Category Archives: Technology

Police should wear body cameras to protect themselves when they’re accused of wrongdoing

camera

President Obama has just proposed $263 million for police body cameras in an effort to improve police relations in the communities they serve. My co-contributor at United Liberty Matthew Hurtt argues that this is an overreaction and cautions that this is “further federalizing local law enforcement.” To this, I have to respectfully disagree.

The federal government has already “federalized” local police if by federalization he means providing military grade toys at a discount. I don’t quite understand how providing tools which can actually protect the public such as body cameras “further” federalizes the police. As long as these departments receive these toys, the public damn well has the right to review in HD quality video and audio how these toys are being used (along with the normal police activities).

The following post was originally published on 8/18/2014 @ United Liberty

 

It sems that there is at least one area of agreement (with caveats) between some in law enforcement and some civil libertarians: cops should wear body cameras. The how, when, and where is still a question for all concerned but at least there seems to be some agreement on the broad outlines.

PoliceOne.com‘s editor-in-chief Doug Wyllie argues that police departments should embrace the idea of body mounted cameras on almost every police officer. Wyllie writes:

In the week following the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson (Mo.), many have asked me for a comment and/or my commentary on the matter. My reply has generally been, “What, precisely, might that comment be? We know very little detail regarding the incident itself, so any ‘analysis’ on my part would be tantamount to irresponsible speculation. Further, analysis of the rioting and looting (and police response to same) would be redundant — we’ve got reams of columns on crowd control tactics and strategies.”

One thing, however, merits mention in this space. It’s directly related to the first thought that came to my mind when news of this tragedy broke: “Man, I hope that officer was wearing a body camera.”

By now, we can correctly surmise that he was not, and it’s a reasonable contention that if he had been wearing a body camera — and that video was examined by agency leadership and released responsibly to the public — Ferguson would probably have been spared the violence and unrest.

Wyllie anticipated that there would be some cops, departments, and PoliceOne members who would disagree with this notion. From there he offered 3 reasons why the upsides outweigh the downsides:

1. Officers’ fears about “Big Brother” are crushed by good, sound policy collaboratively created by all stakeholders — administrators, police unions, civil rights groups, local lawmakers, and others. Citizens’ fears about Fourth Amendment issues — for victims, witnesses, and other uninvolved persons — are similarly crushed by that same policy.

I must interject here. We have street cameras on just about every major intersection in every major city in America. If its good enough to place you and I under constant surveillance, its good enough for the police. The police should also be reminded that they do indeed work for us. Any time the police are on duty and in public, there is a chance that they are being watched by the public. They do not have a right to privacy when they interact with the pubic. This is especially true when the actions of the police have the potential to take freedom or life away from individuals concerned.

Wyllie continues with his other 2 points:

2. Concerns over budgeting for the investment in new gear (and training for same) are quelled by the statistical data suggesting that the outlay in cash is far less than the cost of settling frivolous (and baseless) lawsuits over alleged officer misconduct when no such misconduct occurred.

3. Any argument alleging that “the technology just isn’t there yet” is flat out false. Five years ago, such a statement may have held some water, but companies like TASER International, Digital Ally, L-3 Mobile Vision, and VIEVU now offer rugged, patrol-ready products with high-definition recording capabilities in light, wearable form factors.

Doug Wyllie sees the writing on the wall; he points out that the White House petition for the “Mike Brown Law” which says “all state, county, and local police [should be required] to wear a camera” already passed 100k signatures. Wyllie is probably correct arguing that there would be fewer misconduct lawsuits with the cameras. One PoliceOne member added:

Personally I look forward to being able to show the jury exactly what the POS I arrested was doing, saying and what he looked like when I arrested him; rather than the cleaned up chap in a borrowed suit that the defense brought to court.

I think its also fair to say that cops would be discouraged from being involved with any misconduct in the first place. If we lived in a world where everyone involved in a police encounter is being recorded, everyone involved has every reason to be on his or her best behavior.

Another posted:

I’m all for body cameras. Yet, when they go against what people want them to say, it will be: “The police fixed the cameras.”

To this concern I have two answers. First the technology is already available to determine if a video has been tampered with. If the video shows the video at the 5:07:29 minute mark and then it suddenly skips to the 8:10:12 minute mark, most people are going to understand that there is some missing footage. The second answer is to policy of how, when, and where body cameras will be used.

Will cameras solve all questions of misconduct? Of course not. Cameras certainly have their limitations. But having a video of an event presented to a jury is certainly better than relying solely on conflicting eyewitness testimony.

Point of clarification: One person who commented on the Face Book link mentioned “And audio might be nice.” I assumed Doug Wyllie meant that audio should be part of the video recording as well. After re-reading his article, I realize that he never mentioned anything about audio. Perhaps this too will become a very important part of the debate. It’s my position that audio should be included. Video alone might be helpful in very clear cut cases but distort the meaning of what the viewer sees in other cases.

Obama Using “Net Neutrality” to Obscure Federal Take-Over of Internet

fiber-optic-cable“The government will fuck the Internet up.”

So says Mark Cuban. Truer words were never spoken. Allowing the federal government to treat the Internet as a public utility, as President Obama is calling for, under the guise of “net neutrality,” is an abysmally bad idea.

To be clear, “net neutrality” and public utility regulation are two different but equally bad ideas. It appears Obama is using the former in a cynical bid to trick the electorate into accepting the latter. Neither is needed and both are undesirable.

“NET NEUTRALITY”

Net neutrality is the idea that, having paid for Internet service, consumers should have unfettered access to all content. It would prevent a whole host of business model experiments that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) might otherwise try:

  • Selling tiered data plans like cell phone companies do.
  • Developing their own content and then delivering that content at higher speeds than they deliver a competitor’s content.
  • Creating different “lanes” of Internet traffic and charging higher prices to content providers or users for access to the “fast lanes.”
  • Preferring certain content providers to others, likely depending on who pays.
  • Blocking users from using certain online content that takes up too much bandwidth and slows down the network for other customers.

I see none of this as frightening. We pay different rates based on the size and weight of the mail we send. We pay different rates for concert seats, cell phone plans, Netflix memberships, cable subscriptions and a whole host of other services.

The sun still rises.

What consumers who demand heavy content at low cost really want is to have other users overpay for light content while suffering the slow buffering speeds caused by the heavey users. As Casey Given, writing for Rare, observes:

Even if the FCC’s worst fears come to fruition and ISPs start charging cell phone-style “plans” for different levels of Internet access, online access would only become cheaper for low data users. As it is today, a grandmother who logs online once a day pays just as much as the tech-savvy teenager next door who regularly downloads gigabytes of data. As such, she is subsidizing his usage and could instead be paying a cheaper rate if her ISP offered varying plans.

In any case, ISPs own their technology and infrastructure. They invested in that property with the aim of making a profit. The idea that the public has some sort of claim against the property of ISPs reflects a sense of entitlement I cannot endorse. Rights are things we get to do—not things we get to have at others’ expense.

It is where we stand on this principle in the hard cases that defines us.

In addition to heavy content users, the other main beneficiaries of net neutrality are Internet giants like Facebook, Google and Netflix. These companies do not want to be charged by ISPs for the heavy traffic their users generate while slowing down buffering speeds for everyone else.

But is there any reason we should prefer the profit of big content providers over the profit of ISPs? Is there some principle that says Netflix should be allowed to earn whatever profit the market permits—but not the ISPs who deliver its content to consumers?

As Doug Mataconis wrote for TLP back in 2010:

It’s Comcast’s network, [it] should have the right to decide how it’s used and to take action to protect its property and its other customers.

PUBLIC UTILITY REGULATION

Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet is not the same as net neutrality. His plan is to treat it as a public utility, the “most draconian” level of regulation that could apply. It would require ISPs to provide universal service, i.e., “wire up every house.”

It would also allow them to charge the rates necessary to recoup that expenditure at a profit. In fact, public utility regulations allow the type of tiered pricing net neutrality advocates want to prevent:

What some critics of the Commission’s recent proposal may not realize is that even if the FCC agrees to impose the price, non-discrimination, and other forms of common carrier regulation on ISPs, Title II reclassification, would not necessarily ban paid prioritization. As former enforcement director at the Federal Trade Commission, David Balto, has pointed out, the title only prohibits “unjust and unreasonable” differences in services. Carriers regulated under Title II still “may offer different pricing (including volume and term discounts) … so long as they are ‘generally available to similarly situated customers.’”

In plain English, all this means that if some websites, like Netflix, want “faster lanes” on broadband networks, the providers of those networks can charge extra for that service even under Title II, so long as they stand ready to offer the same service to all similarly situated comers.

So Obama’s proposal presents a solution that does not fit the purported problem—which may not even exist.

In June 2006, there were two or more broadband providers in 92 percent of the nation’s zip codes, and four or more providers in 87 percent. A June 2014 study found at least two providers (wireline and wireless) for virtually all of the U.S., and at least two providers (cable and telephone) in nearly three quarters. Nick Gillespie reports at Time Magazine that 80% of households have at least two providers capable of delivering the Internet at 10Mbps or faster.

This access has been achieved even as prices have gone down:

President Obama’s call this week to regulate the Internet as a public utility is like pushing to replace the engine of a car that runs perfectly well. The U.S. data sector — including wired and wireless broadband — is the envy of the world, administering a powerful boost to consumer welfare, generating high-paying jobs and encouraging tens of billions of dollars in corporate investment. Indeed, the prices of data-related goods and services have dropped by almost 20 percent since 2007.

So what is really going on? Does Obama really think the future of the Internet requires the government to sort out squabbles between Netflix and Comast?

I doubt it.

Maybe it is intended to deliver to big donors. Maybe it is about the 16.1% tax on interstate revenues that would be paid by broadband consumers. Or maybe it is something more sinister. As Christopher Bowen wrote last week:

The problem with the government regulating the internet is that … when they get to determine the rules, the consequences turn sinister.

*     *     *

What about communications of interest to the government, such as anything with heavy encryption? Or Tor?

The government has a direct interest in controlling that kind of traffic—hello, Wikileaks/Edward Snowden/any other whistleblower—and if anyone thinks the federal government will look the other way on these things, they are naive.

This isn’t just a possibility, it’s the reality of current legislation on the books, as Chris Byrne pointed out in 2006. Every single packet, every communication, every image, would be captured and stored—by law—if common carrier became the letter of the law in regards to internet traffic, without a warrant, and it would take just a rubber stamp to get a warrant that would be used to punish anyone the government pleases…

REGULATION HURTS INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE

For years, federal agencies themselves have resisted calls for regulation, on the states basis that forcing ISPs to treat content neutrally was not necessary, would impede the development of infrastructure, and would have an adverse effect on consumer welfare.

That is because developing the technology to respond to demands for bandwidth requires heavy investment. In fact, in 2013, telecom and cable companies topped the list of industries investing in the U.S., to the tune of $46 billion in investment.

Regulation cuts into the profits that encourage that level of investment.

This Cato Institute podcast, for example, covers the fact that Google Fiber does not provide Title II (public utility) services precisely to avoid the onerous regulations that come along with such endeavor. Another stark reminder of this basic fact came in the wake of the President’s message. On November 12, 2014, AT&T announced it would delay installing high-speed fiber-optic Internet infrastructure in 100 U.S. cities until the rules were clarified.

Perhaps this is why the American people oppose regulation. A November 2014 survey by Rasumussen Reports found that 61% oppose federal regulation of the Internet. Only 19% want more regulation than we already have. What is more, seventy-six percent like the quality of their Internet access.

Only 5% have complaints.

At best this is a solution in search of a problem. At worst, this is a Jonathan Gruber style misinformation campaign, designed to lull the public into complacency as the federal government assumes control of the Internet.

This time, let’s not fall for it.

Image via BandwithPlace.com

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

Net Neutrality: A Complex Issue With No Satisfactory Solutions

Yesterday, Chris Byrne had a write-up regarding President Obama’s “stated” support for Net Neutrality. “Stated” is in scare quotes because, as Chris noted, President Obama’s support for this ( much like his “support” for gay marriage) is a limp-wristed attempt to mollify his young, technologically literate base.

Of course, because it’s Obama and there’s a cottage industry dedicated to demonizing him, Ted Cruz had to come out with the stupidest political statement of the year (Non-Dollard/Kincannon Division).

With the mainstream attention these positions will now bring, and with an FCC decision on the issue due in 2015, the issue can no longer be ignored:

Net Neutrality is a major political issue, right now.

Chris Byrne correctly noted, that the lack of competitive options in local internet access is the primary factor leading us into the situation we’re in now. A deeper look into this shows… yeah, it shows we’re screwed either way.At the moment, there are no realistic answers that will satisfy consumers.

The explanation as to why is complex, to say the least.

Keep in mind that as I go through the issues surrounding net neutrality, I will be attempting to take common arguments, and technical background, and break them down into layman’s terms. Although readers of The Liberty Papers tend to skew more educated than most, I understand that not everyone is tech savvy enough to understand much about how the internet works beyond “I go to Google and email shows up!”. » Read more

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Net Neutrality… Obama… Cruz… How About Oliver?

Today, Barack Obama(D) has announced that he will pretend to support net neutrality:

 

 

In response, Ted Cruz (RPDGC*), has announced that Net Neutrality is the work of the devil:

 

 

The idea that either Democrats OR Republicans actually support net neutrality is a joke.

The Democrats have (and still do) very strongly supported big media and big communications, who are largely anti neutrality. it’s only when net neutrality obviously became a big issue among young liberals (who were largely unmotivated to turn out this midterm election) that they have pretended to support it.

The Dems could have made it a campaign issue, except then they wouldn’t have had the huge media and communications industry money for the elections, that they needed to avoid getting spanked even worse than they did.

If Obama had actually supported net neutrality, he wouldn’t have appointed an anti neutrality industry stooge as FCC chair… but again, if he did that, the Dems would have lost that sweet sweet big media money.

On the other hand, the Republicans are largely anti “big media” and anti “big communications”, and only became anti-neutrality when the Democrats decided to take it as an issue.

What is Net Neutrality?

Frankly, any libertarian should support net neutrality as a principle (government regulation is another matter).

Net neutrality as a principle, is simple. All legitimate traffic should be treated equally, no matter the source or destination. No internet service provider should filter, censor, or slow down traffic from their competitors, their critics, or because of politics or national origin; or for any reason other than technical requirements for safe, efficient, and reliable network operation.

It’s how the internet has always been run, up until recently, without any government action necessary. There’s a famous quote: “The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”. Any internet service provider that censored, filtered, or slowed down traffic from anyone (for anything other than technical reasons) was routed around, and cut out of the net, by its peers. It was a great example of independent action and peer enforcement working in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

Why is it an issue now?

Large media and communications companies like Comcast and Verizon have been deliberately and artificially blocking or slowing down traffic to and from their critics and competitors.

Of course, getting government involved does generally make things worse. In fact, it already did in this case, since the government has been involved from the beginning, and it was largely government action that created the current problem.

In a rational and unbiased competitive environment, consumers would have a reasonable choice of internet service providers, and any ISP that chose to censor or limit access, would lose customers, and either correct themselves or go out of business.

Unfortunately, we don’t have anything like a free and competitive market in internet access. Government regulation and favoritism has created huge monopolies (or at best duopolies, and no, wireless access is not realistic and reasonable competition given the distorted market and cost structures there either) in internet access.

We’ve reached a point where the telecommunications monopolies that government created and support, are in fact deliberately applying anticompetitive, unfair (and in some cases already unlawful) restraint against their critics and competitors.

Since they are government supported monopolies, the market is not allowed to correct the undesirable private action.

This means that, unfortunately, government action IS required… and even if it were not required, it’s inevitable, because politics is politics, and this is now an “Issue”.

So what do we do about the problem?

Please note, I don’t trust either Democrats OR Republicans on the issue in general, and I don’t trust either, or the FCC to regulate neutrality at all. Cruz does have at least one valid concern, in that the history of government regulation of almost every industry, but particularly technology, is mainly a long record of suppressing innovation and other negative unintended consequences.

The ideal solution is to end the government created internet access monopolies that most Americans live under, and allow free and open market competition to correct the problem.

Without government limitations on competition in actual high speed, high quality internet access; competition will increase, prices will fall, and any provider that filters or slows legitimate traffic will lose all their customers and go out of business.

This isn’t just a prediction or libertarian idealism talking by the way. It’s been proved out in Korea, Japan… even in the UK. Everywhere that internet access competition has been allowed to flourish, everything has improved (conversely, in the U.S. where we have deliberately increased the power and scope of these monopolies, we have the worst internet access of any technologically advanced nation).

Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen.

The next best thing, is to mandate net neutrality in the least intrusive, least stupid way possible, and to react intelligently (and rapidly) to changes in technology and its uses, to avoid regulatory distortion and suppression of innovation.

Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen either…

That said, it’s remotely possible for us get closer to that, quicker, than we can to disassembling the thousands of federal, state, and local regulations, which have created these monopolies, and made the barriers to entry for competition impossibly high.

Of course neither Democrats nor Republicans support or plan to do that.

The whole thing is a spiraling charlie fox of disingenuous cynical idiocy.

Personally, I say forget Obama, forget Cruz, and listen to Oliver (or if you don’t care for Oliver, or can’t watch a video, there The Oatmeal):

 

 

*Reactionary Populist Disingenuous Grandstanding Cynic… not the Republican party, just Cruz

Edited to add a few paragraphs clarifying what net neutrality was, and why it’s currently an issue

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Yes, Space Tourism Is Worth Dying For

SpaceShipTwo-In-Glide

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910.

In the wake of the tragic crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo  and the death of one of the pilots, there are questions being asked about commercial space flight. There are some who want to end the space tourism industry before it even gets off the ground. It’s “too risky” and “it’s a boondoggle for millionaires” they’re saying.

One of the articles that has already come out in the wake of this tragedy (remember, never let a crisis go to waste) is from Wired Magazine’s Adam Rogers. He says we should end this program because “it’s just the world’s most expensive roller coaster.”

SpaceShipTwo—at least, the version that has the Virgin Galactic livery painted on its tail—is not a Federation starship. It’s not a vehicle for the exploration of frontiers. This would be true even if Virgin Galactic did more than barely brush up against the bottom of space. Virgin Galactic is building the world’s most expensive roller coaster, the aerospace version of Beluga caviar. It’s a thing for rich people to do: pay $250,000 to not feel the weight of the world.

People get rich; they spend money. Sometimes it’s vulgar, but it’s the system we all seem to accept. When it costs the lives of the workers building that system, we should stop accepting it.

If we accepted that silly notion, the Panama Canal, which opened up the U.S. West Coast and indeed the entire Pacific to what eventually became a more globalized economy would’ve never been built. After all, countless tens of thousands died to build it. How about flight? While developing and advancing the concept of manned flight, countless pioneers and inventors gave their lives and hurt themselves severely. Remember, flying commercially was once a privilege of the wealthy until after World War II. Even NASA’s Apollo program suffered loss of life. If we had stopped when “workers building that system” die, we would never progress technologically or in exploration.

But Rogers really makes his true objection known and it’s only somewhat towards Virgin Galactic, it’s towards the history of exploration, space travel, and economics.

Governments and businesses have always positioned space travel as a glorious journey. But that is a misdirect. It is branding. The Apollo program was the most technologically sophisticated propaganda front of the Cold War, a battle among superpowers for scientific bragging rights. Don’t get mad—that truth doesn’t diminish the brilliance of the achievement. It doesn’t mean that the engineers weren’t geniuses or the astronauts weren’t brave or skilled. But it does make problematic, at least a little, the idea that those astronauts were explorers opening up a new frontier.

Historically, frontiers have always been dicey. What the average Western European thought of as a frontier in the 1600s was someone else’s land. And the reasons for going toward frontiers have always been complicated by economics. Was Columbus brave? Sure, probably. But he was also looking for a trade route. Were the conquistadores intrepid? Yeah. But they were looking for gold and land. Do human beings have a drive to push past horizons, over mountains, into the unknown? Manifestly. But we always balance that drive and desire with its potential outcomes. We go when there’s something there.

Yes, that’s generally how things work. People seek to pursue better economic opportunities and go get “something”, whatever that is. This is a good thing.

The best case example is the California Gold Rush. Gold was discovered in the California territory in 1849 and people came there from all over the world to come look for gold. Now most people who went there did not find gold and many went home with only as much or even less than what they started with. However, an entire state and even an entire half of the United States was built as a result of it. Steamships expanded service to the West Coast, merchants built businesses to support the prospectors, farmers all over the Pacific region found new markets for their food. An entire state was carved out of the desert, to support and grow that state and that region, the Transcontinental Railroad was built, which opened up the entire West for settlement and development. This was all because people sought gold in 1849.

What Rogers thinks is that governments and central planning are the best ways to explore space, and don’t kid yourself crony capitalist projects like Elon Musk’s Space X (which survives solely due to subsidies and cronyism) in that same category. However, central planning will not take humanity into the stars. Government-run manned space programs such as the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station have the following things in common: over budget, unfufilled expectations, and behind schedule. If NASA was in charge of discovering the New World, they probably would’ve never left port.

What space tourism has the potential to do is to build the infrastructure to go back to the Moon and to Mars and more importantly go there to stay and colonize it. Space tourism is a funding source for companies to develop launch vehicles and orbital vehicles, which can lower the costs of launching a cargo payload into space. Eventually, the plan is to build orbital hotels and space stations to enable space cruises and longer stays in space. All of this infrastructure can become dual-purpose to sustain a Lunar and eventually a Martian colony. Not to mention, the dream of measuring transcontinental air travel in minutes instead of hours.

We as a species need to keep looking outward and more importantly, we need to get the hell off of this rock as Chris Byrne says in his excellent piece he wrote after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. We don’t need to go to Mars and back to the Moon just to plant a flag and bring home some rocks, we need to go back to stay. We need to go further into the Solar System after that and eventually leave our Solar System and colonize the stars. We need to become an extraplanetary society.

For this reason alone, space tourism and indeed the dream of exploring space is worth dying for. All throughout human history, humans have been willing to risk everything for new ideas and to build a new world. Sometimes and in fact all too often, this risk has cost lives for what many saw as frivolous pursuits. Risk is what makes new discoveries rewarding and we as a society have become too risk adverse.

To explore a new frontier and to build a better future for all of humanity is certainly worth dying for and space tourism, which can lead to the opening of space to the masses, is certainly worth the risks.

 

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Oregon’s GMO Labeling Measure Is Cronyism For Big Organic

 

 

freeandequal

Recently, I was sent a post that Free and Equal, a pro-Liberty organization that many Student libertarians take part working with,  stating that Labeling is important, and the “Evil corporations” are pouring money into preventing GMO-Labeling. They felt the need to explain themselves by saying that, it’s okay to donate money, but where it comes from is the problem. That Big Organic is just trying to help people, and GMO’s areevil. So the GMO Shill King decided to take time to tear this apart and explain the issue with libertarians supporting woo-filled amendments, which are tied to special interests.
While, it is public knowledge that No on measure 92 has raised almost double the money the Yes side has, and yes Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta have been some of the key donors to the No side, and Big Organic has funneled majority of the Funds into the the Yes side. Saying one side is evil and doesn’t want you to know, is not the correct argument, so let’s examine the text of Measure 92.
The first three really can be covered together, since they are exceptionally misleading. Polls have not consistently showed anything they very between 40-70%, not very accurate and consistent if you ask me, and are these people actually informed on the measure themselves, or the Science behind Genetic Modification?  Two, well what evidence do they have of health reasons, economic does not exist since GE’d foods are exceptionally cheaper than there “Certified Organic” counter-part, and what culture in the world says they need Food labeling — If you ask me that is exceptionally hyperbolic? Number Three is even more so misleading, when you bring Codex Alimentarius into this, an organization that holds no bearing in court but hopes to set international trade standards to help efficient trading in the globalized world, it is important to realize that even the “Book of Food” has said GMO’s have no evidence to claim they pose any health concerns, and that is why it should be left up to the countries. Every major NGO or Institute of science in a given country has spoken fiercely against these countries that require arbitrary labeling or an outright ban on Genetic Engineering, these bans have been political to support popular opinion rather than based on fact.

 

So, numbers 4-7 are screaming blatant lies. The FDA actually requires some of the strictest testing in the world on genetically altered foods, they also require several outside sources that are independent or in academia to peer review not only the studies the government does, but as well as the ones the corporations use say their product is safe. Saying there have not been studies done is an outright lie, unless these 1700+ Studies simply do not count. These studies have been in an international catalog for a long while now. So why do we keep hearing that they have not been tested, and we are the “guinea pigs”? When people include “mixing plant and animal” genes in a measure on a ballot, the only reference point that have was the Flavr Savr Tomato in 1996, this tomato had an anti-freezing gene added to it from a fish, it was labeled as such openly by the company, and it failed taste tests by consumers, after approved for sale, but left an allergen warning for those allergic to fish on it, and was pulled from shelves in early 1997. Other than that one instance no one has added anything that cannot naturally occur in nature to our food supply.
Number 6 on this measure actually has no evidence to support it whatsoever, not a single government scientist that has undergone any peer review of his studies to support this claim, has ever been able to show even a theory to support this claim. This is because it simply is not the case and people touting this as reasoning; do not understand how genetic engineering works. Number 7 is another that is simply not true, hundreds of tests are done independently anytime a new product wants to come to market, it is not illegal to independently test a given product, actually it has been encouraged.
Number 9, This is not about Kosher and Halal meats and food products; this is really just another random claim that actually does not exist. These are part of a completely separate issue and tying them to a genetic engineering bill is quite silly. It is not like someone is going to eat a piece of corn that was slathered in pork fat without them knowing. Genetic engineering does not work like that.

 

10 and 11 are like half-truth “findings”. They take things largely out of context, and use them to support a biased end. As a pro-market libertarian, using government to create barriers of entry is a wholly dishonest thing in itself. When using untrue statements to make that end possible and scare tactics to make the public panic to gain support is a bothersome thing indeed. Codex Alimentarius standards, which were adopted to the WTO, are the labeling requirements for international trade.  How it works is actually quite simple. If a country requires more than COO labeling, such as GM and Pesticide labeling, they send a sample off for independent study to determine if the Label the company is using is accurate. Then not only is the label the company used sent, but the independent verification as well. So when you hear it is a “voluntary” thing, it really is, you can voluntarily label and trade with nations that require labeling or not, it is not forced. The reason Big Organic and Big Biotech did not oppose these new additions is simple, Big Organic knows that very few countries require labeling on natural pesticides, mutagenically altered foods, or hybridization techniques, so in other words are safe from labeling other than COO. While the rest of the companies who use RNA interfered or Transgenicially altered foods can: A. avoid trade, B. Label them and independently prove they meet the countries said Threshold, or C. trade with countries without arbitrary labeling requirements.  The economic value of these products are unchanged on an international scale, so these findings are inherently false.

 

Numbers 16 and 17, The environmental harm findings of this measure are another exceptionally misleading piece as well.  It talks about soy being genetically engineered and then immediately following throws this crazy number at you “527 million pounds of additional herbicide” applied to the nations farmland, but it does not distinguish between organic farming and conventional, furthering the misinformation that only genetically engineered or conventionally grown foods use Herbicide. Herbicide resistance crops also result in low-tillage or no tillage, which has been noted to be actually more sustainable, and helps farmers from turning to the more environmentally dangerous herbicides. What Herbicide resistance actually does is it causes the plant to degrade the herbicide used and render it harmless. These two types are RoundupReady(Glyphosphate) and LibertyLink(Glufosinate), The transgenic alterations to these crops allows for farmers to choose when they need to spray, and gives the ability to control weeds through the whole season, and they have virtually no herbicide present in the take, which is an amazing feat of science.  Another misrepresentation of the problem is in regards to drinking water,  several studies have shown that what Glyphosphate and Glufosinate have replaced have actually helped resolve the issues of drinking water, since the lethal concentration of both is so incredibly high, compared to pyrethrins/rotenone(Used in Organic Farming) and Atrazine(what was used before Herbicide resistance crops), what little that doesn’t get absorbed into the soil and degraded into something harmless, what is present in the drinking water is virtually non-existent after undergoing water treatment. The argument could have been made that use near waterways, and damage possible to aquatic life from the run off could have been made, but restrictions are in place on levels that can be used near waterways on conventional farming, but not on organic.

It is hard to disagree with environmental issues, but by saying it is only half of the equation is the problem, and the other half is okay, is being intellectually dishonest.  When I see organizations that support freedom, transparency, and equality under the law, and only address half the spectrum to gain supporters, and disenfranchise the rest of a movement that has fought long and hard for real science and real transparency in government, only to be co-opted and used to support their brand of cronyism it is disheartening to say the least.

 

Section 3 is where the Cronyism begins, instead of the hyperbole and scare tactics used in the findings; this is why so much money has been poured into Measure 92. If you read this part of the measure you see that Big Organic exempts themselves from the regulations they want to place. We see this happen all the time, in politics yet here it is okay, but not in other areas? So how are they exempting themselves, well they do it subtly,  “Raw Food” was an issue in 2011, when Big Organic fought to science to sell almonds with cyanide in them, lethal doses of cyanide mind you.  The argument was when you were selling “Raw Almonds” pre-2011 you were actually selling almonds that have undergone RNA interference, this process actually suppressed the almonds production of cyanide, which made it safe for you to eat after a process of blanching or steaming the almond, to remove any extra bacteria(generally salmonella). When Big Organic won, they agreed to use PPO(propylene oxide) to coat and fumigate, which neutralize the cyanide. Since PPO is something that can be considered “Organic” since essentially ALL things are organic — remember back too high school chemistry. This allowed them to sell raw almonds, coated with poison, to consumers, and since this is organic it is not subject to any of the safety regulations for labeling or health concerns, or really anything.

I proposed this too my friends and followers on Facebook “Which would you prefer a Raw Organic Almond, which underwent Fumigation and is coated with an Herbicide known as PPO, to neutralize the Cyanide in Raw Almonds or a Genetically Modified Almond, which underwent RNA Interference to suppress the Cyanide, and does not need to undergo fumigation, but is steamed or blanched.” The answer was pretty straightforward “Organic obviously, because they care about people, and not profit, GMO’s are bad” with the few responses of my fellow science lovers “is this a serious question, The GMO obviously.” This showed me that a lot of misinformation is out there, people who do not understand how science works, they learn from sources like Food Babe, who have absolutely no credibility in the science community and are paid to spread scare tactics. Measure 92 is literally a proponent of the same thing.

Where the real concern is though, is 4.b.
(b) Methods of fusing cells beyond the taxonomic family that overcame natural physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers, and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection such as conjugation, transduction, and hybridization.

For purposes of this definition: “In vitro nucleic acid techniques” include, but are not limited to, recombinant DNA or RNA techniques that use vector systems; techniques involving the direct introduction into the organisms of hereditary materials prepared outside the organisms such as biolistics, microinjection, macro-injection, chemoporation, electroporation, microencapsulation, and liposome fusion.

This is Big Organic’s lovely exemption. This is the whole motive behind this ballot measure. It only targets half of the GMO’s and not the ones that are considered Organic. This is targeting Biotech companies, like the IRS targetednconservative and liberty groups, and it unacceptable.  While even Pure-Organic(no pesticides natural or synthetic, or CMS alterations) activists are against Big Organic on the issue.  When you read for the purpose of this definition, it misses literally ¾ of the geneticially modified foods.  When you have it so precisely defined, and leave out CMS altered seeds, which fall under “hybridization” Since they are cisgenically altered, and are considered cell cusion. The difference between Cisgenic and Transgenic is simple; Cisgenic means of the same species, Transgenic covers different biological families. Internationally hybridization is considered Genetic Engineering, and must follow the same guidelines for labeling. So why intentially leave it out on Measure 92, the motive is clear, it gives Big Organic an unfair advantage in the market, and allows for them to continue to spread lies about pesticides and GMO’s, when they themselves genetically modify in labs, just like the companies they are wanting to force to Label.
The definition is purposefully missing Mutagenisis(Process of using Radiation to force mutations in cell structure) which has zero guidelines or regulation in the United States, and no safety procedures before going to market, Cisgenics,  cell fusion hybridization, and several others. Which have no regulations, or testing before going to market, which this Measure blames on Biotech such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, and Dow Chemical, when in reality, the proponents of Measure 92 are the ones who are the culprits of these problems.
I have heard the argument of the “Right to Know” side, which there is a valid argument for. I absolutely think people should be able to know what is in their food. This measure does not do that, what it does is Unfair and Bias targeting of certain industries while exempting others from safety and health regulations. It continues the bias that “Evil Corporations” are poisoning you, but these billion corporations “are looking out for the people”. If we were to label, it would have to include all sides, and include pesticide toxicity and thresholds. While I would prefer private companies do this, If that is not an option then we must limit the cronyism attached to it, by not strictly attaching it to Biotechnology, but Big Ag as a whole.  Simply because the misinformation leading to ill-informed voting on a measure that does not protect them, or change anything, but aims to add more costs to the opposition, while leaving loopholes for the proponents is bad for the market, bad for America, and bad for consumers. The reason Big Organic exempts themselves from GMO labeling everytime legislation is proposed, is because well, if you read “Certified Organic” and “This product has undergone the process of Mutagenisis where it was put in radioactive enviroments to force mutations.” You would question what you were buying.

What measure 92 is doing is furthering the hyperbole, and destroying the market. There are plenty of reasons to not like Monsanto, or any other Big Ag group, this is not one of them, the motivation behind them funding “No on Measure 92” is them fighting an unfair market regulation, and hyperbole, any business would fight lies and giving another company and unfair advantage. If we want to attack the “Evil Corporations” let’s go to congress and fight agriculture subsidies,  and crony politics used to get them, on both sides of this measure.

When “Free and Equal” says “Big Money is not just an amount, but who is behind it.” When challenged about Big Organic pouring money into this measure as well.  The response is appalling, it essentially says “Big money is fine as long as it is the Cronies I support, not the ones you support” then add “For their own pocket and not the people” is very intellectually dishonest if you read the actual ballot measure. At least Free and Equal disclosed that they are sponsored by a proponent of Measure 92, but still if they support real freedom and equality under the law, they would still be actively against measure 92, since it goes against everything an organization that pushes government transparency and equality under the Law. I have been in this movement for over a decade, and am scared when I see it coopted by people who think “Big money is bad, crony capitalism is bad, but unless it looks like it is for people then it is good”  Which is essentially what Free and Equal said here.
They are exactly right though, it is important to examine the motive behind Big Money, because Measure 92, the money behind it, is very much against the consumer, against the market, and against half the industry. This measure is something conservatives, libertarians, and progressives can come together on the one thing we all agree on, crony capitalism is what is wrong with this Country, and we need to fight to end that. This measure shows exactly the problem with fear-mongering and scare tactics can do, and how easy it is to push something like this onto people with clear motives to target a certain group and create new barriers of entry and extra cost to the consumer.

If you believe in labeling or not, you should vote NO on Measure 92, because it isn’t a labeling bill, it is a targeted bill, and exempts Big Organic, if you want labeling lets work together and create a real labeling bill that is fair to the whole market—That’s only if you think it is a right to know what is in your food.

James Comey vs. your privacy

Today’s smartphones contain more data about your life than any other device in human history. It could be argued that they even contain more usable information about your whereabouts and activities than your own brain. Naturally, post-Edward Snowden, protecting that information is a priority for a lot of people.

James Comey wants access to all of that information and he’s willing to let bad guys get at it too:

“Encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place.”

“Encryption isn’t just a technical feature; it’s a marketing pitch … it’s the equivalent of a closet that can’t be opened. A safe that can’t be cracked. And my question is, at what cost?” Comey said. “Both companies [Apple and Google] are run by good people, responding to what they perceive is a market demand. But the place they are leading us is one we shouldn’t go to without careful thought and debate.”

[…]

“With Going Dark, those of us in law enforcement and public safety have a major fear of missing out—missing out on predators who exploit the most vulnerable among us … kids call this FOMO,” he said.

Comey kept referring to the “debate” and “national conversation” that needs to be had regarding widespread encryption. That conversation, in Comey’s mind, should stop and start with the idea that there must be a “front door” means for the FBI, NSA, and other law enforcement agencies to blast through encryption. In other words, companies should be “developing [law enforcement] intercept solutions during the design phase,” a proposition that, beyond making encryption useless, is potentially not even technically feasible.

“Congress might have to force this on companies,” he said. “Maybe they’ll take the hint and do it themselves.”

Read the whole thing.

#GamerGate: The Microcosm of the Culture Wars

As a games writer by trade, it’s been funny watching mainstream news sites pick up the story known simply as “GamerGate”. Everyone from Reason to The New York Times has picked up on the story, with some doing a better job of reporting a two month old story than others. Naturally, the articles have a slant of their own for the most part that goes along that site’s political lines, and the signal-to-noise ratio at this point has gotten so poor that it’s hard to even remember what caused all of this in the first place.

When looking at GamerGate, it’s important to remember a couple of points:

1) Ultimately, it’s really not about video games, it’s about culture. GamerGate is a microcosm of the culture wars.
2) Everyone is missing key free-market solutions to all of the issues brought up.

I will preface, in the interests of full disclosure, a few things about myself in this that people will want to bear in mind as they read everything below the cut. First, I have been, on my video game Twitter feed (@gamingbus), 100% anti GamerGate. Also, as previously mentioned, I spent a while writing about video games, centred around the industry itself, for a living, a perspective I believe few other political sites have, so a lot of the smoke regarding issues with women – particularly opinionated ones on both sides of this issue – has a fire that I’ve personally witnessed. With that in mind, I will do my utmost to keep this one down the middle. » Read more

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere.

First thing… THIS is how you do a kickstarter.

This is the kind of thing that kickstarter can be great at, and do great things with; being done by people who understand their medium and their audience, and who design their campaign properly around it.

If this doesn’t become one of the most overfunded kickstarters in history, I would be amazed.

I’ve been watching it for about 2 hours, and it’s gone from $100k to over $500k in that time.

… And this is something I’m backing… even as little as I can afford right now. It’s a good idea, and it’s something I’d like to see done. I can’t do much, but I pledged… It’s the price of a cup of coffee or a little more than a gallon of gas. You should too if you can.

Anything we can do to increase the net level of education, intelligence, and reading in this country… on this planet… we should be doing. If it’s a smart, well designed, well implemented way of doing so, even better.

Long term, I’d like to see what their fee schedule and sustainability model is, are they organizing long term as for profit, not for profit etc… but let’s get this off the ground at the very least.

Now… for my more skeptical, and more conservative friends and readers… yes, liberals, education blah blah blah.

THIS IS A GOOD THING – IGNORE THE POLITICS

This is an essentially libertarian thing, using the power of private enterprise and initiative, and the power of market preference, to fund education.

WE WANT MORE OF THIS. LOTS MORE OF THIS.

There is one specific issue that I personally have a problem with… but I can get over it, because I understand the issue, and why it’s presented as it is.

So for my fellow skeptics, and numbers geeks…

Ignore the claim that 25% of children don’t learn to read in this country…

That is not an outright lie… it’s also not the absolute truth. It’s a matter of how we define literacy, and to what degree we count someone literate based on that definition.

That’s a concept that takes more than 30 seconds, and more than one paragraph to explain… so it gets simplified here as “1 in 4 children don’t learn to read”.

It a political number, not a real number. A classic example of using definitions to make things scarier, to emphasize the problem.

Don’t let that stop you from the core message here, or from supporting what looks to be an excellent idea.

Oh and, be sure to watch the video to the very end… priceless…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Liberty Rock: “Spike in My Veins” by Korn

This is a great, important, video. I hope you will enjoy this. I have some additional thoughts about this video and this subject posted here.

We are the ones taking all the pain
Falling on our faces
They don’t care anyway
Anyway, now
You’re the one that makes me feel like I’m alive
You’re the one that pushes me all the time
All the time, now

We are hard and grey
Always fate, to do what they say
Calling me deranged
Feeling power, I must take its place some way

Never gonna run away
Seeking out the path
But the pain always gets in the way
Slowly watch me die
I’m insane, so dangerous
Don’t you dare get in my way
Throwing in the towel
Got me strained, so betrayed
Get the fuck out of my way
Looking at my thoughts, I take my time
Pounding all these spikes in my veins

We are the ones reaching out in vain
Trying to solve our problems
They won’t go away, go away now
You’re the one that makes me feel like I’m alive
You’re the one that pushes me all the time
All the time, now

We are hard and grey
Always fate to do what they say
Calling me deranged
Feeling power, I must take its place some way

Never gonna run away
Seeking out my path
But the pain always gets in the way
Slowly watch me die
I’m insane, so dangerous
Don’t you dare get in my way
Throwing in the towel
Got me strained, so betrayed
Get the fuck out of my way
Looking at my thoughts, I take my time
Pounding all these spikes in my veins

Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Pounding all these spikes in my veins

Never gonna run away
Seeking out my path
But the pain always gets in the way
Slowly watch me die
I’m insane, so dangerous
Don’t you dare get in my way
Throwing in the towel
Got me strained, so betrayed
Get the fuck out of my way
Looking at my thoughts, I take my time
Pounding all these spikes in my veins

Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Pounding all these spikes in my veins
Looking at my thoughts, I take my time
Pounding all these spikes in my veins

The problem with mobile Amber Alerts

As you might have heard, many Californians were awakened by their phones last week for a late-night Amber Alert:

Russ went to bed early, setting “do not disturb” mode on his iPhone so no one could wake him up. His phone did wake him up, though, screeching and lighting up with an Amber Alert message about abducted children in a different part of the state. He asked Consumerist: how can he make these unwanted text messages stop?

What Russ got wasn’t a text message. It was part of the Wireless Emergency Alert System, or WEA. That’s a Federal Communications Commission program that zaps alerts about man-made or natural disasters, urgent messages from the President, and Amber Alerts directly to your phone.

Russ’ case was typical. That’s the problem. Amber alerts do not represent life-and-limb emergencies for 99.999% of those who receive them. Yet, thanks to the requirement of all WEA messages to be accompanied by the distinctive Emergency Broadcast System tone, they are treated as such.

Predictably, the noise and disruption caused by this late-night alert sent a lot of folks (myself included) scurrying to turn it off. California officials warn against this:

[T]he tones that come along with [Amber Alerts] are disruptive and annoying.

They’re supposed to be – to wake you up and make you pay attention and law enforcement officers statewide are urging cell users to stay in this potentially life-saving loop.

“That individual who may have deactivated may have provided that info on an individual that we’re looking for. Put yourself in those cases as well and put it into perspective,” Quintero said.

Speaker of the Assembly John Perez is so concerned about possible mass alert deactivations that he’s calling for a legislative hearing on the matter.

He also plans to arrange funding for a campaign of public service announcements emphasizing the importance of the alert system.

The public service announcements will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem. They might get a few people to turn the alerts back on, but those same folks will end up turning them off again with the next Amber Alert. Personally, I’m not going to budge. As a musician and a software professional, I need to have absolute trust in the Vibrate Only and Do Not Disturb settings on my smartphone. The Amber Alert I received caused my phone to emit a noise on maximum volume despite my setting it to Vibrate Only.

After this happened, I carefully examined the Emergency Alert settings on my device and found that there is no way to leave these on without the sound. That lack of choice is unfortunate. I would have been perfectly happy receiving Amber Alerts that displayed like other push notifications. I know at least a dozen other people who feel the same way. Judging by the news, there are probably hundreds of thousands more in the state. Each and every one of us will never get another Amber Alert on our phone because our only choices were to tolerate the noisy disruptions or opt out entirely. Guess we’ll just have to get our Amber Alerts from those signs on the highways.

Your Secrets Are Not Safe with the Government

During a recent show, Chris Hayes, host of All In with Chris Hayes, made some very important points worthy of sharing here about government secrecy and the government’s inability to keep secrets:

As of the end of 2011, there were 1.4 million people with top secret security clearance […] just one of the 1.4 million people is on trial for leaking a heck of a lot of secrets. Bradley Manning is the 25-year-old soldier accused of turning over files to Wikileaks including reports from Afghanistan and air strikes to killed civilians. His trial got under way and he faces prison. He is viewed as a hero and others see him as a villain and a traitor. What he is is proof that the government cannot keep secrets. If 1.4 million people had access, that access is not a secret in any real way.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to get into whether Bradley Manning is a patriot or a traitor but Chris Hayes’ main point about the ability of the government to keep secrets safe, especially among 1.4 million individuals. These secrets that Manning leaked were secrets which painted the U.S. government in a very negative light (to put it mildly) and therefore, had a great deal of incentives to keep these secrets from ever seeing the light of day (this seems to throw quite a bit of cold water on many of the Alex Jones conspiracy theories, at least in my mind). If these secrets could not be kept safe from public view, can anyone really make the case that the government would be better able or have greater incentive to keep secrets collected on American citizens?

This brings me to Hayes’ second point about the SCOTUS ruling regarding the keeping of DNA records in databases, even of suspected felons who were later found not guilty:

The court decided that information can be taken without your consent and kept in a database. All the precautions taken with the database, the state is not allowed to search it for fun or interesting facts about people. It can only be used to identify suspects. No matter how responsible the state promises to be with it, it is a government database subject to the statement forces that our top clearance systems. That system that they are trying to keep hackers out which is to say it is a system that cannot keep secrets.

As we now know, the IRS found all kinds of “fun or interesting facts” and used them against certain individuals and groups. What other creative uses will this government come up with to use the alarming volume of information collected of and against the people? Even if we are to believe that most of the people who have access to confidential information will not misuse it (I have no such confidence this is true), all it takes is one rogue individual. For those who may be reading this who have adopted the authoritarian “If you have nothing to hide” mindset, I would suggest reconsidering that premise and resist the growing surveillance state.

Libertarianism And Privacy In The Data Age

The world is changing. It’s happening rapidly. And it’s freaking people out.

Libertarians are concerned that constant surveillance, like that which helped identify the Boston bombers, is an infringement on our privacy. This can be true whether the cameras are public or private, as it’s not hard to justify a subpoena for a company’s tape after a terrorist attack. Couple this with facial recognition software, and eventually tracking people in a public place will be a matter of computing power, not of investigative work. Automotive “black boxes” and licence plate readers (on regular streets and toll roads) offer tremendous opportunities for vehicle tracking, notwithstanding my colleague Doug Mataconis’ concerns about the data we’ll be giving up if we move to driverless cars. It cuts both ways, too, as the government is quickly forced to deal with the oversight of 300 million people with video cameras in their pocket at all times.

And none of this even begins to scratch the surface of the personal tracking device nearly all of us carry — the smartphone. Even when we’re not deliberately “checking in” to a place on Google+ or Facebook, we’re in contact with cell towers, WiFi access points, while our phone can track our location down to a few meters via GPS.

The premise for a dystopian novel writes itself, my friends, and we’re all lining up like lemmings at the edge of the cliff. The question amongst many paranoid libertarians is simple: how do we roll it back?

As a technology fellow myself with a basic understanding of economics, I’m sorry to report that the question is obsolete.

Technology marches forward with little concern for how we want to use it. Data storage capacity (my field) continues to explode, although barely keeping up with the amount of data people want to store. Computing power is still tracking Moore’s law, and now even low-end, low power [and low-cost] processors abound in devices that would have been analog a decade ago (or didn’t exist). And as efficiency, size, and battery technology improves, these technologies become ever-more portable and thus ever-more prevalent.

You’re not sticking this genie back in the bottle. It simply won’t happen. And you know what? I’m here to tell you that perhaps that’s not a bad thing!

I want us to be able to catch the bad guys. There’s the old adage that “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”, and to an extent that’ actually true. If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime. If someone commits a public bombing, or robs a bank, or kills/maims/rapes someone, I think actually having the tools to track down and catch that person is actually a good thing. It’s not catching criminals that’s the problem here…

…it’s that too many things are crimes.

You see, libertarians can’t roll back the clock on the surveillance/data age. That’s driven by society. But we *can* try to influence something far more important — the scope of what that data is relevant to.

Undoubtedly, we all do things today that are illegal. Usually multiple times before we’ve made it into the office. For some people, those things are as innocuous as not buckling your seat belt, jaywalking, or speeding. However, often those activities are certain things that are much more strongly disfavored by government despite being victimless activities — smoking a little pot, or paying for sex, or playing a little unlicensed poker with friends (or strangers). These are events that normally the government is not aware of, but even if your a target of or an innocent accessory to another investigation, the government can make your life hell if they catch you doing. And with this much data flying around, they can pretty well prove just about anything regarding what you’re doing if they try hard enough. All you need to do is to piss off the wrong petty bureaucrat, and they can work to destroy your life.

The goal is, and always should be, making it harder for the government to harass citizens over victimless crimes. And this can be done whether we have a surveillance state to catch the real criminals or not. The only difference is that when you don’t have a powerful surveillance apparatus (public OR private), fighting for libertarianism doesn’t matter all that much. When you DO have a powerful surveillance apparatus, fighting for libertarianism is absolutely critical.

We live in the surveillance/tracking/data age. That’s not going to change. And the very technologies which enable all the surveillance, tracking, and data collection are the same technologies that are being used daily to make our lives richer, easier, and more convenient. That’s a significant benefit to use personally and to society. It’s up to us to make sure that the unnecessary costs to our freedoms are as minimal as possible.

Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality?

In light of the recent white paper release by the DOJ concerning the Obama administration’s drone policy, I thought it would be apropos to repost a post I wrote back in November 2011 entitled: Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality? I think it’s very telling how little interest there was by the MSM in reporting the drone policy until the Chosen One was safely reelected. The “anti-war” Left was also fairly quiet for the most part (Glenn Greenwald and a few others excepted).

Are you or someone you know a victim of what Glenn Greenwald calls “the drone mentality”?

[Emphasis original]

I was predictably deluged with responses justifying Obama’s drone attacks on the ground that they are necessary to kill The Terrorists. Reading the responses, I could clearly discern the mentality driving them: I have never heard of 99% of the people my government kills with drones, nor have I ever seen any evidence about them, but I am sure they are Terrorists. That is the drone mentality in both senses of the word; it’s that combination of pure ignorance and blind faith in government authorities that you will inevitably hear from anyone defending President Obama’s militarism.

If you are or have been a victim of this mentality don’t feel bad. I was once a victim of this mentality myself. I once believed that the government was completely incompetent domestically but somehow very efficient in its execution of the so-called war on terror.

The article continues [Emphasis original]

As it turns out, it isn’t only the President’s drone-cheering supporters who have no idea who is being killed by the program they support; neither does the CIA itself. […] Obama’s broad standards for when drone strikes are permitted, and noted that the “bulk” of the drone attacks — the bulk of them – “target groups of men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” As Spencer Ackerman put it: “The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups”; moreover, the administration refuses to describe what it even means by being “associated” with a Terrorist group (indeed, it steadfastly refuses to tell citizens anything about the legal principles governing its covert drone wars).

Kill ‘em all, let [insert deity here] sort ‘em out…is this the policy for combating terrorism now? Is anyone else reading this disturbed by this?

[T]he internal dissent [inside the U.S. government] is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region (there’s that primitive, inscrutable Muslim culture rearing its head again: they strangely seem to get very angry when foreign governments send sky robots over their countries and blow up their neighbors, teenagers and children)[…] Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life.

Nah, that can’t be it. They hate us because of our freedom. Just ask John Bolton, Rick Santorum, and the rest of the Neocons who are chomping at the bit to start a war with Iran.

How is it that this drone mentality persists and what is the cure?

This is why it’s so imperative to do everything possible to shine a light on the victims of President Obama’s aggression in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere: ignoring the victims, rendering them invisible, is a crucial prerequisite to sustaining propaganda and maintaining support for this militarism (that’s the same reason John Brennan lied — yet again — by assuring Americans that there are no innocent victims of drone attacks). Many people want to hear nothing about these victims — like Tariq — because they don’t want to accept that the leader for whom they cheer and the drone attacks they support are regularly ending the lives of large numbers of innocent people, including children. They believe the fairy tale that the U.S. is only killing Terrorists and “militants” because they want to believe it…

For far too long, I believed this fairy tale myself. I couldn’t handle the truth but I eventually saw the error of my thinking. Government is just as blunt an instrument on foreign battlefields as it is in virtually every domestic aspect of our lives but even more destructive and deadly.

How about you, can you handle the truth?

The truth (according to sources cited in the article) that between 2,359 and 2,959 people (nearly 200 of whom were children) have been killed in 306 documented drone strikes, 85% of which were launched during the administration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama?

If you are willing to confront the drone mentality head on, I would strongly encourage you to read the rest of Greenwald’s article.

“That’s a Violation of My Privacy!”


In Little Canada, MN the police are trying to argue that Andrew Henderson violated HIPPA (federal healthcare privacy law) when he recorded a police interaction with a third party which required an ambulance. His camera was confiscated, the file was deleted (according to Henderson), and is being charged with “disorderly conduct” and “obstruction of the legal process.” How filming the police from 30 feet away qualifies for either charge is beyond me.

Hat Tips: The Agitator (for the comic strip) and The Drudge Report (for the Little Canda story).

A Question of Labor Scarcity

Cory Doctorow started the New Year with a very interesting piece on the “roboticization of the workforce”. The whole article is worth a read, but it brings up a disturbing question:

But here’s the thing that neither of these articles — or even Bruce’s acid observations — touches on: once technology creates abundance, what possibilities exist for distributing the fruits of that abundance such that the benefits are more evenly felt?

There are plenty of people who will suggest that collectivist economics and centralized redistribution are the answer. Given the last century of history, that’s not an option I like. Take a look at Doctorow’s nightmare scenario:

We’ve been talking about an increase in productivity producing an increase in leisure for a long time, but instead, the “winner take all” world of Brynjolfsson and McAfee often seems to produce a “winner” class that works itself into an early grave by running 100-hour work weeks at astounding payscales, and a much larger “loser” class that works itself into an early grave by working 100-hour weeks in shitty, marginal, grey-economy jobs, trying to stitch together something like an income.

This is bad. However, the nightmare scenario that evolves under socialism is invariably worse. Instead of a winner class created by skilled, high-value work, a winner class develops from people who successfully gain control of the redistribution machine. Giving power to those who covet it is rarely a good idea, but usually unavoidable. The United States was built with a system of government shaped by this insight. By and large, its citizens have profited from keeping checks and balances on power seekers, even as the power seekers have eroded them.

A class of power seekers in control of an economic redistribution machine that replaces labor markets would not be subject to checks and balances. By controlling what people have, they would have absolute, unchecked power. Worse, power seekers tend to be the least sensitive to the wants and needs of the people they control. Even worse, most power seekers see others as resources to be exploited for their benefit.

Terrifying, isn’t it? Surely, we can avoid this by making sure the right people are in charge. Nope, sorry. Eventually, those who want power will take over the redistribution machine. It’s a certainty. Those who seek power will overcome the will of the rest to keep them out. It’s the consistent thread in human history.

The real problem is that we’re approaching a point where the labor market as it’s structured will collide with the efficiency gains caused by technology. If most labor is not scarce enough to allow workers to earn enough to support themselves and their families, how does society respond? How do supporters of economic liberty respond? What new mechanisms can be devised that allow ordinary people to continue to participate freely in the markets for goods and services without the wealth earned from the labor market?

This is stuff supporters of economic liberty need to start thinking about now. Our opponents have a ready answer that people will be drawn to despite its historic failures. Without an alternative from us, tyranny of the default will result in actual tyranny.

Innocence of Jackbooted Thugs

Today may be Constitution Day but given the repeated assaults on this document and those who take their liberties seriously, today doesn’t seem like much of an occasion to be celebrating. Over at The New York Post, Andrea Peyser refers to the treatment of the no longer obscure film maker Nakoula Basseley by the very government that is supposed to protect his individual rights as “appeasing thugs by trampling rights.”

In an episode as shameful as it is un-American, obscure LA filmmaker Nakoula Basseley. Nakoula was picked up by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies acting like jackbooted thugs.

Nakoula was paraded in front of a hostile media, his face hidden behind a scarf reminiscent of Claude Rains in “The Invisible Man,’’ and delivered into the hands of federal authorities for interrogation. Ostensibly, officials wanted to know if a cruddy, little film Nakoula created on a tiny budget violated terms of his probation for financial crimes — because he was forbidden to use the Internet.

Okay, so maybe the film maker violated his probation but I can’t help but think that if he wasn’t on probation, the government wouldn’t find some other law he would have violated. It’s not too difficult to trump up charges against any person living in this “free” country as there are over 27,000 pages of federal code and more than 4,500 possible crimes…surely he would be guilty of committing at least one!

As despicable as the actions on the part of the government are though, what I have a difficulty with is the cheerleaders in the media supporting the government’s actions rather than standing up for Nakoula Basseley’s First Amendment rights or at least questioning the authorities as to whether this was really about his probation violation.

Nakoula Basseley isn’t the only target of the government in this case, however. Peyser continues:

The government also went after YouTube, asking the Google-owned company whether “Innocence’’ violated its terms of usage. To its credit, YouTube refused to take down the film’s trailer in the West, although it yanked the offensive video from several Arab countries.

[…]

“Innocence of Muslims’’ tests an American value that liberals and conservatives alike claim they revere: the First Amendment guarantee to freedom of speech, no matter how rude and obnoxious. If you don’t like a work of art — as I despise the famous photo of a crucifix dunked in urine — you have every right to complain. You don’t have the right to burn the infidels who put it there.

Yet under the administration of President Obama, the United States has gone down a dangerous path by appeasing the horde.

“Appeasing the horde” may be part of the Obama administration’s motivation for going after this YouTube video but I think it has as much to do with deflecting responsibility from his disastrous Middle East foreign policy* in an election year. Whatever the administration’s motives, these heavy handed tactics ought to be challenged and exposed by anyone who cares anything about free speech/expression. Kudos to Andrea Peyser for writing an article in such a high-porfile newspaper as The New York Post to expose this assault on this 225th anniversary of the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention. Sadly, she shouldn’t be too surprised if the jackbooted thugs knock on her door next.

» Read more

Shenanigans Afoot at Wikipedia Concerning Obama’s New Campaign Slogan: Forward

How much can we or should we rely on Wikipedia, particularly concerning controversial issues? I have linked the site in the past from Liberty Papers’ posts and probably will in the future but I do think anything you or I find at Wikipedia should be verified by at least one other source before assuming it true. It was almost a year ago that Sarah Palin supporters tried to scrub the page concerning Paul Revere and his ride to cover up and support her mistaken history of the event.

Now it seems that Obama supporters are doing something similar as it relates to his one word 2012 campaign slogan: Forward.

Just yesterday, Neal Boortz referenced the Wikipedia article for the word “forward” as it related to politics but by the time he was off the air, the page had been significantly altered. Boortz explains:

So yesterday I gave you a laundry list of different political philosophers, publications and propaganda that all used the phrase “forward” to embody and promote their socialist or communist causes. Considering the historical use of the word “forward,” it is no surprise that our Marxist in Chief would select this phrase as his new campaign slogan. But one of the many examples I referenced was a Wikipedia entry under “Forward” that Cristina found entitled “Forward (generic name of socialist publications).” Yesterday morning if you went to this link you found a long history of socialist and communist publications published in many languages, principally German, Russian and French, using that name as their title.

[…]

By yesterday afternoon Obama sycophants and myrmidons were busy. They were demanding that Wikipedia remove that reference to the word “forward” being a generic name of socialist publications. Toward the middle of the afternoon if you clicked on that link it would say “This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy.” By the end of the day, if you searched the word “Forward” in Wikipedia, the link to that entry had been removed from the website.

Boortz’s blog Nealz Nuze cached the original Wikipedia search and is included in his post.

The as of the publication of this post, the Wikipedia page Forward (Obama-Biden campaign slogan) says: “On April 30th, 2012 the Obama–Biden campaign announced the slogan “Forward”.” If you go back to the main page and look under “Politics,” there are 4 links in addition to the Obama campaign link of political groups, all Marxist in nature, all of which use “forward” as a slogan.

This could be a coincidence, but that is beside the point. My question is what is it about this page that certain Wiki editors who want to delete the page find objectionable? Was the original article not factual or do they not like that other Wiki editors pointed this out?*
» Read more

Frontline Investigates the State of Forensic Science in “The Real CSI”

Is the forensic science used in the courtroom reliable? The PBS documentary series Frontline makes an attempt at answering this question in an episode entitled: “The Real CSI.”

I cannot recommend this episode enough.

Watch The Real CSI on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Also, the producers of this episode hosted a live chat for viewers to ask some follow-up questions (I’m sorry I missed it). Here is the archive from the chat.

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SCOTUS: Police Placing GPS Tracking Device on a Vehicle Without Warrant Violates the Fourth Amendment [or Does it?]

How about some good news on the civil liberties front to kick off the week for a change? Robert Barnes writing for The Washington Post reports that SCOTUS ruled 9-0 in United States v. Jones stating that the police placing a GPS tracking device on a person’s vehicle and tracking said vehicle over days, weeks, or months without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police must obtain a search warrant before using a GPS device to track criminal suspects. But the justices left for another day larger questions about how technology has altered a person’s expectation of privacy.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the government needed a valid warrant before attaching a GPS device to the Jeep used by D.C. drug kingpin Antoine Jones, who was convicted in part because police tracked his movements on public roads for 28 days.

“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search’ ” under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, Scalia wrote.

[…]

Alito’s point was that it was the lengthy GPS surveillance of Jones itself that violated the Fourth Amendment and that “the use of longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy.”

“For such offenses,” he wrote, “society’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not — and indeed, in the main, simply could not — secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period.”

The only disagreement among the Justices was whether or not the decision went far enough to protect individuals in a 21st century world based on a 18th century law (i.e. the Fourth Amendment).

Hey, even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in awhile and in even rarer cases, 9 Supreme Court Justices.

***Correction/Further Analysis***
If you followed the link to The Washington Post article, you might notice that the parts I quoted don’t match up exactly. This is because the article has since been edited with a more complete explanation of what United States v. Jones really means. It appears that I put entirely too much trust into what was being reported in the media here and elsewhere (and I still haven’t gotten around to reading the opinion for myself).

Doug Mataconis (who is a lawyer; I am not) was the first to point out that the coverage of this ruling isn’t quite as good from a civil liberties perspective as the media would have us believe:

I think all you can really say is that, under circumstances of this case, the Court found that the use of the tracking device without a warrant was impermissible. As the majority opinion notes, however, the Government attempted to raise in their arguments to the Supreme Court the theory that the search was supported by reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to believe that Jones was the leader of a drug gang. Under such a theory, the use of the tracking device would have theoretically been justified even without a warrant.

You can read a more detailed analysis from Doug here Outside the Beltway.

Doug also pointed me to this article by Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy post entitled “What Jones Does Not Hold”

It seems that I wasn’t the only one mislead about the true impact of this ruling. Even Radley Balko at The Agitator had to make some corrections to his post regarding this case and made reference to the same post by Kerr as well as an even more discouraging analysis from Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog.

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