Outsourcing Big Brother

I gave this speech last July at the ACLU Biennial Conference in New Orleans. At the time, the news that major telcos and search engine companies were cooperating with the government by providing all kinds of personal infomration had not yet hit the press. I was just applying logic.

It seems useful to me to publish here as a reminder that the recent headlines are not an aberration or the work of a few evil or gready or misguided men. It is the inevitable result of a system that concentrates power and information in the hands of a few large coorprations with every interest keep those in government happy.

We don’t ask chain saws to distinguish between human beings and trees. They are inanimate tools. If you turn it on, it cuts through things. If you want to make it safer, you need to put on safety locks and other devices, or someone is likely to cut his or her own leg off by accident some day.

Similarly, it is ridiculous to depend on corporations to defend private information. They are designed to maximize revenue for shareholders. This does not make them good or bad, greedy or virtuous. It makes the corporation a tool. If we, as citizens of democracies, care about our civil liberties, then we need to install some safeties.

Stay tuned . . .

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Too geeky even for Wetmachine

For all you progressive’s who remember the TV Show Babylon 5, I wrote this on my LJ.

Back in the mid-1990s, it amused me no end to see know-it-alls pound on [series creator] J. Michael Straczinsky for the ridiculous idea that the government could shift from democratic to essentially a military dictatorship in so short a time, simply by leveraging the fear of “alien influences” assaulting our “way of life.” “Ho ho ho,” they laughed. “That trick may work on others, but it couldn’t happen in a real democracy like the U.S. I mean, if the President started to intrude on people’s rights and civil liberties, started locking them up and holding them for years without pressing charges, or started spying on his own people, no one would sit still for it! He’d be out on his ear when everyone rose up in protest.”

Sadly, I think JMS may end up with the last laugh, although I doubt he will find saying “told ya so” much comfort.

What we can Learn from the “War on Christmas”

The latest effort by social conservatives to rally their troops around the so called “war on Christmas” teaches us many valuable lessons for the season. Notably, we can look forward to more ugliness in 2006 as the conservative sound machine ramps up the volume to try to drive its troops out for what (for now at least) look like pretty dismal ’06 by-election for the GOP.

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