The Copyright Alert System Now Being Rolled Out at Major ISPs

In the next two months, AT&T, Time Warner, Verizon and Comcast will implement the The Copyright Alert System program developed by The Center for Copyright Information. Of course, The Center for Copyright Information is a RIAA and MPPA front. The monitoring system that will be used will rely on the MarkMonitor service that has been in place for a numbers of years now. The “monitors” will be The Center for Copyright Information, i.e., RIAA and MPAA. Once again, these entities have been monitoring bitTorrent traffic for years. Indeed, a recently presented Security Research Paper concludes that you can expect to be tracked within 3 hours of firing up a torrent client.

The primary change is that in lieu of direct legal action(which can be frictional), the RIAA/MPAA, using the aforementioned ISPs as agents, can now engage in a relatively frictionless enforcement operation. And this is where the data analytics begin to kick in. Large-scale users will still be subject to the same modis operandi legal action but the voluminous data that has been collected over the years by the likes of MarkMonitor will now be used as a queryable data repository against which the new data will be used–according to whatever algorithm employed–to trigger the Copyright Alert Notifications to end users via that user’s ISP(serving an agency role of a Sheriff, more or less).

Evasion tactics? Well forget about things like Tor. Tor works over the tcp protocol(and can’t handle the load of p2p file sharing to begin with). bitTorrent these days works over udp. Sophisticated encryption techniques like mse/pe to me are more about thwarting ISP throttling, but in this case it is not the ISPs who are the monitoring agent. The best evasion technique is to use a udp proxy. But I imagine that a reliable service with tolerable speed is going to cost money which begs the question a bit of why not simply spend the money on a paid download music service. That was basically my decision around 6 years ago when the opportunity costs of evasion(when the monitoring really began to pick up) well exceeded the monthly subscription cost of a paid service.

Of course, the Copyright Alert System is just harbinger of things to come. These types of arrangements up and down the IT stack will increase by orders of magnitude under the formal adoption of whatever “cybersecurity act” that eventually passes(once again, because the basic top-level rules will be enacted via fiat, i.e, executive decision, the subsequent proposal and adoption of a legislative act is an absolute certainty). And this, of course, just exposes the silliness of the “network neutrality debate” because “network traffic” should always be understood to mean “authorized network traffic.” The arbitration between “authorized” and “unauthorized” traffic will be subject to the most relentless data analytics imaginable.

I will also offer a brief comment on unjustified triumphalism that thinks these issues can be magically skirted around. This belief is based on a fundamental mischaracterization of the internet as a horizontal, decentralized type of network. But it is not that. Rather, the internet is a type of scale-free, small network that follows a power law distribution. The network properties of scale-free invariance is much a product of quite a bit of centralized coordination. Simply, it is a mistake to think that technology alone can overcome the problem of political economy. Instead a necessary condition to be able to “route around the damage” is jurisdictional differentiation in political economy. I’ve been harping this point for a couple of years in my posts about Wikileaks. If the jurisdictional differentiation melts away then feel free to proceed straight to the outright pessimism of Evgeny Morozov and Richard Stallman who have given up on the anarchic promise of the internet. The alternative is a platform that turns out to be very well suited for tight control by Corporation and State. The evidence for this latter pessimism is the degree of rent-seeking in data analytics this little platform of ours affords(which makes the actions of State agency very much “rational” and hardly stupid in this space). The game is up when the cyber-security and “data czars” come rolling down the pike.

Finally, The Copyright Alert System is once again immediate evidence of a “Commercialist” anomaly with regard to political economic agency. Methodological individualism is hard pressed to explain ISPs acting as a Sheriff Agency (on behalf of the RIAA/MPAA) against their own customers. The model of The Firm, however, explains it quite well.

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The Firm’s Totalitarian Jurisdiction and the Death of the Liberal Paradigm

One can only mock the typical progressive bromide that usually goes something like this: “Democracy is a form of community regulation in which the members of the community make the decisions.” This, of course, is pure clericalism. Communities typically do not suffer from intractable collective agency problems. States do. Hence, the State is not in any sense “the community.”

The superstitious nonsense of the communal State can perhaps be amply illustrated with the relatively recent development of State extradition attempts for criminal prosecutions of commercial crimes by foreign citizens. If the United States presides over jurisdiction A and extradites a foreign citizen who is a “member” of Jurisdiction B for an action in B that is a statutory crime in Jurisdiction A, then Citizen(of B) might be justifiably in askance about this strange interpretation of “community membership and “community regulation.” Citizen(of B) has effectively been kidnapped into Community A and would doubtless share in the opinion regarding a collective agency problem of this community. After all, the kidnapee is not the agency behind the kidnapper. And Citizens(of B) no doubt would have to concur regarding their own collective agency problem to explain their own Community B “deciding” to submit themselves to a legal framework for kidnapping by jurisdiction A.

But it is not just the progressives who are destroyed by the example above. The mainstream libertarian position collapses, too. This position, of course, is tied to Milton Friedman’s famous apologetic that placed capitalism at the foundation of political freedom. Friedman never argued capitalism as a sufficiency condition for political freedom, but he certainly did argue capitalism as a necessary condition. But our above illustration suggests that detachment from the capitalist order may be the actual necessary condition for political freedom. Quite a a turn. And to precisely define at least a core condition of political freedom: it necessarily must entail a legal or compliance contextual framework that serves as a skeptical constraining mechanism against incentive-incompatibility problems of collective choice. Political freedom is not just simply protection from the majority.

But perhaps the biggest loser is liberal political theory and political science itself. A contention can be proffered that political science is simply not science. Or, to be more specific, the professional practitioners of political science are not scientists. Instead they are by and large practitioners of the priestly art of regime legitimization. Strong words but very much defensible.

I hold to a Popperian method of science. But I will concede to Thomas Kuhn to a large extent that the Popper method as a practice is generally reserved for periods of revolutionary paradigm shifts. This is a fancy way of saying that it usually takes obvious clear and obvious empirical counterfactuals to “kick in” the Popper method(as a professional practice) to shift the scientific paradigm. So, in the scientific area that I’m most familiar with–physics1–the examples would be Kepler’s observations of elliptical planetary orbits leading to Newton’s Mechanics, the Michelson–Morley experiment regarding the constancy of the speed of light leading to Einstein’s interpretation of electrodynamics(special relativity…and Herman Weyl’s mathematical formulation of the 4-D SpaceTime), the observed black-body radiation spectrum leading to Max Planck’s “reluctant” formulation of the “quanta”(a theory extended by Einstein, which is what he actually won the Nobel Prize for) which ultimately led to quantum mechanics(which was the mechanical theory born from Neils Bohr’s application of quantum or “discrete” energy states to orbital electrons to explain the observed atomic emission/absorption spectra).

So in the Popper/Kuhn method of science, obvious and glaring counterfactuals to the existing paradigm lead to new factuals which are then subjected to Popper’s falsifiability testing. This is probably a more realistic model in practice than a standalone Popper which casts scientific agency in a constant testing mode against the factual. But when obvious counterfactuals do present themselves, science, in order to be “science,” must critically examine the current paradigm and put forth alternative factuals for testing. In short, for something to meet the standard of being considered a science, counterfactuals have to result in paradigm shifts and not simply be shrugged off as mere secondary and tertiary violations(or anomalies) within the current unabated paradigm.

Political science by and large fails this aforementioned scientific standard. The State practice of forced extradition of foreign agents for crimes against the extraditing State’s “commerce laws” is an egregious and obvious counterfactual example of the incentive-incompatibility problem of collective choice. This collective choice problem inarguably collapses the liberal political paradigm. The counterfactual should trigger a paradigm shift in political science. For what we have here can more or less can be termed “Commercialism,” a 21st century analogue of 17th century mercantilism. With one key distinction: historically, mercantilism is nationalistic(competing empires). Commercialism, however, is thoroughly oligarchical(one supranational trading bloc).

The mounting anomalies of Commercialism can no longer fit within the paradigm of liberal social contract theory. In the past I have used the term “liberal totalitarianism.” However, we are fast approaching the point when accuracy and coherence demand we drop the “liberal” adjective from that expression.

1 Actually, the science that I practice is computer science, which I have no formal training in. The things that I have formal training in, physics/math, are the things I have never practiced, sans one year teaching High School mathematics.

From WikiLeaks: How the Drug War Underlies The Firm

A Public Choice definition of “The Firm” is the agency that arises from the “incentive-incompatibility problem” of collective choice. This agency, however, is also an organ of political economy. The political economic construct of The Firm is what allows us to tie it to the classical concept of libertarian class theory(note: it is a mistake to try to relate the standard realm of public choice to the old French Laissez Faire model of political economy. To make this relation, you must more or less discard “methodological individualism” from the model of State actors. Hence, most, if not all, traditional public choice scholars will reject “The Firm” outright).

The positive model of “The Firm” allows us to make predictions. For one, the drug war will never peacefully end because the discretionary authority the drug war legitimizes is a core foundational component of The Firm. At best, any legalization efforts will simply result in a FDA, Bristol Myers Squibb, DEA triumvirate. In a real sense, the latter may actually provide the means for greater social control than outright illegality.

If the thing that “The Firm” maximizes is discretionary power or authority, then perhaps “The Matrix” is a better understood cultural descriptor than “The Firm.” However, the use of the term, “The Firm,” is illuminating because it reminds us that the agency in question is at its core a politically economic one. The Firm is the (protectionist) coordinated arena where the “competition” of capitalism takes place. It is the “market setter.”

As with “The Matrix,” it may be the case that the only way to fully understand “The Firm” is to see it for yourself. So below, I have posted a link from the recent WikiLeaks file dump. This is actually a publicly available document and not a secret one. But it is captured from the inner correspondence of the global intelligence firm, Stratfor.

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

The introduction says it all: engineering an efficient international enforcement paradigm of anti-money laundering measures that starts with terrorism and drugs but under a “one-size-fits-all” vein can be effortlessly extended to any unauthorized monetary exchange. The table of contents provides the staggering breadth and scope of The Firm’s coordination.

To those that say “there is no firm,” I say positive science is useless if we do not believe what we see with our own eyes. To those who say “if you don’t like it, leave,” I say it is clear that there is no escaping the jurisdiction of The Firm.

Julian Assange’s Response

Julian Assange responds to the criticism of “Wkileaks paywall” and other matters via TwitLonger.

Assange promotes “movement solidarity” while cautioning against the perils of “anonymous platforms” that are prone to compromise and infiltration by police authorities. There is an implicit emphasis on the requirement of “media” and “reputation” in the role of “crypto-anarchism” serving as an effective reform mechanism.

Assange’s explicit emphasis on “movement solidarity” is no doubt true. But all movements suffer from an irrevocable collective action problem. In this sense, there needs to be more than one. But political entrepreneurs in crypto-anarchism run up against an equally vexing collective action problem: the problem of revolution.

WikiLeaks Paywall?

A javascript donation widget that has been inserted into Wikileaks documentation file pages has created a bit of a stir. First, the technicalities. It is an IFrame widget that relies on javascript to create a DOM modal window that features a YouTube “Campaign Video.” Below the video are buttons for donation, facebook share and Twitter tweet. Clicking on any of the buttons will write to a browser cookie that will(although not instantaneously) de-activate the overlay on a timeout. Of course, the client-side javascript “protection scheme” can easily be bypassed by disabling javascript in the browser(which is what I did on the “internet blackout day” because all the blackout sites relied on simple client-side protection schemes).

My criticism of the scheme is that it is bad UI code. The implementation is not a paywall but the code is written in a way that assumes the payment option. The de-activation works on a timeout which is consistent with the time it would take to complete a payment transaction in a form submission. By the time you complete a transaction, the overlay will be “de-activated” vis a vis the cookie query. However, if you select the “share options,” the overlay doesn’t destroy right away which makes it appear you are being fucked with. Very cheesy…

However, the video provides a fine wine with your cheese. It is pure libertarian class analysis. Voting is meaningless. Ostensible political reformers of the system will be captured and betray their claims. The only worthwhile collective action is alternative mechanisms. Right on, brother…

The criticism of Assange turning Wikileaks into a one-man show is a bit hollow. It is indeed a disappointment that there has not been a proliferation of WikiLeaks-like organizations. Document-sourced journalism has stalled. But there are reasons for this–reasons that I have discussed in previous posts. For one, not too many people ar eager to meet Assange’s fate of being an Enemy of the State. Unfortunately, anonymous platform crowd-sourcing has proven to be neither an attractor of leaks nor a disseminator of leaks into the public consciousness. No one who risks their liberty and life by leaking damning information is going to submit to an anonymous platform that keeps the identity of the entity behind it a secret. And crowd-sourcing document dumps has proven hitherto not to be a particularly fruitful model.

In short, “crypto-anarchism” has to play a “media game.” And it requires a degree of expertise and reputation to bring the secrets to light. It requires a type of political entrepreneurship. Julian Assange figured that out. His reward for being a revolutionary is not only the designation of “Enemy of the State,” for which he pays a heavy price, but to be also subjected to a barrage of whiny moral foundations of revolutionary politics.

Refuting the Planned Order of the State

I caught this article, Most of Life Is Anarchy, while browsing Rational Review News. The author is Gene Callahan, a known libertarian defector. Callahan followed that up with addendum posts, Misunderstanding the Relationship of Spontaneous Order and Planned Order and The State Is Simply the Specialized Political Organ of Society.

There were of comments from thinkers that I respect in the first article, but unfortunately, none of them succeeded in debunking Callahan’s argument. And what is this argument? Callahan uses Jeffrey Tucker’s quote, “most of our lives take place under anarchy,” to affirm the State as a natural product arising from civil society. This, of course, is the ancient view that we can trace back to Aristotle. The ancient view holds no division between civil society and the Polis, viewing the latter as a natural fabric of the former.

Liberalism, a political theory that is the product of the Enlightenment, separates the two. The Polis, or the State, is an artificial construct. Liberal social theory holds that human agency with disparate moral ends can nonetheless use reason as means to coordinate mutual advantage(a Justice of Mutual Advantage regime). Liberal political theory holds that it is rational for human agency to surrender some liberty to secure a particular end. With Locke, for example, this end is property(or more specifically, a “property bundle”). However, the degree of liberty it is rational to surrender is a point of contention. For example, with Hobbes, an intractable compliance problem is reason for human agency to surrender much of its liberty to Leviathan(a singular authority. No separation of powers or plural authorities here).

Liberal Social Contract Theory holds the particular ends to be secured to be a product of anarchy(civil society) and the security of the particular ends to be by means of an artificial construct: the State. This is what is meant by the liberal distinction between civil society and the artificial State. The State can be thought of as a “tool” of sorts. Sure you can think of this tool as an evolutionary product of society but it is not the evolutionary end of society in the same manner one would say that the horse and buggy is not the evolutionary end point of long distance travel. There is no argument vis a vis liberalism of the necessity of the State as an end. If you make this argument, then you depart from liberalism and venture into the territory of Hegel and the communitarians. Put differently, there is no liberal argument for epistemic closure regarding the State as the necessary tool.

David Hume is generally credited for striking the early death-blow against liberal social contract theory when he duly noted that historically States arise from plunder and conquest, not unanimous consent. This historical fact leads to one of two approaches: (i) the social contract is pure fiction or (ii) not a fact, but nonetheless a useful abstraction for establishing the criteria of legitimacy.

Today, almost all, if not all, liberal political philosophers discount unanimity as a condition for legitimacy. “I did not sign that,” whatever its libertarian merits, is a dismissed argument in liberal circles. In this sense, it is pointless to argue (i). It is has been argued countless times before. The better approach is argue against (ii). In particular, the “useful abstraction” suffers from an intractable collective action problem.

The best “modern” argument against (ii) has been made by Anthony de Jasay. Specifically, de Jasay’s work, “The State.” In academic jargon, we would summarize de Jasay’s argument as an “incentive-incompatibility problem” of collective choice to abide by the “unanimity” of the so-called social contact. In plain terms, this simply means that control of the government begins where unanimity ends. Put differently, the liberal state suffers from a collective action problem of State Agency(the “Total State”: the State (i) setting the ends of compliance and (ii) serving as the enforcing means). In the end, we are reliant on democracy as an accountability mechanism to correct or constrain collective choice actions.

But is democracy a reliable constraint mechanism? No.

Interestingly, Callahan in his his subsequent posts compared the “planned order of the State” with that of “the planned order of the Firm.” Callahan is actually correct with his analogy, but the clarification offered by his analogy undermines his cause. Economic theory actually has a bit of a problem explaining “the Firm.” The best explanation, the one I tend to agree with, was offered by Oliver Williamson(for which he recently won the Nobel Prize for). The Firm is a type of DRO, a form of economic governance for the security of economic rents.

“The State as the Firm” is a principle of political economy that I often allude to. If we accept this principle–and Callahan, via his analogy, implicitly accepts it–then we realize that State(the modern liberal state) is not explained by tax collections. That is, the raison d’etre of the State is not the security of tax collections. Instead, the state is explained vis a vis the security of economic rents.

Callahan uses the “planned order of the State” to reject the “taxation is theft” argument because the State has an appointed an official tax collecting agency. Callahan argues that if the State arbitrarily allowed A to collect taxes while denying B the same power, then the illegitimacy(or perhaps, artificiality) argument would have merit. But if we shift instead to the “planned order of the Firm(ignoring the bait to argue endlessly on whether the IRS is a natural product of anarchy–“taxes are the price we pay for civilization”), we note that the State as Firm exhibits this precise arbitrary power: it allows and protects A as a rent-seeking agency while denying and prohibiting the same agency to B.

What we find is that de Jasay’s incentive-incompatibility collective choice problem leads directly to the State as the “planned(protectionist) order of rent-seeking agency.” And this is the rational choice foundation of “libertarian class theory.”

As a postscript I will note that Callahan is certainly aware of de Jasay, given that he at one time described “The State” as One of the most profound works on the nature of the state and still has entrails of his previous life lurking on the internet that wield de Jasay as a weapon against liberal social contract theory. But I have yet to come across any published refutation by him of de Jasay. Instead, he baits the Rothbardians into endless arguments. But Rothbard is a totally different species from de Jasay.

I did find this, however, that perhaps explains Callahan’s defection: Can a Christian be an anarchist?. If that post is accurate, then Callahan simply rejects libertarianism on the basis of rejection of authority being Satanic. And that makes him a religious fundamentalist. I have nothing against religious fundamentalists, per se. I can care less what your religious beliefs are. I do have a major problem, however, with those who have decided to subject themselves to a highly discretionary moral authority to rationalize the subjugation of others to discretionary authority to satisfy some type of necessary ends. That to me, is what evil is.

Another lesson why reason is means and not applicable to ends. Hail, Satan…

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