Feds Tout New Domestic Intelligence Centers

What’s the best way to bury a press conference? Don’t invite the press. But if you’re the folks from Threat Level you’ll attend a government sponsored conference on Domestic Surveillance. Read now, the plans for the future of Fusion Centers. These are the cooperative offices where FBI, police, and yes even military officials can all share intel.

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FBI fumbles Terrorist Watchlists and Domestic Surveillance

Not only can the FBI not be trusted to handle warrants for domestic wiretaps, they cannot even manage their own terrorist watch list. Over time the list has gotten longer, more full of errors, and more likely to inconvenience someone who is totally innocent. There is no procedure to manage the list over time, other than to just let it grow bigger. If the FBI was a retail outfit, there would be an email carpet bombing campaign being conducted over at Gawker Media’s “The Consumerist”.

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Following up on Impulse Control,…

When I was much younger, naive and foolish I made the mistake of believing there were no consequences for my actions. How little did  I know. When applied to my time working for a lumber yard in Virginia I made a few enemies. This memory was made all to relevant given my recent discovery of Gawker Media’s “The Consumerist”. Oh the complaints about bad customer service! I resemble or used to resemble that I’m afraid. Especially with at least two especially difficult customers that last Summer of my employment at that Lumber Yard.

I was brought in twice. Spoken to by management, asked “Why do you do things the way you do them?” Why do you walk so slow when you help out customers in the Lumber Yard? Why don’t you smile more. I never considered the ‘appearances’ to be all that important in doing the job of loading vehicles with the stuff they purchased at the counter. It shows how much I know. Anyways, I never took those meetings as a warning and that was another big mistake. I went for two months not knowing I was in trouble with the manager. And worse yet, I was going to totally upset at least two very difficult customers one of them being the busiest day of the week, Saturday. You cannot believe how many people come to the Lumber yard in Summer on a Saturday. I would just go and go trying to keep up with the long line of cars waiting to pick stuff up. Occasionally I would cave in and grab two cars and send them in opposite directions. Eventually I would catch up to the people who wanted their cars loaded. It was a no win situation when one guy did the work that in previous Summers we did with 5 guys in the warehouses.

The first Summer I worked there I was brought on before the Summer break. Just after my 16th birthday I joined up along with another High School student. Another fellow who taught High School came in at the same time too. We three were the weekend part-timers. I worked just Saturday, and occasionally once a month on Sunday. That Summer every Saturday the manager we had then put all five of us out in the Lumber Yard to handle the load better. We never got overwhelmed even on the busiest days. We all took turns everyone got an equal number of customers. But each passing Summer things got worse. Managers would front load the counter staff, and let the yardmen fend for themselves. I was brought up front once and was very stressed out and eventually went back to the Lumber Yard. I had put in 3 Summers and worked weekends all through High School. I got too big for my britches, I admit.

No matter what you never, ever take your frustrations out on the difficult customers. You have to smother them with love. I didn’t believe that then, but the older I get the more I feel it’s the only way in retail sales. And the Consumerist brought that point home stronger than ever. Treat everyone equally well the good and bad customers and you will never have to explain yourself or get the Manager to step in.

Impulse Control & Little Differences

I watched an interesting show on NOVA last night about the differences between apes and humans. In the 2 decades or so after KoKo the gorilla was taught sign language, more and more Psychologists have attempted to observe the ‘natural’ tendencies of Bonobos and Chimpanzees in the wild. Chimps not only use tools, they hunt. That’s right they make weapons and hunt bush babies in the wild. They had first hand video evidence of this weapon making and hunting behavior. So researchers have wondered how come if Chimpanzees have gotten so far evolutionary speaking, why haven’t they advanced even faster like we did some million or so years ago.

In the case of Chimps, impulse control is paramount in measuring any animal’s ability to cooperate. Bonobos are more willing to cooperate to receive a food reward. Chimps, will not cooperate if there is no equal reward for both animals. Bonobos cooperate and reason who ever gets to the single reward the fastest wins and gets the reward. I even saw video where one chimp will punish another chimp for ‘taking’ a food reward away from another chimp. The sense of justice is very strong in chimps.

Last, the propensity for teaching seemed to differentiate us from all primates. While chimps, bonobos will mimic on another, they don’t actually teach as such. There’s no ability to focus attention on a third object and ‘show’ the technique or ‘trick’ to doing something. Instead, primates just blindly duplicate what they see or what they think they see and hope for the best. In teaching, researcher describe the ‘magic triangle’ of attention of the student, focus of the teacher and the third item of the subject or ‘thing’ being taught. Human babies point at things they want, but they also will point at things they find interesting that they want others to see. Primates do not do this at all.

The final conclusion of all this research is that primates are farther along in culture development than we ever thought. But, there are small, subtle differences that sharply differentiate us from them. As they continually said in the program last night, it is the small differences that make the BIG difference.

Here’s an interview with Amy Saxe at MIT

And the last Q & A is incredibly interesting:

Q: What do you think is the key to this huge difference in what humans have accomplished?

Saxe: I really don’t have the answer to that. One possible key is the ability to transmit information and ideas and innovations from one generation to another, both nonverbally through imitation, through teaching, but maybe also specifically through language. We create records and describe new ideas in ways that can be transmitted across long distances and into new environments. In order to learn a new skill, you don’t have to go sit beside somebody else who already knows it. You can read a book about it and learn it wherever you are. Maybe that’s one key to this big difference.

So here we have evidence that while mimicking can get you pretty far, it is FAR too rooted in the here and now. I can mimic you now, and be successful at hunting termites. And my memory of past attempts may help me improve my ability to hunt termites in the future. But as a primate, I cannot ‘transcend’ time and communicate what I have learned to ‘future’ primates to learn how better to hunt termites. Once you have language, then you have writing, and once you have writing you have ‘history’. Which takes us on an interesting circular turn towards George Santayana’s old saw, “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” Well nothing is truer than this when looking at the slow evolution of primates vs. the much swifter evolution of humans. We unlike chimps live beyond the here and now, both here in the past and in the future all at the same time. Now that’s a small difference that does make a big difference.

I don’t remember things being like this

Being a kid watching political competitions I remember Primaries and Caucuses being such a foregone conclusion there was no such thing as real competition. I used to see good candidates get passed over for the smooth talking good looking well funded insiders. It happened all the time in 1980 especially. I kind of wish Howard Baker had been President in the early ’80s. Who knows how that would have turned out. And why pray tell me did Democrats think Mike Dukakis and Walter Mondale represented the best the party had to offer in the ’80s? I’m still disappointed by that time period. But the real point is this, starting in 1980 and going onwards the Convention had no role whatsoever in determining who the party chose as its candidate. It was more or less a week long free press opportunity for the party to show off and get its message out before the election. Now, this year things are different, everything is in the air more is at stake, and it’s looking more and more like the Convention is going to be the device by which the candidate is selected. In particular for the Democrats it appears as though the Rules Committee may decide who gets the nomination based on if they change their mind and let Florida and Michigan delegates participate in the Convention. Michigan and Florida’s decision to disobey and move their primaries up in the calendar is more likely to upset the usual Convention party held once every four years. And no doubt everyone in the Democratic party is so out of practice with an old fashioned REAL convention, nobody really knows how to handle the maneuvering and delegate counting people used to do back in ’30s and ’50s when things weren’t sewn up by the time of the convention. These are truly interesting times.


Tonya Engst over at Tidbits was the happy recipient to a brand new copy of Mac OS X 10.5 ‘Leopard’. She purchased her copy through the Apple Store and no doubt elected the most speedy delivery option. However I in my infinite foresight decided to support Ric Ford of Macintouch and pre-ordered at Amazon back in July. Each time the ship date for a new OS comes ’round I always try to opt for the speediest most sure method of getting boxed product into my hands.

Round 1: Back in the days of Cheetah, I stupidly waited the day of release for 10.2 to purchase said item at our Local CompUSA. By the time I got there on Saturday morning, they had a waiting list 150 signatures long. So I bailed out, and decided to purchase at University computer store.

Round 2: Panther, I pre-ordered through the Apple Store, but elected to get the next day shipping. However the next day after the release on the Apple Store website delayed the shipment until the following Monday. Again, I was feeling a little taken advantage of by Apple as they lured me into the more expensive shipping, but didn’t deliver the earlier receipt of the product. So I gave up on the Apple Store.

Round 3: Tiger, I pre-ordered through Amazon but not through Macintouch and hoped to get the pre-mature all to early shipping that some Amazon customers had claimed they had gotten with each release. For 10.3 and 10.2 I kept reading that Amazon purchases always got shipped early. Apparently Apple went out of its way to curb this unwarranted reward to Amazon customers. So Amazon closely hewed to the Apple Rule of Law and I paid a high price to get 2nd day shipping again. And I didn’t receive merchandise until 5 days later from the release date. Worse yet, co-workers got it the day of release due AppleCare UpToDate program.

Today: I pre-ordered again, through the Amazon link on Ric Ford’s website back in July. I originally chose to get FREE shipping. I figured if I don’t get early shipments on the day of release, I might as well get it at the lowest price. $109.00 tax free, shipped to my door within 5-7days of release was good enough for me. Then my selfishness got the best of me. Apple Stores worldwide were going to have boxed product ready to go at 6pm on Friday evening. I was again going to be the last one in line to get the new OS X release. So I realized, “Hey I can change the shipping on my order right?” So I made it next day Air, and paid the premium price of $17.25 for the premium shipping. And still no sign on Amazon’s website that it has shipped. Oh, woe is me.

So to Tanya and Adam Engst I say, good for you. Hopefully all the years of editing and maintaining tidbits.com has probably paid off handsomely in getting new products on time. I just wish I could once in my life get the new version of the OS early

FRONTLINE: showdown with iran: analysis: the “grand bargain” fax – a missed

You have to ask yourself as we slowly gear up for more military action, this time aimed at Iran, how did we get here? In this line of questioning some very important players answer some questions about olive branches offered by Iran leading up to the Iraq invasion and just afterward. Was Iran willing to broker some kind of peace with the U.S.?

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