|Letters to the Editor
I ask you this because you are a harder core privacy advocate than me, one of the few who has gone all the way to living on a cash basis (at least since the Bank Secrecy Act opened our accounts to the government — can you say Newspeak?)
Now some states have come all the way around to requiring the Social Security Number on driver licenses. When my son went in the military, he did not get a new number to memorize like I did — they use his SSN. Most big employers use the SSN as an ID number, as do most medical plans.
I have been thinking lately that this personal privacy cow is so far out of the barn she is but a dust cloud in the distance.
What is our underlying concern? Why do we associate privacy with liberty?
The answer to the first question, the social one, is that we fear the judgments of our neighbors on our financial dealings and our sex lives, to name two big issues.
The answer to the second question, the political one, is that privacy is thought to be necessary to foment revolution.
If we just gave up the privacy hunt and made ourselves as transparent to each other as we already are to the government, I think we would quickly learn that there are few among us entitled to ride a moral high horse.
And the current take on the First Amendment is that we can advocate revolution until the cows come home.
I am beginning to come around to the idea that the privacy cow is not coming home. Therefore, might we embrace our transparency, and use it by example to force more governmental transparency?
Even when we try to save privacy with laws, they get turned around. I cannot see my own personnel file without a Freedom of Information Act request; the bureaucrat takes the position that a structure set up to force open government files must be used to get in files that were open before the law was there! Confidentiality of mental health records is invoked to keep lawyers alleging abuse of mental patients from finding out if other patients were similarly treated. Until the courts shot it down, some doctors were trying to invoke confidentiality of medical records AGAINST THEIR OWN PATIENTS!
Public servants have never liked answering to the public, and I suppose that turning laws upside down is no great stretch to predict.
I won't blather on, Sam. My question is this. Having lost the personal privacy wars, is it time to accept defeat or declare victory (whichever) and go at the other side of the same question, the government secrecy wars, so we can watch the government watching us watching the government watching us watching the government ....
— Steve; San Antonio, Texas
We associate privacy with liberty because, in the hands of government, information about us is power over us.
Regarding revolution, we can advocate it only so long as the government perceives the advocacy as harmless. We cannot conspire to revolt. The distinction between advocacy and conspiracy isn't much protection against prison and the First Amendment is largely worthless in that regard. See my essay, In Search of the Supreme Flaw of the Land: The Bill of Rights. It's available upon request.
Regarding your concern that none of us is entitled to "ride a moral high horse," I like the statement made by Mahasamatman in Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny: "The personal strengths and weaknesses of a leader are no true indication of the merits of his cause."
In answer to your question, I don't concede that we've lost the personal privacy wars, although things don't look good right now. However, I'm uncomfortable telling you what I think you, personally, should do about it. I can tell you what I believe is correct in principle. I believe that we should absolutely refuse to use a social security number for anything except Social Security business. If that prevents us from participating in the economy, then so be it. To paraphrase a cherished statement from The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin, sacrifice, but never compromise. For people who won't go that far, there are the suggestions that I made in my article Can't Quit the Game, in the September 1997 issue. It's available upon request.
You say: if the people of the US don't care if they live under a democracy which is really an oppressive police state, then THEY deserve a police state. Plato's argument was: even if the DEMOCRATIC HERD deserve the tyranny of democracy, I don't! Therefore, I have the right to set up a more rational, more just system, which would give the relatively GOOD what
|THEY deserve, & give the foolish, miserable
masses MORE than they deserve. But actually, even fools deserve justice,
& that's something democracy can't seem to provide to either the wise
few or the foolish many — all are subjected to the will of the vicious
demagogues who constantly dupe the foolish majority, rather than see that
they are provided with a truly wholesome public education & culture
that might teach them to be less foolish. So said Plato 2 millennia
ago — could anyone more perfectly describe the hell US "freedom" has become?
And US democracy not only enslaves US citizens, but also an entire world
subject to US hegemony.
In Latin American democracies, modeled on the US, & subject to CIA & US economic influence, so many kids starve on the streets that the democratic cops were slaughtering them wholesale as a nuisance. Recently, there has been a boom in child labor, with a resulting decrease in murder by cops, & it hasn't much affected adult unemployment, which was already over 50%. But this is not sanity.
NATO has no business. Kosovo was Europe's business, but Europe can't jump without asking Washington: "How high?" It's not fair to let 2 million Kosovars be slaughtered, & say it's none of the US's business. As long as the US insists on maintaining NATO, under US control, IT IS THE US'S RESPONSIBILITY! Chechnya is different because Russia truly is none of the US's business, being beyond the tentacles of NATO. The Chechen gangsters were engaged in plane hi-jacking & extortion years ago — the Kosovar peasants were never anything like that. Recently, the Chechens invaded a neighboring province.
I saw bits on TV with TV spy cameras recording Peeping Toms' spy cameras looking up women's skirts — not necessarily short — supposedly the camera is placed in a bag on the ground by a bench, say, & can see up the average knee-length skirt. I said: does TV have nothing more important to report? But you have decided that not only is this newsworthy, but you must take the side of the Peeping Toms with spy cameras. THAT, I think, IS worthy of comment. As a libertarian, you still seem to see freedom as psychopathy, disregarding the Enlightenment Age concept of freedom: you have the right to do as you please SO LONG as you don't infringe upon the rights of others. A woman's privates are HER OWN business! Why do I have to spell this out? Can it be that chivalry really IS dead. — present company excluded — ?
— Elliot; N. Merrick, New York
Whoever is in control of NATO is irrelevant to the fact that NATO didn't have the authority to invade Serbia. The legitimate authority of NATO is limited to defending member nations against invasion. Serbia should have been beyond the "tentacles" of NATO, just as Russia is.
The idea that fools have a right to justice is only an assumption. As for setting up your own government, go ahead and do it. You'll find all the doctrine you need to support yourself in my essay The Long and Winding Doctrine: Social Contract. Remember, of course, that your government won't have any authority over me.
A cameraman in public can point his camera from anywhere toward anything that is visible in public from any angle. If a woman wants her derriere to be private, it's her responsibility to accomplish that. It isn't the responsibility of the cameraman or of the government. She can easily do it by how she dresses. Therefore, she doesn't need protectionist legislation intended to regulate the behavior of men but not that of women. I'm not taking the side of peeping toms. I'm opposing repressive legislation, enacted with "perverts" as the excuse, which will repress the "perverts" first and the rest of us later. If "perverts" don't have rights, then neither do the rest of us. And if chivalry is dead, it's because there isn't any reason to be chivalrous with a female "person" who wants to be "one of the guys", who wants to prove she' s better man than I am, and who'll sue me or get me fired if I try to treat her like a woman instead of like a "person". Don't complain to me about the death of chivalry. Complain to the feminists.
I really enjoyed the "Exclusion" transcript from Jeffrey Charles. I feel this was discrimination against Jeffrey. If you'd supply the address of that LDS church, I bet a lot of your readers would write letters to that church and let them know we disapprove of their actions. What do you say?
— Tom; Redwood Shores, California
Buck Hunter Shoots Off His Mouth
Do you have the flu this season?
— Local Doctor
Dear Local Doctor
No, Doc. Last time I visited your place you still had it connected to your stove.
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— Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor