Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Andorra is not in Africa, ONN report


We thought it was a war-torn African country, so we kept sending them money.


Please check all that apply (Bingo board)

Courtesy of Francois Tremblay

Michael Crichton on Social Phobias

Natural disasters, media manipulation and the information casualties.

Quick quote from it:

“If there is no news, we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were”

Guns of the future

Reserved for the military for use against civill…, err… enemy combatants.

From on the LRC  blog

Andy Warhol on Capitalism

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

From the LRC blog.

My letter to Bruce Schneider

Schneider wrote an editorial piece in February ’07 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on private police and threats to civil liberties.

Bruce Schneier: Privatizing the Police Puts Us at Greater Risk

He makes a case, but, in my opinion does not manage to defeat the principle of private police. Here is my reply:

Dear Mr. Schneider,

Your editorial published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Privatizing the Police Puts Us at Greater Risk) – is interesting, but I believe your arguments are not sufficient for a wholesale condemnation of private police.

First, we need to distinguish between two services provided by private police: “protection” and “law enforcement”.

The first function is strictly a private contract between companies or individuals, an exchange of a service called “protection”. This can be seen as a complement to standard police services, but not a competitor. The government police has no direct responsibility to protect individuals from harm, even if it is expected to interveine. A private agent, on the other hand, is bound by contract to provide this protection, and can face direct penalties if he does not do so.

In fact, private protection is an extension of the right to self defense. Surely, private protection agencies working just within the confines of this function are legitimate.

The second function is has an active character, where private police officers are hired (presumably) by local governments to solve crimes and pursue criminals. We can call this “law enforcement”, to contrast with “protection”. I suspect here lie the dangers you point to and where constitutional protections may be foregone.

However, notice that the first function rests on a private contract, while the second comes from an agreement with some form of government. The only reason private police can act in the way you describe is due to the privileges granted by these government entities. Civil liberties do not exist because the government allows them to exist, but governments may award certain privileges that go beyond them. This is the case with private law enforcement. If these companies can act as law enforcement, they can only do so under the authority granted by a government. And so, the critiques, if any, must be directed at that specific government entity and not private police in general. Indeed, there should be no reason private law enforcement should not be bound by the same restrictions as state police.

Note that law enforcement may be understood in a wider sense than acting under government license. Citizen’s arrests may fall under the rights/privileges of any individual. So if these individuals act as private policemen, they are legitimate as long as there are uniform criteria in place that apply to all individuals. In other words, it should not matter if a private citizen performs a citizen’s arrest, or a private policeman, so long as the latter has no different standards that apply to him.

I hope the above is sufficient to make the case in favor of the principle of private protection and to distinguish it from private law enforcement, some negative effects of which you have noted.

Yours Truly,

The fallacy of data mining

Bruce Schneider had a very interesting essay on the soundness of massive citizen profiling.

Intuitively, a libertarian will abhor attempts by government to collect that level of private informations (unchecked by anything in practice). But Schneider shows that these efforts are bound to fail even at the stated goals: preventing terrorist attacks.

Let’s look at some numbers. Assume an unrealistically optimistic system with a 1-in-100 false positive rate (99% accurate), and a 1-in-1,000 false negative rate (99.9% accurate). That is, while it will mistakenly classify something innocent as a terrorist plot one in a hundred times, it will only miss a real terrorist plot one in a thousand times. Assume one billion possible “plots” to sift through per year, about four per American citizen, and that there is one actual terrorist plot per year.

Even this unrealistically accurate system will generate 10 million false alarms for every real terrorist plot it uncovers. Every day of every year, the police will have to investigate 270,000 potential plots in order to find the one real terrorist plot per month.

So do we give them the benefit of stupidity, or just call their intentions malevolent?


Backed by oil

The new US currency

From Radical Libertarians

Quote of the day

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.” – Harry J. Anslinger, first Drug Czar of the US, 1930

Read the rest here

Cutting off “enemy communications”

Something fishy‘s going on at the bottom of the Persian Gulf.

One event can be a coincidence, two at the same time is highly unlikely. My guess is the NSA or the like have been messing about in the vicinity.

ZDNet pulls no punches.