Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where does it End, Part II

Libertarianism has much room for development. This is apparent when two, twelve, or any number of believers don't agree with a proper application of the non-aggression principle, whether in this reality or the Utopian ideal. Worse yet is when this argument has both sides arguing from one perspective or the other, without clarity on what "world" is the setting for their championed stances.

At least, for this subject, the where, when, and/or "what reality" isn't an issue.

If a property owner has absolute right to said property, are they granted carte blanche to operate as they see fit with the property, and to defend their stake from involuntarily giving up said property? The short Libertarian answer is "yes", the asterisk to the answer is "provided they do not initiate uninvited aggression on another." Then what of defense against trespassers, burglars, or any possible villainy that might come to violate an individuals property rights? I'm hard pressed to demand that someone being aggressed against isn't allowed to respond, or has an obligation to discern motive and goal of the aggressor - particularly in circumstances where it's clear that the individual doesn't want trespass, such as breaking through a locked door or window. Insisting on such an obligation could cost a person everything.

What happens when circumstances are clear, and it's been discerned that life and physical well being isn't in danger? Does the owner have the right to operate as Judge, Jury and Executioner? Would he judge where property begins and ends? Would he impose the maximum value upon lost property, and perhaps the maximum penalty? Does this property owner define the minimum and maximum penalty?

Most importantly, is there a Libertarian justification for the property owner to act on these gauges of justice? Some believe so. I disagree. Others do as well, for reasons that are theirs.

In an earlier writing, I posed such questions - tackling the belief that the Property Owner has this right in the most extreme:

If I don't like the smell of cigarette smoke, and I can smell my neighbor's cigarette smoke wafting onto my property, am I within my rights to kill said neighbor for robbing me of air on my property that would otherwise be clean? Is my neighbor's wife within her rights to kill me for the loss of household revenue and the destruction of the family unit?

What if my neighbor's newborn won't stop crying at a time that's most disruptive, taking away my right to a peaceful property? Do I have the right to exact a righteous justice of my choosing, raising high my knife as I roar triumphantly for Anarcho Capitalism? Could I use a tiny nuclear device instead?

If a farmer has the right to shoot a juvenile apple thief, why not operate in the extreme for these scenarios? If this is the case, then where does the right to retaliate end? If there's a universal answer regardless of the infinite scenarios that carry a heavy weight, I don't have it. Even if I did, I wouldn't be within my Libertarian rights to impose it on the entire human population. Unless I'm a Libertarian central planner, and I enforce my rights by initiating force. But I thought Libertarians weren't necessarily champions of that.

But what happens when we answer in the affirmative to all of the above? I'd say there's no work left for such Libertarians to do, except buy the Champagne and choose where to host the party. Our goal is achieved, as there is at least one of such property owners, operating on funds they call theirs, all to inflict punishments for transgressions in extremes of their subjective choosing, steadfast in belief that their property lines end where their gaze does, and fully within their rights to enforce outrageous penalties on "aggressors".

We could go to Washington D.C, this property owner's base of operations, to host this celebration of Libertarian victory, then applaud and cheer for exercised property rights as we are incarcerated, or executed on sight by merit of their self-granted rights, for a transgression that the property owner believes happened and is owed infinite restitution.

I'd insist that we instead get back to the drawing board.

What's this "we" in "We need Gun Control"?

Which of you foolish mundanes did this? Or this? What about this?

A list that can go on forever, and it likely will.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fight the Future, said the Smoking Man (An X Files review, Spoiler light)

Nearly a decade and a half after it's closure, X Files returned to the line up of Fox. X Files was always a great way for me to end the weekend in my youth, as it was infinitely entertaining to think that the teacher I'd take orders from the following morning may be indirectly serving a cabal of men who's agenda was to be complicit in an alien invasion. Of course I knew better. Kinda.

X Files had never been a series to be modest in approaching conspiracy. It's taken numerous shots at all things controversial from vaccinations to the Kennedy Assassination. Whether these conspiracies were the creations of men, extraterrestrials, governments or corporations - or sometimes, all of these at once, X Files doesn't refute the possibility. It goes to say, the last fourteen years have given the shows creator, Chris Carter, plenty of new muses. He all but says so roughly half way through the premiere of this new season, in a scene involving fan favorites Fox Mulder and Walter Skinner. None can say that there is no room for speculation for us in the real world or those in Chris Carter's universe, the post September 11th world has given opportunity for norms that could never be justified in a free society. The X Files series had shut down not long after America had wanted to trust their government, and it's remaining episodes chose to focus on conspiracies of men, not governments or aliens. Save of course, what we thought was the finale.

Discovering the truth behind the lie isn't confined to the shadowy corners in this day and age, at least not in the real world. In the age of Alex Jones, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange these are topics that are widely available to anyone with a modicum of curiosity and even five minutes worth of internet access. Even broadcast journalism pays an homage to conspiracy, for when they denounce it's possibility they give it credibility. As a result, there are few in the States that can say they haven't heard of the theory that September 11th was an inside job, or any other multiple theories that aren't canonized in the history books.

Understanding all of this is paramount in making an honest critique of the continuation of the series. While the familiar glow of Mulder and Scully's flashlights in a dark hallway may be gone, we cannot say Mulder's pursuit of truth has gone with it. Mulder, through meetings with a character that blends Alex Jones (I'd dare not say someone like Alex Jones, the similarities are almost blatant) with a cable broadcast journalist that has an inflated sense of self worth (or maybe not), has a crisis of faith in his crusade. He is left to wonder if aliens, though a presence, aren't at the helm of all the intrigue he's experienced. Instead, he wonders, if this is a conspiracy of government alone, using alien technology in a post September 11th police state. This justification goes on to bullet point all of the concerns an inquisitive person would have in such a world, ranging from wiretaps, the Patriot Act, chem trails, militarized police, FEMA camps and so much more that I imagine a viewer not familiar with the big tent of conspiracy likely became overwhelmed. All of this goes to say, the set up of this premiere appears to be focused on conspiracies in our world that can either be proven to be true or false, and perhaps much less to do with an alien force that we can't relate to or understand.

Avid viewers might recognize this plot point (and even the scene and montage that reveals this plot point) from an episode in the fourth season of the original X Files, in an episode named after the location where Judas betrayed Jesus.

I can't say this is a bad turn for the show, but I can say I feel like I'm watching a much different show. It's a nineties conspiracy show that evolved for the modern world, with all of it's revelations and speculations. I'd say InfoWars should prepare to update it's servers, as there will likely be a lot of people that suddenly have a lot of questions.

Libertarian Dad: The Playstation 4

Being a Libertarian parent, or any sort of parent, today is a challenge. Libertarian's who don't want to watch their children bend a knee to the Idiocracy haven't taken up a challenge - they've taken up a vigilant crusade. In all of the entertaining products marketed to our children is the potential to deliver a message that doesn't align with the knowledge we'd like to pass on. The unfortunate truth is that many of this entertainment is ripe with statist propaganda or some sort of conditioning, with few if any alternatives. In this, I've found another calling - a review of products and entertainment marketed to children, from a Libertarian perspective.

My shock today is a shock that I imagine most parents can sympathize with, regardless of philosophical inclinations. Id like to note that the problems I will describe below I have never encountered on another Sony product, thus I can only conclude there's a degree of intention to the dilemma described.

Below is a cut and paste from a customer service chat with Sony. I will be omitting my personal information, and the name of the customer service representative.

Rep (1/24/2016, 11:49:49 AM): Hello, My name is Rep how may I assist you today?
Me (1/24/2016, 11:50:23 AM): Hello Rep, I'd like to report an issue with the PSN that concerns me greatly as both a user and the parent of a user.
Rep (1/24/2016, 11:52:03 AM): Hello Customer I'm really sorry to hear that tell me how can I help you ?
Me (1/24/2016, 11:53:12 AM): Well to my surprise, I was ten feet away while my son was using the PS4 to watch his shows on Netflix. Loud chimes were coming in that obviously weren't part of the programming
Me (1/24/2016, 11:53:32 AM): I come to take a look, and a live chat session is underway.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:53:50 AM): I'm not a layman. I knew to disable these features entirely once I set up the console in question.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:54:16 AM): I ask the chat, how did I end up as a participant?
Me (1/24/2016, 11:54:30 AM): Other users wondered the same. None of us elected to participate.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:54:55 AM): Most bothersome of all, the ability for people to send me "voice messages" wasn't blocked, despite me setting it up to the contrary.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:55:20 AM): I check on my settings, and for want of a better term, it's "anything goes". anyone can message me, or send me voice messages.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:55:47 AM): Like I said, I'm no layman and I'm aware the burden of privacy falls on how I configure my settings.

Me (1/24/2016, 11:56:49 AM): I want to know how this happened? My son is far too young to have the sophistication to toggle these settings, and I'm left to wonder if I should even maintain my status as a playstation customer.

Rep (1/24/2016, 11:57:20 AM): I see I understand Customer In order to provide you better assistance can you please provide me with :

First and last name

Online ID

Sing-IN ID ( email used on the account )

[Information provided]

Rep (1/24/2016, 12:12:05 PM): thank you for the information
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:13:00 PM): So inn these case when you had the issue you were telling your son was using your account or his account ?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:13:27 PM): My two year old son was using my account to watch a child's show on netflix.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:13:46 PM): Being two, there is no need for his own account.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:14:56 PM): Oh Okay and in the chat the persons that were in the chat was on your friend list ?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:15:17 PM): No. It was 40+ random users, the contents of my friends list is empty.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:15:29 PM): Many of whom had no idea how they got into the chat either.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:15:50 PM): The rest of the users, I cannot say.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:17:48 PM): Okay thank you for the information well in these I can see that you account is a master account and when you do like the restrictions for party chat and all of that it will only apply for the sub accounts Customer not a master account
Me (1/24/2016, 12:18:44 PM): I'm not sure if I understand what you're saying. You mean to tell me that despite how I set my settings, they won't apply to this account? Why?
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:19:57 PM): Yes that is correct Customer all the restrictions you set will apply for all the sub accounts you have only for them it wont apply for your account because is the master account
Me (1/24/2016, 12:20:43 PM): Why wouldn't my settings apply to the account to which I specify settings?
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:22:12 PM): because is master account like if an account that is for an adult the settings will apply for a sub accounts since that accounts are for teen or childs
Me (1/24/2016, 12:23:05 PM): If there's an implication that I have configured my settings, offered by Sony, in a specified way, it stands to reason that these settings are within the parameters of offered expectations.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:24:11 PM): Regardless of how Sony would want to label a particular account.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:26:48 PM): I completely understand but in this case as I said before the restrictions will apply for all the sub accounts that you have Customer on the system
Me (1/24/2016, 12:27:39 PM): Okay. So if I understand this properly, to avoid having these features I will need to set up a sub account for the features to apply?
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:28:49 PM): Yes that is correct once you create a sub account and you set up those settings that account wont be able to do the restrictions that you put
Me (1/24/2016, 12:29:53 PM): Okay - I have to ask what the merit is to such a system. How does Sony gain from this configuration? How does the user gain?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:30:59 PM): Obviously it's not something understood by everyone, as many of us had thought we weren't able to be forced into participation of a feature we thought we had disabled, through a user interface designed by Sony.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:33:35 PM): Yes I completely understand your points but in these we made these features when a parent like you or me dont want that our son or daughter can get in touch with other people that can tell them bad things that is why is that feature that is why works for a sub account since the master account can deal with this since is an adult account Customer
Me (1/24/2016, 12:34:16 PM): So an adult can't disable features they don't want?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:34:43 PM): Now that I understand I can fix the problem, but I don't understand the reasoning.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:36:28 PM): yes because in these can as I explain that option where set like that o you can be able to restring that access to those sub accounts
Me (1/24/2016, 12:36:32 PM): I'm actually surprised Sony allowed such a glaring oversight, as the privacy of the Playstation 4 was championed in it's development stage, compared to other consumer options.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:37:43 PM): I understand that I have a work around, but there's a problem when users are led to believe they've disabled a feature that's potentially invasive, when they've disabled nothing at all.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:38:17 PM): If nothing else I'm offering feedback as an alarmed customer.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:39:27 PM): I know I understand your point in these case what I can do for you is that I can fill up a complain and put your feedback regarding these situation so these can be fix and explain better when a consumer try to disable these options
Me (1/24/2016, 12:40:19 PM): I'd appreciate it, the only reason I considered the Playstation 4 was because of it's desire to adhere to privacy. Come to find out, there's been nothing private about it at all.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:42:10 PM): Yes I completely understand your point Customer I will fill up these complain for you so our team can put that option as well for master accounts in furthers updates on the system
Me (1/24/2016, 12:42:23 PM): Alright, Thank you Rep.

So there it is. Privacy offered, when there's no privacy at all. There's no need for a second account in our household, the family all has the same expectations from the product. As I've stated elsewhere, the above situation was never a problem for me on older products supplied by Sony. This also hasn't been a problem until today. Among participants in this spontaneous chat were other confused individuals, and other parents.

After re-reading this, I may not have made my concerns clear to the CSR. It seems there may have been a language barrier too. At least the CSR in question wasn't a robot.

In my concerns there is no paranoia. There's a feature to be able to view others record of use. How many times have you launched Program X? For how long? When? Spontaneous voice chat is also a possibility, with whoever just happened to be in this spontaneous chat. My thanks to the participants for being civil. There's no clear indication for how this chat session was initiated either.

To solve this issue, one doesn't have to make a new "account" with Sony, you just need to add a local user to the device in question.

To block these features: If you'd like to block these features, you must set up a secondary user account. Login on the original account, scroll to the right and go to settings, then users. There will be a means to create a new user. In theory, this user account will be blocked from using features that you specify. To block these features, go to the profile prompt, and privacy settings will be the second option down. I will be testing the CSR's advice as best as I am able. 

What has yet to be addressed is how settings that I specified were changed to be "anything goes". Factory Default doesn't even ship like this. There's a good chance I'll be getting rid of this thing in the near future.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Intellectual Property

Property isn't always clear cut and dry. Even when claiming parcels of land, whether vast farmland or a tiny chunk of a neighborhood, where one holding ends and another begins has the potential to come into dispute. Intellectual Property is even less clear, especially in the digital age. Films, software, music, literature, video games, schematics, recipes or even leaked memos have the potential to be distributed quickly and easily at the cost of little more than the search engine's effort.

It bears standing that if someone used their time, effort, knowledge, and resources to develop any of this media, they'd like to be compensated when someone wants it. Who could fault them? None among us can say we don't want to be compensated for our efforts, barring labors of love. However, I can't say that it's fair to lay the protection of Intellectual Property on consumers. What is the incentive to consumers? What is their moral obligation? If a thief steals from a storefront, we do not lay the responsibility for the theft at the feet of another patron - but the owner may be grateful if this patron chose to intervene.

A producer that leaves their Intellectual Property unprotected may be within their rights to object to the methods of it's distribution, just as I may be within my rights to object to someone using my unlocked front door without my consent. The burden of protecting my home from entry fell on me, and I chose not to exercise my ability. Whether the invasive entry was right or wrong, I forfeited a reasonable, and perfectly acceptable ability to prevent it.

Intellectual Property being less tangible than the example, how does the Producer defend the creation? Coming back to Libertarian principal, contract is an acceptable and reasonable defense - and it finds use in this application today. We call it a Terms of Use.

We have this for a wide variety of goods and services today. Digital distribution services (Netflix, Steam, iTunes, internet variations of cable channels) employ this method, and they may go a step further to add some sort of protection to the end-user product. Even a rented living space comes with a terms of use, as does a leased commercial property. A Terms of Use even applies to the tangible. I can grab three items that I've paid for the right to use, and I may find some variety of a Terms of Use.

  • My forklift training card comes with the disclaimer that I've only completed a course, and that my competence in operation isn't endorsed.
  • My dish soap's label advises me not to add bleach
  • I was getting worried, as not every product I chose at random had an explicit terms of use, but close enough for me but maybe not for all. But aha! An old computer software manual has six pages worth of terms of use (These pages are maybe the size of a Blu Ray case, and the print is large. I don't need an attorney to explain it), contents of which also states that the Intellectual Property owner offers me the software on lease, not ownership. It even states that if I disagree, I can forfeit my lease and the hard copy containing the leased material for a refund. This hard copy of the lease also informs me that I will need to agree to these terms again during the installation process.
If these solutions exist today then why aren't these enough? Because the muscle-bound arm of the State is willing to enforce abstract terms instead, sometimes to the detriment of the producer.

Who would enforce this, if not government? The producer, and whoever said producer chooses to aid in the defense of the  property in question.

What would be the compensation for a violation of the Terms of Use? The producer may specify such in the Terms of Use. This happens today when I play a movie on a home system. Difference being, it's accompanied by threats from the FBI and Interpol.

But doesn't that warning describe an unreasonable fine and imprisonment term? Yes, that's the strong arm of Government (financed by the victims), not the producer.

What stops the Producer from imposing such a penalty, or a worse penalty? Who can say definitively? We haven't had a private sector Intellectual Property defense. Cultural norms, peer review, and the cost of enforcement would likely prevent anything outrageous. Why spend millions of dollars to incarcerate hundreds or thousands of "pirates"at a cost to the producer? It's cutting off your nose to spite your face.

You've just pleaded a case for a corporation having incentive to harm or murder several someones. I challenge you to name one private enterprise that has gained from thinning it's market share, fatally at that. Enterprises that enjoy the boon of government connections and protections do not count, and only plead my point.

This does nothing to prevent corporate espionage or reverse engineering. Corporate Espionage might be another topic in itself, though many of the same methods detailed here for Intellectual Property can be applied. Instead of Terms of Use, you could call it Terms of Relations - never mind Non-Disclosure Agreements. Reverse Engineering too might be it's own topic, but might even fall under Terms of Use. A successful Reverse Engineering might even yield a positive opportunity for the original producer and the engineer in question. This also ignores WD40, which remains a strong brand despite it's numerous knock-offs, many of which may be flawed or have poor brand recognition.

Nothing about a printed agreement prevents action that violates said agreement, that's how violations of law happen today.  That's called life in all relationships, personal and commercial. The point of this is who shields the burden. Right now, it's a little bit of the consumer and the government - everyone except the party invested in protection.

Edit: Whoa. I wrote this without realizing that there had been a lengthy discussion about it on Bionic Mosquito's page. This post was spurned as a challenging question on another libertarian site.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Life isn't easy in Germany

I enjoy this group for a casual listen, but hadn't heard the song until recently. I thought it may have been a new release, given current events. It was released in 1993, four years after the fall of the Berlin wall.

"The way it was
It used to be
Well it had to change
As we all could see
We're twice as big
And Yet so small
Now we have to share
Here in Germany
When skins broke up
As Lenin broke down
Driving fast
Through united towns
Clubs being closed
And fights ahead
Now we have to share
So the Chancellor said
Life isn´t easy in Germany
Life isn´t easy in Germany
Such boring days
For kids in the East
Where should they stay
How to be pleased
The freedom of speech
Playing democracy
Boy, Life isn´t easy in Germany
Life isn´t easy in Germany
Can't you see?
Life isn´t easy in Germany"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Where does it end?

In the esoteric corners of Libertarian blogs, application of libertarian theory to scenarios that would desire consequence or retribution are common. I enjoy it: Libertarianism, particularly the rawest subset of Anarcho Capitalism (which I advocate), isn't without it's glaring holes that need addressing. Apologists for these glaring holes appeal to the best possible outcome. It isn't dissimilar from listening to the rambling Marxist at the coffee shop a block away from the local college. Descriptions of utopias or theoretical societies, though great at illustrating the ideal, aren't helpful. With nothing but respect to some of the brilliant libertarians that take this approach, I think the brilliance is better spent on realistic application of the theory. We aren't helping liberty when grading our own papers results in a passing grade.

I can't help but conclude that the most reasonable and consistent approach to these glaring holes is one advocated by Bionic Mosquito. I can't say with any certainty that this idea is his, but at least in recent times he's certainly been at the forefront, to much controversy from Utopian believers. Culture, whatever this culture may be, fills these holes.

This brings me to analyze a belief championed by Robert Wenzel, who I think is a great contributor to Libertarianism. The belief in question is that a farmer is within his rights to shoot a child for stealing an apple. I interpret this as: A victim determines the value and severity of punishment upon the aggressor.  In other words, a subjective solution to an objective situation. For what it's worth, initially I thought Robert may have just been trolling.

Trolling or not, I think it's a good topic.

I don't have a clear answer on the scenario in question as the details are vague (Were rules posted? Can the child read these rules? Is the child visibly armed? Is this apple clearly part of someone's property? Is there a risk to the farmers life if he waits to try to determine these things? Are we certain this child is the thief in question, and if so how can you prove it?), other than to say the trade of an apple for an individual's life, particularly an undeveloped individual, doesn't seem like an equivalent loss if said child doesn't pose a clear danger. It certainly wouldn't sound reasonable to the parents of said child, and I can't imagine the farmer would be enjoying his apple orchard for very long, let alone a community that doesn't mind a liberal employment of the death penalty (which, back in this reality, is a violation of the NAP). Just because you delete government from the social equation doesn't mean blowback gets deleted as well, or that individuals with a coercive mindset wouldn't be interested in operating in ways that violate the NAP vanish in a flash of light. Unless, again, Utopian musings.

Is such a community compatible with the NAP? I don't think it's impossible. If ten participants all agree that participating human lives are fair game if they're caught violating an agreed upon set of rules, that's their business as long as I'm not coerced into participation. Children being imperfect and inexperienced in social etiquette[let alone having the capacity to consent?], I can't imagine too many children surviving in such a community, which would likely lead to said community's untimely end. Is someone allowed to withdraw consent? Robert Wenzel may defend such a community, he may even champion it (For what it's worth: No, I don't think Robert Wenzel delights in the idea of farmers killing misguided youth.). He may even applaud the farmer in this situation. Does Robert still believe this when the outcry escalates into blowback, and a continuous back and forth becomes the norm? Capulets and Montagues, Crips and Bloods, etc.

But where does this particular mindset end? If I don't like the smell of cigarette smoke, and I can smell my neighbor's cigarette smoke wafting onto my property, am I within my rights to kill said neighbor for robbing me of air on my property that would otherwise be clean? Is my neighbor's wife within her rights to kill me for the loss of household revenue and the destruction of the family unit?

What if my neighbor's newborn won't stop crying at a time that's most disruptive, taking away my right to a peaceful property? Do I have the right to exact a righteous justice of my choosing, raising high my knife as I roar triumphantly for Anarcho Capitalism? Could I use a tiny nuclear device instead?

How many of us can say with any sincerity that we, as individuals with our own histories, experiences, merits and flaws, would be alive and thriving right now if this were the case?

Libertarianism and specifically Anarcho Capitalism, admittedly, fall short in answering these questions to any satisfying degree when looking at the philosophy in strict isolation. To which, the only answer I see consistent with Libertarianism comes back to cultural norms in the community.

Culture does a lot of positive things in today's real world, regardless of law or circumstance that either reinforces the culture or flies in it's face. For each culture that doesn't condone an activity or mindset, there's likely another that would welcome it with open arms.

Robert Wenzel cites that a culture runs risk of being another form of government. He may be right, I don't think anyone can determine this definitively. My sole objection is that individuals tend to congregate with like minded individuals, geographically and socially.

Even if I could say that this is true, I'm more inclined to believe that his Apple scenario would be more likely to spawn the rallying cry that creates the state out of his Libertarian Utopia - much more likely than a selection of implied cultural norms.