First, review this fine cautionary tale available here, courtesy of the ACLU:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNJl9EEcsoE

Now, I am no great fan of the ACLU, but credit where credit is due, this piece sums up the dangers of all those clever national IDs, government administered programs, linked databases, and GPS-enabled devices nicely. In fact, just two short years later, much of what is portrayed already exists:

  • businesses use caller-ID to recognize phones and link to customer information
  • even if the government didn’t give it out, businesses would certainly use a national ID number as a key—just as they use the SSN currently
  • your home address, birthday, name, etc. are all already keyed to the current equivalent of a national ID—your SSN
  • where you work is almost certainly on file—didn’t they ask the last time you applied for credit or a loan?
  • cell phones with GPS currently do broadcast your location to services that request that information—unless you configure them not to
  • businesses already assign delivery areas or prices by risk of the neighborhood—as those living near shady areas know—and as crime stats become more instantly available, this can only increase
  • as businesses partner to offer shared customer incentives, exchanging information about recent purchases and coupon offers is becoming commonplace
  • certainly whether your cards are maxed out is easy—a quick query to each card could do that

And some things, which have not yet come to pass (as it were) are terrifyingly likely:

  • currently legislation protects your health care information, but either government-run healthcare or single-payer schemes would require releasing it to the government at the least
  • legislation to allow the government to regulate food and lifestyle choices for health is already proposed—once the government’s actually paying for health-care, what will happen
  • currently the health-care industry and insurance industry would love to be notified about people’s purchases and force them to sign waivers—unlike them, government can actually enforce such desires
  • in our climate of constant fear of terror attacks, does opening travel itineraries to public scrutiny seem farfetched?

Horrifyingly, the only thing which seemed utterly ridiculous was libraries ever voluntarily making your reading choices public. But amazon.com on the other hand…

Clearly some of what is portrayed is fine, even useful, but some is frighteningly Orwellian.

So where should the line be drawn? Where does the scenario presented cross the line from convenience to surveillance? As technology advances it seems increasingly impossible to effectively compartmentalize information, so should we assume that whatever the government knows about us will find its way into private hands? And just how much should the government know about us, anyway?

Discuss amongst yourselves!

Spinal Tap once again proves that truth is stranger than fiction:

Recently, ABBA’s former drummer died in a bizarre gardening accident.

The late, great Jeff Porcaro‘s widow claims to this day that her husband died from a heart attack brought on by an allergic reaction to the pesticide he was using in his garden, not a drug overdose… that’s right, a bizarre gardening accident. (Decades of drug use must have counted, though.)

Jim Hodder, also a former Steely Dan drummer (he and Jeff both played with the Dan—at the same time—back in the mid ’70s), drowned in his swimming pool. Not quite a bizarre gardening accident but within spitting distance since the backyard is what the Brits call “the garden”….

So what is it with drummers? Or is it musicians? Or is it all “man bites dog” publication bias? Discuss!

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ObFascism Tag: If it were up to those hateful fascist safety regulators—who Hate America and Everything It Stands For!—there would be no more bizarre gardening accidents.

On top of the wonders of the 12 Angry Men Blog, we have our own special internal mailing list that occasionally produces amusing gems. Every so often, you know, when the stars are right (Cthulu ftahgn!), we choose to share these dialogues with you, our loyal readers.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
What I always wonder about is why these secret cabals have such bizarre goals. Exterminate 99% of humanity in a nuclear holocaust. Brutally enslave 99% of the world. Ruthlessly (but secretly) hold power in all nations of the world through shadowy college fraternities.

I mean, in every case either just plain crazy (nuclear war) or, really, far too much work for any sane person to want to do (everything else).

I too believe there are international conspiracies of bankers, financiers, secret society members, etc. I am confident that groups like the Trilateral Commission, the Rothchilds, the Bilderberg Group, and the Skull and Bones all exist, all have actual members and actual meetings, and have an actual agenda. And here is their deep, dark, secret, terrible agenda: ensure we all get/stay rich, keep meeting in awesome exclusive locations, and keep up a steady supply of good booze, good food, and pretty girls.

Now that’s an agenda I can see a rich, powerful, sneaky bastard actually embracing as worthwhile…

After all, everyone conspires, and for pretty much the same things. Rich people just do it more effectively…

Angry Immigrant
So how about groups that avoid that agenda by their very charter — like Opus Dei? They’ve got to be all about the aliens and total world dominance…

Angry Midwesterner
Well according to a South Park episode I saw, I’d imagine they are after good booze, good food, and pretty boys…

Oops, sorry, I mixed them up with the Republicans…

Angry Overeducated Catholic
…though really this only applies to the Closet Gay wing of the Party, please. There’s also the large “Openly Interested in Pretty Girls” wing, but we try to keep things quiet because the CG wing really hates to be reminded about how much fun we’re having. Also, we don’t want them to know about our stash of good drugs and booze because then we’d have to share. Also, we don’t like to mingle with them because, well, they’re just really creepy, you know. (I mean, geesh, just look at Craig for crying-out-loud)!

Anyway, gotta go, need to arrange the strippers for the bash at Cheneys…

Angry Midwesterner
I’d think a stripper bash would kill Cheney. Besides, isn’t he more interested in watching people kill puppies?

Mildly Piqued Academician
Dude that’s why you take nitro pills. Bringing some candid shots of Larry Craig might work as well.

What happens in a secure undisclosed location STAYS in a secure undisclosed location.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
(Re: Dick Cheney watching people kill puppies)
No, that’s a vicious slander by his enemies. Cheney has no interest in watching people kill anything. He’s a player not a spectator…

And when he gets the urge, it’s not animals he sets his sights on…

Angry Midwesterner
What now you’re going to claim lawyers are humans?

Angry Overeducated Catholic
No, but bloodsucking monsters aren’t animals, the last time I checked…

Angry Virginian
And if bloodsucking monsters don’t even qualify as animals, then lawyers definitely don’t.

Mildly Piqued Academician
LINK: Che-ney t-shirts

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Heh, heh, heh…

If I were Cheney I’d totally buy one of these shirts to wear around the house…

Mildly Piqued Academician
You could look snazzy doing a “Cheney speedball”: Alternating between strippers and pictures of Larry Craig and Barney Frank, the first as a substitute for uppers and the second as a stunningly good substitute for downers. :)

The Che-ney thong is pretty good. I was disappointed that my homie Radical Jack didn’t have a Che thong, but I’m sure that if I looked hard enough, one could be found.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Heh. With a Che thong you could express your trendy leftist contempt for capitalism, your trendy conformity to fashion trends, and your trendy objectification of women—at the same time! A bargain for you!

Mildly Piqued Academician
*Three* birds with one stone!

If that’s not worthy of a “Mao More Than Ever” slogan, I don’t know what is! Time to make a revolutionary poster!

If you read Slashdot frequently, you’ll find that in the midst of the Windows bashing and Me > You flame fests, the name of Ron Paul is often mentioned in hushed tones as the Republican Libertarian messiah who will rescue Amerika America from The Great Satan (aka George W. Bush). From reading the comments of the barely literate masses, you’d think that Ron Paul inspires more interest than Natalie Portman, naked and petrified. His die-had partisans wet themselves off the fact that he raised $4 million off the internet. Combining that with the $4 million he raised in “meatspace,” that puts him on par with Joe Biden, and behind Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson in the fund raising race. Real impressive, Ron… you’re running neck-a-neck with three candidates who combine for less than 10% of likely primary voters. I’m impressed… NOT!

If I may for a moment piggy-back on the elitist sentiments often displayed by my colleagues, the “masses,” much like Mr. Paul’s partisans, who are rumored to groan “Brains!” during campaign rallies, are dead wrong. Ron Paul, though he has some attractive viewpoints, like being against the war in Iraq (though this is because he’s a rank isolationist, excuse me, noninterventionist) and pro-life (because even children in the womb have a right to property), Ron Paul firmly falls in to the ranks of the bat-shit insane. For those who’ve drunk the libertarian Kool-Aid, I’d like to convict Mr. Paul, not on so-called libertarian positions as espoused by the crazies, but on his own words and positions. “Real Libertarians” might not believe X, Y or Z, but Mr. Paul does, and a just condemnation will be his.

The Environment
Libertarianism, as a philosophy stands behind the oppression of the weak by the strong in the name of private property. The classic libertarian position on the environment falls along the lines — “It’s my f#@*ing property and I’ll do with it as I please.” Mr. Paul states his opposition to any sort of environmental protection law such as when he proposed a bill to repeal the clean water act. But Mr. Paul, unlike many of his libertarian counterparts, has left the pre-Sumerian age, and realized that what I do with my property can cause environmental harm to someone else’s. Thus, Mr. Paul, inherently distrustful of the evils of Big Government[TM] proposes his solution, which I quote: “If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter.” That’s right, the answer to evil Big Government[TM] environmental law is lawyers, lots and lots of lawyers. Forget our elected representatives in Congress, the correct people to decide on the cost of the damage you cause to me by your polluting ways are the unelected judges in the judiciary. Mr. Paul’s stinging critiques of the UN and NAFTA for being “unelected” start to ring hollow. Imagine the look in the eyes of John Edwards’ trial lawyer buddies should this bit of Ron Paul insanity to come to pass — they’ll be seeing big, big, big bucks from all the litigation. Forget an honest day’s work, in Mr. Paul’s America, being an ambulance-chasing lawyer is the way to make it big… and you can help the environment too.

The Gold Standard
Mr. Paul’s long-standing dislike of the federal reserve is well noted in his diatribe on the gold standard. Mr. Paul rants about the evils of so-called “fiat currency” and sees the only solution in the gold standard. Unfortunately for Mr. Paul, all of his fancy education has left him educated stupid on the issue. There are two fundamental problems with Mr. Paul’s logic: a fundamental misunderstanding of currency exchange and a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of gold.

First, we must understand that money is subject to the same laws of economics as anything else, from soup to nuts. This means that if more people want to sell dollars than want to buy dollars, the price of dollars go down. This is why the current account balance is one of the two major contributors to the underlying value of a currency. The United States has a large negative current account balance, aka we import much more than we export. The importers want to sell dollars, to buy the local currencies where they produce goods, while exporters want to buy dollars and get rid of the local currencies where they sell goods. Since there’s more importing and exporting, more people want to sell dollars than buy them. This means that the price of the US dollar decreases. This problem is (in the long term) self-correcting (imports cost more and exports cost less) but that doesn’t mean a negative current-account balance won’t wreck havoc in the short term.

The second major contributor to the underlying value of a currency is the money supply. The more money there is, the less it’s worth in a certain sense. This “cheapening” of money can be crudely approximated using the inflation rate (more sophisticated measures, like M1 are available, but for our purposes today, inflation suffices). If the money supply is being printed to the point of worthlessness (like Robert Mugabe‘s Zimbabwe), inflation number should be high. In the US inflation numbers are low (and have been in the 1-5% range since the early 1980′s). This means that the money supply, about the Fed’s control of which Mr. Paul complains constantly, isn’t the cause of the weakness of the US Dollar. The cause is the current account balance, which the Fed has no control over.

Second, Mr. Paul’s understanding of gold is fundamentally flawed. Unlike wheat (which is edible), gold has almost no inherent value to a human person. Barring a few uses in high-end electronics, gold is exclusively used in jewelry. Translation: We don’t really need gold, we want it because it is pretty. It has a high value because the demand for pretty exceeds the supply of it. If I could perform alchemy and turn lead into gold, gold would be worthless. This means that the big difference between gold and a “fiat currency” like the dollar is in supply. Neither has any (meaningful) intrinsic value. The scarier problem with gold is who control’s the supply. Unlike the Fed, which is part of the US gov’t, the supply of gold is controlled by mining companies, like Anglo-American, historically the gold arm of the DeBeers cartel. In Mr. Paul’s opinion, allowing a foreign cartel to control America’s money supply is the superior choice for America. This seems to clash mightily with Mr. Paul’s isolationist non-interventionist tendencies. But Mr. Paul doesn’t need to double-think this one, because he hasn’t bothered to think things through in the first place. History is pretty damning. If you look at the 1850′s the gold rush in America (which then had a gold/silver standard) caused a 30% increase in wholesale prices in five years. A switch to a strict gold standard in the “Crime of 1873″ lead to a depression so great its like would not be seen again until 1932. But Mr. Paul’s short-sighted version of history neglects both of these calamities.

Conclusions
I could go on and on about Mr. Paul being a few cards short of 52, if you catch my drift, but these sites have done the job pretty well. My favorite gems from Mr. Paul’s legislative record include trying to ban flag burning (what a libertarian proposal!) and abolishing basically every form of federal tax (which would allow us to pay for our military, how exactly?). All told, Mr. Paul is the latest example of the sorry mental state of America’s Libertarian movement. It’s a shame they have to take civil liberties down with them.

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