Category: Politics

Samuel R Delaney’s Take on Information Gathering

Twelve years ago some public channeler had made a great stir because the government had an average ten hours videotaped and otherwise recorded information on every citizen with a set of government credit tokens and/ or government identity card. Eleven years ago another public channeler had pointed out that ninety-nine point nine nine and several nines percent more of this information was, a) never reviewed by human eyes (it was taken, developed, and catalogued by machine), b) was of a perfectly innocuous nature, and, c) could quite easily be released to the public without the least threat to government security.
Ten years ago a statute was passed that any citizen had the right to demand a review of all government information on him or her. Some other public channeler had made a stir about getting the government simply to stop collecting such information; but such systems, once begun, insinuate themselves into the greater system in overdetermined ways: Jobs depended on them , space had been set aside for them, research was going on over how to do them more efficiently— such overdetermined systems, hard enough to revise, are even harder to abolish.
Eight years ago, someone whose name never got mentioned came up with the idea of ego-booster booths, to offer minor credit (and, hopefully, slightly more major psychological) support to the Government Information Retention Program: Put a two-franq token into the slot (it used to be half a franq , but the tokens had been devalued again a year back), feed your government identity card into the slip and see, on the thirty-by-forty centimeter screen, three minutes’ videotape of you, accompanied by three minutes of your recorded speech, selected at random from the government’s own information files. Beside the screen (in this booth, someone had, bizarrely, spilled red syrup down it, some of which had been thumb-smudged away, some scraped off with a fingernail), the explanatory plaque explained: “The chances are ninety nine point nine nine and several nines percent more that no one but you has ever seen before what you are about to see. Or,” as the plaque continued cheerily, “to put it another way, there is a greater chance that you will have a surprise heart attack as you step from this booth today than that this confidential material has ever been viewed by other human eyes than yours. Do not forget to retrieve your card and your token. Thank you.”

Delany, Samuel R. (2011-03-01). Trouble on Triton (Kindle Locations 220-238). Wesleyan University Press. Kindle Edition.

Yeah the NSA etc. sucks. This is just one view of what a future society with very little, to no privacy, might look like. From Trouble on Triton first published in 1976 (I had it when it was just titled Triton)

Categories: books, Politics, SF

These Are The Prices AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Charge For Cellphone Wiretaps – Forbes

If Americans aren’t disturbed by phone carriers’ practices of handing over cell phone users’ personal data to law enforcement en masse–in many cases without a warrant–we might at least be interested to learn just how much that service is costing us in tax dollars: often hundreds or thousands per individual snooped.

Earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union revealed a trove of documents it had obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to more than 200 police departments around the country. They show a pattern of police tracking cell phone locations and gathering other data like call logs without warrants, using devices that impersonate cell towers to intercept cellular signals, and encouraging officers to refrain from speaking about cell-tracking technology to the public, all detailed in a New York Times story.

via These Are The Prices AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Charge For Cellphone Wiretaps – Forbes.

Categories: Politics

Help Stop ACTA and TPP: Sign the Petition

Stop ACTA & TPP: Tell your country’s officials: NEVER use secretive trade agreements to meddle with the Internet. Our freedoms depend on it!

For European users, this form will email every MEP with a known email address.
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6 Reasons to oppose ACTA

ACTA locks countries into obsolete copyright and patent laws. If a democracy decides on less restrictive laws that reflect the reality of the internet, ACTA will prevent that.
ACTA criminalizes users by making noncommercial, harmless remixes into crimes if “on a commercial scale” (art 2.14.1). Many amateur works achieve a commercial scale on sites like Youtube. ACTA, like SOPA, could mean jail time for the Justin Biebers of the world.
ACTA Criminalizes legitimate websites, making them responsible for user behavior by “aiding and abetting”. (art 2.14.4). Like SOPA, the founders of your favorite sites could be sued or (worse) thrown in jail for copyright infringement by their users.
ACTA will let rightsholders use laughably inflated claims of damages (based on the disproven idea that every download or stream is a lost sale) to sue people. As if suing amazing artists, video makers and websites for millions wasn’t hard enough!
ACTA Permanently bypasses democracy by giving the “ACTA Committee” the power to “propose amendments to [ACTA]” (art 6.4). In other words, voting for ACTA writes a blank check to an unelected committee. These closed-door proceedings will be a playground for SOPA-supporters like the MPAA.
Trade agreements are a gaping loophole, a backdoor track that, even though it creates new law, is miles removed from democracy. It’s a secretive process that’s tailor-made to serve politically connected companies. And the movie studios behind SOPA? They’re experts at it. If we can’t make secretive trade agreements harder to pass than US law, our internet’s future belongs to the lobbyists behind SOPA.

From La Quadrature du Net

Categories: Politics

The corporations that occupy Congress | David Cay Johnston

…30 brand-name companies paid a federal income tax rate of minus 6.7 percent on $160 billion of profit from 2008 through 2010 compared to a going corporate tax rate of 35 percent. All but one of those 30 companies reported lobbying expenses in Washington.

Another report, by Public Campaign, shows that 29 of those companies spent nearly half a billion dollars over those three years lobbying in Washington for laws and rules that favor their interests. Only Atmos Energy, the 30th company, reported no lobbying.

Public Campaign replaced Atmos with Federal Express, the package delivery company that paid a smidgen of tax — $37 million, or less than one percent of the $4.2 billion in profit it reported in 2008 through 2010.

For the amount spent lobbying, the companies could have hired 3,100 people at $50,000 for wages and benefits to do productive work.

The report – “For Hire: Lobbyists or the 99 percent” – says that while shedding jobs, the 30 companies are “spending millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists to stave off higher taxes or regulations.”

These and other companies have access to lawmakers and regulators that are unavailable to ordinary Americans.

via The corporations that occupy Congress | David Cay Johnston.

Categories: Politics

Senate Wants the Military to Lock You Up Without Trial | Danger Room | Wired.com

It was inevitable, what with the “war on terror”, and the Guantanamo Bay facility.  Let’s see if Obama vetos this, or if he’s just as bad as his predecessor, and all our friendly neighborhood congress critters.

Here’s the best thing that can be said about the new detention powers the Senate has tucked into next year’s defense bill: They don’t force the military to detain American citizens indefinitely without a trial. They just let the military do that. And even though the leaders of the military and the spy community have said they want no such power, the Senate is poised to pass its bill as early as tonight.

via Senate Wants the Military to Lock You Up Without Trial | Danger Room | Wired.com.

Categories: Politics

Who owns America? Hint: It’s not China – BlackListedNews.com

The U.S. Treasury / Federal Reserve: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)

Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)

Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)

Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)

Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)

Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)

Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)

Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)

State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)

Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)

United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)

Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)

State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)

Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)

U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)

China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)

Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.

via Who owns America? Hint: It’s not China – BlackListedNews.com.

Categories: Finances, Politics

Intellectual Property is Murder (or why pharmacuetical companies aren’t “free market”)

via Intellectual Property is Murder.

Those who claim that drug patents are necessary to recoup the expenses of developing drugs are wrong. The patent system skews R&D toward gaming the patent system rather than developing the most effective drugs. First of all, there has been a dramatic shift away from fundamentally new kinds of blockbuster drugs, because it’s much more cost-effective to put money into tweaking the formulas of drugs whose patents are about to expire just enough to qualify for repatenting them — so-called “me, too drugs.” Second, a great deal of the basic research on which drug development is based is carried out at government expense in publicly funded universities. Around half of the overall cost of drug R&D is taxpayer-funded. And in the United States, under the terms of legislation passed in the 1980s, the patents on drugs developed entirely at taxpayer expense are given away — free of charge — to the drug companies that produce and market them. Third, most of the actual R&D cost for developing drugs comes, not from testing the version of a drug actually marketed, but from securing patent lockdown on all the other major possible variants.

Categories: Politics