Quotulatiousness

January 28, 2015

QotD: The libertarian movement

Filed under: Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The libertarian or “freedom movement” is a loose and baggy monster that includes the Libertarian Party; Ron Paul fans of all ages; Reason magazine subscribers; glad-handers at Cato Institute’s free-lunch events in D.C.; Ayn Rand obsessives and Robert Heinlein buffs; the curmudgeons at Antiwar.com; most of the economics department at George Mason University and up to about one-third of all Nobel Prize winners in economics; the beautiful mad dreamers at The Free State Project; and many others. As with all movements, there’s never a single nerve center or brain that controls everything. There’s an endless amount of in-fighting among factions […] On issues such as economic regulation, public spending, and taxes, libertarians tend to roll with the conservative right. On other issues — such as civil liberties, gay marriage, and drug legalization, we find more common ground with the progressive left.

Nick Gillespie, “Libertarianism 3.0; Koch And A Smile”, The Daily Beast, 2014-05-30.

January 17, 2015

Pat Condell – Nothing to do with Islam

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Jan 2015

The death rattle of a dhimmi society.

January 15, 2015

Why the EFF can’t do an iPhone version of their mobile app

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s Corynne McSherry had to break the sad news to Apple iPhone users that due to Apple’s incredibly restrictive developer rules, the EFF cannot produce an iPhone version of their mobile app:

As we have been saying for years now, the [Apple] Developer Agreement is bad for developers and users alike. Here are a few of the terms that we are worried about:

Ban on Public Statements: Section 10.4 prohibits developers from making any “public statements” about the terms of the Agreement. This is particularly strange, since the Agreement itself is not “Apple Confidential Information” as defined in Section 10.1. So the terms are not confidential, but developers are contractually forbidden from speaking “publicly” about them.

Ban on Reverse Engineering: Section 2.6 prohibits any reverse engineering (including the kinds of reverse engineering for interoperability that courts have recognized as a fair use under copyright law), as well as anything that would “enable others” to reverse engineer, the software development kit (SDK) or iPhone OS.

App Store Only: Section 7.3 makes it clear that any applications developed using Apple’s SDK may only be publicly distributed through the App Store, and that Apple can reject an app for any reason, even if it meets all the formal requirements disclosed by Apple. So if you use the SDK and your app is rejected by Apple, you’re prohibited from distributing it through competing app stores like Cydia.

No Tinkering with Any Apple Products: Section 3.2(e) is the “ban on jailbreaking” provision that appears to prohibit developers from tinkering with any Apple software or technology, not just the iPhone, or “enabling others to do so.”

Apple Owns Your Security: Section 6.1 explains that Apple has to approve any bug fixes or security releases. If Apple does not approve such updates very quickly, this requirement could put many people in jeopardy.

Kill Your App Any Time: Section 8 makes it clear that Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time.” Steve Jobs once confirmed that Apple can remotely disable apps, even after they have been installed by users. This contract provision would appear to allow that.

We have some other concerns as well, but these top the list.

January 14, 2015

British PM’s latest technological brain fart

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:43

Cory Doctorow explains why David Cameron’s proposals are not just dumb, but doubleplus-dumb:

What David Cameron thinks he’s saying is, “We will command all the software creators we can reach to introduce back-doors into their tools for us.” There are enormous problems with this: there’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it. If your Whatsapp or Google Hangouts has a deliberately introduced flaw in it, then foreign spies, criminals, crooked police (like those who fed sensitive information to the tabloids who were implicated in the hacking scandal — and like the high-level police who secretly worked for organised crime for years), and criminals will eventually discover this vulnerability. They — and not just the security services — will be able to use it to intercept all of our communications. That includes things like the pictures of your kids in your bath that you send to your parents to the trade secrets you send to your co-workers.

But this is just for starters. David Cameron doesn’t understand technology very well, so he doesn’t actually know what he’s asking for.

For David Cameron’s proposal to work, he will need to stop Britons from installing software that comes from software creators who are out of his jurisdiction. The very best in secure communications are already free/open source projects, maintained by thousands of independent programmers around the world. They are widely available, and thanks to things like cryptographic signing, it is possible to download these packages from any server in the world (not just big ones like Github) and verify, with a very high degree of confidence, that the software you’ve downloaded hasn’t been tampered with.

[…]

This, then, is what David Cameron is proposing:

* All Britons’ communications must be easy for criminals, voyeurs and foreign spies to intercept

* Any firms within reach of the UK government must be banned from producing secure software

* All major code repositories, such as Github and Sourceforge, must be blocked

* Search engines must not answer queries about web-pages that carry secure software

* Virtually all academic security work in the UK must cease — security research must only take place in proprietary research environments where there is no onus to publish one’s findings, such as industry R&D and the security services

* All packets in and out of the country, and within the country, must be subject to Chinese-style deep-packet inspection and any packets that appear to originate from secure software must be dropped

* Existing walled gardens (like Ios and games consoles) must be ordered to ban their users from installing secure software

* Anyone visiting the country from abroad must have their smartphones held at the border until they leave

* Proprietary operating system vendors (Microsoft and Apple) must be ordered to redesign their operating systems as walled gardens that only allow users to run software from an app store, which will not sell or give secure software to Britons

* Free/open source operating systems — that power the energy, banking, ecommerce, and infrastructure sectors — must be banned outright

David Cameron will say that he doesn’t want to do any of this. He’ll say that he can implement weaker versions of it — say, only blocking some “notorious” sites that carry secure software. But anything less than the programme above will have no material effect on the ability of criminals to carry on perfectly secret conversations that “we cannot read”. If any commodity PC or jailbroken phone can run any of the world’s most popular communications applications, then “bad guys” will just use them. Jailbreaking an OS isn’t hard. Downloading an app isn’t hard. Stopping people from running code they want to run is — and what’s more, it puts the whole nation — individuals and industry — in terrible jeopardy.

January 13, 2015

The steady militarization of the police

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith discusses some of the ways the police have changed over the last few decades:

… being a police officer isn’t really all that dangerous — check the statistics, yourself. Being a fireman is more dangerous. Being a miner is more dangerous. Being a deep-sea salvage diver is hell of a lot more dangerous. Nor are these particularly dangerous times. When I was a young reserve officer in the wild and wooly early 1970s, more cops were injured or killed in California alone than in the entire nation now. That fact sparked many changes in policy, including choice of weapons, from revolver to semiautomatic, the design of holsters, and the angle at which the car should be parked during a routine traffic stop.

All that was in the 60s, and, for a while, the police did acquire a more human face. But then, something went wrong. Several things went really wrong, and it left us stuck in the mess we’re in today.

To begin with there were police unions and lawyers who rode along with them like pilot fish. RICO allowed them to loot the countryside freely. There is nothing in a free society that we could have done, or can, directly, about this. But it has come to mean that no officer will ever have to face the music for whatever criminal act he may have committed, unless he has political enemies somewhere inside the structure.

Second, there were matters of accoutrement. Mace and revolver speed-loaders were the big news of my time, rapidly followed by CS gas and semiautomatic pistols, mostly Glocks in .40 caliber, while four-shot pump shotguns evolved into eight-shooters on the dashboard. Wooden nightsticks became nylon PR-24s and engendered a whole new martial art. Finally there was Kevlar body armor, and the Taser. Ammunition changed, as well. The Blue Knight’s equippage was nearly complete.

All the while, the courts were depriving ordinary citizens of more and more rights and protections until the attacks on 9/11 swept what was left from the board. The police could now go anywhere, do anything — including locking people up on suspicion — without punishment for it.

At the same time, the cops have gone insane, shooting people’s dogs, smashing in, beating up, and murdering innocent individuals, including little old ladies, and their pet kittens without even having to apologize about it. I’d cite some typical examples, but they happen every day and you can find them all too easily for yourself. You can’t blame people for hating the police, they have good reason. I’ve deliberately avoided learning much about Ferguson — what little information I have would indicate that the cop behaved properly — but you can’t blame the public, The police have brought this on themselves.

January 12, 2015

Polls show that most Muslims believe in freedom of religion … sorta

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Eugene Volokh on the topic of freedom of religion in the Islamic context:

    Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone.

So writes “a radical Muslim cleric in London and a lecturer in sharia,” Anjem Choudary, in a USA Today op-ed. USA Today has performed a valuable public service here — I mean this entirely sincerely — in reminding people that there is a very dangerous religious denomination out there, which is willing to teach the propriety of murder of blasphemers, which supports the death penalty for apostasy, and which would more broadly suppress the liberty of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

To give one more example, a survey touted by CNN as showing that “Around the World, Muslims Heralded Religious Freedom” actually showed that, though “Ninety-seven percent of Muslims in South Asia, 95% in Eastern Europe, 94% in sub-Saharan Africa and 85% in the Middle East and North Africa responded positively to religious freedom, according to the poll,” in many countries huge percentages of Muslims favor “the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion.” For instance, in South Asia, death for apostates is favored by 79% of Afghan Muslims, 75% of Pakistani Muslims, and 43% of Bangladeshi Muslims. In the Middle East and North Africa, the numbers were 88% in Egypt, 83% in Jordan, 62% in the Palestinian Territories, 41% in Iraq, 18% in Tunisia, and 17% in Lebanon.

I don’t think it’s unfair to characterize those differing poll findings in this way — Muslims believe non-Muslims should be free to submit to the will of Allah (that is, to become Muslims), but that it’s still a religious requirement for them to prevent Muslims from leaving the faith by whatever means are necessary, up to and including killing them. If viewed in this way, the poll results make more sense. Despite the implications of that, the west must continue to find ways to work with Muslim governments and organizations:

Condemning all Muslims as having such murderous and illiberal views (views that blasphemy or apostasy, for instance, should be suppressed through either private or governmental violence) is thus both factually mistaken and counterproductive. If you were trying in 1800 to fight the excesses of the Catholic Church — I use this just as a structural analogy here — doing so by condemning all Christians would be a pretty poor tactic. At the same time, the fact remains that there is within Islam a religious denomination, stream, sect, movement, or whatever else that is a deadly ideological, political, and military enemy to us and our way of life.

If you’ve used the term “Streisand Effect”, you need to pay royalties now…

Filed under: Humour, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick isn’t asking for a lot, he just wants to ensure that his intellectual property is respected … in a way that ensures that his kids won’t starve in the street:

I have to admit that I had no idea that it had been 10 years since I coined the term “The Streisand Effect” until the SkepticHistory Twitter feed called my attention to it earlier this week. I had thought about saving this for the weekend “this week in history” post, but it seems worth delving into today — especially with folks like the thieves at Gawker Media putting up a whole story about it and stealing all the attention and whatnot.

So, yeah, ten years ago this week, I coined “the Streisand Effect,” which was actually on a story about how the Marco Beach Ocean Resort was all offended by the fact that Urinal.net (a site that, yes, still exists and is still being updated) had posted a photo of a urinal from the resort, and the resort insisted that it was illegal to use its name. As we pointed out, this stupid takedown request would only draw more attention, and then we wrote:

    How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.

That last link then went back to a 2003 story about how Barbra Streisand had sued photographer Kenneth Adelman for photographing her house from a helicopter. Adelman had been photographing the entire California coastline, hoping to use it to document coastal erosion, and posted all the photographs online. Streisand got upset that her coastal home was shown, and sued. But, of course, before this, no one knew (or cared) that it was Streisand’s home. The image had been viewed six times (including twice by Streisand’s lawyers), but following the news of the lawsuit, hundreds of thousands of people went to see the photo. It was a story that stuck with me, and seemed to be repeated every few months in some form or another. So when I saw that Urinal.net threat, I just jokingly said we should call such things “The Streisand Effect.”

The oldest game … as a video game

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Elizabeth Nolan Brown on an interesting video game in development:

First, choose your city: Toronto, Vancouver, or Montréal. Next, decide whether avatar Andrea (Andréa, if you chose Montreal) will work on the streets, in a massage parlor, or as an escort. Then try to get screwed literally without being figuratively fucked by the cops—an ultimately no-win situation when it comes to The Oldest Game. Developed by a team of Canadian academics, the project is meant to highlight how the country’s new prostitution law, C-36, makes life more difficult and dangerous for Canadian sex workers.

The law, which took effect in December 2014, “continues to criminalize various aspects of sex work, often removing safeguards and strategies that place sex workers in dangerous situation, placing at risk the very vulnerable people the bill ostensibly exists to protect,” note the game’s creators.

    Through various encounters with clients, colleagues and law enforcement in three difference Canadian cities, players will experience how the legislation changes the way sex workers live and work, and play through the additional challenges sex workers will face when trying to remain safe.

Sandra Gabriele, a Concordia communications professor and one of the project’s co-leads, is interested in using games as a form of journalism.

Published on 10 Dec 2014

On December 6th 2014 (the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada), Bill C-36 officially came into force. Replacing Canada’s previous laws on sex work, which were struck down as unconstitutional on On December 20th, 2013, the new bill have drawn a great deal of criticism for placing sex workers at even greater risk than they faced under the old legislation. The Oldest Game, a newsgame about sex work developed at Concordia University in Montreal QC, demonstrates how Bill C-36 will impact the lives of sex workers in Canada. Developed by Lisa Lynch, Sandra Gabriele, Amanda Feder, Martin Desrosiers, Stephanie Goddard, Ben Spencer, Esther Splett and Natalie Zina Walschots. Follow is on Twitter at @The OldestGame and visit our website, http://www.theoldestgame.com !

January 8, 2015

QotD: England on the eve of the First World War

Filed under: Britain, History, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or lave his country for ever without a passport of any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy, or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly ₤200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of thirteen. Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of seventy. Since 1913, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment. This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.

All this was changed by the impact of the Great War1. The mass of the people became, for the first time, active citizens. Their lives were shaped by orders from above; they were required to serve the state instead of pursuing exclusively their own affairs. Five million men entered the armed forces, many of them (though a minority) under compulsion. The Englishman’s food was limited, and its quality changed, by government order.

His freedom of movement was restricted; his conditions of work prescribed. Some industries were reduced or closed, other artificially fostered. The publication of news was fettered. Street lights were dimmed. The sacred freedom of drinking was tampered with: licensed hours were cut down, and the beer watered by order. The very time on the clocks was changed. From 1916 onwards, every Englishman got up an hour earlier in summer than he would otherwise have done, thanks to an act of parliament. The state established a hold over its citizens which, though relaxed in peacetime, was never to be removed and which the second World war was again to increase. The history of the English state and of the English people merged for the first time.

1 In contemporary parlance, the war of 1914-18 was always, not surprisingly, the Great War. It did not need the war of 1939-45 to change it into the first World War. Repington devised the phrase at the time of the armistice, “to prevent the millennian folk from forgetting that the history of the world is the history of war.” Repington, The First World War, ii. 291.

A.J.P. Taylor, English History 1914-1945, 1965.

January 7, 2015

Cory Doctorow on the dangers of legally restricting technologies

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In Wired, Cory Doctorow explains why bad legal precedents from more than a decade ago are making us more vulnerable rather than safer:

We live in a world made of computers. Your car is a computer that drives down the freeway at 60 mph with you strapped inside. If you live or work in a modern building, computers regulate its temperature and respiration. And we’re not just putting our bodies inside computers — we’re also putting computers inside our bodies. I recently exchanged words in an airport lounge with a late arrival who wanted to use the sole electrical plug, which I had beat him to, fair and square. “I need to charge my laptop,” I said. “I need to charge my leg,” he said, rolling up his pants to show me his robotic prosthesis. I surrendered the plug.

You and I and everyone who grew up with earbuds? There’s a day in our future when we’ll have hearing aids, and chances are they won’t be retro-hipster beige transistorized analog devices: They’ll be computers in our heads.

And that’s why the current regulatory paradigm for computers, inherited from the 16-year-old stupidity that is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, needs to change. As things stand, the law requires that computing devices be designed to sometimes disobey their owners, so that their owners won’t do something undesirable. To make this work, we also have to criminalize anything that might help owners change their computers to let the machines do that supposedly undesirable thing.

This approach to controlling digital devices was annoying back in, say, 1995, when we got the DVD player that prevented us from skipping ads or playing an out-of-region disc. But it will be intolerable and deadly dangerous when our 3-D printers, self-driving cars, smart houses, and even parts of our bodies are designed with the same restrictions. Because those restrictions would change the fundamental nature of computers. Speaking in my capacity as a dystopian science fiction writer: This scares the hell out of me.

January 5, 2015

Britain’s social media police … are really the police

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

James Bloodworth on the attempt by British police forces to extend their role beyond actual crime prevention to virtual crime detection:

At some point saying “offensive” things online stopped being a social faux pas and became a potentially criminal act.

Dare to be rude about the wrong person or group and, in a bad parody of Erich Honecker’s East Germany, you could hear the knock on the door in the middle of the night and be dragged off to some dreary police cell for questioning.

I exaggerate of course, but not much: around 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online, with around 20 people a day being looked into by the forces of the law, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The overused Orwellian cliché has finally become the reality: Big Brother in the form of an overzealous and under regulated police force really is watching you. As Police Scotland terrifyingly informed us this week, “Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media and any offensive comments will be investigated.”

January 3, 2015

Last year, “a Kentucky judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932″

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:44

It’s been a very long time since a federal judge in Kentucky anywhere in the United States has struck down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation:

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, so last year’s most encouraging development in governance might have occurred in February in a U.S. district court in Frankfort, Ky. There, a judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932. By striking down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation, he struck a blow for liberty and against crony capitalism.

Although Raleigh Bruner’s Wildcat Moving company in Lexington is named in celebration of the local religion — University of Kentucky basketball — this did not immunize him from the opposition of companies with which he wished to compete. In 2012, he formed the company, hoping to operate statewide. Kentucky, however, like some other states, requires movers to obtain a CON. Kentucky’s statute says such certificates shall be issued if the applicant is “fit, willing and able properly to perform” moving services — and if he can demonstrate that existing moving services are “inadequate,” and that the proposed service “is or will be required by the present or future public convenience and necessity.”

Applicants must notify their prospective competitors, who can and often do file protests. This frequently requires applicants to hire lawyers for the hearings. There they bear the burden of proving current inadequacies and future necessities. And they usually lose. From 2007 to 2012, 39 Kentucky applications for CONs drew 114 protests — none from the general public, all from moving companies. Only three of the 39 persevered through the hearing gantlet; all three were denied CONs.

Bruner sued, arguing three things: that the CON process violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause because it is a “competitors’ veto” that favors existing companies over prospective rivals; that the statute’s requirements (“inadequate,” “convenience,” “necessity”) are unconstitutionally vague; and that the process violates the 14th Amendment’s protections of Americans’ “privileges or immunities,” including the right to earn a living.

January 1, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien – confessed anarchist

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Federalist, Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards wonder if the Shire is a hippie paradise:

“The Battle of the Five Armies,” the final installment of The Hobbit film trilogy, opened last week, and online boards are buzzing with discussions of Peter Jackson’s casting decisions, his use or overuse of computer-generated imagery and what Middle-Earth’s creator, J.R.R. Tolkien, would have thought of the films. Geeky questions, to be sure, but for those who follow both Tolkien and politics, we suggest a still geekier line of inquiry: How would Tolkien vote? That is, what kind of political vision did the Oxford professor carry into his novels?

His wildly popular novels have, after all, shaped generations of followers, and are shot through with valuable insights about man and government that might not be obvious to a casual reader or fan of the movie versions. Tolkien’s political insights, moreover, are in danger of being lost and forgotten in the capitols of the West. Here, in other words, is a vein worth mining.

[…]

An early hint of this can be found in the beloved homeland of the hobbits, the Shire. Her pastoral villages have no department of unmotorized vehicles, no internal revenue service, no government official telling people who may and may not have laying hens in their backyards, no government schools lining up hobbit children in geometric rows to teach regimented behavior and groupthink, no government-controlled currency, and no political institution even capable of collecting tariffs on foreign goods.

“The Shire at this time had hardly any ‘government,’” we eventually learn. “Families for the most part managed their own affairs.”

Significantly, Tolkien once described himself as a hobbit “in all but size,” commenting in the same letter that his “political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control, not whiskered men with bombs).” As he explained, “The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”

In the Shire, Tolkien created a society after his own heart, one marked by minimal government, private charity, and a commitment to property rights and the rule of law.

This isn’t to say the Shire is without problems. Near the end of The Lord of the Rings, Frodo returns home after a quest to destroy a corrupting ring of absolute power. To his dismay, a gang of bossy outsiders has infiltrated the Shire, “gatherers and sharers … going around counting and measuring and taking off to storage,” supposedly “for fair distribution,” but what becomes of most of it is anyone’s guess.

Ugly new buildings are being thrown up, beautiful hobbit homes spoiled. And for all the effort to “spread the wealth around” (to borrow a phrase from our current president), the only thing that seems to be spreading is the gatherers’ power. It’s a critique of aesthetically impoverished urban development, to be sure. But conservatives and progressives alike also have seen in it a pointed critique of the modern, hyper-regulated nanny state.

As Hal Colebatch put it in the Tolkien Encyclopedia, the Shire’s joyless regime of bureaucratic rules and suffocating redistribution “owed much to the drabness, bleakness and bureaucratic regulation of postwar Britain under the Attlee labor Government.”

It’s. Just. Wrong. Period.

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Jacob Sullum on the always-hot-button topic of state torture:

In an interview on Sunday, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked former Vice President Dick Cheney if he was “OK” with the fact that a quarter of the suspected terrorists held in secret CIA prisons during the Bush administration “turned out to be innocent.” Todd noted that one of those mistakenly detained men died of hypothermia after being doused with water and left chained to a concrete wall, naked from the waist down, in a cell as cold as a meat locker.

Cheney replied that the end — to “get the guys who did 9/11″ and “avoid another attack against the United States” — justified the means. “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective,” he said.

Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who served as solicitor general during the Reagan administration, and his son Gregory, a philosophy professor at Suffolk University, offer a bracing alternative to Cheney’s creepy consequentialism in their 2010 book Because It Is Wrong. They argue that torture is wrong not just when it is inflicted on innocents, and not just when it fails to produce lifesaving information, but always and everywhere.

That claim is bolder than it may seem. As the Frieds note, most commentators “make an exception for grave emergencies,” as in “the so-called ticking-bomb scenario,” where torturing a terrorist is the only way to prevent an imminent explosion that will kill many people. “These arguments try to have it both ways,” they write. “Torture is never justified, but then in some cases it might be justified after all.” The contradiction is reconciled “by supposing that the justifying circumstances will never come up.”

December 29, 2014

Western states and the female franchise

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:19

An interesting story from Maggie McNeill, discussing the career of Lou Graham, Seattle’s most famous madam:

As Thaddeus Russell explains in A Renegade History of the United States, the reason so many western states gave women the right to vote long before the eastern ones (or the country in general) had absolutely nothing to do with high-minded egalitarianism and everything to do with pragmatism and arse-kissing. You see, frontier populations are always disproportionately male because they tend to lack the sort of amenities “good” women tend to want. Accordingly, frontier towns fill up with lonely young men desperate for female company and usually possessed of money drawn from whatever industry the town is built on (whether that be mining, trapping, trade or whatever). Naturally, whores arrive to capitalize on this and so the minority of frontier populations which are female are usually made up largely of working girls. These ladies soon amass a disproportionate share of the wealth, and madams tend to become fabulously wealthy; in order to win their favor (the better to secure donations and investment in civic projects), city fathers all over the western US granted them suffrage. Seattle did this on November 23rd, 1883 and almost immediately regretted it; by the time the city had actually granted suffrage, the whores had been outnumbered by recently-arrived “good” women, who immediately repaid the “bad” sisters who had won the vote for them by electing “progressive” prohibitionists to enact new laws (and vigorously enforce old ones) restricting saloons, brothels, gambling and other “vices”. The result, naturally, was a dramatic loss of tax and license revenue, and by the time women’s suffrage was revoked by judicial fiat in 1887-88 the city’s finances were in shambles.

Talk about your unintended consequences!

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