November 2015

Viewing posts from November , 2015

Is Big Data violating your rights?

The dutiful stenographers in the media are all aflutter about the notion that immigrants should be tracked upon entry. The GOP’s candidates have all been asked about this, and they’re mostly OK with the idea that there should be a database that accounts for the whereabouts of immigrants.

Over at Reason, they’re commenting that these databases violate the rights of those that are tracked. “… [b]ut Trump is not alone in believing that databases should be used to deny people’s civil liberties. For an idea just as bad as Trump’s, we’ll need to cross the aisle to the Democrats. As Brian Doherty had previously noted, the New York Daily News, in its tabloid-style anti-gun push, has been calling for the federal government to ban the sale of guns to people who are suspected of being terrorists on the basis of being on federal terror watch lists. Not actually even charged with any sort of crime. Just suspected by the Department of Justice …”

But while the “firestorm” rages in the mainstream media, there’s a little publicized fact that they’re leaving out; Big Data and government have been cooperating (or collaborating) for years.

Here’s a promotional video from Palantir (think SkyNet) touting it’s relationship with our own LAPD. It was posted in the beginning of 2013. In it, several actual LAPD personnel note their successes using the platform to data-mine.

So what? What can it do? Watch the video.

License plate recognition (LPR) is the process whereby a camera (either vehicle mounted or stationary) and a database record every license plate that comes in front of the camera. LPR is specifically cited in the LAPD Palantir video as one of the “data silos” connected by Palantir’s platform. According to this article from early 2014, the LAPD and the LASD have been “… collecting information on every license plate in Los Angeles as part of an ongoing “investigation”—whether or not a crime has been committed.” LA Weekly had this story about the LAPD’s plans to fold the city’s traffic camera network into the LPR world. Did they?

The video shows that with just a few numbers/letters of a license plate, the Palantir user can pull up actual pictures of matching cars. This can then be focussed closer until a match is reached. A keen eye will notice that some of the searchable fields include geo-location information and time. This means that each photo of a car on the street is tagged with it’s time and location, then saved in the database for who knows how long. This press release announced a roll out of LPR in 2005.

It also demonstrates that there’s a database of “Field Interview Cards.” This is that little paper card that an officer fills out when he questions you. Guilty, innocent, witness, victim, traffic violator, whatever; if you’ve been interviewed in the field, it’s likely that your information has been entered into the system. Thanks to the power of the platform, with just a few bits of information, your history is just a click away.

If you think that LA is alone in leveraging the power of Big Data, you’re wrong. Ever major metropolitan area is doing this, or something very similar with another vendor.

So while the media is frothing at the mouth at the suggestion that there should be a database of immigrants, they’re largely ignoring the fact that Big Data and government have been tracking folks for years, decades. If a database of folks crossing our borders is bad, why isn’t a database of cars passing through LA also a bad thing?

Is it OK for the government and big data to mine the information you willingly put out in the public space? What about your E-Z Pass activity, or your Facebook account? Where does it end?

Message from the Chair

Fellow California Libertarians,

I have a lot of good news to report!

The Libertarian Party of California state convention will be held April 1 – 3 at the Hilton at Los Angeles Airport, near LAX. The contract has been signed, and our convention committee headed by Mark Hinkle is in the process of bringing an excellent set of speakers on board. Early-bird pricing for convention packages will soon be available. Stay tuned for more information on what should be the gala event of the season. And a big thanks to Mark and also Nancy Neale for the hours they spent on this project!

There hasn’t been a party newsletter for quite some time, but that is about to change. “The California Libertarian Activist,” edited by Elizabeth Brierly, will be going out in the next few days. It will be inserted in the same envelope with “LP News,” the national LP newsletter, so keep your eyes out for it. This joint mailing will give members of the state and national parties an opportunity to read both newsletters, and let everyone know about party activities across the country. I was very impressed myself to see what terrific activities our county groups are doing, and I think you will be, too. I’m hoping this is the first in a series of great newsletters. You deserve to know what our California activists are working on. Maybe you’ll even decide to join in the fun!

I am committed to increasing membership in the Libertarian Party of California. There is power in numbers, and we need more activists to promote the cause of liberty. To that end, we recently sent a mailing to 2,500 current and former national LP members urging them to join the California party. This is a good opportunity for any of you who are not current with your membership dues to renew. Go to

Local activism is crucial to party growth, which is why we need to have active organizations across California. There are 58 counties, but we’re only active in 21 of them. It’s time to get organized in the remaining counties. We’re holding meetings to make that happen. For example, Kern County (Bakersfield) hasn’t had an active LP organization for many years. On December 1, there is an organizing meeting to get the ball rolling. San Joaquin County (Stockton) also hasn’t had an active organization, so we’re addressing that problem in an upcoming January meeting. If your county is active, join your local group! If not, please let us know how we can help you.

Student Libertarian groups have the drive and passion to encourage new activists. Young Americans for Liberty and Students for Liberty held a November conference at UCLA, which I attended along with ExCom members Jeff Hewitt, Boomer Shannon, and Jason Yu. The student leaders had lots of ideas for networking and promoting liberty which we can get moving on. California High school students also got to hear from Libertarians. Santa Clara and Monterey activists recently manned a booth at a Junior Statesman event in the Bay Area, where they promoted the libertarian alternative.

Campaign 2016 is coming up fast. As you know, we need Libertarians to step up and run as Libertarian candidates for Congress, State Senate, and State Assembly. Voters need an alternative to the same old same old. Contact me at and we can discuss what’s involved in running for office.

Happy holidays – and
“May the non-initiation of force be with you.”

For Liberty,
Ted Brown
Chair, Libertarian Party of California

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A new spin on the Affirmative Action question

Just about everyone has heard of Affirmative Action by now.  Affirmative action laws and policies require organizations to make proactive efforts to represent individuals from certain protected classes in the workplace at levels comparable to those for unprotected groups. Affirmative action requirements are separate and distinct from nondiscrimination laws, which prohibit discriminatory acts against protected persons, but do not mandate proactive steps in their favor.

Very few can offer the legal or legislative source for Affirmative Action, so I will.

“The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces the Executive Order 11246, as amended; Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended and the affirmative action provisions (Section 4212) of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, as amended. Taken together, these laws ban discrimination and require Federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or status as a Vietnam era or special disabled veteran.”

In California, our state’s Constitution Article 1, Sec. 31, states: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting” This general ban is followed by a set of exceptions. These exceptions center around policies in response to court orders, consent decrees, or compliance with federal laws in order to receive funding.

There are certain assumptions when dealing with the topic of Affirmative Action. The first is generally that certain minority groups are given preference over other groups. The other, which underpins the first, is that these groups are rather fixed / permanent.

Given the rather delicate state of minority group relations currently, why would I write an article about Affirmative Action or the rights/privileges of minority groups? I do it to call BS on the whole idea of identity politics. I do it because the whole concept is aggressive and relies on large interest groups telling others how they may identify and to which group they may belong. Let me illustrate this using my own story.

The picture above is a screen-grab from a NatGeo special in which I had an on-screen part. Take a look at the picture and what do you see? How would you describe me? How would you describe the screen-grab to your friends?

I presented this question a few years ago to a class of students. I stood before them in a coat and tie and asked them to describe me as they saw me. The answers, white, caucasian, tall, athletic … green eyes, clean cut … etc.

The screen-grab is from a German language version of a show in which I provided photogrammetric analysis of an unknown subject in a particular picture taken at a concentration camp during WWII. Now, students begin to gravitate towards the academic descriptions and some ended up with the conclusion of “white privilege,” as evidenced by my getting screen time on the TV show. Which is where I hoped they’d end up. It was a trap, meant to illustrate a specific point.

Under the the old diagnostic manuals (DSM), I had been diagnosed with various syndromes and disorders to describe how my brain and body worked or didn’t work – all as separate issues. Sensory Processing Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Insomnia, GI problems and food sensitivities, and so on. Under the old DSM, these were all separate problems with separate treatments. Now, with the change from IV to V, the DSM puts these separate issues together (rightly) under the umbrella of autism. Thus, in May of 2013 I went from an adult with a ton of medical issues to an autistic adult. Just like that, I became part of a growing minority group that now make up around 2.25% of the US population. I actually think that number is much larger as many autistic adults haven’t received a diagnosis and thus are not part of the totals.

Getting back to the picture above, where students see the surface and not the constituent parts and history, many are quite shocked to know that this person in the picture is part of a small minority group – and many refuse to offer that description. How can the person in the picture be a minority? How can the person in the picture not benefit from “white privilege?”

Let’s answer that by looking at current events. Start with “police brutality” and the complaints from minorities about how they’re treated by the police during the most benign of encounters. I’m sure I don’t have to link to any of the thousands of stories covered in the last few decades. But did you know that autistic adults and parents of autistic children have similar fears in dealing with the police? notes, “[Autistic people] are estimated to have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement agencies during their lifetimes.  Yet, only 20% of patrol responses related to autistic individuals are related to criminal activity.  Interacting with a child or adult who has an autism spectrum disorder will challenge your experience, training and patience.” Wow. Substitute “autism” with any racial identifier and folks would be out of their minds and protesting on the streets over this article. But they aren’t, are they?

What about employment prospects? “For adults on the autism spectrum, finding and keeping jobs is difficult at best and often simply impossible. We know this anecdotally, but studies are bearing this out with increasing regularity. Adults with ASD are chronically unemployed or underemployed. While these numbers certainly include a small population of adults whose autism or co-morbid condition renders them unable to work, many adults on the spectrum might well be employed more fully with more effective supports.” I know this from personal experience. I am very fortunate to have a job. I met a man a while ago who wanted to take his agency down a path that was well within my special interests and talents. He was willing to offer the supports that I needed to get the job done and to be successful. Sadly, he is no longer around in that role and those supports are under review. We hear politicians talking about minority labor participation and unemployment rates. We don’t hear that the numbers are much worse for autistic people. Why?

So to the central theme, Affirmative Action. According to Kaiser and the government, I am a disabled adult. But, my disability isn’t visible. What is visible is my light skin and light eyes. So I don’t get protections for being part of a minority group – I am visibly “white,” even though I’m “invisibly” disabled. I have had various people in my life who have pushed me to actualize my potential and to leverage my autistic brain’s talents and interests. I have had levels of success. This, plus the “white” skin means I’m privileged and not disabled. Silly, I think.

This issue, the fallacy that is Affirmative Action, was one of many that lead me away from the Democrat Party and to the Libertarian Party. As a Democrat, I was just “white” and “male.” I didn’t get to define these, they were chosen for me by the dominant group. Even though I didn’t identify myself by my pigment or sex, they did. They put me in a box from which there is no escape. No matter my problems with speech and preference for the written over the verbal. No matter my social ineptitude or social anxiety. No matter my problems with facial recognition. No matter my problems with crowds, bright lights, loud sounds, and other sensory issues. No matter my problems eating just about anything. It doesn’t matter because I’m a “white man.”

Thankfully, the Libertarian Party does not engage in identity politics. With the LP, you are free to be the best YOU that YOU can be. You are free to be whatever kind of you that you want to be. If you want to change, great, go for it. What ever makes you Alive, Free, Happy. It’s quite refreshing to be part of a group where you can just be who you are.

So take it from someone with sensory processing issues, things aren’t always what they seem. Affirmative Action seems like it good thing. Sadly, like many of the good intentions of the Democrats/Republicans, they’re a trap; a box from which there is little chance of escape.

Join me outside of the box. Join the Libertarian Party and the movement of free and happy individuals trying to secure the rights of the smallest minority – the individual.

“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” – Ayn Rand