Monday, December 1, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Reporter Arrested for Photographing Senators, Donors at Democratic ConventionOnce again we see a heavy hand coming down on those daring to use a camera in public. This time it was Denver police arresting an ABC News producer for taking pictures, on a public sidewalk, of Democratic senators and big contributor.
A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.Nothing like trespassing on a public sidewalk. This is just one more in an alarmingly growing series of people taking photographs being hassled by authorities. Maybe it's the memory of how video has captured police in brutal activities, or perhaps it's a thought that power brokers should be able to hide from public site even when out in the open. But it's bad.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Harsh Library Fine CollectionA woman in Wisconsin ended up in jail because she hadn't paid some overdue fees from the public library. Heidi Dalibor, 20, owed about $30 on two paperbacks. After a number of notices and a notice to appear in court, she continued not to respond. So officers showed up with an arrest warrant and carted her off. She was out $30, and her mother, $172, to spring the young woman.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Call for UK Bill of Rights Will Get MiredI love the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, not only for what it provides to citizens here, but how eloquently and cleverly it does so. Say too little, or forget a key area, and people are left to the whims of government. Say too much, and you get unintended consequences.
That's what will happen, I think, with the latest call for a U.K. bill of rights. Certainly trial by jury as one right is important. But "right to administrative justice?" Just what does that mean? And "international human rights as yet not incorporated into UK law?" Who decides what the international human rights are? What happens if more "develop?"
They want specific rights for "vulnerable groups." But the more specific a bill of rights gets for particular groups, the more it loses, as the idea is to provide the important floor of rights for everyone. Why, in such a document, would you want to detail rights offered some but not all? It seems to fly in the face of the concept itself. And a right to "an adequate standard of living?" I do agree with the concept, but how to you legally ensure that? Whose standard and how much? And that's considered separate from a right to health, housing, and education. Does that mean everyone gets to go to a university, and if so, how much money will it take to build enough of them to provide space for all? Ensuring health care, certainly. But ensuring health? How does that happen?
I understand the impetus: No humane person wants to see others suffer. But how will a document that likely cannot be enforced in its full considerations provide any help? Well, other than making people feel good about the "advance" in society. My bet is that the observation of the New Testament that the poor will always be there will sadly continue, no matter what official dictate is in force.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Smile, DammitRomania has passed legislation mandating that half of all newscasts must be upbeat news:
The measure is the idea of two senators -- one from the governing National Liberal Party, the other from the far-right Great Romania party -- who bemoan the "irreversible effect" of negative news "on the health and life of people".Clearly the change should be easy - move all actions of the legislature for the sadly real to the patently and laughably ridiculous column.
Its aim, they said, is to "improve the general climate and to offer to the public the chance to have balanced perceptions on daily life, mentally and emotionally".
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
George Orwell: Chinese ProphetI might have as well written Chinese Profit, because that is the essence of a terrific Rolling Stone piece: China's All-Seeing Eye. The country continues to build an extensive system for monitoring all citizens, all the time:
This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.However, the reason is as economic as political. There is a massive number of migrant workers that the Chinese themselves have created by destroying villages to make way for equally massive building projects. Migratory ranks could reach 350 million by 2025. As this has happened, the country has also created a division of citizenship, where those forced to be transitory, because their homes were destroyed, are denied full benefit of the growth in the economy because they aren't living in their homes.
It's a situation that, if fiction, would have done Joseph Heller proud. Keep in mind for a moment that there have been relatively widespread but largely unreported riots in China, especially over the cost of food. The idea is that you could identify potential troublemakers that have the greatest impetus to take some sort of action, because even the dispossessed have the national identification cards that tie all the disparate information together - one giant key search term for all personal data. This is an Orwellian state that came about because of the drive for profit, which is often synonymous with the drive for power.
Much of the technology that China uses is actually American in origin - at least some of which is probably being sold against clear U.S. prohibition. Now think about all the cameras that cities and states want to set up to "fight crime," even though there is a spectacular lack of data to suggest that the devices are actually cost-effective. Add in the FCC's floating the idea of a free censored version of the Internet. Include the incomprehensible amount of information that private industries have on consumers, and the historically demonstrated readiness of the American people to tolerate heavy restrictions on their rights to battle some amorphous enemy, and you have conditions ripe for a public-private partnership in a privatized police state.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Origin of Murphy's LawI came across this origin of the term "Murphy's Law" and thought I'd pass it on. Apparently an Air Force captain, whose last name was Murphy, was an engineer working on a project to see how much decelleration a person could stand. On finding a miswired transducer - a
Friday, April 18, 2008
Rules of Thumb on What You Can Legally PhotographKim Komando's column had a good rundown on general rules of when you can and cannot take photos:
- Public spaces are fair game. If something is out in a public area or on view from a pubic area, it's generally legal to take a photograph.
- You can photograph people in pubic places or visible from public places.There are exceptions, however. For example, you can photograph the outside of someone's house, but you cannot photograph someone in his or her bathroom or bedroom, even if the blinds are open, because they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- You need permission to photograph in a private space. You have to have permissions to take photos. so a museum, for instance, can restrict photography while you are inside the building.
- You may not be able to photograph all public facilities, even if on public land.There are times you can be prohibited from photographing sensitive locations, such as a power plant or military base.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Would the FBI Bend the Truth?The answer to the above question is apparently yes, as this Wired article suggests:
Counterterrorism officials in FBI headquarters slowed an investigation into a possible conspirator in the 2005 London bombings by forcing a field agent to return documents acquired from a U.S. university. Why? Because the agent received the documents through a lawful subpoena, while headquarters wanted him to demand the records under the USA Patriot Act, using a power the FBI did not have, but desperately wanted.So, they get the records, send back the records, ask for them in a different way, hear that what they want isn't covered under those powers, so ask for the records again, get them and keep them this time, and then tell Congress that the reason they need less supervision is because institutions won't cooperate with them. That leads me to ask two questions: what in the hell were they thinking, and how much taxpayer money are they wasting while trying to get fake support for their demands?
At this July 27, 2005 hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller pushed the Senate Judiciary Committee to give FBI agents expanded spying powers. .
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta When a North Carolina State University lawyer correctly rejected the second records demand, the FBI obtained another subpoena. Two weeks later, the delay was cited by FBI director Robert Mueller in congressional testimony as proof that the USA Patriot Act needed to be expanded.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Trademarking CyberlawAccording to a blog post at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, lawyer Eric Menhart has applied for a trademark on the term "cyberlaw." Talk about people trying to own language. Has anyone broken the news to Menhart, or to the US Patent and Trademark Office, that the term cyberlaw has apparently been in use since at least 2000? For example, here's a page about a cyberlaw course from then. In fact, here's a reference to top cyberlaw cases, dated from about halfway through 1998. I'm all for owning intellectual property, but, puhlease, how about something original rather than trying to trap a bird of an idea that's already out of the cage?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Technology Becomes a Whipping BoyIn discussion about privacy or intellectual property, you're bound to come across the following statement: "Technology has outstripped the laws dealing with the subject." But I think that's simply a stylish thing to say, because typically the argument is used in favor of why traditional limitations on human action should be removed. Technology makes it easier to do many things, good or bad. However, it doesn't generally change the inherent nature of those actions. If I can use someone's copyrighted material more easily without permission, that doesn't make it right, only more convenient to steal material. If I can easily look into the deep recesses of a person's life without restraint, I'm nothing more than an efficient and effective peeping Tom.
The problem is not that the law is so out of date with technology, but that technology tends to give people the opportunity to more easily show their true colors. Then when we don't like what we see, some apologist comes along, says that the problem is what we see should be acceptable because technology enables it, and laws are simply short-sighted. They rarely are. It's people that lose sight - of ethics, honor, and propriety.