aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Change the laws
Larry Lessig, Free Culture, p.201:
Wars of prohibition are nothing new in America. This one is just something more extreme than anything we’ve seen before. We experimented with alcohol prohibition, at a time when the per capita consumption of alcohol was 1.5 gallons per capita per year. The war against drinking initially reduced that consumption to just 30 percent of its preprohibition levels, but by the end of prohibition, consumption was up to 70 percent of the preprohibition level. Americans were drinking just about as much, but now, a vast number were criminals. We have launched a war on drugs aimed at reducing the consumption of regulated narcotics that 7 percent (or 16 million) Americans now use. That is a drop from the high (so to speak) in 1979 of 14 percent of the population. We regulate automobiles to the point where the vast majority of Americans violate the law every day. We run such a complex tax system that a majority of cash businesses regularly cheat. We pride ourselves on our “free society,"but an endless array of ordinary behavior is regulated within our society. And as a result, a huge proportion of Americans regularly violate at least some law.
This state of affairs is not without consequence.It is a particularly
salient issue for teachers like me,whose job it is to teach law students about the importance of “ethics.” As my colleague Charlie Nesson told a class at Stanford,each year law schools admit thousands of students who have illegally downloaded music, illegally consumed alcohol and sometimes drugs, illegally worked without paying taxes, illegally driven cars. These are kids for whom behaving illegally is increasingly the norm. And then we, as law professors, are supposed to teach them how to behave ethically-how to say no to bribes,or keep client funds separate, or honor a demand to disclose a document that will mean that your case is over. Generations of Americans-more significantly in some parts of America than in others, but still, everywhere in America today-can’t live their lives both normally and legally,since “normally” entails a certain degree of illegality.
The response to this general illegality is either to enforce the law more severely or to change the law.
Support the Kutztown 13.
Those kids are citizens, not felons!
Larry Lessig, Free Culture, p201:
Whether a law makes sense depends, in part, at least, upon whether the costs of the law, both intended and collateral,outweigh the benefits. If the costs, intended and collateral, do outweigh the benefits, then the law ought to be changed. Alternatively, if the costs of the existing system are much greater than the costs of an alternative, then we have a good reason to consider the alternative.
My point is not the idiotic one: Just because people violate a law, we
should therefore repeal it… My point is instead one that democracies understood for generations, but that we recently have learned to forget. The rule of law depends upon people obeying the law. The more often, and more repeatedly, we as citizens experience violating the law, the less we respect the law. Obviously, in most cases, the important issue is the law, not respect for the law. I don’t care whether the rapist respects the law or not; I want to catch and incarcerate the rapist. But I do care whether my students respect the law. And I do care if the rules of law sow increasing disrespect because of the extreme of regulation they impose.
Twenty million Americans have come of age since the Internet introduced this different idea of “sharing.” We need to be able to call these twenty million Americans “citizens,” not “felons.”
Visit the Kutztown 13’s website, cutusabreak.org.
KUTZTOWN, Pennsylvania—They’re being called the Kutztown 13—a group of high schoolers charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden internet goodies and using monitoring software to spy on district administrators.
The students, their families and outraged supporters say authorities are overreacting, punishing the kids not for any heinous behavior—no malicious acts are alleged—but rather because they outsmarted the district’s technology workers.
Now get this:
The trouble began last fall after the district issued Apple iBook laptops to every student at the high school about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The computers were loaded with a filtering program that limited internet access. They also had software that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens.
But those barriers proved easily surmountable: The administrative password that allowed students to reconfigure computers and obtain unrestricted internet access was easy to obtain. A shortened version of the school’s street address, the password was taped to the backs of the computers.
Hell, why not just tell the kids the password and say that you’ll arrest them if they use it!?!
This is outrageous. They’re charged with a felony!
Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing pointed to this story in June.
Stealth tax hikes
There are no tax cuts. Banish that phrase from your mind. You haven’t seen any.
Republican control of the White House and Congress has yielded trillions in tax increases since January of 2001. How can this be? Simple. When you spend more, and when you pass laws that commit the government to spending more in the future, you increase taxes, sooner or later. Spending not financed by current taxes will be financed by future taxes. A debt increase is the present value of future increased taxes. If taxpayers merely pay interest on the debt incurred, forever, the present value of the interest payments is the initial increase in debt.
Read the whole post.
Take the critic with you
Museums, historical sites, and the companies that produce their audio tours aren’t completely honest with you. They can’t very well say things like “critics think this work is terrifically overrated, but we keep it on the wall because we sell a thousand posters of it a day,” or “we know this sketch looks profoundly boring, but here’s why it’s the most interesting thing you’ll see all day,” or “we only hang this painting here because old Mrs. Dimbledumble wouldn’t have donated the new East Wing otherwise.”
They can’t say things like that, but we can. And now, thanks to the growing prevalence of iPods and other digital audio players, you can download Slate’s unauthorized tours and take them with you.
We chose the Met as our first subject not because there’s anything wrong with it or its own $6 audio tour (which is actually somewhat better than average). Quite the opposite. We chose the Met because its collection is so rich there’s room for a hundred audio tours-the Met’s, ours, and yours too, if you feel like making one.
Emphasis mine. I look forward to that taking off.
The UK’s Department for Transport continues to charge ahead technologically:
The British government is preparing to test new high-tech license plates containing microchips capable of transmitting unique vehicle identification numbers and other data to readers more than 300 feet away.
Officials in the United States say they’ll be closely watching the British trial as they contemplate initiating their own tests of the plates, which incorporate radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to make vehicles electronically trackable.
Privacy advocates (here, I didn’t see anything about those in the UK) worry that it could “become a back-door surveillance tool.”
Yes, it could. So let’s develop means to prevent that. But the technology is inevitable and good and will lead to all kinds of benefits.