Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Politics Redux: Blue New Hampshire, Transparency and the latest episode of WikiLeaks Mania

First a note to Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.  There's a point that your surrogates ought to be making - (with SuperPac deniability for you, of course!) Remind folks that New Hampshire is a Blue State. About as blue as they come. And hence, if the hybrid-type republicans of the Granite State prefer Mitt Romney... what does that say about him?  Redmeat for red South Carolina.

Oh, but now on to things I actually know something about...

== The Return of WikiLeaks ==

Last month, WikiLeaks launched its latest campaign, releasing nearly three hundred documents that reveal the extent of sophisticated surveillance technology that has been used by both oppressive rulers and Western democracies -- devices that enable governments or law enforcement agencies to track and monitor individuals via their cell phones, e-mail, and Internet browsing histories.

This is clearly the sort of transparency that - while it may short-term inconvenience some western governments - could help the secular trend toward an open world that (in turn) fosters and strengthens enlightenment nations and people.  In other words, embrace this! The answer to most modern problems may boil down, time and again, to a more aware citizenry.

Heck, shouldn't earlier phases of the WikiLeaks affair have taught the US government a valuable lesson? Answer me this riddle. What was the biggest overall effect of Julian Assange's leak of 250,000 State Dept cables? Who benefited most?

It was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, getting exactly what she needed, when she needed it!  Scores of those leaked memos revealed US diplomats candidly despising Ben Ali and Mubarak and other Arab dictators they were forced to deal with. These revelations - secret, and hence credibly sincere - showed US envoys and apparatchiks expressing profound sympathy for oppressed people and holding their noses, forced by unpalatable circumstance to dicker with tyrants. Revealed precisely when the Arab Spring was brewing, those cables could not have been better timed to show youth in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and so on that "at worst America isn't our enemy... and maybe they're more with us than we thought."

A bizarre assertion? Well, did anybody notice the near- total lack of anti-American themes during the Arab Spring?  It may not have been Assange's intent... but that felicitous outcome was the exact thing that he wrought, and maybe our leaders should ponder the lucky break.

More important. They should contemplate the value of this overall, secular trend toward a generally more open world. Light can only - occasionally - inconvenience us.  For villainous regimes, it is lethal.

=== And while we’re on transparency...  ===

A Missouri judge ruled the FBI does not need a warrant to secretly attach a GPS unit to a suspect's car and track his public movements for two months.

My reaction?  Let me surprise you. Mr Transparency is yawning. This simply replicates what would happen if the FBI tracked the fellow with a classic "tail." He was publicly  visible the whole time.  If a tail was okay, then why not save us money?  Yes, yes, this may lead to "them" knowing where we are all the time?  So?  That's coming.  Protest it? Protest the sunset. Both are inevitable.

What matters to me is looking back. And I mean looking back hard. Watch the watchmen. Supervise them intensely, then let them do their jobs. Let’s pick our fights and make them count.  Sousveillance!

=== And why transparency won’t be enough ===

Members of the House and Senate regularly buy and sell stocks even while considering major bills that will affect those companies. Yet there have been no insider trading cases brought against Congress members. Nor is it likely, for Congress makes its own rules – and those rules are silent on insider trading. “They have legislated themselves as untouchable as a political class,” writes Peter Schweizer, who has documented the money made by Congress members, in his book, Throw Them All Out. (This despite the promise, in Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract With America to make Congress fully accountable.)

Both parties are guilty of dubious trades that anticipated the effect of changing government policy--buying or unloading stock just before changes took place.  Alas, Schweizer's prescription - to "throw them all out" - won't happen because of another self-serving strategy by the politician-caste.  Gerrymandering.

Look, I favor some politicians over others, naturally.  The party that’s less disciplined, more diverse and willing to negotiate strikes me as better than one that is the most tightly disciplined and dogmatic political force - and the most fiercely anti-science - in American history, controlled by a media empire owned by unfriendly foreigners.

Nevertheless... at another level, we the people have to recognize that we are being preyed upon by the entire political caste.  Money has to be taken out of politics.  Transparency must be augmented, exponentiated.

And we must start with Gerrymandering!  An ugly, scheming job security program that has radicalized most members of Congress into raving partisan lunatics. Take a look at this outrageous example, as redistricting in Texas comes before the Supreme Court.

Only here’s the thing. A mass public rebellion against gerrymandering is already underway!  The practice has lately been banned by referendum in a number of states, most recently and powerfully in California -- a blue state whose largely democratic voting population nevertheless voted to end democrat-leaning gerrymandering.  (If only all states had such vibrantly patriotic citizens.) See my article on Gerrymandering.

(Alas, not a single red state has joined the rebellion.)
Well, maybe it’s gathering momentum! A nationwide insurrection against this abuse by the political caste! In 28 other states, lawsuits have been filed against this foul practice.  A racket imposed by politicians against their natural enemy.  Voters.
Now... if only the Court were on our side...

=== Some Political Miscellany ===

* OWS Fights Back Against Police Surveillance by Launching "Occucopter" Citizen Drone. In response to constant police surveillance, violence, and arrests, Occupy Wall Street protesters and legal observers have been turning their cameras back on the police. I am no lefty or radical. Sometimes the cops are right. But this right to look back must be absolute and inviolable. Mr. Transparent Society is radical about this!

* Techies are now figuring out how to attach sensors and cameras directly to insects and powering the devices off the creatures' own movements.  Similar to the "mosquito cams" that I spoke of in The Transparent Society (1997), these will tilt the balance of power toward whoever has the best ability to see... including ability to detect mosquito-cams!  Our only hope in such a world is NOT to ban the things - that cannot conceivably work.  But to make sure we all have them.  And hence that we can catch the peeping toms.

* Three GOP candidates stand above the others, when it comes to intellect, having interesting things to say, and departing (in spots) from pure, Know-Nothing trog-populism. Let's dismiss John Huntsman. He actually wants calm, moderate, pragmatic negotiation - in other words, his chances of getting the Republican nomination stand between nil and hopeless.

The other two? I've praised Gingrich as 1/3 fascinating/smart... if 2/3 crazy. Now see Ron Paul at his libertarian best!  If only his crazy-ratios weren't the same as Newt's.  Well-well, these are the three I’d at least buy a beer and expect, during the conversation, to hear some interesting (if at least half jibbering loopy) things.

* Obama on Mars! White House Denies CIA teleported Obama to Mars!

*  This Girl Snuck Into a Russian Military Rocket Factory!

* Is the US Private Sector dying?  Because the “accountants are in charge”?

== And finally - the most important quotation you can cite this year ==

"There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness."
- President George Washington, State of the Union address, 1/8/1790

Science and technology were responsible for half of US economic growth since 1945. Those who are demonizing science... and disparaging every other knowledge profession... are at-best fools and at-worst the genuine enemies of hope for the republic. Or for human civilization.  Don't take it from me.  Take it from George Washington.

72 comments:

anne.ominous said...

Quote: "This simply replicates what would happen if the FBI tracked the fellow with a classic 'tail.'"

The real problem is: no, it doesn't.

Despite the fact that a number of judges (and obviously you) have ignored this issue, actually this kind of "tail" gives authorities a lot MORE information than a classic "tail" normally gives them.

You are assuming that a human "tail" will be following a person everywhere they go, 24 hours a day, but that is almost never the case. You see, it is PRECISELY for reasons of cost that "tails" are almost always limited to times and places that are relevant to an investigation. And if you want to physically follow someone in their travels about the city all day long? The cost goes up tremendously because then you need a whole team of people and vehicles if you don't want to be noticed.

But reducing the cost so much means "tails" that work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for weeks at a time.

What are the results? As one judge noted: law enforcement now has enough information to be able to deduce where the victim works, whether he has a mistress and where she lives, who his friends are, what kinds of food he eats and when, who he associates with, what his religion is, and even his political affiliations or beliefs. All of which -- in most cases -- is completely irrelevant to the investigation, and that frankly is none of law enforcement's business, or information they should even have at their disposal.

Why do I assert this is a bad thing? Because historically, IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN! Governments and institutions have always found ways to abuse excess information about people. That is why I, and many others, do not believe that "full transparency" is a good thing.

Imagine, if you will, that your government is oppressive. You are among the underground resistance. Obviously, you do not want the government knowing your REAL political affiliations, which a GPS "tail" can often tell them better than any realistic tail could. (It's true; ask the experts.) Or say your government suppresses religion: you don't want them to know you attend secret services. Whatever your opinion of religion, freedom of religion is a right that is recognized by most societies today.

The same arguments can be made about other kinds of oppression. Which just keeps leading us back to the conclusion that this particular kind of "100% transparency" is NOT a good thing.

And while I agree that transparency in the other direction is good, people do not always have that option. It is precisely the more oppressive governments that do not allow that kind of transparency.

So, okay. If you could FIRST guarantee a non-oppressive and benign government AND society, then maybe complete openness would be a good thing. Maybe even a tremendously good thing.

But until then, you're off base. First things first. Government must be transparent FIRST, then the citizenry. Not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of a short comment to direct you to this:

http://pastebin.com/QV9Q42ZC

It's an internal memo from the dept of homeland security, listing sites that they monitor. Hardly surprising, but an interesting confirmation.

David Brin said...

Alas, Anne relentlessly refuses to face the obvious point... that no measure in the history of our species has ever prevented the mighty from seeing whatever it was in human power to see. If you ban them from using a tool, it will go underground.

"The chief thing accomplished by a privacy law is to make the bugs smaller." - Robert Heinlein

I am not claiming that sousveillance or reciprocal transparency is a better option for protecting our freedom. It is the ONLY option. Because history shows that while you cannot blind the mighty... you can sometimes strip them naked in order to prevent the hired dog from becoming a wolf.

That has happened. It has precedent. It is possible.

anne.ominous said...

I'm not "refusing" to see it, I just disagree with you. In my honest opinion, it is you who are missing the obvious point: if you want a free society, it is government that must be open first, the rest of society later.

Otherwise, you are just handing government "the keys to the kingdom", as it were. In fact I think some of your ideas are dangerous because you appear to advocate doing exactly that.

I believe history supports my argument better than yours. But it would take far too much time and space to discuss that in much detail here, on a workday.

sociotard said...

[i]What matters to me is looking back. And I mean looking back hard. Watch the watchmen.[/i]

Does this mean
A) I should get to go put tracer-trackers on FBI cars
B) I should demand the FBI attach tracers to all their own cars and release the information online?
C) The government should have to disclose all cars they have attached tracers to
D) As C, and they release the information generated too

Ian said...

How's this for contrarian?

The US is potentially poised for an extended period of above-average economic growth and jobs growth.

http://www.freep.com/article/20120107/BUSINESS07/201070343/U-S-could-be-in-cycle-of-robust-job-growth-economists-contend?odyssey=tab|mostpopular|text|FRONTPAGE

The jobs growth is likely to be led by the expansion of manufacturing:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-11/u-s-job-outlook-brightens-from-ohio-factories-to-dakota-fracking-economy.html

On a different note: Kepler has found three exoplanets smaller than the Earth.

Since Kepler can only identify planets in the correct orbital plane to be seen transitting their star, there's probably 10 exoplanets out there for every one spotted so far.

Oh and the most recent discoveries orbit an M-class dwarf. Roughly 70% of the stars in our galaxy are M-class dwrfs.

Putting those two facts together, it's highly probably that Earth-sized planets orbittign M-class stars are common.


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/01/120111-smallest-exoplanets-kepler-space-science/

Robert said...

Oh look. Russia's space officials are making allusions that in effect blame the U.S. for the failure of their Phobos space probe to leave the Earth's orbit. We're giving them our money and trusting them to fly our boys into orbit and they turn around and claim we're sabotaging their space program rather than admit that their own ineptitude and laziness is responsible for their string of embarrassments.

Screw the deficit. NASA's budget should be increased by a billion dollars each year to design and built a rocket capable of putting our astronauts into orbit as soon as possible. And once that rocket is done, put the money into a heavy lift rocket. We shouldn't be paying Russia anything for this half-fast taxi service when they're making us out to be villains once more.

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

If that anonymous tip is correct, Contrary Brin isn't being monitored.

How disappointing.

Stefan Jones said...

Chris Mooney has dug up something interesting from Libertarian philosopher Hayek:

Friedrich Hayek on the Conservative Denial of Science–50 Years Ago

I imagine that full-blown libertarians -- the "free minds and free markets" folks -- won't be surprised by this at all. But it would be interesting to ask conservatives who name-drop the guy to bolster their free-enterprise cred why they feel comfortable picking and choosing.

'syntast': Performer skilled in the use of the Hyperflute.

Paul451 said...

David,
Re: First Uplift Omnibus. (From the last post)
If they haven't finalised the package yet, can I suggest you include the short story Aficionado as a preface? It would tie the three novels together. (Maybe start the second omnibus with Temptation? And it would make them somewhat unique...)

sociotard,
"Does this mean A) I should get to go put tracer-trackers on FBI cars"

You mean, I presume, "what does David mean by "look back" ?" But I'm curious how the judge who ruled trackers didn't require a warrant would answer... If his answer is no, then placing trackers is a special surveillance power of the police, and therefore should require a warrant.

Does anyone know? What are the rules about watching the watchers? Can you run surveillance ops on surveillance cops?

(prein: Is, as is, as is.)

sociotard said...

Oh, and the real takeaway from New Hampshire is that Ron Paul has no chance. New Hampshire is as Libertarian a state as we have, and they couldn't even choose him.

rewinn said...

@Jonathan:
That's what they want you to believe.
If you're not on the list, it's probably because they're too worried about you to risk tipping you off!

David Brin said...

Yeesh, here's the whole quotation that Stefan linked to, starting with Mooney's words on his blog:

Here’s something that the evolution skeptic and Hayek admirer Ron Paul ought to pay attention to. What is astonishing about the quotation below, from Hayek’s “Why I Am Not a Conservative” essay, is just how much it seems to stand outside of time, as if it could have been written now, rather than when it was written, in 1960:


"Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it – or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. I can have little patience with those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution or what are called “mechanistic” explanations of the phenomena of life because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as irrelevant or impious to ask certain questions at all. By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts." F. Hayek 1960

David Brin said...

Anne.Ominous, I call your bluff. SHow me when and where the people ever both stripped the elites naked and blinded those elites so the elites could not surveil or know about the people. This is gonna be interesting! I am about to learn about all sorts of "history" that I never knew before!

anne.ominous said...

I didn't bluff; I told you I wasn't going to get into an argument with you in the first place. I made my statement, you made yours. We disagree. Fine. But I do not have the time to get into this in depth. It is right now 3:11 am, and I have to work tomorrow. I am busy.

But you don't get to "win" just because I won't argue with you. I am not aware of historical examples of what you cite, either. But I certainly AM aware of governments in the past that have been able to surveil and oppress the people much more easily than the other way around, which was my entire point.

I am not against openness, but again I believe that the side with the greater coercive power, which in the past has invariably been government, will continue to try to use that advantage for oppression, for as long as it can. Until that is changed, I don't think the other is going to happen.

But that is the end of my argument. I don't think I'll have much time to be citing history books for the next few days.

Tim H. said...

Seems to me that looking back at law enforcement is going to be a high risk endeavor for the foreseeable future, certainly while the wars on drugs & terror go on. I'm sure that there are still politicians who aren't above using law enforcement to quiet critics.

Anonymous said...

>> Remind folks that New Hampshire is a Blue State.

That could easily cut both ways. The GOP has made electability the number one issue in this campaign. Who gets rid of Obama is, to a certain extent, irrelavent, provided that they are "Republican enough". South Carolina is a Red state. Its going send all its electors to the GOP regardless of whether the GOP candidate is Romney, Santorum, or Ayn Rand. New Hampshire, on the other hand, might give its electors to Romney but not Santorum or any of the other "more Red" candidates.

Pawyigh Lee said...

Associated today with the theatre of war, the widespread domestic use of drones for surveillance seems inevitable. Existing privacy law will not stand in its way. It may be tempting to conclude on this basis that drones will further erode our individual and collective privacy. Yet the opposite may happen. Drones may help restore our mental model of a privacy violation. They could be just the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century. — M. Ryan Calo Stan. L. Rev. Online (29)

LarryHart said...

rewinn (under the previous post):

The free market depends on honest dealing, and severely penalizing cheaters. When you take labor promising to pay for it in the future, but don't set aside assets to pay for it, you are cheating.


You've nailed exactly what is wrong with the admittedly-alluring Ron Paul position that government's only function is to protect "liberty".

In this case, he'd be arguing that punishing cheaters infringes on THEIR liberty. In the libertarian fantasy universe, the market is supposed to correct itself, so I suppose that when consumers get wind of the fact that ABC Corporation underfunds its workers pensions, those consumrs will refuse to do business with that company. In the meantime, since the workers whose labor was (essnetially) stolen from them will be understandably angry at the company, the sole legitimate function of government is supposed to be the protection of ABC Corp from any retalliation on the part of its victims.

Pawyigh Lee said...

Mosquito laser @Wikipedia is about lasing mossies, but 20-C. technology could identify species and sex before shooting. LEDs today can raise "profiling" to a precise science when deploying LED illumination in public areas, and should even be programmable to detect emotional states. ASF March Novelette: MOTHER'S TATTOOS by Richard A. Lovett does that in a far more complicated way, which LED illumination could greatly simplify.

BackToBaseball said...

Congress may no longer be benefiting from insider trading:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/capitol-gains/8692/

Tacitus2 said...

I am imperfectly understanding the debate twixt Brin and Anne.anonnymus, but if the question is "Has there ever been a situation where the government has had less ability to watch the populace than vice versa" it is an interesting one.

It would have to be a transient situation. Knowlege being power one would envision either a more effective, repressive government emerging or the people becoming the government. (or likely both).

Perhaps the hapless Kerensky government that preceded the Bolshevik Revolution?

Maybe the "government" of places like Somalia where the official rulers are in charge of very little, and no doubt their warlord rivals know their every move.

An interesting brain teaser!

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Anne.Ominous, I have seen a lot of this lately. Grand sweeping statements "supported by history"... then refusal to back them up with a single example. And let's be plain. I am not asking you to prove that your pattern is the ONLY pattern of history... or even the majority...

I asked you to show us ONE example of the pattern you describe, having happened ever. And I mean ever. That's not demanding a lot of work from you. It is asking for one example of your scenario ever happening... at all.

Tacitus tried to help you... suggesting that some extremely weak and ineffective govts like the Kerensky in Russia 1917, might suit. But ineffective/doomed governments can't be what you had in mind, right? In any event, Tacitus wasn't the one casting blanket (and contempt-dripping) statements about universal laws of history.

You dismiss this as "we disagree." Sorry. That's the modern sickness. Grand assertions and then blithe dismissal that facts are a matter of opinion.

Dig it, this is not about you or me or the matter we are arguing about. It is about really really bad modern mental habits that our grandparents would have found lazy and silly.

David Brin said...

Anonymous, you are totally right that logically the nod in N.Hampshire indicates Romney's top selling point - potential "electability." MY point was that "electability" was what gave them John McCain. And the other candidates if they want to stop him need to fire up the base.

David Brin said...

All right, I give up on America. The list of top commercial brands? Subway is #1 and .... urg... the History Channel is #3.

Skip Romney... nominate Bigfoot!

sociotard said...

David Brin said:
I asked you to show us ONE example of the pattern you describe, having happened ever. And I mean ever. That's not demanding a lot of work from you. It is asking for one example of your scenario ever happening... at all.


Er, physician heal thyself?

You point out that the mighty cannot be stopped from using surveillance tech. This is true. However, you have not pointed out any point in history when this has happened. ΔPower may get small, but government will always get better use out of surveillance than citizenry can.

Can you show us any time in history when ΔPower was exactly zero? When the citizen had as much power to watch the government as the government had to watch us? You might be able to do something if you went back to stone age villages. Maybe.

But you still haven't said how perfect reciprocal transparency would apply to car trackers.

Oh, and here's a little one. In medieval Venice, the Doge was under strict financial scrutiny. That was elites looking at another elite, yes, but they were looking at an elite more powerful than themselves.

Rob said...

The challenge is to find one example in history of the people stripping the emperor naked and watching the government with greater power than the government has to watch back has got to be (if I've restated the problem correctly)...

The government of the United States, in the early 21st Century.

Thing is, the countervailing surveillance power isn't in the hands of a hundred million camera-wielding hoi polloi. It's the very few large corporate organizations who posess that power.

Count the number of cameras over your head sometime, when you visit Wal Mart next. Every square inch of that place is surveilled. Only the myopic scope of interest of Wal Mart prevents its misuse; any violation of privacy or dignity law (you have none in a Wal Mart or any place like it) would be punished post facto, and the company has the right to keep that footage forever.

No government entity can compel them to switch it off and they have to prove probable cause to get the footage.

Of course this whole line of argument falls completely to pieces if one includes such entities as governing forces, ("the mighty"), which it cannot be denied that they are. Perhaps I've set the goalposts wrong; you tell me.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I am imperfectly understanding the debate twixt Brin and Anne.anonnymus,...


I apparently am too, because while I usually let out a groan when I see that anne has posted, she's making perfect sense this time.

I don't think the two of them (anne and Dr Brin) are truly arguing with each other's position. Anne seems to be saying governments have so much power to violate our privacy that our Constitutional liberties are threatened, and Dr Brin is insisting that there's no way to prevent that from being true.

It's as if one says "My ice cream is MELTING!", and the other says, "The only way to prevent that is to put it in a FREEZER!", acting as if each statement disputes the other.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

All right, I give up on America. The list of top commercial brands? Subway is #1 and .... urg... the History Channel is #3.


Was Ron Paul #2?

(See, that's a joke--the media is fond of reporting that Mitt Romney is #1 in whatever poll and Newt Gingrich is #3, and conveniently fogetting to list Ron Paul at #2...aw, forget it).

:)

LarryHart said...

Rob on Walmart surveilance:

No government entity can compel them to switch it off and they have to prove probable cause to get the footage.


You are correct, but it seems to me you are also missing the point.

You haven't shown an example of a private entity (WalMart) having surveilance powers OVER the government's activities. You've simply shown that a private entity can surveil little people even BETTER than the government can.

Or do I have THAT wrong?

David Brin said...

Sociotard demands": "You point out that the mighty cannot be stopped from using surveillance tech. This is true. However, you have not pointed out any point in history when this has happened. ΔPower may get small, but government will always get better use out of surveillance than citizenry can."

Whaaaaaa? What exactly are you claiming that I said?

"Can you show us any time in history when ΔPower was exactly zero?"

Huh? Say what????

Show me where I ever ever said delta-p has to be equal? Or that it ever happened? Indeed, the enlightenment has been all about:

a) dividing power so it does not get concentrated,

(b) siccing divided power centers against each other to balance out.

(Destroying the government civil servants as a competing power center vs oligarchy is THE top-to-bottom agenda of today's zombies-led-by-moguls right.)

c) empowering the citizenry sufficiently -- note SUFFICIENTLY -- so that there is a high enough likelihood of catching abuse of power and inflicting punishment that the likelihood of major or systematic power abuse keeps diminishing over time and remains below levels of acceptable irritation.

You want me to find examples of THAT? Sure. Stand up. Step outside. Open eyes.

Can we do much better at that? You betcha. It is one of my life obsessions. Indeed, as state and monied power to see augments, this becomes critical. And your point was?


Tacitus says: "I don't think the two of them (anne and Dr Brin) are truly arguing with each other's position. Anne seems to be saying governments have so much power to violate our privacy that our Constitutional liberties are threatened, and Dr Brin is insisting that there's no way to prevent that from being true."

No that is not what Anne said at all. Anne said that the way to prevent power abuse was to attack the govt's ability to surveil, not my approach of letting the govt see, but fiercely subjecting it to supervision.

Funny thing? My approach is the only way you could ever conceivably THEN institute hers.


LARRYHART.... Amazon was #2. Apple was #10. Stupid poll.

"You've simply shown that a private entity can surveil little people even BETTER than the government can."

Exactly. Murdoch and the princes want one thing: a divided, weakened America with a shattered government that can no longer serve as a counter-weight to private power, and especially intellectual castes who have been put back in their place as boffins who don't speak except when asked.

sociotard said...

I'll try to show the tit-for-tat more clearly.

Brin A Missouri judge ruled the FBI does not need a warrant to secretly attach a GPS unit to a suspect's car and track his public movements for two months. . . . What matters to me is looking back. And I mean looking back hard. Watch the watchmen.

AnneWhy do I assert this is a bad thing? Because historically, IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN! Governments and institutions have always found ways to abuse excess information about people. . . So, okay. If you could FIRST guarantee a non-oppressive and benign government AND society, then maybe complete openness would be a good thing. Maybe even a tremendously good thing.

But until then, you're off base. First things first. Government must be transparent FIRST, then the citizenry. Not the other way around.


Brin I call your bluff. SHow me when and where the people ever both stripped the elites naked and blinded those elites so the elites could not surveil or know about the people. This is gonna be interesting! I am about to learn about all sorts of "history" that I never knew before!

Anne's only comment about history was that if a government knows too much about its people. She then concedes that absolute transparency might be okay if the government were benign and it were actually reciprocal.

She then said that instead of government transparency trailing citizen transparency, citizen transparency should trail government transparency.

You asked when government transparency has ever lagged citizen transparency. I asked you when government transparency has ever equalled citizen transparency.

Anne never said that her plan had completely worked historically, and you never said that yours had caught up either.

Oh, and some countries do have stronger privacy laws. Denmark, et al.

In those countries, government transparency still doesn't trail citizen transparency, but it is closer.

Unknown said...

I don't understand what you mean by this:

David Brin said...
> ... If you ban them from using a tool, it will go underground.

If the courts banned GPS tracking devices, then the FBI wouldn't use them, for fear of compromising their investigations, e.g. through the admissibility of the evidence they collect.

Right?

sociotard said...

Oh, and on a less confronational note, I had a question about this:

a) dividing power so it does not get concentrated,

(b) siccing divided power centers against each other to balance out.


Our founders tried that by separating the executive and legislative (the Presidential system), in contrast to Britain, where they are conjoined twins (the Parliamentary system).

And yet, the US is the only developed country still using the Presidential system. Most others use parliamentary. Most new countries go for the parliamentary model.

So, was dividing powers in this way a bad idea?

Rob said...

LarryHart, I stand corrected, and I guess I missed the point by thinking of examples of how large NGO's can look at the people without considering whether they can look at the government.

But even that's a nice segue into a tangent: If our only focus is on surveillance by government upon the people without reciprocal permission, what about surveillance by corporations upon people without reciprocity? Wal Mart certainly doesn't publish its security cam footage.

In any case, local and state governments where I live obey a pile of laws requiring them to expose agency dealings and affairs online. Maybe I live in a Left Coast paradise that way.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

"You've simply shown that a private entity can surveil little people even BETTER than the government can."

Exactly. Murdoch and the princes want one thing: a divided, weakened America with a shattered government that can no longer serve as a counter-weight to private power.


And the Ron Paul libertaian line is that that goal is right and good. To him, "counter-weight to private power" is the same thing as "counter-weight to individual liberty." In fact, to that faction, the whole point of "liberty" seems to be "the free exercise of one's private power."

Paul451 said...

There's a difference between being able to do something, and being able to use it. For example, while plenty of police searches are ruled "illegal" by the courts, the judge never follows that ruling with "Bailiff! Arrest those officers!" There are no police in prison for "illegal searches", or not reading someone their rights.

"Illegal", in that context, doesn't mean against the law to do, it means anything stemming from doing it can't be used against the person (poison fruit and all that.) So it's perfectly reasonable to have laws against government surveillance, even though the laws can't prevent the actual surveillance. It just prevents them from being used against you in court.

That means, IMO, we should reduce laws as surveillance increases. We don't apply this principle enough (or ever.)

Loitering laws are to prevent people from committing burglaries. "Loitering" itself isn't a bad thing. Because there are only so many police on patrol, burglars can just wait until he passes before they break in. But if there's 24/7 360-degree surveillance, we can see every burglary, we don't need laws against loitering. Likewise, much of trespass law.

Likewise, when you had to be followed by a patrol car, only the extreme speedsters were caught. The point of a 35mph speed limit wasn't to restrict everyone to precisely 35mph at all times, it was to give a) a general idea of road conditions and b) police a standard to judge what excessive speed meant. So if you can test every motorists, via roadside speed cameras, you can raise the enforced limit to 40 or 45mph, even as you post a "recommended speed" of 35. Likewise, if you had universal in-car tracking, you should raise it further and lower the fine per breach, even as you keep the "recommended speed" the same. (I mean, common sense says the speed that a road becomes dangerous is much higher than the speed we recommend everyone routinely drive on that road. The difference between "routine" and "unsafe" is going to be more than a few mph.)

If we had pretty much universal personal tracking, as we will eventually with ubiquitous cameras and biometric tracking, then we should eliminate most behavioural laws.

The problem is things tend to go the other way. The greater the governments ability to enforce a law, the more restrictive and onerous the law becomes.

Paul451 said...

sociotard,
Re: Parliamentary vs presidential.
"So, was dividing powers in this way a bad idea?"

Interesting how little political experimentation you get by US states. You have 50 states. How many have radically changed their electoral system, or their method of representation? You guys seem really conservative.

(The only thing I can think of is the citizens initiated referenda.)

(humsitin: Old man groan.)

David Brin said...

"And the Ron Paul libertaian line is that that goal is right and good. To him, "counter-weight to private power" is the same thing as "counter-weight to individual liberty." In fact, to that faction, the whole point of "liberty" seems to be "the free exercise of one's private power."

Just because Ron Paul looks like David vs Goliath... and is saying some anti-Murdochian things... and some of them are good... that doesn't make him anything other than a stark jibbering loon. The whole libertarian movement is insane. Sane people would re- evaluate after getting 1% of the vote for 50 years.

Idolatry of private property and pyrotechnic hatred of all government is not sane stuff or even pro-freedom. It ignores the whole premise of AdamSmithian liberalism and utterly ignores who the villains were, oppressing freedom in 99% of cultures.

It ignores what should be the top goal of their movement... maximizing the creative power of competition, the greatest creative force in the universe. Government can HELP foster competition... so they downplay that whole premise.

David Brin said...

"If the courts banned GPS tracking devices, then the FBI wouldn't use them, for fear of compromising their investigations, e.g. through the admissibility of the evidence they collect."

Nonsense. If they were sure they could track people illegally without getting caught, they would do so, and then use the intelligence thus gathered in order to legally "stumble upon" evidence that's admissible. It is pure human nature.

The thing that makes a difference is one thing... the likelihood of getting caught. And that deterrent to abuse by the mighty is only possible in a mostly transparent world.

Sociotard, most Western Hemisphere nations use the American model as does the Phillipines. Study the Parliamentary system to see that many ways it caters to the entrenched class. the majority party in parliament gets executive power! And gets to choose when the next election will be held. It amazes me that it can remain free at all.

David Brin said...

Paul451 is on track. As surveillance catches higher % of perpetrators, the scaling factors must change! If ALL speeders are caught precisely, every time, then you do not need a $100 flat fine as a deterrent, applied to the few you catch. Instead, the system would simply charge you, as in an international phone call, a small amount per MPH above the speed limit you went, per minute, for the first 20% of excess speed... and order you into therapy if you drive above that. You'd speed only when you feel your hurry justified the extra charge.

sociotard said...

Sociotard, most Western Hemisphere nations use the American model as does the Phillipines.

The only other developed nation in the western hemisphere is Canada, which is Parliamentary. The others are all developing nations. Few of them look like bastions of liberty and civilization. The same goes for the Philipines.

Sane people would re- evaluate after getting 1% of the vote for 50 years.

Very true, but only in the American system where only the two majority parties. If we had a mixed proportional system like New Zealand the smaller parties could actually represent minority viewpoints and be heard.

Paul451 said...

David Brin,
"The thing that makes a difference is one thing... the likelihood of getting caught. And that deterrent to abuse by the mighty is only possible in a mostly transparent world."

It also requires that the thing they are doing is illegal. If it's legal, there's no fear in getting caught.

Our requirements are exactly the same as theirs. We need both the law, and the means to enforce it. One without the other is meaningless.

(pincir: Caught between a rock and a round place.)

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

So if you can test every motorists, via roadside speed cameras, you can raise the enforced limit to 40 or 45mph, even as you post a "recommended speed" of 35. Likewise, if you had universal in-car tracking, you should raise it further and lower the fine per breach, even as you keep the "recommended speed" the same.


One problem is that cities and municipalities see speeding tickets as a source of needed revenue. So they're not going to arrest fewer drivers on account of technology reducing the threat those drivers pose. Rather, they'll arrest more drivers in order to bring in more cash.

sociotard said...

NYT asks its readers if reporters should challenge "facts" asserted by people they interview.

Should the NYT be a truth vigilante?

Perhaps Dr. Brin should post a poll asking if he should write works of fiction involving advanced technology set in the future?

LarryHart said...

From that NYT blog post sociotard posted above:

This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?


Have things really degraded so much that the paper itself has difficulty distinguishing "reporter" from "stenographer"?

Words fail me.

Ian said...

"And yet, the US is the only developed country still using the Presidential system."

France, Germany, Italy all use Presidential systems, want me to go on?


"The only other developed nation in the western hemisphere is Canada,..."

Chile and ARgentian are both classified as develoepd countries - Uruguay, Mexico and Costa Rica aren't far behidn them.

That's based on the HDI.

anne.ominous said...

David, all I have time to day say (it's early in the morning again) is: sorry, it won't wash.

I have not had a problem arguing with you before, and it is generally my habit to back up my claims with references. But when ONE TIME, I say I don't have time to argue with you, try to paint it as some kind of character flaw.

To be perfectly honest, that says a lot more about you than it does about me. And also to be honest, I have seen it in your attitude and your arrogance here before.

You won't be seeing me around here anymore. I have neither need or desire to put up with that kind of crap.

You go ahead and have fun with your weird political ideas, ignorance of economics, and unfounded theories. I have stated this before and I will write it one last time: you are a very smart guy. I don't dispute that. But apparently not smart enough to know how much you don't know.

duncan cairncross said...

Ian Said

""And yet, the US is the only developed country still using the Presidential system."

France, Germany, Italy all use Presidential systems, want me to go on?"

All of these use a parliamentary system with a president as either figurehead or executive

In France the president is directly elected, the other two he is appointed effectively by parliament

I don't know of any developed countries that use the same system as the USA
Saying that - most countries systems are unique

Bye Anne - don't let the door hit your but on the way out

Robert said...

Just a quick aside on the ongoing Freefall storyline. We have a couple of politicians doing the unexpected - talking about the integration of sentient robots into society rather than lobotomizing them, and realizing the tendency of robots to obey direct orders from humans is a problem.

I write a commentary article on it over at my review site, but I must admit I wasn't sure where it was going to go. While we still have a inept bureaucrat who is trying to force the "pruning program" that would lobotomize the robots so he can get rich off of their money (seems robots have been investing wages and the like), it's refreshing to see government officials not depicted as completely ruthless or inept... but as intelligent (if sometimes quirky).

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Ian said...

Some real world news:

Incredible as it may seem given that country's tragic history, it appears that Myanmar may actually be in the grip of genuine and largely peaceful political change:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-01-13/burma-political-prisoners-freed/52528408/1

Emphasis on "may"

Dwight Williams said...

Well, here's hoping that this prisoner release is indeed part of a continuing and helpful trend. And let's keep an eye on it to make sure.

Robert said...

By the way, Dr. Brin, you do owe Anne an apology, even if she's not going to be here to see it. You obviously skimmed what she said and jumped to conclusions on what she said. Yes, in the past she has said some things you disagree with. But you went on a far wider tangent than I'm normally known for and put words in her mouth.

This is Contrary Brin. But the contrariness is not meant to be for you alone. The spirit of this blog is for contrary opinions to be discussed with politeness and good faith. And I've tried hard to get some of my friends to come here, hoping that maybe some of them will open their eyes and see alternative perspectives (and in one case because she's truly brilliant in arguing points and I think she'd fit in nicely... sadly, she's been too busy).

I would like to think they would see what drew me in here and kept me here. The little brouhaha with Anne... is quite indicative of other blogs with hosts who are far less tolerant of alternative opinions. That, and you did jump to a conclusion that was not there.

Please. Apologize.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

France uses a semi-presidential system. The president is elected and has some actual power, but he shares the executive with a prime minister. Of course, this is the 5th French republic. The French are almost as good at forming stable republics as they are at fighting Germans.

Russia also uses a semi-presidential system, though I would say their democracy has some issues.

Italy and Germany both use Parliamentary

Tacitus2 said...

Robert has a point.

You can have whatever debating style you want, its your rec room after all.

But there have been posters put off by it, feeling it is a bit of high handed CalvinBall at times.

I feel that way, but have just written it off as your "home field advantage".

In the end it is about what kind of site you want to have, and that is up to you.

Tacitus

Robert said...

Here's a few science based news article URLs, and one about Colbert and Stewart having fun with PAC ownership (I swear, they're doing this to educate the public more than anything else):

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2012/01/stephen-colbert-super-pac.html

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2012/01/stephen-colbert-super-pac.html - Research into Criegee molecules which have been reducing atmospheric pollution

http://news.discovery.com/space/saturn-on-steroids-exoplanet-discovered-120111.html - An exo-planet with a likely ring system has been detected. Though there is another possibility: that it has several large moons which are being detected.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Robert, you posted the link to the colbert thing twice and missed the one for the Criegee molecules

Something like this?
http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/12/newly-discovered-molecule-criegee-biradical-may-have-cooling-effect-on-earth/

Jonathan S. said...

RE: the "Freefall" storyline:

Honestly, I think the big reason the mayor isn't fully in favor of running Gardener In the Dark is because she recognizes that a lobotomized workforce won't be as economically productive...

TheMadLibrarian said...

On an unrelated but annoying note, Diane Duane has had her bank account emptied by a skimmer who managed to snag her debit card data. Here is the link:
https://plus.google.com/101086882349363163093/posts/Mvzkc3ubjac

Diane Duane is a very good fantasy and science fiction writer who does a good job treading the thin line between the two. If you have been contemplating buying any of her e-books, now would be a nice time to pull the trigger, as the miscreants have left her 'skint'.

Dr. Brin, if this is inappropriate, please feel free to delete.

TheMadLibrarian

hessen: I haz a mad

Kelsey said...

@ Robert

Sorry, Robert. I'm going to be a bit contrary as well and side with David.

It's rude to not finish an argument one has started, and say "well I just don't have time". It's fine to not have time, just promise to come back to the issue later or even take the matter to email where it can be more private and civil. Don't just blow the host off.

I recall Tacitus is often busy with work so he can't respond to all points sometimes, but he almost always gets a pass because he's polite, and because he keeps the place interesting.

David Brin said...

Ian... France and Germany do not use the US "presidential" system. They have presidents. But in the majority of such systems the president is a weak "Head of State" with approximately the powers of a constitutional monarch... to preside and to provide stability, but very little real power. Power lies with the prime minister and parliament.

France is a hybrid. Day to day operations are run by a prime minister who works out of parliament... but the president is strong. Russia has oscillated between these two, depending on which office happens to be occupied by Putin/

Robert I will not apologize to Ann-Ominous. I said nothing whatsoever that could be remotely interpreted as ad-hominem. I was curt in demanding ONE example of her proclaimed universal pattern of history. She spent more time whining that she "had no time" than it would have taken to cite a single example out of what she contended to be a universal human pattern.

Or else said: "Okay I don't have an example and I exaggerated... though I think Brin's method won't work either."

That I would have respected. Well. A little. Prickly, touchy, deliberately offensive, illogical and cowardly... and I am supposed to... mourn? What a marroon.

Robert H sounds like a terrific story!

Re Burma... they are attempting the South Africa Model. In which the dictators plan out a transition while nurturing the right new leader into a forgiving frame of mind. deKlerk was almost as much a hero/visionary as Mandella. I see signs the new generals in Myanmar are grooming Ang Siu Ky (?) for exactly that role. Of course the groomee must consent and be persuaded.

Diane Duane has been victimized by identity thieves more often than could count. It is amazing. Either she's a victim of conspiracy, bizarre quantum chance... or she attracts really weird people. I wish her well.



Eeek Romney attacked for speaking French! http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/gingrich-hits-romney-knowing-speak-french-150300235.html

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
"One problem is that cities and municipalities see speeding tickets as a source of needed revenue. So they're not going to arrest fewer drivers on account of technology reducing the threat those drivers pose. Rather, they'll arrest more drivers in order to bring in more cash."

While that's true, I think there's also an element of "believing your own publicity". The law is the law, because it's the law, therefore it must not only always be the law, the law must be changed to make it even moreso and never ever changed to make it less so, because that would condone breaking the current law, and only criminals break the law.

David,
Re: anne
Not ad hominem, straw man. You seemed to be challenging her on something different than what she actually said. Or at least what I thought she said. (I don't think her responses helped.)

Robert,
Re: Colbert
Teh funzorz. I hope he runs. I wonder if that was the plan for his PAC all along? However, if he is blocked by the Republican party from getting on the ballot and runs as an independent he would split the Dem vote.

Re: Freefall.
Can you do me a favour, don't mention a new webcomic here until it reaches at least a non-cliffhanger end of chapter/book. You are doing my head in.

rewinn said...

Romney attacked for speaking French! ...
... and Huntsman attached for speaking Chinese.

There's some irony when rightwingers are attacked for being smart ... but it's still wrong ... not merely unjust but bad for our nation.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Agreed, DD does seem to attract more than her fair share of problems. For someone who writes about the Universe being a hopeful place, the Universe sure seems to have it in for her.

I am looking forward to ongoing lulz from InDecision 2012 and the Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC. Considering Al Franken's run, maybe we could use more comedians in public office. They certainly seem to cut to the heart of the matter more directly than many career politicians.

TheMadLibrarian

ishaumi: A personal ShamWow

Stefan Jones said...

Off-topic, but wonderful.

SPACE AGE NOSTALGIA!

Remember those advertisements in old comic books that offered Nautilus Submarines and Jet Spaceships for $4.95?

I'm just old enough to remember seeing those ads in the first comics I was able to read . . . probably at the barbershop, since my mom wouldn't allow those sort of comics in the house!

Someone bought a "Star Jet" rocket ship off of eBay and was kind enough to photograph and blog the contents:

http://bit.ly/yOx9bf

Joel said...

American politics ought to somehow include the parliamentary system of having Question Period - where the politicians are locked in a room with TV cameras to ask each other uncomfortable questions and having them respond without scripts. It's like your GOP debates, but all year long.

GPS: Seems to me that any FBI or cop using a GPS on a car is wasting the cost of a GPS unit. Anyone with a smartphone is being tracked - not just by the cell provider (internal diagnostics like dropped calls and which cell towers you connect to in order to maintain a signal) but also benign third party apps (FourSquare and Facebook to give you location based groupon deals) and less benign third party apps (Carrier IQ, iOS tracking and the like).

The cars shown at CES this year have QNX or Android installed (both used in mobile platforms) and I expect will track locations as well.

I doubt the court case will have any impact on personal freedom. It'll be easier for a cop in a few years just to befriend you on Facebook with a fake profile of a pretty girl and watch where you go using Google Latitude or something similar. No - my mistake - in a few years it'll be easier. They could do what I describe today.

The Police Union in Canada are recommending that cops record all their interactions/confrontations with the public with mounted video cameras. It protects them against frivolous accusations after the fact. And it has the added benefit of encouraging cops to behave professionally by knowing their actions are being recorded.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/01/03/ottawa-police-cameras-video.html

Tacitus2 said...

Joel

John McCain proposed having an American version of Question Period.

Since it was suggested by a Republican the concept is therefor unacceptable and must be denounced.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92918928

Since it was reported on with some favor by NPR we shall not have to send you for re education, but we are watching you, bub.

Tacitus

Ian said...

Actual Question Time bears little resemblance to the idealized conception of it that ameircans have.

Oppostion MP: Is it true that the Prime Minister is 50 times worse than Hitler?

PM: 30 minutes of personal abuse including claims the opposition mother used to star in bestiality porn.

Government MP: Would the Prime Minister care ot comment on the editorial in the Daily fishwrap that the Leader of the Opposition is 100 times worse than Hitler and that if elected his policies will destroy the very Earth itself.

PM: fristly let me thank the honorable Member for his very intelligent question.

Speaker: Question time has now expired.

Tim H. said...

Tacitus
If question period comes to pass during this administration it'll be seen as demon scat and McCain will say he was misunderstood after his knuckles are rapped by major campaign donors. Good ideas can happen in congress, it's just that in the current atmosphere, they're cut down, burned and the ground they sprang from salted.

Tacitus2 said...

Tim H
I was of course speaking tongue in cheek. Apologies for the imperfection of internet discourse that may not have made it obvious.
Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

As it happens, the Oz govt has been considering abolishing question time for much the same reasons as Ian lampoons. (he left out the speaker's mournful cry of 'Order! Order!'. The Speaker does occasionally enliven proceedings by having someone thrown out. Maybe he should have them stand in front of a large blackboard, a la Bart?)

While searching questions are occasionally asked it is usually a name calling session.

If the US does introduce it at present expect to see congress approval ratings fall to tenths of a percent.

David Brin said...

onward