How a distributed approach prevents authoritarian actions at Wikipedia

 Washington D.C. - Capital Building Dome

Who’s banned from editing Wikipedia this week? Congress
[Via Ars Technica]

Most members and staffers of the US House of Representatives won’t be able to edit pages on Wikipedia for more than a week. Administrators of the popular Web encyclopedia have imposed a 10-day ban on the IP address connected to Congress’ lower house.

The ban comes after a series of wild “disruptive” edits that appeared following the creation of @congressedits, a bot that monitors anonymous edits from congressional IP addresses and announces them to the world via Twitter. The account was created just over two weeks ago and already has more than 23,000 followers.

Wikipedia editors explained their castigation for the IP address on the user talk page. The 10-day edit ban follows a one-day ban imposed earlier this month, which apparently didn’t do the trick.


Some people in Congress, using congressional computers, thought they could change content at Wikipedia. They’d be anonymous so no one would know. It might violate the TOS at Wikipedia but who would know.

It is the typical ‘smart’ idea of an authoritarian elite who hopes to hoodwink the distributed masses. A Congressional office could spend hours using their computer to alter things for their won purposes. All under the watchful eyes of authority to make sure that what was actually changed was what it wanted changed.

This was not some random staffer making changes. These were pretty obviously directed by someone in authority., someone who does not understand the power of distributed democracy.

We still do not know who was responsible (I bet we could if we made a Federal case out of it). But we do not really need to. It was a simple matter for someone to follow changes coming from congressional computers and make it open by putting on twitter.

Simply by making these changes open and transparent allows us to take action and probably change the behavior.

Sure, they can try to find another solution, such as using their own, personal, computers at another location, but that is simply using a distributed approach. This works against their authoritarian tendencies.

How will the authority know if the staffer is actually making the  right changes? Can it really trust anyone? A hallmark of hierarchical authority in a distributed democracy is paranoia due to the loss of direct control.

So moving control of these changes away from the eyes of the authority will make the elites feel less powerful, not more.

Win-win all around!

SpaceX on path to save government huge pile of dough

SpaceX Falcon 9 1.1 Launch Sequence at Vandenberg AFB 

SpaceX wins intermediate victory over US in launch contract case
[Via Ars Technica]

The United States government has lost its bid to toss SpaceX’s lawsuit over lucrative national security-related launch contracts.

In two orders issued on Thursday, the US Court of Federal Claims said that the two parties have been ordered to seek mediation as a way to resolve their ongoing dispute.

Three months ago, the private space firm sued after learning that the Air Force had entered into exclusive agreements with government contractors that locked out private companies from competing for the launch contracts without providing suitable justification. As of now, the only authorized contractor to send up Air Force payloads is United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.


The Air Force essentially rushed through a no-bid contract just a few weeks before SpaceX would have been approved to compete for the contract.

The Boeing-Lockheed company, ULA, has had a monopoly on government contracts and these actions smell of sweetheart deals that come from the corporate welfare of government cost-plus contracts. These often become huge boondoggles that cost the taxpayer more than it should.

SpaceX has shown it can produce rockets every bit as safe as ULA and for perhaps half the price, if not much, much lower. Their disruptive impact on the space industry is sending huge ripples. 

Ripples that Boeing and Lockheed hoped to avoid by the rushed contract.

We are on the cusp of a new space race and the ripples cannot be avoided.

The premises may be incorrect but I agree with most of the conclusions


There Will Be No Smooth Sailing
[Via Booman Tribune]

In the next couple of decades, America is going to have to grapple with two major changes. The first is that there are going to be new first-world powers, like China, Brazil and India, that we will have to reckon with. The West will not be driving things the way we have been accustomed to since the end of World War Two.

The second is that the American electorate is going to be more diverse and left-leaning, more like Europe.

In both cases, Hillary Clinton seems ill-suited to be our leader. The future is more Bill de Blasio than Andrew Cuomo, and the Clintons probably don’t get that. Still, Andrew Sullivan’s dripping contempt of the Clintons is irritating. He opposes them for all the wrong reasons and none of the right ones.

While I think the Clintons are a bit “out of time,” I don’t necessarily think this is a terrible thing for a country that is going to have some serious difficulties adjusting to new realities. Clinton could serve as a bit of a buffer, allowing the country to adjust to the changed world in way that doesn’t put too much shock into the system.

We should not underestimate the threat that the reactionary rebellion against change represents in this country. They are on the verge of defeat, they know it, and they aren’t going to take it lying down.


I have not disagreed with a post I agree with quite this much in a long time.

I do not think that we will have to worry about the BRIC countries quite as much as others. In a battle between diverse, distributed bottom up approaches and single-minded, authoritarian, top down ones, no country in history can compare to the US. Two of the BRIC countries (Russian and China) are highly authoritarian and the other two, while diverse, do not have a long history of effectively dealing with that diversity.

The BRIC countries will be important, and Western influence may drop (I actually feel it may increase in some ways), I do not think the threat of BRIC will really impact the US. I think it is other. smaller pressures that will have a huge effect.

He hits one of these in the 2nd problem – diverse populations. One of the aspects of a successful society in the current age is solving complex problems, using a wide and diverse set of views to arrive at the best win-win solution.

We may become more diverse and left-leaning but not at all like Europe. Europe still has too little diversity and is having a very hard time adapting. The US while obviously showing signs of stress, has a long and successful history of dealing with new and diverse immigrants, integrating them into the most diverse culture ever.

And America has historically balanced this with an authoritative individualism that allows us to do things well, once we make the decision. Or decide to change what we are doing when conditions change. A decision that is almost always based on the democratic principles we were founded on.

Our culture is an amalgam of every other culture. It is one reason Hollywood movies do so well overseas (in fact, many movies can only make a profit by making a lot of money in a wide variety of countries). Our culture is a world culture.

No one else comes close. It is why I am confident humanity will solve our problems. We already have the beginnings of the culture that will lead us to success. It is America’s.

Not because we have some God-given manifest destiny. No top down authority makes us the model. It is due mainly to one thing.

Balance. Between distributed democracy and hierarchical authority. Those have helped make America as successful as it is. They will help even more in the future.

I do think Hillary may not be suitable for the next President. I actually think she would be better suited on the Supreme Court but that’s another story. But at the moment, there are no other  viable choices for continuing our transition.

Because, while I talk historically  presently the US is out of balance, with top-down, elites having too much political and economic power And as has happened others times this occurred, we are beginning to see the democratic processes re-balance the system,

Those in favor of the status quo, the reactionaries, the ones who want to maintain the concentrated power they wield, will not give up power easily or without loss.

I do think the reactionary elements of our society are where the real battle is at. As it is with reactionary elements being seen across the globe as they deal with distributed approaches. It is no coincidence that we are seeing multiple outbreaks of violence, driven in most cases by reactionary approaches being used. 

This will simply drive people to use distributed approaches to find solutions. The barriers to entry for much of this are so low that authority simply has a hard time stopping it.

As a quick instance, war zone reporting used to be highly restricted, with authorities only allowing certain things to be printed. Now everyone has a camera on them almost all the time, with the ability to disperse information in ways that have never been allowed before. Both for good and ill.

Finally, a key aspect to remember. Reactionaries here are not strictly conservatives. There are many liberals who want to maintain the status quo. The battle is not along economic lines – as our political parties are drawn up. It is along a separate axis. 

We have already seen this beginning to arise in our political leaders (whose votes have recently begun to reflect the battles going on).

As with any struggle, there will be setbacks and such. But, historically, the societies that did best at balancing hierarchical authority and distributed democracy were the most successful (Cordoba in the  900s vs Cordoba 150 years later; Venice in the 1300s vs Venice. 100 years later). The democracy of Athens still informs us, not the authority of Sparta.

Too much of the latter and a society is brittle and unable to adapt, ruled by an authoritative elite that extracts wealth for their own aggrandizement  Too much the latter and nothing gets done, as everyone talks about the problem.

But balance the two and you have the ability to adapt, to find radical solutions and then execute them. 

I see nothing yet to believe that America will not find the balance needed to produce solutions in this battle, and then help the rest of the world. That is also what we have done before.

Secret, lethal and cruel human experimentation continues

 Justice and Cleansing in Iran

Another execution by experimental drug cocktail goes horribly wrong
[Via Boing Boing]

An execution in Arizona turned torturous yesterday, with convicted murderer Joseph Wood taking almost two hours to die after he was injected with a secret mixture of drugs.


Nothing demonstrates the authority of the state than putting to death its members. Here we again see a botched execution done without humane considerations.  Almost 2 hours to die, gasping all the time.

Once again an unknown mixture of drugs was used that failed to produce the ‘clean’ death the state wanted.

It is simply experimenting on a prisoner. Lethal experiments. 

No one knows what he was injected with. The authorities did not want his lawyers to get a blood sample, even after a judge ordered them to. Companies do not want to be associated with human executions because social norms in many areas will provoke an unwanted response.

So the authorities cannot get the ‘good’ drugs from sources beholden to consumers.. Thus they try and protect their sources by keeping them secret.

Hierarchical authority cannot deal with distributed democracy by simply becoming  more secret and brutal.

Firing squads would be more effective and more humaneauthorityDead in a minute.

If there is a humane way for the state to put someone to death. Considering how often they have killed innocent people maybe they should not be allowed to at all.

If the dazzle camouflage works, I’m sure it will be made illegal

Liverpool LighNight 2014

Antisurveillance face camouflage
[Via Boing Boing]

Adam Harvey’s “Computer Vision Dazzle” is designed to keep facial-recognition computer algorithms from seeing the real face. But how to wear the dazzle for days while going about everyday life?


See, even the person above begins to disappear from casual view. The use of dazzle camouflage started in WWI on navy ships. It made it very hard to determine speed or distance.

That is because it worked against the way rangefinders worked at the time. Today we have something similar based on how facial recognition algorithms work.

The authorities will not allow their surveillance to be flouted. They would never allow the distributed masses to use this on a regular basis.

If they are allowed to maintain that level of control. This could be one of the battle grounds.

Making a better world = Separating Sheep from Goats

Ellis Island

The parable of the sheep and goats – to me, one of the defining Biblical passages describing the underlying principles of Christ’s teachings. (with the Sermon on the Mount being the other major one).

As I have written before:

Whether it is the New Commandment to love one another, the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbors, turning the other cheek in response to evil, or how to love one’s enemies, His teachings show a path that breaks cycles of violence that often reverberate during times of change and strife.

This parable catalogs some of the actions that can be taken by those following his teachings – the sheep. It details how they separate themselves by how they treat others.

Seeing a person in difficulty, having compassion and acting to remedy that difficulty is one of the defining teachings that Christ provided.

They are about how to treat other humans, how compassion is required. Empathy and sympathy are what constantly drive successful societies and simply slow down cultures doomed to failure.

Time for us all to be separated – so many goats and so few sheep. From Matthew 25:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Obama’s dingo policy goes over like lead balloon

 Canis lupus dingo

Following Backlash, White House Realizes Guy Who Opposed Obama’s Own Patent Reform Plan Shouldn’t Lead The Patent Office
[Via Techdirt]

A little over a week ago, it came out that President Obama was on the verge of appointing a former pharmaceutical industry exec, who had spent years fighting against the very kind of patent reform that President Obama supported, to be head of the USPTO. It was a little odd how the news came out — as it seemed to be clearly “leaked” to a few folks in the press that Phil Johnson was likely to be the nominee. However, the move was pretty quickly condemned, and now the same folks are saying that the White House has changed its mind, and will not offer the position to Johnson.

At the very least, that suggests that the “leak” of his name was something of a trial balloon, to see how it would go over — and the vocal rejection (including by big patent reform supporter Senator Chuck Schumer) made the White House realize that it would be in for a pretty angry fight over the nomination. Hopefully, the next nominee isn’t someone who has vocally fought against the President’s own position on patent reform…[More]

So here is one time that he appears to listen. Nice to see a distributed approach succeed over the normal authoritarian.

I did love the comment that stated this sort of policy: “Let’s hire the dingo as our babysitter” Maybe the new tools of distributed democracy will make this policy much less likely.

A distributed democratic win in a football trademark case, using an authoritarian tool

 Lone Pine in a tree Farm

[Crossposted at SpreadingScience]

Washington Redskins trademark canceled by U.S. Patent Office - 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, an extremely rare move the office said it made because the name is offensive to Native Americans.

Trademarks that disparage or belittle other groups are not permited under federal law. The ruling Wednesday pertains to six different trademarks containing the word “Redskin.”

Native American groups have been fighting the football team, its owners and sponsors for decades to change the name.


The ability of a distributed  democratic approach to route around the damage of hierarchical authoritarians is one of its strength. Authoritarians can be very strong and focussed – their strength – which gives them early success against winds of change.

Like a a mighty tree, if the winds change rapidly, buffeting them hard from different directions, along with massive amounts of rain and a lightening bolt or two,, the oak tree will fall. 

One distributed way to shift the wind and deal with the Washington team is for people simply not go to the games.

But today, not only was there a shift in the wind but a lightening  bolt as well. And it did not use a tool of distributed democracy against the authoritarians.

It used one of hierarchical authoritarian’s own tools against itself – government bureaucracy. Not a mob with pitchforks and torches but a nice long legal document.

In America, our government is usually a direct reflection of how the people balance distributed democracy and hierarchical authority.

We as a society have made the decision that derogatory names cannot gain trademark protection. It has been incorporated into the authoritative power of the government.

That government – which can provide trademark protection – has now removed that protection from the Washington team, and the NFL. The ability of that trademark to generate large amounts of money for them is now pretty damaged. 

This is a very big lightening bolt. This will hit the relevant parties in the pocket book but does not take away their First Amendment rights. They can name themselves what ever they want.

But we, as a society  have determined that we will not protect that name with the authority of the government.


Will “Rocket to nowhere” be the death of SpaceX?


NASA’s new rocket lifts ambition, fuels doubts - 
[Via Houston Chronicle]

Todd May’s corner office overlooks the tree-lined hills where Wernher von Braun made the most powerful rockets the world has ever known.

Just down the road stands a massive building, taller than a football field is long, where von Braun’s mighty Saturn V rocket underwent tests ahead of its triumphant lunar destiny. Atop another rise there’s a rickety-looking tower where, as NASA desperately sought to keep pace with the Russians, von Braun tested a modified missile that carried the first American into space.

These and other historic Apollo buildings at Marshall Space Flight Center remain today, rusted reminders that once, long ago, Alabama rocketry made the world stand at attention.


One Senator hopes so. I don’t think it will but it will surely slow down our manned space efforts. America could already have men in space if Congress had not already hamstrung the system to much.

More than anything, this article reveals that the SLS is more a jobs program – in this case for Alabama – than an effective way to explore space.

NASA should be working with SpaceX more rather than competing. But so much of the NASA manned program’s budget  is based on government-supported jobs than actual innovative ways to explore space. This attitude is why the Senator from Alabama is trying to kill commercial crew and Space-X.

This article illustrates the way the NASA manned space program looks backward on manned flight rather than forward. On cost-plus contracts rather than on private enterprise.

von Braun is a hero. Musk is a competitor. 

The SpaceX rocket that will undercut the SLS will fly in less than a year. The SLS won’t fly until 2017, if then.

The article details almost everything wrong with NASA manned flights —  a large monolithic rocket using four $40 million one-time use rockets, whose main purpose is to continue to provide money and jobs for people in Alabama (and elsewhere) than to effectively allow us to explore space – even as it applies heroic prose to what NASA is trying to do.

SpaceX may well be able to send up hundreds of rockets for the same price as one SLS. Yet instead of working more with SpaceX, enhancing the great private-public partnership already in place, some in NASA want to destroy that and build a rocket for which it cannot afford any payload.

Mostly because the program provides jobs in certain states. 

This is like saying instead of building a transcontinental railroad, we will build bigger ships to take us around Cape Horn. It’ll keep the boat builders in Virginia employed.

But would do little to help people settle America, or businesses spring up. Or expand actual exploration.

NASA needs to look forward and explore. Not act as a job provider for obsolete approaches.

NASA, and its Congressional benefactors, needs to realize that simply getting off of Earth is no longer in their purview. It will be done more effectively by private corporations. It needs to focus on getting from LEO to beyond.

I’d be willing to bet that they could have some really interesting space tugs and ships ready to explore from LEO sooner than the SLS will actually get into space.

Design a Mars Base, get a 3D printer.


Want to design a Mars base for Nasa? Now’s your chance
[Via Ars Technica]

Would you like a 3D printer? Of course you would. Would you like to collaborate with Nasa? Please, we won’t insult you while waiting for an answer. MakerBot has launched a competition tailored for you then, in collaboration with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: MakerBot Mars Base Challenge. It wants you to deliver inspiration for a human base on Mars, considering future visitors will have to combat extreme temperatures, radiation spikes, dust storms and the whole you-can’t-breath-on-Mars thing. The brief provided is to design, with all these considerations in mind, “a utilitarian Mars base that can withstand the elements and maybe even make you feel at home, despite being 140 million miles away from Earth, on average”. And if you win, they’ll give you a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer.


Looks like fun. This is how you balance authoritarian hierarchies with distributed democracies in order to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems.

NASA needs a new plan. Here’s mine – an incremental one that harnesses both manned and unmanned sides of NASA


New report: NASA Mars goal is not viable -
[Via Houston Chronicle ]

NASA’s current plan for sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s is an appropriately ambitious goal, but it can’t be realized until the 2050s at the earliest without spending billions of dollars more annually, according to a congressionally mandated report by the National Research Council released Wednesday.

Above all, the 286-page report warns Congress that keeping NASA on its current trajectory will result in the space agency going nowhere.


We need to use an innovative Apollo approach – incremental steps to get to the goal – rather than use what has worked previously.

Building a monolithic, heavy lify, chemical rocket (the SLS) to get from the Earth’s surface to Mars is simply not the cheapest, not the best approach, in my opinion. It expends a lot of money on something others will do cheaply – getting to low Earth orbit. It puts the lives of the astronauts in danger by taking so long to get there, placing them on the surface, getting them off the surface and then getting them back home. Expensive and time consuming.

And it is not like the incremental one we used to get to the Moon – one man, two men, three men, space walks, travel around the moon, etc.

In many ways, the current plan is driven more by politics than by scientific reasoning. Both the manned and unmanned sections of NASA’s focus are constantly battling over money. The SLS is the approach the maned side has taken. They fear that changing this will weaken them.

But I have an approach that harnesses both the manned and unmanned segments.

Here is what I suggest –

1) Focus post-LEO: Leave getting off the planet and to low Earth orbit to the cheaper commercial approaches. Focus on technologies that work from LEO outward – particularly high powered ionic engines which hold the promise of getting to Mars in 2 months.

2) Humanity at the Moon’s L2 : Set up a manned outpost on the far side of the moon. This will not only be farther than humans have ever been but also allows  virtual telerobotic exploration of the Moon because the outpost is so close. Both manned and unmanned segments benefit.

3) Mining in Space: Send an unmanned probe to an asteroid and move it into orbit around the Moon, where the manned outpost can control examination and mining of the resources, particularly the fuel needed to power the Ionic engines. Both manned and unmanned segments benefit.

4) To Mars: Once the first 3 steps have been accomplished, simply apply them to Mars – a) use ionic engines to move supplies and unmanned robots to set up an outpost on one of the Martian moons; b) send men to that outpost where they will be protected from high radiation; c) use the telerobotic knowledge gained to send unmanned exploration robots to the surface of Mars; d) the robots can build the habitats needed on the surface while mining provides more fuel for the return. Both manned and unmanned segments benefit.

With proper ion engine design, we could get to Mars in 2 months not 6 or longer, meaning the astronauts are not exposed to radiation as long. With the information we learn from the habitat at the Moon, we will know how to create a similar one anywhere.

This incremental approach harnesses expertise from both the manned an unmanned wings of NASA, getting both working with each other rather than against other.

And we learn so much more than simply building a bigger rocket.

Maybe Elon Musk will disrupt military contract competitions

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Fights for Military Market Access 
[Via - Businessweek]

There’s a custom in Washington that U.S. defense contractors don’t talk trash about their competitors, at least not in public. After fiercely competing for multibillion-dollar Pentagon contracts, the winner often placates the loser with a piece of the action. When Lockheed Martin (LMT) was awarded the contract to build the F-22 fighter jet, it hired Northrop Grumman (NOC) to build the plane’s radar. Boeing (BA) won the contract to build the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker plane and asked Northrop and Raytheon (RTN) to contribute key components. Everyone ends up happy. It’s how it’s always been done.

Elon Musk couldn’t care less how it’s always been done. The chief executive officer of the fledgling rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies—SpaceX for short—is seeking to break into the $68 billion Pentagon satellite launch market. But Musk, better known as the prickly, detail-obsessed CEO of his other company, Tesla Motors (TSLA), isn’t bothering with niceties to help ease his way into the club. Instead, in a series of visits to the capital this year, he’s blasted the defense establishment, saying he can build better rockets for less money than traditional aerospace companies and accusing the military of illegally shunning bids by outsiders—namely, him.


This would be a good thing. Most of these companies have sucked at the government’s teat so long that they simply are not really private contractors anymore.

The corporate welfare that has become military contracts (ie Congress forces the military to build things it no longer needs in order to keep jobs available) needs some changing.

What happens when the security state cannot count on its own software to be secure?

 Barn Door

Root backdoor found in surveillance gear used by law enforcement | 
[Via Ars Technica]

Software used by law enforcement organizations to intercept the communications of suspected criminals contains a litany of critical weaknesses, including an undocumented backdoor secured with a hardcoded password, security researchers said today.

In a scathing advisory published Wednesday, the researchers recommended people stop using the Nice Recording eXpress voice-recording package. It is one of several software offerings provided by Ra’anana, Israel-based Nice Systems, a company that markets itself as providing “mission-critical lawful interception solutions to support the fight against organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorist activities.” The advisory warned that critical weaknesses in the software expose users to attacks that compromise investigations and the security of the agency networks.


So their own software for collecting wiretaps was so insecure that it had a hardcoded backdoor password for an account that was invisible to the police. Allowing root access to everything.

How’s that feel? The security state can not only secretly record our calls but, if using insecure software, could allow just about anyone lese who knew the backdoor to grab the information.

When are corporations going to become worried about industrial spying being a natural outgrowth (and an increasing one) of the security state as we descend into true totalitarianism?

Apparently you have the right to film police only until they ask you to stop

 Hot Media

Appeals Court Reaffirms The Public Has The Right To Record The Police, Except For All The Times When It Doesn’t
[Via Techdirt]

In what is being touted as a victory for First Amendment rights, the First Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of people to record police officers in public. This is nothing more than a reaffirmation of a right citizens already possessed, something that can hardly be considered a victory.

The problem is that, despite this being made clear on multiple occasions, people are still being arrested for recording police officers. Sometimes it’s a bad (and outdated) wiretapping law that gets abused. Sometimes it’s other, unrelated laws that are stretched to fit the circumstances, which means those recording officers are hit with charges ranging from interfering with police investigations to criminal mischief, depending on how the interaction goes.

But this ruling has received lots of press, much of which centers on the positive aspects of the ruling — which, again, must be pointed out only affirms a previously existing right. So, while it’s nice to have a higher-level court confirm First Amendment protections, the fact is that this decision was only made necessary by law enforcement’s arguments to the contrary.


You think the syaye will let us continue to film police? This latest court case seems to show that but it has  a really big caveat.

The court said that police could be recorded as long as it was reasonable. And reasonable is simply in the opinion of the officer.

[T]he opinion, after reaffirming what was already the law, put a lot more effort into the caveat: 

“This is not to say, however, that an individual’s exercise of the right to film a traffic stop cannot be limited.” 

Boom. There it is, the grand right in a few black letters, and then the lengthy explanation detailing how to circumvent and eliminate it. Thanks for the roadmap, bro. 

“Indeed, Glik [v. Cunniffe] remarked that ‘a traffic stop is worlds apart from an arrest on the Boston Common in the circumstances alleged.’ That observation reflected the Supreme Court’s acknowledgment in Fourth Amendment cases that traffic stops may be ‘especially fraught with danger to police officers’ and thus justify more invasive police action than would be permitted in other settings. Reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right to film may be imposed when the circumstances justify them.”

The word “reasonable” is perhaps the most dreaded word in law. First, it is meaningless, left to the sensibilities of judges to decide and a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through. Second, whenever we see it, we know it’s the opening through which bad things come. Bad, bad things.

So it boils down to this – you can film the police until they ask  you to stop. If you refuse, they can reasonable arrest you for failing to follow police instructions and interfering with them.

Ain’t that swell? Your right to document what public officials do in public can be terminated simply by their request. Follow that request and they can do whatever they want. Resist that request and get arrested.

The CIa has not only tortured and killed innocents, it brought polio back


CIA generously agrees to stop using vaccine programs in spy operations
[Via Boing Boing]

“Three years after the CIA set up a phony hepatitis vaccination program in Pakistan as part of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration told a group of American health educators last week that the agency no longer uses immunization programs as a cover for spying operations.” [NYT, here's the letter]


The stupidity of the CIA operation is simply outrageous. So now people in Pakistan do not want to get vaccinated because they think it is a CIA plot. And they would have been right.

Amazingly, the operation that destroyed the faith of people in vaccination failed in its efforts. It resulted in babbing of polio vaccines because of fear that the CIA is involved.

Does anyone really think a letter from the CIA will change things? The CIA and the US security state exists to destroy trust.

Just like the NSA messed up high tech organizations across the globe with its security high jinks (costing perhaps $180 billion), now the CIA is harming global health efforts.

At this rate, our security effirts could well lead to more deaths than the terrorists they are fighting.


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