aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, January 27, 2006
The Vegan Menace
11Alive, WXIA TV, Atlanta:
The ACLU of Georgia released copies of government files on Wednesday that illustrate the extent to which the FBI, the DeKalb County Division of Homeland Security and other government agencies have gone to compile information on Georgians suspected of being threats simply for expressing controversial opinions.
Two documents relating to anti-war and anti-government protests, and a vegan rally, prove the agencies have been “spying” on Georgia residents unconstitutionally, the ACLU said. (Related: ACLU Complaint—PDF file)
For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.
An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.
“They told me if I didn’t give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested,” Childs said on Wednesday. [...]
[T]he files obtained by the ACLU include the DeKalb County Homeland Security report on the surveillance of Childs and the others. The detective wrote that he ordered Childs to give him the piece of paper on which she had written his license tag number, telling her that he did not want her or anyone else to have the tag number of his undercover vehicle.
The detective did not comment in his report about why his license tag number was already visible to the public.
The Hamas win
Fareed Zakaria wrote a very good book that I wish President Bush had read addressing this very question and he argued that the first thing you need in order to bring a state into the 21st century is not democracy, it’s civil law. Once you have a civilized society then you can have a democratic society. If you have an uncivilized society then it could vote for terrorism and that’s basically what happened here.
The contrary view - that acting as a democratic ruler will leaven the elected terrorist and this is all just a process they must go through - was voiced by Robert Kagan, senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on All Things Considered tonight, “I remain to be convinced of what the short-term risks actually are… I’m inclined to see it as a positive development.”
Let’s try Bible study in the public schools
In Dover may be over, but the problem’s not I wrote, “My reaction to the Dover decision is an increasingly firm belief that we should teach religion in the public schools.”
Today the Times tells of 2 Southern Democrats, one from right here in Georgia, who are promoting a Bible study class I’m inclined to support:
Democrats in both states have introduced bills authorizing school districts to teach courses modeled after a new textbook, “The Bible and Its Influence.” It was produced by the nonpartisan, ecumenical Bible Literacy Project and provides an assessment of the Bible’s impact on history, literature and art that is academic and detached, if largely laudatory.
The Democrats who introduced the bills said they hoped to compete with Republicans for conservative Christian voters. “Rather than sitting back on our heels and then being knocked in our face, we are going to respond in a thoughtful way,” said Kasim Reed, a Georgia state senator from Atlanta and one of the sponsors of the bill. “We are not going to give away the South anymore because we are unwilling to talk about our faith.”
I’m less inclined to like what they’re saying in Alabama, but I support them too:
In Alabama, a deeply religious state where Democrats support prayer in the schools and a Democratic candidate for governor recently introduced her campaign with the hymn “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” the Bible class bills reflect Democrats’ efforts to distance themselves from the national party.
“We have always had to somewhat defend ourselves from the national Democratic Party’s secular image, and this is part of that,” said Ken Guin, a representative from Carbon Hill, leader of the Democratic majority in the State House and a sponsor of the measure.
Arianna & Tim
I’m on Arianna’s side.
Privacy worth worrying about
When I say that there are real issues to be dealt with but that we are not addressing them in the way we are reacting to the Google situation, and that the problem I have with the reaction to the Google situation is that is misses an important opportunity to address them, here is an example of precisely the kind of issues I’m talking about.
I heard that since the mass market content industries have such tremendous influence on policy, that a significant extension of existing copyright laws (in the United States, at least) is likely in the near future.
I heard one person go so far as to call this a “totalitarian” intellectual property regime—a police state for content.
I heard that one possible benefit of this extension would be a general improvement of internet content distribution, and possibly greater freedom for creators to independently sell their work since they would have greater control over the flow of digital copies and be less reliant on infrastructure that today only big companies can provide.
I heard that another possible benefit of such control would be price discrimination—i.e. a graduated pricing scale for content varying according to the means of individual consumers, which could result in fairer prices. Basically, a graduated cultural consumption tax imposed by media conglomerates
I heard, however, that such a system would be possible only through a substantial invasion of users’ privacy: tracking users’ consumption patterns in other markets (right down to their local grocery store), pinpointing of users’ geographical location and analysis of their socioeconomic status.
I heard that this degree of control could be achieved only through persistent surveillance of the flow of content through codes and controls embedded in files, software and hardware.
I heard that such a wholesale compromise on privacy is all but inevitable—is in fact already happening.
I am absolutely, totally, 100% confident that these changes are coming and that, yes, they have an impact on privacy and that this is where the public needs to be engaged so that it can have some impact on shaping how this comes about.
I believe we have a real, if admittedly slight, chance to carve out some public benefits rather than merely market benefits.
The Google brouhaha is an opportunity for that engagement and that discussion. It has been squandered on affirming preconceptions rather than moving the discussion forward and that is a disservice to all of us that upsets me greatly.