No one has willfully or knowingly disobeyed the law or tried to invade your civil liberties or privacies… There were no mistakes like that at all.
- General Keith Alexander
This is either delusion of omniscience and infallibility, or psychopathic contempt for truth and for the ‘little people’ who are imagined to believe whatever the great and powerful Oz says. Either way, it makes him a candidate for a straitjacket, not running an uncontrolled global para-state.
My starting position is that anyone should be able to do anything he wants on land he owns, as long as it does not initiate violence against someone else.
From Brian’s post about a bridge, to a site called Dezeen, to an interview with the architect of a building in London called the Cheesegrater. One side of the building is slanted, which must reduce the total floor space, but why?
The main constraint on Leadenhall was the view to St Paul’s [Cathedral]. London is unique in being partly controlled by views; you have to leave certain views open to St Paul’s and we were on one of those views. So we made use of this and we cut it back at an angle and that gave us that prominent section and profile, [which can be seen] from all over London.
So London imposes planning rules that control views. This makes me wonder: can I own a view? In some sense if I am using the view I have homesteaded it. If my neighbour spoils my view by building something in front of it, he has made me less wealthy. Would I be right to sue him? Can we abolish planning without spoiling anyone’s views?
As a liberty-loving individualist, it is easy to become pessimistic in the face of the ever growing authority of The State. Perhaps you were delighted to be a part of replacing your centre-left governing party with your centre-right opposition party, but your lesser of two evils still turned out to be pretty damn evil. Or perhaps you were one of those libertarians who embarrassed themselves way back in 2007 by getting all excited over that compelling Democratic candidate whose background screamed **extreme belief in government action across society** to the point that his beltway CV was visible from space, yet was Hopefully going to usher in a libertarian-flavoured Change somehow. Or perhaps you’re just one of those goodly folk drinking in the glorious sight of the irrepressible green shoots of free association, free enterprise and free will that sprout up in spontaneous order everywhere, whilst simultaneously despairing of their vulnerability to the everpresent Big Farmer (how to work a Big Pharma pun in here?) who really loves to harvest. Is his scythe getting sharper? That’s not a soithe, this is a soithe.
Even when faced with the depressing reality of the modern welfare state, you can still find hope in minor but heartwarming tales of individual defiance and bureaucratic incompetence. Consider an article with a very boring title published by Popular Mechanics. If I were the PM subeditor, I think I would have gone with a food metaphor; Several Small Delicious Canapes Of Little Nutritional Consequence Which Nevertheless Make For Highly Enjoyable Eating Plus A Few Which Give You The Trots. Much snappier than 10 Crazy Red-Light Camera Cases, right?
Not feeling it? Well, me neither. I’m not a fan of pieces with excessively long titles. Still, there’s plenty of grist for the anti-authoritarian mill here, anyway. O, the palpable, glorious schadenfreude felt reading about how the city of San Bernadino tried to wring extra red light camera tickets out of motorists by illegally shortening the yellow/amber/orange light (this is an international blog, after all) duration by a second and got busted. The blood-red light revenue infusion henceforth became a revenue haemorrhage, particularly when the company the city had hired to run the haemorrhage insisted on sticking to the terms of their contract. Most unsporting. This contributed to the city’s bankruptcy. What a shame. All right, you may feel pity for the unfortunate residents of San Bernadino – well, perhaps only for those who didn’t vote for a Democrat to create new problems as well as expand existing problems created by a previous Democrat. (Regarding the majority of those who didn’t vote for a Democrat, what was I saying about the lesser of two evils above? Drat.)
Ah, San Bernadino, sitting pretty in the California sun. No rustbelt industrial decay there. Things aren’t so bad. Its bankruptcy was not the biggest municipal default in American history. Detroit’s was bigger. It’s not the poorest city of significant size in the USA. Detroit is poorer. That must be of some comfort.
However, the tale of San Bernadino’s red light blues isn’t my favourite vignette from the article. It is the following:
When Tacoma, Wash., motorist Kevin Schmadeka received a ticket accusing him of running a red light, courtesy of the Australian company Redflex that installed the system, he wanted to face his accuser and challenge the ticket. Just one problem: He was told he’d have to pay $670 in travel expenses to bring in a Redflex employee from out of state. “When I was at the clerk’s office inquiring about chain-of-custody information, the employee at the counter mentioned that if I wanted to subpoena a camera company representative that there was a fee,” Schmadeka told TheNewspaper.com. The judge singled out the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser and dismissed the charges against Schmadeka.
This has got it all! A city authority falling afoul of their nasty little arrangement with one of those horrible private sector firms which exist solely to assist government authorities big and small to meddle in the lives of their subjects more effectively. A plucky individual fighting City Hall by asserting his natural born rights – and winning. A judge telling the state where it can stick its not-just-ridiculous-but-also-unconstitutional bureaucratic imposts. USA! USA! USA! There’s hope for us all yet!
Incidentally, I found this jolly article on the venerable Instapundit. Trouble is that the venerable Instapundit is liable to follow such an article up with a link to some story about how the NSA’s been collecting your e-mails, toenail clippings and belly-button lint, or perhaps an update on the IRS’s campaigning efforts during the recent Presidential campaign, or maybe even the media’s primary role in exorbitantly publicising and racialising the Zimmerman trial…and you, as an Australian small government-type, you start to feel a bit depressed again. Come on, America! We’re relying on you to somehow tow us out of this illiberal bog our ruling class has quite contentedly driven us into! It is really quite depressing to see that you are stuck in the same mud (if not quite down to your wheel arches like us)!
But after that flush of exasperation has passed, your thoughts may drift back to sunny California and San Bernadino, and you realise…well, at least we’re not Detroit. There will always be Detroit.
When I read this…
THE country’s top political blogger, Paul Staines – better known as Guido Fawkes – has threatened to sue Tory MP Claire Perry after she alleged he had “sponsored” a hack attack on her website.
… I was moved to say that this Perry is very much in favour of Guido using the courts to kick the living hell out of that Perry, the thuggish ‘Honourable’ member for Devizes.
Put the boot in, Guido!
The dependably nauseating David Cameron is demanding a massive infrastructure for internet censorship… oh to protect the children, of course.
And also of course, this is not really about porn… that is a bare faced lie. It is about political control. The state wants to easily be able to log what you look at and to easily block access to whatever it deems ‘unacceptable. The notion any government can be trusted with the infrastructure to control what people can see is madness.
For as long as I have been reading blogs, one regular blogger I followed has been Radley Balko. And Balko has developed a strong reputation for targeting threats to civil liberties in the US and the militarisation of the the US police forces. He has a strong article over at the Wall Street Journal, and here are a couple of paragraphs:
The new century brought the war on terror and, with it, new rationales and new resources for militarizing police forces. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants since its creation in 2002, with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers. In 2011 alone, a Pentagon program for bolstering the capabilities of local law enforcement gave away $500 million of equipment, an all-time high.
The past decade also has seen an alarming degree of mission creep for U.S. SWAT teams. When the craze for poker kicked into high gear, a number of police departments responded by deploying SWAT teams to raid games in garages, basements and VFW halls where illegal gambling was suspected. According to news reports and conversations with poker organizations, there have been dozens of these raids, in cities such as Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Dallas.
Here is another good article at the Atlantic Monthly on the same issue.
Back here in Britain, there are echoes of this. In the Huffington Post over a year ago this point was made, although Samizdata regulars might want to adopt a skeptical stance about HP material, but in this case the argument seems sound enough.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
- from a document that may soon be given a security classification the way things are going. Simply following that link could brand you as a potential terrorist. Not to mention get you in trouble with the IRS.
Although I think it is a mistake to consort with the EDL, does it not seem strange that the two US bloggers behind Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs should be banned from entering the UK… whilst Mohammad Al-Arefe can come into the country and preach the overthrow of Western Civilisation?
How many here remember the discussions early in the previous decade about Admiral Poindexter and his Total Information Awareness concept? If one were to apply neural network techniques to VISA transactions, then a system might learn to identify subtle patterns that matched known terrorist events and might be usable to detect precursors to as yet unknown plots. The more data and the more different sources, the better the chance of training such networks to find patterns. Of course the numbers of false positives would be huge at first… and although it would go down over time, it would still remain fairly large as there is just too much noise in real world data and real terrorists would try to randomize their behavior after a few got caught.
I believe the concept is sound, the only problem is… it is utterly Orwellian. No, it is worse than Orwell imagined. It is the Holy Grail and wet dreams of the Checka, the KGB, the Stasi, the Gestapo and every other secret police system of the last century. The sad thing is that this has come to pass not in one of the many tyrannical states of the world… they are too incompentent to pull it off… but here, in our formerly free United States.
After much thought I have come to believe that Poindexter’s system was not rejected for funding and laughed out of congress as we thought at the time. That was nothing but a cover story as the whole thing slipped into the black world.
If this is TIA Black, we had better start challenging VISA, AMEX and all the others who process financial transactions. I predict that nearly every credit and debit card transaction in the US is being fed in along with the phone records and the google files and facebook pages and private email.
It is a virtual certainty. This isn’t 1984. It is much worse because as the techniques improve it becomes Skynet starring as Big Brother.
If big government were the key to economic success, France, with more than half of its GDP accounted for by government, would have rapid economic growth rather than an unemployment rate of 11 percent and negative growth. Yet France, Britain and the United States are demanding that the low-tax jurisdictions increase their taxes on businesses. They also demand more tax information sharing among countries. The officials of the G-8 assure us — as if they think we are all children or fools — that sensitive company and individual tax information will be kept confidential and not be used for political targeting, extortion, etc. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service had a reputation for being less corrupt and less incompetent than tax agencies in many other countries, which only illustrates how low the global standard is.
- Richard Rahn, the Tyranny of the Taxers
Facebook, Google etc are falling over themselves to deny that they have given the US espionage organisation the NSA direct access to their servers and customer information.
And to put it bluntly, there is simply nothing they can say that would make me believe them.
Why? Three reasons:
Firstly, it is very much in their commercial interest for customers not to take the view that their personal information can be browsed pretty much at will by American civil servants for whatever reason they can contrive.
Secondly, very few people within Facebook and Google would actually be privy to any involvement with PRISM, so much of the shock being expressed will no doubt be genuine (I know some quite highly placed technical people within both Google and Facebook and I would totally believe them if they told me to my face they found this all hard to believe, but then none of them are at board level, so unless they needed to know…).
Thirdly and most importantly, the court orders giving blanket access include threats if they reveal they are cooperating with the court order. In short, they are required by law to lie about their cooperation if asked.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this Order, other than to: (a) those persons to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with such Order; (b) an attorney to obtain legal advice or assistance with respect to the production of things in response to the Order; or (c) other persons as permitted by the Director of the FBI or the Director’s designee.
So it really does not matter what Facebook and Google et al says, does it?
UPDATE: This is a very interesting suggestion… in short, once they got Verizon (i.e Tier One) they actually did not need much cooperation from the people downstream. Fascinating stuff. I wonder to what extent that is actually true.
The flood of revelations about the sheer scale of NSA information theft… direct server access without an individual court order whenever the NSA wants something from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype*, PalTalk, YouTube, AOL and Apple… has made me wonder if savvy non-US based business might not be able to market their services as explicitly non-US.
Just imagine the possible tag lines:
“Don’t worry, the NSA does not have easy assess to your data as we are not a US based or owned company”
…or tapping into a bit of anti-Americanism never hurt the bottom line…
“We are not located in the ‘Land of the Free, Home of the Brave’, so your data cannot be browsed at will by unaccountable NSA spies!”
… which is not to say such services cannot be marketed to Americans…
“Non-US nationals across the world are not protected by the US constitution, come to think of it, neither are Americans in America, so your data is safer with us as we are a NON-US owned and NON-US based company!”
The creative possibilities are endless and anyone who cannot leverage this into internet gold is not trying hard enough! Capitalism for the win!
*= Skype, originally a Luxembourg based company, was purchased by eBay in 2005 and then Microsoft in 2011.