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]

Some hope with RFID

CNET News.com reports:

Lawmakers in California have scheduled a hearing for later this month to discuss privacy issues surrounding a controversial technology designed to wirelessly monitor everything from clothing to currency.

Sen. Debra Bowen, a California legislator recently on the forefront of an antispam legislation movement, is spearheading the August 18 hearing, which will focus on an emerging area of technology known as radio frequency identification (RFID), a representative for Bowen has confirmed.

RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Retailers adore the concept, which enables them to automatically detect the movement of merchandise in stores and monitor inventory in warehouses using millions of special sensors. CNET News.com wrote about how Wal-Mart and the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install “smart shelves” with networked RFID readers.

According to Declan McCullagh of CNET News.com Proponents hail the technology as the next-generation bar code, allowing merchants and manufacturers to operate more efficiently and cut down on theft. The privacy threat comes when RFID tags remain active once you leave a store. That’s the scenario that should raise alarms – and currently the RFID industry seems to be giving mixed signals about whether the tags will be disabled or left enabled by default.

Further, unchecked use of RFID could end up trampling consumer privacy by allowing retailers to gather unprecedented amounts of information about activity in their stores and link it to customer information databases. They also worry about the possibility that companies and would-be thieves might be able to track people’s personal belongings, embedded with tiny RFID microchips, after they are purchased. Katherine Albrecht, the head of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a fierce critic of RFID technology says:

If you are walking around emanating an electric cloud of these devices wherever you go, you have no more privacy. Every door way you walk through could be scanning you.

Policy makers in Britain are also starting to ponder the privacy implications of RFID. A member of Britain’s Parliament has submitted a motion for debate on the regulation of RFID devices when the government returns from its summer recess next month.

Why I Want to be a Teacher

“We won’t get those new books for two more years,” laments Morrison, who teaches in Manchester, Mo., near St. Louis.

To a large extent, this leaves secondary and even grammar school teachers relying on their own wiles to incorporate 9/11 and the events that have followed in rapid fire order into the classroom.

“The integration is challenging,” Morrison says about bringing Sept. 11 material into her lessons. Morrison says that last year she juxtaposed the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa with Al Qaida’s Osama bin Laden. “Would Villa be considered a terrorist today,” Morrison asked her class?

History is more important than this. History is more important than a teacher’s personal agenda. If we can’t rely on teachers to present facts rather than opinion who can we rely on?

Which isn’t to say that history is a collection of numbers and facts. It is much more than that. But it is important to look at history objectivly and without bias. Coming to the argument with many preconceived notions and biases, as these teachers appear to have, does nothing for the students. In fact, it hurts them. History becomes meaningless if it changes to fit a bias. Orwell taught us that lesson. History is written by the victor, but we must make sure that it is also true. If not, then we have lost it.

“Obvious parallels exist especially when looking at World War II.” Some are well-trod ground: 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, for instance. Others are more subtle. For instance, Chase says she asked students to compare the internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s to the increased scrutiny Arab-Americans have come in for following 9/11.

At the same time, it is important to look at history from all sides. America is not perfect. But is it really fair to compare increased scrutiny to the Japanese interrnment? Did FDR come out days after Pearl Harbor and urge Americans to not lump all Japanese together? I don’t remember hearing that speach.

This is why I want to teach. I think that many teachers have lost their way in their zeal. There is far too much emphasis on groups and collectivism in schools today. There is far too much PCness in schools today. There are far too many biases in schools today. And far too little honest teaching. History transcendes politics. At least it should. If it doesn’t, we are in danger of losing it.

via USS Clueless


The US Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Monday that it had demanded investigations into nearly three dozen credible complaints of abuses committed in the implementation of the controversial USA Patriot Act.

The alleged abuses, committed mostly against Muslim suspects rounded up as part of the war on terrorism, ranged from beatings to threats, as well as one allegation that FBI agents planted evidence. The inspector-general’s office said that it had received more than 1,000 complaints of civil rights violations under the Patriot Act in the six months ending June 15; 34 cases were deemed serious and credible enough to warrant investigations.

34 out of 1000. That’s not bad. But that’s only the complaints. How many other cases has the Patriot Act played a part in? Regardless, we are left with 34 cases of abuse of civil rights. It is easy to say that 1 case is too many, but that only leads to anarchy. Mistakes will be made because humans are involved, so we must accept 1 case or abandon laws all together. I’m not ready to do that just yet.

So the question becomes, are 34 cases worth it? To answer that, we must determine the benefits. What are we getting out of the Patriot act? 34 cases worth of protection? I don’t know. It is the inherent flaw of laws. When they’re working, we don’t see the benefits. Is terrorism down? It seems like it. Is it because of the Patriot Act? I somehow doubt it.

So what benefits have we gotten from the Patriot Act? It would seem very few. So are the 34 cases worth it? If the benefits are small, it would seem not. However, the fact that we have an watchdog groups aimed directy at this gives some hope. The fact that this report was issued proves that things aren’t nearly as bad as some would have us believe. We need to keep an eye on the Patriot Act and push to end it when it expires, but remember that we do need laws. Finding the balance between safety and liberty is a never ending task but the Patriot Act is on the wrong side of it.

When they came for panhandlers

I said nothing because I wasn’t a panhandler. In Cincinnati, they are coming for the panhandlers through mandatory ID card registration. I’m not a terribly large fan of panhandlers, but is the solution tagging them and releasing them back into the wild?

I understand why it is necessary for people to register for drivers licenses. Driving is a privilege, not a right. But is panhandling? Surely I have the right to sit on a public street corner and, while not harassing anyone, say or do whatever I want. And certainly people have the right to give me money if they want to, so why is it that panhandlers need to register?

Cross posted from miniluv.