Monday, October 11, 2010

A kindler, gentler killing program

Liberal thought on government assassination programs: they need to be somewhat better regulated. Luckily, the only abuses so far have been unserious.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Email response to the last entry

I think I already got this message once, somehow.

My intention is not to be harsh, but I'm going to go ahead with a screed (and in the process tell you how to do your job).

Aerial surveillance technology, in the hands of the US government, is not likely to have peaceful applications--insofar as the explicitly claimed goal of "preventing the spread and/or use of weapons of mass destruction" has ever been pursued by peaceful means. They have a proven track record on "WMD" that includes very little honesty. Realistically, I think it's more likely be used with the Predator drones. The handout talks about using your neurons to solve way cool problems rather than the strategic value of bombing Afghan wedding parties (and oh, how patronizingly written it is), but then they probably don't want to narrow the applicant pool to outright sociopaths.

You should know that you aren't absolutely obligated to pass this sort of thing on. On the one hand, it certainly is a job opportunity for students, but that must be balanced against the greater good. I'm sure there's no shortage of amoral technical minds clambering for the opportunity, but every person counts. That is, every person we can get not to do this work counts. The fewer bright young minds there are working on helping the gentle men and women of our government with their aerial surveillance, the safer we all are (the more so if we have the misfortune to live in what's left of central Asia).

I'm conflicted about sending this, but I'm doing it, in the hopes that not keeping my opinions to myself will in this instance be appreciated.


Jesus Christ: forwarded to me from our chair

A recruiting letter from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to all the students in my department...

Warning: This opportunity is not for everyone, but rather focused on passionate, super-smart computer scientists looking to solve massive and challenging problems. Problems both technical in nature and global in scope. Still interested?
If “Yes” then ask yourself these questions, then keep reading:
Are you an expert in video imaging? Would you rather think about applications for digital signal processes than watch the clock tick? Are you able to make high-performance code? If so we'd like to talk to you about an opportunity in Silicon Valley - and relocation is available if you're the right fit.
The Global Security Computing Applications Division provides computing expertise and technology to aid in preventing the spread and/or use of weapons of mass destruction. We also provide high-quality information system solutions that contribute to prevention, detection, and response with respect to the capabilities and intentions of potential proliferators.
The Mission: If you Choose to Engage
The Global Security Computing Applications Division within the Computing Applications and Research Department has openings for computer scientists to work on the Embedded Computing Program’s “Persistics” project team to develop algorithms and software tools for their scalable aerial surveillance video processing pipeline.
What is the Persistics Program All About?
It is a collaborative effort involving multiple Department of Defense partners that leverages the brightest minds in research to solve problems and put research into practice. Some of the areas you will explore include advanced image stabilization, high fidelity moving object segmentation, representation and compression, and efficient large format data processing utilizing the most advanced techniques in efficient out-of-core stream based computation.
If you are added to the team, you will develop expertise with respect to heterogeneous multi-core processing on Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and cell-based clusters. Sounds cool, right? It is, and it will support your interest in harnessing your brainpower to leave your legacy and make the planet safer. Expect to work closely with external research and engineering teams; internal interactions will be with team members, peers, project leadership, and program management, and more as this is not to a role involving confinement to a cubicle.
That said, there will be plenty of time to work independently, solve complex issues people have not even identified yet.
What We Expect:
The ability to design, implement, and deploy prototype systems that demonstrate the application of the Scalable Persistent Surveillance processing pipeline to problems of Laboratory interest. It’s hard to believe we would actually pay you for this, right? Then again you didn’t get your MS or PhD to not execute. Remain current on the state of the art in image and video processing, 3D extraction from video, Geospatial Validation and Verification, out-of-core stream-based computation, and heterogeneous multi-core processing. Present detailed analyses of pipeline performance relative to final data products and processing both within LLNL and to external communities. Transition prototypes to use in customer applications in collaboration with the customers.
Perform all assignments in accordance with ES&H, Security, and business practice requirements and policies.
Skills We Need to Tap Into in Addition to your Raw Brainpower (I bet your brain synapses are firing like crazy)
B.S. in Computer Science, Engineering, or Mathematics, or equivalent level of demonstrated knowledge. Experience in algorithm development for signal, image, and video processing applications. Familiarity with developing software applications in Linux, UNIX, and Windows environments. Experience with distributed and parallel computing.
Experience developing and documenting software designs, implement code, develop and document test plans, and disseminate results. Familiarity Knowledge of a wide variety of programming languages such as C++, C, Python, Lua, Matlab, IDL, and Perl.
Effective verbal and written communication skills along with strong analytical, organizational, and interpersonal skills. Demonstrated ability to work independently and implement research concepts in a multi- disciplinary team environment, where commitments and deadlines are important to project success.
Demonstrated ability to effectively communicate technical information, document work, and prepare and present research papers.
The Following would be really nice:
M.S./Ph.D. in Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, or related discipline. Familiarity with 3D extraction from video, optical flow and object motion tracking, wavelet compression and entropy coding, progressive hierarchy data layout and out-of-core stream processing, heterogeneous multi-core processing, machine learning, machine vision, and
computational statistics. Visualization experience for large-scale imagery.
Real-time image processing experience. Experience programming on commodity architectures such as GPUs or Cell Broadband Engines (CBE).
Experience working with customers to define, refine, and implement programmatic requirements and milestones. - Experience developing complex software solutions. - Experience with Systems Engineering.
- Familiarity with data management systems. - Ability to travel to sponsor sites.
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: Pre-Placement Medical Exam: A job-related pre-placement medical examination may be required. Pre-Employment Drug Test: External applicant(s) selected for this position will be required to pass a post-offer, pre-employment drug test. Anticipated Clearance Level: Q, SCI. (Position will be cleared to this level). Applicants selected will be subject to a federal background investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified information or matter. In addition, all L or Q cleared employees are subject to random drug testing.
LLNL offers a challenging environment and a competitive salary/benefits package. To view and apply for this job, go to and search by job #009365. When applying and prompted please mention where you saw this ad. LLNL is operated by the Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration. We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to workforce diversity.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


There was a poster up in the student coffee house for an event showing a 1950s propaganda film about the great heroism of Israeli fighters in 1948. I scrawled "ETHNIC CLEANSING HURRAY!" on it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


"Due to circumstances beyond the control of the sponsoring organizations (1199/SEIU, NAACP, Jobs With Justice and others) most of the 72 buses scheduled to go to Washington were not able to go. The bus company canceled buses just as we were scheduled to leave. We have had buses break down, not show etc, but never have we seen this happened to us on such a large scale. Still, more than 1,500 people from Massachusetts were able to attend the historic rally of which we will have more news soon. We apologize for any inconvenience and will be pursuing action against the bus company."

Friday, October 1, 2010

An impressive new low

Obama asks the court to dismiss a lawsuit by Anwar al-Awlaki's father enjoining the government not to assassinate his son, on the grounds that the assassination program constitutes a "state secret." So not only can the government declare it is going to murder you, they want it to be impossible to review the reasons why they want to kill you. "If the President does it, it's legal." I wish I could say this was shocking in some way, but it's just what I've come to expect from Obama, a ratcheting up of the unaccountable power that Bush wanted. You have to imagine Bush being envious, thinking "I wish I could have thought of that." But only a Democrat could get away with it with so little complaint. It's as if people think that if Obama wants to kill you, you really must deserve to die.