Friday, August 27, 2010

I See You

What the heck is going on in our country?

While this helped law enforcement nab a drug dealer, proving the usefulness of the tactic, it undermines not only any expectation of privacy, but also any oversight of the methods that law enforcement uses. Obtaining a warrant for any search or seizure on private property is an important check in the powers that law enforcement can utilize. Not having to obtain a warrant beforehand means that any police department could place a GPS device on any car for any reason.

Advocates argue that it is no different than having a suspect under surveillance, being followed by actual officers.
But supporters of the decision see the GPS trackers as a law enforcement tool that is no more intrusive than other means of surveillance, such as visually following a person, that do not require a court's approval.

"You left place A, at this time, you went to place B, you took this street -- that information can be gleaned in a variety of ways," said David Rivkin, a former Justice Department attorney. "It can be old surveillance, by tailing you unbeknownst to you; it could be a GPS."

He says that a person cannot automatically expect privacy just because something is on private property.

"You have to take measures -- to build a fence, to put the car in the garage" or post a no-trespassing sign, he said. "If you don't do that, you're not going to get the privacy."
This analogy falls apart when pushed to its logical conclusions.

Should police be able to put a device on your car that tracks your car's speed? Then, whenever you went over the speed limit, they could just send you a ticket in the mail. Following the analogy, it wouldn't be any different than a police officer catching you on the highway with a radar gun.

Yet...intuitively that doesn't feel right, does it?

The main issue involves police officers being able to go onto private property to install a surveillance device. I suppose that could be gotten around by waiting for the suspect to go to the grocery store and putting the device on there, but then you still have some expectation of privacy with your vehicle. Law enforcement is not allowed to pull you over and search your car without probable cause, which a suspect probably wouldn't provide if he's just going to the grocery store.

Another issue might concern the actual GPS device. Suppose you find one on your car and you take it off and destroy it. Are you going to be held liable for destroying "evidence" or destroying equipment used by law enforcement? If you find it and don't destroy it, do you have the right to demand that it be removed?

We don't want to go down this path.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School...Back to Sanity

Ah...there's nothing quite like the sound of a quiet house, empty of the non-stop activity of two boys.

We had a great summer; lots of fun activities, a couple of extended trips visiting family, and the occasional beach outing.....but I was starting to get worn out. About a week ago I realized that I had not been completely alone for over 2 months. Not even for a couple of hours.

It was starting to get to me. My nerves were beginning to fray as we drew closer to the end of the summer....but I made it without totally losing my sanity and without completely losing it with the kids.

Now, we get to return to the routines of work and school. We get to be away from each other for a while and come back together with new things for us to talk about.


The Rationalist started his last year of elementary school and the Intuitive started 3rd grade today.

They are growing up so fast.

I'm happy I get to see them continuing to become their own people.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Heil Kramer!

Via Marginal Revolution:

One German Millionaire's views on charity and Bill Gate's appeal for billionaires to give away half of their income before they die.

Go read the German's words and be amazed at the vast gulf between US values and thought about money and German values and thought about money.

Too lazy to follow the link?

Here's the conversation with the interviewer with Kramer representing rich Germans:

SPIEGEL: Forty super wealthy Americans have just announced that they would donate half of their assets, at the very latest after their deaths. As a person who often likes to say that rich people should be asked to contribute more to society, what were your first thoughts?

Krämer: I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the USA. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That's unacceptable.

SPIEGEL: But doesn't the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it's not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That's a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.

SPIEGEL: Do the donations also have to do with the fact that the idea of state and society is such different one in the United States?

Krämer: Yes, one cannot forget that the US has a desolate social system and that alone is reason enough that donations are already a part of everyday life there. But it would have been a greater deed on the part of Mr. Gates or Mr. Buffet if they had given the money to small communities in the US so that they can fulfil public duties.

SPIEGEL: Should wealthy Germans also give up some of their money?

Krämer: No, not in this form. It would make more sense, for example, to work with and donate to established organizations.


I mean, Wow!

The fact that Kramer says such things without even realizing how unbelievable the principles underlying his statements sound to American ears shows just how far down the rabbit hole he is.

Isn't it strange that someone in a country with Germany's past would have such faith in the state to be benevolent, wise, and the best judge of what should be done with private money? It is just mind-blowing.

The unfettered confidence in the state is equally as bizarre to me as Kramer's statement that people deciding where their own money should go is somehow anti-democratic. I guess that in Kramer's world personal, individual freedom is not the basis of the democracy. No, I'm sure in his view democracy is something the state graciously decides to grant its citizens, rather than an inherent right based on the autonomy of its citizens.


Friday, August 13, 2010


Last night was the peak night for watching the perseid meteor shower that occurs each August.

I woke up at 2 in the morning, checked the visibility from our backyard and having actually seen a bright meteor shoot past, decided to wake up the boys. We covered ourselves in bug spray and long sleeves and stretched out on a couple of blankets in our tiny back yard. The boys chatted excitedly while looking for meteors.

We spent about 20 minutes in our meteor watching position before I realized that we were facing the wrong direction. The mind does not think as clearly at 2 in the morning!

Unfortunately, we live in a neighborhood with lots of streetlights and ambient light from stores and shopping centers down the road, so we didn't see as many meteors as we probably could have if we lived somewhere more remote. We did manage to see about 4 or 5 of them, though the boys claimed at least twice as many. I either am getting old and my eyesight isn't what it used to be, or the boys were spotting meteors that weren't really "meteors".

Sometime I want to get us all to a place where there is no light pollution so that we can see the stars in the same way that people in the past used to see them on a regular basis. I will never forget the time that DH and I were camping at a park outside of Yosemite and I saw the night sky on a clear night with no artificial light interfering.

It was the first time I had ever seen the Milky Way.

Is it any wonder that the ancients thought of the stars as a heavenly host?

What would we think of the stars if we didn't know anything about space, stars, and distance?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Reactionary Reasoning

James Pate occasionally articulates things that I've been feeling for a while, or traits that I recognize in myself....that's probably why I read his blog! Today he has a post about our tendency to shift to the extremes of our positions when confronted by an opposing viewpoint. I especially resonated with this part:
In rigidly liberal environments, I tend to be a firebrand conservative, even though I personally may see value in all sorts of perspectives, on the left and the right. But there have also been times when I have agreed with people to keep the peace. And then there are times when I feel as if I have to stand up against a person’s beliefs, because that person is being a bully. I may see some value in that person’s viewpoint, but I feel that appearing open-minded will show weakness, or allow the fanatic to shove her ideas down my throat. And so I act more dogmatic than I actually am.
I don't act as a firebrand conservative much, but I will definitely take the opposing viewpoint if I am in a discussion that I feel is unfairly skewed in a certain direction. It's an addiction to playing the devil's advocate.

Maybe I just like to be annoying sometimes!

OK...all the time!

This actually reminds me of a passage in Anna Karenina.

Dolly, a beleaguered mother of many children, from a cheating, financially inept husband, travels to see her sister-in-law, Anna Karenina who has scandalized everyone with her affair and the birth of an illegitimate child, all in the name of finding true happiness and living her own life. On the way, she has a conversation with a peasant woman who talks about the death of an infant in cold, realistic fashion, explaining that it's better that the child died because of the burden it was going to be. Dolly realizes that the peasant woman is right, having herself felt overwhelmed by her many children and the toil and worry they cause her and the lack of money to help care for them. Yet, even though she knows the peasant woman has a point, she is appalled at what she says. The harsh reality of the peasant woman's attitude snaps her out of her reverie of justification of Anna's scandalous behavior and her own miserable feelings about her life.

Even though she had previously been thinking along the same lines, hearing those thoughts out loud didn't bring sympathy, but instead caused her to recoil.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Playlist Nostalgia and Girl Power

Looking for some new tunes for my running playlist and got this as a suggestion:

Immediately bought it...because I rocked my childhood out listening to Pat Benatar and wanting to be Pat Benatar.

She was rivaled only by Linda Ronstadt for my childhood adulation and devotion. I can probably still sing every lyric to Ronstadt's Heart Like Wheel and Simple Dreams albums....because I listened to them over and over...probably on my mother's 8-track tape player while I danced around crazily in my bedroom.

Good times...good times.

I rounded my playlist off with Vanessa Carlton's version of Paint it Black:

Maybe I'll come up with a complete Girl Power playlist for my next 5k.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Back from Vacation

No matter how much fun you have somewhere else, returning home is a comfort. Sleeping in one's own bed, having access to all one's own stuff...the human nest we create is usually soothing to ourselves.

Here's a pic, or two, of my boys:

It doesn't have anything to do with vacation. I just can't look at them without realizing that they already possess the I'm-too-cool-for-my-own-good attitude that will only grow larger as they edge towards pre-teen status in the next couple of years.