Posted by: quiscus | August 18, 2012

August 18, 2012

1. “The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology

If you think that 24/7 tracking of citizens by biometric recognition systems is paranoid fantasy, just read the industry newsletters

A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were – so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant.

Except that it turned out to be true. News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government – for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

What is very obvious is that this technology will not be applied merely to people under arrest, or to people under surveillance in accordance with the fourth amendment (suspects in possible terrorist plots or other potential crimes, after law enforcement agents have already obtained a warrant from a magistrate). No, the “targets” here are me and you: everyone, all of the time. In the name of “national security”, the capacity is being built to identify, track and document any citizen constantly and continuously.

The revealing boosterism of a trade magazine like Homeland Security Newswire envisions endless profits for the surveillance industry, in a society where your TV is spying on you, a billboard you drive by recognizes you, Minority Report style, and the FBI knows where to find your tattoo – before you have committed any crime: “FBI on Track to Book Faces, Scars, Tattoos”, it notes; “Billboards, TVs Detect your Faces; Advertisers Salivate”, it gloats; “Biometric Companies See Government as the Driver of Future Market Growth”, it announces. Indeed, the article admits without a blush that all the growth is expected to be in government consumption, with “no real expectation” of private-sector growth at all. So much for smaller government!”

2. “The US Supreme Court and “The Rule of Flaw”

America’s ultimate proponent of tyranny

The Supreme Court of the United States is an institution that has failed in every possible way. It is notorious for having issued iniquitous opinions; it has not only failed to resolve but has exacerbated conflicts; and it has consistently negated the ideals the founding fathers wrote into the Preamble of the Constitution. The ultimate consequence is that any American is deluded who believes that America can be changed substantively by using the electoral process.

This process is justified by a doctrine referred to as starie decisis which in English means “let the decision stand.” The reasoning behind it is simple: The legal system needs to be consistent. Decisions in cases should not contradict each other, when a decision is being made, past decisions have to be looked at to make sure no inconsistency results.

What is called starie decisis in American jurisprudence has for centuries been called the method of authority by Scholastic philosophers and was discarded by non-clerical scholars well before the eighteenth century. It is obviously a faulty method when used for intellectual pursuits. Unless the authority is known to be right, the method propagates error, but SCOTUS doesn’t care. John Marshall had set the tone for the Court in 1803 in Marbury v Madison. First of all, although he found that Marbury was entitled to the commission sought, Marshall refused to order that it be delivered, thus setting the precedent for the Court’s practice of issuing unjust rulings. This ruling made it obvious that establishing justice was not the Court’s job even though the Constitution says that it is one goal the nation was established to attain. Second, Marshall writes that “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is” Although apparently never questioned by anyone but Jefferson who writes that because of this ruling the Constitution is “a thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please,” this claim commits the fallacy of amphiboly. “What the law is” is ambiguous. It can mean either what the law says or what what it says means.

Charles Evans Hughes writes, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is, and the judiciary is the safeguard of our property and our liberty under the Constitution.” What Hughes fails to see is that although the judiciary should be “the safeguard of our property and our liberty” it can just as easily be their repressor. And that’s exactly what SCOTUS has become.

Why would anyone in a nation with a legislature claim that is it the judiciary’s duty “to say what the law is”? If the meaning of a law cannot be determined from its diction, the law can be invalidated because of its imprecision. If necessary, the legislature can then redraft the law.

In more than two hundred years, the Court’s membership has not displayed any high degree of sagacity. People of strong political and cultural biases who lack open minds are not intelligent. A person who lacks the ability to question his own beliefs is a bigot. That’s what jurists who legislate their own beliefs into law are. Americans someday may treat them all just as Chief Justice Taney was treated—as nobodies remembered only for their bigotry.”


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