Sunday, 23 February 2014

Surveillance, Now and Then

So I was reading A bit by Dalrymple on Takimag regarding (in a rambling way) the amount of surveillance we experience in or everyday lives, and it strikes me that there is a point being missed.
   Any time someone expresses concerns about the growing use of non targeted surveillance (think 'security cameras') there is the response: 'if you are not doing anything wrong, why would you care?" I think it is essentially the same argument cops will still use on you regarding talking to a lawyer, or taking a lie detector test. If you are the sort who feels that only guilty people need lawyers to help them deal with police then there is little I can do for you. If you were not born yesterday or if you ever read the news, or even if you have just a little bit of common sense then you know that there are a lot of reasons to be careful when dealing with authority, even if "you have nothing to hide".  But cameras? where is the harm?
   Dalrymple, and most others discussing the subject will bring up repressive societies which made extensive use of surveillance to keep their populations in line. These historical examples are usually formerly eastern bloc countries which bear little resemblance to our modern western democracies. As such they suffer as analogies. Tyrannies use surveillance to control their peoples, yes but our country is not tyrannical so why worry about being on camera all day every day? The problem with this argument is simple of course:it assumes that ones government will never take on aspects or tyranny. That is a big problem since every government in the world, in the absence of conflict, inevitably slides toward increased government control and decreased individual freedom. Democracies are by their very natures tyrannies of the majority, capable of all the sins associated with the worst of human behaviour.
     The point being missed is that the  biggest problem with comparing the old iron curtain governments with the modern situation lies in the sequencing. It's not that our government is tyrannical and using the surveillance to suppress our freedom, it's that the surveillance will allow them to do so if they so choose. The old states established repressive regimes and used surveillance in order to ensure their people stayed in line. In western countries, extensive surveillance is being integrated with our everyday lives for benign or even beneficial reasons. Thus the is little resistance to them. However, their existence will facilitate increased government controls and may ensure  successful transition to more and more authoritarian rule. Future dictators will have a easy time ensuring complete compliance with dictates.
    If this sounds paranoid to you then i would ask what, exactly are you basing your assumptions on? I mean, you are assuming that governments will progress towards freedom and accountability, forever are you not? How long has that been the case? How many great republics or benevolent non democratic governments  have been replaced with repressive regimes? What is it about your current government that suggests that it will always support your right to freedom?
   An individuals right to live freely within any society is bolstered by limitations in the power of governments to enforce the rules. This applies to people's living arrangements (you cannot, in Canada live with one woman while still married to another) or to their rights of freedom of expression, or assembly, or anything else. If the government of Ukraine had been able to suppress the riots of 2014, the president (prime minister?) would not have had to step down. Likewise Syria, Afghanistan now and under the soviets, and Egypt. The point is that if your government has the power to see everything you do then they will have the power to control you should you act against them. Add civilian disarmament to the mix and you have a population of slaves living in a system which doles out rights and privileges as it sees fit, in the interest of perpetuating itself. If we could drop such a scenario into historical nations or empires, how many of them would you want to live under today?
    If you are still not worried consider the many tales of inappropriate use of authority in the news today. After all cops, enforcement officers, child welfare bureaucrats, tax assessors and everyone else who can impact your life are all just people. They will act stupidly, politically or maliciously, impacting you. Having access information about where you go and what you do, all day every day in the hands of such folk can seriously harm you. Safeguards you say? Read the news.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Global Warming For Dummies

Most folk have some idea of what they believe regarding man made global warming. I use the word  "believe"  advisedly, even in the case of scientists. It is my view that the average joe has as much chance of reaching the right conclusion as a trained scientist (I am the latter). As an average joe with a science education I have come to my own conclusions.  While I may not know  the actual effect of man made CO2 on climate change I do know the following:

  1.   No scientist would state: "the science is settled" because it never is, on any  subject. Ever.
  2.   Consensus, even if true is a piss poor argument in science. Don't believe me? Ask  Einstein.     
  3.   Anyone can do science. You do not need a degree in the appropriate field, or a list of published papers. Doubt me? Ask Einstein again. Conversely, just because someone  has such a degree, this does not mean that anything third person says is valid.
  4. Science and activism do not mix. Are you listening David Suzuki?
  5. Most of the people involved in the debate are cheerleaders. They have not read  any of the science or arguments, or they are not able to understand them, and they are just choosing sides based on their prejudices and adding their voices to the choirs.
  6. There is big money to be made or spent.
  7. The issue connects seamlessly to political ideologies, nationally and internationally.
  8. The world is warming, naturally and will likely to continue to do so as we proceed out of the last ice age.
  9. One way or another, we will eventually find out the truth of the matter. Unlike the ozone layer, nothing has been done about the alleged cause of global warming
For me, I would add some more 'facts' which I imagine many out there would dispute:
  1. If you are talking about 'global warming', and it doesn't warm up you can't rebrand  it to 'climate change', especially when all the impacts have to do with warming.
  2. You cannot erase the medieval warming period just because it is inconvenient.
  3. Models are only as good as the predictions they make. If they are wrong, then they have no predictive value. If they have no predictive value, why are we talking about them?
  4. If you are unwilling or unable to provide your original data for review and verification, then there is no data.
  5. Standardizing, correcting or otherwise modifying original data largely destroys the credibility of the data.
  •    There is one more very important  question I have : Given that there is little chance of stopping anthropogenic global warming  (this is something we all agree on) why is it that the believers in AGW are not advocating any actions to mitigate the effects it might have?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Cops and You, well more like Me actually.

  Ever since I was a kid I have considered the cops to be trouble. Until recently I thought this to be due to my rather rambunctious years as a teenager. Now I am beginning to think that it is some sort of primal instinct for survival. Incidents here in PG as well as around the province do little to contradict this notion.
    In Northern BC over the last decade or so we have had a number of questionable deaths at the hands of the police. In Vancouver a passel of cops tasered a polish to death at the airport because he was being unruly. One has to wonder how many more, less mortal incidents there have been. Recently we have the case of the woman dentist who got stopped for speeding and ended up in the hospital, having somehow provoked a royal beat down by a sheriff. I didn't know they had sheriffs in Alberta but this one sure had chutzba. Not only did he beat the woman to a pulp, he later charged her with assault and resisting arrest.

From the Edmonton Sun Feb 9, 2014

There appears to be a dash cam recording of the incident but the cops are not releasing it. Doubtless it will be lost before they make it public.
     While i have never been beaten or killed by a cop I have learned that they are not necessarily your friends. Once I was shot at by some trapper in Dawson creek. I reported the incident, including the part where i fired a shot in the air to tell the dick that i was human (he knew that already). Nothing was done at the time since I was not in possession of the bullet he shot at me, even though I followed his tracks to his house. Two weeks later , however, I had a call from a police woman inquiring about which gun I used that day. You see, I had 2 new guns for which I had no permit to carry  and they were looking to get me on that terrible crime. I was carrying the legal one, so fuck them.  Last year when i reported a burglery next door I was scolded for mentioning that it took them about 40 minutes to come around, even though it was reported as being in progress. It seems they had "real crimes" as opposed to the theft of some metal. I have a few more stories but the real point is that cops seem to me to have pretty short fuses sometimes and they are sure as hell not above going for the low hanging fruit.
     So I think my mistrust of cops is not unreasonable. As a gun owner I am  made even more uncomfortable about the fact that any call to my house would be flagged as dangerous due to my 'arsenal'. While the long gun registry is gone, handguns are still on record. Given that you can be beaten to a pulp for speeding, or shot dead for holding a remote control in a distracted manner, or have a cop approach your house with her gun drawn and a scared look on her face because someone saw a pellet gun by your door, or that your dog might be shot for barking at a cop in your carport maybe my trepidation is justified.
    So what to do? Be careful when you are dealing with a police officer. Well, don't call a cop unless you really need to. Don't invite them into your home, even if it is cold out.  Don't talk to a cop unless you really need to, especially if you intend to argue with them.  Don't count on the police to protect you, they are more for clean up than crime prevention. Don't use the cops to settle arguments with your family or neighbours. If you are going to have an encounter, record it and let them know you are doing so.
    The days of messing with cops are gone. These days their ranks contain too many people with aggressive or cowardly natures.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Reason Enough For Concealed Carry

One thing we are not even close to having here in Canada is concealed carry. In fact we cannot even conceal a knife legally. The reason for these restrictions on our freedoms is simple: the cops don't want to have to worry about armed citizens. That's it. That's the whole of it. I have one thing to say to these folks, well three actually: I have daughters, the law is bullshit and Cody Legebogoff, our own local serial killer. Four dead girls that we know of in a little city called Prince George. One serial killer here that we know of. Lots of missing girls. One of them carrying a .32 on her somewhere might have saved more lives than the cops had right up until they captured the bastard by luck a couple of years ago.

I Am Not An Asshole! Ok Maybe Sometimes I Am.

I grew up in a family that argued, all the time. I can be argumentative, But I swear I do it for the best of reasons, mainly because I hate BS. I do tend to have an adversarial attitude toward people who hold different views than I do. However, I seldom hold it against folk personally. The way I see it, if you disagree with me on something, we can discuss it in a friendly manner. If you disagree in an imperious or condescending manner, then I am gonna respond with a little more heat. If you are trying to convert me, I will resist. If you are saying something which I feel is immoral or potentially harmful to society, I will fight (figuratively) with vigour and some heat. In none of the above will I harbour ill will due to our differences in opinion or point of view.
   However, if you are advocating a position which will directly or indirectly affect my personal freedom or the freedom of my fellow man then we will have a problem. I take such things personally since I am a firm believer in individual freedoms, even if they are not my own. Thus it is ok by me if you are gay and want to get married, or if you want to have two wives, or 10 cats, or ride your bike without a helmet, or smoke, or drive your car for fun. You can pray five times a day or say that God is a myth. Unless you are harming other people in a real way, knock yourself out. If you want to tell people how to live, or limit free speech, or pass laws protecting folk from themselves then you are no friend of mine.

The Record On Communism.

With the US president in full diversion mode ( Look! Gay marriage!) not a day goes by without some pundit , blogger or serial commenter stating that communism has been a failure everywhere is has been tried. This is 'common knowledge' and 'accepted fact' everywhere in the western world. It isn't actually true though, and I'll tell you why.
    The conditions for the peasant class in Tsarist Russia were a nightmare. Work was hard to get and devastating when lost. Unemployment meant starvation or death due to exposure. There was no potential for advancement out of abject poverty, and no justice for those inhabiting the low rungs on Russia's ladder.
   Trotsky, Lenin et al promised the peasants (serfs) a better life: security of food and shelter, equal justice under the law and a share in the overall prosperity of the nation. These promises were for the most part delivered. Communist Russia did provide food and shelter to all, and every citizen obtained a share of the country's prosperity. As for equal justice well, not so much. Of course, equal justice has not existed  and does not exist in most countries in this world including the USA ,  UK and Canada.
     Now, to be clear, I am no fan of socialism or communism. I do not adhere to the common mantra that they are " beautiful ideas" that just don't work in the real world.  They are antithetical to humanity because by definition they remove individual rights and responsibility in favour of the collective. They are a beautiful idea in the same way that slavery is a good business model.
   The fact remains, however that communist Russia delivered on it's promises to the serf masses. They were better off than they were under the Tsars. There a quite a few western governments who have failed to do as much.  Relatively speaking of course, communism served Russians less well (by far) than the republics and democracies of it's neighbours served their peoples. Prosperity wise communist countries performed poorly, due mainly to human nature. Corruption, militarism and totalitarian leadership further degraded the communist 'experiment' until it became a bogey man for the west.
     I realize that I am open to accusations of nit picking here but I think facts matter. In that vein  does it bother anyone else out there that some people on national (albeit cable) news shows believe that Putin is a dictator, ruling a communist Russia, wherein people have no human rights?