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08/16/2003 Archived Entry: "Liberty and Power"

I am pleased to announce that I recently joined the group blog Liberty and Power, which is hosted by the History News Network. I thank David Beito for the invitation. The material appearing there will be political commentary excerpted from this blog. For example, today I will cross-post the commentary on RFID technology.

For those who can't get enough of that wild and wacky Arnold Schwarzenegger, here's a list of Arnold for Governor jokes you might have missed. And, then, as an antidote to the election fervor, you might want to check out an interesting piece by Colin Ward entitled "The Case Against Voting." The article is posted on a site that is so rich with substantive material, I have just scratched its surface: Takver's Initiatives.

On privacy rights... W33dz commented a few days ago on SlashDot, "Retailers and manufacturers around the world are enamored with the new radio frequency identification, or RFID, devices. The problem? What about when a thief or the police want to find out what you have in your house? Oddly enough, according to a Wired magazine article, the United States' largest food companies and retailers will try to win Dept of Homeland Security approval for radio identification devices by portraying the technology as an essential tool for keeping the nation's food supply safe from terrorists. This will give them blanket immunity from all law suits related to the product." (The companies seeking immunity will undoubtedly argue that they have no control over the abuse of their RFID tags -- which last up to ten years -- to which critics will reply "then don't put them in without clearly telling people you are doing so.") One of the companies pioneering RFID in North America is -- or was -- Gillette. The "shaving company" intended to use a Massachusetts Wal-Mart to test product that had a tiny microchip embedded so that store managers could track stock and order more when supply ran low. But the technology could be used to literally track products from store shelves to homes. Gillette had gone so far as to order 500m chips, known as RFID tags, in January. Apparently privacy advocates were effective in their criticism of the company's plans because Gillette has abandoned its intention to embed chips in product and is now embedding them instead in e.g. the pallets that move stock from factories to storehouses, apparently as an inventory awareness measure. In commenting on Gillette's reversal of policy, the Financial Times observed, "One early test [of RFID] undertaken in Cambridge, in eastern England, by Tesco, the UK retailer, set off a storm of protest last month after it emerged that the store was automatically photographing consumers as they took Gillette razors from the shelf. Customers were secretly photographed again when they left the store with the RFID-tagged products." Although Gillette does not acknowledge the criticism of privacy advocates as playing a role in its shift of plans, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) have been vigorously promoting a boycott and the company was coming under increased media scrutiny on the issue.

Favorite email of the day (from Gordon P. who is fast becoming a de facto co-blogger) "Earth & Mars --- A once in an epoch event. The Red Planet is about to become a spectacular sight! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. Mars has not passed this close to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, and the next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be the brightest except for the moon in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide, so at a modest 75-power magnification, Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye! Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history! So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN."

Let me welcome Ken Gregg to the world of blogging. An old friend and an invaluable resource for the history of libertarianiams, Ken now maintains the CLASSicLiberalism blogspot which he describes as "a blog for all things CLASSical Liberal, with an emphasis on educating about aspects of classical liberalism (hence, the "CLASS" in CLASSical Liberal)--history, theory and, of course, practice." I'll be a frequent visitor.

On a personal note... Brad and I endured the blackout rather well, largely because we are both involved in emergency planning for our community and, so, we are well aware of the items we should have on hand. Indeed, I ended up making an emergency run to a girlfriend's place of work in order to drop off a bag of candles from the hoard I maintain. (I buy almost every candle I see at yard sales where they are dirt cheap.) Even *I* was surprised to realize that we had four different ways to cook without hydro. As it was, we just fired up the BBQ. The hydro was off for about 8 hours and there was a brief blackout yesterday, which was probably due to maintenance work; altho' we were warned of rolling blackouts, I don't think one would have been instituted for only an hour. Brad spent much of the first blackout in a fire department where he co-ordinated an emergency communications center staffed by ham radio volunteers. I caught up on some much needed sleep...

Best to all,

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