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“A Cringe-Worthy Display”: The Question Indiana’s Pence Won’t, Or Can’t, Answer

If Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was looking for a way to raise his national visibility in advance of a possible presidential candidate, his new right-to-discriminate law, if nothing else, has given him the national spotlight.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Sunday defended his decision to sign a religious freedom bill into law, saying that it was “absolutely not” a mistake.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” the Republican governor repeatedly dodged questions on whether the law would legally allow people of Indiana to refuse service to gay and lesbians, saying that residents of the state are “nice” and don’t discriminate and that “this is about protecting the religious liberty of people of faith and families of faith.”

The interview between the Republican governor and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos featured an extraordinary exchange that matters quite a bit. The host noted, for example, that one of Pence’s own allies said the new state law is intended to “protect those who oppose gay marriage,” leading Stephanopoulos to ask whether a “florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment?”

The governor replied, “This is not about discrimination,” which wasn’t an answer. So, Stephanopoulos asked again, “Yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” Pence dodged again.

To his credit, the host pressed on, and again the governor wouldn’t answer. Which led to Stephanopoulos’ fourth effort: “So when you say tolerance is a two way street, does that mean that Christians who want to refuse service … to gays and lesbians, that it’s now legal in the state of Indiana? That’s the simple yes-or-no question.”

Once more, the GOP governor simply wouldn’t, or couldn’t answer.

It was a cringe-worthy display. I’m not even sure why Pence agreed to do the interview in the first place – the Indiana Republican had to know the question was coming, but the governor was visibly stuck, refusing to respond to the most obvious element of the entire debate.

And while Pence struggles to defend a pro-discrimination statute, the backlash to the conservative law has intensified in recent days.

Angie’s List, an online concierge to find companies to perform various household maintenance, announced Saturday it was halting a planned expansion to its campus in Indianapolis over the new law, according to CEO Bill Oesterle.

This coincided with protests at the Indiana Capitol, on top of concerns raised by a wide variety of national businesses, groups, and leaders. A Washington Post op-ed from Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning raises the stakes further.

The governor said Saturday he’ll “support the introduction of legislation to ‘clarify’ ” that the Indiana law “does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians” – an effort that’s no doubt intended to calm the waters – but Pence added yesterday during the ABC interview, “Look, we’re not going to change the law, OK?”

Actually, no, it may not be “OK” with opponents of discrimination that Pence intends to leave the new law intact.

* Postscript: One man claiming to be an Indiana business owner says he’s already begun discriminating against gay customers, taking advantage of the new law, but the man’s story has not been corroborated.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 30, 2015

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Mike Pence, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Watches The Watchers?”: The Government Wouldn’t Be Able To Accumulate Data On Citizens If Companies Weren’t Collecting It

Yesterday, President Obama for the first time publicly addressed the controversies surrounding the National Security Agency’s Internet snooping, noting that there’s an important discussion to be had about the balance between security and liberty in a free country. “I welcome this debate,” he said.

I wonder, though, whether this debate is too narrowly drawn: Is the nub of the problem too much government surveillance or too much surveillance, period? After all, the government wouldn’t be able to so easily accumulate all this data on private citizens if private companies weren’t collecting it first.

In case you live under a rock, the kerfuffle involves a pair of National Security Agency programs. In one the agency spent years collecting the nation’s phone records – who called whom when and from where. In the other, codenamed PRISM, it has reportedly mined data – emails, chats and photographs, for example – of ostensibly foreign targets from prominent Internet providers like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL and Apple, to name a few. (For their part, these companies have issued various types of denials regarding their cooperation in the program.)

But as I said, the government surveillance, which is deeply unsettling, raises a larger question about corporate surveillance. Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center points out that none of the information in question would be sharable if Internet and telecommunications companies encrypted it to protect privacy. In other words, it’s not a given that corporations must collect vast amounts of information from and about us. But failing to do so wouldn’t be good for business.

Somebody’s watching you. As security technologist Bruce Schneier has written, “The Internet is a surveillance state.” The mere act of visiting websites means you’re being tracked whether you’re aware of it or not. “Click tracking is a huge source of personal data that most people aren’t aware is being collected,” says Stephen Wicker, a Cornell University professor and author of the forthcoming “Cellular Convergence and the Death of Privacy.” He adds that “sites that you would think are relatively benign are actually hosting third party click trackers that take this data and then resell it.”

Indeed, earlier this year The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal dug into the world of Internet tracking and discovered 105 companies that had tracked him in a 36-hour period of normal Web surfing. “Every move you make on the Internet is worth some tiny amount to someone, and a panoply of companies want to make sure that no step along your Internet journey goes unmonetized,” he wrote. (Full – or at least partial – disclosure: I do not know whether and to what extent usnews.com employs click trackers.)

Or consider the big data kid on the block: Google. Many people probably view the company as a search engine, or a map provider, or a mobile phone company or a cloud repository for documents. What Google is, in fact, is a data collection company: It collects data on you 15 ways to Sunday, sorts it, chops it up and sells it. And as Robert Epstein pointed out on this site in May, it’s not just when you’re using the Google search engine or Gmail (though it is assuredly the case then).

The Internet behemoth is collecting information on you whether you know it or not and whether you’re using its products or not. Using Safari or Firefox? Both web browsers, Epstein wrote, use Google’s blacklist, “an ever-changing list of about 600,000 websites that Google’s bots have identified – sometimes mistakenly – as dangerous. No government agency or industry association ever gave Google the authority to maintain such a list, but it exists, and Firefox uses it.” So does Safari. If you’re visiting a website that uses Google analytics (and most major sites do) or is serviced by Google ads or has Google maps embedded in it then Google, as Epstein writes, has gotcha.

But Google’s the “Don’t be evil” company, right? (After all, they’ve just gotten Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson to star in a two-hour movie-cum-commercial.) And don’t all major social media platforms have privacy policies to protect consumers? Maybe. But in the last few years Google, Facebook and MySpace (remember that site?) have reached settlements with the Federal Trade Commission for charges related to how they handled users’ personal and private data.

The spy in your pocket. And that doesn’t even get into the personal, portable surveillance tools practically everyone in the country voluntarily carries around with them: mobile phones and other wireless devices. Pew Research reported this week that for the first time a majority of Americans own a smart phone of some kind, while fully 91 percent of the adult population now owns some flavor of cell phone. (The wireless industry lobbying group CTIA reports that wireless devices have now reached 102 percent penetration in the U.S. and its territories, which means that the machines now outnumber the people.)

And if you’re using your mobile phone, you’re being tracked. “I don’t think people realize they’re revealing their location to their carrier just by using their device,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy researcher and consultant. A 2011 investigation by the Wall Street Journal (on which Soltani consulted) found that Apple and Android smart phones routinely send location information, including information about local Wi-Fi networks, back to Apple and Google. Separately, the Journal reported in 2011, Apple’s iPhone collected and stored location data even when users had turned off “location services” – which is to say when they thought they had opted out of being tracked.

Why? This information is a potential treasure trove for these companies. From the Journal:

Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people’s locations via their cellphones. These databases could help them tap the $2.9 billion market for location-based services – expected to rise to $8.3 billion in 2014, according to research firm Gartner, Inc.

Google uses this information to help show on its maps where automobile traffic is especially heavy or light. Verizon sells aggregate location data to advertisers, according to Soltani, so they can know where to place billboards. The wireless companies’ viewpoint, according to Soltani, is “we got this information for free, let’s use it for this other use-case, which is the marketing data.”

And there are a lot of companies trying to get a piece of this financial pie. In another story, the Journal surveyed 101 popular iPhone and Android apps and found that “56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.” As Soltani told a Senate subcommittee in 2011, “applications can access and transmit data which includes text messages, emails, phone numbers, contacts stored and even browser history stored on the device.”

So if you woke yourself up this morning with an alarm clock app on your phone, the instant it went off, says Soltani, not only did it transmit noise to your ears but location data back to people you don’t know. “There are times where there are 50 or 100 third parties – companies that you’ve never had a relationship with – who are able to monitor your … activities,” he says.

Not big on apps? Consider your next visit to the local mall. Carriers and other companies are installing sensors around shopping malls, Soltani says, allowing them to track where people are lingering, what’s popular and what’s not, analytics that then go to the mall.

Perverse incentive. All of this creates what Soltani calls a “perverse incentive that creates this worst case scenario for consumers.” Companies have an incentive to collect and keep user data; and that trove proves an irresistible target for the government in its ongoing war on terrorists.

Which brings us back to the current uproar over the NSA’s data collection and data mining. The outrage is justified, as is the broader concern about how the cult of secrecy has infected and distorted the government. But there is something somewhat comforting to the notion that government agencies are ultimately responsible to the voters, even if that process has become calcified and overly complex.

But the surveillance state is built upon its corporate counterpart. And who watches those watchers?

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, June 8, 2013

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Non-Factual Facts”: Washington Post Hedges Claim That Google, Facebook, Gave The Government Direct Access To Their Servers

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported a shocking story about how the FBI and National Security Agency had partnered with Google, Facebook, and many other tech companies to spy on the tech companies’ hundreds of millions of users.

The government agencies, the Post said, were “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”

This surveillance program, the Post reported, had been “knowingly” facilitated by the tech companies, which had allowed the government to tap directly into their central servers.

The Post story described a “career intelligence officer” as being so horrified by the power and privacy intrusion of this surveillance system that the officer was helping to leak the news to expose it.

“They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer reportedly told the Post.

Not surprisingly, the Post’s story created an instant explosion of outrage. The ire was directed at both the government and the technology companies.

The story also led to immediate, explicit denials from the technology companies. Google, Facebook, and Yahoo all said that the government did not have “direct access” to any servers. Apple said it had never even heard of the program it was supposedly partnering with.

So The Post’s claim that the companies had voluntarily given the government direct, open, un-monitored access to their servers quickly seemed suspect.

And now, 24 hours later, after more denials and questions, the Post has made at least two important changes to its spying story.

First, the Post has eliminated the assertion that the technology companies “knowingly” participated in the government spying program.

Second, and more importantly, the Post has hedged its assertion that the companies have granted the government direct access to their servers.

The latter change is subtle, but important. In the first version of its story, the Post stated as a fact that the government had been given direct access to the companies’ servers.

Now, the Post attributes the claim to a government presentation–a document that has been subjected to significant scrutiny and skepticism over the past day and that, in this respect, at least, seems inaccurate.

In other words, the Post appears to have essentially retracted the most startling and important part of its story: That the country’s largest technology companies have voluntarily given the government direct access to their central servers so the government can spy on the tech companies’ users in real time.

Specifically, here’s how the Washington Post story has changed…

Here’s the original first paragraph:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

Here’s the updated paragraph (our emphasis):

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

That change is important. The direct-access claim changes from a fact asserted by the Washington Post to a claim made in a document the Washington Post has seen–a document that might be wrong.

The idea that Google, Facebook, Apple, et al, had voluntarily given the government direct unfettered access to their servers always seemed far-fetched.

This behavior would justifiably trigger the wrath of the companies’ hundreds of millions of users worldwide and exacerbate already existing concerns that these companies routinely trample all over their users’ privacy.

Furthermore, the government’s assertions that its spying programs are directed primarily at foreigners, not US citizens, would not be viewed as comforting to Google, Facebook, et al.

Why not?

Because the vast majority of the users of these companies’ services are foreigners.

If the international users of Facebook, Google, et al, were to feel that the companies were opening their data centers in this way, the international users might revolt. So it’s hard to imagine that these companies would just voluntarily open their servers to the U.S. government (or, for that matter, any other government).

The Washington Post also broke the news about the existence of the vast government program Internet spying called PRISM, which other outlets have since confirmed. And the story illustrated how extensively the government uses Internet communications in its intelligence efforts and how important these communications are to national security.

But, a day after the Post story appeared, it seems likely that the following claims are wrong or at least need major qualification:

  • that the NSA and FBI are “tapping directly into the central servers” of Facebook, Google, et al, and,
  • that the government can “quite literally watch your ideas form as you type.”

 

By: Henry Blodget, Business Insider, June 7, 2013

June 9, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Separate But Unequal”: Why Do We Tax Ourselves Today So Apple Can Pay Its Taxes Someday?

The richest of the rich are different from you and me because instead of paying taxes, Congress lets them pay interest.

This little-known difference was on full display before the Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee this week, though you would hardly know that from the news reports of testimony by Apple CEO Tim Cook and his top finance and tax executives.

The reality is that America has two income tax systems, separate and unequal. And as with all such separate and unequal systems, the powerful benefit by sticking everyone else with the costs.

The system is so unequal that corporate tax departments at the biggest multinationals have been transformed from cost centers into what Enron called its tax office: a profit center.

To most Americans, taxes are an expense. The idea that a tax can make you richer may seem hard to believe, but as the Apple executives showed in their testimony, it is standard operating procedure these days.

But instead of reporting this, we got mostly fluffy political stories. The New York Times account was typical, focusing on how Cook so charmed senators he had them “practically eating out of his hand.”

What Apple is really doing is eating your lunch.

Let’s start with how Congress taxes most people. It does not trust them to report their incomes in full or to pay their taxes, and with good reason since numerous studies show that a third or more of self-reported income simply does not get written down on income tax returns.

We all know this as the “underground economy” of people who get paid in cash; clean pools, cut grass or sell another type of grass. (Many drug dealers, however, report their incomes in full knowing that if they get caught dealing and cheating on their taxes their prison terms will be longer.)

People who work, and pensioners, have their taxes taken out of their checks before they get paid — which is why we call the shrunken cash that we pocket “take-home pay.”

Because Congress also does not trust workers and retirees to report their incomes in full, it requires their employers and pension plans to verify how much they make. The Social Security Administration adds up all the W-2 wages-paid forms for people with any paid work. In 2011 there were 151,380,759 people who earned  $6,238,607,249,941.26, which would usually be written up as $6.2 trillion.

Congress also says you can defer tax on money you save in a 401(k) plan if your employer offers one, a maximum of $23,000 for older workers. If you do not have a 401(k) you can save no more than $6,000 this year and pay taxes when you withdraw.

In other words, you get fully or almost fully taxed when you earn.

But Apple operates under very different rules. At the end of March it has more than $102 billion of mostly untaxed profits. If Apple were a worker it would have paid the federal government $36 billion in taxes.

Instead of paying taxes, Apple has taxes that are deferred for as long as it chooses.

In total, I estimate from corporate disclosure documents, American multinational companies have $2 trillion of untaxed profits offshore because they did just what Apple has done.

Had Congress required those companies to pay up last year it would have been the equivalent of all the income taxes paid by everyone in America from January until July 10. Imagine that, all the income taxes taken out of your pay or pension from January into the middle of summer just so Apple and other multinational companies can profit today and pay their taxes someday.

The $700 billion of income taxes that would have come due without deferral would also have reduced the federal budget deficit last year by more than two-thirds. Instead, the federal government borrowed a little more than a trillion last year to pay its bills.

In effect the federal government loaned Apple the $36 billion in deferred taxes at zero interest. Imagine how rich you would be if you could keep all the income taxes withheld from your paycheck this year and then pay the money, interest-free, 30 years from now.

Because taxes deferred are at zero interest, inflation erodes the value of the taxes owed. If Apple waits 30 years and then chooses to pay its taxes the government will get the equivalent of 40 cents on today’s dollar, assuming 3 percent annual inflation.

Meanwhile, Apple will be investing that $36 billion, earning interest. If it earns 3 percent in 30 years, it will have more than $87 billion.

Now jump forward to 2043. Apple pays $36 billion in taxes from its $87 billion cash pile, leaving it with $51 billion after taxes in 2043 dollars.

As advisors to the very wealthy teach their clients, deferring a tax for 30 years is the functional equivalent of not paying any tax.

In the textbook version of events, that huge pile of untaxed profits that Apple keeps offshore cannot be put to work in America. In reality here is what happens:

—Apple has its tax haven subsidiary deposit the money in the United States at a too-big-to-fail-bank, eliminating any risk of loss it would incur with smaller banks.

—Apple has the American bank buy U.S. Treasury bills, notes and bonds so that its untaxed profits, which force the government to borrow, earn interest.

—Apple can also borrow from itself, making short-term loans from its many separate piles of untaxed offshore profits to fund any operational needs in the U.S.

—Rather than tap its $102 billion of offshore cash, Apple sold corporate bonds for periods of up to 30 years at less than 2 percent interest.

As Cook explained to the senators, why pay taxes at 35 percent when you can borrow at 2 percent? Cook is right from a financial perspective. At 2 percent, the interest on the interest, measured to infinity, will never equal the 35 percent taxes avoided.

But here is the best part of the whole deal, which Cook and Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, explained to the senators, but the news media neglected to report.

Apple turns some of the profits it earns inside the U.S. into tax-deductible expenses, which it pays to its offshore subsidiaries.

Now, if you move a dollar you earned from your right pocket to your left, nothing significant happens. Your wealth is unaffected and your tax bill is unchanged.

But Apple and other multinationals have an American right pocket, from which they pull cash to put in their Irish, Cayman Islands, Singaporean and other left pockets. When they do that the profit goes poof on their tax return and a tax deduction gets added.

Accountants use black ink to show profit, and red for losses and expenses. This modern accounting scheme is what the alchemists of old sought, hoping to turn lead into gold. But unlike the fictional philosopher’s stone, this alchemy works.

So, to review, you get taxed before you get paid and can set aside only modest sums with the taxes deferred until your old age.

Apple and its corporate peers get to earn profits now, but pay taxes decades into the future and possibly never, while earning interest on the taxes it defers into the future — interest you must finance as a taxpayer through higher taxes, reduced government services or more federal debt.

The one place Apple cannot escape taxes is on the interest it earns on its untaxed hoard of offshore cash, as Apple’s top tax officer, Phillip Bullock emphasized to Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the investigations panel.

Levin’s staff, its reports issued with bipartisan support, also found that Apple did owe some foreign taxes on profits it earned overseas.

It pays the Irish government a corporate tax rate of 2 percent under a deal made in 1980 when it was a pipsqueak company. On some other earnings its tax rate is 0.05 percent – that is a nickel on each $100 of profit.

Rich individuals – very, very, very rich individuals – get to do the same thing: earn now and be taxed much later, if at all, by paying interest on borrowed money instead of paying taxes.

There are different techniques to defer, delay and escape paying income taxes for executives, business founders, managers of hedge and private equity funds and movie stars, all of which will be explained in future National Memo columns.

One of these techniques explains in good part why companies have been slashing health and retirement benefits for workers – because it masks the real costs of letting executives earn now and pay taxes either later or never.

Another explains why Mitt Romney was never going to release his income tax returns for the years he ran Bain Capital Management, the private equity fund that made him rich.

But the bottom line is the same – America has two tax systems, separate and unequal. There is a word to describe such systems: un-American.

There is also a question to ask: Why do we tax ourselves today so Apple can pay its taxes someday?

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, May 23, 2013

May 24, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Taxes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Steve Jobs’s Legacy Says About Innovation

In the wake of Apple Computer  cofounder Steve Jobs’s death, it’s become almost a truism that he provided  consumers what they needed before they even knew they needed it.

I think it’s true not only in the  case of the revolutionary products that Jobs marshaled into existence, but of  many, many consumer goods that seemed exotic or pointless at first, and then  became ubiquitous.

It’s the nature of innovation, the  “novus.” The New Thing.

There’s an important moral dimension  to it, too, I think—this idea  of “needing” consumer goods. Pro-innovation  people—the vast majority of  us—love new things. We love things that make our  lives simpler,  easier, more enriching, or just more fun.

Take the vacuum cleaner.

I remember well a lefty history  professor in college, lecturing in a  disdainful deterministic tone about the  vacuum cleaner. Did it make  housewives’ lives easier—or did it impel them to  remove household dust  that had previously been a nonissue?

On the one hand, Christine Rosen’s 2006  essay in The New Atlantis,  “Are We Worthy Our Kitchens?”, was a  definitive takedown of such  thinking. There have been real gains in human  welfare due to  industrial-era electronic technology:

Despite its humble  status … the electric washing  machine represents one of the more dramatic  triumphs of technological  ingenuity over physical labor. Before its invention  in the twentieth  century, women spent a full day or more every week performing  the  backbreaking task of laundering clothes. Hauling water (and the fuel to   heat it), scrubbing, rinsing, wringing—one nineteenth-century American  woman  called laundry “the Herculean task which women all dread.” No one  who had the  choice would relinquish her washing machine and do laundry  the old-fashioned  way.

Then again, even with all of our  fancy time-saving gadgets, has family/domestic really improved? She continues:

Judging  by how Americans  spend their money—on shelter magazines and kitchen  gadgets and home  furnishings—domesticity appears in robust health.  Judging by the way Americans  actually live, however, domesticity is in  precipitous decline. Families sit  together for meals much less often  than they once did, and many homes exist in  a state of near-chaos as  working parents try to balance child-rearing, chores,  long commutes,  and work responsibilities. As Cheryl Mendelson, author of a  recent book  on housekeeping, observes, “Comfort and engagement at home have   diminished to the point that even simple cleanliness and decent  meals—let alone  any deeper satisfactions—are no longer taken for  granted in many middle-class  homes.” Better domestic technologies have  surely not produced a new age of  domestic bliss.

True, no?

And who can deny the moral, or at  least McLuhan-esque, dimension of “gadget love”?

There’s no simple answer to these  questions—and I ponder them anew  every time I interact with an Apple product.  (Like right now, as I  type.)

I’m far from a Mac nerd, but I am,  in my own way, a heavy user. My  iPod battery has been broken for months, and I  haven’t gotten around to  replacing it. Lately, the idea of driving without  ready access to my  entire music library—something that would have been  unthinkable for  most of my lifetime—is a continual annoyance.

And when I first bought that iPod, I  found myself mired  in a sort of technological obsessive-compulsive disorder:

With  1,000-plus CDs that I’d ideally like to  upload—because you can’t let all those  free gigabytes starve, not with  so many of the world’s poor children starving  for gigabytes—the process  of ripping, in short order, became an object of dread  and crippling  self-doubt. Unripped CDs now taunt me in their unripped-ness. I  can  almost hear them, in their half-broken jewel cases and water-stained   leaflets, in their state of 20th-century plastic inertness, laugh at   me.

I’ve also found  the aesthetic, near-cultic magnetism of Apple products a little creepy, too:

When  I read stories about iPod users rhapsodizing about  how their iPods are profound  reflections of their personalities; how  their iPod shuffle mechanism has the  seemingly mystical ability to  randomly spit out the right song for the right  moment; how life  screeches to a halt when their iPod suffers a technical glitch  [um, yes — S.G.]—when I read these stories I think of Mr. McLuhan’s  chapter on “gadget lovers.”

Riffing  on the Greek myth of Narcissus, Mr. McLuhan wrote that  technology gadgets were  like narcotic extensions of the self; we  worship them as idols and thus become  a self-enclosed system.

Sound  familiar?

“Servomechanism”  was the term of art that Mr. McLuhan employed: a device that controls something  from a distance.

He  said of gadget love: “We must, to use them at all, serve these  objects, these  extensions of ourselves, as gods or minor religions. An  Indian is the  servomechanism of his canoe, as the cowboy of his horse  or the executive of his  clock.”

When  you think of mere gadgets in such terms, it’s no wonder there’s  been such an  outpouring of grief over the loss of Steve Jobs.

But  who among us is willing to pull  a modern-day Thoreau and wall ourselves off from innovation?

It’s  part of the human condition, I suppose.

 

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, October 6, 2011

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Corporations, Economy | , , , , | Leave a comment

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