Archive for December, 2011

Government-busting technology

Dave Killion — December 18, 2011

I have blogged previously about one way in which technology is helping to bust taxi cartels, and Matt Yglesias points to another

“What is legal (apparently) is for sedan drivers to cruise around and let people use smartphone apps to “schedule” a pickup moments in advance. It’s an extremely elegant use of technology to, in effect, hack the legal system. Through the magic of computer power, a sedan becomes a cab without changing its technical legal status.”

As the article explains, it is illegal in many areas for limousine operators to stop for people trying to flag them down. But if you use your smartphone to “schedule an appointment” just a few minutes in advance, you can enjoy riding a nicer vehicle for lower fees than they would otherwise. It is a neat business model, and as Yglesias points out, one that would not exist were it not for the restrictive gauntlet of taxi legislation.

Hot Links

Dave Killion — December 17, 2011

A member of the Vancouver Libertarian Book Club sent an email to all members, and has given me permission to blog it. Enjoy –
Hello everybody.
I thought I’d share with you these developments during the first 10 days of December that I came across in my readings.
Really, I wondered, what’s going on here?
I believe Ron Paul is right once more, that if we give up on freedom for security, give up liberties to stop crimes of terrorism, then a bigger crime will be committed against the people.
**********
2 Dec 2011
“The New National Defense Authorization Act Is Ridiculously Scary”
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-12-02/politics/30466471_1_guantanamo-bay-google-news-military-prisons
More here:
5 Dec 2011 – “The National Defense Authorization Act is the Greatest Threat to Civil Liberties Americans Face”
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/12/05/the-national-defense-authorization-act-is-the-greatest-threat-to-civil-liberties-americans-face/
And the latest (today’s) update here:
14 Dec 2011 – “Congress Agrees to Compromise on 2012 National Defense Authorization Act”
http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/10184-congress-agrees-to-compromise-on-2012-national-defense-authorization-act
“A key component of this reconciled bill mandates a frightening grant of immense and unconstitutional power to the executive branch. Under the provisions of Section 1031, the President is afforded the absolute power to arrest and detain citizens of the United States without their being informed of any criminal charges, without a trial on the merits of those charges, and without a scintilla of the due process safeguards protected by the Constitution of the United States.”
**********
8 Dec 2011
“Drones Over Houston, Texas”
“Who really won the last world war?”
http://maxkeiser.com/2011/12/08/who-really-won/
More here:
http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/1251774258001/the-drone-war-coming-to-a-town-near-you/
And an example of the use of unmanned drone in police action here:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073248/Local-cops-used-Predator-drone-arrest-North-Dakota-farm-family-stealing-6-cows.html
**********
8 Dec 2011
“Will you as a member of the National Guard use lethal force against the American public if ordered to do so? ”
http://www.dailypaul.com/191497/national-guard-virginia-stands-behind-oath-keeper-a-must-read
**********
8 Dec 2011
USA Today
“White House unveils new strategy to combat homegrown terror”
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/12/white-house-unveils-new-strategy-to-combat-homegrown-terror/1?loc=interstitialskip
So the focus now is on domestic, or home-grown terrorism. But then consider these:
26 Aug 2011 – “FBI organizes almost all terror plots in the US”
http://www.dailypaul.com/176383/fbi-organizes-almost-all-terror-plots-in-the-us
with the main article at Mother Jones here:
Sept/Oct 2011 – “The Informants”
http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/08/fbi-terrorist-informants
“With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings. (The exceptions are Najibullah Zazi, who came close to bombing the New York City subway system in September 2009; Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian who opened fire on the El-Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport; and failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.)”
**********
Hopefully, to lighten things up a little bit, a video worth watching:
“The American War-Machine, A Lesson in Blowback, and The Greatest Speech Ever Written”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ7Hz7WCQE8

Film the police

Dave Killion — December 16, 2011

The world of politics, economics, philosophy, and advocacy can be terribly, terribly serious at times, and there come intervals during which one simply wants to watch pugs chase a balloon. For those moments, we rely on our friend Missy at Kyoot, etc., who has taken a break from posting videos of rhinos painting long enough to share this video and her comments on it –

No message should take nearly 7 minutes, but this one does make a good point. I find that my parents’ generation has a tendency to fear surveillance, but it’s not a tool that should only be used against us. There is power in surveillance and with a phone in nearly everyone’s pockets, we need to really start exercising this power. In 2009 we all laughed and chanted “You don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight” along with the crowd on our screen. We also nervously watched Twitter as Iranian university students updated us on the invasion of their dorms, as police came through the halls and one by one, the updates stopped. People need to start realizing this isn’t “just like in the movies”, it’s just like real life. Don’t let your grandma tell you it never happened when she was a little girl because it did and no one had the power to tell the world and if we don’t start doing it then we’ll be just as ignorant when we grow old.

Recently I came across this app available for iPhone and Android phones –

http://www.openwatch.net/

OpenWatch is a participatory citizen media project which uses mobile technology to enable public monitoring of authority figures” (from the site). It not only allows you to secretly audio or video record, but it will also automatically upload that video to their website where it will be edited to for identification concerns and then anonymously uploaded. This means if you get caught and someone thinks stomping your phone will fix the problem, wrong! Too late! Anyways, just watch the video, it’s all on there!”

Club meeting

Dave Killion — December 15, 2011

The Victoria Libertarian Book Club meets tonight, and we will wrap up our discussion of “The Driver”. I’ve said what little I have to say about this entertaining morsel, and I hope that it has inspired everyone to read more of Garrett’s work.

Part of the reason the club meets is to enhance, through reading and discussion, our understanding of libertarianism and the arguments in its favour. In order to be certain that we are standing on a firm intellectual foundation, it is important that we thoroughly comprehend the views of those opposed. In that spirit, the group has sought works that present a robust and thoughtful defence against our views. We have been greatly aided in this effort by the hard workers at libertarianism.org, who provide lists of recommended reading, including an entire category for critics of liberty. It is from this list that the club has chosen “Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction” –

“Kymlicka’s book contains an excellent—and highly critical—chapter on libertarianism, one that clearly presents several strong critiques of libertarian philosophy, particularly that of Robert Nozick. It also offers excellent overviews (of) the other major schools of modern political thought—utilitarianism, liberal egalitarianism, Marxism, communitarianism, citizenship theory, multiculturalism, and feminism. Each of these schools has something to offer the thinking libertarian seeking a better and more nuanced understanding of political philosophy.” 

I imagine this will be one of our most challenging readings, and I encourage all of you to get yourself a copy and read along with us. Comment here on the blog, or on our Facebook page!

Show you care

Dave Killion — December 14, 2011

Karen De Coster posts at the Lew Rockwell Blog, where she recently called our attention to this

 

Be Prepared

Dave Killion — December 13, 2011

Further to yesterday’s post on Scouts Canada, I want to take a moment to stress how wonderful it is to have organizations such as Scouts. There are many people, including children, who do not enjoy taking part in organized athletics. They may be clumsy or slow, they may not enjoy competition, or perhaps they just find the activities pointless. If the coaches (who are often volunteers) are inept or unpleasant, practice sessions can be boring or humiliating. There is no doubt in my mind that many children meet these challenges and are better people for overcoming them, but for some that is simply not the case. As far as I know, Scouting (and Guides) is the only opportunity for young people to engage socially in physical, outdoor activities without those elements of competitive sports for which they don’t care. For certain children, the absence of outdoor youth groups leaves them little stimulation outside of their TVs, computers, and game systems. And as I wrote yesterday, I don’t think youth are in great danger of sexual assault in the modern Scouts organization. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that, for an organization so very involved with nature and the environment, Scouting teaches a very simplistic, very one-sided, very wrong view of the environment. For example, youth have an opportunity to earn the Climate Change Challenge Crest. The requirements are based on an assumption that not only is climate change occurring, but that it is bad and the Scout (along with everyone else) is exacerbating it. Drive less. Consume less. Recycle more. Buy local. No where in any of these requirements are youth likely to learn about the tragedy of the commons, trade offs, or the roles that market forces and private property play in protecting the environment. I don’t think this is a calamity, since the program is really just reinforcing what kids are being taught in school. Still, I’m sorry that people who should know better aren’t showing youth both sides of the argument.

 

On my honour

Dave Killion — December 12, 2011

Recently, The Fifth Estate ran a story alleging Scouts Canada has kept a confidential list of suspected pedophiles within its organization. Former Scouts have come forward claiming to have been sexually abused by leaders, the CEO of Scouts Canada has resigned, and the group has both issued a blanket apology and hired an auditor to examine its records.

Having been a leader of Cubs and Scouts in the recent past, I think that it is likely the problem of sexual abuse has been largely eliminated for the past couple decades. The current process by which volunteers are vetted  is very thorough, and so long as the process is followed, all will be well. Still, there is no guarantee that the process will always be followed.

Since 1961, Scouts Canada has seen its youth membership decline by two-thirds . As a result, many groups are small and have a high ‘churn’ of leadership. Getting leaders trained well enough to insure that they are familiar enough with policy to implement it is a great challenge, and it can be difficult for administrators higher in the organization to track. It is possible, I think, for potentially problematic leaders to work with youth for some time before being ferreted out. Not likely, but still possible.

Even with that in mind, it is my opinion that youth currently involved in Scouting are in little danger from sexually predacious leaders, so if that’s the only thing keeping you from enrolling your son or daughter in Scouts I hope you will be reassured. My sons tell me some of their happiest memories come from our Scouting days. Still, as a libertarian, there are some things in the program that I don’t care for. I will tell you all about them in my next post.

In the best interest of your children

Dave Killion — December 11, 2011

At the Free New York blog, they are taking a look at The Delinquency Dilemma For Parents – What To Do When The Police Come Knocking –

“Parents who learn that their child has committed a criminal act can face a difficult choice when the police come knocking: whether to cooperate with law enforcement. In one respect, you must teach your child to respect the law and punish them for their behaviors. In another respect, you may not want the State dictating that punishment. It’s a struggle between protecting your family and upholding the law.”

My take on the matter is that the legal system is a powerful and potentially devastating institution populated by employees more incentivized to gather convictions than to seek justice. It is well known that many innocent people have been caged or murdered by the state, and that many more have been subjected to tremendous punishment for ‘crimes’ that have no victims. Given the resources government commands and the potential injustice to be dealt, I think that cooperation with the state will almost always be a bad idea.

Whatever one decides, the most important thing to remember is that no one should ever talk to the police or anyone else from the state legal system without the advice of council. Even if your child is guilty of a crime, there will always be time for them to confess later –

“It is vital to have an experienced attorney review the facts and guide you when making these decisions. Understanding the legal implications is vital to making decisions that may impact your child’s life well beyond their teenage years.”

The article is brief and worth reading in full, so please go take a look.

Legislating = Lawbreaking?

Antony — December 9, 2011

In a strange twist in the Wheat Board saga, a federal judge has ruled that by introducing legislation giving farmers the freedom to sell wheat to someone other than the Wheat Board, the Agriculture Minister has broken the law. So let me get this straight – if a Member of Parliament introduces a motion to change a law, but what is allowed under the new law is not permitted by the old law, then that’s illegal? How does that make any sense? Isn’t the whole point of the legislative branch of government that they can change laws through legislation?

It’s unfortunate to see how many obstacles there are to removing this small bit of coercion from our society.

Come on Judge: don’t hate, let ’em legislate!

What, me worry?

Dave Killion — December 8, 2011

As a rule I am not given to discussing conspiracy theories, and I don’t do so for two reasons. The first is that I am concerned about being taken seriously, and I think that conspiracy theorist (rightly or wrongly) are simply dismissed by the majority. The second is that I am not much concerned about intent and motivation. Government is harmful even when, nay, especially when, it aims to due good. Conspiracies or no, the coercive state has got to go.

 

That aside, I think one should not be too hasty to reject a conspiracy theory. If you think that an organization as complex and incompetent as the state couldn’t pull of a clandestine plan, then remember that the owners of major league baseball teams secretly colluded for years to keep black players out. They could do it, and so could some government group. If you think that governments just don’t do that sort of thing, then you might never have heard of MKULTRA, Operation Mockingbird, Watergate, or the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. And if you think that sort of thing just doesn’t happen anymore, Wired magazine gives you 9 reasons Wired readers should wear tinfoil hats

“We’re paranoid not because we have grandiose notions of our self-importance, but because the facts speak for themselves.

Here’s our short list of nine reasons that Wired readers ought to wear tinfoil hats, or at least, fight for their rights and consider ways to protect themselves with encryption and defensive digital technologies.”

No, I don’t like to talk about conspiracies. But I can’t help wondering.