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A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy – Article by Ryan Starr

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy – Article by Ryan Starr

The New Renaissance HatRyan Starr

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Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is a crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data? Where do we draw that line on what is private, and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short-term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future, we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology, the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy.

The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information are filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings, and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.

Subdermal storage of electronic data is here, and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way, and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near-Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, “wireless” is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so), then technically someone else can, too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted create a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy.

The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double-edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person-to-person invasions of privacy.

Now let’s consider mass data collection. Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publicly observable activity.

In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.
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Ryan Starr is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado. This article was originally published on his blog, and has been republished here with his permission.
Fast-Track Atheist Security Lanes and More: Time to Jettison Perverse Egalitarianism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Fast-Track Atheist Security Lanes and More: Time to Jettison Perverse Egalitarianism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
June 13, 2015
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I agree fully with the recent recommendation by journalist, author, and US Transhumanist Party presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan to establish fast-track security lanes in airports, enabling declared atheists to avoid wasteful, humiliating, and time-consuming security procedures ostensibly designed to ferret out potential terrorists. The rationale behind Istvan’s recommendation is straightforward: since the motivation for virtually every plane hijacking has been some manner of religious fundamentalism, it is time to recognize that the probability of an atheist perpetrating such a terrible act is negligible and spare atheists the stigma and inconvenience of invasive screenings. Indeed, even the argument of certain religious critics of atheism that “there are no atheists in foxholes” can be used to bolster Istvan’s proposal. If it is indeed the case that a lack of a belief in a deity or an afterlife leads to a greater reluctance to risk one’s own life in battle for some ostensibly “higher” ideal, then this could be expected to translate to an even greater reluctance to perpetrate plane hijackings, suicide bombings, or other self-sacrificial atrocities, which lack even the blessing that political authorities bestow upon organized warfare.

Of course, it is also the case that most religious people would never perpetrate acts of terrorism, and it would be desirable to include in Istvan’s fast-track process any particular types of religious adherents for whom the perpetration of wanton murder for ideological objectives would be similarly inconceivable. Jainism, for instance, upholds nonviolence toward all living beings, as do some interpretations of Buddhism. Various Christian denominations throughout history – Quakers, Mennonites, and certain Anglicans – have been pacifistic as well. In addition to anyone who professes these beliefs, all people who can demonstrate that they are opposed to war and political violence in general should be exempted from airport screenings as well.

But we can, and should, be even more expansive in determining eligibility for fast-track security lanes. For instance, the probability of a two-year-old toddler, a 70-year-old grandmother, or a visibly afflicted cancer patient seeking to perpetrate an act of terrorism is just as negligible as that of an atheist or a pacifist. Screening people of those demographics – and many others – is equally pointless. It is similarly inconceivable that people with high-profile public lives – celebrities, businesspeople, holders of political office – would perpetrate plane hijackings, and yet the current airport “security” procedures apply to them all. One could, with some deliberation, arrive at tens of other attributes that would preclude their possessors from being terrorist threats. In progressively filtering out more and more people as having virtually no probability of committing mass attacks on civilians, it would be possible to rapidly restore liberty and convenience to virtually all airline passengers. Furthermore, this more expansive clearance from suspicion should apply not just with regard to airport screenings, but also with regard to any surveillance of a person’s activities. The logical end result would be to roll back both “security” screenings by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) until each of these processes is focused solely on perhaps a few hundred genuine suspects while leaving the rest of us alone to live and travel in peace. Or, perhaps better yet, we should start with the age-old presumption of free societies: that an individual is deemed innocent unless he or she has shown evidence of guilt. So, instead of developing an array of characteristics that would enable people to opt out of detailed scrutiny, the system should be designed to only surveil an individual if there is probable cause and a strong reason to suspect criminal intent on the part of that specific individual. In short, we would return to the libertarian and classical liberal approach to issues of security.

Even if the detection and thwarting of terrorists were one’s sole goal, it would be logical to support as many valid methods as possible for narrowing the scope of one’s focus toward those who might pose genuine threats. The less time and effort are spent screening and surveilling completely innocent people, the more resources can be directed toward pursuing and thwarting actual wrongdoers.

And yet nobody seeking to fly today is safe from intrusive scrutiny, and the political class will take neither Istvan’s more limited recommendation nor my more expansive one seriously. Why is it that, in contemporary America, whenever somebody does something sufficiently terrible to generate headlines, procedures are deployed to ensnare everybody in a web of ceaseless suspicion, humiliation, and moral outrage? When a handful of fanatics hijack planes, destroy buildings, and murder civilians, the vast majority of civilians, who resemble the victims far more than the perpetrators, nonetheless become the principal targets of spying, prying, groping, and expropriation. Some libertarians will make the argument, not to be discounted, that the genuine purpose of the mass surveillance and screenings is not to catch terrorists, but rather to instill submissive attitudes in the general population, rendering more pliable those who have been acculturated to inconvenience for inconvenience’s sake, just because those in authority ordered it. Yet such a nefarious motive could not be the sole sustaining force behind persistent mass surveillance and humiliation, as most people do not have an interest in subjugation for the sake of subjugation, and enough people of good conscience would eventually unite against it and overturn its exercise. Another mindset, which I will call perverse egalitarianism, unfortunately afflicts even many people of generally good intentions. It is the prevalence of this perverse egalitarianism that enables the perpetration of mass outrages to persist.

Perverse egalitarianism, essentially, upholds the equality of outcomes above the nature of those outcomes. To a perverse egalitarian, it is more important to prevent some people from receiving more favorable treatments, resources, or prerogatives than others, than it is to expand the total scope of opportunities available for improving people’s lives. The perverse egalitarian mindset holds that, unless everybody is able to get something favorable, nobody should have it.

For those who value “equality” – however defined – there are two essential ways to achieve it – one, by uplifting those who are less well-off so that they are able to enjoy what those who are better off already enjoy; the other, by depriving those who are currently better off of their advantages and prerogatives. From a moral standpoint, these two types of egalitarianism cannot be farther apart; the first seeks to improve the lives of some, whereas the second seeks to degrade the lives of others. The first type of egalitarianism – the uplifting form – is admirable in its desire to improve lives, but also more difficult to realize. Beneficial qualities in life do not magically appear but often require the generation of real wealth from previously unavailable sources. Through technological and economic progress, the uplifting form of egalitarianism has a potential to succeed, although, paradoxically, it can best emerge by tolerating the natural inequalities associated with a market economy. Free enterprise will generate tremendous wealth for some, which in turn will enable vast numbers of others to achieve more modest prosperity and emerge out of dire poverty. The most economically and societally unequal societies are the most authoritarian and primitive, in which an entrenched caste of rulers controls virtually all the advantages and resources, while the rest of the population lives in squalor. Often, those are the very same societies that embrace “leveling” and redistributive policies in the name of achieving equality. As Milton and Rose Friedman famously wrote in Free to Choose, “A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”

But perverse egalitarianism is much easier to implement than uplifting egalitarianism. Indeed, it is much easier to destroy than to create. The perverse egalitarian does not even need to do anything to improve the lot of the worse-off; he or she just needs to bring the better-off down to their level. But the greatest taboo for the perverse egalitarian is to allow anybody, for whatever reason, to escape the “leveling” process and “get away with” an advantage that another lacks. Perverse egalitarianism is the reason why “security” measures ostensibly designed to catch a handful of wrongdoers and prevent potential attacks by a tiny minority of perpetrators, almost inevitably burden the entire population. It would be “unfair”, according to the perverse egalitarians, to scrutinize only a subset of people, while letting others walk into airplanes unsearched or live their lives un-surveilled. Because it is indeed true that some people cannot altogether escape suspicion, the perverse egalitarians believe that nobody should be able to. To do otherwise would be to commit the cardinal sin of “profiling” – never mind that the perverse egalitarians’ way would visit the very same inconveniences of such profiling upon everybody.

But perverse egalitarianism brings only the permanent enshrinement of suffering under the guise of equality or “social justice”. It is reprehensible to make everyone suffer simply because an inconvenience might justifiably exist for some. And while profiling on the basis of circumstantial attributes is itself morally and practically questionable, there is no question that, from a purely probabilistic standpoint, certain attributes can rule out suspicion far more definitively than others. As an example, while the risk that an atheist would hijack an airplane is negligible, it is incontrovertible that some fundamentalist Muslims have hijacked airplanes in the past. It is still true that even most fundamentalist Muslims would never hijack airplanes, but just knowing that someone is a fundamentalist Muslim would not tell us this; we would need to know more about that individual’s outlook. But, in spite of all this, it is eminently reasonable to spare the atheist any further scrutiny; the only purported argument for not doing this would be to avoid “offending” the fundamentalist Muslim or creating an appearance of unequal treatment. But this is precisely the perverse egalitarian position – affirmatively inflicting real suffering on some in order to avoid perceived slights on the part of others. The best approach is to seek to treat everyone justly, not to spread injustice as widely and “equally” as possible. Highly targeted approaches toward threat detection should be used to focus solely on probable offenders while deliberately aiming to keep as many people as possible out of the scope of searches and surveillance.

Zoltan Istvan’s proposal to spare atheists from intrusive airport screenings would be a step forward compared to the status quo, but his argument, taken to its logical conclusion, should lead to virtually everybody being “fast-tracked” through airport security. The special treatment, and special lines, should be reserved for the tiny minority of likely wrongdoers who truly warrant suspicion.

This composition and video may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 16, 2014
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Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists! But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.

A federal online gambling ban would overturn laws in three states that allow online gambling. It would also end the ongoing debate over legalizing online gambling in many other states. Yet some have claimed that Congress must pass this law in order to protect states rights! Their argument is that citizens of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized.

Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that “states rights” justifies creating new federal crimes turns the Tenth Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.

Many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed. However, the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.

Even if there was some moral distinction between gambling online or in a physical casino, prohibiting behavior that does not involve force or fraud has no place in a free society. It is no more appropriate for gambling opponents to use force to stop people from playing poker online than it would be for me to use force to stop people from reading pro-war, neocon writers.

Giving government new powers over the Internet to prevent online gambling will inevitably threaten all of our liberties. Federal bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the PATRIOT Act to justify mass surveillance.

The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state. Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

The Dawn of the Surveillance State – Article by Gary McGath

The Dawn of the Surveillance State – Article by Gary McGath

The New Renaissance Hat
Gary McGath
September 18, 2014
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We think of mass surveillance as a product of modern technology—applying computing power to scoop up communications and metadata in bulk. But large-scale spying on Americans got its real start in 1917, when the United States entered World War I. The government wanted to build up an apparatus to crush all criticism.

In his 1917 Flag Day speech, President Wilson claimed that Germany had “filled our unsuspecting communities with vicious spies and conspirators and sought to corrupt the opinion of our people in their own behalf.” He warned, “Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high resolution.” The next day, Congress gave teeth to his warning with the Espionage Act, which criminalized opposition to the war. In 1918, the Sedition Act made prohibitions on dissent even broader.

The apparatus for searching out people with supposedly disloyal tendencies was already in place. The Council of National Defense, created in 1916, had begun urging the states to create their own Councils of Defense. Some of them paid close attention to everything people were saying and promoted persecution of anything sounding disloyal or foreign. In Iowa, elderly women were jailed for speaking German over the telephone, and a pastor was imprisoned for giving part of a funeral service in Swedish.

In Oklahoma, Governor Robert L. Williams formed an extralegal state Council of Defense, which in turn created an Oklahoma Loyalty Bureau, employing secret service agents to find sedition in communities. The Tulsa County Council of Defense formed a secret organization to look for dissidents.

The Bureau of Investigation (later called the FBI) got into the act, creating the American Protective League (APL)—a private, quasi-official espionage organization. The APL boasted that it was “organized with approval and operating under the direction of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation.” Because it was nominally private, the government didn’t have to take responsibility for its actions. Its 1,200 branches put local public schools under surveillance, checked on people who didn’t buy war bonds, and investigated Lutheran clergymen who didn’t express public support for the war. APL members detained over 40,000 people, opened mail, and raided factories, union halls, and private homes.

The federal government did its own share of outrageous searches and seizures. A 1918 pamphlet, “War-time Prosecutions and Mob Violence,” by the National Civil Liberties Bureau, cites numerous raids, with vast amounts of printed materials confiscated, from September 1917 onward. The International Workers of the World (IWW) and the International Bible Students’ Association—a branch of what’s now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses—were targeted repeatedly.

The Feds also took control of all radio stations when the United States joined the war. Amateur radio was shut down, along with many commercial stations. In 1918 the federal government nationalized telephone and telegraph service, an act that Postmaster General Burleson declared necessary “to prevent communication by spies and other public enemies.”

Most of the surveillance apparatus was dismantled after the war was over, and communications returned to private hands. However, the Sedition Act, which made it all possible, still remains on the books, though in a more limited form. In 1971, it was used to indict Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the government had been systematically misleading the public about the Vietnam War. In 2013, it was the basis for bringing charges against Edward Snowden.

And even if most of the organizations created during this wave of hysteria are now defunct, as historian Lon Strauss has written, we can “see the foundation that influenced subsequent decisions…. There’s a direct connection with the type of surveillance state that produced the NSA; that foundation was created in the First World War.”

Mass surveillance might be grabbing headlines, but unfortunately, it’s nothing new.

Gary McGath is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Thomas Paine Review.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.
Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal – Article by Ron Paul

Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 18, 2013
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Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the US government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

So although the numbers of Americans who have had their information intercepted in violation of NSA’s own rules seems large, it is actually miniscule compared to the huge volume of our communications they intercept in total!

Though it made for a sensational headline last week, the fact is these 2,776 “violations” over the course of one year are completely irrelevant. The millions and millions of “authorized” intercepts of our communications are all illegal — except for the very few carried out in pursuit of a validly-issued search warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. That is the real story. Drawing our attention to the violations unfortunately sends the message that the “authorized” spying on us is nothing to be concerned about.

When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the US federal government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.

Americans are increasingly concerned over these violations of their privacy. Calls for reform grow. However, whenever Washington finds itself in a scandal, the federal government responds by naming a federal-government panel made up of current and former federal employees to investigate any mistakes the federal government might have made. The recommendations invariably are that even more federal government employees must be hired to provide an additional layer or two of oversight. That is supposed to reassure us that reforms have been made, while in fact it is just insiders covering up for those who have hired them to investigate.

Let us hope the American people will decide that such trickery is no longer acceptable. It is time to take a very serious look at the activities of the US intelligence community. The first step would be a dramatic reduction in appropriations to force a focus on those real, not imagined, threats to our national security. We should not be considered the enemy.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

If You Like the Surveillance State, You’ll Love E-Verify – Article by Ron Paul

If You Like the Surveillance State, You’ll Love E-Verify – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 30, 2013
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From massive NSA spying, to IRS targeting of the administration’s political opponents, to collection and sharing of our healthcare information as part of Obamacare, it seems every day we learn of another assault on our privacy. Sadly, this week the Senate took another significant, if little-noticed, step toward creating an authoritarian surveillance state. Buried in the immigration bill is a national identification system called mandatory E-Verify.

The Senate did not spend much time discussing E-Verify, and what little discussion took place was mostly bipartisan praise for its effectiveness as a tool for preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. It is a tragedy that mandatory E-Verify is not receiving more attention, as it will impact nearly every American’s privacy and liberty.

The mandatory E-Verify system requires Americans to carry a “tamper-proof” Social Security card. Before they can legally begin a job, American citizens will have to show the card to their prospective employers, who will then have to verify their identity and eligibility to hold a job in the US by running the information through the newly created federal E-Verify database. The database will contain photographs taken from passport files and state driver’s licenses. The law gives federal bureaucrats broad discretion in adding other “biometric” identifiers to the database. It also gives the bureaucracy broad authority to determine what features the “tamper-proof” card should contain.

Regardless of one’s views on immigration, the idea that we should have to ask permission from the federal government before taking a job ought to be offensive to all Americans. Under this system, many Americans will be denied the opportunity for work. The E-Verify database will falsely identify thousands as “ineligible,” forcing many to lose job opportunities while challenging government computer inaccuracies. E-Verify will also impose additional compliance costs on American businesses, at a time when they are struggling with Obamacare implementation and other regulations.

According to David Bier of Competitive Enterprise Institute, there is nothing stopping the use of E-Verify for purposes unrelated to work verification, and these expanded uses could be authorized by agency rule-making or executive order. So it is not inconceivable that, should this bill pass, the day may come when you are not be able to board an airplane or exercise your Second Amendment rights without being run through the E-Verify database. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the personal healthcare information that will soon be collected by the IRS and shared with other federal agencies as part of Obamacare will also be linked to the E-Verify system.

Those who dismiss these concerns as paranoid should consider that the same charges were leveled at those who warned that the PATRIOT Act could lead to the government collecting our phone records and spying on our Internet usage. Just as the PATRIOT Act was only supposed to be used against terrorists but is now used to bypass constitutional protections in matters having noting to do with terrorism or national security, the national ID/mandatory E-Verify database will not only be used to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining employment. Instead, it will eventually be used as another tool to monitor and control the American people.

The recent revelations of the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans, plus recent stories of IRS targeting Tea Party and similar groups for special scrutiny, demonstrates the dangers of trusting government with this type of power. Creation of a federal database with photos and possibly other “biometric” information about American citizens is a great leap forward for the surveillance state. All Americans who still care about limited government and individual liberty should strongly oppose E-Verify.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

The Eyes Watching You: “1984” and the Surveillance State – Article by Sarah Skwire

The Eyes Watching You: “1984” and the Surveillance State – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance Hat
Sarah Skwire
June 19, 2013
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George Orwell. 1984. New York: Plume, [1949] 2003. 323 pages.

In the kind of horrifying coincidence that surely would have prompted one of his more acerbic essays, the news that various U.S. government surveillance agencies have been gathering data from millions of citizens’ phones, email accounts, and web searches broke during the week of the 64th publication anniversary of George Orwell’s 1984. As the news reports poured in, and as sales of 1984 surged by an astonishing 6,884 percent, a friend asked me whether the PRISM story strikes me as more Orwellian or more Kafkaesque.

My response? We’d better hope it’s Kafkaesque.

No one wants to inhabit a Franz Kafka novel. But the surveillance states he describes do have one thing going for them—incompetence. In Kafka’s stories, important forms get lost, permits are unattainable, and bureaucrats fail to do their jobs. Like the main character in Kafka’s unfinished story, “The Castle,” if you were trapped in Kafka’s world you could live your whole life doing nothing but waiting for a permit. But at least you could live. Incompetence creates a little space.

What is terrifying about Orwell’s 1984 is the complete competence of the surveillance state. Winston Smith begins the novel by believing he is in an awful, but Kafkaesque world where there is still some slippage in the state’s absolute control, and still some room for private action. Winston says that Oceania’s world of telescreens and Thought Police means that there are “always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed—no escape.” But he follows that by saying, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” He also believes that while the diary he keeps will inevitably be discovered, the small alcove in his apartment where he writes his diary puts him “out of the range of the telescreen.”

The feeling that some tiny space for private thought and action can be found leads Winston into his relationship with Julia. Though they know they will inevitably be discovered, Winston and Julia believe that, for a time, their relationship and their meeting place will remain secret. They could not be more wrong.

One day after making love to Julia in their clandestine room, Winston, prompted by a singing thrush and a singing prole woman who is doing laundry, has a vision of a future that “belongs to the proles.”

The birds sang, the proles sang. The Party did not sing. All round the world, in London and New York, in Africa and Brazil, and in the mysterious, forbidden lands beyond the frontiers, in the streets of Paris and Berlin, in the villages of the endless Russian plain, in the bazaars of China and Japan—everywhere stood the same solid unconquerable figure, made monstrous by work and childbearing, toiling from birth to death and still singing. Out of those mighty loins a race of conscious beings must one day come. You were the dead; theirs was the future. But you could share in that future if you kept alive the mind as they kept alive the body.

 

In this very moment, just as Winston comes alive to what feels like hope and possibility and the dream of some kind of a future for humankind, the telescreen that has been hidden in the room all along speaks to Winston and Julia. The Thought Police break down the door. The couple is taken off to be imprisoned, tortured, and broken.

There has never been any private space for Winston or Julia—not in their “secret” meeting places, not in their sexual rebellion, not even in the few cubic centimeters inside their skulls. “For seven years the Thought Police had watched him like a beetle under a magnifying glass. There was no physical act, no word spoken aloud, that they had not noticed, no train of thought that they had not been able to infer.” Winston should have taken more seriously the description of Oceania he read in the forbidden book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein:

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected.
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The Orwellian surveillance state is terrifying not because—as in Kafka—you might be arrested because of a rumor or a mistake, or because despite your innocence you might be caught in the surveillance state’s unnavigable maze. It is terrifying because it never makes mistakes. It does not need to listen to rumors. And it knows that no one is ever innocent.

Sarah Skwire is a fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.