Well, I haven't done one of these in a while. Let's see what's going on...
You'd think with all the kerfuffle going on in the airport about shoes, and liquids, and carry-ons, and electronics, and everything else that a book is probably the least offensive and safest thing you could take on board. You'd be wrong.
Watch out what you read; Uncle Sam wants to know!
"The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.
"The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country."
That's right. Fifteen-year-long records are created and stored, regardless of your innocence, without your knowledge or consent.
That can include even the books you travel with. The Post reports that a group of activists requested information on their travel records, and found the records included a description of a book on marijuana one of them carried.
"The federal government is trying to build a surveillance society," John Gilmore, a libertarian and a heroic civil liberties activist, told the Washington Post. "The job of building a surveillance database and populating it with information about us is happening largely without our awareness and without our consent."
What other personal information is Homeland Security collecting (all to keep you free, of course)? Lots -- like, for instance, the kind of hotel bed you sleep in.
Notes The Washington Post:
"The [Department of Homeland Security] database generally includes 'passenger name record' (PNR) information, as well as notes taken during secondary screenings of travelers. PNR data -- often provided to airlines and other companies when reservations are made -- routinely include names, addresses and credit-card information, as well as telephone and e-mail contact details, itineraries, hotel and rental car reservations, and even the type of bed requested in a hotel."
The Washington Post also told the story of Zakariya Reed, a Toledo firefighter, who said he has been detained at least seven times at the Michigan border since fall 2006.
Twice, Reed said, he was questioned by border officials about "politically charged" opinion pieces critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East he had published in his local newspaper.
Once, during a secondary interview, he said, "they had them printed out on the table in front of me."
Incidentally, your DHS travel file is exempt from Privacy Act requirements. So you have no right to correct even erroneous information that might be there -- waiting to bite you.
Do you have kids? Do you send them to public school? Are you worried about NCLB and in this state at least, the MCAS? Well....lots of Congressmen have children, too. Since they mandate what's taught in our schools, you're certain that all their children attend public schools in their hometowns, right? Well, Here's strike two on the day.
More than a third of members of Congress think their children's education is too important to risk to government schools.
However, many of these same Congress critters strongly oppose school choice legislation that would give the same opportunity to other families.
In other words, while America's disastrous government schools aren't good enough for *their* children, they're just fine for yours.
Although they didn't put it quite that way, that's the implication of a new report by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which has found that 37 percent of Representatives and 45 percent of Senators in the 110th Congress have sent their children to private schools -- almost four times the rate of the general population (11.5 percent).
Notes Heritage: "Based on the survey results, if all of the Members who exercised school choice for their own children had supported school choice in policy, every major legislative effort in recent years to give parents school choice would have passed."
Highlights of the study's findings include:
* Over 37 percent of Representatives and 45 percent of Senators responded that they had sent their children to private school;
* Over 23 percent of House Education and Labor Committee members and 33 percent of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee members exercised private school choice;
* 52 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members and 38 percent of Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- who represent populations that have fared poorly academically in public schools and that stand to benefit the most from educational options -- sent at least one child to private school.
(The study categorized Members of Congress who have sent at least one child to private school at any time as having exercised school choice.)
A growing body of studies indicates that private schools perform better and are safer. So tell your congressional representatives... oh, that's right, they already know. Look where they send their own kids.
Turning to Strike The Root, if you recall this blog entry
from earlier this week, it looks like DoD also wants your bank records.
And yet another chip away at the ol' Constitution.
NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union said Sunday that newly uncovered documents show that the Pentagon secretly sent hundreds of letters seeking the financial records of private citizens without court approval.
The ACLU said an analysis of 455 so-called national security letters issued after Sept. 11, 2001 shows that the Pentagon collaborated with the FBI to circumvent the law and may have overstepped its legal authority to obtain financial and credit records. The ACLU has been reviewing the letters and the accompanying documentation over the past few days.
“Once again, the Bush administration’s unchecked authority has led to abuse and civil liberties violations,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement. “The documents make clear that the Department of Defense may have secretly and illegally conducted surveillance beyond the powers it was granted by Congress.”
No spokesman for the Pentagon was available for comment Sunday.
The New York Times first disclosed the military’s use of the letters in January, and members of Congress and civil liberties groups said the practice conflicted with traditional Pentagon rules against domestic law-enforcement operations.
Vice President Dick Cheney defended the practice as a “perfectly legitimate activity” used to investigate possible acts of terrorism and espionage.
The documents relating to the letters were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Times reported Sunday that the documents show that the Pentagon’s own review of the program found systemic problems and poor coordination.
According to the Times, the documents suggest that military officials used the FBI to collect records for what started as purely military investigations.
The Times said military officials defended the letters, which they said had been used to gather information about military personnel and contractors.
Maj. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times that investigators could use the letters, for example, to examine the assets of a military contractor who seemed to have sudden and unexplained wealth.
But the Times said internal memos issued by Defense Department agencies seemed in some cases to encourage the gathering of records on nonmilitary personnel.
We'll wrap up this morning with our longrunning feature, "Why aren't YOU a Libertarian?", featuring the sage wisdom of Dr. Mary Ruwart.
QUESTION: How would a libertarian society deal with the issues currently addressed by local zoning laws? Obviously a neighborhood wouldn't want a dump being installed in the middle of it. And a neighborhood wouldn't want a noisy factory built right next door.
MY SHORT ANSWER: Several cities in the U.S. don't use zoning (e.g., Houston). Instead, properties carry deed restrictions, such as "residential use only." A person buying the property knows exactly what he or she is getting. In zoned communities, however, residential property can be converted overnight to commercial at the whim of the zoning board. [Editor's note: This happened in my neighborhood recently, where a huge new factory now sits on land once zoned residential. The zoning was changed at the stroke of a politician's pen, and those living nearby were silenced from going to court by the threat of expensive lawsuits. So much for zoning "protection."]
Deed restrictions are usually altered by neighborhood consent. For example, someone wishing to use their property commercially might get permission from adjoining homeowners. Alternatively, he or she might start the business if objections are unlikely and have the change "grandfathered" in. Of course, if neighbors unexpectedly protest, the new business owner might have to relocate or compensate the neighbors. One way or another, changes in deed restrictions ultimately require consent of surrounding neighbors.
* * *
QUESTION: Who would pay for city streets in a libertarian society? Surely it would be impractical to charge a toll for every urban or even county road. (I agree it makes sense with highways and interstates.)
MY SHORT ANSWER: Most local roads would probably be owned communally. Even today, approximately 20% of all roads are owned this way, by homeowners associations. In St. Louis, many city streets are now being bought and maintained by residents. Thus, the precedent for local road ownership has already established and works quite well.
We'll leave it at that today....and do come by this evening and check out our ALCS Game 6 blog!