceived slights. Eventually they will be deceived into a conflict with each other, or with their parent governments and will then lose said conflict and be disbanded.

213:

"I think the turning point for the job-for-life thing was some time in the mid to late 1970s ..."
I would say early 1970s, I remember "when H.A.R.L.Y was one" : the whole story revolves around corporate raiders looting a company from its substance (which includes H.A.R.L.Y) and trying to sell an empty shell.
The book was published in 1972 according to wikipedia, the phenomenon must have predated it by some time.

214:

@160:
And if the predictions on the Arctic sea for 2015 onward pan out then they'll have a brand new shortcut across the top instead.
---
The Northeast Passage across the top of Russia has been in (at least occasional) use since the late 1500s. It was in use during WWII, and the Soviets have built a number of nuclear-powered icebreakers to keep the route open longer than midsummer.

Back in the early part of WWII a certain writer whose followers are prone to lawsuits claimed that he was captain of a ship patrolling the north Pacific between Alaska and Russia, playing cat-and-mouse with a German warship. Since the writer was a pathological liar his stories were generally discounted.

However, much later it became known that in the early part of the war, when the Reich and the USSR were still allies, the Soviets had escorted the German cruiser Komet through the Northeast Passage, where it loitered a while before proceeding south. Hmm...

215:

@193:
Mitch, how do you deal with friends who try to rope you into Amway or similar multi-level marketing scams?
Here's a hint: unless they're close friends or family, they usually become ex-friends, if you've got any sense.
---
English is particularly poor in words describing the various levels of "friend", but when dealing with friends like that, I refuse to discuss the subject with them. It has worked with otherwise-normal friends who have decided the government is run by a secret Jewish underground, or they've personally been saved by Jesus, or suddenly developed leftist political leanings, etc.

Most people have at least one bizarre or unsupportable belief; if you cut off all such people, you're going to be in a very small group, mostly functioning as mirrors bolstering your own peculiar notions.

216:

The KMS Komet was an armed merchant cruiser and passed though the Bering Strait in September 1940.

If we're thinking of the same former Naval officer, he was granted a Commission in July 1941, when the Komet's last action in the Pacific was a month later, before taking the Cape Horn route back to Europe, arriving in Bordeaux on November 30th, after a stop in Cherbourg.

He wasn't the sort of Merchant Navy officer you can stuff into a uniform and put on a warship, so the dates just don't add up.

217:

Zochoka @ 209
I doubt that the USA or Britain has anything like the same feeling of recent experience, and maybe that means that our totalitarian fuck-wits do think they can get away with it.
Actually, there are (just) still enough people old enough to remember “the War” ( WWII ) or many more, like me, born & brought up in its shadow & that of MAD, to get really annoyed.
It “they” push their luck too far, the final backlash could be very unpleasant ( I hope )

218:

"English is particularly poor in words describing the various levels of "friend", but when dealing with friends like that, I refuse to discuss the subject with them. It has worked with otherwise-normal friends who have decided the government is run by a secret Jewish underground, or they've personally been saved by Jesus, or suddenly developed leftist political leanings, etc."

I've noticed a conversion effect at work here -- people new to a particular set of life-altering beliefs, often religion, will become insufferable for a couple of years. Fortunately, often after that they calm down.

219:

Mitch Wagner
I'm afraid the "religious conversos" are insufferable, more or less permanently, unless you can de-programme them.
Deus vult! or al-allah ahkbar!
No real difference in practical results ....

220:

I still find it hard to believe that, with even the most basic security (and the NSA wrote the guidelines for Federal information security...) that Snowden could get access to so much of such varied information. After that, the layers of "hard to believe" just keep getting deeper and deeper.

I have two friends who work for companies under contract to the NSA and it's like.

The problem is that modern technology has made many of the old rules impossible to implement in a practical way. You almost have to strip down to go into the office. Smart phone? Wrist wrap that tracks your activity for health? USB stick your friend gave you last night with the kids ball schedule on it? Oh, heck, even a "non smart" phone?

More and more we carry around in our daily lives more memory capacity than is needed for recent leaks. Right now I have 3 USB storage chips and none of them are larger than my thumb nail. All on a key ring.

In 1980 these guys would have needed a hand truck or two to get the material out the door. Today you can swallow a chip with more storage than anyone from then could imagine.

And these same rules are making it very hard to use computers inside of these agencies. Want an Apple laptop, wait till facilities takes it apart and removes the cameras and UBS ports, disables bluetooth and wifi, and ... Or they attach a permanent RFDI sticker so it will not be taken from the premises. No problem? Right?

221:

Non-violent movements like Occupy are called "terrorist" by Western authorities.

Then problem is they all were not "non-violent". One of the local groups down the road was decidedly and proudly anarchist and kept breaking into buildings and setting up camp and barricades.

222:

"This meta-analysis found a moderate association between job insecurity and an increase in coronary heart disease incidence. "

But there also seems to be a real correlation between retiring from a white collar large company engineering desk job and having a heart attack within a few years.

223:

When IBM famously dumped its older workforce around 1990 destroying its job for life reputation, affected boomers changed their minds about the social contract.

The problem with this example is that the employees (at ALL levels) who opened their eyes knew the game was up for over a decade. Maybe more. IBM mainframe sales and software services (define as you wish) were carrying everything else. This was occuring at the divisional level and for individuals. The saying was IMB never fired anyone. Well not for not doing your job. They would literally move you around from job to job hoping you would find some place to at least not annoy your co-workers even if you didn't really do anything. The PC company was loosing money hand over fist. The PS/2 thing was supposed to fix that by making the PC division into a clone of the mainframe division. Only the sales of the main frames were going into the tank. Well not really but the cash cow made of gold days were ending and upper management was stuck with a situation where 1/2 of the employees were not doing ANYTHING that created value or profits in the company. Gerstner got the blame but he was actually just the guy called into clean up the mess made by the previous admin.

As a side note multiple people inside the company at the time that IBM sold their networking division to Cisco told me that revenues were 90% blue money. Blue money was money tied to mainframe contracts. Which means that in the open competitive market only 10% of the networking sale were made due to people wanting the product.

Remember the selectric typewriter? It never turned a profit due to the way IBM ran the company internally.

224:

What violence were they doing?

(You only mentioned property damage which is not the same unless you're in a society that's gone insane.)

225:

ONLY property damage ??
Like the scroats who broke into my garage & stole half the connets of one of the freezers.
Lost the value of the food & had to spend money on new locks (replacing the single one there before) & other measures.
Time, money & a lot of annoyance.

Do not just sneer at "property damage".
Theiving bastards stealing people's crops from our allotments, too ... probably for sale....

226:

Most (not all) want Western values and freedoms.

Even if they have a bizarre understanding of what that means.

227:

Taking over a vacant buildings (but planning under way to renovate them) and saying since they were not occupied at the time they were free game. Then daring the police to evict them. Plus making noises about having weapons. Which then led to the police going in in full swat gear. Then doing it again. Both buildings were in good repair and secure at the time.

Basically they said they were anarchists and were proud of it and claimed they had the right to do what they wanted with any property they wanted.

228:

Nuts. Ignore the italics. All wording is original to the comment.

229:

But there's also the problem that the Kurds then proceeded to fight their own civil war after receiving autonomy.

A problem with resistance movements is that if they go on for "too" long they tend to never stop. The resistance becomes the point, not the original goals. I see this in countries, politics, and even non profits that have a "change of direction".

230:

Yes, Greg, only.

Compared to rape, murder, assault, even verbal and psychological bullying, it is 'only'. It may be deeply frustrating, it may make you come close to losing your faith in your fellow human beings, but it's not violence, and those that equate it with violence are losing their humanity.

231:

Remember the selectric typewriter? It never turned a profit due to the way IBM ran the company internally.

Really? That seems to require some imaginative accounting, given how popular they were in their era. I even learned to type on a Selectric, one of the curvy Mk I models.

232:

It's not hard for a corporation with good accounting to avoid making a paper profit -- just invest all the surplus value in growth. Got a few spare bucks? Buy land to build a new factory on, or run an advertising campaign to build public brand awareness. Profit goes away ... but you're not exactly worse off.

One corporation I worked for grew from a father-and-son consulting business to a 1200 employee $200M turnover multinational over 20 years without ever showing a paper profit. When they decided to go public they flipped the switch and showed a profit for two consecutive quarters, just to prove to the market that they were in principle profitable and could pay shareholders a dividend.

233:

Charlie @ 232
Is that possible under UK Tax law?
It might be in the US & if you were working at the time for a US-owned company/corporation ...
You will note that I'm not asking for their (then, or current) name - I'm assuming that this was in the "computing" field, generally, also.

234:

Is that possible under UK Tax law?

I'm not sure. (I certainly wouldn't try it without asking two tax law firms for advice!)

But the point is, taxable profit is not the same as turnover. Turnover can grow in the absence of profits -- anyone who's run a small business through a cash flow crunch will be acutely aware of the bundle of not-laughs it is when your sales are growing rapidly but the payments are growing 3 months behind the sales.

235:

I've checked with the authority ....
Not possible now, at all under UK tax-law.
Might have been then ... but Industrial Buildings relief from tax, for investment, in buildings, no longer applies since it has been abolished.
Fascinating stuff, I'm sure.

236:

That seems to require some imaginative accounting, given how popular they were in their era.

Popularity never has to equal profits. Sell Porches for $10K each and they will be immensely popular but never turn a profit.

With the Selectric and many other IBM products from about 1970 to 1990 there was a huge overhead to be a part of IBM manufacturing. And since mainframes had taken over everything at the company as the cash cow by 1970 or so basically ALL manufacturing and almost anything else was run under the same guidelines as the mainframe folks. Productivity was rarely considered and when it was the improvements tended to be lost soon as a new management was moved into place. (Any good manager can manage anything well. Right?)

There was a very good book about productivity, keeping workers happy, etc... written by a guy who headed up the division for a while. And others at IBM. Basically he said he had a long career in how to NOT do things. Profits didn't matter. If it was something IBM as a corp wanted to make or sell the did it. Profits didn't matter since the mainframes covered it all.

And I have had personal experience and several friends and acquaintances who were or are IBMers who have verified most of this.

237:

In the US (I have no idea about the UK/EU) leases and rents and employee costs are expensed as they occur. If you buy durable stuff (buildings, dirt, desks, chair, etc...) you have to expense it. (If you're very big. Little guys can expense it right away.)

So if you're growing by 50% a year give or take you can do things like lease to incur more expenses today (but save cash) or buy to defer the losses till later (but maybe have less cash today). It's more complicated but in general you can move things from expense to asset depending on whether or not you want a profit now or later.

It used to be that such decisions were factored into stock recommendations. Now it's all about profits for the next quarter.

238:

David L
The UK vs US rules on Taxes & legitimate allowances are VERY different.
I was speaking (after consultation) purely from the current UK pov.
And it would have been different, again, in say 1990, OK?

239:

Another point that is worth consideration is the fact that Snowden was a sysadmin and so would necessarily have a lot of rights on the systems he worked on. It seems to me that for lots of older organisations sysadmins are mole-like basement dwellers hardly worth thinking about, something of a blind spot therefore, yet often they essentially hold the keys to the entire organisation.

What interests me is how many guys there are working in major corporations, quietly saving stuff to removable drives?

Fortunately sysadmins are never FOSS-loving, data-wants-to-be-free-type libertarians so there's nothing to worry about there.

240:

t.korhonen @ 239
Oh dear, the obligatory XKCD reference has arrived!

241:

You don't have to resort to accounting shenanigans to make a wildly successful product and lose money. You just have to spend more than you take in.

You can spend that money foolishly on bloated executive salaries and mink-lined cuspidors. Or you can spend it wisely, investing in the business. Either way, you're running at a narrow profit -- or even in the red -- while dominating your business category.

This is exactly what Amazon appears to be doing. Not just in ebooks -- across the board. Although, after nearly 20 years, it's reasonable to question whether Amazon can succeed if it actually set its prices high enough to make a healthy profit.

242:

Footnotes to Machiavelli? http://goo.gl/jgsqIv

"Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men"

243:

mcccol @ 242
If we are going to quote the Florentine, however, there is another quote, even more scary - this refers to Keith Alexander & his security-apparat grip on the USSA:
It is much safer to be feared than loved because ...love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

244:

Popularity never has to equal profits... With the Selectric and many other IBM products from about 1970 to 1990 there was a huge overhead to be a part of IBM manufacturing.

Oh, indeed; for example, I'm well aware of the preposterous antics movie studios have pulled to avoid making a profit on paper (which would involve paying money to people who weren't the studio). It just had not occurred to me that the typewriter field might have similar stunts.

245:

Very true.

Good thing Alexander's going to retire in 2014. Question is what happens to him next. A job at Google would be bad. Long chats with Congresscritters on the record would be rather better, IMHO.

This makes the next 15 months rather interesting. As I noted up-thread, the optimal strategy for other cyberwar states is to just sit tight and wait for the US to get mired in succession politics and for us to chew up our cyberwar apparatus on our own in the absence of viable threats. It's a dangerous period, because, as in 2001, I suspect that a lot of Beltway types are praying for some hot-head to attack and give them an excuse to let slip the dread chihuahuas of inforwar, as OGH has expressed it.

246:

heteromeles
It looks as if Bashar al Assad has done just that.
I mean, if he, or more likely, one of his generals has used Sarin, then something will have to be done - though it might, just, be the air-strikes option as used in Libya.
So Alexander is retiring next year?
So what?
You can bet he has a successor (or successors) trained up, ready to slip seamlessly into place, who also know where all the bodies are buried - welcome to the new boss, same as the old boss.
It's beginning to look unpleasantly like the "Family Trade/Revolution Business" universe, doesn't it?

247:

The Russians claim the reports on gas attacks were ready to go before the event, and Assad claims to have found gas stockpiles in rebel tunnels. He also was winning so far so it makes little sense to use these weapons.

A false flag operation by the rebels is at least credible.

And while it would be ideal if the world intervened to stop the killing conclusively, I have little faith in the cowboys in Apaches who gave us the collateral murder video to improve things.

248:

Nestor
That's the trouble isn't it?
However, where would the rebels have got their Sarin from?
And the Russinas would say that, wouldn't they?
Not an easy set of q's to answer ....

249:
However, where would the rebels have got their Sarin from?

Liberated from Assad's stockpiles, there's no doubt the source of any nerve gas would be the government, the doubt is who released it.

250:

SO ... Assad shouldn't HAVE any Sarin, though, should he. But he does, or did, until someone cam along & maybe nicked it.
Oh dear, complicated.

251:

Also, in the words of the immortal Michael Scott: "Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me."

252:

They don't even need to be forgotten basement-dwelling moles; as has been pointed out elsewhere, z/OS and co. have lots of protections built in to prevent systems programmers doing things they shouldn't, whereas with non-mainframe OSes if you have root you are God; your naughtiness will probably get found out afterward but it's very difficult to stop you. Watching a root being evicted (the only apposite term, really) on not Guaranteed Friendly terms is an education in just how much power they have and how little anyone can do to stop them.

It was inevitable something would happen to bring attention to the fact that every organization depends on a frankly odd class of people with insane amounts of power over their systems and data.The question is now: is there anything that can be done about it? This is the construction of the IT world we live in.
The NSA are going to try to automate the job out of existence; good luck to them. Is there any other solution?

253:

Mitch W @ 251
Err ... you sure you are not confusing your fictional character with a real one, who also attected a lot of attention, & also fictional stories about him ?
Maister Micheal Scott, the Wizard of the North
Who, incidentally was a mathematician, scholar & probably a spy in the service of Stupor mundi Frederick II Hohenstaufen.

254:

Ha! This suggests a spinoff sitcom for The Office, as Michael Scott, as played by Steve Carrell, learns dark magic.

255:

Ahem: Remind me again who pushed the Security-Enhanced Linux kernel project out into the public gaze? Hint: Mandatory Access Controls. Hint: no root account. Hint: no setuid/setgid.

Further hint: SeLinux is something the NSA donated to the community circa 1998 because they'd developed it for their own purposes and thought it useful to encourage stronger security among other Linux users. What have they done by way of OS development in the subsequent 15 years?

256:

Hopping in here to comment about generational differences with respect to long-term stints at jobs. I'm Generation X (41) and my parents have expressed discomfort with all of my job changes, as though I were endangering my livelihood. You've got the character of different age groups right, at least for IT workers and probably class boundaries. My parents are blue collar, I'm white collar. a programmer. and I'm on the old end of a programmer.

In contrast to my parents, I felt uncomfortable for having worked at my last employer for more than 5 years, and I left after 7. And my disomfort came from worrying about the impression I might give future employeers if I'd stuck with my last job too long because it might be a sign of stagnation. (and I live in the midwest, so maybe the job lifespan is longer than out west.) I might be endangering my livelihood by sticking with a job for too long.

I don't know how widespread that attitude is. perhaps it depends on the technology field (for me, it was ecommerce). I know that people seem to lionize the priviledged dudebro programmers who skip from job to job and who've had a lot of successful failures at startups. It's our version of conspicuous consumption. If I don't keep up with that, maybe I don't get hired.

aside from generational differences about jobs -- I've also seen some groups of people who tune out that kind of status programmer crap. And maybe this happens with other disciplines too.

I've seen a recruiter pass up a friend because he didn't broadcast the emotional signals that he'd treat everyone in the office like afterhours friends who'd chat about the technical challenges at company foo... and what the hell, you aren't my friend merely because I've joined your company. and I'm not going to spend as much of my brain time as possible on your company. you want that, it better be an exceptional place where I can't help but be thinking about these things on my own time.

I don't think that is a generatinal thing. maybe more like a socioeconomic thing. something might give a person the gumption to realize they have the freedom to drop out and pretend like work is not work and that their freetime is actually their "work".

257:

"... I felt uncomfortable for having worked at my last employer for more than 5 years, and I left after 7. And my disomfort came from worrying about the impression I might give future employeers if I'd stuck with my last job too long because it might be a sign of stagnation."

I recently found myself making excuses for still working for the same company that hired me in 1989. I explained that I'd actually been laid off twice in that time, and quit of my own accord once. So I've been hired by the same company four times. And it isn't even really the same company; it was acquired in the late 90s -- even the name of the old company was retired a few years ago. And I've moved between several different business units, doing somewhat different things at each (although all under the broad umbrella of "technology journalism").

So it's really like I've had at least a half-dozen different jobs in those times!

Really!

258:

Congrats on the name check and basic rehash of your synopsis in the FT today

259:

BTW, RISKS-FORUM Digest 27.45 quotes and links to your Foreign Policy article.

260:

Charles -

I'd like to take a moment to point out that *part* of the problem may have been pointed out by one of your fellow authors, specifically Norman Spinrad in "Little Heroes."

Why, so many upper level types ask themselves, should we treat the common man with any respect, as machines seem able to do the job of everything BUT management?

With each passing year - each passing MONTH, for that matter - it becomes that much easier to put another job on the "We can program a chip to do this" pile, and arrange things so that the only part of a human that's needed are his arms and legs. And even then, only when those arms and legs are paid a starvation wage.

Management, of course, sees themselves as unique and not subject to being reduced to a set of algorithms.

Of course, when THEIR jobs begin to be RIFFed, then they'll howl just as loudly.

Though I suspect we'll have little sympathy for them by then.

Ed Becerra

261:

Nice reference to this in a Bruce Schneier post:
Government Secrecy and the Generation Gap

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