We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

We are the Headlines!

From this little article lifted in its entireity from today’s JPMorgan Chase Tech Industry Daily, it would appear that the corporate world is starting to take notice.

Will bloggers compete with journalists?

In January alone, at least 41,000 people created new Web logs using Blogger, Wired News reported yesterday. A Web log, or “blog” for short, is a tool for self-publishing on the Web, and often features links to Web sites that the writer finds interesting. It’s like a one-person discussion group. Web logs have now crossed a tipping point, leaping from a “self-contained community” to a group “large enough that there’s many different Web logs,” according to Evan Williams, who runs Blogger, one of the most popular services for creating a blog. Some have put the total number of Web logs at more than 500,000.

Blogging boosters have proclaimed Web logging a new form of people’s journalism. Now comes the backlash. John Dvorak of PC Magazine said that while a few blogs were insightful, many new webloggers were getting into blogging for all the wrong reasons. They are “wannabe writers” who are looking for “ego gratification,” Dvorak wrote.

[Tech Daily] Editor’s comment: Starting a blog is just like creating your own Web homepage for those who don’t know how to create one. Blogging software is a PC-based “client” that enables the writer to use a browser to post a blog to a server. That server can be inside or outside a firewall. To start a blog you first go to Blogger or one of the other blogging-service sites and download a small piece of software. You’re given a URL of your own, and you can then start publishing your thoughts right to that URL. Will bloggers replace journalists? Bloggers are to journalists as ubiquitous video camera owners are to professional photographers. It’s the talent and not the tool. Still, amateur video has a place in recording the events of our time.

Blogging has some potential in a corporate context in support of knowledge management, workgroup collaboration, or corporate communications. But blogging will take time to find a home in the corporate environment. The key to its adoption will be to find one-to-many communication requirements where other tools like e-mail and Web pages aren’t as effective. Blogging within corporations will probably follow the same route as instant messaging. IM started with kids and spread to adults as its effectiveness within corporations became evident. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who knows of effective corporate blogging solutions.

Fellow bloggers, hang on to your hats. This ride could get wild.

About that twofer

Now just a dang minute, Perry! Older, yes, but fatter? That varies in direct proportion to the amount of Guiness I’ve consumed that day and I’m proud to report I can still fit into the pictured outfit.

I sure do miss that white cat, though.

Go go g-word!

Johnny Student’s post has left me stunned. Let me just restate the facts as I understand them.

Johnny was in a college, the place you go to be exposed to different ideas and thereby expand your horizons. Specifically, he was in a philosophy class, the quintessential place to discuss varying points of view. Instead of debating a philosophical issue, the “instructor” sent him to the Dean to explain his actions before calling the police.

Johnny’s supposed crime was not parroting the “all guns are bad” line.

What can you say? That’s not a college. It’s a farce.

Three cheers and hats off to Johnny for sticking to his guns. It’s gonna be a long semester. I’d say invite the professor along on your next range session, but he would doubtless be convinced you were planning his demise. Pathetic scared little man.

As for your classmates; yeah, the second amendment supports terrorism like the first amendment supports hate groups and the fourth amendment supports perversion. (sigh).

As John Stuart Mill, a real philosopher once said:

One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.

Maybe that’s the trouble. Today’s professors can’t bear the thought of people with belief expressing themselves. It might make other people think, and then where would we be?

That fry don’t fly

I have had a number of responses and suggestions (most of them polite) on how to deal with smart tagged money. Dale Amon even provided a recipe for dealing with the pesky things. While I’m sure it will work, that’s not the point.

On the money issue, I’m betting that once tagging becomes common place, non-emitting currency will be treated as counterfeit. At best not accepted, at worse generating a call to the authorities. Foil lined bags and wallets will probably be one answer. There will be others. My point was there will be a cost in time, effort and/or finances to achieve the anonymity we now enjoy gratis.

Taking the whole counter-measures idea one step further, I’m sure you will be able to cleanse yourself of smart tags on, in and about your person. When emiting is the norm, however, non-emitters will be regarded with suspicion. It will be seen as attempts to hide your identity. As a modern analogy, you can wear gloves and a full-face ski-mask into a mall, but don’t expect people to treat you normally.

Technology is a very double edged sword, and the ways it is applied are often vastly different from what the inventors intended. Witness Alfred Nobel and dynamite. He was a pacifist who saw the power of dynamite as a way to help cash poor, resource rich countries access the wealth trapped inside the earth. Within a few months of introduction to the world, it was applied to the military and the destructive effects of war increased exponentially. In a similiar vein, how many people involved in the discovery and production of smart tags do you think foresaw the use by the US Army of tags on bees to locate landmines?

The applications of smart tags will be limited only be our imaginations. Literally the stuff of dreams. The tricky part will be ensuring that the dreams in our heads don’t become nightmares in our waking lives.

Sergeant Stinger reporting for duty

The U.S. Army is using smart tag-equipped bees to detect landmines, the Financial Times reported recently. Bees have a liking for the explosive TNT. Smart tagged bees, returning to the hive, land on special mats that can detect TNT and identify individual bees. The direction of a bee’s flight and its flight time are used to calculate the approximate position of any landmines. I’m assuming these are surface mount Claymore style mines, not the buried kind. Even so, the application of the technology is astonishing!

Smart tags are radio wave emitters. They come in all shapes of tiny sizes and in a wide variety of frequencies with a range of a few millimeters up to several kilometers. They are similar to the anti-theft tags common in many retail stores, but they have the added ability of also sending data. Smart tags can be built or embedded in anything. With the advent of polymer electronics (plastic microchips), they may one day replace the ubiquitous barcode.

Meanwhile, look for them to turn up in ever-widening circles. Benefits will be as enormous as the potential for abuse. Security and anti-counterfeiting are the two most obvious applications. Governments are especially interested in the movement of money. That metal detector you walk through on your next trip may soon also report just how much cash you’re carrying, right down to the denominations and serial numbers. Got a nest egg squirreled away at home for unforeseen circumstances? With embedded chips, would-be thieves (government sponsored or private entrepreneurs) could drive by outside and use their receiver to count up how much you have and get a good guess about where you’ve hidden it.

Warehousing and inventory is another area to benefit from smart tagging. Parts for everything from toasters to tanks will have embedded chips. After the finished item leaves the factory, the combination of tags will produce a unique radio frequency fingerprint like a remotely accessed serial number.

How about food that tells you when it’s spoiled, makes preparation suggestions, or even programs the microwave? When tagging gets commonplace, we will soon be able to know from afar if that really is a pickle in your pocket.

Personal convenience could also be greatly enhanced. A door could open or your car could start up as you approach. Subway and underground turnstiles could let you pass as long as the card tucked in your wallet is up to date. You can know where your children are at all times. Where they are, whom they are with, what toys they are using, and even what they are eating.

Think about it. The ability to remotely track anything or anyone at anytime and anywhere. A parent’s’ – or secret policeman’s – dream come true.

The widespread use of smart tags will lead to a much more open society. Open in terms of knowing who is going where with what or whom. Personal privacy will become a question of how many counter-measures you can afford, but individuals paying for the privacy will be regarded with suspicion. Intrusive governments and envious neighbors will especially want to know, “What are you trying to hide?”

Hmmm. Come to think of it, it’s not too much different today, is it?

New Vision

An article in The Scotsman brings hope to the visually impaired. Scientists from NASA have built a bionic eye that could restore sight to the blind. An artificial retina has been developed which uses implanted arrays of 100,000 tiny solar cells in an attempt to replace damaged rod and cone cells. Volunteers will be given the first bionic eyes next year.

Rumor has it that Charles (Chuckie) Schumer may be among these first recipients because his actions indicate he is getting progressively more blind. To provide the most familiar visual landscape possible, his set will superimpose a flashing red NRA logo over everything he sees.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of blogging

I came across a few articles on Newsbytes that you, dear bloggers, may find interesting.

The first deals with attempts to define and refine the Net in terms of national borders.

The next two concern privacy on the net and are worth the read. In this article, a killer found his victim thru the net while this older piece deals with your right to anonymity.

Thought provoking stuff. Enjoy.

Cheap shots and lousy aim

Besides the oversights and misreads by Charles Dodgson that Perry has already pointed out, Charles also missed the whole point behind my argument when he says

But the state is involved in sales of private cars in the United States; individual states maintain registries of who owns what vehicle. That’s what the funny metal plates with the numbers on them are all about. They also generally demand annual inspections, and will deny the use of a car even to that car’s lawful owner if they don’t like the smell of burning oil coming out of the tailpipe.

I was more hopeful in this bit where Charles stumbled upon the truth but then he picked himself up and hurried away as if nothing had happened.

As to the breathalyzers, that’s not tied to purchases, but the sad facts there are even worse. Even if you’ve already purchased a vehicle, the state will deny you the use of that vehicle — your own lawfully acquired property — for trifles like a few drunk driving arrests. And, as Walter seemed to acknowledge, most of them won’t let you drive unless you buy insurance, interfering with another private choice.

Yes. The state places many regulations on the use of your property after you buy it. It does not stop you from acquiring it nor does it specify from whom you can buy it or to whom you can sell it. In most states the local government is more concerned with collecting sales tax on the transaction than on who was involved in the deal. Indeed, all the use regulations only apply if you intend to operate the auto on public roads and lands. Keep it in the garage or drive it only on your property and you often don’t have to deal with any of that.

With guns, laws were originally of a similar “use type” and codified what was already common sense, i.e. no shooting in town, etc. The current trend in firearm regulation, however, interferes with the acquisition and possession, not just the use. That is a very important difference. I believe the technical term is prior restraint but perhaps a Constitutional scholar out there could clear that up.

This issue actually runs deeper than guns. It touches upon the fundamental worldview of individuals, states and the balance of rights. Are we subjects with a few privileges doled out by an over-riding state or are we citizens with basic rights that our chosen leaders must observe?

As you probably guessed, I lean very heavily toward the latter. While I value the US Constitution, I don’t believe it grants us any rights. It simply codifies what our basic rights already are. That’s the bit in the pre-amble talking about self-evident truths and inalienable rights. The US is different from most countries in that the government acknowledges its obligation to recognize those inalienable rights and vows to protect them. To the extent that it limits those rights and the liberties they describe, the government reneges on that promise.

I have to ask about this one too:

Which is what I think of people who try to protect their civil rights with guns. Any actual use of the guns against government authority turns into a firefight which, even Perry acknowledges, you basically can’t win:

Why then has every newly installed tyrant and dictator begun their reign by rounding up the guns in private hands? No to dwell too long in the past, but I believe it was Ben Franklin who said “Tyranny can not exist in the United States because the whole body of the people is armed.” (emphasis mine)

Charles may not realize it, but he is making our point when he states.

If Britain were just trying to maintain control and damn the consequences, they (Irish Republicians) would all have been rounded up and shot, along with any other Catholic who showed a hint of sympathy for the cause. There’s a ready stock of Protestant militants to serve as informers and triggermen …

Yup. You have some definite sectarian violence there. But what if the weapons are scattered across ethnic, racial, religious and economic lines and you can’t get one group to turn on the other? When everybody is a potential resister and willing to pay the price, you have to kill everybody to end all resistance.

Which brings us to the granddaddy of them all. Do you think the US military would fire on its own citizens? A very similar question was actually asked some Marines during a training exercise in 29 Palms. The exact question is in this article, but the upshot was something like: “Would you fire on citizens who refused to turn in illegal weapons?” 60% said no, 28% said yes, 12% didn’t care either way. The implications of those numbers could fill volumes.

But aren’t you just a teensy weensy bit curious why they asked?

Olive branches and full magazines

The debate with Brian Linse at Ain’tNoBadDude could no doubt go on forever. Both sides are obviously “well-armed”, resolute and entrenched. In Brian’s 29 Dec post on the subject, however, I find something we could probably both live with. He states:

I do not wish for more gun laws. I wish for very few effective gun laws.

Before I throw in with you on that one, could you define “effective”?

From my perspective, nobody wants the bad guys to be armed while most don’t object to the good guys owning a bangstick or two. Unfortunately, for everything from prostitution to narcotics, underage drinking to drunk-driving, tax-evasion to weapon possession, the law only works when you choose to obey it.

In a free society, how do you force compliance?

Sporting Rounds

While Brian Linse is probably right about our fundamentally different views, one good riposte deserves another.

According to Brian’s view,

The right to keep and bear arms is set forth in the Bill of Rights, and the limits that government can put on individual liberties so innumerated are subject to review by the Supreme Court. Just as we limit speech in certain narrow situations, it is perfectly rational and logical to limit gun ownership.

While I will not concede the point, in the interest of being sporting I’ll take a shot at it from his court.
In that vein, it was interesting to learn about Brian’s buddy with the penchant for illegal weaponry. As Brian explains it, his friend makes it a point to break both the existing laws and the rules of gun safety by illegally buying guns and caching them in public areas. Brian feels that since his friend chooses to break the existing laws, we should pile on more in the vain hope he’ll find one to his liking. Take that to its logical conclusion and the only way to ensure compliance is a complete ban on everything remotely resembling a firearm. Does limiting a right described by the Constitution include eliminating it?

Brian also states

Chuck Shumer’s got no chance of taking my guns away, but it’s not because I’m better armed than he is, it’s because the Constitution and the representatives elected by the people won’t let him.

Brian is probably correct that Chuck Shumer’s appointed minions won’t burst into his house to physically take the family shotgun. Yet. In today’s society attempts to do so would at the very least end up with the Irish scene described by Perry in the following blog, and Brian’s buddy’s buried arsenal might well come into play. If the current trend of malediction towards gun owners continues, however, then the representatives elected by people twenty years from now may well let him and that musty scrap of parchment be damned.

In the meantime, however, if enough laws are passed limiting how a piece of property can be obtained, owned or used, then at some point the property becomes unusable. Therein lies the whole danger of the “Limited Rights” concept. If you have to ask for permission, then it is not a right; it’s a privilege subject to the whims of the current administration. In that regard, Chuck’s crew is well on the way to taking away your guns. Ask any resident of New Jersey or California who saw legally purchased, owned and registered firearms become illegal weapons overnight. Ask the residents of New York City who had the police call up and tell them to turn in the rifle that was just outlawed. Ask any of the thousands of innocent people nationwide who failed a NICS check because they have a common name.

Obeying laws is always a matter of private choice. So is engaging in commerce. That’s the point Brain seems to have missed in the first article. It’s not just about guns. Its about your right to dispose of your property as you wish. Should the state be involved when you sell the neighbor your old car? Should you have to call up the DMV and obtain his driving record, then verify he has valid auto insurance and get him to take a breathalyzer before you trade keys for cash? Should his mental health records be made public so you can check for evidence of depression before selling him that rope from your garage? Where do you draw the line? Private transactions between individuals involve a certain amount of trust. If, as in Brian’s nutty friend’s case, one of the parties chooses to break that trust than no number of laws is going to stop him.

If it is really a Bill of Limited Rights constantly re-defined by additional laws as Brian suggests, then the only way to protect your cherished liberties is by keeping those limits to the absolute minimum. In the case of the 2nd Amendment, with well over 20,000 gun laws on the books, I would suggest that we are already well past any sort of reasonable minimum.

Incidentally, I rather liked Ginger Stampley’s modest proposal. Something very similar to it has been on the books for about 30 years. It’s called the Gun Control Act of 1968. Trying to enforce it is the prickly part of the whole thorny issue. It all boils down to: “If I just met you, how do I know you are really you?” If I read Ginger correctly, she’s implying that if you manage to fool me, I become responsible for your actions. Rather alarming, that.

Loopy Holes

Loopy Holes

Having failed in their efforts to depict the recent terrorist acts as indicative of the need for yet more gun control, the civilian disarmament crowd is still desperate to capitalize on the tragedies with a renewed push next month to close “the gun show loophole”. Except the loophole they’re raging about is nothing of the sort. The control lobbyists dreamed up that catchy moniker to give a vaguely nefarious air to what is simply private commerce between individuals. It’s the exact same commerce by which average people buy and sell houses, cars, dishwashers, ironing boards, chainsaws and kitchen knives.

Okay. Okay. It’s not EXACTLY the same. Gun show sales from dealers still involve more paperwork and record keeping than most mortgages. And yeah, they still have to clear you with the National Instant Check System, which only takes fifteen minutes except when it takes four or five days. And if you’re from out of state the weapon must be shipped to a dealer in your state where you have to comply with the local laws and permit processes before you can pick it up. In fact, purchases from a dealer at a show are the same as purchases from dealer at a store, and purchases from an individual at a show are the same as purchases from an individual anywhere. All local laws must still be followed.

The various gun control groups harp about the fictitious “loophole” in an attempt to muddy the waters on the whole debate. These are the same groups that recently claimed Al-Qaida training manuals describe how to use lax US gun laws to buy guns and that Barrett Firearms sold Osama Bin Laden .50 caliber sniping rifles. I can’t say where they got the supposed training manual from; maybe they are on Al-Qaida’s mailing list. As for the sniping rifles, it turns out they were actually sold to the U.S. government. A show of hands, please, from everyone who read the embarrassed retraction. Anyone? No? I’m not surprised. The Brady Campaign, Handgun Control Inc, the Center for Violent Criminal Empowerment or whatever the civilian disarmament gang is calling themselves this week is infamous for loudly braying twisted statistics, massive misinformation and bald faced lies. When the truth manages to sneak out, they respond with the defense so typical of a miscreant caught red handed: stubborn silence.

Closing the much-hyped “loophole” will not reduce crime. It’s not meant too. The real purpose is to make it so difficult to hold or attend a gun show that people simply give up. By driving gun shows out of business, they hope to transform innocent open social events into furtive backroom deals and pervert a proud tradition into an unacceptable affliction. The ultimate goal, of course, is to attain the United Nations ideal of the Norm of Non-ownership. That’s civilian non-ownership. Governments and police forces can have all they want.

In the final analysis, the forces in favor of gun control are fundamentally anti-liberty. Colonel Pagano, a former Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police summed up the issue quite succinctly; “Gun control is not crime control. Gun control is people control”. Just as owning a weapon is a de facto statement of profound personal independence, trying to remove that same weapon is a de facto expression of social engineering at its worst.

Hold that thought

Can you keep a secret? Are you a good liar? Recent research in brain mapping suggests that all your carefully polished acting skills will be for naught. Your brain itself will betray you.

According to researchers at the rather startlingly named Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, a device now exists that is 100% accurate in separating the innocent from the guilty. Through association with specific details of previous criminal acts or terrorist sites, this same device can even identify criminals and terrorists before another act is committed.

The science of brain mapping is explained more fully in the Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories (BFL) CounterTerrorism104 document. While it may have its roots in the MRI brain imaging done to identify neurological diseases, the mapping done at the BFL has taken a very different twist. Quickly put, the BFL mapping device works by identifying when your brain remembers.

It is a simple principle. Your brain knows everything you have said and done. It is constantly and automatically processing fresh input and relating it to stored images. When your brain recognizes something, it sparks a memory. With the brain-mapping device, we can now identify that spark. In both lab studies and real world tests, the device is an astonishing 100% accurate. You can fool a lie detector and you can fool a voice stress analyzer, but you can’t fool your own brain. Show a terrorist a picture of a training camp or a criminal a picture of a crime scene and his brain recognizes it. Gotcha! In essence, we know you know because we know your brain knows.

Implications for both security and liberty are enormous. With a simple headset and a few pictures, we can weed the terrorists out from our midst. No one will object to that, except perhaps the terrorists. The BFL says, “The truth will set you free.” The trouble is, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and truth and freedom in a democracy are very different from truth and freedom in a totalitarian regime.

At the very least, it spells the end of all field espionage and intelligence gathering activities. Would you volunteer to be a spy if the enemy could catch you by showing you a picture of your own headquarters? Would you be a Jew or Jewish sympathizer in Nazi Germany if the Gestapo could catch you by showing you a picture of the inside of a synagogue?

In the old days, you could always keep your thoughts to yourself. Now if we can figure out the images that spark a memory, we can test to see if it sparks your memory. What the presence or absence of that memory means depends on the one administering the test. Are you harboring forbidden memories? Can you prove you have a “legitimate need” for that knowledge stored in your head? These are questions that will become increasingly important if BFL’s brain mapping device gets widespread adoption.