Mail 842 Tuesday, September 09, 2014
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
Much of my week has been devoured by locusts, and there is much interesting mail on many topics.
Monopoly on violence
Our government does not have a monopoly on the legal use of violence. Individuals have the right to use violence in self-defense or in defense of others, to varying degrees depending on state law. Although specific tools of deadly force are limited, no one has to receive prior permission to use violence in self-defense, any more than we need prior permission to walk down the street. In many jurisdictions, the only real difference between a police officer’s de jure right to use deadly force and that of any other citizen is that the police are legally required to inject themselves into situations in ways which would be trespassing if a citizen did so. (Practically speaking, no matter how liberal the local laws are on self-defense, the police are generally going to get somewhat less scrutiny on their use of deadly force because it’s their job to get into messy situations.)
I think the oft-repeated (and usually unqualified) assertion of a state monopoly on violence has done a great deal of mischief. Such a monopoly is neither universal nor axiomatic.
“Monopoly on violence” is a shorthand, and possibly confusing. The government certainly does not have any monopoly on use of violence in self defense. It does exercise a monopoly on violence in nearly all other situations. When I was young there was much talk about “the unwritten law” which was often invoked in defense of a man accused of murdering his wife’s lover, or sometime his unfaithful wife. As feminist rights began to be asserted, there were cases in which accused wives were similarly defended. Of course the defense was an appeal for jury nullification, which always had a strong appeal in some parts of the country. Judges try valiantly to prevent attorneys from using jury nullification – several episodes of Law and Order had that theme, and the Federal government in particular has been against allowing juries or prospective jurors even to hear of the term and practice, but it remains a fairly strong tradition in some places. The jury system developed in England after the Norman occupation. I recall when I was young that “a fair fight is no murder” was still a tactic used in trials of the survivor of what was in effect a dual. These were not the formal affairs from the days of Jim Bowie on the sandbar, but ice pick fights in bars. I suspect the concept remains in places to this day.
Obviously the concept of state monopoly on violence applies here.
Many societies have held that enforcement of many judgments are the responsibility of the winner of that judgment: you win the right to evict someone from property that you own, but it’s up to you to get them out of there. You may use force. That doesn’t happen any longer but it was common in some places in the US well into the Twentieth Century. Roman courts didn’t in general enforce property awards: it was up to the winner to do that. And in some countries to this day it’s still the only effective enforcement.
A remnant of self-enforcement survives in the Bail Enforcement Officer or Bounty Hunter, who isn’t a sworn officer of the state, and who can use tactics not allowed to peace officers. All of this is more of a concern for the States than the Federal Government, but as we federalize more and more state crimes – Kennedy’s assassin would have been tried in a Texas State Court for murder until the law was changed under Lynden Johnson – it becomes a concern for the feds as well.
We also have the militarization of the Federal Police which is now trickling down to the state and local authorities.
Monopoly on violence to government should apply to situations where the government has the consent of the governed; which is increasingly not the case. But that is because we have converted the Republic of 1787 (Recall Franklin: “A republic, if you can keep it”) into a democracy, a form of government despised by nearly every one of the Framers who attended the Convention of 1787, and denounced by most statesmen until the modern era, when suddenly the notion of ‘democracy’ became a Good thing.
Plebiscitary democracy— rule by counting all noses, all present allowed and even encouraged to vote, and all matters subject to a vote, the will of the people – was rejected by nearly everyone until the Progressive era, but used with great effect by the big city political machines. It is now applauded, as if it makes sense to weigh the vote of an illiterate pauper existing off welfare with that of a home owning mill hand who pays taxes and serves on his local part time city council, or the local school teacher. At the same time the schools have become more and more worthless as a mechanism for preparing citizens to assume the role of voters.
The result is that more and more of our population, particularly including the teachers, become tenured and entitled to frequent raises, not because they are more productive, but because they haven’t died or committed a visible and notorious heinous crime. There is no “democratic” remedy to this.
The other day you mentioned needing to write about the difference between a Democracy and a Republic, which reminds me of a loose collection of related thoughts I’ve had percolating for a while. Bear with me for a moderately long and rambling screed…
The original Greek democracies notoriously suffered from poor impulse control, choosing all sorts of famously destructive policies by show of hands in public assemblies of whatever eligible voters chose to show up.
Athens deciding to invade Sicily in the heat of the moment is the classic example. (The campaign was both largely pointless and a badly-led overextended cluster-foxtrot disaster, of course.)
Republics, governments run by representatives rather than directly by the citizens, designed to filter, delay, and damp down popular enthusiasms were of course the answer arrived at by subsequent generations (not least of these the post-kingdom pre-empire Romans.)
And democratic republics, like the one our Founders designed in 1787, of course choose those representatives by popular vote – though it’s often overlooked that ours did this at first via an electorate sharply limited in one interesting way (I’ll get back to this.) They also voted indirectly, in the case of the President via state-selected electors, and for Senators via their state legislatures. Our original republic further used an innovative system of internal checks and balances to prevent abuses and excess concentrations of power. It all worked quite well too, for as long as we resisted the impatient power-hungry tinkerers.
A vastly oversimplified description, of course, but I think that’s the gist of the difference you were alluding to?
I believe there are some interesting additional points to be made in the modern context, however, relevant both to fixing our disastrous foreign policies of recent decades, and to fixing what’s happening to our original republic now.
Early Greek democracy’s problem was not only a structure that allowed impulsive decisions. This was, I think, compounded by narrow and easily manipulable information channels. It was far too easy for demagogues to feed those electorates a slanted picture of some given situation, with little or no option for timely reality checks. (This is not something I’ve seen discussed much – though perhaps, hence our Founders’ emphasis on a free press?)
The Roman Republic did quite well for a while, but by the time of Marius it had gotten into a bind – a combination of expansion of military commitments, and shrinkage in the militarily-eligible portion of the population (military and political eligibility were determined by a minimum-property qualification) was causing a shortage of soldiers.
Marius solved this by opening up recruitment to landless wage-workers, while at the same time setting things up so that the troops’ hopes of land grants at the end of a military campaign depended directly on their field commander. This combination, as you’ve pointed out, led in fairly short order to the end of the Roman Republic. Rome itself survived and even prospered for some centuries after, but the Roman Empire had a chronic problem with soldiers selecting governments rather than vice-versa.
That grave policy error aside, I suspect that the Roman Republic’s failure to foster its essential middle-classes, "those with the goods of fortune in moderation", was also a major element of that Republic’s fall. I’ll get back to this.
Meanwhile, though, fast-forward two millennia.
"Liberty" was a standard trope in US political rhetoric from the start.
"Freedom" seems to have largely replaced it sometime in the last century, but without so far doing excessive harm to clarity of public policy discussion.
"Democracy", on the other hand, has progressed from the Founders’ clear understanding that "there never was a democracy that did not commit suicide", to currently in US public rhetoric being up there with motherhood and apple pie. Enough of the voting public no longer have a clue about the distinction between "democracy" and the democratic republic this country was for much of its first two centuries that public figures who even hint that pure one-man-one-vote "democracy"
might not be an unalloyed good might as well also admit they molest children.
I suspect this change happened during the 20th century, and I suspect it was pushed deliberately by various "progressives" – Woodrow Wilson’s and FDR’s rhetoric comes to mind – as one way to legitimize direct central progressive bypass of old republican institutions via the new means of centralized mass communications propaganda. (See previous remarks about democracy’s vulnerability to narrow and easily manipulable information
channels.) But, that’s an educated guess. Proving it would be a matter for more research than I have time for now (paging Jonah Goldberg!) More on these suspicions also in a bit.
Unfortunately, our current policy makers apparently also no longer understand the distinction between pure democracy and a competent-electorate representative republic. This has led to mindless US support for undiluted majority-rule democracy in recent years, with various disastrous results. Egypt, for instance, would have become a classic case of "one man, one vote, once" with the Muslim Brotherhood (think Hamas in business suits) in charge, except the Brotherhood was too impatient and failed to neutralize the Egyptian Army first.
Turkey, on the other hand, seems now effectively run by a Muslim Brotherhood branch that was patient enough to spend the last decade completing the neutralization of the Turkish Army (with ongoing Western approval and even help.) This is the same Turkish Army which since Ataturk had a central political role in ensuring secular middle-class
(minority) rule in Turkey. This point needs emphasizing: All those decades when Turkey was gaining its (rapidly-fading) reputation as the exemplar of a modern efficient westernized Moslem nation, it was being ruled by its secular middle-class minority via its Kemalist (IE, aggressively atheist) Army.
Post "leading from behind" Libya meanwhile can’t even muster the social coherence for a new one-man-one-vote-once dictatorship and has descended into violent anarchy.
It is becoming glaringly obvious that the guide star to steer policy decisions in such cases is not "democracy". Nor, less obviously, is it necessarily "democratic republic" – any number of nations over the years have gotten terrible results despite modeling their government structures on ours – much of South America, among others.
I submit that the correct guiding goal for our policymakers is, rule by the middle class.
The middle class, "those with the goods of fortune in moderation", almost by definition consists of those with the habit and discipline of looking at the long-term in making important decisions. (Without that, they won’t long remain middle class.) On the evidence, this extends to making sound long-term political decisions.
Consider: The US was founded with voting largely restricted to property-owners – effectively, to the middle-class and up. (Yes, yes, yes, largely to white male middle-class and up. No, no, no, I’m not here supporting those other early-days franchise restrictions.) By the time property qualifications were largely dropped, the majority of the US population had reached the middle class. (The early-to-mid-period US also had a thriving and very decentralized free press, by the way.)
Germany and Japan, post-WW2, meanwhile, were both relatively easy to reform into stable majority-rule representative democracies, both because their recent examples to the contrary were so horrible and because both countries already had or were very near middle-class majorities.
South Korea provides a usefully different example. Post WW2, South Korea was largely a peasant economy; its middle and upper classes a small minority. Democratic forms were imposed by the US occupiers, but South Korea was fortunate (or more likely some involved were wise
enough) that the series of effective autocracies that resulted tended to focus on fostering and expanding South Korea’s middle class, to the point where South Korea eventually had a middle-class majority and was actually ready to transition to competent majority rule.
In Egypt, Turkey, and Libya, on the other hand, the middle classes are to varying degrees minorities, and the results of one-man-one-vote bad.
Tunisia was the exception to the "Arab Spring" turning out so badly, and that is very likely related to its middle class having apparently crossed over to majority status in recent decades.
I submit that in places where the middle class is a small minority, imposing doctrinaire democracy is a recipe for disastrous one-man-one-vote-once. If the locals are lucky they’ll merely get kleptocracy, if not, rule by murderous fanatics.
A realistic US policy in such cases would be exerting influence to foster some flavor of autocracy that will adopt a policy of growing the local middle class to the point where it’s ready to rule as a majority.
It occurs to me that the US actually did pursue something like that policy from the end of WW2 through the mid-seventies, although generally not defended as such. A case in point: The Shah’s Iran. The Shah was explicitly a secular pro-middle-class modernizer, but also explicitly anti one-man-one-vote. Iran’s majority was ill-educated peasants, like all such highly susceptible to demagoguery, and the Shah was no doubt aware what majority rule in Iran would lead to. After a prolonged western campaign successfully delegitimized the Shah as anti-democratic, well, we all know what it did in fact lead to.
A more recent example of what not to do is the 2010 US acquiescence in Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s refusal to hand over power despite losing his majority in Iraq’s parliament. Maliki’s by-then obvious Shia-uber-alles divisiveness aside, the US broke Iraq’s old government, and it was up to us to use our influence to keep the Iraqis from then immediately breaking their new one – to lead them (by the nose if
necessary) through a practice exercise in peaceful transfer of power.
The current Islamic State is a direct consequence of that US policy failure (along with our simultaneous over-hasty troop withdrawal.)
Iraq, for what it’s worth, looks to me already fairly close to being majority middle-class, and could probably get there with less than a generation of competent economic and political management. It won’t, alas, get the needed guidance from us, on the evidence. We seem to have neither the political-class competence nor the patience for that sort of thing anymore.
Closer to home, I would say that the relationship between US education and economic policies that have been undermining our middle classes for decades (more and more are massively mal-educated and easily demagogued, while many are falling out of the middle classes entirely) and the current extreme shakiness of what’s left of our original republic hardly needs detailed exposition.
As for the "why" of this, the proper question is "cui bono" – who benefits – and the obvious answer is, the progressives that have been working to remove small-r republican restrictions on their power for a century now. Their obvious goal is to form a permanent voting majority either bribed (by them) from the public treasury or ignorant enough to be swayed (by them) via mass propaganda. Once they succeed, prudent middle-class rule is at an end. We’re just about there now.
The keys I see for saving our future as a free self-governing people
are: To expand and decentralize information channels so centralized manipulation and mass-control becomes harder (if not impossible), and to expand rather than contract the size of the genuine middle class (IE those with middle-class virtues: Prudence and forethoughtfulness along with sufficient knowledge to apply these effectively) via sensible economic and education policies.
In other words, the progressives’ centralization and seizure of modern media and education systems would be cause for despair, save for the internet. We have hope, for as long as the internet too has not been centralized and seized.
In that regard, I find it more than a little worrying that our government and our internet moguls are in hot competition to create the tools to do exactly that. For just one example, data security and strict privacy ought to be the default in a basic smart phone, not an extra that costs thousands. Consider that if AT&T had data-mined landline calls the way Google and Apple data-mine smart phones and emails, AT&T’s management would have vacationed at Club Fed, not Fiji or Burning Man.
To sum up, the wisdom of nation-building abroad may be debatable, but when we do attempt it (or less debatable, when we encourage the locals to attempt it) we should not guarantee failure by ignoring the essential makeup of a competent electorate.
And we most especially should not attempt the very-much-needed nation-rebuilding here at home in a manner guaranteed to fail, no matter what progressive dogma we outrage in the process…
given the massive incorrectness of all this, sign me
Aristotle thought that a Republic was rule by the Middle Class – those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. They own property and thus have some stake in the stability of the state. They tend to have a sense of property and fair play. They embody the culture of the community, This has worked in many places, but only in those places where the goals is liberty and the culture is one of assimilation, not deliberate cultivation of cultural diversity. There has never been a democracy of great cultural diversity, and Switzerland, which appears to be precisely that, is no exception: it has strong commitments to limits on cultural diversity.
Rule by the middle class has never been a formula for skilled foreign policy, and during the strong republic era of the United States, the foreign policy tended to be ignoring the rest of the world. When we did go forth to spread democracy in the Philippines we got our noses bloodied and the experience was not pleasant. The conquest of the West and of Hawaii went better because it was not a foreign policy at all: it was a “manifest destiny.”
Ignoring the world after World War I left us with no foreign policy at a time when one was needed, but we then turned to what we always did: we converted the economy into arsenals, and built the most formidable war machine the world had ever seen, flooding the earth with tanks, ships, airplanes, trucks, cannon, rifles, field hospitals, more and more trucks – there were no horse drawn units in the US Army. We built a war machine and our aircraft obliterated the enemy lands. This was the American Way of War.
But we are now enamored of democracy, and we reap its fruits.
When Disraeli spoke to Parliament about political reform he said:
If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of the public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of the public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason; and you will in due season submit to peace ignominiously sought and ignominiously obtained, which will diminish your authority and perhaps endanger your independence. You will in due season find your property is less valuable, and your freedom less complete.
I published that quote with this remark:
Government by public opinion poll is about the same as plebiscitary democracy. America was established as a Republic. The States could have democracy if they so chose. The Federal government had not that power and for good reasons, the Framers in 1787 having already known what Disraeli tried to tell Parliament some fifty years later, On Memorial Day, 2012.
We have since moved far toward Federal imposition of democracy on the States. The result will be rule by civil servants at first; but the system is not stable.
More of Disraeli’s speech can be found at http://books.google.com/books?id=yFgyAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA359&lpg=PA359&dq=if+you+establish+a+democracy+you+must+in+due+season+reap+the+fruits+of&source=bl&ots=DHs9DeD_H-&sig=N0RL3alM0t22kbnDsATnqPKtaHs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JaEPVJONNcf1iwL_k4GIDA&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=if%20you%20establish%20a%20democracy%20you%20must%20in%20due%20season%20reap%20the%20fruits%20of&f=false and it is well worth your time.
Putin, and best choices
It strikes me that a large number of Mr. Putin’s (or, as I prefer, Czar Vlad 1’s) friends, supporters and former coworkers are and have been at least nominally Ukrainian, and essentially prevented Ukraine from joining NATO. We saw no moves in this game until the pro-Putin factor apparently lost the majority in Ukraine. It would seem that the Baltics might be a little more secure, at least until local referendum can be made to appear to withdraw from NATO and request Russian integration/intervention/annexation. With smaller, more unified countries, each with a strong identity, and a slightly lower proportion of ex-KGB organized crime presence, the Baltics might be able to hold out a little longer.
As for television viewing, you made the right call. I’ve seen nothing in the "reality" show genre from the U.S. or BBC that interested me past the first couple minutes. The George Gently series on PBS is much superior to many other dramatic series, and I see that BBC has had the show for 6 seasons, so I’ve much yet to watch. While the point of the "Breathless" Masterpiece Mystery just concluded totally escaped me, I preferred it to the alternatives. I am looking forward to upcoming Miss Marple and Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece PBS.
I generally like the writing and substitution of violence however the preponderance of Christians as the villains has put me off. Since the PC in Britain has reached a level where the raping of British middle class teens is ignored in favor or the PaKi’s that do the crime. I think of it as an early symptom of a dying culture not just liberal fuzzy thinking.
Thomas Jefferson had the correct policy towards the Islamic barbarism.
We Have No Strategy, but ISIS Does
This president says we have no strategy; ISIS has one:
The first phase is “attrition (strategic defense),” the time for carrying out attacks, “spectacular operations, which will create a positive impact.” The terrorists use the attacks as a recruitment tool and a morale boost for potential jihadis.
Phase two is the time of “relative strategic balance,” when the jihadis build an army to hold territory that has been wrested from the incumbent regime. “There themujahidin will set up base camps, hospitals, sharia courts, and broadcasting stations, as well as a jumping-off point for military and political actions,” al-Muqrin writes.
The third phase, a time of internal discord and political upheaval for the “collaborationist” regime, is “decisive.” The terrorists use their conventional army to launch dramatic assaults.
“By means of these mujahadin conventional forces, the mujahidin will begin to attack smaller cities and exploit in the media their successes and victories in order to raise the morale of the mujahidin and the people in general and to demoralize the enemy,” al-Muqrin writes in a passage that brings to mind the Islamic State’s rampage across northern Iraq. “The reason for the mujahidin’s treating of smaller cities is that when the enemy’s forces see the fall of cities into the mujahidin’s hands with such ease their morale will collapse and they will become convinced that they are incapable of dealing with the mujahidin.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Islamic State “is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” That’s true insofar as al-Qaeda did not build a conventional army or declare itself a state. He shouldn’t be so surprised, though. The U.S. national-security apparatus has been following this jihadist ambition for years.
The Saudi king just warned that jihad will come to Europe in a month and America in two if ISIS is not stopped now. But, our policy makers are busy at golf courses and fundraisers so they can stay in office without forming any strategies to deal with the challenges of life while hobbling our nation for generations and setting up a paranoid police state to spy on everyone and roll materiel onto U.S. streets from time to time; witness Ferguson.
I have nothing constructive to say; I’ve been hammering on these points for years and the things I didn’t want to happen are happening and I’m not sure what more can be done about it. Nothing was done when something could be done and now it gets harder to act with each passing day. I’m not sure what path will take us out of this malaise, but I think people need to start getting savvy and taking some responsibility for the body politic, quickly. But, how is that different from anything any of us have been saying? You’ve been saying this longer than I’ve been alive and you were doing it at one point.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Mixed news on Ebola…
The spread of Ebola in Africa is called exponential, but officials are becoming cautiously optimistic that Western standards of care can result is a significant reduction in mortality rates.
(Of course, there are obvious corollaries of that, starting with the contrast between exponential growth and the linear availability of hospital beds in Western treatment centers…)
Bright Clumps in Saturn Ring Now Mysteriously Scarce
The Dying Russians
Hi Jerry. You have mentioned several times that Putin Wants/needs Russians, ethnic Russians.
This article The Dying Russians by Masha Gessen ( http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/sep/02/dying-russians/ ) Adds to that.
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I saw the response from your correspondent Tim Harness. I am also a fan of Girl Genius, and I thought a permanent link to the strip in question might be more useful for readers who did not want to have to hunt through the archives for the joke.
In sum, it’s a bad idea to throw rocks at bears. Or stand next to someone throwing rocks at bears.
Also on the topic of webcomics, I highly recommend the science fiction comic Quantum Vibe (www.quantumvibe.com), both because of his libertarian tendencies (lamentably absent in much modern media), his hard SF, and his once-a-day update schedule.
I’ll add a hearty recommendation for Malwarebytes. I purchased the full program for an ancient Sony Vaio running Win XP later replaced by a Dell running Windows 7. Malwarebytes support told me that it was fine to transfer the license, and gave some assistance in doing so. It’s nice to have a program that you pay for once…
Their support forum is good, and the updates are compatible with the dialup link I’m still using. I’m getting satellite broadband (close to our only choice in the countryside) in a few months, but dialup is still barely doable, though not for the faint of heart… The program is friendly to the bandwidth-limited, with a compact size and incremental updates whenever possible.
Malwarebytes is also quite compatible with Microsoft Security Essentials. I run a full scan with each every few days, though I’ll let one program finish before starting a full scan with the other. I’ve not had any problems with quick scans for one program while the other is doing a full scan.
If you are still considering cataract surgery, I’ll add my encouragement. I’ve been on new lenses for a couple of years, and performance has been quite good. I’ve never been fond of driving at night, but it’s better with the surgery.
Cultural literacy is shaped by history
Thought you might find this interesting: ‘I’ve Been a Pariah for So Long’ – POLITICO 50 <http://www.politico.com/magazine/politico50/2014/ive-been-a-pariah-for-so-long.html#.VAqSFbTMiXU>
‘I’ve Been a Pariah for So Long’ – POLITICO 50 <http://www.politico.com/magazine/politico50/2014/ive-been-a-pariah-for-so-long.html#.VAqSFbTMiXU>
At age 86, educational theorist E.D. Hirsch is finally being rehabilitated. For nearly 30 years, he has been labeled a blue-blood elitist and arch-defender of the D…
Preview by Yahoo
Hirsch "observed that the largely African-American low-income students could read short works of narrative fiction but could barely wring meaning from a piece about Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox because they lacked basic knowledge about the Civil War."
Hirsch "expanded on this idea until his central observation ran like this: Children can be taught to read—to decode words—but teaching them to comprehend all but the simplest text requires a shared body of knowledge between writer and reader."
Where else have I read that a literate society requires a shared body of knowledge between writer and reader? Oh, yeah. The California Sixth Grade Reader: "[A]ttention is called to the definite provision for securing for all the work a background of common literary knowledge. Literature is filled with references and allusions that must be understood to appreciate the thought."
There is nothing new under the sun.
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
Which is precisely why I have published the California Sixth Grade Reader and hope it will be widely used by those who are concerned with cultural literacy… http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LZ7PB7E/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=chaosmanor-20&camp=14573&creative=327641
A few things about the iCloud security breach.
First, the TV talking heads who don’t know what 4chan is should never work another day in the TV or computer industry. All day, the tv and radio talking heads are discussing the question of "who is this 4chan guy?", and pretending to know what they’re talking about when they suggest that 4chan just might be a whole group of hackers. Ignorant idiots. For anyone who doesn’t know, 4chan is the name of an internet BBS forum that bases much of its appeal around anonymous usage policies. It’s the electronic version of a bulletin board hung on a wall in a public space. Attempting to apprehend some guy named 4chan is a bit like trying to arrest a janitor who hung 6 sq ft of corkboard in a college hallway, because some random guy pinned up a nudie pic.
I’m admittedly an "old school" hacker, having been introduced to *real* computer science back in the early/mid 1980s, and having gotten a comp sci degree from an institution (USAF Academy) that insisted that a comp sci graduate know more than just how to code. We needed to know and understand the underlying nuts and bolts behind everything computing related. That included networking, basic and advanced EE topics including analog and digital circuit design, cpu design philosophy, and coding at every level including down to "bare metal" by twiddling physical switches and manipulating cpu registers. After that education, I came to the very firm opinion that anyone guaranteeing data security in any sort of remote access model is lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. From introducing a firmware hack at the supplier level into apple’s networking hardware (expensive but totally possible for a reasonably well funded organization) to a simple social hack (calling up everyone on Apple’s internal phone list and simply asking for username/password pairs), the opportunities to exploit ANY cloud storage architecture are literally endless. I’m not even truly an "old" hacker type since I started when phreaking was already on its way out, but I learned a LOT in the good old days when arpanet and .edu were small but rapidly transforming into something larger. I gave up most types of hacking the instant my job no longer required it, and I’ve avoided it ever since in order to remain out of jail. But that doesn’t mean I don’t completely understand how it could be done any number of ways, and therefore I trust nothing of any importance or consequence to "the cloud".
One easy method that could quickly produce a partial or even a full breach- scan every Apple-owned ip address for signs that they’re using a router with known compromised security or outdated firmware. Break into the router and forward every packet that comes through and filter later for username/password pairs. Or set up access permissions to hang your own computer on the network inside the firewall. Or even upload a compromised firmware that selectively forwards packets of interest using the router itself to sort and decide which packets to forward outside the private network. Another – spoof a cellphone tower and sniff data going to/from celebrities phones for username/password pairs, preferably at a large celebrity event such as the oscars. The tech to do this has already been demonstrated (and operationally tested using a sub-$1000 micro UAV) at hacker conventions. Right there, 2 completely different avenues of approach that anyone with a little time on their hands and some compute resources (to crack encryption or brute-force break passwords) could start with. Neither of those two approaches requires knowledge of vulnerable points down to the bare metal, such as detailed knowledge of how the entire network stack has been implemented from the hardware level up to the programmer interface that may expose even more ways to crack a cloud system. And those approaches don’t require actually cracking iCloud storage encryption or brute-force username/password attacks, another couple avenues for attack that have nothing to do with promises of "government level data encryption" by the salesmen.
The only way to avoid the risk of "cloud" data compromise is to limit exposure to the risk, plain and simple. Again, anyone telling you that their cloud architecture is truly secure and safe is lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. Just ask Lockheed and its F-35 sub-contractors what they think of the history behind the latest two Chinese stealth aircraft designs, and their current approach to off-site "cloud" access to their information.
You’ve said it yourself using different words… Anything that goes on the internet or is transferred across the internet in ANY form, encrypted or otherwise, must be assumed to be both public and compromised through unauthorized distribution the instant the data leaves the confines of your individual computing environment. Anyone to says otherwise is lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. Even completely isolated military secure networks have been compromised recently by disgruntled employees walking out the door with a CD in their pocket. I tell you three times.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.