Anonimity or accountability?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Alpha, Dec 21, 2001.

  1. Alpha «Visitor» Registered Senior Member

    How important is your privacy? In the future probably all public areas will be monitored, and all forms of public communication. Should we focus on our rights to privacy, or the value of accountability. If everyone is held accountable for their actions, including governments and law enforcement, crime rates would drop to virtually nothing. Except in private. How much of communication on the internet should be monitored? Should law enforcement be able to access your email? If they're held accountable for their actions? Some may argue that only criminals should have anything to worry about, but what about shy people, and people who just want others to mind their own business? How should we proceed?
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Interesting considerations

    The first, broad response I would posit is a question: What is society for?

    Specifically: is society there for human benefit, or do humans exist to foster society? An easier way to look at it is analogously, via the economy. A ten year-old stat claimed that the average American devoted the equivalent of five months' labor to taxation: that is, you worked until the end of May each year, in essence, to pay off your tax burden. Add to that sentiments during the Poppy Bush years and into the Clinton years that it was one's patriotic duty to be in debt: the economy flew because everything was bought on credit; in addition to the purchase power, we created a whole lot of economy through interest. Social union took a rhetorical beating; money spent on schools was wasted while money spent on sports stadia was "an investment toward our future". It seemed like the important thing was the money, and not what it got us as individuals.

    Likewise with society: what is it there to foster?
    Taking the United States as an example, it is sad that accountability is reviled. In lieu of holding the perpetrators of broad, negative events accountable, we take our frustrations out through various idiocies whereby we focus on the negativity of individuals. Three-strikes laws, for instance, sound like a good idea, but their introduction was less than promising: an early issue that presented itself was a former gang member convicted of a violent crime--he apparently took a slice of pizza that was intended for another customer at the busy restaurant in a mall. Whether or not we accept the "mistaken" excuse or hold him accountable, take a look at his three strikes: drugs, drug-related violence, and cheese pizza. Pretty nitpicky.

    We see the drug war, which focuses on the individual's potential for harm insted of the harm that individual creates. Of our posters who affirm the positive aspects of their drug habits: should this be probable cause to raid their homes and throw them in jail? Aside from the lack of a producing citizen and the expense of investigating, arresting, trying, and jailing a person, what does it really accomplish? Think about some of those laws, or even alcohol prohibition. We saw the statistical result of prohibition--increased crime, at least--and we see the same trends in the drug war. Do you know anyone who smokes pot? Do you really want to pay to hold them in prison?

    I assert that society exists for the benefit of the individuals who come together. It is not for the benefit of any one individual per se, as that leads to the kind of cutthroat greed that is a hallmark of the American worldview. Consider certain things which have been crimes before: homosexuality, pot smoking ... now, what is more damaging to society--one who smokes pot or sleeps with the common gender, or a person who studies the law in order to subvert it through a loophole and thus increase their wealth while ignoring the hurtful results of their actions? To put it into a social generalization, who does more harm, pot smokers or personal injury attorneys?

    If laws were just, then there would be no problem making people servile to their social contract. But laws are not just and cannot be without people being just. Whether or not we hold the individual accountable is almost beside the point when we stop to consider what we would be holding them accountable to.

    I got a call yesterday from a friend telling me that the brother of another friend of mine has been accused of murder. The detail is sketchy, and I don't expect to have it until after the holiday, but the preliminary report says the death came in a fight pertaining to a woman. As I am initially and only briefly informed, R intervened in a man's harassment of a woman, and the resulting fracas ended with the harassing man dead of a knife wound. Accountability? Sure, let's hold R accountable. Now, what to do about the harassment? Who will hold that accountable? I'm well and fine to convict this guy of whatever he's done to cause this death, but who intervenes in the lesser stuff that creates the bigger problems?
    I can see a condition whereby this would be true: the population will be split into two primary factions--those who are in jail and those who work to keep them there. It isn't the idea that people shouldn't be accountable, but when we say, "including governemnts", well .. the government is, technically, the law. What, hold Willie accountable for his BJ? Hold Ronald accountable for selling guns to terrorists and drugs on the streets of the US? Great, I'm all for it, if that's how we want to go about it. But everybody breaks the law, and where do you draw the line?

    And what if, for instance, the standard of law is incorrect? If the government is the law, then what happens when the law itself is inappropriate? Slavery? The 3/5 Rule of the US Constitution? What if we held all the Civil Rights leaders of the US 1950s and '60s accountable? Rosa Parks was a dangerous criminal, y'know

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    It's a similar line I draw when it comes to religion and conscience. Sure, you have a right to vote, but many people in this country vote based on what they think God tells them, not on what they perceive through their own faculties is best. It's a slight distinction at best, but the inspiration for their conduct--while legal and protected--has the power to compel them toward injustice, as history demonstrates.
    That depends on what's left of privacy, doesn't it? For instance, Hardwick v. Bowers. "Private" does not include inside the domain of your own home. (Incidentally, the ruling majority in Bowers found that states have the right to make antisodomy laws; it is interesting to note that this majority is typically termed "conservative", and furthermore that the basis of the decision was derived from English common law. Looks like the revolution failed, but that's an aside.) What one does in private in Georgia, for instance, is not truly private. In the Bowers case, at the state level, who should be held accountable for their impropriety? The accused was busted for having gay sex, but the officer only knew to look because he entered the home seeking resolution to a warrant that was, technically, legally, and otherwise, nonexistant by proxy of being previously established as invalid; essentially, the officer saw two men in various states of undress when he knocked on the door to serve a warrant that didn't exist. So we hold the gay men accountable? Or should the officer go to jail for the invasion? There are two violations afoot here; which one takes priority?
    Absolutely none. I cannot tell you how important that is. Unfortunately, the only equivalent I can offer is the idea of having all of your mail, including your birthday card from grandma and the delicate letter from your wife explaining what the doctors said about her vagina and uterus, being opened and read for subversive content. In the case of child porn ... well, you need to stop it at the source. You need to take on the disease, not just alleviate the symptoms. You can clamp down as much of the kiddie porn in the world as you can get an iron foot onto, but the fact remains that it will do nothing to stop the rape of children, which has been going on as long as the idea of rape has existed. (It went on beforehand, but was just something natural or normal or something.) Drugs? I won't go into it for length, suffice to say that if you're spending that much money and that many man-hours to stop me from buying my next half-ounce of weed, then you're welcome to haul me into court and admit it.
    Terrorism? They'll still find a way; I doubt the 212 US Marines dead in Beirut when I was in fifth grade were taken out after a heavy e-mail planning session.

    Hey, here's one: can you imagine the government monitoring it every time you change the channel on your TV? Can you imagine sitting before a work-comp review board and having your claim for workplace injury denied because the FBI data shows that you were watching Letterman at midnight instead of getting your recommended hours of sleep and thus made yourself too tired to safely perform your duties?
    I'll permit myself to the aside that law enforcement is allegedly held accountable at present, but tell that to Dorismond, Paz, Hernandez (yes, Chagur, I know you're there), Diallo, and others who have been arbitrarily gunned down for not having drugs on them.

    To the other, it still is a question of what law enforcement is being held accountable to. Juxtapose for a moment, three codes from history: American, Soviet, and Biblical law. American law enforcement still proves itself accountable only to its own interests, though that's a little broad; Soviet law enforcement is infamous among other things; and we're not getting any breaks from the Bible. Should one die for marijuana? Should someone die for disagreeing with a government policy? Should someone die for being the wrong religion? It depends on what standard we set for justice and thus what we hold the law accountable to.
    Very few things bother me more than the conservative dismissal that "only criminals have to worry". Especially when we juxtapose that dismissal against the idea of who we make criminals. Make criminals? one might say. Certes: Prohibition--the next morning there were how many people criminally in possession of alcohol? Drug laws? (e.g.--Did you know that the whole war against marijuana started with a revenue law? Again, the revolution failed: The Marihuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937. Hello, didn't tax stamps contribute to 1776?)

    One need not be shy, per se ... what would become of the day when someone just didn't feel like being as boisterous as his neighbors? We've all heard it on the news after a murder-suicide: He was a nice guy, I guess ... really quiet, and that was kind of weird ....

    While I think the shy people should indeed have the right to be left alone, I don't think they would be. People do not trust quiet reserve, and find it suspicious. And there we see the idea of accountability and who we make criminals. With no privacy, is your quietude enough to save you from a midnight raid by lethal police on the grounds that people are suspicious of you because you're too quiet?

    One of my favorite stories is about Lake Oswego, Oregon, sometimes called "Lake No-Negro" by the locals; I met a man who was once cuffed and detained when someone in a Lake No-Negro neighborhood called the police and reported a suspicious individual in the neighborhood. Cause of suspicion? A black man in the evening in a sweatsuit. Why was this dangerous criminal released? Because he lived three houses down from the woman who called the cops. Comparatively, if a black man in a sweatsuit is enough to get one cuffed, what of being one of those "weird" quiet types? And there's an aside: can we hold the complaining woman accountable for her idiocy? What, do all black men look so much the same that you can't recognize someone who lives on your street from twenty feet away under a streetlight? Or does is she held accountable for her actions which led to the temporary suspension of that man's rights? After all, in some states, unlawful detention--even holding a person by the arm while you speak sharply at them,--is considered kidnapping what of causing a man to be detained and bound?
    The vital question. Liberty is the first key, though it cannot stand without education. Seriously, I think that if people are educated enough to understand the implications of what they do, they will behave accordingly. I know that's a short answer to give after all this, but I do think it's that simple a concept. Admittedly, the educating won't be simple, but it would be a start.

    If I might, then, offer one written piece for your consideration ... I've posted it here before, and refer to it frequently. It's a piece by Lysander Spooner called Vices are Not Crimes, and was published in 1875. It's available at , under the "Complete Works of Spooner" list. Apologies, but I'm simply terrible when it comes to picking data out of source code to avoid frames.

    Thanks much for the topic, Alpha ... it should be an interesting one to be around. Quite compelling and thought-provoking. It made me smile to get to think about these things, and for that I can only thank you and try to share

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    peace, hope, and liberty,

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  5. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

    taissa ...

    Not at the time you posted ... but eventually.

    Considering the hour, 0030hr.EST, I'll just come back later and see how it's going.

    Take care.

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  7. Alpha «Visitor» Registered Senior Member

    Re: Interesting considerations

    Wow, some good points in there! I'm glad you enjoyed my post!

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    I don't know what to make of that question... Society, according to the dictionary, in this case is "The totality of social relationships among humans." It's just the collection of humans and their relationships. To say that it has a purpose is questionable. Each member of the society may have his or her own purposes, but does the entire society as a whole have it's own purpose?

    I think those with the potential for more harm should be watched more closely, but treated according to what they do, not what they can do. Yes, I know some poeple who smoke pot. Why would I/we have to pay to keep them in jail?
    Society is the individuals who come together.
    If everyone's accountable...
    The government isn't really the law. The people have control over the government too.
    Sorry, that's just a little before my time.

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    Well said.
    How do you know it's not like that already? I agree, certain things should be private, but we should be held accountable for certain other things as well. The question is where should the line be drawn.
    I'm not familiar with what you're referring to, but being gunned down for not having drugs sounds crazy to me.

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    Disagreeing with a policy? Hell no. Policies can change. Freedom of speech. Die for being of the wrong religion? That's a loaded question. Who's to say what the right or wrong religion is? Religious fanatics may say their religion is right, and non-believers should die, but we have a right to peace. We shouldn't have to worry about religious wars. And everyone should have the right to voice their own opinion.
    The standard for justice? How about being just/fair?
    That's a scary thought. I'm the quiet type...
    People always fear the unknown...
    Since when is being quiet a crime?
    I agree, education about issues is best.
    You're welcome!
  8. mrk Wheel Rider Registered Senior Member

    How much Privacy?

    Yes, I think Tiassa is quite correct. I agree that the US deferred far too much to English Common law and should perhaps have delveloped an albeit arbitrary alternative.

    Yet she failed to mention the Fed's continual, and constant usurption of State's rights. (in the GA case, the cop should have been FRIED regardless of the buggary laws, and the gentlemen should have pulled the drapes.) She did also, however, fail to mention that apply broad laws to a exceptionally diverse population will always lead (at the least) discontent. I concur the lady in Lake Oswego SHOULD have been held accountable for her actions.

    Another case that bears on this issue Tiassa omited no doubt due to length, was the one (sorry don't do names and numbers well) where a WA man was growing pot in his house. His windows were blacked, his power came from a generator (so they couldn't nail him with his "public" utility bill, but his county owned heliCOPpter with its fancy infered imagaging software picked up the enormous heat read out from the grow lamps. They got themselves a no-knock warrant, and busted him with his 60 odd plants (great we're talking about less than 4 lbs of bud, here) and he's spent the last 5 years in jail/court on priavacy issues becasue the courts will not catagorically define them. "Should" he be growing the stuff in the first place? Legally, absolutly not. Should the cops be randomly pointing their gizmo at people's houses to FIND crime? I think, from the implied message of the ammendments cops are there to respond to complaints of crime, not go find it.

    I feel I must quote the Roman Emperor Claudius who (possibly was one of the best) asked, "...and who shall watch the watchers?" of the Praetorian Guard who "nominated" him as their NEW emporer upon the, shall we say, untimely--didn't happen soon enough--death of Caligula...

    I'm surprised Tiassa didn't include the Rodney King case.
    1. LAPD happened to get caught.
    2. King was less than the "model" citizen.
    3. Is justice only for "model" citizens?
    (the marketplace took care of Rodney, he was broke less than a year after his humongus settlement...) and if as she says put 5/12ths of our earnings in the tax box, that would mean that Rodney paid for 5/12ths of the tasers they used on him. Ironic, no?

    The Shrub's (Geo W., B2, et al) passage of the APA was just the purportedly lawful suspension of our civil rights, which J. Edgar Hoover trampled with FDR's stamp of approval. The Frequent Bunglars of Intimidation have trampled them to death ever since, with near impunity. their sunset provisions however are extremely limited and don't apply to the suspension of warrant or 'reasonable' suspicion. Now it's just 'legal'...

    The concept that I may get to pay some bureaucrat to WATCH me vacate my bowels for "my protection" does not amuse me... And that is what galls me about it. I am too stupid, to ignorant (with just a public school education) to perform this simple act of nature without their assent. Just as it has become my doctors "duty" to nag me about smoking. I knew the dangers when I started smoking, thank you. I continually, daily CHOOSE to make that decision by NOT quitting, thank you. I don't need HIM to remind me. He also knows that if we were back on the old cash system for docs, HE wouldn't HAVE my business. In conclusion, I don't need nor want their assent for either act. Naively, perhaps, I am still under the opinion that I have a roughly 1/280 millionth undivided share of this country and EXPECT them, my employees, to comply with the US constitution and its tacitly implied concepts such as privacy (including my right to be seucre in my HOUSE, papers (electronic or otherwise, person and propety--cops make me VERY insecure)

    Sorry, but they are related. The issue here isn't really how much privacy we should have, but how much we are allowed to believe we have as privacy is non-existant, today thanks to technology. How much longer before the GPS software in cars is "required"? Why do they NEED to know where my car is? Why do they need to check my face (inaccurately) against a data base of "suspects". As Tiassa implied, there is no penalty for the police who, 'act under color of agency' incorrectly, which can be enforced as they enforce traffic violations. I would have LESS objection if this data base were of wanted criminals or bail jumpers, but it is of "suspected terrorists--which they haven't bothered to define. If they choose they can watch you 24/7 from or with statilites/drones/microwaves, and until we as citizens DO define EXACTLY and quantitatively where our privacy limits ARE, they shall seek every available means they have at their disposal to control us. We shall also have to define precisely what "they" can do in this regard, but in the previous 213 years, we haven't. We are still quibbling about what, exactly, the separation of church and state is, and wheter IF johnny looks a dirty picture will he when his 43, rape a 13 year old cut off her arms at the elbows, leave her to die in the desert, and end up living in a STATE provided trailer, on the grounds of a STATE penetentary because nobody wants him in THEIR neighborhood (rightly).
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Just a couple of notes

    I owe a couple of responses here; I'll get to them when I'm ready to give a good response, or some semblance thereof.

    In the meantime, apologies to Alpha for the delay.

    And also to Mr K, for not getting back to his post earlier.

    Thus ...

    Mr K

    If I omitted the drug war, it's because my THC-sticky fingerprints are all over the World Affairs & Politics forum; people read my harping on the drug war quite frequently. It may be that the drug war is omitted from my current post, but I feel the need to note that I'm quite aware of it.

    If I omitted Rodney King, it's because I think that one's clear; it would be a little like mentioning Jesus in a list of important Christian thinkers.

    The omission of Dubya ... yeah. Again, I plead it's wider than the Cumberland Gap, so I didn't expect people to miss it.

    As to the finer points, I shall get back to them, but I wanted to at least check in and let Alpha know I've not forgotten entirely, and to at least acknowledge your post at present, in lieu of the deeper consideration I'd rather give it.

    Ah ... for what it's worth: Tiassa is not a feminine name. It simply refers to a mythical cat in the fiction of Steven KZ Brust, pjf.

    (I should point out two in Oregon to cheer about: an electronic surveillance case that draws a new bulkhead against invasion of privacy; under this one, those optical-listening devices (a laser on a piece of glass) get knocked down a notch, and other technological invasions are clarified; the other is a decision where the police apparently have to tell you they're law enforcement before they sting you. "Hi, I'm a cop ... wanna sell me some dope?")

    thanx much ...,

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