Tuesday 31 August 2010

The Frogs Are Starting To Simmer In 'The Land Of The Free'

Mrs P has put her foot down with a firm hand, so I'll be taking a few days off before the little Ps go back to the state indoctrination hub school. A tour of Lord's, jaunt to the beach, hours of fun playing 'where the fuck have they run off to now?' in several tourist-packed museums, that sort of thing. As such, if tumbleweed begins to drift around here in the coming week, don't be too surprised.

Afore that, though, there's just time for a quick look at what might be coming our way soon, courtesy of our government's idols over the Atlantic.

As we often observe on these pages, however absurd America gets, it's only a matter of time before illiberal ideas, bans, and downright lunacy begin to be replicated over here.

And we should be quite worried at the moment as yank authoritarians are busy attacking their own constitution - which most Americans presumed to be set in stone for an eternity - with a carbide-tipped pickaxe. The Fourth Amendment in particular.

As some bloggers have spotted this week, for example, US authorities haven't waited for the dust to settle on the use of body scanning devices at airports before rolling out the mobile, in-your-face-on-the-street version.

The Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, as the company calls them, bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back. Absorbed rays indicate dense material such as steel. Scattered rays indicate less-dense objects that can include explosives, drugs, or human bodies. That capability makes them powerful tools for security, law enforcement, and border control.
In a country which has only ever suffered one terrist atrocity on its own soil (IIRC), it would seem a trifle paranoid to unleash 500 of these things, even though the manufacturer publicity makes very clear their necessity for the public good.

But is it really in the wider interest of Americans?

But EPIC’s Rotenberg says that the scans, like those in the airport, potentially violate the fourth amendment. “Without a warrant, the government doesn’t have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause,” he says. Even airport scans are typically used only as a secondary security measure, he points out. “If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.”
Of course, as BBW has consistently emphasised, it's not necessarily the equipment which is the problem, but the very human operators and the potential for mission creep.

The same 'for your protection' angle is also being wheeled out to defend a US court's decision to allow state interference on private property.

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.
One of the judges did vainly object, but his remarks bely a sense of desperation.

"1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," [Chief Judge Kozinski] lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell's totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: "Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."
Meanwhile, elsewhere in 'the land of the free', schools are queueing up to tag and monitor their students. Starting with pre-schoolers ...

RICHMOND, Calif.—California officials are outfitting preschoolers in Contra Costa County with tracking devices they say will save staff time and money. The system was introduced Tuesday. When at the school, students will wear a jersey that has a small radio frequency tag. The tag will send signals to sensors that help track children's whereabouts, attendance and even whether they've eaten or not.
... before moving on to those a little older [YouTube].

Lastly, the Washington Examiner reports on why yanks shouldn't consider themselves safe from the ever-expanding state while acting perfectly legally on their own property.

[...] to arrest someone who is unmistakably on their own property, and doing nothing remotely illegal, is an abuse of power pure and simple. Even if it were true that Gibson was endangering herself by witnessing the traffic stop from the confines of her front porch, how could that possibly be construed as “resisting arrest” or “obstructing the police” without eviscerating everything that the concept of private property (not to mention plain old individual rights) stands for? Taking such a risk is not illegal. Doing it while occupying one’s homestead should be recognized as unassailably within one’s rights.
Couldn't happen here? Confident? Have you seen the crazy shit our easily gulled parliament has passed before?

Strap yourselves in, boys and girls. We could be in for a long and bumpy ride.


Angry Exile said...

At least the Yanks have a BoR and codified Constitution, even if they are both worded a little too loosely in places which has allowed the erosion to begin. The UK has only the first, and its wording is even looser. Australia has only the second which is simply a framework for government and guarantees almost no liberties at all.

Still, worrying stuff there, DP. Getting nicked for videoing police is very worrying, though I wonder if the Yanks have caught that from the S.44 happy police and PCSOs in Blighty. More Orwellian but perhaps less worrying are the RIFDs on people stories. Sure, it gives the lie to what we were all told when RFIDs first came out. 'Oh, the technology will never be used to track and monitor actual people', what a load of bullshit that's turned out to be. On the other hand giving them to teenagers might kill the project. They'll be swapping cards and trying to hack and copy the RIFDs just to see if they can. And for shits and giggles of course - they're teenagers after all. When I was at school it was writing abuse in weedkiller on the headmaster's lawn or running from end to end during the school photo so you're in it twice, and I have no doubt that the same attitude will have someone trying to make it look to an RFID system like they're in several places at once. Good luck to them.

westcoast2 said...

"If you have nothing to hide" - yeah right.

"I have no doubt that the same attitude will have someone trying to make it look to an RFID system like they're in several places at once."

This will mean they then have a 'problem' that can 'only' be tackled with more (draconian) law.

Once this mindset takes hold and 'the nothing to hide' sheeple assist, a downward spiral begins that is almost unstoppable (bob).

It is fueled by its own self justifications. Any 'reasonable' person can have no objection to each step as, if they did, they then must, by definition, have something to hide.

So to appear to be 'reasonable' people do not object. This is the classic 'Emperor has no clothes' situation.

We need a reset button.

Anonymous said...

No judging from what happened in Wshington recently possibly 500,000in a peacefull protest against their out of control government,


when are we going to have one ..................
still waiting ................
still waiting ................
still waiting ................

Angry Exile said...

"This will mean they then have a 'problem' that can 'only' be tackled with more (draconian) law."

The tricky bit for them is that more and more resources are needed to throw at enforcement until you'd actually need to hire everybody to police everybody. Clearly that's not possible so what do the police do instead? We already know this: they go after the low hanging fruit. It's the same thing that makes them sit on plod perches by the motorway sticking a LIDAR out of the window to pick off people driving a few mph over the limit (and not actually crashing) instead of doing something laborious and difficult like catching a burglar. It's the same thing that makes them go hassle a student with a camera instead of deal with a gang. RFIDs being played with by savvy kids will sound like a lot of man hours for little reward when there are much easier arrests to be had, especially if it happens a lot. Far, far easier to go and do someone for conspiracy to light up a cigarette.

ianrthorpe said...

A few months ago my buddy Jeff Schreiber ( <a href="http://www.americasright.com America's Right</a>) broke a story of a U.S. schoolboard that had given free laptops to pupils after installing software that effectively turned the devices into 1984 style telescreens. Not only did the bodged laptops record in audio and video what went on in the users home, they also reported to the Thought Police any attempt to switch them off.

Jeff works in the Philadelphia Law Courts so is a pretty reliable source if you want to follow up.

Anonymous said...

Richmond, California, where they are RFID tagging the students - that city is along the eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay, you know, the land of "liberals" and "free speech". Berkeley, also along the eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay has just outlawed outdoor smoking everywhere in the entire business district - and San Francisco is getting ready to follow suit, not that there's not $500 fines in place for outdoor smoking already in many parts of San Francisco. Oh, those west-coast "liberals" of the USofA - now it's legal to RFID people and tag cars with microchips. Why don't they just subject their children to RFID implants and get the whole thing over with - it's the "liberal" left-wing thing to do, so "normal", just like their smoke-banning. Funny huh, it's okay to have freedom of choice, when it comes to an abortion - but when it comes to smoking a cigarette, then there's no freedom allowed. Kind of hypocritical, those "liberals". Damn straight that will be moving to UK next right after they call it a "raging success" on the west coast of the US. Don't trust those yanks as far as I can spit these days, especially the left-wing ones haunting the west coast, NYC and every branch of office in DC.

Anonymous said...

Do these scanning machines work on

Pond Eastside

Anonymous said...

Interesting development in the US.
Very intersting indeed .
Apart from the Illeberal elite with a large C.
Who may be facing their Alamo.
The winds of change are blowing .

Makes swooshing noise .

BTS said...

"The ZBV.. detect substances containing low atomic number elements such as carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.

"These elements are often present in explosives and other contraband."

So, just to clarify - they've designed a van to "blend in with urban and other landscapes" which goes 'ping' every time it senses, well, just about anything really.

Sorry, my mistake. They buy in the vans, chuck in a machine goes 'ping' every time it detects the presence of (lots and lots of) stuff (everywhere). And would appear to glue a fridge-freezer to the back (presumably something to do with the blending in).

This is how councils will pimp their rides in future when looking for a new way to abuse counter-terrorism laws in an effort to generate revenue from people who have accidentally dropped a teabag in the wrong plastic box on the 3rd Wednesday of Jupiter ascending into Virgo in the Year of the Rat.

I feel safer already.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"The ZBV.. detect substances containing low atomic number elements such as carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen.

So, just to clarify - they've designed a van to "blend in with urban and other landscapes" which goes 'ping' every time it senses, well, just about anything really."

Got it in one, BTS

Anonymous said...

I thought the Yank Totalitarian loons were dead against irradiating vegetables.

Demetrius said...

If they put all this stuff on the web we could all enjoy it for free. Much better than the TV.