Upping the Ante on Pro-Freedom “Purity”

Sunni's picture

One of the most common accusations of hypocrisy leveled at anarchists is that many of us use public roads, which are financed by taxbux. It is very difficult to lead any sort of typical life these days without doing so, of course—but leave it to the state to provide some motivation for changing that.

Via Strike the Root I read an article titled License-plate scanning catching crooks, raising privacy concerns; I’d heard about this capability before, but the scope of it revealed in the article is alarming. A sample from the beginning of the article, emphasis mine:

Infrared units mounted to the front of [Arizona DPS Border Crimes Unit officer] Callister's vehicle scan the license plates of a Casa Grande firefighter, an Ohio State football fan and everyone else who drives past as he hunts for stolen vehicles.

Every plate is photographed, time-stamped, labeled on a GPS map and automatically logged into an Arizona Department of Public Safety database. An electronic voice alerts Callister to stolen vehicles within seconds after they pass, giving him the ability to make quick arrests.

Callister is among the growing number of Arizona officers who use cameras to scan thousands of plates on a daily basis, sweeping parking lots and highways to recover stolen vehicles faster than ever before. ....

Callister said .... "Now, with the plate reader and my computer, I've had days when I've read over 8,000 [plates]."

The article gives the obligatory nods to privacy concerns, but focuses primarily on how efficient the system is and how grateful victims of auto theft are that their vehicles are located and returned, sometimes quite quickly. More alarming is the soothing talk of how the program “might be” expanded:

By logging the daily location of thousands of registered automobiles, investigators may be able to narrow down the locations of people they are looking for.

The automated technology, for instance, gives officers the ability to check the license plate of each vehicle parked outside a known drug house or note what cars were parked outside a bank before and after a heist.

In October, Callister stopped a motorist on I-10 near Casa Grande for driving too close to another vehicle. The stop led to the discovery of $175,000 in cash and raised suspicions of money laundering.

To search for the man's possible criminal associates, detectives could easily check the list of license plates on vehicles that passed before and after the man's vehicle.

So, if one were to unknowingly park in the wrong spot, or be in the vicinity of a vehicle whose occupants are doing things of which the state doesn’t approve, one is automatically a suspect now? This is worse than expecting individuals to know all of the laws that our various levels of masters wish us to unquestioningly obey—it’s expecting omniscience in order to avoid their nets! Can things really get more absurd? Of course they could—as of now, there are apparently no guidelines on how to handle the enormous database these sweeps generate. Of great concern there is an inconvenient fact casually mentioned in the article (emphasis mine):

Of the thousands of license plates scanned each day, only a small fraction of the vehicles are tied to some possible criminal activity.

DPS, working with statewide task forces, could emerge as the central agency to store the data from the scans - but the agency has yet to establish guidelines on how to use the data and how long that information would be saved.

"That's where some people might consider it an invasion of privacy," Callister said, but he downplayed the idea, saying the plates are public information seen on public streets. ....

Arizona legislators have provided little guidance on how to regulate the technology since Mesa police pioneered Arizona's first plate-readers in 2005.

And of course, the innocent pay for this invasion of their privacy. Who knows what other uses this technology is being put to, that hasn’t been publicly acknowledged yet? For those who think they’re safe, because they don’t live in Arizona and have no intention of visiting the state, think again: the article mentions a New York case where surveillance camera tapes showed a murder suspect’s alibi to be false. Consider how those EZ Passes for toll roads make it very easy to track a person’s movements over many miles and years; consider the many, many scenarios in one’s daily life in which one is recorded: busy intersections; toll booths; banks; many stores, ranging from WalMart to pawn shops to exclusive boutiques; ATMs; city streets; highway rest areas; gas stations ... and I’m sure I’m forgetting many others. Technology is turning society into a nest of peeping Toms, watching us all for the chance to catch anyone and everyone who steps out of line, and increasingly encouraging civilians to snitch on each other.

Short of becoming part of an entirely self-sufficient gulch somewhere and never straying far from it, I simply do not see a way around using roads. But this trend among The Controllers and Deciders is encouraging me to explore ways to thumb my nose at their actions. It’s more a symbolic gesture than anything, but since license plates are the state’s property and I consider myself subject to their use under duress, whenever I wash a vehicle I do not wash the state’s property. [If only we did some off-road driving!] I cheer when I see vehicles on the road without the damned things. I recall hearing something about reflectors that are intended to thwart readers—or do they block the bounce of lidar off of a plate? Even with their technically-advanced tools, we outnumber them—and they can’t be everywhere at once. It’s almost too late to start planning and educating others about these incursions into our everyday lives.

There goes the idea of an Arizona road trip anytime soon, too. Pity—it’s a beautiful place and some of my favorite people live there.

Slightly different - just as creepy

In Santa Ana, Costa Rica they have recently caught 35 people (in Spanish) with illegal water connections. They did this by taking aerial photos off all the pools in the county and then checking the water consumption for each property. If it was deemed to be too low they physically looked for illicit connections.

I live in Santa Ana and have a pool. I commented to Annie one day last week that there had been a lot of small aircraft flying overhead recently. I find it very creepy that some govgoon was taking pictures of my property, then checking my water usage.

At least in the US they give some nod to the privacy issues (before they ignore them). Not a single mention in the article above.

At the moment, it applies to

At the moment, it applies to the southern part of the state.

Of course, with our governor the top candidate for heading the Department of Homeland inSecurity, it's anyone's guess how long that will last.

Radley Balko over at www.theagitator.com and Becky C. (another AZ resident) over at http://girlinshortshorts.blogspot.com/ (NSFW or some homes either) have both taken issue with traffic light cameras.

There was a study in London (sorry, don't have a link) that showed that traffic cams don't really decrease problems, they only generate cash. The Telegraph did a related story at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/labour/1571469/Anger-as-fines-from-speed-cameras-soar.html

I know of nothing that is effective against traffic radar or lidar. Seems to me that the Mythbusters tried one episode, and the only thing that worked was a license plate rotator, which just happens to be much more illegal than a speeding ticket.

My guess is that most people will accept it as part of the cost of safety.

Me, I am wondering if it's time to go the Stainless Steel Rat route yet.

Hypothetical Thinking

Makes me wonder.... if your "legitimacy plate" doesn't collect enough grime on its own, would a light spritz of spray adhesive or cooking spray help?

I hate to break it to you...

Unfortunately, even in the relatively free state of Wyoming, obscuring your license plate is much more illegal than mere speeding. You are subject to being stopped and ticketed if your license plate cannot be read - by whatever means.

You might create plausible denial with mud, but a deliberate attempt to make it unreadable would not do you any good. If nobody is reading them, it doesn't matter. If someone tries to read them and can't, you would be stopped or ticketed anyway.

I read the police blotter from Newcastle each week. I'm always amazed at the number of stops - just in town, mind you - for obscured or unreadable plates or burned out plate illumination bulbs.

As long as we must use "their" roads, we must live with this, I'm afraid.


I figured that was the case. I still never wash any part of my car.


Another cog in the police state machine being snapped into position, readied and trained on a largely unconscious populace. I saw this story several days ago and didn't even consider it worth remarking on -- not because it's unimportant, but because there are just so damned many other similar stories going on all the time.

I read things like this and I am reminded of something I saw recently (here http://distributedrepublic.net/archives/2008/09/03/the-terror-state-built-with-many-hands). It is not the great "them" which is building the police state while twirling their sinister moustaches, it is them plus the millions and millions involved in carrying out the conception, standardization, design, budgeting, lifecycle planning, financing, oversight, documentation, implementation, operation, maintenance, backup, revision and contingency planning for the systems that drive and support the Total Security State. Not all of those, mind, are ready to pull the trigger to end a man's life as in the chilling photo on the linked article, but one might at least ask them to consider not so blissfully working to reinforce their cages -- and one's own.

Pull the trigger...

Unfortunately, they ARE willing to pull the trigger eventually if we resist. The threat of force is exactly the bottom line here. If anyone dares to resist the cage and the "security" of the state, they are quite prepared to kill us.

Oops, you've accepted their bogus moral groundrules

Hypocrisy? When the Nazis declared Jews to be vermin, did that create a moral duty in the victims to dry up and blow away? No? Then when this State imposes roads, we have no moral duty to not use them.

The ZAP is not a suicide pact, it is a social justice goal. Proportionality when applying it is key. In a world of perfect respect for property rights, we should have perfect adherence to ZAP, minus accident and human weakness. In this world, we live under duress. We are not permitted to build a proper private road system, and so the collateral damage we produce by using tax-funded services is morally attributable to the State, not us.

The more duress we are under, the less we are able to prosecute the harm done to us through a due process system we would approve of, the closer our legal situation is to a condition of just war.

Er, I think you misapprehended me.

I didn’t say that I think it’s hypocritical for anarchists to use public roads; I simply observed that others accuse anarchists thusly.

The ZAP ... is a social justice goal.

Would you explain for me, please, what you mean by that? And also, how you define “social justice”?

ZAP which lets the good guys win

Would you explain for me, please, what you mean by [The ZAP ... is a social justice goal.]

I seek a moral theory that gives practical guidance for peace, war, and anything in between. I get one if I treat ZAP is a goal, rather than a hard and fast rule. I find the guide to weakening ZAP is "proportionality" and "duress".

The ZAP treated as a rule would prohibit just war, including Lexington green and the Warsaw ghetto, because some shots will inevitably miss and endanger people in surrounding houses. I consider this conclusion an absurdity, which proves ZAP is somehow incomplete, an approximation, or wrong.

I get a theory that generates sensible answers if I claim others are owed as much due process as I am able to provide under the circumstances. If I am able to bring individual aggressors to a trial with all the trimmings, then I must. But if we're all beaten and about to be taken to a death camp, then it's permissible to firebomb their city.

Using tax-funded roads is on the continuum of third-party-aggressing things I would rather not do, but the alternatives are sufficient ugly that the collateral damage is acceptable.

how you define "social justice"?

Actions toward some sort of condition where myself and everybody else has the opportunity to live according to the ZAP, golden rule, etc. and additionally they have material prosperity available to them. It's fuzzy.

I’ll say it’s fuzzy.

Actions toward some sort of condition where myself and everybody else has the opportunity to live according to the ZAP, golden rule, etc. and additionally they have material prosperity available to them.

Sheesh. That may be the most utopian statement ever recorded here.

Isn’t this accurate to some degree already? Individuals can act in keeping with the ZAP now. That they don’t may or may not be informative, depending upon one’s vision of Boobus Americanus and his offshore counterparts.

What's the alternative to fuzzy?

Sheesh. That may be the most utopian statement ever recorded here.

At least I'm not as utopian as Kurzweil. With so many good intentions (such as collectivism) turning out to be horrors, I'd rather aim towards a specific outcome rather than follow specific rules (such as strict ZAP) which may fail badly.

Meanwhile SpaceX should fly humans to orbit next year, CNC is being sold turnkey by Harbor Freight, Google phone is poised to do what OLPC was hoped to, rapid prototyping whether additive or subtractive will drop another zero off the price, everybody is buying military rifles, some of the gun carry laws are weakening, the empire is financially crumbling...this is what turning the corner of the Singularity feels like. I feel if I am too specific about my wishes for the future it will edge into theocracy. Mostly what I can say is that I will limit myself to negative rather than positive rights as much as I can, and I want humans everywhere to have a first world standard of living and hold hands and sing Kumbayah after militia drills.

Isn't this accurate to some degree already? Individuals can act in keeping with the ZAP now. That they don't may or may not be informative, depending upon one's vision of Boobus Americanus and his offshore counterparts.

Boobus worldwide is lost. I'd rather hand him a phone and say 'order groceries on this, dummy', but lots of people I know are still expecting social security to provide their retirement.

“Not gonna do it.”

With so many good intentions (such as collectivism) turning out to be horrors ...

Coercive collectivism is certainly a horror, but that isn’t the only possibility.

... Google ...

Oh, please. Google is hardly innocent. I don’t trust that corporation as far as I can piss.

... I want humans everywhere to have a first world standard of living and hold hands and sing Kumbayah after militia drills.

My response to your grand plan, in the words of the great band Extreme, is simple: “Not gonna do it.”

Boobus worldwide is lost.

Good luck with that grand plan, then!

I do believe that was strike #3 for you ...

Living the ZAP

I do live by the ZAP, and I find that the more consistantly I do, the better my life goes. The good thing about it is that the ZAP does not depend on others living by it.

Semantics or ?

I'm afraid that you don't understand the ZAP, at least by any definition I'm aware of.

Aggression occurs when a person INTENDS to harm another in some way. Your examples don't fit the ZAP at all.

No human being has the right -- under any circumstances -- to initiate force against another human being, nor to threaten or delegate its initiation. The Zero Aggression Principle

It's not wordplay, it's real-world

I'm afraid that you don't understand the ZAP, at least by any definition I'm aware of.

Aggression occurs when a person INTENDS to harm another in some way.

If the ZAP prohibits defensive fighting at Lexington and Concord due to the collateral damage caused, then the ZAP takes a childish view of historical reality, and is suicidal.

Whereas if the ZAP allows Lexington and Concord, then what else does it allow, and under how dire of circumstances of duress? Does it allow purchase of items in commerce that traveled over State roads?

I don't think the State roads question is an occasion for guilt, I think it is an occasion to study tradeoffs of cost/harm vs. benefit in an environment imposed on you, where avoiding them entirely means starvation.