Belittling Opponents Belies Reasoned Debate

2013-08-24 15:32:55 by chort

Thus far I've avoided blogging about the US domestic surveillance scandal. Most of my opinions have been advanced by others, so restating them here would serve little use. However, today an aspect of the debate struck me that I think deserves closer examination

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Rights: Not Just For People You Like

2013-04-19 21:37:49 by chort

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, fear-mongers are falling over themselves in an attempt to out-do each other with the most "patriotic" response. That is to say, they've been competing for who can suggest suspending the most/greatest rights in their haste to bring perpetrators to "justice" (vengeance).

To these people, no right is too dear, no consequence is too great, to stop invasive surveillance, religious/ethnic persecution, or imposition of martial law. Don't take my word for it, read what they said for yourself.

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Courage is Temporal, or: USA's Overdeveloped Sense of Heroism

2011-11-20 20:37:44 by chort

In struggling to come to grasp with what the Occupy Wall Street movement really means to society, I realized there had been a serious shift in public perception of law enforcement--at least by the white middle class*. If we think back 10 years, nearly everyone was heralding law enforcement and other first-responders as heroes, for risking their lives at the World Trade Center site. If we look at the press today, we see police, sheriff, and campus security forces being roundly criticized for widely publicized incidents of violence. Public officials appear to have been caught off-guard and their response has ranged from bi-polar (Jean Quan, in Oakland) to defiant (Michael Bloomberg, New York City). What accounts for this change?

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How Casey Anthony is like Spam

2011-07-28 23:48:35 by chort

Unless were living under a rock, you're aware of some public outrage over the acquittal of Casey Anthony on the most serious charges against her. As is usually the case when someone widely believed to be guilty is not convicted, there are all kinds of demands for new laws, criticisms of the jurors, etc. Everyone is so concerned with trying to prevent cases from falling through the cracks that they don't stop to think about how well the system actually does work in general, particularly how rare it is that people are wrongly convicted (rare, but sadly not impossible). It strikes me that this issue is very similar to one I know a lot about.

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Cyberwars are real, but not what you think

2011-05-26 14:08:33 by chort

It struck me today that events are in motion for unavoidable cyber-conflicts. This statement won't shock anyone, since sensationalists have been predicting "a digital Pearl Harbor" for years. I don't agree with the predictions. In fact, I don't think it's likely that any warfare-like confrontations between nation states in cyberspace will happen in the near future. Sure there's rampant electronic espionage, but that hardly counts as warfare.

I think we're already seeing the beginning skirmishes in far more important events. We've seen protestors in various oppressed countries fighting to circumvent filtering and outright disconnection. We've seen massive DDoS attacks against draconian "Big Content" companies in retaliation for their heavy-handed treatment of their own customers. We've seen resourceful people overcome collateral damage caused by clumsy and ignorant government attempts to censor the Internet right here in the United States.

I don't see these events as anomalies or outliers. I see them as precursors. I think there's a strong undercurrent of opposition to the increasing attempts by governments and extremely large corporations to infringe on individual rights. In spite of that, It seems executives of these corporations are determined to forge ahead with rights-trampling legislation to restrict how individuals can access the Internet.

So what happens when out-of-touch elites try to enforce their will on the vast unwashed masses? That's when you get cyberwar. The people enacting new surveillance and censorship measures are forgetting that digital is the great equalizer. Any kid with a $200 laptop can take down a multi-billion dollar corporation. The more laws Big Content lobbyists have passed to make life miserable for average citizens, the more Anonymous* members they are going to create. It's difficult, although not impossible (as dramatically shown in the middle east this year) to physically resist power. To digitally resist power is nearly effortless. Those in favor of extreme enforcement of content "rights" are picking a fight they cannot reasonably be expected to win. The only question is how long it will take them to lose.

*To be clear, I'm not now, nor do I ever plan on being a member of Anonymous.

My Complaint Letter to the TSA

2010-11-23 15:45:54 by chort

Surrendering my 4th amendment rights should not be a condition of travel within the United States.

With strengthening of cockpit doors and revised flight procedures to restrict cockpit access, the likelihood of a hijacking being leveraged to use an aircraft as a weapon has been drastically reduced. Couple that with passengers' realization that compliance with terrorists is not in their best interest, the probability of any future airline attack causing more casualties than the passengers and crew on board is near nil.

This means that airplanes are not unique from sports stadiums, shopping malls, trains, buses, subways, cinemas, or scores of other kinds venues where inflicting hundreds of casualties is possible.

We cannot create a police state where every citizen must be viewed naked or sexually groped in order to venture into public places. Stop the Security Theater with airplanes and the inconvenience to millions of people who must fly for their jobs every week.

Brian Keefer

You may send your own complaint to the TSA here.

PS Of the last 3 terrorist attempts vs. aircraft going to the United States, only 67% were against passenger planes, none of them were hijackings, and none of them went through TSA security. Given those facts, do you really think drastic and invasive escalations against US citizens are necessary?

Update: Thanks to @georgevhulme for pointing out several typos. Also thanks to @mckeay for reminding me that money talks--I've stopped flying short trips (as of last year) due to TSA hassles, and have been driving instead. That takes money away from airlines, pollutes more, and (statistically speaking) causes more deaths. How is this "security" helping again?

Striking a Balance on Airport Security

2010-11-16 23:44:30 by chort

There has been a lot of press and grass-roots coverage of the TSA recently, specifically revolving around the increased usage of backscatter x-ray devices and more invasive physical inspections. Various DHS and TSA officials have made statements to the effect that they're sympathetic to the complaints, but the new measures are "necessary" and they're "striking a balance" between constitutional rights and security.

When I hear someone say "strike a balance" I visualize a see-saw, or a scale of justice, where the two sides are equally weighted in order to balance them. If we were to take the comments by Janet Napolitano and John Pistole at face value, we might reasonably think they're trying to find a middle ground somewhere between completely acceptable (say, passing through a magnetometer) and totally unacceptable (like cavity searches). The problem is that there is no balance. The scale is so far tilted to the side of violating constitutional rights that even a former Director of TSA Security Operations, Mo McGowan, actually admitted these measures violate the 4th amendment.

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